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Climate hacking in Canada

Here we go again:

it has now been revealed that individuals posing as network technicians recently attempted to infiltrate another climate data center operated by the Government of Canada.

According to sources at the University of Victoria, two people claiming to be network computer technicians presented themselves at the headquarters of the Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis and tried to gain access to the data servers. When challenged by an employee, the two individuals hastily left. The timing of this attempted break-in is very suspicious given that it occurred so closely on the heels of the release of hacked emails and data from a similar facility housed at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

Again regardless of what may be found in the emails of scientists, what matters is knowing exactly what has been compromised (if anything) and how that affects our picture of the climate system. Vague claims of misconduct don’t invalidate the science, nor do they justify the grandiose claims that have been made.

4 Responses to Climate hacking in Canada

  1. Actually, I’m not sure how to feel about this sort of thing. I wouldn’t want my work emails hacked and stolen any more than the next guy and I’m extremely wary of justifying it in any form.

    That being said, the emails released by the CRU seem to justify their own theft in a way (evidence that the scientists were avoiding FOI requests – something that had been long suspected).

    I don’t know anything about the University of Victoria but I’m not sure there’d be anything as ‘juicy’ there.

  2. evidence that the scientists were avoiding FOI requests

    I am not sure that was revealed in the emails. It has been well known that CRU was not responding to FOI requests (they claim because they were not entitled to release some of the data). What the emails do show is that people at CRU became increasingly frustrated (and said some stupid things) as the FOI requests piled one. But given the circumstances, I can’t say that I would have acted any better.

    Still if this results in more data being released then that will be a good thing. But on the whole I think this leak is still negative as it has moved the public discussions further away from the science of AGW.

  3. Honestly, they should have been forthcoming from the very beginning with the data, that would have probably avoided much of this. Another good thing that has come from this is that they seem to be taking the initiative in launching reviews, but it would be a lot better if the reviews were by an independent third body rather than in-house. At the very least, it looks good PR-wise though.

    As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, a lot of organizations behave very strangely when you start asking for documents, be they the CRU, the Canadian government (the stimulus statistics) or other assorted agencies from my own personal experience. But in my experience, these groups behave defensively because they know (or strongly suspect) that the auditors will find something if they look hard enough. Maybe I’m too cynical though.

  4. Honestly, they should have been forthcoming from the very beginning with the data, that would have probably avoided much of this.

    It probably would have avoided some of this, but not all. Most of the outrage I have seen comes from the ‘hide the decline/trick’ and ‘travesty’ emails which have nothing to do with FOI request or data availability. Much of it also comes from commented out code (aka code that was not used).

    But ideal all the data should have been available. Unfortunately CRU doesn’t have the rights to all the data they use and they were contractually prohibited from releasing it.

    The reviews are good, but my guess is that they wont reveal much. Sure the folks at CRU could have handled the deluge of FOI requests better, but I have not yet seen any indication that they did anything seriously wrong. Obviously if they did do something wrong (especially if it impacts the science in a significant way) then they should be criticized for it, but lets not lose a sense of proportion.

    As I’ve mentioned on my blog before, a lot of organizations behave very strangely when you start asking for documents… these groups behave defensively because they know (or strongly suspect) that the auditors will find something if they look hard enough.

    The problem here wasn’t that people were interested in an honest look at the data, but rather that people were looking for anything that could be taken out or proportion. Any mole hill they could make a mountain over. Much like the Liberals wishing to poor over every single detail of the Conservatives financial record. They may not be perfect, but no one expects the Liberals to look at the data honestly.

    The same goes for here. Add to that that these FOI requests take time and the data may not always be self explanatory (data are messy), so the scientists would spend time, not doing science, but explaining minutia to people who are looking for anything to exploit.

    Finally, I am not sure if I have pointed you to these links before, but they are well worth a read in regards to data availability and the complexities of data set reproducibility.

    The bottom line is that in an ideal world all the data should be out there and available to everyone, but we do not live in an ideal world, and there are many non nefarious reasons why not all the data has been released.

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