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« Richard Bean in Melbourne | Main | No consequences »

Death threats debunked

There's a fascinating story in the Australian today apparently. It seems that claims that Australian climate scientists received death threats were largely fabricated. It seems that Australian chief scientist Ian Chubb's role is somewhat questionable too - he apparently moved scientists to more secure premises without actually having seen the emails in question.

The story is paywalled, but James Delingpole summarises the salient points.

Here's a question. Are chief scientific advisers a force for good in government?

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Reader Comments (66)

u will enjoy this Bish...

3 May: Australian: Fiona Gruber: Fighting 'catastrophilia' with wit
RICHARD Bean greets me in the foyer of London's National Theatre. He's a strapping man with the air of a pugilist. He has tight grey curls on a battering-ram head and a bluff northern manner to go with it.
He's friendly, but you wouldn't want to pick a fight with him. I discover this when I start on the subject of global warming. It's apposite because we're here to discuss his play The Heretic, opening at the Melbourne Theatre Company this month...

May 3, 2012 at 7:59 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Beddington isn't a scientist - his first degree was economics. He then became a population biologist, presumably through an ability to manipulate numbers.

So how is it that he has been able to confirm to government that the IPCC 'consensus' is correct when in my straw poll, no engineer with high level heat transfer experience and knowledge accepts that that statement is true!

May 3, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

It seems that Australian chief scientist Ian Chubb's role is somewhat questionable too - he apparently moved scientists to more secure premises without actually having seen the emails in question.

It's always struck me as somewhat odd that that those who've allegedly been subjected to "death threats" have invariably failed to provide any evidence of their claims.

Perhaps they ran the text of these these alleged emails through a computer program which invariably resulted in projections that these emails were, well, worse than we thought!

May 3, 2012 at 8:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Does this really surprise anyone? That something a climate said turns out to be BS.


May 3, 2012 at 8:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

More shoddy behaviour from leading scaremongers about CO2 is thereby exposed.

Do they have anyone at all of high integrity on their side of the fence? It really is remarkable how saving the world has attracted so many of dubious character to play prominent roles.

Were they always that way, or does the fierce urgency of their mission corrupt them?

May 3, 2012 at 8:18 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

What? Lefties lying to advance their cause? Unheard of. Impossible. Obviously this is simply black propaganda put out by yet another stooge of Big Oil. Gentlemen who promenade on the moral high ground, and are sacrificing themselves for the common good, do not tell lies.

May 3, 2012 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

The meme of death threats to Poor Phil et al always seemed to me to have the air of having been fabricated.

Whatever else you might think of Plod, death threats are taken seriously - but we never heard of any searches, arrests, seizure of PC's etc

May 3, 2012 at 8:23 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I wouldn't be surprised if "death threats" was more projection of inner desires again, just like the "industry shills" jibes.

May 3, 2012 at 8:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

A scan of the "Australian" article is here.

May 3, 2012 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy Old Man

It's a fact that 97% of climate change scientists have had death treats.

May 3, 2012 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterHeide De Klein

I would have thought it inevitable that high profile people get nasty communications from all sorts of anonymous cowards. I‘ve seen others mention they’ve had this kind of communication with more of an attitude of an accepting shrug. It always was more a question of how serious any threat was. It seems, like a lot of things in climate, you can trip a level of plausibility to switch from one binary state to another without any shade in between.

May 3, 2012 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Over at WUWT they've come up with the term 'Whimpgate'

May 3, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Here is a link to the blogger who "cracked it open" with all the details

May 3, 2012 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

Are chief scientific advisers a force for good in government?

They're appointed to toe the government line.

May 3, 2012 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Will we see this reported in the Guardian? They, among others, reported the death threats:

Oliver Milman, are you there?

May 3, 2012 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

If there have been death threats it is a disgrace! We can disagree with people but still behave like gentlemen (and ladies). For example, I profoundly disagree with Richard Betts, but if I ever met him I would buy him a pint for engaging in civilized debate.

May 3, 2012 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

If there is a shortage of death threats then it would be quite easy for an unscrupulous supporter of the idea of CAGW to send a few to climate scientists in order to prove how nasty the sceptics are.

May 3, 2012 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few...

(c) Greenpriest

May 3, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

The text from the article has been transcribed here.

I know I shouldn't be, after all that's gone before, but I am surprised by this. Of 11 documents, 10 "did not contain threats to kill or threats of harm" and the 11th could be regarded as 'perhaps alluding to a threat'.

May 3, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Like so many things, the Death Threats scare failed the plausibility test. Who, excluding nutters who can be discounted, their actions being a fruit of their nuttiness rather than rationality, would be so moved by the theoretical consequences of the CAGW argument being accepted, that they personally would threaten anyone with death? Its so ridiculous as to be inherently improbable. Whats a lot more likely is that climate scientists who were in the public eye, like anyone else in the public eye, got a lot of nasty messages and, applying the climate scientists traditional special skill of cherry picking, selected words which together could be plausibly, at press release level, be construed as death threats, confident that, again in the traditions of climate science, they would never have to hand over the evidence for their assertions. Their confidence in that respect was exaggerated.

May 3, 2012 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

I remember dissecting these "denier death threats" campaigns here with Barry Woods some time ago - and pointing out that the campaigns in both Australia and the US were built around the recycling of two old obnoxious letters written by a single nutty individual in Seattle to Australian climate scientist Anna Arabia and US scientist Kate Hayhoe. Lippmann is a well known "green ink" merchant who has stood for political office in the US and been interviewed by police previously for threatening behaviour - but his letters always fell short of being death threats since they always were along the lines of "you should be tried and hung" (plus expletives). Nasty - but not "death threats".

.......Many of us will remember that around June 2011 there was a huge "climate scientists receive death threats" story in Australia which ran and ran in sympathetic media - gaining a little more colour each time the story was retold. Police were apparently involved, universities had to step up security and climate scientists and their families lived in abject fear of assassination by demented deniers.

A star part in the drama was played a lady scientist called Anna Arabia, who published a letter with the same sort of threats and obscenities that Kate Hayhoe received.

Following Barry's last link above to Kate Hayhoes original post of the letter in December 2011, you can link through to Tom Nelson's June 2011 post on the Anna Arabia episode

Ms Arabia was quoted as saying "There's no doubt that there is an orchestrated campaign".

It emerges that, following the Australian publicity an individual called Stan Lippman from Seattle posted on Tom's blog cheerfully explaining that he was the author of the missive which he described as "not a death threat, just my usual counter propaganda tactic".

Now it appears that Kate Hayhoe's email was from the same disturbed individual - which she knew because she linked to the Tom Nelson page in her December post.

So what we have here is a single, disturbed, obnoxious but harmless character whose history and identity is well known to everyone involved - and whose two pathetic missives have provided the warmist cause with an avalanche of "evil denier death threats" publicity across two continents.

Just Google "Hayhoe threats" and "Anna Arabia threats" to see how much mileage the warmist PR machine and its tame hacks have dragged out of this one sad individual.

The really cynical thing is that Hayhoe slipped this old missive, from the well known nut-case, in with a load of other fairly rude but unexceptional emails to try and give the impression that she'd been inundated by "hate mail"........

Jo Nova also posted on the Australian episode:-

Since Barry was a vocal supporter of the "death threat victims" - perhaps we can expect a comment from him.

May 3, 2012 at 9:55 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

The full article is available (in HTML) via
going to Google,
searching for "Climate scientists' claims of email death threats go up in smoke" (with quotes),
clicking on the link.

The link must be clicked on in the Google results page, i.e. if I put the link here, it would not work.

May 3, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan


We were talking cross-purpose.. I agree I've yet to see any 'actual, credible death threats'

even Stan Lippermanns to Katie, would not qualify... (he even Rang Peter Gleick up)

My point, was lets just acknowledge there are nutter out there, ANY issue, in the media, especially controversial ones, results in rude, crude, abusive, emails being sent to people.
People in th emedia allready, ie Morano, even Anthony Watts shrug shoulders, and just deal with it.. And as we have seen other use them, and conflate them into 'nasty sceptics' etc..

YET, my point why can we not just disassociate ourselve, from rude, crude and abusive emails.. I want to have an adult civil conversation with climate scientsits, or anybody, including Leo, Roger Harrabin, Mark Lynas (had lunch with him last week) to get to know them and try to dispell pre-conceptions with each other..

Any environemnt where abuse is being thrown around (even if not death threats) make it very difficult to do so. And I can see why Peter Gleick was so grumpy, it's a vicious polarisation cycle ofdiengagement.

So why is it so hard to condemm any abuse, and say we just want a civil conversation..
Because some on the other side are abusive.. does that justify it..

demand civility, and the people that can't be civil will be shown for the extremist they are, whoever they are, whatever side, they are on..

People can change their minds , if they respect you and get to know you..

I've spoken to BOTH Leo Hickman and James Delingpole, and BOTH were concerned about abuse they had recieved... (from a personal and family perspective) I've also disagreed with Morano about his style (and JAmes) , but I do understand it, as they are operating in a medi/political environment, which is very robust, and people just expect and deal with the nutters..

Most scientists, would hide away than get their name in the media (and I don't blame them)
Don't use this as a story to beat scientists up with, what has any scientist in the UK, or USA got to do with this story, or even the majority of scientists in Aus.. making out that no-ones gets rude emails or condoning them by silence, just makes sceptics look very partisan in the eyes of scientist, and why wouldn't they think, well i get rude nasty emails, these guys won't say it isn't on, why should I talk to any sceptics at all. Human Nature..

I don't want anyone I know (even a little) to get any abuse. (and they do)And that is speaking as some one who has a very good friend with hundreds of mentions in the climategate emails (and they get silly stuff, from 'sceptics', 'environmentalists' alike )

May 3, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The similarity with the Phil Jones claims is clear. And frankly, it makes my blood boil knowing that our government has fully supported the UEA's dishonesty.

May 3, 2012 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

I entirely agree with Barry Woods, there should be no place for abuse of any sort in scientific debate.

In my view if you have to stoop to abuse you are doing so because you have lost the argument. I roundly condemn all abuse in the climate science area from whomever it originates.

There is also far too much attribution of motives and opinions to others based on little if any factual evidence. Leo Hickman for example, on Twitter this morning, accused our host of "hating Professor Jones". This too should be condemned since it merely raises the temperature and clouds the issue without contributing to the debate.

May 3, 2012 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent


>It's always struck me as somewhat odd that that those who've allegedly been subjected to "death threats" have invariably failed to provide any evidence of their claims.

Not least of which is their continued rude health.. :-)

May 3, 2012 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"hating Professor Jones"

I'm sure we're all quite fond of him. He's done more for scepticism than most of us!

May 3, 2012 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Might be worth noting the comments below which were posted on Bishop Hill. I realise these are in a minority and I imagine they were really just provocative language to make a point, but not very pleasant nonetheless.

Apr 4, 2012 at 8:09 PM | stephen richards wrote:

All the Met Offs around the world were just back room nobodys before this scam now they are important councellors to the highest ranking people of our nations.

This scam will not die until we wheel out the guillotine.

Apr 12, 2012 at 5:56 AM | Thomas Payne wrote:

You really need a violent revolution in the UK. One where you gather up all your politicians and then borrow a guillotine from France.

Of course a minority on the "other side" also make similarly unpleasant remarks, but I just thought I'd take this opportunity to point out that this kind of sick joke could easily be viewed as intimidation or incitement to violence. It could easily be quoted out of context in a newspaper headline. Moreover, nastiness reflects badly on everyone who posts here.

May 3, 2012 at 11:07 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

yep - I spotted that - v naughty of Leo - for the sceptics hating Phil Jones tweet.

May 3, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

how does someone I disagree with (nastyness) reflect badly on me. Richard?
You post here as well?

May 3, 2012 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I am sure that most people who post here are really quite fond of you, Richard Betts. Anyone with the courage and persistence to enter the lion's den and stay there commands respect, and yes even affection. If we disagree, as we do, it is a disagreement that does not preclude friendship.

May 3, 2012 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Here's a question. Are chief scientific advisers a force for good in government?

Not sure. The position is certainly vulnerable to capture by vested interest that are then reinforced by the authority of the position.

Perhaps the chief advice the chief advisor ought to be dishing out is not some grand pronouncement on policy but simply 'Here are the papers and reports, read them yourself'.

May 3, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

When I pointed out that there are several instances of consensus supporters wishing death of sceptics - in one form or the other - you stepped in to say that such things ought not to be seriously. Now you are saying that stephen richards' and thomas payne's clearly figurative comments- could be taken seriously?

You know how Steve Zwick, the editor of Ecosystem marketplace, recently wanted deniers' houses burn down? That must not really be taken literally of course. You know Damian Carrington is wishing that the 'elderly skeptics' just roll into their graves quickly enough? That must just be a figure of speech, right?

Try beating this. When the Australian news media announced these items, our dear friend Tim Lambert published a piece drawing attention to article(s) that were not critical enough of those issuing the now-shown-to-be-fake threats. Threats that he did nothing to confirm their veracity of either. It so happened that Jeff Id, skeptic blogger then had just had a child born.

This is what commenter 'Frank-Decoding Swifthack' wrote:

Does anyone have a list -- or lists -- of deniers' family members and friends? Perhaps we can put such a list together and state publicly, for the record, that we will not rape, molest, sodomize, or otherwise sexually assault them, and we will not threaten to rape, molest, sodomize, or otherwise sexually assault them.

That'll drive the denialists absolutely bonkers!

Responds to his own question:

Thanks Mandrake. Here's a candidate for starters:

I hereby pledge that I will not rape or threaten to rape 'skeptic' Jeff Id's wife or baby, and that I will not condone any attempts to do so.

Come on, inactivists. Prove your superior morals.

and so on.

There are no 'two sides' to all this. One one side there are concerned citizens - both pro and contra, and on the other, there are paid activists, journalists, column-writers, and scientists - who wave read meat and drive the process.

Guess which 'side' the paid parties belong to in all this?

Sure, threats ought to be condemned. But the whole point of the exercise is to drive up the temperature, and ratchet up the rhetoric of 'condemnation, inadequate condemnation and counter-condemnation,' so that *regular common people lose their voice and are driven away from the debate*. People are always more angrier that no justice has been done, than at the original act of injustice itself. I think we know which side is always worried that they lack the immediacy factor in their stories to give impact in their 'communications', and might fan the flames of indignation.

May 3, 2012 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Shub +1

May 3, 2012 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Your question 'Are chief scientific advisers a force for good in government?'

I think we are well and truly in an age of the scientist-activist-agitator. We also have the geographer-activist-agitator, a relatively newcomer who might well be getting as excited as sociologists did in the early 20th century at the prospect of having the status of scientists. I think economists have had the same conceit. We still have both sociologists and economists busy being 'forces' in government, so I fear that some geographers are here to stay in the same role thanks to the boost they have had from well-hyped fears about climate.

As to whether they can be 'forces for good', as CSAs or SAs or mere pundits in the press, that would make most sense if particularly 'good' people in these professions were attracted to political engagement. That's good in a moral sense. I am not convinced that is the case. I rather think socialists are more drawn than most to such a role, and the hideous history in the 20th century of what happened when socialists got all the power they wanted makes it very hard to regard any subsequent ones as 'good'.

The sheer irresponsibility of promoting acute alarm based on the conjecture that CO2 is a crucially important driver in the climate system, a conjecture yet to be confirmed by observations on that system, is also a disqualifier in my book for the adjective 'good'.

Finally, advisers in general will surely tend to be chosen from those regarded as sympathetic to the policy goals of those hiring them. Any government burdened with the policy goals of the Climate Change Act in the UK or the Carbon Tax in Australia, will not, unless it wishes to be revolutionary, tend to hire those with contrary views about those goals or the arguments made to promote them.

I think my answer to your question is that they will most likely be a force to support the government, and hence the question of 'good' needs to include focus on the government itself in order to be properly addressed.

May 3, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

I think the communications should always remain civil, unless someone is trying to harm me or my kin or is trying to extract hard-earned money from my wallet under false pretences.... It is difficult to be civil when people lie to you and know that you know that they know that you know!

As for @RichardBetts, indeed his presence here is very welcome and adds credibility to his position as he is one of the few who is evidently open to debate. Apparently he also *always* mentions the limited length of data series when mentioning record weather events. Except for when it wouldn't suit the alarmist cause, then he doesn't. <cough>

May 3, 2012 at 12:20 PM | Registered CommenterFarleyR

I hope Dr Betts is on leave today and isn't reading blogs in office time (unless lunch break starts very early at the MO)!

May 3, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Are chief scientific advisers a force for good in government?

'Ah - glad I've caught you, old chap - we're thinking of making any new coal-fired power stations capture and bury their CO2 emissions. It'll be expensive, but what do you think..?'
'I think its a crap idea.'
'Oh... Thanks.. (Walks away and presses a button on his mobile).. 'Er - Prime Minister - this new scientific adviser chappie....'

May 3, 2012 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

<BLOCKQUOTE>Of the 11th, the Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said: "I consider the danger to life or physical safety in this case to be only a possibility, not a real chance."</BLOCKQUOTE>

Well I be damned, but isn't a possibility a "chance"? This kind of doublespeak doesn't make me trust this fellow "commissioner" any more than any ecozealot.

May 3, 2012 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

"I hope Dr Betts is on leave today and isn't reading blogs in office time"

I don't see why not. James Hansen trots round the globe in his...

May 3, 2012 at 1:45 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

May 3, 2012 at 12:06 PM | Shub

Hi Shub

I didn't say those comments should be taken seriously, only that they could be. It just seems unnecessary to make them. Obviously I agree with Barry and others that everyone should keep it civil.

The comments you quote are clearly unacceptable.



May 3, 2012 at 1:46 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

May 3, 2012 at 1:18 PM | DaveS

I hope Dr Betts is on leave today and isn't reading blogs in office time (unless lunch break starts very early at the MO)!

I'm working at home today to get IPCC AR5 writing done in peace and quiet, and I checked in here earlier when I made myself a cup of coffee, and have done so again now while I have my lunch. Hope that's acceptable! :-)

Anyway, back to work ....

May 3, 2012 at 1:47 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

"I'm working at home today to get IPCC AR5 writing done in peace and quiet"

Yes, literachur can be difficult to produce when there is noise. ;)


May 3, 2012 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

I'm getting a bit lost here.
We have side-tracked ourselves into a pious discussion about how naughty it is for both sides in this debate to use intemperate language and I can see no reason why there should be the slightest disagreement.
Yes, we all do it in a small way; yes, some of us do it in a large way; yes, some of us may actually mean it (though I suspect that they 'mean' it in the way they mean "I'll kill you if I get my hands on you"). No, we shouldn't and let's all agree on that.
Meanwhile we now have evidence that some Australian climate scientists have at best exaggerated and at worst lied about 11 emails that they claimed were "death threats" and when challenged to prove it have employed what might well be known as the East Anglia Gambit — delay, obfuscate, refuse to release, make all sorts of wild claims.
And well, guess what! When eventually forced, kicking and screaming, to make the emails available to their equivalent of an FoIA commissioner ...
All the evidence we have so far of anything even vaguely resembling a death threat is two offensive emails to an Aussie scientist and an American scientist from a well-known but generally reckoned to be harmless nutter in Oregon.
And from some of the well-referenced comments I have seen about what some of the scientists claim they would like to do to those who dare challenge their religion I can't help wondering whether this is a case of being able to dish it out but not take it. I have seen no genuine supportable evidence of "death threats" from serious prominent sceptics. I have seen something very like it from serious prominent climate scientists and their media supporters and fellow-travellers.

May 3, 2012 at 3:14 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I have not seen these 11 emails that were alleged by the recipients of them to be death threats.

I want the original evidence in the matter. Neither a Privacy Commissioner's ruling nor any PR from the administration at ANU has merit for me to independently assess if a death threat was made or not.

Show me the emails. Redact the email addresses and personal info in the text BUT SHOW ME.

Has anyone here at BH's blog seen the emails?


May 3, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

"Has anyone here at BH's blog seen the emails?"

from the original article linked above...

"The ANU have still refused to release the documents, pending a possible appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I fully intend to contest this appeal if necessary."

All we have is the Privacy Commissioners word...

"In a six-page ruling made last week, Mr Pilgrim found that 10 of 11 documents, all emails, "do not contain threats to kill" and the other "could be regarded as intimidating and at its highest perhaps alluding to a threat".

May 3, 2012 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

Another pertinent question is why the University of East Anglia does not sue James Delinpole for his clearly libellous comments.

"You'll remember that after Climategate, the University of Easy Access's main concern was not so much to investigate any potential malfeasance by its Climatic Research Unit gang of FOI-breaching, data-fudging, scientific-method-abusing, grant-troughing second-raters as to put the right spin on them. That tame "woe is me" interview Jones gave to a compliant Sunday Times was part of a strategy arranged by the public relations company UEA had employed – no doubt at lavish taxpayer expense – to make the disgraced Jones and his department look more sinned against than sinning."

Makes you wonder....

May 3, 2012 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

To be fair there are nutters on both sides , and although they would in no way repersent the rest of the AGW skepitcs it could be this does happen . But at least there seems to be no AGW sketpics making 'joking ' videos about AGW scientists being blow up or calling for them to be physically branded for their 'thought crimes '

May 3, 2012 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Frosty @May 3, 2012 at 3:43 PM said,

from the original article linked above...

"The ANU have still refused to release the documents, pending a possible appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I fully intend to contest this appeal if necessary."

- - - - - -


Thanks for the pointer. I guess I was vaguely aware of that as I stressed that we are just sitting here with only some well spun PR and some rather sophisticated hearsay about some alleged death threats, but with no actual evidence.


May 3, 2012 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Well, it all reminds me of Gore (Vidal)'s discussions of 'sub-poena envy' by Lefties in the days of the commie witch-hunts! How can you prove your bravery if they are not out to get you?

May 3, 2012 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

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