December 5, 2009


In e-mails, science of warming is hot debate: Stolen files of 'Climate-gate' suggest some viewpoints on change are disregarded (David A. Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin, 12/05/09, Washington Post)

It began with an anonymous Internet posting, and a link to a wonky set of e-mails and files. Stolen, apparently, from a research center in Britain, the files showed the leaders of climate-change science discussing flaws in their own data, and seemingly scheming to muzzle their critics.

Now it has mushroomed into what is being called "Climate-gate," a scandal that has done what many slide shows and public-service ads could not: focus public attention on the science of a warming planet.

Except now, much of that attention is focused on the science's flaws. Leaked just before international climate talks begin in Copenhagen -- the culmination of years of work by scientists to raise alarms about greenhouse-gas emissions -- the e-mails have cast those scientists in a political light and given new energy to others who think the issue of climate change is all overblown.

What makes the controversy particularly damaging for the Left is that they've spent thirty years arguing that the conservative rejection of Malthusianism/Darwinism/Climatism is a manifestation of closed minds. Now their credulous acceptance of bogus data exposes them as the ones who refuse to think scientifically.

Scientists Behaving Badly: A corrupt cabal of global warming alarmists are exposed by a massive document leak. (Steven F. Hayward, 12/14/2009, Weekly Standard)

As in the furor over Dan Rather's fabricated documents about George W. Bush's National Guard service back in 2004, bloggers have been swarming over the material and highlighting the bad faith, bad science, and possibly even criminal behavior (deleting material requested under Britain's Freedom of Information Act and perhaps tax evasion) of a small group of highly influential climate scientists. As with Rathergate, diehard climate campaigners are repairing to the "fake but accurate" defense--what these scientists did may be unethical or deeply biased, they say, but the science is settled, don't you know, so move along, nothing to see here. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who in the past has trafficked in the most extreme climate mongering: "It's no use pretending that this isn't a major blow," Monbiot wrote in a November 23 column. "The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. .  .  . I'm dismayed and deeply shaken by them. .  .  . I was too trusting of some of those who provided the evidence I championed. I would have been a better journalist if I had investigated their claims more closely." Monbiot has joined a number of prominent climate scientists in demanding that the CRU figures resign their posts and be excluded from future climate science work. The head of the CRU, Phil Jones, announced last week that he will temporarily step down pending an investigation.

As tempting as it is to indulge in Schadenfreude over the richly deserved travails of a gang that has heaped endless calumny on dissenting scientists (NASA's James Hansen, for instance, compared MIT's Richard Lindzen to a tobacco-industry scientist, and Al Gore and countless -others liken skeptics to "Holocaust deniers"), the meaning of the CRU documents should not be misconstrued. The emails do not in and of themselves reveal that catastrophic climate change scenarios are a hoax or without any foundation. What they reveal is something problematic for the scientific community as a whole, namely, the tendency of scientists to cross the line from being disinterested investigators after the truth to advocates for a preconceived conclusion about the issues at hand. In the understatement of the year, CRU's Phil Jones, one of the principal figures in the controversy, admitted the emails "do not read well." Jones is the author of the most widely cited leaked e‑missive, telling colleagues in 1999 that he had used "Mike's Nature [magazine] trick" to "hide the decline" that inconveniently shows up after 1960 in one set of temperature records. But he insists that the full context of CRU's work shows this to have been just a misleading figure of speech. Reading through the entire archive of emails, however, provides no such reassurance; to the contrary, dozens of other messages, while less blatant than "hide the decline," expose scandalously unprofessional behavior. There were ongoing efforts to rig and manipulate the peer-review process that is critical to vetting manuscripts submitted for publication in scientific journals. Data that should have been made available for inspection by other scientists and outside critics were released only grudgingly, if at all. Perhaps more significant, the email archive also reveals that even inside this small circle of climate scientists--otherwise allied in an effort to whip up a frenzy of international political action to combat global warming--there was considerable disagreement, confusion, doubt, and at times acrimony over the results of their work. In other words, there is far less unanimity or consensus among climate insiders than we have been led to believe.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 5, 2009 11:46 AM
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