Economics, Energy and the Environment

Leaked: The Credibility of Climate Science

Most of us who follow the climate change debate have spent the last 48-72 hours trolling the climate blogosphere to get the latest information on the thousands of emails of climate catastrophists released on the Internet on Thursday night (some 168 megabytes of information). The emails came from a database at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU), which often collaborates with the Hadley Centre (also in the United Kingdom). The CRU controls, and has effectively hidden, a large amount of the data related to global climate.

The emails (already available online in word-searchable format) start in 1996 and continue to the present. They include detailed conversations with some of the key players on the alarmist side of the climate debate: Phil Jones, Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann, Keith Briffa, Kevin Trenberth, Tom Wigley, and many others. The leak of these files is already being aptly dubbed Climategate.

The authors are lamely complaining that the emails are being taken out of context, except that in most cases, the context is obvious—and damning. No open-minded person who takes the time to read the emails will fail to see a pattern—a pattern that is deeply disturbing. The emails confirm some of my worst suspicions: that for many climate alarmists, ideology and politics have trumped good science.

Let’s discount the fact that most people say things in private that they wouldn’t want broadcasted. These climate scientists are no different. That said, no one should buy the defense that this is just how all human beings/scientists talk amongst themselves. No, this is how conniving, colluding, ideologically self-deluded scientists talk amongst themselves.

Several troubling themes have emerged so far (h/t to “Jeff C” in comments at the Air Vent):

1. Data manipulation: Several times the scientists discuss ways to massage and cherry-pick data and spin presentations to give the strongest impression of warming, and to downplay contrary evidence—just as they have been suspected of doing.

2. Evading Freedom of Information inquiries: In many emails the scientists are clearly colluding to avoid releasing correspondence and data that they are legally obligated to release. They discuss deleting emails after being directed by officials not to do so.

3. Manipulating peer review: They discuss how to blackball scientists who don’t tow the orthodox line, get journal editors fired who allow “skeptical” papers to be published, how to destroy the reputation of journals that allow such papers to be published, and how to prevent “contrarian” research from being included in UN reports. Since the catastrophist crowd speaks so loudly and insistently about “peer-reviewed” research, it’s stunning to find out what this really means in the scandal of contemporary climate research.

Some have complained of the illegality of hacking into a server and releasing private emails. But the leak looks like the work of a scrupulous whistleblower on the inside, who would be legally protected in the UK.

This episode is going to add to the growing disrepute of the alarmist cause, and if other, more reasonable climate scientists fail to respond appropriately, it could tarnish the reputation of the entire field of climate science—at least in the mind of the public.

If you’re new to the story, here are a few helpful links to get up to speed. Here’s a list of the top 100 most-discussed emails (scroll to the bottom of the page). Here’s a timeline of events over the last few days, from the initial leak, to a confirmation that the documents are genuine. Climate Depot is keeping a good running update of articles on the controversy. Read Tom Fuller’s piece on what he calls “the Team” to understand the back story behind the key players in the leaked email correspondence.

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