blog postings from Senior Correspondent Cheryl Hogue, ES&T Editor-in-chief Jerald Schnoor, and others attending the Copenhagen meeting.
Meanwhile, climate change skeptics and deniers are all atwitter about thousands of purloined e-mails and other documents from a computer at the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU). They have culled through the e-mails, some of them nearly two decades old, and found what they have proclaimed to be paydirt: clear examples in their collective mind of climate change researchers cooking data, suppressing contrary research, and sullying the peer-review process.
They’re calling it “climategate,” of course.
(The e-mails are posted at a number of sites. One of the most convenient to use is http://www.eastangliaemails.com.)
The vast majority of the e-mails are innocuous and/or banal. They are shop talk among climate scientists around the world. Like most shop talk, it is unguarded and sometimes less than sophisticated. A few e-mails mention data manipulation that is being interpreted by the skeptics as nefarious but which appears to be no more than trying to correlate disparate data sets collected by a number of different methods. A couple of e-mails discuss whether editors of two journals are using the peer review process appropriately.
Some of the e-mails are disappointing, to say the least. In at least one of the e-mails, Phil Jones, director of CRU, asks Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, to delete e-mails, apparently to prevent them from being discovered by a freedom of information request. Jones clearly acted improperly in this instance; he has temporarily stepped down from his position at CRU while an investigation is being conducted.
In another one of the e-mails that skeptics have seized on, Jones writes to Mann, “The other paper by MM is just garbage—as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well—frequently as I see it.
“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what the peer review literature is!”
What to make of this? You can see that the tone is, as noted above, unguarded and colloquial. It is a conversation between two professional friends who are all too familiar with the tactics of climate change skeptics, who never miss a chance to abuse the scientific method by distorting the significance of gaps in our understanding of the climate system and apparent discrepancies between datasets collected by different methods. I would have preferred not to see prominent climate scientists engaged in tactics like those Jones describes, but I understand his mindset.
During a teleconference for reporters held last week, Mann said: “It is important to understand what peer review is. It is not a license to publish anything that does not meet the standards of scientific publishing. In climate research, what had happened was that there was an editor who appeared to be gaming the system to get papers published simply because they expressed skeptical views of climate change. There is no reason not to publish skeptical science. But skepticism works two ways. A genuine skeptic looks for questions on both sides of the issue.” Mann went on to say that the paper in question had not passed peer review but had been published anyway. As a result, the editor-in-chief of the journal, Climate Research, resigned.
During the same teleconference, Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University, said of the e-mails: “The important issue is whether anything has been added to or subtracted from the science of climate change. Nothing has changed. The Earth has warmed more than 1 ºC over the last century. Global sea level has risen seven inches. Both major ice sheets are loosing ice rapidly. The ocean is more acidic than it used to be.”
And that’s just it. The skeptics want the public to believe that there is a debate on climate change between two relatively equal groups of scientists, and that one group—those who are convinced that the evidence says that humans are changing the climate—are using political clout and dishonest techniques to suppress the evidence that supports the skeptics’ point of view. That’s just not true. The national science academies of every major developed and developing country have endorsed the findings of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Those findings are the result of work by thousands of scientists. They say humans are dangerously altering Earth’s climate.
Here is a hint at what’s really going on. In a tract published by the Science & Public Policy Institute, entitled “Climategate: Caught Green-Handed,” Christopher Monckton, a British politician, pundit, and hereditary peer, writes that at the Copenhagen meeting “the world’s governing class [will meet] to discuss a treaty to inflict an unelected and tyrannical global government on us, with vast and unprecedented powers to control all once-free world markets and tax and regulate the world’s wealthier nations for its own enrichment: in short, to bring freedom, democracy, and prosperity to an instant end worldwide, at the stroke of a pen, on the pretext of addressing what is now known to be the non-problem of manmade ‘global warming.’”
What more is there to say?
Thanks for reading.
More than 30,000 people are gathered in Copenhagen to discuss, negotiate, and act on global warming. A treaty to control the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide is not likely to come out of this UN meeting, but progress toward such a treaty is. The amount of money developed nations should contribute to developing nations to help them adapt to the global warming that is already inevitable is another major topic being discussed. C&ENtral Science is carrying