The Truth About ‘Climategate’

This is the best article I have seen on climategate so please read it. Begley really hits a homerun here. Need I write more?!!!!
Hacked e-mails have compromised scientists—but not the science itself.

By Sharon Begley | NEWSWEEK

Published Dec 5, 2009

From the magazine issue dated Dec 14, 2009

Few of us would escape with reputations intact if our e-mail were made public, and the scientists ensnared in “climategate” are no exception. Writing “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years … to hide the decline” makes Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia, who typed that in 1999, look as if he is pulling a fast one to conceal a trend toward global cooling. And when another scientist wrote that “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next I.P.C.C. report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” it looks like a blatant attempt to censor opposing views.

Those of you who know I consider the science of anthropogenic global warming solid probably expect me to explain that the hacked e-mails don’t mean what they seem, and that, even if they did, it would not undercut the multiple lines of evidence showing that greenhouse-gas emissions are causing climate change. All true. But first I have to say that the e-mails reveal two tendencies that have set back attempts to show the public and policymakers that climate change is real and serious.

Many of the e-mails refer to attempts to evade requests from critics for raw data, some of which comes from national meteorological offices that, when they sent Jones the data, required confidentiality for hardly more reason than “we can, so let’s.” Really, all climate data “needs to be publicly available and well documented,” Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, a leading researcher on the climate-hurricane link, wrote in an open letter to climate scientists. This includes “how the data were treated and manipulated, what assumptions were made in assembling the data sets, and what data [were] omitted and why.” To be sure, most of the data, and even the computer codes used to analyze them, have been freely available for years (not buried in Al Gore’s backyard). But all the data and methodology should be in the public domain. Yes, critics will cherry-pick and play “gotcha,” as they have with the e-mails, but the science of climate change is robust enough to withstand that.

Other e-mails reflect the ugly politicization of climate science, which is unending. Climate scientists have been subject to harassment and character assassination (Google “Ben Santer” and “Wall Street Journal” to see what I mean), and just last week, Rep. James Sensenbrenner accused the researchers of “scientific fascism” and, with GOP colleagues, made the stunningly stupid demand that the EPA therefore stop regulating greenhouse emissions. It may be human nature to respond in kind; in one e-mail, a scientist wishes he could beat up a leading denier. But the scientists should be bigger than the know-nothings. Rather than “circl[ing] the wagons,” as Curry put it, respond to misinformation with physics, data, and analysis as, for instance, the RealClimate blog does.

Especially since the science—paleoclimate data, heating in the stratosphere relative to the troposphere, and other fingerprints of manmade climate change—is so compelling. Take the two papers by climate skeptics that triggered that “redefine the peer-reviewed literature” e-mail. Both were cited and discussed in the IPCC report—and have now been shown to be riddled with errors. Science worked as it should, good research crowding out bad.

Climategate has tarnished the image of climate research, but hasn’t undermined its substance. At the risk of invoking the silver-lining cliché, maybe climategate will spur scientists to change how they conduct their research and engage with critics.

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One Response to “The Truth About ‘Climategate’”

  1. hkyson Says:

    “Climategate” started out when there appeared on the Internet a collection of e-mails of a group of climatologists who work in the University of East Anglia in England. These documents reveal that some climatologists of international preeminence have manipulated the data of their investigations and have strongly tried to discredit climatologists who are not convinced that the increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the cause of global warming.

    It is true that a majority of the scientists who study climatic tendencies in our atmosphere have arrived at the conclusion that the world’s climate is changing, and they have convinced a group of politicians, some of whom are politically powerful, of the truth of their conclusions.

    A minority, however, is skeptical. Some believe that recent data that suggest that the average temperature of the atmosphere is going up can be explained by natural variations in solar radiation and that global warming is a temporary phenomenon. Others believe that the historical evidence indicating that the temperature of the atmosphere is going up at a dangerous rate is simply not reliable.

    Such lacks of agreement are common in the sciences. They are reduced and eventually eliminated with the accumulation of new evidence and of more refined theories or even by completely new ones. Such debates can persist for a period of decades. Academics often throw invective at one another in these debates. But typically this does not mean much.

    But the case of climate change is different. If the evidence indicates that global warming is progressive, is caused principally by our industrial processes, and will probably cause disastrous changes in our atmosphere before the end of the twenty-first century, then we do not have the time to verify precisely if this evidence is reliable. Such a process would be a question of many years of new investigations. And if the alarmist climatologists are right, such a delay would be tragic for all humanity.

    The difficulty is that economic and climatologic systems are very complicated. They are not like celestial mechanics, which involves only the interaction of gravity and centrifugal force, and efforts to construct computerized models to describe these complicated systems simply cannot include all the factors that are influential in the evolution of these complicated systems.

    All this does not necessarily indicate that the alarmist climatologists are not right. But it really means that if global warming is occurring, we cannot know exactly what will be the average temperature of our atmosphere in the year 2100 and what will be the average sea level of the world’s ocean in that year.

    It also means that we cannot be confident that efforts by the industrialized countries to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will have a significant influence on the evolution of the world’s climate.

    Alas, the reduction of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would be very costly and would greatly change the lives of all the inhabitants of our planet–with the possibility (perhaps even the probability!) that all these efforts will be completely useless.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

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