Climategate: The End of the Beginning
A review of Climategate: The CRUtape Letters, the first book on the game-changing data leak. (Also see Roger L. Simon's PJTV interview with the book's author:"Climategate Heats Up As Liberal Author Jumps Ship")
January 20, 2010 - 2:50 pm
The files documented insiders in the AGW community subverting peer review, colluding to prevent papers from being published and attacking editors, scientific skeptics, and journals that dared to publish skeptical papers, and conspiring to prevent data from being released to skeptical investigators.
For climate skeptics, the emails at first seemed to be too good to be true — they confirmed suspicions that even the skeptics thought weren’t plausible. But the emails and files led to closer examination of the data, and suddenly contradictions came thick and fast, as the dominoes in the climate change story began to fall. Questionable data manipulations are now being revealed every day.
The IPCC reports that were acclaimed as “settled science” came in for closer examination, and complaints that had been ignored in the past were suddenly taken seriously. Roger Pielke Sr. documented how the results of a report in which he’d participated were actually reversed and cited as supporting a conclusion the report had denied.
In one glaring example, the IPCC report quoted a conclusion that glaciers in the Himalayas would disappear by 2035. When this was examined, it turned out that the source of this conclusion was a telephone conversation reported by the New Scientist magazine. The IPCC report, advertised as the result of the best peer-reviewed science, turned out to be claiming as fact something that had never been subject to any review — and may have actually been a typographical error.
Mosher and Fuller start the book with the Climategate emails. They put the controversy into context, discussing the major topics in the climate debate and identifying some of the major players on both sides. They than lay out a chronological narrative of the controversy between AGW proponents and skeptics — starting in 2004 and 2005 with the first attempts to confirm some of the scientific results and through the release of the Climategate files and the explosive attention the files drew. The narrative does a fine job of showing just how the emails clarified what was happening: Mosher and Fuller match emails from the files with events in the timeline, interpreting each of the emails in context.
Climategate: The CRUTape Letters has a few flaws. Self-published through Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand service, it could have used the services of an editor, and shows it with occasional clumsy phrasing and small picky errors. (For example, they mention one scientist as having moved from NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to UCAR, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. UCAR is the corporate body that runs NCAR.) These little details, however, aren’t important. What’s important is the story, and the story is damning. They write:
A section of politically active scientists, policy makers, politicians, and NGOs in effect put on white coats and told us that our planet was gravely ill, and that we needed to follow their prescriptive advice to save ourselves from a deadly disease. That’s really how they framed the discussion, and they classified everyone who disagreed as a denier, like a smoker dismissing his cough and waving away the x-rays. …
They may protest that the diagnosis is too technical for the patient to understand and that their actions are for the patient’s good. They may even believe it. But we call it quackery.
The danger here is that politics have subverted the process of science. If anthropogenic global warming is not true, it has at the least led to wasting billions of dollars on approaches to reduce the impact of what was, at bottom, a fantasy.
But if AGW is true — and there are some scientific reasons to think it might be — then we need our scientific understanding of the problem to be complete, and we need to be able to trust the results on which we’re basing extraordinarily expensive and difficult decisions. It’s entirely possible, as Roger Pielke Sr. believes, that the most important causes of AGW are things that can be resolved much more easily and inexpensively than massive interventions in the economies of the world.
The conspiracy revealed in Climategate: The CRUTape Letters may have prevented better science from showing us better ways to solve the problem. The actions of these scientists have now corrupted the science that exists and destroyed what trust we might have had in the conclusions.
If there is a crisis, the climate cartel conspiracy may actually have delayed the action they think is essential.