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Global WarmingGate: What Does It Mean?

Just one of the scandals is the willingness to manipulate data to make a political case.

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

November 22, 2009 - 1:40 am

Late on the night of of November 19, news broke on PJM and elsewhere that a large amount of data had been stolen from one of the major climate research institutions by an unknown hacker and made available on the Internet. The institution is the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, home institution for Dr Phil Jones and one of the world’s centers of research into anthropogenic global warming (AGW), or “climate change.”

The hackers released about 172 megabytes of data, and we can be sure examining it closely will take some time. But after a few days, certain things are beginning to become clear.

  • The data appears to be largely, perhaps entirely, authentic.
  • The emails are incendiary.
  • The implications shake the scientific basis for AGW, and the scientific reputations of some of AGW’s major proponents, to their roots

Let’s look at the files and emails first. (For a running list of the interesting emails, see Bishop Hill’s list.) As I wrote earlier, you have to be really careful with this sort of thing, because it would only require salting a few really inflammatory fakes through a collection of otherwise real emails to make a convincing hoax (think Rathergate.) But since the data first came out, a number of the emails have been corroborated by recipients, and none of them have been refuted. So, at least tentatively, I think we need to accept them as authentic.

If we do accept them as authentic, though, they truly are incendiary. They appear to reveal not one, not two, but three real scandals, of increasing importance.

  • The emails suggest the authors co-operated covertly to ensure that only papers favorable to CO2-forced AGW were published, and that editors and journals publishing contrary papers were punished. They also attempted to “discipline” scientists and journalists who published skeptical information.
See for example emails 1047388489, 1256765544, 1255352257, 1051190249, 1210367056, 1249503274, 1054756929, 1106322460, and 1132094873. Also see email 1139521913, in which the author discusses how the comments at RealClimate.org are moderated to prevent skeptical or critical comments from being published. RealClimate advertises itself as a scientific blog that attempts to present the “real case” for AGW.
  • The emails suggest that the authors manipulated and “massaged” the data to strengthen the case in favor of unprecedented CO2-forced AGW, and to suppress their own data if it called AGW into question.
See for example emails 0938018124, 0843161829, 0939154709 (and the graphic here), and 0942777075 (and the discussion here).
  • The emails suggest that the authors co-operated (perhaps the word is “conspired”) to prevent data from being made available to other researchers through either data archiving requests or through the Freedom of Information Acts of both the U.S. and the UK.

See for example emails 1106338806, 1228330629, 1212063122, 1210367056, and 1107454306 (again!).

Email 1107454306 is particularly interesting. In it, Dr Jones writes:

The two MMs [McKittrick and McIntyre] have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.

What makes this interesting is that the CRU, in later years, announced that they had “inadvertently deleted” their raw data when they responded to an FOIA request from … McIntyre.

Now, I’ve purposefully not included much of the text from these emails, both for reasons of space and because I want people to read them for themselves. But, at least on this first look, it appears that the three scandals are:

  • First, a real attempt by a small group of scientists to subvert the peer-review process and suppress dissenting voices. (For another look at this, by a respected climate scientist who was one of the targets, see these posts on Roger Pielke Sr.‘s blog.)  This is at best massively unethical.
  • Second, a willingness to manipulate the data to make a political case. This is certainly misconduct and possibly scientific fraud. This, if it proves true, should make these scientists subject to strong disciplinary action, even termination of their tenured positions.
  • Third, what gives every appearance of an actual conspiracy to prevent data from being released as required by the Freedom of Information Acts in the US and UK. If this is proven true, that is a federal crime.

These emails and the data associated, taken together, raise really important questions about the whole scientific structure of AGW. Is the data really valid? Has the data been effectively peer reviewed and have attempts to falsify been fairly treated? Is CO2-forced AGW really the best hypothesis?

Until these questions are answered, the various attempts to “deal with the climate change crisis” have no acceptable scientific basis.

Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle
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