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Pielke Sr.: Climategate Emails Just a Small Sample of a Broad Issue (PJM Exclusive)

As a result of the inadequacies of the surface temperature record as a quantitative measure of climate system heat changes, we have been advocating assessing upper ocean heat changes -- as reported, for example, in: Pielke Sr., R.A., 2008: A broader view of the role of humans in the climate system. Physics Today, 61, Vol. 11, 54-55.

This data shows no annual averaged global warming since mid-2003.

PJM: The corrections included in the USHCN data appear to dominate the raw data warming by a factor of five to one -- 0.5°C to 0.1°C. To an outsider, when the corrections are this large compared to the "signal," it raises the question of whether the corrections aren't simply included to make the data fit the dominant theory. How trustworthy is the climate data from USHCN, GISS, and other sources, in your opinion?

Pielke: As we wrote in our 2007 JGR paper, there are major problems with the quantitative accuracy of the surface temperature data. As you correctly summarize, the adjustments are often larger than the trends. While I am very critical of how they made these adjustments, I do not question their sincerity. However, where they have failed is in preventing, in their leadership position, a proper scientific debate of the issues that we and others have raised. It is interesting and quite revealing that NCDC has still not submitted a comment in the literature on our 2007 JGR paper.

They have just chosen to ignore it.

PJM: Do you think these revelations call the notion of anthropogenic global warming into question?

Pielke: This is too simple a question. There really are three fundamental scientific perspectives:

Hypothesis 1: Human influence on climate variability and change is of minimal importance, and natural causes dominate climate variations and changes on all time scales. In coming decades, the human influence will continue to be minimal.

Hypothesis 2a: Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.

Hypothesis 2b: Although the natural causes of climate variations and changes are undoubtedly important, the human influences are significant and are dominated by the emissions into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases, the most important of which is CO2. The adverse impact of these gases on regional and global climate constitutes the primary climate issue for the coming decades.

Hypothesis 2b is the perspective that the released emails are advocating (which is the IPCC conclusion) and are deliberately attempting to suppress scientists who present evidence of either of the other two viewpoints. In our EOS article, we present evidence in the peer reviewed literature that refutes both hypotheses 1 and 2b, and supports hypothesis 2a as the robust finding.

PJM: Do you think these revelations weaken the case for the "greenhouse" effect of CO2 and CH4 as the dominant anthropogenic factor [Dr. Pielke's Hypothesis 2b -- PJM] in global warming?

Pielke: The emails do not discuss the three hypotheses that I list in the last answer. However, I have documented elsewhere that the IPCC deliberately excluded peer reviewed papers that presented evidence which refuted hypothesis 2b. (See Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2008: A Broader View of the Role of Humans in the Climate System is Required In the Assessment of Costs and Benefits of Effective Climate Policy. Written Testimony for the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Hearing “Climate Change: Costs of Inaction” -- Honorable RickBoucher, Chairman. June 26, 2008, Washington, DC., 52 pp.)

PJM: What do you think the scientific consequences should be? Can the results of Mann, Hansen, Jones, et al be trusted, or must they be re-examined and replicated?

Pielke: All of the data analyses on NCDC, GISS, and CRU should be examined by independent assessment groups. This was clear even before the emails were released. However, the emails will hopefully motivate a call to do this.

PJM: How should climate science recover from this scandal?

Pielke: We need new climate assessments by climate scientists who do not have the blatant conflict of interest of the current leadership of the IPCC process and the professional societies.


Professor Roger A. Pielke, Sr. is a atmospheric scientist who received his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in 1973, and who is now professor emeritus at Colorado State University and senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Professor Pielke was elected a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society in 1982, was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2004, and served as Colorado State climatologist from 1999 to 2006. Professor Pielke is an ISI highly cited researcher, which means that he is among the researchers whose publications have been most cited by others in his field.