EPW Polict Beat

Climategate: Who, What, When, Where

By —— Bio and Archives--December 4, 2009

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There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science…It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked…Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it.—Richard Feynman, Nobel laureate physicist


It has been dismissed as mere “snippiness” between scientists lacking “interpersonal skills”; as just a few scientists musing innocently about “tricks” to “hide the decline”; and as just a few scientists who wrote oh-so regrettable things-yet all of which in no way undermine the sacred “consensus” about global warming. Or so the alarmists claim. Yet the facts reveal that Climategate appears to be a scientific scandal of monumental proportions.

Climategate is huge, varied, complex, and undeniably serious. The emails between some the world’s preeminent climate scientists-including those who served as lead authors of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the alarmists’ gold standard of climate research-reveal evidence of lawbreaking, conspiracy to defame scientists with whom they disagree, manipulation of data to produce foreordained conclusions, and efforts to prevent climate skeptics from publishing research, and much more.

The ramifications of Climategate spread far and wide-most notably to EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases from mobile sources endanger public health and welfare. EPA’s problem is that the finding rests in large measure on the IPCC’s conclusions-and EPA has accepted them wholesale, without an independent assessment. EPA’s Technical Support Document (TSD) for the proposed finding reads thus: “the TSD therefore relies most heavily on the major assessment reports of both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.”

EPW Policy Beat is working overtime to unravel this scandal, as Marley said to Scrooge, “link by link and yard by yard.” We will issue daily vignettes of the major issues, institutions, and people involved.  Our first installment focuses on the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

Climatic Research Unit

CRU’s central role demolishes claims by alarmists that Climategate is a tempest in a teapot. According to a memo by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), CRU is “among the renowned research centers in the world on some aspects of climate change, both natural and anthropogenic.” Phil Jones, heretofore CRU’s director, was forced to temporarily resign because his email correspondence suggests, among other things, potentially illegal behavior.  Recall that it was Jones who wrote, “The two MMs 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.”

Jones was one of the IPCC’s “Coordinating Lead Authors” of “Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change.” CRU Deputy Director Keith Briffa was a lead author on “paleoclimatology” in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. Jones and fellow colleagues across the Atlantic-including Michael Mann of Penn State, author of infamous hockey stick graph, which has been thoroughly debunked-collaborated on temperature data sets used by the IPCC.

According to CRS:

“Work of the CRU has contributed to the scientific assessments of climate change conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For example, CRU’s CRUTEM3 dataset of surface temperatures is one of five used by the IPCC in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)... The CRU also produced the IPCC AR4’s ‘high resolution climatologies,’ constructed datasets representing average climate conditions in grid squares covering most of the globe, historically and as projected by a range of climate models for 16 different scenarios to 2100, used to analyze the impacts of uncertainty in future climate projections for specific locations. The CRU work on paleoclimatology is widely cited, including by the IPCC, and has contributed to analysis of the factors contributing to climate variability over past centuries.” Link to CRS Memo


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