Climategate: it’s worse than you ever imagined

Last week the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the UK confirmed that its computer had been hacked.  It has also confirmed that thousands of e-mails and other information have been taken public.

The CRU is one of the leading research units behind the theory that increased CO2 is causing global warming (this theory is called anthropogenic global warming or AGW).  The released e-mails are extremely damaging to the scientists involved, and, depending on how this all plays out, this incident could end up being the end of the global warming movement as we know it.  Some of the leading climate scientists are likely to have their reputations destroyed and some of them could end up in jail.  Leading environmentalists, sympathetic to the AGW theory, are warning that Phil Jones, the director of the CRU, should resign and that environmentalists need to be aware how serious this scandal is.

I’ve been following this issue closely since the 1980s.  At the time, I was living in Miami and the Miami Herald (where I worked) published a series of articles predicting that Miami Beach and Key Biscayne would be underwater within a few decades because of the melting polar ice caps.  Well, it is 22 years later, and, except for a serious real estate crisis, Miami Beach and Key Biscayne are still there and doing well.

I am old enough to remember some climate scientists going crazy about global cooling in the 1970s.   In elementary and middle school in those days, we were told that the Earth would freeze up by the 21st century.

Needless to say, given the contradictory nature of such warnings, I’ve learned to be skeptical of climate scientists’ exaggerated claims.   For good reason:  we now learn that many climate scientists have deliberately been exaggerating for their own political reasons since the 1980s.   Back in 1989, Prof. Stephen Schneider said it is necessary to create over-wrought “scary scenarios” to justify action on “potentially”  harmful climate change.   In this 2006 interview, Al Gore admitted to exaggerating the dangers of global warming because his cause is so sure and right.

The CRU e-mail leaks are only the latest proof that “scary scenarios” are only the tip of the global warming alarmist ice berg, as it were.

So, to sum up:  the leading climate scientists, who have been pushing for a worldwide regime to control CO2 emissions, have been perpetrating a fraud, ignoring the scientific method, hiding information, and possibly committing seriously illegal acts.  And one of their motives may simply have been grant money.  In the words of one scientist, “you should be angry.  Very angry.”

I have written about global warming several times.  You can read here and here, for examples.  In this post I discuss the reality that it is a generally accepted fact that the Earth has not warmed in 11 years.  I want to make it clear that many scientists, certainly the majority, are honest, simply curious people trying to figure out the complex system that is our planet’s climate.  These scientists have been duped by Phil Jones, Michael Mann and their ilk just as much as we all have.

It is also clear that there was a warm period in the 1990s that was unusually warm by historical standards.  It is also clear that CO2 is rising.  But as any scientist will tell you, correlation is not causation.  The global climate is extremely complex, and CO2 is only one of the factors that may or may not be affecting the weather.

If the people involved in this scandal had been honest from the beginning and stuck to true scientific methods, they would not be in this mess.  But they let their political agendas skew their thinking.

The result:  there will be investigations, and there will be lawsuits.   There is significant evidence that U.S. entities may have also falsified data.

But the good news is that the cap-and-trade bill, which would have caused the loss of millions of jobs in the U.S., is apparently dead in the Senate.  Hopefully it will not be resurrected.  The other good news is that the scandal takes place right before the climate conference in Copenhagen and should hopefully derail any agreement that will hobble the global economy.

Hopefully this scandal will bring a new era of honesty in the climate change discussion.  That is change we all can believe in.

Reminder to commenters:  stay on topic, don’t insult anybody and be nice or your comments will be deleted.

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

53 thoughts on “Climategate: it’s worse than you ever imagined

  1. By the way, if you want a good web site to keep track of this scandal, the best place I’ve found is climatedepot.com. You will be overwhelmed by the amount of information there.

  2. Here’s a companion piece to your summary, Geoff, from the libertarian reason magazine:

    http://reason.com/blog/2009/11/25/climategate-forget-the-emails

    Personally, I’m kinda bummed. I like apocalyptic movies, and was looking forward to driving my own Ford XB Falcon Pursuit Special at breakneck speeds through the Australian outback, followed by Lord Humungus and his vicious gang of post-holocaust, motorcycle-riding vandals.

  3. How can I believe anything in this post when it wasn’t published
    in a peer reviewed journal? But seriously, I’ll be very interested
    to see how this plays out in the scientific community.

  4. Mike, cheer up! The way nuclear proliferation is going, you may still get your wish. I kinda imagined you as a sidekick to Tina Turner in “Thunderdome.”

    The movies that are looking really stupid right now are “Waterworld” and “The Day After Tomorrow.” Al Gore, Phil Jones and Michael Mann have always imagined themselves as the good guys protecting that atoll that Kevin Costner visits in “Waterworld.” But in fact, they are the “Smokers,” rowing their powerless ship of global warming alarmism in a quixotic quest for the “dry land” of proof.

  5. “..stay on topic, don’t insult anybody and be nice or your comments will be deleted.”

    Geoff, you are a kill joy. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  6. Jack, it’s always important to read the other side, and indeed I have read this and other pieces. Frankly, the desperation on the side of global warming alarmists is pathetic, and this piece does nothing to address all of the issues I mention in the post. You may or may not know that a lot of the people carrying out the fraud are contributors to Realclimate. Some of them will probably soon be in jail, and they are at the very least completely discredited. Many of the comments on this very piece point out how damning the evidence is. Read through the comments.

  7. Note that even the strongest arguments the denialists are proposing from the emails don’t remotely invalidate all the extensive scientific evidence. Ice caps are melting. Glacier are melting. This is an attempt to distract by pointing at emails out of contexts and scientists being human and writing unfortunate things in private email (as I think we all have).

    Claiming that people will be in jail is ridiculous.

  8. I’ve been looking into this somewhat.

    The first impressions of various scientists, statisticians, and programmers who have been looking into the computer code varies from incredulous to profane. This group apparently includes one of the CRU’s own programmers who apparently had to pick up the work after some of the original programmers were gone and try to make the software reliably produce output consistent with results had previously been published. He couldn’t.

    Regardless of whether the principals attempted to prettify the results, hide the apparent discrepancies between what they had predicted and how nature seemed to be behaving, or attempt to manipulate the peer review process to stifle skeptics and critics, their data and the processes used to derive their conclusions are both irremedially corrupt. Their entire body of work has to be redone, and so does that of everyone who collaborated with them and acepted their resulds.

    Whether they were actually guilty of fraud or merely intense wishful thinking, their scientific credibility has been shredded. At this poinrt, it scarcly matters whether they retract their findings (at a huge cost to their scientific prestige, funding, and political influence) or whether they maintain them in the face of what will surely be mounting criticism, (also at aserios risk to their scientific prestige, funding, and political influence)

    One of the most elementary canons of true scientific research was expressed by the late Richard Feynman who said “The first principle is that you must avoid fooling yourself–and you are the easiest one to fool”. To that end, he claimed that strict scientific integrity demands that you disclose all your data and methods, including, and even especially, those that do not support your thesis. This, they manifestly failed to do.

  9. Clark –

    You sound angrier than usual. Not being a scientist, I won’t comment on the science issues. I haven’t read a whole lot on this, but what I did read made it sound like these e-mails weren’t hacked, but instead released by an (anonymous) disgruntled insider.

    And yes, glaciers are melting. Except where they aren’t. And the arctic is melting, except when it isn’t (up here in Alaska much is being made of the huge increase in second year ice in the Arctic). As a layman, I can’t really accept the “take our word for it because we’re scientists.” There have been too many time when the vast majority of experts have been in the wrong (for example, in my dissertation research, I came across of lot of stuff in the 19th century where it was often stated that the vast majority of medical doctors agreed women were just incapable of being equal with men intellectually because of the composition of their brains).

    Of course, the vast majority of experts have often been right, so who knows. I haven’t been following this issue a whole lot, but I know you have a more scientific grounding on this issue. I’d appreciate something more reasoned from you – you seem out of sorts and rather too angry to me (though it may just be the internet effect).

    As for “hide the decline” though – well, IIRC, that e-mail was written in 1999 when there was no “decline” at that point, so I don’t think the anti-global warming crowd gets that point. I’m more concerned about all the other points on Geoff’s list above.

  10. Confutus: Yes! Results must be repeatable, which in this case means that someone else analyzing the same data gets the same results. Someone who locks up the data and has unmaintainable code seems uninterested in repeatability. I love the Feynman reference.

    Clark: I agree that some of the predicted fallout from this seems over-the-top, but look at some of the non-email documents, as in the Reason article in Mike’s #2. I would be very troubled if the Particle Data Group (for example) used such terrible data acquisition and analysis techniques in presenting evidence of a new particle, and much more so if such existence was being used to bolster support for sweeping changes in global governance, quality of life, and political freedoms.

  11. It looks like the comment that I was going to reply to is gone. But I still wanted to let Clark know that I am proud of him. Keep up the good fight. If that is you angry…well…you have much better control than I do.

  12. Chris –

    Clark can fight the good fight all he wants, but I’m a student of rhetoric, and I can clearly say that that type of rhetoric does very little to convince the clueless scientific layman such as myself. Go ahead and cheer him on and be proud of him. Just realize it doesn’t actually further the debate or do anything to convince people like myself who find themselves turned off by all the doomsday scenarios and attacks that seem to have little to do with the actual issues at hand.

  13. I read Clark’s comment as being hurried, not angry, but Clark and I have gone around and around on this for more than two years, so maybe by now he is angry. :)

    Regarding whether somebody will go to jail, actually not ridiculous at all:

    Read this in its entirety. There is incontrovertible evidence that Phil Jones tried to hide and delete data rather than release it under the Freedom of Information Act. He could very well go to jail.

    http://camirror.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/willis-eschenbachs-foi-request/

    For more about the general legal climate, read below:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-25061-Climate-Change-Examiner~y2009m11d24-Legal-fallout-of-Climategate–CEI-to-sue-NASA

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1230635/Scientist-climate-change-cover-storm-told-quit.html

    http://camirror.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/denying-email-deletion/

  14. With that, my friends, I am hoping to spend most of this weekend with my family. I wish everybody a happy Thanksgiving. I will be monitoring this thread occasionally and will delete anything that violates our comment policy, but otherwise not spending a huge amount of time here.

    Eat turkey, eat stuffing and watch some football.

  15. Well, perhaps not angry. It was just a different tone then I’m used to from Clark – he’s usually the reasoned/reasonable one who discuss things in detail from many possible viewpoints in order to frame the issues at stake.

    But it may just be me or the lack of body language on the net. I’m not disagreeing with Clark – I just was more surprised by the change. I would really prefer a more reasoned response – every time this debate comes up, I feel in over my head.

  16. Ivan, from what I can tell, the “decline” that is being covered up is a discrepancy between an indirect (and somewhat doubtful) practice of using tree-ring growth data as a substitute for actual temperature records for periods before the widespread use of the thermometer, and actual recordings since that time. For most of the period when records of both exist, these seemed to be correlated.
    However, beginning about 1960, the estimates and the averages of recorded temperatures began to diverge. What Dr. Jones and colleagues did was to splice on the recorded data for the past 30-50 years, because that showed an increase in global temperatures, rather than continuing to use the estimate from tree rings, because that seemed to show a decrease in temperatures. While this may not rise to the level of actual fraud, there is something dodgy about it, especially when the shift isn’t specifically labeled and identified.

  17. “Hockey Stick” Michael Mann may be transferring from Penn State to the State Pen. I think the Sun spot theory (low Sun spots this decade) probably are the source of the planet’s cooling this decade.

  18. Regarding the legal issues, here is an excerpt from the WSJ “Best of the Web Today” on Nov. 25:

    A lawyer writes us that “‘the purloined ‘global warming emails’ suggest several lines of legal inquiry”:

    Tortious interference. For researchers and academicians, publication in peer-reviewed journals is important to advancement, raises, grant funding, etc. Wrongful interference with the ability to publish has monetary and reputational damages. If that interference is based not on editorial judgment of worthiness for publication, but rather on protecting reputations, scientific positions, political goals or “places in history” (as mentioned in one email), then it could give rise to liability in tort for the individual scientist and possibly for the university or organization for which he works.

    Breach of faculty ethics standards or contracts. Most universities and research organizations have ethics clauses in their faculty/employee manuals and in their contracts with faculty/researchers. If (as suggested by the purloined emails) these individuals cooked data or manipulated assumptions to achieve preferred outcomes, or denied others access to data essential for replication of result that is essential to the scientific method, they could have violated university or organizational ethics standards.

    State-chartered universities. Some of these individuals appear to work for state-chartered and state-funded institutions, and might well be classified as state employees (and thereby eligible for generous state benefits). The conduct suggested by the purloined emails might violate state ethics or funding policies. State governments and legislatures therefore might have a basis for inquiry and oversight.

    Federal grants. Federal grants typically have ethics/integrity clauses to assure that the research funded by the grant is credible and reliable (and to assure that the agency can avoid accountability if it isn’t). As noted, the purloined emails suggest that data might have been cooked and assumptions might have been manipulated to generate a predetermined outcome. If true, and if the work in question was funded by federal grant, the researchers in question might well have violated their federal grant contracts–for which there are legal consequences. Inspectors general of the grant agencies should be in position to make inquiry if the data/assumptions in question could be linked in time and topic to a contemporaneous federal grant to the researchers in question.

    ME AGAIN: This is, of course, above and beyond the obviously illegal course of plotting to ignore a Freedom of Information request and indeed deleting e-mails so you don’t have to comply. See comment 16 for more on this.

  19. The fallout from the global warming scandal is spreading.

    In New Zealand, scientists were finally able to get at the raw temperature data. This is significant because it is exactly this kind of data that the CRU and others were trying to hide (which is why they ignored repeated Freedom of Information requests). So, it turns out that when you look at the actual data for New Zealand, the global warming problem is much less severe than reported by the government.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/25/uh-oh-raw-data-in-new-zealand-tells-a-different-story-than-the-official-one/

  20. Ivan,

    I am pretty sure that Clark will just ignore me.

    As a political philosopher, I am a student of political ideology. That is why I read this posts. They have little to do with science and everything to do with political ideology. My guess is that Clark see right through it. That is why I cheer him on. He is the voice of reason in this discussion. If he is angry, my guess is that it is for good reason.

  21. I’m a great believer in skepticism. I’m still skeptical about those weapons of mass destruction we were told were in Iraq.

  22. While this may not rise to the level of actual fraud, there is something dodgy about it, especially when the shift isn’t specifically labeled and identified.

    If the scientists concerned had an actual theory backed by any sort of evidence whatsoever for the divergence, and clearly documented it, that would be one thing.

    As it is, the scientists were effectively pretending that the laws of physics changed in 1960 without telling anyone about it, and changed in a way that does not completely invalidate the entire data series.

    Financial fraud, perhaps not. Scientific fraud, absolutely. Could a scientist do anything more damaging to his credibility?

    It is worth mentioning of course, that questions of personal gain aside, the real issue here is that a trillion dollars here, and a trillion dollars there, pretty soon we are talking about real money. $40-100 trillion dollars worth, based on in no large part on a conspiracy to fabricate evidence and suppress dissent.

  23. I was just wondering: what do you think we would find if we hacked into the General Authorities email?

  24. I’m sure the anti-Mormons would find stuff that they would claim discredits the church entirely.
    Not that the emails would discredit the church, but the enemies of the church would be happy to use whatever ill-gained private communications they could get their hands on, warp it to their own ends, and say, “look, the church is false, and these emails prove it….”

  25. In case anybody thinks that the e-mails are somehow being used in an unfair way to discredit global warming alarmists, they may want to read this:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703499404574559630382048494.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    Key graf:

    “But the furor over these documents is not about tone, colloquialisms or even whether climatologists are nice people in private. The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at in the first place, and how even now a single view is being enforced. In short, the impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.”

  26. This has been discussed by Ben and Confutus above, but here is a detailed article looking at the source code used to come up with temperatures that were highly inaccurate. To sum up: all of the data that shows increasing temperatures is highly suspect if not fraudulent. This does not necessarily mean temperatures have not increased (other sources show the 1990s to be unusually warm), but it does mean that all of the IPCC data needs to be redone to be considered accurate.

    http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=4456&linkbox=true&position=3

  27. Her are two blog posts I found somewhat informative:

    —-
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/nov/25/monbiot-climate-leak-crisis-response

    “It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.

    The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people’s denial. Pretending that this isn’t a real crisis isn’t going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We’ll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.

    It is true that much of what has been revealed could be explained as the usual cut and thrust of the peer review process, exacerbated by the extraordinary pressure the scientists were facing from a denial industry determined to crush them. One of the most damaging emails was sent by the head of the climatic research unit, Phil Jones. He wrote “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

    and http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MzFjNTU0YTUyZGQ1NTVlMDllYzA3N2VhNzBjN2U5NzI=

    “I thought John’s point that there will
    always be contrarians in any scientific discipline, and that in general it
    is likely that the consensus position has more validity than the
    contrarian one, is a valid one. Given the recent events, though, it seems
    to me that we need to develop methods that can alert us to situations
    where the consensus position is faulty. In the case of climate research,
    there were numerous such clues that were available five or more years ago
    which should have made people look much more carefully at the consensus.
    Here are some red flags in the behavior of mainstream scientists that
    could be used as prompts for examining more carefully the consensus
    position.

    (1) Consistent use of ad hominem attacks toward those challenging their
    positions.

    (2) Refusal to make data public. This has been going on in this area for
    some time.

    (3) Refusal to engage in discussions of the actual science, on the
    assumption that it is too complicated for others to understand.

    (4) Challenging the credentials of those challenging the consensus position.

    (5) Refusal to make computer code being used to analyze the data public.
    This has been particularly egregious here, and clear statements of the
    mathematics and statistics being employed would have allowed the
    conclusions to be challenged at a much earlier stage.

    If one believes in the science one is doing, one should be willing to go
    to great lengths to engage those who challenge it or fail to understand
    it, and provide various explanations at various levels of technical
    detail, rather than attempt to discredit others.”
    —–

    I recall something Ralph Nader once said – that if you are going to fight for some cause, you have to ensure you are better behaved than your opponents. These two posts, both from opposite ends of the political spectrum (I didn’t quote them in their entireties, so go read the whole things, etc.) both sort of (in a round about way) sum up how I feel.

  28. From 1990 to 1994, I spent half my time at Los Alamos working in the GeoAnalysis Group, which was part of LANL’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Division. My connections to environmental research continued at Johns Hopkins where I took some courses in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, one of my advisors headed our Center for Environmental and Applied Fluid Mechanics, and one of the faculty on my dissertation committee was from the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. If anyone not directly involved in climate research should have an opinion on AGW, I should, but I’m undecided. I credit my vacilation to my years studying fluid dynamic turbulence. Perhaps I’ll get around to writing something about this perspective, but for here, I’ll write that it shouldn’t be surprising that some scientists demonstrate the same careerist pathologies found among all professions, even religious ministry.

    Even in the circles I worked in through the ’90s, AGW was the focus of little attention for most people. Chick Keller, past director of the LANL Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, was one who thought it was important, and he and others like him are propounding their pro-AGW views in honorable ways, including respect for scientists who disagree with them. One other thought, though AGW is a scientific question, it isn’t just that, since the economic impact of action regarding it would be bigger than health care reform and the finance industry bailout combined. It is silly to think such a thing could possibly be a matter beyond politics.

  29. Here’s a nice website that provides links to everything bad caused by global warming:

    http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

    Which helps explains why I find the global warming debate so odd. Instead of sticking to the science, we get told everything bad in the world (Darfur! Unemployment! Hurricanes!) is caused by global warming.

    I don’t know – perhaps hysteria helps build short term consensus, and if we’re headed into a real crisis – well, they might justify it that way. But it’s terrible for building long term consensus, and I don’t like giving too much power to the government.

  30. John M, I think it is telling that, in addition to all of the things mentioned in this post, which are many, that global warming alarmists have reacted with complete disdain to easy solutions to the problem, such as seeding clouds over the oceans with SO2. Apparently (I am not a scientist, just an aggregator of information), SO2 will help create a cover that will overcome the increase in CO2. It could cost just a few billion dollars (compared to the trillions that involve turning us back industrially more than a century) to perform this task, yet the idea is completely out of bounds for Al Gore, & Co.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704335904574495643459234318.html

  31. One of the most troublesome aspects is the way the CRU, and apparently NASA as well, have been stonewalling about releasing their raw data and disclosing their methods, including the assumptions and methods embedded in their software. The more they do this, the more they convince others that they have something to hide.

    This is temperature data. It is not the gold in Ft. Knox. It is not the Crown jewels. It is not copyrightable, patentable, or a corporate trademark. It is not hazardous to the life, liberty, prosperity, or privacy of either the contributors or those who use it. It isn’t a military secret. It isn’t sensitive diplomatic corresponence that could lead to war. It was created by public institutions using public money for public use and benefit. It is not the private, proprietary domain of those who are being paid by the public to analyze it.

    The worst that could happen, from the public’s point of view, is that some one else (possibly less competent or honorable) could get hold of the data, and process it using different assumptions to come up with different conclusions. The researchers would then have to spend time and effort trying to prove that their analysis is better than that of those who disagree with their conclusions.

    But this is exactly how science is supposed to work.

    However, if it should turn out that their own assumptions and methods were sloppy, careless, or scientifically illegitimate, then releasing their data and methods would amount to professional suicide. That’s a very powerful motive for refusing to release them.

    I usually stay charitable and neutral on these matters such as this, but at some point, the whiff of something rotten becomes an overpowering stench.

  32. According to some of the emails it seems like they’re afraid of having to spend half their valuable time rehashing stuff merely to satisfy the demands of skeptics (most of whom are poor scientists according to them and therefore not worth the effort). I suppose I can understand why they might have an aversion to making some of the data more accessible in light of the above. On the other hand, one really runs the risk of crossing the line into an irrational orthodoxy when closing the door on honest inquiry however impertinent it may seem.

  33. If Clark is still monitoring this thread, I would like him to know that I spent about two hours today on Realclimate (the pro-AGW site) trying to read as much as I could about the other side of this debate. There are two threads on the CRU hack that have hundreds of comments, many from skeptics. Now, I think the Realclimate people should be credited with spending hours and hours answering concerns. At the end of the day, I don’t think their answers are satisfactory (to me), but I think anybody interested in this discussion should take a look to see the other side.

    http://www.realclimate.org

  34. Here’s the latest: a UN scientist has declared that Jones and Mann (two of the most prominent supporters of AGW and the authors of many of the unflattering hacked e-mails) should be barred from any future IPCC work, at least partly because they have a long history of trying to intimidate opposing viewpoints.

    http://climatedepot.com/a/4100/UN-scientists-turn-on-each-other-UN-Scientist-Declares-Climategate-colleagues-Mann-Jones-and-Rahmstorf-should-be-barred-from-the-IPCC-process–They-are-not-credible-any-more

  35. Ivan, I read that today — nice to see a climate scientist with a more open approach. The good news is that we’re likely to see a big change in the closed nature of climate science in the wake of recent events.

    It’s also nice to see Revkin being more balanced in his reporting in the last few days. At first, he appeared to see his job as “circling the wagons” to protect Mann, Jones and co, but his reporting in the last few days has been better. I think a lot of people are going from “oh, this is just another stunt by skeptics” to “whoa, we really do have a problem, we should do something about it.” And that’s a good thing.

  36. Nice symmetry: for eight years the Bush Administration censored all papers on global warming, and now…

  37. I imagine many of the original data sources still have the original records. New Zealand apparently has them, for example. Now all that is necessary is collect them and make a new database accessible and verifiable in a transparent fashion.

  38. As I understand it, the loss of original data had been rather reluctantly and mutedly conceded back in August, well before the current flap, but it hasn’t had much publicity. This is embarrassing to the CRU, as it rightly should be. Anyone in law or law enforcment could probably produce multiple examples of where breaking the chain of evidence often means losing the case.
    Any long chain of reasoning going from raw temperature data to predictions of future climate is going to have to involve a mighty chain of assumptions and intermediate conclusions.
    Without revealing what those assumptions were, no one can entirely trust the the conclusions, as has been demonstrated with a lesser flap over New Zealand temperatures. With different working assumptions, someone else using the exact same raw data but with different assumptions can reach entirely different conclusions. It is those hidden assumptions that need to be made transparent to skeptics and critics.
    One thing that the relased material showed was that at some point in the process, the CRU’s data handling, software, and documentation were ridiculously poor and sloppy compared with statistical analaysis and computing techniques that are standard practice in other fields, especially outside the physical sciences. It is not clear what the original data was, nor what was done to it, nor why. Depending on what data handling techiques and assumptions were embedded in the code, it is entirely possible to have good data in and garbage out. It may be garbage that looks very much like what you expected to see, but subtly and seriously flawed garbage nonetheless.
    Until there is more evidence, (and I was a bit hasty in my first response) it’s not necessary to assume bad faith on the part of either Anthroponenic Global Warming proponents or skeptics. Simply on the basis of how poorly the data has been handled, though, the case for AGW is not quite as sound as its more committed proponents would like to have everyone believe.

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