Climategate and Global Warming

Robert Tracinski and Iain Murray have excellent pieces today on Climategate, the emails from East Anglia University that give us a look behind the curtain at the “scientific” background underlying global warming hysteria. Tracinski, after giving an excellent summary of the issues, says,

This is an enormous case of organized scientific fraud, but it is not just scientific fraud. It is also a criminal act. Suborned by billions of taxpayer dollars devoted to climate research, dozens of prominent scientists have established a criminal racket in which they seek government money-Phil Jones has raked in a total of £13.7 million in grants from the British government-which they then use to falsify data and defraud the taxpayers. It’s the most insidious kind of fraud: a fraud in which the culprits are lauded as public heroes. Judging from this cache of e-mails, they even manage to tell themselves that their manipulation of the data is intended to protect a bigger truth and prevent it from being “confused” by inconvenient facts and uncontrolled criticism.

The damage here goes far beyond the loss of a few billions of taxpayer dollars on bogus scientific research. The real cost of this fraud is the trillions of dollars of wealth that will be destroyed if a fraudulent theory is used to justify legislation that starves the global economy of its cheapest and most abundant sources of energy.

This is the scandal of the century. It needs to be thoroughly investigated-and the culprits need to be brought to justice.

Most of the posts and articles I have read on climategate say, judiciously, that while this casts doubt on some evidence, and is itself evidence of misconduct, we shouldn’t rush to judgment about global warming itself.  Nonsense.  There are many disturbing things in the emails—the use of tricks to hide temperature declines, for example; the pressure on journals not to publish articles critical of global warming; the channeling of papers to reviewers who will rubber-stamp papers showing warming and reject critical papers; the manipulation of the IPCC and the papers referred to in it—but the response to ordinary scientific requests for data and then Freedom of Information Act requests for data is, I think, most telling.  It contravenes scientific practice and violates the law.

But it does more than that.  It tells us that the data do not support the conclusions these scientists have been drawing. If they did, why not release them?  I have done statistical analyses of data sets in a variety of contexts.  There’s no reason not to give other researchers access to the data—unless you’ve been engaged in monkey business. The only sensible explanation is that the scientists involved have analyzed the data, reached conclusions they didn’t want, and then employed “tricks” to get the conclusions they wanted at the outset.

We’ve recently seen a shocking example of this in the case of the Yamal samples.  The famed hockey stick graph of global temperatures depended on picking 12 trees out of 252. The sample as a whole shows no evidence of global warming.

I don’t know what a fair analysis of the East Anglia data would indicate, or even whether there’s enough uncorrupted data left to analyze, but I’m sure of one thing: a fair analysis of the actual data didn’t show global warming.  If it had, there would have been no reason to hide anything.

3 thoughts on “Climategate and Global Warming

  1. “Climategate” started out when there appeared on the Internet a collection of e-mails of a group of climatologists who work in the University of East Anglia in England. These documents reveal that some climatologists of international preeminence have manipulated the data of their investigations and have strongly tried to discredit climatologists who are not convinced that the increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the cause of global warming.

    It is true that a majority of the scientists who study climatic tendencies in our atmosphere have arrived at the conclusion that the world’s climate is changing, and they have convinced a group of politicians, some of whom are politically powerful, of the truth of their conclusions.

    A minority, however, is skeptical. Some believe that recent data that suggest that the average temperature of the atmosphere is going up can be explained by natural variations in solar radiation and that global warming is a temporary phenomenon. Others believe that the historical evidence indicating that the temperature of the atmosphere is going up at a dangerous rate is simply not reliable.

    Such lacks of agreement are common in the sciences. They are reduced and eventually eliminated with the accumulation of new evidence and of more refined theories or even by completely new ones. Such debates can persist for a period of decades. Academics often throw invective at one another in these debates. But typically this does not mean much.

    But the case of climate change is different. If the evidence indicates that global warming is progressive, is caused principally by our industrial processes, and will probably cause disastrous changes in our atmosphere before the end of the twenty-first century, then we do not have the time to verify precisely if this evidence is reliable. Such a process would be a question of many years of new investigations. And if the alarmist climatologists are right, such a delay would be tragic for all humanity.

    The difficulty is that economic and climatologic systems are very complicated. They are not like celestial mechanics, which involves only the interaction of gravity and centrifugal force, and efforts to construct computerized models to describe these complicated systems simply cannot include all the factors that are influential in the evolution of these complicated systems.

    All this does not necessarily indicate that the alarmist climatologists are not right. But it really means that if global warming is occurring, we cannot know exactly what will be the average temperature of our atmosphere in the year 2100 and what will be the average sea level of the world’s ocean in that year.

    It also means that we cannot be confident that efforts by the industrialized countries to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will have a significant influence on the evolution of the world’s climate.

    Alas, the reduction of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would be very costly and would greatly change the lives of all the inhabitants of our planet–with the possibility (perhaps even the probability!) that all these efforts will be completely useless.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

  2. “The difficulty is that economic and climatologic systems are very complicated.” Exactly right. That’s one of the chief reasons I’ve always been skeptical of the claims of the global warming alarmists. It’s absurd to think that “the science is settled,” as people like Al Gore have often insisted, when the science consists of building computer models of incredibly complex systems and then evaluating them on data sets that are vast and of unclear reliability.

    Some warming alarmists have urged following the precautionary principle, saying that we can’t wait any longer; if the models are right, we have to act quickly. I think you’re right to point out that there are serious negative consequences to doing what they say, and that has to figure into the equation too. A rumble makes you think a train is coming; you’d better get off the tracks! Well, does that remain true if the alternative is jumping into the swirling river below? Maybe it’s worth turning around to look.

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