Tuesday, February 23, 2010


On November 17, 2009 after the server of the Real Climate website was hacked and a copy of the data from CRU at the University of East Anglia was uploaded the world suddenly became aware of a major event in the AGW universe.

It is disputed whether the files were stolen by a hacker or released by a whistleblower. But Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate, said, "At around 6.20am (EST) Nov 17th, somebody hacked into the RC server from an IP address associated with a computer somewhere in Turkey, disabled access from the legitimate users, and uploaded a file FOIA.zip to our server.”

The files contained more than 1,000 emails and 3,000 other documents as well as commented source code pertaining to climate change research covering a period from 1996 until 2009. You can read a sample of them here http://ecotretas.blogspot.com/2009/11/rolo-compressor-de-verdades.html and here http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/25/climategate-hide-the-decline-codified/

The first reaction by the AGW believers was to try and downplay the importance of the material and to focus instead on the “theft” of the documents. The Norfolk police subsequently confirmed that they were "investigating criminal offences in relation to a data breach at the University of East Anglia" with the assistance of the Metropolitan Police’s Central e-Crime unit the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the National Domestic Extremism Team. (NDET).

In the USA, Senator James Inhofe asked Barbara Boxer the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to investigate the matter looking at the apparent discrepancies in the emails with the science of AGW. “You call it ‘Climategate’; I call it ‘E-mail-theft-gate,’” she said during a committee meeting. “Whatever it is, the main issue is, Are we facing global warming or are we not? I’m looking at these e-mails, that, even though they were stolen, are now out in the public.”

The emails were embarrassing to be sure. They showed a number of well known climate scientists as petty, manipulative, turf protecting, self serving, data hiding, activists who talked about breaking the FOI law in Britain rather than turning over their data to people like M&M (McIntyre and McKitrick). In addition the computer code they were using to run their climate model was so amateurish as to be an embarrassment it looked as if it had been programmed by Michael Mann when he was in the fifth grade. Proponents of AGW settled into saying that as embarrassing as the emails and computer codes were “They didn’t negate the science of AGW.”

So that is the question I want to deal with in this blog. Did the emails and other documents negate the science of AGW?

My answer is quick and simple—No. But AGW aka global climate change is a political movement masquerading as a science issue. It stopped being strictly a science question over 20 years ago when James Hansen testified before congress about AGW. And although it didn't negate the science, it did negate a lot of the politics of AGW.

And from the emails that were released we could see a number of other scientists could no longer be called impartial scientists because they have become political activists for their cause. Add to this the obscene amount of money that is given to science to study everything from the effect of global warming on beer, lobsters, coral reefs, polar bears, etc. If global warming were to go away tomorrow, so to would the “warming goose” that is laying these golden eggs for scientists.

It also called into question the portrayal of climate scientists as nobel, hard working people interested only in truth and even the claim that the "science was settled" (this was always a political argument rather than a scientific one). But the biggest problem from Climategate was the charge the warmists used about the skeptics, that is they were hacks of the oil industry who couldn't be trusted and were just in it for the money, suddenly became something the warmists were now forced to defend themselves from with the exception that they were hacks of the global warming cabal.

And in this political movement there is a right side to be on and a wrong side. This was posted on Glenn Reynolds Instapundit on February 15th. It’s worth another look.

A HISTORICAL OBSERVATION ON CLIMATEGATE: As this scandal runs on, it’s beginning to remind me of the Michael Bellesiles scandal.”

“Bellesiles, for those who don’t remember, was a historian at Emory who wrote a book making some, er, counterintuitive claims about guns in early America — in short, that they were much rarer than generally thought, and frequently owned and controlled by the government. Constitutional law scholars who expressed doubts about this were told to shut up by historians, who cited the importance of “peer review” as a guarantor of accuracy, and who wrapped themselves in claims of professional expertise.

Unfortunately, it turned out that Bellesiles had made it up. His work was based on probate records, and when people tried to find them, it turned out that many didn’t exist (one data set he claimed to have used turned out, on review, to have been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake). It also turned out that Bellesiles hadn’t even visited some of the archives he claimed to have researched. When challenged to produce his data, he was unable to do so, and offered unpersuasive stories regarding why.

Bellesiles eventually lost his job at Emory (and his Bancroft Prize—will the IPCC and Al Gore lose their Nobel Peace Prize?) over the fraud, but not until his critics had been called political hacks, McCarthyites, and worse. But what’s amazing, especially in retrospect, is how slow his defenders — and the media — were to engage the critics, or to look at the flaws in the data. Instead, they wrapped themselves in claims of authority, and attacked the critics as anti-intellectual hacks interested only in politics. Are we seeing something similar with regard to ClimateGate? It sure looks that way to me.”

So with a question that is as politicized as AGW is, the release of this data really does hurt the cause. Add to this the recent scandals or failures by the IPCC and you have a good idea why this movement is dropping faster than an Olympic skier going downhill.

Up Next --What’s happening at the IPCC?

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