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The Tragedy of Climategate

Published 25th November 2009 - 29 comments - 3876 views -

Secret Documents

Hundreds of hacked e-mails stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (a scandal inevitably being dubbed "Climategate") are, as George Monbiot writes, nothing if not a "major blow." Coming right before the COP-15 conference in Copenhagen, it looks like their release has been carefully timed to cause maximum damage.

Th!nk blogger Eamonn Fitzgerald has already written about the scandal here and here.

"Climategate does not mean that there is no warming trend or that mankind is not responsible for some of it," writes Eamonn, "but it is clear that one branch of climate science — paleoclimatology — has become so politicized that it engaged in unethical and possibly illegal acts."

Yes, yes, hacking into computers is also illegal. Nonetheless, unethical practices may have been exposed. The Real Climate blog has been on damage control, going through the e-mails and trying to explain them and put them into context.

George Monbiot has, amazingly, publically apologised and said: "I was too trusting of some of those who provided the evidence I championed. I would have been a better journalist if I had investigated their claims more closely."

This a big deal. But not because it rips up the science of climate change.

Is it the final nail in the climate change coffin?

I hope not. Because if it is the final nail in the coffin, then it will have nothing to do with the science. 

This is a tragedy because it so damages the reputation of science. No matter the truth behind the e-mails, this will confirm the suspicion in every sceptics' mind that this is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg. Climate scientists all sit around in darkened rooms, falsifying data and preventing real scientists from publishing their findings. Sceptics of all sorts will take cheer from this episode. Perhaps evolutionary biologists are doing exactly the same thing?

This is not a good day for science.

Science is built upon trust. It is built upon reputation. When the science becomes so complicated that you need a PhD to properly understand it, then most people are going to have to trust the word of scientists. This trust is shored up by the peer-review process, but it is also based on the idea that scientists are individuals whose only interest is in finding the truth.

A naïve view of science, perhaps. Especially with something like climate change, when policy choices are so important. But now the science doesn't matter anymore. The science could continue (and does continue) to point towards man-made global warming... but nobody will believe it anymore.

It is science itself, and not just climate change, that has taken a hit in this scandal.

As I said, this is not a good day for science.

Category: Climate Reporting, | Tags: climategate,



Comments

Vitezslav Kremlik on 25th November 2009:

On the contrary. This is a good day for science. It is just a bad day for the criminals, naive believers and liars.

For the honest scientists who have been persecuted over the last generation, it is a satisfaction.

Instead of downplaying the scandal, you should apologize to: William Gray, Chris Landsea, McKitrick, Lindzen and hundreds of other scientists.

How can you write such bullshit: “The science could continue (and does continue) to point towards man-made global warming…”

We have just learnt, that the evidence was a forgery. Are you dumb, that you do not understand that?

Joe Litobarski on 25th November 2009:

You’re seething with anger and righteous indignation, Vitezslav. I’m not writing “bullshit” and I’m not dumb - so you can stop frothing at the mouth.

We have not just learnt that the evidence was a forgery. What has happened is that the reputation of science has been tarnished.

I am not saying this isn’t a scandal. I’m saying the real tragedy is that anybody, on any scientific issue, will now point to this episode as proof that the peer-review process is flawed and science is useless - whether the e-mails demonstrate this or not.

I’m not sweeping this scandal under the carpet. I’m saying it’s a terrible day for science.

Jack Johnson on 25th November 2009:

Monbiot says: The hacked emails are a hard knock, but the science of global warming withstands much more than that.

C’mon. There is visible evidence around us. I cannot understand how some people ignore that.

And people like Vitezslav need to see a psychiatrist.

Adela on 25th November 2009:

“Not a good day for science”. I can imagine Dexter in his lab after yet another fight with Didi. smile

But on the serious side, yes, it’s a shame and a slap on science’s face.

Why would they trick the numbers? For money? For fame? For vanity?

Mike on 25th November 2009:

Hey guys, Jack can feel global warming when he flies in a plane.

The peer-review process is flawed because it is an honesty-based system. These frauds have exploited that system and corrupted it. The IPCC has been compromised so all your “consensus” and “science” is now worthless. In this debacle is the catalyst for an open arena debate on the science, the sceptics will undoubtably prevail, because we have the science on our side, and you don’t.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 25th November 2009:

Joe, apology for calling you dumb. Actually I understand you feelings. If somebody disclosed, that some climate skeptics cheated, I would also try to object, that my beliefs are based on more than the work of these cheaters.

However:

1) It is not just one or two guys
2) It involves the highest arbiters like Mann, author of the Hockeystick
3) It is hard to believe, that these e-mails contain everything. It is just a tip of the iceberg.
4) We know dozens of other similar cases in the past. Read Solomon’s book “Deniers” (it is online). So it was widespread.
4) The “independent ” experts who “objectively confirmed” the findings of Mann…. were probably just members of the hockey-team.

It is not just one failure of one human being. It is a failure of the whole system. Nobody -you or me cannot know now, which of the published alarmist numbers are true and which are false.

Do you agree?

Hemant Anant Jain on 25th November 2009:

There is nothing to agree here. Yes the IPCC was wrong. In fact, the climate change is more severe than they have been reporting:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/25/copenhagen-diagnosis-ipcc-science

Joe Litobarski on 25th November 2009:

Adela,

The Real Climate blog <a href=“http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/”>. They argue that many of the quotes have been taken out of context.

I don’t know enough to say one way or another - but George Monbiot thinks the head of the CRU should resign. Perhaps an inquiry would be a good idea.

Vitezslav,

I appreciate your apology - and retract my comment about you frothing at the mouth. I do not think the system has failed, though. I am worried “climategate” might convince people that the system has failed.

Mike,

If science is worthless, then sceptics have nothing on their side. Science doesn’t suddenly become “unflawed” only when you agree with it.

The peer-review process is not perfect, but it is robust. It would take a mammoth conspiracy to defeat it completely.

And another thing, this maybe isn’t the place for it - but one of your main arguments against CO2 driven climate change is that adding more CO2 to the atmosphere makes no difference because it is already saturated. I’m wondering how you explain the temperature of Venus (with a much higher concentration of CO2)? Volcanic activity?

Joe Litobarski on 25th November 2009:

Adela,

Sorry - forgot to close my link!

The Real Climate blog <a >.

Joe Litobarski on 25th November 2009:

Messed it up again. :-(

The Real Climate blog <a >here</a>.

Joe Litobarski on 25th November 2009:

Never mind. Obviously I am cursed today. :-D

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/

Mike on 25th November 2009:

When they shout Venus, just shout back Mars.

http://junkscience.com/Greenhouse/venus.html

It’s the pressure, stupid.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 25th November 2009:

Joe, about CO2.

1) The ultimate arbiter is observation. In the last 10 years CO2 emissions increased by 30%!!! Yet no warming.

2) VENUS has higher temperature because
-it has thicker atmosphere (92 x greater pressure than on Earth)
-it is closer to the Sun
-its day is longer than its year. One day has 243 Earth days. It rotates very slowly, so every single spot remains too long on the sun and heats up much.
-nothing to do with CO2 (CO2 levels are caused by the temperatures, not vice versa)

3) CO2 impact on temperatures increases logarythmically. Each doubling has the same effect. The IPCC lower estimate is that the CO2 doubling impact is 1,5°C… But it is just a computer-model-fraud estimate. Maybe it is just 0,5 or 0,1…
This is what you get by jump from 300 to 600 ppm… but if solar activity drops down, the resulting Earth warming will be NULL (due to solar-induced cooling).

Conclusion: no evidence.

Mike on 25th November 2009:

Related.

Hemant Anant Jain on 25th November 2009:

Haha!
McKibben on #climategate “impressive thing is they managed to convince glaciers, sea ice, & hydro cycles to play along.”

Joe Litobarski on 25th November 2009:

Mike,

Is it pressure working in concert with CO2 to enhance the greenhouse effect?

Vitezslav,

The last ten years have been the hottest on record. Has solar output in the last ten years also been the hottest on record?

As for Venus - it’s hotter than Mercury, but Mercury is closer to the sun.

The sun, on its own, is not enough to account for the temperature of Venus, the Earth of Mars.

Mike on 25th November 2009:

No, the surface of Venus is actually cooler than expected. This was mentioned in the article I posted above. Here’s another one:

http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2008/03/02/venus-missing-greenhouse-warming/

Note how the increase in temperature doesn’t depend on any greenhouse gas.

Also, in the HANSENMARSCHALLENGE.pdf file you can see how the emissions spectra of Mars and Earth almost overlap perfectly across CO2, despite Mars having 9 times the amount of CO2 earth has in its atmosphere.

Put it all together and you can clearly see that CO2 cannot produce measureable warming above 300ppm.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 25th November 2009:

Joe,

1) I explained in my blog posts. Earth temperatures react with delays to solar signals. Due to thermal inertia of oceans. So warming continues for some time after suns tops going up. Ready my blogs (boiling oceans, sun at the highest).

2) Mercury has no atmosphere, which would trap the heat!!! Day on Mercury is only 56 Earth days - less than Venus. During the nights it cools down. So Mercury is just like Moon - the day-side is very hot (430°C) and the night side is very cold (-163°C).

The Venus temp is only slightly higher (467°C). Venus is ISOTHERMAL, due to great thermal inertia of the thick atmosphere. So there is no difference in temperature between day/night, equator/poles.

If you replace their CO2 with anything else, you get simalar results. Just put e.g. helium into some box, wield such pressure on it and heat it up. And we will see.

Adela on 25th November 2009:

Thanks, Joe.
I got it from the first time, don’t worry.

Vitezslav Kremlik on 25th November 2009:

I wonder why they selected Joe’s article as Official Editorial.

Why not Eamon’s article. Or, better,why not my article about Mafia? I showed extensively, that such dirty has been done by IPCC many times before!!!

EJC trying to downplay the fraud and pretend that nothing has happened?

Jack Johnson on 25th November 2009:

Because you don’t make sense Vitezslav.

Daniel Nylin Nilsson on 25th November 2009:

I think your post, and Monbiots are two very well posts on “climategate”. Thanks, Joe! smile

Obviously it is a blow to science… to any science.

Isn’t part of the problem that we are so afraid of making the decisions ourselves? We see hurricanes increase, polar ices melt and winters disappear, but somehow we ask for science to tell us that this is true, and what to do about it.

I respect science, but ultimately the role of science is never to decide what to do. It can only give information, and formulate questions, but the answers must come from politicians/civil society.

Larry on 26th November 2009:

I am not a scientist, but a cocnerned skeptic of glabal warming.  For the scientific community to allow AGW to become accepted and used by the politicians (Gore;UN) required the silence of the majority of scientists.  Where is your integrity!  When Gore showed the Mann’s graph in his movie, the scientist who knew of the forgery should have stood up and stopped it.  It is obvious now, the science was not and is not “settled”.  I believe scientists should police their own and make the responsible ones accountable.  If you don’t, all will pay the price.  None of you will have any credibility.

Respectfully,

Larry

Federico Pistono on 27th November 2009:

Ciao Joe,
I was inspired by this article, and here is my contribution. smile

Dr Brian on 29th November 2009:

As someone who has nearly lost friends (mainly schoolteachers) by insisting that climate change is unproven and effectively a con by a clique of scientists eager to improve their careers, sit on international committees and be fawned over by politicians, Climategate has given me a glow of self-righteousness. We shouldn’t be surprised by this sort of shenanigans, it were ever so.
In the nineties, for example, it was virtually impossible to get anything published that contradicted the “comet killed off the dinosaurs” theory as this was seen as contradicting the “nuclear winter” concept which meant that you must be a supporter of nuclear weapons. Peer reviewers simply conspired to exclude contrary arguments. Now that we have e-mails to read we can more clearly see into the “climate change” corrupt can of worms in a way that wasn’t possible then.
I doubt if anything will come of these revelations. A whole generation has been indoctrinated by the Greens through Geography lessons in school, politicians have nailed their colours to the “climate change” mast and the Royal Institute is part of the problem rather than being part of the solution. A whitewash is a near certainty.
We need an Official Inquiry, under a judge not a scientist, to investigate if the so called evidence, on which multi-trillion costs will be based, is reliable or just so much malignant computer drivel. I can’t see the Government appointing one.

Mike on 29th November 2009:

You can fool some of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

mark on 03rd December 2009:

do you trust goverments? if yes your a fool.

USB Keyboard on 04th December 2009:

Did the higher authorities caught the culprit? if not, I don’t know what to think,
USB Keyboard

Dictaphone on 04th December 2009:

What a mess, why is that. Retrieving files would be difficult this time.
Dictaphone

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