Controversy deepens over leaked global warming e-mails

Posted on November 23, 2009

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The debate over the causes and severity of climate change was thrown into disarray over the weekend as a series of internal e-mails from the East Anglia Climate Research Center were released by hackers to the Internet. The e-mails, confirmed to be genuine by the CRU, show a definite hostility toward global warming skeptics accompanied by a desire to suppress opposing views in peer-reviewed journals and intimidating foes into silence. Consider these quotes:

In one e-mail, the center’s director, Phil Jones, writes Pennsylvania State University’s Michael E. Mann and questions whether the work of academics that question the link between human activities and global warming deserve to make it into the prestigious IPCC report, which represents the global consensus view on climate science.

“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report,” Jones writes. “Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

In another, Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal not to accept the work of climate skeptics with whom they disagree. “Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal,” Mann writes.

“I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor,” Jones replies.

There’s even some evidence that researchers fudged some data to hide a decline in global temperatures, investigated further by Anthony Watts. Does any of this seem like the scientific method to you, where data is used to test hypotheses instead of data being cherry-picked to support pet theories? Where challenges to held orthodoxy isn’t brushed off with annoyance but held as a key component of scientific scrutiny?

East Anglia CRU was one of the research agencies advising the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which three years ago said the evidence was unequivocal that global warming is real and that man is undoubtedly the cause, opening the door for a whole host of governmental power grabs and demonization of industry in the name of environmental concern. You can see why these e-mails are at the very least embarrassing and damaging to the scientific credibility of an important climate research center.

The controversy will not be going away anytime soon, either. Sen. James Inhofe told a morning show that he’ll call for an investigation of the scandal, pointing out that he was warning about the cooking of the books four or five years ago when it came to global warming. Inhofe repeated the comments to Ed Morrissey, and he seems serious about concerns about the nexus between the UN, the IPCC, and East Anglia CRU.

Lost in all of this are the real scientific merits of the climate change debate. With solar activity at a minimum and global temperatures in a true state of flux, it’s undoubtedly important that humans understand the climate and the ways that humanity has an impact – as well as the ways that it doesn’t. Injecting politics into science is an age-old human habit (just ask Galileo), but the practice becomes dangerous when applied to potential government regulation and taxation of vast swathes of human economic activity.

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Posted in: News, Politics, Science