Nov
25
2009

A controversy is brewing in the world of climate science. On Thursday, November 19, a Russian website posted over 1,000 e-mails and almost 3,000 data files from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. The CRU is one of the major centers of climate research in the world, and provided much of the data for the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

The e-mails, written by some of the leading climate scientists in Britain and America, seem to suggest some very disturbing behavior:

* manipulating climate data to fit pre-existing theory
* refusing to share data with peers to check for accuracy
* circumventing legal requirements to release information, and even deleting some of it
* pressuring journals to reject papers that don’t fit the theory, and even pushing editors out of their posts

The story has been covered by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. You can find a good summary of how the story broke on Pajamas Media. Blogger Bishop Hill is keeping a running list of the most controversial e-mails. And, if you just want a quick summary, there’s “Three Things You Absolutely Must Know About Climategate.”

The University has acknowledged that its system was illegally hacked, but cannot vouch for the authenticity of every item. (There is also some suggestion that the information may have been leaked by an insider.) Several authors and recipients have verified some of the e-mails as genuine; as of this writing, none of the messages have been refuted. The sheer amount of data – over 170 megabytes – suggests this is not a hoax, though many authors have cautioned that it would be easy for a prankster to slip a few bogus e-mails in with all the legitimate ones.

But, assuming the e-mails are genuine, what do they tell us?

The alleged non-compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is a legal matter. We can say nothing about it, other than no charges have been filed, and everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The e-mails which seem to describe fudging the facts to fit the theory have received the most attention. It would be disturbing indeed if scientists at a major research institute were falsifying data. Though only a handful of papers have so far been implicated, if the allegations are borne out it would cast a pall over these scientists’ other work, their collaborations, and even work done by other scientists which was based on the disputed data.

These particular e-mails have also received the strongest defense. The authors, and even some third-party observers, maintain that the messages are being quoted out of context and misinterpreted, and that some phrases which appear damning actually have innocent explanations. (To date, there has been little reporting on the much larger, much more complex data files, which may shed light on this issue.)

Perhaps most disturbing, from a science standpoint, are the withholding of data from outside researchers, and the pressure put on journals to not publish dissenting views. Science absolutely relies on vigorous, evidence-based debate. If the evidence is not made available, the debate cannot take place. Furthermore, proponents of human-caused global warming have long criticized dissenters for not publishing their papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. However, if it turns out that those journals were controlled by proponents who actively kept dissenters out, then the argument loses merit.

On this last point, global warming proponents and dissenters agree. Writers such as Megan McArdle and George Monbiot argue that the case for human-caused global warming remains strong, but that subverting the peer-review process blocks scientific progress and is a major blow to credibility.

So, what next? Politicians in Britain, Australia and America are calling for investigations. Climate studies are funded with taxpayer dollars, and lawmakers pass legislation based on the information the studies provide. Governments have an obligation to make sure it is accurate. And, as noted earlier, the easy work of reading the e-mails has largely been done. The more difficult task of sifting through the data files will take longer. Already, some programmers are questioning the computer models CRU developed to predict climate. If there are more updates, we’ll be sure to post them here.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

There has been quite a bit of activity related to this controversy since the original post.

Climate scientists have responded to the controversy by calling for more openness – making data and methods available for inspection and verification.

The University of East Anglia has agreed to publish as much data as it can. (Some of it may be subject to proprietary or confidentiality agreements.)

However, this may not be enough – The London Times reports that the CRU discarded all of its original data back in the 1980s, and retained only “adjusted” temperature records. (The scientists involved in the current e-mail controversy were not part of the CRU at the time.) This makes it impossible to check the data underlying the CRU’s reports and models.

(It is important to note that there are often very good reasons for adjusting data. But in light of the current controversy, scientists want to know why and how those adjustments were made.)

French scientist Vincent Courtillot reported that he had asked the CRU for their temperature data, but had been refused. He then collected data from other sources, and found temperature patterns markedly different from those reported by the CRU.

A similar situation is reported from New Zealand, where a climate model begun at the CRU in the 1980s was found to contain adjusted temperatures. In this instance the raw data was preserved, but it too showed very different climate patterns than those in the CRU studies.

Pennsylvania State University has launched a review of Michael Mann, a University scientist and author of several of the controversial e-mails.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN’s IPCC, has issued a statement defending the CRU climate data. However, Mohammad Al-Sabban, the Saudi liaison to the panel, found the response unconvincing.

The controversy has boiled over from the scientific to the political realm. Five members of the Australian cabinet have resigned their posts to protest their government’s efforts to pass climate legislation without considering the current controversy.

posted on Sun, 11/29/2009 - 10:58pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The climate-science controversy continues to unfold.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wants the controversy to be investigated. Most climate treaties and many regulations are based on recommendations from the IPCC reports, and those reports rely very heavily on the data provided by the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, Great Britain—the institute at the center of the controversy.

Some US lawmakers are also asking for an investigation. Others are asking the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider its regulations on carbon emissions which, in an unusual move, had been based on the now-controversial CRU / IPCC reports.

Software engineers continue to express concerns over the computer models used to predict future climate.

Scientists are complaining that other research institutes, including NASA and Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, have also been withholding data and ignoring Freedom of Information requests.

Some scientists and commentators worry about the impact the controversy will have on science as a whole. Will the public lose its trust in science if the allegations of data manipulation, journal tampering and withholding evidence are borne out?

posted on Fri, 12/04/2009 - 7:08pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

This past week, while much of the world’s attention has been focused on the Copenhagen climate conference, more details from and reactions to the controversial e-mails emerged.

Perhaps the biggest news comes from the United Kingdom’s National Weather Service, also known as the Meteorological (or “Met”) Office. They have worked very closely with the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which is at the center of the current controversy. Responding to the concerns that have been raised, the Met Office has agreed to review 160 years’ worth of climate data to make sure it is accurate. They expect this will take until the end of 2012.

Meanwhile, the controversy has touched the American Physical Society, one of America’s oldest and largest scientific organizations. In 2007, the APS issued an official statement on climate change. In light of the recent controversy, some members of APS have petitioned the organization to rescind or suspend the statement. While the organizations’ leaders have refused to go that far, they have agreed to put the statement under review.

Scientists have responded to the controversy in a number of ways—ignoring it, refuting it, or even agreeing with some parts of it. Writers have raised concerns that some researchers are morphing into activists, to the detriment of science. Yvo de Boer, the United Nation’s climate chief, has acknowledged that the controversy has damaged the credibility of climate science – though he, like many scientists, remains convinced that the underlying research is sound.

Meanwhile, journalists are starting to take a closer look at some of the data that has been revealed. One writer discovered that temperature data from northern Australia going back over a century had been adjusted to change a 1.3-degree drop in temperatures to a 2.2-degree rise. While data adjustments are common in climate research, something this extreme merits an explanation.

posted on Sun, 12/13/2009 - 9:47pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

In the most recent developments:

The Russian Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) reported that the Climate Research Unit (CRU) – the organization at the center of the controversy – has been misrepresenting Russian climate data. The IEA claims that the CRU ignored climate data from 75% of Russia’s reporting stations. Looking at all the data shows temperatures in Russia rising 2.5 degrees since 1860; looking at just the stations the CRU selected shows a rise of 3.7 degrees – almost 50% more.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy is asking some of its employees to preserve documents related to the controversy, in the event of future litigation.

Some scientists have responded to the controversy.
Meteorologist Joesph D’Aleo expresses concern over data manipulation. Climate researcher Roger Pielke describes how the peer review process has been misued.

Meanwhile, newspapers on the left and the right have started to question the mixing of science and politics.

posted on Thu, 12/24/2009 - 5:05pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Over the past few weeks, reporters on the climate controversy have begun to focus on money issues. The British newspaper The Telegraph has uncovered links between Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a number of corporation whose businesses are directly affected by the Panel’s findings. Pachauri is now being accused of conflict of interest by the press in his native India.

Investigators have also started looking into the University of Pennsylvania’s Earth Systems Science Center, whose former director Michael Mann is at the center of the controversy, for evidence of fraud.

Others have simply noted that scientists who receive grants to study climate change have a vested interest in making the issue seem as important as possible. While this does not automatically mean their work is corrupt, it does raise questions about the degree to which financial considerations may have influenced their reported findings.

Meanwhile, blogger Mohib Ebrahim has attempted to compile the most important aspects of the controversy into a single time line.

posted on Wed, 01/13/2010 - 11:13pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Climategate seems to be morphing into “Glaciergate.”

In 2007, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that the glaciers in the Himalaya Mountains could melt and totally disappear by 2035, a mere 25 years from now.

On December 1, 2009, in the wake of the Climategate scandal, news broke that the paper behind the IPCC claim actually predicted the glaciers would melt by 2350 – making the UN report wrong by more than an order of magnitude.

At the time, however, I decided not to report on the glacier issue. The other revelations of Climategate were much more serious than a mere typo. And, having committed any number of typos myself, I know they’re really not that a big dael.

In recent weeks, however, the plot has thickened. First, it was revealed that the IPCC prediction was not based on a scientific study, but rather on a report in a popular journal. Furthermore, that journal article was not based on a study, but rather on a phone call to one scientist, Dr. Syed Hasnain.

The vice chairman of the IPCC admitted the error, and promised to take steps to review the matter. Dr. Hasnain, meanwhile, claims that he was misquoted, and various other glacier experts have come forward to say they had warned the IPCC that the prediction was unsupportable. The final nail in the coffin came when Dr. Murari Lal, lead author of the Asian section of the UN report, admitted he knew the claim was false, but put it in the report anyway.

It was then reported that Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, had used the erroneous glacier-melting figure to secure grants for his company worth over $4.5 million. And, in the latest twist, newspapers are reporting that Dr. Hasnain, the source of the original error, has been working for Dr. Pachauri’s company for the past two years. (We reported in our previous update on allegations of conflict-of-interest leveled at Dr. Pachauri.)

posted on Sun, 01/24/2010 - 12:49pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Climategate revelations continue.

Researchers are claiming that climate studies today use only about one-quarter the number of reporting stations as were used in the 1970s. What’s more, the stations that have been eliminated tend to be from rural and high-elevation sites – places that are more likely to give low temperatures – while many of the stations that remain are “poorly sited,” too close to heat-producing buildings and pavement. The researchers argue this makes recent studies less accurate, and biased in favor of higher temperatures.

In related news, two US agencies, NOAA and NASA, stand accused of ignoring their own satellite data, which consistently shows far less warming, in favor of the questionable ground data.

Meanwhile, another part of the United Nations’ report on climate change has come under fire. The section which claims that global warming is causing more frequent, and more catastrophic, natural disasters was based on a paper which, it has been revealed, actually found there was no such link.

Trouble keeps piling up for Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN’s climate change panel. Last week he admitted his panel erred in reporting that the Himalayan glaciers would melt within the next 25 years. But he claimed to only have learned of the error recently. Now come reports that Pachauri knew of the problem for at least two months, but didn’t take action until the error was reported in the press. Some climate scientists are now calling for Pachauri to resign.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has found that the University of East Anglia violated the British Freedom of Information Act by withholding requested climate data from other scientists. However, no prosecutions will be made, as the complaint was filed after the allowed time frame.

Meanwhile, the British Parliament has opened an investigation into the conduct of the University’s Climate Research Unit.

posted on Sun, 01/31/2010 - 8:37pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Revelations in the climategate scandal, and the related controversy over the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have been coming fast and furious.

Climategate

The University of Pennsylvania has concluded the first phase of its investigation into Michael Mann, one of the central figures in the scandal. They found sufficient cause to launch a deeper investigation into possible professional misconduct.

The British newspaper The Guardian has carefully reviewed the climategate e-mails, and uncovered several instances where researchers seem to be abusing or manipulating the peer-review process to keep dissenting voices out of the scientific journals.

It also found that the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU), the organization at the center of the controversy, ignored over 90% of the Freedom of Information requests it received regarding climate data.

Most importantly, a major piece of climate research has come under scrutiny. In 1990 Dr. Phil Jones, former director of the CRU and one of the central figures in the climategate controversy, published a landmark study. Comparing temperature data from urban and rural sites in China, he claimed to show that the influence on the climate record of heat generated by cities was minimal. Any recorded warming trends were overwhelmingly the result of climate change, and not due urban heat. (This study is cited in the IPCC report, and is widely accepted by climate researchers.) However:
* When asked to share his data, Jones refused for some 15 years.
* When the data was finally released, it was discovered that there was no location data for 58% of the reporting stations, including almost all of the rural stations. This makes it impossible to verify the study. Another 21% of the stations had moved during the study period, possibly invalidating their results.
* Jones and his co-author claimed they had data to verify their findings. This week, they admitted that this data had been lost.
* The climategate e-mails show that Jones’ supervisor at the time had serious misgivings about the study.
* Jones himself conducted a follow-up study in 2008 which showed that urban heat accounts for 40% of the reported warming.

IPCC

This makes at least six pieces of false or unverifiable data in the UN report:
* the Chinese temperature record;
* the false claim of a connection between global warming and natural disasters (discussed in our previous update, above);
* incorrect data on glacial melting in the Himalayas (also discussed in our previous update);
* reports of other melting glaciers based, not on scientific studies, but on a magazine article and an unpublished student dissertation;
* a misrepresentation of a rain forest study which had nothing to do with global warming at all; and
* a misstatement of the amount of land in the Netherlands that is under sea level and thus vulnerable rising waters, ocean storms, etc. While not directly related to climate science, getting such an easily-verifiable figure wrong reveals a certain sloppiness in compiling the report.

Due to these errors, John Sauven, the director of the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace UK, has called for IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri to resign.

The official Chinese media is openly questioning the validity of the IPCC report, and asking for a thorough review.

In perhaps the most startling move, India has established its own climate change panel, saying it can no longer rely on the UN reports.

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has found over a dozen places where the IPCC report bases its claims, in whole or in part, on writings from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The WWF is not a scientific organization; its writings are not peer-reviewed. While some of their reports are accurate summaries of scientific papers, others are not -- they are responsible for the faulty Himalaya and rain forest items listed above.

The WWF receives a great deal of money from the international banking firm HSBC Holdings. HSBC is a major player in the European carbon-trading market, and stands to benefit when traders, spurred by the IPCC and other reports, enter the market.

posted on Sun, 02/07/2010 - 1:24pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Journalists have uncovered several more errors and inconsistencies in the 2007 report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

* Data on the potential for clean energy from ocean waves was both inaccurate, and attributed to a commercial wave-energy company.

* A favorable assessment of nuclear power plants came from an industry-supported website.

* The claim that rising temperatures have affected salmon in US streams also came not from a scientific paper, but from an environmental advocacy group.

* The statement that rising sea levels could impact the Nile delta and coastal Africa was based on an unpublished student dissertation—a paper which in fact had little to do with global warming, but instead was about the impact of computer software on environmental development.

* (Nine other student papers were cited in the report. Such papers are not considered as reliable as studies published in scientific journals.)

* Professor Chris Field, the lead author of the report’s climate impact team, has acknowledged there is no evidence to support the claim that global warming could cut crop production in north Africa in half by 2020.

The past week has also seen more concern about accountability and conflict of interest:

* Some students at Penn State have asked for external oversight of the University’s investigation of climate scientist Michael Mann. Mann, a key figure in the climategate scandal, is being investigated for academic misconduct. The students argue that the University faces a conflict of interest when investigating its own staff, and needs external help to ensure a fair process.

* The British newspaper The Telegraph reported that The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the environmental organization headed by IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri, has given green awards to companies that have given money to TERI, creating a seeming conflict of interest.

*New York Times columnist John Tierney argues that, while seeming conflicts of interest abound in science, the real issue is (or should be) the quality of the research.

And in a major development, this past weekend Dr. Phil Jones, former head of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the center of the climategate scandal, spoke to a British journalist and admitted:

* He did not keep very good records of climate data. He said the reason he failed to comply with many Freedom of Information requests was that he believes he has lost the records. Among the information Jones says is missing is the climate data supporting the so-called “hockey stick” graph – centuries of fairly steady temperatures, with a sudden, sharp rise in the 20th century. (Skeptics have long disputed the accuracy of this graph.)

* The world may have been warmer some 1,000 years ago—the “Medieval Warm Period”—entirely due to natural rather than human causes.

* Global temperatures have not increased significantly since 1995, and may in fact have cooled since 2002.

Joseph D’Aleo, former professor of meteorology and climatology, examines some of Dr. Jones’s answers in detail. In particular, he notes that Jones provided data for the last three periods of global warming: 1860-1880; 1910-1940; and 1975-1998. In all three, the rate of temperature increase was the same, despite increased levels of carbon in the atmosphere. (The warming periods were also separated by cooling periods.)

posted on Mon, 02/15/2010 - 12:08am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Over the past few years, some politicians and media sources have claimed that the debate over global warming is over. In his recent interview with the BBC, former CRU director Phil Jones refuted this view:

BBC: When scientists say “the debate on climate change is over”, what exactly do they mean – and what don’t they mean?

Jones: It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.

(Critics claim that Jones left some things unanswered.)

In the wake of the climategate and UN IPCC revelations, several climate scientists are re-examining the data, and questioning whether global warming is as severe a problem as stated, or even whether it has been occurring at all.

For instance, a new study by Dr. Hutton of University of Kingston finds that, globally, there has been no increase in hurricane-strength storms due to global warming:

Christopher Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute requested climate data from NASA under the Freedom of Information Act in 2007. After a two-year delay, Horner threatened a lawsuit, and NASA provided the data. Horner claims the documents show shoddy record-keeping and data manipulation.

posted on Sun, 02/21/2010 - 6:20pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

In response to the numerous concerns over its most recent report, the IPCC has launched an effort to better review the science it uses.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Office of Great Britain announced plans to increase both the amount and the accuracy of the temperature data it collects.

The authors of a scientific study of sea levels have retracted their article. They originally claimed to find evidence of rising seas consistent with the IPCC report. However, other scientists pointed out mistakes in the paper which invalidated its conclusion.

Fred Singer of the Science and Environmental Policy Project finds discrepancies between the surface-temperature data used by the CRU to show global warming, and satellite and other data which does not.

posted on Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:36pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Following up on last week's vow to strengthen its scientific review process, the IPCC has announced plans to appoint an independent committee to study its procedures and, if necessary, recommend changes. As noted in previous updates, the 2007 IPCC report has been found to contain numerous errors and statements lacking proper scientific basis. (Columnist Christopher Booker of the London Telegraph argues that these errors are not just a few random mistakes, but a deliberate effort to mislead.)

In another potential setback, a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience concludes that hurricanes will become less common in the future, contradicting the findings reported by the IPCC. (According to hurricane researcher Ryan Maue at Florida State University, 2009 was one of the weakest hurricane seasons of the last 30 years.)

In Great Britain, the Institute of Physics submitted a letter to a Parliamentary inquiry stating that the actions revealed in the Climategate e-mails raise "worrying implications ... for the integrity of scientific research and for the credibility of the scientific method." This is considered the strongest rebuke yet from the scientific community of the researchers involved in the scandal.

Dr. Phil Jones, former head of the CRU and one of the central figures in Climategate, also spoke at the inquiry. He admitted to withholding data and writing "some pretty awful e-mails," but he denied falsifying any research.

Meanwhile, e-mails leaked from the US National Academy of Sciences shows several researchers growing frustrated by the concerns raised about the IPCC, CRU and global warming in general. They argue for an "aggressively partisan" rebuttal, based on PR, advertising, and appeal to scientific authority. Other scientists caution them that such actions were precisely what raised the concerns in the first place, and they would be better off focusing on research and data. (The Academy has disavowed the plans, saying they are strictly the idea of the individuals discussing them.)

Though not directly related to Climategate, Joanne Nova of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has investigated the funding given to both proponents and skeptics of man-made global warming. She finds that proponents have received thousands of times more money from government, banks, even from oil companies. As she notes, this says absolutely nothing about which argument is right or wrong. But, when the heavily-funded side keeps making findings that coincide with the interests of those providing the money, journalists are allowed to raise an eyebrow in suspicion.

posted on Sun, 03/07/2010 - 9:47pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

To date, the Climategate controversy has focused primarily on the Hadley Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. This institution collects one of the four sets of global temperature data used by scientists to study climate, the others being held by NASA; the National Climate Data Center Global Historical Climate Network (NCDC GHCN); and the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The CRU data has been widely criticized as being incomplete and manipulated. (See all of the above posts.) Recently, it was learned that the original data was lost. However, climate researchers have maintained that the other three data sets were independent of the CRU, and all point to the same conclusions about climate change; therefore, the problems with the CRU data did not undermine global warming research.

As we reported on January 31, the Science and Public Policy Institute issued a report calling into question the validity of the NCDC data. Specifically, they argue that the Center made a habit of deleting data from weather stations that reported cooler temperature, and "homogenizing" the remaining data, to make temperature trends appear warmer.

And this past Wednesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute received, via a Freedom of Information Act request, a copy of a NASA e-mail in which NASA scientists themselves admit that their data came from CRU and NCDC, and was of a lower quality than either. (This opinion was shared by others climate researchers.)

Thus, according to some observers, three of the four data sets used to study global temperatures have now been revealed to have serious problems.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the IPCC will convene "a group of top scientists from around the world [to] review the research and management practices of the United Nations climate change panel so that it can try to avoid the kinds of errors that have brought its work into question in recent months." However, the article also reports that "Scientists and officials say that the panel's finding that the earth is warming--probably as a result of human activity--remains indisputable." This has led some writers to question the value of the review, if the end result is pre-determined. (third item)

posted on Sun, 03/14/2010 - 11:24pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

A committee of the British Parliament investigating Climategate has concluded that Phil Jones, the scientist at the center of the scandal, is not responsible for any wrong-doing. While some observers argue that the report amounts to a whitewash, others note that the committee had harsh things to say about the University of East Anglia (Jones's employer) and the state of climate science itself.

The committee criticized the University for fostering a culture of withholding information, deleting information, and failure to comply with freedom of information laws. The committee recommended that all future research be conducted as openly as possible.

(Two other inquiries are still underway--one investigating the science of the CRU, the other investigating its procedures. The latter has not yet held any hearings; the former, according to the New York Times, is headed by a man who may have a conflict of interest.)

In other news, the Leibniz Community, an association of German scientific organizations, has called for the resignation of the UN IPCC's head, Rajendra Pachauri.

The German paper Der Spiegel has published a comprehensive round-up of current climate controversies. They look at how the scandals have impacted all of climate research; the connection between science and politics; and how a warmer Earth may not be an entirely bad thing. They pay special attention to the claim that a two-degree rise in temperatures would have catastrophic effects, noting that Earth's climate has risen and fallen far more than that several times during human history.

posted on Sun, 04/04/2010 - 9:56pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

An academic panel investigating the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit has declared that the scientists at the center of Climategate, while "disorganized" and not working with professional statisticians, did not commit any deliberate scientific malpractice.

Some observers are calling the report a "whitewash," noting that the panel looked at only a tiny number of CRU's papers, and did not address the allegations of data manipulation, suppression of dissenting research, and non-compliance with Freedom of Information requests.

A separate, more expansive review is expected later this year. The University's statement on the current report can be found here.

Interestingly, on the same day the report came out, chastising the CRU for not working more closely with statisticians, the president of the Royal Statistical Society issued a sharp critique of the famous "hockey stick" graph which purports to show global temperatures rising sharply since 1900 after holding fairly steady for centuries. Professor David Hand said the graph used "inappropriate" methods that exaggerated recent warming.

posted on Sun, 04/25/2010 - 8:39pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The Climategate story seems to have cooled off somewhat—new stories pop up less often, and old stories are developing slowly. But there has still been some noteworthy activity over the past month:

Reacting to the Climategate revelations, The Royal Society—Britain's leading scientific academy—will review and rewrite its official position on global warming. They note: “Any public perception that science is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect — there is always room for new observations, theories, measurements.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a public policy organization supporting free markets, has sued NASA for failure to provide climate data requested three years ago under a Freedom of Information request.

According to this article, scientists who study the Sun are largely skeptical that global warming is caused by humans. (That theory is more frequently advanced by atmospheric scientists, climatologists, and other geo-scientists.) With Climategate now casting doubts on the theory, solar scientists are now voicing their concerns more freely.

The Attorney General of Virginia is investigating Michael Mann, one of the scientists in the middle of the Climategate controversy, to see whether his taking government money for work which is now in question constitutes fraud. Some commentators worry that the investigation is politically motivated, and infringes on academic freedom.

Finally, last month global warming skeptics from around the world met in Chicago for their annual conference. You can find a good, if biased, summary of the proceedings here.

posted on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 12:28am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

On July 7, a panel of scientists investigating the Climategate scandal issued their report. The panel, led by Prof. Muir Russell, found that members of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia did not engage in any scientific misconduct.

Some critics are calling the report a whitewash, or at best flawed, noting:

1) The panel investigating the University was created and paid for by the University, and included a professor with strong ties to the CRU.

2) The panel looked at only a few of the many incidents of alleged misconduct outlined in the e-mails, and in some cases did not appear to dig too deeply.

3) The panel was supposed to look at the computer code included with the e-mails, which some reviewers have found problematic, but failed to do so.

4) Nevertheless, the panel found evidence of the CRU withholding information from colleagues and the public, issuing misleading information, avoiding or being dismissive of Freedom of Information requests, and influencing peer review – yet still claimed there was no misconduct.

Other writers argue the report was not a whitewash, but an honest look at the shortcomings of the system.

Dr. Roger Pielke notes that the report misunderstands the role of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – it is supposed to include all evidence, but the Russell report admits that it only cites studies that favor a particular view.

Speaking of the IPCC, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has found even more errors in that troubled report. Though most of the mistakes it cites are fairly minor, they again raise questions over the accuracy of the report and the care with which it was compiled.

Finally, not directly related to Climategate, the National Academy of Sciences has published a paper citing a list of 496 scientists who are skeptical of man-made global warming, and arguing that “discussions in media, policy, and public forums” should give these scientists less weight. Perhaps without meaning to, the paper focuses awareness on three issues:

1) It lists nearly 500 skeptical scientists, more than 1/3rd of the total sample, and acknowledges that this list is not complete. This undermines claims of a “consensus” or “settled science.”

2) The list contains some very big names, including several members of the Academy.

3) Some critics find it troubling that the Academy would publish such a list, and seemingly endorse the stifling of scientific debate.

posted on Sat, 07/17/2010 - 2:58am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

It’s been a while since we updated this story. And, in truth, there hasn’t been much to say – the Climategate e-mails have been well-circulated and digested; there’s not much “news” coming out of them. But a few ancillary stories are still making waves.

Hal Lewis, physics professor and former department chair at the University of California Santa Barbara took exception to the American Physical Society’s published statement on climate change—its content, its strident tone, and the Society’s failure to amend the statement in light of the Climategate revelations. Prof. Lewis resigned from the APS in protest last October, and passed away in May 2011.

Several panels have reviewed the scientists and organizations involved in the Climategate scandal. None produced any formal charges of wrongdoing. This has led some government officials and other critics to claim a whitewash.

However, at least one investigation conducted in England did chastise the climate scientists for presenting their data in a misleading way.

In August 2010, the InterAcademy Council, an well-regarded independent group of scientists and engineers, reviewed the report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and found several glaring errors. (Many of these we have covered before.)

Due to the controversy, there were repeated calls for Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN IPCC, to resign. He declined to do so, and still heads the agency.

The UN report famously asserted that the glaciers of the Himalayas would all melt by 2035. A report by scientists from the University of California and Potsdam University in Germany found that half of the Himalayan glaciers they studied are growing. Further, temperature was found to be less important in whether a glacier grows or shrinks than the amount of debris on its surface.

For some, the most disturbing aspect of the IPCC story came last November, when Ottmar Edenhofer, an economist for the UN group, stated in an interview that "climate policy is redistributing the world's wealth" and that it "has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.”

In June 2011 the IPCC landed in hot water again for a report that claimed renewable sources could provide 77% of the world’s energy needs by 2050. Later documents showed this claim to be based on an extremely optimistic scenario; assumed worldwide energy use would decline rather than rise; and was written not by a scientist but by a Greenpeace activist.

In 2005 a different agency, United Nations Environment Program, predicted that by 2010 some 50 million people would have to flee their homes due to climate change. This never happened, and rather than acknowledging the error, the agency simply removed the report from their website without comment.

AGW proponents often argue that no peer-reviewed articles contradict their claims. (The Climategate e-mails, of course, cast doubt over the fairness of the peer-review process.) Nevertheless, such articles have been peer-reviewed and published. One notes that cloud formation may overwhelm human impact on the weather. The other cites El Nino and volcanic activity as the chief culprits in global warming. ( Summary here and the article itself here .)

The Met Office, England’s weather and climate agency, was at the center of the Climategate scandal. In 2010, they predicted Great Britain would have a warm winter – and instead they got one of the coldest on record. Reports released under freedom-of-information actions revealed that the agency actually produced two forecasts – one predicting a warm winter, the other predicting a cold one – but only released the warm info to the public.

posted on Mon, 09/05/2011 - 12:09am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <h3> <h4> <em> <i> <strong> <b> <span> <ul> <ol> <li> <blockquote> <object> <embed> <param> <sub> <sup>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may embed videos from the following providers vimeo, youtube. Just add the video URL to your textarea in the place where you would like the video to appear, i.e. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw0jmvdh.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options