Published November 30, 2009
With the Copenhagen climate talks starting next week, climate-gate keeps getting worse. There is no precedent for so many academics engaging in coordinated efforts to distort research for political ends. The problems go well beyond deleting e-mails to prevent their disclosure from a Freedom of Information Act request. The UN claims that “there is ‘virtually no possibility’ of a few scientists” biasing their reports. But it doesn’t just involve a few minor figures: implicated are the most powerful and well placed people in academia -- heads of departments and centers.
The Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, which has been at the center of the scandal, has been incredibly influential in the global warming debate. The CRU collected the world's most extensive surface temperature data set by far and its research and mathematical models formed the basis of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report.
But the CRU’s temperature data and all of the research done with it are now in question. The leaked e-mails show that the scientists at the CRU don’t know how their data was put together. CRU took individual temperature readings at individual stations and averaged the information out to produce temperature readings over larger areas. The problem comes in how they did the averaging. One of the leaked documents states that “our flagship gridded data product is produced by [a method that] renders the station counts totally meaningless” and “so, we can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!” There were also significant coding errors in the data. Weather stations that are claimed to exist in Canada aren’t there -- leading one memo to speculate that the stations “were even invented somewhere other than Canada!”
The computer code used to create the data the CRU has used contains programmer notes that indicate that the aggregated data were constructed to show an increase in temperatures. The programmer notes include: “Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!” and "Low pass filtering at century and longer time scales never gets rid of the trend -- so eventually I start to scale down the 120-yr low pass time series to mimic the effect of removing/adding longer time scales!" The programmers apparently had to try at least a couple of adjustments before they could get their aggregated data to show an increase in temperatures.
All this could in theory be correctable by going back and starting from scratch with the original “raw” data, but the CRU apparently threw out much of the data used to create their temperature measures. We now only have the temperature measures that they created.
The extent to which these academics are willing to go to get the results they want can be seen in their attacks on others. Upset that the editor of Geophysical Research Letters, Jim Saiers, and the journal Climate Research had published research that questioned man-made global warming, these e-mails reveal an attempt to remove Saiers as editor, prevent others from publishing in these journals or citing their work, and, even worse, exclude work critical of the man-made global warming theory from being cited by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
-- Tom Wigley, a scientist with the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research wrote in one of the e-mails: "If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted." Saiers’ term as editor ended the following year. In another e-mail, Wigley wrote: "If we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 deg C, then this would be significant for the global mean -- but we'd still have to explain the land blip."
-- Professor Mann, the Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, wrote: "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal."
-- Professor Phil Jones, head of the CRU and contributing author to the United Nation's IPCC report chapter titled "Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes," wrote: "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow -- even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"
Despite all this, ABC, CBS, and NBC have failed to even mention anything about this scandal on their news broadcasts. CNN has covered it, but has minimized any concerns. The Obama administration has also either dismissed these events as either irrelevant or just completely ignored them. With trillions of dollars at stake for the climate decisions that are going to be made next week in Copenhagen, Americans deserve some discussion of these e-mails and what they mean.