As the Climate-gate controversy continues to grow, amid charges of hiding and manipulating data, and suppressing research by academics who challenge global warming, there is one oft-repeated defense: other independent data-sets all reach the same conclusions. "I think everybody is clear on the science. I think scientists are clear on the science ... I think that this notion that there's some debate . . . on the science is kind of silly," said President Obama's Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, when asked about the president's response to the controversy on Monday. Despite the scandal, Britain's Met, the UK’s National Weather Service, claims: "we remain completely confident in the data. The three independent data sets show a strong correlation is highlighting an increase in global temperatures."
But things are not so clear. It is not just the University of East Anglia data that is at question. There are about 450 academic peer-reviewed journal articles questioning the importance of man-made global warming. The sheer number of scientists rallying against a major intervention to stop carbon dioxide is remarkable. In a petition, more than 30,000 American scientists are urging the U.S. government to reject the Kyoto treaty. Thus, there is hardly the unanimity among scientists about global warming or mankind's role in producing it. But even for the sake of argument, assuming that there is significant man-made global warming, many academics argue that higher temperatures are actually good. Higher temperatures increase the amount of land to grow food, increase biological diversity, and improve people's health. Increased carbon dioxide also promotes plant growth.
Let's take the issue of data. The three most relied-on data series used by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report came from the University of East Anglia, NASA, and the British Met Office. As noted in my previous piece for the Fox Forum, the problem of secretiveness is hardly limited to the University of East Anglia. NASA also refuses to give out its data. NASA further refuses to explain mysterious changes in whether the warmest years were in the 1930s or this past decade. The British Met office, too, has been unable to release its data and just announced its plans to begin a three-year investigation of its data since all of its land temperatures data were obtained from the University of East Anglia (ocean temperatures were collected separately), though there are signs that things might be speeded up.
Neither the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia nor the British Met are able to provide their raw data to other research scientists because of the confidentiality agreements that Professor Phil Jones at CRU entered into. Unfortunately, Jones did not keep records of those agreements and, according to the British Met, can neither identify the countries with the confidentiality agreements nor provide the agreements. Earlier this year the British Met wrote the following to Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit:
"Some of the information was provided to Professor Jones on the strict understanding by the data providers that this station data must not be publicly released and it cannot be determined which countries or stations data were given in confidence as records were not kept."
A press spokesman for the British Met, John Hammond, confirmed this statement in a telephone conversation on Monday to FoxNews.com. But the claimed confidentiality restrictions have hardly been followed consistently. When asked why the University of East Anglia was allowed to release the data to the Met but not to other academics, Mr. Hammond e-mailed back: "This is a question for the UEA." Unfortunately, however, neither the University of East Anglia nor anyone associated with the CRU was willing to answer any questions about the climate research conducted at the university.
But why would countries want confidentiality agreements on decades old data that they are providing? "Climate data continues to have value so long as it is commercially confidential," Mr. Hammond says. But when pushed for evidence that this was in fact the concerns that countries had raised, Mr. Hammond said: "Although I do not have evidence to hand at the moment, some nations, especially in Africa for example, believe that the information does have commercial value." Earlier, in July, the Met had raised a different issue -- that scientists in other countries would be less willing to share their scientific research if the Met could be expected to pass on the data to others.
However, professional meterologists are unimpressed by the claimed reasons for confidentiality. "Research data used as the basis for scientific research needs to be disclosed if other scientists are to be able to verify the work of others," Mike Steinberg, Senior Vice President, AccuWeather, told FoxNews.com. In addition, while the data access may be restricted in some countries because they sell data and forecasts, that doesn't explain why the data isn't released for all other countries.
It is not just the University of East Anglia that has been accused of massaging the data (what they called creating "value added" data). Recently, New Zealand has also had its temperature series from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) challenged. Still the NIWA continues to insist that the "Warming over New Zealand through the past is unequivocal." Indeed, the institute claims that the New Zealand warming trend was 50 percent higher than the global average. But the difference in graphs between what NIWA produced after massaging the data and what the original raw data showed was truly remarkable and can be seen here. As the Climate Science Coalition of New Zealand charged: "The shocking truth is that the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming, as documented below." Similar concerns have also been raised about Australian temperature data.
Global warming advocates may believe that if they just keep shouting that everyone agrees with them, they will be able to enact their far-reaching regulations before everyone catches on. With President Obama's -- and the Democrats' -- fondness for more spending and increased regulations, our hope may have to rest with India and China to finally bring the Copenhagen conference to its senses.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.