Published December 03, 2010
Blam! Kapow! Smack! The bell has rung for the latest round of climate talks, but the battle continues among climate scientists too, making only one thing truly clear -- the science of global warming simply isn't settled.
Climate science suffered a black eye over the past 12 months, following revelations that the latest report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contained numerous errors and relied too heavily on questionable sources. At the latest climate conference in Cancun, the group will stress that its research must continue.
But while governments try to push through an accord, the fighting over the science -- and the IPCC's role -- continues unabated. And the body blows seem as violent as ever.
"The corruption within the IPCC revealed by the Climategate scandal, the doctoring of data and the refusal to admit mistakes have so severely tainted the IPCC that it is no longer a credible agency," Don Easterbrook, a professor of geology at Western Washington University, declared in an interview with FoxNews.com. "Thus, it is no longer in a position to claim to speak for climate scientists."
Ouch. Former weather forecaster and climate-change blogger Anthony Watts isn't as outspoken as Easterbrook, but he agrees that the IPCC is failing.
"Recent sloppy work such as the 'Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035' blunder, the questionable use of scientific citations in the last IPCC report, and the suspect business dealings of IPCC chairman Rajenda Pachauri have pretty much taken what most saw as a grade A scientific paper when first published and reduced it to a D minus today," Watts told FoxNews.com.
Even those who believe man's actions are raising the planet's temperature admit that the U.N.'s climate group has struggled. "It's been a tough year for the IPCC," Aaron Huertas, a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told FoxNews.com.
He believes the organization is learning from its mistakes, as well as the suggestions of the group that publicly detailed its flaws just a few month ago. "To its credit, the IPCC is taking recommendations from the InterAcademy Council to heart, and I think their future reports will be better for it," he said.
And Huertas defended the group and its work with language just as loudly as the climate skeptics criticized it.
"Groups that oppose action on climate change spend a lot of time attacking the IPCC. But they never attack the National Academy of Sciences, even though they are making the same basic points."
Easterbrook argues that in the case of climate change, the scientific method has been compromised by the sheer size of the government grant money involved. That and the research he feels is one-sided, of course. Blam!
"Climate research has now been so thoroughly contaminated by politics and power/money brokers that it has lost credibility," Easterbrook wrote in an e-mail to FoxNews.com. "The only way to regain lost scientific credibility is by allowing scientific debate (which has been totally stifled by CO2 proponents), showing the public the scientific evidence for claimed conclusions, and opening up funding for other than CO2 proponents."
"In other words, include the so-called skeptics in debates and agencies dealing with climate instead of ostracizing them," Easterbrook said.
Watts agreed. "We've witnessed science make a sea change from intellectual curiosity to a role of active and impassioned advocacy," he told FoxNews.com. "The only way to return to the scientific method is to remove the huge amounts of funding associated with climate change, and to hire people to do studies that have no financial incentive to maintain further research. The current process is like a welfare system for on-board scientist."
Nevertheless, Huertas said the science is sound ... depending on whom you listen to, of course.
"I follow the skeptical blogs, and most of what's on there I wouldn't even call science," he said. "A lot of it is just politics. At the end of the day, I ask people: 'Who do you trust? A pundit on the radio talking about climate science or the scientists at NASA?'"
"I'm going with the scientists at NASA," Huertas said.
Neither the IPCC nor the U.N. returned FoxNews.com's requests for comment.
Blake Snow is a freelance writer and lover of the scientific method. Suggestion box and contact information can be found on his website.