I know how tempting it is to take these files and emails and try to make a blanket condemnation of all the science that has been done on climate change. And there is no doubt that these specific scientists have a lot to explain with regard to some of their language used in the emails and apparent participation in at least some withholding of data that would contradict their findings.
But examining these revelations from a macro perspective would convince most reasonable skeptics that, while the case against AGW may be growing, the problem of climate change cannot be swept under the rug so easily.
I hate to disabuse some of the more excitable conspiracy theorists out there of their total AGW debunking dreams, but the climate is indeed, changing. It has been changing for 20,000 years and will continue to change. Sometimes,the change can be measured in decades, sometimes centuries, sometimes millenia. The question should be not whether the entire climate change community of thousands of scientists and hundreds of research labs is trying to put one over on us but whether there is anything we can or should be doing to deal with the problem.
It is unfortunate that so many non-scientists have latched on to AGW to promote their own political and economic agendas. I suggest that this is where the fight must be directed; governments, corporations, NGO’s, and the Al Gores of the world who stand to profit enormously from the ruinous policies they promote.
There appear to be many leading advocates for the AGW theory involved in this email controversy. But positing a “global conspiracy” is a stretch. The reason is that the AGW scientific community is just too diverse, too spread out over too many scientific disciplines for such a conspiracy to take root. To believe in such a conspiracy is to posit the idea that thousands of scientists are frauds - a laughable notion that is belied by solid evidence of warming in hundreds of observations and experiments around the world, published in peer reviewed journals for the express purpose of confirming - or denying - these conclusions.
And even some of the language in these emails that has been leapt upon by skeptics may, indeed, be misunderstood:
Dr. Mann, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, confirmed in an interview that the e-mail message was real. He said the choice of words by his colleague was poor but noted that scientists often used the word “trick” to refer to a good way to solve a problem, “and not something secret.”
At issue were sets of data, both employed in two studies. One data set showed long-term temperature effects on tree rings; the other, thermometer readings for the past 100 years.
Through the last century, tree rings and thermometers show a consistent rise in temperature until 1960, when some tree rings, for unknown reasons, no longer show that rise, while the thermometers continue to do so until the present.
Dr. Mann explained that the reliability of the tree-ring data was called into question, so they were no longer used to track temperature fluctuations. But he said dropping the use of the tree rings was never something that was hidden, and had been in the scientific literature for more than a decade. “It sounds incriminating, but when you look at what you’re talking about, there’s nothing there,” Dr. Mann said.
In addition, other independent but indirect measurements of temperature fluctuations in the studies broadly agreed with the thermometer data showing rising temperatures.
Believable? I would say at this point that the burden of proof is on Mann and his colleagues but that some of that explanation sounds reasonable.
This, however, is pretty damning:
Not surprisingly, the Keith mentioned is none other than CRU’s own Keith Briffa, another Hockey-Team leader, whose temperature graphs, derived from tree ring data from Yamal, Russia, were cited by the IPCC as supporting evidence of MBH’s assertion of unprecedented 20th-century warming. But as we reported at the time, that buttress crumbled last month when Briffa’s results were proven to stand no more reliably than Mann’s.
Ultimately, neither reconstruction attained its alarmist imperative goal of proving today’s global temperatures unprecedented. Despite repeated fraudulent efforts to demonstrate otherwise, 20th-century highs remain documented as several degrees cooler than those of the Medieval Warming Period of 900-1300 AD. Bad news for the mankind-stinks crowd in general; worse news for those actually involved in this devious deception.
Both Mann and Briffa had been challenged for years to produce their data, methods, and source code by Climate Audit’s Steve McIntyre. Both ignored the tenets of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) McIntyre cited and fought every effort to induce their coming clean. And actually not without good reason — last month, CRU was effectively forced to release the Yamal information, whereupon an analysis by McIntyre proved that Briffa et al. had cherry-picked and manipulated data, intentionally omitting records not friendly to their position.
The journal in which Mann and Briffa’s data was published failed to demand that the pair release the details of their studies on which the “hockey stick” graph was based, which flew in the face of their own policy! For his part, McIntyre has done a great service to science and the public with his single minded pursuit of the facts. (This WSJ article on McIntyre goes into detail about his quest.)
But does debunking the hockey stick graph debunk global warming as a theory? Not hardly. What makes AGW such a problematic theory is that the evidence is so contradictory, depending on which scientific discipline you choose to study. That, and the almost surreal opposition by AGW advocates in the scientific community to contrary findings. I say surreal because the scientific method does not allow for such rock solid certainty for a theory where the facts are still being gathered and analyzed. The atmosphere is such a monumentally complex system - the AGW theory itself is incredibly diversified to include the oceans, volcanoes, weathering of the mountains, meteorology, chemistry - all of this information plugged into models that so far, have been wildly inaccurate.
This in and of itself does not debunk global warming. As I’ve written previously, models that do not reflect reality are instructive for scientists in that it forces them to go back to the drawing board in order to improve their modeling. Trial and error is part of the scientific method - as long as it is done honestly and without cooking the books to achieve a desired result.
And yet, despite the uncertainty, the contradictory findings, and the almost religious fervor among both scientists and laymen who warn of catastrophe, we are being asked to ship trillions of dollars to other countries, allow the UN sovereignty-destroying power over our economy, and severely restrict industrial activity.
What’s wrong with that picture?
Even without this controversy, there were plenty of unanswered questions about AGW - enough to prevent non-scientists from hijacking the debate in order to achieve power, influence, and riches at the expense of healthy economies. At the very least, I hope that these revelations lead to slowdown in the rush to apply solutions that won’t address the problem as much as they cater to the desires of some powerful people.
I believe there is a case to be made to lower our emissions. This is common sense where uncertainty about AGW is prevelant. There is also an excellent case to be made to find alternative forms of energy to oil. Neither of these goals should be abandoned. But the draconian measures being proposed need to be deep sixed and climate change scientists need to abandon their opposition to skeptical viewpoints and get back to the business of discovering facts untainted by the desire for a specific outcome.
If that will be the lesson we take away from these troubling revelations, the world will be better for it.