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The ClimateGate Emails
The Climategate emails expose to our view a world that was previously hidden from virtually everyone.
This formerly hidden world was made up of a very few players. But they controlled those critical Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) processes involving the temperature records from the past, and the official interpretation of current temperature data. They exerted previously unrecognized influence on the “peer review” process for papers seeking publication in the officially recognised climate science literature from which the IPCC was supposed to rely exclusively in order to draw its conclusions.
The Climategate emails demonstrate that these people had no regard for the traditions and assumptions which had developed over centuries and which provided the foundations of Western science. At the very core of this tradition is respect for truth and honesty in reporting data and results; and a recognition that all the data, and all the steps required to reach a result, had to be available to the scientific world at large.
There are two issues which now have to be addressed. The first is the damage which has been done to the standing of science as an intellectual discipline on which our civilisation depends. The second is the status of the IPCC, since that institution is the source of scientific authority on which prime ministers and other political leaders rely to legitimise their statements about global warming.
The IPCC was established by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Panel (UNEP) in 1988. From the very beginning its brief was to report on mankind’s influence on climate change.
The IPCC has published four assessment reports, in 1991, 1996, 2001, and in 2007. Every successive report has upped the ante, both in the confidence of their predictions of increasing global temperatures and rising sea-levels, and in the surety that mankind is responsible for continued warming.
The Climategate emails originate from the University of East Anglia’s, Climatic Research Unit, (CRU) founded by climatology pioneer Hubert Lamb. Tom Wigley, who was born and educated in Adelaide, was Director of the CRU until 1993 and was succeeded by Phil Jones, who is one of two lead players in this story.
The other lead player is Mike Mann, from Penn State University. Mike Mann leapt from relative obscurity to international fame with his “hockey stick”, a graph of global temperatures from 1000 AD to the present, which was the showpiece at the launching of the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report in Shanghai in January 2001. The hockey stick became a corporate logo for the IPCC , but because it rubbed out the Mediaeval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age from the historical record, it was subjected to a US congressional inquiry. Eventually it was shown that random data fed into the algorithms used by Mann to produce his hockey stick from bristle cone pine tree ring data, also yielded hockey stick results.
In this annotated edition of the Climategate emails, John Costella shows us how a very small cabal of climate scientists, based at the University of East Anglia and at Penn State University, were able to control the temperature record fed into the IPCC reports and which comprised the foundation on which the whole global warming structure was based. The only data base which they could not influence was the satellite measured temperature data which John Christy and Roy Spencer, from the University of Alabama, had established from 1979 on.
That this was a real conspiracy is beyond argument. The word “conspiracy” is used by the players themselves. In any conspiracy there is a tight inner core and then successive rings of collaborators, who accept the leadership of the central core.
The hero who emerges from these emails is Steve McIntyre, a Canadian ex-geologist and mining analyst, who with remarkable patience and courtesy kept on asking for the data and the computer programmes upon which the various IPCC pronouncements were based. He has performed a great service for the world, which one day will surely be recognised.
The other hero, so far unknown, is the whistle-blower who realised the implications of what was going on and was able to place all these emails on an obscure Russian website.
John Costella has done a great service in making these emails intelligible to us all. The Lavoisier Group is grateful to him for allowing us to publish his work. The cost of this publication was met through donations from the Lavoisier Group’s member and friends and on behalf of the Board I thank them for their generous support.
Why Climategate is so Distressing to Scientists
The most difficult thing for a scientist in the era of Climategate is trying to explain to family and friends why it is so distressing to scientists. Most people don’t know how science really works: there are no popular television shows, movies or books that really depict the everyday lives of real scientists; it just isn’t exciting enough. I’m not talking here about the major discoveries of science—which are well-described in documentaries, popular science series, and magazines—but rather how the week-by-week process of science (often called the “scientific method”) actually works.
The best analogy that I have been able to come up with, in recent weeks, is the criminal justice system—which is often depicted in the popular media. Everyone knows what happens if the police obtain evidence by illegal means: the evidence is ruled inadmissible; and, if a case rests on that tainted evidence, it is thrown out of court. The justice system is not saying that the accused is necessarily innocent; rather, that determining the truth is impossible if evidence is not protected from tampering or fabrication.
The same is true in science: scientists assume that the rules of the scientific method have been followed, at least in any discipline that publishes its results for public consumption. It is that trust in the process that allows me, for example, to believe that the human genome has been mapped—despite my knowing nothing about that field of science at all. That same trust has allowed scientists at large to similarly believe in the results of climate science.
So what are the “rules” of the scientific method? Actually, they are not all that different from those of the justice system. Just as it is a fundamental right of every affected party to be heard and fairly considered by the court, it is of crucial importance to science that all points of view be given a chance to be heard, and fairly debated. But, of course, it would be impossible to allow an “open slather” type of arrangement, like discussion forums on the Internet; so how do we admit all points of view, without descending into anarchy?
This question touches on something of a dark secret within science—one which most scientists, through the need for self-preservation, are scared to admit: most disciplines of science are, to a greater or lesser extent, controlled by fashions, biases and dogma. Why is this so? Because the mechanism by which scientific debate has been “regulated” to avoid anarchy—at least since the second half of the twentieth century—has been the “peer review” process. The career of any professional scientist lives or dies on their success in achieving publication of their papers in “peer-reviewed” journals. So what, exactly, does “peer-reviewed” mean? Simply that other professional scientists in that discipline must agree that the paper is worthy of publication. And what is the criterion that determines who these “professional scientists” should be? Their success in achieving publication of their papers in peer-reviewed journals! Catch-22.
It may seem, on the surface, that this circular process is fundamentally flawed but, borrowing the words of Winston Churchill, it is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried. Science is not, of course, alone in this respect; for example, in the justice system, judges are generally selected from the ranks of lawyers. So what is it that allows this form of system to work, despite its evident circularity?
The justice system again provides a clue: judges are not the ones who ultimately decide what occurs in a courtroom: they simply implement the laws passed or imposed by the government—and politicians are not, in general, selected solely from the ranks of the legal profession. This is the ultimate “reality check” that prevents the legal system from spiralling into navel-gazing irrelevance.
Equivalent “escape valves” for science are not as explicitly obvious, but they exist nonetheless.
First, a scientific discipline can maintain a “closed shop” mentality for a while, but eventually the institutions and funding agencies that provide the lifeblood of their work—the money that pays their wages and funds their research—will begin to question the relevance and usefulness of the discipline, particularly in relation to other disciplines that are competing for the same funds. This will generally be seen by the affected scientists as “political interference”, but it is a reflection of their descent into arrogance and delusions of self-importance for them to believe that only they themselves are worthy of judging their own merits.
Second, scientists who are capable and worthy, but unfairly “locked out” of a given discipline, will generally migrate to other disciplines in which the scientific process is working as it should. Dysfunctional disciplines will, in time, atrophy, in favour of those that are healthy and dynamic.
The Climategate emails show that these self-regulating mechanisms simply failed to work in the case of climate science—perhaps because “climate science” is itself an aggregation of many different and disparate scientific disciplines. Those component disciplines are extremely challenging. For example, it would be wonderful if NASA were able to invent a time machine, and go back over the past hundred thousand years and set up temperature and carbon dioxide measurement probes across the breadth of the globe. Unfortunately, we don’t have this. Instead, we need to infer these measurements, by counting tree rings, or digging up tubes of ice. The science of each of these disciplines is well-defined and rigorous, and there are many good scientists working in these fields. But the real difficulty is the “stitching together” of all of these results in a way that allows answers to the fundamental questions: How much effect has mankind had on the temperature of the planet? And how much difference would it make if we did things differently?
It is at this “stitching together” layer of science—one could call it a “meta-discipline” —that the principles of the scientific method have broken down. Reading through the Climategate emails, one can see members of that community—usually those with slightly different experience and wisdom than the power-brokers—questioning (as they should) this “stitching together” process, particularly with regard to the extremely subtle mathematical methods that need to be used to try to extract answers. Now, these mathematical and statistical methods are completely within my own domain of expertise; and I can testify that the criticisms are sensible, carefully thought-out, and completely valid; these are good scientists, asking the right questions.
So what reception do they get? Instead of embracing this diversity of knowledge—thanking them for their experience (no-one knows everything about everything) and using that knowledge to improve their own calculations—these power-brokers of climate science instead ignore, fob off, ridicule, threaten, and ultimately black-ball those who dare to question the methods that they—the power-brokers, the leaders—have used. And do not be confused: I am here talking about those scientists within their own camps, not the “skeptics” which they dismiss out of hand.
This is not “climate science”, it is climate ideology; it is the Church of Climatology.
It is this betrayal of the principles of science—in what is arguably the most important public application of science in our lifetime—that most distresses scientists.
The Climategate Emails and What they Mean
Climategate began on 19 November 2009, when a whistle-blower leaked thousands of emails and documents central to a Freedom of Information request placed with the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. This institution has played a central role in the “climate change” debate. Its scientists, together with their international colleagues, quite literally put the “warming” into Global Warming: they were responsible for analysing and collating the various measurements of temperature from around the globe and that, going back for many years, collectively underpinned the central scientific argument that mankind’s liberation of “greenhouse” gases—particularly carbon dioxide—was leading to a relentless, unprecedented and ultimately catastrophic warming of the entire planet.
The key phrase here, from a scientific point of view, is that it is “unprecedented” warming. There is absolutely no doubt that mankind has liberated substantial quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past two centuries. But mankind did not “create” this carbon dioxide out of nothing. It was released by the burning of “fossil fuels”, which were created over millions of years from the remains of plants and animals (who themselves ultimately obtained their nutrition from those plants). So where did those plants get their energy and carbon dioxide from? They absorbed the radiant energy of the Sun, and breathed in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as plants continue to do today. In other words, when we burn fossil fuels, we are utilizing a small part of the solar energy that had been collected and stored by plants over millions of years, and in the process we are liberating into the atmosphere the carbon dioxide that those plants had absorbed from the atmosphere in the first place.
This may sound like a fairly benign sort of natural cycle, until you realize that a couple of hundred years is a mere blink of an eye compared with the millions of years it took for the planet to build up those resources. It is right for scientists to worry about whether that massive and almost instantaneous “kick” to the planet may throw the equilibrium of the biota into complete chaos. It is a valid question, of ultimate global importance—one that most people would have thought would have demanded the most careful, exacting and rigorous scientific analyses that mankind could muster.
Climategate has shattered that myth. It gives us a peephole into the work of the scientists investigating arguably the most important issue ever to face mankind. Instead of seeing large collaborations of meticulous, careful, critical scientists, we instead see a small team of incompetent scientists; abusing almost every aspect of the framework of science to build a fence around themselves and their fellow activists, to prevent real scientists from seeing the shambles of their “research”. Most people find it impossible to believe that this could have happened; and it is only because “climate science” exploded from a relatively tiny corner of academia into a hugely funded industry in a matter of a few years that the perpetrators were able to get away with it for so long.
But, as wisely noted by both P. T. Barnum and Abraham Lincoln,
You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.
An increasing number of highly qualified scientists slowly began to realize that the “climate science” community was a façade—and that the vitriolic attacks upon the sensible arguments of mathematicians, statisticians, and indeed of scientists using plain common sense were not the product of scientific rigour at all, but merely attempts at self-protection at any cost. At this point the veil began to lift on what has arguably become one of the greatest scientific frauds in the history of mankind.
This is one of the darker periods in the history of science. Those who love science, and all it stands for, will be pained by what they read below. However, the crisis is here, and cannot be avoided.
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