Pondering the impacts of Climategate one year later

climategatecartoonOne year ago this week, in late November 2009, more than 1,000 stolen e-mails from scientists at England’s University of East Anglia were made public. Climate skeptics, eager to find evidence of a conspiracy, had a field day claiming these emails showed scientific misconduct and argued these emails should cast doubt on decades of findings.

Although a small percentage of the hacked e-mails exchanged over a 13 year period may have shown climate scientists in an unprofessional light, nothing revealed in those emails actually changed scientific consensus on global warming.  In fact, while the controversy was still unfolding, the World Meteorological Organization announced on Dec. 8 that the 2000-2009 decade would likely be the warmest on record, and that 2009 might be the fifth warmest year ever recorded.

The timing for the release of these email was not coincidental – these stolen emails hit blogs and newscasts just as hundreds of leaders and delegates and technical experts, business leaders, advocates and concerned citizens began to gather in Copenhagen, Denmark for the United Nations’ 15th annual Conference of the Parties for international climate policy. And while plenty of people heard about Climategate through headlines last December, how many know that four independent investigations in 2010 all found that no scientific data was compromised by the contents of the emails?  Significantly fewer, I would wager, since a report released many months later that assigns no blame doesn’t sell as many newspapers as a sensational, breaking story that whips up controversy.

2010temperaturesWhat are the impacts from Climategate one year later?  The scientific data continues to build conclusively proving that the Earth is warming. Just today, the National Climatic Data Center based in Asheville, NC confirmed that 2010 is already tied with 1998 as the warmest year on record based on date from January through October 2010.  When the final two months of the year are computed, 2010 may emerge as the uncontested ‘winner.’

On the other hand, and most ironically, climate skeptics have grown more vocal in the past year.  Most of the 37 Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in the 2010 midterm elections publicly questioned climate science, including Marco Rubio from Florida and Jim DeMint from South Carolina. Moreover, the midterm elections did usher a large number of skeptics into power in Congress and governors’ mansions and state general assemblies.

The combination of troubling data and climate-hostile lawmakers is daunting, to say the least, but there is a positive development.  Earlier this month, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) announced that at least 700 climate scientists will take part in an initiative to speak out about climate science findings by engaging with the media, including dozens who will comprise a ‘rapid response team.’  This is welcome news because climate scientists have traditionally shied away from engaging in politics and speaking with media outlets.  However, a scientific speakers bureau alone cannot reverse the tide of public skepticism and it’s still critical that citizens and business leaders compliments those efforts by continuing to urge support for actions and policies that will reduce carbon pollution and minimize the impacts of global warming.

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11 Comments

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I would like to take issue with the idea that there ever was a “scientific consensus” on global warming.

I have asked journalists, politicians & alarmist lobbyists now totalling in the tens of thousands worldwide to name 2 prominent scientists, not funded by government or an alarmist lobby who have said that we are seeing a catastrophic degree of warming & none of them have yet been able to do so. I extend this same invitation here.

There is not & never was a genuine scientific consensus on this, though scientists seeking government funds have been understandably reluctant to speak. If there were anything approaching a consensus it with over 31,000 scientists having signed the Oregon petition saying it is bunk, it would be easy to find a similar number of independent scientists saying it was true, let alone 2. The whole thing depends on a very small number of people & a massive government publicity machine, both very well funded by the innocent taxpayer.

Because, to quote Mencken “the practical purpose of politics is to keep the polulace frightened & anxious to be led to safety by threatening them with an endless series of hobgoblins – all of them imaginary.”


Comment by Neil Craig on November 19, 2010 8:18 am


“..nothing revealed in those emails actually changed scientific consensus on global warming. ”

That’s correct; it’s been a whole year since the Climategate emails and there STILL is no scientific consensus on global warming. That scandal didn’t do a thing.

Cheers.


Comment by klem on November 19, 2010 11:31 am


I chose the words ‘scientific consensus’ carefully because they mean the collective judgment and opinion of scientists in a particular field of study – ie climatologists queried for climate science and cardiologists for heart disease. Although consensus implies general agreement, it does not necessarily mean unanimity of opinion.

This summer, a study identified 908 climate researchers (from an original database of 1,372) who have published at least 20 peer-reviewed papers on climate. Only 2 percent of the top 50 climate researchers identified were determined to be climate dissenters. Most of the skeptics are not actively publishing in the field, giving their research and opinions less credibility among their peers.

You can read more about this new study here: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/22/evidence-for-a-consensus-on-climate-change/

Based on the expert opinions of hundreds of peer-reviewed climate scientists and their decades of data, it is safe to say there is a general consensus that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.


Comment by Jennifer Rennicks on November 19, 2010 12:13 pm


The consensus is based on “temperature records”, if you delve into the arcane logic changing the temperature records does change the consensus. [sexist, insulting comment deleted]


Comment by anon on November 20, 2010 2:57 pm


Jennifer, your reply at 12:13 has some issues. You say only 2% are “climate dissenters”. 1) This term is not defined. 2) By what criteria were they labeled? 3) How do you define “top 50″? 4) How is “climate researcher” defined? No, it isn’t obvious. 5) Why only researchers, and not practitioners? I could easily go on, but what’s the point. What you (and the study) did is create numbers that support your position.


Comment by Jeff on November 22, 2010 2:37 pm


There is no consensus. The emails are damning and yet the inquiries were whitewashes. You had people who were only interested in the alarmist point of view. The emails speak for themselves. Why were the emails never checked to see if they had been deleted? We don’t know yet if they have. If this were any other other field of study everyone would say where is the full investigation. The public isn’t fooled.


Comment by genealogymaster on November 22, 2010 3:06 pm


One last thing if these emails were stolen why has no one ever been charged? Its been a year you think they would have found out what happened by now.


Comment by genealogymaster on November 22, 2010 3:07 pm


The reason no one has been charged is that UK whistleblower laws have sharp teeth, and anyone attempting to prosecute or persecute the saint who released this information will quickly regret it.


Comment by Brian H on November 22, 2010 4:03 pm


Jennifer,

Skeptics don’t publish or move to other areas of climate because the journals are that corrupted. I know from my own experiences as well as reading reviews. You should see what Spencer, Lindzen, McIntyre, McKitric, and many others have gone through to get papers published. The reviews often border on insane. And by often, I mean really often.

It’s a joke to use the number or amount of publications as an argument when the journals have been hijacked.


Comment by Jeff Id on November 23, 2010 9:10 am


For an example of the purported “hijacking” by “corrupted” science, consider Mercer’s paper with the ‘alarmist’ headline, “West
Antarctic Ice sheet and CO2 greenhouse effect: a threat of disaster
,” published in 1978.

Mercer suggested that if present (i.e., 1970s era) trends continue, “deglaciation of West Antarctica will be imminent or in progress” by 2030. Present trends have continued, and deglaciation is underway.

Climate dissenters have made their predictions as well. Theirs have been wrong.

While I’ve seen “insane” (actually, just confused) reviews in the peer review process, there is plenty of evidence out there that halfway decent research (emphasis on “halfway”) can get published somewhere halfway credible. When they presumably couldn’t get published in halfway credible journals, then the dissenters created their own agenda-driven journal, the (now defunct?) Energy and Environment.


Comment by John D. Wilson on November 24, 2010 11:36 am


The IPCC is composed of thousands of climatologists (chosen by the UN) world-wide and have released, in 2007, an assessment of antropogenic heating. The report states that they can say with confidence that the world is heating. It based it’s information on thousands of different research papers and researchers in which they performed a meta-analysis. I would call that a “general consensus”. Well written Ms. Rennicks.


Comment by Ian on September 17, 2012 3:58 pm


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