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The Scandal that Wasn’t: Climate-Gate Returns

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Remember Climate-Gate from 2009? The scandal that critics said completely debunked climate science but really showed nothing other than the fact that scientists, like everyone else, can act like defensive assholes? Well, that scandal is back with the release of thousands of new emails from what appears to be the same trove of stolen material.

Less than a week before U.N. negotiators convene in South Africa for a new round of talks aimed at forging a global climate pact, a hacker has released a second round of e-mails from the University of East Anglia in Britain that portray climate scientists in a negative light.
The e-mail exchanges, which appear to have been pulled from the same set of pirated electronic files taken from servers at the university’s Climatic Research Unit more than two years ago, may ignite a renewed debate, at least among some bloggers and climate-change skeptics, over whether scientists have exaggerated the link between human activity and global warming. 

This is very frustrating. Folks who know the science of climate change never worried that the emails from the University of East Anglia threatened the known and accepted results. Investigation after investigation found that there was no manipulation of data or scientific fraud committed by anyone involved in the emails. But serious damage was done to the public perception of climate change in the United States by the willingness of too many bad journalists to push a narrative that fits the purpose: climate change is a scam no matter what the science says.

Where the first batch of emails failed to show any negative impact on the science of climate change, the second are even less likely to do so. The second round deals not with science but with the actions of climate scientists in handling data and influencing public discussion.

This second batch deals less with the science underpinning climate research than how some of the world’s prominent scientists framed the issue, and recruited colleagues to serve on panels such as the U.N. Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change.
In one round of e-mails, researchers discuss whether the IPCC has accurately depicted the temperature rise in the lower atmosphere. An official from the U.K. Met Office, a scientific organization which analyzes the climate, writes to the Climate Research Unit’s former director Phil Jones at one point, “Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary […]”
Later, the official adds, “I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.”


Likely, there are terrible exchanges in these emails that will further hurt the credibility of climate change science and scientists in the US. Whatever those are will be brought to light with joyous glee by the denial industry, who will attach to anything that fits their cause. But as reports of the downfall of the liberal climate movement and the anti-human crusade are repeated ad nauseam, just remember what will not happen, and what didn’t happen last time climate-gate was splashed across TVs everywhere. The science will not change. Because a series of stolen emails cannot alter decades of research, thousands of studies, and the existing scientific consensus that climate change is occurring.

It is hard to imagine that these emails were released without purpose, just weeks before the next round of international climate talks will take place. Put up your shields, folks, the story still fits the narrative that so many people desperately desire. No matter what evidence one provides to the contrary.


Written by Christopher ZF

November 22, 2011 at 13:22

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