Climategate Scandal Deals Blow to Global Warming Fears

Published January 18, 2010

A series of e-mails between scientists who serve as gatekeepers for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaked from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit has caused a firestorm of controversy that has yet to die down several months after the news first broke.

Smoking-Gun Emails

The incident, which has come to be known as “Climategate,” revealed longstanding efforts to manipulate, hide, and destroy scientific data that cast doubt on global warming alarmism. The late-November document leak also exposed pernicious tactics used to strong-arm the peer-review publishing process in order to keep skeptical scientists from publishing their findings.

Evidence of data tampering includes an email from Climatic Research Unit (CRU) head Phil Jones to fellow global warming alarmists reporting he had “just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps … to hide the decline.”

The “trick” performed by Jones was hiding temperature reconstruction data that showed recent temperatures did not accord with global warming alarmists’ claims. By hiding data, as prominent alarmist Michael Mann was shown to have done in prior work, Jones could claim more recent warming than was actually occurring.

Freezing Out Disagreement

The emails also revealed alarmists had conspired to bully editors of peer-reviewed journals into freezing out scientists who submitted papers documenting flaws in the alarmist message.

Tom Wigley of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research sent an email to fellow alarmists claiming they “must get rid of” an editor for a peer-reviewed science journal because he accepted papers by skeptical scientists. Mann and Jones also composed emails inciting fellow scientists to pressure science journals to block publication of articles skeptical of global warming –and to remove editors that allowed them to be published.

Evidence of criminal behavior also emerged, in emails showing Jones, Mann, and other alarmists working for government institutions conspired to destroy data that would be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

“Mike, can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4 [UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment]?” Jones wrote to Mann. “Keith will do likewise. … We will be getting Caspar to do likewise. I see that CA [the Climate Audit Web site] claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!”

‘Clear Proof’

David Legates, a climate science professor at the University of Delaware, says the emails confirm what many had suspected for quite some time.

“This is clear proof of what we have suspected: That these thugs have strong-armed and subverted the peer review process by demanding they be reviewers of papers critical of their work, removing editors who are not predisposed to their views, and even threatening to boycott journals that publish papers with which they disagree,” said Legates.

The scientists at the heart of the scandal have played a critical role in framing an asserted global warming crisis. Until this scandal, the CRU climate dataset was considered the most complete and reliable in the world, and it served as a primary source for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Jones, Mann, and others at the heart of the e-mail exchanges not only hold tremendous sway over IPCC procedures and data but also are frequent “objective” peer-reviewers of articles submitted to refereed scientific journals. In that role they frequently block skeptical scientists from being published in influential journals.

Refused to Share Data

Patrick Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and former Virginia state climatologist, saw red flags long before the emails were leaked.

“I was not surprised by the Climategate emails,” Michaels said. “My colleagues and I had known for years that East Anglia was exceedingly reluctant to give up their data. When Phil Jones refused Warrick Hughes’ 2005 request for raw data, saying, ‘Why should I make the data available to you when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?’, East Anglia ceased doing scientific work in the very real sense that it would not allow replication.”

William Gray, head of the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, says the leaked emails are likely only the tip of the iceberg.

“I am sure that if all the e-mails of the many other publicly supported climate research groups in the United States and in foreign countries were ever made public we would be staggered by similar but much more voluminous evidence of the one-sided machinations of the true anthropogenic global warming believers,” Gray said.

H. Sterling Burnett ([email protected]) is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.