Posted by: climatewonk | December 24, 2009

CRU Emails — What’s Really There

A very good summary from the Yale Forum on Climate Change on the gist of the emails in a post by Zeke Hausfather titled “The CRU Emails: What’s Really There?

From the post:

The release of the Climatic Research Unit e-mails is a blow to the reputation of many of the climate scientists involved, at least over the short run and perhaps among the public at large, if not necessarily among serious climatologists. They have been cast in a far different light from the general perception of scientists as impartial and impassionate.

Given the prominence of the scandal that has unfolded, it is unlikely that the whole affair will just fade away without anything changing. Indeed, there are growing calls for more openness and transparency in climate science research:  Climate scientists likely will have to accelerate efforts to be more open about their processes and data (though, to be fair, this is much further along than often thought).

It is unfortunate, if perhaps not surprising, that the quotes from the e-mails that have gotten the most publicity from skeptics and in some media strongly distort the views and actions of the scientists in question, contributing to a perception of collusion to manipulate the climate data itself.

Nothing contained in the e-mails, however, suggests that global temperature records are particularly inaccurate or, worse, that they have been manipulated to show greater warming. The  certainly troubling conduct exposed in some of the e-mails has little bearing on the fundamental science that strongly indicates that the world is warming and that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause.

For the scientists involved and for many of their professional colleagues, that is the “bottom line.” Whethere the public and its elected and appointed policy leaders reach that same conclusion remains to be seen. [my emphasis]

Hausfather does a good job of going over each of the five main points raised in the emails:

  • Scientist Kevin Trenberth’s remarks on scientists’ inability to account for lack of warming;
  • Phil Jones’ comment on using a “trick” to “hide the decline”;
  • Encouraging editors of Climate Research to resign after the publication of Soon and Baliunas (2003);
  • Discussions among scientists surrounding efforts to avoid citing two skeptical papers (Kalnay and Cai (2003) and McKitrick and Michaels (2004)) in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report; and
  • Perhaps most damning, comments by Jones encouraging others to delete e-mails to avoid releasing them to freedom of information requests from climate skeptics.

In the author’s assessment, only the final point is troubling because while some of the others might appear to be damning, the reality is that threats aside, nothing came of it.  Articles were published and included in the IPCC reports despite the voiced intentions of the authors to prevent both. The “trick” is just a handy means of splicing the instrumental temperature record onto the paleoclimate proxy record, and “hiding the decline” merely refers to the “divergence issue” which is well known in the dendro communities and was discussed in the paper in question. The “lack of warming” does not reveal that scientists know AGW is a fraud, but that the models do not have the ability to account for short-term variability in climate.

So, yes, the emails do reveal the all-too human nature of scientists. The public might think they are dispassionate disinterested and wholly objective, but they aren’t. Luckily, the system is set up so that no on scientist or small group of scientists can pervert the entire venture.



  1. Clearly the author of this article has no knowledge of what is in the emails. I have spent hour upon hour following the threads and searching for comments in the computer codes.

    What is revealed is a concerted effort to manipulate data, computer codes, times, and the review process to show what the “scientists” wanted to show. They even acknowledge that “climate science “is in it’s infancy” but want us to spend billions if not trillions on such foolishness.

    The attempt to blackball other scientists, destroy data, circumvent Freedom of Information requests, tweak codes, smear others, and other such unsavory things make the entire AGW concept look highly questionable at best.

    Science is never settled by consensus and there are many excellent scientists who question, not only AGW, but GW itself.

    The false reporting, such as the above, is taking a toll on not only the “scientists” but the media as well.

    The quest for grants was clearly the driving force behind these AGW groups. A finding of, “there is no AGW” would send them packing. I doubt there is any unethical behavior they wouldn’t employ to secure the finding they want.

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