Possibly. Scientists in New Zealand are alleged to have cooked the books as well. Whether this turns out to be the case or not, it is clear that the leaked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have caused significant credibility problems for the climate research community.
The scandal is bad enough that even dedicated believers in the theory of anthropogenic global warming–like George Monbiot–feel obliged to issue cris de coeur:
I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.
The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people’s denial. Pretending that this isn’t a real crisis isn’t going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We’ll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.
It is true that much of what has been revealed could be explained as the usual cut and thrust of the peer review process, exacerbated by the extraordinary pressure the scientists were facing from a denial industry determined to crush them. One of the most damaging emails was sent by the head of the climatic research unit, Phil Jones. He wrote “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
One of these papers which was published in the journal Climate Research turned out to be so badly flawed that the scandal resulted in the resignation of the editor-in-chief. Jones knew that any incorrect papers by sceptical scientists would be picked up and amplified by climate change deniers funded by the fossil fuel industry, who often – as I documented in my book Heat – use all sorts of dirty tricks to advance their cause.
Even so, his message looks awful. It gives the impression of confirming a potent meme circulated by those who campaign against taking action on climate change: that the IPCC process is biased. However good the detailed explanations may be, most people aren’t going to follow or understand them. Jones’s statement, on the other hand, is stark and easy to grasp.
In this case you could argue that technically he has done nothing wrong. But a fat lot of good that will do. Think of the MPs’ expenses scandal: complaints about stolen data, denials and huffy responses achieved nothing at all. Most of the MPs could demonstrate that technically they were innocent: their expenses had been approved by the Commons office. It didn’t change public perceptions one jot. The only responses that have helped to restore public trust in Parliament are humility, openness and promises of reform.
(Hyperlinks omitted; you should click and read the whole thing, of course.) It was once considered inconceivable that the climate science community could arouse Monbiot’s ire so. And yet, they have; an indication of just how much trouble the community is in.
It is reassuring to see that the East Anglia scientists are now committed to publishing their data for the world to see. But this kind of thing should have happened much earlier. Whatever one’s views on anthropogenic global warming–click here, and follow the links to get a sense of mine–even climate skeptics should want believers of AGW to be on the up and up, so as to ensure that the most honest and upfront debate possible can, and will occur concerning the issue. Instead, proponents of AGW find themselves on the defensive, their methods and arguments suddenly distrusted as never before.
I suppose that all of these problems would have been avoided if more people adopted the attitude taken by Judith Curry. But that certainly did not happen.
VERY QUICK UPDATE: Well, this isn’t helpful, now is it?
SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.
It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.
The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.
The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.
The admission follows the leaking of a thousand private emails sent and received by Professor Phil Jones, the CRU’s director. In them he discusses thwarting climate sceptics seeking access to such data.