Here is a good statement of the problem raised by the e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit:
. . . Leaked just before international climate talks begin in Copenhagen — the culmination of years of work by scientists to raise alarms about greenhouse-gas emissions — the e-mails have cast those scientists in a political light and given new energy to others who think the issue of climate change is all overblown.
The e-mails don’t say that: They don’t provide proof that human-caused climate change is a lie or a swindle.
But they do raise hard questions. In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?
The stolen electronic files include more than 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents, all taken from servers at the Climatic Research Unit, a world-famous center at the University of East Anglia in Britain.
Phil Jones, the unit’s director, wrote a colleague that he would “hide” a problem with data from Siberian tree rings with more accurate local air temperature measurements. In another message, Jones talks about keeping research he disagrees with out of a U.N. report, “even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
If people want to say that a case can still be made for the theory of anthropogenic global warming, they can. But what they cannot say is that the e-mails are no big deal, or that comments about “tricks” mean only to reference clever mathematical operations that any climate scientist ought to know about. The e-mails make unmistakable references to efforts to circumvent the scientific method, and to take away any hint of robustness from scientific debate.
We have yet to see just how much the science behind the theory of anthropogenic global warming needs to be re-examined. What we know for certain, however, is that certain scientists need to be punished for not acting like scientists.