Portland Press Herald/ Friday, December 4, 2009
What's 'Climategate' all about? Here's a primer
The world's top scientific backers of 'climate change' have had their private
One of my children spent a year at the University of East Anglia in England,
and before visiting the campus my vision of it as a place of elegance came from
photos of Oxford and Cambridge.
But UEA is a "new school," and its structures are made of gray
pressed-concrete slabs piled on each other in cubes.
I thought it was the ugliest campus I had ever seen, but now something uglier
than its buildings has come out of it.
It's hard to know where to start in describing what is now called
"Climategate," because people who keep up with alternative news sites
(or read British newspapers) have seen a full two weeks' worth of
stories about the burgeoning scandal revealed by thousands of hacked
e-mails from UEA's Climate Research Unit. The CRU is a clearing house
for most of the principal scientists behind the research documenting
what used to be called "global warming," but became "climate change"
after the "warming" leveled off more than a decade ago.
However, readers who have depended on major newspapers or networks remain
mostly ill-informed, because the story hasn't been covered well (or in some
cases, at all) by the mainstream media, for reasons that remain unclear.
This space will not suffice for a full account, but lots of analysis is
available by typing "Climategate" into a search engine. For those for whom it is
still unclear, here's a summary:
The e-mails reveal a highly disturbing mindset among the world's top
contributors to the current level of concern over their allegations that the
planet is 1) warming; 2) that the warming is unique in history and it is primarily caused by human activity
that releases carbon dioxide into the air; 3) the results of that C02 increase
will be uniformly detrimental; and 4) we must spend trillions of dollars and
greatly restrict our standard of living over the entire century to forestall
According to critics, however, only the first of those contentions is real,
and even that minor warming has apparently come to a halt. All the others are
matters of significant dispute by thousands of creden-tialed scientists, not
merely "a few dissidents and deniers."
And now, thanks to a hacker who may have been worried that valuable records
were about to be destroyed, we have accounts of what CRU-related scientists were
saying about their ideas and their critics over the past several years.
Two of the principal figures in what was called "the Team" are the CRU's
director, Philip Jones, and Penn State Professor Michael Mann, co-creator of the
now-discredited "hockey stick" temperature graph cited by Al Gore and others as proof of unprecedented warming.
Here is what one British critic with significant credibility, Lord Monckton
of Brenchley, says the Team did (my comments are in parentheses):
■ The CRU had "profited to the tune of at least $20 million in research
grants from the Team's activities." (Total government money poured into "climate change" studies greatly dwarfs
the far-smaller sums given by private enterprise to critics.)
■ The Team "tampered with the complex, bureaucratic processes of the U.N.'s
climate panel, the IPCCt so as to exclude inconvenient scientific results from
its four Assessment Reports, and to influence the panel's conclusions for
political, not scientific, reasons." (One e-mail from Jones discussed using "tricks" to "hide the decline" in some
historic temperature records, a phrase that has become iconic.)
■ It "conspired in an attempt to redefine what is and is not peer-reviewed
science for the sake of excluding results that did not fit what they and the politicians with whom they were closely linked
wanted the U.N.'s climate panel to report. They had tampered with their own data
so as to conceal inconsistencies and errors." (In reporting this, The Wall Street Journal came up with what is so far the
best headline on the topic: "Forging a Climate Consensus.")
■ They "expressed dismay at the fact that, contrary to all of their
predictions, global temperatures had not risen in any statistically significant
sense for 15 years, and had been falling for nine years. They had admitted that
their inability to explain it was 'a travesty.'"
■ They had "interfered with the process of peer-review itself by leaning on
journals to get their friends rather than independent scientists to review their
■ They had "successfully leaned on friendly journal editors to reject papers
reporting results inconsistent with their political viewpoint."
■ They had "campaigned for the removal of a learned jour-
nal's editor, solely because he did not share their willingness to debase and
corrupt science for political purposes."
■ They had "mounted a venomous public campaign of disinformation and
denigration of their scientific opponents."
■ And they had committed a possible crime by acting "to conceal and then to
destroy computer codes and data that had been legitimately requested by an
Jones, the CRU director, has stepped down pending an investigation, and
pressure is rising at Penn State for an inquiry into Mann's involvement.
As has been noted, this does not "disprove" global warming. However, it casts
great doubt on the credibility - and honesty - of its staunchest proponents.
And with President Obama set to propose hugely expensive, growth-killing
"remedies" at a conference in Copenhagen on Monday, being certain about the
science is vital.
M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or: