Climate Gate 2.0 – What is it, why does it matter?
The hacker or whistle-blower who leaked a tranche of emails several years ago has struck again, releasing 5,500 emails and an encrypted set of 22,000 emails into the Internet. The proponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming are claiming it is old news, with emails being taken out of context and that due to the number of investigations that exonerated the scientists involved, the matter should be ignored.
This is very wrong. The emails are worth studying in full, because they raise very serious questions about the credibility of the IPCC, the journals publishing papers on climatology, the government scientific bodies commissioning research into climate and the news organizations covering them.
Moreover, the emails call into disrepute the assertion, frequently made, that the warming of the climate over the past century is known to be “unprecedented”. While it is possible that it is unprecedented, we do not know this for certain, since the proofs advanced are provably flawed.
So what do we know? What do the emails in question tell us?
- The emails are from a repository from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, an organization which maintains a database of temperatures used by researchers analyzing the Earth’s climate. The database is one of several which are nominally claimed to be independently produced.
- The emails are not comprehensive, only about 2.5% of the emails sent to and from the professors in question have been released into the wild. The encrypted emails are well enough encrypted that unless the hacker/whistle-blower publishes the encryption key’s pass-phrase, they will not be decrypted in our life-times.
- The emails that are readable appear to be selected based on the subjects of discussion, primarily around controversies surrounding paleo-climate research, a branch of climatology where ice-cores, tree-cores, sedimentary-cores and other similar geological records are used to attempt to reconstruct climate from periods prior to modern temperature instrumentation. Paleo-climatologists have been instrumental in creating the narrative that the Earth is warming at an unprecedented, dangerous rate.
- The first controversy, “hiding the decline” is related to an attempt to create a global temperature record by Dr Michael Mann of Penn State, who used records of tree-cores collected at a handful of sites across the world to create a historical temperature record. By measuring the density and thickness of the rings, one can create a record going back about a thousand years of tree growth. Dr Mann used a statistical process that is a variant of Principal Component Analysis to generate identify which sets of tree-cores had growth patterns that most closely tracked temperature in the past hundred years. He presumed that these sets of cores would maintain a similar relationship with temperature throughout the entire record. By mathematically applying this transformation to the tree-core data, he produced the thousand year reconstruction known colloquially as the Mann Hockey Stick, which played a central role in both IPCC reports and in Al Gore’s movie, and Inconvenient Truth. At this point, I should digress to explain several critical flaws in Michael Mann’s work that doom this effort.
- The relationship between tree growth and temperature is not linear, and is not even proportional. Here are all the things that affect tree core growth, according to the late Dr Daly:
- cloudiness – more clouds, less sun, less ring.
- pests/disease – a caterpillar or locust plague will reduce photosynthesis
- access to sunlight – competition within a forest can disadvantage or advantage some trees.
- moisture/rainfall – a key variable. Trees do not prosper in a droughteven if there’s a heat wave.
- snow packing in spring around the base of the trees retards growth temperature
- a) Providing misleading information as to his methods and raw data
- b) Attempting to have authors and editors of papers that raised objections fired from journals or, if they were academics, from their teaching posts
- c) Lying to third parties about his actions or the actions of people he was engaged in disputes with.
The overarching tale that I see in this whole sordid affair is the usual one; it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup. Losing data, doing sloppy work can be very embarrassing. Had Dr Mann been willing to contemplate that he might be mistaken, instead of assuming that everyone who disagreed with him or raised questions about his work were members of a secret cabal working for the fossil fuel industry and seeking to destroy their reputations, he might have been able to recover his reputation.
In their zeal to not admit weakness, to not consider the possibility that they were mistaken on any of their pronouncements, the scientists in question did a great deal of damage:
- Researchers who used the CRU/Mann analysis as part of their own work probably wasted time and money that cannot be recovered.
- The chilling effect of their actions almost certainly quashed research that would have given invaluable evidence to people attempting to deal with climate change.
- Citizens and politicians were manipulated through fraud and deceit into making decisions that they might not have made had they been provided with accurate data
The theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming has been very lucrative to government officials, scientists who are seen as visionary experts and to NGO’s involved in the environmental movement. This wealth has been extracted from people who deserve to use it for their own ends. For the very poor it has made it harder to make ends meet. The fact that the head of the IPCC was cc’ed on attempts to fire professors who published dissenting views and did nothing damns the UN involvement in the affair.
I’ve long called for the separation of Science and State, which I recognize is a pipe dream. In the absence of this, it is time for people to cease trusting the organizations that permitted the misconduct above to continue. The efforts to mitigate climate change are interfering with economic development that is needed to bring much of humanity out of the misery of poverty, increasing the cost of living for most people living in the developing world and is creating crony-capitalistic institutions that are ripe for corruption. To steal from Dr Covey’s analogy about cutting a road through the jungle, we are probably cutting a road through the wrong jungle, and there is no point in proceeding until we figure out which jungle we should be seeking out.