It’s fair to say that the emails which were stolen from the Climate Research Unit [CRU] of the University of East Anglia has generated a lot of misinformation. This happened in 2009 and the emails were made public. Many skeptics about climate change have said since that the best case scenario is that there has been scientific misconduct happening in global meteorological research. The worst case scenario would be that man-made global warming is a complete fabrication.
The only problem is that Climategate wasn’t an issue at all. Nine different independent inquiries all determined that there wasn’t a conspiracy at all. The only inquiry that wasn’t actually completed, in fact, was the police inquiry into the hacking that brought the over 1,000 emails into public view in the first place.
Three Words Caused a Major Firestorm of Controversy
In total, there were over 20,000 words to analyze in the Climategate emails. Out of those 20,000 words, just 3 of them became the source of controversy for a major attack on the scientists that are researching climate change. The email content in no way indicates that research into climate change or any climate data have been compromised.
None of the emails, in fact, even change on our overall standing of human actions and how they relate to the environment. The three words, “hiding the decline,” are being used to refer to the idea that climate temperatures are actually reducing instead of increasing. It’s taken out of context and refers to data that was obtained regarding tree rings in 2009. It has nothing to do with the climate whatsoever.
One Must Look At How the Information Was Released
In 2009, the emails were sent to traditional media outlets. They were sent to bloggers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the fact that it was the climate change critics who receive the information to blog about and not anyone else lends to the idea that there is an agenda at play with Climategate. Rather than the emails just being an honest exchange of ideas between scientists, the story festered until a climate change summit that occurred just a couple of weeks later and that’s when the mass media picked up the story.
Four major science organizations all came out with statements that supported the scientific consensus that the planet has been warming for decades. The American Association for the Advancement of Science put it rather bluntly. “[B]ased on multiple lines of scientific evidence that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway…it is a growing threat to society.”
Even as all of this was unfolding in 2009, the decade was about to be named as the warmest 10 year period that had been recorded. That year also ended as the 5th warmest year that was ever recorded. It would be one thing if all of this data came from the scientists at the CRU. This data, however, comes from multiple sources, including NASA and NOAA.
Does the Debunking of One Source Discredit All Sources?
For the sake of argument, let’s say that there was problems with the research at CRU. Let’s go as far as saying that information in the emails was accurate and that the initial stories that surrounded Climategate were true. Here’s something that is not widely known: the reports on global warming come from several organizations and several different sources of information that is independent of one another. The CRU is simply one source out of many that are all studying the climate, what changes are occurring, and what could be done to fix the problem.
Even if their data was completely invalidated at CRU, it would be like saying that one credit card which is over its limit is responsible for a family’s bankruptcy. One piece of data is not going to eliminate the entire body of research that has been taking place over decades of time to reach the conclusion that the planet is warming.
Was There Bad Form In Those Emails?
Absolutely. Scientists talking about wanting to “beat the crap” out of opponents or complaining about the differing opinions that others have in a negative way are not very professional. Indignation and frustration are not indicators of data falsification. All of the emails have to do with how the numbers and data are being presented instead of being a conversation about being how to falsify the data as skeptics have been claiming.
The primary conclusion that can come from Climategate is that the folks at CRU have a number of people that they’d rather not interact with on any given day. There should be a level of transparency to scientific work and that has been the natural outcome of this 2009 incident. Trying to get a professor fired might show personal impropriety, but it has nothing to do with the actual science that is behind how the global climate is changing.
It’s All About Confusion
People who are confused are people who won’t buy into a certain product or idea. That’s what Climategate has ultimately caused. Over the 13 years of emails that were released in this incident, scientists have grown to a stronger consensus than ever before that global warming is a problem that needs to be addressed. During that same period of time, in the general population, only 1 out of 4 people believe that there is a general consensus about global warming in the scientific community.
On the other hand, 52% of people say that they believe there is significant disagreement about global warming within the scientific community.
Climategate made for some good press and interesting discussions. It make have exposed a lack of professionalism by some individuals. What it did not do was change the science being studied regarding climate change. Leaked emails do not change science. The consensus is that global warming is an issue that needs to be studied still That’s what Climategate is a hoax that deserves to be debunked once and for all.