The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Climategate Ends With a Fizzle

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 7, 2010

If you’ve paid any attention to the issue of climate change in the past few months, you’ve no doubt heard about the so-called “Climategate”. Without getting into the history of the “gate” too much (if you’re really hardcore, read about the entire sordid tale here), the allegation on the part of global-warming deniers goes something like this:

Hackers have broken into the database of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit – and put the files they stole on the Internet. The 1079 emails and 72 documents seem indeed evidence of a scandal involving scientists pushing the man-made warming theory, suggesting conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.

In other words, the deniers were claiming that there was a vast conspiracy on the part of the climate science community to conceal that global-warming was a hoax.  There’s a quick, one-word answer to that charge:  FAIL

And how do I know this?  Very simple, really… a thorough public investigation has been conducted in the United Kingdom about the actions of Dr. Phil Jones and the Climate Research Unit (CRU). And it is worth noting that genuine skeptics, like me, were actually calling for just such an investigation back when the hacked emails were originally leaked – hell, if there was some kind of cover-up, I sure wanted to know about it.  And if there was nothing to the allegations, I firmly believed that the science would only be strengthened by an investigation.

But that isn’t what the global-warming deniers seemed to want.  All they ever seemed interested in was simply ranting & screaming about The Conspiracy – it was almost as if they were afraid that an investigation would discover that their ranting claims were, pardon the pun, so much hot air.  And you know what?  That’s exactly what happened.

Read on to see the conclusions of the investigation… (and, btw, you can get the full House of Commons report here)

Concerning the focus on Jones & the CRU as part of a conspiracy:

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—“trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead. Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

And concerning the state of the climate science research itself:

Even if the data that CRU used were not publicly available—which they mostly are—or the methods not published—which they have been—its published results would still be credible: the results from CRU agree with those drawn from other international data sets; in other words, the analyses have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified.

What about Dr. Jones’ use of the phrase “trick” in an email referring to Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick graph:

Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the word “trick” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominately caused by human activity. The balance of evidence patently fails to support this view. It appears to be a colloquialism for a “neat” method of handling data.

And on the matter of another oft-repeated phrase “hide the decline”, the investigators conclude:

Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the words “hide the decline” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominantly caused by human activity. That he has published papers—including a paper in Nature—dealing with this aspect of the science clearly refutes this allegation. In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous.

So, in conclusion, to put it simply: there’s no “there” there.  After a complete, public, and thorough investigation into the issue, the science is sound & there was no conspiracy to cover-up anything.

Yet, not too ironically, what is the response from various global-warming deniers to this news?  You guessed it, they attack the messenger… they either claim the House of Commons investigators are in on the cover-up (the mark of true conspiracy theorists) or they basically conduct an ad hominem attack on the House itself using various non-sequitirs (i.e. you can’t trust them because a previous & different House messed up WMD info on Iraq).  Not one of their counter arguments seems to have anything to do with the actual science.

So there you have it.  Instead of becoming red hot, hot, hot, the so-called Climategate ends with little more than a fizzle.  Good riddance.

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3 Responses to “Climategate Ends With a Fizzle”

  1. [...] claims of fraud and cover-up of climate science data.  As I mentioned in that first entry (titled “Climategate Ends With a Fizzle”), that investigation found absolutely no evidence of fraud. Now the second investigation, conducted [...]

  2. [...] climate science consensus are sound.  The conclusions of the first two investigations (here and here) were clear: there was nothing in the extensive investigation & analysis of the data to show [...]

  3. [...] up to speed on the whole “Climategate” thing, just see some of my earlier blog posts here, here, and [...]

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