Climategate Part 2 — 2,000-page epic of science and scepticism

First published at the National Post: December 21, 2009, 2:33 pm

There’s trouble over tree rings as the Climategate emails reveal a rift between scientists. For Part 1, go here.

In the thousands of emails released last month in what is now known as Climategate, the greatest battles took place over scientists’ attempts to reconstruct a credible temperature record for the last couple of thousand years. Have they failed? What the Climategate emails provide is at least one incontrovertible answer: They certainly have not succeeded.

In a post-Copenhagen world, climate history is not merely a matter of getting the record straight, or a trivial part of the global warming science. In a Climategate email in April of this year, Steve Colman, professor of Geological Science at the University of Minnesota Duluth, told scores of climate scientists “most people seem to accept that past history is the only way to assess what the climate can actually do (e.g., how fast it can change). However, I think that the fact that reconstructed history provides the only calibration or test of models (beyond verification of modern simulations) is under-appreciated.”

If temperature history is the “only” way to test climate models, the tests we have on hand — mainly the shaky temperature history of the last 1,000 or 2,000 years — suggest current climate models are not getting a proper scientific workout.

Two scientists, one British and the other American, straddle the initial Climategate battle over recent global temperature history. Later, the same two scientists appear to abandon their internal disagreements and join forces to present a united front to fight off critics and put down skeptics. Continue Reading →

Climategate Part 1 – 2,000-page epic of science and scepticism

This summary from the National Post of the Climategate emails and what has been discovered in them is the best I have seen. It is especially pleasing to hear Terence Corcoran’s moderate tone. The contents of the released emails and computer code throw strong doubt on the conclusions of the science of global warming. Everything needs further examination and there are signs this re-examination is happening, in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Britain and Russia. — Richard Treadgold

First published at the National Post: December 18, 2009, 8:13 PM

The scientists seem to have become captive to the IPCC’s objectives

Now that the Copenhagen political games are out of the way, marked as a failure by any realistic standard, it may be time to move on to the science games. To get the post-Copenhagen science review under way, the world has a fine document at hand: The Climategate Papers.

On Nov. 17, three weeks before the Copenhagen talks began, a massive cache of climate science emails landed on a Russian server, reportedly after having been laundered through Saudi Arabia. Where they came from, nobody yet knows. Described as having been hacked or leaked from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, the emails have been the focus of thousands of media and blog reports. Since their release, most attention has been focussed on a few choice bits of what seem like incriminating evidence of trickery and scientific repression. Some call it fraud.

Email fragments instantly began flying through the blogosphere. Perhaps the most sensational came from a Nov. 16, 1999, email from Phil Jones, head of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), in which he referred to having “completed Mike’s Nature trick” to “hide the decline” in temperature.

Direct evidence of scientific skulduggery

These words, now famous around the world as the core of Climategate, are in fact the grossest possible over-simplification of what the emails contain. The Phil Jones email and other choice email fragments are really just microscopic particles taken from a massive collection of material that will, in time, come to be seen as the greatest and most dramatic science policy epic in history.

Whether the emails, containing more than 2,000 pages and links to thousands more, are smoking guns and direct evidence of scientific skulduggery is in many ways a secondary issue. The Climategate emails are an unprecedented and unparalleled record of attempts by scientists to crack the mysteries of the world’s climate. They are at the heart of a massive effort to understand the world’s climate history and create models and systems to predict climate hundreds of years into the future. Continue Reading →