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 →