Climate Hack Scandal Roundup

The drama surrounding leaked e-mails belonging to the University of East Anglia's (UES's) Climatic Research Unit (CRU) continued over the weekend.

The e-mails show how researchers battled skeptics—and one another—over climate data included in the consensus report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Greenhouse skeptics are now claiming the e-mails show a vast conspiracy to fabricate data. Science historian Spencer Weart tells The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang that such charges are unprecedented. “Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers.”

Also in the Post, Geologist Thomas Crowley of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom defended colleagues, saying skeptics are “desperate to discredit global warming” and “there is no need to do anything differently by the scientists.”

But top climate researchers remain under scrutiny for dodging Freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests filed by skeptics and for strong-arming journal editors.

* The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office released this statement to ScienceInsider:

Following a number of complaints and media reports suggesting the University of East Anglia intentionally withheld information requested under the Freedom of Information Act, we will be contacting the University to find out the facts of the matter and to ascertain whether a full investigation is needed.

* CRU said it would publicly release additional surface station temperature data subject to FOI requests by skeptics. “We are quite clearly not hiding information which seems to be the speculation on some blogs and by some media commentators,” said UEA Pro-Vice-Chancellor Trevor Davies.

* Pennsylvania State University said e-mails by professor Michael Mann had raised questions and it would be “looking into this matter further." An inquiry will be carried out under the school’s research ethics policy.

* Mann published a new historical reconstruction of global temperature history in Science. Recent high temperatures are still unprecedented in 1500 years, he reports.

The e-mail leak is also sparking a broader debate about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with sharply differing views about the body's effectiveness.

* IPCC Chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri released a statement defending the body’s conclusions. He called IPCC an “impartial, open and objective assessment of every aspect of climate change carried out with complete transparency.”

*UEA climatologist Mike Hulme disagreed, telling The New York Times that the IPCC’s “structural tendency to politicize climate change science, has perhaps helped to foster a more authoritarian and exclusive form of knowledge.”

* Some climate scientists say that heads should roll. Eduardo Zorita, at Germany’s GKSS, called for Mann and CRU Director Phil Jones to be barred from IPCC. Junior researchers have been “bullied and subtly blackmailed” by senior IPCC authors “to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture,' ” Zorita writes.

Overall, it appears the e-mail leak has had little effect on IPCC’s conclusions. But investigations into climate scientists’ behavior loom as a big distraction.

ScienceInsider spoke to a senior U.S. science official about the climate e-mails. The official, who requested anonymity, had this to say:

What you see in the emails is scientists grappling with not the best data and trying to make sense of it, which is a normal thing to see. And these same folks feeling like they are under siege by the skeptics. But you also see a set of behaviors that I don’t recognize as normal; trying to keep people out of the peer-review literature, and avoiding FOI requests. This doesn’t change anything about the scientific conclusions. But we want as full and open a discussion as possible.

Posted in Climate, Europe