Commentary: 'Climategate' is a lesson in the politics of science

The Anchorage Daily NewsDecember 15, 2009 

This just in — scientists are human too. Hacked e-mail correspondence among a small group of climate researchers demonstrates all the foibles and petty failings of the rest of us. The e-mails reflect poorly on those who wrote them. The scientists showed contempt for and antipathy toward global warming skeptics. Their zeal for their own research and belief in their own conclusions prompted them to discuss hiding data.

They wanted to control their message and public perceptions of it and discourage debate.

However, an exhaustive review of the 1,073 e-mails by The Associated Press found no evidence of falsified data. Nor did the e-mails provide a basis to challenge the consensus among climate scientists that global warming is real, dangerous and caused to a large degree by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The e-mails appear to say less about the facts of global warming than about the siege mentality of the correspondents. There's definitely a sense of "rolling the truth downhill" to the world, and fear that inconvenient contradictions in their work would provide ammunition for their critics. That fear has come to pass, boosted by their own ill-considered comments.

The e-mailing scientists felt harassed by constant appeals for information about their research from those skeptics. They felt the skeptics were running with their own agenda and trying to tie up climate researchers with information requests.

Where does this leave the rest of us?

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.

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