A couple of years ago, supporters of global warming theory began referring to skeptics as "deniers" — implying that anyone who doubted climate change should be lumped with Holocaust deniers.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, thanks to the eye-popping e-mail dump that hit the Internet recently and quickly became known as "Climategate." The response of much of the global-warming "community" has been … denial.
A New York Times story on the Copenhagen climate summit declared, "In Face of Skeptics, Experts Affirm Climate Peril." The U.S. negotiator at Copenhagen, Jonathan Pershing, said the hacked e-mails have "no fundamental bearing" on the summit. Al Gore waved off the controversy as so much "sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency went right ahead with its "endangerment finding," laying the basis for the regulatory equivalent of a tax on greenhouse gases.
The e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, however, raise serious questions about the theory of anthropogenic global warming, or AGW.
The e-mails don't prove that AGW is a fraud. Indeed, it's pretty clear the Earth has been warming. But Climategate is a reminder to policymakers that AGW is still too flimsy a foundation on which to justify the EPA endangerment finding, cap-and-trade or the rich-country shakedown under way in Copenhagen.
The CRU e-mail trove lifts the veil on one of climatology’s most important nerve centers. In the messages, some of the world’s leading climate scientists discussed how to blackball dissenting opponents, manipulate data, bully certain editors, thwart freedom-of-information filings and distort the peer-review process that’s supposed to be sacred to science.
Within this group, there was much more doubt and disagreement than one would expect given the level of certainty of the U.N.’s global warming pronouncements. In one e-mail, Kevin Trenberth of the National Center of Atmospheric Research admits climatologists “can’t account for the lack of warming” in recent years, “and it is a travesty that we can’t.”
Worse, some of the Climate Research Unit’s raw data was discarded, preventing scientists from outside the AGW clique from checking how the CRU adjusted, or homogenized, those readings.
The CRU files were a mess, in any case. Perhaps the most damning item in the hacked material is a document filled with the notes of programmer Ian “Harry” Harris, who tried to put the CRU’s computer files and raw data — temperature readings from 1901 to 2006 — in some sort of order.
“It’s botch after botch,” he wrote. “… this should have all been rewritten from scratch a year ago. … As far as I can see, this renders the [weather] station counts totally meaningless. … What the hell is supposed to happen here? Oh yeah — there is no ‘supposed.’ I can make it up. So I have.”
Last week, Australian Willis Eschenbach found evidence that scientists played games when homogenizing some of the raw data from Australia: They appear to have fiddled with readings to show warmer temperature trends than the data would justify.
“People who say that ‘Climategate was only about scientists behaving badly, but the data is OK’ are wrong,” Eschenbach wrote. “At least one part of the data is bad, too.”
Clive Crook, who blogs at The Atlantic, initially dismissed Climategate but reconsidered: “The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering. … this scandal is not at the margins of the politicized IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] process. ... It goes to the core of that process.”
It’s not clear yet where all of this will lead, but as the blogger Richard Fernandez aptly put it, “The smoke of doubt has entered the temple.” At the very least, it’s time for AGW hard-liners to climb down from their pulpits and stop treating every dissent as evidence of evil.