Feature

‘Climategate 2.0’: Scientists as advocates

An anonymous hacker released another 5,000 emails from the trove pilfered two years ago from Britain’s Climatic Research Unit.

Once again, climate scientists have been caught “behaving badly,” said Jim Lacey in National​Review.com. On the eve of a new global climate-change summit, an anonymous hacker last week released another 5,000 emails from the massive trove pilfered two years ago from the accounts of top climate scientists. The revelations this time are just as shocking as those of the first “Climategate,” and provide yet “more nails for the coffin of man-made global warming.” The star of this drama, once again, is Phil Jones, director of Britain’s influential Climatic Research Unit, who complains in emails that the “basic problem is that all of the models are wrong,” and urges colleagues to make sure that inconvenient data are “well hidden” through various “tricks.” In another email, a British government scientist candidly warns Jones that “the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it.”

Ah, “the wingnuts” are at it again, said Steve Zwick in Forbes.com. Climate-change deniers have selectively edited this old batch of stolen emails “to portray scientists in the worst possible light.” But if you read more than sentence-long snippets, these emails reveal climatologists arguing over details and “obsessing to get things right.” All scientific research goes through multiple drafts, with old or unreliable data sets deleted, updated, or “hidden” in footnotes. The government scientist who worried that a climate study was too “political,” for example, was listened to, and the final draft had a much more neutral tone. Let’s not forget that the first Climategate triggered multiple, intensive studies of the emails and of climate-change data, said Bryan Walsh in Time.com. These analyses all concluded that climate change is real, and that the furor over the gossipy and poorly worded emails was nothing more than “a sideshow.”

This is no sideshow, said Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times. While there’s still no evidence that anyone faked any data or that climate change is a hoax, the scientists in these emails are “acting with a partiality that is alien to the scientific method.” They openly discuss how to make the threat of climate change seem as urgent as possible, and how best to wage a political and PR campaign against their perceived enemies. Scientists’ claim to authority “comes from the perception that, in fact, they do not let their vanities and rivalries influence their work.” Now we know otherwise. That’s why the latest Climategate is another “catastrophe for science.”

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