Study: ClimateGate Emails "Don't Support" Skeptics

| Mon Dec. 14, 2009 4:28 PM EST

Climate change skeptics can no longer complain that the mainstream media has glossed over ClimateGate. Yesterday the Associated Press published a virtual exegisis of the 1,073 emails stolen from climate researchers at East Anglia University. It was written by five AP reporters who reviewed more than 1 million words between them and then sent the juiciest passages to seven experts in research ethics, climate science, and science policy. The experts were underwhelmed, to say the least. "None of the e-mails flagged by the AP and sent to three climate scientists viewed as moderates in the field changed their view that global warming is man-made and a threat," the AP reported. "Nor did it alter their support of the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which some of the scientists helped write."

The AP examined an email that is cited more often than any other by global warming skeptics, a message in which climate scientist Phil Jones says: "I've just completed [climatologist] Mike's [Mann] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years [from 1981 onward] and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline [in temperature readings]." Skeptics have cited the message as evidence that climatologists are cooking the books, but the AP saw it differently:

Jones was referring to tree ring data that indicated temperatures after the 1950s weren't as warm as scientists had determined.

The "trick" that Jones said he was borrowing from Mann was to add the real temperatures, not what the tree rings showed. And the decline he talked of hiding was not in real temperatures, but in the tree ring data which was misleading, Mann explained.

Mark Frankel, director of scientific freedom, responsibility and law at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, saw "no evidence for the falsification or fabrication of data, although concerns could be raised about some instances of very 'generous interpretations.'" Dan Sarewitz, a science policy advisor at Arizona State University, added: "This is normal science politics, but on the extreme end, though within bounds." (And that's coming from a guy who works at the same university where climate researchers have taken more than $1 million from oil, coal and utility interests).

Ultimately, the AP found no evidence that the emails revealed a "culture of corruption," as some Republicans have claimed. The story makes clear that the climatologists were under siege from lawsuits and FOIA requests from skeptics eager to twist their raw data. Despite these pressures, the emails show that the scientists respected their critics so long as they were professionals who published through the peer-review process and not Internet cranks eager to feed a "den of disinformation." 

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