November 23, 2009
(v. 2.4, last edited on 20.01.2010)
The international debate on the existence and nature of global warming took an [un]expected turn last Friday, Nov. 20th, when hackers published on the Internet what is described as e-mails and other documents originating from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (WikiLeaks, Alleged CRU Emails).
Why is this turn not really unexpected?
Because the numerous studies on and examples of faked results (Devlin 2009, Bio-Medicine 2006, Weiss 2005) and conformity (Wade 2009) in the scientific community (for examples on climate-related research data manipulation and conformity see Apostolov 2009 and the references therein) in the last decades made it only a matter of time before someone said “Hey! Let’s stop trying to heal the patient by treating the symptoms and start treating the source!”
The incident, which seems to have passed largely unnoticed by the Blogactiv community, gave a new impetus to the polemics in the last few days, involving mainstream media as The Guardian (Hickman and Randerson 2009, Hickman 2009, Lynas 2009), The Telegraph (Delingpole 2009), The Times (Webster 2009), Lenta.ru (2009), Dnevnik.bg (2009) and many others.
The hundreds of documents, published on the eve of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, throw shadow on the integrity of a part of the scientific community researching climate change. Moreover, they raise questions about the quality of the scientific data forming the basis of strategic decisions on measures to combat climate change that will affect everybody on Earth – not only currently living but also for generations to come.
In its press release on the subject the University of East Anglia (2009) admits the fact of hacking. Very emblematically, the University does not deny the genuineness of the published content but states that the “volume of material published and its piecemeal nature makes it impossible to confirm what proportion is genuine” (University of East Anglia 2009).
The problem is further aggravated by the CRU’s admitted throwing away in the 1980s of much of the primary (“raw”) temperature data on which the Unit’s predictions of global warming are based (Leake 2009, Klimaloegnen.dk 2009), thus depriving other researchers of the possibility to verify the CRU’s data and/or its adequacy (suitability) for the intended use. Leake (2009) suggests that one of the factors influencing the CRU’s decision to dump the data has been that “climate change was seen as a less pressing issue” at that time. However, this argument is entirely incorrect – even back in the 1980s climate change was considered such an important issue that it eventually led to the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 (IPCC 2001). Therefore, should the problem really have been the space available for the data carriers storage as cited by Leake (2009), the reasonable solution would have been to transfer the data in question to modern, more capacious and less bulky data carriers that were already available in the 1980s (e.g. from paper and magnetic tapes to hard or floppy disks). The CRU’s decision to get rid of the data instead raises doubts about the researchers’ capacity to make the right decision which, in turn, questions the correctness of their conclusions and predictions.
Both sides sceptics and advocates of man-made global warming now call for an “independent inquiry” (Hickman 2009) into the alleged data manipulation leading to the conclusion that climate change is an anthropogenic (man-made) phenomenon. The problem of researcher’s integrity is so serious that subsequently even the IPCC itself requested an investigation (BBC 2009). Since I personally find the evidence in support of the natural drive of climate change, respectively – of global warming and cooling, more credible (Apostolov 2009), I welcome this inquiry and eagerly await its outcomes.
Update of 20.01.2010:
Further to the above accusations of data manipulation aiming to support the claims for the anthropogenic nature of climate change, it was recently discovered that the IPCC has made one of the most apocalyptic predictions in its latest (2007) report based on “data” out of thin air (Pearce 2010, Carrington 2010; for the IPCC’s statement on the issue click here).
That much for the credibility of the IPCC’s reports and their conclusions!
Alleged CRU Emails: http://www.anelegantchaos.org/cru/ (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Apostolov, S. 2009. Remarks on “A Response To ‘EU Institutions Hypocritical Fight Against Climate Change’”. [online]
URL: http://spapostolov.blogactiv.eu/2009/07/16/remarks-on-response-to-eu-institutions-hypocritical-fight-against-climate-change/ (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
BBC. 2009. UN body wants probe of climate e-mail row. [online]
URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8394483.stm (site last accessed on 19.12.2009).
Bio-Medicine. 2006. Norwegian Cancer Expert Faked Patient Data. [online]
URL: http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news/Norwegian-Cancer-Expert-Faked-Patient-Data-7065-1/ (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Carrington, D. 2010. IPCC officials admit mistake over melting Himalayan glaciers. The Guardian. [online]
URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/20/ipcc-himalayan-glaciers-mistake (site last accessed on 20.01.2010).
Delingpole, J. 2009. Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’? Telegraph.co.uk. [online]
URL: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100017393/climategate-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-anthropogenic-global-warming/ (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Devlin, H. 2009. One in seven scientists say colleagues fake data. Times Online. [online]
URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article6425036.ece (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Dnevnik.bg. 2009. Klimatgeit: Haknata korespondencia razpali nov debat za zatoplianeto (Climategate: Hacked Correspondence Fuels New Debate on Warming). [online]
URL: http://dnevnik.bg/sviat/2009/11/23/819888_klimatgeit_haknata_korespondenciia_razpali_nov_debat/ (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Hickman, L. 2009. Climate change champion and sceptic both call for inquiry into leaked emails. The Guardian. [online]
URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/23/climate-sceptics-bob-ward-nigel-lawson (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Hickman, L. and J. Randerson. 2009. Climate sceptics claim leaked emails are evidence of collusion among scientists. The Guardian. [online]
URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/20/climate-sceptics-hackers-leaked-emails (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
IPCC. 2001. IPCC Third Assessment Report “Climate Change 2001”.
Available online: http://www.grida.no/publications/other/ipcc_tar/ (site last accessed on 19.12.2009).
Klimaloegnen.dk. 2009. Documentation: CRU statement about Climate Data availability. [online]
URL: http://www.klimaloegnen.dk/indhold/2009-50-documentation-cru-statement-about-data-availability (site last accessed on 19.12.2009).
Leake, J. 2009. Climate change data dumped. Times Online. [online]
URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6936328.ece (site last accessed on 19.12.2009).
Lenta.ru. 2009. Klimaticheskii triuk (The Climate Trick). [online]
URL: http://lenta.ru/articles/2009/11/23/climate/ (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Lynas, M. 2009. Leaked emails mark dangerous shift in climate denial strategy. The Guardian. [online]
URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2009/nov/23/climate-denial-strategy (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Pearce, F. 2010. Debate heats up over IPCC melting glaciers claim. New Scientist. [online]
URL: http://www.newscientist.com/info/in153 (site last accessed on 20.01.2010).
University of East Anglia. 2009. Climatic Research Unit update – 17.45 November 23. [online]
URL: http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/nov/homepagenews/CRU-update (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Wade, N. 2009. Researcher Condemns Conformity Among His Peers. TierneyLab, The New York Times. [online]
URL: http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/23/researcher-condemns-conformity-among-his-peers/?apage=6 (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Webster, B. 2009. Sceptics publish climate e-mails ‘stolen from East Anglia University’. Times Online. [online]
URL: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6926325.ece (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
Weiss, R. 2005. South Korean Scientist Denies Faking Stem Cell Data. The Washington Post. [online]
URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/16/AR2005121601788.html (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
WikiLeaks: Climatic Research Unit emails, data, models, 1996-2009. [online]
URL: http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_emails%2C_data%2C_models%2C_1996-2009 (site last accessed on 23.11.2009).
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