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Climategate 2.0 Shocker: It’s Underwhelming!

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Update, Thursday, Nov. 24

I mentioned below that many of the seemingly damning quotes excerpted from the hacked emails were taken out of context. The Guardian now has a useful piece that provides some of that context. Those who are determined to see climate scientists as villains won't care, but for those of you who wonder what was really going on, they're quite helpful.

Original post

Must we go through this tired exercise once again? Yes, I suppose we must. 

So as I was saying yesterday, there's a new bunch of stolen emails making the rounds. It's part of the same batch stolen from email servers back in 2009 — the batch that led climate skeptics to declare that the house of cards known as "climate science" had all but fallen down. The batch that launched a series of high-profile investigations that concluded exactly the opposite. The batch that somehow didn't convince the actual climate to pay the slightest attention, as extreme weather linked to climate change is costing billions.

Despite this history, those who are determined to shoot the climate science messengers (metaphorically!) are making noise once again. The most frenzied attack on the warmies (warmo's? warm-warms? I forget their nickname for climate scientists, but it's something like that) comes from the Climate Depot website, where dozens of different headllnes scream out the death of mainstream climate science (my favorite blames Arctic warming, not on greenhouse gases, but on lemmings).

Another, more measured attack, comes from WattsUpWithThat, which proclaims, gleefully: Climategate 2.0 Emails: They're real, and they're spectacular! And indeed, they do appear to be real, according to the University of East Anglia, whose servers were invaded to steal them.

So what do the emails actually reveal? In one of them, cited in a story in the New York Times,

Raymond S. Bradley, director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, criticized a paper that Dr. Mann wrote with the climate scientist Phil Jones, which used tree rings and similar markers to find that today’s climatic warming had no precedent in recent natural history. Dr. Bradley, who has often collaborated with Dr. Mann, wrote that the 2003 paper “was truly pathetic and should never have been published.”

Gotcha! Um...except when you read the next sentence:

Dr. Bradley confirmed in an interview that the e-mail was his, but said his comment had no bearing on whether global warming was really happening.

In short, two scientists had a vehement disagreement — something that goes on all the time — but it says nothing about the overwhelming scientific consensus the skeptics keep saying has been debunked. Politico reports that many climate scientists themselves aren't nearly as worked up about the emails as the skeptics are

It's evident this time, as it was last time, that climate scientists themselves don't sport wings and wear haloes. They are, despite their Ph.D.'s, actual human beings. On his Dot Earth blog, Andy Revkin cites David Appell, a very thoughtful science writer and blogger, who lists a number of troublesome statements in the emails. Then Revkin goes on to quote himself from the first Climategate go-round:

Do I trust climate science? As a living body of intellectual inquiry exploring profoundly complex questions, yes.

Do I trust all climate scientists, research institutions, funding sources, journals and others involved in this arena to convey the full context of findings and to avoid sometimes stepping beyond the data? I wouldn’t be a journalist if I answered yes.

But the real question continues to be this: does the balance of scientific research support the assertion that greenhouse gases, not lemmings and not other natural forces, are responsible for a significant amount of the current warming? Do they pose a singificant threat of future warming? The only honest answer is that they do. So whatever the emails say (and let's not forget that, just like the first time, they're taken completely out of context), global warming is something that serious people from many walks of life (including insurance professionals and the military, among many others), take seriously.

That being the case, this new flurry of emails is nothing but a distraction — and may well have been intended as just that. On the Guardian's Environment blog, Stephan Lewandowsky agrees that the emails represent a scandal, all right — just not the one that's been advertised. He writes:

Climate scientists' emails are not a scandal but the attacks on those scientists and a growing anti-science movement are

If you prefer something a little more irreverent, you can go to

But wait! This just in. There's finally proof that those evil climate scientists have been part of a scam, and it's not just some ambiguous emails telling us so. The ringleader himself has confessed. So about all that nonsense you've been hearing about global warming for the past quarter century or so? Never mind.



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