By now everyone, except perhaps the readers of some of the mainstream press, knows that about 4,500 files from the UK’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) found their way onto the world wide web last Friday.
It was first suggested that this was the work of a hacker but that’s shifted to a whistleblower within the CRU. It has also been speculated that the files, bundled into a single zip file of 61Mb, were in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Personally I wonder if this is true, but not to respond to the request, rather to move the files to another machine for "safe keeping" from prying eyes. This would be consistent with the attitudes to FOI requests expressed in the leaked emails, moreover when moving them to another CRU machine the accidental insertion of a full stop between the C and R in CRU would produce ".ru", the Internet code for Russia, which was where these files initially appeared on the Internet.
The emails show clear evidence of the collusion and unethical practices among a highly influential clique of climate scientists. Science is supposedly open with data, methods, conclusions and hypotheses all made available to other scientists so that they might confirm the processing and then apply further tests to the hypotheses. The CRU emails reveal the antithesis of this with data being tightly controlled and access to it being made as difficult as possible. On a scientific basis, this action is just as contemptible as the lack of professional ethics and the possible illegality of certain actions.
Some, including warmist George Monbiot, have called for the resignation of CRU head Dr Phil Jones. That seems entirely likely given that the emails have exposed the attitude towards the FOIA at the UEA. Scapegoats will likely be needed to deflect wider investigation at other parts of the university, such as the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Former Thatcher advisor Christopher Monkton has labelled those involved as arrogant fraudsters, huckstering snake-oil salesmen and crooks, and he calls for criminal charges to be laid. To my mind that may be less likely because any half decent lawyer could argue that just as police cannot use evidence obtained via unauthorised processes, it was an illegal action that revealed the material used to lay charges against Jones or others. (This of course will be nonsense if the aim was concealment of files by a CRU employee; so don’t expect an admission any time soon.) Given also that UK government departments no doubt hold the CRU in high esteem the character references for these people will be substantial, so at most I expect nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
In the wider sphere, the revelations in these emails call into question the data used by the IPCC and the conclusions from that organization. The CRU, in cooperation with the Hadley Centre, provides the IPCC with temperature datasets based on observations. The contents of the leaked emails cast doubt on the accuracy of that data, so the extent of warming may be different to that claimed by the IPCC. Climate models are "tweaked" until they reasonably replicate this temperature data so perhaps that tuning has been to the wrong target, and that would undermine the amount of warming attributed to human activity and the accuracy of the IPCC’s projections of future temperatures. (There are other good reasons to reject the output of these models but I’ll leave those for another time.)
Another revelation in these emails is the work to suppress the opportunity to publish papers sceptical of the warmists’ claims and the deliberate actions to try to block certain papers being cited by the IPCC report. Because the IPCC’s charter directs it to only examine a human influence on climate I doubt very much that the citing of more sceptical papers would caused a radical shift in conclusions but they may have resulted in a greater expression of the number and extent of uncertainties.
Ultimately the IPCC’s claims are a win-win situation for governments – they win on voters’ fear factor and on an increase in taxes/control – so while the IPCC enjoys the blessing of governments it will carry on with business as usual, regardless of what happens with the CRU. Mind you that government blessing might be suddenly be undermined if voter sentiment is seen to turn away from the IPCC’s claims.
At the top of the climate totem rests the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC), the organization running the forthcoming Copenhagen talks and busy pressing governments for cuts in carbon dioxide emissions despite the IPCC’s absence of clear evidence that this is a significant influence on climate. Theoretically the recent revelations should put the forthcoming UN FCCC conference under a cloud but this seems unlikely given the UN FCCC’s track record and the current momentum for those talks.
Since 1992 the UN FCCC has been adamant that human activity is the cause of climate change and yet you’ll search in vain in any IPCC report for evidence that’s any more than opinions or claims based on the inaccurate climate models discussed above. Despite the content of the CRU files I believe that the UN FCCC will carry on as if nothing happened, even if it looks like the hero in an action movie who runs across a bridge, or away from flames, while peril gets ever closer behind him.
The leaked files from the CRU show serious collusion between scientists with substantial influence in the IPCC but I would be pleasantly surprised to see any positive repercussions from that organization or from the UN FCCC. The only significant effects appear to be on the general population – at least with those fortunate enough to be aware of what’s happened – and on journalists who seems to have finally realised that maybe they should be more impartial in their reporting on climate matters, but who knows, maybe these will be enough to sway the views of political parties and ultimately bring about much needed change.