Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ClimateGate - Accused Scientists Take Questions from the Press

If you've been listening to the news lately, you've heard that a group of scientists' email archives were exposed for alleged attempts to suppress articles the group believed were unsound science that tended to disprove or counteract the notion of global warming as a trend.  In a more limited way, the emails suggest that some of the group may have manipulated data themselves.

While I don't think "ClimateGate," as it's been dubbed, in any way undermines the real science out there on global warming, it does bring into question the ethics of the scientific community (along with the ethics of those who hacked into the University of Anglia's historical email files).  The implicated scientists are claiming that verbiage from the emails has been taken out of context, but as you can see from the photo above, it is not difficult to imagine that one might infer unscrupulous behavior.  On the other hand, hacking into University archives is, in itself, unscrupulous behavior, and also leads one to doubt the accuracy and fairness of the hackers' excerpting and interpretation.  One of the scientists at the heart of the scandal, Phil Jones, director of the University of Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, has actually stepped down from his position for the duration of the investigation, and the heat is up on the others.

Because of that, Center for American Progress hosted an open press conference with Michael Mann (photo at left), another of the implicated scientists and Director of Penn State Earth System Science Center and author of over 100 peer reviewed studies, and two other climate scientists, Dr. Gavin Schmidt, a Climate Modeler at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Professor Michael Oppenheimer, Director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy of Princeton. I am lucky enough to belong to an environmental ethics list-serve, to which a transcript and the audio recording of the press conference was forwarded by Andrew Light, Director, Center for Global Ethics, Department of Philosophy, George Mason University.

The press asked some tough questions - as they should have.  Drs. Mann, Schmidt and Oppenheimer field the questions openly and honestly, and do not try to white wash the obvious "bads."  Overall, I felt they mostly acquitted themselves and their community.  Below are the opening quote from an audio discussion, links to the audio discussion and its transcript, and a video clip of John Stewart on ClimateGate.  The question of honest science is an important question. I strongly recommend you listen.

From Michael Mann, Director of Penn State Earth System Science Center and author of over 100 peer reviewed studies:

 "Unfortunately, despite this very strong consensus that exists, there are a handful of people and organizations that have tried to clout the debate, and they've frankly - they've not contributed to an honest scientific discourse but have engaged in this 11th hour smear campaign where they've stolen personal e-mails from scientists, mined them for single words or phrases that can be taken out of context and misrepresent what scientists are actually saying. And I think this is rather telling, the scientific evidence for the reality of the problem and the need to do something about it is overwhelming. Those advocating inaction don't have the science on their side, so they've turned to this last minute to smear campaign."

Listen here,

Or read here:

Link to the Phil Jones email and a story on how the hacking happened,

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  1. It's really interesting that the same people who are always calling for more debate then look at the debate in the emails and say, "SEE! Global warming isn't happening.

    So if there's no debate, scientists are trying to cover up that there's no global warming. If there IS debate, scientists are trying to cover up that there's no global warming.

  2. Yeah and then there are the nonscientists who are trying to cover up that there IS global warming. I think we should call this Climate-SwiftBoating instead of Climate-Gate. Have you caught wind of the guy that the nay-sayers are relying on now? How can they point fingers at "non-scientists" like Gore and photographer James Balog, when they put up Lord Monckton (journalist, puzzle-maker, business man and self-proclaimed climate expert but NOT a climate scientist) as their spokesperson.