From emails, a renewed debate over man-caused global warming
Unless you’ve spent the last few weeks trapped in a closet at the MSNBC newsroom with nothing to read but the New York Times, you’ve probably heard the news about “Climategate,” the scandal currently embroiling scientists at the renowned British East Anglia Climate Research Unit (Anglia CRU). Hackers broke into the Internet server at Anglia CRU in mid-November, releasing thousands of e-mails that appear to show well-known climatologists conspiring to stifle dissenting opinions, tamper with data and destroy incriminating evidence – all in an effort to promote their theory of Anthropological (human-caused) Global Warming (AGW).
To call these e-mails “damning” would be an understatement. One message from Nov. 16, 1999 revealed scientists discussing a “trick” they used in order to “hide the decline” in temperature statistics. In another from Feb. 2, 2005, climatologists chatted about how to shield their data from lawful public access. Amid controversy over these and similar e-mails, Anglia CRU Director Phil Jones resigned his position on Dec. 1.
But this scandal is just beginning, and Anglia CRU is nothing but the tip of a growing iceberg. The shadiness within the field of climate change research is far-reaching – extending all the way from eastern England to our own peaceful little community right here at the University of Massachusetts.
Many students are probably unaware that our University is home to one of the top three climate research centers in the country, the UMass Climate System Research Center (UMass CSRC). The facility has employed some of the world’s most respected climatologists – some of whom were heavily involved in the Anglia CRU controversy.
Scientists Michael E. Mann, Malcolm Hughes and Caspar Ammann are just three current or former UMass CSRC researchers whose email addresses appeared among the Anglia CRU correspondences. Messages written by standing UMass CSRC Director Raymond Bradley also popped up among the flurry of hacked e-mails.
While most of the e-mails from UMass researchers were fairly benign, some raised concerns. In one message from March 11, 2003, Mann suggested using strong-arm tactics to pressure a climate research journal into black-balling papers written by skeptics of man-made global warming. “Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board,” he wrote.
Many of the e-mails reveal an animosity toward AGW skeptics that goes beyond mere professional disagreements. In one message sent to Mann, Jones expresses delight at the death of climate change skeptic John L. Daly. “In an odd way this is cheering news!” he wrote. Another e-mail from May 29, 2008 appears to show Jones conspiring with Mann and Ammann to destroy e-mails they sent regarding the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, in order to avoid having the documents publicized through a Freedom of Information Act Request.
The revelations in these e-mails may be damaging, but don’t expect them to halt the efforts of the climate change movement. Many of the movement’s supporters are quick to point out, rightfully, that the messages stop short of disproving the actual hypothesis behind AGW.
But the scandal has discredited other major claims espoused by AGW climatologists. Perhaps the greatest boon of the hacked e-mails is that we can finally toss aside the silly myth that there is a “scientific consensus” on man-made global warming. “Nobody is debating any more that significant climate changes are coming,” Steven Sherwood, an AGW supporter and atmospheric physicist at Yale University, told the New York Times on Aug. 12, 2005. Of course, the Anglia CRU messages clearly show this isn’t the case. A significant chunk of the e-mails reveal the climatologists scrambling to suppress the research of their skeptical colleagues. In fact, the scientists spend an inordinate amount of time fussing and griping about a group of people that they publicly claim “don’t exist.”
Many of these AGW skeptics have good reasons for their cynicism. There are a lot of things about the human-caused global warming theory that just don’t add up. But even if there were no logical objections to the hypothesis, that’s beside the point. Scientific theories, no matter how “irrefutable” or “important” they might be, should still be open to scrutiny. Questions, concerns and skepticism should be welcomed, not quashed.
It’s the climatologists’ blatant disrespect for this concept of free scientific inquiry that makes the Anglia CRU e-mails so uncomfortable to read. It appears that if these scientists had their way, their findings would be presented with decrees instead of data. Their comfort with manipulating statistics is the epitome of elitism—they believe so strongly that global warming is caused by humans that any evidence to the contrary is tossed aside. From their perspective, these are noble lies, told in order to “save” mankind from certain doom.
These tactics don’t belong in public research institutions; they belong in the 17th Century Vatican. This jaw-dropping dogmatism isn’t science – it’s religion. And like school prayer and church hymns, it’s time to get faith-based “science” out of publicly funded universities.
Alana Goodman is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.