EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

December 13, 2009

Column: Behind 'Climategate' is a well-funded attack on science

This week, negotiators in Copenhagen have the opportunity to forge an agreement to deal decisively with the existential threat of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW). Without American political, scientific and economic leadership, the world will be unable to face this growing threat.

At home we have been bombarded with news of the so-called "Climategate scandal" and powerful groups with radical ideologies have worked to undermine the public confidence in the scientific consensus that has emerged on AGW. In light of the long-established, well-funded and ongoing war against science, the theft and posting of private e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University could not have been timed better.

What do these e-mails say? Do they "nail the coffin shut" on AGW?

According to the contrarians (including The Eagle-Tribune editors) the scientists at CRU were falsifying data, manipulating research to "hide the decline" in global temperatures, destroying evidence to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests, blocking publication of research that contradicted their claims and worst of all, knew that the earth was cooling, not warming and couldn't explain it. However, if you place all of these e-mails in their context, with other e-mails and the studies and events the researchers are talking privately about, a much different picture emerges.

The most abused phrase in this saga is "hide the decline." Contrarians claim that scientists were "hiding the decline" in global temperatures to convince people that the planet was still warming when it was really cooling.

There are two problems with this. First, the planet is clearly warming — 2005 tied 1998 as the warmest year in the instrument record, 2009 was globally the fifth warmest on record and 11 of the 15 hottest years have occurred since 1995. More importantly, the researchers weren't talking about temperature decline; they were talking about the decline in tree ring proxy data that shows a false decline after 1960.

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