Wash. Times reports debunked "Climategate" myth as fact

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

A Washington Times article falsely claimed that the reportedly hacked emails from the University of East Anglia "seemed to suggest scientists manipulated data" and that they called "into question" "the science underpinning claims of global warming." In fact, official inquiries into the scientists' conduct found that they did not manipulate data, and despite months of false accusations from right-wing media, the content of the emails did not undermine global warming science.

Wash. Times revives false claim that emails showed CRU scientists "manipulated data"

From a May 20 Washington Times article:

Six months after "climategate" called into question the science underpinning claims of global warming, the National Academy of Sciences said Wednesday the science is sound, human-caused warming is already occurring, and the U.S. must take urgent action.

[...]

"Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for - and in many cases is already affecting -- a broad range of human and natural systems," the scientists concluded in one of several congressionally mandated reports released Wednesday.

The report comes three years after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that global warming is real and very likely manmade. But that report, and the temperature record underlying many of its conclusions, have come into question with the revelation of e-mails from a leading British climate research project that seemed to suggest scientists manipulated data. Critics labeled the e-mails "climategate."

Inquiries found "no evidence" that scientists manipulated data

AP: U.K. investigation shows "no evidence" that CRU scientists "had tampered with data." The Associated Press reported on March 31 that "[t]he House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee said Wednesday that they'd seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit [CRU] or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming -- two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues." The House of Commons issued the report on March 31.

Independent panel: "[N]o evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice." An independent panel in the U.K., led by former industry scientist Lord Oxburgh, released a report in April finding "no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention." The (London) Guardian reported that Oxburgh "said, many of the criticisms and assertions of scientific misconduct were likely made by people 'who do not like the implications of some the conclusions' reached by the climate experts" and quoted him saying, 'Whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly.' "

Penn State: "[N]o credible evidence" that Mann "engaged in, or participated in ... any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data." In February, Penn State released the results of its inquiry, led by a panel of department heads and scientists, into whether scientist Michael Mann -- based on alleged evidence in the emails -- manipulated data or destroyed records. Among its conclusions was that there was "no credible evidence" that Mann had "ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data" and "no credible evidence" that Mann had "engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data."

Right-wing media distorted emails to claim scientists manipulated data

Right-wing media falsely claimed scientists "fudged" data with a "trick" to "hide" temperature "decline." Right-wing media, including Fox News and blogs, repeatedly and baselessly accused scientists of manipulating or fudging data because Jones wrote in one email: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years ... to hide the decline."

"Hide the decline" refers to unreliable tree-ring data, not actual temperature readings. The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania, reported that Mann -- whose "trick" was referenced in Jones' email -- "said his trick, or 'trick of the trade,' for the Nature chart was to combine data from tree-ring measurements, which record world temperatures from 1,000 years ago until 1960, with actual temperature readings for 1961 through 1998" because "scientists have discovered that, for temperatures since 1960, tree rings have not been a reliable indicator." Jones has also stated that it is "well known" that tree ring data "does not show a realistic trend of temperature after 1960," and the CRU has said that "[t]he 'decline' in this set of tree-ring data should not be taken to mean that there is any problem with the instrumental temperature data."

FactCheck.org: "E-mails being cited as 'smoking guns' have been misrepresented." FactCheck.org stated on December 10, 2009, that "[e]-mails being cited as 'smoking guns' have been misrepresented. For instance, one e-mail that refers to 'hiding the decline' isn't talking about a decline in actual temperatures as measured at weather stations. These have continued to rise, and 2009 may turn out to be the fifth warmest year ever recorded. The 'decline' actually refers to a problem with recent data from tree rings." FactCheck.org further said, "Other quotes that skeptics say are evidence of 'data manipulation' actually refer to how numbers are presented, not to falsifying those numbers."

RealClimate.org: "[P]ublic perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm." The staff at RealClimate.org -- which is comprised of working climate scientists -- wrote: "What is seriously amiss is something else: the public perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm. All of these various 'gates' -- Climategate, Amazongate, Seagate, Africagate, etc., do not represent scandals of the IPCC or of climate science. Rather, they are the embarrassing battle-cries of a media scandal, in which a few journalists have misled the public with grossly overblown or entirely fabricated pseudogates, and many others have naively and willingly followed along without seeing through the scam."

Emails did not undermine abundance of scientific evidence that humans are contributing to climate change

29 prominent scientists in the U.S.: Emails "ha[d] no impact whatsoever on our overall understanding that human activity is driving dangerous levels of global warming." In a December 4, 2009, letter to Congress about the emails, 29 prominent scientists, including 11 members of the National Academy of Sciences, stated: "The body of evidence that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming is overwhelming. The content of the stolen emails has no impact whatsoever on our overall understanding that human activity is driving dangerous levels of global warming."

1,700 scientists in the United Kingdom: Global warming "is due primarily to human activities." More than 1,700 scientists from the United Kingdom signed a statement responding "to the ongoing questioning of core climate science and methods." The statement said: "We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities."

AAAS: Emails "should not cause policy-makers and the public to become confused about the scientific basis of global climate change." On December 4, 2009, the American Association for the Advancement of Science stated that it "has reaffirmed the position of its Board of Directors and the leaders of 18 respected organizations, who concluded based on multiple lines of scientific evidence that global climate change caused by human activities is now underway, and it is a growing threat to society." The statement also said that "the illegal release of private emails stolen from the University of East Anglia should not cause policy-makers and the public to become confused about the scientific basis of global climate change."

Union of Concerned Scientists: "[N]othing" in the emails "has any impact on our overall understanding that human activities are driving" climate change. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) stated that despite "minor errors" in the IPCC's 2007 report, "Overall, the IPCC's conclusions remain indisputable: Climate change is happening now and human activity is causing it. Nations around the world will have to adapt to at least some climate change, including sea level rise, changes in precipitation, disruptions to agriculture, and species extinctions." In response to the CRU emails, UCS said that the "email content being quoted does not indicate that climate data and research have been compromised. Most importantly, nothing in the content of these stolen emails has any impact on our overall understanding that human activities are driving dangerous levels of global warming."

AMS: Impact on climate change science of emails "very limited." Following the release of the stolen emails, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) reaffirmed its Statement on Climate Change, stating that it "is based on a robust body of research reported in the peer-reviewed literature." AMS further stated: "For climate change research, the body of research in the literature is very large and the dependence on any one set of research results to the comprehensive understanding of the climate system is very, very small. Even if some of the charges of improper behavior in this particular case turn out to be true -- which is not yet clearly the case -- the impact on the science of climate change would be very limited."

Nature: "Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real." A December 2, 2009, editorial in the science journal Nature stated: "Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real -- or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails." Also from the editorial:

The stolen e-mails have prompted queries about whether Nature will investigate some of the researchers' own papers. One e-mail talked of displaying the data using a 'trick' -- slang for a clever (and legitimate) technique, but a word that denialists have used to accuse the researchers of fabricating their results. It is Nature's policy to investigate such matters if there are substantive reasons for concern, but nothing we have seen so far in the e-mails qualifies.

FactCheck.org: "Even if [the emails] showed what the critics claim, there remains ample evidence that the earth is getting warmer." FactCheck stated that "many of the e-mails that are being held up as 'smoking guns' have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics eager to find evidence of a conspiracy. And even if they showed what the critics claim, there remains ample evidence that the earth is getting warmer." FactCheck.org further wrote:

Even as the affair was unfolding, the World Meteorological Organization announced on Dec. 8 that the 2000-2009 decade would likely be the warmest on record, and that 2009 might be the fifth warmest year ever recorded. (The hottest year on record was 1998.) This conclusion is based not only on the CRU data that critics are now questioning, but also incorporates data from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). All three organizations synthesized data from many sources.

Some critics claim that the e-mails invalidate the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world scientific body that reaffirmed in a 2007 report that the earth is warming, sea levels are rising and that human activity is "very likely" the cause of "most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century." But the IPCC's 2007 report, its most recent synthesis of scientific findings from around the globe, incorporates data from three working groups, each of which made use of data from a huge number of sources -- of which CRU was only one. The synthesis report notes key disagreements and uncertainties but makes the "robust" conclusion that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal." (A robust finding is defined as "one that holds under a variety of approaches, methods, models and assumptions, and is expected to be relatively unaffected by uncertainties.")

AP analysis: "[T]he messages don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked." After "an exhaustive review" of the emails, the AP concluded that "[e]-mails stolen from climate scientists show they stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data -- but the messages don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked, according to an exhaustive review by The Associated Press." The AP analysis further stated, "None of the e-mails flagged by the AP and sent to three climate scientists viewed as moderates in the field changed their view that global warming is man-made and a threat."

PolitiFact.com: "[T]here are reams of data that show temperatures are increasing" and "greenhouse gases are largely to blame." PolitiFact.com also rejected the notion that the emails invalidate the "scientific underpinnings of climate change," noting that "[i]ndependent of CRU's data, agencies and academics all over the world are coming to essentially the same conclusion: Climate change is happening." PolitiFact further stated:

So, to say that the CRU e-mails debunk the science supporting climate change leaves out the important point that CRU isn't the only organization looking at the issue. Indeed, there are reams of data that show temperatures are increasing and that greater concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are largely to blame.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
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