This is a guest post by Minda Berbeco cross-posted with permission from Live Science. Minda Berbeco is programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education and visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology. She contributed this article to Live Science's ...read more
Climategate Is Dead! Or Long Live Climategate?
Climategate Is Dead! Or Long Live Climategate?
An exhaustive six-month independent review into the Climategate emails has concluded that the “rigor and honesty” of the climate scientists caught up in the non-scandal are “not in doubt.” [PDF]
The investigation, led by Sir Muir Russell, found no grand conspiracy among scientists brainwashed by the U.N. IPCC and Al Gore to dominate the planet by dreaming up man-made global warming, as the right wing media and blogosphere insisted in the wake of the Climategate nontroversy that followed the theft of emails and documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) late last year.
The report confirms again that climate scientists’ findings remain sound. Some of its key findings:
“On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.
In addition, we do not find that their behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments. ” (pg. 11)
While this 160-page independent report should settle once and for all any lingering suspicion about the actions of the handful of scientists most frequently cited in the emails, it is unlikely to appease the conspiracy theorists who fear the U.N. is going to steal their liberties and zombify their babies under a New World Order.
As with birthers and truthers and others who cling to extreme conspiracy theories in the face of overwhelming evidence, once people are lured by the fear-induced frame suggesting that dark forces are at work to control them, they apparently can’t tell reality from fiction. Even when handed a giant stack of scientific studies documenting what is known about climate change, some still deny the blatantly obvious conclusion that the world is warming, humans are driving that disruption, and we had better get cracking to confront this challenge.
The Russell report did confirm earlier criticisms that the handful of scientists targeted by the Climategate attacks failed to display “the proper degree of openness” when dealing with public requests for information.
Fair enough, that criticism has been previously acknowledged as valid, and efforts are already underway to ensure increased transparency at CRU and other scientific institutions. The call for greater transparency and openness among scientists and their institutions is necessary and welcomed, but certainly they aren’t the only ones who deserve that reminder.
What institution on the planet would pass muster under such intense scrutiny? Certainly not the U.S. government agencies, which often deny or impede FOIA requests, or global corporations like BP, Massey Energy and Koch Industries, which seem to revel in hiding information from the public all the time. More transparency is needed everywhere, not just among scientists in lab coats. But they get the message loud and clear.
Professor Phil Jones, who stepped down as CRU’s director during the investigation, will finally get back to work, having accepted a new title of Director of Research. Climate scientists at institutions around the world can continue to expand upon our understanding of global warming, with greater openness and interaction with the public than ever before.
The overwhelming body of evidence and data underpinning our understanding of climate science remains intact, confirmed, and freshly exonerated yet again.
The only real question left unanswered is who was behind the actual crime - the theft of the emails, as Joe Romm writes at ClimateProgress:
“I would call this a CSI-type review, because of its incredible forensic thoroughness, except that it didn’t look at the actual crime — the hacked emails — only the charges against climate scientists. The investigation found there was no fire, only smoke. Yes, the report found “that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA” — and they made many useful suggestions to improve that important failing.
But they found no evidence of any wrongdoing that undermines climate science. And that is what this is all about — the science — not the scientists, no matter how much the anti-science crowd tries to change the subject.”
But will this thorough debunking of the main allegations made by the Climategate conspiracy bloggers and their fans at FOX News suffice to end the attacks on climate scientists? Will it deflate Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s witch hunt of climate scientist Michael Mann? Will it be the “final nail in the coffin” of climate denial?
Not a chance. Climate deniers like Cuccinelli have no respect for science. They are only interested in ensuring further political dithering while the planet burns. Expect them to label it another whitewash, as usual, and continue their antics to distract the world from taking much-needed action.
But the U.S. Congress and international negotiators must now accept that the science of climate change is completely sound, and use it to craft policies to protect future generations from the ravages of climate change. They no longer have any semblance of an excuse to delay. The world’s engineers, physicists and entrepreneurs can work together to find solutions to global energy challenges and build resilience to cope with the damage already done to climate systems. But only with international cooperation can real progress be made to safeguard future generations.
Read the entire final report of the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review [PDF attached].