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Stolen Climate Emails Creating More Controversy

December 3, 2009

A series of controversial e-mails from a British university’s climate center were obtained by computer hackers and posted online about two weeks ago and now House Republicans are saying they are evidence of corruption surrounding man-made climate change, The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, top administration scientists say they found no such sign of corruption and argued that the surrounding controversy doesn’t change the fact that the world is warming.

Climate change skeptics contend the messages reveal that researchers manipulated and suppressed data and stifled dissent, and conservative bloggers are dubbing it “Climategate.”

Wednesday’s first Capitol Hill airing of the issue saw House Republicans reading excerpts from at least eight of the e-mails, saying they showed the world needs to re-examine experts’ claims that the science on warming is settled.

John Holdren, then of Harvard University and now Barack Obama’s science adviser, wrote one of the e-mails in question back in 2003.

As a result of the controversy, Phil Jones, head of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia — the source of the e-mail exchanges, stepped down from his post. The university is now investigating his involvement.

Penn State University researcher Michael Mann is also being investigated. House Republicans asked for a separate hearing or investigation into the issue, but were rebuffed by Democrats.

U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis said the e-mails show a pattern of suppression, manipulation and secrecy that was inspired by ideology, condescension and profit.

Holdren, a physicist who has studied climate change, said the science is proper and represents only a small fraction of research on the issue.

Another government scientist, Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist and climate researcher who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the e-mails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus that tells us the earth is warming and that warming is largely a result of human activity.

Lubchenco told members of the House global warming committee that the e-mails don’t negate or even deal with data from both NOAA and NASA, which keep independent climate records and show dramatic warming.

Sensenbrenner read one message from Jones, the East Anglia scientist, in which he wrote about a “trick of adding in the real temps” in an exchange about long-term climate trends.

But Holdren argued that the word “trick” did not mean manipulation of data, but a “clever way” to tackle a problem. Another Jones e-mail read, “I would like to see the climate change happen so the science could be proved right.”

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., defended the scientists and said the e-mails aren’t stopping the Arctic from warming, the oceans from getting more acidic, and glaciers from melting.

Sensenbrenner chastised Holdren for his 2003 e-mail where he seemingly dealt with skeptics by “calling them names.”

The e-mail apparently showed that Holdren used ironic quotes around the word “Harvard” in describing two of his colleagues who are global warming skeptics.

Holdren had also forwarded to other scientists an article he described as “for your entertainment” in which he was quoted as saying the two skeptics were “wrong.” Holdren defended his e-mail.

Sensenbrenner scrutinized the work of Penn State’s Mann, who is frequently brought up in the communications.

Mann authored what is known as the “hockey stick” theory, first described in the late 1990s, which suggests that the past 50 years had been the hottest in several centuries, if not 1,000 years, and that man-made global warming was to blame.

His controversial research was studied in depth by the National Academy of Sciences and was even used in former Vice President Al Gore’s global warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”.

According to Sensenbrenner, the 2006 National Academy study showed Mann’s hockey stick theory was incorrect and should be discredited. However, Holdren argued that the NAS study had quibbles with Mann’s methods but agreed with his final results.

Gerald North, the chairman of the Academy of Science panel, and a Texas A&M University atmospheric scientist, confirmed in an interview Wednesday that Holdren’s work was correct.

North told The Associated Press that the conclusions that they came to were essentially the same as the hockey stick theory that Mann proposed.

North said even if Jones, Mann and others had done no research at all, the world would still be warming and scientists would still be able to show it.

The e-mail controversy happened just two weeks before the Copenhagen negotiations, which are supposed to agree a new global deal on combating climate change to supplant the Kyoto Protocol and many top scientists are hoping the issue doesn’t influence the meetings outcome.

Mann said there is a consensus among the world’s scientists that climate change is real and there’s a need to confront it.

“Those who are advocating inaction, that don’t want to see progress in Copenhagen, don’t have science on their side,” he said.

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