Hacked Climate Science Emails

A set of very damaging e-mails have apparently been hacked from the Hadley Climate Research Unit; they purportedly show climate scientists there manipulating and deploying historical climate data to reach predetermined conclusions, coordinating messaging, and attempting to control the definition of expertise in order to marginalize those who disagree with them.

I have not read the full set of e-mails, nor have I seen authoritative evidence of their provenance, but for the sake of argument let’s assume the allegations are correct. None of this surprises me. I argued over two years ago that: 1) Long-term climate reconstruction was one of the two key trouble spots in climate science; 2) mathematically sophisticated critics had debunked the methodology used to reconstruct long-term climate evidence that is the basis for the famous “hockey stick” increase in global temperatures; and 3) excellent evidence had been presented to the U.S. Senate that, in climate reconstruction, academic peer review meant, in effect, agreement among a tiny, self-selected group of experts. The root problem here is not the eternal perfidy of human nature, but the fact that we can’t run experiments on history to adjudicate disputes, which makes this less like chemistry or physics than like economics or political science.

In human terms, the scandal is obviously a PR disaster for those who believe that climate reconstruction is “science” in the sense we normally use the term, but what it does not change is the basic physics of how CO2 molecules interact with radiation. As I have always argued, this is the real basis for rational concern about greenhouse-gas emissions, and is a key reason that all the major national scientific academies agree that the greenhouse effect is a real risk. Recognizing this risk, however, does not entail accepting the political conclusion that we need laws to radically reduce emissions at enormous cost.