The Magazine

Scientists Behaving Badly

A corrupt cabal of global warming alarmists are exposed by a massive document leak.

Dec 14, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 13 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
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Slowly and mostly unnoticed by the major news media, the air has been going out of the global warming balloon. Global temperatures stopped rising a few years ago, much to the dismay of the climate campaigners. The U.N.'s upcoming Copenhagen conference--which was supposed to yield a binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction treaty as a successor to the failed Kyoto Protocol--collapsed weeks in advance and remains on life support pending Obama's magical intervention. Cap and trade legislation is stalled on Capitol Hill. Recent opinion polls from Gallup, Pew, Rasmussen, ABC/Washington Post, and other pollsters all find a dramatic decline in public belief in human-caused global warming. The climate campaigners continue to insist this is because they have a "communications" problem, but after Al Gore's Nobel Prize/Academy Award double play, millions of dollars in paid advertising, and the relentless doom-mongering from the media echo chamber and the political class, this excuse is preposterous. And now the climate campaign is having its Emperor's New Clothes moment.

In mid-November a large cache of emails and technical documents from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Britain were made available on a number of Internet file-servers for download by the public--either the work of a hacker or a leak from a whistleblower on the inside. The emails--more than 1,000 of them--reveal a small cabal of scientists who, in the words of MIT's Michael Schrage, engaged in "malice, mischief and Machiavellian maneuverings." In an ironic twist, one of the frequent correspondents in this long e‑trail (University of Arizona scientist Jonathan Overpeck) warned several of his colleagues in September, "Please write all emails as though they will be made public." Small wonder why. It's being called Climategate, but more than one wit is calling them "the CRUtape Letters."

As in the furor over Dan Rather's fabricated documents about George W. Bush's National Guard service back in 2004, bloggers have been swarming over the material and highlighting the bad faith, bad science, and possibly even criminal behavior (deleting material requested under Britain's Freedom of Information Act and perhaps tax evasion) of a small group of highly influential climate scientists. As with Rathergate, diehard climate campaigners are repairing to the "fake but accurate" defense--what these scientists did may be unethical or deeply biased, they say, but the science is settled, don't you know, so move along, nothing to see here. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who in the past has trafficked in the most extreme climate mongering: "It's no use pretending that this isn't a major blow," Monbiot wrote in a November 23 column. "The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. .  .  . I'm dismayed and deeply shaken by them. .  .  . I was too trusting of some of those who provided the evidence I championed. I would have been a better journalist if I had investigated their claims more closely." Monbiot has joined a number of prominent climate scientists in demanding that the CRU figures resign their posts and be excluded from future climate science work. The head of the CRU, Phil Jones, announced last week that he will temporarily step down pending an investigation.