New controversy to climate change debate

December 2, 2009 7:16:37 PM PST
Climate change is, by now, hardly a new issue, but it remains a political one, especially as the United Nations prepares to debate new guidelines in Copenhagen next week. So it is probably no accident that a series of e-mails leaked out last week hint at a conspiracy and cover-up against a minority of scientists.

"I think anyone who goes to a movie or watches TV on the topic of climate will see that disaster pays, these days," climatologist John Christy said.

When Christy left Northern California for the University of Alabama he expected to continue his work in climatology but was unprepared for his research to become a battleground in the drama becoming known as "Climategate."

"We see some changes, but they are within the natural variability of the system," Christy said.

Those were not findings that most of the world expected to hear and the fallout has made headlines.

While most people accept as fact that the icecaps are melting and sea levels rising due to manmade climate change, the data on which those facts are based has become questionable.

Christy and others, see it as a conspiracy perpetrated by a scientific establishment looking to protect its own findings and funding.

"This group wants to control the notion of how climate works, what the climate has done in the past and what it will do in the future," Christy said.

There have always been scientists who took issue with Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, but until last week they remained beneath the radar.

Then, a series of e-mails came to light.

They were leaked from the British University of East Anglia, which keeps the accepted database for world temperatures.

Now, the university has admitted tweaking those readings for the last half of the 20th century.

"Science should not work this way," climatologist Patrick Michaels said.

Michaels, a climatologist from George Mason University, says the e-mails are not just a smoking gun, but a mushroom cloud.

In one of them, Phil Jones, who runs the climate research unit at East Anglia, writes to Michael Mann of Penn State about keeping dissenting opinions out of scientific journals, saying, "I will keep them out, somehow, even if we have to redefine what the peer review literature is."

Tuesday, Jones stepped aside to allow an investigation. Mann is now under inquiry by Penn State.

Another e-mail came from Ben Santer, a climatologist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Last October, he wrote to Jones about dissenting opinions, saying, "I am sorry you have to go through all this stuff, Phil. Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I will be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted."

Santer did not return calls for comment on this story. Wednesday, Lawrence Livermore issued a statement, which reads, in part "Confidential files, including research and personal emails...were posted out of context on public websites and in various media. The Laboratory stands behind Dr. Santer's body of work..."

"It's important because there was an attempt to influence what becomes the bible of science and you don't do that," Michaels said.

Even now, the majority of climate scientists support the theory that manmade carbon emissions have influenced temperatures on this planet.

President Barack Obama will propose a 17 percent reduction when he goes to Copenhagen, next week. His administration remains suspicious of naysayers; Wednesday the president's science advisor said the e-mails did nothing to undermine consensus.


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