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Terence Corcoran: A New Climategate Scandal, Familiar Cast Of Characters

In the wake of Climategate 2.0, action on the IPCC is more needed than ever

On the eve of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which opens in Durban, South Africa, on Nov. 28, a second massive collection of embarrassing climate science emails have been dumped on the world via a web server in Russia.

Where they came from nobody knows, just as the source of the first climate science emails — released to the world through a Russian site on the eve of the ill-fated 2009 Copenhagen climate conference — has never been revealed.

Dubbed Climategate 2.0, it looks at first glance like more of the same. The same science personalities at the top of the United Nations climate research machine — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — who starred in the pre-Copenhagen leaks are back, parading before readers in all their blundering glory.

The emails originate at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, a key IPCC research hub, and were somehow part of a U.K. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process.

Let’s jump right to a couple of sensational bits, out-of-context, among the 5,000+ email exchanges that were helpfully highlighted by the persons or persons in charge of posting the leaks in Russia.

“I find myself in the strange position of being very skeptical of the quality of all present reconstructions [of temperature records], yet sounding like a pro greenhouse zealot here!” said Keith Briffa, a key climatologist at East Anglia.

“I have been talking w/ folks in the states about finding an investigative journalist to investigate and expose McIntyre, and his thus far unexplored connections with fossil fuel interests,” Michael Mann, Penn State scientist whose long-range temperature records were question by Canadian researcher Steve McIntyre.

The emails reveal conflict over whether consensus exists, whether solar activity is the cause of global warming shifts, and whether to delete all emails to cover their tracks.

“I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process,” wrote Phil Jones, a leading figure at the East Anglia climate science operation.

There are about 5,000 of these Climategate 2.0 emails on my hard drive, plus hundreds or maybe thousands of pages of related documents. Nobody has read these through yet, but the tone is familiar and the putdowns frequent. I spotted some repetition from the 2009 batch.

But there are a few obvious differences between 1.0 and 2.0. The new batch came with an introductory note, a “Read Me,” in which the person or persons posting the emails makes a kind of political/ideological statement. It concludes that spending trillions on global warming is a waste of resources at a time which billions of people are poor.

It says, at a time when “Over 2.5-billion people live on less than $2 a day” global warming policy dictates that “Nations must invest $37-trillion on energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels.” “This when 16,000 children a day die from hunger and related causes.” Decisions on climate should be based on all the information the world can get, not on “hide the decline,” a reference to the conflict over an IPCC temperature graphic that appeared to misrepresent data.

Whether these concerns are genuine or merely pieces of ideological spin to hide other motives isn’t known.

Climate scientists have their theories as to who is behind the leaks.

Michael Mann, the Penn State scientist who has been the focus of conflict over the long-range temperature records, called the new flood of emails “pathetic” and claimed the “fossil fuel industry” was behind the leak.

Since the fossil fuel industry is currently in a major boom cycle and on the brink of massive expansion around the world, it would seem to have little motivation to get into a low-level program of document leaks to discredit climate theory. Big Oil is doing just great, thanks. Who cares about global warming?

Furthermore, with climate policy already on the back burner around the world, in part due to an increasing focus on economic crises, the Durban climate conference was already expected to end in paralysis.

On the other hand, the leaks once again highlight the fact that climate science is a bit of an intellectual blood sport, especially as conducted under the auspices of the IPCC. By coincidence, today the [Global Warming Policy Foundation] released a report by University of Guelph’s Ross McKitrick — a leading critic of the IPCC — calling on major reform of the United Nations science agency.

Says Mr. McKitrick, “If the IPCC cannot be fixed quickly, governments that are serious about making good climate policy decisions should be prepared to withdraw from it and create a new assessment body, free of the serious defects of the current model.”

In the wake of Climategate 2.0, the need for action on the IPCC is as imperative as ever.

Financial Post, 23 November 2011