Klein: Gaming global warming

“Where the heck is global warming? The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can’t.” Surely this must be a Glenn Beck rant or more debauchery from the corporate fat cats. A fringe, nutcase conspiracy-theorist, perhaps? Upon first reading these words, I thought much the same. But in fact (brace yourselves, polar bears) it’s an excerpt from recently leaked e-mails, exchanged between top scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit.

Although you might not have ever heard of them, the CRU represents some of the world’s most influential and trusted scientists — their much-respected and inconvenient-truthy findings have long stood at the heart of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

For decades, lawmakers and citizens alike have placed their firm confidence and panic in the CRU’s dire predictions. Remember Al Gore’s terrifying, slideshow-busting, upward-sloping “Hockey Stick” graph? Our hellish, sauna-like future? All were concocted by CRU-chum and climate-change-darling Michael Mann, and, recently, debunked by statisticians.

Adding insult to injury, cue the inadvertent indignity, courtesy of Mann’s friend and collaborator in East Anglia, CRU Director Phil Jones: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie: from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The cherry-picking “trick” involved throwing out or manipulating climate data; the original sets have all been deleted.

Jones — who is rolling in $22.8 million in grants from the British government — just doesn’t learn. CRU e-mails reveal plans to circumvent legal requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, for their data; 58 have been made so far. As Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University put it, “The CRU is basically saying, ‘Trust us.’ So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science.”

And this, perhaps, is what shocks us most of all: the brazen, unabashed — proud, even — disrespect for science itself. Our top researchers have shown profound contempt for the scientific method, the academic review process and even a whisper of dissent. Dogmatic, partisan, deceptive, the eggheads have bamboozled us. It matters little whether man-made global warming is a legitimate theory, as most would contend; even if these scientists ends are noble, their means have been unethical at best and utterly malevolent at worst.

It is easy to let the CRU’s scientists — the U.N.’s main source for climate data — speak for themselves: “we have to stop considering ‘Climate Research’ as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal.” Referring to global-warming skeptical papers: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. K and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” CRU saw science as a mortal game, playing fast and loose with the public trust and dime.

Targeting Pat Michaels, the former Virginia State University climatologist who disputes that global warming has a man-made cause, one CRU scientist wrote, “Next time I see [him] at a scientific meeting, I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.” Nerds brawling at science conferences? What a thought.

Science should not be about scoring political points; it should be about asking questions, transparently and honestly, and hearing alternative answers. Here, with cherry-picked evidence and scientific trickery, we have been served up dirty hypotheses, upon which our lawmakers are poised to make big decisions, decisions that could cost us trillions.

But beyond dollars and cents, our scientific leaders have committed a graver sin: they have usurped the public trust of the layman, who — like me, lacks scientific expertise — can’t help but believe the professional gospel. This is where our journalists should be stepping in. The English press is going wild, as they are wont to do. But in the United States, the story has hardly been broken. I, for one, would rather not have important and perspective-shifting scandals brought to light by the radical blogosphere.

Our real journalists, through tacit omission, have let us down. When we need a light shined, a standard enforced, the mainstream media gives us not clarity, but timidity. Through Climategate, and its reprehensible lack of news coverage, we see two noble professions — science and journalism — at their weakest and most despoiled.

Alex Klein is a sophomore in Davenport College.