Scrudato: Inconclusive data

This weekend, world leaders are preparing to push for new regulatory policies to combat global warming at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, all based upon the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. Its data, we have been told, is conclusive. The scientific consensus is clear. The hockey stick has spoken. Hollywood beachfront is in jeopardy, and something has to be done.

Yesterday, in his column “Gaming Global Warming” (Dec. 3) however, Alex Klein ‘12 highlighted the cracks in this consensus. Using researchers’ own words, Klein reveals that the prominent Climatic Research Unit’s researchers are nothing more than manipulative ideologues.

Unsurprisingly, Klein’s revelation was met with the climate lobbies newest talking point. Sure, a few researchers are arrogant and secretive, but this is just one small piece of an overwhelming body of evidence. It doesn’t damage the credibility of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. The census is still clear.

Is it?

What is this consensus based on? Coincidentally, much of has been influenced by the CRU. Michael Mann’s Hockey stick? CRU data. The IPCC assessment reports? CRU researchers.

Climate science is based on global temperature data from the past millennium reconstructed from multiple sources. Disputes about collection accuracy aside, procuring this data is a gargantuan task that only a few institutions can afford. Chief among these are the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the CRU.

If the processing done by these institutions is incorrect, in any way, their errors propagate to all research based on their data. For climate research to maintain its credibility, these centers must be beyond reproach.

But it’s hard to remain so when they keep revising their numbers. Did you know that hottest year in record in the U.S. was 1998? Wait, no, actually GISS admitted it was off by a few decades. It was 1934.

And then there’s the — to put it politely — personality problems. The head of GISS, Dr. James Hansen, has a long history of sensational rhetoric. He testified in Great Britain that Greenpeace members had a “lawful excuse” to vandalize power plants because, after all, “[s]omebody needs to stand up.” He later called on Congress to try energy company CEOs for “high crimes against humanity and nature.”

The head of the CRU, Dr. Phil Jones, was better at masking his sentiment, at least until the e-mails came out.

The most shocking revelation is just how far Jones went to hide his methods. Jones allegedly said, “If [Freedom of Information Act] does ever get used by anyone, there is also IPR to consider as well. Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them.”

What was he trying to hide?

In leaked computer code, one comment elates that reconstructing old algorithms yields accuracy “within 0.5 degrees of the published data,” suggesting that researchers may have tried to match their results to previous results. Coincidentally, this minor snag is nearly as large as the .6 degree temperature increase over the past century. Did they ever solve this problem? Presumably, but who knows?

One data processing routine employs a “fudge factor.” No doubt that is a technical term.

There are 15,000 more lines, but I’ll close with some poor soul’s frustrated cry: “OH — THIS … I’m hitting yet another problem that’s based on the hopeless state of our databases.”

I must stress that the entirety of this code has not been confirmed genuine, but that Jones has admitted it appears to be so. The information purportedly from the CRU may have been altered or completely fabricated; it could simply be an innocuous record of troubleshooting procedures.

On the other hand, I may be right. Programs may have been tweaked to produce favorable results, and papers could have been based upon databases in “hopeless” shape to meet publishing deadlines. But that is precisely the point: there has never been full disclosure.

Research from scientists like Jones serves as the basis for a consensus that increasingly isn’t. Until a full inquiry has been made, the credibility of nearly all anthropogenic climate science has been thrown into doubt. And implementing worldwide regulatory policy should be based on more than someone saying trust me. Until every step of the climate modeling processes is laid bare to impartial review, no decisions should be made.

Lux et Veritas, baby. Accept no substitutes.

John Scrudato is a junior in Morse College.