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Climategate Revealed As Complete Nonsense

Hey, so that Climategate thing, you know, what conservatives were shrieking about a few months ago? Remember? Funny story. Turns out to be, um, how should I put this, nonsense.

The first of several British investigations into the e-mails leaked from one of the world’s leading climate research centers has largely vindicated the scientists involved.

The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee said they had seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming — two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues.

In their report released Wednesday, the committee said that, as far as it was able to ascertain, “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact,” adding that nothing in the more than 1,000 stolen e-mails, or the controversy kicked up by their publication, challenged scientific consensus that “global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity.”

Given paragraph 3, I don’t know why the editors settled for “largely vindicated” in paragraph 1. “Totally vindicated” sounds more appropriate to me.

You can read the House of Commons report here. The worst that can be said about Phil Jones is that he didn’t want to share data with people dedicated simply to undermining it. You can praise or denounce that aspect (though keep in mind that the House of Commons report says “It is not standard practice in climate science to publish the raw data and the computer code in academic papers”), but it has nothing to do with whether or not human-caused climate change exists, which it, er, does.

The most celebrated piece of Climategate was one line from Jones, where he writes that he created a “trick to hide the decline” in global temperatures. Sadly, this has been completely misinterpreted by, well, everyone:

Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the word “trick” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominately caused by human activity. The balance of evidence patently fails to support this view. It appears to be a colloquialism for a “neat” method of handling data […]

Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the words “hide the decline” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominantly caused by human activity. That he has published papers—including a paper in Nature—dealing with this aspect of the science clearly refutes this allegation. In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous.

This isn’t going to stop any climate skeptic from their skepticism. Things like “data” and “official reports” mean little to these people. My concern is that the ultimate outcome of Climategate – a big nothingburger – will not get told in the larger media, certainly not to the level of the controversy. By raising a giant stink, denialists did their job – they put the idea of a great conspiracy of climate scientists “out there”, and now it will be discussed as a controversy instead of the complete bollocks it is (to borrow a British phrase).

More from DeSmogBlog and Climate Progress.

UPDATE: I should add that the Climate Research Unit comes out in this report as looking a little overly paranoid and their practices a little shoddy. The willingness of the other side to lie through their teeth on this demands that science go the extra mile in adhering to rigorous data collection and sharing. It’s not balanced, but that’s the standard that should be upheld. None of this has anything to do with the content of climate science, however.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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