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Kevin Libin: You’ll just have to take our word on the global warming stuff August 23, 2009

Posted by honestclimate in Discussions.
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Kevin Libin: You’ll just have to take our word on the global warming stuff

By Kevin Libin
National Post, August 18, 2009

Though a striking number of prominent scientists have recently recanted their initial belief in manmade global warming, joining an already robust community of distinguished skeptics, those who continue to advance the theory could be their own worst enemy. Whatever the truth is about anthropogenic climate change — the contention that carbon dioxide emitted by human industrial activity — the tendency among some climate-change believers to embellish the effects of planetary warming has only served to undermine their credibility in the eyes of the public and, less so, the media.

For years, global warming advocates held up every calving ice shelf, failed crop or natural disaster as proof of a dawning warming apocalypse; whether it was too much rain, or not enough — either way, it was abnormal, and the fault of Big Oil and anyone questioning that, labeled a “denier.” As Vicky Pope, a senior British climatologist, citing overblown claims of rapid melting of arctic sea ice, and the ice sheet around Greenland, bemoaned earlier this year, for scientists, “overplaying natural variations in the weather as climate change is just as much a distortion of the science as underplaying them to claim that climate change has stopped or is not happening.”

But probably nothing could damage the credibility of climate change believers than the recent revelation by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) that it has lost or destroyed all the original data used to construct historic global temperature records.

The CRU, at the University of East Anglia in the UK, which has been using information collected from weather stations across the globe for decades, is probably the most widely cited source worldwide for those mounting a case that the earth has exhibited an inexorable warming trend: its website boasts that CRU’s research has “set the agenda for the major research effort in, and political preoccupation with, climate research.” The critical raw climate data responsible, which scientists of all climate-creeds have a natural interest in, is now gone, apparently, forever. With the exception of a handful of countries that the CRU has agreements with to sell its data, all that remains for the bulk of the statistics are “value added” versions, which is to say, consolidated, homogenized data. Actually, the CRU says it doesn’t even have all the data for countries it has data-sharing agreements with. “We know that there were others, but cannot locate them, possibly as we’ve moved offices several times during the 1980s,” the CRU writes in a rather embarrassing explanation for all this posted on its website.

The Unit makes this admission now, coincidentally, as it faced a flurry of requests, under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act, to make available its data to interested researchers. The CRU, it seems, had not been much in a sharing mood prior to that. UK’s register reports that Professor Phil Jones, the fellow in charge of maintaining the CRU data set, told an Australian researcher a few years back that he refused to publicly share his statistics. “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?” The idea that scientific progress rests completely on the constant testing and retesting, verifying and refuting, of studies, seems not to be shared by Mr. Jones, even though this particular data set had massive implications for policymaking in pretty well every country on the planet. Unfortunately for him, as part of a publicly managed and funded organization, his group was nonetheless subject to transparency laws, and so, when researchers sought to shake the data loose without his consent, it had mysteriously vanished. “We have never had sufficient resources to keep track of the exact source of each individual monthly value,” they explained in coming up dry for the FOI requests. As Stephen McIntyre, the Canadian economist famous for his addiction to poring through volumes of mind-numbing climate statistics, and occasionally finding errors (as he did, with Ross McKitrick, in deconstructing and undermining the famous “hockey stick” graph), writes on his Climate Audit blog, it appears that the impoverished CRU even lacked filing cabinets in which to store its records.

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