American Elephants

Did the U.S. Government Try to Hide Climate Data from American Citizens? by The Elephant's Child

The original ClimateGate emails — correspondence derived from servers at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia — were released on the Internet in late 2009.  Posted on a Russian server, they shook up the field of climate research. They showed collusion among climate scientists to hide their data, to  suppress skeptical views and prevent their being published.

The CRU was one of the very small number of climate monitoring stations.  Skeptical climate scientists found the CRU’s published climate data questionable and wanted to see the raw data — and how it had been adjusted.  Freedom of Information requests — a legal procedure — elicited only the claim that they had lost the data, it was proprietary data, they could not share it.

Anthony Watts, a meteorologist and proprietor of the popular website, said:

In every endeavor of science, making your work replicable by others is a basic tenet of proof.  If other scientists cannot replicate your work, it brings your work into question.

Climate scientists who did not agree with the findings of the CRU were dismissed as “deniers”, which was patently untrue. The climate skeptics did not deny that the earth had warmed, nor that it had warmed and cooled in the past. They were skeptical of alarmist conclusions based on computer programs that claimed to represent the entire climate of the earth — about which we still know very little.

Now a new batch of emails posted in late November to a Russian server shows that scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit refused to share their U.S. government-funded data with anyone they thought would disagree with them.  In 2009, the then head of the Research Unit, Dr. Phil Jones, told colleagues repeatedly that the U.S. Department of Energy was funding his data collection — and that officials at the Department of Energy agreed that he should not have to release the data in spite of FOIA requests.

“Work on the land station data has been funded by the U.S. Dept of Energy, and I have their agreement that the data needn’t be passed on. I got this [agreement] in 2007,” Jones wrote in a May 13, 2009, email to British officials, before listing reasons he did not want them to release data.

Two months later, Jones reiterated that sentiment to colleagues, saying that the data “has to be well hidden. I’ve discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.”

A third email from Jones written in 2007 echoes the idea: “They are happy with me not passing on the station data,” he wrote.

The released emails show only correspondence between Jones and his colleagues, not his correspondence withe the U.S.Department of Energy.  Anthony Watts said “What’s missing is a …directive from DOE that they should withhold station data gathered under their grant.  The email may be there, but … still under lock and key.

Attorney Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, wants that key.  He has filed FOIA with the DOE, requesting the emails they exchanged with Jones.They have until December 29 before they must legally respond to Horner’s request.

“So far no administration department has bothered to respond, indicating they…believe the time bought with stonewalling might just get them off the hook for disclosure,” Horner said. “Not with us it won’t.”

Since the emails were made public, Phil Jones has changed his tune. He has accepted that he should have been more open, and has made the station data discussed in these emails publicly available.  Anthony Watts said that while much of the data is now available, the methods of adjusting it — statistical modification meant to ‘normalize’ the data and potentially highlight certain trends — remains a secret. “The fact that they are trying to keep people from replicating their studies — that’s the issue,” Watts said.  “Replication is  the most important tenet of science.”

The CRU at East Anglia, once exposed, has been careful to refer to the emails as “stolen,” “illegally hacked,” attempting to emphasize that the emails that exposed their wrongdoing were revealed “because of a crime.”  Yet the collusion, the use of clearly false data [Michael Mann’s hockey-stick graph], reveal that there is way more at risk here than a little embarrassment for the climate scientists at East Anglia. There is government funding, attempts to hide data that might be damaging, reputations, university appointments, big money grants,  the reputation of Science itself, and inevitably — the search for truth.

And as far as the “thief” or the “hacker” — that may well have been a member of the CRU team acting as a whistleblower.  There is another release yet to come, we are told, containing even more damaging material, which is undoubtedly the reason for the U.S. DOJ signing up with the UK police to try to find the “hacker.” Trying to get other scientists fired, their papers rejected, a scientist’s PhD rescinded simply because they do not agree with your conclusions, is far more ‘criminal’ than a release of incriminating emails.

This is not the way that science is supposed to work. Science is meant to be always skeptical, always ready to leave all data open to others so they can reproduce the conclusions. That is the only way science can progress.

Bill Whittle’s Voter’s Guide for Republicans! by The Elephant's Child
December 16, 2011, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Conservatism, Economy, Election 2012, Liberalism, Politics

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