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EDITORIAL: Global-warming fraud harms science

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One of the defenses offered by the media and those caught in Climategate has been that no matter how obvious the e-mails seem, there is a complicated context that means only academics can fully grasp what the e-mails meant. For example, CNN quibbled that, "there's very little context" in the leaked e-mails. We checked into what academics outside the cabal of global-warming advocates have been saying, and their view of the cover-up ranges anywhere from it being "disappointing" to "highly disturbing." Some professional researchers are shocked, while others are not.

About the mildest comment we could find is by Robin Hansen, professor at George Mason's economics department. On his blog, Mr. Hansen wrote that while he wasn't particularly surprised by the e-mails discovered in Climategate, "It is a shame that academia works this way." Physicist David Wright, who has held positions at top universities such as Harvard, is more outraged, commenting on a blog: "In my discipline, there were plenty of camps that had strong opinions about whether certain ideas were right or wrong, likely to move the field forward or likely to prove useless distractions. Sometimes discussions became quite heated. But never did I see groups of people plotting to hijack the peer review process in order to shut out those who disagreed with them, or discussing how to hide data that did not look good for their side of the debate."

The British media and Fox News have done the most thorough job interviewing academics for their reaction to the e-mails and other documents showing widespread conversation about destroying data and evidence that undermine claims of global warming. On the issue of not sharing the raw data used to create aggregate temperature measures, "The [Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia] is basically saying, 'Trust us.' So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science," Roger Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, told the Sunday Times of London. "It seems to me that the scientists have lost touch with what they were up to. They saw themselves as in a battle with the skeptics rather than advancing scientific knowledge."

"They are making scientific progress more difficult now," Willie Soon, a physicist at the Harvard University-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told "This is a shameful, dark day for science."

Even colleagues of those in the middle of this scandal are troubled. Professor Mike Hulme of the University of East Anglia told the Sunday Times: "The attitudes revealed in the e-mails do not look good. The tribalism that some of the leaked e-mails display is something more usually associated with social organization within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science."

That the top academics in the field, the powerful heads of important climate research units committed these offenses, only makes the offenses so much worse.

Few academics outside those directly snared in the e-mail exchanges are defending or downplaying what happened. Asking a scientist to "delete any e-mails you may have had with Keith [Briffa] re [the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report]" is really asking someone to destroy evidence. The "trick of adding in the real temps to each series ... to hide the decline [in temperature]" means just that: hiding data that disproves one's position. Even most scientists can understand that is wrong.

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