- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009

LONDON | E-mails stolen from climate scientists show that they stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data, giving voice to scientists whose dissent remains difficult to find in news from the environmental conference that climaxes this week in Copenhagen.

The 1,073 e-mails examined by the Associated Press show that scientists harbored private doubts, however slight and fleeting, even as they told the world that they were certain about climate change.

The scientists were keenly aware of how their work would be viewed and used, and, just like politicians, went to great pains to shape their message. Sometimes, they sounded more like schoolyard taunts than scientific tenets.

The existence of skepticism was absent from many media reports last week on the climate change conference in Copenhagen, where officials from nearly 200 countries are attempting to draft a pact to roll back global emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases.

This week, they will be joined by world leaders, including President Obama, in a final push for a deal.

According to the e-mails, the scientists were so convinced by their own science and so driven by a cause “that unless you’re with them, you’re against them,” said Mark Frankel, director of scientific freedom, responsibility and law at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also reviewed the communications.

Mr. Frankel said he saw “no evidence of falsification or fabrication of data, although concerns could be raised about some instances of very ‘generous interpretations.’ ”

Some e-mails expressed doubts about the quality of individual temperature records or why models and data didn’t quite match. Part of this is the normal give-and-take of research, but skeptics challenged how reliable certain data was.

The e-mails were stolen from the computer network server of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in southeastern England, an influential source of climate science, and were posted online last month. The university shut down the server, contacted the police and suspended a director.

The AP studied all the e-mails for context, with five reporters reading and rereading them - about 1 million words in total.

They suggest an effort to avoid sharing scientific data with critics. It is not clear whether any data was destroyed; two U.S. researchers denied it.

The e-mails show that several mainstream scientists repeatedly suggested keeping their research materials away from opponents who sought it under American and British public records law. It raises a science ethics question because free access to data is important so others can repeat experiments as part of the scientific method. The University of East Anglia is investigating the blocking of information requests.

“I believe none of us should submit to these ‘requests,’ ” declared the university’s Keith Briffa. The climate unit’s chief, Phil Jones, wrote: “Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them.”

When one skeptic kept filing freedom of information requests, Mr. Jones, who didn’t return AP requests for comment, told another scientist, Michael Mann: “You can delete this attachment if you want. Keep this quiet also.”

Mr. Mann, a researcher at Penn State University, told the Associated Press: “I didn’t delete any e-mails as Phil asked me to. I don’t believe anybody else did.”

The e-mails also showed a stunning disdain for global-warming skeptics.

One scientist practically celebrates the news of the death of one critic, saying, “In an odd way this is cheering news!” Another bemoans that the only way to deal with skeptics is “continuing to publish quality work in quality journals [or calling in a Mafia hit].” And a third scientist said the next time he sees a certain skeptic at a scientific meeting, “I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.”

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