Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gloves come off as Copenhagen nears

Computer files were delivered to a climate change sceptic, BBC weather personality Paul Hudson. These files - it was claimed - are evidence of malfeasance by scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.

For example in one of the files the writer, allegedly a CRU scientist, talks about using a "trick" and also refers to "hiding" some values.

The story first unfolded on Hudson's blog where he says he can confirm that some of the files are actual East Anglia CRU emails, because he was involved in those email conversations.

Although he received the files on the 12th of October, suddenly with Copenhagen around the corner the apocryphal files have been beaten up in the last 48 hours, into a smoking gun, 11th hour expose by this tawdry conspiracy anorak Hudson and a handful of other journalists who ought to have known better.

Hudsons involvement and the provenance of these files reeks. Any ethical journalist would not have touched the affair with a barge pole.

Note that these are not paper documents, they're electronic files. Already if one follows the link from Hudson's blog to the small sample of the alleged emails it can be seen that the emails have been altered by replacing the authors email addresses with xxxxxxx.

Clearly any of the text of the alleged emails could easily have been altered in subtle ways to make the contents appear suspect. Certainly East Anglia University has not verified that the alleged emails are true and correct, and without alteration.

What makes this appalling lack of journalistic rigour by those promoting this beat-up even worse is that there is no global warming conspiracy in these emails, even if they were true.

As the RealClimate web forum puts it:
More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, ... no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords.
These files are not even close to any smoking gun, and just amount to the same back-and-forth that you'd find in the email servers of any professional organisation.

As RealClimate points out - a trick does not mean something underhand. If you're a professional in any sphere, a handy technique that quickly gets the job done but produces valid and ethically sound results can be called a "trick" - a valuable nugget of experience.

Everyone from surgeons to auto-electricians have handy tricks they use to get their job done, without any implication of malfeasance.

Certainly cherry-picking the computer files for phrases that could imply anything is meaningless without reading all the files in context.

I write software for a living and there are often vigorous disagreements both within our company and between members of the software engineering community and our own engineers about the quality of code, the viability of our approaches and a range of other topics. But none of this detracts from the fact that we produce the deliverables, and the results are well engineered and professionally sound.

Just the IPCC report - the work of several hundred scientists from all over the world - is sound and so and the science behind it and other peer reviewed studies which reach the same conclusions.

A few dozen emails out of months and months of correspondence of one research center and all they could come up with is a "trick" being used?

Don't worry - there will be more dirty tricks from the right wing media and their mud slinging brigade in the lead up to Copenhagen.

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