The Global Warming Email We've All Been Waiting For

I got a good chuckle out of this piece by George Monbiot in the Guardian about the recent global warming e-mail controversy.

My view is that the emails aren’t that damaging. Is it surprising that scientists would try to keep work that disagrees with their findings out of journals? When I told my father that I was sending my work saying car seats are not that effective to medical journals, he laughed and said they would never publish it because of the result, no matter how well done the analysis was. (As is so often the case, he was right, and I eventually published it in an economics journal.)

Within the field of economics, academics work behind the scenes constantly trying to undermine each other. I’ve seen economists do far worse things than pulling tricks in figures. When economists get mixed up in public policy, things get messier. So it is not at all surprising to me that climate scientists would behave the same way.

(Hat tip: Tony Pell)


It may not be surprising, but it's unscientific, which is the whole point. The virtues of scientific discovery are squandered when people and positions are more important than accurate conclusions. Because global warming research is driving policy decisions that have implications measured in trillions of dollars, the research ought to be correct, not simply preferred.

That said, I haven't seen how these emails prove the prevailing research is incorrect.


This seems more like a reason to keep science away from advocacy politics rather than to excuse bad behavior


That might be fine in Economics, Sociology, or English. Trends come and go every 20 years in those disciplines and for the most part, truth is quite relative.

That's not the case with Science. If you submit something to a math journal showing that some other proof is wrong and can show exactly where, it will get published. Same with Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Science is supposed to figure out how things work and papers are supposed to reflect reality, not some other culturally popular thing. In a math journal if you prove something, it's interesting and show how it works, it will get published.

Climate Science is not a science in this respect. Hypotheses aren't tested, they're modeled. And if you happen to disagree with the model? They'll ban you somehow. It should not be called a science, it should be called "climate studies" and be given no more clout than sociology. There's nothing "settled" in such a discipline. It's arguments and guesses and no actual truth. That's the difference.



"Is it surprising that scientists would try to keep work that disagrees with their findings out of journals?"

This is Science, nor Religion.

Yes it is suprising that they would try to remove the "peer reviewed" classification from those who they do not agree.

these emails and those who sent them are like a cancer in the scientific community. after all, People who said the Earth is round, or that the Earth is not the center of the universe were discredited at one point too.

how fitting that here, those who have a view outside of the norm are once again chastized because the science does not agree with everyone.

Albert also had the same problem.

After all, this is science. not politics or religion. or at least... it should be.


Keep in mind that one of the main arguments for the true believers is that this is peer reviewed science, and therefor their conclusions and solutions have to be true.

What's amazing is that most of these true believers know nothing about "climategate", and refuse to even consider that there could be conflicts of interest in the community.

Who is John Galt?

Sean Samis

What is not clear to me is whether these "damaging" emails undermine the claim that global warming is occurring or whether they undermine various explanations for WHY it's occurring. These are two distinct issues. I don't need to know what is burning or why to see the smoke coming out of my kitchen.


Colluding to delete documents subject to a UK Freedom of Information Act request is a criminal act. Period.


"Within the field of economics, academics work behind the scenes constantly trying to undermine each other. I've seen economists do far worse things than pulling tricks in figures."

which is one of the reasons why economics is not science.


It's not surprising to you. But it's surprising to other people, perhaps the "general public."

Even if there wasn't a conscious decision to target the results, there would be a subconscious bias towards results that further the researchers careers; an incentive. Most people who read your blog probably understand that.

But most other people don't seem to realize this. That's why this is big news.



There is no difference. The exact same kind of academic infighting, sometimes played very dirty, happens in Physics, Chemistry and Biology as well. All it says about climate science is that its scientist, like other scientists, are sometimes behaving rather unscientific when their own interests and careers are concerned.

Eric M. Jones

@4--Pete: "Albert also had the same problem."

Urban Legend. Einstein had a hard time getting started (most of us do), but the quality of his Physics was widely applauded early on.


Jimmy said, "If you submit something to a math journal showing that some other proof is wrong and can show exactly where, it will get published."

Akerlof's theoretical paper, the Market for Lemons, was rejected about 4 times before it was published. The reason for one of the rejections was that it was "wrong," when Akerlof proved it mathematically. Just because something is 100% proven to be logically true doesn't mean it's going to get published.

Further, Jimmy said, "Hypotheses aren't tested, they're modeled."

But that's how you test hypotheses. You set up a model (also known as a hypothesis of the way the world works) and perform statistical tests to see how well the model fits the data. If the model doesn't fit the data, then the model (hypothesis) is wrong.

That's how real science works, and that also happens to be what climate scientists do; they make models and test them against historical data. The models that include human factors fit significantly better than models that do not, which is what the science is based on.



Most folks aren't experts in statistics and error analysis. They can be duped by one number, outlier though it may be. Trying to control the message to prevent foks from jumping to the wrong conclusion is all about politics. Politics can make everyone look bad.

That the world as we know it is ending seems to have gotten lost in the 'scandal'


I cracks me up that people are actually surprised and outraged that science is political.

Martin Edic

One good start for any of these discussions is to stop allowing anonymous comments. When a commenter puts their name on the line they are far more likely to be actual comments rather than paid disinformers. Those who hacked this email thread are the ones who should be investigated. I think it would be very interesting.
There are agendas within agendas when it comes to climate change as I'm sure the Freakonomics guys have discovered. Bad science is bad science. Meanwhile the ice is melting...

Mark Wolfinger

Are you kidding?

By definition, scientists don't have pre-conceived notions (ok, exclude the right-wingers). Science is the process of experimentation and discovery.

It's the process of offering theories to explain the facts, and altering a theory, if and when necessary.

Yes, it's surprising that scientists would hide the facts.

Disgraceful is a better word


Anyone who doubts the efficacy of car seats hasn't spent much time in cars with small children.


It's not the emails that are the big story. Its the fact that the CRU destroyed the raw data they collected. Know one can check the facts. You always keep your data as proof of your conclusions. What they did is not science.


I'm surprised you're not surprised. The science is about getting close to the true not to prove everyone you're right. If a scientists hides something just not to undermine his own reputation - this is WRONG. Especially that many governments make their decisions based on this "science" and billions of dollars are to spend because of someone's sick ambition. Wake up, this is not a game "I'm right - you're wrong". This is a game about how world's economy future is going to be. There is just one true winner of applying this "science" in real life - China. China, which is obviously going to ignore it and watch the Western countries killing their economies.


@ Martin
All I can say is thank goodness "Global Warming" took hold after the last ice age or all of us in the Northern US would be very cold and icy indeed.....