Hacked emails: Bad behaviour, but not bad science, says AP

AP’s Seth Borenstein and several of his colleagues have read all the stolen emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit and concluded that, while they don’t show the scientists concerned in a particularly flattering light, the emails don’t actually show evidence that data was manipulated:

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.

They add:

One of the most disturbing elements suggests an effort to avoid sharing scientific data with critics skeptical of global warming. It is not clear if any data was destroyed; two U.S. researchers denied it.

They note that some emails show “a stunning disdain” for climate change sceptics, including an ill-judged attempt at wry humour over the death of one prominent sceptic. Some emails show scientists tried to keep research from sceptics and discussed whether to boycott a journal over its publication of a sceptical article (which later turned out to be partly funded by the fossil fuel industry).

The reporters sent summaries of the emails to seven experts in scientific ethics, and quoted one of them saying it was “on the extreme end” of science politics, but still within acceptable boundaries.

They also sent highlights to three climate scientists “viewed as moderates”, and all three said the emails did not alter the findings of the IPCC report.

We can’t claim to have read all the emails ourselves, but those we have seen show a consciousness of scrutiny that would certainly sound suspicious to those inclined to feel that way. But that is not the same as fudging the figures.  And it’s still not clear how the 1,073 emails themselves were selected for hacking or subsequent distribution – over the many years they cover, the scientists concerned will have sent many more messages than this.

Related links:

Climategate and suspicion of science (FT Energy Source, 02/12/09)

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