Monday, 4 January 2010

The real climategate

There has been a lot of fuss in the press about 'Climategate' - the leaking of a large number of emails from the University of East Anglia. Those who dispute manmade climate change claim these emails show that UoEA has been covering up results that show that there's no such thing as climate change.

This is rubbish. The emails made no suggestion that there wasn't manmade climate change. All they showed was an enthusiasm to shoot down opposing papers - normal academic fare - and a reluctance to give out data to all and sundry as a result of repeated Freedom of Information requests.

My initial response to the latter was some sympathy for the UoEA people. When you are trying to get on with a job, it must be irritating to have repeated FoI requests, requiring time and effort to fulfil.

However, there is an underlying issue. Science progresses by sharing data. It's never enough for one source to say they've seen a result - it needs be verified and repeated elsewhere. This means data should be freely available to check and compare. But climate data is often held back. This isn't because of some climate science conspiracy - it's for commercial reasons. Bodies like the Met Office (pictured above) make a fair amount of cash from selling climate data.

Now if a commercial organization produces some data it has every right to hang on to it and sell it - but when public bodies, whether universities or meteoroligical bureaux, do this, there's something wrong happening. We fund public bodies to do science for the public good - not to make a profit. There really shouldn't be a need for FoI request to access these data. Otherwise we're putting the cart before the horse.

You can read more detail on this in Fred Pearce's New Scientist article.

1 comment:

  1. The Climategate emails (and please don't forget the code) reveal far more than you pretend. But then you seem to think that to "shoot down" opposing papers by bullying journals and editors is OK. Threatening to beat someone up, is fine in my book, but redefining peer review isn't. Neither is hiding the decline, nor rewriting climate history.

    If you choose to regard the evasion of FOI requests from "all and sundry" as a minor matter, then that's up to you. You might also choose regard the threat to destroy the data rather than fulfil an FOI request as trifling, and the subsequent "loss" of the data mere coincidence.

    Your attempt to conflate the MET Office and UEA will not work. The CRU initially pretended that they had confidentiality agreements preventing them from releasing data, then they admitted they had no such agreements, then the data was lost. What exactly has this to do with the MET Office?

    The Climategate debacle has certainly opened the eyes of the innumerate to what looks like blatant scientific malpractice. For those accustomed to numbers, Hockeygate and Yamalgate were far more disturbing!