By Gordon Crovitz
For anyone who doubts the power of the Internet to shine light on darkness, the news of the month is how digital technology helped uncover a secretive group of scientists who suppressed data, froze others out of the debate, and flouted freedom-of-information laws. Their behavior was brought to light when more than 1,000 emails,and some 3,500 additional files were published online, many of which boasted about how they suppressed hard questions about their data.
The emails, released by an apparent whistle-blower who used the name “FOI,” were written by scientists at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England. Its scientists are high-profile campaigners for the theory of global warming.
The findings from East Anglia have been at the core of policy reports by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC does not do its own research but compiles information relating to climate change. It has declared the evidence that the globe is warming to be “unequivocal,” a claim routinely cited by lawmakers in the U.S. and elsewhere as authoritative.
The IPCC stresses honest science. According to its Web site, its goal is to “assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”
The panel, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, now faces the inconvenient truth that it relied on scientists who violated scientific process. In one email, the Climate Research Unit’s director, Phil Jones, wrote Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, promising to spike studies that cast doubt on the relationship between human activity and global warming. “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report,” he said. He pledged to “keep them out somehowâ€”even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
In another email exhange, Mr. Mann wrote to Mr. Jones: “This was the danger of always criticizing the skeptics for not publishing in the ‘peer-reviewed literature.’ Obviously, they found a solution to thatâ€”take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering ‘Climate Research’ as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.”
Other emails include one in which Keith Briffa of the Climate Research Unit told Mr. Mann that “I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same,” and in which Mr. Jones said he had employed Mr. Mann’s “trick” to “hide the decline” in temperatures. A May 2008 email from Mr. Jones with the subject line “IPCC & FOI” asked recipients to “delete any emails you may have had” about data submitted for an IPCC report. The British Freedom of Information Act makes it a crime to delete material subject to an FOI request; such a request had been made earlier that month.
Over the weekend, East Anglia officials disclosed they had disposed years ago of the historic weather data underlying their analysis. This may be one reason they’ve fought information requests. They say they’ll release the data they still have some time next year.