A retrospective of the Climategate retrospectives

It's around that time of the year when everyone looks back over the year that was. Okay, it was actually a few days ago but I'm taking a while to get moving again after the Christmas break (and am still in mourning over Australia losing the Ashes). So for my retrospective, I'm only going as far back as last November. At that time, we reached the 12 month anniversary of 'Climategate', when private emails were stolen from the University of Anglia's server, then the Real Climate server was hacked and the emails uploaded onto their server.

There were a number of Climategate retrospectives. The better retrospectives pointed us back to the scientific evidence - what nature is telling us. After all, that's really what Climategate was about - trying to distract us from the realities being observed now in nature. So here is a retrospective on some of the Climategate retrospectives:

Starting at Skeptical Science (of course), I propose The question that skeptics don't want to ask about 'Climategate' which was 'Has Climategate changed our scientific understanding of global warming?' The answer being, of course, that the evidence for human caused global warming is as solid as ever. In fact, the observations of the climate response to greenhouse warming have only gotten stronger over the last year (which we will see shortly).

That week, James Wight also wrote a series of SkS blog posts addressing specific Climategate issues on temperature data, hiding the decline, peer review, the IPCC and FOI (he's a prolific lad). In December, James diligently adapted his blog posts into rebuttals which have recently been added to our ever growing list of skeptic arguments:

  Skeptic Argument vs What the Science Says
77 "Mike's Nature trick to 'hide the decline'" Phil Jones was quoted out of context, and nothing was hidden.
88 "Peer review process was corrupted" An Independent Review concluded that CRU's actions were normal and didn't threaten the integrity of peer review.
89 "Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were ignored" An independent inquiry found CRU is a small research unit with limited resources and their rigour and honesty are not in doubt.
135 "Skeptics were kept out of the IPCC?" Official records, Editors and emails suggest CRU scientists acted in the spirit if not the letter of IPCC rules.
136 "CRU tampered with temperature data" An independent inquiry went back to primary data sources and were able to replicate CRU's results.

We are sure to see the misinformation concerning Climategate continue to propagate in 2011 (in fact, I predict an increase). Consequently, these rebuttals stand as a resource for those looking to add proper context to the disinformation. Many thanks to James for creating these resources.

Now onto other blogs. A must-read piece from Joe Romm is A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice. Joe points out that Climategate’s biggest impact was probably on the media, continuing their downward trend of focusing on style over substance. To shift the focus back on substance, Joe lists just some of the research published over the last year, observing a greater climate response than expected and predicting worse to come.

Nature Did Not Read the Hacked Emails strikes a similar theme. This is a rich compilation by Scott Mandia of much of the evidence that has continued to build over the last 12 months, along with many vivid graphs (mmm... graphs).

The Real Story of Climategate is a thorough and well written overview of the whole Climategate tale by Kate from ClimateSight. It puts the whole incident in perspective and shines a light on the real and often overlooked story of Climategate: the illegal smear campaign against the scientific community.

In The nothing that was Climategate, Arthur Smith puts some perspective on the tone of the Climategate emails by giving us an entertaining (and somewhat amusing) insider look at some of the comments he encounters in his work for research journals. My favourite is "In the Comment attached one can find how to obtain all Author's results in a single line". Ouch!

The Yale Forum have a fascinating read, A Yale Forum Two-Part Special Feature: Scientists and Journalists on ‘Lessons Learned’ (Pt. 1) and Part 2. This is a compilation of quotes from a number of climate scientists on the lessons learned by climate science from the events of the last 12 months. Some handy insights from the guys at the coal face (hmm, perhaps not the best metaphor).

In Climate Scientists Strike Back, Kate Shepherd writes of an encouraging development (and this theme is echoed in Time Magazine's Getting past "Climategate Syndrome"). Scientists are emerging from their ivory towers and more actively engaging the public and media about the science. One such effort is the Climate Science Rapid Response Team. This is driven by John Abraham, Scott Mandia and Ray Weymann who act as "matchmakers", connecting media and policy makers who have climate questions to the relevant scientific expert. They currently have over 100 climate scientists in their team across many diverse areas of research and in the short time since the CSRRT began, have already been successful in helping get accurate science into a number of mainstream media articles.

Dan Moutal from Irregular Climate devotes an entire podcast to Climategate, giving an excellent audio overview of the whole issue.

Lastly, “Climategate”: The scandal that wasn’t and the scandal that was by Bart Verheggen discusses the real scandal of Climategate and features a cartoon which sums up Climategate more eloquently than I ever could:

Posted by John Cook on Sunday, 2 January, 2011

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