Nothing about the so-called Climategate affair challenges the fact that climate change is real, urgent and increasing
There was no scientific scandal, only scientific stupidity. There was no attempt to hoax the world into believing that climate change exists, just excessive secrecy. There was no panicky cover-up to hide rigged data, for no data was rigged. There was no cabal of scientists cooking up fake evidence of catastrophe. There is, however, a real crisis of the most extreme nature: evidence suggests that climate change is real, urgent and increasing. Nothing about the so-called Climategate affair challenges that fact.
This is the most important finding of Sir Muir Russell's report into emails stolen from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, which was published yesterday. It is not, however, his only finding. His report is not an exoneration. "Their rigour and honesty as scientists is not in doubt," he writes. But "there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness".
This failure runs far further than a bit too much secrecy. There was an attempt to restrict debate, denying access to raw data and peer-reviewed journals to outsiders and the unqualified. In a sense, climate change scientists began to ape the obsessive culture of their sceptical critics. There was a clash between the traditional academic scientific process – closed, small and by its nature uncertain – and the new political demands imposed by climate change – confrontational, in search of absolutes and intolerant of any uncertainty. One can understand why the scientists behaved as they did. But this does not make it right.
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