So reports the Sunday Times (London). The data apparently got “dumped to save space when the CRU [Climate Research Unit] moved to a new building,” “in the 1980s, a time when climate change was seen as a less pressing issue.” Only the adjusted data, adjusted based on decisions by the CRU scientists, has been kept.
I have no knowledge about the underlying science of global warming, though scientists I know of generally seem quite convinced by the claims that human activity has caused global warming, and is likely to cause much more dangerous amounts in the future. I’m usually inclined to defer to such a consensus among serious scientists, precisely because they know vastly more about the subject than I do.
But it seems to me that the destruction of the raw data is a very serious problem, and a sign of a remarkably lackadaisical attitude — and that it doesn’t take a climate scientist to so conclude. Unless I’m mistaken, people were talking about the possibility of global warming and the need to take expensive action to combat global warming even in the 1980s; one would think that data relevant to such an important issue wouldn’t get thrown out. But even before it was obvious that calls for action with multi-trillion-dollar economic effects would be based on the data, how can a serious scientific research organization destroy the raw, unedited data on which its major research program rests?
Surely the value of the raw data should be obvious. Even if the adjustments seem sound at the time, scientists must recognize that even they themselves might later conclude that some of the adjustments are imperfect, and that better ones should be applied. And of course there’s the possibility that other scientists might challenge the adjustments as invalid, and would want to examine the raw data to see where it points using rival adjustment approaches. What’s going on in the scientific world if this sort of destruction of important raw scientific databases is happening? Plus, according to the Times, “The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation” — can it really be that only legal demands have caused this important fact to be revealed? Or is there something here that I’m missing?
I should acknowledge, by the way, that the lost data acknowledgment isn’t entirely new; I suspect that it’s the controversy about the released e-mails that is bringing it up again — and I know that I didn’t pay much attention to the lost data matter until the e-mails were released. Still, putting things together makes it look like far less care than one would expect is being taken with this obviously important subject.
Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.