ClimateGate Revisited

Last week, the UK Independent Climate Change Email Review (aka the Muir Russell Review) released its report on the alleged scientific misconduct of climate researchers revealed by the disclosure of e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University.  As the NYT reports, the review rejects the claims that the ClimateGate e-mails disclosed scientific fraud or chicanery in climate science, but also criticized some of the scientists involved for some of their conduct and concluded that a specific graph of past temperatures was “misleading,” even if not fraudulent.  In other words, the “trick” to “hide the decline” did produce a misleading graph, but the underlying scientific case for a human contribution to global climate change remains intact.

There’s lots of commentary out there, including thoughts from Bradford Plumer, Roger Pielke, Jr., and Ronald BaileyThe Guardian rounds up some scientific reactions here.  I particularly like these comments by Mike Hulme (whose commentary on ClimateGate I’ve highlighted before, e.g., here and here).

I believe the CRU emails have been a game-changer for science – but have done little to alter the policy conundrums raised by climate change.

For climate science and scientists, three lessons must been learned: make sure to the extent possible that your analysis can be fully replicated by anyone who wishes to; as much rigour should be applied to communicating the “unknowns” as the “knowns” of scientific knowledge; and climate scientists need to re-emphasise (and maybe relearn) their public duty role as sceptics, scientific enquirers who, in the words of the Royal Society motto, “take nobody’s word for it”.

And for climate policy, I don’t think anything much has changed. We know humans have a significant role in changing the climate, but also that the future risks of such interventions cannot and will not be precisely described. The politics of climate change therefore remain, and will continue to remain, turbulent.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has also produced a review of the IPCC’s Working Group II report, finding several errors, most of which are rather small, including the overstatement of how much of the Netherlands is below sea-level.  For more on this report, see these items from The Economist, Plumer, and Pielke. Jr.