Dirty climate data

Lawrence Solomon
Financial Post
December 5, 2009

The data from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University — headquarters for Climategate — is now discredited. This discredits any findings by other research bodies that relied on the Climategate data.

How much falls from Climategate, whose participants read like a Who’s Who at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Not much, says CRU’s disgraced director, Phil Jones, pointing out that CRU’s data for global temperatures is but one of several datasets, all in general agreement. Besides, many argue, CRU was no linchpin to the science. The IPCC relied on numerous other sources. Throw CRU out, they say, and the IPCC’s conclusions remain unshakable.

In truth, if you throw CRU out, you’ve eviscerated the findings of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, the most recent and most definite opus from the UN. This is the report, received with universal acclaim in 2007, which scarily stated: “The warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

The argument over global warming requires evidence that the globe is warming in dangerous ways. This evidence the IPCC presents forcefully in its third chapter on surface and atmospheric warming, which rests overwhelmingly on the official global temperature record of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, called the HADCRUT3 temperature dataset.

And who produced the HADCRUT3 dataset for the World Meteorological Organization? The Hadley Centre of the UK government’s meteorological office (the HAD of HADCRUT3) and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (the CRU).

With HADCRUT3 in hand, the IPCC’s warming chapter confidently pronounced that “The rate of warming over the last 50 years is almost double that over the last 100 years,” that “2005 was one of the two warmest years on record,” and that “Changes in extremes of temperature are also consistent with warming of the climate.” With HADCRUT3, the co-authors of the IPCC warming chapter could show the temperatures going up, up, up.

Who were the IPCC co-authors who decided to use the HADCRUT3 temperature data? None other than two of the most questionable characters in the Climategate cast: the head of CRU, Phil Jones himself, and his cross-Atlantic correspondent, Kevin Trenberth, a lead author with the IPCC. Trenberth in 2004 also had a starring role in another noteworthy IPCC episode, held in the swirl of an active U.S. hurricane season. Not one to pass up an opportunity to sway the public to the urgency of global warming, Trenberth called a press conference to link global warming with hurricanes even though the IPCC’s own hurricane expert, Christopher Landsea, pleaded with Trenberth not to — the link of hurricanes and global warming had no basis in science.

If any chapter in the IPCC opus is more important than the warming chapter it is chapter nine, which concludes that man is the culprit “based on analyses of widespread temperature increases throughout the climate system and changes in other climate variables.” The source for the temperature data? HADCRUT3.

The centrality of HADCRUT3 data is no coincidence. The two British organizations, Hadley and CRU, have worked hand-in-glove since the Hadley Centre was created in 1989 by Margaret Thatcher. One year earlier, in a major address that established the UK’s early promotion of the global warming issue, Thatcher — a foe of the coal mining union and a fan of nuclear power — had pledged to tackle the greenhouse effect by replacing fossil fuels with nuclear power. She then promoted climate change science with funding and diplomacy, placing her people in senior positions at the nascent IPCC and elsewhere at the United Nations.

Hadley and CRU became major players in every IPCC report, in the World Meteorological Organization, in the IPCC’s iconic hockey-stick graph and in the UK government’s Stern Review that predicted economic calamity. In the minds of many, the Hadley-CRU datasets are the most authoritative source of global temperatures, both because their temperature records date back to 1850 and because they produced the first-ever synthesis of land and marine temperature data — the first truly global temperature record.

Except now we’re told that CRU disposed of the raw data some 20 years ago after it was manufactured into “homogenized” and “value added data.” The manufacturer 20 years ago? Another Climategate star, Tom Wigley, who was then the head of CRU.

But what of Phil Jones’s argument, that the Hadley and CRU datasets are nothing special. “Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for NASA and the National Climate Data Centre in the United States, among others,” he says. “Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves.”

The answer to Phil Jones comes from the Hadley Centre itself, through another fact that speaks for itself. “The datasets are largely based on the same raw data,” the FAQ page at the Hadley Centre website states, in explaining that NASA, the National Climate Data Center and Hadley-CRU all use the same data. The different results these organizations sometimes obtain, it elaborates, stems not from the data but from its absence — where the data is poor or non-existent, the different agencies employ different types of guesswork.

There is no unimpeachable raw data in which we can have confidence. There is a large cast of impeachable characters in the Climategate drama with an evident appetite for cooking the books.

And there are but two honest options for our governments to now employ. They can choose to redo the studies, with data, scientists, and a peer-review process that can be trusted. Or they can recognize that the IPCC process has been politicized from the start, and that the prima facie evidence for dangerous global warming does not meet the threshold required to prolong the scientific sham of the generation.


Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute and author of The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud

Read the sources for this column. 

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