Climate Change: Science or Politics?

The handling of climate change data by East Anglia University wouldn't pass muster at a Grade 9 science fair, says Rex.

Read the transcript of this Point of View

Rex Murphy Point of View

December 3, 2009

When Jon Stewart, the bantam rooster of conventional wisdom, makes jokes about it, you know Climategate has reached critical mass.  Said Stewart: "Poor Al Gore. Global warming completely debunked via the very Internet [he] invented."

Stewart was half-joking, but Climategate is no joke at all.  The mass of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit of East Anglia University, let loose by a hacker or a whistleblower, pulls back the curtain on a scene of pettiness, turf-protection, manipulation, defiance of Freedom of Information, lost or destroyed data, and attempts to blacklist critics and skeptics of the global warming cause.

The CRU is not the only climate science advisory body, but it is one of the most influential, and feeds directly into the UN Panel on Climate Change.

Let's hear no more talk of "the science is settled", when it turns out some of the principal scientists behave as if they own the very question of global warming - when they seek to bar opposing research from "peer-reviewed journals", to embargo journals they can't control, when they urge each other to delete damaging emails before Freedom of Information takes hold, when they talk of "hiding the decline", when they actually speak of destroying the primary data, and when, now, we do learn that the primary data has been lost or destroyed. 

They've "lost" the raw data on which all the models, all the computer generated forecasts; the graphs and projections, are based. You wouldn't accept that at a Grade 9 science fair.

CRU is not the universe of climate research, but it is the star. These emails demonstrate one thing beyond all else: that climate science and global warming advocacy have become so entwined, so meshed into a mutant creature, that separating alarmism from investigation, ideology from science, agenda from empirical study, is well nigh impossible.  Climategate is evidence that the science has gone to bed with advocacy, and both have had a very good time: - that the neutrality, openness, and absolute disinterest that is the hallmark of all honest scientific endeavour has been abandoned to an atmosphere and a dynamic not superior to the partisan caterwauls of a sub-average Question Period. 

Climate science has been shown to be - in part - a sub-branch of climate politics. 

It is a situation intolerable even to serious minds who are onside with global warming, such as Clive Crook, who wrote in The Atlantic magazine about this scandal as follows:  "The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering".

Climate science needs its own reset button.  And Climategate should be seen, not primarily as a setback, but as an opportunity to cleanse scientific method.  To take science away from politics, good causes, and alarmists, and vest climate science in bodies of guaranteed neutrality, openness, real and vigorous debate.  And away from the lobbyists, the NGOs, the advocates, the Gores and professional environmentalists of all kind.  Too many of the current leadership on global warming are more players than observers, gatekeepers, not investigators, angry partisans of some global reengineering rather than the humble servants of the "facts of the case". 

Read the emails.  You'll never think of climate "science" quite the same way again.

For the National, I'm Rex Murphy.

Read more about two of Rex's favourite sources on climate change

I've been following the great Climategate controversy, and it presents an opportunity to salute the leadership of two Canadians in this tempestuous arena.

Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick may turn out to be something of reluctant heroes in the global warming story.  They’ve been doing the backstop work amid the hurricane of scare stories and over-hyped speculation that marks this whole debate.

McIntyre, in particular, through his blog Climate Audit, has been tireless in doing what all good, inquiring minds should do when investigating new terrain; asking for the data, checking others’ results, keeping up the intellectual standards of the quest.

For this, in the main, they have been scorned and put off by the global warming establishment, had their credentials questions, and their work mainly ignored.

There is no reason Steve McIntyre should not be at least as well known on the subject of global warming as David Suzuki, but it is one of the oddities of the global warming debate that only the leaders of the orthodoxy are household names. The tough questioners are outside the spotlight.

It was also this duo who unmasked the great hockey stick graph as being the product of inadequate or twisted data and removed it as the great logo of the global warming stampede.

You can find a sample of McKitrick’s work here, and for McIntyre, go to, one of the most honest sites on global warming and its statistical basis on the whole internet. 

A few years back, McKitrick also published a (now) prescient book with Christopher Essex entitled Taken by Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming.