A Friday editorial ("How not to fight climate of denial") chastises the Climate Research Unit for unnecessarily giving global warming skeptics ammunition.
Assuming the documents are genuine — the authenticity of all has not been confirmed — critics are taking them out of context and misinterpreting at least one controversial e-mail exchange. None of it seriously undercuts the scientific consensus on climate change. But a few of the documents are damaging for other reasons.Do we get any examples of how the e-mails were taken out of context? Sadly, from the standpoint of good journalism, we do not. The Times, as of the end of the Friday editorial, has published exactly two quotations from the stolen communications. Those two quotations serve to illustrate the Times' one significant concern about the story (bold emphasis added):
According to one of the stolen e-mails, CRU director Phil Jones wrote that he would keep papers questioning the connection between warming and human activity out of the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report "even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!" In another, Jones and Pennsylvania State University's Michael E. Mann write of organizing a boycott of an academic journal until it fires a "troublesome editor."The Times has chosen a legitimate gripe. Trying to politically suppress science that reaches undesired conclusions puts scientists in a bad light. Though it should be noted that one of the editors CRU helped oust gave them an excuse by publishing a paper that may not have been up to normal journal standards. In terms of its methodology, I should add.
Refocus on the claim made by the Times, "None of it seriously undercuts the scientific consensus on climate change."
The hacked information shows the scientists bewailing the problems with their computer model's codes.
The CRU is perhaps at the very leading edge of scientific global warming advocacy. If not the leader, it is one of them.
The Times has once chance to be correct at this stage: The scientists who form the consensus are so committed to the idea of global warming that having an evidential rug potentially pulled all the way out from under them will not affect their commitment to the doctrine.
If the Times is right on that score, then science takes a second hit even worse than the one the Times will acknowledge.
It is too early to say how much the data theft and release will undermine climate change science, the Times' opinion notwithstanding.
Now get to work publishing some of the interesting information, Times editors. Put your readers "In the Know."