Climategate: The Threat to Modern Science

By Emma Berkel

   It’s undeniable. Technology is at our fingertips and countless articles are made available to us every single day. With all that, whether it’s pertaining to a celebrity’s personal life or science, it’s hard to think beyond those so-called “facts”. We all know that tabloids are riddled with untruths, and we read them with a certain level of doubt, but what about scientific journals?

Those are more often than not taken to be legitimate truth as they state findings, etc. and should be. However, evidence has popped up that perhaps less faith should be put in those journals deemed “legitimate”.

   “This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the ‘peer-reviewed literature’… So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering ‘Climate Research’ as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.”

   So writes Michael Mann to fellow scientists Phil Jones, Ray Bradley, Malcolm Hughes, and S. Rutherford in one of thousands of e-mails released from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia by an unknown hacker. Last November, as police investigated the hacking into the CRU’s system, a number of those mentioned and credited in the released e-mails and documents were forced to make comment, admitting to having sent or received the majority of the material posted for view worldwide.

   As was implied by the e-mails, the earlier block quote a prime example, a portion of the scientific community has monopolized or at least attempted to monopolize the outlet known as “legitimate peer-reviewed journals”. The term “peer-reviewed” is present to indicate that the articles being published by the journal have been presented by the experimenting scientists to others so that their data and experimental process could be scrutinized for obvious fault and possibly replicated.

   Raw data from the CRU regarding their basis for their catastrophic predictions of warming-induced catastrophe had been sought throughout the years yet was never disclosed and more recently was admittedly thrown out. This ruins any chance for other scientists to check the work and that has led to the forfeiting of “peer review”.

   As this was the misfortunate case with the polished data coming from CRU, the whole event has definitely dealt a blow to the credibility of the scientists involved in the Climategate scandal. In truth, this is what seems to be the result of Climategate, the loss of the involved scientists’ reputable status.

   But what of Anthropogenic Global Warming, the theory of worldwide warming induced by the CO2 emissions of humankind? Surely, while Climategate is not in any way unarguable proof that the theory is wrong, it will not go unaffected.

   Skeptics to the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming cite these e-mails and documents as proof that scientists have purposefully hidden data to better support their theory. And with lines such as, “… where the heck is global warming?” and, “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment…” coming from the leading figures supporting the theory, it’s easy to see why.

   Despite this, the scandal known as Climategate exposed by the e-mails should not be used or seen as meaningless fodder for the actual scientific debate on Anthropogenic Global Warming itself since only solid data can do that.

   Instead, the true tragedy of Climategate is that the unbiased quest for truth known as “the scientific process” has been manipulated by a few scientists to the point that solid data isn’t available and, for years, hasn’t been available. It is the lack of genuine scientific process that now threatens the bid for Global Warming.

   “It’s going to hinder [Anthropogenic Global Warming’s] further progression into societal acceptance, but it’s just going to bounce back,” said Stephanie Shu, sophomore, regarding her thoughts on the event in hand with the popular theory concerned.

   Without straightforward confession, the e-mails and documents are left to each individual’s own interpretation, be it pro or con; however, many are convinced that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that further investigation regarding the extent of data manipulation is necessary.

   “Unfortunately, I believe Climategate is going to be ignored no matter how much truth it has,” Marsha Tompkins, junior, said.

   As the months roll by and Climategate slowly seems to disappear from what few headlines it filled, it’s indeed possible that both Shu and Tompkins are spot on and this is an event that will soon fade from memory into the obscurity of history. The question now is if this unethical trend will continue or if further attention will be given to the bigger issue of modern science’s process and if that process can be trusted at all.