Public Comment

Climategate Controversy Update

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday April 15, 2010 - 11:11:00 AM

Last November, 1,000 stolen e-mails from one of the world’s leading climate research centers in Britain seemed to challenge the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity. The e-mails appeared to show researchers scolding skeptics of global warming, discussing ways to hide their data, and discussing ways to keep skeptics' research out of peer-reviewed publications. One e-mail authored by researcher Phil Jones seemed to suggest using a "trick" to "hide the decline" of temperatures. 

The publication of the e-mails just before the Copenhagen climate change summit last December created a furor, with skeptics of man-made climate change calling the e-mails “Climategate” and claiming them as proof that the science behind global warming had been exaggerated or even made up altogether.  

On March 31st, the British House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee largely cleared the "ClimateGate" researchers involved, finding no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming. There is still an ongoing inquiry due out in this spring as to whether Jones manipulated the data. 

"ClimateGate" had its effect on U.S. public opinion. A recent Gallup poll shows that 48 percent of Americans believe the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated. Many Americans believe that, if there is global warming, it is cyclical and will pass over time or the scientists will discover an eleventh hour fix for the problem. ClimateGate and the public's skepticism provides cover for our politicians to avoid the difficult task of addressing global warming.  

Senator James Inhofe (R. Okl) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R. Cal) probably represent the views of global warming skeptics. Senator Inhofe called "the threat of catastrophic global warming the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." And Rep. Rohrabacher called the science behind global warming "emotional junk science." Even that eminent scientist Sarah Palin called global warming studies "snake oil science."  

Regardless of the so-called ClimateGate controversy, it has long been known that humans impact our atmosphere severely and our unrelenting production of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) increase the effects of the naturally occurring "greenhouse effect" that keeps our planet habitable. The more CO2 we pump into our atmosphere, the warmer the atmosphere gets. This is a scientific fact based on decades of scientific study. The main cause of the increase in global average temperatures in recent history is not because of any natural cycle -- although natural cycles do exist -- it is because of man. 

Denying global warming and its causes threatens all of humanity with slow, painful, untimely deaths. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that increasing global temperatures will cause sea levels to rise and will produce more intense weather and changes in precipitation patterns, changes in crop yields, glacier melting, extinction of species and the spread of disease. Putting our heads in the sand is not going to make global warming go away. 

Global warming should be a non-partisan issue. It concerns us all whether Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, or anything in between. There is, however, a promising first step: Senators John Kerry (D. Mass), Lindsey Graham (R.SC), and Joe Lieberman (I. Conn) reportedly are to unveil their global warming bill the week of April 19 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. But, of course, passage is far from certain.