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CONSENSUS EXPOSED, PART 1
March 1, 2010

Posted by David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov

EPW POLICY BEAT: CONSENSUS EXPOSED, PART 1

Link to 'Consensus' Exposed: The CRU Controversy

The Minority Staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works recently released a new 84-page report, titled, "‘Consensus' Exposed: The CRU Controversy."  Recognizing the severe time constraints of interested readers-how can one read 84 pages amidst the daily maelstrom over global warming?-EPW Policy Beat will issue a series of excerpts from the report over the next several days.  We hope this provides our readership with the report's essential findings, and a clear understanding that the CRU email controversy is more than just "a little email squabble."  To the contrary, the report shows that the climate science "consensus" is far from settled, and it reveals unethical and possibly illegal behavior by the world's leading climate scientists, many of whom wrote and edited the IPCC's science assessments.  It demonstrates that the IPCC's science is seriously flawed - a fact that, among other things, undermines the critical scientific basis of EPA's endangerment finding. 

The following is Part 1 (pages 6 - 7):

Why this is important

The [CRU] emails (and the data and computer code released to the public) were written by the world's top climate scientists, many of whom had been lead authors and contributing lead authors of various sections of the IPCC reports and were thus intimately involved in writing and editing the IPCC's science assessments.  This is no small matter.  As noted science historian Naomi Oreskes wrote, the "scientific consensus" of climate change "is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."[i]   According to one top Obama Administration official, the IPCC is "the gold standard for authoritative scientific information on climate change because of the rigorous way in which they are prepared, reviewed, and approved."[ii]  

These scientists work at the most prestigious and influential climate research institutions in the world.  For example, Dr. Phil Jones was director of the CRU until he was forced to temporarily resign because of his role in the scandal.  According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), CRU is "among the renowned research centers in the world" on key aspects of climate change research.  It also has "contributed to the scientific assessments of climate change conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)."  CRU's CRUTEM3 is one of the key datasets of surface temperatures utilized by the IPCC in its Fourth Assessment Report.[iii] 

The IPCC's work serves as the key basis for climate policy decisions made by governments throughout the world, including here in the United States. A notable example is the EPA's endangerment finding for greenhouse gases from mobile sources under the Clean Air Act, issued in December.[iv]  As the finding states, "it is EPA's view that the scientific assessments" of the IPCC "represent the best reference materials for determining the general state of knowledge on the scientific and technical issues before the agency in making an endangerment decision."[v]  In the finding's Technical Support Document (TSD), in the section on "attribution," EPA claims that climate changes are the result of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and not natural forces.  In this section, EPA has 67 citations, 47 of which refer to the IPCC.[vi]   The IPCC's work also provides the scientific basis for cap-and-trade bills considered in the House and now by the Senate.  For example, H.R. 2454, the "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009," also known as Waxman-Markey, cites the IPCC and its work no fewer than five times to support the bill's various provisions.[vii] 

In short, the utility and probity of the IPCC process and its results are crucial to policymaking with respect to climate change here in the United States. 

What does the material show?

What emerges from review of the emails and documents, which span a 13-year period from 1996 through November 2009, is much more than, as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson put it, scientists who "lack interpersonal skills."[viii]  Rather, the emails show the world's leading climate scientists discussing, among other things:

  • Obstructing release of damaging data and information;
  • Manipulating data and knowingly using flawed climate models to reach preconceived conclusions;
  • Colluding to pressure journal editors who published work questioning the climate science "consensus"; and
  • Assuming activist roles to influence the political process. 

The correspondence also reveals something significantly more nuanced than a "consensus" on the state of climate science.  Contrary to repeated public assertions that the "science is settled," the emails show the world's leading climate scientists arguing over critical issues, questioning key methods and statistical techniques, expressing concerns about historical periods (such as whether the Medieval Warm Period [MWP] was global in extent) and doubting whether there is "consensus" on the causes and the extent of climate change.


[i] Naomi Oreskes, "Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus of Climate Change," Science, 3 December 2004 (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686).

[ii] Written testimony of Dr. Jane Lubchenko, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, and Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, December 2, 2009 (http://globalwarming.house.gov/tools/3q08materials/files/lubchenco.pdf).

[iii] Congressional Research Service, Memorandum, "The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia," by Jane Leggett, CRS Specialist in Environmental and Energy Policy, 1 December 2009.

[iv] "Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Finding For Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) under the Clean Air Act," 15 December 2009 (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/downloads/Federal_Register-EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171-Dec.15-09.pdf).

[v] Ibid, p. 6651

[vi] Technical Support Document, Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Finding for Greenhouse Gases.  Pages 47 to 52.

[vii] H.R. 2454, American Clean Energy and Security Act (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h2454pcs.txt.pdf).

[viii] Lisa Lehrer, "GOP Pushes on ‘Climategate,'" Politico, 6 December 2009 (http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20091206/pl_politico/30172).





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