The most troubling aspect of the scandal arising from the Hadley CRU emails is the perversion of the peer review process. True, there is no doubt that the Hadley researchers withheld their data from skeptical scrutiny, and it appears that they may have even fudged their data, but those offenses taint only their own work. But by subverting the peer review process, they have tainted their entire field. The documents make clear that the Hadley researchers and their correspondents worked successfully to oust journal editors who had views contrary to theirs, or who they even suspected had such views:
Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.
Worse, they did not follow proper protocol in refereeing submitted papers. Submitted papers are supposed to be confidential until accepted for publication, but the emails are rife with discussion of papers under review. For example:
With free wifi in my room, I’ve just seen that M+M have submitted a paper to IJC on your H2 statistic – using more years, up to 2007. They have also found your PCMDI data -laughing at the directory name – FOIA? Also they make up statements saying you’ve done this following Obama’s statement about openness in government! Anyway you’ll likely get this for review, or poor Francis will. Best if both Francis and Myles did this. If I get an email from Glenn I’ll suggest this.
Examples such as these make it clear that the peer-review process is not working property in climate science. Now I don’t believe, as some do, that this scandal somehow washes away all the evidence that the earth’s climate is warming, likely due to human activity. There is still much convincing evidence that it is.
What the scandal does do is destroy any notion that there is a consensus among scientists on the matter. Whatever consensus might appear to exist is because some have conspired (I use the word deliberately) to silence opposing views. Climate science, as a field, needs to take affirmative steps to right its ship, and quickly.
As George Monbiot (an impeccably credentialed British environmental activist) put it:
It’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.
I’m also deeply disillusioned by RealClimate.org. In their view, the leak did not expose a problem in the field, but rather the leak itself is the problem, and they are focusing on explaining away the damning material in it. Worse is this email from the leak:
Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [RealClimate.org] in any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.
You’re also welcome to do a followup guest post, etc. think of RC as a resource that is at your disposal to combat any disinformation put forward by the McIntyres of the world. Just let us know. We’ll use our best discretion to make sure the skeptics dont’get to use the RC comments as a megaphone…
(Emphasis mine.) This makes clear that Real Climate is simply not, as it is billed, an impartial scientific resource. Pity. It would have been nice to have such a thing.
POSTSCRIPT: I want to note again that for those fighting ruinous government proposals like cap and trade, this is the wrong hill to die on. The work discussed here is primarily paleoclimatology, the study of past climate. What matters to policy is future climate, and the work in climate projection is very weak, as I discussed here. Our purposes are not served by making paleoclimatology the center of the debate.