Climatic Research Unit
The Climatic Research Unit (CRU) is part of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, English. It was established in 1972. Hubert H Lamb was its founding director.
The CRU primarily does work in the area of paleoclimatology. This is the effort to determine what the earth's climate was like during the vast sweep of time before humans began measuring the weather. The CRU's staff are advocates for the idea that weather patterns prove that global warming is real and caused by human behavior. According to the CRU's website, it is "widely recognised as one of the world's leading institutions concerned with the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change."
The CRU possesses -- but in some cases has not released to the broader scientific community -- data sets of temperature recordings from around the globe. According to a November 28, 2009 update on the CRU website, it has withheld from the public approximately 5% of the data that its staff has used to generate models of climate change over time.
Several CRU staff have published academic papers making the case for anthropogenic global warming (AGW) that rely on data in data sets that the CRU has not fully disclosed to the public.
The CRU's work has played a prominent role in the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the body that every five or six years since 1992 has produced a report on findings in the arena of climate science.
E-mails made public
In November 2009, about 4,000 e-mails and other documents from the CRU were leaked to the public, causing an international furor. It is not known whether the e-mails were hacked or, alternatively, were leaked by someone who works for CRU. The event is referred to variously as "ClimateGate", "Warmergate", "Climaquiddick" and "The CRUTape Letters",
The leaked documents included more than 1,000 e-mails, 2,000 other documents, and Fortran source code used to organize date collected by the CRU between 1996 and 2009. Altogether, roughly 128 megabytes of previously secret information was released to the public.
Some of the emails include discussions of how to keep scientists who have contrary views out of peer-review literature, talk of destroying various files in order to prevent data being revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, how to combat the arguments of climate change sceptics, unflattering comments about sceptics, and responses to journalists.
Text of some of the leaked e-mails
- George Monbiot, an environmental activist and writer in England, wrote that the public exposure of the e-mails was a "major blow" and that "emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging". Monbiot said that evidence in the leaked e-mails that attempts had been made to conceal and even destroy data were particularly damaging.
- Myron Ebell, director of the Global Warming and International Environmental Policy department at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the e-mails showed that some climate scientists "are more dedicated to promoting the alarmist political agenda than in scientific research. Some of the e-mails that I have read are blatant displays of personal pettiness, unethical conniving, and twisting the science to support their political position."
- Judith Curry, a climatologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a supporter of mainstream views of global warming, said that when the e-mails were made public, they reflected a problem with public accountability: "[I]t is difficult to understand the continued circling of the wagons by some climate researchers with guns pointed at sceptical researchers by apparently trying to withhold data and other information of relevance to published research, thwart the peer review process, and keep papers out of assessment reports. Scientists are of course human, and short-term emotional responses to attacks and adversity are to be expected, but I am particularly concerned by this apparent systematic and continuing behavior from scientists that hold editorial positions, serve on important boards and committees and participate in the major assessment reports. It is these issues revealed in the HADCRU emails that concern me the most [...]"
- Frank J. Tipler, a Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, said, "The now non-secret data prove what many of us had only strongly suspected — that most of the evidence of global warming was simply made up. That is, not only are the global warming computer models unreliable, the experimental data upon which these models are built are also unreliable."
- An editorial in the New York Post said, "But the e-mails do seem to document a coordinated, stunningly unscientific effort to quell dissent on the question."
- U.S. Senator James Inhofe called for an investigation into whether a U.N. Panel that used data from the CRU was complicit in "cooking the books." Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for Inhofe said, "If these e-mails show there is collusion between scientists, a manipulation of raw temperature figures and pushing out scientists in the process, that would undermine the IPCC."
- MIT's Michael Schrage said the e-mails show "malice, mischief and Machiavellian maneuverings."
- Stephen Hayward, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote, "The emails do not in and of themselves reveal that catastrophic climate change scenarios are a hoax or without any foundation. What they reveal is something problematic for the scientific community as a whole, namely, the tendency of scientists to cross the line from being disinterested investigators after the truth to advocates for a preconceived conclusion about the issues at hand."
Four main issues
Observers of the scandal as it emerged said that the four most serious issues raised by the leaked documents are:
- The possibility that CRU scientists and some of those with whom they corresponded may have been attempting to shield raw data from the scrutiny of other scientists and the broader public. Retired Canadian mining consultant Stephen McIntyre, who writes for the "Climate Audit" website, says that the leaked e-mails to suggest a concerted attempt to shield raw data.
- The possibility that the data that underlies the CRU's claim that they have strong evidence for their theories about a warming trend in the earth's temperature is "murkier than the scientists have said." Leaked files of raw computer code and a log documenting a computer programmer’s years-long attempt to reconcile the data suggest a murky picture.
- The possibility that climate scientists tried to prevent the publication of papers written by climate skeptics. In some of the e-mails, the work of climate skeptics are described as “garbage” and “fraud.”
- The possibility that CRU staff engaged in a deliberate plan to shield documents from Britain's Freedom of Information laws.
Call for resignations
- On November 26, 2009, Dr. Eduardo Zorita, a contributing author to the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), wrote that Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Rahmstorf should be barred from the IPCC process because of what was revealed about them in the leaked documents. Zorita said that "the scientific assessments in which they may take part are not credible anymore." Zorita has been the head of the Department of Paleoclimate and a senior scientist at the Institute for Coastal Research of the GKSS Research Centre in Germany since 2003. He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific studies.
Source code problems revealed
Software engineer Dr John Graham-Cumming told the BBC that the source code used in the CRU's computer files "is way below expected standards for this type of commercial software."
Jones on November 16, 1999
An excerpt from one November 1999 e-mail authored by the head of the CRU, Phil Jones, reads:
- "I've just completed Mike's Nature [the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."
In the days following the leak, this sentence was often cited as evidence that Jones and others at CRU had engaged in data manipulation to support their theory that the earth's temperature has been increasing.
Trenberth on October 12, 2009
An email written by Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, discussed gaps in understanding of recent temperature variations: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't," Trenberth wrote. Trenberth, asked to account for the e-mail said that what he meant was that there is a need for improvement in measuring global warming to describe unusual data, such as rising sea surface temperatures. When he wrote "travesty", he says, what he meant was that there is an inadequate observing system that, if it were more adequate, would be able to track the warming he believes is there.
The University of East Anglia on December 3, 2009 picked Sir Muir Russell to investigate the e-mails and other information "to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes."
The results of Russell's investigations are expected to be announced in spring 2010. Muir, whose background is in physics, said, "...given the nature of the allegations it is right that someone who has no links to either the university or the climate science community looks at the evidence and makes recommendations based on what they find."
Russell is charged with:
- Reviewing "CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice."
- Reviewing "CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data."
- Reviewing and making recommendations "as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds."
On the same day that the University of East Anglia announced its investigation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced that it, too, will investigate claims that the CRU manipulated data to favour the conclusion that human activity is driving global warming. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC said, "We certainly don't want to brush anything under the carpet. This is a serious issue and we will look into it in detail."
- History of the Climactic Research Unit
- About the Climactic Research Unit
- The Weekly Standard, "Scientists Behaving Badly", December 14, 2009
- Climactic Research Unit, "CRU climate data already ‘over 95%’ available", November 28, 2009
- The Telegraph, "Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?", November 20, 2009
- Climategate: The Skeptical Scientist's View", November 26, 2009
- National Review, "What Story?", November 28, 2009
- Planet Gore, "As with the Truth about Acid Rain, the MSM Wants to Bury Climaquiddick", November 25, 2009
- Reuters, "Hacked climate e-mails awkward, not game changer", November 23, 2009
- The Guardian, "Global warming rigged? Here's the email I'd need to see", November 23, 2009
- Washington Post, "Hackers steal electronic data from top climate research center", November 21, 2009
- Climate Audit, "Curry: On the credibility of climate research", November 22, 2009
- New York Post, "Unsettling 'science'", November 25, 2009
- FOX News, "Key GOP Senator Pushes for Probe Into Climate Change Research", November 24, 2009
- New York Times, "Hacked E-Mail Data Prompts Calls for Changes in Climate Research", November 27, 2009
- Climate Depot, "UN scientists turn on each other: UN Scientist Declares Climategate colleagues Mann, Jones and Rahmstorf 'should be barred from the IPCC process' -- They are 'not credible any more'", November 27, 2009
- Climate Depot, "The New 'Deniers': UK Greenie George Monbiot: 'Most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial' -- 'Pretending the climate email leak isn't a crisis won't make it go away'", November 25, 2009
- BBC, "CRU's programming 'way below expected standards'
- Telegraph, "Climate scientists accused of 'manipulating global warming data'", November 21, 2009
- New York Times, "Hacked e-mail is fodder"
- MSNBC, "University in climate flap details inquiry", December 4, 2009
- BBC, "UN body wants probe of climate e-mail row", 4 December 2009