Monday, December 07, 2009

'Climategate' complicates Copenhagen, but doesn't undercut global-warming science, experts say

Last week we briefly analyzed "Climategate," the name global-warming skeptics use to describe the stolen e-mails between world-renowned climate scientists. Now the controversy is providing added context for the global climate negotiations beginning today in Copenhagen, Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder of The New York Times report. As global leaders converge to discuss a new climate treaty, the e-mails have led to renewed attacks on the basic science of climate change.

"The uproar has threatened to complicate a multiyear diplomatic effort already ensnared in difficult political, technical and financial disputes that have caused leaders to abandon hopes of hammering out a binding international climate treaty this year," the Times reporters write. Despite the public outcry, an array of scientists and policy makers have told the reporters that nothing so far disclosed in the e-mails undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science. "Even some who remain skeptical about the extent or pace of global warming say that the premise underlying the Copenhagen talks is solid: that warming is to some extent driven by greenhouse gases spewing into the atmosphere from human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation," Revkin and Broder write.

Their key example is Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado, "who has been highly critical of the United Nations climate panel and ... branded many of the scientists now embroiled in the e-mail controversy part of a climate 'oligarchy'.” Pielke told the writers there is no real dispute that unusual warming is occuring, because it is widely and independently measured, and “The role of added carbon dioxide as a major contributor in climate change has been firmly established.”(Read more)

Len Peters, a chemical engineer who is secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, told Jim Bruggers of The Courier-Journal in Louisville that the e-mails appear to have been taken out of context and exploited by people who don't understand give and take among scientists. “Now, are there some things we don't know about climate change? Absolutely,” Peters said. "But we know something is happening, and man certainly seems to be having some impact on the climate." (Read more)

In his "Morning Meeting," Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute also passes along several resources for local journalists covering the Copenhagen conference and climate change.

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