Earlier this week we published an interview Sharon Begley conducted with noted climate-change scientist James Hansen about his new book, Storms of My Grandchildren; the upcoming climate-change summit in Copenhagen; and the challenges presented to our ecosystem in the face of mounting evidence about the dangers of CO2 emissions. The interview, however, was conducted last week—well before news of the hacked climate-change e-mails was made public. Those e-mails, from some leading voices on climate change, suggest that researchers conspired to manipulate data so that evidence opposing climate change was minimized, leading some to suspect a larger conspiracy.
Many of the commenters on Newsweek.com's Web site were eager to hear Hansen's take on this development: did the e-mails cast doubt on the data he cites in the interview? Did Hansen support the actions of the scientists in question? Today Sharon Begley followed up with Hansen to ask just that. His answers after the jump—as well as in the original article, which we'll update with this information.
Last week, someone leaked e-mails obtained by hacking into the server at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Activists who have long denied the reality of climate change say they show that climatologists have engaged in a grand conspiracy to manufacture a case that global warming is occurring due to human activities. Do the hacked e-mails undermine the case for anthropogenic climate change?
No, they have no effect on the science. The evidence for human-made climate change is overwhelming.
Do the e-mails indicate any unethical efforts to hide data that do not support the idea of anthropogenic global warming, or to keep contrary ideas out of the scientific literature and the reports?
They indicate poor judgment in specific cases. First, the data behind any analysis should be made publicly available. Second, rather than trying so hard to prohibit publication of shoddy science, which is impossible, it is better that reviews, such as by IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences, summarize the full range of opinions and explain clearly the basis of the scientific assessment. The contrarians or deniers do not have a scientific leg to stand on. Their aim is to win a public-relations battle, or at least get a draw, which may be enough to stymie the actions that are needed to stabilize climate.