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A more transparent approach Ken Perrott Apr 11

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A recent statment from the Royal Society of NZ has drawn out some comment. Entitled Science, Climate Change and Integrity it is by  Professor Keith A Hunter.

Of course some of the local climate change deniers have been busy raking up pseudo-scientific arguments to discredit the article (see Errors in Royal Society of NZ climate change paper and Emanations from Royal Society less than lordly). We have come to expect this. But they have been so busy arrogantly trying to discredit the Royal Society they missed the most important content – the comments on disclosure of information and adopting a more transparent approach.

Keith deplores the:

“attacks on the integrity and professionalism of scientists themselves, usually in circumstances where they are unable to defend themselves, or unwilling to make themselves the target of personal abuse. Some prominent climate scientists have even received threats of violence against them or their families.”

But he does see the positive side of “climategate.” The lessons that can be learned:

“If the intensity of the personal attacks on climate scientists over recent months are to have any positive effect, it will be the adoption of a more transparent approach to the dissemination of information. In this regard, the Royal Society of New Zealand intends to play its part by developing a Code of Practice for Public Dissemination of Information that it hopes will assist the various New Zealand science organisations in improving their practices.

At the same time, of course, it is only fair to expect the critics of the mainstream scientific views on climate change (and other contentious areas of science) to adopt an equally transparent approach with their own information, and with their own use and re-analysis of data entrusted to the public domain. They should also subject their findings to rigorous peer review. Opinion, however forthrightly expressed, will not change the laws of basic science.”

This is heartening. I think most scientists will welcome such a “Code of Practice.” The public dissemination of scientific data has developed on a more or less ad hoc basis. There have been technological issues as well as problems with the whole free market ideology inherent in NZ science over the last 20 years which inhibit freedom of information. After all, our managers were desperately searching for ways to “capture” intellectual property and to make a profit.

The “climategate” inquiries into Michael Mann at Pennysylvian State University and Phil Jones at the Climate Reasearch Unit, University of East Anglia confirmed the importance of this issue, while finding no evidence of scientific misbehaviour (see Spinning exoneration of Dr. Michael Mann Into ’Whitewash’ and Climate scientist Phil Jones exonerated). I expect those inquiries which have yet to report will also confirm this analysis.

I hope the Royal Society calls for input from NZ scientists during the development of this code. I also hope that the Society will be able to incorporate procedures related the use of public data by crtics. Ways of ensuring that they “adopt an equally transparent approach with their own information, and with their own use and re-analysis of data entrusted to the public domain. They should also subject their findings to rigorous peer review. Opinion, however forthrightly expressed, will not change the laws of basic science.”

Critics avoid transparency themselves

Talking about transparency and responsibility. Ever tried to get data and/or methodology from these critics? I tried to get information from Richard Treadgold, author of the discredited climate change denial report ’Are we warmer yet?’ Produced by The Climate Science Coalition, the Climate Conversation Group this misrepresented NIWA science, disgracefully attacked NZ scientists and made completely unwarranted scientific claims. My analysis indicates that the data they used was also problematic, either not being the same as the NIWA data or massaged in a strange way.

However, no luck. Despite their demands that NIWA reveal data and methodology they are just not prepared to do so themselves. have a look at the record of my attempts and their constant avoidance in the emails which can be downloaded (deniergate emails).

See also: Thoughts on Hunter’s statement on Science, Climate Change and Integrity

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Climate scientist Phil Jones exonerated Ken Perrott Mar 31

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The UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee has released its report into “climategate” – some of the issues surrounding the release of stolen emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit.

It effectively exonerates Phil Jones from  charges of withholding data and questionable scientific ethics.

The text of the press release is below and the committee’s report [PDF] provides detailed responses on each of the issues raised in its investigation.


CLIMATE SCIENCE MUST BECOME MORE TRANSPARENT SAY MPs

The Science and Technology Committee today publishes its report on the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The Committee calls for the climate science community to become more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies.

Phil Willis MP, Committee Chair, said:

“Climate science is a matter of global importance. On the basis of the science, governments across the world will be spending trillions of pounds on climate change mitigation. The quality of the science therefore has to be irreproachable. What this inquiry revealed was that climate scientists need to take steps to make available all the data that support their work and full methodological workings, including their computer codes. Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided.”

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails–”trick” and “hiding the decline”–the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

On the mishandling of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, the Committee considers that much of the responsibility should lie with the University, not CRU. The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure, particularly to climate change sceptics. The failure of the University to grasp fully the potential damage this could do and did was regrettable. The University needs to re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in FoI requests is limited.

via UK Parliament – S&T PN32/100331.

Download the full report: ’The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.’

YouTube – ‘Climategate’ row scientist cleared of wrongdoing.

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See also:
The rickety bandwagon of climate change denial
Climategate inquiry: no proof of fraud, better disclosure called for

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Spinning exoneration of Dr. Michael Mann Into ’Whitewash’ Ken Perrott Feb 09

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Dr Michael Mann, Penn State University

I have read the full report of this inquiry Concerning the Allegations of Research Misconduct Against Dr. Michael E. Mann and find the whole business interesting. Here are my reasons – quotes are from the report:

1: No specific charges for Mann to confront

Instead the University had received:

“numerous communications (emails, phone calls and letters) accusing Dr. Michael E. Mann of having engaged in acts that included manipulating data, destroying records and colluding to hamper the progress of scientific discourse around the issue of anthropogenic global warming from approximately 1998. These accusations were based on perceptions of the content of the widely reported theft of emails from a server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain.”

So, all sorts of wild claims were being made as part of the hysterical fall out from “climategate” – the illegal release of emails in the UK. This was promoted by conservative bloggers and media outlets, by the deniersphere’s echo chamber.

“….. no formal allegations accusing Dr. Mann of research misconduct were submitted to any University official …the emails and other communications were reviewed [and] synthesized [into] the following four formal allegations.  …. The four synthesized allegations were as follows:”

1. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data?

2. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?
3. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to you in your capacity as an academic scholar?
4. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community.

So – no formal charges or accusations. This forced the inquiry to synthesis their own from implied accusations from the deluge of hysterical emails and comments. They were not accusations of the inquiry or the University themselves!

2: No evidence to substantiate allegations

None at all. Not for any of the four allegations! The report discusses each accusation and detail and gives it’s clear finding that “there is no substance for this allegation.”

Naturally Dr Mann expressed pleasure at the result:

“I am very pleased that, after a thorough review, the independent Penn State committee found no evidence to support any of the allegations against me.  …. This is very much the vindication I expected since I am confident I have done nothing wrong.”

This does sort of expose the hysterical “climategate” beat up for what it was, doesn’t it. We can seriously discuss deficiencies in the way scientists at the University of East Anglia handled freedom of information requests, how they should be disciplined for this, etc.,  because there are specific charges and evidence. But the witch hunt against individuals like Dr Mann is exposed as hysterical hot air.

3: Further investigation by peers required

This was jumped on by some of the most biased commenters to claim a denier victory. Locally, conspiracy theorist Ian Wishart, claimed the inquiry was “widening “(Hockey-stick’s Michael Mann under deeper investigation). Blogger Poneke claimed Hockey stick fabricator Michael Mann to face further scrutiny in the wake of Climategate emails leak. Similar headlines appeared overseas and in the twittersphere.

However, this was simply a result of the inquiry committee finding itself unable to make a definitive finding on accusation 4 (deviation from accepted practices within the academic community for research). The decided this requited a “review by a committee of faculty scientists.” Clearly they saw that anything short of this would be seen as a whitewash saying: “Only with such a review will the academic community and other interested parties likely feel that Penn State has discharged it responsibility on this matter.”

Consequently an investigatory committee of five faculty members “with impeccable credentials” was set up and will report back within 120 days.

This will of course add extra reliability to Mann’s vindication. He commented “I fully support the additional inquiry which may be the best way to remove any lingering doubts. I intend to cooperate fully in this matter — as I have since the beginning of the process.

You can find the full report of the inquiry panel here: Concerning the Allegations of Research Misconduct Against Dr. Michael E. Mann

See also:
Climate change deniers’ tawdry manipulation of ’hockey sticks’
Breaking: Penn State inquiry finds no evidence for allegations against Michael Mann
Brendan Demelle | Climate Skeptics Try To Spin Penn State Exoneration of Dr. Michael Mann Into ’Whitewash’.
Michael Mann updates the world on the latest climate science and responds to the illegally hacked emails
Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years
Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, ’seminal’ study finds
Abandoning all journalistic standards, CBS libels Michael Mann based on a YouTube video – while reporting his exoneration!

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’Climategate’ — the smoking gun? Ken Perrott Nov 26

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Some of the more extreme climate change deniers, and others who have an anti-science agenda, continue to dredge through the domestic debris of the emails stolen by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia. Their conclusions are, of course, predictable.  Meanwhile, the balanced media summary oif this fiasco is probably well represented by George Monbiot in the Guardian: “The leaked exchanges are disturbing, but it would take a conspiracy of a very different order to justify sceptics’ claims.” (see Global warming rigged? Here’s the email I’d need to see ).

I particularly liked his depiction of the email that the climate change deniers and their allies would dearly love to find. It’s a great satire and portrays some of the silliest conspiracy theories promulgated by deniers.

From:

Sent: 29 October 2009

To: The Knights Carbonic

Gentlemen, the culmination of our great plan approaches fast. What the Master called “the ordering of men’s affairs by a transcendent world state, ordained by God and answerable to no man”, which we now know as Communist World Government, advances towards its climax at Copenhagen. For 185 years since the Master, known to the laity as Joseph Fourier, launched his scheme for world domination, the entire physical science community has been working towards this moment.

The early phases of the plan worked magnificently. First the Master’s initial thesis — that the release of infrared radiation is delayed by the atmosphere — had to be accepted by the scientific establishment. I will not bother you with details of the gold paid, the threats made and the blood spilt to achieve this end. But the result was the elimination of the naysayers and the disgrace or incarceration of the Master’s rivals. Within 35 years the 3rd Warden of the Grand Temple of the Knights Carbonic (our revered prophet John Tyndall) was able to “demonstrate” the Master’s thesis. Our control of physical science was by then so tight that no major objections were sustained.

More resistance was encountered (and swiftly dispatched) when we sought to install the 6th Warden (Svante Arrhenius) first as professor of physics at Stockholm University, then as rector. From this position he was able to project the Master’s second grand law — that the infrared radiation trapped in a planet’s atmosphere increases in line with the quantity of carbon dioxide the atmosphere contains. He and his followers (led by the Junior Warden Max Planck) were then able to adapt the entire canon of physical and chemical science to sustain the second law.

Then began the most hazardous task of all: our attempt to control the instrumental record. Securing the consent of the scientific establishment was a simple matter. But thermometers had by then become widely available, and amateur meteorologists were making their own readings. We needed to show a steady rise as industrialisation proceeded, but some of these unfortunates had other ideas. The global co-option of police and coroners required unprecedented resources, but so far we have been able to cover our tracks.

The over-enthusiasm of certain of the Knights Carbonic in 1998 was most regrettable. The high reading in that year has proved impossibly costly to sustain. Those of our enemies who have yet to be silenced maintain that the lower temperatures after that date provide evidence of global cooling, even though we have ensured that eight of the 10 warmest years since 1850 have occurred since 2001. From now on we will engineer a smoother progression.

Our co-option of the physical world has been just as successful. The thinning of the Arctic ice cap was a masterstroke. The ring of secret nuclear power stations around the Arctic circle, attached to giant immersion heaters, remains undetected, as do the space-based lasers dissolving the world’s glaciers.

Altering the migratory and reproductive patterns of the world’s wildlife has proved more challenging. Though we have now asserted control over the world’s biologists, there is no accounting for the unauthorised observations of farmers, gardeners, birdwatchers and other troublemakers. We have therefore been forced to drive migrating birds, fish and insects into higher latitudes, and to release several million tonnes of plant pheromones every year to accelerate flowering and fruiting. None of this is cheap, and ever more public money, secretly diverted from national accounts by compliant governments, is required to sustain it.

The co-operation of these governments requires unflagging effort. The capture of George W Bush, a late convert to the cause of Communist World Government, was made possible only by the threatened release of footage filmed by a knight at Yale, showing the future president engaged in coitus with a Ford Mustang. Most ostensibly capitalist governments remain apprised of where their real interests lie, though I note with disappointment that we have so far failed to eliminate Vaclav Klaus. Through the offices of compliant states, the Master’s third grand law has been established: world government will be established under the guise of controlling man-made emissions of greenhouse gases.

Keeping the scientific community in line remains a challenge. The national academies are becoming ever more querulous and greedy, and require higher pay-offs each year. The inexplicable events of the past month, in which the windows of all the leading scientific institutions were broken and a horse’s head turned up in James Hansen’s bed, appear to have staved off the immediate crisis, but for how much longer can we maintain the consensus? Knights Carbonic, now that the hour of our triumph is at hand, I urge you all to redouble your efforts. In the name of the Master, go forth and terrify.

Professor Ernst Kattweizel, University of Redcar. 21st Grand Warden of the Temple of the Knights Carbonic.

Monbiot concludes: “This is the kind of conspiracy the deniers need to reveal to show that man-made climate change is a con. The hacked emails are a hard knock, but the science of global warming withstands much more than that.”

What do you think? Is he being a bit harsh?

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Those ’climategate’ emails Ken Perrott Nov 24

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The current “scandal” erupting around the hacking of servers at the University of East Anglias’ Climate Research Centre is rather predictable. The public release of stolen emails has been seized on by climate change deniers as evidence for their claims of manipulated data and faulty peer-review. Even more dishonestly they have been used to attack the integrity of science, and scientists, in general – quite apart form any climate change issue (see for example WarmingGate, The scientific community and self-criticism, Climate scientists caught lying and How the Global Warming Scientists Really Work at four local religious apologetics blogs). On the other hand, researchers and many newspaper commentators say the emails show nothing more than frank discussion between scientists around the world and details of their collaboration on research projects and journal articles.

Domestic debris and media comments

Anyone interested in the boredom of trawling through such domestic debris can access the stolen emails at Alleged CRU Emails. For some more balanced news media coverage have a look at:
This climate email -hacking episode is generating more heat than light
Global warming rigged? Here’s the email I’d need to see
Climate change email hacking to be looked into by University of East Anglia
Leaked emails mark dangerous shift in climate denial strategy
Climate change champion and sceptic both call for inquiry into leaked emails
Leaked email climate smear was a PR disaster for UEA

And a rather humorous take on “climategate” is available here: Newtongate: the final nail in the coffin of Renaissance and Enlightenment ‘thinking’

Predictably only the most apparently damning emails have been quoted in the media. While I think some of the language in the emails is disappointing I don’t think it is surprising for informal private communications.  The scientific institutes  involved may well  be adivsed to investigate specific comments, if only to reinforce their scientific integrity in the public mind. But I will be surprised if these comments indicate any real scientific fraud.

The NZ Science Media Centre has released a summary of reactions from UK-based scientists. It originates from their sister organisation, the Science Media Centre in London.

Dr Chris Huntingford, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), said:

“Using the very comprehensive set of temperature measurements available to us, we do know that there has been significant warming over the last hundred years. These datasets have been compiled by independent research laboratories in both the UK and the USA.”Computer model descriptions of the climate system are increasing in their predictive skill, and there are now very good reasons to believe that their output is accurate and can be trusted. These simulations provide compelling evidence of the link between global warming and increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide due to the burning of fossil fuels.

“Such state-of-the-art computer models of how the climate functions do also account for natural cycles in the Earth system. However, when the additional influence of humans is not considered, they are unable to explain the rapid rate of warming that has been observed over the last Century. The implication is that to a very high level of certainty, the warming observed in the last Century is not part of a natural cycle.

“Almost all current scientific understanding of how the climate system operates suggests that humankind is having an influence on our climate system.”

Professor John Burrows, Director of the Biogeochemistry Programme, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), said:

“The peer review scientific process was created to try to avoid conspiracies from any side on an issue. Despite the adverse reaction in some quarters the current discussion is a perfect example that whilst it doesn’t always look perfect, an open debate, backed up by peer review,  is what science is all about.

“Whilst not ignoring “emailgate” we should not inadvertently move the public attention from the established scientific consensus to the attempt at character assassination being made by these climate change sceptics.

“The basic physics of global climate change has been known since Arrhenius at the end of the 19th century if not before. The four Assessment Reports from the IPCC are consistent, however, the data since 1990 seems to follow worst case scenarios. To me this is evidence that the scientific community is behaving responsibly and rather cautiously with respect to the science of climate change.”

Professor Piers Forster, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, said:

“Scientists at the Climate Research Unit are leading experts in the world’s temperature record. They do an amazingly hard job of collecting data from lots of counties, looking at errors and putting the different datasets together. They have been under increasing pressure from a few individuals to respond to multiple FOI calls. Like all us scientists they are short of man-power and stretch their resources to the maximum to do as much new science as possible. The need to respond to FOI requests are often too large to make them feasibly achievable and whilst some of the emails show scientists to be all too human, nothing I have read makes me doubt the veracity of the peer review process or the general warming trend in the global temperature record. I know that when errors in their global temperature product have previously been found (e.g. Thomson et al., 2008, Nature), they responded as all scientists should, researching the source of the error with true scientific enthusiasm.”

Dr Stephan Harrison, Associate Professor in Quaternary Science, School of Geography, University of Exeter, said:

“The emails from the Climatic Research Unit which have been published on the internet have been seized upon by climate change sceptics as evidence that scientists are involved in a global warming conspiracy, suppression of dissenting voices and making data up to support a global warming agenda.  We shouldn’t get too carried away, however. Irrespective of what may or may not have been said in some private emails, this doesn’t change the physical properties of carbon dioxide, and doesn’t change the fact that human activity is warming the planet.  There’s a lot of politics in all of this debate, but it is the science that has to drive policy.”

Kathy Maskell, Spokesperson, & Professor Rowan Sutton, Walker Institute, University of Reading, said:

“Throughout the Earth’s history there have been natural changes in climate caused by many factors, including variations in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, volcanic eruptions, and changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. The scientific evidence now shows that people are changing the global climate.

“Climate scientists look at both natural factors that cause climate to change and they look at the effect that people are having on climate. There is no doubt that human activity, such as burning fossil fuels and agriculture, is increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This increase in greenhouse gases is causing the globe to warm.

“The current warmth is unusual in the context of the last 1000 years (at least) and is not just part of a natural cycle. Past changes are also thought to have occurred much more slowly than the warming over the 20th century.

“The majority of scientists agree that much of the warming since the mid-20th century is very likely due to increasing greenhouse gases being produced by human activity. Scientists have looked at different possible causes for the warming. Natural changes (like changes in the Sun’s output) cannot explain 20th century warming. The only way to reproduce the warming over the 20th century is to include the effects that people are having on the climate.

“Over the 20th century as a whole there has been a warming trend of 0.7 degrees centigrade and the warming has accelerated since the mid-20th century. The warming has not been steady and there have been periods of cooling. This is exactly what climate scientists would expect. As well as increasing greenhouse gases, natural factors (such as volcanic eruptions and changes in sea surface temeprature in the Pacific called El Nino) are also affecting global temperature. So scientists would expect there to be short periods where there is less warming and even cooling, but overall the trend is towards higher global temperatures.”


Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

Once appropriate action has been taken over the hacking, there has to be some process to assess the substance of the e-mail messages as well. The selective disclosure and dissemination of the messages has created the impression of impropriety, and the only way of clearing the air now would be through a rigorous investigation. I have sympathy for the climate researchers at the University of East Anglia and other institutions who have been the target of an aggressive campaign by so-called ’sceptics’ over a number of years. But I fear that only a thorough investigation could now clear their names.

“There needs to be an assurance that these e-mail messages have not revealed inappropriate conduct in the preparation of journal articles and in dealing with requests from other researchers for access to data. This will probably require investigations both by the host institutions and by the relevant journals. There may also be a role for the UK Office of Research Integrity to advise on any investigation.

“The e-mail messages I have seen posted on ’sceptics” websites do not cast doubt on the basic physical fact that the Earth is warming in response to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. ‘Sceptics’ may seek to wrongly portray these e-mail messages as a smoking gun from a worldwide conspiracy to create a global warming hoax, but that is simply a ridiculous fantasy.”

Dr Andy Challinor, lecturer in Climate Change Modelling, University of Leeds, said:

“Scientists are frequently faced with choices about methods of presenting data. The aim is to represent the underlying facts clearly, and there is rarely a single correct way of doing this. The mechanisms for anthropogenic climate change are established science that is well-understood. The idea that the many scientists across the globe working on climate change could collude in misrepresenting the fundamentals of the science is ludicrous, since it would be both counter-cultural to science and logistically impossible.”

Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, Industrial Fellow, University of Cambridge BP Institute, said:

“The evidence base for climate change continues to be debated. However, what is disappointing is that there is less debate about what we should be doing morally regardless of the strength of the case for or against climate change being driven by mankind. Even if some people want to dismiss the evidence base, what do they think we should do as responsible citizens? Clearly we should be seeking ways of reducing our impact on the planet – this is irrefutable.

“Improving energy efficiency and switching to non/low-carbon energy sources are vital. In the case of improved energy efficiency, there are strong economic arguments today as to why this should be done now. In the case of switching to non/low carbon energy sources, the economic arguments are longer-term and may involve consideration of the cost of climate change as per the Stern report. In summary, I fail to understand why people want to debate the evidence base for climate change rather than debate what we should be doing anyway to reduce our impact on the planet. The technological advances in energy efficiency need to be adopted by more people, and more quickly, before we invest more time debating climate change! “

(Further Information: To talk to any of the experts quoted above contact the Science Media Centre on tel: 04 499 5476 or email: )

I realise these comments will have no influence on the more adamant climate change deniers or those who wish to sneeringly smear and attack science and scientists for their own ideological or religious reasons. But hopefully more reasonable people will be able to see through such attacks and recognise that these stolen emails don’t indicate any widespread conspiracy to deceive.
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