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Climategate Puts Warming in Question

By Nolan Finley, Detroit News - November 26, 2009

President Barack Obama is about to stride off to Copenhagen, where he'll sign away any hope that America can return to sustained prosperity.

The president promises next month's international palaver on climate change will be marked by aggressive action to combat global warming and a firm commitment by the United States to shoulder its share of the responsibility.

Translation: Obama will pledge the United States to curbing its appetite for energy, and thus its economic growth, will make reducing emissions a higher priority than creating new jobs and will agree to transfer $1.6 trillion of our wealth to China, India and the other booming developing economies.

And it may be based on doctored numbers.

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The so-called Climategate scandal hasn't hit the front pages of American newspapers yet and may never. But it ought to at least raise the skepticism level of a public that has been panicked into believing the sky is falling, or the polar caps are melting, because of manmade global warming.

Purloined e-mails between some of the leading producers of climate change science reveal what seems to be a deliberate attempt to manipulate and distort data to deliver the desired outcome. The e-mails were hacked from the United Kingdom's University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, an institution that has led in documenting global warming and whose findings have driven United Nations' environmental policy.

The research unit has been notoriously protective of its data, fighting off those who want a closer look at its methodology. Messages between the unit's scientists and officials suggest a deliberate campaign to answer calls for public disclosure with a smear job against those who question the validity of climate change science.

The scandal provides an opening for the United States, which will pay the highest price if a climate change treaty is signed, to say, "Let's call a time-out and look at the tape."

Research skeptical of climate change is denounced as quackery. But science should never be "settled," as the global warming industry has declared this matter to be. Nor should it be cause driven, massaged to align with popular movements.

It should be cold, impassive and willing to prove itself against dissenting theories. It should welcome new evidence, even if it alters its assumptions.

This isn't how climate change scientists work, according to the stolen e-mails. The British center seems motivated entirely by defending its findings to perpetuate the public policies it worked so hard to influence. It also seems willing to destroy findings that dispute their established position.

This is why we can't get a credible answer to why global temperatures have been flat for a decade. The warming warriors who cited every abnormality in weather patterns -- falling lake levels, droughts, hurricanes, milder winters -- as proof of climate change's impact, now tell us that the reversal or disappearance of those abnormalities are a cyclical blip within the longer trend.

Maybe, maybe not. We can't be sure because the science is settled, and those who would tackle contrary research do so at their own peril.

This matters because world leaders are about to embark on an environmental crusade that will dramatically alter the international economy and the quality of our lives.

We are obliged to make sure the research can be trusted.

Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The News. Reach him at nfinley@detnews.com or (313) 222-2064. His column is published on Thursday and Sunday. Read his blog at detnews.com/finley and watch him at 8:30 p.m. Fridays on "Am I Right?" on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.

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© Copyright 2009 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.

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