AP Investigation of “Climate-gate”

AP published an article today reporting on its review over 1,000 emails related to the so-called “climate-gate scandal.”  For the article, five AP reporters read (and re-read) the roughly 1 million words in the emails “for context.”  The conclusions are not likely to surprise those of us who spend much of our working lives thinking about climate change policy:  science addressing issues with deep social implications is surrounded by (and frequently interwoven with) political conflict, and sometimes these conflicts get very personal.  Here’s an excerpt:

“As part of the AP review, summaries of the e-mails that raised issues from the potential manipulation of data to intensely personal attacks were sent to seven experts in research ethics, climate science and science policy.

“This is normal science politics, but on the extreme end, though still within bounds,” said Dan Sarewitz, a science policy professor at Arizona State University. “We talk about science as this pure ideal and the scientific method as if it is something out of a cookbook, but research is a social and human activity full of all the failings of society and humans, and this reality gets totally magnified by the high political stakes here.”

In the past three weeks since the e-mails were posted, longtime opponents of mainstream climate science have repeatedly quoted excerpts of about a dozen e-mails. Republican congressmen and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have called for either independent investigations, a delay in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases or outright boycotts of the Copenhagen international climate talks. They cited a “culture of corruption” that the e-mails appeared to show.

That is not what the AP found. There were signs of trying to present the data as convincingly as possible.”

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