Kevin Trenberth on Hacking of Climate Files and "Climategate"
Written: July 2009
It should be a matter of concern to everyone that emails and personal information about individuals, including me, were illegally taken from the University of East Anglia through a hacking incident. The selective publication of some stolen emails taken out of context and distorted is mischievous and cannot be considered a genuine attempt to engage with the climate change issue in a responsible way. Instead there should be condemnation of the abuse, misuse and downright lies about the emails.
"It is quite clear from the paper that I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that recent temperatures are unusual in the context of short-term natural variability"
The material published relates to the work of the globally-respected Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and other scientists around the world. CRU's published research is, and has always been, fully peer-reviewed by the relevant journals, and is one strand of research underpinning the strong consensus that human activity is affecting the world's climate. [CRU Update]
Several top scientists who are quoted are from NCAR, including myself (Kevin Trenberth). Several of the emails document the detailed procedures used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR4 Fourth Assessment report for Chapter 3 (for which Phil Jones and Kevin Trenberth were coordinating lead authors) and other chapters. Many of the scientists featured in the emails with Jones have web sites and freely and openly make available their papers, presentations, blogs and other information.
In my case, one cherry-picked email quote has gone viral and at last check it was featured in over 107,000 items (in Google). Here is the quote: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." It is amazing to see this particular quote lambasted so often. It stems from a paper I published this year bemoaning our inability to effectively monitor the energy flows associated with short-term climate variability. It is quite clear from the paper that I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that recent temperatures are unusual in the context of short-term natural variability.
The paper on this is available here:
Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth's global energy. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 1, 19-27, doi: 10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001 [PDF]
This paper tracks the effects of the changing Sun, how much heat went into the land, ocean, melting Arctic sea ice, melting Greenland and Antarctica, and changes in clouds, along with changes in greenhouse gases. We can track this well for 1993 to 2003, but not for 2004 to 2008. It does NOT mean that global warming is not happening, on the contrary, it suggests that we simply can't fully explain why 2008 was as cool as it was, but with an implication that warming will come back, as it has. A major La Niña was underway in 2008, since June 2009 we have gone into an El Niño and the highest sea surface temperatures on record have been recorded in July 2009.
- IPCC Process [PDF]
- IPCC Assessment [PDF]
- IPCC Statement [PDF]
- Nature Editorial [Article]
- Union of Concerned Scientists [Article]
- The CRU E-mails: What is Really There? [Article]
- Comprehensive Evaluation given by Elizabeth May [Article]
- NY Times Editorial [Article]
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