With Copenhagen on horizon, Canadian scientists dispel myths of climate e-mails

On November 20, thousands of e-mails and other files stolen from the University of East Anglia’s climate-research unit were posted on the Internet. The documents suggest that the university’s data included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report was manipulated to suppress conflicting evidence.

Since then, the public response from the scientific community has been minimal. But two of Canada’s prominent climate-change experts have taken the scandal head-on.

University of Manitoba climate scientist David Barber dismissed allegations that the United Nations body’s report rested on the work of UEA. He described this as “nonsense”.

“We don’t make decisions as a civilization based on four people,” Barber told the Georgia Straight. “The whole concept [of the IPCC] is to synthesize research results from all over the planet, in all the different facets of climate change.”

Barber, who specializes in Arctic sea ice, explained that UEA’s primary contribution to the IPCC was a general circulation model for global temperatures. But many other groups have performed similar studies. Furthermore, Barber said, temperature readings for those studies are taken around the world. The IPCC then synthesizes all of that information and combines it with observational data on things like sea ice, permafrost, ocean acidification, and so on.

The research performed at UEA was “just one little piece”, Barber said. “If this is true, and they did cook the numbers for this one data set”¦what about all the other ones?”

Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at the University of Victoria and a lead author of three IPCC assessment reports, described the whole situation as “ridiculous”. He noted that although skeptics of human-caused climate change decry UEA’s data as manipulated, they continue to cite it as evidence of a decade-long period of global cooling.

“They don’t actually care whether anything they’re doing is consistent,” Weaver said.

He explained that there are three research centres widely cited for their work on temperature records: UEA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Of the three, it is only UEA’s numbers that describe 1998 as the warmest year on record. NOAA’s and NASA’s figures indicate that 2005 held the highest average global temperature ever recorded.

“You can’t, on the one hand, say, ”˜This data record is absolute shite,’ ” Weaver emphasized, “and on the other, say that the planet has been cooling for 10 years.”

He decried the time the world has spent talking about a conspiracy allegedly involving tens of thousands of scientists, and emphasized the importance of the upcoming climate-change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“This is our last chance, as a world, to deal with this problem,” Weaver said. “If we do not come out of Copenhagen with a strong, binding agreement, we can kiss two degrees goodbye.”

You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.




Dec 3, 2009 at 2:50pm

There is no doubt Prof Weaver feels passionately about this subject and brings to it a sense of urgency, even emergency:

“This is our last chance, as a world, to deal with this problem,” Weaver said. “If we do not come out of Copenhagen with a strong, binding agreement, we can kiss two degrees goodbye.”

Similarly, In March of this year he wrote an opinion piece for Tzeporah Berman's "ZeroCarbonCanada" website which contained the following passages summarily dismissing the views of recreationalists who have opposed run-of-river projects:

We need staggering amounts of energy conservation, emissions cuts and renewable energy. And all need to be deployed at an unprecedented rate.

Switching from fossil fuels to emissions-free energy sources is not going to happen without resistance. Each new hydro and wind project is being opposed by well-meaning citizens and environmental groups not familiar with the science. Each energy conservation policy is fought bitterly by “public interest groups” demagoguing to keep energy subsidized. Each attempt to tax carbon and each law to reduce emissions draws the fossil fuel lobby into action alongside these “public interest” groups.

The public debate has become a caricature. People complain about windmills blocking their view. Kayakers complain about seeing a transmission line on their weekend excursions. The public dialogue is riddled with outlandish and demonstrably false assertions such as windmills will devastate local bird populations or a hydro project will create more greenhouse emissions than it will displace by eliminating a coal-burning power plant. Some of the most insidious arguments attempt to slow things down: that we should do more planning, that we should do energy conservation first and build renewable energy later, that we shouldn’t do anything until China does.


Obviously, Dr Weaver has zero patience with anyone who opposes his point of view, and the point of view of those business firms in the IPP sector.

Rod Smelser

Judy Cross

Dec 3, 2009 at 3:35pm

The supporters of Mann-made global warming are all on the gravy train of government grants and foundation funding and are part of what Lomborg called the "Climate Industrial Complex". Surely there must be a Canadian skeptic Mr. Lupick could interview? How about Dr. R. Tim Patterson, Prof. of Geology, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University, Ottawa,Email: tpatters@earthsci.carleton.ca?

No oil money there. His research was often sponsored by the BC Fisherman's Union.