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Showing 1-4 of 4 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 6 reviews
on March 23, 2015
Climate Science has become as much Politics as Science over the past twenty-five years. As a result, the arguments regarding Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) tend to raise the temperature when the AGW believers (normally Left or Liberal) and the Skeptics (often Conservatives) spar over any of the many contentious issues on the subject - be it Arctic ice thinning or the warming of the southern oceans or CO2 increase in the atmosphere or the melting of glaciers around the world. Both sides have been guilty of ad hominem attacks, alleging conspiracy theories and resorting to extremes. On the one hand, I think the Believers are guilty of fear-mongering by making dire predictions for Humanity about the future based mainly on computer models and extrapolation. On the other hand, the Skeptics are also guilty of possessing a missionary zeal in attacking the Believers with every small piece of evidence they can find to embarrass their opposition. It is in this vitiated and charged atmosphere that thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) were hacked and released on the internet for public scrutiny in 2009. The contents of many of the email exchanges showed the Climate Science community of scientists in rather dubious light, casting doubts on their professional integrity and competence. Needless to say, the Skeptics had a field day saying that their allegations of scientific manipulation and coercion on the part of the proponents of AGW have been vindicated by this episode - called `ClimateGate'. This book by the journalist Fred Pearce is one of the first books on the subject and it presents a well-documented and fair account of what really happened in Climate Gate and what its implications are for the future direction of research in this question.

The main contention of the book is that the Scientists in the eye of the storm - like Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Kevin Trenberth etc - meant well and that they did not try to hoodwink the public or act on behalf of some mega lobbies. The scientists were more guilty of omission rather than commission. He does not see a smoking gun pointing to big conspiracies or any scientific fraud. The author himself is obviously in support of the AGW theory because he says, "none of the 1,073 emails, or the 3,587 files containing documents, raw data and computer code upsets the 200-year-old science behind the "greenhouse effect". We might wish it weren't so, but the world still has a problem. A big problem".

Though I also believe that the scientists are people of integrity and honesty in general, I don't lightly dismiss the impact of the massive amount of money that seems to be involved in this whole saga. Many NGOs, the UN, major Western Governments and the Renewable Energy Sector are all big sources of funding for the support of AGW and hence, there can be a vested interest among scientists to keep looking for supporting evidence and dismissing data which are dissonant to AGW. Just as we cast doubt on the Skeptics for acting on behalf of the big fossil fuel companies, the scientists also must be subjected to greater scrutiny on this aspect of 'vested interest'. This is one issue the book does not deal with in relation to the email saga. The one other thing about the book is that it was written barely six months after the release of the emails in Nov 2009 and so one can wonder whether the author rushed to print without sufficient research. However, in the author's defence, he has been reporting on the subject for the Guardian newspaper for a couple of decades already and so a lot of the material might have come from his own past work.

One of the issues which seems to have emerged in this debate is doing Science in the modern context of Social Networking, emails and massive amount of scientific information on the internet. We find the scientists at CRU being dismissive of the rights of Skeptics like Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick to challenge the CRU scientists on Climate Science because they are just outsiders who are not scientists in the field or on the subject of Climate Science. However, Climategate shows that people like McIntyre are specialists in applied Statistics and they are able to analyze the methods used by scientists like Michael Mann and point out shortcomings in the way they have used Statistics to present the data. In some ways, the future of many areas of research could see well-informed outsiders challenging establishment scientists and asking for full disclosure of their data and methods in arriving at conclusions. The book shows that in the past twenty years, Climate scientists in the UK and the US have resisted these trends. One jarring note about the AGW believers is that they push the line that `Global Warming is settled science and a FACT and not just an opinion' and that there is consensus among scientists on this. The CRU scientists even accused the Skeptics of trying hard only to find errors in their data, methods and analysis! Even scientists at times can forget that the progress of Science has always happened only by such an approach!

In the end, the issue of the emails is not anywhere as important as the validity of the Computer models of Climate and the validity of the Forecasting method. Even scientists would admit that we do not know enough about the complexities of the interaction between the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere and the cryosphere to model them without uncertainties or errors. It is better to be more humble about our knowledge and exercise restraint in forecasting probabilities for the real world for the next hundred years.
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on January 15, 2013
The Climate Files
To be fair I am a skeptic about anthropogenic climate change but am convinced that climate change due to natural forces is constant. This book does a good job of describing the controversy between the two camps but leans visibly to the side of the UN Panel on Climate Change. However my main concern with this book was that it was preoccupied with the controversy between the camps and did not get into the actual science behind the controversy. The science is important.
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on March 31, 2012
A super book to guide the reader through the global warming controversy. It's about as impartial as possible, and written in a most accessible manner and style.
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on September 20, 2010
Although I read a lot about our Climate Wars, there is much in this book that I did not know. The author (Fred Pearce) is a UK reporter who talks directly with all sides of the debate and for that I will call him a semi-insider. He provides the time-sensitive context of many of the more celebrated emails extracted from Climate Research Unit (CRU) at University at East Anglia (UEA). For instance the "hide the decline" and "Mann's Nature trick" private email from Phil Jones (given in mid 1999 but released to the public in Nov 2009) was said by Sen Jim Inhofe in Dec 2009 to demonstrate that "the science [behind global warming] has been pretty much debunked" and "the science has been rigged". Let's explore that statement. For years the CRU has put out plots of the measured "instrumental" (aka thermometers) temperature data showing an approx 0.8C temperature increase since pre-industrial times mostly in two upturn periods 1910-1940, 1977-1998, other periods being essentially flat. It is the most fundamental evidence for global warming and the same data has been analyzed with similar results by NASA's GISS. Now according to Inhofe this data had really declined, the CRU knew that, and the "hide the decline" amounts to proof that they knew that but were fabricating data to say otherwise. But the context makes it clear that the "hide the deline" phrase was related to the Paleoclimatic data of over 1000+ years based on proxies, and not the instrumental temperature measurement starting globally in ~1850. The paleoclimatic researchers acknowledge "divergence" later than 1961 or 1981 (depending on the data set) in tree ring reconstructions which does not show consistent trends - temperatures from some trees went high, while others went down. Yet for the years 1850-1960, the tree ring data matches the temperature anomalies of the "instrumental record" quite well. So following Michael Mann's "hockey stick" article published by Nature magazine in 1998, the inconsistent paleoclimatic data (post 1961 or 1981) was replaced by an overlay of the "instrumental record" to display all the available (and reliable) data on one plot - this was "Mann's Nature's trick" which is not an attempt to deceive but an attempt to display all the relevant data on one plot. Jones was not "hiding the decline" in the instrumental data; instead he was hiding some of the latter unreliable Paleoclimatic data that they did not understand. This procedure was clearly pointed in Jones's text accompanying the plots as it was in Mann's papers earlier. No intent to "hide" anything and no "trick" was played. The "trick" referred to a data display choice and was shorthand in the context of private email between Jones and other climate researchers. Jones would have explained it more if he knew it was going to be a public text approx 10 years afterwards. And if by chance the Paleoclimatic data were totally debunked, global warming itself would remain as established fact by other data sources (instrumental record showing highest rates of heating since 1977 than ever recorded in the ice core data, satellite temperature records, sea level rise records, ocean heat records, etc). Boy that was detailed for a book review, but necessary to give the true context.

But one would be totally wrong, if one thought Pearce was merely a defender of the Climate Mainstream Scientists and a detractor of the Climate Skeptics. He starts out in chapter 1 by saying there are "no heroes" here - fault can be found in virtually all the players. Wrt the Mainstream, he comes down hard on Michael Mann (too sure of himself and verbose), Phil Jones (too eager to refuse release of data to the skeptics' FOI request), Rajendra Pachauri (too defensive about IPCC reports that actually had several mistakes in it among it's thousands of assertions), Kevin Trenberth (too quick to claim hurricane frequency was due to global warming); and not so hard on Tom Wigley (ex- CRU boss), Keith Briffa (tree ring researcher at CRU), and Stephen Schneider (Stanford U). Wrt the skeptics side, he comes down hard on Pat Michaels, Fred Seitz, Anthony Watts, Ross McKitrict, Bennie Peiser, Jim Inhofe, Myron Ebell (for being ideologically motivated and too adamant in scientific fields they did not understand fully); and not so hard on Steven McIntyre (data sleuth), Dick Lindzen (hurricane researcher from MIT), John Christy (climatologist from UAH). He discusses all the pointed technical discussions concerning the Hockey Stick, CRU email wording/context, GlacierGate, Yamal tree ring data, number of stations in the temperature data, and the accounting for Urban Heat Island effects. You will find plenty of "red meat" about CRU and Manistream Scientist "tribalism", lack of williingness to release data, and sloppiness in the caretake of data. You will also find plenty of details of who funds the many skeptics orgainzation (and a few who hide their funding), and the outlandish PR coming from that side (e.g calling GW a "hoax", with data maliciously "manipulated", the earth is actually cooling). As such both sides could use this book selectively to badmouth the other side.

But in the end, Pearce believes that the Mainstream Scientist position is the correct one as he stated in the first paragraph of the final chapter (I'd like to quote it but not sure that I should copyright-wise). Pearce just believes the details have to be cleaned up in a very public/transparent/thorough way. I agree.

After reading this, I feel a thorough reconstruction of all the available "original" data needs to be done by truly independent people doing the heavy analysis with all "sides" as watchdogs/guides all working together (may be too much to ask for). None of the three CRU email investigative teams have had the time or charter to do so. This will in all likelihood prove out the mainstream position of man-caused global warming and the need to control greenhouse gases. But nontheless the interested public needs and deserves convincing (if such is possible). I also would demand a opening up of the global warming skeptic organizations' email files/data(if they have any) to similiar scrutiny as the CRU has received, all in the interest of truth.

The book is well written (a few Britainisms) and reads like a detective story. I recommend it highly to interested parties.
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