Almost daily, we learn about new problems with the formerly respected UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): In their 2001 report, they claimed that the 20th century was "unusual" and blamed it on human-released greenhouse gases. Their infamous temperature graph shown there, shaped like a hockey stick, did away with the well-established Medieval Warm Period (around 1000AD, when Vikings were able to settle in Southern Greenland and grow crops there) and the following Little Ice Age (around 1400 to 1800AD). Two Canadians exposed the bad data used by the IPCC and the statistical errors in their analysis.
The most recent IPCC report of 2007 predicted the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers within 25 years; the imminent death of nearly half the Amazon rain forest; and major damage from stronger hurricanes -- all in contradiction to expert opinions offered by its appointed reviewers, but ignored by IPCC editors for mostly ideological reasons. More scandalous even, the IPCC based their lurid predictions on anecdotal, non-peer-reviewed sources -- not at all in accord with its solemnly announced principles and scientific standards.
These events showed not only a general sloppiness of IPCC procedures but also an extreme bias -- quite inappropriate to a supposedly impartial scientific survey. By themselves, they do not invalidate the basic IPCC conclusion -- that a warming in the latter half of the 20th century was human-caused, presumably by the rise of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Yet all of these missteps pale in comparison to ClimateGate, which calls into question the very temperature data used by the IPCC's main policy result.
As the leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia (UK) reveal, this IPCC conclusion -- that Global Warming is anthropogenic -- is based on manipulated data and therefore flawed -- as are demands for the control of CO2 emissions, like the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord. In my opinion, ClimateGate is a much more serious issue than simply sloppiness and ideological distortion; ClimateGate suggests conspiracy to commit fraud.
Let us recall: The e-mails leaked in the fall of 2009 allow us to trace the machinations of a small but influential band of British and US climate scientists who played the lead role in the IPCC reports. It appears that this group, which controlled access to basic temperature data, was able to produce a "warming" by manipulating the analysis of the data, but refused to share information on the basic data or details of their analysis with independent scientists who requested them -- in violation of Freedom of Information laws. In fact, they went so far as to keep any dissenting views from being published -- by monopolizing the peer-review process, aided by ideologically cooperative editors of prestigious journals, like Science and Nature.
Woe to these dissenting scientists, however. The younger ones were denied an opportunity to advance or receive academic tenure -- or were simply fired. The independent ones were maligned as "deniers" and ostracized. In many instances, commercially operated 'smear blogs' invented slurs; the most common ones being "tool of the oil industry" or "paid by the tobacco lobby." In my own case, my Wiki bio also carried additional malicious accusations; the most bizarre one was that I believed in the existence of Martians.
We learn from the e-mails that the ClimateGate gang was able to "hide the decline" [of global temperature] by applying what they termed as "tricks," and that they intimidated editors and forced out those judged to be "uncooperative." No doubt, thorough investigations, now in progress or planned, will disclose the full range of their nefarious activities. But it is clear that this small cabal was able to convince much of the world that climate disasters were impending -- unless drastic steps were taken. Not only were most of the media, public, and politicians misled, but so were many scientists, national academies of science, and professional organizations -- and even the Norwegian committee that awarded the 2007 Peace Prize to the IPCC and Al Gore, the chief apostle of climate alarmism.
In this enterprise, the group was aided not only by environmental zealots, anti-technology Luddites, utopian one-worlders, and population-control fanatics, but also by bureaucrats, businesses, brokers and bankers, who had learned how to game the system and profit from government grants and subsidies for exotic schemes to produce "carbon-free" energy and from the trading of carbon permits. Hundreds of billions have already been wasted -- most of this in transfers of tax revenues to a favored few.
These sums pale, however, in comparison to the trillions that would have been spent in future if some of the mitigation schemes had come to fruition -- such as an extension and major expansion of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to control greenhouse-gas emissions. Fortunately for the world economy and for taxpayers in industrialized nations, these schemes collapsed at the Copenhagen climate conference in Dec 2009. Clearly, developing nations did not want to take on the sacrifices and restrictions on growth. There was little concern expressed about climate; Copenhagen was mostly about transfer of money from rich to poor countries - or more precisely, from the poor in rich countries to the rich in poor ones.
Of course, this breakdown in negotiating global controls does not stop unilateral actions. Major developing nations, like India and China, have already refused to act. Australia's parliament has so far turned down attempts to impose limits on the emission of greenhouse gases, which many still believe to cause significant global warming -- in spite of contrary evidence. The European Union is likely to persist in its misguided efforts to continue and expand the Kyoto restrictions. In the US, the House has (barely) passed the calamitous Waxman-Markey "Cap & Trade" bill; the US Senate likely will not pass a similar bill in 2010, an election year.
There is still the US-EPA's drive to extend the Clean Air Act to include carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as "pollutants." But with the evidence of ClimateGate in hand, EPA's attempt to provide the necessary scientific justification for its "Endangerment Finding" will surely fail. Whoever leaked the incriminating e-mails deserves a medal for saving the US economy from certain ruin.
The writer, an atmospheric physicist, professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, and former director of the US Weather Satellite Service, is the organizer of NIPCC (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change) and coauthor of its reports "Nature, not human activity, rules the climate"  and "Climate Change Reconsidered" .