ClimateGate Could Threaten Copenhagen Climate Deal

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Widening concern
about the state of climate science after thousands of internal e-mails
and computer files were posted on the Internet could jeopardize
any agreement at this week’s summit in Copenhagen.

Although a
sweeping international deal already
appeared
unlikely, agreement on even less ambitious measures
will be complicated by the growing ClimateGate scandal and questions
that have been raised about the reliability of computer models linking
global warming to man-made activities. No less an authority than
the U.N.’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, acknowledged
on Sunday that the data leak was damaging; domestically, Republicans
are pressing the Obama administration to reevaluate its position.
(See CBS News’ previous
coverage
.)

The summit
in Denmark that began Monday, properly titled the 2009
United Nations Climate Change Conference
, is expected to draw
some 100 heads of state, including
President Obama. One unanswered question: How willing are wealthier,
developed nations to curb their economic output and tax their citizens
to pay poorer countries to emit less carbon dioxide?

A November
20 report
from a U.N. working group outlines what many nations would like
to see in a final treaty. Wealthier nations including the United
States will make “mandatory contributions” to a “multilateral climate
change fund” paid for by the requirement that “developed country
parties shall restructure their taxation regime.” The report warns:
“Delay by developed country parties in implementing their commitments
to reduce emissions will increase their climate debt to the developing
country parties.”

The leaked
electronic files have proven problematic because the argument for
an international treaty is attached to this chain of reasoning:
the earth is warming, the primary cause is man-made carbon dioxide
emissions, the effect is harmful and can be remediated by limiting
CO2 output, and, finally, it’s worth spending billions or even trillions
to do so. If foundational data about temperature measurements is
in error, as critics now say is the case – well, we might as
well cancel the Copenhagen summit and tell all those inbound private
jets to turn around and return home.

To be sure,
many – perhaps even most – climate researchers say any
flaw in the leaked data assembled by the University of East Anglia’s
Climatic Research Unit (CRU) does not mean the theory of man-made
global warming is false. Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research
Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School
of Economics, calls
evidence for that theory “overwhelming,” and Obama administration
scientists last week downplayed
the scandal, as did
a U.N. panel
. Tempers are flaring: one of the East Anglia academics
resorted
to calling
a skeptic “an asshole” on a live BBC television interview.

And the scandal
seems to be broadening. Internal investigations are underway at
the CRU and Penn State (with the state senate warning
that the school’s budget may be at risk
), one estimate from
a free-market group says
that 12 of the 26 scientists who wrote the relevant section of a
U.N. global warming report are “up to their necks in ClimateGate,”
and the BBC
and independent
analysts
are evaluating the CRU’s computer code and finding
it lacking.

Read
the rest of the article

December
8, 2009

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