Climategate Update: Congressional Edition


Not a fair and balanced cartoon

As we all know, various panels have absolved Climategateers of any conscious wrongdoing. They did not mean to "hide the decline" or play fast and loose with tree ring data. Perhaps addled by the impending end of the world, they were a bit over-enthusiastic about tryiing to suppress contradictory data. But all is now forgiven. Maybe not.

The New York Times reports that if the Republicans manage to gain a majority in the House of Representatives this fall, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who will head up the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is promising to take another look at how global temperature data sets are compiled. According to the Times:

"I do have a backburner investigation that I'm going to want to have completed, and that is, we paid a lot of money to have international evaluation, most of it done in Britain, that turns out to have been less than truthful in some of the figures," he said. "We're going to want to not investigate to get our money back, but we're going to want to have a do-over of good numbers so that everyone can have confidence."

The disputed climate data became the subject of heated controversy last year when hackers released e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England. Climate skeptics pointed to the e-mails as evidence that prominent scientists tried to inappropriately manipulate and suppress raw climate data and silence their critics.

Investigative panels in Britain and the United States have since cleared researchers of any wrongdoing, but some Republican lawmakers remain unconvinced.

"For me, settled science starts out with settled raw data, then people negotiate and discuss and hypothecate from that data," Issa said. "If the raw data's in doubt, then the idea that we have settled science doesn't exist. I want settled science."

In general, congressional hearings are usually just "show trials" that aim to justify the committee chairman's preconceived point of view, e.g., Henry Waxman. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the folks at Climatic Research Unit in the U.K. who are at the center of the controversy will consent to appear before the committee. Nevertheless, here's hoping that Issa will seek a wide variety of views on how climate data sets are constructed.

The whole New York Times article is here.