Tuesday, December 08, 2009

'Climategate' set to overshadow Copenhagen

Leaked emails from the Climate Change Unit in Britain are likely to overshadow the Copenhagen climate change conference [BBC]. The leak which has been dubbed Climategate has gone viral on the web, and has forced the director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, Professor Phil Jones to step aside pending an investigation. It has been alleged the hacked emails point to leading climate scientists withholding data, subverting the peer-review process, and distorting information [WSJ / Times / Telegraph]

Some groups have seized on the information contained within the emails as 'proof' that data about global warming has been deliberately distorted and that data supported by skeptics had been suppressed. The information released covers a period of 13 years and shows conversations between members of the research teams and companies and government representatives.

Critics have asserted that the e-mails show collusion by climate scientists to withhold scientific information. Other prominent climate scientists, such as Richard Somerville, have called the incident a smear campaign. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research stated that the sceptics have selectively quoted words and phrases out of context in an attempt to sabotage the Copenhagen global climate summit in December [Wikipedia]

The United Nations is vowing to investigate the leaked Climategate emails. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told BBC Radio 4, "We will certainly go into the whole lot and then we will take a position on it. We certainly don't want to brush anything under the carpet. This is a serious issue and we will look into it in detail." However some have suggested the UN investigation will be nothing more than a whitewash [Telegraph].

Meanwhile the university at the centre of a climate change row has appointed a former civil servant to head an inquiry into claims of misconduct by its scientists. Sir Muir Russell, chairman of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, who has no previous links with the climate science community, will lead the investigation into allegations that leading academics at the University of East Anglia manipulated data on global warming.

Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband welcomed the UN's investigation but warned against listening to "flat Earth-ers". He said, "We need maximum transparency including about all the data but it's also very important to say one chain of emails, potentially misrepresented, does not undo the global science." He warned that in the run-up to the talks in Copenhagen there had been attempts to "throw dust" in people's eyes over the issue. "We must resist that and keep listening to the science and not subscribe to people who are frankly flat Earth-ers," Milliband said.

Skeptics continue to insist that Global Warming theories are merely a money making scheme. Alex Jones, a US radio commentator, has been particularly scathing of what he calls a conspiracy to lie to the public and create a form of world government. Articles on his website Infowars allege that oil companies are in league with those that perpetuate climate change theories.

Whether or not one subscribes to the skepticism surrounding man-made global climate change, there are certainly issues that need to be addressed. Excessive CO2 emissions are the predominant areas of discussion. However, pollution is less discussed or seriously addressed. Beijing is often shrouded in smog which the US Embassy's air monitoring station regularly labels as Hazardous. Even here there are skeptics of a different nature. Some merely call the data issued via the US Embassy's @BeijingAir Twitter feed as being propaganda and that the smog is only fog.

Nonetheless, serious pollution exists in many parts of China which cannot be denied. The country has taken many bold steps to create cleaner energy, but industrial pollution is also a major concern. Nuclear energy is often touted as a 'green' alternative to the use of fossil fuels. But while the production of energy from nuclear power stations may be clean in itself, questions over safety and the storage of radioactive bi-products have not been completely solved. In Britain there is already mounting concern of the growing stockpile of plutonium which sits at Sellafield. The British Pugwash Group has called the storage of some 100 tonnes of plutonium at the reprocessing plant 'ludicrous' and that plans to cut the amounts stored is in disarray [BBC].

The climate change conference at Copenhagen will see scientists and world leaders discuss and draw up plans to cut CO2 emissions, but there are more issues at stake than just reducing so-called greenhouse gases.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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