Leaked E-Mails Threaten Climate Legislation

A dishonest smear campaign or a game-changing exposé?

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Last week hackers illegally obtained e-mails from global warming scientists at the University of East Anglia in Britain. The leaked e-mails have emboldened climate change skeptics; some of the messages suggest that scientists distorted data to create greater alarm over global warming, one describing a scientist's attempt to "hide the decline" of the world's temperature. Environmentalists, however, have called the leak a smear campaign designed to obstruct the progress of climate legislation. So what effect will the leak have? Here's what columnists, policy wonks and bloggers are saying:

  • 'Cap and Trade Is Dead,' writes Kim Strassel in The Wall Street Journal: "The more than 3,000 emails and documents from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have found their way to the Internet have blown the lid off the 'science' of manmade global warming... Their correspondence show a claque of scientists massaging data to make it fit their theories, squelching scientists who disagreed, punishing academic journals that didn't toe the apocalyptic line, and hiding their work from public view." Strassel says the scandal undercuts the already dwindling support for a cap-and-trade bill.
  • Where's the Mainstream Media? asks Bradley Smith at Politico: "The near complete lack of coverage of this story in major news outlets is scandalous. The AP has 11 people 'fact-check' a book by Sarah Palin, but apparently can't be bothered to look into this. The New York Times, the major TV networks, and numerous other major sources have also either refused to cover the story or given it only the barest mention. Meanwhile, we have governments worldwide pushing hugely expensive regulations, regulations that could literally plunge millions of people around the globe into poverty, in order to stem off the perceived catastrophe of global climate change. It may be worth it, if in fact man made climate change threatens us with catastrophe. But what if that is not true?"
  • A Major Blunder, writes Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations: "It begins to look to me as if some of the world's leading climate scientists have been caught pulling an 'Acheson'. Dean Acheson said he had to be 'clearer than truth' about the Communist danger to get American public support for the Truman administration's initial steps to contain the USSR; I think maybe some climate scientists have made the same call. Their motives may be noble (let's stretch the truth to save the world) or mixed (and also keep those research grants flowing in); the consequences could be grave."

  • Pure Right Wing Hysteria, writes Maha at Mahablog: "By misconstruing scientific colloquialisms--for example, the use of the word 'trick'--and seizing upon peer-review type criticism of a few research papers, the Right has managed to misinterpret the emails into 'proof' that global climate change is not just a mistaken idea, but a deliberate hoax--a conspiracy so immense it includes most of the world’s earth scientists, including 97 percent of climatologists. Amazing... Unfortunately, this will likely slow our response--already too slow--to global climate change."
  • Environmentalists Can Learn from This, writes The Guardian's George Monibiots, an environmentalist who thinks scientists should have admitted their mistakes earlier: "The deniers' campaign of lies, grotesque as it is, does not justify secrecy and suppression on the part of climate scientists. Far from it: it means that they must distinguish themselves from their opponents in every way. No one has been as badly let down by the revelations in these emails as those of us who have championed the science. We should be the first to demand that it is unimpeachable, not the last."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.