The e-mail storm over climate change

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I take issue with the Nov. 25 editorial "Climate of denial" on two points.

First, the use of the term "climate-change deniers" implies that people such as myself are not only wrong but are somehow evil or deranged in a fashion similar to Holocaust deniers. The Holocaust is a historical fact. While you and many others seem to be equally certain that global warming is a fact, many well-regarded scientists disagree or are uncertain.

Second, you accused climate-change skeptics of "misinterpreting" e-mails by climate scientists or taking them "out of context" and concluded that the e-mails do not undermine "the scientific consensus." Yet the e-mails revealed that the supposed experts are aggressively trying to prevent serious scientific debate and, more important, to avoid release of their basic data, even to the point of destroying the information.

The very essence of science is a reasoned and open debate over verifiable data. If one side is unwilling to submit its data to peer review, and is actively squelching debate, that calls into question the reliability of its conclusions, as there would otherwise be no reason to fear a debate. Mankind may indeed be warming the globe, but these internal communications make me even more skeptical than I was before.

Jon T. Hoffman, Springfield


There is a very robust consensus among the world's scientists that humans are altering the Earth's climate. Climate change is already disrupting our global environment, and further increases in greenhouse gas emissions will lead to increasingly greater disruption. The world's governments are at the cusp of a crucial conference on the issue that is to occur in Copenhagen.

Unfortunately some have engaged in a smear campaign to distract the public and forestall progress. As reported by The Post, they have stolen thousands of scientists' personal e-mails, including some of mine, and have mined the e-mails for words or phrases whose meaning can easily be distorted. For people interested in what scientists and the science are actually saying, is hosting a conversation on what the context of these e-mails really is.

Michael E. Mann, Boalsburg, Pa.

The writer is director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes that 2008 was the coolest year since 2000. So perhaps Eugene Robinson should have read the opening sentence of the Arctic Research Consortium's "Pan Arctic Sea Ice Outlook" on the NOAA Web site before writing his Nov. 27 op-ed, "Tell it to the ice caps." According to the consortium's summary, "the arctic summer sea ice extent minimum in September 2009 (5.36 million square kilometers) was greater than that observed in 2007 or 2008."

While sea ice data certainly indicate a long-term Arctic warming trend, observed fluctuations appear to be quite wide and not closely correlated with minuscule (albeit accumulating) concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. All of this presumably should give pause to any climate scientist, global warming skeptic or believer alike. This is why the e-mail revelations from the Climate Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia that Mr. Robinson wrote about are so unsettling -- they show scientists seeking to discredit and censor data that did not support their hypotheses.

Mr. Robinson says he welcomes contrarian views on global warming, but to paraphrase his own words: So far he hasn't gotten through to the expanding Arctic sea ice.

John J. Tkacik Jr., Alexandria

© 2009 The Washington Post Company