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Environment

Another "ClimateGate" Vindication (Although One Scientist Did Make a Cartoon)

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The Department of Commerce has released an Inspector General's report on the involvement of its scientists (e.g., scientists in NOAA) in "ClimateGate"--and once again, it's a vindication: "In our review of the CRU emails, we did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data comprising the GHCN-M dataset [maintained by the National Climatic Data Center] or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures." There's no fire here, although of course partisans will seize upon a few wisps of smoke. You see, the IG did look more closely at 10 emails, to "clarify" that nothing had been done wrong. And it does appear that there may have been an inadequate response to a FOIA request at one point; and there are some issues raised about a contract. However, none of this stuff remotely rises to the level of undermining the integrity of global climate science, which is of course what "Climategate" was allegedly all about. There's also the following:

This email, dated February 19,2007, captioned "Fwd: Marooned?" contained an inappropriate image which NCDC's Chief Scientist forwarded to the Director of the CRU. The image depicts superimposed photographs of several individuals involved in the debate over global warming as characters from the television program Gilligan's Island, stranded on a melting ice cap at the North Pole or floating nearby in the ocean. In the course of our inquiry, we learned that another NOAA scientist had created the image during official business hours, using government computer equipment. Both the Chief Scientist and the creator of the image told us it was meant to bring some levity to the constant criticism that they and their fellow climate scientists were facing at the time from "climate skeptics." Notwithstanding their rationale, such an image could foster an adverse appearance about the scientists' objectivity, and at least one internet blog questioned the propriety of the image. While none of the senior NOAA officials we interviewed said they were aware of the referenced email and the attached picture before we interviewed them, Dr. Lubchenco told us that "it was in bad taste." According to NOAA, both scientists, who acknowledged that the image was inappropriate, have since been counseled by their respective superiors.

Ever been in an office building, like, anywhere? People make cartoons and posters and funny messages related to their work, and post them on walls and doors. Apparently, sometimes they also email them. Not a very good idea on such a politicized topic, and Lubchenco's rebuke seems appropriate, as does the "counseled by superiors" bit...but, if that's the worst climate scientists have done, I guess the only upshot of "ClimateGate" remains that old, old refrain--scientists are people, too.

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