I'm going on Fox Business tonight to talk about global warming, and it will be an interesting chance to talk about current events. We're entering a critical period of climate negotiations, and the chances for serious discussions at the global COP15 forum next month in Copenhagen were probably set back this week by a skeptical computer hacker.
The politically minded raider penetrated the server security at the well-connected Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia in England and dragged out a treasure trove of 160 megabytes of email and documents. Was there a smoking gun? Probably not, but I'm sure the hacker yelled "Eureka!" when he came across a piece of 1999 correspondence from Phil Jones, director of the unit.
In what some took as evidence that a scientist was jumping into the politics of global warming with both feet, Jones wrote that he used a "trick" to "hide the decline" in world temperatures. When that made headlines, Jones declared that any idea that he would manipulate data is "complete rubbish."
The university was drawn in, and declared on its website, "There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates that peer-reviewed publications by CRU, and others, on the nature of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation. CRU's peer-reviewed publications are consistent with, and have contributed to, the overwhelming scientific consensus that the climate is being strongly influenced by human activity."
Jones declared himself to be "a very apolitical person," who is "happier doing the science and producing the papers." Jones said he used the phrase "hiding the decline" in "an email written in haste." He charged that the email disclosure "may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks." But Jones didn't say why he used the word "trick," and his explanation didn't quiet the calls for his resignation.
Guardian columnist Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees, dismisses as "absurd" and "laughable" the idea of scientists colluding with government to foist an unworkable global warming theory on a gullible public. "None of this would matter if the public weren't fooled," he wrote. "But they are: Polls show climate skepticism' is rising, perhaps even to a majority position, on both sides of the Atlantic."
Lynas may be exaggerating a bit about the degree of skepticism. A poll by Fox itself this month found that 77% believe that global warming is happening. Twice as many (46%) think it is caused by human behavior as think "normal climate patterns" are to blame. A 60% majority describes the situation as either a crisis or a major problem. Only one in 10 think it is "not a problem at all."
"Despite the skepticism that has been expressed by some business, scientific and political leaders, the existence and importance of global warming seems to be the consensus position of Americans," said John Gorman of Opinion Dynamics, which conducted the research for Fox. "This lopsided acceptance of the problem is something we don't see for many other issues."
Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) stirred the pot further by releasing draft rules for a state cap-and-trade program (supported by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) that could begin in 2012. The rules will be finalized by next October. The state hopes to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Video of my Fox Business interview will be on the site later tonight.
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