From: Richard Harris, NPR
Published November 26, 2009 10:35 AM

Stolen E-Mails Raise Questions On Climate Research

A huge pile of e-mails were stolen from a British climate laboratory and posted on the Internet last week. The correspondence shows that some climate scientists are resorting to bare-knuckle tactics to defend the orthodoxy of global warming.

In particular, a group of scientists who support the consensus view of climate change have been working together to influence what gets published in science journals.

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Journals are supposed to be impartial filters that let good ideas rise to the top and bad ideas sink to the bottom. But the stolen e-mails show that a group of scientists has decided that's not working well enough. So they have resorted to strong tactics — including possible boycotts — to keep any paper they think is dubious from reaching the pages of a journal.

"In any other field [a bad paper] would just be ignored," says Gavin Schmidt at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. "The problem is the climate field has become extremely politicized, and every time some nonsense paper gets into a proper journal, it gets blown out of all proportion."

Most of the papers Schmidt and his colleagues object to challenge the mainstream view of climate science. Schmidt says they may be wrong or even deceptive, but they are still picked up by politicians, pundits and businesses who are skeptical of climate change.

But Judy Curry, an earth and atmospheric sciences professor at Georgia Tech, says this huge defensive effort, by a select group of scientists, seems to be getting out of hand. Curry is worried that it's damaging the free flow of ideas in the scientific literature.

"You do need gates, but when you've spiked the gatekeepers to keep other people out and protect certain insiders, then the gate isn't working," she says.

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