The Climategate scandal is a textbook case of professional malfeasance that should give Congress reason to pause before agreeing to a binding international agreement that would hamstring the world economy in order to prevent the climate from changing.
Climategate was a series of leaked e-mails last year from the Climatic Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia, arguably the world's most prominent research center promoting the idea that humans are causing catastrophic global warming.
To say the least, these e-mails show scientists behaving badly. These scientists attempted to suppress or alter inconvenient data, destroyed raw data so that others are unable to analyze it, used tricks to change reported outcomes, conspired to avoid legally required disclosure of taxpayer-funded data, and attempted to suppress dissent by undermining the peer review process.
To make matters even worse, Climategate researchers threatened to seek the firing of editors at scientific journals that published findings that raised doubts about the urgency of the climate crisis.
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While the e-mails do not disprove that humans are causing potentially catastrophic global warming, the importance of this particular dataset and the critical role this cabal of scientists has played in shaping public perception of global warming cannot be understated.
Until this scandal, East Anglia's climate data set was considered the most complete and thorough in the world. If this data set and analyses based on it are flawed, other data that suggest catastrophic global warming will happen soon should probably also be carefully re-examined.
Contrary to the impression given by the media, most of the 2,000 or so participants in the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are not climate scientists.
Rather, the vast majority of the IPCC participants are political scientists, economists, biologists and engineers who have little or no special insight into the causes or severity of climate change. For instance, India's Rajendra Pachauri was an economist and a railroad engineer before he was made chairman of the IPCC.
Of the few actual climate experts involved in the IPCC process, East Anglia's Phil Jones, Pennsylvania State University's Michael Mann and the others whose e-mail exchanges were exposed are among the most influential.
Yet they were critical in reviewing the data from other major institutions and served as peer reviewers determining in many instances what articles did or did not get published in the "right" journals.
The Climategate scientists continue to claim that the actions disclosed are not as bad as they seem and that nothing contained in the e-mails is really important. But this is like the Wizard of Oz saying "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," when in fact the real action is going on behind the curtain.
Global warming alarmism has become a gravy train for scientists, bureaucrats and corporations who profit from the billions of taxpayer dollars spent researching and fighting climate change.
For instance, Pachauri and former Vice President Al Gore have become millionaires serving as advisers to and board members of corporations that profit from government subsidies for "climate friendly" energy and technologies.
In addition, the Climategate scientists have received tens of millions of dollars in research grants since global warming hit the big time. The research money over the last six years is more than all the climate research dollars their universities received the previous 20 years. If human-caused warming becomes a nonissue, all this money goes away.
Before trillions more of our dollars are wasted in a vain effort to control the weather 100 years from now, our leaders should be much more certain that human activities are actually causing climate harm than is warranted by the uncertain science that has been spun out as settled fact by today's climate-industrial complex.
Burnett is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonprofit free-market institute with offices in Dallas and Washington (www.ncpa.org).