Have y'all heard about this "Climategate" business, the one about the 160 megabytes of e-mails and other information that was either leaked or hacked from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit?

This is potentially one of the biggest scandals of the decade, but you sure wouldn't know it by flipping on CNN or from any of the top stories trickling down from the mainstream media. If, in fact, you aren't familiar, this is a news story that broke about three weeks ago. The information that was made public contains, among other things, e-mail correspondence dating back to 1996 among several leading climate scientists, whose research over the past decade has been highly influential in forming the United Nation's highly influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

Contained in the e-mails, according to the opinion of many, is evidence that all but destroys the notion of a scientific "consensus" on the subject of catastrophic climate change caused by human activity. People have cited portions of text to demonstrate how scientists manipulated temperature data to bolster the case for alarmist public policy; colluded to keep skeptical global warming research out of the peer-review process; and - perhaps the most serious - interfered with the United Kingdom's Freedom of Information Act.

Many sources have argued the language of the e-mails has been taken out of context, that the accusations amount to nothing and are being used as feckless fodder by disgruntled global warming skeptics (the UK prime minister used the cute term "flat-earthers") to distract from what is still an overwhelming consensus on the issue.

But there also are thousands of other documents, including programming code that many are saying expose a trail of deliberate tampering of scientific data.

Here's my take.

I have downloaded all of the files and spent a little bit of time trying to sample read some of the e-mails (there are more than 1,000 such files). It's certainly too overwhelming for a lone layperson to discern the specific contexts of the dialogue, but the data file is available for anyone who wishes to access and dig into it. And many people have been doing just that.

Ever since the story broke I have been reading several articles and opinions over the Internet, which is where the whole issue has exploded in comparison to mainstream sources (the data apparently was first sent to some mainstream media sources, but after those sources did nothing the file then was posted to an online bulletin board where it finally spread).

I particularly recommend reading a report by British skeptic Lord Christopher Monckton, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher who garnered attention recently when a video of one of his speeches was massively viewed on the Internet. In the video he warned of a pending treaty being prepared for the Copenhagen climate summit (now happening) that would set up a global government mechanism, whereby the developing nations (a.k.a. "we") would begin a massive transfer of wealth to the third-world nations as compensation for our "climate debt."

His new report is titled "Climategate: Caught Green-handed!" and in it he lays out a series of arguments and revelations that, if accurate, warrants outrage. The strongest of his allegations is that scientists at the British research center had for years refused requests to share their raw dataset on global temperature and may actually have deleted entire portions.

Not only is this a complete disregard for the scientific method, which requires an experiment be repeatable for a hypothesis to be given legitimacy, it's an illegal attempt to block access to taxpayer-funded information.

Monckton also attempts to point out ways in which the group of scientists essentially corrupted their data in such a way that would give an unrealistic impression that the earth's temperatures have been warming faster and higher during the past few decades that at any other period in history.

A key factor of his argument concerns the fact that this particular dataset, based on global surface temperatures, is one of four such global datasets, two of which are satellite-based temperatures that require CRU's surface temperatures to calibrate their own results. The other surface temperature dataset belongs to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, whose key figures appear to have colluded with those of the CRU as evidenced by the Climategate data file.

That leaves a very small group of people in control of some very important information. At any rate, don't rely on my explanation. Go online, Google search the report and read it for yourself. The fact of the matter is the scientists at the center of this controversy form a direct link to what has entered the literature of the IPCC, the significance of which cannot be understated.

The IPCC has a tremendous influence on the development of public policies, policies that have the potential to alter the economic landscape worldwide.

This Climategate episode has rattled some big cages, causing a political shakeup in Australia that seems to have derailed what looked to have been the sure passage of their cap-and-trade legislation, similar to the one that already has passed through our own House of Representatives (with pitifully little coverage compared to ... say, healthcare).

And it's certainly going to have an effect at Copenhagen, although it's difficult to predict how. Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration is carrying forward as if nothing has happened. And the IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri this week has simply couched the whole affair as a heinous, illegal theft of information to which these scientists are the victims.

I am no expert, but I admit I am suspicious of politicians who say that the science is "beyond dispute" concerning something as vast and complex as the climate of our planet. The allegations that have emerged from Climategate - the name seems to have stuck - are too enormous to be overlooked or brushed aside with the same appeasing and alarmist rhetoric.

Yet this is exactly what seems to be happening.

We need full and independent investigations - yes, plural - into this potential scandal and, if necessary, criminal prosecutions. The more sets of eyes looking into this the better.

We need to be aware of the special interests that influence scientific research and be willing to recognize that big government is a special interest to itself.

Our elected and non-elected politicians - even with what seems to be the media's almost complete backing - have failed to convince a vast contingency of the population of the truth behind the climate change hysteria.

Is it because this vast contingency is stupid? Or is it because, as for me, there is an ever-growing cognitive dissonance between what we are being told to accept from those people in positions of power and "authority" versus the growing sources of alternative information?

Get informed about Climategate. Do your own research and verification. This is something that demands our attention, and it demands answers.

n

Flynn Espe is a former reporter for the East Oregonian. He works for Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts.

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