The Czar of Muscovy emailed asking my take on the latest disclosure in the ongoing ClimateGate saga. First, a recap for those who haven't been following along at home.
1. November 2009 saw the release of a large number of emails and some computer source code from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit by a person calling himself "FOIA". The CRU was the organization most central to the UN IPCC reports on climate that drove the Kyoto Protocol in 1999. The emails were very damaging to the reputation of the CRU scientists; most notorious was the email remarking that they had figured out how to "hide the decline" in recent temperatures. This was ClimateGate 1.0.
2. The timing of the release scuppered any hopes for a follow on treaty to Kyoto. December 2009 saw a global meeting in Copenhagen to discuss a new treaty, but the bombshells revealed in the ClimateGate release made the situation politically radioactive and encouraged already existing political opposition. Copenhagen passed without any new agreements, and Kyoto expired.
3. Last year saw the release of a large encrypted archive of additional material. Speculation was that this was FOIA providing himself political cover - if threatened with prosecution he could always threaten to release the password that would allow the encrypted archive to be unscrambled. This was (rather absurdly) called ClimateGate 2.0.
4. FOIA has just emailed the password (along with a political manifesto) to a dozen high profile skeptical climate bloggers. None of the bloggers has released the password, at FOIA's request. Some are looking through the archive, although this is slow going (the uncompressed archive is 880 MB in size). This is what people are calling ClimateGate 3.0.
My take is that it doesn't really matter. We know who the corrupt scientists are already. People who refuse to be convinced (for tribal and political reasons) that these scientists are not corrupt are unlikely to change their current position based on new information. The public has already lost its support for major investments in climate change mitigation; while "hide the decline" was important here, the lousy economy is likely a bigger factor.
In short, the new release doesn't change the facts on the ground at all. It may be that there is new damaging information yet to be released, but my take is that any impact will be around the margins.
As always, click on Clint in the upper right hand corner of this blog for my take on what the state of the science really is.