By now you’ve probably heard (New York Times, Washington Post, RealClimate). A server at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was hacked; hundreds of emails from climate scientists are now public due to this despicable act. Global warming deniers are having a field day, because in some of the emails, the scientists are acting like, you know, people. They are also acting like scientists under fire, which is what they were and are. The Climate Research Unit is headed by Phil Jones, who has been involved in the highly public and seemingly unending “hockey stick” battle–and so peering into the emails lets the skeptics and deniers once again claim there was some kind of bad science involved in this one particular study, a claim they’ve been making for almost a decade now.
Of course, none of this is at all relevant to the climate issue today. It’s a nasty, ugly sideshow. The science of climate change doesn’t stand or fall based upon what a few scientists said in emails they always thought would remain private. And as for the “hockey stick”; well, fully four years ago, in The Republican War on Science, I explained why the right was using this as a distraction from the real issues:
…although it might create good publicity, the Right’s selective attack on [hockey stick study lead author Michael] Mann’s work ultimately presents a huge diversion for policymakers trying to decide what to do about global warming. Mann points out that he’s hardly the only scientist to produce a “hockey stick” graph–other teams of scientists have come up with similar reconstructions of past temperatures. And even if Mann’s work and all of the other studies that served as the basis for the IPCC  statement on the historical temperature record are wrong, that would not in any way invalidate the conclusion that humans are currently causing rising temperatures. “There’s a whole independent line of evidence, some of it very basic physics,” explains Mann.
That’s even truer now than it was in 2004, when I interviewed Mann, or 2005, when The Republican War on Science actually came out.
The fact is that no matter what a few scientists may have said in emails, we have to go to Copenhagen and deal with our warming, melting planet. That’s what matters. The rest of this is hot air, and–unless it can somehow be channeled to power a few wind turbines–it doesn’t do us or the planet any good.
The Census of Marine Life’s latest report is a doozy. It includes ~5,600 new species in addition to the 230,000 already recorded. Scientists hope to increase the figure by thousands before the census is done in October 2010. In the tally, researchers have cataloged 17,650 species below a depth of 656 feet (where sunlight ceases):
“The deep sea was considered a desert until not so long ago; it’s quite amazing to have documented close to 20,000 forms of life in a zone that was thought to be barren,” said Jesse Ausubel with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a sponsor of the census. “The deep sea is the least explored environment on earth.”
The poster critter of the expedition is, of course, a very charismatic sea cucumber called Enypniastes. At 2,750 meters deep in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, it has many tentacles and sweeps sediment into its mouth. What a little beauty!