How much context is in the Climategate emails? (updated)

Given the release of a second batch of hacked emails yesterday, S&R decided to pull this analysis from 2010 back to the front. The conclusions reached in this analysis are as applicable to the emails published in 2011 just as much as they are to the original emails from 2009.

It is impossible to draw firm conclusions from the hacked documents and emails. They do not represent the complete record, and they are not a random selection from the complete record.
- Dr. Timothy Osborn, Climatic Research Unit (source)

After several hundred hours of studying the emails and looking at their references, I have no hesitation in stating that, to my satisfaction, the system is rotten to the core and has been from the start.
- Geoff Sherrington, former corporate geologist, (source)

According to Osborn, there is not sufficient context to understand the “true” story behind the published Climatic Research Unit emails and documents. However, according to Sherrington, the emails and references contained therein provide all the context needed in order to conclude that climate change research is complete hogwash. Reality lies somewhere on a continuum between these two extremes – the question is where.

S&R set out to determine whether the published CRU emails provided enough context for the public to condemn or vindicate the scientists involved. After investigating three primary options and reading a key study, S&R has concluded that the emails do not themselves contain sufficient context to understand what really happened in climate science over the last 13 years. Continue reading

Climate scientists still besieged

S&R interviewed Martin Vermeer, first author of a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper on sea level rise, about how much context the published CRU emails contained. In addition to answering questions about the emails’ context, Vermeer pointed out that some of the context “bears the mark of a scientific community under a politically-motivated siege.” Gavin Schmidt, climate researcher at the Goddard Institute for Space Sciences, agreed with Vermeer when asked. As a result, S&R examined interviews conducted with climate scientists and critics for evidence that climate scientists and climate research were besieged at present. Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of evidence that climate scientists remain besieged today. Evidence includes false claims made against scientists for work done on the IPCC Third Assessment Report, erroneous and/or unsupported claims made against several scientists involved in the writing of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and unreasonable claims of bias against the CRU email inquiries performed to date. Continue reading