The global warming jamboree in Copenhagen was surely the most outlandish foray into intellectual fantasizing since the fourth-century Christian bishops assembled in 325 AD for the Council of Nicaea to debate whether God the Father was supreme or had to share equal status in the pecking order of eternity with his Son and the Holy Ghost.

Shortly before the Copenhagen summit the proponents of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) were embarrassed by a whistleblower who put on the web more than a thousand e-mails either sent from or received at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, headed by Dr. Phil Jones. The CRU was founded in 1971 with funding from sources including Shell and British Petroleum. Coolers transmuted into Warmers, and it became one of the climate-modeling grant mills supplying tainted data from which the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concocted its reports.

Deceitful manipulation of data, concealment or straightforward destruction of inconvenient evidence, vindictive conspiracies to silence critics, are par for the course in all scientific debate. But in displaying all these characteristics the CRU e-mails graphically undermine the claim of the Warmers that they command the moral as well as scientific high ground. It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate-modeling enterprises and a vast archipelago of research departments and “institutes of climate change” across academia. It’s where the money is. Skepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker.

Many of the land mines in the CRU e-mails tend to buttress longstanding charges by skeptics (yours truly included, in The Nation two years ago) that statistical chicanery by professor Michael Mann and others occluded the highly inconvenient Medieval Warm Period, running from 800 to 1300 AD, with temperatures in excess of the highest we saw in the twentieth century, a historical fact that makes nonsense of the thesis that global warming could be attributed to the auto-industrial civilization of the twentieth century. Here’s Keith Briffa, of the CRU, letting his hair down in an e-mail on September 22, 1999: “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple…. I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago.”

Now, in the fall of 1999 the IPCC was squaring up to its all-important “Summary for Policymakers”–essentially a press release, one that eventually featured the notorious graph flatlining into nonexistence the Medieval Warm Period and displaying a terrifying, supposedly unprecedented surge in twentieth-century temperatures. Briffa’s reconstruction of temperature changes, one showing a mid- to late-twentieth-century decline, was regarded by Mann, in a September 22, 1999, e-mail to the CRU, as a “problem and a potential distraction/detraction.” So Mann, a lead author on this chapter of the IPCC report, simply deleted the embarrassing post-1960 portion of Briffa’s reconstruction. The CRU’s Jones happily applauded Mann’s deceptions in an e-mail in which he crowed over “Mike’s Nature trick.”

Other land mines include e-mails from Kevin Trenberth, the head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. On October 14 he wrote to the CRU’s Tom Wigley, “How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geo-engineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!” Only a few weeks before Copenhagen, here is a scientist in the inner AGW circle disclosing that “we are no where close to knowing” how the supposedly proven AGW warming model might actually work, and that therefore geoengineering–such as carbon mitigation–is “hopeless.” This admission edges close to acknowledgment of a huge core problem–that “greenhouse” theory violates the second law of thermodynamics, which says that a cooler body cannot warm a hotter body without compensation. Greenhouse gases in the cold upper atmosphere cannot possibly transfer heat to the warmer earth, and in fact radiate their absorbed heat into outer space. (Readers interested in the science can read Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf Tscheuschner’s “Falsification of the Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within the Frame of Physics,” updated in January 2009.)

Recent data from many monitors including the CRU, available on, show that the average temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans near the surface of the earth has decreased significantly across the past eight years or so. CO2 is a benign gas essential to life, occurring in past eras at five times present levels. Changes in atmospheric CO2 do not correlate with human emissions of CO2, emissions that are entirely trivial in the global balance. The battles in Nicaea in 325 were faith-based, with no relation to science or reason. So were the premises of the Copenhagen summit, that the planet faces catastrophic warming caused by man-made CO2 buildup, and that human intervention–geoengineering–could avert the coming disaster. Properly speaking it’s a farce. In terms of distraction from cleaning up the pollutants that are actually killing people, it’s a terrible tragedy.