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The Climate Files: The battle for the truth about global warming [Paperback]

Fred Pearce
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Jun 2010

It is the biggest scandal to hit global warming science in years.

In November 2009 it emerged that thousands of documents and emails had been stolen from one of the top climate science centres in the world. The emails appeared to reveal that scientists had twisted research in order to strengthen the case for global warming. With the UN's climate summit in Copenhagen just days away, the hack could not have happened at a worse time for climate researchers or at a better time for climate sceptics.

Yet although the scandal caused a media frenzy, the fact is that just about everything you may have heard and read about the University of East Anglia emails is wrong. They are not, as some have claimed, the smoking gun for some great global warming hoax. They do not reveal a sinister conspiracy by scientists to fabricate global warming data. They do, however, raise deeply disturbing questions about the way climate science is conducted, about researchers' preparedness to block access to climate data and downplay flaws in their data, and about the siege mentality and scientific tribalism at the heart of the most important international issue of our age.

Fred Pearce is one of the world's leading writers on climate change, and in Climate Files he tells the real inside story of the events leading up to the stealing of those fateful emails. He explores the personalities involved, the feuds and disagreements at the heart of climate science, and the implications the scandal has for all our futures.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Guardian Books (17 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0852652291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0852652299
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 13.3 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 654,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Fred Pearce has used his brilliant investigative skills to get to the heart of this issue. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what the hacked University of East Anglia emails mean - and what they don't (George Monbiot)

Book Description

The real story behind the leaking of climate change emails at the University of East Anglia

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Customer Reviews

2.0 out of 5 stars
2.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a objective analysis 12 Aug 2010
I was looking forward to reading this book knowing Fred Pearce's articles from the New Scientist. I hoped this book would be an un-biased, cool, calm clinical analysis of "Climategate" and the various views although I had concerns about the Guardian being the publisher with its pro-AGW bias would require a certain emphasis from the author and also the speed to press might have limited any in depth analysis.

Part 1 overall was generally balanced and set the scene reasonably well dwelling some of the players (MacIntire, Santer, CRU, Briffa, Mann, McKitrick, Jones and others) and thoughts such as the early idea about a possible ice age. Also covered were the doubts many scientists had about the "hockey stick" but which got submerged during the "laagering".

However even then a bias was appearing, one example being that of the respective web sites "scientists" (Real Climate) and "sceptics" (Climate Audit) with paragraphs for Real Climate site putting over their point of view and denigrating the "strident -excitable less fastidious fans" of Climate Audit (Pearce's words).

Part 2 was characterised, in my opinion, by innuendo and digs at those called sceptics or contrarians (once known in earlier times as heretics when the sun went around the earth). Professor Lindzen one of the world's top atmospheric scientist had "disagreeable friends". This might be true but has no part in this book. Any links, however vague, between the so called sceptics or contrarians and "big oil", think tanks (always right wing) and shared careers/campuses were highlighted but the funding, composition, mutual careers/campuses etc of the "hockey team" coterie was not.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Limited value 29 Oct 2010
The main problem with this book is that it adds very little to the factual information about the affair of the "Climategate" emails - while Fred Pearce's own analysis is superficial.

He does try to address the issues: what the Climategate e-mails were all about; how they came to be made public and their impact; the background of the climate science disputes which were at the heart of the e-mails, especially the "hockey stick graph" and global temperature statistics; the personalities and backgrounds of the main characters: Steve McIntyre, Phil Jones, Michael Mann, etc etc. As he had, apparently, easy access to participants on all sides of the dispute, he provides interesting snapshots of personal information and perspectives. Yet, what becomes clear is that this remains a book by a journalist who's still out of his depth in the technical issues involved - so, as so many journalists in this matter, as per his own narrative - he just lets the judgement of the "climate science community" replace his own - precisely what he seemed to warn his fellow journalists against, at some point.

This is an interesting book for those who already have a good grasp of what the Climategate affair was all about, as it provides the perspective of an obviously well-meaning journalist trying to come to grips with the issue and with his, and most journalists', failures to adequately (1) understand the issues and (2) report them adequately. Those for whom this book will be the first introduction to Climategate will, I'm afraid, end up as bewildered as Mr Pearce still obviously is. I suggest reading the e-mails themselves - freely available online - and then Andrew Montford's excellent "The Hockey Stick Illusion" for an introduction to the technical issues - and then read Mr Pearce's book.
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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Climate Files 17 Aug 2010
After the fuss with the emails from UEA, I wanted to read an independent, balanced review of what it was all about. I actually got the impression this book was quite balanced, criticizing both the scientists and those who question their motives.

The book did not try to say whether man made warming was real, rather it just looks at who said what leading up to the email debacle. The scientists were being swamped by freedom of information requests from the sceptics and appeared to be trying to block access to their data. The sceptics' emails were not published so they didn't come out of it looking too badly (other than that most of them seem to be funded by energy companies - draw your own conclusions), the people who the book really criticizes are the people who cut and pasted the emails out of context to make them sound as bad as possible, and those like Sarah Palin who repeated the made up quotes, without first checking the original emails.

All in all, an interesting read for anyone who doesn't know what to believe when it comes to climate change. If you are a firm sceptic, or take your scientific opinions from the red top newspapers, ignore my review and stick with the person who gave it one star, this book probably isn't for you.
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9 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read before commenting 8 Jan 2011
quote "The scientists were being swamped by freedom of information requests from the sceptics "

About 10 FOI`s came in.
The scientists were/are all paid public servants.The data is owned by the public.
Try and tell them that..!!!

quote"and appeared to be trying to block access to their data. "

"appeared"..surely you jest.
They did, and still do, block most attempts at their data, delete data and encourage science journals to block data.
Thank god the "science is settled".

quote"The sceptics' emails were not published so they didn't come out of it looking too badly (other than that most of them seem to be funded by energy companies"

Yes..we will forget about the billions of dollars that fund the "scientists"/think tanks/commissions etc that promote AGW ..because that is not relevent is it.. LOL
And go for an own goal instead....if you are going to avoid facts and make ad hominems,,,make them relevent.
The main FOI`same from retired mining executives/retired meterologists or tenured scientists.
Read climate audit and do some research..the energy companies did very little.

quote" the people who the book really criticizes are the people who cut and pasted the emails out of context to make them sound as bad as possible" wish..
Out of context..they sound context..they are terrible.
Read "climategate" the crutape letters by Mosher/fuller.
I love science but this episode was a disgrace.

quote"and those like Sarah Palin who repeated the made up quotes, without first checking the original emails. "

The bitter irony of you writing that escapes you. :) ?
From looking at your "analysis" and Sarah are the same..
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Unsettled Debate 15 Jan 2013
By Charles - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Climate Files
To be fair I am a skeptic about anthropogenic climate change but am convinced that climate change due to natural forces is constant. This book does a good job of describing the controversy between the two camps but leans visibly to the side of the UN Panel on Climate Change. However my main concern with this book was that it was preoccupied with the controversy between the camps and did not get into the actual science behind the controversy. The science is important.
42 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Semi-insider view of Climate Wars 21 Sep 2010
By Keith Noren - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although I read a lot about our Climate Wars, there is much in this book that I did not know. The author (Fred Pearce) is a UK reporter who talks directly with all sides of the debate and for that I will call him a semi-insider. He provides the time-sensitive context of many of the more celebrated emails extracted from Climate Research Unit (CRU) at University at East Anglia (UEA). For instance the "hide the decline" and "Mann's Nature trick" private email from Phil Jones (given in mid 1999 but released to the public in Nov 2009) was said by Sen Jim Inhofe in Dec 2009 to demonstrate that "the science [behind global warming] has been pretty much debunked" and "the science has been rigged". Let's explore that statement. For years the CRU has put out plots of the measured "instrumental" (aka thermometers) temperature data showing an approx 0.8C temperature increase since pre-industrial times mostly in two upturn periods 1910-1940, 1977-1998, other periods being essentially flat. It is the most fundamental evidence for global warming and the same data has been analyzed with similar results by NASA's GISS. Now according to Inhofe this data had really declined, the CRU knew that, and the "hide the decline" amounts to proof that they knew that but were fabricating data to say otherwise. But the context makes it clear that the "hide the deline" phrase was related to the Paleoclimatic data of over 1000+ years based on proxies, and not the instrumental temperature measurement starting globally in ~1850. The paleoclimatic researchers acknowledge "divergence" later than 1961 or 1981 (depending on the data set) in tree ring reconstructions which does not show consistent trends - temperatures from some trees went high, while others went down. Yet for the years 1850-1960, the tree ring data matches the temperature anomalies of the "instrumental record" quite well. So following Michael Mann's "hockey stick" article published by Nature magazine in 1998, the inconsistent paleoclimatic data (post 1961 or 1981) was replaced by an overlay of the "instrumental record" to display all the available (and reliable) data on one plot - this was "Mann's Nature's trick" which is not an attempt to deceive but an attempt to display all the relevant data on one plot. Jones was not "hiding the decline" in the instrumental data; instead he was hiding some of the latter unreliable Paleoclimatic data that they did not understand. This procedure was clearly pointed in Jones's text accompanying the plots as it was in Mann's papers earlier. No intent to "hide" anything and no "trick" was played. The "trick" referred to a data display choice and was shorthand in the context of private email between Jones and other climate researchers. Jones would have explained it more if he knew it was going to be a public text approx 10 years afterwards. And if by chance the Paleoclimatic data were totally debunked, global warming itself would remain as established fact by other data sources (instrumental record showing highest rates of heating since 1977 than ever recorded in the ice core data, satellite temperature records, sea level rise records, ocean heat records, etc). Boy that was detailed for a book review, but necessary to give the true context.

But one would be totally wrong, if one thought Pearce was merely a defender of the Climate Mainstream Scientists and a detractor of the Climate Skeptics. He starts out in chapter 1 by saying there are "no heroes" here - fault can be found in virtually all the players. Wrt the Mainstream, he comes down hard on Michael Mann (too sure of himself and verbose), Phil Jones (too eager to refuse release of data to the skeptics' FOI request), Rajendra Pachauri (too defensive about IPCC reports that actually had several mistakes in it among it's thousands of assertions), Kevin Trenberth (too quick to claim hurricane frequency was due to global warming); and not so hard on Tom Wigley (ex- CRU boss), Keith Briffa (tree ring researcher at CRU), and Stephen Schneider (Stanford U). Wrt the skeptics side, he comes down hard on Pat Michaels, Fred Seitz, Anthony Watts, Ross McKitrict, Bennie Peiser, Jim Inhofe, Myron Ebell (for being ideologically motivated and too adamant in scientific fields they did not understand fully); and not so hard on Steven McIntyre (data sleuth), Dick Lindzen (hurricane researcher from MIT), John Christy (climatologist from UAH). He discusses all the pointed technical discussions concerning the Hockey Stick, CRU email wording/context, GlacierGate, Yamal tree ring data, number of stations in the temperature data, and the accounting for Urban Heat Island effects. You will find plenty of "red meat" about CRU and Manistream Scientist "tribalism", lack of williingness to release data, and sloppiness in the caretake of data. You will also find plenty of details of who funds the many skeptics orgainzation (and a few who hide their funding), and the outlandish PR coming from that side (e.g calling GW a "hoax", with data maliciously "manipulated", the earth is actually cooling). As such both sides could use this book selectively to badmouth the other side.

But in the end, Pearce believes that the Mainstream Scientist position is the correct one as he stated in the first paragraph of the final chapter (I'd like to quote it but not sure that I should copyright-wise). Pearce just believes the details have to be cleaned up in a very public/transparent/thorough way. I agree.

After reading this, I feel a thorough reconstruction of all the available "original" data needs to be done by truly independent people doing the heavy analysis with all "sides" as watchdogs/guides all working together (may be too much to ask for). None of the three CRU email investigative teams have had the time or charter to do so. This will in all likelihood prove out the mainstream position of man-caused global warming and the need to control greenhouse gases. But nontheless the interested public needs and deserves convincing (if such is possible). I also would demand a opening up of the global warming skeptic organizations' email files/data(if they have any) to similiar scrutiny as the CRU has received, all in the interest of truth.

The book is well written (a few Britainisms) and reads like a detective story. I recommend it highly to interested parties.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the Fray 31 Mar 2012
By Mark Lutz - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A super book to guide the reader through the global warming controversy. It's about as impartial as possible, and written in a most accessible manner and style.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sociology of science 10 Sep 2012
By Jordan Bell - Published on
Academic scientists work very hard for a long time to understand a field and find out things, and their main achievement is their scientific reputation. If someone successfully challenges papers they've written this damages the reputation they've worked so hard to build. And there are few incentives to do very probing work as a peer reviewer; one gets little credit for it, at best the journal editor thinks better of them, and at worst a colleague blames them for preventing their work being published. Also, scientists have worked very hard to get data, either by collecting the data themselves or by building relationships with other scientists from whom they get it. Scientists use this data to write their papers, and they have some of the same incentives to keep their data private as a drug company has to patent the drugs they make.

In fields like medicine and climatology that have strong effects on what people in society decide to do (get certain screenings done, spend money on expensive treatments, reduce carbon output), aside from doing research and convincing other trained scientists that their results are correct, scientists have some role in communicating these results to the public. I think there's a popularly held belief that science consists of unambiguously true statements, and thus if there is uncertainty in a scientific field some people think the field must be bunk. It seems like the scientists involved in the Climatic Research Unit email controversy didn't want conflicting views confusing a scientifically uneducated public, and thus badmouthed people who criticized them. If the CRU scientists worked more openly and were more free with their data they wouldn't have even had to deal with the pests.

The problems that people see in the CRU email controversy exist in the rest of science. People are sensitive to criticism of their work. And because the first to find something is rewarded so much more than one who verifies it, there is a strong incentive to work quickly and do poor quality work. There are hardly any rewards for reproducing scientific studies, whereas this double checking is, I think, more valuable to the scientific project than much of the original research that is done. John Ioannidis has shown that this sloppiness is prevalent in medical research, so don't think that climate science is worse than other fields. This doesn't mean that climate science ought to be excused, but that incentives need to be changed so scientists do better work.

There are dishonest sceptics whose criticisms are just propaganda and scientists shouldn't bother with them (Ross McKitrick appears this way in the book), but scientists should indeed put out work that is robust enough to survive nitpicky questioning by gadflies like Stephen McIntyre.
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