Many in the mainstream media are attempting to portray The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review, just released in the UK, as exonerating the researchers. In fact the main conclusion, buried under pages of rhetoric, confirms that data was presented in a misleading way. Here is the actual text of the conclusion regarding the allegation of impropriety in the presentation of tree ring data:
On the allegation that the references in a specific e-mail to a “trick” and to “hide the decline” in respect of a 1999 WMO report figure show evidence of intent to paint a misleading picture, we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the IPCC Third Assessment Report), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was Misleading.
Unfortunately, the media, including many who remain skeptical of climate change, have missed the main scientific point at question in the tree ring data. The researchers were not trying to hide evidence of a decline in global temperatures over the last decade—we have plenty of actual thermometer readings to show temperatures in recent years. What they were trying to hide was the discrepancy between actual temperature readings and the temperatures suggested by tree ring data. They have relied on tree ring data to show that the earth was cooler in the past. If the tree ring data is not reliable (as the discrepancy in recent years would suggest), then maybe the earth was actually hotter in the past than these researchers would have us believe—and perhaps the hot temperatures of recent years do not represent unprecedented global warming but just natural variation in climate.
The review panel at least acknowledged that the “trick” used to “hide the decline” was misleading. Now let’s see if the media can report the result in a way that is not itself misleading.