Can we trust the leaked Climate Research Unit emails and code?

There has been a lot of fuss this last week regarding the leaking (or was it the stealing?) of some emails and code from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, one of the key groups involved in research relating to climate change. Sceptics of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are claiming the leaked data shows AGW to be a scam, or at least that members of the CRU, who are claimed to have critical influence over climate research and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have been cooking their data and trying to silence those who dissent from their viewpoint.

With blogs posting extracts from the emails and code, at least one site claiming to have searchable copies of the emails and the journalist George Monbiot, who believes in AGW, distancing himself from the CRU and calling for Phil Jones to be sacked it seems a lot of people are taking this data at face value. Indeed Monbiot’s piece states, with regards to the leaked emails:

I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

The question is why should we take it at face value? It seems to me we have the following reasons to do so:

Of course it is possible that fake emails or code snippets have been added or that some emails or code snippets have been modified by those who hacked/leaked the data concerned. However, given the confirmation of the leaked data and the authenticity of part of it, along with the level of detail involved, it seems to me that bulk of the data probably is genuine. On that basis, I am provisionally willing to treat the emails and code snippets as genuine.

The question then is what conclusions can we draw from these emails and the code? I intend to tackle this question over a series of forthcoming articles. For the remainder of this post, I’ll set out my current position.

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