The UK parliament announced the results of its enquiry into Climategate today. Here's an excerpt.
On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—"trick" and "hiding the decline"—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.
Our readers are familiar with the this graph, in which the green line has been faked from 1960 onwards by deleting the tree-ring data, which went down sharply after 1960, and replacing it with thermometer data, which went up sharply after 1960. This was one version of the "trick" to "hide the decline". Another version is shown in these graphs, where the tree-ring data is simply cut short at 1960, leaving only upward graphs from that time onwards. All participants in these efforts to "hide the decline" are unashamed and open about the "trick". They say they omitted or replaced the tree-ring data because they knew it was unreliable.
I believe they are sincere. So I guess I agree with the parliament's conclusion: the scientists involved were not deliberately deceiving anyone. They believed that their graphs were consistent with the Ultimate Truth, which is that the world is getting warmer fast, and human beings are responsible for the warming. Any data that showed otherwise must, by assumption, be wrong, so it should not be plotted.
A scientist that puts his theory before the data will never discover anything new. He will never discover that he is wrong. None of us have any interest in giving him money to make discoveries because we know perfectly well he's not going to make any. The only reason to give him money is so he can keep repeating his theory to us over and over again. Putting the data first is hard. It requires mental discipline, and it is this discipline that gives science its high social standing.
Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that a climatologist was deliberately deceiving the public about the science of global warming. This would imply that the climatologist had put the data first and reached a conclusion consistent with the data. After that, he went about telling people something opposite to the conclusion he came to. Thus we have a self-disciplined scientist who chooses to lie to people. I don't think that's possible. A self-disciplined scientist can get a job anywhere, be paid well, and sleep easily at night knowing that he has his honor intact. Why would such a person deceive anyone?
The climatologists who took part in hiding the decline are not self-disciplined in the sense I described above. They don't even know what we are talking about when we say they should put the data first. They think they are putting the data first. They don't realize what they have done wrong, other than that it got them into trouble.
All this to say: climatologists were not lying, but they have lost their reputation among other scientists, and there's no undoing that fact. As a scientist, all you have is your reputation. Once you lose it, you never get it back.