Climategate is the tag used to describe an incident at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit where some 2,000 emails sent between researchers at the unit found there way onto the internet and into the media.
This would not usually be a problem, except that the emails seemed to suggest that there was some ‘trickery’ and even doubt about some of the scientific data attributing climate change to human activity, especially anthropogenic global warming
Everyone loves a scandal. We are curious, even excited by the misdemeanors of others. Perhaps this is because, secretly, we want to let our inner James Dean loose on the world.
The claim was that researchers at the Climate Research Unit had done the unthinkable for a scientist. They had both fabricated data and bent the results to prove a point.
It was not the first time that a scientist might have made up results, and it certainly will not be the last, but like golfers who always own up to any breach of the rules, we see scientists as equally above reproach. We trust them.
US citizens trusted their president until Watergate when President Nixon tried to cover up a misdemeanor. Climategate was not explicitly a cover up but the monica made for good copy.
What the incident in East Anglia did, timed as it was just before the UNFCC Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen, was to undermine credibility of climate science
Detractors and climate change deniers jumped on even the sniff that some of the climate data, the numbers that were being used to claim disaster should we fail to act, could be spurious.
Only it was all nothing.
Multiple reviews and reports to find the truth found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.
All it was, was academics, who are not known for their communications skills, bantering amongst themselves, just as colleagues do in any organization, anywhere in the world.
A huge storm in a very tiny teacup.
The length of the Wikipedia entry for climategate says it all.
Climate change is controversial.
There are still those with climate change denial who believe the whole thing is nonsense and the climate change skeptics who doubt our impact on what nature does naturally. And, of course, there are the believers.
The truth struggles to emerge when such opposing views have political overtones and where the media has advertising space to sell.
In the end it is wise to be cautious of wild accusations in either direction.