Bryan Walsh has a long analysis in Time magazine that is well worth reading:  “The Stolen E-Mails: Has ‘Climategate’ Been Overblown?“  He finds no significant impact on our understanding of the science — like most sober looks at the issue:

Credit also goes to Walsh for putting the Swifthack affair in context, which few journalists have:


Ultimately, though, we need to place Climategate/Swifthack in its proper context: amidst a decades-long effort by the fossil fuel industry and other climate skeptics to undercut global warming research — often by means that are far more nefarious than anything that appears in the CRU e-mails. George W. Bush’s Administration attempted to censor NASA climatologist James Hansen, while the fossil-fuel industry group the Global Climate Coalition ignored its own scientists as it spread doubt about man-made global warming. That list of wrongdoing goes on. One of the main skeptic groups promoting the e-mail controversy, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, was recently revealed to have links to the energy company Exxon-Mobil, which has long funded climate-change deniers. “This is being used to confuse the public,” says blogger James Hoggan, whose new book Climate Cover-Up details Exxon-Mobil’s campaign. “This is not a legitimate scientific issue.”

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Yes, the big carbon polluters, who fund most of the anti-scientific disinformation campaign, have known for a long time that the anti-science case is a false one (see Scientists advising fossil fuel funded anti-climate group concluded in 1995: “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of GHGs such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied”).

Some parts of the piece are skippable — especially where he has non-scientists opining on the science rather than just quoting major scientific groups like the American Meteorological Society or the UK’s Royal Society: “even since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened.”

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And he is harsher about the American public than I would be:

And yet climate scientists cannot be expected to debate with a skeptical monolith. While the largely conservative doubters of man-made climate change are a small minority, they remain immovable. What scientists view as healthy debate, critics tend to see as evidence that the scientific case is still open — and the American public, large portions of which are all but scientifically illiterate, are not equipped to make the distinction.

Personally, I find the vast majority of Americans that I meet are equipped to understand the key issues about the science, to understand that doing nothing to reduce emissions, as the anti-science conservatives propose, eliminates the uncertainty about the future because the rise in GHG levels simply swamp everything else, leaving the only doubt as to precisely when the catastrophe hits  — see UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.”

I just find that after 8 years of the Bush administration muzzling government climate scientists with much of the rest of the climate science community not particularly good at communicating, with many in the environmental and progressive community reluctant to talk about global warming science, and most mainstream science journalists doing a generally dreadful job — Time magazine excepted — in the midst of a decade-long disinformation campaign funded largely by big polluters, the public is, not surprisingly, confused (see, for instance, “NYT’s Revkin seems shocked, shocked by media’s own failure to explain climate threat“).

Walsh’s bottom line is dead on:

Despite the e-mail controversy, however, momentum on climate change action is still building. Environmentalists are feeling increasingly hopeful that the Copenhagen summit could produce concrete action on emissions cuts, with U.S. President Barack Obama changing his schedule to arrive on the final day of negotiations. “The clock has ticked down to zero,” said the U.N.’s climate chief Yvo de Boer on the first day of the talks. “After two years
of negotiation, the time has come to deliver.” There’s nothing invented about that urgency.

The time to act is now.