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MYTH #96: Trenberth emails revealed hoax


Emails from scientist Kevin Trenberth reveal that global warming is a hoax.


Deniers took this email out of context. Kevin Trenberth has consistently said that manmade climate change is real.

If you read Dr. Kevin Trenberth’s peer-reviewed papers or listen to him give a presentation, you learn something about him pretty quickly. He is convinced that the planet is warming because of human activities. But he is also really, really bothered by how few satellites we have to collect important climate data. Dr. Trenberth meant as much when he sent a private email to other scientists about not being able to “account for the lack of warming.” That quote became famous when his email was stolen with more than 1,000 others during so-called Climategate in 2009. But the out-of-context quote from the email doesn’t accurately portray Trenberth’s views: that humans are warming the planet, but we don’t have all the tools we need to know exactly how much extra heat is being stored in the oceans.

Additional info from Mitchell Anderson, DeSmog Blog 

The media missed the real story about the so-called Climategate scandal. After thousands of emails were mysteriously stolen from the University of East Anglia in late 2009 and distributed just before the international climate conference in Copenhagen, many news outlets seemed content to report the story as it was presented to them rather than bothering to read the emails in the context they were written. 

The most widely distributed and misunderstood of the stolen emails, of October 12, 2009 from Dr. Keith Trenberth to Michael Mann, reads: 

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” 

Out of more than a thousand emails dating back 13 years, this single sentence was seized on by some commentators as evidence that decades of climate research by hundreds of scientists is instead a global conspiracy. 

If you are going to put that much weight on a single email, you may as well finish reading it. Here’s what Trenberth says in the following sentence: 

“The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.” 

CERES stands for Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System — a five-satellite network launched by NASA dating back to 1997 to monitor heat flow in the upper atmosphere. 

The story you haven’t heard is that scientists can’t get the numbers to add up using existing climate satellites. After billions of research dollars spent and over a decade of trying, the energy budget of planet as measured by CERES and other low-Earth orbit satellite systems is out of whack by about 6 watts per square meter. 

That stubborn error in the satellite data is about six times larger than what is scientifically possible, and several times larger than the effect scientists are trying to see, namely planetary warming caused by continued massive emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

While this is a very big deal, it does NOT remotely suggest that climate change is a hoax. For evidence of that, you don’t need a satellite, you can look out your kitchen window. What Trenberth is saying in this now infamous email is that it is a “travesty” that scientists cannot accurately measure from space what is plainly obvious here on Earth. More than that, he is lamenting that our “observing system” is inadequate to be able to accurately balance the planet’s energy budget. 

Dr. Trenberth is one of the world’s most respected climate researchers. If you happen to have a Ph.D. in atmospheric physics, you may also want to read his thorough research paper on the topic. 

Adapted from © DeSmog Blog