First, I agree that there's WAY too much data for the Average Joe to sift though. Yes, both sides will resort to the analysis of proxies. That's both Good and Bad. There will be an effort to minimize or maximize the details of the situation for the gain of one side or the other. That said, I, for one, hereby refuse to examine an IPCC report or listen to *any* recommendation about AGW especially concerning 'steps that should/must be taken' until they verify the accuracy of the data used.
Chris, this is not simply about who's right and who's wrong. That's why I completely disagree with your statement "how little this has to do with the practice of science".
Huh? Excuse me? This has EVERYTHING to do with the "practice" of science!
You cannot escape that there appears to be legitimate documentation of a concerted effort and - yes, I'll use the word: CONSPIRACY - to MANIPULATE THE DATA! And it's clearly *not* an 'isolated' incident. This is a wide-spread, comprehensive, and DELIBERATE effort on the part of who knows how many self-proclaimed 'objective' and 'unbiased' researchers. They tried to limit discussion of conflicting views. They tried to control who or what qualified as peer-review. They tried to control what the results would show! They weren't just tweaking their own tests, there are charges they were manipulating the data to be used by everyone! This is no school-boy prank without consequences we're talking about - they CHEATED and they did it deliberately on the world stage with the economic foundation of our entire civilization used as a plaything!
Set aside, for a moment, that the issue of climate change itself is so complex, its hard for anyone, even 'professionals, to analyze in the first place. Set aside the simple fact that Climate Models are just estimates or "guesses" about what is going on (albeit that's all we can do). Set aside the fact that the results of MODELS are not REALITY. Set aside the very real complaints (prior to this hack being released) about the specific data which was used and which was not used in the calculations... Simply put, the results of the MODELS - on which the IPCC reports and many of those other studies critically require and base their conclusions upon - are called into question.
How can you have a legitimate "peer-review" process when you can't trust the accuracy of the DATA you started with? And for what? Funding? Political gain? Does following an agenda-driven ideology trump searching for TRUTH? Does this 'end' justify using such means and taking this kind of risk?
This fiasco goes *far* beyond the AGW debate. The science profession is headed for a 'nuclear winter' of its own making. These knuckleheads have potentially damaged the entire scientific establishment in ALL arenas. At the very least, they have severely raised the question: Can you trust any 'scientific' estimate? Has this happened in the past? How has the wool been pulled over our eyes countless times by those we have trusted? Everything I've seen or read from the dump, so far, holds up under an intense light and heavy scrutiny: This is necessary, but IT IS NOT GOOD.
We live in a society which is spoon-fed conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory - JFK, fake moon landings, UFOs, wars, weapons, intentions, etc., etc., etc. - on a Daily Basis. We have politicians and pundits who operate under the theory that if you say something often enough, it doesn't matter whether it is True or not, because if you continually repeat "what everyone *knows*...", eventually anything will become "True".
Now, the integrity of a profession that by its own definition of standards is supposed to be ABOVE such manipulations is at stake. I can understand bureaucrats and politicians pulling this kind of stunt (it's part of their SOP, after all), but for a scientist - a SCIENTIST, for heaven's sake! - to even suggest trying to 'put in a fix' is beyond comprehension. This impact of this situation goes beyond the ramifications of the AGW debate, and even beyond the political upheaval that is sure to follow.
Let me state that, for the record, IMHO - there is NO 'professional' punishment that can be applied by the scientific community with enough severity to right this wrong which allows these jokers to continue pursuing research under the banner of OBJECTIVE SCIENCE. This is too big to ignore or sweep under the rug. They have made a mockery of themselves and their profession. And most importantly, but hopefully not permanently, they have damaged the trust given to the cause of science itself by the public at large. Once proven beyond reasonable doubt - which is where things seem to be headed, albeit slowly - they should be held to the same standard applied by society to philandering televanglists, corrupt politicians, and criminal athletes... loudly and publicly discredited then cast aside, completely and utterly.
There are difficult times ahead. Egad, indeed.