Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary [...]Thorne seems to be saying that a claim Jones has made in a draft paper or report about "rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere" is not supported by the evidence and should be deleted. You might or might not detect a slight note of reproach. But there's nothing scandalous about this. If Thorne decided actually to publish the claim while still believing it to be unjustified then that would be scandalous. But neither Delingpole nor anyone else seems to have any evidence of that. Whereas Jocelyn Fong at Media Matters has looked into it, and concludes that this email was part of a discussion in February 2005 of an IPCC report eventually released in 2007. The section about the upper troposphere, which is the only section discussing the troposphere directly, makes no strong claims at all: "the uncertainties about long-term change are substantial".
So the news story seems to be "old emails reveal no scientific dishonesty by Climate Scientists, in agreement with the conclusions of several enquiries".
What I find remarkable is the underlying assumption in much of what's published in newspapers and online, by believers in AGW as well as by disbelievers, that these questions can be settled by debate among people who are not experts in the scientific issues (I'd guess there are at most a few hundred experts qualified to give first-hand opinions). There are five questions to be answered:
1) Is the climate getting warmer?
2) If it is, is the warming caused by human activity?
3) If it is, do we expect warming to continue if we carry on as before?
4) If we do, what can we change to reduce or halt the warming?
5) Is it worth changing the things we can change?
Only (5) is a matter suitable for political debate, ultimately to be decided by democratic vote. If the climate is getting warmer, no lobby of Telegraph readers asserting that it isn't is going to stop it. Yet it seems to be question (1) that climategate enthusiasts are most anxious to argue about. This is a strange choice of argument in view of the story of Richard Muller. In 2004, Muller, a professor of physics, came out in support of a paper (there's a version of it here) claiming that the famous "hockey stick" analysis, showing global temperatures rising sharply during the 20th century, was based on fatally flawed statistical methods. This argument met with vigorous rebuttal, but eventually Muller set up the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project to analyse temperature data using statistical methods he was satisfied with. A month ago, BEST released its first results, which it summarized here. Its conclusion is that it agrees closely with the previous concensus among climate scientists. To his credit, Muller acknowledged in a piece in the Wall Street Journal the accuracy of the work done by prior groups "We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that".
How can one explain the extraordinary confidence of so many people who have no technical grasp of the issues that the scientific consensus on question (1) is wrong? Perhaps it comes from a misapplication of libertarian thought: it's right that I should be allowed to do what I want, I want to burn fossil fuels, climate scientists are trying to stop me, so climate scientists must be wrong. That is, they are confusing their self-entitling theory of justice with scientific fact.
Update: commentator Belette rightly points out that I have been unclear about what BEST's results so far actually say. BEST has analysed temperature measurements dating back to 1800, but it has not yet reported on the proxy temperature data used to create the "hockey stick" graphs going back 600 and later 1000 years. (This is an ice hockey stick: the graph is roughly horizontal (the shaft of the stick) until it starts rising during the 20th century (the blade).) It's still entirely possible that BEST will produce a reconstruction of longer-term temperatures outside the currently accepted ranges: that would be a result to be evaluated on its own merits.
My point is that now that an avowed sceptic has independently confirmed the global warming trend, it is madness to allege that it's a fabrication or a mistake arising from a self-reinforcing scientific consensus.