Yesterday the U.N. weather agency reported that greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere reached record highs last year, a rising trend that has continued unabated since detailed records started being kept in 1998.
On the same day the World Meteorological Organization was making its troubling report, the European Union urged the United States and China to set targets for greenhouse gas emissions at next month's climate change conference in Copenhagen. Aware of the science and its implications, the Europeans believe U.S. and Chinese delays are hurting global efforts to combat the threat of global warming.
Not so the climate-change deniers, who are not troubled by the evidence because they have their own. As it happens, with a timing that is probably no coincidence, a new batch has come to fortify them against any sensible consensus breaking out at the Copenhagen conference.
It takes the form of hundreds of private e-mail messages and data hacked from a computer server at the University of East Anglia. The decade of correspondence by British and American scientists from the British university's Climatic Research Unit supposedly shows an attempt to inflate the data on global warming, so the e-mails have been hailed as a smoking gun by climate-change deniers.
Do they offer proof that global warming is a massive fraud? Hardly. They seem to be the unguarded comments of people who believed in their thesis. And even with the embarrassing parts -- in one message, talk of a statistical "trick" in a chart illustrating a warming trend -- it's hard to judge fairly whether revelations should be taken as attempts to massage data or mere flippancy.
Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and a lead author on the 2001 and 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments, said he had found 102 of his own e-mails posted online, according to The Associated Press. "I'm appalled at the very selective use of the e-mails, and the fact they've been taken out of context."
As a New York Times story made clear, the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument because the "evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so widely accepted."
In short, while deniers deny, glaciers melt impassively and greenhouse gases rise in the Earth's atmosphere, impervious to "gotcha" arguments.