Interview with Al published in this morning's Slate:

Q: How damaging to your argument was the disclosure of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University?

A: To paraphrase Shakespeare, it's sound and fury signifying nothing. I haven't read all the e-mails, but the most recent one is more than 10 years old. These private exchanges between these scientists do not in any way cause any question about the scientific consensus. But the noise machine built by the climate deniers often seizes on what they can blow out of proportion, so they've thought this is a bigger deal than it is.

Q: There is a sense in these e-mails, though, that data was hidden and hoarded, which is the opposite of the case you make [in your book] about having an open and fair debate.

A: I think it's been taken wildly out of context. The discussion you're referring to was about two papers that two of these scientists felt shouldn't be accepted as part of the IPCC report. Both of them, in fact, were included, referenced, and discussed. So an e-mail exchange more than 10 years ago including somebody's opinion that a particular study isn't any good is one thing, but the fact that the study ended up being included and discussed anyway is a more powerful comment on what the result of the scientific
process really is.

These people are examining what they can or should do to deal with the P.R. dimensions of this, but where the scientific consensus is concerned, it's completely unchanged. What we're seeing is a set of changes worldwide that just make this discussion over 10-year-old e-mails kind of silly. The entire North Polar ice cap is disappearing before our very eyes. It's been the size of the continental United States for the last 3 million years and now 40 percent is gone and the rest of it is going. The mountain glaciers are going. We've had record storms, droughts, fires, and floods. There is an air of unreality in debating these arcane points when the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming.

Q: What's your view on the medieval warm period and the charge that the East Anglia e-mails suggest data was manipulated to "contain" that anomaly?

A: I haven't read those e-mails in detail, but the larger point is that there are cyclical changes in the climate and they are fairly well-understood, and all of them are included in the scientific consensus. When you look at what has happened over the last few decades the natural fluctuations point in the opposite direction of what has actually occurred. When they run the models and plug in the man-made pollution, the correspondence is exact. Beyond that, the scale of natural fluctuations has now been far exceeded by the impact of man-made global warming.

And again, we're putting 90 million tons of it into the air today and we'll put a little more of that up there tomorrow. The physical relationship between CO2 molecules and the atmosphere and the trapping of heat is as well-established as gravity, for God's sakes. It's not some mystery. One hundred and fifty years ago this year, John Tyndall discovered CO2 traps heat, and that was the same year the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania. The oil industry has outpaced the building of a public consensus of the implications of climate science.

But the basic facts are incontrovertible. What do they think happens when we put 90 million tons up there every day? Is there some magic wand they can wave on it and presto!—physics is overturned and carbon dioxide doesn't trap heat anymore? And when we see all these things happening on the Earth itself, what in the hell do they think is causing it? The scientists have long held that the evidence in their considered word is "unequivocal," which has been endorsed by every national academy of science in every major country in the entire world.

If the people that believed the moon landing was staged on a movie lot had access to unlimited money from large carbon polluters or some other special interest who wanted to confuse people into thinking that the moon landing didn't take place, I'm sure we'd have a robust debate about it right now.