Joel Achenbach comments:On the plus side, it's good that public skepticism will be raised a bit. On the other, I'd worry that folks will only use such skepticism against academic results that conflict with their priors and be too dismissive of correct consensus that leans against them.This is not a scandal so much as a window on real scientists working on a politicized issue. … “Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person.” I agree. But isn’t it also true that Newtons antipathy towards Hooke and his use of his position in control of the Royal Society, ensured that the concept of an achromatic lens for a telescope … had to wait until after [Newton's] death.Yup, this behavior has long been typical when academics form competing groups, whether the public hears about such groups or not. If you knew how academia worked, this news would not surprise you nor change your opinions on global warming. I’ve never done this stuff, and I’d like to think I wouldn’t, but that is cheap talk since I haven’t had the opportunity. This works as a “scandal” only because of academia’s overly idealistic public image.
It is a shame that academia works this way, and an academia where this stuff didn’t happen would probably be more accurate. But even our flawed academic consensus is usually more accurate than its contrarians, and it is hard to find reliable cheap indicators saying when contrarians are more likely to be right.
Update: I'm not trying to downplay too much the stuff that's in the emails. It looks like the consensus on warming was weaker than was publicly portrayed. It may be the case that data was massaged excessively, but that would be a conclusion that could only really be drawn after somebody familiar with the field had a check through things. You could probably find similar emails among macro econ researchers saying things like "well, nothing made sense until I ran the data through an HP filter to clean it".
Update 2: Tyler Cowen's take is similar to Robin's as well.