The deeper you look into this specific incident the worse it seems on the face of it. Now, that could well be simply because the only people really writing in detail about climategate are the sceptics so there's been no real rebutals and the arguement (on the internet at least) is heavily weighted to their side, but it's starting to look slightly more damning then first thought.
There are rebuttals out there, they're just harder to find and no where near as strong as the skeptic's arguments about things, because they're from a more rational, scientific point of view. I follow several science podcasts which talked about the incident and went into things. They had some criticisms to give on how the scientists were behaving so it wasn't all positive feedback, but that more or less went into how they were behaving "catty" and "petty" within the emails and acting against the spirit of openness science more than any empirical failures.
These aren't just any 3-4 scientists... these 3-4 scientists are all leading authors of the IPCC reports, which puts them at the very top of the man-made climate change hierarchy. I've seen figures ranging from 43-54 as to the numer of leading authors in total... but regardless this throws real doubt as to at least the ethical qualities of just under 10% of the leading climate scientists on that "side" of the debate. That's assuming of course that nothing comes out of the NASA FOI request which has been blocked for two years (seemingly following the same pattern) and that this pattern of behaviour isn't found amongst the whole group. Secondly, this group in particular supply one of the four sets of data the IPCC reports are ased on... and I've found unsourced claims that this data set is the most important one. Accept that if you will, regardless it looks like one of, if not, the most important set of figures regarding climate change has been at the very least massaged.
No scientist is published, accredited, and has their work accepted without it being peer-reviewed though. That's the thing about science, the reputation of the scientist doesn't matter as long as their data and experiments are prevented clearly enough that they can be replicated and tested by others. Which is essentially the peer review process. So it really doesn't matter if a couple scientist's reputation is called into question, unless you have no faith in the scientific establishment as a whole, which seems to be the case with skeptics and a large chunk of society. You know, until they turn on a computer, or one of their relatives are dying, then they're perfectly happy to utilize the fruits of science while rejecting the parts they don't want to believe for reasons of ideology or personal utility. Each portion of information, practical or otherwise, that science collects comes from the same process.
And another very worrying note... the suggestion that the peer-review process, the bedrock of scientific study, had been corrupted.
You're only getting this information from a biased resource which is really misunderstanding the situation.
Some are calling this a smoking gun... that this shows that the sceptics are being forced out of peer-reviewed literature. That if a journal does publish them then this group (that rememer is 3 or 4 of the leading IPCC authors) will attempt to blackall them, reducing peer-review to a group of friends and colleagues rubber stamping each others work along with multiple pats on the back.
All the emails are implying, is that they feel that the Climate Review magazine, or whatever it was, was no longer impartial. They were going to stop publishing there and rely on other journals because they felt they weren't getting a fair shake there, and that the editorial board, etc. was ideologically motivated. If you do a bit of research, you'll find out that in the aftermath of this experience the editorial board and a lot of people with that specific group have resigned over this, now that it's out there that prominent scientists feel they're not fair. If anything some of the peer-review processes in particular journals have been tainted against science, in favor of anti-science, political-driven ideology.
I'm not so sure it's that strong, but it looks pretty damning. Then again, creationists/ID theoriests could likely raise the same arguement and the counter is pretty simple; if a journal pulishes an article which is clearly wrong then it no longer deserves to be refered to as peer-reviewed.
Whatever your thoughts, I think we all have to accept it's a pretty worrying idea...
For anyone interested http://wattsupwiththat.com/ is a pretty indepth blog on the issue. It's entirely sceptic and thus heavily biased, but it also goes into the most detail I've seen about the nitty-gritty of the data... the codes used, the chance that it's likely a leak etc etc. Good website if nothing else to see exactly what the fuss on the sceptic side is about.
I'm not against being skeptical about global warming. I loved Penn & Teller's Bullshit episode on it. It brought up some legitimate questions and interesting points of view. It certainly shook my certainty on the subject. I'm skeptical of everything, especially emerging scientific consensus. The problem is, you have to be skeptical based on statistics and empirical evidence, you have to go about questioning on the basis of facts, and counter science with science.
Releasing out-of-context bits and pieces of emails from over 4000 dollars that were taken illegally, then claiming they're the death knoll in global warming just isn't intellectually honest. If this incidence bothers you, that's good. It should. Everyone should look over this evidence and feel a little unnerved by it. But to assume anything concrete and to take what the bloggers and skeptics are saying uncritically is unfair. You have to do well-rounded research and come to a conclusion of your own on the matter.
Few people are aware of the sort of nonsense that conservative ideologues have perpetuated on this subject, the efforts to mislead and confuse, and how long we've been collecting evidence on this for. This is a good place to start:The American Denial of Global Warming
EDIT: The "Climate Review" journal I was referencing was called Climate Research, and the specific facts from Wikipedia are these:
In one e-mail, as a response to an e-mail indicating that a paper in the scientific journal Climate Research had questioned assertions that the 20th century was abnormally warm, Michael Mann wrote:
"I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal."
Michael Mann said to the Wall Street Journal that he didn't feel there was anything wrong in saying "we shouldn't be publishing in a journal that's activist."
Mann was not alone in expressing concern about the peer review process of the journal. Half of the journal's editorial board, including editor-in-chief Hans von Storch, resigned because they felt that publication of the paper in question represented a breakdown in the peer-review process. The publisher had refused to allow von Storch to publish an editorial on the topic, but later the president of the journal's parent company accepted that the paper's major findings could not "be concluded convincingly from the evidence provided in the paper. [Climate Research] should have requested appropriate revisions of the manuscript prior to publication."