Before I start let me make it clear why I am not using the word "skeptic" to describe the manmade global warming skeptics who using these emails to push accusations of fraud. It's because their behavior is anything but. They feign skepticism and claim to be analyzing the emails, but what they are really doing is quote mining them. I will simply refer to them below as the accusers.
"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
travesty that we can't."
This is often the only quote accusers will pull from that email. A quote mine if I have ever seen one. Quote mining is the practice of pulling juicy quotes out context of the larger body they reside in and then presenting those out of context quotes as an argument. It is not a new trick (!) by any means. As wikipedia explains on the subject, "Scientists and their supporters used the term quote mining as early as the mid-1990s in newsgroup posts to describe quoting practices of certain creationists"
Well guys, here we go again.
Lets look at the context in the rest of the email. The most damning thing against the accusers is that a good part of the context is found right before that quote, in a reference to a paper of Trenberths. In fact from my reading, this paper is central to Trenberth's email.
Here it is:
An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth's global energy.
"Planned adaptation to climate change requires information about what is happening and why. While a long-term trend is for global warming, short-term periods of cooling can occur and have physical causes associated with natural variability. However, such natural variability means that energy is rearranged or changed within the climate system, and should be traceable. An assessment is given of our ability to track changes in reservoirs and flows of energy within the climate system. Arguments are given that developing the ability to do this is important, as it affects interpretations of global and especially regional climate change, and prospects for the future."
Immediately you start to get a feeling that Trenberth's quote has been taken out of context somewhat. But wait until you see the part immediately following the quotemined phrase:
"The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008
shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing
system is inadequate."
The context is now clear. Trenberth is talking about the travesty of the observation system and our inability to see where the heat is going from year to year. It is well known and public that there are problems in recent years with the global climate observation system (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/OceanCooling/page5.php). Problems are more of a rule in any complex field of science rather than an exception.
The accusers cherrypicked a phrase from Trenberth's email thinking they had found some hidden truth, when in fact Trenberth had already published about this. These kind of accusers will analyze only until they get an argument they want. The quotemine above provided them with the argument so they looked no further.
The accusers exploit the private nature of these emails to claim these emails represent the uncovered real thoughts of the scientists. This cuts both ways, if you are going to exploit the privacy of the emails to claim "this is what the scientists really think!" then you are forced to accept the emails contain what the scientists really think.
So what do accusers make of the bulk of the email material which runs counter to their views? In the Trenberth exchange for example, what do accusers make of the fact that even behind closed doors the scientists are saying long term warming signal exists and short term cooling is noise? I would have thought the accusers would have been quite interested in learning this as it contradicts their beliefs that this was just some excuse that scientists couldn't possibly believe. But no they aren't interested in that kind of "what scientists really think".
Overall I think the emails are inconvenient revelations for the accusers, although unfortunately quote-mining is a particularly effective method of propaganda and no easy counter exists.