Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Climategate" - Is the Sky Really Falling?

So, several thousand emails were hacked from the University of East Anglia, dumped on some other server elsewhere in the world, and are now being trumpeted as "proof" that climate change is a hoax. And thousands of global warming conspiracy theorists are now pouring over all these illegally-obtained emails trying to find anything they can spin into evidence of a global conspiracy.

Does that summarize the situation pretty well?

Personally, I think that the best take on the situation comes from Aaron Wiener on the Washington Independent:
Is 'Climategate' Really the Game-Changer Skeptics Say It Is?

On Friday, the news broke that hackers had obtained and released thousands of email exchanges between climate scientists at England’s University of East Anglia. Climate change skeptics pounced on the leak, dubbing it "Climategate" and proclaiming that the questionable communications between the scientists proved that global warming was based on cooked data.

"Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?" asked one headline. Another piece called the scandal "one of the greatest in modern science." Today, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) called for an investigation.

So what exactly in these emails is causing such celebration among the deniers? The Daily Telegraph compiled "the most contentious quotes," and while they’re certainly embarrassing for their authors, they don’t come close to undermining the very basis of climate science. Here are three of the six they list:

From: Michael Mann. To: Phil Jones and Gabi Hegerl (University of Edinburgh). Date: Aug 10, 2004
“Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the [global warming-denying] idiots in the near future.”

From: Phil Jones. To: Many. March 11, 2003
“I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome [global warming-denying] editor.”

From Phil Jones To: Michael Mann (Pennsylvania State University). July 8, 2004
“I can’t see either of these [global warming-denying] papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

These emails demonstrate a deep disdain for global warming skepticism that does not befit scientists in objective pursuit of the truth. But disdain is a far cry from intentional falsification, which is what they’re being accused of. These scientists could — and maybe should — suffer consequences for presenting their findings, and those of their colleagues, in a way that jibes with their broader agenda. But to say that this leak threatens to undermine next month’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen strikes me as more than a bit excessive.
As Gavin A. Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA put it, "Science doesn’t work because we’re all nice. Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works."

Or, from Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight:
Still: I don't know how you get from some scientist having sexed up a graph in East Anglia ten years ago to The Final Nail In The Coffin of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Anyone who comes to that connection has more screws loose than the Space Shuttle Challenger. And yet that's literally what some of these bloggers are saying!

Incidentally, 2009 is shaping up to be the 5th warmist year on record, according to the conspiracists at NASA.
More to the point, from Brad Johnson on Think Progress:
Evidently due to this e-mail conspiracy, Arctic sea ice is at historically low levels, Australia is on fire, the northern United Kingdom is underwater, and the world's glaciers are disappearing. Oh yeah, and it’s the hottest decade in history.
Oh, and Inhofe's calling for an investigation. Into a UN committee. Because he thinks we have jurisdiction there? And, just so I'm clear, this is the same James Inhofe whose biggest campaign contributor is the oil and gas lobby?

Yeah, I thought so.

1 comment:

Paul Ellis said...

Not that anybody on the right overreacted on the initial report or anything. No, that would never happen.