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The Climate-Gate Nontroversy

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“It's not science, it's the religion of the left,” typed an anonymous reader Thanksgiving afternoon on ScienceBlogs.com. “Science has never had one thing to do with it,” the commenter continued, “It is simply about destroying the very concept of God and replacing it with MASSIVE government! All hail his royal F*&%TARD COWARD, Barack Obama!”

This comment was written below one of hundreds of articles from across the globe concerning what has now been dubbed “Climate-Gate.”

On November 19, 160 megabytes of files, including hundreds of thousands of e-mails and documents were illegally hacked and then leaked on the Internet, the result of a security breach into the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in the U.K.

Of these emails, one, written by climate research scientist Phil Jones, is being used as evidence of what right wing hysteric Michelle Malkin deemed “the global warming scandal of the century” and others have claimed is undeniable proof of a science community conspiracy behind global warming.

The year was 1999 and the e-mail’s subject was marked “Diagram for WMO Statement.” Here it is, unedited:

Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow. I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.

I know what you’re thinking: This is it. Proof. Scandal of the century. Someone tell Al Gore  he needs something new to cry about, right? Guys?

According to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com:

What you have is a scientist, Dr. Jones, talking candidly about sexing up a graph to make his conclusions more persuasive. This is not a good thing to do – I'd go so far as to call it unethical – and Jones deserves some of the loss of face that he will suffer. Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing that happens all the time in both academia and the private sector – have you ever looked at the graphs in the annual report of a company which had a bad year?

Still, influential websites like the Drudge Report  and Human Events  are pushing the agenda that the above e-mail is undeniable proof of a conspiracy – likely, and correctly, believing most readers will come to a similar conclusion without reading much more than a misleading headline.

The right sees global warming as they see most knee-jerk self-pity issues: A reason for the left to tax them and disguise that tax as a common good. Some more-hardline fanatics believe that after Democrats’ are done picking every last dollar from hardworking Tea Patriots’ pockets, global warming will become a new world religion and create a United Nations cap and trade tax on all the earth’s citizens. Like a host of other would-be Outer Limits treatments taken as fact by today’s right wing, this scenario will lead to a one-world government.

Dr. Jones recently stepped down from his position at the Climate Research Unit, citing that the “CRU continues its world leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible.” Climate deniers have taken this opportunity to add fuel to the fire. A host of British denialist columnists have now called climate change a “fraud” and creationist U.S. senator James Inhofe has called for an investigation into, what he calls, “a possible conspiracy by scientists.”

Actual science and research is continually taken as secondary when it comes to these issues. Like other recent outrage cooked up by Astroturf organizations and lobbyists, global warming denial has been continually pushed by status-quo energy companies and other “Drill baby, drill!” advocates like Sarah Palin, who wondered during a call to the Rush Limbaugh  program on November 17, “are we warming or cooling?”

Many websites and pundits who believe the science behind warming to be a NASA scheme – like World Net Daily and Joseph Farah – are the same ones who’ve called for an American theocracy due to perceived homophobic bigotry they’ve read about in the Bible.

The right seems to be going full steam ahead to get their way on this one, saying whatever it takes to win the argument – similar to their late 90s fascination with supposed marks on Bill Clinton’s "private parts" and the never-ending search to find videotape evidence of Barack Obama’s Kenyan birth.

Opinion polls now show that less people believe in global warming than ever (86% of Democrats, 54% of Republicans, according to the Washington Post). Obviously polls based on scientific opinion mean nothing, because science doesn’t begin and end with Glenn Beck’s latest chalkboard-side hissy fit. But the opinion polls mean that we’re becoming more skeptical of comprehensive scientific research due to partisanship and trumped up concerns based on gut feelings and the unadulterated hatred of others’ belief systems. Yeah, Al Gore may be lame and boring, bit that, too, has nothing to do with science.

Am I excusing Dr. Jones for his sexification of mundane then-non-alarmist numbers, likely for more government funding? Nope. I can’t even say for a fact here that global warming is man-made.

But I’m sure as hell more likely to lend my ears to people like Dr. Jones and Al Gore – who’ve done decades of research – than I am to listen to a host of gasmask-stockpiling theocrats whose only evidence behind global warming denialism are conspiracies, infantile whining about Puritan issues, and the fear of having their tax dollars go toward something besides overseas war adventures and investigations into Bill Clinton’s "lesions."

thumbnail: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/climate-sceptics-welcome-uturn-20091130-jz7j.html


Comments


2:44 PM
Wed Dec 2 2009
“Oh what a tangled web we weave..."

Randy, Nate Silver is correct when he compares Dr. Jones’ “sexing up a graph to make his conclusions more persuasive…”  with “ …graphs in the annual report of a company which had a bad year. “ That is precisely the problem – trusted and esteemed climate scientists lowering themselves to the tactics of Enron and Worldcom financial hacks. Bernie Madoff and every other ponzi-schemer has similarly relied on such misinformation. So when a climate scientist is caught “sexing up a graph,” it is only reasonable to conclude that the numbers have been fudged and, worse still, that the science behind them may be deeply flawed. Conspiracy or not, these scientists have broken the public’s trust, betrayed their objectivity and foolishly handed their opponents grounds for questioning the credibility of the science. And this comes at a time when much more of the public than the far-right is becoming increasingly skeptical of the human-caused climate change argument. To quote Sir Walter Scott: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”