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ClimateGATE: Some tastes of Truth rather than truthiness

December 3rd, 2009 · 4 Comments

Sadly, we need to spend time on the anti-science syndrome sound machine’s efforts to spin and promote ClimateGate / SwiftHack as something meriting focus rather than recognizing that every serious piece of work in the field is highlighting that the situation of climate change is getting more dire (essentially) on every front of the climate crisis. While we should be spending our intellectual capital figuring out best mitigation paths, necessary adaptations, and determining (and moving forward with) the best paths to execute them, we need to deal with escalating distortion machine falsehoods asserting that the hacked CRU emails supposedly undermine the science as opposed to giving deniers a tool to further muddy the conversation and inhibit necessary action.

Sigh …

Time to give some more attention.

In this case to give attention by highlighting some very thoughtful voices around the web providing insights on SwiftHack.

Let’s start with a scientist’s comment from Slashdot (hat tip Stoat / William Connelly) which, while a bit heavy in the ‘how dare amateurs criticize experts’, seems quite truthful:

there’s virtually *nothing* in the way of criticism that a beginner would be able to think of that an expert hadn’t thought about already. You’re just not going to find a professor of physics having made a mistake of forgetting the first law of thermodynamics.

Now I’m happy to defend my science against legitimate, good, criticism. But a scientific debate is *NOT* where anybody should be TEACHING anybody science. What kind of ‘debate’ is it if every answer amounts to “That’s not what that word means, read a damn textbook.” It’s not the scientists who are being arrogant then. Hell, since when didn’t scientists bend over backwards to educate the public? We write textbooks, and popular-scientific accounts. Research gets published in journals for everyone to see, etc. It’s not like we’re keeping it a big secret – The problem is that some people are simply unwilling to learn, yet arrogant enough to believe they should be entitled to ‘debate’ with me, and that I should be personally burdened with educating them in the name of ‘open debate’!

(Just to pick one out of the climate bag. How often haven’t you seen someone say “Yeah but climate change is cyclical!” – What? As if _climate scientists_ didn’t know that?! Refuting someone’s research with arguments from an introductory textbook)

The fact that these climate-skeptics were prepared to take these e-mails, pore over them for some choice quotes (which didn’t even look incriminating to me out of context), blatantly misinterpret them without making any kind of good-faith effort to understand the context or the science behind it, and trumpet it all out as some kind of ‘disproval’ of global warming (which wouldn’t have been the case even if they were right), just goes to show that they’re simply not interested in either learning the science, or engaging in a real debate. And it’s in itself pseudo-scientific behavior in action: Decide there’s a big conspiracy of fraud behind climate change, and go look for evidence to support your theory, and ignore all other explanations.

Follow after the fold for some more.

In a must read post, Ed Darrell (Millard Filmore’s Bathtub) found damning evidence of a smoking gun while going through the hacked CRU emails:

with just a few minutes of searching the e-mails, I found references to ethical breaches in cooking of data, and a discussion about how to talk about the data and the issue in public.

Anthony Watts and others may be justified in asking that the scientists who wrote this fraudulent paper should be summarily dismissed, and in questioning why other scientists dallied in exposing the fraud.

But there is this to consider: The paper in question is a paper critical of warming hypotheses, and it was co-authored by at least a couple of the most strident critics of Al Gore, James Hansen, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The smoking gun was used to shoot down a hasty effort to brand climate-change critics as unprofessional and wrong. The smoking gun was used to enforce the hard ethical rules of science: Don’t speak until your data allow a fair conclusion.

The smoking gun e-mails show correct and careful behavior by the scientists who contributed to the IPCC report, but unethical behavior by the critics whose backers, we might assume, stole the e-mails in the first place, and published them without understanding the depth of moral character demonstrated by most scientists in the conduct of their professions.

So, from a quick dive into the data we learn:

1. Climate scientists talk like Boy Scouts trying to impress a Board of Review.
2. Climate scientists are extremely careful with data.
3. When they think no one is looking, climate scientists behave ethically.
4. When they think have found a piece of fraud, climate scientists are careful to recheck their numbers several times and in several ways before saying anything.
5. Instead of holding a press conference, climate scientists like to keep the fisticuffs in the confines of juried journals.
6. Climate “skeptics” are full of themselves, and probably wrongly accuse climate scientists of fixing data.
7. Fraud in climate science may occur, but generally on the side of those who argue against warming or who advocate inaction as a response.
8. The claims of smoking guns that negate the case for doing something about global warming are most likely hoaxes.

As long as there is cherry-picking of emails going on, let’s pick out some choice words from Dendrochronologist Edward Cook.

At one point, I was simultaneous accused of being a raving tree hugger and in the pocket of the coal industry. I have always said that I don’t care what answer is found as long as it is the truth or at least bloody close to it.

To see Cook’s words in full context.

From Rupert Read

The University of East Anglia is where I work and teach. The ‘scandal’ here has I think been gotten out of all proportion in some of the media, old and new. I have now read a good number of the ‘worst’ of the hacked emails. I also know a couple of the protagonists personally, and for human-interest value the hacked emails certainly do offer some tidbits. But when the dust settles, I predict that the climate-deniers will be left holding onto hardly anything here.

There is so far as I can tell at this stage no significant scientific scandal, and most importantly absolutely no reason to doubt any of the fundamentals of the science of man-made climate change here, just a few unpleasant or silly or (at worst) unwise and bad-practice emails. Scientists aren’t angels; like the rest of us, they sometimes get angry with their detractors, and even work to marginalise them, and so on.

As a philosopher of science, it worries me to see the level of ignorance displayed by many of those who are jumping all over this leaked information as if it undermines the science around global warming. Except possibly in some literally marginal ways, it simply does not, once you understand the context of most of these emails.

The key problem, in all this, is that last sentence. There are people actively working to avoid having people “understand the context” and, if the piece that opens this post is correct, far more who are simply unable to reach that point of understanding.

Read ends:

The real scandal is that climate-change scepticism has brought us to this point, where only a few years separate us from the likely onset of runaway climate change. Respect to any climate-deniers who invest all their pension funds in seashore hotels in the Maldives… otherwise, they should step aside, and let the work of saving the future begin.

The real scandal is that the human race has neither paid enough attention to the climate scientists nor changed its (by which I mean our) way of life so that that life can go on.

Yes, deniers love to scream that Al Gore is profiting by investing in clean energy, the future that he sees as necessary for a strong and prosperous America (and the globe). Wonder whether Anthony Watts, Marc Morano and others of their ilk have put their retirement nest eggs in beachfront properties.

Just a taste of the thoughtful and articulate discussions out there, voices and intellects sadly diverted from the issues truly meriting our attention.

We should be focusing on clean energy jobs instead … sigh.

In any event, Enviroknow remains the best source of information and (too many?) links related to ClimateGATE / Swifthack.

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Tags: climate change · climate delayers · environmental · Global Warming · global warming deniers

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sarah Palin’s zombie charm … // Dec 3, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    […] Google Analytics _uacct = “UA-4876695-1”; urchinTracker(); ← ClimateGATE: Some tastes of Truth rather than truthiness […]

  • 2 nelson // Dec 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    If you could drop the denier label and call them skeptics

    True skepticism (as opposed to self-proclaimed skepticism by people / organizations that are absolutely closed to any contrary evidence — note, I am not addressing that to you) is critical to advancement of science (and, well, any field of knowledge). Did they do the experiment right? Is there contrary evidence excluded or missed? Did they include the relevant literature? DId they crunch the numbers correct? Etc …

    It is one of the greatest insults of the ‘self-proclaimed skeptic’ community to think that the 1000s (and more) of scientists working in the climate arena have been utterly failing in testing others’ work and seeking flaws. This is an argument for a global cabal of scientists who have throw away basic tenets of scientific process, etc … That is systematic distortion, libel and slander.

    A skeptic is open to contrary evidence, absorbs it, and modifies their thinking.

    “Deniers” (such as George Will) continued to parrot and use distortions in arguments, even after having been giving conclusive material showing that what they state isn’t just wrong, but falsehood.

    I might listen to your arguments.

    Really?

    but you lose me with your over the top emotionalisims.

    HA HA

  • 3 uberVU - social comments // Dec 11, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Reiver01US: #climategate – Truth over truthiness http://getenergysmartnow.com/2009/12/03/climategate-some-tastes-of-truth-rather-than-truthiness/

  • 4 Real Climate Gate … // Dec 17, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    […] ClimateGATE: Some tastes of Truth rather than truthiness […]