AGW: Two Sad Mirrors

After years of angry charges against scientists, there is now an “Inhofe moment” for people who were hoping, or believing, that there is no anthropogenic – caused global warming.  Heaven knows, we all wish it were so.

Inhofe, who reminds me of ex-PM Mbeki on his personal view of HIV not causing AIDS, declared this week that a batch of stolen emails from the East Anglia Climate Research Center proved him right, once and for all.  “We’re right, and you’re wrong!” he shouted to Congress.  How embarrassing.

This illegal hack of the university’s computers, with its related “gotchas” and bad-news emails, seems to me to hold up mirrors to both sides of this controversy.  And guess who comes out looking great?  No one.

On the Gotcha side, the email comments just don’t cut it as a global conspiracy proving that the science was wrong, or mis-conducted.  Example: when someone says let’s use a someone else’s data-treatment “trick,” and use real values for temperature, this is not grand larceny.  It isn’t even fraud.

So, here is the first sad mirror, held up to Exxon, which continues to fund fake science, and to all of the desperate folks like Inhofe who will grasp at any straw to think that there is not a clear scientific, objective case for AGW.  The reason these scientists are acting a little stressed – out and weird is that they are not used to global corporations paying millions per year to shills who are happy to lie repeatedly, on the stand, about whatever they’re told to lie about.  (Check out the current issue of Yes! magazine for an excellent article listing the names of these pathetic non-scientists, who testify for Philip Morris one day and the coal industry the next; and which also identifies the companies, like Morris, paying for all this fake controversy.)

Scientists are not prepared for orchestrated propaganda, media blitzes, fake (or real) anger feeding off of obviously faked papers, and, worst of all, people believing losers who couldn’t get a real science job if they tried, at least in this field.  (And yes, there appears to be one single scientist, at Harvard, who is of a different mind, but that is  basically it, and his colleagues are deeply embarrassed by his statements.)

No one ever said that scientists around the world had to be unanimous about any subject, nor did we expect it.  Add in intentional fraud, and things get very messy.  In this case, it also creates the kind of “bunker mentality” seen among the climate scientists, and portrayed in some of their emails.  What if you knew someone was a shill?  Would you let them publish?  What if you knew they were on the take?  Would you give their arguments equal weight?  No.  But it looks bad on paper.

The science on this subject remains clear, and the Gotcha crowd will have to find something better than angry or beleaguered comments to change the weight of all of the science now describing AGW.  Indeed, all of the recent work on the subject show faster changes than most of the science community had predicted; very bad news. 

I do, sincerely, hope that when they find someone inside those faceless corporations who paid for extended debate and confusion through fraudulent means, that they create a new crime against society, and convict them of it quickly.  Penalty: at least life in jail.

Now for the second mirror: there is nothing very pretty about the stolen emails, and their exposure shows up the Good Ol Boy side of modern science, whether from a peer-review perspective (oops, not one of us?) or from a lack of tolerance for other ideas.  (One researcher, in a paper he claims showed constant rainfall in the NW, rather than declining rainfall, could not get published.  Geez – ) I think real science has been  broken for a hundred years, harmed by just this kind of wolf-pack thinking and behavior.  For that reason, this mirror held up may do some good for the science community, showing its perfidy, smugness and willingness to bend the so-called rules, at least in small things, when it fits their mood or needs.  On an historic scale, it has the opposite effect the Gotcha crowd suspects: it prevents revolutionary discoveries altogether, favoring incrementalism, while delaying the exposure and acceptance of even moderately new and different ideas.  It makes getting the work done, and word out, on AGW take decades, as it has done, rather than a few years. 

No one comes out looking great from this email controversy.  But nothing mentioned in any of those mails comes close to tainting the much greater amount of work and results done, around the world, published in many journals by thousands of scientists.  It’s time for the skeptics to stop playing Gotcha, and start worrying about their grandchildren.