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The Real Climate Confusion
The Real Climate Confusion
January 28, 2010
Originally published in The National Review Online
Over at HuffPo, the founder of DeSmogBlog tries to divert attention from the collapsing "consensus" on global warming by saying that it's all the fault of a decades-long "climate confusion campaign" waged by, among others, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. While it is nice of him to give us the credit for the good sense of the American people, his Scooby Doo-style "if it wasn't for those meddling kids" argument actually represents the real attempt to muddy the waters.
Take, for example, his attempts to dismiss two of the many recent scandals to have befallen the seemingly accident-prone climate-science establishment:
Leiserowitz points to the damage caused by “Climategate” and “Glaciergate.” He is partially right; those scandals did cause damage. Unfortunately the damage was inflicted on climate scientists.
The real let-down was the media’s obsession with the mythology that scientists had somehow made up global warming by cooking the data. Anyone who took the time to review the emails or the glacial records knows that assertion is patently false.
"The real damage caused by these scandals resulted from the lazy reporting done by most journalists on the subject. The media failed to report the real story of “Climategate” — that a crime was committed by thieves who stole from a prestigious university in order to further an agenda of harassment against climate scientists. And while “Glaciergate” was an embarrassing screw-up by the IPCC, it didn’t change the fact that glaciers are melting worldwide, causing sea level rise that is already affecting coastal communities."
Yes, a crime was committed in Climategate. The Information Commissioner in the U.K. has now confirmed that the University of East Anglia broke the law by failing to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. The climategate e-mails clearly reveal the complicity of many of the leading names in climate science in that crime. Unfortunately, thanks to a spectacularly badly-worded statute, the Information Commissioner is unable to punish the guilty for this crime. As to whether the e-mails were "hacked" by "thieves," that remains an open question. All we have is the knowledge that the e-mails came into the possession of the public without the express consent of the authors. That may be the work of thieves, or it may be the work of a whistleblower. If there is any under-reporting here, it relates to the failure of journalists to adequately investigate whether a leak, rather than a hack, occurred. The fact that the UEA's own Mike Hulme is referring to the event as a leak might tell you something.
As for Glaciergate, the hysteria about sea-level rise is overdone. The IPCC itself estimates the current contribution of glacial melt to sea-level rise is 1.19 mm a year. The specific issue at play in glaciergate, the melting of Himalayan glaciers, has been a major factor in Indian politics, and therefore yet another example of supposed scientists hyping pure speculation in order to effect political action they view as desirable, thereby subverting the democratic process. The reaction in India — far from the reach of CEI — has been severe, with the Indian government now distancing itself from Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian national who is head of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The real issue here is that climategate, glaciergate, Amazongate, disastergate, Sterngate, and all the other "warmergate" stories that are currently making headlines reveal a consistent pattern of behavior: scientists making unwarranted politically-motivated claims from the data they are supposed to be objectively examining. It should be blindingly obvious that public trust in scientists would slip as a result. But the damage was done by scientists as well as to scientists.
Virtually all the advice from the Left on this subject has been for scientists to improve their communication skills, as if another layer of spin will help. As the British government's new chief scientific adviser notes, perhaps the best advice is simply for scientists to be more honest about the uncertainties in climate-change science. That will allow their advice to be given the correct weight by the public and their representatives in the democratic process. Any other advice is simply confused.