There are enough climate change denier yahoos out there already that we really don't need any fuel to add to their fire. I like to equate them to that illustrious group known as the "flat-earthers", but there is one huge difference between the two groups. Nobody listens to the flat-earthers.
I think any reasonable person of moderate intelligence will agree that the Earth is round, based on not only personal experience (curvature of the horizon, anyone?) but also on the massive scientific evidence pointing to its spherical nature. And, just really, not that there is anything conclusive in this fact, but do you see any other flat planets in our solar system?
On the other hand, people are still listening to climate change deniers. They can certainly state facts that seem compelling (like the natural swing of global temperatures over time), but ultimately, they are preying on people's desires and fears. The desire that we can continue living in a highly consumptive manner with complete disregard to not only the quality of air, soil and water, but with complete and utter disregard to other life on this planet.
They are also preying on assuaging people's fears of the consequences of their actions. It's a whole lot more pleasant to believe that anything that humans do couldn't possibly negatively effect the Earth and its climate. Because, if that were truly the case, then horrible repurcussions could potentially ensue. Like major flooding, raised ocean levels, increased occurrences of hurricanes, droughts, famine, death. Basically, the end result of a few degrees rise in overall temperature.
So, which would you rather convince yourself to believe? Horror or happy? Most people choose happy until they are whacked in the head often enough to realize that, in order to maintain that happy, you have to start denying reality.
Climate change deniers claim that those who argue that global climate change is a problem and that it needs to be dealt with are like religious fanatics. However, the issue is that religion is based on belief, some might say a leap of faith. Yet, climate science is based on reproducible, scientific theories based on evidence. Not faith. You don't "believe" in global climate change any more than you "believe" in evolution. You accept the basic scientific tenets and then move on.
Where does this then lead with regard to Climategate, where several thousand files and e-mails that were stolen from one of the world's foremost climate-research institutes were leaked? Potentially embarrassing files and emails? Well, it should go absolutely nowhere really. Because there's nothing in there worth note and most things quoted were either taken out of context or totally skewed from the original meaning.
As Andy Revkin from the NY Times stated:
An array of scientists and policymakers in the United States and abroad have said that nothing disclosed so far — the correspondence and documents include references by prominent climate scientists to deleting potentially embarrassing e-mails, keeping papers by competing scientists from publication and making adjustments in data — undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science.
So, should Climategate matter? No, not unless this statement is either false or is found to be false. Unfortunately, it does matter in that those who disagree with the science of global climate change will be even more convinced of their position and those that are unsure might be swayed into thinking the deniers are correct.
I take comfort in knowing that sooner, rather than later, the deniers will be the 21st Century's flat-earthers. How much that impacts what we are able to do to prevent the more disastrous effects of higher temperatures remains to be seen, but I'm satisfied in knowing that less and less of the deniers are making an impact on how science and government are moving forward on the topic.
What's my conclusion? Unless something criminally crazy comes out of the leaked materials, I wouldn't spend any more mental or emotional effort thinking about it.
What's your opinion on the matter? Do you find it worrisome and that it will have more of a negative impact?