Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Climategate - should it matter?

Climategate. I've been avoiding reading about this just because I knew it was going to piss me off terrifically and, as you all know, these sorts of things just grind my crackers.

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?


Linda A said...

I am glad to see that you know the difference between belief and science. As a biology teacher, I often had to deal with that confusion in high students. People don't realize that science is a human process and which unfortunately means that there will be human bias, which sometimes leads to mistaken conclusions.There is too much at stake to let Climategate keep us from fighting global warming.With more evidence, we will see if Climategate matters. I predict that it will have little effect on the conclusions that scientists make.

Panamamama said...

Very interesting. Like the comparison with flat-earthers and climate change non believers.

Chris M said...

Yes, the difference with Flat Earthers is that they aren't really doing any harm. Climate change deniers are directly threatening the lives of millions by trying to prevent action from being taken. We need to remember free speech is not an absolute right. Holocaust denial is illegal in many countries.

Greenpa said...

I originally used this metaphor over on Sharon's, but it's worth reiterating. What has really happened here is that the public has been made aware of the "real" processes of "academic science" - which, I'll point out, is not "Science", but a subset of that phenomenon.

Academic science is a sausage factory. Quite a lot of what goes on is really very ugly. The public is NOT allowed to see it, in general; in fact students are not allowed; until they are on the verge of acquiring their PhD. Then, finally, the advisor will start letting the grad student in on the petty pointless backstabbing and the occasional outright cheating that always- always- goes on.

Actually, that was the exact point where I jumped off my PhD track. I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life.

What is fed to the public is - the very nice bratwurst and kielbasa that result.

Tasty, nutritious, but you REALLY don't want to know all that went into making it.

And, in terms of "cooking" data - alas, that's gone on forever, too. Newton- cooked his data, we find. Not a question. As I understand it, when he was measuring the movement of the planets, his measurements got so accurate that he was starting to measure relativistic effects. And he had no way to explain them. He KNEW his concepts were right, and he knew data that didn't match would give his opponents ammunition- so- he fudged.

Good moral dilemma there. Where would we be today if he HADN'T fudged?

I don't know, of course.

Also of course- the fact that at least one bunch of academics have clay feet means nothing whatsoever about global climate change.

Ya know what really runs my Ritzes through the cuisinart?

The fact that the climate scientists aren't smart enough to turn the tables on the deniers.

Do the climate dudes have access to good hackers? Duh. So- why aren't they hacking the corporate emails at Exxon- and/or a zillion other places- and exposing the emails those guys are swapping??

I guarantee there's good stuff there, to prove many of the deniers are paid minions. There's really NO question about that- there's hard proof, in fact, from decades gone by.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'm a touch annoyed at the scientists. I just think that they could have avoided this situation by behaving in an honest manner. And that now what they have to say matters very little because their credibility has been destroyed.

I know that climate change is a real phenomenon, and that we cannot continue to consume and pollute without paying the piper. I don't doubt it at all. Which is why I think that the whole fiasco is just so unnecessary and upsetting.

ruchi said...

Well ... I agree that the leaked Climategate emails do not support denialism. So in that sense, Climategate does not matter.

But I also agree with Greenpa, that what Climategate has done is uncovered the dark underbelly of academia. And I think that maybe that should be exposed. It does matter when scientists are grossly unprofessional, or when they decide not to publish a paper simply because it goes against their politics. Climategate also exposes how much the political process really affects scientists.

So while yes, I would agree with you, that I don't think denialists can really use Climategate to buttress their delusions, I do think Climategate can and should be a learning moment for other reasons.

Anonymous said...

I think some good things can come out of this. The underlying data collection systems for climate data do have flaws. If this controversy can promote investment in better data collection systems, as a country we can support better climate science.

Anonymous said...

I hear "scientists credibility has been destroyed" and all I can think is that this will lead to a lot of confusion. The scientists personal credibility certainly has been destroyed but you cannot use that same argument on the facts.

I am hoping that anyone who chooses to use climategate as an argument against global warming will be met with the response "Using a logical fallacy such as a red herring adds no merit to your argument." Since that is what this is, it is a red herring on the path to reaching a real solution.

Deanna said...

My own, otherwise extremely intelligent brother is a denier and has been gloating about this on his blog ever since the news broke. I've been reading dozens and dozens of articles and reports, all across the political spectrum and am planning a blog post of my own on the subject. I just want to make sure I have my ducks in a row first.

Unknown said...

Global Warming or not is not the biggest think to me and I think that environmentalist should always focus on global pollution and less in global warming. We are getting sick with more immune deficiency diseases that never before and all is because of pollution. There are far more thinks to impress people and let them see the destruction that we are doing if we see the mess created more than floods and hurricanes because the regular people that only get the news at 6pm think that there will always be floods so why would they have to worry now. When you see the pollution in the water and in the air is more personal because you are drinking it or breathing it. We all know about people that don’t understand the concept unless is directly affecting them.

La La said...

First and foremost;
I REALLY like your blog. It rings true to me in a lot of ways.

I think Sharon Astyk in her book "Independence Days" put it best..

It shouldn't matter whether people have a reason to change or not; they should just (in her case) focus on the things they do have control over (namely, in this context, The Open Table/Full Pantry idea) and not try to find an excuse to do what you should do in the first place. (I'm summarizing my feelings on her words)

That said, who cares if global climate change is happening.. due to humans as is reported or because of some other event that we don't know of? A theory is, by definition, a " the general sense of the word, an analytic structure designed to explain a set of observations"

If one looks at the data available, there are different "explanations of the set of observations" available. Why, when we don't have all the facts, commit to one side or the other? Like all the political whooey, has anyone seen the evolution of these climate theories over the last couple of decades? Does anyone remember that we were afraid the world was going to freeze over in the 70s?

That said, we should try to focus on what our real goal is, which I assume for most reading your blog is some sort of self- (or community-)sufficiency and trying to bring ourselves back into balance with the natural cycles of the world.

If we're not careful, OUR reputations might be tarnished, and our whole goal wiped away, if indeed something does arise to call into question our reliance on outside (and mostly un-verifiable) sources.

Our message is more important than the excuses we use to try to get it across.

Keep on Rocking ; )

Kathy said...

Many people who are horrified with "Climategate" are not deniers they are scientists and others who want to better understand the way the various aspects of our extremely complex climate truly work so that better policy can be written.

Personally, I am disgusted with what I have read of the emails. The politics and the fudged data DO matter- esp since there are only 3 temperature datasets existing for planetary temps, of which this is 1. Science is partly based upon replicatable results. This team refused to release data, and in fact tried every method possible to avoid fulfilling their LEGAL responsibility to fulfill FOIA requests, including orders to delete data. This is a disgrace!

Science is built upon skepticism. The easiest way for researchers to deal with skeptics? RELEASE THE DATA!

And I find that the easiest response for a face-to-face encounter is simply "warming aside, who gave you the right to POLLUTE??" And then vent about particulate matter in vehicle exhaust, etc ;)

My 2 cents, a little rambly and off the cuff, but well meant ;)

Sharlene said...

I think I put forth the exact same arguement to my friends who are non-believers when it comes to climate change. They looked at these emails as their proof. It made my head want to explode and I told them they were just as bad as the flat earth society. I also told them evolution and climate change aren't a matter of belief or faith, they are scientific fact. But some people just don't want to accept the facts. What can you do?

Kim said...

I guess it's officially time for me to unsubscribe your blog from my Bloglines. Sigh. In the past I've enjoyed your blog but your narrowminded intolerance is just too much anymore. The idea that people who have researched the SCIENCE and found that it does not in any way support global worming are flat-earthers and basically idiots shows a lot for your character and your willingness to have true honest debate. I have known for a long time that I do not agree with all your posting but it's just gotten too much to continue reading. Hopefully one day you will be able to see that everyone who doesn't agree with you aren't just stupid.

Enjoy the pats on the back and hoorahs from all your supporters. I hope everyone enjoys puffing yourselves up at the expense of those who don't agree with you. I understand more than ever how those pushing to strip our personal freedoms left and right feel that they are so fabulous for doing so. Listening to everyone slam those who don't agree with them and then proceeding to tell each other how great they all are for doing so makes it very clear how it happens.

Sorry to have to go. Enjoyed you for a long time.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Kim - I'm sorry to see you go, but your comment shows how little you really know me. I'm more than happy to engage any and everyone in "true honest debate". That is one of the major points of this blog. I generally prefer to keep my opinion on things out of it to allow others to discuss the issues.

Occasionally, such as in this post, I do make my opinion known. And if that makes me narrow-minded, well then, I suppose you don't understand what a debate means. Feel free to counter my own conclusions with something compelling and I'll be happy to listen.

"Hopefully one day you will be able to see that everyone who doesn't agree with you aren't just stupid." No, it's not people who don't agree with me that has anything to do with it. It's people who don't agree with thousands of scientists who, under the rigors of the scientific method, have all come to the same conclusion on evolution, climate change and the rest. Yes, the scientific method has its issues and there are always going to be personalities and politics that flaw the system and I believe it is totally necessary to question things. But, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater just because of those things.

Finally, I have no idea what you are referring to about stripping personal freedoms and how it pertains to my blog. I have never encouraged such beliefs and it goes contrary to much of what I believe in.

Lee said...

One interesting point came out of Copenhagen.

There's a new term for "green".

"Green" people are now referred to as "environmentally aware".

There's also a new term for "climate change deniers".

They're now referred to as "oil and coal executives and sharholders".

Or, more simply, "idiots".

Patricia said...

The hackers took comments out of context, and the "news" media did not help.
If you adjust the data to allow for things like a satellite that gradually changes position, causing erroneous readings, you might refer to the corrections in an e-mail to a colleague as a "trick", but it does not indicate dishonesty, any more than a comment that "I'll show you the trick to opening the battery case on this camera" is any kind of nefarious comment.

I have commented on this at

Has info on additional hacking and break-ins of climate researchers