My take on “Climategate”

Another blogger stirred up a predictable argument with his assessment of “Climategate.” I waited for the inevitable bomb-tossing to ensue before commenting. But I think it’s worth making those comments a blog posting of my own. I think they could lead to a civil discussion of how scientists should act when dealing with politically sensitive topics. Care to chime in? Here’s what I wrote:

“Climategate” shows that scientists are — Who would’ve thunk it? — human, and they sometimes let their political views get in the way of their scientific objectivity.

After years of political noise from people who have plenty to gain by maintaining the status quo, these scientists were anticipating similar over-reaction from the noise machine. They forgot that in science, the evidence should speak for itself.

They made the same mistake that Mark Fuhrman made in the O.J. Simpson murder investigation. Instead of letting the entire body of evidence speak, they tried to enhance their conclusions. The unfortunate result was loss of credibility, even for the huge body of evidence supporting their interpretation.

That sent critics poring over the details of the IPCC report, which included, as I understand it, a typo that changed 2350 to 2035 in the section about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers. What reasonable scientist could expect those huge glaciers to disappear in less than 3 decades? Now because of the scrutiny, that obvious typo is being construed as a deliberate error.

Fuhrman’s blunder, aided and abetted by errors by prosecutors, introduced enough doubt to get O.J. acquitted, but the civil case went against him and “the real killer” remains a figment of the imagination of O.J. and his friends.

As “jemmybutton” notes, the science has been obscured by this unfortunate misjudgment of the scientists that let politics interfere with the normal process of science.

Considering the consequences of not acting to reduce greenhouse gases, we can’t allow this brouhaha to divert us from taking appropriate political action based on the best scientific evidence available. That evidence is imperfect, but it provides policy-makers more than enough to go on.

Fred Bortz

9 thoughts on “My take on “Climategate””

  1. “That evidence is imperfect, but it provides policy-makers more than enough to go on.”
    Fred- look into it a bit more – the evidence all contradicts the hypothesis of anthropogenic warming.
    Notice the CO2 levels? Notice the temperature?
    You can’t reject the fundamental epistemological axiom that cause precedes effect, either – see the historical record of CO2 vs temperature?
    Presently you will learn of NASA research showing that CO2 is not a significant factor in climate nor weather but that water vapor is.
    Of course, we knew that.

  2. Dave McK states that I should “look into it a bit more.” Try this list of books I’ve been reading and reviewing. (It also includes a few guest reviews.)

    That has a lot more credibility than Dave’s unsupported statement that “the evidence all contradicts the hypothesis of anthropogenic warming.” The IPCC report may be imperfect, but it still represents the judgment of the vast majority of climate experts. Anyone Dave will quote — and I presume he will — represents a vocal minority made up mainly of people whose interests lie in supporting the status quo.

    My argument is that policy-makers should make their judgments on the body of evidence and ignore the political distortions that abound. They set up the IPCC to avoid being sidetracked by bandwagons (read the organization’s charter). If anything, the IPCC errs on the side of caution, which shows up in their predictions of sea level rise, which do not consider dynamic melting, i.e. more rapid sliding of ice sheets into the ocean due to water underneath, not just melt-water from the surface.

    I posted this in the hope that we will discuss how scientists should act when dealing with politically sensitive topics rather than rehashing the tired old arguments about the science.

    I have no plans to reply further on the science itself.

    Fred Bortz

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