The release of previously-sequestered emails, documents, and program code offered confirmation of what many anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skeptics always suspected: the politicization of climate science had utterly corrupted the findings. Those findings, viz. that global warming was taking place and that man’s actions had brought it about, formed the basis for broad international agreements like the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Accord. The upcoming Copenhagen conference was intended to be the venue where the “alarms” were finally answered and the developed world was going to commence the sacrifices necessary to atone for their development.
But the emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England have cast unavoidable doubts as to the legitimacy of the long-heralded consensus that had found the science to be “settled.” World leaders, when they weren’t feigning ignorance of the controversy, began to backpedal from commitments due to the groundswell of grassroots outrage.
Efforts by the willfully-blind politicians and apologists who saw AGW as the sin for which the West could finally be reigned in and yoked fell on incredulous ears. This blatant stonewalling and sleight-of-hand further emboldened he opposition, for rarely are he leftists so brazen.
The politicians tried to downplay the motley CRU’s chicanery as unrepresentative of the majority of climate scientists. Carol Browner, Obama’s global warming czar, after first trying to dismiss the emails as trivial then stated baldly that she is “sticking with the 2,500 scientists. These people have been studying this issue for a very long time and agree this problem is real.” The reporter conducting the interview failed to follow-up on the obvious question begging: how many of those scientists were involved in the conspiracy to quash dissent and how many of those who weren’t would now still consider the conclusion unimpeachable?
Skeptics, naturally, failed to argue against science as a numbers game, which would’ve decimated this consensus. Instead they chose to trot out their own quantified contrapuntal consensus. The disinterested onlookers, however, can’t help but shake their heads at the one-upmanship and politicking. For the layman, science is collecting data, making theories, and verifying other scientists’ theories. This window into the sausage factory has exposed climate science as the scientific equivalent of cooking the books.
Climate scientists and the leftists who love them invoked the talisman of “peer review” in a vain effort to intimidate the public. Trading on the public’s superficial understanding of the peer review process, they tut-tutted the skeptics’ claims because they generally didn’t publish their works in peer-reviewed journals. They cited study after study in prestigious journals that supported their view that man-made carbon dioxide emissions were amplifying the greenhouse effect and causing catastrophe. When the peer-review process is open, anonymous, and intellectually honest, it is a decent way to gradually move science in the direction of truth and to maintain its focus on reality.
But the researchers in this instance did everything in their power to subvert the peer-review process. In email after email, they spoke of ousting journal editors who may have wavered in their commitment to the cause, of thwarting requests for their raw data or methodologies, and of coordinating with their fellow travelers to present a united front when conducting peer review. Any legitimate scientist should be disgusted at their behavior—and many are.
But peer review is not in itself a validation of the conclusions of any particular study. As Climategate has demonstrated, it is subject to manipulation and fallibility. The peers that review a paper ostensibly examine the author’s methodology, but unusual or controversial conclusions may appear invalid and so the review can lead to a creeping orthodoxy as these papers never see the printed page. So the rejection of skepticism by dint of a lack of publication is disingenuous when the rejectors are also the publishing gatekeepers. In the end, the only way to validate a finding is through reference to reality: does the conclusion follow logically from the empirical data? Is the empirical data collected in an objective, verifiable manner? Reality is the arbiter here, not men.
Worse yet are those who would sweep aside the scandal, ignore the lack of foundation for the AGW position, and fail to amend their support for far-reaching, global economic changes because of the researchers’ good intentions. You see this viewpoint appear in nearly any comment thread on any blog entry and it commonly takes the form “sure they were out of line but shouldn’t we be moving towards cleaner energy, less oil dependence, and renewable fuels?” The “trick” here is “we.” The “we” in question is not the gradual process of technological replacement that takes place when millions of individuals in the market act to buy cheaper, safer technologies; they’re invariably talking about the government enacting mandates on individuals and companies. The latter, because it is achieved through force, is not something we should be undertaking. If renewable energy is desirable, then it will be taken up by industries when it becomes profitable to do so.
The AGW crowd has not earned the benefit of the doubt. The mainstream media so far have turned a blind eye, but world leaders attending Copenhagen must not be allowed to pretend like Climategate never occurred. It is a sad day when the voices of reason are the Danes and the Saudis.