Saturday, November 20, 2010

Update on Climategate

It's been about a year since Climategate, where several events negatively impacted the credibility of the claims made by climate scientists regarding the causes of and solutions to global warming. I compiled a linkfest a year ago here. To my mind the two most damning points were: 1) The original data that had been used to make estimates on warming trends had been lost. 2) The computer programs used to extrapolate future trends were "complete and utter train wrecks". The first point severed the link between the actual measurements and the estimates of them that were used, while the second point severed the link between the estimates used and the theory that is supposed to explain them. Moreover, the first point prevented any kind of scientific verification of the estimates, effectively exempting the climate scientists from having their claims peer-reviewed. The second point simply amplifies the fact that scientific software does not undergo peer-review itself. Both points, therefore, seriously challenge the scientific credibility of climate science, or at least the more extreme claims.

Recently, another point has surfaced that I also find disturbing. An IPCC official said,

First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole. (emphasis mine)

I don't have a problem with wealth distribution per se: I think there is a moral obligation to redistribute one's wealth, that is, to use one's finances to help those less well off. However, I also think that the only wealth I have a right to redistribute is my own. I have absolutely no right to attempt to redistribute someone else's wealth.

I'm disturbed by the above quote because it shows a potential motive for advocating the doomsday global warming scenarios other than the actual consequences of a quickly warming planet. In light of the inability of having the extreme claims of global warming subjected to peer review, to have a potential political agenda underlying the global warming industry is more than a little unnerving.

My conclusions from a year ago haven't changed:

1. On global warming: I'm perfectly willing to accept the pronouncements of the consensus of scientists.
2. On anthropogenic global warming: Prior to all of this I was perfectly willing to accept the pronouncements of the consensus of scientists. Now I'm suspicious.
3. On catastrophic anthropogenic global warming: Like Glenn Reynolds says, "I'll believe it's a crisis when the people who keep telling me it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis."

Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum


svein said...

Ad pt 3: And then it's too late.

Anonymous said...

The Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry reported on 31 March 2010 that it had found that "the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact". The emails and claims raised in the controversy did not challenge the scientific consensus that "global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity". The MPs had seen no evidence to support claims that Jones had tampered with data or interfered with the peer-review process.

The report of the independent Science Assessment Panel was published on 14 April 2010 and concluded that the panel had seen "no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit." It found that the CRU's work had been "carried out with integrity" and had used "fair and satisfactory" methods. The CRU was found to be "objective and dispassionate in their view of the data and their results, and there was no hint of tailoring results to a particular agenda." Instead, "their sole aim was to establish as robust a record of temperatures in recent centuries as possible."

In July 2010, the British investigation comissioned by the UEA, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, and announced in December 2009, published its final report saying it had exonerated the scientists of manipulating their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming. The "rigour and honesty" of the scientists at the Climatic Research Unit were found not to be in doubt.

"Climategate" was a pathetic smear campaign. I have no idea why these kooky posts about something as scientific as anthropogenic global warming keep appearing on this otherwise sensible blog. Less of this weird stuff please.

Jim S. said...

By the posts that "keep appearing" do you mean the one I posted a year ago and now this one? Two posts separated by a year? As to why such posts would appear on a blog about the history of science, I would answer that commenting on contemporary scientific issues is not outside our domain.

At any rate, I mentioned two issues about Climategate that disturbed me, specifically because they prevented the claims of climate scientists from being subjected to peer review. Since they lost the original raw data, their claims cannot be verified by other scientists. That strikes me as a big deal. You responded by saying that certain groups have absolved the scientists of any ethical issues. That response is simply bluster, as it doesn't address the specific points I made, and only made general points that have no bearing on them. That's exactly how young-earth creationists argue.

I reiterate that I don't deny global warming. I am suspicious of whether it is anthropogenic, and I am skeptical that it is a looming catastrophe (since so many of the people who insist it is obviously don't believe it themselves). But I don't deny that the planet is warming up.