Sunday, November 22, 2009

Climate change emails: Less in the emails than meets the propaganda of climate change deniers

There is an imbroglio over hacked emails that supposedly shows climate change scientists knowingly tricking people into believing there is a global warming trend. Here is a newspaper article providing a background regarding the emails that were stolen from the facility where they were generated. has a very straight forward answer, though, and convinces me that there is little here other than scientists jousting about things in the usual elitist ways that folks at these higher levels of learning tend to act. What I find somewhat amusing after reading the explanation of what's between the lines of the stray email comments is how little we laypeople know about the scientific process, and how the very detailed knowledge of the scientists, when they speak in shorthand to each other in emails (where many of us can be biting, sarcastic, etc., and therefore easily misunderstood) can create a storm of controversy where none really should exist. None of the data arguments really appear to have been hidden after all is what is saying.

Wattsupwiththat, a relatively reasonably sane climate change sketpics' website, is having a field day showing how several of the scientists are competitive against skeptics, and are backstabbing sorts of folks. Anthony Watts, the proprietor of WattsUpWithThat, needs to talk more with those in upper echelons of nearly any organization, and needs to hang out more with scientists, who tend to be elitist and can be even...assholes. Stephen Jay Gould, for example, was one tough hombre and suffered fools not at all.* But that shouldn't turn me into a creationist. One of the writers at WattsUpWithThat (Roy Spencer, PhD), nonetheless admits to the following (see this entry and scroll down):

One of the biggest misconceptions the public has about science is that research is a straightforward process of making measurements, and then seeing whether the data support hypothesis A or B. The truth is that the interpretation of data is seldom that simple.

There are all kinds of subjective decisions that must be made along the way, and the scientist must remain vigilant that he or she is not making those decisions based upon preconceived notions. Data are almost always dirty, with errors of various kinds. Which data will be ignored? Which data will be emphasized? How will the data be processed to tease out the signal we think we see?

Yes, and when I read the climate change blog,, from time to time (and Watts' helpful website less often), I find the folks there are very willing to admit things are not as simple as a headline from a newspaper or television news reader. But the evidence remains quite clear we humans do affect climate to some extent, that there would have been a clear trend of global cooling had it not been for CO2s in the atmosphere, and we all should want to avoid contributing to a longer-term warming trend that has already harmed various species around the world, and could eventually cause problems for us humans (Thank God the solar winds are changing in a manner that has arrested the "hockey stick" prediction popularized by Al Gore, for example), etc. I think even Anthony Watts, the proprietor of WattsUpWithThat, agrees with most of that on his best days--I don't hold him responsible for many of his commenters, and good for him in not deleting comments from his hard line deniers of human involvement in climate changes.

Yes, some of these scientists are "elitist" and show "scorn" against some skeptics who are not scientists at elite institutions. Yes, and the elite scientists could be wrong concerning some aspects of their analyses. But let's not lose sight of the overall reality they have identified. Plus, as a cautious (conservative?) sorta guy, I'd rather spend the money on "cap and trade" and take other actions to blunt the warming effect further--and find out it was not necessary--than do nothing and find out that the skeptics were wrong. If the skeptics are wrong, we are, to put it bluntly, screwed. I think that's why Ronald Bailey, a former skeptic at, has had enough of the overconfidence exhibited among several of the skeptics. See here and here.

* Here is the obituary from the NY Times regarding Stephen Jay Gould. It states in part: "Famed for both brilliance and arrogance, Dr. Gould was the object of admiration and jealousy, both revered and reviled by colleagues." Oh, and you know that Isaac Newton fellow? He was really arrogant and a little crazy! Funny, that.



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