30 November 2009

Liberated ClimateGate Emails Change Minds

An opinion columnist at The Atlantic, Clive Crook, first dismissed the ClimateGate controversy as irrelevant. Then, he read the emails. An honest, thoughtful reading of the files made all the difference between a climate zombie, and a person with an open mind.
In my previous post on Climategate I blithely said that nothing in the climate science email dump surprised me much. Having waded more deeply over the weekend I take that back.

The closed-mindedness of these supposed men of science, their willingness to go to any lengths to defend a preconceived message, is surprising even to me. The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering. And, as Christopher Booker argues, this scandal is not at the margins of the politicised IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] process. It is not tangential to the policy prescriptions emanating from what David Henderson called the environmental policy milieu [subscription required]. It goes to the core of that process.

One theme, in addition to those already mentioned about the suppression of dissent, the suppression of data and methods, and the suppression of the unvarnished truth, comes through especially strongly: plain statistical incompetence. This is something that Henderson's study raised, and it was also emphasised in the Wegman report on the Hockey Stick, and in other independent studies of the Hockey Stick controversy. Of course it is also an ongoing issue in Steve McIntyre's campaign to get hold of data and methods. Nonetheless I had given it insufficient weight. Climate scientists lean very heavily on statistical methods, but they are not necessarily statisticians. Some of the correspondents in these emails appear to be out of their depth. This would explain their anxiety about having statisticians, rather than their climate-science buddies, crawl over their work.

I'm also surprised by the IPCC's response. Amid the self-justification, I had hoped for a word of apology, or even of censure. (George Monbiot called for Phil Jones to resign, for crying out loud.) At any rate I had expected no more than ordinary evasion. The declaration from Rajendra Pachauri that the emails confirm all is as it should be is stunning. Science at its best. Science as it should be. Good lord. This is pure George Orwell. And these guys call the other side "deniers".

While I'm listing surprises, let me note how disappointed I was by The Economist's coverage of all this. "Leaked emails do not show climate scientists at their best," it observes. No indeed. I should say I worked at the magazine for years, admire it as much as ever, and rely on the science coverage especially. But I was baffled by its reaction to the scandal. "Little wonder that the scientists are looking tribal and jumpy, and that sceptics have leapt so eagerly on such tiny scraps as proof of a conspiracy," its report concludes. Tiny scraps? I detest anti-scientific thinking as much as The Economist does. I admire expertise, and scientific expertise especially; like any intelligent citizen I am willing to defer to it. But that puts a great obligation on science. The people whose instinct is to respect and admire science should be the ones most disturbed by these revelations. The scientists have let them down, and made the anti-science crowd look wise. That is outrageous.

Megan McArdle adopts a world-weary tone similar to The Economist's: this is how science is done in the real world. If I were a scientist, I would resent that. _CliveCrook
In order for a person to change his mind, he must first have a mind to change. Clive Crook still has a mind capable of changing. But that may not be true for all the climate zombies and Obama zombies of the world. If you know a zombie, please do not try to change his mind. Instead, treat him kindly -- like any demented person who is not an immediate danger to himself or others -- and find ways of negating the zombie's deleterious influence on your world.

Of course, if the zombie is an immediate danger to you, it must be put down hard. Always aim for the head.

H/T Tom Nelson


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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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