Well the climate blogs are going crazy with the release of several thousands more emails from Jones, Briffa, Mann et al (I recommend Tallbloke, Climate Resistance, Shub and Bishop Hill for the most illuminating early finds and links to the files themselves). The next few days will undoubtedly throw more light on where climate science went wrong, but you’ve probably decided a long time ago where you stand on this stuff anyway.
On early reading, they merely confirm what many of us have known for a long time – even before Climategate I: the ‘science is settled’ argument is a dud. There is continuing ambivalence about the use of computer models, worry about the statistical methods used, the constant knawing fear of ‘losing the debate’ against the ‘deniers’. That such doubts exist among at the very heart of the climate science community should be a massive wake-up call if you’re one of the doughnuts still peddling this stuff to yourself.
As these guys – whatever one thinks of them – are only human and have a personal stake in the debate it’s inevitable that they constantly chatter about how to ‘win’ throughout their email exchanges. Toying with the idea of hiring private investigators to see if Stephen MacIntyre has links with big oil… trying to game the peer review process… discussing how to evade FOI requests. It’s all there.
No-one should blame them for these things: if you were under investigation at work you’d do exactly the same – deflect the blame, reframe the questions, choose what information to release. In various jobs at various companies in the past I’ve been party to attempts to construct a story as a defensive position when something hadn’t gone right. These stories are often based in truth, but as Lionel Hutz put it:
“Mrs Simpson, there’s the truth *sad face*… and the truth! *beams*”
It’s not very edifying seeing these things made public.
The most important thing to take from all this is, however, that it changes nothing about reality. In reality, the world has been on a largely cooling trend for most of the last 6000 years since the Holocene Optimum:
During that time there have been ups and downs – and while it may be trite to observe that industrialisation can’t have played a part in previous upticks, it apparently still needs repeating. While the more recent spike (shown in the inset and labelled as 2004 on the main graph) may look dramatic, it is as nothing compared to the spike we saw coming out of the Ice Age between 12-10,000 years ago. We survived – flourished, even – during this rapid change so it is fatuous to argue that neither we nor ‘nature’ can’t adapt to a changing climate – whatever you believe might cause it.
It also still needs repeating that even this graph is a reconstruction - not a record – just as future predictions are based on models rather than reality. All of this comes couched in error bars that should be a mile wide. The uncertainties involved are huge and get huger still the further one goes either forward or backwards in time – it’s just that no-one wants to admit that, least of all the climate scientists with powerful personal motives.
Don’t believe me about motivation? Here’s Mike Hulme on how he sees his role (file: 0999):
“My work is as Director of the national centre for climate change research, a job which requires me to translate my Christian belief about stewardship of God’s planet into research and action.”
If that’s not putting the cart before the horse, I don’t know what is. You want to join that camp? By my guest.
The other, more tragic, side of reality is that while we pour billions into senseless attempts to try and control the climate of the entire planet, billions of people continue to starve and die from preventable diseases and lack of access to clean water. So if these emails cause the scales to fall from a few more eyes, then they are very very welcome.