Swifthackers, deniers and flat-earthers
Explanations for the failure of the recent Copenhagen climate summit are many (see post below). Blame has been placed at the feet of the usual suspects (impossibly unworkable negotiations, conflicting national interests, oil and gas industry lobbyists, etc.), but it is unclear what role, if any, the propaganda of climate change deniers and the hacked emails of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit may have played in undermining public confidence in the science of global warming (and consequently the urgency to reach a deal at Copenhagen). If you haven’t yet heard about it, the email accounts of a very small number of prominent climate scientists were hacked recently, revealing correspondence not befitting the considerable esteem of the researchers involved.
This blog is primarily about discussing alternatives to a damn-the-torpedoes economic system that has not brought us anywhere close to achieving either environmental sustainability or economic justice for the majority of the world’s population. I will therefore not be discussing the hacked email controversy (call it ‘Climategate’ or ‘Swifthack’ if you must) at any considerable length. This has been aptly addressed elsewhere. (I am providing links below to some of the more level-headed responses to the controversy that are worth reading.)
Since the hacked emails became public, the conservative blogosphere has been in nothing short of a hysterical, frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy with claims that the emails prove that climate change is a fraud and that climate scientists the world over (thousands of them, that is) are involved in a vast conspiracy to conceal the truth from an unsuspecting public. As George Monbiot has pointed out, this conspiracy would also necessitate the acquiescence of all of the world’s governments, all national academies of science, as well as the climate itself (e.g. melting Arctic sea ice would have to be in on the hoax), which has been shown unequivocally to be warming at rates faster than scientists had predicted only a few years ago.
The allegations of the denier camp are so absurd as to hardly merit a response. As other commentators have pointed out, there is nothing in the emails that undermines the overwhelming case (with evidence building on an almost daily basis) for anthropogenic climate change.
What the emails do reveal, however, is what happens when science becomes politicized. Climate scientists have been and continue to be subjected to an unprecedented and hostile campaign of near constant harassment from those who, for whatever reason, have either tried to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of their work or have even used elements of their research dishonestly in an effort to validate their insufferable fixation with the climate change “hoax”.
For the most part, these are not people who can be reasoned with, no matter what evidence is presented to them. We must remember that there are also a not insignificant number of people in the world today who believe that the earth was created in its present form only 6000 years ago, that the moon landing was fabricated, that evolution is fictitious and even that the earth is flat. No amount of evidence can convince them otherwise.
Sadly, for some reason, such is the situation now in the case of climate change. While there is no excuse for trying to suppress the work of those who do not agree with them, however scientifically shoddy and politically motivated such work may have been, it is somewhat understandable that the scientists involved in the hacked email controversy may have attempted to do just this. Many policy decisions (not just climate change) rely on the results of scientific research to the guide decision making process. Science and the scientific process must always be transparent and accountable in order for the work of scientists to be seen by the general public as objective and credible. Once this credibility is lost, it is difficult to regain the public trust. Yes, this issue has become highly charged and politicized and the stakes are extremely high, but it is not the role of scientists to resort to political tactics in order to undermine their opponents, even when these opponents have themselves been employing extremely underhanded and dishonest means to get their message out (see post above ‘Climate Cover-Up).
As a result of the email controversy, much scrutiny is now being paid to the transparency of the research being carried out in the climate science community. Sadly, very little attention has been directed at the work of those few individuals (who tend not to be climate scientists) who would have us believe that climate change is all a big hoax. As James Hoggan explains in the interview on this blog, it would seem there are many shenanigans going on that the public has been completely unaware of. The nefarious tactics employed by the climate deniers have been anything but scrupulous. Listen to the interview and find out for yourself or check out Hoggan’s new book ‘Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming.’
Here are a few good articles on the hacked email controversy that you might want to check out: