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The ranks are splitting, tossing incantations as they go

Posted By Joanne Nova On July 15, 2010 @ 3:30 am In AGW socio-political,Global Warming,Science Communication | Comments Disabled

We always knew Climategate would the test the cohesion of the “team”. The reputations of good greens, good journalists, and decent politicians (there are a few) are on the line. They have to draw a line somewhere, and six months later, a few more cracks in the wall are showing.

Even people who think we need action against CO2 are not convinced by the whitewashes. And for many of them, it’s not the ClimateGate emails themselves which pushed them over the edge, but the blatantly surreal nature of the so-called inquiries that don’t ask the basic questions or invite the key people.

Phrases about how the science is still settled (even though the scientists themselves might cheat) are like a pass-code that allows commentators to say something pointed against the tribal witchdoctors without getting too many nasty spells cast on them by the disciples.

Of course, in order to attack any part of the great facade, it’s important to recite the incantation against bullies. Phrases about how the science is still settled (even though the scientists themselves might cheat) are like a pass-code that allows commentators to say something pointed against the tribal witchdoctors without getting too many nasty spells cast on them by the disciples. By using the incantation they mollify the bullies who would hurl abuse.

“Flawed scientists”

The Economist suggests there’s still a carbon-related crisis, but that if we ditch Pachauri, it will all be ok. Their essential incantation is right up in the subheader: ” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change needs reform. The case for climate action does not.”

Then having mentioned … “ClimateGate” they have to throw in another meaningless recitation: “Neither report does anything to weaken the case for acting to limit carbon emissions.” Well no. The reports wouldn’t say that would they? The reports were not supposed to audit and redo the entire IPCC declarations in a weekend, and they didn’t ever ask that question: Does carbon cause catastrophic warming? It’s more communication pollution as journalists, possibly unconsciously, cave in to the social pressure to reaffirm their attendance at the church.

“Climategate and the Big Green Lie”

The Atlantic senior editor Clive Crook, is rightly disappointed in the recent whitewashes. But, before he can say so comes his version of the incantation:

I think climate science points to a risk that the world needs to take seriously. I think energy policy should be intelligently directed towards mitigating this risk. I am for a carbon tax.

Having recited the litany, he bravely speaks his mind, even using the dreaded c-word:

I also believe that the Climategate emails revealed, to an extent that surprised even me (and I am difficult to surprise), an ethos of suffocating groupthink and intellectual corruption.

Judging by the comments below his article, he probably did need to start his article with such a powerful chant. The attacks on his professional reputation fly thick and fast, though few seem to want to actually discuss the topics he raised — the inquiries, and the behaviour of scientists.

Having said that, I’m quite impressed with Crook, as he seems to be able to overcome his belief in CAGW and do a good job of analyzing Climategate and it’s inquiries. Except, of course, that he doesn’t seem to realize that the scientists who’ve disappointed him are the lead-authors, the proponents, the peer-reviewers and the advisers. They are the climate-science establishment, and if they were caught behaving badly, it’s not just them, but their conclusions that are also in disrepute.

In sum, the scientists concerned brought their own discipline into disrepute, and set back the prospects for a better energy policy. I had hoped, not very confidently, that the various Climategate inquiries would be severe. This would have been a first step towards restoring confidence in the scientific consensus. But no, the reports make things worse. At best they are mealy-mouthed apologies; at worst they are patently incompetent and even wilfully wrong. The climate-science establishment, of which these inquiries have chosen to make themselves a part, seems entirely incapable of understanding, let alone repairing, the harm it has done to its own cause.

Sometime sooner or later Crook will realize that the whereabouts of the data was not accidentally hidden, even if the data itself may have been accidentally lost. Being caught hiding declines is bad for reputations, but the declines that were hidden are telling their own story. And the temperature sets that were lost have yet to tell theirs.

It’s not a case of restoring confidence. That’s jumping the gun. Before we can restore confidence, we need to have something to be confident in. Crook’s skipping the part where people investigate, punish wrongdoers, reanalyze, and report. But, he is at least, seeing through the whitewash.

I enjoyed reading the Atlantic article.

Thanks to Marc Morano at Climate Depot for the heads-up.

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