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Crock of the Week – ‘Climategate’

Written By: - Date published: 3:29 pm, June 26th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

Peter Sinclair in Crock of the week uses some old classic movie and TV footage to debunk the ‘climategate’ myth. Quite simply this hack of the e-mails hasn’t changed any of the science of climate change and is as ineffectual as most of the anti-science inquisition has been over the last century.

A letter by a large number of scientists in the US National Academy of Science in the AAAS Science magazine (PDF at Science or web) quoted in the video sums up the essential stupidity of the denier/skeptic positions perfectly.

There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.

But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of ‘well-established theories’ and are often spoken of as ‘facts.’

Climate change now falls into this category: There is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.

Quite simply if you want absolute certainty in science, then you are delusional. It is not a faith and if you want certainty then you need to seek a place of worship.

When new evidence comes along challenging or even disproving a theory in science, then the theory is adjusted. The problem for the climate change deniers and skeptics (CCDs) is that they have proved to unable to find any evidence that causes issues for the theory of human induced climate change. So they resort to smear tactics and conspiracy theories like ‘climategate’ instead.

It has nothing to do with science and more to do with how ineffectual the CCDs are at disproving a working well-established theory.

Pretty pathetic really.

  • Wikipedia has a pretty good summary on the whole of the ‘climategate’. Well worth reading.
  • For a full playlist of the Crock of the Week videos – use this link.

hat-tip: joe90 in comments

24 comments on “Crock of the Week – ‘Climategate’ ”

  1. Croc 1

    Great post.

  2. Andy 2

    The climate gate issue was primarily concerned with Steve McIntyre’s “hockey stick” investigations.

    The climategate issue may have been exploited for political purposes, but Peter Sinclair completely misses the context of climategate and uses it for his own agenda to slur “climate deniers”

    I’d recommend reading “The Hockey Stick Illusion” by A W Montford. This gives a very readable account of this affair. The bulk of the book was written before the email leak/hack, and the last chapter reviews the emails in the context of the previous work.

    It is possible to accept that there are issues with the science, in particular the Hockey Stick, and still be aware that continued emissions of greenhouse gas emissions may cause us problems.

    This, I believe, is McIntyre’s position. To label him “anti-science” is in my view, the complete opposite of the truth.

    • lprent 2.1

      Ummm the problem with the ‘hockey-stick’ as far as I can see is that some CCDs are far too euro-centric. They seem to have this rather obsessive fascination with the ‘medieval warm period’ and ‘mini-ice-age’ that Lamb had in the very first IPCC report. Both of which were regional northern European events. As far as I can see most of the dislike of the hockey stick is because when you look at climate over the last couple of thousand years globally, these rather minor regional events disappear.

      In effect, the first IPCC report made people realize that there wasn’t much recent (ie the last couple of thousand years) tempature data globally. Lamb compiled most of his report from data available in SE England. Hardly a global source. So there were a number of surveys using various means to detirmine near term global temperature data.

      Mann was merely the first. The ‘hockey-stick’ effect has subsequently been reproduced in every survey using multiple different methods. From what I understand of Montfords book he ignored all of the subsequent work after Mann did his work more than a decade ago.

      The CCDs appear to be lost in the past a few decades ago and still think that Lambs graph is still valid. Pretty damn thick as far as I can see.

      In fact I’ll find the Crock of the Week on exactly that topic and post it.

      • Andy 2.1.1

        I presume you haven’t read Montford’s book?

        The issues are not around the MWP, but around the rather dubious statistical techniques used by Mann

        • lprent

          …around the rather dubious statistical techniques used by Mann.

          Which the US National Academy of Science went through with a fine tooth comb in 2006, said that there were some issues with methodology, but that it was substantially correct. Have you read that report? Far more substantial than Montfords book.

          The suggestions from the NAS report about methodology were incorporated in the 2007 release of the Mann study released in 2007. Have you read that?

          The ‘hockey-stick’ scenario has been supported by every study done in the last decade. Have you looked at those?

          Nope – you prefer to rely on someone that has never worked in science. Has qualifications in a completely unrelated area and who sells books via controversy.

          Montford graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in chemistry,[2] and became a chartered accountant before moving into science publishing.

          You seem like a well-meaning fool.. Perhaps you should read more widely.

          • Andy

            You seem like a well-meaning fool

            It doesn’t take long does it?

            My key point was that climategate was about the hockey stick affair, in particular McIntyre’s FOI requests to UEA.

            Sinclair’s video completely ignored that fact and chose to use it to attack his favorite enemy, the nefarious “climate denier” This is a blatant propaganda exercise.

            Who is Peter Sinclair? Well, he is not a climate scientist. He is an “independent film producer”, and quite happy “debunking” the “evil climate denier” using ad hominem arguments and downright lies.

            Anthony Watts takes particular objection here


            • lprent

              So what you are saying is that you prefer to ignore the supporting studies that come to the same conclusions as Mann ? Instead you prefer to look at a paper that was released in 1998.

              That didn’t take long to drop from science to sleazy politically based smears, did it?

              Typical CCDs response. Avoiding the issue

              • Andy

                Typical CCDs response. Avoiding the issue

                My argument was that Sinclair was misrepresenting ClimateGate., and that Sinclair is a professional propagandist, not a scientist.

                Nothing more, nothing less.

                • lprent

                  How did he misrepresent ‘climategate’? The argument that was being run was that the ‘climategate’ emails invalidated the argument about human induced climate change. Sinclair and his advisers have clearly showed it didn’t. A moments thought would have made it obvious that this wasn’t the case. ‘Climategate’ was the selected picking of some private correspondence between a few scientists. There are tens of thousands of people working in and around this field. The CCDs appear to have no real sense of scale or proportion to have made the arguments that I’ve seen them write.

                  Sure Peter Sinclair isn’t a scientist – he makes no claim to be one. He is quite clear in the videos that he is relying on advice from people who work in the field. He is skilled in communications (and IMO virtually no scientists are). However to date I haven’t picked him up on anything significant that isn’t the part of the current body of knowledge in the field of earth sciences.

                  Moreover, he is quite clear that he is simply countering the arguments from the CCDs propagandists – who do misrepresent the available science continuously and all of the time.

                  I notice that you simply never address any of the issues that either he raised in the video or that I raised in the post. Instead you keep trying to divert into irrelevancies. Probably because you seem lack the capability to understand the science yourself? I suspect so

      • sagenz 2.1.2

        Oh Lynn
        Andy is quite correct. In addition there is a substantial and growing body of evidence suggesting the MWP was in fact global. Including evidence from 2 sites of stalactites in New Zealand. That inconvenient science is ignored and suppressed because of the evidentiary impact it has on the hockey stick and their ilk.

        You only need to take an honest look at climate graphs over tens of thousands of years to realise how small our impact is.

        • lprent

          Yes, there is. Regional effects have wider effects – just look at el nino.

          However the North Atlantic MWP effect is far less pronounced in any of the other couple of sites that show an effect, and also appear to be local effects. Global climate is, well, global… You’d expect to see the same effect appear in more than a few sites at the same time. The dating doesn’t appear to correlate more than roughly in the same period – like the NZ stuff appears to have more than a 50 year difference at the peak effect (if I understand it correctly).

          Moreover, the stuff I’ve looked at shows that there are numerous regional variations in various places at various times where temperatures vary from the global ‘norm’. Perhaps you should look at those as being significant and start looking for correlations? Coincidence will almost certainly turn up.

          You probably need some more stats training to understand the significance of small sample sets perhaps?

          • really

            Why do you always try and belittle people who disagree with you Lynn?

            • lprent

              I’m not that interested in people reiterating bullshit. I usually explain and then ‘belittle’. It encourages people in discussion with me to lift their game. It makes it more interesting for me.

              However you are mistaken in these cases Perhaps you haven’t seen me when I intentionally set out to belittle people?

        • Andy

          Andy is quite correct

          Actually, I never made any comment about the MWP at all, thanks

  3. Ag 3

    Quite simply this hack of the e-mails hasn’t changed any of the science of climate change and is as ineffectual as most of the anti-science inquisition has been over the last century.

    I beg to differ. The point of the email hack was to discredit climate science and the climate change theory in the minds of voters. In that respect it has succeeded beyond the hackers’ wildest dreams, since the prevailing political view is now distrust of climate science.

    I do not know what is wrong with liberals/progressives. They still believe that the game is about winning on the facts, and do not understand why winning on the facts does not mean winning politically.

    They will continue to lose as long as they believe this. Contemporary conservatives are postmodern politicians. They don’t give a fig for science or rationality unless the occasion suits them to do so. Will the liberals wake up to this and try something new instead of the old failed “try to win the argument” strategy?

    I don’t think so.

    • lprent 3.1

      It just means that they won a PR skirmish. That has a relatively short-term effect on the time scale of climate change issues. Even the rapid climate change we’re talking about here are really only visible over decade long cycles.

      However it also meant that it woke the rather lethargic scientific community up. They have largely been ignoring the CCDs prior to this. However this hack and subsequent exploitation of the e-mails for PR purposes has alienated virtually every person I know in science. They are now getting a lot more active and aware of the PR side of the issue. They’re also setting up the types of cross-communications required across science groups to forestall a similar episode happening in the future. It became quite clear that the CCDs weren’t interested in the science which had been the presumption previously. They were only interested in the politics.

      Quite simply the CCDs mishandled it. They stopped arguing even vaguely coherently on the science, and started purely in to pure luddite McCarthyism. The political effect now is that they will be treated as being luddites which means that the CCDs ‘wiggle-room’ of tolerance by scientists just reduced dramatically.

      I think that ‘climategate’ probably just lost the ‘war’ for the CCDs.

      • sagenz 3.1.1

        Black truly is white for you Lynn.

        Gore and the IPCC have been shown to have played fast and loose with the science. Massive exaggeration of the impact has been revealed for what it is. Copenhagen failed because most politicians realised that. America and China will not take the suggested action because there is no need. The general and appropriate move towards energy efficiency and alternative fuels will continue.

        • lprent

          What does Al Gore have to do with it? Some politician?

          The IPCC started from a base in 1990 with virtually no coherent global data and has steadily been putting together the available evidence in the last 20 years. It is incomplete and because of the IPCC processes almost unbearably scientifically conservative.

          Sure there are some issues with the descriptive materials outside of the science area looking at possible effects. But a lot of that is social and economic analysis, and is as anecdotal as those disciplines often are.

          In report of many thousands of pages, there are sure to be mistakes and errata. It is the nature of the beast just as luddites prefer to ignore what is correvt and want to concentrate of vanishing small sections that are wrong..

          However the first part of the IPCC reports are the available science at the time of the report being compiled. It is the best picture of what is conservatively known. The overall picture is alarming.

      • Ag 3.1.2

        The CCDs have always been interested solely in the politics of the issue. That much has been evident from the very beginning. All they have to do to win is make the average person think that there is something a bit fishy about the behaviour of scientists or that there is some dispute. The “debate” simply does not penetrate the minds of the general public to a greater degree than that. Scientists holding up graphs or issuing proclamations is going to do nothing. McCarthyism works. It just didn’t work for McCarthy.

        Climate change is like immunization or evolution. Sure, you can convince the rational people of it, but there’s a whole heap of people out there who will believe all sorts of lunacy come what may, and they will resist being forced by governments to do something about it. Science and rationality do not play the role in public life that scientists and other academics would like.

        • barry

          Actually McCarthyism did work fabulously well for McCarthy, for a time. It will also stop working for CCDs as they lose credibility in decision making circles.

          The problem for people like ACT, and the BRT is that by nailing their colours to the CCD mast, they might gain in the short term, but when the time comes to do something they will have less input because they have shown themselves to be cranks.

          As for climategate, the “substantive” objections are unravelling and only the cranks believe there is anything wrong. The main thing learned is that scientists are human, and make the same sort of petty, snide comments as everyone else.

  4. Bill 4

    Crosses my mind that historically, science has served business.

    But that climate change is pitting the servant against it’s former master. And the master has the resources to sell a business friendly and anti-science message.

    I noticed and was surprised through the week that Naomi Kline had climbed aboard this anti-science bandwagon in relation to the Gulf oil spill. Apparently, the spill was caused by science abandoning the precautionary principle. Nothing to do with BP and others seeking profit. And no question was entered into with regards commercial pressures being brought to bear on scientists or engineers or others in ways that make the precautionary principle appear as an obstacle rather than as a touch stone of common sense.

    And you notice how it is widely taken as read that climate change is a threat to society…a rather nebulous concept? That climate change and scientific findings are not ever framed as a threat to profit seeking business practices? Which all leaves business quietly chuffing and chugging away in a manufactured blind spot where it will never be identified as the principle problem behind both climate change and social disintegration?

    Poor populations, who are already being subjected to the pressures of enclosure and who contribute ‘nothing’ to climate change are viewed as more of a problem. What with their desire for cars and gadgets and air travel etc. Thing is, it is business that drives enclosure. And enclosure ( not climate change) will compel people to burn oil to get to work; and at work. And the advertising arm of business will convince populations throughout the world that the products flowing from all that burned oil are essential and necessary. And it is the process of enclosure that leaves societies fragmented and adrift in seas of dependency inducing market dynamics and their individuals hooked on perto-fixes just to stay alive…to grow, package, transport, store or simply afford to buy the food that used to be grown for if not exactly free, then next to nothing.

    But for ever increasing numbers of people…hundreds upon hundreds of millions…there was a time when there was a dream of buying the fridge and the oven and the TV and the whole nine yards of glitzy ‘must have’ package…and then as that possibility slipped away a temptation to stow away in a container or in the undercarriage of an aeroplane to get to the places where all the people have that stuff. And finally just physical hunger and endless days scavenging through the detritus of business activity hankering with nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of naive desires.

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