A new MIT study which will soon be released, “concluded that the (IPCC) forecasts were significantly off: Arctic sea ice is thinning, on average, four times faster than the models say, and it’s drifting twice as quickly.” I’ve been thinking about this news the past couple of days and its potential implications. The past two years have seen a steady diet of attacks on climate science and its practitioners.
For those who are not familiar, Climategate, as conservative media outlets lovingly referred to it, was the “controversy over emails stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit.”
I was digging through Brad Johnson’s (climatebrad of ThinkProgress.org) YouTube feed earlier and ran across the following interview of Stephen Dubner, the co-author of Freakonomics. (I normally link out to all the books I reference, but couldn’t bring myself to do so here.)
(Btw, I highly recommend subscribing to Brad’s posts on YouTube. He regularly posts relevant content for those concerned with climate science and politics.)
The interview irked me for multiple reasons. First, the interviewer, David Asman, opened with:
Well, politicians distort the truth all the time, but scientists are not supposed to do that. Still, it does happen. Stalin used to demand results from scientists that weren’t supported by evence — evidence, and of course Hitler did the same. But surely, we are above that, aren’t we? Well, “It can’t happen here,” as many people have said, but apparently it has.
Hat tip to Brad for calling this out in his response to the interview, “After Asman compared climate scientists to Stalin and Hitler — we’re not kidding — Dubner jumped in to accuse “potent” scientists of “colluding” to “tell Al Gore what to say,” and “distorting evidence” to “make their findings be right for their position”:” (Emphasis here is mine.)
Next, Dubner admits that the emails were “hacked” (i.e. they were illegally stolen), before positing two potential reasons for this:
“Someone either wanted to get in there because they knew there was something that you know should be read, or maybe there’s a whistle blower, at this point we really don’t know.”
With this statement, Dubner suggests that there is only one possible reason for the emails to have been stolen, wrongdoing by the scientists whose emails were stolen, the only question is whether it was an inside job.
Asman then tees up the opportunity to wholly discredit the IPCC and Dubner swings for the fences.
ASMAN: Bottom line, we’ve got to cut to the chase. Who do you think is doing what to the evidence? Do you think that supporters of global warming and the UN are distorting evidence to prove their point?
DUBNER: Distorting evidence, probably yes. To what degree with don’t really know yet. We’re going to find out a lot more about that. Here’s what I think.
ASMAN: But doesn’t to any degree discredit their theories?
DUBNER: Yeah. You can’t —
ASMAN: If something has been made up you can’t rely on anything else.
DUBNER: You can’t read these e-mails and feel that the IPCC or the major climate scientists’ findings and predictions about global warming are kosher. You can’t. They may be, but if you read these you have to have a whole lot of skepticism about that.
Dubner does give himself the safe out at the end with the “they may be” comment, but the damage was done when he said that their findings and predictions didn’t feel kosher.
In the past two years, several investigations were launched to review the stolen data.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has a nice rundown of the results:
Investigations Clear Scientists of Wrongdoing
- Factcheck.org says claims against scientists misrepresent the content of the emails.
- Penn State University cleared scientist Michael Mann (pdf) of wrongdoing.
- An independent investigation commissioned by the University of East Anglia found no evidence of fraud or deceit.
- A UK Parliament report concluded that the emails have no bearing on our understanding of climate science and that claims against UEA scientists are misleading.
And What of the Accused?
- “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact” (House of Commons Science and Technology Committee)
- “we saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit” (Lord Oxburgh Science Assessment Panel)
- “their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt” (Sir Muir Russell Independent Climate Change Emails Review)
- “careful examination of the e-mails and their full context shows that the petitioners’ claims are exaggerated and are not a material or reliable basis to question the validity and credibility of the body of [climate] science” (US Environmental Protection Agency)For further information and the latest news, please see the Media and Communications site.
The aim of CRU is to improve scientific understanding in:– past climate history and its impact on humanity– the course and causes of climate change during the present century– prospects for the future