Politics and climate change

I’ll keep it short. My anti-agw/ acc position is 100% political in nature. As I keep writing about others, I won’t “get” global warming even if the evidence hit me in my face. Even if climate change were primarily caused by humans, the “solutions” that are being proposed by ultra-left whackjobs who are the face, and the chair, of the debate are monstrous to say the least. What a vice-like grip on the economy, a trademark of socialism, did for countries like India, the proposed carbon rationing (“trading”) schemes will do to the entire world. And that’s without considering the “reduce the population by 50% so that sustainable living can be achieved,” and “resources are limited” quackery.

There is no “apolitical” science. Like every human endeavor, science too has a political angle to it, and scientists will always be susceptible to it; that isn’t going to change. When Aristotle wrote, “man is by nature a political animal,” he wasn’t jesting. Therefore, anyone who talks about keeping the politics out of science is naive at best, and I don’t buy best.

Its in this context that “Climategate” should be looked at. I’ll link to some pieces, and that’s the end of the post.

* Andrew Potter at Macleans

Science is shot through with cultural framing, institutional constraints, personality conflicts, status-seeking, political infighting, and every other bias you can name. That’s why there is a long-standing and respectable research tradition looking into the anthropology and sociology of science, the aim of which is to articulate the social conditions under which scientific truths are generated. The left has traditionally paid a lot more attention to this research than has the right (which has usually denigrated this research as “relativism”), and it is interesting now to see the tables turned somewhat. (Note to young academics out there: Here’s your PhD thesis.)

That said, what is coming out of the East Anglia email archives seems pretty damning, and suggests a drunk-on-Kool-Aid level of intellectual paranoia and moral self-righteousness that goes far beyond what you’d experience at the typical faculty meeting. Assuming that these scientists did not set out, at the beginning of their careers, to blacklist their colleagues, deliberately squelch the search for truth, and engage in egregious professional dishonesty, it invites the question of how things got to this point. Again (I’m thinking in pairs this morning), I can think of two main reasons…

* Andrew Orlowski at The Register

CRU was founded in 1972 by the ‘Father of Climatology’, former Met Office meteorologist Hubert Lamb. Until around 1980, solar modulation was believed to be the driving factor in climatic variation. A not unreasonable idea, you might think, since our energy (unless you live by a volcano vent) is derived from the sun. Without a better understanding of the sun, climatology may be reasonably be called “speculative meteorology”.


Jones and his team began to produce work that contradicted the established picture in 1990 – and CRU was able to do so from both ends. By creating new temperature recreations, it could create a new account of history. By issuing a monthly gridded temperature set while making raw station data unavailable for inspection, it defined contemporary data. So CRU controlled two important narratives: the “then”, and the “now”.

* Ivan Kenneally at The New Atlantis

For years, the left has spun the debate over global warming in the starkest Manichean terms. Those who disagree with the scientific and policy orthodoxy have been maligned as greedy capitalists bent on raping the earth of its natural resources for cheap material gain; they have been cast as the benighted enemies of reason itself. Efforts to publicly challenge the science behind global warming have too often resulted in professional and political character assassination. To be skeptical about the fashionable scientific and policy platform aggressively advocated by the mainstream media and self-indulgently championed by the Hollywood elite is nothing less than an “assault on reason,” to borrow Al Gore’s hyperbolic rhetoric. In predictably technocratic fashion, the left has claimed its own peculiar position as the only scientifically legitimate one—everything else reduces to craven interest, manifest dishonesty, or antiquarian faith.


Perhaps the most damning e-mails concern CRU deputy director Keith Briffa’s analysis of the diameter of tree rings in Yamal, Siberia. That research is a major evidentiary pillar in support of twentieth-century global warming and it helped resurrect Michael Mann’s “Hockey Stick” graph of global warming. The scientist largely responsible for challenging Mann’s work, Steve McIntyre, turned his attention to Briffa’s resurrection of it and accused him of cherry-picking samples that would confirm his politically desirable hypothesis.

The response to McIntyre’s work revealed in the CRU e-mails shows a breathtaking pattern of ideological rigidity and academic fraudulence that is simultaneously egregious and casually self-satisfied. First, it becomes clear that the global warming crowd, in particular Mann and Osborn, are quick to dismiss McIntyre’s work as “not legitimate science” even before reviewing his studies. Their initial reflex is not to scrutinize McIntyre’s analysis or to reconsider their own entrenched positions but rather to respond with a kind of angry, territorial protectiveness. Then they collectively identify someone who could, in fact, “shed light on McIntyre’s criticisms of Yamal” but choose not to contact him because he “can be rather a loose cannon.” Another scientist who might have helped clarify the Yamal situation is dismissed by Mann for being “not as predictable as we’d like.” Unquestioning loyalty to a political platform is understood to be the precondition of scientific authenticity.

* Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal

Last year, ExxonMobil donated $7 million to a grab-bag of public policy institutes, including the Aspen Institute, the Asia Society and Transparency International. It also gave a combined $125,000 to the Heritage Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis, two conservative think tanks that have offered dissenting views on what until recently was called—without irony—the climate change “consensus.”

To read some of the press accounts of these gifts—amounting to about 0.0027% of Exxon’s 2008 profits of $45 billion—you might think you’d hit upon the scandal of the age. But thanks to what now goes by the name of climategate, it turns out the real scandal lies elsewhere.


Consider the case of Phil Jones, the director of the CRU and the man at the heart of climategate. According to one of the documents hacked from his center, between 2000 and 2006 Mr. Jones was the recipient (or co-recipient) of some $19 million worth of research grants, a sixfold increase over what he’d been awarded in the 1990s.

Why did the money pour in so quickly? Because the climate alarm kept ringing so loudly: The louder the alarm, the greater the sums. And who better to ring it than people like Mr. Jones, one of its likeliest beneficiaries?

Thus, the European Commission’s most recent appropriation for climate research comes to nearly $3 billion, and that’s not counting funds from the EU’s member governments. In the U.S., the House intends to spend $1.3 billion on NASA’s climate efforts, $400 million on NOAA’s, and another $300 million for the National Science Foundation. The states also have a piece of the action, with California—apparently not feeling bankrupt enough—devoting $600 million to their own climate initiative. In Australia, alarmists have their own Department of Climate Change at their funding disposal.

And all this is only a fraction of the $94 billion that HSBC Bank estimates has been spent globally this year on what it calls “green stimulus”—largely ethanol and other alternative energy schemes—of the kind from which Al Gore and his partners at Kleiner Perkins hope to profit handsomely.

* Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner

“I’m in the process of trying to persuade Siemens Corp. (a company with half a million employees in 190 countries!) to donate me a little cash to do some CO2 measur[e]ments here in the UK — looking promising,” wrote Andrew Manning, a climate-science research fellow at the University of East Anglia, “so the last thing I need is news articles calling into question (again) observed temperature increases.”


Governments have poured hundreds of billions of dollars into climate research. News organizations have staked their credibility on the claim that climate science is “settled.” With all this on the line for scientists, media, business, and government, are we really going to let some contrary data get in the way?

The leaked e-mails don’t necessarily show a conspiracy, but they do show that the industry built upon belief in man-made global warming has become too big to fail.

* John Tierney at the New York Times

Most of the graph was based on analyses of tree rings and other “proxy” records like ice cores and lake sediments. These indirect measurements indicated that temperatures declined in the middle of the millennium and then rose in the first half of the 20th century, which jibes with other records. But the tree-ring analyses don’t reveal a sharp warming in the late 20th century — in fact, they show a decline in temperatures, contradicting what has been directly measured with thermometers.

Because they considered that recent decline to be spurious, Dr. Jones and his colleagues removed it from part of the graph and used direct thermometer readings instead. In a statement last week, Dr. Jones said there was nothing nefarious in what they had done, because the problems with the tree-ring data had been openly identified earlier and were known to experts.

But the graph adorned the cover of a report intended for policy makers and journalists. The nonexperts wouldn’t have realized that the scariest part of that graph — the recent temperatures soaring far above anything in the previous millennium — was based on a completely different measurement from the earlier portion. It looked like one smooth, continuous line leading straight upward to certain doom.

* And Clive Crook at the Financial Times, going ballistic.

Walter Kaufmann, in his “The Faith of a Heretic” rephrased Sartre’s statement on belief-

“To believe is to know that one [merely] believes, and to know that one [merely] believes is no longer [really] to believe.”

I guess for everyone who’s not a climatologist, and has therefore not been hanging from various weather balloons for the last forty years, and is hence not qualified to speak on the subject, their position on climate change, for or against, is nothing more than a belief, a faith.

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  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On December 2, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    a vice-like grip on the economy
    it’s already an old debate. i mean nations are already attending summits and arguing upon emission cuts. so there’s already a consensus among states who “believe” this is human induced. no doubt this is bad for the developing world and we have no choice but to get in line. it’s like the master’s right to live is mine to die.

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