The denial industry, which has no interest in establishing the truth about global warming, insists that these emails, which concern three or four scientists and just one or two lines of evidence, destroy the entire canon of climate science.
Even if you were to exclude every line of evidence that could possibly be disputed – the proxy records, the computer models, the complex science of clouds and ocean currents – the evidence for man-made global warming would still be unequivocal. You can see it in the measured temperature record, which goes back to 1850; in the shrinkage of glaciers and the thinning of sea ice; in the responses of wild animals and plants and the rapidly changing crop zones.
No other explanation for these shifts makes sense. Solar cycles have been out of synch with the temperature record for 40 years. The Milankovic cycle, which describes variations in the Earth’s orbit, doesn’t explain it either. But the warming trend is closely correlated with the accumulation of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The impact of these gases can be demonstrated in the laboratory. To assert that they do not have the same effect in the atmosphere, a novel and radical theory would be required. No such theory exists. The science is not fixed – no science ever is – but it is as firm as science can be. The evidence for man-made global warming remains as strong as the evidence linking smoking to lung cancer or HIV to Aids.
The first case study I’ve posted reveals how a coalition of US coal companies sought to persuade people that the science is uncertain. It listed the two social groups it was trying to reach – “Target 1: Older, less educated males”; “Target 2: Younger, lower income women” – and the methods by which it would reach them. One of its findings was that “members of the public feel more confident expressing opinions on others’ motivations and tactics than they do expressing opinions on scientific issues”.
The second case study reveals how Dr Patrick Michaels, one of a handful of climate change deniers with a qualification in climate science, has been lavishly paid by companies seeking to protect their profits from burning coal. As far as I can discover, none of the media outlets who use him as a commentator – including the Guardian – has disclosed this interest at the time of his appearance. Michaels is one of many people commenting on climate change who presents himself as an independent expert while being secretly paid for his services by fossil fuel companies.
The third example shows how a list published by the Heartland Institute (which has been sponsored by oil company Exxon) of 500 scientists “whose research contradicts man-made global warming scares” turns out to be nothing of the kind: as soon as these scientists found out what the institute was saying about them, many angrily demanded that their names be removed. Twenty months later, they are still on the list. The fourth example shows how, during the Bush presidency, White House officials worked with oil companies to remove regulators they didn’t like and to doctor official documents about climate change.
But people behind these campaigns know that their claims are untrue. One of the biggest was run by the Global Climate Coalition, which represented ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, the American Petroleum Institute and several big motor manufacturers. In 1995 the coalition’s own scientists reported that “the scientific basis for the greenhouse effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well-established and cannot be denied”. The coalition hid this finding from the public, and spent millions of dollars seeking to persuade people that the opposite was true.
The right’s projection here is palpable–they’re calling climate change science a fraud, a hoax, a lie perpetuated in order to serve a political agenda.
Of course, all of that perfectly describes climate change skeptics. In one corner, you have decades of solid scientific data showing that anthropogenic global warming is real; in the other corner, you have sheer denial backed up by a handful of oil and coal industry-funded, junk science studies.
The skeptics’ desperation in latching onto the ‘climategate’ nontroversy is palpable–it’s nakedly clear how much they need this to be a smoking gun, even though it isn’t. As I’ve said before, it takes a special kind of person to ignore decades of solid scientific research just because they don’t like what it says and don’t want to believe it’s real.
UPDATE: Can any conservative explain which part of climate change science, exactly, the ‘climategate’ emails disprove? Can some skeptic explain why those emails somehow invalidate all climate change science?
They can’t, of course, because it doesn’t disprove global warming–but that won’t stop them from simply saying that it does and hoping everyone just believes them.
And they accuse climatologists of being dishonest…