More On The ‘Climategate’ Nontroversy (UPDATED)

From George Monbiot at The Guardian:

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…



  1. Klem · December 10, 2009

    “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.”

    But the UN IPCC does not agree that’s it’s unequivocal, they maintain that it is ‘very likely’. There is a huge difference.

    “in the shrinkage of glaciers and the thinning of sea ice”. Ice sublimates. The Antarctic sublimates far more than it melts. I have yet to hear of any climate scientist mention this. Perhaps if they did, it may distract from the fear mongering and reduce their funding for next year.

    You should be embarrassed by what you have written here.

  2. Democrashield · December 10, 2009

    If it were ‘unequivocal’ that your house were to burn down in the next month, would you make preparations? Install smoke detectors, put in fresh batteries, draft an escape plan, etc.?

    Now, what if it were just ‘very likely’ that your house were to burn down in the next month, would you still prepare?

    Quibbling over semantics is missing the forest for the trees, and in this case it does nothing to undermine global warming science.

    As for ice sublimation, ice sublimes at an extremely slow rate at low temperatures; there is no way that the rate at which arctic ice is melting can be explained by natural sublimation.

    Is there any valid scientific theory that explains why arctic ice would sublimate at a quicker rate now than in the past?

    And as for this:

    Perhaps if they did, it may distract from the fear mongering and reduce their funding for next year.

    Yes, it’s the climate scientists who are being motivated by money here–certainly the oil and coal companies who fund organizations like the Heartland Institute and Global Climate Coalition don’t have any financial incentive to stoke global warming skepticism, right?

    Better trolls, please.

  3. hkyson · December 12, 2009

    “Climategate” started out when there appeared on the Internet a collection of e-mails of a group of climatologists who work in the University of East Anglia in England. These documents reveal that some climatologists of international preeminence have manipulated the data of their investigations and have strongly tried to discredit climatologists who are not convinced that the increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the cause of global warming.

    It is true that a majority of the scientists who study climatic tendencies in our atmosphere have arrived at the conclusion that the world’s climate is changing, and they have convinced a group of politicians, some of whom are politically powerful, of the truth of their conclusions.

    A minority, however, is skeptical. Some believe that recent data that suggest that the average temperature of the atmosphere is going up can be explained by natural variations in solar radiation and that global warming is a temporary phenomenon. Others believe that the historical evidence indicating that the temperature of the atmosphere is going up at a dangerous rate is simply not reliable.

    Such lacks of agreement are common in the sciences. They are reduced and eventually eliminated with the accumulation of new evidence and of more refined theories or even by completely new ones. Such debates can persist for a period of decades. Academics often throw invective at one another in these debates. But typically this does not mean much.

    But the case of climate change is different. If the evidence indicates that global warming is progressive, is caused principally by our industrial processes, and will probably cause disastrous changes in our atmosphere before the end of the twenty-first century, then we do not have the time to verify precisely if this evidence is reliable. Such a process would be a question of many years of new investigations. And if the alarmist climatologists are right, such a delay would be tragic for all humanity.

    The difficulty is that economic and climatologic systems are very complicated. They are not like celestial mechanics, which involves only the interaction of gravity and centrifugal force, and efforts to construct computerized models to describe these complicated systems simply cannot include all the factors that are influential in the evolution of these complicated systems.

    All this does not necessarily indicate that the alarmist climatologists are not right. But it really means that if global warming is occurring, we cannot know exactly what will be the average temperature of our atmosphere in the year 2100 and what will be the average sea level of the world’s ocean in that year.

    It also means that we cannot be confident that efforts by the industrialized countries to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will have a significant influence on the evolution of the world’s climate.

    Alas, the reduction of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would be very costly and would greatly change the lives of all the inhabitants of our planet–with the possibility (perhaps even the probability!) that all these efforts will be completely useless.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

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