Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Like so many important issues I am in danger of boredom overload.

So, a few weeks ago the first independent investigation against the University of East Anglia's Climate Change Unit exonerated it in the climate-gate scandal.

The House of Commons Select Committee on Science found the "evidence patently fails to support" the idea of a fraud; the scientists have "no case to answer"; and all the analyses "have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified" by other scientists. That's science-speak for "it was a pack of lies."
TEXT HERE (The Independent) This is a fascinating article for all sorts of reasons but the section that struck me most was:
It turns out the "scientific" claims promoted for decades by whiny self-righteous liberals were a lie, a fraud, a con - and we don't need to change after all. The left is humiliated; the conservatives are triumphant and exultant.

The year is 1954, and the "science" that has been exposed as a "sham" by conservatives is the link between smoking and lung cancer. Welcome to Tobaccogate, as Fox News would call it. The conservatives are championing professor Clarence Cook Little, who says he has discovered insurmountable flaws in the use of statistics and clinical data by "anti-tobacco" (and quasi-commie) scientists. The press reports the "controversy," usually without mentioning that Cook Little is being paid by the tobacco industry. A relieved nation lights up - and so, over the next few decades, millions of them die.

What I felt was also helpful were a number of examples of the credulity of the public in dealing with the pronouncements of the media:
Many readers across the world assume that if a story has been in the news section of a reputable English newspaper, it has been fact-checked. One recent climate "scandal" that spread from Britain shows the truth. In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the umbrella organization of the world's climate scientists - explained that 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest is at risk of dying if there is even a slight reduction in rainfall. This is true. It is the view of the most distinguished scientists in the field. The IPCC sourced this claim to a report by the World Wildlife Fund - when, in fact, it should have referred to a peer-reviewed report by Professor Dan Nepstad, whose work is mentioned only in passing by the WWF.

And today comes the unedifying news that American Climate scientists are the victims of a nasty outbreak of intimidation and hate-mail. TEXT HERE
Climate scientists in the US say police inaction has left them defenceless in the face of a torrent of death threats and hate mail, leaving them fearing for their lives and one to contemplate arming himself with a handgun. The scientists say the threats have increased since the furore over leaked emails from the University of East Anglia began last November, and a sample of the hate mail sent in recent months and seen by the Guardian reveals the scale and vitriolic tone of the abuse.

I have always been bemused by gap between public opinion and scientific pronouncements - but then my opinion of the public has never been high. I found THIS recently:
Trust is, perhaps, the most important word within the climate debate at present. "Who do you trust?" is the question that hangs over every discussion on the topic.

Do you trust the vast majority of climate scientists who claim that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are causing a clear and present climatic danger? Or do you trust the much smaller band of sceptical climate scientists who argue that there isn't a problem?

In much of our lives, we rely on the testimony and views of experts. We do so when we feel ill and choose to visit the doctor. We do so when we want to reduce our tax liabilities. We do so when we wish to be ably represented in a court of law. We do so when a strange noise appears from the engine of our car. We will often pay good money to benefit from the many years of training and experience offered by experts in their field - be they doctors, accountants, lawyers or mechanics.

Climate science is a little different, it seems. A notably large – and growing - proportion of society appears to be rejecting the expert view of climatologists and choosing instead to place their trust elsewhere. Needless to say, this has confounded many who work within the climate sciences, but the causes are myriad and much discussed.
Yet 97-98% of climate scientists attest that global warming is man-made and real.

What are we to do? Still the final report on climategate and the University of East Anglia's e-mail scandal is due out tomorrow. I can hardly wait.