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Let’s move beyond climate denier gate

December 9, 2009

Usually I’ll stick to what I see and report at the conference. But a reader asked me to respond to the ongoing climate-gate scandal, so here’s my best shot. I’ll try to show why I believe the thousands of hacked e-mails in no way disprove the fundamental science of climate change.

Programs set up at the COP15 central information booth.

Instead, I believe they fed a stream of misinformation that negatively exaggerated a more complicated situation.

Uncertainty exists in climate change science. But the average global temperature is warming over time, and people are making it worse.

I have not read the e-mails, I’m not even sure they’re all posted online. But 20,000+ e-mails is a prodigious reading assignment, and analyzing them all could turn into a full-time job.

That’s why I have to depend on news outlets and experts.

The Washington Post says: “The e-mails don’t say that [climate change is overblown]: They don’t provide proof that human-caused climate change is a lie or a swindle.

The Wall Street Journal Europe wants greater data transparency and more research before rushing to an agreement in Copenhagen. I question a few of their objections, including the notable absence of the IPCC, and significant attention to objections from a retired businessman, a libertarian think tank dedicated to limited government and free enterprise, and a former television meteorologist/ “meteorology expert.”

Some scientists still feel like their opinions were excluded, according to The Washington Post article cited above. But their evidence did not deny climate change, only variations on its causes.

I’ve also heard from multiple heads of state, internationally respected scientists and well-informed organization representatives here.

Remember, the whole Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research and documentation process has been entirely transparent for 20 years or so. All of their research has been available for review by any government or organization. At every stage, any experts in the field could propose contrarian views. As the IPCC chairman R.K. Pachauri writes, “There is, therefore, no possibility of exclusion of any contrarian views, if they have been published in established journals or other publications which are peer reviewed.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson had strong words after the EPA recognized that greenhouse gasses are at an unprecedented level due to human activity, and are therefore a threat to public health and the environment.

“There is nothing in the hacked e-mails that undermines the science on which this decision is based,” Jackson said.

So is there some disagreement and doubt here? Yes. But science depends on a degree of uncertainty to keep pushing research forward.

Indigenous representatives from climate change-affected areas point out that the smoking gun of damage exists now, in communities like Shishmaref, AK.

As always I’m open to verifiable and legitimate evidence to the contrary, but I believe these e-mails were stolen and broadcast to the world out of context. They might exhibit some healthy disagreement. But they should not slow the progress of COP15.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    December 9, 2009 6:44 pm

    Good piece, but I think your link for Shishmaref, AK is wrong – it sent me to a DePauw page about journalism awards.

    • Anthony Baratta — Findlay, Ohio permalink
      December 10, 2009 1:07 am

      the dangers of multitasking.

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