December 8, 2009

A Quick Thought On Climategate

First, I am pretty ignorant about the issue of global warming.  I do not feel that I am particularly qualified to render intelligent or even useful insights on the issue.  While this is no impediment to other bloggers, and I am sure while that there are those who would argue that it is no impediment for me on other subjects, on this issue I'm conscious of the fact that I'm lost in the woods.

Second, the broader controversy seems to be not over whether global climate change of some kind is happening but rather whether it is caused by human activity.  I've no doubt that humans can affect their environment in dramatic and deletorious ways and the idea of government regulation to prevent or mitigate this happening is one which I embrace -- with all the enthusiasm that one would give to embracing an ugly cousin met for the first time at a family reunion.  As to whether this can happen on a global scale, with the effects that are being observed or at least alleged, see my first point.  At the same time, there seems to be little doubt that global climate change is happening.

Third and finally, the microconflict that has come up has to do with hacked e-mail that purportedly reveal that scientists at the University of East Anglia "fudged data" which suggested that global temperatures are actually falling and not rising.  The claim seems to be that if the "real" data were circulated, that would weaken political efforts to adopt environmental protection laws in any of a number of countries but particularly the USA and the UK.  There are counter-contentions that the e-mails indicate a different kind of political or scientific agenda than what they are alleged to be.  I haven't read the hacked e-mails and I think the ethics of doing so are at least subject to legitimate question -- this is, after all, stolen information.  But even if the claim is true on its face (and it certainly could be, I do not claim to know one way or the other) it would not be the first time a scientist was exposed as dishonest or as having a political agenda that overrode the truth, and that would also not change the veracity of either the claim that the global climate is changing to our disadvantage, or the claim that industrial activity is propelling that potentially harmful change.  It would only mean that the data and methodology underlying these scientists' work would merit even more searching scrutiny than they would otherwise have received.

All of that seems to have been said elsewhere and earlier.  I write today only to not be vulnerable to accusations of being part of the "deafening silence" on the issue.  But the fact is, the subject matter is really pretty much beyond me one way or the other.


zzi said...

It's kinda like not voting for the president and not voting against him.

There's enough data out there to take a stance.

Burt Likko said...

I'm sure you're right. It's very complicated data, though, and it would require more education to understand than I have time to devote to such a project the way I would want to.