Thursday, October 27, 2011

Time to Reopen the Climategate Debate

Most Americans now believe that global warming is a hoax. Not only that, but many also believe that science itself is unreliable, and believe that most scientists in any field of research will fudge figures in order to obtain research grants. Most of this ill-will came about because of the controversy around global warming, and specifically the stolen emails from climate researchers that seemed to indicate they were using underhanded methods to "fake" global warming. (A.K.A.Climategate).

Making things worse, science itself seems to still be locked in mortal combat with the religious fundamentalists about the theory of evolution, and the fundamentalists are lending their financial resources and publicity to the fight against real science. (I use the term real science because the fundamentalists' latest tactic is to claim to be an alternate, "honest" type of science where the Earth is only 6,000 years old)

It is really sad to see popular opinion turn against science. I can understand my sister, who is a fundamentalist Christian, thinking that science is evil. I have a harder time accepting that a friend I made in Africa with CUSO believes the same thing. Even harder to believe that old college friends, from the science program at university, also believe that global warming is a hoax. These are just the people I know personally who believe the Climategate scandal. I assume the public opinion polls are right, and that many more people believe the same way.

But apparently last week there was a bit of a breakthrough. An independent voice took another look at global warming data, to see if the Climategate scandal was true. A report came out by Richard Muller, who is a scientist who in the past was skeptical about global warming. Richard Muller obtained funding (some from oil companies, apparently), assembled a team, and embarked on a project to find out if the data from Climategate did indeed indicate warming or not.

The above article indicates that his independent effort corroborates exactly what global warming scientists have been saying.

Does this mean the end of the controversy? Of course not. This report has been given almost zero air time, compared to the massive publicity that was given to the stolen emails. In fact it was given almost no air time even compared to the coverage of MacDonald's new McRib, according to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show (Oct 26, 2011). Also, Forbes Magazine ran an opinion piece by James Taylor "The Birth of a Straw Man" that basically said Richard Muller had not done any new research and that Global Warming was still a hoax.

The Forbes article, if you choose to read it, claims Richard Muller's research is a failure, because it does not turn up anything new, and because it does not answer the question of whether or not global warming is man-made. Well, of course not. It was intended to only look at climate data from weather stations - because that was issue of the Climategate controversy. It was a very comprehensive study to see if the data had indeed been fudged to get grants, as was claimed by the press. And it found the climate scientists not guilty. Too bad people like James Taylor are given so much space in influential magazines to air opinions that a fifth grader should be able to rebut.

Of course, Richard Muller's study is only a small part of the huge amount of research being done on Global Warming. True, it brings no new information to light, but it is an independent fact checking on the scientists who were accused of fudging their figures to obtain grants. They didn't. Now can we resume an intelligent conversation about Global Warming, or is it too late?

OK then, while we wait, how good is that new McRib burger?


  1. I picked up on the Berkeley Earth report last week in The Guardian, which also provided an interesting elapsed time graphic of those temperature readings.

  2. It's shocking to see all that red in the time from about 1995 to 2009. Although the red, I think represents only about one or two degrees celsius above normal, it looks like the Earth is on fire.