A lot is being written about the extent to which “Climategate”–the leaked emails from prominent proponents of global warming alarmism-has undermined the basic case for global warming. The Wall Street Journal has a great editorial summarizing the scandal and what it says about the current conversation about climate change:
The furor over these documents is not about tone, colloquialisms or whether climatologists are nice people. The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at, and how a single view of warming and its causes is being enforced. The impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start. …
The response from the defenders of Mr. Mann and his circle has been that even if they did disparage doubters and exclude contrary points of view, theirs is still the best climate science. The proof for this is circular. It’s the best, we’re told, because it’s the most-published and most-cited-in that same peer-reviewed literature. The public has every reason to ask why they felt the need to rig the game if their science is as indisputable as they claim.
This scandal isn’t just about scientific integrity (or the lack thereof), it is also about how the public discussion about science takes place. As the WSJ’s James Taranto wrote shortly after the scandal broke, this is also a scandal for journalism-reporters on the environmental beat have become essentially themselves climate change activists and alarmists, never questioning the basic idea of how we arrived at the “climate consensus.” After all, journalists–who typically are quick to assume that big business and politicians can be corrupted by the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar–should have noticed that there is tremendous amount of money at stake in the climate change debate. Indeed, many people have fortunes riding on it: all those academics involved in the climate change movement would see a big decline in prestige and even their budgets if the climate change hysteria were to subside.
We are newly reminded of just how careless so many journalists and opinion elites are when covering climate change with this oped by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. It’s an okay piece in many ways: he doesn’t pretend that there’s nothing to the email scandal, but in the course of his piece he writes this:
To plot temperatures going back hundreds or thousands of years — long before anyone was taking measurements — you need a set of data that can serve as an accurate proxy. The width of tree rings correlates well with observed temperature readings, and extrapolating that correlation into the past yields the familiar “hockey stick” graph — fairly level temperatures for eons, followed by a sharp incline beginning around 1900. This is attributed to human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting increase in heat-trapping atmospheric carbon dioxide.
If he had paid any attention to criticism of global warming alarmism, he’d know that the “hockey stick graph” is enormously controversial, and many believe it is a big exaggeration, if not a complete error. (See here and here for a discussion)
It’s the mainstream media tendency to cite things like Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth and reference the hockey stick graph without any examination or consideration of the other side that makes so many not trust what they write.
The American people are going to learn about this email scandal even if the mainstream media ignores it. The public will be left wondering about more than just the scientists who supposed have supposed arrived at a consensus about global warming and the need for us to adopting job-killing, economic growth preventing legislation to combat it. They’ll also know that journalists and politicians knew about this scandal and choose to proceed on their course of cheer-leading about cap-and-trade and pushing for “global action” at Copenhagen. Whatever trust remains for politicians and the mainstream media is on its way out.