Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Climategate", Emails and Critical Thinking

The fact that one's email messages may be gathered up and relocated, as it were, to some "place" one would rather they did not appear is rather troubling.  There are those who seem to stop thinking when they use electronic mail.  Lawyers involved in e-discovery can find a great deal which may be useful to their clients, because there is, apparently, a tendency to become unguarded when at the keyboard; even to become stupid.  It's as if we feel somewhat liberated because there is no the need to look at or directly confront others personally.  We feel we are not accountable, and are among friends, but we are making marks which can always be found, and will always exist in one form or another.

It's easy to understand, then, the dismay of those whose emails which apparently indicate they have been doing some fudging or disregarding data are upset by this development, and are inclined to blame the "enemy" (who is, of course, unscrupulous and acting contrary to our best interests).  But it also is easy to understand why those who can grab emails and publish them widely do so on this issue, and difficult to understand how scientists, or others, can be so unthinking as to make electronic records of this kind.

Like seemingly most everything else these days, climate change is a battleground.  "Climate Change" seems a much shrewder description than "Global Warming" by the way.  One is not thereby committed to the prediction that things will get warmer, and it seems there are those who say, now, that it isn't at all clear that warming will occur, and that greenhouse gases may in fact result in global cooling, or something else.  One may also thereby dissociate oneself from Al Gore, who seems as incapable of appearing at ease and amicable in public as Richard Nixon, for what seem to be different reasons.

Those who claim that global climate change is not occurring, or at least that it is not occurring because of us, can be rather disconcerting.  I recently saw an article in which it was claimed that Copenhagen will be the start of a one world government, and that the President intends to enter into a treaty of some kind without consultation with or approval by the Senate which will, inevitably, bankrupt us (further?) and leave us subject to claims by the Thirld World which will be enforced against us in some fashion, presumably by the infant global government which will be spawned.

Knowledgeable scientists may disagree more than we have been led to believe, but it seems to be the case that climate change has taken place in the past, and that its effects were dramatic.  Some claim civilization would not have resulted but for the end of the last great Ice Age.  What is called the "Little Ice Age" which ended in the mid-19th century did not destroy us, but apparently could have done so if things were a bit different, and caused quite a few serious problems in any case.

It would seem to make sense, then, to study climate change and take steps to avoid its serious effects.  That would seem to mean that we should identify the causes of climate change (a single cause of such a complicated phenomenon seems unlikely).  We should do so, obviously, using the best science possible.  Political and other considerations should not be allowed to influence the study (they always do to some extent, but we should do our best to eliminate politicians and true believers of all sorts from the process).  It would seem to make sense to pool our resources to make the study, and may be equally wise to do so based on the results of the study.  The problem is that there are many who feel that no complete study has been made.

It makes no sense in any debate, let alone scientific study, to make certain positions sacrosanct, or certain information unavailable, or to actively attempt to silence disagreement.  The response that "everything points to it" or "the evidence is overwhelming" has not been satisfactory.  If the scientists who are making such claims have been reckless enough to do what their emails appear to indicate, they have only themselves to blame if they are distrusted.  All information should be made available (it apparently can be, these days) and subject to dispute.  For good or ill, elites can no longer dictate policy with the same ease as they have in the past because nothing is hidden.  So, as there is to be a battle, why not get everything out in the open?  How else can a reasonable decision be made?


  1. Characterizing these emails as "reckless", is kinda reckless. I use very different language when talking with my peers than I do with customers. Data was not fudged, new data was found that showed the old data was inaccurate.
    If they only find a few comments like this in 160 megs of data, I have to stick to there being a scientific consensus.

  2. Well, yes, but this is an issue which has become very political. I think we are being forced to recognize that we cen no longer reasonably expect privacy of communication at least as to such issues, and it is prudent to act accordingly.