I’ve been distracted over the last few months with all these attacks on climate science. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. I know enough about climate science to be skeptical of absolutely everything written on the topic in the mainstream media. And yet I still feel compelled to read about each new revelation trumpeted in the press, and I feel compelled to do the necessary digging to find out what’s really going on. Well, I’m done with it. I’ve seen enough. I’m finally looking away. And I’m taking away some lessons about human behaviour, and most of it isn’t pretty. Many of the people attacking the scientists are truly nasty people.
Take climategate, for example (please!). It really was a non-event – a series of trumped up claims with no substance. We already knew the contrarians talk nonsense. At worse, some requests for access to data were mishandled. By scientists who were being hounded by an army of attack drones. What did those FOI requests look like? Well mostly they looked the same, because when Steve McIntyre was told that some of the metereological data was not available to non-academics because of commercial licencing agreements, he threw a hissy fit and told the lunatics that follow his blog to fire off FOI requests at the CRU. Sixty FOI requests in one weekend! Which makes them all vexatious, and probably counts as harrassment. Which is bad enough, but some of McIntyre’s followers did worse, and started firing off death threats. Death threats?!? Sometimes Often I think I’m on the wrong planet.
Or take the hockey stick controversy. Michael Mann was smeared again as a result of the CRU emails, but on investigation his name was cleared. The previous attempts to smear him, through the Wegman Investigation, turns out to be nothing but a political attack, put together by staffers in Senator Inhofe’s office. While any errors in Mann’s initial attempts at dendrochronology reconstructions have been long since been corrected, and and the results confirmed by other studies (that’s how science works, remember?), a group of obsessive denialists just won’t let the issue drop.
David Brin calls it a war on expertise. A bunch untrained armchair climatologists think they know more about the field than geoscientists who have been studying it as a fulltime career for decades. Or, more precisely, they think they can do a little poking and find errors, and that those errors will invalidate the science. Because they really really want the science to be wrong. Actually, I really really want the science to be wrong too, but I’m not so stupid as to think I can poke holes in it without first becoming an expert. If the science is wrong, you’ll read about it first in the peer-reviewed literature.