Climategate: An unscientific response to unscientific arguments…

Climategate is a term coined by my brilliantly louche former colleague at the Daily Telegraph, James Delingpole. Everyone, it seems, is talking about it. Guido thinks he has a local link at Queens, when he points to a mathematician who has been trying to get tree ring data from Queens but claims he has been consistently blocked in his FOI requests, of which more below the fold. On the general thrust of the argument I picked this link up from Veronica’s thread on IrishElection yesterday which seems to me to be a useful point of reference in the current storm:

…there’s no smoking gun, nor are there powder burns or any other evidence that a gun ever existed. What we see is that scientists can be jerks, can be parochial, can respond badly to criticism, can circle their wagons against outsiders (especially cranks and dilettantes desperate to prove that the entire enterprise of climate science should be tossed out the window).

I’ve worked with scientists in the past and found them to be as ill tempered, passionate and bloody-mindedly intolerant as the average Joe. More so perhaps since they can get pretty dogmatic about their own work. But two things strike me as worthy of note.

One, there is a legitimate set of tax based arguments that the money that the political elites currently want to spend combating anthropogenic climate change could be better spent on other things (like expansion of markets and general economic growth)… Yet that lobby lacks the courage of its own convictions and chooses instead to try to undermine the scientific consensus that man’s rapid development is having an indelible effect on the climate of the planet. Thus, try as hard as you might, it is almost impossible to find much in the way of peer reviewed scientific content in the anti Climate Change output.

Two, the scientific and political elites who have bought into ‘the consensus’ have failed to recognise the need to engage robustly with their critics. And as a result they now have a few scientists going feral and trying to cook or tweak data in the most transparently unscientific way in order to meet the claims of their unscientific critics.

It will be interesting to see what the Tree ring data tells us. And to understand more clearly why Queens is withholding the data (I’m awaiting a response just now…). In this information driven world, data cannot be withheld indefinately. In the vacuum that ensues people will rush in to construe all manner of conspiracy theories to suit their own (unscientific) purposes…

As luck would have it, Slugger hears that there is a Science Cafe in the basement of Queens Students Union this evening on this very subject…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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