Climategate. I haven’t written about climategate yet. In fact I haven’t written about global warming at all for awhile. There’s reasons for that, but it is an important topic, so it deserves the occasional glance. Important, but depressing. OK, climategate. In short, someone hacked into a major centre of climate research, stole a vast amount of stuff including email, and published it. Some of the emails are pretty embarrassing, careers may be hurt or ruined. And there’s certainly evidence that some scientists engaged in less than ethical conduct to prove the case that human caused global warming is a problem. People sceptical of AGW (anthropogenic global warming, the idea that human activity is warming the globe) are making this out to be a very important development, some have even gone so far as to claim that this is the final proof that AGW is a hoax.
Before I go further, I have a problem here. If I understand it correctly, the sceptics are claiming that essentially the entire field of climatology is conspiring to “hoax” the world about AGW, presumably in order to keep the research grants coming. This alone gives me pause, has there ever been a case in history where an entire scientific discipline conspired to mislead the planet? We’re talking tens of thousands of people in every country on Earth, and we are talking all of them. Climatologists, the scientists who have actually spent their entire lives studying climate, are essentially in 100 percent in agreement that AGW is a reality. I find it very difficult to swallow that an entire branch of science is so corrupt and/or ignorant that they would perpetrate and/or fall for a hoax on this scale. Finding even a handful of people to conspire with is a tricky business, but thousands of them? Now maybe I’m overstating my case, but for the sceptics to be right, the entire field of climatology has to be wrong. Right?
Back to Climategate. I have a problem here too. Climategate isn’t about the science. IE Even if we grant the worst case scenario, that a handful of scientists used unethical (and possibly illegal) means to promote their case, what does that have to do with the science? Well, nothing. The stolen and released emails do not show that any data was falsified or that any studies need to be withdrawn. So no matter how damaging they are to the authors of the emails, what the stolen emails don’t address is the data and science itself. So what, exactly, does Climategate tell us about AGW? Nothing. I’d go more into the nuts and bolts of the whole mess, but others have done it better. In fact as far as I can tell, the AGW sceptics are operating the same way that a lot of people who have “maverick” beliefs are operating. They latch onto anything that appears to support their case, and claim that it discredits everything that doesn’t support their case. Um, one can support any belief in this fashion.
Moving right along, I’m actually not even going to address AGW, because it doesn’t matter. that’s right, it doesn’t matter if AGW is proved beyond any doubt. This is because whether or not one believes that humans are changing the climate, there isn’t any doubt whatsoever that the climate is changing. Even worse, the changes are much worse than the models predicted just a few years ago. The ice caps are melting, the glaciers are melting, and sea ice is disappearing at a much greater rate than anyone predicted. The evidence for this is documented in hundreds of studies world wide, by scientists from every country. Sea levels have risen an inch and a half in the last decade alone, and the rate of change is actually accelerating. These two links both address the actual science and its relevance to Climategate. I highly recommend them: What happened to the evidence? and The Reality of Climategate. I also find it interesting that the global warming sceptic’s position could have been written by the PR department of any major oil company. Interesting company to keep.
Another point that rarely gets mentioned, is that the people who think that human produced CO2 is part of the problem aren’t advocating “doing something” about it. They are advocating that the people who are doing something, slow down what they are doing. IE the sceptics who claim that CO2 isn’t part of the problem need to demonstrate that what is being done is perfectly safe. By dumping CO2 into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, we are conducting the greatest scientific experiment in history using our own planet as a guinea pig! Um, if there is even a 1% chance that AGW is a reality, isn’t this a terrible risk to take? I wish some of the sceptics would explain just why they think we should conduct this sort of planetary experiment, what, exactly, is the point?
Which leads us to my last point, what, exactly, is so wrong about cutting CO2 emissions? Making things less polluting is going to create plenty of jobs, it’s not like the environmental movement of the 60s and 70s shut down the planet’s industries. Eating less meat, relying more on walking and public transit, recycling, buying locally produced products, growing a vegetable garden … this is not exactly waterboarding now, is it? In fact I would venture to say that most people either wouldn’t notice the difference, or would actually be healthier and happier if these changes were to take place. Even if the oil companies and car companies make fewer profits, it’s not like the money is vanishing, it just means it’s circulating somewhere else in the economy. And pretty much has to be circulating somewhere lower down by definition, nu?
Lastly, the final point, and the reason I don’t write about this very often. (Well, aside from the fact that I don’t think any of the remaining AGW sceptics are particularly interested in debate, but I digress.) The reason I don’t write about AGW much is that we aren’t going to do anything until it is way too late. The governments of China, the USA, and Canada are completely suborned by corporate/business interests, and their is zero chance they will do anything to inconvenience their masters. The rich and the powerful have historically always pursued their own interests at the expense of everyone else, that’s how you get to be rich and powerful in the first place. Global warming may be the second greatest threat the human race has ever faced, but as long as the planet’s wealth is ever flowing upwards, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for change.
And anyhow, at this rate I’ll be living in a beach front apartment soon enough. I can live with that. Coming soon, why I hate Al-Jazeera.
(I believe the above image originated with NASA and is thus public domain under US copyright law. In any event it’s not being used for profit and its use here is central to illustrating the post. It’s an illustration of just one of the many dramatic changes that have taken place on Earth in juts the past few years. Yes folks, the canary in the coal mine is stone cold dead.)