Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lack of climate debate hobbles policy

Not much I can add to this particular commentary by Nigel Lawson. As always he is succinct, reasonable and eminently sensible.

I am pleased to be posting this link here for wider consumption and for those people with open minds who wish to think and find blogs a good source for contrasting perspectives.

Sadly, my post here is unlikely to be read by most of my own departmental colleagues or the graduate students they instruct. The reaction to my earlier emails on this topic was at first stony silence, then an email from a senior graduate student with a re-assertion of the "science is settled, nothing to see here" circle the wagons variety to "correct" my emails and lastly a final "do not wish to engage in an extensive debate by email" dismissal by a senior colleague.

Well, I am suitably chastened. Naturally we don't wish to engage in extended debate and certainly not by email. Its not as if we are a university, concerned about higher education, free thought or the integrity of science. And the science is all settled anyways, so what is there to debate?

Well, lots actually. Four main issues arise:

  • that climate scientists controlled the publishing process to discredit opposing views and further their own theory
  • they manipulated data to make recent temperature trends look anomalous
  • they withheld and destroyed data they should have released as good scientific practice, and
  • they were generally beastly about people who criticised their work

Some mind find offense to any and all of these actions. Others will shrug and say it is a storm in a teacup. But the reason these actions are important and relevant is why they occurred:

  • Jones and his team began to produce work that contradicted the established picture in 1990 - and CRU was able to do so from both ends. By creating new temperature recreations, it could create a new account of history. By issuing a monthly gridded temperature set while making raw station data unavailable for inspection, it defined contemporary data. So CRU controlled two important narratives: the "then", and the "now".

Two ideas occur to me:

  1. if the science is all so settled, why do we still need further research on this stuff? and
  2. if the political support for the importance of climate change does indeed evaporate over the immediate future as is perfectly possible as part of the fall out of the Hadley "episode", who are the academics whose research grants will disappear?
Once science gets into bed with politics, its not possible to ignore the politics once it turns inconvenient.

Ostrich anyone?