Thanks to Ron Cram’s link to a Guardian article: “Climate consensus under strain”.
You can read it in its entirety but I thought I’d post a few comments from various writers and open it up for discussion.
Here is the roundtable question:
We ask a range of experts: what damage has been done by recent criticisms of climate science credibility?
These scandals have done tremendous damage. This is not because they threaten the canon of climate science – that would require similar exposés of tens of thousands of scientific papers – but because they create an atmosphere of opacity and evasion. Rajendra Pachauri’s initial dismissal of questions over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Himalayan glacier date suggests a failure to listen, which is inimical to scientific discourse. I am also amazed to learn that the IPCC doesn’t pay its chairman, obliging him to work elsewhere, which has caused the other scandal in which he’s embroiled. Anyone would think that running the organisation was a full-time job. This isn’t a task for amateurs.
He goes on to say:
All data, and the statistical tools used to analyse them, should be produced at the time of publication, and I hope that one of the outcomes of this scandal is that this becomes routine. Never again should people have to use FoI requests to find out what scientists have been up to, let alone have them refused.
On this I agree:
- The emails have not overturned the canons of climate science
- They do create an atmosphere of opacity and evasion
- This isn’t a task for amateurs
- All the data and methods necessary to replicate the science on which the IPCC is based should be released so that FOIs are not necessary.
Vicky Pope of the Met Office:
None of the mistakes call into question the fundamental science. The UEA temperature record is one of three independent records that all show clearly that global-average temperature has increased over the past century and that warming has been particularly rapid since the 1970s. Mistakes identified in the IPCC report have been investigated and publicly corrected if appropriate. These mistakes have all been about the impacts of climate change – perhaps one of the most difficult areas of research and one which is evolving rapidly.
The key finding that “warming is unequivocal and very likely due to man’s activities” remains robust. The basic physics tells us that increasing greenhouse gases cause global warming – and we are likely to pay a heavy price if we keep emitting them.
Again, no destruction of the science. She reinforces the need for rigorous open science, and an “appropriate open access” to methods and data and for rational debate.
Mike Hulme of UEA:
The scientific process offers a wonderful method for probing, critical and fearless inquiry into the way the physical world works. But scientific knowledge can never determine policy. Policy emerges through political processes, where interpretations, judgments and compromises are made by individuals and groups of individuals as they weigh uncertain and changing scientific knowledge against normative criteria. It is foolish to state “the science demands” anything. It is people who demand things, not science. We need more honesty about what climate science can offer society – and what it can’t.
Science is science and policy is policy — yes. Fair enough and pretty self-evident. To that end, science must be held separate from the development of public policy because science has to appear to be objective and unbiased.
Public policy is of necessity a political endeavor — it is our societies deciding what we want to see happen via the political process. Scientists provide us with evidence of what is going on in the environment. They can provide evidence on why it is happening. They provide scenarios based on modeling on what might happen if it continues. They can provide consequences of options we might choose to address the problem. They cannot tell us what to do.
Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees, argues this of the CRU emails:
The picture they reveal is a revealing insight into the everyday business of professional science – the jockeying for status, the to-ing and fro-ing over obscure statistical methodologies, the sniping and the gossip, and the constant battle to get the latest work past the reviewers and into the various learned journals. But the UEA emails also reveal something else: this was a group of academics who felt under siege from, as Mike Mann (of “Hockey stick” fame) put it in June 2008, sceptics who were “not interested in the truth… [but] just looking for another way to try to undermine confidence in our science”.
This siege mentality led to corners being cut, and the development of a paranoid them-and-us mentality which worked to the detriment of good science. This was unfortunate – but perhaps unavoidable, given the bitter nature of the sceptics v science battle. Public confidence will need to be restored, but this will be very difficult in the context of an ongoing misinformation campaign by dedicated and highly politicised global warming denialists.
This most succinctly states my own view. The emails reveal that many climate scientists felt under seige by denialists who sought to discredit their work and them personally. Anyone who has read the blogs knows how personal this has become — it is tantamount to vendetta on the part of some.
Climate science has significant implications for public policy, for the economy and for society as a whole. There are interest groups who may benefit from it or be harmed by it — some even both. Their interests can lead them to public action in order to influence the political process.
They should not be able to influence the scientific process.
Roger Pilke Sr.:
A human influence on the climate system is very real. Climate policy is important. So too is advice from experts to inform climate policy deliberations. Consequently it is of utmost importance that leading institutions of climate science – including of course impacts, adaptation and economics – have processes and procedures in place to sustain credibility and trust in their work. Regrettably, the IPCC has not met these high standards. The solution is obvious – to bring the archaic policies and procedures that govern the IPCC into the 21st century. To date the IPCC has been far too ad hoc and unaccountable.
I have stated my agreement that the IPCC should not use second-hand science when drawing conclusions about the science of global warming and its impacts. If little is known, then go with that. If something is known, use the best peer-reviewed science to support it. The public and policy makers must have confidence in the IPCC and its findings.
Roger Highfield, editor of New Scientist:
Good science thrives on scepticism and this consensus crystallised after much argument and deliberation by thousands of scientists. Alas the consensus view has given the public the false impression that the IPCC is a priesthood, handing down tablets of wisdom. The unfolding drama of email-gate suggests that researchers are secretive and that they used dodgy data, as reported this week in the Guardian by the New Scientist’s environment consultant. Nor did it help that an IPCC “fact” was based on a non-peer-reviewed source: a report in New Scientist. The IPCC needs a makeover.
A makeover sure, but not an execution and burial.
Bjorn Lomborg, who needs no introduction:
There have long been polarising and bitter clashes between climate change deniers and alarmists. The truth is that exaggeration in either direction is unhelpful in informing us how best to respond to climate change. We require level heads and honesty from climatologists and the IPCC.
I’m all for economic alarmists stopping their battlecry of “What about the children?” or “Jobs! Jobs! Armageddon! Jobs!”. I don’t see that the WG1 was alarmist, although I do agree that some of the statements in WG2 have been inadequately supported by good peer-reviewed science.
James Garvey on the psychology:
On one hand you have virtually the entire scientific community backing the IPCC’s report that there’s a 90% chance that human beings are driving climate change, and on the other questionable emails and a mistake about glaciers. Can anyone really believe that a dark plot orchestrated in East Anglia has hoodwinked the world’s scientific community? Is the glacier business actually on a par with a cover up like Watergate? If reasonable people base their beliefs on evidence, why do we latch on to a few news stories when the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is overwhelming?
Why? People do not want to believe that AGW is a threat because then they might have to change their behavior or pay more for things like gas and oil. They like conspiracy theories, which is why Area 51, Roswell, The Grassy Knoll and The Faked Moon Landing are so popular in the public psyche. People love The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.
Of course, they love Climate Tattlers that talk of scandalous behavior of climate scientists and talk of the greatest hoax of all time. The more scandalous the talk, the more the ol’ tip jar probably fills up…