Sunday, 29 November 2009
Climategate - Nothing To See Here
Nothing lights up the Climate Change denial blogosphere more than the whiff of righteous indignation when they feel they're on to a scandal, and it was no surprise that the hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit set fingers twitching in darkened rooms across the English speaking world.
The concrete jungle of UEA seems a strange place for a global conspiracy to have its HQ. It's probably full of lovely people, but looking at it you imagine that after dark Alex and his fellow droogs from Clockwork Orange run riot in its concrete passageways. Blofeld for sure would have had something rather better. However just such a conspiracy is what the deniers believe they've found.
It's still early days for figuring out what exactly was in the emails, but it does appear that material was hacked for several weeks in a sophisticated operation and that what has been published is a selective and partial version of several conversations, some a decade or more old.
Some of the allegations of conspiracy are derived from single words int he messages; "trick", "fudge" etc, whilst others relate to alleged professional misconduct; the suppression of controversial papers, the displaying of data in misleading way and the subversion of Freedom of Information requests. As well as the emails computer code used to make climate models was hacked and this too is the subject of controversy.
Interesting though is what is not in the emails. Had anyone hacked the account of my old physics department I suspect they'd have found that 90% of the messages were about Dungeons and Dragons and most of the rest would have revolved around futile attempts to get laid. There's none of that ere. There's also no references to One World Governments, gravy trains of government funding or Shape Shifting Reptiles from outer space.
What is also missing is any context for these messages, and this is very important. An important strand of the allegations is the alleged nobbling of professional publications and scientific papers by Climate Change sceptics. Specifically this refers to the journal Climate Research , which is alleged to "encourage the publication of crap science". Seeing as how the editor and half the board subsequently resigned after the publication of one such paper, the CRU people may well have had a point.
Not that everything in the emails can be discussed quite so lightly. If a Freedom of Information request has been dodged that may actually be illegal and if relationships between warmist and sceptical scientists are as bad as they seem then maybe some of them shouldn't be involved in the peer review process. Also the computer code, whilst not shown to be fixed, is certainly complicate and opaque. There is an argument for suggesting that scientists should standardise their software and put code up for review when papers are published.
A conspiracy though there is not, and neither has the basic science of Climate Change been dented. The tea cup is currently experiencing a Force Ten gale, but that's all.
The denier blogosphere is still buzzing, but increasingly the deniers are now asking why the mainstream media has dropped the story. The leaks have become like Desdemona's handkerchief; conclusive proof of infidelity to those already maddened by paranoia. Just a handkerchief to everyone else.