Posted by: climatewonk | November 30, 2009

Memes, Lies and Climategate

I’m monitoring the press coverage of Climategate and am troubled that we have headlines in the minor press (aka right-wing internet press), such as the following:

“CRU Source Code Confirms AGW Fraud From Hacked Documents” from the Canada Free Press website.

The announcer claims that the source code from the hacked documents confirms that the GCM is fraudulent, its conclusions are fraudulent, and any and all papers based on it must be written off. He goes further to claim that any other GCMs that agree with the CRU GCM must also be considered suspect simply because they agree with the CRU GCM. Of course, following that logic, any and all papers based on them must be thrown out as well.

This is why it is dangerous for the average Jo to get hold of source code and data. Not only might Jo be unable to comprehend the data and code, they might draw false conclusions about it, and then spread those false conclusions across the internet depending on their sphere of influence. Other people with little or no training or education in science or statistics or programming, unable to judge for themselves, take what they see at face value, or worse, based on pure rhetorical appeal. The false information then spreads like a fungus, picked up by advocacy groups with a point of view and spread even farther.

We currently see the meme of “Climategate” proving that AGW is a hoax perpetrated by evil climate scientists spreading across the internet, picked up and transmitted primarily via the right-wingnut press.

A true skeptic, one that has not yet drawn a conclusion or accepted what they see at face value, would say we should wait for further clarification. That some of the emails and comments in the hacked documents might appear to suggest wrongdoing at first pass, but that there may be logical explanations. A true skeptic would suggest waiting before drawing any conclusions about the meaning and intent of the emails and documents.

The fact that so many have already concluded that the emails and Harry file proves fraud and that its all a big left-wing hoax meant to create a world government and displace the USA as top dog in the world disputes whether they are real skeptics or are in fact deniers.



  1. “Climategate” started out when there appeared on the Internet a collection of e-mails of a group of climatologists who work in the University of East Anglia in England. These documents reveal that some climatologists of international preeminence have manipulated the data of their investigations and have strongly tried to discredit climatologists who are not convinced that the increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the cause of global warming.

    It is true that a majority of the scientists who study climatic tendencies in our atmosphere have arrived at the conclusion that the world’s climate is changing, and they have convinced a group of politicians, some of whom are politically powerful, of the truth of their conclusions.

    A minority, however, is skeptical. Some believe that recent data that suggest that the average temperature of the atmosphere is going up can be explained by natural variations in solar radiation and that global warming is a temporary phenomenon. Others believe that the historical evidence indicating that the temperature of the atmosphere is going up at a dangerous rate is simply not reliable.

    Such lacks of agreement are common in the sciences. They are reduced and eventually eliminated with the accumulation of new evidence and of more refined theories or even by completely new ones. Such debates can persist for a period of decades. Academics often throw invective at one another in these debates. But typically this does not mean much.

    But the case of climate change is different. If the evidence indicates that global warming is progressive, is caused principally by our industrial processes, and will probably cause disastrous changes in our atmosphere before the end of the twenty-first century, then we do not have the time to verify precisely if this evidence is reliable. Such a process would be a question of many years of new investigations. And if the alarmist climatologists are right, such a delay would be tragic for all humanity.

    The difficulty is that economic and climatologic systems are very complicated. They are not like celestial mechanics, which involves only the interaction of gravity and centrifugal force, and efforts to construct computerized models to describe these complicated systems simply cannot include all the factors that are influential in the evolution of these complicated systems.

    All this does not necessarily indicate that the alarmist climatologists are not right. But it really means that if global warming is occurring, we cannot know exactly what will be the average temperature of our atmosphere in the year 2100 and what will be the average sea level of the world’s ocean in that year.

    It also means that we cannot be confident that efforts by the industrialized countries to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will have a significant influence on the evolution of the world’s climate.

    Alas, the reduction of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would be very costly and would greatly change the lives of all the inhabitants of our planet–with the possibility (perhaps even the probability!) that all these efforts will be completely useless.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.

  2. Of course, the singular event “Climategate” started with the release of the hacked or leaked emails, but I am more interested in the whole deal — from the first attacks on climate science and the theory of AGW to the release of the emails prior to Copenhagen. It’s obviously a calculated move meant to give people a reason to stall or not sign any agreements.

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