Climate Scientists Exonerated, Deniers Looking Like Fools

The University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit scientists at the heart of the cleverly named “Climategate” scandal have been exonerated once again. Yesterday, a report from the Independent Climate Change Email Review found the CRU scientists acted honestly and their research is reliable.

In other words, it turns out that despite all the crackpot accusations from the denier crowd, the CRU emails do not undermine the foundations of climate science.

This is the fourth investigation into the email scandal that has concluded that the CRU researchers are innocent of scientific wrongdoing. Taken all together, this is a pretty thorough vindication. And yet, if you were to read only the mainstream news coverage, you might come away thinking a cloud still hangs over the field of climate science.

Take for instance yesterday’s Globe and Mail which ran the headline, “‘Climategate’ inquiry mostly vindicates scientists”.

“Mostly”??? Hang on, this report concludes the CRU researchers’ “rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt,” and goes on to say that their review “did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.”

How’s that “mostly” vindicated?

Well, the Globe makes much of the fact that the report chides the scientists for not being completely willing to share their data with climate-science critics. Admittedly, the optics of such ungenerous behaviour are not good and the CRU scientists could have saved themselves a lot of hassle if they’d just handed over their data when first asked (forget that the data in question was freely available from other sources so it looks like the climate critics may have only been requesting the information because they’re annoying assholes).

But then again, maybe the CRU’s reputation would be better off if they’d just obediently handed over their work no matter how devious the intentions of the asker, but would climate science?

See, a big motivation behind not handing over research to climate deniers is because they have a nasty habit of twisting and misrepresenting data to suit their anti-science ends. They’ll cherry-pick studies to make it look like global warming ended in 1998, that the Greenland ice sheet is growing, that sea-levels aren’t rising — anything to convince the public that there’s nothing to worry about.

Fortunately (from a “see I told you so” point of view, but unfortunately from a “holy fuck, the world’s going to die by fire” perspective), the data has a way of making fools of climate deniers over time.

Maybe you have a vague recollection of a story from the spring about how arctic sea ice was expanding and setting records? The climate deniers were in a froth about how this was more proof that global warming was a pile of hooey.

Lawrence Solomon in the National Post went so far as to suggest this could be a sign the Earth is in for some global cooling.

At the time, real climate scientists pointed out that even if we were seeing a spike in sea ice extent in April of 2010, the overall trend since 1979 has been downward. The climate deniers, in other words, were making sea-ice mountains out of statistical molehills.

Climate skeptics pooh-poohed the scientists, called them nervous nellies.

Well, have a look at the graph at right. The summer numbers are coming out and it would seem that sea ice, far from setting records for growth, has shrunk to a size well below the 20 year average.

Are the folk who made hay of the spring’s anomalous numbers — guys like Solomon, Lorne Gunter and Christopher Monckton — eating their words now that the data has shown them the fools? Not at all. They’ve moved on to other cherry-picked data sets, other stupid arguments.

There’s a tiny — almost microscopic — bit of poetic justice in the case of Solomon. When you check out the Financial Post article in which he beaks off the loudest about the vast hugeness of arctic ice, he links to a graph from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency — one that just happens to be updated as new data comes in. Meaning, when you turn to Solomon today and read him all puffed up about how the globe is cooling, if you click through to his supporting evidence, it clearly shows that things are heating up fast.

Doesn’t Solomon look the ass?

Sadly, I doubt many people will notice. And that’s the way these things tend to work. The deniers make a bunch of specious claims about the climate that make big news and wind up plastered all over the opinion pages of the major media outlets. Weeks or months later, when the scientists carefully explain how that was all so much hogwash, no one is paying any attention.

All anyone remembers is “Global Warming Canceled” in 60-point type.

Meanwhile, when Phil Jones and his crew at the University of East Anglia get rightfully pissed off at the tactics of the climate deniers and decide they’re not going to play ball anymore, they get pilloried in public and accused of engineering some grand conspiracy.

It’s enough to make you want to punch someone (and I’m thinking of someone specific) in the eye.

Anyway, for more on this whole debacle, check out George Monbiot’s piece in yesterday’s Guardian.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.