Ideology, not science, at work in debate about climate change

Some unknown hackers did the deed. They revealed a ton of e-mails written by prominent climate scientists concerned about global warming.

Some of their remarks look very bad, but the scientists are saying it’s just a “smear campaign.” Others come to their defense, insisting the reaction to the material is far worse than anything the scientists said.

“It’s a symptom of something entirely new in the history of science,” science historian Spencer Weart told The Washington Post. “Aside from crackpots who complain that a conspiracy is suppressing their personal discoveries, we’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance.”

With all due respect, you’ve got to wonder what cave Weart has been living in for the past decade or so.

Entirely new? How about all the news stories, all the blogs, all the commentaries that have repeatedly pounded scientists skeptical that warming portends apocalypse?

When I worked in Washington, D.C., I became acquainted with some of these people, such as Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist, and Patrick Michaels, a climatologist and former research professor.

I am convinced these are honorable, decent men, and I have nothing but contempt for the personal attacks on them. I am also put off by the chant that it’s chiefly the winning of grants that has motivated other scientists to express fear about warming. My guess is they are mostly persuaded by the evidence, but that something else is at work with some of them.

What’s disturbing is the tone some assume, the near certainty about something that remains in many ways speculative, the frustration with debate, the anger and the allegiance to remedies that could well do more harm than warming itself. This is not science, but ideology — even religion, as some have said — and that’s what the e-mails tend to confirm.

None of the dozen or so accounts about the e-mails that I have read convinces me that we can now pronounce the human-caused, catastrophic warming theory a hoax.

“I simply can’t believe that there is a kind of mafia that is trying to inhibit critical papers from being published,” Mojib Latif, a climate researcher, said in one news story.

The irony here is that these scientists, so determined that their faith carry the day, have in the end given the public some very good reasons to be doubters — and just as a world summit on climate change is coming up. If none of the much-abused skeptics are heard there, we should figure the exercise is one of creed-writing, not of truth-seeking — and be wary of acting on that creed.

Some unknown hackers did the deed. They revealed a ton of e-mails written by prominent climate scientists concerned about global warming.

Some of their remarks look very bad, but the scientists are saying it’s just a “smear campaign.” Others come to their defense, insisting the reaction to the material is far worse than anything the scientists said.

“It’s a symptom of something entirely new in the history of science,” science historian Spencer Weart told The Washington Post. “Aside from crackpots who complain that a conspiracy is suppressing their personal discoveries, we’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance.”

With all due respect, you’ve got to wonder what cave Weart has been living in for the past decade or so.

Entirely new? How about all the news stories, all the blogs, all the commentaries that have repeatedly pounded scientists skeptical that warming portends apocalypse?

When I worked in Washington, D.C., I became acquainted with some of these people, such as Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist, and Patrick Michaels, a climatologist and former research professor.

I am convinced these are honorable, decent men, and I have nothing but contempt for the personal attacks on them. I am also put off by the chant that it’s chiefly the winning of grants that has motivated other scientists to express fear about warming. My guess is they are mostly persuaded by the evidence, but that something else is at work with some of them.

What’s disturbing is the tone some assume, the near certainty about something that remains in many ways speculative, the frustration with debate, the anger and the allegiance to remedies that could well do more harm than warming itself. This is not science, but ideology — even religion, as some have said — and that’s what the e-mails tend to confirm.

None of the dozen or so accounts about the e-mails that I have read convinces me that we can now pronounce the human-caused, catastrophic warming theory a hoax.

“I simply can’t believe that there is a kind of mafia that is trying to inhibit critical papers from being published,” Mojib Latif, a climate researcher, said in one news story.

The irony here is that these scientists, so determined that their faith carry the day, have in the end given the public some very good reasons to be doubters — and just as a world summit on climate change is coming up. If none of the much-abused skeptics are heard there, we should figure the exercise is one of creed-writing, not of truth-seeking — and be wary of acting on that creed.

Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former Washington opinion writer and editor of two dailies. He can be reached at Speaktojay@aol.com.

 

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