Nov 2009

Climate Change disinformation

Over in the UK someone has hacked into the computer system at the University of East Anglia. Specifically the server used by the Climate Research Unit. Information was stolen and then publicly posted on the internet. It’s resulted in a field day for Climate Change Deniers. Indeed a piece in the Daily Telegraph proclaimed the stolen data as “the final nail in the coffin” of man-made Climate Change.

Sadly, it isn’t. Though few things would make me happier if it was. Frankly I can think of no better news than the revelation that anthropogenic Climate Change is some kind of scam cooked up by 95% of the world’s climate and meteorological scientists; that global industrial activity isn’t doing nearly as much harm to our ecological systems as previously feared. But the leaked information suggests no such thing.

What the stolen information does appear to reveal, however, is the fairly shoddy attitudes of a few climate scientists working at the University of East Anglia. They appear to have made some pretty callous comments about the death of a prominent Climate Change Denier. Perhaps more worryingly, though, the released information includes emails that seem to suggest that the scientists had made attempts to suppress data that might have contradicted their own results and put pressure on scientific journals to refrain from publishing papers by those who disagreed with them.

This is all very unfortunate and I’d like to think that these revelations will prompt swift apologies and perhaps even resignations if it can be proven that someone genuinely did falsify data or actively engage in censorship (as opposed to merely suggesting it in a frustrated email). Climate Change is too damn important an issue to become dragged down into the mud by the kind of fools who would risk adding to the scepticism and doubt by engaging in dirty tactics and scientific censorship.

That said, I do think this should all be placed into perspective. Any dirty tactics and scientific censorship that may have been carried out at the University of East Anglia are reprehensible, but they are as nothing when compared with the tactics of the fossil fuel lobby and those they have in their deep pockets. The scientists at the centre of this latest brouhaha are simply guilty of trying to fight fire with fire. It’s unacceptable and they should, as I said, do the decent thing and apologise, maybe even resign. But for Climate Change Deniers to cry “foul” is a bit bloody rich.

The evidence for man made Climate Change is entirely convincing, and there’s nothing in this latest controversy that changes that. Despite this — and for years before the University computer was breached — a vast campaign to suppress and discredit was indeed underway. But by and large it wasn’t being undertaken by climate scientists. Rather, they were the target.

I’m dismayed and more than a little outraged by the scientists who sought to emulate this malign campaign of disinformation and censorship. But I’m also rather contemptuous of those deniers who claim dismay and outrage at today’s disinformation, while gleefully championing yesterday’s and tomorrow’s.

Posted in: Opinion