The Climate of Science & the Science of Climate

“As the scientists denigrate their critics in the e-mail messages, they seem oblivious to one of the greatest dangers in the climate-change debate: smug groupthink. These researchers, some of the most prominent climate experts in Britain and America, seem so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate their certitude — and ultimately undermine their own cause.”

In today’s New York Times, John Tierney offers one of the most balanced and considered summary judgments of the hoopla surrounding the unauthorized release of hacked e-mails from East Anglia University’s climate scientists. In E-Mail Fracas Shows Peril of Trying to Spin Science and in his blog post Hacking the Climate Debate, Tierney discusses the perils for scientists of “confirmation bias — seeing trends that accord with their preconceptions and desires. Given the huge stakes in this debate — the trillions of dollars that might be spent to reduce greenhouse emissions — it’s important to keep taking skeptical looks at the data. How open do you think climate scientists are to skeptical views, and to letting outsiders double-check their data and calculations?”

The point is not that global warming induced by human behavior is a hoax – the preponderance of available evidence indicates that it most certainly is not. The point is that sincere, genuinely convinced and engaged scientists allowed themselves to overhype and exaggerate the conclusiveness of the scientific evidence in a policy debate for “all the best reasons.” Now they have left themselves open to parody and ridicule and disbelief almost as badly as they would be if they had, say, intentionally misrepresented the Mayan calendar to create a grotesquely ludicrous fantasy of earthly destruction for Hollywood. Vital scientific understanding and important poilicy decisions are now seriously jeopardized by this all-too-human propensity to “win, at any cost.”

For more information, follow the links in Tierney’s blog post, or, for more of interest on this important topic, check out all the details at — in particular, this page on Data Sources. If you need more context, a good brief summary can be found in this article from the Sunday Times of London

Published in: on December 1, 2009 at 11:31 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] a disturbing update to our earlier discussion in The Climate of Science & the Science of Climate, The Times of London offers another embarrassing revelation of shoddy work and propagandistic bias […]

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