24 November 2009

The self-pwning wingnut

The forces of global-warming denialism seem to be in the process of engineering a major embarrassment for themselves.

A few days ago, hackers stole a large amount of data from the computer networks of University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, including numerous internal e-mails. The denialists have pounced on some locutions in some of these e-mails as evidence that the researchers had faked data related to global warming in the past. In fact, it seems to be mostly a matter of laymen misun-derstanding the way scientists use terminology, and in one case mistaking an e-mail about how to draw a graph based on data for manipulation of the data themselves. For more, see reports from Nate Silver (found via Andrew Sullivan), MediaMatters (found via Oliver Willis), and RealClimate (update: more here).

Of course, even if there had been deliberate faking of data at the CRU (fraud does happen in science -- see the 2005 Hwang stem-cell fiasco in South Korea, for example), it would no more have undermined the whole scientific basis of anthropogenic global warming than the Piltdown Man hoax undermines the whole scientific basis of evolution. The denialists are making fools of themselves. Nevertheless, we're not exactly dealing with people who are skilled at assessing the real significance of evidence. As one of Oliver Willis's commenters puts it:

Awesome. There will never, ever be another debate about climate change that doesn’t begin and end with a conservative moron saying “It’s all faked! The emails proved it!” We're all doomed.

Well, it's probably true that the CRU e-mails will join the list of denialist talking points that keep getting trotted out over and over no matter how often they're debunked, just as the creationists keep on and on dragging out irreducible complexity and the second law of thermodynamics. But this seems unlikely to sway anyone who wasn't fooled by their other talking points all along. For everyone else, this little incident will be remembered, if at all, as just one more case of the gullibility of anti-science ideologues when they run across something they think tells them what they want to hear.

14 Comments:

Blogger Holte Ender said...

Fraud does happen in science, scientists are people too, and some of them are as obsessed with success just like a Wall Street hot-shot and any executive of a giant corporation, but generally speaking good scientists speak of theories and present facts to back up their concepts and anyone saying these facts are fake is not a good argument. Denying science has been going on for centuries i.e. Galileo and more recently Darwin. Science always wins in the end and if global warming is ignored and humans do nothing, the Earth will take care of itself.

24 November, 2009 07:04  
Blogger TomCat said...

All who would deny global climate change should be required to live in costal areas at sea level.

24 November, 2009 11:02  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Good set of limk's and post's Mr.Infidel.YES ...I am one that already knew of this,but kept quiet on my site about it,being for one,I'm pro-enviroment,and two because they who talk this are purposely ignoring the point and have a conspiratal mindset themselves by continueing to hammer at this. I even got into face to face debate's on this nonsense right here in Dallas with folk's over this who DENY global warming.This was also played by the last administration to change the title to "climate change" as well.These denialist's who keep publicizing this on their show's for instance are pushing everything they can while the wingnut's are still hot and angry out of retaliation to this new so called socialist administration(I know all their trick's, I voted republican for year's). I actually had almost an arguement with a man the other day here in Dallas who was on the teabag level, I just gave up listening to all his data ...and told him .."You know Bubba ...I frankly dont give a shit if they were fabricating data on global warming" He looked confused and asked why? I told him .."Because we need to stop making up goddamn excuses for all the trash and waste we put into the air and water's ...and thank goodness we only been doin this shit fer a hundred year's or so...or else we wouldnt be standing here the way we trash this planet, like a bunch of f'n monkey's with no brain!...". Another popular claim they bank on is those deep extracted strip's of ice they pulled up in Greenland for instance to study climate change...which show that over a 10/11,000 period the climatic change's we went through, now those scientist's in their opinion are stainless steel...but when any scientist's goes against what they want ot hear to justify treating the planet like a toilet bowl, they are crook's on the take and making it all up. These folk's bottom line will do and say anything to keep dumping their toxic contaminating shit all over the place.Not ONE ever gave me any reason "WHY" it is SO IMPORTANT to trash the earth ...perhap's they can pay a scientist to tell us that.

Thanx Guy ......

24 November, 2009 11:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Denying science is one thing....denying the truth is something else.

I have lived a long time and it's only in the last few years that this global warming fiasco has made any inroads into the American psyche. It doesn't seem to be any hotter to me then it did when I was a kid 50 years ago. Even were it "warming" then that could be laid at the feet of cyclical and natural phenomenon. The clue to whether or not this is a "hoax" is what the people want as a result of it's findings. The word "taxes" and "control" are bandied about without apology so I would suggest that manipulation might truly be the reality.

Lonni

24 November, 2009 11:29  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

The clue to whether or not this is a "hoax" is what the people want as a result of it's findings.

No, it's determined by the evidence, which in this case is quite overwhelming.

24 November, 2009 11:42  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Holte Ender -- At least in the case of Galileo's heliocentric solar system the denialists have given up. At least I assume they have. I haven't checked the latest Republican party manifesto to make sure.

TomCat -- Or on the Arctic ice pack. If they really believe it will remain intact for the foreseeable future, they shouldn't have a problem with that.

Ranch Chimp -- The problem lies with people who, when presented with a hypothesis, look first not to the evidence but to the ideological implications. See for example the comment right below yours.

24 November, 2009 11:59  
Blogger Karen said...

My siblings and I like to talk about when we were kids and lived up north in Michigan many, many, many, moons ago.

By November, us kids were ice skating and sledding on the lake. It hasn't been frozen over in November for years... scary

24 November, 2009 14:58  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Lonni has a good point ... as far as denying truth ..and therefore I trust that Lonni agree's with me when I say that the human species has been the most destructive and filthy animal this planet has had.

I been around a long time too, but realize that our short existence on this planet is not even the smallest fraction of a second, compared to how long it take's for change in the eco system's to happen.One thing for sure...we will have to deal with what's to come...including loosing fresh water run off's from mountain's to village's ... and the fact that these ice icon's WORLDWIDE are melting ...not just Greenland ...even the Swiss Alp's are loosing ice more rapid than we ever seen...and when that happen's it include's loosening of the mountain rock's itself...and massive landslide's when it rain's and all the debris falling downward.Many people depend on them region's of the world as well and Europe especially to feed it's river's and such. As far as not feeling it to be any hotter, you can experience a 100 degree day one year ...and the next year experince a 92 degree day ...there's an 8 degree difference ... do you say there's a cold front on the 92 degree day...or just plain say it's hot? Our eco system's and life as we know it are so delicate that only them 8 degree's can effect the way thing's will evolve and perish to come. I'll shut up, but am glad that we agree on denial of truth.

24 November, 2009 15:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Karen -- Yes, it's scary. The greatest effects are being felt in the coldest environments, at least for now. The changes at the poles are dramatic. Too bad those areas are uninhabited or barely inhabited, meaning that most people live in areas where thay are not seeing such major changes yet.

RC -- What you say about the Alps is also happening in the Himalayas. The areas dependent on the runoff from that source are very densely populated -- the Ganges valley alone has about 400 million people, more than the whole US. As the ice melts faster over the coming years, there will be worsening floods along the Ganges; later, when the ice has been substantially reduced, there will be droughts.

24 November, 2009 16:10  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

The global warming denialists should check out the work of James Balog, especially his documentary, Extreme Ice. The evidence confirming GW is frighteningly stark.

24 November, 2009 21:43  
Blogger TRUTH 101 said...

I would not hold myself up as an expert on global warming. Climate change. Whatever anyone wants to call it. Anyone that pays attention would be able to see things are different now than they werte even 20 years ago.


What peaks my interest on this email thing is how easy it would be for a few to send bogus emails to the University's account then hijack them back as "evidence" against global warming.

25 November, 2009 13:19  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Elizabeth: Thanks for the link. It looks interesting.

Truth: Interesting point. If hackers can steal data, they might be able to create it as well. Still, it seems likely that these e-mails are genuine -- there's just nothing incriminating about them, contrary to what the excited righties think.

25 November, 2009 14:55  
Blogger gcotharn said...

I followed you here from CFLF. I disagree, probably, with most of your opinions here, yet I commend you for putting together an interesting and heartfelt blog.

From the beginning, there's been an odd dynamic to the global warming debate. David Warren:

"For, as we glean from the hacked documents, supporters of the [climate change] hypothesis have been able to reverse the onus of proof. In the last resort, their argument comes down to: We say the planet is warming. And anyone who says the contrary must "prove the negative" beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt. And we will be their judges."

It is this odd dynamic, this "reverse the onus of proof", which has been ended by the CRU East Anglia emails. Henceforth, more and more as time goes on, climate change advocates will have to sell their case; the onus of proof will be re-reversed. The worm has turned.

This means: linking to several links of scientific material will not be enough. Climate change advocates will have to create a coherent narrative around an understandable circumstance, i.e. will have to communicate to the regular people, i.e. will have to sell the regular folks on the alleged evidence that the climate is changing. Such is a daunting task - and should be, as hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake, as damage to economies is at stake, as resulting human suffering and misery (resulting from damage to economies) is at stake. When the stakes are high, a task ought be daunting.

27 November, 2009 22:21  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Anthropogenic global warming met the burden of proof long ago, to within as close to certainty as science can ever get. That being the case, as with evolution or the heliocentric solar system, claims to the contrary are extraordinary claims which require extraordinary evidence. As it is, the denialists have no evidence, just the same kind of distortions and word games that creationists use.

As with evolution, a lot of the uninformed public doesn't get it, but that's irrelevant to what the reality of the situation is.

I've posted several times here about how global warming can be dealt with without economic damage. The fact is, failing to stop global warming is what would cause enornous economic damage and human suffering.

As I pointed out in the posting, all this fuss about the stolen e-mails is just going to end up further embarrassing the wingnuts who think they mean something other than what they do.

For denialist talking points, see here. Also, see the comments policy.

28 November, 2009 02:21  

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