A few thoughts on Climategate

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Fri, 27 Nov 2009 13:08:00 GMT  <== Politics ==> 

Michael Jennings at Samizdata - more wisdom about the reality of scientific research, from someone who used to do it.

This, fundamentally, has been my problem with the science of global warming - the denial of the messiness of it all. We have been told that "The Science is Settled" by men in white coats in ivory towers, and that we are "denialists" and unworthy of being listened to, if we dare to question the process or to state the obvious - that science is a messy and uncertain process and that as a consequence of being a very hard problem, modelling the climate is going to give answers with huge margins of error and huge unpredictability. (Nicholas Naseem Taleb would say it's a system highly susceptible to Black Swans, and he would be right).

Which was why, when I was cc'ed on an e-mail last Thursday stating that there was a huge leak of data from CRU at the University of East Anglia, I pretty much knew what it contained and I haven't been remotely surprised by anything we have learned. There is lots of politics, lots of bad work, lots of crufty code, and lots of uncertainty and disagreement.

The scandal here, is the pretence that this was ever not so. The careerist political side of this unit, mixed in with an unholy political alliance of Greens, Luddites, politicians with hidden agendas or at least vested interests in Climate Change being real, managed to create an environment in which the normal competition and disagreement between teams of scientists has not been allowed to take place. To even suggest that climate scientists behave like other scientists and to ask them to fully explain their work, has been to be opposed to their noble efforts to save the planet. "The Science is Settled" means that this is not necessary.

We have learned little in the last week that we should not have been already aware of, but perhaps now that it is out in the open, we can have a proper debate. This should hopefully be a relief, and if we are going to discuss policy for the whole world, it is required to be entirely out in the open.

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