One of Nixon’s greatest legacies (in popular culture) was the suffix of “gate” – associated with anything that had an air of suspicion around it. This holds remarkably true for the recent episode of intrigue around Climategate. The similarities with Watergate really end there – because the furore raised by those who hacked into the Climate Research Unit’s servers at UEA and published SELECTED EXTRACTS from a series of emails from leading climate scientists will not bring about the downfall of one of the largest issues facing humanity today – and tomorrow.
The contents of the extracts that have been variously published at face value appear damming, and unsurprisingly have been held up high and wide by climate sceptics who argue that this is the end of the Global Warming “charade”. Senator Inhofe, who sits on the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has really gone to town. The message from the Senator’s blog is unequivocal, and I quote ”Most important, however, these revelations of fudged science should have a cooling effect on global-warming hysteria and the panicked policies that are being pushed forward to address the unproven theory”. Although this is hardly surprising when one looks at Inhofe’s previous postings including the ‘Fact of the Day’ ”Skeptic’s guide to debunking global warming”.
Leaving aside the issue of the illegal access to the emails – the extracts are what they are, and they are now in the public conscious. What does this mean for climate science and advising governmental policy to drive forward and effect change? Personally, I think the sceptics will have a blip of a louder voice for a short while – and this will have a marginal impact on public sentiment. But thankfully this will pass. I am hopeful that the COP15 proceedings will further demonstrate the imperative to take decisive action to begin to mitigate the potential impacts of climatic change (not just global warming). And we need the scientists to help us to understand what this could mean.
Most climate scientists are reasonable and will agree that there remains a degree of uncertainty (if you’ll excuse the pun) as to the relative levels of natural variability and anthropogenic contribution to climate change, both regionally and globally. The one fact that doesn’t change is that change is happening – and its not all for the good. The scientific community needs robust challenge and needs the opportunity to share what it has found. Much of what we see published is based upon models – views of a potential future. The recent claims that have had a higher voice claiming these are all a sham fail to note that there are a number of independent academic institutions, running thousands upon thousands of simulations – and yes there are some years that point to globally averaged high increases in temperature, some lower (yes some will point to cooling!). However, the average of these multiple views all point to a dramatically changing global climate.
Now, we have a choice. Do we do nothing and let the world continue to pump inordinate quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere and see what happens? Or do we use the information that we have had from the climate science community and DO something.
Are we really going to play Climate Roulette? The bullet is loaded….