My take on “Climategate”

Another blogger stirred up a predictable argument with his assessment of “Climategate.” I waited for the inevitable bomb-tossing to ensue before commenting. But I think it’s worth making those comments a blog posting of my own. I think they could lead to a civil discussion of how scientists should act when dealing with politically sensitive topics. Care to chime in? Here’s what I wrote:

“Climategate” shows that scientists are — Who would’ve thunk it? — human, and they sometimes let their political views get in the way of their scientific objectivity.

After years of political noise from people who have plenty to gain by maintaining the status quo, these scientists were anticipating similar over-reaction from the noise machine. They forgot that in science, the evidence should speak for itself.

They made the same mistake that Mark Fuhrman made in the O.J. Simpson murder investigation. Instead of letting the entire body of evidence speak, they tried to enhance their conclusions. The unfortunate result was loss of credibility, even for the huge body of evidence supporting their interpretation.

That sent critics poring over the details of the IPCC report, which included, as I understand it, a typo that changed 2350 to 2035 in the section about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers. What reasonable scientist could expect those huge glaciers to disappear in less than 3 decades? Now because of the scrutiny, that obvious typo is being construed as a deliberate error.

Fuhrman’s blunder, aided and abetted by errors by prosecutors, introduced enough doubt to get O.J. acquitted, but the civil case went against him and “the real killer” remains a figment of the imagination of O.J. and his friends.

As “jemmybutton” notes, the science has been obscured by this unfortunate misjudgment of the scientists that let politics interfere with the normal process of science.

Considering the consequences of not acting to reduce greenhouse gases, we can’t allow this brouhaha to divert us from taking appropriate political action based on the best scientific evidence available. That evidence is imperfect, but it provides policy-makers more than enough to go on.

Fred Bortz

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