Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How now?

Last week, one of the biggest science stories broke and few media outlets gave it much attention. Likewise, one of the biggest political and economic stories broke – which also brought little attention.

That story was the worldwide exposure of thousands of emails and other documents “after a hacker broke into the computers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (aka CRU) and released 61 megabytes of confidential files onto the Internet. (h/t: Watts Up With That).”
In short, the emails seem to show that climate scientists engaged in “Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.”

This leads to a lot of questions. A lot of questions starting with “how”…such as -

How did the mainstream media report Climategate?

How did the national paper of record report on the scandal?

The Grey Lady tried to ignore it...

How did the hackers, programmers and other cyber-cognoscenti pick apart the “stuff?”

How did the climate researchers, scientists and computer programmers miss this? – “The emails seem to describe a model which frequently breaks, and being constantly "tweaked" with manual interventions of dubious quality in order to make them fit the historical data. These stories suggest that the model, and the past manual interventions, are so poorly documented that CRU cannot now replicate its own past findings. That is a big problem. The IPCC report, which is the most widely relied upon in policy circles, uses this model to estimate the costs of global warming. If those costs are unreliable, then any cost-benefit analysis is totally worthless.” (h/t: Megan McArdle/”ASYMMETRICAL INFORMATION”)

How did this escape everyone’s attention? – “A BBC correspondent admitted he was sent the leaked emails more than a month before they were made public. Paul Hudson, weather presenter and climate change expert, claims the documents allegedly sent between some of the world's leading scientists are of a direct result of an article he wrote. In his BBC blog two days ago, Hudson said: 'I was forwarded the chain of emails on the 12th October, which are comments from some of the world's leading climate scientists written as a direct result of my article "Whatever Happened To Global Warming".' That essay, written last month, argued that for the last 11 years there had not been an increase in global temperatures.”
The truth will out...
How “the Social Validation of Knowledge” shapes our views on one of the most important issues of our time. – “Unfortunately the debate over Climategate among laypeople is likely to be heavily influenced by political ignorance and irrationality, especially the tendency to overvalue any information that confirms one’s preexisting views and downplay or ignore anything that cuts the other way. Thus, global warming supporters are likely to claim that Climategate proves nothing at all, while skeptics will trumpet it as justification for rejecting mainstream climate research altogether. Both temptations should be resisted, though I’m not optimistic they will be.” (h/t: The Volokh Conspiracy)
How can getting all the facts out there - "good" or "bad" be wrong?

No comments: