I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.
The response of the greens and most of the scientists I know is profoundly ironic, as we spend so much of our time confronting other people’s denial. Pretending that this isn’t a real crisis isn’t going to make it go away. Nor is an attempt to justify the emails with technicalities. We’ll be able to get past this only by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.
Meanwhile, Iain Murray analyses what some of the documents reveal, and Timothy Carney ponders whether climate science has become too big to fail. More from Declan McCullagh, Ivan Kenneally, and Megan McArdle.
UPDATE: The revelations, discoveries, and dissembling continues, as shown in posts from Roger Pielke Sr. here and here, and Marc Sheppard here. And there’s now new evidence of man-made global warming in New Zealand.
The sustainability of climate science depends upon our ability to distinguish the health of the scientific enterprise from the politics of climate change. The need to respond to climate change (which I support) does not justify sacrificing standards of scientific integrity for political ends. In fact, as the events of the past week show, when standards of scientific integrity are compromised, the political consequences can be double edged.