Climate and Conspiracy

December 6, 2009 | By | 26 Replies More

Climate Change–Those Hacked Emails

It’s been a week or more since a gentleman hacker stole a bunch of private emails from the University of East Anglia in an attempt to liberate supposedly secret evidence that the entire climate change crowd is in on a conspiracy to defraud the public.  I haven’t yet heard if anyone is filing charges against the man, but evidently some folks, especially the Limbaugh-Beck screaming meme crowd, feel this is the new Pentagon Papers and the hacker in question is their Daniel Elsberg.

It is an unfortunate fact that some things—like this issue—are so complex that most people cannot follow all the data to the conclusions.  They haven’t the time, the resources, or, frankly, the inclination.  But then if anybody could parse evidence at this level, what would need scientists for?  Why would anyone devote an entire life to researching one thing?  If Joe the Plumber could actually understand the science behind the Large Hadron Collider,  Paleontology, Evolution, and Climate Change, what do we need specialists for?

I’m sure someone has an answer along the lines of  “We don’t!  They just sponge off taxpayers and study stuff no one gives a damn about!”

I’d like to think most people are not so easily gulled, but I’ve been disappointed before and probably will be again.

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Category: Culture, Current Events, Education, Environment, global warming, ignorance, Media, Noteworthy, Science

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

Comments (26)

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  1. A nice response to the whole affair by a scientist is here on YouTube:

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Maybe this video sheds some light?

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/7nnVQ2fROOg&rel=0&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/7nnVQ2fROOg&rel=0&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

    Or this blog: Michael Mann in his own words on the stolen CRU emails

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    Or this video of an English scientist vs. an American denier:

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/gpEGBgHxNTQ&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/gpEGBgHxNTQ&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1&quot; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

  4. Karl Kunker says:

    Tweaking of data is flat out manipulation done to favor an intended outcome. Wake up.

  5. Karl,

    You clearly have no clue how science is done. Go read a book.

  6. Marilyn says:

    I don't know what book you have read. I remember science as form a theroy Gather data and test that theory. Have peers test that theory along with data. Publish all results. Not manipulate results to fit your theory. No wonder science has gotten a bad name. Results are formed according to the highest bidder. The integrity of science is being jeopardized but who cares as long as it fits your theory.

  7. "Tweaking data" in this sense means averaging details to more clearly plot a trend. It doesn't mean changing it to suit an expected outcome.

    There has been some dufus stuff at East Anglia, to be sure, but care needs to be taken that a few sloppy researchers don't tar the entire body of research with the same brush—which was the impression I got from Karl, that one idiot = all of them.

  8. Dan Klarmann says:

    Example of "tweaking" data: We were reading vibrations on a factory floor to determine if new equipment may be damaging it. But every time we hear a train go by, the floor shakes even more.

    So we could simply "tweak" the data by ignoring the data collected when a train is detected (throwing out data that "doesn't agree"), or more elaborately, measure the vibrations from the train outside the factory and subtract that intensity from the internal measurements over the entire data set.

    Tweaking is how we ignore noise. Noise is data that can be identified as not relevant to the purpose. That does not mean "data that does not support the hypothesis."

    Proving the conventional wisdom wrong is how you get a Nobel prize. Scientists get little credit for proving what is already well proven (like global warming).

  9. Karl says:

    When one is certian of noise this is fine, when one is trying to ignore opposing incongruous data pieces because doing so helps support a narrow limited interpretation of the data that is falsely called rigorous science.

  10. Tim Hogan says:

    It seems that if crimes were committed that publishing the data is another crime, or at least a copyright infringment.

    How do we know the e-mails are genuine?

    If the person who had the skills to hack the system, perhaps they also had the skills to alter the contents. i suppose the actual e-mail authors could go back to their "sent" boxes and check and see if these have actually been altered.

    And some might find it curious that this all happened just before the Copenhagen Climate Suimmit anyway, eh?

    Before I give any creedence to any contrarians which use these data, prove the authenticity of it!

  11. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    But you must admit that there is an inherent danger in "tweaking" the data. The problem of operant bias.

    It is all to easy to dismiss data that doesn't fit as being irrelevant, but sometimes what is thought to be noise is very relevant.

    I know of two examples of this. Bannerstones and the planet Vulcan (not the ficticious workd from the Star Trek franchise, but a planet astronomers searched for and never found)

    The problem is that operant bias is a subconscious process.

    Dan, in your example, wouldn't be also be good to know if the combined vibrations of the train and the machinery could damage the floor?

    I agree that the right-wingnut sewer-mouths are barking at shadows here, but when money and politics drive science, often the quality of the research takes a distant second to the desired results.

  12. Dan Klarmann says:

    That's the glory of the scientific process: Everyone is busily trying to prove each other wrong. No data set goes unchallenged. No hypothesis is well enough proven for newcomers to not try to overturn it. No methodology is sacred.

    I trust science, not specific scientists. The method leads to truth, working through the practitioners.

  13. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Dan,

    In a perfect world, all science would be objective, but we live in a very imperfect world. Objectivity takes a distant third places behind politics and corporate interests.Often the most politically desirable hypothesis is protected from challenges.

  14. Dan Klarmann says:

    Once again: Scientists are subject to influence, moods, politics, religion, and all other human failings.

    But science (the process) is designed to ferret out the verifiable truth in spite of such failings. There is no way to protect any hypothesis from a young upstart who is determined to prove it wrong. Only a lack of any contradicting evidence will do that.

    The imminent threat of inquisition didn't stop it a few hundred years ago, so political preference is unlikely to in the present.

  15. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Dan, the problem is to be found in the political juggernauts of the corporate facism that has current so many followers in politically powerful positions in the media and government when they have the power to selectively supress contradictory research and data.

    The inquisition did not stop the scientific pursuit of knowlege, but it did have a powerful chilling effect on it for a very long time. We are in a political climate that is ripe for a new inquisition.

  16. Dan Klarmann says:

    I've known too many scientists and the universal contempt they have for politics. Those who are pursuing some new truth don't notice contrary politics until it destroys their careers. But by then the genie is generally out of the bottle. Ask Galileo or Oppenheimer.

    The profit and power is obvious for those denying global warming, but where is any even remotely comparable profit to be found for those who would have us believe in the vast majority of the evidence?

  17. Karl says:

    Dan asks, "Where's the profit for those would have us believe in the vast majority of the evidence?"

    Circular reasoning is all over this.

    This is why people like Al Gore and his cohorts passing out grant money to find trends that they can use to scare the unsuspecting into taking actions, like buying "carbon credits," actually has nothing to do with "profits" when its viewed as a means of appeasing ones twangs of guilt and conscience.

    Just like the buying and selling of hedge funds has nothing to do with anything other than manipulating the markets in one's own favor, thus making money while others lose theirs.

    Not really morally wrong, its only business savy and a creation of myth working in connection with public beliefs and opinions.

    Those who issue calls for research that will establish what they believe to be true from what they would like science to show them is true don't have a clue what a null hypothesis means.

    Real science answers the null hypothesis questions. Biased people jump from their loaded hypothesis testing to the elimination of the null hypothesis considerations.

  18. Dan Klarmann says:

    Karl, is there any connection between my question and your answer? I can't figure it out.

    Have you bothered to peruse the evolution of climatological understanding over the last three decades during which global warming oozed from an odd idea that explains all the observations to a near certainty?

  19. Dan,

    Karl seems to be suggesting that because grants are being handed out to people who research climate change (and global warming) their results are automatically suspect because they will fudge their research to guarantee continued grantflow.

    Unless one is a hermit on a hill doing research, money makes all conclusions self-serving and suspect.

  20. NIklaus Pfirsig says:

    Here is a great illustration outlining the problem with the cap and trade concept.

    Dan, I have tracked medical research concerning autism since 1995 when my son was diagnosed. I've seen all types of unproven hypotheses and bogus "cures", but I have seen a very specific social dysfunction in research that is driven by corporate profit.

    Most medical research in the US is driven by the pharma industry. They fund medical resarch, hoping to get patentable medications for new drugs that can boost their profits. The problems arise when research reveals something that might reduce their profits.

    It all about how risk is defined. Personal risk refers to probability of injury or loss of ife or limb. Corporate risk, however, is something completely different.

    Corporate risk in only concerned with how business decisions will affect the company's profits. For example, Droff Motors finds that one of their popular models has an intermittent problem causing sudden acceleration. Their choices are:

    1.Change the design of the accelerator linkages and ecc software to provide a safe fail-over mode

    2. Claim the problem is driver error and find ways to discredit the drivers testimony in hearings.

    3. Payoff people injured by the fault while requiring a non-disclosure agreement (a.k.a. gag clause) for payment.

    4. Arrange a recall and retrofit the faulty vehicles while using an advertising blitz to spin to recall to promote Droff Motors as a socially responsible company.

    or

    5. A combination of the above.

    Generally the first thing to try is the "Blame someone else" route. If the problem becomes more common, the closed settlement with non-disclosure becomes viable. Beyond that Droff quietly identifies the problem and quietly fixes it in the new cars on the assembly line, then works up a retrofit procedure and issues a voluntary recall ( looks better than a federally mandated recall).

    The anthropogenic CO2 hypothesis plays directly into this corporate risk management mindset where cap and trade is concerned. There have been many explanations advanced to account for the missing carbon sink, other modifications to the model include co2 as "Enhancing" the thermal retention properties of water vapor.

    Politics enters the debate, however and any science that doesn't fit the popular hypothesis is suppressed. Dissident scientists are then often promoted by denialist groups favoring the corporate interests, and in the eyes of the CO2 supporters, discredits those scientists.

    Critical review becomes almost impossible, because to this polarization. You either believe the hypothesis as infallible truth or you are wrong. It is like a religion.

    Back in the '70s and '80s, those of us that were pioneers in cyberspace called such irreconcilable discussions "religious wars". We had the Commies (Commodore 64 users) vs the I-Beamers (IBM PC users) vs the Trash80 users (Radio Shack branded computer) vs the Ataristas and so on. This solved itself when the dos based pc wiped out the competition, not by being better or cheaper, but by marketing hype.

    We are rapidly running out of fossil fuels. When we do, Co2 emissions will drop. People will start dying. Wars will increase, productivity will drop, and some renewal energy source will be found.

    Cheap energy is the current limiting factor of the human species and rather than focusing on who's right or wrong about the cause of global warming, we should be concentrating on viable alternatives to those fossil fuels. Currently there are none.

  21. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Niklaus, I couldn't agree with you more. The worst of the impacts of climate change are projected decades into the future. We have already begun to feel the impact of the end of cheap energy, and it's quite painful. These effects are here now, and by solving the energy problem, we will most likely have automatically solved the climate quandary.

  22. Dan Klarmann says:

    Aren't you making my argument? Shall we trust the results presented by the multi-trillion dollar fossil fuel industry, or those of the the struggling, liberal, independent "green" studies?

    Again, who has the money and profit motive to spin climate results?

  23. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Dan,

    It would seem that way in a superficial sense, but the major proponents of anthropogenic CO2 as the major cause of global warming are those in a position to profit greatly from trading carbon credits as a commodity.

    The groundwork has already been laid for the open trading of carbon credits in commodity brokerages. The result of cap and trade will leave the CO2 production unaffected, while the polluters will pass the cost increases to the consumer to offset for the money skimmed by the brokers, and for the fluctuations in the price of the credits caused by speculators. It sounds very much like the kind of energy commoditization scam that Enron built their business model on.

  24. Dan Klarmann says:

    So those who are publicizing the knowledge of global warming are those few with enough money to do so; those who are already in a position to make back their expenses and then some. This is supposed to be a surprise?

    Cap and trade may do little in the short term. But the precedent of monetizing waste products will force people to consider the long term costs of short term actions. Because of this policy, people will not have to "consider" in the thoughtful sense to do the right thing. They will just notice the price tag.

    The only way to profit from cap and trade is to act responsibly; to earn the credits. Because this is anathema to current ways of doing business, there are billions being spent to block it.

  25. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Dan,

    There is a core group that are position to make billiions from the trade part of cap and trade. That profit would certainly come from the industries that be buying the credits, who would have to pass the added cost on to someone else, eventually trickling down to the consumer as price increases. The added expense would also reduce funding for alternative energy research. A cap and penalty/incentive system would be much better. Especially if the penalty funds were earmarked for alternative energy research grants. Research funded by government grants would be in the public domain and available to all.

    The cap and penalty system is similar to the CAFE standards for the automakers. CAFE has paved the way for the development of commercially viable hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Niklaus: I am also highly suspicious about cap and trade. It's an attempt to avoid making difficult decisions-to allow the "market" make the decisions. However, that "market" relies upon a highly inefficient and corruptible corp of investigators and regulators. When their is big money available, only a saint or a fanatic can keep the focus. That has been proven with Wall Street, and with Congress itself. A February 2010 Harper's article hit the bull's eye on this corruption and inefficiency. http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/02/0082826 (available in full only to subscribers). The title: Conning the climate: Inside the carbon-trading shell game.

      We need to somehow find the courage to do what needs to be done and quit pretending that a highly corruptible "market" will somehow make all the necessary difficult decisions for us. The fact that the north Atlantic is empty of commercial fishing is one of hundred of exhibits proving that "the market" needs strong and courageous external guidance and enforcement. I agree with you that cap and penalty is far superior. I also agree that big finance is licking its chops with regard to cap and trade; the end result of cap and trade would be yet another series of wall street speculative disaster.

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