Some have noted, and I agree that it’s a misnomer to call this “ClimateGate.” In addition to the fact that simply adding “Gate” to a scandal is so late twentieth century, calling it a “Gate” would imply that it’s something that the media will go into a frenzy over, because it’s a scandal about something politically incorrect (e.g., Nixon). No, a better name for it (again, not original with me — I think it showed up in comments at one of the PJM pieces) is “Climaquiddick.” In other words, expect the media to try to whitewash and minimize it.
[Update a few minutes later]
Ah, here. Iain Murray uses it in a post title.
And Jonah points out what should be obvious — that this isn’t just a science scandal, but a journalistic one:
One reason this seemed to me like less of a big deal at first was that the individual e-mails — “hide the decline” and so forth — while damning, also seemed open to interpretation. And I still think that’s the case in some instances. But what seems incontrovertible at this point is that the global-warming industry (and it is an industry) is suffused to its core with groupthink and bad faith. For many of us, this is not shocking news. But it is shocking evidence. Proving bad faith and groupthink is very hard to do. But now we have the internal dialog of those afflicted made public (I hope some intrepid reporters are asking other climate institutions whether they are no erasing their files for fear of being similarly exposed). It is clear that the scientists at the CRU were more interested in punishing dissenters and constructing a p.r. campaign than they were in actual science.
This should be considered not merely a scientific scandal but an enormous journalistic scandal. The elite press treats skepticism about global warming as a mental defect. It uses a form of the No True Scotsman fallacy to delegitimize people who dissent from the (manufactured) “consensus.” Dissent is scientifically unserious, therefore dissenting scientist A is unserious. There’s no way to break in. The moment someone disagrees with the “consensus” they disqualify themselves from criticizing the consensus. That’s not how science is supposed to work. Skeptics who’ve received a tote bag from some oil company are branded as shills, but scientists who live off of climate-change-obsessed foundations or congressional fiefdoms are objective, call-it-like-they-see-it truth seekers. Question these folks and you get a Bill Murrayesque, “Back off, man. We’re scientists.”
An even larger reason this is a journalistic scandal is that governments want to spend — literally — trillions of dollars on climate change. Industries want to make billions off it. The poor will be hurt. Economies wrenched apart. And journalistic skepticism is almost nowhere to be found. If you know people in the “skeptic community” (for want of a better term) or even just normal, honest scientists, the observation that federal and foundation funding and groupthink is driving, or at least distorting, the climate debate is commonplace. But it’s given almost no oxygen in the elite press, because they are in on it.
And as one of his emailers points out, what will really bring down this house of cards is when it’s revealed how awful and completely unreliable the computer code is. It’s no surprise that those who created the “models” didn’t want them released. The other issue, of course, gets back to a problem that the blogosphere has been complaining about for years — how incompetent (and how unprepared from the typical curricula of journalism schools) journalists are at covering, or even understanding, math and science, yet they’ve appointed themselves to explain it to the rest of us.
[Update mid afternoon]
Well, how about that? There’s at least one real journalist working at CBS:
As the leaked messages, and especially the HARRY_READ_ME.txt file, found their way around technical circles, two things happened: first, programmers unaffiliated with East Anglia started taking a close look at the quality of the CRU’s code, and second, they began to feel sympathetic for anyone who had to spend three years (including working weekends) trying to make sense of code that appeared to be undocumented and buggy, while representing the core of CRU’s climate model.
One programmer highlighted the error of relying on computer code that, if it generates an error message, continues as if nothing untoward ever occurred. Another debugged the code by pointing out why the output of a calculation that should always generate a positive number was incorrectly generating a negative one. A third concluded: “I feel for this guy. He’s obviously spent years trying to get data from undocumented and completely messy sources.”
Programmer-written comments inserted into CRU’s Fortran code have drawn fire as well. The file briffa_sep98_d.pro says: “Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!” and “APPLY ARTIFICIAL CORRECTION.” Another, quantify_tsdcal.pro, says: “Low pass filtering at century and longer time scales never gets rid of the trend – so eventually I start to scale down the 120-yr low pass time series to mimic the effect of removing/adding longer time scales!”
Unfortunately, he had to do it at a blog. I wonder if it will ever show up as a CBS story?