What would’ve made the ‘Climategate’ emails truly damaging…

You may have noticed an increased chill in the air since Friday as, over the last week, global warming has finally been exposed as an elaborate hoax orchestrated within the innately Machiavellian halls of the University of Anglia. At least, that’s what right-wing commentators would have you believe following the revelation of hacked emails from leading climatologists. In reality, and despite the bitter cold, climate change continues to devastate lives and 2009 will be one of the top five warmest years in the past 150 years.

Unexpected as the sceptics seizure of what scant controversy exists is, I was surprised by the rabidity of The Telegraph’s James Delingpole. Even the great arch-hatemonger Melanie Phillips’ responded with hyena-like caution

In Delingpole’s latest mocking piece he manages to both research much of the ‘liberal’ and scientific responses to the ‘scandal’ while ignoring entirely what they have to say. He uses the frustratingly common tactic employed by those of his ilk (read: cunts) to pepper the post with no facts or arguments, preferring quotes followed by sarcastic comments.

Subsequently, he plucks fifteen words from a Guardian article, ignoring the other 1,023 (most of which take the edge off the sceptics’ cries about a smoking gun), to persist with the suggestion that these emails will somehow end the global warming debate (they won’t). If I was to take James’ lead and pick only a handful of words to share from this article, they’d probably be the following:

“The revelations did not alter the huge body of evidence from a variety of scientific fields that supports the conclusion that modern climate change is caused largely by human activity.”

A most salient point was made by RealClimate.org; a blog written by climate scientists, some of whom were among those who had their emails hacked. With the quote below however, we can forgive the obvious partiality as everything said is supported by 160mb worth of private emails never intended for public scrutiny.

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

And that’s the point, really. The emails would only truly vindicate the climate change deniers if the following conditions were fulfilled:

1. Evidence of a hidden agenda proving climate scientists are working as part of a global conspiracy seeking a) money, b) power, or c) a new socialist, hippy, vegetarian world order.

2. The science behind the evidence of anthropogenic climate change relied solely on data gathered by the few scientists involved.

Unfortunately, as can be guessed by anyone with any sense, the worldwide consensus on climate change is based on more than tree rings and ice cores (average global temperature being an obvious one along with shrinkage of the ice caps) and not even the most blinded, fanatical and mentally unstable deniers are unable to distort the content of the emails to an extent that convincingly suggests a worldwide conspiracy (not that people wouldn’t still try…). This means I’m still liable to trust scientists and their data. As David Aaronovitch writes for The Times:

It is, of course, very hard for the lay-person such as you or me — or him [referring to AGW sceptic Lord Lawson] — to come to a scientific view about climate change. It seems prudent to note that the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion and peer-reviewed studies in the climate field do agree on the cause and nature of global warming. They also tend to agree, incidentally, that not cutting carbon emissions, let alone allowing them to grow, is likely to have a whole series of deleterious effects (to say the very least) upon our planet.

If there was anything seriously ropey going on behind the scenes with global warming (denier scepticism seems to be based on a genuine belief that this is a global conspiracy to destroy capitalism, crush freedom and impose a totalitarian, socialist global government) the hacking of over 10 years worth of private emails between people described as ‘leading climate change scientists’ should have revealed it. They don’t. The emails show normal people writing casually (sometimes, I’m sure they would say, regrettably) and displaying a clear passion for their work, conviction about what they do and a tangible fear of sceptics out to derail their efforts (In light of this event, I’m reminded of a Lord of the Rings quote… Aragorn: “Are you frightened?” Frodo: “Yes.” Aragorn: “Not nearly frightened enough. I know what hunts you”).

With this in mind, this scandal, while it’s sure to embarrass some of those involved, actually serves to offer more evidence (if more was needed) against the far-right’s claims to a hidden climate change agenda. Next time a sceptic confronts you with any conspiracy nonsense, point to the emails as evidence to the contrary and tell your climate change denying friend to fuck off.

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