On climate science and all those leaks.
Over the last few years, we’ve had a number of substantial leaks of sensitive material from deep within the very heart of climate science. In each case, it’s been fairly obvious that the person doing it works in the field and is relatively senior, if only because they have access to such quantities of high-grade material and know the impact its leaking will have.
Given that the heated debate over global warming is so highly polarised, what we have is certain senior people on one side actively supplying ammunition to the other. Why would they go out of their way to damage their own area of science, that they themselves must have invested years of their life in? How on Earth could such an extraordinary situation have come about?
One can only guess at the specific motivation of the individuals concerned, but I think due to the almost fundamentalist nature of mainstream climate science, there are deeper and more general motivations at work here.
Some people go to work and it’s just a nine to five thing. They’re earning a living with no particular interest in what they’re doing. Some people go at it a bit harder because they’re hungry for promotions up the ladder, but again, they’re not particularly interested in the work as such. For others, the challenges that work presents, is the very reason they go to work every day. They’re what I’d call the practitioners. For them, the money or promotions are incidental, because it’s exercising their chosen profession well that really matters.
The particular profession doesn’t matter. It may be designing atom smashers, laying one brick perfectly on top of another, teaching those students something when nobody else can even get them to listen, running a restaurant well, designing a great computer system, knowing from the sound of a car as it drives in for repair exactly what’s wrong with it or building a beautiful staircase from scratch, out of nothing more than a pile of timber.
The are respected people within their chosen field of endeavour and though a well done from their boss and some sort of promotion or pay rise is always welcome, it’s when someone they recognise as another practitioner acknowledges a job well done, that they’ll take the compliment. That’s the type of peer group recognition that really counts with them.
Because they take a pride in what they do, they’re focused and work hard. Corners don’t get cut, grey areas get filled in and all the loose ends get neatly tidied away. They don’t do fudges, bodges or shoddy. Never. It can sometimes border on the obsessive but anything they produce is always quality work. They love what they do and they love their profession. It’s as simple as that.
The worst thing you could ever do to them is distort their work or prevent them doing the job to their satisfaction. They may put up with that for a while but in the end, they’ll begin to actively fight you. Not only are they protecting the quality of their work, but in a larger sense, the integrity of the profession they love.
The most recent two leaks have given us over seventy percent of the draft of the fifth Assessment Report (AR5), including reviewers’ comments, which is due to be finalised and published at the end of this year. Why this particular document and why the draft version with all the comments on it? The answer is that the previous Assessment Reports were mugged at the draft stage. The practitioners put a lot of work into producing balanced documents and trenchant review comments of other papers, but when the report was collated and finalised, too many of those documents were given an alarmist spin and too many inconvenient comments simply ignored.
To compound the distortion, what was in the final report gradually mutated into something even more alarmist, as successively briefer summaries were derived from it.
The activists cherry picked the messages from the final report they wanted to present in the executive summaries to the powers of influence. Some of the conclusions came with confidence levels that were never in the underlying papers. By the time the press releases were derived from the executive summaries, they sometimes bore little resemblance to the underlying papers. The legacy MSM will always sensationalise an end of the world story, which is exactly what they did based on the press releases. That third layer of summary reporting by the media distorted a number of the messages beyond all recognition.
Some of the practitioners and reviewers were so aggrieved at this multi-stage perversion of their work, they fought to get their names removed as contributors to the report.
This time around, if AR5 gets the same abuse, the documentary proof of it will be in the public domain, and that is exactly why both it and the reviewers’ comments are being leaked. Whatever comes out in the final report, we’ll be able to compare to what went in. These particular leaks are an attempt to put the whole process back onto some honest basis and ironically, the leakers are using the threat of the skeptics to safeguard the integrity of AR5.
These people might very well believe that global warming may pose some level of threat to the world, so it shouldn’t be automatically assumed that they’re necessarily skeptics. What they won’t accept is the continued devaluation of their honest efforts by being spun into something blatantly alarmist by politically activist individuals and organisations like WWF or Greenpeace, who have to my mind an inappropriate amount of involvement and control over much of the process. It is the activist organisations who have the most to gain by adding an alarmist spin to the end product, which is why they can be relied on to always do precisely that and consequently shouldn’t be let anywhere near it.
A second motivation, but I think just as powerful a one, is a reaction to how heavily climate science is policed by its own establishment. There is only one simple permitted story with one simple explanation, and that is the Earth is going to get dangerously warm and the single cause of that is the Carbon produced by us. To raise any doubts about that facile narrative or suggest investigating any alternatives, risks serious career damage. It’s for that reason that many people within the field holding serious doubts on the orthodoxy, are obliged to keep such reservations to themselves and they deeply resent that.
They have come to realise that the only way much more plausible explanations of why the climate changes will ever be investigated, is to reveal how artificial and contrived the current consensus on the “settled” science actually is. They are quite prepared to bring the rigidly enforced central theory down by leaking information, so that they’ll be free to work on the alternatives to it. As every parent of a child they love learns at some point, there are times when you’ve got to be hard with them for their own good. It’s called tough love.
Climate science is a very young but fascinating multi-disciplinary field of research. It’s actually in its infancy and that has been needlessly prolonged by an arrogant fixation that we can somehow already predict the climate for decades ahead, even before we actually understand how it works, never mind about being sure what are the basic driving forces behind it. It’s for that simple reason, the catastrophic predictions of what it would do have turned out to be so wide of the mark.
It was those dire predictions which resulted in it being showered with research funding by governments reflecting their electorate’s concerns, and it is by this stage that deluge of research funding which is actually being indirectly defended, not the science itself. The fact that there’s been no significant warming in nearly two decades cannot be generally conceded, because if it is, all that funding will begin to disappear. The only way the field will mature, is to admit that fact, take the hit in credibility because that’s going to happen anyway, and move back to growing it by doing real science.
The majority of researchers working in the area are honest working scientists but a significant faction, like most of the leadership, long ago crossed over the line from doing science to advocacy, because of a heady mix of money, notoriety and seeing themselves as saviours of the world.
Those days are now drawing to a close.
This is practitioners within climate science, fighting back against both insiders dictating which avenues of research may or may not be explored, and outside activists, who have subverted honest research for their own political ends.
I can only commend their integrity. The leaks will continue unabated until climate science is back in their hands, and that will happen.
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