I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.Leo Tolstoy

It’s been almost a year since I wrote anything here, but the recent “climategate” scandal is so disturbing on so many levels that a comment seems appropriate. It’s a sad time for science. The very institutions charged to keep it honest are now revealed to be steeped in corruption. In the interest of adding another Google hit to the more than 30,000,000 that the mainstream media choose to ignore, here’s mine.

In November, either a hacker or whistleblower liberated a document  from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. , which is one of the major sources of data used by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whose reports have guided politicians. The document appears to be an archive prepared in answer to a British Freedom of Information Act request and includes ten years of emails between leading scientists at CRU and elsewhere, program code that was used to normalize data, and a plaintive commentary by a programmer who struggled to beat the data into submission so it would conform to expectations. The emails are characterized by the smug arrogance typical of those who dwell in The Land of Unchallenged Assumptions — aka academia — in this case, scientists who “know” that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are changing Earth’s climate in potentially disastrous ways. This is certainly an interesting theory and it might even be true, but support for it is based on an extremely weak signal that has been teased from very noisy data. The Climategate files reveal efforts to fudge this data to amplify the signal —  a scientific sin — and systematic efforts to suppress information that might “dilute the message,” meaning the political message that CRU’s confabulations were designed to support. This isn’t science. It is activism.

Almost more distressing than the scientific malfeasance is the “nothing to see here” attitude of the mainstream media, who were quick to report rumors that the Bush Administration pressured NASA’s James Hansen to cool it with regard to global warming, but when fraudulent science that serves as the basis for trillion dollar policies comes to light we hear crickets chirping. Because the alleged remedies for the alleged climate crisis dovetail so neatly with their politics, these people have checked not only their BS detectors at the door, but also their journalistic integrity. Despite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing by so-called consensus climatologists,  their journalistic enablers continue to characterize skeptics as not merely mistaken, but evil and venal (no matter that far more grant money is awarded to the alarmists). Two years ago, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman put skeptics on a par with Holocaust deniers. The prestigious journal Nature repeatedly used the epithet “deniers” in its December 3 apologia for the CRU’s data distorters. We expect such silly language from religious fanatics, not scientists and journalists, but environmentalism has indeed become a religion and it has created a kind of faith-based science that is on a par with Creationism. With their monomaniacal fixation on greenhouse warming, the Gaia worshippers have set sane environmentalism back decades. Kyoto alone has already caused more than $300 billion to change hands, yet even its proponents concede that if it were in effect for 50 years with perfect compliance it might have a theoretical mitigation of only half a degree. It expires in three years and compliance has been wretched, but delegates to the Copenhagen conference will unconscionably propose more of the same.  $300 billion would buy a lot of clean water — the most pressing environmental issue for most people in the developing world.

Stephen F. Hayward has summarized the science and shenanigans very concisely in his article “Scientists Behaving Badly.” Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal brilliantly examines the “Warmist” mind and asks: Why did the scientists at the heart of Climategate go to such lengths to hide or massage the data if truth needs no defense? Why launch campaigns of obstruction and vilification against gadfly Canadian researchers Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick if they were such intellectual laughingstocks? It is the unvarying habit of the totalitarian mind to treat any manner of disagreement as prima facie evidence of bad faith and treason. The rest of his essay may be read here:

For those who want to  understand  better what the fuss is about, David Burge sets aside his Iowahawk satire hat and shows us how to build our own paleoclimate hockey sticks in Fables of the Reconstruction.  With off-the-shelf spreadsheet software and a bit of statistical legerdemain, you too can join The Team.

Lord Christopher Monkton summarizes the Climategate situation with his inimitable verve in this video.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my check from Exxon-Mobil.

(Addendum, January 12, 2010 — a concise and fascinating history of Climategate can be found at these links: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

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