Saturday, 28 November 2009

Stolen e-mails - the Climate Science Luddites

Internet and the media are being used to try to undermine public confidence in climate science

Climate scientists' emails, stolen from a server in the UK, are being used by 'climate science luddites' in an attempt to heighten climate scepticism in the run up to the Copenhagen climate change summit COP15.

The Luddites were a group of workers who, in the early 1800's, destroyed textile machinery in Britain in the belief that use of machines would lead to unemployment. Their attitudes were rooted in fear of the unknown and fear of change. The term Luddite latterly came to mean those opposed to technological change or innovation.

Climate science luddites oppose the scientific consensus that says that the climate of the Earth is changing and they consider the scientific evidence supporting human induced climate change to be part of a hoax or conspiracy. Rather than wrecking machines they seek to destroy scientists' reputations and public confidence in climate science.

The climate science luddites are using the internet and the media in an attempt to discredit professional climate scientists and the scientific evidence for human induced climate change, and they are attracting considerable attention. However the climate luddites provide no valid evidence of their own to support their contention that human induced climate change is not happening.

They have recently resorted to trying to make a case by

• stealing e-mails sent between climate scientists, posting them on the web,
and attempting to present them as evidence of a climate change conspiracy

• demanding release of scientific data and implying that it has been falsified

Stealing e-mails is unacceptable, illegal and marks a lack of substance in the arguments of those who need to resort to such actions to try to justify their position.

It is also fair to say that much of the relevant science data demanded by the luddites was already available on the web, as are relevant peer reviewed papers and reports.

Web traffic on the luddites' websites is 'debate' for example about the 'hockey stick' graph or how proxy climate change data was presented, and is often combative in tone. Their treatment of the stolen e-mails (some of which include poor choice of words and display some questionable attitudes, but do NOT represent evidence of a global conspiracy) is characterised by gleeful cherry picking of comments to confirm preconceived conclusions that a conspiracy to falsify climate change data exists.

Attacking the climate change consensus

The results of peer reviewed science from a wide range of scientific disciplines and thousands of different researchers all point to the same conclusion- that climate change is happening and that it is caused by the actions of humans, particularly in relation to burning fossil fuels and land use change.

Recent evidence shows that the process of global warming is happening faster than predicted a few years ago. Physical evidence for the accelerated effects of climate change over the past few years includes rapid melting of ice-sheets, glaciers and ice-caps, higher than predicted sea level rise and continuing expansion of deserts.

If the climate science luddites are to influence or change the current scientific consensus that climate change is happening, they need to provide new scientific facts, new data, evidence or analysis to refute current theories and predictions.

Arguments about combining data sets to give a paleo-climate perspective notwithstanding, visibly receding glaciers and rapidly diminishing ice sheets provide evidence of warming that is comprehensible to the most uninformed layman.

Trying in Luddite fashion, to discredit the very wide body of accrued scientific knowledge which supports climate change, will not alter the physics that underlies these changes. Nor will the consequences of a warming climate be affected by what the climate science luddites choose to believe

Their use of the media and internet to sow doubts in the minds of the public about the reality of climate change without providing valid supporting evidence is not ethical. Merely criticizing or 'auditing' others work is not sufficient. Opinion about something with consequences as serious as those of climate change needs to be based on evidence.

The scientific evidence supporting the reality of human induced climate change is extensive and compelling.... but even if it were less convincing, actions to address climate change threats would still be rational on the basis of the precautionary principle.

For the climate science luddites to attempt to persuade the public that climate change is a merely a conspiracy is disingenuous.


Ego, ignorance or self interest.... whatever their motives, the beliefs of climate science luddites are unsubstantiated by the current scientific evidence which shows that the climate is changing rapidly.

In seeking to discredit climate science in order to cause confusion in public opinion, the climate science luddites will cause damage. Public understanding of the issues and firm support for policies are needed so that urgent actions to combat climate change can be implemented.

Public confusion resulting in delayed action to address climate change implies higher impacts from the ongoing warming which will profoundly affect the lives of millions - impacts on food production and water availability, increased frequency of droughts, coastal flooding due to sea level rise, health impacts.....

What is at stake is much more important than stolen e-mails. There is no climate change conspiracy but there are negative consequences from generating spurious uncertainty in the public mind about the threats posed by climate change.