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Monbiot says that the leaked Climate Research Unit emails have created a real crisis. Actually it is a pseudo-crisis produced by a witch hunt.
Scientists love to criticize the mistakes of other scientists. If the leaked emails provided evidence of a flaw in the scientific conclusions of the Climate Research Unit, many scientists in the field would leap on it and reject those conclusions. But that is not happening. Meanwhile, many effects of global warming have been observed all around the Earth, by many independent groups of observers. So I think there is no flaw; the denialists are blowing a lot of smoke so they can claim there must be a fire.
If the CRU's scientific conclusions are not wrong, is anything wrong?
Monbiot cites one criticism of the Climate Research Unit scientists which, if substantiated, is grave. If they deleted data to thwart freedom-of-information requests, that was real wrongdoing. Withholding data is also harmful to science. They should publish their data so other scientists can study it.
However, to criticize Phil Jones for writing words that have been spun to look bad is treating appearance as substance. Jones tried to block two papers from publication in a refereed journal; that could be wrong or it could be justified. If he did so because they were lousy papers, that was proper.
It might have been better tactically for Jones to use different words to say what he was doing. However, he is a scientist, not a PR tactician. He failed to consider that his email might be leaked. In hindsight we see that was possible, but; he did not have the advantage of hindsight. That is not culpable.
To condemn the university for not facing the attacks better and sooner is unfair too. Hardly anyone is an expert in facing a witch hunt. The only useful thing to do is to help others prepare for future right-wing witch hunts.
Monbiot's final conclusion is the deepest mistake: to endorse the double standard that the denialist seek to impose. They would like to be able to get away with outright fabrications and irrationality, while holding those who report on global warming to the strictest imaginable standard of rectitude. If they succeed at this, they could crush all real research on the subject.
Stuart Jordan's article in Skeptical Inquirer (Sep-Oct 2009) reported that, of the 700-odd "scientists" cited as denying global warming in the US Senate Republicans' report, only 10% had any peer-reviewed publications in climatology. 80% had no peer-reviewed publications in any related field. Weather reporters were listed as meteorologists. Will the authors of this report, or the senators who sponsored it, be held to the standard that their supporters want to apply to the Climate Research Unit?
Rather than being the first to demand that climate scientists be utterly spotless, we should demand the same standards of honesty be applied to climate scientists and denialists alike, and perhaps politicians as well. These standards can be as strict as people would like, as long as they apply to all.
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