Sunday, December 6, 2009

The E-mails!: A Global Warming Soap Opera

Sorry.  Been in a coma for a month.  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it...)

Anyway, global warming.  I haven't been keeping track of when this whole hacked e-mail debacle began, but I fairly certain that it happened around the same time that merry hordes across the internet and the media began to huff and puff about how some profound revelation was made by exposing these e-mails.  Oh, how my imagination would churn, trying to imagine what possible thing could have cast doubts on the science of global warming just in e-mails.  Oh, how I tried to entertain the notion that the right-wing chortling and cries of victory were at least slightly appropriate responses and connected to reality in some fashion.  Oh, how I gave them far more credit than they have earned.

Here is a good explanation of why their triumphalism at this point is completely ridiculous:



(Via Pharyngula)

It seems that the two (TWO!) e-mails that these people are whipped up into a frenzy about don't even say what they claim it to say.  Even if it did, these are goddamn e-mails!  The only way it could possibly undermine the actual science of global warming is if you could actually find that the deceptive attempts to "hide the decline" were successful and affected the scientific literature in some substantial way.  Even if you were to take the e-mails at their most conniving, sinister interpretation rather than as playful statistical jargon, you still have to deal with the fact that it is only two (TWO!) e-mails, and that they are goddamn e-mails and not actual scientific papers.  If the results of their actual research were somehow fradulent, other research would be able contradict it with their own data and make it irrelevant.  So, what it comes down to is assuming a vast conspiracy in the scientific community based entirely on an interpretation of two e-mails that sound like they vaguely might be talking about intentionally altering data.  Though I am sure you need a healthy dose of anti-science bias and/or paranoia to sow those particular seeds.

Oh yeah, and in case it wasn't clear from the video why the "decline" in tree ring data needed to be hidden
Penn State scientist Michael Mann "said his trick, or 'trick of the trade,' for the Nature chart was to combine data from tree-ring measurements, which record world temperatures from 1,000 years ago until 1960, with actual temperature readings for 1961 through 1998" because "scientists have discovered that, for temperatures since 1960, tree rings have not been a reliable indicator." Jones has also stated that it is "well known" that tree ring data "does not show a realistic trend of temperature after 1960,"
Also note on that webpage that the mainstream media is actually lending this idiocy some credence, assuming that the euphoria and hysteria over the e-mails actually have enough basis in reality to merit mentioning the completely irrational reasons for said euphoria and hysteria.  Seriously, what is wrong with this country?

I'll end by laughing at a relatively meek excerpt on the issue from the Washington Post (via Media Matters):
The e-mails don't say that: They don't provide proof that human-caused climate change is a lie or a swindle.
But they do raise hard questions. In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?

Clue #1:  If the back-and-forth you are talking about is e-mails, then I'm not sure what scientific method you are talking about.  If the back-and-forth you are talking about are some unknown, nameless folks who have evidence contrary to the prominent scientists doing alleged squelching, one would think that it wouldn't matter because the squelched folks still have evidence.  Having a back-and-forth with someone with no evidence to support their opinion is not the scientific method.  Preventing a back-and-forth from occurring with someone who has evidence supporting their opinion is only delaying the inevitable if adhering to the scientific method (because that evidence will just be found by someone else eventually).
Clue #2:  All science is pretty damn messy in general, and by far messier than most people believe.  It's not necessarily the scientists' fault that the general public isn't aware of this; it's more the fault of the public for not being either acquainted first-hand with scientific research, or at least passingly familiar with the basic philosophy of science and how it applies practically.  They simply have an overly idealistic view of how science works.  The question is whether the science behind the idea of global warming is messier than the science behind other established scientific concepts. 
And it's going to take a hell of a lot more than two stolen and misinterpreted e-mails to make such a question a particularly serious one.

9 comments:

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

And it's going to take a hell of a lot more than two stolen and misinterpreted e-mails to make such a question a particularly serious one.

-----
were this were true. As in my diatribes about mystical pattern recognition, people looking for reasons to remain ignorant or patterns that reinforce their existing biases have found them in the media hype about these two emails. And the hype ends up being more important than the facts, as we see time and again.

Glad you came out of the coma - we all figured you detested us or something - not that you don't but at least you aren't detesting us quietly any longer ;)

oneblood said...

Ye Bastard,

I was looking for yer scurvy, cheatin, lootin, spitoon-smellin, hog's belly of an opinion in and around the carribean for bout a month.

I even had a map & directions to your blog.

But then I'm illiterate, this post is just a clever facade.

---

I have another theory about global warming. That the earth is going to do what it's going to do despite man.

I get a little tired of "seeing" the evidence of a relentless history of change despite man, and all of a sudden global-warming is our phenomenon?

Not buying it. Buying global warming...yes. Buying that man has a role in destroying our beautiful planet and changing weather patterns...yes. Buying that man is the sole agent in a period of global warming...not a chance.

Al Gore's disease is a problem and solution predicated solely on man. This isn't Star Trek, and the earth despite our best or worst intentions will reign supreme.

But I'm soooo glad you posted this. You, unlike some fundies I know, actually like data and reason.

I don't think the fundies hate it because of religion, I think they hate it because of their bottom line. They've just tricked the rest of the believers into thinking its the end times.

Little did they know what I knew all along. Jesus is coming back only to kill polar bears, and soften the tundra into mud. Thereby creating more time to explore the vast wilderness for oil deposits.

You were right Asylum, God is an oil magnate. Hell simply means you have to ride bicycles and walk everywhere in major metropolitan areas.

Richelle said...

OH thank jeebus you're alive! I was beginning to worry.

Before I forget, I was browsing Xmas ornaments on amazon and found a cthulhu Xmas tree topper. It made me think of you and I giggled a bit.

Onto the topic at hand.

I thought the whole "e-mails entirely debunk global warming" insanity was a tad ridiculous. People can't seem to keep shit in perspective.

What irritates me the most about the G.W. issue is that everybody is missing the most important point, whether it's man-made or just the natural cycle of the Earth, we need to be taking care of the environment.

Even if man isn't the cause we should still be pursuing renewable energy, trying to clean up islands of trash floating around in the Pacific, and maybe showing the polar bears some love by trying to keep them from extinction (among many other things).

But what do we get? Some assholes all frenzied by supposedly damning e-mails that think this is a free pass to club baby seals, create an oil spill, leave every light in their mansion on 24/7, and blow up ANWR to make it into an oil field.

Richelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
oneblood said...

Richelle does have a point.

Just because I think the current warming trend isn't entirely man-made does not mean I agree with these baboons who want to love them some oil wells and limos in favor of my grandchildren's eco-system.

A...B...C...D...E...F that.

pboyfloyd said...

I gotta admit that I was sucked in by the hype there for awhile.

It DOES look like pretty damning evidence, a pretty damning admission of finegling the data.

I think that the right-wing 'pandemonium' merchants end up over-doing it which ends up pointing to the flaw in their argument, defeating their purpose-du-jour.

For example, the making of two badly worded(to the public) emails into 'hundreds' of (supposedly) damning emails using the 'trick' that while there WERE hundreds of emails 'hacked', only the two said anything which sounded bad.

It's just 'worded' so that, at a glance, the press are concentrating on two and it's left up to the imagination that the others are equally 'damning'.

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

Asylum Seeker said...

"And the hype ends up being more important than the facts, as we see time and again."

In fairness, I also believe that having on the right amount of makeup, having a catchy slogan, and mastering the art of "dramatic introductory sequence" also trump facts. Hype is possibly only the third most important thing that is more important than facts.


"I get a little tired of "seeing" the evidence of a relentless history of change despite man, and all of a sudden global-warming is our phenomenon?"

The current warming trend is much faster (though not necessarily much higher) than those of the past, if I remember correctly. Similarly, high CO2, the fact that we are emitting CO2, and the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas makes it seem like an open and shut case if the models are correct. But, the fact is that something much more complicated could be happen(that is, chemically), that the trends that we have found are moot because the data from further back is more unreliable than the data from the present that has us concerned, etc. Always room for error, and I am not acquainted enough with the actual scientific consensus and data to say much about global warming. It is effectively a blind spot of mine when it comes politics. Doesn't make the wingnuts less wingnutty however, and they happen to be obviously wrong, well past the threshold for reasonable doubts that you could have about the issue.

"Hell simply means you have to ride bicycles and walk everywhere in major metropolitan areas."

How did you know that my personal hell involves exercise?

"I was browsing Xmas ornaments on amazon and found a cthulhu Xmas tree topper."

WANT!

Also: Just heard it described recently that Global warming is just one issue that is within three broader concerns facing human beings right now: environmental issues, population issues, and energy issues. It does not make up any of those problems in their entirety, but it is one of the several problems involved in each of them.

"I think that the right-wing 'pandemonium' merchants end up over-doing it which ends up pointing to the flaw in their argument, defeating their purpose-du-jour."

I think that you are right, because their chest-beating so early on could only lead to disappointment for them. If they simply stated their case based on what they actually had, instead of crying victory based on insinuations of having mountains of evidence, and then showing off the same sample of that evidence repeatedly which showed nothing at all close to what they were clamoring about, they may have been able to raise less suspicions about it, and given themselves more time to try to convince others about the validity of their interpretation for the e-mails relevant.

"It's just 'worded' so that, at a glance, the press are concentrating on two and it's left up to the imagination that the others are equally 'damning'."

Bingo. The name of the game is Insinuation. (I really should come up with some rules for it). Granted, it could very well be that there are some real conspiratorial nuggets in the unseen emails. But, until they are presented, it is ridiculous to assume that that is so, especially considering what weak tea the two revealed e-mails turned out to be.

oneblood said...

You just got me to thinking about our current paradigm of technological reliance. We are trying to maintain standards by simply changing devices/machines.

It's entirely possible that we could get away with it too.

But perhaps the necessary decrease in industrial pollution should be accompanied by the examination of the philosophical underpinnings that led us down that path to begin with.

I can't just chalk up our gargantuan pollution to ignorance and indifference to the future, but rather that the same path was chosen from device to device. A way of thinking predicated upon what(?) culture, that culture's reasoning (which is partially logical), and then boom it's monolithic and the only way to go.

As an aside, population control I think is essential, but that's not a sufficient or even necessary cause to change mode of living.

Also, notice how the corporate mindset has gotten the left to buy into the 'act local think global,' while the weasels have always acted globally or with global intentions?

Asylum Seeker said...

"We are trying to maintain standards by simply changing devices/machines."

Jumping from one to another in order to avoid/counteract the unintended consequences of the last.

"I can't just chalk up our gargantuan pollution to ignorance and indifference to the future, but rather that the same path was chosen from device to device."

Actually, there is one other factor that I can think of: each individual person/corporation/nation thinks that their contribution to the total pollution during any given time is negligible compared to total pollution, that they don't make much of a net impact on it either way, and therefore don't feel responsible for the problems caused. So, they take the most convenient and pleasurable route, leading to an increase in whatever environmental damage we are concerning ourselves with, and do so even with knowledge of what it will do and with concern of what it will do, but do it anyway because really, if it's only .0001% more, what's the harm? Get enough people working under that same thought process and the aggregate effect of their behavior is obvious. Same principle as if everyone thought it was okay to steal from their workplace as long as what they take is small. Each employee has only committed incredibly petty theft, taken no more than a dollar's worth of stuff, and each individual isn't too responsible for the fact that the company needs to pay a few hundred dollars to restock stolen supplies. No one's really to blame, because everyone's to blame.

"As an aside, population control I think is essential, but that's not a sufficient or even necessary cause to change mode of living"

Agreed.