Climategate: The World's Biggest Story, Everywhere but Here
It's been called the "biggest scientific scandal in history." It has everything to earn Pulitzer consideration: lies and misconduct in high places, political implications, even massive financial transactions that may or may not be legitimate or even legal. It's big news ... as long as you read the Telegraph, the Guardian, the London Times, or even major Indian papers.
It's no news at all if you read the U.S. mainstream media.
In the ninety days -- three months exactly at the time of this writing -- since the Climategate files story broke, there has been an amazing amount of breakout in the climate science story, with major error after major error being uncovered in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report IV (AR4). There has been the discovery of suspicious conflicts of interest on the part of the chair of the IPCC, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, and the expanding story of the financial connections between the carbon trading cabal and the scientific climate clique in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Dr. Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit has "stepped aside" while under investigation, after which the UK government said it appeared there may have been criminality in CRU's refusal to fulfill Freedom of Information requests. Scientist members of the IPCC have resigned, not wishing to continue to be associated with the poor quality of work being revealed.
And the UN chief diplomat in charge of climate change matters, Yvo de Boer, resigned in a sudden move that shocked UN climate watchers.
But search the major U.S. papers. There is a story in the Washington Post that at least mentioned some of the recent problems, prompted by Senator James Inhofe's recent floor speech. What do they have to say about the biggest scientific scandal? The Post quotes U.N. Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth, whose nonprofit group has highlighted the work of the IPCC, saying that the pirated e-mails gave "an opening" to attack climate science, and that the scientific work "has to be defended just like evolution has to be defended."
That would, by the way, be the same Timothy Wirth who was the original negotiator of the Kyoto Protocol.
So, is the massive dumping of snow from the Mid-Atlantic to New England proof positive that climate change is untrue, as doubters such as Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) have taken the opportunity to trumpet? (His family built an igloo, declared it Al Gore's new home and put up signs asking people to honk if they liked global warming).
To be sure, the IPCC has been forced to acknowledge errors and unsubstantiated statements in one of its landmark 2007 reports. The irregularities had to do with predictions of the expected effects of warming. None of them, however, undermined the report's consensus that the planet has warmed and that man's activities have contributed to the warming.
Inhofe's igloo? Yes. Biggest scientific scandal? Not so much.
The New York Times -- can we still say "paper of record" with a straight face? -- hasn't covered the recent developments at all.
After the London papers covered the collapsing credibility of the IPCC, after the LA Times made fun of Inhofe's igloo, after the Washington Post ran a story reassuring its readers that the climate science was still sound even if there were some procedural errors, the New York Times has run, apparently, nothing. What we do have is a piece in NY Times reporter Andrew Revkin's Dot Earth blog on February 12, taken from "a prolonged exchange of e-mail messages Thursday with a heap of authors from past and future reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with some stray experts" that gives a lot of space to a prolonged fantasy of what science historians might say in 2210, that includes:
But this was the first time the media reported that an entire community of scientists had been accused of actual dishonesty. Such claims, if directed for example at a politician on a matter of minor importance, would normally require serious investigation. But even in leading newspapers like the New York Times, critics with a long public record for animosity and exaggeration were quoted as experts. As we know, the repetition of allegations is sufficient to make them stick in the public's mind, regardless of whether they are later shown (or could easily be shown at the time) to be untrue.
I still have problems with this whole business of debating the levels of certainty associated with global warming science. My view is that ultimately it’s a waste of mental energy, since we’ve already got enough certainty to know that it’s a good idea to take out an insurance policy against the worst-case scenario -- and by the time you’ve got the hindsight to have “no error bars,” it’s already too late to do anything about GHGs.
Are there any mentions of Professor Phil Jones' admission in a BBC interview that he isn't good at keeping records, that his notes were so disorganized that he couldn't comply with the Freedom of Information requests, that there had indeed been no statistically significant warming since 1995, and that there was still significant uncertainty about the Medieval Warm Period and even about climate science in general?
Not that I can find.