Iraq's Electric Issues: When Human Wants Trump Economic Sense
Previously published on Oct 20, 2010
Over the course of several weeks in late 2009, those who oppose recognizing human driven global climate change exists raged on about the supposed "climate-gate" scandal that could have somehow completely disqualified all evidence supporting the climate change model. The controversy started after several emails containing passages, which seem to suggest the data in a climate change study were manipulated and omitted to support the prevailing view, were illegally hacked from a server used by the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. Unfortunately, the general public took this incident as evidence that the scientific community is manipulating facts to simply support a political agenda.
Scientists and politicians belong to very contrasting cultures. In the world of politics, words and facts are spun to fit a certain ideology while any sign of doubt or fault is automatically viewed as catastrophic failure for a policy, i.e. politics works by polarizing people on issues. In the world of scientists, however, facts are usually the statistically most probable "truths" while communication is more direct without the need to be politically correct and words are tailored to specific meanings in certain contexts. Not to mention, like all cultures, scientists have their own slang. Add to these cultural differences the very complex techniques scientists use to turn their data into meaning answers, it is understandable that most people would think these emails serve as evidence of a con job.
Put into context with some understanding of the scientific culture, however, many of the passages critics point to as evidence suggesting fraud simply describe valid scientific analysis. Others hint at inappropriate conversation or improper behavior by the individuals involved, at best. With investigations into this scandal concluding no wrong doing, which the review was important for the sake of the general public's understanding of climate change, as well as the credibility of the scientific community, we have learned the three or four scientists involved did not act improperly and their findings do not lack credibility. More importantly, this incident could not have derailed the whole science behind climate change and the influence of mankind on that change. Scientists should be careful how they present ideas to the public as most people do not understand "science speak," or the scientific mindset, and will easily misinterpret what is being said.
Furthermore, the scientific community does not exist in a vacuum and scientists are well aware that critics of their conclusions will use any evidence, which suggests anything other than 100% certainty of their conclusions, to characterize their assertions as invalid and any subsequent policies based on those conclusions as junk. Scientists almost never look at facts as absolute; whereas, politicians, political activists, and most other people do. With this in mind, it is understandable why scientists would try to keep some data locked away or dissenting research quiet; however, this behavior is unacceptable as transparency and contrasting views are overall necessities. Instead, climatologists should do a better job of explaining their studies to the general public and demonstrating why they cannot directly answer all questions as scientists do tend to have trouble explaining their research to the outside world.
What this scandal did show is that the people, who automatically view this case as definitive proof that climate change is a hoax, severely lack credibility. Including politicians in the United States and abroad, these individuals who cherry pick scientific research and events then exaggerate the significance of a single case, which may or may not demonstrate a fault in the findings, are simply pushing a preconceived ideology versus looking for answers. Although a few scientists, amongst thousands of researchers gathering myriads of data in numerous studies, may have lacked credibility, an objective observer must recognize the fallout demonstrates these critics are the ones who actually lack credibility. Moreover, "Climate gate" was simply a political controversy and had no implication for the scientific research, except for the harm done to the credibility of the science in the eyes of the general population.