Beware climate change sceptics
There are still a few people out there in denial, for example those who argue that there is "...some doubt from some scientists that climate change is really happening...or that it is caused by human activities...". This is wrong. It may have been a fair point 15 to 20+ years ago, but the science has moved on and the evidence is now indisputable. This section discusses how the media and others (e.g. those in the business of making money from oil) keep this denial alive with spurious stories like the "climategate scandal".
It is important to remember that the science behind climate change is continually evolving. Be careful not to be persuaded by old media / scientific articles as you learn more about climate change. There was some doubt about the process a couple of decades ago, which has been replaced by a near certainty that it is happening...and faster than predicted.
Also remember that the media are sensationalistic by nature. The continuing consensus that we are changing the climate is not very exciting from a news point of view. The media like to demonstrate conflicting views...even if they have to make them up! Getting a maverick in a lab coat to cast some doubt on the consensus makes for a good story, which sells papers and gets talked about. The fact the maverick is found to be mistaken is usually forgotten.
It is important to bear in mind as you read the news that there are people and organisations out there who really don't want us to change our lifestyles and reduce our impacts on the climate. There is an awful lot of money in the oil, gas, logging, etc industries. Hence these industries are extremely powerful and influential over governments and the media...
The final point to consider is that it is not part of human nature to easily cope with an issue like this. People in the media, politicians, industrialists, you and me - we are all human and we all want this not to be happening!
The 'climategate scandal'
This came out in the news just before the Copenhagen summit, in December 2009. It is a good example of the media - probably influenced by organisations with a vested interest to stir up a bit of distrust in some of our respected climate scientists - jumping on a story about some leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit. There were suggestions that some of these e-mails contained evidence of a conspiracy to hide information that may have cast doubt on it being human activities that are warming the climate.
It was all hype and no substance! This article from Nature gives a good, balanced view of the whole affair. If you want to investigate for yourself, all of the stolen e-mails are actually all available on-line here (please be aware that people have entered some rude words on the site so don't go there if you are bashful; also notice that some of the e-mails are 13 years old - remember that the science has move on a lot since then).
I skimmed through a few of them and they don't make for very exciting reading. There are: indecipherable exchanges of climate model run observations; private exchanges venting frustrations (for example this e-mail); concern whether the IPCC is being seen as too conservative(i.e. making out that things are not as bad as the evidence suggests - for example this e-mail). I certainly couldn't find any evidence of a big conspiracy! All it just shows that climate scientists are just like anybody else at work. A review of the whole affair is being carried out by Sir Muir Russell, for more information you might want to look at the University of East Anglia website.
News update - April 2010
- Guardian article (14th April 2010) - "Scientists cleared of malpractice in UEA's hacked emails inquiry"
- BBC article (14th April 2010) - "'No malpractice' by climate unit".
Thanks to Jenny for the update
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