Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Climategate: Over-realized Anthropology and The Biggest Story Getting NO Mainstream Press

with 9 comments

Global Warming: Over-Realized Anthropology

The Story

This post is a brief departure from the Top XX lists.  No major tv news network has yet to pick up this story over two weeks after it broke.  The gist of the story is the Climate Research Unit had their email servers hacked.  1000 emails and 3000 documents were taken from the servers.  These emails and documents allegedly reveal highly incriminating evidence implicating many of the world’s top ‘climate researchers.’  Notable figures at Penn State University, University of East Anglia, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have been implicated.  Here is one quote (via Wikipedia):

The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem“–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommended not using the post-1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

Copenhagen hosts a world summit on climate change from December 7th-21st.  Climategate will/ought to cast a long shadow over the Copenhagen summit.

My Analysis

This is a major story and the lack of coverage is deplorable.  I think how the information has come to light is reprehensible, nonetheless is has come to light.  I think the main reason why Global Warming has had traction as an idea, is that it puts MAN at the center of the world.  WE have caused this problem, now let US show our greatness and sovereignty by fixing it.  I have yet to see good scientific data on Global Warming.  I think Global Warming has been successfully marketed by a handful of people (Al Gore… et al) and it struck a chord with our heavily man-centered society/world.  The problem is that if Global Warming was founded on rhetoric, conjecture, and marketing, then it was a deck of cards waiting to fall.  For me, Global Warming is at its essence and over-realized anthropology.  Politicians decided that they could use climate change to their advantage.  Big corporations found a new marketing tool:  being ‘green.’  It is pretty rare that a major corporation be gift wrapped a completely new thing that they can market themselves with, especially with a lemming public clamoring and groveling to eat it up.  I am tired of shoddy science, whether Neo-Darwinian drivel or Global Warming.  Someone please email me when you there is some good data.

Further Reading

Many of you probably already know about “Climategate“, but in case you have not, here is a survey of internet stories:

Washington Times Editorial:  “Hiding evidence of global cooling”

Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’?

Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation

Climategate: University of East Anglia U-turn in climate change row

BBC NEWS:  Inquiry into stolen climate e-mails

Secrecy in science is a corrosive force

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: Despite research dispute, ‘climate change is happening’

Saudia Arabia calls for ‘climategate’ investigation

FOXNEWS:  Obama Ignores ‘Climate-Gate’ in Revising Copenhagen Plans

Copenhagen climate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges

FOXNEWS:  Bah Humbug! Christmas Trees Axed From Copenhagen Conference


Justin Taylor has a nice article that concisely explains the UN role and Copenhagen conference in the whole climategate debacle.  It is a worthwhile read.


9 Responses

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  1. Hey brother,

    Scientific data gets lost all the time. That part doesn’t terribly surprise me.

    A few points to consider on the climate thing:

    1. The oceans are the biggest CO2 sink in the world

    2. The pH is affected on the interplay between CO2 fixing organisms (corals and coccolithophores), and the equilibrium of CO2 dissolved in sea water

    3. A change in pH in the ocean, or a change towards ecology that fixes CO2 rather than silicon (diatoms fix silicon) could have drastic top to bottom food chain effects.

    4. I am not sold, in ANY way, on the temperature change data, but the ocean ecology issues, and/or pH changes worries me a fair amount.

    5. CO2 emissions are going to keep going up for a long time before we can ever think about getting them under control. There may be a hidden tipping point, but I don’t know.

    6. Coal, the big offender here, emits lots of things other than CO2 into the air. The one that worries me the most are the large amounts of radionuclides.

    7. Some of the particles emitted in coal might actually change the Earth’s albedo and offset the effects of CO2.

    8. The extended burning of coal for the foreseeable future has no upside, validity of any temperature change considerations aside.

    9. Coal is cheap and abundant, so the world, especially the developing world, is going to keep using it essentially indefinitely.

    10. Any alternative energy too exotic (and therefore expensive) to have a similar cost basis to coal is bound to failure.

    11. #10 will determine how long we will hold the coal dragon by the tail. I hope that most of the repercussions the climate scientists predict are false, but coal is certainly a dog that can only maul should it break the leash.

    As a reference on ocean CO2 see:

    “Reconstruction of the history of anthropogenic CO2 concentrations in the ocean,”
    by S. Khatiwala, F. Primeau & T. Hal

    Volume 462 Number 7271
    Nov, 2009
    pp. 346
    doi: 10.1038/nature08526

    Phillip Graham

    December 10, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    • Simple economics says coal use will continue, especially in the developing world. We have both been big fans of nuclear power for awhile. Is the price point of coal the only inhibiting factor to widespread nuclear energy? Irregardless of the climage change stuff, I do think a switch is in order. I am just disturbed by the lack of serious public discourse and scientific data behind the global warming/go-green push. I am frustrated when half-baked ideas become widely accepted without serious analysis.

      Michael Graham

      December 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm

      • While I am a very large fan of the functional benefits of nuclear power, the economic parity is a moving target at best.

        Also, we (i.e. the US) have to get our heads out of the anal sphincter and reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

        Solar thermal is relative simple “plumbing” technology

        Phillip Graham

        December 10, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    • The salient points of nuclear power vs. bombs for those concerned about it:

      1. The bomb fuel is Plutonium 239.
      2. Pu-239 is the desirable fissile isotope because it fissions slowly.
      3. The goal for bombs is to make a critical mass before the fission events can happen, fast fission is the enemy.
      4. Most other isotopes fission too quickly (relative to explosive shock wave and material deformation speeds).
      5. While you will always make some 239, its easy to poison it, and/or make insufficient quantities for weapons.
      6. Make isotopes NOT of plutonium, but of the same atomic mass, and you remove one route of separation.
      7. Make isotopes with very similar valence chemistry as Pu to inhibit chemical separation.
      8 Combine 6 and 7 to make proliferation virtually impossible.
      9. Anyone bent on making Pu-239 would still do it via the path of least resistance, which was the Manhattan method.
      10. Method 9 still requires nation-state level resources.
      11. Securing and poisoning all current weapons material is much more important than worrying about people endeavoring to try to make the material from scratch.
      12. Providing regulated, non-weaponizable power technology to other nation states is smarter than trying to keep track of their clandestine nuclear efforts, and the possible accidents they might cause along the learning curve.

      Phillip Graham

      December 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    • For those interested in discussing the economic viability of nuclear power, or the lack thereof, I suggest you read the following book, well at least the first 4 chapters:

      Phillip Graham

      December 10, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    • “As I have said before, the fact that we do not directly obtain all of our energy from nuclear sources (including the Sun) makes us the exception, rather than the rule, in the Universe.”–Me on a pro audio forum in 2008.

      I believe that nuclear is an eventuality, especially if one admits that solar power is really nuclear power.

      Phillip Graham

      December 10, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    • Points to ponder, in regards to solar electricity via photovoltaics:

      Total US power generation in 2005: 4150.36TWh or 1.494×10^19 Joules

      To generate this electricity with no downtime (perfect 24/7 generation) would require 474 Gigawatts of installed capacity.

      The actual installed capacity is about double that: 932GW

      Installed solar PEAK capacity (IOW with idealized operation) is: 830MW

      This represents slightly less than 1% of installed electrical capacity. Actual grid power received is less than a quarter of this peak value.

      Photovoltaics are not a zero, but they aren’t a panacea, either.

      Crunching numbers can be sobering…

      Phillip Graham

      December 10, 2009 at 5:44 pm

  2. Your assertion that global warming was invented as a marketing tool for big business would make sense were it not for the fact that they are the ones most likely to get it in the neck as a result of any action taken to mitigate it. And I absolutely agree that the responses to climate change are overly man-centred, but that does nothing to suggest that climate change’s existence was a myth. Is sin shown to be a myth because we reacted to our fallenness with man-centred attempts to earn our way into God’s favour? No.


    December 10, 2009 at 5:46 pm

  3. “Climategate” started out when there appeared on the Internet a collection of e-mails of a group of climatologists who work in the University of East Anglia in England. These documents reveal that some climatologists of international preeminence have manipulated the data of their investigations and have strongly tried to discredit climatologists who are not convinced that the increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the cause of global warming.

    It is true that a majority of the scientists who study climatic tendencies in our atmosphere have arrived at the conclusion that the world’s climate is changing, and they have convinced a group of politicians, some of whom are politically powerful, of the truth of their conclusions.

    A minority, however, is skeptical. Some believe that recent data that suggest that the average temperature of the atmosphere is going up can be explained by natural variations in solar radiation and that global warming is a temporary phenomenon. Others believe that the historical evidence indicating that the temperature of the atmosphere is going up at a dangerous rate is simply not reliable.

    Such lacks of agreement are common in the sciences. They are reduced and eventually eliminated with the accumulation of new evidence and of more refined theories or even by completely new ones. Such debates can persist for a period of decades. Academics often throw invective at one another in these debates. But typically this does not mean much.

    But the case of climate change is different. If the evidence indicates that global warming is progressive, is caused principally by our industrial processes, and will probably cause disastrous changes in our atmosphere before the end of the twenty-first century, then we do not have the time to verify precisely if this evidence is reliable. Such a process would be a question of many years of new investigations. And if the alarmist climatologists are right, such a delay would be tragic for all humanity.

    The difficulty is that economic and climatologic systems are very complicated. They are not like celestial mechanics, which involves only the interaction of gravity and centrifugal force, and efforts to construct computerized models to describe these complicated systems simply cannot include all the factors that are influential in the evolution of these complicated systems.

    All this does not necessarily indicate that the alarmist climatologists are not right. But it really means that if global warming is occurring, we cannot know exactly what will be the average temperature of our atmosphere in the year 2100 and what will be the average sea level of the world’s ocean in that year.

    It also means that we cannot be confident that efforts by the industrialized countries to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will have a significant influence on the evolution of the world’s climate.

    Alas, the reduction of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would be very costly and would greatly change the lives of all the inhabitants of our planet–with the possibility (perhaps even the probability!) that all these efforts will be completely useless.

    Harleigh Kyson Jr.


    December 12, 2009 at 4:30 pm

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