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Nature's Verdict

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorDecember 3, 2009 10:47 AM


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The current issue of Nature carries an editorial on the CRU email controversy. Here's one passage that I agree with:

Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real "” or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails.

End of story? Not quite, as I've suggested here and here. More specifically, we don't know the who (stole the emails), why, and how. So far, press coverage and endless blog chatter has largely focused on divining the significance (or lack thereof) of what's been revealed. That game will run its course in due time, unless there are more disclosures and developments, which there are bound to be. But back to the Nature editorial. Roger Pielke Jr. says

it is just seething in anger.

To borrow my favorite philosopher's favorite weasel term, I'm going to be charitable and say it is quite a spirited defense of the embattled climate scientists. (Hey, cut me some slack.) On the other hand, this larger observation from Roger seems spot on:

One consequence of the emails will be to open up new fault lines within the scientific community as issues that have percolated below the surface emerge now that the ground has shifted. Nature and the broader scientific community needs to tread carefully in taking sides on issues that there is a wide diversity of opinion on within its own community as well as among the broader public. Nature would do well to distinguish a defense of science from a defense of a few individual scientists.

If there is a sunnier flip side to both Roger's anticipated "consequence" of "new fault lines" and the indignant posture in the Nature editorial, then perhaps it is best expressed in this WSJ op-ed by Mike Hulme, who writes:

If climategate leads to greater openness and transparency in climate science, and makes it less partisan, it will have done a good thing. It will enable science to function in the effective way it must do in public policy deliberations.

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