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Environment

The "ClimateGate" Burden of Proof

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After the large volume of climate skeptic/denier comments that came in yesterday disagreeing with my post on the relative insignificance of ClimateGate, I feel that more needs to be said. This time, let me couch my argument in a different format, so that perhaps it will be better understood. Those of us who think this is all smoke and no fire are starting from the following position: There is a massive body of science, tested and retested and ratified by many leading scientific bodies, showing that global warming is real and human caused. So then we pose the following question: What would it take for "ClimateGate" to significantly weaken this body of evidence in a serious way? Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that all of the worst and most damning interpretations of these exposed emails are accurate. I don't think this is remotely true, but let's assume it. Even if this is the case, it does not prove the following :

1) The scientists whose emails have been revealed are representative of or somehow a proxy for every other climate scientist on the planet.

2) The studies that have been called into questions based on the emails (e.g., that old chestnut the "hockey stick") are somehow the foundations of our concern about global warming, and those concerns stand or fall based on those studies.

Neither one of these is true, which is why I can say confidently that "ClimateGate" is overblown--and which is why I've never been impressed by systematic attacks on the "hockey stick." Even if that study falls, we still have global warming on our hands, and it's still human caused. My sense is that the climate skeptic commenters we're seeing aren't actually familiar with the vast body of climate science work out there, and don't realize how most individual studies are little more than a drop in the evidentiary bucket. It is because of the consilience of evidence from multiple studies and fields that we accept that climate change is human caused, and it is because of the vast diversity and number of scientists, and scientific bodies, who find that evidence compelling that we talk of a consensus. I don't see how anything about "ClimateGate" changes this big picture significantly--and again, that's even if we assume the worst about what the emails reveal.

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