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December 2, 2009 – There was an article in yesterday’s issue of USA Today I’d like to talk about. It’s on the Op Ed page, under the heading “The Forum.” The title of the article is “Groupthink and the Global Warming Industry,” and it’s by Jonah Goldberg.

It seems that in late November, someone hacked their way into email at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), part of the University of East Anglia in England. What they found is disappointing and disturbing. If the emails made available to the public are to be believed, scientists at the CRU have been manipulating data in order to make it tell the story they want it to. The emails also discuss the importance of making data unavailable to unfriendly colleagues, i.e., global-warming skeptics. If these emails truly are representative of the way the CRU goes about its business, then the CRU has done enormous damage to itself and its reputation. While the wealth of data that daily increases our knowledge of climate change supports the sense of urgency expressed by virtually all nations, the CRU has provided fodder to the naysayers in their eternal quest to obfuscate that very data.

It is Mr. Goldberg’s obfuscation which is of interest to me right now. He begins by claiming that a “scandal” has “rocked” the climate change industry. I cannot argue that the CRU’s behavior, as detailed in the hacked emails, was not scandalous; it was. As for rocking the climate change research community, I would observe that the members of this community deal with such hard-hitting facts relating to the sustainability or non-sustainability of civilization that – in comparison - the CRU’s pathetic efforts to proscribe disagreement about global warming are not of the tectonic variety. The facts, as they say, speak for themselves. CRU should have let them.

Speaking of scandal (from a different point of view) brings to mind a question Mr. Goldberg has chosen to ignore. Who were the hackers, and what was their intent? Do they work for someone? If so, who, and what is their agenda? By the time we know, will anyone care?

From here on, it’s just a matter of mechanics, that is to say, knowing how to employ the vocabulary of hype and herring (the red kind, of course). Mr. Goldberg’s ability to blind his readers with half-truths is accomplished by means of the following lexicon:

Climate change industry – “Climate scientists make their money and careers from government, academia, the United Nations, and foundations.” Egad, it’s true: the government, higher education, and the United Nations do employ climate scientists.
How’s that for scandal? As for foundations, their business is to fund research. I would like to meet the climate scientist who has been mistaken for a captain of industry.

Global warming industry – See above.

Groupthink – “ … groupthink (or what climate scientist Judith Curry calls ‘climate tribalism’).” I would have thought groupthink was the product of climate tribalism, but I guess there’s no need to quibble.

Climate tribalism - “ … a very large clique of scientists is attempting to excommunicate perceived heretics …” Certainly, that would seem to have been the m.o. at CRU. Whether or not the “clique” at CRU was very large or not, I couldn’t say. The fact that Mr. G believes that global warming is the pet project of a very large group of scientists would seem to lend it credence. In fairness, the author does acknowledge “ … doesn’t necessarily mean climate change is untrue …”.

One big outrage – It is at this point that the author begins pressing his point home, which is, of course, that climate change science is (in his opinion) and has always been unverifiable.

Journalistic tribalism – “[Dan} Rather picked sources who said what he wanted to hear, then he reported what they said as if it were indisputable.” In other words, reporters with an agenda. These days, Mr. Goldberg, it’s hard to find one that doesn’t have an agenda. Professionalism and the public’s right to know left the building, hand in hand, a long time ago.

The most established authorities – This is fascinating. First of all, for what it’s worth, authorities are either established or not. Hyperbole doesn’t make them better than what they are, especially in this case. You see, according to Mr. Goldberg “ … since the most established authorities agreed he [Saddam Hussein} had to have them [WMD’s] …” No, Mr. G, that was only according to GWB. The established authorities, the team sent over by the UN to search Iraq for WMD’s (all recognized experts in the field), had looked for them for nine years. They kept not finding them, and the U.S. kept insisting they had to go back and continue looking. Talk about having an agenda!! Goldberg gets one thing right: “ … he had to have them … which turned out to be wrong.”

Global bandwagon – “ … the U.S. government will try to join the global bandwagon to spend trillions in fighting climate change.” Why would the U.S. government need to try to join? Is someone telling us, Please, please – don’t do it? The “bandwagon,” it should be noted, has formed in response to the research of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization consisting of 2, 200 of the world’s leading climate scientists. Their position on global warming is that it’s real, and happening faster than expected.

Trillions – The total amount, contributed by the wealthier nations, needed to mitigate climate change over a period of many years. The U.S. would have no trouble coming up with its fair share if we hadn’t fought eminently preventable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The CRU did itself no favors. Piling on doesn’t change the truth, Mr. Goldberg.


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