Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

You Can Say That Again: Climategate Edition

Posted by Danny Morris on December 10, 2009

Despite what you may think if you read only this blog, there’s stuff going on in the US this week too. Apparently, Sarah Palin wrote something. It wasn’t in Danish, so I couldn’t understand. Luckily, Tiff Clements, the talented and industrious editor of Weathervane, is on the case and published the following editorial gem. As of this moment, she is an official contributor to CT:

Sometime between eating my last piece of pumpkin pie and snapping out of my tryptophan coma this story turned into a full-blown “gate”. And just when I thought it couldn’t seem any more like the premise of the next Jack Ryan movie, Sarah Palin jumped into the fray.

With the CT All Stars off on an exotic solstice cruise around the 50th parallel I decided I should take it upon myself—captain of the blogging b squad—to suit up, flex my Alaskology skills and step in on this. But then I got distracted last night baking sugar cookies and yelling at my television, hoping to convince Hannity’s Great American Panel that I was right and it was wrong. The combination of icing and ire really tired me out.

So when, shortly after coming to at my keyboard this morning, I came across this rebuttal to the former governor’s  piece from the publisher of the journal Science, I figured it was probably a good opportunity to avoid an inefficient duplication of work.

Alan Leshner takes issue with Palin’s assertion that a handful of internal emails, shared between colleagues can undermine the entire foundation of the science used by the United Nations to plan its policy response, writing:

The public and policymakers should not be confused by a few private e-mails that are being selectively publicized and, in any case, remain irrelevant to the broad body of diverse evidence on climate change. Selected language in the messages has been interpreted by some to suggest unethical actions such as data manipulation or suppression … it is wrong to suggest that apparently stolen emails, deployed on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit, somehow refute a century of evidence based on thousands of studies.

Palin chooses to paint, in one broad stroke, centuries of study and research as tainted by 160 MB of emails and data. Her quixotic characterization of the messages and their implications moves quickly from demonstrating a lack of consensus to “strong doubt” to “fraudulent scientific practices” to a justification for President Obama to take his negotiating ball and go home.  She distorts out-of-context collegial discussion and debate into grounds for inaction.

But Leshner point out there is hardly justification:

Doubters try to leverage any remaining points of scientific uncertainty about the details of warming trends to cast doubt on the overall conclusions shared by traditionally cautious, decidedly non-radical science organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which represents an estimated 10 million individual scientists through 262 affiliated societies. Doubters also make selective use of the evidence, noting that the warming of the late 1990s did not persist from 2001 to 2008, while ignoring the fact that the first decade of the 21st century looks like it will be the warmest decade on record.

Doubters, deniers and skeptics build their arguments on a selective acceptance of facts sprinkled with alterations of half-truths. Inaction on the premise of doubt has been U.S. climate policy for the last decade. It hasn’t worked out that well, keeping our economy on a dead-end path and severely tarnishing our reputation abroad. Plus, doesn’t keeping that up mean we’re going with the flow? I could have sworn only dead fish go with the flow.

If strategic positioning for the Kamchatka Defense is foreign policy experience, then living in Anchorage for a year makes me an Alaska expert. With those credentials in hand I beg the question of a woman with America’s best interests at heart and  who stepped down from her leadership role to “do what’s best for Alaskans”:  As their villages and livelihoods disappear into the seas, do the Alaskans you care about really have the time for you, and the world, to delay?

One Response to “You Can Say That Again: Climategate Edition”

  1. I like your blog

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