The Climategate tiff continues to annoy me. I have serious concerns about the methodology that has been used in the mathematical models which purportedly “prove” that we need to spend trillions of dollars, keep the third world in poverty, and restructure the global economy in order to avert impending disaster. Such concerns are greatly amplified and exacerbated when I see something like this . At the very least, it seems reasonable to believe that advocates of Action Now (TM) carry a significant burden of proof.
What has been the response of those who have an interest in assuaging my concerns, heightened as they are by some of the non-email items in the Climategate Data Dump? They practice a preaching-to-the-converted style of rhetoric by attacking the weakest arguments of the skeptics. Hence the constant refrain of ” look, there’s no conspiracy! ” and ” in whose interest would be a conspiracy? “. Julian Sanchez refers to this as the “weak man” argument. It’s lazy, intellectually dishonest, and doesn’t convince anyone who doesn’t already agree with you. Convincing people would involve directly addressing their arguments or attacking your own weakest points and then explaining why you still believe your position to be reasonable. There has been a palpable lack of this.
As Arnold Kling has pointed out , very, very few of the skeptics believe that a conspiracy exists. Rather, they see a small, insular group of well-connected people that has defined that which is science to be that which agrees with them; and have, perhaps unconsciously, but we now know very consciously, excluded all differing viewpoints from participating in the scientific dialogue. That isn’t hard to do; in fact, speaking as someone who’s currently involved in some scientific fights (regarding modeling of nonlinear dynamical systems, no less), it’s extremely common. Nor does it require a conscious conspiracy. It’s human nature.
And yet, those who have an interest in assuaging my concerns persist in spending all their time attacking a non-argument that neither I nor any other vaguely serious concerned person has advanced. It’s eerily similar to Democrats who think that they can “win” the healthcare debate by proving that death panels don’t exist or that comparing Obama to Hitler is a bad thing. They’re right: death panels do not currently exist, are unlikely to exist in the near future, and comparing Obama to Hitler is bad and stupid; but there are plenty of other perfectly legitimate reasons to oppose the legislation as it stands.
The tragedy of the thing from the perspective of the Action Now (TM) crowd is that I was a pretty committed believer in global warming and a believer that we had to do something big up until 6 months ago or so. Since then, I’ve become much more skeptical and conflicted. Not disbelieving, mind you, just skeptical, particularly with regard to the severity of the problem and the proposed solutions. A robust response to the leaked CRU emails by my former comrades could have done a great deal to rope me back into the fold. Instead, the utter lack of a serious response has driven me even further away. I imagine that I’m not alone in this.