And now for the inquiry into sceptics?

WE’VE now had four major reviews into climate change science, all of them prompted and demanded by deniers, sceptics, [insert appellation of choice here] or whatever other descriptor you choose.

Most of the grist for this mill came from the illegal hacking of emails and data from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, but other bits of raw material came via accusations of the methods of the IPCC.

According to the cacophony from some media commentators, climate scientists had tricked the global public, manipulated data, conspired to ban sceptics from peer-reviewed journals, killed Bambie, drowned one of the Care Bears and plotted to take over the world.

All four of the reviews have found the main thrust of the accusations to be without substance or, in other words, plain wrong.

Before a single review had made its conclusion, some commentators screamed it was the greatest science scandal of the modern age and proved that human-caused climate change was a conspiracy  made-up to scare people witless.

At the time, I claimed the scandal was the greatest since Darren from Year Seven torched the Year Nine science project with a bunsen burner.

After two independent reviews, a UK parliamentary inquiry and a Dutch government agency review, I think it’s fair to say my analysis was the closest. I’d like to call Darren, but we’re no longer in touch.

The first of these reviews came from the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee in March. Its conclusion?

Within our limited inquiry and the evidence we took, the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact. We have found no reason in this unfortunate episode to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington [UK chief scientific advisor], that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”.

Next came the more modest review commissioned by the University of East Anglia, also prompted by the climategate hacking saga.

We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal.

Then in the last few hours we’ve had the results of the most comprehensive of all of these “climategate” inquiries, The Independent Climate Change Email Review. At the risk of sounding repetitive, the conclusion went like this.

Climate science is a matter of such global importance, that the highest standards of honesty, rigour and openness are needed in its conduct. On the specific allegations made against the behaviour of CRU scientists, we find that their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.

In addition, we do not find that their behaviour has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.

For the sake of fairness, it’s also worth noting that all of the reviews have stated clearly that scientists need to be more open about their methods and need to find a way to better handle Freedom of Information-type requests, even when they are malicious.

In recent days we’ve also heard the conclusions of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, which I blogged on yesterday, which looked at the IPCC’s main findings on climate change. Conclusion?

Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency found no errors that would undermine the main conclusions in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on possible future regional impacts of climate change.

So what next? The current media coverage of the reviews is being framed to report that climate science has been largely cleared of any wrong-doing, but I’d like to suggest an alternative way to report this.

If all of these reviews find in favour of climate science then they must find against the sceptics. Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, has this to say.

What will be interesting to see is if the people and organisations that propagated the mythologies about the CRU and its scientists will now apologise and correct the record. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen.  Also, shouldn’t we now demand to see their e-mail inboxes and conduct a review on why they got the story so wrong? Could be a very interesting exercise!

Yes Ove, it could.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Author: Graham

Graham Readfearn is a Brisbane-based journalist. Go to the About page in the top navigation for more information.

4 thoughts on “And now for the inquiry into sceptics?”

  1. Hi Graham. Really enjoying your blog. I was just wondering what your response would be to a sceptic who accuses people who believe in human induced climate change and who believe something must be done about it promptly, of being ‘religiously hysterical’ about it.

    A relentless sceptic I know posted this on my facebook: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/21992/church-climate-panic/rich-lowry as ‘proof’ of this. He has ignored the numerous arguments against the pseudo scientist Monckton and instead states that he ‘has a point’ and stated that climate change believer’s approach to the subject is ‘ridiculously fanatical’, and that they are ‘completely convinced that they know the ultimate truth, and anyone who says otherwise is a heretic.’

    I feel this is an attempt to diminish and minimise the debate without actually having to argue against the vast body of scientific evidence for it. What do you think?

    1. Ruby

      an attempt to diminish and minimise the debate without actually having to argue against the vast body of scientific evidence for it

      Nail struck firmly on head!

      To be honest, I think it better not to engage at all. But I do have a few observations. You tend to find that those who seek to undermine the legitimacy of climate change and the problem we face seem to think it’s fine to denigrate it by alluding it’s religious hysteria. It’s sort of a play on the group-think attack that’s commonplace… the idea being that we’ve all been brainwashed in some way and now can’t see clearly or objectively enough.

      So if this group-think is such a bad thing, ask the sceptic if he would then be willing to join you (if you’re that way inclined), in encouraging an end to religious belief… or perhaps an end to party politics, memberships of gardening clubs, gun groups or whatever other collective activity they might like to suggest. Maybe they could also cast aside their ideologies which are pinned to free-market economics and conservative politics?

      It’s an intellectually redundant argument.

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