Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Guardian on "Climategate"

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Interesting article in The Guardian by George Marshall:

The lay public, when presented with confusing data and competing arguments about climate change, deploy the mental shortcut of believing the people they most trust. Trust in the communicator is therefore crucial.

Unfortunately the three main climate change communicators: politicians, journalists and environmental campaigners, are among the least trusted people in society – fighting it out for bottom place in the ranking with lawyers and car salesmen. No one would pay any attention to them at all if they were not drawing on the aquifer of public trust in scientists.

But climate scientists have always misunderstood the dynamic of public belief and trust. They assume that belief will be built on their data and that public trust is merited by their authority. With the exception of a few outstanding communicators, they often make no attempt to speak to deeper values or make an emotional connection with the public – indeed they see that as contrary to their professional independence.

Climate change deniers have always understood this. They use language that is designed to appeal to deeper values (such as freedom, independence, progress). The narrative they tell of being determined (and even persecuted) free-thinkers, standing against the tide of oppressive and self-interested conformity is designed to create an aura of integrity and trustworthiness.

The recent hacking of the servers of the University of East Anglia can only be understood within this landscape of competing appeals to public trust. The denial industry (and hordes of climate nerds) has trawled through these emails and found sentences which, when removed from context, support their storyline that climate science is being deliberately distorted and exaggerated for a mixed bag of self-interested and politicised ends.

But you could find anything in here. I looked and found lots of references to lunch and fun, 94 to hate, 31 to love. Generally, though, the emails are extremely focused, technical, and, dare I say it, really dull. As noted on realclimate.org, the emails contain "no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords."

But this is hardly the point. This is an orchestrated smear campaign and does not require balance or context. The speed with which the emails have been cut apart and fed into existing storylines is remarkable. At the very least the UEA email campaign is an application of dirty political tactics to climate change campaigning.

I suspect it goes further than that. The storyline is too clever, the timing on the brink of Copenhagen and the US climate bill too convenient. I wait with interest to find out how these emails were obtained.

The UEA response has been frankly pathetic…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2009 at 11:32 am

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