back to article Climategate: A symptom of driving science off a cliff

I got some pushback from readers on the more skeptical side of the climate issue for describing Climategate as 'a tragedy'. There was clear evidence of cynicism and dishonesty, they argue - doesn't this let them off the hook? Not at all. But we need the bigger picture. Let's try this as a thought exercise. Demonising or …

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Anonymous Coward

Passive drinking

I would be astounded if there was any significant proportion of readers here whose lives have not been negatively affected to some extent by someone else's alcohol consumption (ie, by passive drinking).

For example, the adverse effects of alcohol in the UK are such that large parts of many cities (and maybe elsewhere) are now alcohol restricted zones (often wrongly called alcohol free zones, which would actually be preferable in many cases). You don't get one of those unless a demonstrable case can be made, in court.

To claim "passive drinking " is not a problem damages any other point you might possibly have had (I couldn't see one between the pictures, but...).

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Stop

It's not passive drinking though, is it.

Passive smoking is where you inhale other people's smoke. Passive drinking would be somehow passively ingesting alcohol where people around you are drinking.

The negative effects of alcohol consumption on a developing foetus would be passive drinking, but being hit by a car driven by someone who's over the limit is something else and involves no drinking on the part of the victim.

This is a stupid use of language. Don't encourage it.

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Joke

RE: Passive drinking

Only one thing worse than that - somebody who is a complete arse while sober!

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Anonymous Coward

How is it called passive drinking? Is someone pouring it down their throat without them noticing? Perhaps they attached them to a drip against their will.

Passive smoking comes from actually being affected by the physical substance. I do not doubt that drinking has adverse effects, we can all see that. It has been know for many years. But to call it "passive drinking" is just wrong.

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Passive stupidity is even more of a problem.

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@sabroni

"The negative effects of alcohol consumption on a developing foetus would be passive drinking, but being hit by a car driven by someone who's over the limit is something else and involves no drinking on the part of the victim."

Indeed.

However I'd also take issue with the implication that accidents that happen due to people driving under the influence are "alcohol's fault". It was the person who decided to do it, not the drink, and plenty of people drink without driving. Similarly plenty of people drink without becoming antisocial arseholes.

IMHO we should punish those that do antisocial, dangerous and lethal things when under the influence of alcohol, and not create stupid laws that penalise the vast majority who don't. Unfortunately it seems most prefer the stupid laws which often don't work anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Anyone who's been assaulted by a drunk, disturbed by a drunk, run over by one, has alcoholic parents, works in social services, A&E, the police, ambulance or fire service (or the tax payers who have to fund the consequences) can testify to the passive effects of alcohol...

Yet because standing next to a drunk doesn't make one drunk, it isn't an effect?!? ...if only!

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Stop

Corruption of language

IMHO "Passive Drinking" is yet another deliberate corruption of language, designed to make something seem worse, or scarier, in order to justify greater powers, larger budget, political advantage, etc.

Other examples: "Waste Crime" (illegal dumping), "Identity Theft" (impersonation), "Road Rage" (driving like a c**t), "Environmental Crime" (littering)...

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Pint

@frobnicate

I owe you a pint for making me burst out laughing.

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...

Is that passive laughing? :-)

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Passive stupidity

on the contrary, I would prefer stupidity be passive. it's the active stupidity that is the REAL issue

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Coat

Freudian sip?

I wouldn't have thought that "passive drinking" deserved quite so much weight in this article.

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Anonymous Coward

Cuz it's short

it's extremely annoying. The problem is that people can't stand more accurate but verbose language. The meedja hates it because it they like short headlines.

You and I might like "indirect impact of alcohol consumption" and titles of research articles but we don't count. Catchy wins.

In an attempt to avoid inaccuracy, I suggest simply inventing new, short words instead.

Alcohol has a lot of bad zob.

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Big Brother

"In an attempt to avoid inaccuracy, I suggest simply inventing new, short words instead."

We could call it "Newspeak".

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Go

Impartiality

"The media say they're irresponsible if they don't cover every potential alarm – and anyway, who wants to hear good news stories?"

Of course they could always be a little more... critical in their coverage, a bit like El Reg, rather than blindly stating whatever any blithering idiot tells them.

The BBC is one of the worst at this, they'll publish anything and do it all in the name of impartiality.

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Impartiality?

They may "say" that. It's done in the interests of viewers and readers. Sensationalism only works when my headline is gorier than yours.

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Bravo, Andrew!

"“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

- Joseph Goebbels

Well done, Andrew, for once again having the cheek to criticise today's dominant narrative around AGW - the fact that sceptics are also called 'deniers' is no coincidence in the light of just how religious pro-AGW propaganda has become. But it's so much more than that - it's a dangerous political dogma and an expensive waste of public money - money that could have been used for genuine environmental protection. The Church of AGW has permitted bad people to sneak in under the guise of 'green' and steal public money for illegitimate ends.

I refer El Reg once again to the upcoming COP-17 climate jamboree in Durban, S.A.. Two weeks of taxpayer-funded fun in the sun for politicians and NGOs alike, preaching the catechism of the AGW true believers, helped in their mission by the world's uncritical, ignorant media, eager for more sensational headlines regarding the impending 'climate catastrophe', no doubt headed our way. Will this be another 'two weeks to save the world' moment? I wonder. We've been there before, after all, so many times.

Keep it up, El Reg. Don't be afraid of your critics and keep that delicious sense of the absurd alive and well.

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The catastrophe isn't a sure thing. The IPCC reports which make that clear.

The issue is that rapidly elevating CO2 so much higher than it's been for millions of years will very likely have a number of significant effects on climate (ocean pH drop, warming of the planet, increased plant fertilization). In turn there are a myriad of secondary knock on effects from each of these changes - physical and biological and it's domino's from there. The catastrophe is the potential result of these changes happening so fast.

The reason the word "denier" exists is to describe those who would rather trick themselves and others into believing none of the above mentioned effects are likely to happen at all and that the matter can simply be shelved and ignored.

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Anonymous Coward

f you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

Whatever "lie" could you be referring to?

(a) AGW is no threat at all to anyone

(b) AGW is looming and certain catastrophe

Anything in the media is either a lie or a gross (and very likely mangled) oversimplification. But no non-scientist (and only a subset of all scientists) is really qualified to understand the science (such as it is).

So we have these boisterous debates in the media, in politics, commentary, and forums where almost everybody talks a load of horseshit . The debate about AGW that really counts is this propaganda war.

We can only hope that the winners of the propaganda war happen to (by sheer bloody fluke) agree with whatever turns out to be the case. Just maybe the current state of climate science (however imperfect) suggests which side of the propaganda battle to support. But how that battle is fought has nothing all to do with what the science says now or might say in the future. Talking real science, (with its detail, interminable qualifications, subtletly, and often non-intuitive answers) in a propaganda war just gets in the way of the repetitive lying and sloganeering you need to win over the target audience.

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That's because you are deniers

"the fact that sceptics are also called 'deniers"

Yes, that's what happens when the overwhelming evidence supports one point of view, and you choose to subscribe to another. in spite of it. And indeed your rant continues on in that vein.

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Another reason the word "denier" exists is to describe the weight/fineness of yarn. The problem with the word is it has been appropriated by evangelicals as pejorative to describe anyone who would dare ask questions of the faithful. It's a pity the other religions took all the interesting words like infidel, kafir, pagan, savage & heathen. I guess if denier is the best a weather warrior can do, so be it.

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You are aware that plate tectonics took a bloody long time to become mainstream, right?

And where is this "overwhelming" evidence of which you speak?

Hint: computer models are not, and never will be, "evidence". Computer models can only ever be *illustrations of a hypothesis*. Most climate scientists are not also expert computer scientists, so we can only guess at their software design and programming abilities.

To put this into some context: 100% of video games are interactive models. If a computer model was all you needed to prove something existed, how come we're not all swearing at each other while wandering around fantasy landscapes carrying unfeasibly large weapons?

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Anonymous Coward

"And where is this "overwhelming" evidence of which you speak?"

Just about everywhere. It's not like it's a secret or anything.

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Anonymous Coward

@DrXym

The *only* overwhelming evidence is that CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere.

There is NO direct, provable evidence to state that is is man-made (despite all the best efforts by interested parties).

The issue is now between AGW and GW (in fact I refuse to say GW anymore I'm going to use CDI [Carbon Dioxide Increase]) so in fact the issue is between ACDI and CDI and even if it is ACDI to what extent it will affect the climate.

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I'm not sure what your point is about plate tectonics. You are aware that the concept of AGW has also been around for a long time - of the order of a century - but has only become mainstream in the last few decades as evidence has accumulated?

As for evidence, there is the fundamental physics, the measurement of land and sea temperatures both by land and satellite sensors, there is measurement of polar ice caps, there is measurement of CO2 concentrations, there is research into ruling out factors such as solar activity and volcanic activity, etc., etc. In other words there are multiple strands of evidence - much more than one can go into here. Which is the problem really because a lot of people think that this is just some sort of point scoring debate that can be had out in on-line forums whereas in fact there is a huge amount of science to learn, understand and assimilate to be able to make a meaningful contribution.

By the way, computer models are capable of making perfectly valid contributions to science. I mean, are you saying that we should not use mathematics in science, because that is what you imply? Your 'context' about video games is complete tosh. You could use your argument to say that aircraft manufacturers shouldn't bother using CFD to understand aerodynamics. Are you saying that?

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Anonymous Coward

Good article

My wife finds the only thing that will ease her neuropathic pain is cannabis - above even the morphine doctors practically give away. Yet because of this policy-led science approach, we are condemned as criminals and live in fear. I wonder if the ongoing phone-hacking circus is a sign that all sides are starting to turn on the media dragon ?

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Very poor reporting

So does chutney cause cancer or not?!

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Happy

I'm afraid I'll have to wait until the study group is formalised-

once the funding comes through, of course...

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Joke

"So does chutney cause cancer or not?!"

Well I can tell you that it will NOT if you attach this special sticker to the side of the jar. It shields your brain from the emissions of the chutney because it is made from a special meta-material originally designed by NASA for the space program.

SPECIAL OFFER 2 for the price of 1!!! ONLY £79.99

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That picture is worth a thousand. Anyway, what about pickled onions? I just ate a whole jar.

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Mushroom

Where are you?

I'd like to make sure that I am standing upwind......

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Mushroom

Passive farting

Now you got me worried. Has anyone carried out any studies on the potential health hazards associated with passive farting?

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"One of the striking things about the exchanges is that the climate scientists' private behaviour was so different to their public statements."

Shouldn't that either be their private behaviour was different to their public behaviour or their private statements were different to their public statements?

I was going to make a comment that everyone's private behaviour differs from their public behaviour (even down to people having different voices for when they talk on the phone) but I am not sure if that was the point being made.

Private communications with familiar people in general tends to be more casual and relaxed whereas public communication is more polite.

Also when you communicate publicly you have to think more about what you say. Politicians learn this well as any slight err in wording can be misused by their opponents who then claim it is a scandal and call for them to resign. Most scientists don't have to worry about that as they don't have such political opponents.

Climate scientists do. Take Dr Phil Jones factual statement in an interview that there had been no statistically significant warming for 15 years. This was widely misinterpreted by climate skeptics into headlines telling the public that Phil Jones had admitted global warming had stopped 15 years ago.

The likes of Dr Phil Jones learn from such examples that they have to be more careful with their words. Given more thought he could have simply provided the % significance figure for the last 15 years to prevent his words being misused by those with agendas.

People who claim climate scientists should just blab without thinking in public like they do in private in their emails don't understand what they are up against.

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I wonder what would happen

if all the cash that's being wasted on useless bl***y windfarms, and green this and that were spent on doing some decent science so that there was some more credible evidence about what's really going (or not going) on...

I fear though that the science is so very complicated that is beyond current understanding...

I still think though, bearing in mind that we know the climate can change very fast naturally, it might be better working out how to cope with major climate change *however caused* rather than spending a fortune on green this and that which might or might not replace any anthropogenic global warming that might or might not be going on.

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The problem doesn't go away

Andrew Orlowski: "Demonise the individual and the problem doesn't go away."

But that's exactly what the so-called "sceptics" are doing, and you're right, the problem doesn't go away.

They mounted a sustained campaign to get the scientists to release all their data, doing it in a way that demanded ever more of their time away from their primary research, so they bitched about it in emails. That data is now out there for anyone to analyse, and nobody has come to any different conclusions than the original researchers. The problem is that this doesn't fit your agenda, so you keep on attacking the scientists.

Come on Andrew, spell it out: let your readers know what exactly is your agenda, and that of the GWPF and WUWT who echo what you write.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: The problem doesn't go away

"When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at the finger"

- Chinese proverb.

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Pirate

Andrew, I can understand why you're shy about coming clean, so I'll give you a hand.

Here's the dichotomy:

- The survival of the neoliberal agenda depends on never ending growth.

- The survival of the environment depends on sustainability.

The 1% have seen the threat, so to protect their ill-gotten gains they've mounted a propaganda exercise the tobacco industry would be proud of. Breathtakingly amoral, but impressively effective.

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Re: Re: The problem doesn't go away

When the idiot points at a streetlamp, thinking it's the moon, the wise man laughs at the idiot.

You argued that epidemiology was corrupt because relative risks below 3.0 have been reported for the past 30 years. Ignoring the fact that a relative risk ration [sic] of 3.0 is an inherently arbitrary threshold for declaring something more than "a coincidence" and is anything but "iron-clad", and ignoring that smaller RRRs are can be hugely important on a population level, your argument that there's too much bad science showing spurious associations should mean you WANT RRRs <3.0 to be reported. Well conducted studies designed to test these associations that find RRRs of 1.0 would refute the existence of the associations to which you're objecting (and they would do it a lot more convincingly than rhetoric).

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re: The problem doesn't go away

"They mounted a sustained campaign to get the scientists to release all their data, doing it in a way that demanded ever more of their time away from their primary research, so they bitched about it in emails."

Initially there was no campaign, just a couple of reasonable requests asking which temperature stations CRU used for their stations. This is a request that to an outsider would seem simple, CRU produces a product based on those data, surely it would be trivial to provide a list of the stations and source (GHCN, NCAR, NMS etc). Initial responses were simple fob-offs saying it's all on GHCN. Repeat requests for the station list got more excuses, some were confidential etc. The data may be, the station ID's were not. CRU simply refused to provide the station lists, so sceptics could not attempt to reconstruct CRU's series. Finally with Climategate 2, we understand why they were so reluctant-

#1184

"My head is beginning to spin here but I read this as meaning that he wants the raw station data; we don’t know which data belongs to which station, correct?"

But then why should bad data management get in the way of setting energy policy and saving the planet?

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Mmmm!

I think those graphics will stay with me forever :-(

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you don't understand relative risk

A small RR ratio can be interesting if you're looking at population incidences. Small changes can mean large numbers of events. Small RRRs can still have narrow confidence intervals.

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Alien

Chances for narrow confidence intervals in epidemiology studies are slim at best.

And we don't even have a similar object to compare our results to (or will you tell me there is another Earth sized planet with plant life and oceans on it?). So the error bars can only be taller.

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Cycle of Fear and Panic

An excellent book, "Scared to Death" by Christopher Booker and Richard North looks at the exact feedback mechanism described by Mr O, with some very lucid examples (BSE, Asbestos, Climate Change being but a few).

It's interesting to note the difference between CERN's handling of some odd results, and CRU and, well, any data at all.

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In the same vein

Another book in the same vein would be Aaron Wildavsky's "But Is It True?: A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues".

There seems to be a cultural parallel between people who like to be terrified by going to scary movies, and those who prefer to get their "thrills and chills" via the news media, presented as fact.

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"It's interesting to note the difference between CERN's handling of some odd results, and CRU and, well, any data at all."

I must agree.

CERN's handling of it's "faster than light" findings has been an example to all scientists. Publishing all the data involved, including the method used to collect and analyse that data, allows the whole scientific community to analyse it and find any possible errors. This is a very important step in something which affects a fundamental law of physics...

...or something which may have massive impact upon the entire human population, as climate scientists claim will happen with climate change.

I am not saying one way or the other whether man-made climate change is correct. All I am saying is that when something is as important as this, CERN's method is the correct one, not CRU's.

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Coat

I always thought chutney was a bit suspect, mind...

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Anonymous Coward

If you tasted the stuff my Aunt makes those suspicions would be confirmed.

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Anonymous Coward

Scientists need grants

A lot of science depends on grants. No grants = no science. It's not surprising that scientists will do what they have to to maintain their positions.

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Anonymous Coward

indeed so

we try very hard to write ever better research proposals about even more interesting and relevant topics, all the while maintaining the highest quality of research output we possibly can.

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Anonymous Coward

It's how you phrase the question

My wife works indirectly for the NHS in research. She explained to me how they get funding. This is a rather silly example to convey the idea:

A scientist is interested the effects of litter on Wombles. Now nobody is really interested in these results, so the scientist might write their proposal "The effect of litter and chutney on Wombles".

Pitch it to producers of (or campaigners against) Indian condiments - ???? - profit!

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