the best response to “climategate” i’ve seen so far

December 9, 2009

To be honest, I haven’t really been following much of the “Climategate” mess.  It seems mostly silly to me.  Scientists use foul language?  Yeah, they (we) do.  Especially when shit breaks in lab and fucks up our data.  Scientists use “tricks”?  Yeah, we like our data to look good.  Doesn’t mean our conclusions are wrong (though sometimes they are, of course).  Anyhow, a handful of unlawfully obtained emails with bad language and evidence of data-massaging in no way proves a global conspiracy.

That said, I have read a bit about it, since it’s in the news, and I read the news.  Thomas Friedman’s column in today’s NY Times is, in my opinion, absolutely the best response to this whole heap of garbage.  His point?  Regardless of how likely you think catastrophic global warming is, it is undeniable that there is a chance it will happen.  When you see a chance something catastrophic might happen (even if it’s a tiny chance), you buy insurance to protect yourself from that possibility.  What harm can it do?  He sums it up nicely:

If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels. We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent.

Anyhow, you should read the column.  I usually try not to be a Thomas Friedman fangirl (because I think some of the things he writes are silly), but this is an occasion where I’d be okay with it.



  1. The only problem I guess, is that these sorts of arguements grab attention from the overwhelming pile of eviedence that supports cc. The above arguement can be countered by saying…if cc is a hoax then why bother…whats wrong with buisness as usual. This is why I think we need to keep pushing for cc to be acknowledged to be the threat it is (a big one http://stevehynd.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/copenhagen-and-the-2-degree-guard-rail-the-wrong-goal-missed/)

  2. Well, the thing I like about this argument is that I don’t think that you can counter it with “climate change is a hoax, so why bother.” The thing is that anyone with a public school science education knows that greenhouse gases cause planetary warming (like on Venus), and that industry and transportation release lots of greenhouse gases. Nobody can debate the carbon dioxide numbers — I think, at least (I don’t follow this as well as I should). At any rate, our emissions rates are probably far less contested than temperature data.

    Therefore, if you accept any of basic science, then you have to admit that it is possible we could be having an impact, and given the degree of our emissions, it’s possible that the impact could be significant. Therefore, doing something to protect against that possibility is not at all a bad investment.

    [PS. I used to be in science education, mostly teaching about astronomy, and I loved it when I would occasionally get questions from the public regarding Venus and its relationship to our own climate issues. Some folks — kids especially — would come up to me genuinely scared that if we don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll end up like Venus in fifty years. Now I won’t ever argue that extreme position, but it really does serve to drive home the point about how big an impact the greenhouse effect can have.]

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