Saturday, December 05, 2009

Africa and Climategate

Much hoopla surrounds COP15, the Climate Change Conference that is set to open in Denmark in a couple of days. While the industrialized nations are still haggling about the extent to which carbon emissions should be cut by the great carbon pollutors of the world, the African countries, represented by an Ethiopian despot named Meles Zenawi, are sullivating to extort large sums of money from the industrialized nations for their "carbon sins" (see Africa will not reveal its climate compensation demands).

Meanwhile, a big scandal is brewing in climate change science itself, dubbed Climategate by some, that is threatening to derail the Copenhagen conference. In case you have not been paying attention in the last couple of weeks, the nerve center of climate change study, University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit in the United Kingdom, was hacked and that has brought to public view
email communications among scientists which revealed the unscientific nature of climate change science.

What these email exchanges between climate scientists reveal is that much of the science that was used to declare "
Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations" was tainted by ideologically driven politics. I suppose these revelations may probably mean that not much concrete progress is likely come out of Copenhagen.

What about the Africans? Well, Climategate could also dash their hope of collecting a handout in the name of global warming. The same scientists who were caught cooking the books in climate change science are the ones who supplied the "scientific" basis for the Africans' claim. Here are a couple of articles that discuss the effects of global warming which the Africans are using in making their case:
Alarming health effects of global warming
Health toll of climate change seen as ethical crisis
Climategate has given scientists a bad name and it has underscored the need for scientists to decouple themselves from the political debates that touch upon their scientific research area. One of the climate scientists who was involved in the aforementioned email exchanges put this maxim best in a WSJ Op-Ed article titled "The Science and Politics of Climate Change":
Climate scientists, knowingly or not, become proxies for political battles. The consequence is that science, as a form of open and critical enquiry, deteriorates while the more appropriate forums for ideological battles are ignored...

Science never writes closed textbooks. It does not offer us a holy scripture, infallible and complete. This is especially the case with the science of climate, a complex system of enormous scale, at every turn influenced by human contingencies. Yes, science has clearly revealed that humans are influencing global climate and will continue to do so, but we don't know the full scale of the risks involved, nor how rapidly they will evolve, nor indeed—with clear insight—the relative roles of all the forcing agents involved at different scales.

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