What the stolen emails revealed was a group of the world’s most influential climatologists arguing, brainstorming, and plotting together to enforce what amounts to a party line on climate change. Data that didn’t support their assumptions about global warming were fudged. Experts who disagreed with their conclusions were denigrated as “idiots” and “garbage.” Peer-reviewed journals that dared to publish contrarian articles were threatened with boycotts. Dissent was stifled, facts were suppressed, scrutiny was blocked, and the free flow of information was choked off.
Predictably, the text of the more than 3,000 purloined emails have been seized on by skeptics of man-made climate change as “proof” that global warming is nothing more than a hoax cooked up by a bunch of pointy-headed intellectuals. And this is the real tragedy of “Climategate.” Global warming is not a hoax, but at a time when opinion polls reveal rising public skepticism about climate change, this unsavory glimpse of scientists trying to cook the data could be just the excuse too many people are waiting for to tune it all out.
What seems to have motivated the scientists involved in Climategate was the arrogant belief that that the way to save the world was to conceal or misrepresent ambiguous and contradictory findings about global warming that might “confuse” the public. But substituting spin for scientific rigor is a terrible strategy.
So, too, is continuing to embrace a response to global warming that has failed for nearly two decades. Instead of papering over the flaws in the Kyoto approach and pretending that grand promises translate into real action, we need to acknowledge that saving the world requires a smarter strategy than the one being pursued so dogmatically in Copenhagen.
Whether or not you believe that the world even needs saving from global warming, this is the way to approach the issue -- with honest debate and open science.