Archive for December, 2009

Bad Star, No Biscuit?

Posted in Astronomy, Space with tags , , on December 1, 2009 by davidnm2009

I imagine everyone has probably heard about the CRU hack by now. Given that it concerns private correspondence, I shan’t link to any of it – if you really want to know, Google is your friend. I also shan’t go into excessive detail about the whole affair, except to observe that the fruit-loop portion of the blogosphere have predictably gone fruit-loopy over it. There’s been particular nit-wittery over the use of the term ‘trick’, which in this case merely represented a technique for plotting data. In the same sense, using an IDL routine to create a .ps file is also a ‘trick’. So is doing a bar chart in Excel. It doesn’t imply any intent to deceive.

The skeptics, of course, don’t see it that way. Of course, climate change ‘skepticism’ is somewhat misnamed. Climate change is the only thing a lot of these people show any skepticism toward. They often show none toward, say, Ronald Reagan’s economic policies or Big Oil or any possible downside to super-corporate commercialism. And their skepticism of climate change has something distinctly fanatical about it. Rather then being skepticism as such, it seems to be based more on a quasi-religious conviction that their beliefs couldn’t possibly be wrong.

You see, in this ‘debate’ the so-called ‘skeptics’ are the ones with all the money. Most scientific institutions are run on close to a shoe-string. (Here at my place of work, we frequently run out of Fairy Liquid in the office kitchen, because the budget is often that tight – or so we’re told, anyway.) Instrument time is expensive, telescope time is expensive, conferences cost … the money all goes. By contrast, some climate-change skeptics have corporate doners with deep pockets. Some others have personal fortunes. Some particularly-noxious individuals get large amounts of money from American religious think-tanks. (There’s a strain of ‘thought’ – I use the term loosely – in Dominionist Christianity that we have a moral requirement to burn oil – God has given us enough oil to last until the Rapture comes along and hoovers up all the Tru-Xians, therefore we shouldn’t even consider environmental degradation or resource depletion. What I think of this is, frankly, unprintable. It’s depressing how much money there is in wilful ignorance.)

Anyway, my point is, we in the reality-based community have a hard time competing with these well-oiled PR machines. We have nothing like their funds, their media presence or even as much time to spare on the issue. We can only even begin to keep up simply because the factual evidence we have is so overwhleming. Also, that evidence is steadily getting better. Even as recently as five years ago, there was still reasonable scientific doubt over the scale and cause of climate change. Those are gone now – quite simply, new research has filled in most of the gaps.

One of the longest-running controversies, of course, is the role played by the Sun.

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