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Robert J. Shapiro
Chairman, U.S. Climate Task Force

Robert J. Shapiro

Robert Shapiro, Under Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration, is chairman of the U.S. Climate Task Force and Sonecon, an economic advisory group. ALL POSTS

A minor tempest

Q: Given the furor surrounding the pirated e-mails coming out of the University of East Anglia, what's the real takeaway lesson? Does it say more about the way renowned climate scientists work, or how climate skeptics have operated in shaping the public debate over global warming?

This little tempest should remind us that like the rest of us, renowned climate scientists are people with a normal quotient of character failings. Albert Einstein reportedly treated his first wife badly, but that certainly has no bearing on the genius of his scientific achievements -- any more than Pablo Picasso's private behavior devalues his astonishing art.

To be sure, the missteps here involve the presentation of the views of climate-change skeptics; but in the end, those missteps all come down to instances of overkill, driven presumably by the sense of urgency felt by the misbehaving scientists. At worst, they mildly misrepresented some of the evidence offered by the skeptics. And ultimately, it's all irrelevant scientifically, since the real science so strongly supports the essential findings that dictate strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However flawed the private character of these fellows may be, that doesn't change the following four scientific conclusions: 1) atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are increasing the quantity of solar energy striking the earth (or actually, re-striking the planet) the earth; 2) those increases are slowly raising temperatures of water and land masses; 3) these temperature increases affect climate patterns and behavior, with potentially enormous adverse effects; and 4) the only way we know of to reduce the risks of those effects is to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, especially through fossil fuel combustion.

This little furor is precisely the kind of "gotcha-moment" that President Obama and, for that matter, Sarah Plain, warn us about repeatedly -- seizing on a misstep that has little to do with anything important in order to distract us from our real challenges.

By Robert J. Shapiro  |  November 24, 2009; 11:48 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Those scientists who wrote the emails were just a bunch of pesky rowdy brilliant guys acting human. Their conclusions are infallible.

This will be the official spin on this ridiculous situation until the emails and their implications are in the public eye, thousands of scientists begin speaking up, calls for the review of tainted studies are made, and those environmental scientists who behaved unprofessionally are censured by their peers.

This isn't going to be pretty, but it will sure be necessary.

Posted by: tacheronb | December 5, 2009 11:38 PM
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Reading the claims that some of the main skeptic websites are making out of these emails, it reminds me of the emails we saw a few months ago claiming that the Health Care Bill in the house included all sorts of nasty things; mostly proven false. However, they were able to drum up opposition to the democrats.

I find in interesting that web sites such as show collections of these files, all claiming to be the hijacked emails. Looking over these files, you get the distinct impression that these guys are sending and receiving a handful of emails a day. That is highly unlikely. Any organization today is swamped with email. Those who released this info have probably done some careful selection of what they want public. Who knows if the files are seeded with false information but as is, I would not doubt that the whole theft was designed to influence votes.

The skeptics are calling this Climategate, and it may turn out that the result of this really does help the cause; not necessarily the cause they support.

Posted by: DavidG3 | November 30, 2009 5:03 PM
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Deliberate attempts to defraud are not "a minor tempest."

And now the raw data has been destroyed "accidentally" as well. Is that a minor tempest too?

Tyranny in the 21st century will come from the left, not the right. You can count on that.

Posted by: etpietro | November 30, 2009 5:03 PM
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Do you have any idea who these scientist/propagandist are? They are the ones giving us the temperature record. Therefore any scientist using this record makes their conclusions wrong. I could go on and on, but I'm not going to. If you can read these emails and come away with your conclusion, I'd be wasting my time. Get a clue.

Posted by: kgrubb2 | November 28, 2009 3:08 AM
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I remember reading in my "Weekly Reader" in primary school about scientists, saying with the equal fervor, that we were headed for a global ice age. I'm deeply sorry, but I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid and supporting your effort to turn our society upside-down because of your computer models. In philosophy we learned that arguments bases on dogmatism or authority were fallacious. You knew that we cannot wade through the mountains of so-called data, and that we would have to rest our minds in your authority as a "scientist," but what you didn't count on was our incredulity. Why should I believe you?

Posted by: vanhook99 | November 27, 2009 11:57 PM
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Your analysis is severely flawed. Allow me to provide a link to an alternative - and far more accurate analysis of the situation -

Note, please, that that was based only on the emails. When some of us had a chance to examine the code/data that was contained in the released information ,it became obvious that CRU was not only acting unethically, they were also manipulating the data. Refer to the following link for more of the manifold ethical/integrity problems unearthed in those emails:

Posted by: Ginny11 | November 25, 2009 5:02 PM
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They often work hard to collect it, and it is sometimes a matter of ownership that they want to publish papers on it themselves.

right, so you admit that scientists are not neutral abiters as much as self-interested money grubbers sucking off the fat public tit.

in my book, this is right up there with child molesting in the catholic church

Posted by: dummypants | November 25, 2009 4:28 PM
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Albert Einstein reportedly treated his first wife badly, but that certainly has no bearing on the genius of his scientific achievements -- any more than Pablo Picasso's private behavior devalues his astonishing art.

you must think we're pretty stupid. this is effing insulting.

Posted by: dummypants | November 25, 2009 4:25 PM
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And ultimately, it's all irrelevant scientifically, since the real science so strongly supports the essential findings that dictate strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

too bad nobody believes the "real science" represents reality or rises to the level of science.

the global warming hoax is blown and you and every other snake oil salesman should be prosecuted for the money, stress, and political energy you tricked this country into wasting over the past 10 years.

the history books are going to demonize you people.

Posted by: dummypants | November 25, 2009 4:24 PM
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Manipulate data? You have no evidence of that. You only have your chronically paranoid, desperately-longing-for-a-smoking-gun interpretation of a harmless line about a "trick" a scientist used to accomplish an analysis (and that's assuming the email was not altered). Of course, you and the rest of the attendees at your rabid denialist orgy have made ZERO attempt to actually understand what they were talking about. Here's one attempt by someone with a more objective viewpoint:

Withold data from the public? Not exactly. Reading between the lines, he was probably specifically trying to keep it out of the hands of Steven McIntyre, who has been known to do dishonest things with data to try to rile up the skeptics and maintain his status of folk hero amongst them. Scientists are routinely jealous with their data anyway, which you would know implicitly if you worked in science. They often work hard to collect it, and it is sometimes a matter of ownership that they want to publish papers on it themselves.

That might not be the ideal from the socialist viewpoint - do what's best for the good of all - though I must comment that it is ironic that you all are suddenly screaming about the "greater good" when you've spent your lives on this issue saying "damn the greater good, I'm keeping my precious SUV" (and countless other manifestations of such Ayn Rand-ian impulse).

Posted by: B2O2 | November 25, 2009 3:24 PM
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Nice try.
I'll bet a few readers followed you down the detour you hastily tried to erect. That effort largely failed, representing an entirely new meaning to the expression erectile disfunction.

But I digress.

Characterizing this massive deceit as being nothing more than or similar to quirks or curious personal peccadilloes distorts the seriousness of the orchestrated charade and the scope of the distortion of reality... let alone the reckless abandonment of scientific principles.

I wonder if there's a RICO statute under the Laws of Science. If not, there should be. This would be an excellent test case IMHO.

They lied. They covered it up. They are amassing academic and financial fortunes by manufacturing and maintaining this AGW lie. And they've been busted. What will justice demand of them?

Posted by: dbsinOakRidge | November 25, 2009 3:21 PM
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Stating that this is like Einstein treating his wife badly is absurd. Changing & hiding indormation & data you don't like is NOT acceptable in any Discipline !

Posted by: mct1 | November 25, 2009 10:02 AM
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Scientist's personal integrity. Manipulation of data to enlighten/decieve/understand. Peer review. Process integrity. Naw, none of this has to do with public response.

Posted by: Tamerack | November 25, 2009 6:39 AM
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If this was all so simple and settled as you suggest, then why would scientists have to manipulate data and withhold data from the public? Why would they have to marginalize people who have differing views and journals who publish them? Why would they commit crimes by deleting data requested under the Freedom of Information Act? You have completely failed to address the issues raised by the emails in your piece.

Posted by: Faldo | November 24, 2009 4:39 PM
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