Have you been following the “FakeGate” climate change scandal? For those who haven’t, here is a brief recap.
First, some documents (see attachments at bottom of post) from the Heartland Institute, a think tank well know for anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skepticism, were leaked.
AGW skeptics quickly suggested that one of the documents, the one labeled 2012 Climate Strategy, was a rather ham-handed forgery. (See here, here and here.) Some even speculated that Peter Gleick, a prominent AGW believing scientist, was the source of the leaked documents (Heartland does not deny the authenticity of the documents other than the allegedly forged Climate Strategy memo.) and likely the forger of the Climate Strategy memo.
Now Gleick has confessed to impersonating a Heartland Board Member to obtain the leaked documents. He has not confessed to the forgery.
As I have said repeatedly, I have stayed away from the AGW debate to some extent because I don’t like politicized science. I agree with Rod Dreher that simply believing that AGW is likely true should not be “a test of ideological purity” on the right as some have tried to make it. For example, that Newt Gingrich seemed to affirm AGW in his now infamous commercial with Nancy Pelosi has been used by many as proof that Newt is no conservative. Of course Newt is no conservative and the wisdom of doing that commercial can surely be questioned, but acknowledging the possible reality of AGW alone does not tarnish someone’s conservative credentials.
That said, again as I have said over and over, the claim by AGW believers that the scientific debate is settled is obnoxious and maddening. The scientific debate is manifestly not settled or we wouldn’t still be fighting about it. I don’t know enough about climate science to comment in an informed manner on the technical issues involved, but I do follow the debate enough to understand the state of the debate, and the debate is not settled regardless of how smugly the AGW believers insist that it is. (The link at “some documents” above is a textbook case of such smugness.)
What I have been fascinated by is the politics and psychology of this debate. There is clearly a network of AGW true-believers who are on alert to pounch on any AGW sketicism wherever it appears. See for example the Kaminsky AmSpec post. There isn’t a similar crew of Internet commandos who respond to every post on Austrian economics for example. There was a similar crew combatting birtherism as we have even seen on this little ol’ blog. This suggests to me that there is an emotional component motivating the AGW true-believers beyond the alleged integrity of science and saving the planet. My sense is that a lot of the AGW true believers are more motivated (consciously or not) by proving their “I’m not one of those ignorant climate change denialists” bona fides than they are by saving the planet. Being an AGW believer has become for them a sort of badge of enlightenment that separates the believer from the ignorant masses. Accepting AGW has become a sort of class marker for them.
I believe that the insufferable smugness of the AGW crowd has actually hurt their case. Their rhetorical bullying and casual and/or angry dismissal of all skepticism out of hand has cause the skeptics to dig in their heels and gives the impression that they are not as confident as they let on. If the evidence is so overwhelming then why not welcome debate instead of trying to stamp out dissent?
Polls show that the AGW believers are losing ground with the public and even some believers have been willing to admit this. You would think that some of them might get the message and try a different strategy. “Gee, maybe being a pompous know-it-all scold looking down my nose at “anti-science” skeptics isn’t the best rhetorical posture.”
Editor’s Note: I just added a “Climate Change” category.