an overuse of the '-gate' suffix

There have been a lot of 'gates' flying around, on both sides of the climate "debate." By "debate," of course, I mean the public relations war being waged by a few people who've decided that the climate either (1) isn't changing, (2) is changing but not because of people, or (3) maybe is changing and maybe because of people, but it doesn't matter because (a) it won't affect anything, (b) will actually be beneficial, or (c) is too expensive to stop. These few people appear to me to be waging this war against everyone else, except the people who believe in any of the previous anti-climate-change ideologies, even when they are mutually exclusive beliefs. This inconsistency among the climate change deniers is obvious, but has not been a useful point in convincing people of their delirium. These few people are the leading edge of a wedge, and right behind that leading edge are opportunistic types who are willing to jump on a bandwagon and blindly follow, either for personal gain or to support their own ideological inclinations.

So let's start with what some are still calling "climategate," despite the fact that it should be more accurately be called "stolen-email-gate" or something (some of the climate-related blogosphere has taken to calling it "swifthack" in analogy to the swift-boat smear of the 2004 USA presidential campaign). The most significant update is that Michael Mann of Penn State has been exonerated by a University investigation. One aspect of the investigation will continue, but it seems pretty likely that will be cleared up soon too [LINK1, LINK2]. Another bit of news related to this is that Phil Jones talked a bit with Nature, defending his own science, but really there isn't much new information in the piece [LINK]. Finally, at UEA, the investigation is starting to get going, but without Phil Campbell, who left the panel because of possible impartiality [LINK].

There have suddenly been a bunch of other "scandals" in climate science. But not really. They seem to revolve around some errors in the IPCC reports. There's a paragraph in the "impacts" report that incorrectly reports the rate of shrinkage of Himalayan glaciers. There's also some confusion about a statement about how much of the Netherlands is below sea-level. The important thing to realize here is that these are tiny details in a sea of information in the IPCC reports, and none of the conclusions about climate change rely on these statements.

These errors in the IPCC have been reported extensively in mainstream media. This has lead some to look at the sources of the reports, which seem to be coming disproportionately from two reporters: Jonathan Leake and David Rose. These reporters are reported to have essentially fabricated and/or distorted information for their stories. There is extensive coverage of the details on Deltoid and RealClimate [see also LINK]. Depending on which side you're reading, these are called "journalismgate," "leakegate," "rosegate," "Africagate," "seagate," etc. And it is all utterly asinine. The reporting in the Times (Leake) and Daily Mail (Rose) is undeniably bad and irresponsible. If these news outlets were interested in the credibility and integrity of their reporting, they would sack both of these writers, apologize, and have real science journalists set the record straight. That won't happen because both are in the business of publishing salacious stories of dubious quality.

There's a trickle down effect. Just sitting here watching CNN, I saw weatherman Chad Myers [LINK] citing the Times Online story in reference to whether there is anthropogenic global warming! As if this one, already discredited, report could show that thousands of scientists and tens of thousands of research papers have all been wrong. Oops, you got us, we didn't know any journalists would be interested. And you'll notice from the link that Myers has a history of being a climate change denier. In the span of two minutes, I heard him make at least three statements doubting the science of global warming. This hurts because most Americans' closest source of science news is their TV meteorologist [LINK], and a surprising number of TV weatherpeople have doubts about the science of global warming [LINK].

When I sat down to write this post, I was infuriated; irate that climate science is continually skewed and contorted to twist people's ideas of what is happening in the world. I thought about writing angry emails, or pleading with prominent science communicators to help expose the irresponsible reporting and illuminate the science and evidence behind global warming. By the time I pasted in that last link, I had convinced myself that science and reason have lost another battle. The scientists are losing the PR war, outgunned, outmanned, and outspent by agents of denial. News abounds showing the increasingly obvious role of climate change in the world's ecosystems and geopolitics, yet more and more Americans (and Europeans) doubt even that the world is warming, and all the while plans to mitigate global warming are being stalled by India and China (and others). Not to be a downer, but I now just wonder how long it will take before the evidence is so overwhelming that it can't be denied? Do we have to see the collapse of major ice sheets, or only a truly ice-free Arctic in summer, or maybe the inevitable 2-degree Celsius global warming? What is the evidence that people really need to see? As a personal matter, I'm having that feeling that many scientists have in these situations, which could be summed up: "I'll just stay out of all this and keep doing my work."

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