The big news story this week, dubbed “Climategate” , involves the release of hacked emails from Phil Jones, the head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, and a professor at Pennsylvania State University. What’s most notable about the reporting is the lack of reporting on certain major US news networks. I commend CNN for their relatively unbiased reporting on this on their website, however other networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC – chose to bury the story by not even reporting on it. I was going to commend Fox News for the initial story on the scandal, but the latest story they ran turned it into a political attack on Obama.
Unfortunately, ignoring the story has just fueled the rumors that climate change is a big conspiracy.
What really is happening here is that the public is now aware of just how inflated the egos of scientists can be. Jones’ and his correspondants’ communications reveal the cut-throat, political game that, for good or for bad, underlies academic science. While scientists are supposed to be unbiased, objective, enlightened minds – they are also human and still subject to human bias and pettiness.
But… this does not mean that all climate science is crap! There are peer review processes, where independent scientists review other scientists’ data before it is published. While these processes aren’t always perfect, they certainly help. There is definitely room to improve the way science is done and disseminated – making more raw data available, improving the peer review process, etc. Perhaps it’s time for a national converstation on this, as it is tax payer dollars that fund many of these projects.
However, it’s important to remember that the entire tree of climate research is not completely spoiled by one rotten apple.