Monday, November 30, 2009

It's beginning to feel a bit like winter

Finally. Not that I mind the warmth, but it is a little disconcerting to only need a light jacket this late in November. I said a few weeks ago my garden was done; well, I actually harvested a few heads of lettuce, a pretty good bunch of bussels sprouts, and a few parsnips I'd missed (yeah!) just a couple of days before Thanksgiving. As glad as I am to have fresh, home-grown veggies this late in the year, it seems a little odd. But I guess that's what we're in for in the future--later and later winters and earlier springs.

Apparently there's a bit of a tempest flaring over global warming, specifically over a bunch of emails and some data that were stolen from the University of East Anglia's Hadley Climate Research Unit. Dianne Rehm has a show about the upcoming Copenhagen climate change conference, which includes some discussion of the leak and the meaning of the emails. Michael Mann is his usual arrogant self, incapable of admitting any wrong. While those are useful traits in the realm of scientific discussion (since being right is of paramount importance), and as right as he may be, those traits are off-putting and probably unhelpful when dealing with contrarians (I will adopt his terminology here, as I think it's good).

I haven't read the emails in question, and realistically probably won't. I don't doubt the most damaging statements have been cherry-picked and published out of context. I also don't doubt that passionate scientists expressed some rash opinions in emails they expected to stay private. I hope in the end it won't matter, or even better, that more scientists other than the realclimate crowd--people like Judith Curry--will start to engage the public and contrarian crowds so we can show more clearly why there's consensus and where there are arguments, and which arguments are spurious and which are substantive and worth paying attention to.

On another note, since it's being claimed the reason the data sets in question weren't released to the public stems from them being proprietary (even though most of them were produced by governments using tax money) maybe people will start clamoring for more publicly funded government data to be made freely available. It's always seemed silly to me that scientists or other people wanting to use some kinds of data have to pay for access--even though their tax dollars already paid for the research to be conducted in the first place.

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