Climate scientists attached to the rickety Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change structure raise two key interchangeable arguments in their defense. The first is to deny that anything of significance has been found in the various IPCC scandals. Climategate? Nothing there but a few emails that display intemperate behaviour and typical charmless chat among scientists doing their jobs.
“Scientists are not public relations experts,” say the apologists. Glaciergate and the melting Himalayan ice? Insignificant — barely a footnote in the official IPCC reports, and a minor mistake in any case; there’s nothing here to cast doubt on the thousands of pages of good work by thousands of scientists. “Regrettably, there were a very small number of errors,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday after announcing the appointment of a review panel to investigate those tiny little errors, produce a report and move on, preferably by August before the next round of panic-ridden climate talks.
The second official line of defense is to attempt to deny the very existence of any mistakes, errors or butchered science. Denial, in fact, is often the first strategy deployed when any criticism surfaces. Then, if the story of scientific error is proven true, the mistakes are then dismissed and trivialized as of no consequence.
If this strategy of denial, diminishment, trivialization and dismissal succeeds it will only be because most people will not pay close enough attention to the issues. The Climategate emails, thousands of exchanges among scientists working on temperature records and forecasts, are dense and unintelligible to all but the most intrepid and diligent. You may even have to be half crazy to try to work through the emails and piece together the story lines and threads.