Feature

‘Climategate’: Is global warming a hoax?

In the wake of e-mails published by an anonymous hacker into the computers of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University, questions about the validity of man-made global warming resurface.

As world leaders and scientists gather this week in Copenhagen to seek a solution to the climate-change crisis, said Lorne Gunter in the Toronto National Post, a lot of us regular folk are asking a more immediate question: Is the crisis real? The question can no longer be ignored, after an anonymous hacker published thousands of e-mails among scientists at the influential Climate Research Unit at Britain’s East Anglia University, exposing what could turn out to be “the biggest scientific hoax in a generation or more.” The e-mails showed the scientists fudging data to produce the infamous “hockey stick” graph showing temperatures shooting up dramatically in the past 20 years, and trying to bully their critics into silence, said the New York Post in an editorial. More appalling still, the CRU now admits that most of the original data supposedly showing the planet “on the verge of global-warming destruction got tossed with the trash.” So now the scientists are saying: “Trust us.” So much for the claim that “the science is settled.”

Don’t be ridiculous, said George Monbiot in the London Guardian. Yes, the “climategate” e-mails are a huge embarrassment for anyone working in the field of climate research. But a few scientists grousing about inconsistent data hardly negates a mountain of “unequivocal” evidence for man-made global warming. Ancient glaciers in the Alps and the Himalayas and Greenland are shrinking, visibly. The sea ice at the North Pole is thinning, dramatically. The eight warmest years since 1850 have all occurred in the past decade. Africa’s great lakes are drying up, and northern forests are dying because bark beetles are no longer killed by prolonged freezing. The real fraud is being perpetrated by a coalition of coal and oil companies, which has paid scientists, phony “experts,” and public-relations professionals to drum up doubts about climate change and “dupe the public.”

No one denies that the climate is changing, said George Will in The Washington Post. Indeed, it’s precisely because Earth’s climate has been in a constant state of flux for thousands of years that some of us had the temerity to ask whether the current cycle of change is necessarily caused by man. For this and other blasphemies we were branded “deniers,” by members of the same “government-media-academic complex” whose paranoid, cult-like culture the climategate e-mails have just laid bare. “Follow the money,” said Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. It may sound far-fetched that thousands of scientists around the world would conspire to overhype the threat of climate change. But not when you consider the billions of dollars of research funds being funneled in their direction by gullible politicians.

Let’s take a step back from this “overheated” argument, said Bradford Plumer in The New Republic. The proposition that the globe is growing warmer is based on two simple—and undisputed—propositions. The first is that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere. The second is that, thanks to two centuries of very intensive burning of coal, oil, gas, and other fossil fuels, there is much, much more CO2 in the atmosphere than there used to be. Accept those two facts, as any rational person must, and the only aspect of man-made global warming left to debate is “how strong that warming effect will be,” and what—if anything—we should do about it.

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