Jonathan Kay: The ‘climategate’ shoe is now on the other foot
Remember “Climategate?” That was the apparent scandal that began in 2009 when hackers downloaded and publicized thousands of emails from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. Climate-change skeptics claimed that the emails showed that scientists were engaged in a massive conspiracy to suppress the “truth” that man-made warming was a giant hoax perpetrated by Al Gore, George Soros, the United Nations, and the Sierra Club.
As it turned out, there was no scandal. Six separate investigations into”climategate” all showed that the supposed damning evidence was just cherry-picked, decontextualized sound bites from candid discussions among scientists. As Scientific Americanmagazine reported: “Nothing in the stolen material undermines the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that humans are to blame.” (In any event, as any thinking person already knew, the East Anglia data set was just one of several showing the massive warming pattern on earth.)
None of this subsequent investigation and exoneration has done anything to reduce the fever pitch of the warming-denier community, who see Climategate in epic terms. As I’ve argued previously, climate-change deniers think in ways that are at best cultish, and at worst conspiratorial. And they are not above twisting the available evidence in eccentric ways in order to blame warming on sunspots or (their new favourite) assorted “cosmic rays from space.”
I thought of this crowd today when I saw news that oil-industry-funded research accounts at the University of Calgary have been used to pay for anti-warming propaganda:
The records showed that the strategy was crafted by professional firms, in collaboration with well-known climate change skeptics in Canada and abroad, allowing donors to earn tax receipts by channelling their money through the university. All of the activities and $507,975 in spending were organized by the Friends of Science, an anti-Kyoto Protocol group founded by retired oil industry workers and academics who are skeptical about peer-reviewed research linking human activity to global warming observed in recent decades.
Hmmm … An academic institution’s ostensibly neutral fact-finding mission being scandalously compromised by ideologues with an axe to grind on the subject of climate science? It’s almost as if there is some kind of climate-themed Watergate-style scandal at work here …
A sort of “climate-gate,” if you will.
No doubt, we will be hearing lots of firm denunciations of this real scandal from all the same fellows who still find space in their newspaper columns to decry the fake scandal of Climate-gate. Following the latter episode in 2009, a Financial Post colleague wrote that the controversy “requires a full investigation by competent scientists and official bodies.” In his next column, I expect he will be demanding that UCalgary gets the same treatment.