The decentralization of science, including climate science

If you would like takes on Climategate different from my own, here are Megan McArdle, Seth Roberts, and Clive Crook, plus I have mislaid a Bob Murphy post, maybe he can leave the link in the comments (it's here). 

I am by no means an expert in climate science but I will explain in more detail why I would stress different issues.  (Please do set me straight where I am wrong.)  I see science, including climate science, as very much a decentralized process, based on the collective efforts of thousands of researchers.  The evidence for our current understanding of climate change also comes from a wide variety of disciplines, including chemistry, meteorology, oceanography, geography, tree ring studies, ice sheet studies, and a good body of theory, which has held up well.  These results all point in broadly similar directions.  Call me naive but, with apologies to Robert Sugden, I don't think many scientific results depend on what comes out of East Anglia, even if you include its emailing affiliates from Penn State and the like.  Even very, very simple climate models generate many of the basic results.

It's correct to claim that East Anglia is a "central player" in climate change studies and that the IPCC looks to its estimates, as most sources report.  It's no less important that other, competing models — in a competitive scientific framework — support similar perspectives.  Here's a sentence from the unit's own account of its origins:

It is likely that CRU ranks only behind NCEP/NCAR, ECMWF (ERA-40) and NCDC as the acknowledged primary data source by climate scientists around the world.

In other words, it's not the only source.  I simply don't think that all those other scientific units are controlled by people who hate capitalism, or SUVs, and wish to conspire to destroy them and succeed in faking and twisting the data.  Or if you want to look outside the "conspiracy," consider this short bit:

“We knew about global warming long before you read about it in your newspapers,” says Niels Gundel, as he cocks his rifle and peers out across the water. He is speaking Greenlandic, with a tour guide acting as interpreter.


I find myself grasping at reasons to be hopeful. The Arctic has been subject to some natural warming in the past: there was a brief heating in the Middle Ages. Couldn’t it be happening again? I couldn’t find a single scientist who said this was the primary cause. The warming in the past was localised, affecting only parts of the Arctic; this is affecting everywhere, all at once. 

In the last two years I recall seeing numerous (distinct) new findings, all along the lines of "climate change may be accelerating,"  As far as I can tell, most of these new results do not rely on East Anglia per se.

I'm open to persuasion — I would love to think climate change is not a problem and sadly I don't think it's a problem we will succeed in solving – but so far I haven't seen the discussions of ClimateGate address these points in a manner which would change my mind.  


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