It has been a weird, weird thing having a ringside seat at the messy unravelling of the greatest scientific scandal in the history of the world. The only experience in my life even vaguely similar was queuing outside the Wag club in the spring of 1988 watching all the straight people staring at us freaks, and thinking to myself: ‘God, just imagine how totally awesome it would be if this Acid House craze ever caught on.’
From a tiny germ of a story on a few specialist blogs, Climategate has gone über-viral in a way few of us sceptics could ever have dared hope. As I write, the name has clocked well over 30 million Google hits, which for me has been a bit like being a proud parent watching his singing, dancing little girl suddenly grow up to become Madonna — for ‘Climategate’ was sorta, kinda, partly my baby.
What happened was that on the Thursday when I picked up the story from the Watts Up With That website I noticed in the comments that someone called Bulldust had said: ‘Hmm how long before this is dubbed ClimateGate?’ I took Bulldust’s ball and ran with it using the Climategate headline in all the stories I wrote thereafter. Others subsequently came up with better monikers: Mark Steyn’s ‘Warmergate’ is cleverer and funnier. But by then it was too late. In the first week alone — with a bit of help from Drudge — my Telegraph blog had landed over 1.6 million hits. Climategate had stuck and my teeny, tiny, spear-carrying role in the history of language was assured.
Of course, the real stars of this story are two Canadians named Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. One is a statistician, the other an economist, and if there’s one absolute certainty in this mucky, confused business it’s that McIntyre and McKitrick will one day be acclaimed as perhaps the most heroic and significant scientific double-act of our age.
Why? Because if it hadn’t been for the groundwork of these two brilliant men, humankind would now be that much closer to shelling out for the biggest and most pointless bill ever devised. Forty-five trillion dollars: that it is how much, according to one estimate by the International Energy Agency, it is going to cost us all to deal with the supposed threat of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
Some of you will know the names already. McIntyre and McKitrick exposed not once but twice the lamentable bogusness of Michael Mann’s infamous hockey stick chart. In doing so, they offered the first real proof that the process behind the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is essentially political rather than scientific and that the computer models predicting rampant AGW are, at best, unreliable.
I’ll spare you the technical details: these have been amply covered by McIntyre’s ClimateAudit website (which broke the Climategate story) — and by many others who’ve been following the story, including Andrew Bolt, Bishop Hill, Watts Up With That, Marc Morano at Climate Depot, NRO’s Planet Gore, Ian Wishart, Richard North, Mel Phillips and of course the mighty Christopher Booker.
But that is rather my point. If Climategate had come completely out of the blue, with no historical context, then I suppose it would just about make sense to claim — as the IPCC, Gordon Brown, Al Gore and even one or two of my esteemed colleagues are doing — that it does nothing seriously to undermine the IPCC’s ‘consensus’ on AGW.
That simply isn’t the case, though. Some of us have been saying for years that the IPCC’s process is corrupt; that dissenting voices have been shut out of the debate; that raw data has been subverted, suppressed, corrupted and destroyed; that AGW theory owes more to political activism than disinterested science; that the measures currently being proposed to deal with AGW are a global economic disaster waiting to happen. But what Climategate has done is turn the story from the niche obsession of a few shunned and maligned geeks into something the whole world wants to hear.
I first realised this when, a couple of days after Climategate broke, I did an interview on a radio phone-in. Having steeled myself for yet another rough ride — something we ‘sceptics’ have grown all too used to over the years — I instead found a sympathetic, interested audience. My interviewer Petrie Hosken said she had been trying all evening to field a call from a listener who actually believed AGW posed a serious threat but couldn’t find one. A year ago, it would have been easy. Five years ago, it would have been almost impossible to find someone who believed otherwise.
Yet the mainstream media has been surprisingly slow to respond to this dramatic change in the public mood. Even now, the BBC and most newspapers (honourable exceptions being the Express, the Mail, the Wall Street Journal, and Christopher Booker’s column in the Sunday Telegraph) are taking the lofty position that Climategate, while showing one or two scientists in a regrettable light, is by no means a game-changer. They’re calculating — and you can tell this already from the fawning coverage their batteries of eco-correspondents are lavishing on the Copenhagen carbon-fest — ‘Pretty soon our readers will lose interest in this Climategate yarn and we can go on churning out the usual stuff about melting polar bears, shrinking glaciers and drowning Tuvalu.’
What the mainstream media has completely failed to get is that Climategate marks the beginnings of a paradigm shift. This same misunderstanding is what did for Malcolm Turnbull in Australia when he tried to force his Liberal party (Oz’s Conservatives) to vote with Kevin Rudd’s Labor government on a new A$120 billion carbon emissions tax. Not only did his frontbenchers resign, causing him to lose his job, but he was replaced by a man, Tony Abbott, who recently described AGW as ‘crap’.
If I were David Cameron, I’d be thinking very hard right now about what had happened to my Conservative oppo down under, and asking myself: ‘How do I realign my party’s stance on AGW with the new sociopolitical, economic and scientific reality?’ As the Guardian has gleefully pointed out, all ten of the top Tory bloggers are climate sceptics; so too are the majority of Tory candidates for seats at the next election; as too — the latest polls say — are at least half the public. And no wonder: it has not escaped at least some taxpayers’ notice that under the 2008 Climate Change Act Britain is the only country in the world legally bound to carbon emissions reductions. According to the government’s own estimates this is going to cost us £18 billion every year for the next 40 years.
Yet so far on this key issue, our Dave has shown all the nimble U-turning skills of an oil tanker in the Panama Canal. Shortly after Climategate broke, Dave appeared on the Conservatives’ Blue Blog website reaffirming his commitment to the Copenhagen summit. The response? Nearly 300 comments mostly from disgusted Tories telling him that in that case they were voting Ukip.
At the beginning I called Climategate the biggest scientific scandal in the history of the world. And so it is, not so much because of what went on at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, but because the repercussions are so huge. Until Climategate, our political masters were happy to present us, in the name of combating ‘climate change’, with a bill so enormous — $45 trillion — it threatens to wipe out the entire global economy. If Climategate succeeds in stopping this then it will no longer be a scandal. It will be a total bloody miracle.