Being skeptical ain’t easy. There’s always pressure to take a side or have an immediate answer. Saying, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t know enough,” can feel like an omission of failure or stupidity. It’s certainly an omission of ignorance, and who likes admitting they are ignorant in any discussion?
This long-winded set-up is to preface the topic at hand – the recent hacking of the CRU servers and publication of thousands of emails and source code. If you hadn’t heard, a purported hacker took this information and posted on Russian servers for all to see in the name of quickening the debate on global warming.
What it has certainly done is ratchet up the cranks, soapboxes, conspiracy theorists, and spittle-flecked, red-faced harbingers on both sides of the topic. In other words, the signal to noise ratio on this already controversial topic has increased by magnitudes.
What I know is I don’t know enough about global warming in regards to what is being lobbed back and forth in the war of words on the Internets. I can look at data extrapolating temperatures and carbon levels for centuries past. I can see orbital maps of ice-melts in the arctic, and glaciers that have retreated at alarming rates (well, alarming to us given our experience). I can see there is horrible air pollution (I commute through it everyday, and in the summer it’s pure torture). From this I can make the assumption that, indeed, the world is changing.
What I don’t know is if this data that has been posted from CRU actually means anything new or revolutionary. I’ve seen volumes of hyperbole on news sites. I’ve seen sentences taken out of context and code commenting taken way out of context – and this is what worries me the most. Context is king. It is the biggest contributor to confusion. It is propaganda’s biggest tool – and the only way to spot it is to know the material inside and out.
That’s a tough call. Global warming is a deep subject with volumes of complex data that is contributed and affected by both terrestrial and cosmic forces. I personally think it makes the evolution debate look like child’s play.
So keep this in mind when you hear it being discussed on the radio, TV, internet or office water cooler. It may be worth your time reading some extra websites, listening to some podcasts, or reading a few books on this topic since it won’t be going away anytime soon. It’s a long journey to getting informed, and sadly few take the time for the trip.