Catching up from a post issued last Wednesday, "Climate Whitewash, Blackwash and 'Mushroom Clouds.' "
The reactions to the Independent Climate Change Email Review are flowing around the blogosphere, including - predictably - many shouts of " whitewash" by critics of climate science and proclamations of vindication by the scientists and institution thrust into the spotlight after the unauthorized release of a batch of e-mail strings and files revealed the sometimes-unseemly back story behind climate research. More cheers came from champions of aggressive cuts in greenhouse gases, as did at least one complaint about a mistaken interpretation of how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change functions.
(Revkin has coined an alternate phrase for climate skeptics: "climate stasists." Not to be confused with"climate statists," not a bad description of those who want massive state power thrown against the unconfirmed threat of global warming.)
Many of those promoting stasis in the face of a clear need for a global energy quest have used this saga as a kind of "blackwash" that will long linger like a cloud, tainting public appreciation of even the undisputed basics of science pointing to a rising human influence on climate.
In this passage, Revkin seemed apologetic for being obliged to seek out libertarian climatologist Patrick Michaels. His iconoclastic stand was apparently worthy of some immature and violent e-mail bravado from a government scientist named Benjamin Santer, as revealed in the Cliamtegate emails.
But what such critics forget is that many of the e-mail messages enabled the allegations that were then propounded by folks like Anthony Watts and amplified by professional anti-climate-policy campaigners like Marc Morano.
I would have had no need, in my initial print story on the affair last December, to seek a comment from Patrick J. Michaels - a climatologist who speaks and writes on energy and climate policy for the Cato Institute, which fights most regulatory solutions to environmental problems - if Benjamin Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, using his government e-mail account, had not vented to colleagues on October 9, 2009, in this way:
I'm really sorry that you have to go through all this stuff, Phil. Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I'll be tempted to beat the [expletive] out of him. Very tempted.
That is how Michaels was given the platform to pronounce, "This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud."
Revkin pushed a perceived intellectual advantage based on the alleged discrediting of the Climategate controversy by asking Michaels if he stands by his earlier "mushroom cloud" statement.
Q. I was wondering if you still saw the e-mail lode (and documents) as "a mushroom cloud"? In essence, more than seven months after the disclosures, what - to your mind - was revealed that substantively changed what is understood about the research examining a human influence on climate? The mushroom cloud statement sure looks overblown these days by any reasonable standard when you put the e-mail messages in the broader context of global warming research, to my mind. Do you still think it's a valid metaphor?
Michaels responded in the affirmative, noting "there is much less sentiment for massive emissions reductions now...it triggered a lot of inquiry into the details of the I.P.C.C. reports...and was associated with a major reduction in the public's certainty about climate science. That sounds like a rather large explosion to me!"
Revkin excused government scientist Santer's "pugilistic musings about Michaels" while hailing his "remarkably trenchant, readable explanation" of how such violent insults, when put in proper context, shouldn't cause anyone to actually doubt the good faith of "scientific basis for concern about the ongoing buildup of greenhouse gases."
In a post earlier that day, topped "Climategate Fever Breaks ," Revkin also advanced the notion that climate skeptics had severely overplayed their hand:
For months, the stasist blogosphere has been aflame with 'Gates of various kinds - attempts to spin one or two errors or overstatements on particular issues, along with various comments in the East Anglia e-mail messages, into the unraveling of the many lines of science pointing to a rising, and risky, human influence on the climate system.
And a July 6 Revkin post cast the whistleblowers who leaked the e-mails showing scientists avoiding legal Freedom of Information requests as the bad guys, a rather strange position for a journalist to take: "Was the East Anglia Incident a Crime? "
You can follow Times Watch on Twitter .