Before delving into the fracas surrounding the climate scientists' purloined e-mails, it's important to say that I have yet to hear one climate denialist acknowledge that it's not OK to steal other people's mail in the electronic equivalent of breaking and entering.
Not even a weasly "Naturally, we don't condone theft, but..." statement. No, faux "conservatives," who supposedly champion law and order and property rights, are brazenly waving around stolen property like hooligans who have just ransacked a liquor store.
With that point made, let's examine a few points about the e-mails.
They show that scientists are human, complete with all the emotions wrapped up in the human package. When people feel that their integrity has been wrongfully impeached and that their life work has been manipulated, misrepresented, and distorted by grandstanding politicians and ideologues, then people are likely to act out. They might behave badly, like call people names - heaven forfend if climate denialist bloggers and talk show hosts were to call people names. They might exercise poor judgment by discussing ways to withhold information from said grandstanders and ideologues, which simply gives the merchants of deception another club with which to beat honest scientists.
To assert that the stolen e-mails disprove the case for climate change linked to human activities, a case bolstered by multiple, independent lines of evidence, is absurd. Such arguments reveal more about the denialists who spend their time breathing each other's exhaust than about scientists who are managing the most complex research enterprise in the history of the world.
Skeptics who honestly are not sure about climate science and are willing to do the hard work of finding things out for themselves rather than accepting information regurgitated from Rush Limbaugh, can take a look at raw data, including temperature sources, paleo-records, modeling outputs, and more by clicking here.
They can be assured that multiple sources, including NASA and other credible institutions, have determined that the atmosphere's CO2 levels are at their highest point in mega-millennia, the atmosphere is heating up, Arctic sea ice is shrinking, the oceans are warming, and the oceans are growing more acidic.
A bit more on that latter point. If lay skeptics can't bring themselves to accept that CO2 traps heat - a phenomenon not visible to the naked eye and not something one could learn from a student's chemistry set - then ocean acidification, global warming's evil twin, might be convincing. The chemistry of carbon dioxide dissolving in seawater and making it more acidic is easier to grasp. So are the impacts - coral reefs and shelled sea organisms at the base of the marine food chain can't build their shell structures in water that is more acidic than they're used to. Mess with the ocean's food chain and you mess with food sources that people depend on.
And surely, conservatives who resist the notion of accepting a human link to climate change because liberals have accepted it can agree that oil dependence endangers America's security and enriches rogue regimes that finance terrorists and seek nuclear weapons proliferation. They can agree that America should not cede markets in advanced energy technologies to other countries. They can agree that market-friendly energy policies can create a fair playing field where the technologies of tomorrow can compete for the labor and capital that will create new wealth in the 21st century.
Finally, conservatives can repair to their own intellectual tradition rather than simply react spasmodically to liberals. As conservative writer Andrew Sullivan noted in an eloquent post in his Daily Dish blog, conserving our inheritance for the unborn is deeply conservative. Sullivan wrote that true conservatives "believe in the harvest but also in the need for fallow years and for care and husbandry of animals and plants and environments. And they love their home for its specificity and its beauty, and do not want its stability and future gambled away on the casino of greed."
In the December 4 Washington Post, James Murdoch, son of Rupert and News Corporation's CEO for Europe and Asia, called on conservatives to escape from the heat of today's partisan politics and find their conservation voices again. They need to be heard and time is short.
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