Has ‘Climategate’ Affected Your Trust in Science?

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Published on February 8th, 2010  |  Discuss This Article  

Have recent revelations about email dustups and some unsupported claims regarding climate change shaken your confidence in science as a whole? Or are these just anomalies and human failings, and your trust in science-based actions still strong? Let us know — leave a comment below.

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32 Responses to “Has ‘Climategate’ Affected Your Trust in Science?”

  1. Schiller Thurkettle says:

    Your question poses a false dichotomy, and thus can’t be fairly answered on its own terms.

    The revelations which constitute Climategate mean little by themselves. It’s the reaction that counts — and the outrage has actually served to strengthen, and bring to the fore, the virtues and practices which should typify what is best in the scientific enterprise.

    This has nothing to do with ‘trust in science-based actions’, except to the extent that one principal virtue of well-done science is to *not* trust.

  2. That’s a little circular, Schiller. Climategate and some of the more recent revelations don’t guarantee that science will be done better going forth — they guarantee that, for at least a little while, people will remember that science is done by human beings, and therefore not infallible. So the question is very much of the moment: Has your faith in the objectivity of science been shaken by these disputes, or do you still have faith that most scientists are doing their best to remain objective? Because, without being able to examine a study’s or a body of knowledge’s scientific methods, it is an act of faith (or trust, if “faith” makes you uncomfortable) on the part of non-scientists that scientists are acting objectively to the best of their abilities. You’re confusing the inherent skepticism of the scientific method with the need for the public and policymakers to, at some point, accept on a body of scientific knowledge and act on it.

  3. Danna says:

    It was my understanding that the comments in the e-mails were taken out of context in-order to paint a picture of a lack of objectivity for the purposes of discrediting climate change science. Being that every major scientific institution and organizational body has come out with statements either confirming (the vast majority of them) human induced climate change or not refuting it, I can’t see how this manuever would cause me much skepticism.

    Unfortunately so few people know the reality of the scientific concensus that it has caused massive doubt at this point, which is of no real help in addressing climate change or any other of the many threats currently coming down on much of the Earth’s ecosystem that can cause major havoc for us all. Thank goodness for the Nature Conservancy’s successes at getting lands set aside for conservation.

  4. Robin Butler says:

    I still have faith and trust the science community.

  5. Ken Kohler says:

    No, from what I understand the flap was mutch to do about nothing, just flap.

  6. Bob says:

    I think that anyone who doesn’t believe there are some (maybe many)scientists today who have an agenda is not living in reality. Even once reputable universities now, in some cases, must alter or reword conclusions inorder to get certain grants from foundations, corporations, and the government. IMO the bottom line here is: we will be “closing the barn door after the horse is gone” on this issue with devastating results. The “worse possible scenario” is where our focus should be and “global dimming” should also be added to the equation.

  7. Michael Allen says:

    Climategate was just a way for everyone an attempt to have people run from the truth.

  8. Teresa says:

    Speaking as a scientist, no one should have “faith” in science, which would be little different than faith in religion. Faith generally means a belief not based on proof, or an overriding confidence.

    Rather than either being opposed to science or having “faith” in science, people should just realize that, in the long run, it has proven to be the best method for understanding and predicting the physical world. Scientists are often wrong, and particular studies are often poorly done, but over time the process has worked incredibly well.

  9. I think recent events have sparked some public discussion about issues that have plagued the scientific community for generations. My trust in science remains, and I hope that the discussion continues, as well.

  10. James Richard Tyrer says:

    I was already aware of the politicization of science. ClimateGate was just another instance. This is not about distrusting science. It is about being cautious, or cynical, about claims which are made in a political context about things that are supposedly backed up by science.

    As politicians continue to use sophistry to convince us about alleged scientific results, we need to develop better critical thinking skills. We need to be particularly cautious when science is used to sell something which is really political.

  11. M Pettey says:

    “faith” is a religious term and has no place in this discussion. “trust” is quite another sort of thing. I trust peer reviewed scientific investigation. However, biased reinterpretation of computer generated trends is not science. It is propaganda. Stick to science and one has a better basis for argument.

  12. Changing the word “faith” to “confidence” in the text, since it seems to be distracting so many people.

  13. Suzzanne L. says:

    The scientific studies will continue to produce the evidence and facts involving climate change and anthropogenic causes. The relatively minor errors that have come to light recently are likely to tighten up the process of the study of climate science,which is overall positive for the field of study.

    This is much like the debate over smoking causing cancer. I have confidence that, in the end, solid science will prevail.

  14. Debra Green says:

    l’m a science student,and l care very much about global warming and how it affects animals.

  15. Dr. Donald R. Wire says:

    The history of science is full of false claims and these have not destroyed the enterprise of science and its method. This a part of the dialectic of science and this epistemology reveals the false claims in the process. Scientists begin with presuppositions and these influence how they do their research and the arguments they make. This is a part of other endeavors such as the political one.

  16. alex says:

    i think i have a good solution on how to lessen or eliminate or you may say change carbon into oxygen in the atmosphere…. but i don’t know who to contact to.

  17. Jane Dolan says:

    I grew up in central Minnesota, near St. Cloud. I grew up in a beautiful valley in Luxembourg Township. I never appreciated it until my father passed away and some of us had to what we always called home. My brother owns the land and so I am still able to visit frequently. There has been recent talk of a wind/energy company moring into the area. This would ruin this valley. The wildlife in the area and the trees that just grow up naturally if you let them are a sight to behold. I’m not against wind energy, I just believe this is not the appropriate place for it. I’m hoping you can give me some direction to pursue to discourage wind energy from moving into the area. I really believe there are much better sources of energy that can be pursued for this area. I have been told that the proplr in the area do not want this.
    I’ll appreciate any ideas or help you can give me to pass onto the people who live in the area.
    I have taken photo’s over the years of the area if they will be of any help. Please feel free to email me. Regards, Jane

  18. Jane, you might want to start by contacting one of our offices in Minnesota and seeing what they say. See our Contact Us page at http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/minnesota/contact/

  19. cass says:

    i think we should help them

  20. Paul Novak says:

    My trust in science is quite intact. Science is not the people within it, but rather the process used by those people. Science does not fail,or make mistakes, people do. It does not surprise me that there is cronyism, back scratching, and the like that happens in scientific organizations.

    I would hope, that rather than providing the knee jerk reaction that was hoped for by those who made these emails public, that instead understanding and common ethical concerns were instead directed back at them.

    Science is a tool, the knowledge it reveals the end product. If the product is well made, the tool was used properly.
    Its is telling, that those who cite these emails as evidence of something nefarious, still fail in addressing what the science of it all is telling us.

    They are trying to shoot the messenger, rather than address the message.

    My confidence would be shaken in the scientists, and not the science, if their conclusions were proven in error. To date, they are not, and data continues to support them.

    It takes more than implication ans insinuation to sink a theory. It takes solid science.

  21. Susan Robinson says:

    Climategate has not affected my trust in science. The science is conclusive about climate change. It is also conclusive about forests and clearcutting which is why I find it repulsive that The Nature Conservancy in California has publically supported clearcutting our forests in California for the sake of “carbon”. That is why my family has removed The Nature Conservancy from our family trust. My trust in the Nature Conservancy has been destroyed. TNC is fully behind and an instrument of the new CAR forest protocols that endorse complete clearcutting of our forests in California and converting them to tree plantations. They just don’t want donors to know their position. This position emboldens California’s largest clearcutter to keep clearcutting the Sierra Nevada.

  22. Michael Melius says:

    My confidence in science as a whole remains strong. Individual scientists and their claims always should be doubted, though–that just makes good science.

    For example, the statement by Robert McDonald on p. 11 of the Spring 2010 issue of “Nature Conservancy”: “Climate change will have a much bigger impact on wildlife than anything outlined in this report.”

    What is the basis for that prediction?

    From here in the Great Plains, it seems like the land/habitat impacts of the “devils we know”, biofuels and wind farms, could be worse than the devil we don’t know, climate change.

  23. Sally Hausken says:

    No, but I fear it has impacted the mindset of Americans in general. Unfortunate because the danger continues to be with us. I do think that corporate America is far enough down the path toward revolutionizing the system (e.g. transportation, energy, water) that they are not going to reverse now. They recognize that to stay on top, the USA is going to HAVE to optimize our ever changing technology that can improve and sustain life on the planet.

  24. J. Stormer says:

    Having spent 45 years in university research (Geosciences), I know that Science is more of a “contact sport” than the lay public generally realizes. However, like Wikipedia it works very well in the aggregate despite the apparent disagreements. In fact it probably works BECAUSE of the open give and take.

    “Trust” may be the wrong word, however. We each need to evaluate sources, and not necessarily “trust” any one. Having “confidence” that most science is conducted honestly if at times passionately is maybe a better way of describing my feeling.

  25. John Matel says:

    I don’t think it has to do with science so much as perversion of science. It is always a danger to science when people embrace a cause too enthusiastically.

  26. Dahmert L. Banks says:

    Yes, don’t trust the reports, secondly can’t believe you would have Cheryl Crow doing benefit. Just more to support not trusting the reports.

  27. Jim says:

    Nothing could shake my confidence in science as a whole. Science is a method and a way of looking at the world. Politics is messy but unfortunately necessary. Dogmatism is the real evil. Not being able to admit you might be wrong or listen to evidence.

  28. Martin Burke says:

    I hope most people have the common sense to see the climategate for what it was – a public relations exercise by the climate change denial industry (and it is an industry – read George Monbiot’s book Heat if in any doubt). It failed because; a) the scientific evidence for man-made global warming is concrete and b) it highlighted the sheer hypocrisy of the deniers who scrutinise and challenge only those who they disagree with in stark contrast to actual scientists who take nothing for granted and make their own work available for peer-review (even while their opponents hide behind a veils of ambiguity, double-speak and fake ‘grass-roots’ organisations).

    Much, much more concerning is the evidence being brought to light by the Independent’s Johann Hari and others that ‘green’ organisations and campaigns such as The Nature Conservancy one are compromising their credibility, and possibly even their whole agendas, by taking money from corporate polluters.

    You can read Johann’s article about it here: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100322/hari.
    And find responses from some of the organisations here: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100322/forum.

    Karen Foerstel’s (of TNC) response is very disappointing. The allegations made against TNC and others are extremely serious and warrant a proper response. Why aren’t TNC able to provide a more robust answer to the allegations?

  29. Bernard Mensah says:

    I still trust in science

  30. taisne bernard says:

    in Haïti,forests come from 80% to 2%
    “COOPlanteurs” can plant 400 fruits Trees by one acre (1000 / hectare)
    USD 1 million finance 4 millions fruits Trees
    Their Fruits self-finance hundreds millions fruits trees.
    COOPerateurs will be sustained by “AMA” fonds de dotation for Africans Mutual Assistance,with your first USD Million, then by self-financing.
    “AMA” 7 rue du Rhin 68300 StLouis
    capitaisne@yahoo.fr

  31. Dave Connell says:

    Martin, I’m an employee at The Nature Conservancy and I can respond to your question.

    First off, thanks so much for giving us the chance to respond to your concerns. We’ve read The Nation’s piece and do have some thoughts on it.

    The first point we’d like to make is that the vast majority — some 90 percent — of the Conservancy’s funding comes from the individual donations of our 1 million-plus members, not from corporations. In other words, people like you fund The Nature Conservancy.

    Second, we believe that environmental sustainability requires finding ways to meet society’s growing economic demands while ensuring nature remains healthy and strong enough to provide the food, water, shelter and income we all rely upon for survival.
    It’s our stance that it would be wrong not to work with these companies – which through their daily actions and decisions have a major impact on our natural world — in an effort to find strategies that benefit both people and nature.

    We also want to correct some inaccuracies contained in the article:
    1. Despite The Nation’s claims we in fact do support policies to combat climate change and that will keep temperatures increases below the 2 degree C “tipping point.”

    2. The Nation insinuates that we seek to profit from our forest carbon work. This is demonstrably false: We have never received any forest carbon credits or “offsets” that can be traded on the carbon market from our REDD programs around the world.
    In our Noel Kempff REDD project in Bolivia, the Conservancy spent $2.6 million helping develop and implement the project, but received absolutely no carbon rights.

    I would also add that we sent all of this information to the Nation’s reporter when he first contacted us in January. We find it unfortunate that the Nation chose not to publish any of our responses to their questions.

  32. barry says:

    Having studied mathematical meteorology I have some sense of climate model uncertainties. But CO2 levels have indeed increased since the industrial revolution and we are allowing a crapshoot with our atmosphere. True conservatives, being prudent, should object to that but sadly, the “conservative” movement has been bought off by the fossil fuel industry. I can see why some alarmed scientists have exaggerated, though they, and allied advocates, should resist temptations to overstate the dangers or the certainties.

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