Finally the faux scandal which will forever be known as "Climategate
" is more or less over. An Academic Board of Inquiry has cleared Michael E. Mann,
the climatologist at the center of the controversy.
After a team of paid hackers illegally infiltrated the e-mail servers of the University of E. Anglia, they thought they had evidence (finally, at last) a shred of evidence that might discredit the work of an entire generation of climate scientists.
The evidence was this: the word "trick."
Unfortunately, the scientists were slow, VERY slow to respond to the wild stampede of climate skeptics who, in a frenzied dance of false victory, managed to dominate the blogosphere, the radio waves and even major TV outlets. Within 48 hours the term "Climategate" was being used on CNN and by the end of the week, a vast majority of the public believed there was indeed a true scandal at play.
According to George Monbiot (watch his biting and funny video
assessment of what happened on those fateful few days), it took a full two weeks for the university to offer a rebuttal, a hesitation that the popular press would quite understandably interpret as guilt.
But the facts were quite simple. Michael Mann had come up with a "trick" to integrate two very different streams of data — one set from tree rings and the other from earth core samples. It was a testament to his brilliant statistical abilities, not to his evil scheme-plotting. So why attack Mann?
Well it turns out that Michael Mann was the man behind the "hocky stick" graph made famous by the film The Inconvenient Truth. That single graph, maybe the most important graph in our cultural history, managed to galvanize public and political support around the world for climate legislation. It also made Mann and his Inconvenient Graph a juicy target for attack.
There was one good thing that came out of the whole "Climategate" affair — a profound recognition by progressives that the scientific community is wholly, totally and completely inept when it comes to PR. And it is, in fact, their abhorrence of any form of public communication that has cost the movement to save the planet very dearly.
And we can't expect scientists to change. They are scientists precisely because they didn't care about being the popular kids in school. That's like trying to ask a celebrity to stop being narcissistic. It's just part of what makes them good at what they do.
So I say, let's start a Science Team bake sale and raise some money for those poor, underfunded, white lab-coated geeks to hire a good PR firm ... and maybe a little hair and make-up while we're at it.