Yesterday, I appeared on MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner to talk about The Republican Brain. It was largely an interview about what’s going on with conservatives and science right now—why they distrust it so much–but S.E. Cupp, the conservative on the panel, called my argument “infuriating.”
Then, she proceeded to attack climate science and the researchers who produce it—doing a very good job of proving my point about conservatives and science! Brad Johnson has provided a transcript at Think Progress (video below it):
CUPP: There have been, to quote Rick Santorum, phony studies on climate change. East Anglia University I should mention!
WAGNER: And that study –
CUPP: Every time science has been corrupted by politics, everyone in the scientific community should be worried!
I deliberately didn’t answer Cupp’s point about “East Anglia University” on the air. But let me answer it now.
First, the “ClimateGate” issue at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Center was about stolen emails, not “phony studies.”
Second, conservatives did claim that the emails proved some sort of fraud or wrongdoing on the part of scientists. But the emails didn’t actually show that. Multiple investigations (see a discussion here and here) in the wake of “ClimateGate” vindicated the scientists whose emails had been exposed, showing that these charges weren’t valid.
Third and most important, the central conclusion of climate science—humans are causing global warming—was never at stake in “ClimateGate.” The case for human-caused global warming depends on multiple independent lines of evidence, and the conclusion has been ratified by a much broader body of scientists than those principally involved in the “ClimateGate.”
All of this has been said before, of course. And it isn’t, frankly, very interesting.
What is interesting is that S.E. Cupp made these assertions, which have been so convincingly refuted. Clearly, they still float around the conservative ether, where “ClimateGate” is still considered to be the ultimate rebuttal to all things global warming-related.
Rush Limbaugh has cited “ClimateGate” in essentially the same way. And it is no doubt what Rick Santorum too had in mind in talking about “phony studies.” So what’s up with this? Why cite bogus charges that were long since refuted, and that even if accurate, wouldn’t actually matter? Why seize on “ClimateGate,” even though in an intellectual sense, doing so gets you nowhere?
Here’s what I wrote back in June:
Remember what things were like before [“ClimateGate”] happened. We were coming off 2007, when Al Gore and the IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize. We’d just elected President Obama, who was backing cap-and-trade legislation and a Copenhagen deal. The science—and the policy—of global warming had all the momentum behind them. If you didn’t believe that the problem was real and needed to be addressed, you were in a pretty difficult position.
ClimateGate was a true blessing in this regard for climate skeptics and deniers. It furnished a brand new excuse to dismiss it all. It was all a scam! …
So “ClimateGate” was seized upon—and then, to borrow a term from psychology, after “seizing” “freezing” may have occurred for some. Minds were made up, and no new evidence was admissible—because “ClimateGate” proved it was all a hoax. Thus, whenever global warming comes up, we now hear “ClimateGate” cited endlessly, as a way of shutting down further consideration—as a vindication, even. And it’s completely baffling, if you know (as we all do) that the science of climate is as strong as it ever was, the issue didn’t go away, and “ClimateGate” doesn’t really have any substantive significance.
In other words, the people citing “ClimateGate” in this way simply may not have performed a complete, thorough, or accuracy-motivated information search. Rather, they seized on just enough information to reaffirm their beliefs. That they’re nonetheless willing to make such grave and serious charges against scientific researchers—on such a weak basis–is why it is more than fair to point out that in the end, they are really just attacking and undermining science and scientists.
So thank you again, S.E. Cupp, for proving my point.