Well hallelujah! We’ve been waiting years to read something bordering on sensible from UCC’s ‘Public Awareness of Science’ officer and Irish Times columnist William Reville on the subject of climate change and by golly, this week’s offering was very, very nearly there.
Reville did a review/critique of sorts of Duncan Stewart’s excellent recent RTE documentary, ‘A Burning Question‘ (though he didn’t actually manage to get the title right). Regarding Climategate, Reville has had little short of an epiphany. Today he writes: “…it soon became clear that most of the suspicious e-mail content was just insider jargon and “macho” posturing and did not weaken the overall scientific case for climate change”.
What a fascinating volte face from the ‘Public Awareness of Science’ expert! In the same column in the same paper last December, Reville was, well, revelling in the exposure of the great climate swindle: “The e-mails appear to reveal scientists on the majority side of the debate massaging data to suit their anthropic global warming (AGW) hypothesis, dragging their heels on freedom of information requests, and conspiring to block scientists who oppose AGW from publishing their results”. This was, he breathlessly reported, an “explosive development”.
In the same shoddy piece, he trotted out another favourite denialist canard: “In the 1970s, climatologists predicted that an ice-age was imminent and environmental biologists warned that acid rain would destroy wildlife”. He followed it up with a despicable slur on real scientists, the ones, unlike Reville, who carry out actual climate research, often in some of the most hostile locations on earth, and publish their findings in major peer-reviewed journals. This effort is dismissed with this breathlessly cynical put-down: “There is an understandable temptation for environmental scientists, who depend on government grants, to exaggerate dangers”.
Reville then quickly lapsed into his favoured pseudo-religious babble: “modern scientific forecasters and their green supporters fulfil the same psychological need as the old religious prophets who preached that the end of the world will be God’s punishment for sinners.” This drivel says infinitely more about its author than the people he thinks he is putting down.
Journalist Marco Chiappi did a splendid dissection of Reville’s sordid little piece in a posting we published here on December 13 last. Headlined ‘Latest recruit to the Confederacy of Climate Dunces’, Chiappi tore Reville’s fabrications to shreds, line by line, piece by piece, slur by slur. Unlike some of the rank idiots who jumped on the Climategate wagon out of genuine stupidity, Reville doesn’t even have the fig leaf of science ignorance to hide his shame.
Anyhow, now that Reville accepts that Climategate was a gigantic anti-science hoax, I searched in vain in today’s contribution for his public apology for his role in disseminating and – to the unwary – giving credence to this vicious fabrication. Instead of humility, we get more pouting and self-pity.
“I was denounced as a ‘climate dunce’ and lectured on the nature of science by non-scientists who seem to ignore the fact that scepticism is a primary characteristic of the scientific method.” Boo hoo, Willie. If you pull out your dictionary, you might look up the word ‘sceptic’ and then the word ‘cynic’. I think you’ll find your histrionics fit firmly into the latter category. Anyone describing himself as a scientist owes the public – and his fellow scientists – a grovelling public apology for grievously misrepresenting this issue.
Back to Chiappi’s critique: “The problem with Reville’s bleating on this subject is that he has access to all the academic journals in which the tricks and hidden declines to which Jones refers have been openly canvassed. Briffa has been publishing on these problems since at least 1998. And as any academic knows, as Reville certainly should that when you adjust data you indicate where this has happened. Does Reville point to any evidence where this hasn’t happened? Of course not, for conspiracy stories are better served by quoting the shorthand between academics rather than reading the articles in which the shorthand is given a full and rigorous academic expression.”
The thousands of stolen emails from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit over a 13 year period yielded two or three sentences which, with the aid of the likes of Reville, were inflated and distorted into a great big scientific conspiracy that “…will undoubtedly weaken the AGW case…”.
And the good Professor, despite his own complete lack of expertise in climate science (his specialty is biochemistry) sounds kinda sorta like an expert, so his idealogical hostility to anything vaguely left-of-centre (environmentalism, sustainability, climate science, etc. etc.) can be packaged up as expert ‘sceptical scientific dissent’ and then parroted back through the media echo chamber. Lordy.
Reville concludes today’s homily with a good question: “How should we persuade people about the reality/ implications of climate change?” Answering his own question, he says: “First, the preaching must stop.” Turns out that tacking catastrophic climate change is “an exciting adventure that will probably require some sacrifice”. To paraphrase Meg Ryan from that famous orgasm scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally”, I’ll have what Prof. Reville is smoking!
On a more serious note, a really good place to start might be to agree to stop telling lies and spreading disinformation (that old 1970s ‘global cooling’ bullshit really needs to be laid to rest for once and for all). Back in June 2008, Reville launched one of his more infamous anti-environmental tirades which included such penetrating wisdoms as: “many leading greens seem to be Marxists” and “the green movement believes in God, or more precisely, a Godess called Gaia”. He went on to attempt to ridicule the “golden rule of sustainability”, as if sustainability were somehow a Marxist plot instead of being a basic axiom of life.
That particular piece began thus: “I recently heard Minister for the Environment John Gormley advocating the green way to brush your teeth – turn off the tap while you brush to conserve water. There is a green way to do almost everything – eating, travelling, shopping, etc – and you could spend your whole time pondering green choices about the minutiae of your life. The green philosophy is, at core, a secular religion”.
Sometimes you encounter arguments that are so poorly constructed, so manifestly shallow and ideological, that you wonder if simply ignoring them would in reality be the best course. A letter published in the Irish Times back in June ’08 really nailed Reville’s sophistry. It concluded: “Denial, generally the preserve of the determindely ignorant, ill befits Dr Reville, who frankly should know better than to rely on the propaganda that more commonly characterises the less evolved of the industrialist species. His credibility is in tatters and one can only wonder at his motives.”
Willie, time to put away your shovel. At the rate you’re digging, it’s only a matter of time before you and Plimer meet somewhere in the centre of the Earth (unless, of course, the Earth is flat!).