The distinction between utterly politicized scientists such as Jones, Mann, and NASA’s James Hansen, and other more sober scientists has been lost on the media and climate campaigners for a long time now, and as a result, the CRUtape letters will cast a shadow on the entire field. There is no doubt plenty more of this kind of corruption in other hotbeds of climate science, but there are also a lot of unbiased scientists trying to do important and valuable work. Climate alarmists and their media cheerleaders are fond of warning about “tipping points” to disaster, but ironically this episode may represent a tipping point against the alarmists. The biggest hazard to serious climate science all along was not so much contrarian arguments from skeptics, but rather the damage that the hyperbole of the environmental community would inflict on their own cause.
Climate change is a genuine phenomenon, and there is a nontrivial risk of major consequences in the future. Yet the hysteria of the global warming campaigners and their monomaniacal advocacy of absurdly expensive curbs on fossil fuel use have led to a political dead end that will become more apparent with the imminent collapse of the Kyoto-Copenhagen process. I have long expected that 20 or so years from now we will look back on the turn-of-the-millennium climate hysteria in the same way we look back now on the population bomb hysteria of the late 1960s and early 1970s–as a phenomenon whose magnitude and effects were vastly overestimated, and whose proposed solutions were wrongheaded and often genuinely evil (such as the forced sterilizations of thousands of Indian men in the 1970s, much of it funded by the Ford Foundation). Today the climate campaigners want to forcibly sterilize the world’s energy supply, and until recently they looked to be within an ace of doing so. But even before Climategate, the campaign was beginning to resemble a Broadway musical that had run too long, with sagging box office and declining enthusiasm from a dwindling audience. Someone needs to break the bad news to the players that it’s closing time for the climate horror show.