Washington Post associate editor Eugene Robinson Friday called the growing ClimateGate scandal a "major embarrassment for the scientists involved" that undermines the "consensus" concerning man's role in global warming.
Even more concerning to Robinson was that these scientists "seem to be trying to squelch dissent" from anyone that disagrees with them.
"The fact is that climate science is fiendishly hard because of the enormous number of variables that interact in ways no one fully understands," he wrote. "Scientists should welcome contrarian views from respected colleagues, not try to squelch them. They should admit what they don't know."
As you can see, Robinson was by no means trying to downplay the significance of this scandal:
That said, the e-mail episode is more than a major embarrassment for the scientists involved. Most Americans are convinced that climate change is real -- a necessary prerequisite for the kinds of huge economic and behavioral adjustments we would have to make to begin seriously limiting carbon emissions. But consensus on the nature and scope of the problem will dissipate, and fast, if experts try to obscure the fact that there's much about the climate they still don't know.
After explaining some of ClimateGate's details -- and doing a surprisingly good job of it! -- Robinson editorialized:
From my reading, the most damning e-mails are those in which scientists seem to be trying to squelch dissent from climate-change orthodoxy -- threatening to withhold papers from journals if they publish the work of naysayers, vowing to keep skeptical research out of the official U.N.-sponsored report on climate change.
In his statement, Jones noted that the e-mail hack occurred just days before the climate summit in Copenhagen. "This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change," he said. There's that understatement again.
The fact is that climate science is fiendishly hard because of the enormous number of variables that interact in ways no one fully understands. Scientists should welcome contrarian views from respected colleagues, not try to squelch them. They should admit what they don't know.
To be sure, this scandal hasn't changed Robinson's mind:
It would be great if this were all a big misunderstanding. But we know carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and we know the planet is hotter than it was a century ago. The skeptics might have convinced one another, but so far they haven't gotten through to the vanishing polar ice.
However, the rare abundance of skepticism in his piece means that even a strong "consensus" believer like himself has been rocked by this scandal, so much so that he's even willing to write about it.