By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why Climategate doesn’t matter (VIII)

Henry David Thoreau

The series explained.

Since the 1850s, when Henry David Thoreau was living at Walden Pond, the mean annual temperature in the Concord area has risen by 4.3 degrees. And that warming has had an effect.

According to a study by scientists from Harvard University and other research institutions, 27 percent of the native plant species that Thoreau documented have gone missing, and another 36 percent are under threat, Carolyn Johnson reports in the Boston Globe.

Explains researcher Charles Davis, quoted by Harvard Magazine: “Climate change will lead to an as-yet unknown shuffling of species, and it appears that invasive species will become more dominant.”

What makes the situation at Walden unusual is that Thoreau kept meticulous records, making it possible for scientists to document changes in ways that just can’t be done in most parts of the country. As University of Wisconsin researcher Mark Schwartz told back in 2008, when the study was being conducted:

Whenever you have an opportunity to get a dataset where someone who has made very careful efforts to observe things in a systematic way, it gives you a snapshot of a particular time period and lets you make comparisons.

And before you say “global warming is good for you,” take a look at this assessment from Harvard scientist Davis:

Invasive species can be intensely destructive to biodiversity, ecosystem function, agriculture, and human health. In the United States alone the estimated annual cost of invasive species exceeds $120 billion. Our results could help in developing predictive models to assess the threat of future invasive species, which may become greatly exacerbated in the face of continued climate change.

All posts in this series.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.


Reconnecting with your audience


A new comments policy — now with real names


  1. Dave McK

    This is silly.
    There is no species that is not ‘an invasive species’.
    Becoming a species means every single offspring is also an invader.
    Moving from one place to another may be called invasion but expansion due to Darwinian success is mischaracterized by such a narrow slant. Likewise, migration is a proper description of the geographic relocation of any population over time.

    Make the Canadian geese get passports, then? The salmon get a FASTRACK rfid? More to the point- did your ancestors originate somewhere different than where you are now, invader?

    Nature is not static.


    Aren’t statistics wonderful? If you’re an average person – or even a mean one – you have one ovary and one testicle!

  2. It’s the speed of the climate change, as much as the change itself, which is disruptive. After all, having somebody place their hand against your cheek is very different from having them slap your cheek, even though it’s the same action.

    An extra 4 degrees F. in 160 years is fast by long-term climate standards.

    Such speed makes Darwinian adaption much more complicated, favoring aggressive behavior that humans often find unpleasant. This, in turn, helps create a world dominated by so-called “weed species” (rats, crows, plants that spread through both roots and pollen rather than through, say, succulent fruits).

    We can comfort ourselves with statistical analysis all we want, but that won’t be much consolation as the sugar maples fade from our forests and we have to start keeping possums out of the yard.

  3. MarkB

    So Climategate doesn’t matter if you ignore climategate? Nice trick.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @MarkB: Try thinking this through. Squabbling among scientists doesn’t matter if real-world experience shows us the earth is heating up.

  4. lkcape

    Real-world experience may well show the earth heating up.

    But the admitted erasure of a key base data and the disingenuous of the some prominent climate scientists make the reasons claimed for the observed warming suspect.

    For someone, Dan, who admits his inability and unwillingness to delve into the data to see what is really being said, you seem to be flogging this particular view based on little more than pure faith.

    There are more explanations for the observations than you are willing to address.

    The earth has experienced several periods of relatively significant warming since the last ice age. Your view fails to account for the current observed climate conditions possibly being another such warming period.

    Some Greenland ice cores have shown high concentrations of CO2 in the past. Your view fails to accept the possibility that the current rise may be offset by some, as yet unforeseen climate phenomenon. (It has happened before; why not this time?)

    Time to be a bit more open minded.

    Would you care to comment on the fact that the Himalayan glaciers are NOT deteriorating at the significant rate claimed and the scientist who made the claim knew the true conditions and elected not to make them public or alter his stance?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Ikcape: Whatever scandal may exist, it does not have anything to do with whether humans are responsible for global warming. The data involve whether the earth is heating up. Period. The scandal does not shed any light on the human contribution. If you want to believe that humans have nothing to do with global warming, you’re free to do so.

      I have already commented on the Himalayan glaciers, and am not going to do so again except to correct you. The glaciers are deteriorating at exactly the rate that they are deteriorating, which is quite a bit. You’re referring to a prediction, which is an entirely different matter.

  5. lkcape

    Wow, Dan. The glaciers are deteriorating a the rate they are deteriorating.

    How profound.

    But exactly the type of answer that I expected.

    We note that you have chosen to address only a small portion of the questions asked.

    I have never contended that man what not a part of the equation, as you wish to presume.

    I merely question your continuing dedication to a proposition that you admit that you do not understand and that you admit that you are unqualified to assess.

    Man will either adapt or go extinct.

    What makes us so immune to natural selection and the passage of time?

    Certainly not man’s ability to reason!

    But more to the point, Dan, what is your solution?

    So far, we merely have your continuing admissions that you are part of the problem, what with your being typical consumer of the energy that causes the dreadful gas that is at the root of our travails?

    Be that as it may, it would be useful for you to see AGW in broader terms that would allow for other interpretations as to the cause(s) — as there may well be — and to the ability of this awful creature called “man” to affect solution.

    Quite frankly, I do not see man as being able to do much in the way of change to materially alter the future to his liking, for capability and capacity reasons as well as natural.

  6. Dunque

    I’m not even sure where to begin w/Dan’s response. This is blind, willful ignorance.

    “The data involves whether the earth is heating up.” Yes, but since that data has been shown to be questionably derived, how does one place any faith in the subsequent conclusion that it is caused by humans?

    How does one explain previous heating and cooling periods during non-fossil fuel influenced time frames?

    “The glaciers are deteriorating at exactly the rate that they are deteriorating…” Doesn’t really qualify as scientific contribution.

    But since the original, now clearly shown to be faulty, prediction posited 2035 disappearance of those glaciers why would anyone trust any subsequent prediction all of which, let’s admit it, must rely on a straight line continued progression of the same trends seen over X period of time? Are you seriously positing that there has never been melting of these bodies before?

  7. Aaron Read

    For those who think invasive species can be just pooh-poohed, I ask: “Asian Carp Anyone?” (check out the cost in the first paragraph)

  8. Aunt Nancy

    I’ll believe anything you say about global warming if it means I won’t ever have to read “Walden” again.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Aunt Nancy: I read “Walden” twice — once in high school, and then again a few years ago to try to figure out why I didn’t like it the first time. I didn’t like it the second time, either.

  9. Mariss


    Try thinking this through. The climate is always changing; it was warming, now its cooling. There isn’t a scintilla of proof our activities have any effect on this natural change.

  10. lkcape

    Gee, Dan, I hadn’t gotten around to reading the Guardian yet this week. How insensitive of me!

    Mariss, that is exactly the point that Dan keeps avoiding…

    Is it because, perhaps, he may have to give up one of his cherished positions? Or maybe he’ll have to delve into the anomalies of climate science? Someday he may let us know which it might be.

    And at last, Dan, we have agreement. I, too, found Walden somewhat less than advertised when I read it.

  11. Steve Stein

    Mariss – 2009 was the 2nd hottest year on record. All 11 of the last 11 years were in the hottest 15 years on record.

    Why do you say “now it’s cooling”?

  12. lkcape

    In geological terms, the years for which there are records of temperatures represent a mere nanosecond in history.

    So, Mr. Stein, that point may not be as relevant as you might wish. A sweeping generalization from such a limited data set does not make for a convincing argument.

    One has to wonder whether or not the erasure of the tree ring data by the scientists in East Anglia was intentional. to obscure evidence that was not supportive of the orthodox view.

  13. Aaron Read

    There isn’t a scintilla of proof our activities have any effect on this natural change.

    I seem to remember that during the Blackout of 2003, New York city’s ambient temperature dropped several degrees because of the sudden and drastic reduction in greenhouse gases coming from vehicles (no cars) and power plants (shut down).

  14. L.K. Collins

    Turn the air conditioning off in a computer center and watch the temperature rise.

    The likely cause of the NYC temperature rise was not the result of a decrease in greenhouse gases, but rather from the massive shut-off of heat-generating sources…like thing with motors and power supplies.

  15. Steve Stein

    lkcape – I was just asking for the data that lead to mariss’s comment. I have asked posters for data supporting their views here four times in these threads, and I have yet to get a response.

    Yes, it was warmer on Earth at times in geologic history. So what? At those times, there was no human civilization, so who cares?

    BTW, where was my “sweeping generalization”? I thought my observation was quite specific.

  16. Climategate doesn’t matter because you can’t stop scientists from hustling for grant money, and scream that the sky is falling will continue to be their tactic.

    Nor can you stop journalists from playing Chicken Little. It is, after all, the responsibility of journalists to save the world.

    This is all about inflated egos and the demented desire to play Jesus Christ.

    You might try getting some real religion… like, say, Christianity.

    Then you could play our your save the world fantasies in a more productive fashion.

    In any event, you’re dead in the water. Climategate does matter. We know you’re just making it up.

  17. Steve Stein

    Sigh… Refuting these climate skeptics is getting more and more tiresome. But now, there’s an App for that!

    And if you don’t have an iPhone, the quick guide to refuting the climate skeptics’ arguments is here.

    Still waiting for an answer from Mariss…

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén