Recent revelations that several British scientists sought to manipulate scientific data to improve the argument for stronger climate change policies has inflamed the global warming debate. According to Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Ivan Kenneally, this incident illustrates the tremendous impact ideology has on modern science and the dangers it causes.
In the article “The Climate E-mails and the Politics of Science,” published in the The New Atlantis, Kenneally argues that the current discussion surrounding global warming is not based on scientific fact but on the opinions of the scientists involved.
“There can be little doubt after even a casual perusal that the scientific case for global warming and the policy that springs from it are based upon a volatile combination of political ideology, unapologetic mendacity and simmering contempt for even the best-intentioned disagreement,” says Kenneally, an assistant professor of political science at RIT.
Recently discovered e-mails indicate that scientists from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit fabricated information or dismissed data that did not show that the earth’s temperature is rising. The unit’s biased findings were then used in developing climate reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which helped coalesce international support for stronger action on global warming. Because of this, many critics are calling for a complete review of all climate data to ensure that the information being presented is accurate.
This situation is particularly troublesome, according to Kenneally, given that international policies with long-ranging significance are now being negotiated based on global warming data that is being called into question.
“Especially in anticipation of the major climate summit taking place in Copenhagen, the significance of this explosive disclosure is hard to underestimate,” he adds. “The United States and the rest of the world are considering enacting energy-restrictive and economy-damaging climate policies based on ideological distortions of scientific fact.”
Kenneally states that the global warming example is a component of a broader trend towards the politicization of science as a means for promoting a particular ideology instead of presenting impartial data. This movement has dangerous implications for science policy and the continued interaction of scientific inquiry and politics.
“If we assume that all science is ideologically based then none of it will be relevant. Major effort needs to be taken to analyze the impact of politics on current scientific efforts across the board so steps can be taken to mitigate the effect of biased science on the policies we ultimately create,” Kenneally says.