When you're getting lectures on "aspiring to misrule" from despot Robert Mugabe, you may conclude you've stepped through Alice's looking glass.
The gathering at Copenhagen was huge, 34,000 by some reports. A few strange outbursts would be par for the course. But Mr. Mugabe, who more or less single-handedly has brought Zimbabwe to ruin, giving the world lectures on "misrule" and deploring "arbitrary power and governance systems" - well, this is hypocrisy on a galactic scale. Zimbabwe can lay claim for a near non-existent carbon footprint only because its geriatric dictator has despoiled his country, when he hasn't been busy racking up abuses of basic human rights.
Forget all the CO2 Jeremiahs flying in on their private jets, forget the fleet of 1,200 limousines and every other excess, if you're looking for the gold standard for moral hypocrisy, ask why Mr. Mugabe was even allowed in a room with other human beings - never mind being given a microphone to wax sanctimonious to the world.
It's an incidental question, but did the multitude of posturing environmental groups think to offer Mr. Mugabe - maybe make a special presentation - one of their ludicrously over-hyped fossil-of-the-day awards? Maybe David Miller, Mayor of Toronto, who volunteered to accept one "on behalf of Canada" - I know Toronto is important, but Mr. Miller really should curb his delusion that it is "all" of Canada and he our spokesman - could have offered to accept one on behalf of the Mugabe government as well. I mean, if you're going to self-appoint yourself as plenipotentiary, why stop at your own country?
But I forget. Global warming is a capacious umbrella and if Mr. Mugabe is one with the cause, perhaps everything else on his record can, for the moment, be pushed to one side.
Mr. Mugabe's presence was the most egregious dissonance at Copenhagen, but it was not the most central. Let's offer a Test Tube of the Day to how a conference that essentially aimed at reordering the world energy economy gave such scant attention to the reasonable doubts about the scientific process opened up by Climategate.
What the hacked or leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia told us is that there was a very narrow funnel for official science on global warming. They revealed a pattern of gate-keeping, of (quite non-scientific) hostility to contrary or dissenting opinions, attempts at controlling the much-touted peer-review process, and perhaps most disturbing of all a pronounced tendency to point the data toward the hypothesis rather than the hypothesis toward the data. Such data, of course, as still exist - the loss of the primary data concerning the world's temperature over the last century and a half being not the least of Climategate's astonishing revelations.
East Anglia is not some way station. As the Times of London put it, its Climate Research Unit "is the world's leading centre for reconstructing past climate and temperatures."
If the hard science of global warming, or at least as much of that emergent discipline that may be called hard science, is to be the factual and scientific fulcrum on which policies for the world's energy are to be decided, then it logically follows that such science must be absolutely untainted. That it not be infused with the activist spirit, that advocacy follows the science, not that science seeks to comport with advocacy. It is really impossible to read some of those e-mails and not to take, from both their tone and their substance, that the necessary neutrality and disinterest of true scientific enterprise - the essential virtues of science - have been severely disobliged.
Has the science been tainted, is the question of our time. Has the authority and prestige of scientific practice been invoked at the very moment when its methods - its practice - has been, to any degree, corrupted or degraded? This would be a reasonable question - and let me stress it is still a question - even if the project or subject was one of far less consequence and scope than the planet's climate and its economic practice.
That question is not being asked with the rigour we should expect. There is something about the great cause of global warming that tends to disarm scrutiny, to tamp down the normal reflexes of tough questioning and investigation that the press brings to every other arena. The great conference at Copenhagen seems to have whistled by the quite momentous challenge that the East Anglia e-mails presents to the centrality of the claims made by the global warming cause. Lots of fossil-of-the-day moments - not many hard press conferences.
Apart from all other considerations, the world is in a drastic recession right now, routinely described as the most turbulent since the Great Depression. If we are to reorder our economies at so critical a time, then first things first. Determine if the science is science, not a partnership with advocacy.