This simple three word phrase is almost impossible to say because it changes everything. It is easiest for a child to say it. After all a child isn't expected to right about things. But the higher you climb through life the more difficult it comes to admit being wrong. It would be devastating for a President of the United States to say, "I was wrong." And, it may be about as difficult for an established, respected scientist who does research at an institution funded by millions of tax dollars. That is why I don't expect any of the scientists caught by the Climategate leak, to admit "I was wrong" anytime soon.
Consider the case of Roger Revelle, the Grandfather of Global Warming. He didn't say "I was wrong" through all the years he was heading up the Scripps Oceanographic Institute or the Harvard Population Studies program. He waited until he was in a retirement job back as UCSD, a mere professor without any research or grant monies coming in, to admit he was wrong about CO2 being an important greenhouse gas. But to his credit, he did say it in his final years. I respect that he did clear the air before leaving the scene. I regret that Al Gore and IPCC and the media were no longer listening to him.
The media rarely has said, "We were wrong." I have worked in newsrooms for 56 years. I have never heard it. In fact, I cannot recall that I have ever heard "We were wrong." I have on several occasions heard, "We were miss-informed", "We were misled" and even "We were duped", On several occasions I have heard "We must correct this item". but even on these rare occasions there is great reluctance. It would take a monumental event to force the media to say "We were wrong."
The media also claims to be unbiased. Everybody knows that is not true. "Fair and balanced", is a great slogan, but not a reality. I have witnessed that bias at all three of the old-line networks (yes, I did the circuit.) and major market network stations. There happens to be less bias and better balance at the small independent station where I work in my retirement job than anywhere else I have worked. But still every person in the newsroom, including me, comes to work with personal biases and as hard as we try to set them aside at work, they shine through from time to time.
Generally speaking, people who launch media careers are 'do gooders', wanting to inform the people about how to make the world and their communities better places. It comes off, mostly, as a liberal bias. Most news people in the United States voted for Al Gore. They support the United Nations. They want to advance the environmental issues of clean water and clean air and protect our natural areas.
So when global warming came along they accepted it immediately and without question as a major environmental challenge that they needed to tell the public about and felt they needed to help bring about the changes required to solve the problem. For years and years, peaking with the Al Gore movie and the UN conference in Bali, every scientific paper about melting ice, the plight of polar bears, the fear of flooding coast lines and the entire spectrum of far-fetched global warming related claims and studies were reported with importance and without question. The media felt it was doing great service to save the planet. And the bosses knew there is nothing that builds ratings more than claims "the sky is falling." The skeptics were regarded as cranks and shills for evil polluters such as the oil companies. If they got coverage at all, it was negative.
Now comes Climategate. It is out of step with the media agenda. What does the media do now. Ignore it is the first answer. Regard it as an unimportant story. Not nearly as important as Tiger Woods or the couple that crashed a White House party. It is just another hacker and undoubtedly the work of one of those oil company shills. Yes, ignore it. It will fade away. The other answer was to write about its general unimportance and give the parties involved a platform to dismiss the charges. Various outlets took minor steps to cover in a limited dismissive way but the major networks stonewalled.
You must know this about the leaked files. While the emails were damming, the real 'meat' was in sections of computer code leaked. Skeptical climate scientists have already studied it and find it an amazing manipulation that takes real temperature data and turns into a warming fairytale. Since this data forms the baseline for the research used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this is huge. Those who counter this argument, by saying there three other data bases and the two that use surface temperatures agree with this data, need to rethink what they are saying. Think about it. This indicates that since the Angelica University data is scientifically meaningless, and the scientists at the other centers are in constant contact with the scientists there, there is a strong likelihood their data is similarly without scientific merit.
Meanwhile, I am very impressed with the wide ranging internet coverage; the blogs and postings. It is mostly of excellent quality, too. Media News Editors, Producers and columnists and opinion page editors all use the internet for ideas and research. This has been a forcing factor to the media. As a result, a few have picked up on the internet items. The AP has posted some stories. But still the television news channels and networks (except for Fox) have ignored the story as much as they can.
While there will be continuing ramifications in science and among the researchers and organizations involved, without significant media coverage, Climategate will soon fade away. We skeptics will continue to talk about it, but no one will be listening. Things will quiet down to "normal".
There is one possibility that could grow Climategate and demand mainstream coverage. That possibility is my hope. I hope the person who leaked the damming files comes out of the shadow and speaks out about the outrage of what is transpiring among the global warming team. That person had to feel strongly about to perform the leak. And, if that person is an important scientist or is accompanied by a prominent scientist, that could break Climategate into the headlines.
If Al Gore or Michael Mann or Jim Hanson were to say "I was wrong", it become a major news development and global warming frenzy would be dead.
I am not holding my breath.