17 December 2009

More Wisdom on Activist Climate Science

In the FT today Tom de Castella has a worthwhile piece on the lessons that the climate science community should draw from the aftermath of the CRU email hack/leak. Unfortunately, from my vantage point the community is far from learning these lessons. Here is how de Castella ends his piece:

In short, the e-mails do not undermine the CRU’s surface temperature record or the wider science. But that is not the point – it is the culture of climate science that has been tarnished. A picture emerges of experts who relate tribally, avoid transparency and worry too much about getting a good press. The perception is perhaps unfair, based as it is on a small, activist-minded band, but it goes back to Adam Smith’s remark about producer interests: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public.”

Mr Trenberth insists the e-mail hack equated to a “swiftboating” of climate scientists, a reference to the smearing of John Kerry’s presidential campaign. He argues there is nothing wrong with scientists advocating policy: “I’m a scientist but I’m also a citizen of the world.” He is right that society wants more guidance from scientists. But what we need most is a more nuanced understanding of the risks and probabilities. That requires an intellectual elite who are climate sceptics in the true sense, rather than busily applying blue facepaint and reaching for a placard.


  1. "In short, the e-mails do not undermine the CRU's surface temperature record or the wider science."

    Really? Is that a scientific answer or a policy wish? What about the e-mails regarding Siberian temperatures?

  2. The reason they don't get it is there has been no consequences. If their funding was cut off and were banned from the IPCC then they would get it. BTW as a Vietnam era vet I thought Kerry justly deserved the swift boating. People forget his false testimony before congress accusing soldiers of wide spread massacre in vietnam. The people who did it to him were these same vets.

  3. I was interested to read Gavin Schmidt explaining that climate scientists were not up to the task of informing political policy:

    “But by far the biggest problem with this scheme [a carbon tax linked to tropospheric temperature] is that the responsibility for potentially billions of dollars of revenue rests with imperfect monitoring tools. Any reassessment of the numbers because of a new procedure, a new correction, the addition of new sources of data, would then become direct battlegrounds between revenue seeking governments and business, with the scientists caught helplessly in the middle. This is a recipe for a much greater politicization of the science than we have ever seen to date. Mixing science and politics is already fraught. Mixing science and the I.R.S. would be explosive.”
    Source: http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/the-temperature-tax/#comment-172961

    Imperfect monitoring tools and data subject to revision? If that is a problem for tropospheric temperature measurements, how would we describe the surface thermometer record or the dendro record?
    Anyways, it is interesting to see Hansen’s colleague shy away from a direct link between science and policy, though I’m left wondering what Gavin thinks the role of the IPCC is.
    (More Wsidom?)

  4. “In short, the e-mails do not undermine the CRU’s surface temperature record”

    Again, anybody who believes that should click here and tell it to The Met Office.

    Click here for more on ClimateGate.

    P.S.) Is “Wsidom” the preferred spelling according to Hansen?

  5. How wonderful that Trenbreth should use the phrase "swiftboating"! In May 2004, a large and distinguished group of Kerry's veteran peers called a press conference to identify a number of false statements which Kerry had made about them and about his service. They had evidence to substantiate their claims. The news media completely boycotted the story.

    Shocked at the extraordinary bias demonstrated by the news media, they decided to raise money to take their case to the people. The news media trashed them every step of the way despite the fact that they proved beyond a doubt that Kerry had lied repeatedly (e.g. he couldn't have been in Cambodia at Christmas in 1968 listening to Pres. Nixon lie about being in Cambodia. Nixon wasn't president in 1968 and Kerry was only in Nam for 4 months.)

    The parallels of news coverage of the Swiftboat Vets and climate skeptics are extraordinary. Same story, different verse.

  6. Notice the concentration on the emails, which only constitute about 5 percent of the total data drop.

    Also recall that the "swift boat" controversy was over politically inconvenient criticism that wasn't actually false.

  7. The huge and wide-ranging significance of Climategate is still being played down. Regardless of Climategate, the near surface temperature record has serious unresolved issues including a warm bias. The CRUminals have smeared themselves for all to see. Steve McIntyre has uncovered more 'gatekeeping' emails where inconvenient papers are blocked in peer review.

  8. The CRU temperature record isn't undermined?

    Do you believe that, Roger?

  9. Perhaps I'm reading Castella incorrectly, but his quoted comment reeks of blind arrogance.

    I don't want scientists guiding me. I want them to define situations, be honest and tell what they know, and how they know it -- the SWAG, and how they will move SWAG to the known column.

    I don't want a cadre of intellectual elitists. Climategate demonstrates how this hubris knows no bounds. We the great "unwashed" want knowledgeable people to meet us eye-to-eye, not talk down to us.

  10. It isn't just the multi trillion dollar global warming operation that is it at stake. The entire fiction of an independent academia is on the line.

    The government and big business (often) fund academics to get the results they wants to hear. The illusion must be defended at all costs. The truth is only available from official sources, which are impeccable.

    Paul Vaughan

    Last spring when I was shopping around for a new source of funding, after having my funding slashed to zero 15 days after going public with a finding about natural climate variations, I kept running into funding application instructions of the following variety:

    Successful candidates will:
    1) Demonstrate AGW.
    2) Demonstrate the catastrophic consequences of AGW.
    3) Explore policy implications stemming from 1 & 2.

    Follow the money — perhaps a conspiracy is unnecessary where a carrot will suffice


    “The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.

    “The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.


    Climategate - Phil Jones

    Recently rejected two papers (one for JGR and for GRL) from people saying CRU has it wrong over Siberia. Went to town in both reviews, hopefully successfully. If eitherappears. I will be very surprised, but you never know with GRL.Cheers Phil


  11. Roger

    Smeared scientists? I know that article writers don't get to write their headlines, but the article is a piece with the headline. Another claim that the only problem is one of perception. If you were impressed with this article, I have to say that I'm disappointed with you. It's the same denial we get from Mann and Jones. It reads like a call for better P.R., not better science.

  12. correction: My last comment should have stated, "I want them to define situations, be honest and tell what they know, and how they know it, what they don't know -- the SWAG, and how they will move SWAG to the known column.

  13. -9-Mike Smith

    "The CRU temperature record isn't undermined?

    Do you believe that, Roger?"

    Yes. I've seen nothing in the emails to undermine the CRU temperature record. If there are analyses that purport to do so, I've sure they'll get lots of attention. Until then ...

  14. -14-Roger,

    How do you explain the decision on the part of The Met Office to:

    “take three years” to “re-examine 160 years of temperature data after admitting that public confidence in the science on man-made global warming has been shattered by leaked e-mails.”?

  15. Hasn't the 'CRU record' been 'lost'?

  16. Roger

    "Yes. I've seen nothing in the emails to undermine the CRU temperature record. If there are analyses that purport to do so, I've sure they'll get lots of attention. Until then .."

    That has all the credibility of saying that Al Capone never killed anyone. While strictly speaking, it may not have been possible to prove it in court, he was certainly guilty of more than tax evasion.

    The climategate emails are damning to the belief that the science presented to us by the corporate media represents the best truth that could have been obtained from the raw data.

    In similar ways to the Capone case, the reason why we can't find the truth is the intimidation of thugs. Who owns the Chicago police department ? Who controls the peer reviewed journals ?

    "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

    I think we may have to redefine who and who is not a judge.

    Al Capone

  17. Roger
    I found this link on your fathers site as recommended reading http://go2.wordpress.com/?id=725X1342&site=pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com&url=http%3A%2F%2Fpajamasmedia.com%2Fblog%2Fclimategate-somethings-rotten-in-denmark-and-east-anglia-asheville-and-new-york-city-pjm-exclusive%2F

    I recommend this article for anyone who wants to see how really bad this temperature data is with respect to its application to the quantitative assessment of long-term surface temperature trends.

  18. LOL. Some very good comments here!

  19. Seconding Stan on the Swiftboat story. The media ignored it for about two weeks, then made a few feeble attacks, then retired and declared victory. Now they want it in the dictionary with their mythic definition.

    And yet another timid article, tiptoing up to tap the activist scientists on the shoulder and whisper in their ear.

    The will get more than that from the government agencies they left exposed in the breeze, methinks.

  20. Roger,

    It's not the e-mails! It's in the documents. I can't believe that you aren't aware of the Harry file and the stories about the garbage code. And if you are aware of the documents, your statement about the e-mails was too clever by half.

  21. -21-Stan

    I am happy to look at revisionist analyses, but heresay about what the documents show or not is just that until someone actually produces an analysis.

  22. -22-Roger,

    Isn’t it fair to say that The Met Office has -- implicitly -- produced “an analysis”?

  23. de Castella states: "A picture emerges of experts who relate tribally, avoid transparency and worry too much about getting a good press. The perception is perhaps unfair, based as it is on a small, activist-minded band..."

    I'd agree in the sense there are plenty of scientists working on climate who are not directly (or indirectly) linked with these individuals. However, the IPCC is much more closely identified with these same individuals. The state of climate science mght not be undone by this mess, but the last decade plus of IPCC work is certainly tarnished if not fatally undermined.

    Maybe that is a good thing Roger. Now we can start again with more honest brokers involved.

  24. Roger my 18

    No comment on Pielke Sr view? Mike M

  25. Okay, folks, read closely. Observe that Roger is very specifically saying "the emails" and "the CRU temperature records." I've been digging in them for a month now, good God, I've written ten articles on them, and I agree with him: the emails don't say anything to call into question the temperature records.

    The emails definitely suggest there was some subterfuge with peer review, with the way dissenters have been treated and research outside the dominant CO2-forced anthropogenic large-magnitude climate change model has been suppressed, and that there was a concerted multi-person effort to resist releasing data that could be used to replicate their work.

    The program codes, data, and in particular the HARRY_READ_ME.txt file strongly suggest that there is a lot of code around that appears to meddle with the data in undocumented and arbitrary ways. But we don't have anything that shows those files really were used to affect publications.

    And, in the last week, we've got several studies and sources (I just accumulated six) that show large, apparently arbitrary corrections to the raw data that seem to consistently provide just enough correction to fit the general warming argument, but there is no documentation or publication of how those corrections were defined.

    The point is that there are a bunch of things that can be read to suggest the CRU data was over-manipulated, but we're missing some vital steps in order to be able to strongly infer that the data was over-manipulated. Coincidentally, these seem to be the things that still haven't been released.

  26. Seneca the Younger #25-

    I would appreciate your analysis of the emails indicated above concerning Siberia posted by eric144 #11.

  27. Craig, have a look at the article I linked under "I just accumulated six". It's a little bit of a lawyerish point, but what that email tells us is that they successfully fought back a challenge on their treatment of the Siberian data. That doesn't change the data, or the validity of that data — the challenge could have been incorrect. The value of the data is independent of the fact that there's an email saying they were able to survive a challenge.

    That, and similar emails, might provide interesting places to look that the data, of course.

  28. Dr Pielke Jr

    What about the Darwin post by Willis Eschenbach at Watt's up


    And Christy 2009

    Both analyze specific adjustment one in Australia and the other in Africa, and both show the adjustment to be way off.

    Shouldn't that justify an inquiry and skepticism about CRU temp graph

  29. Craig

    Bishop Hill

    Now, someone has identified themselves as being the authors of one of the papers concerned. Commenting at Climate Audit, Lars Kamel says this:

    One of those rejected papers about Siberian temperatures may have been by me. The time is about right. I got it rejected because of nonsense from a reviewer and the editor saw it as an attack on him when I critized the quality of the review. After that, I gave up the idea of ever getting something AGW critical published in a journal.

    Another scientist has been speaking out on the same issue. Dutch professor, Arthur Rorsch, is making further allegations of misdeeds by climatologists. In an article entitled "Sick science" he explains how difficult it was for sceptics to get published.

    "It is exactly as we feared. If I were to submit an article from a friendly colleague who wanted to publish in a scientific journal, we would always get a rejection; without proper argumentation. I was not the only Dutch researcher that happened to. Climate skeptics everywhere ran into brick walls.

    He describes the emails as demonstrating an intent to deceive and has this to say of the state of climatology:

    This is no longer genuine science. These are politically motivated people...it is a religion, or rather, a belief.




  30. Roger,

    A little off topic, but here (from your own institute) is one of the best written paragraphs describing the new green movement and the UN I have ever seen.


    "It should come as no surprise that a green ideology that denies the political and economic conditions that make ecological consciousness possible -- and that imagines that climate models and drowning polar bears could alter the development path of billions of people -- would gravitate towards an institution and process that are profoundly undemocratic and completely unmoored from basic political and economic realities of the planet."

    Overall a fine article. If only the discourse could start from such a world view, then I think real progress could be made.

  31. Seneca--

    Thank you for your reply.


    You raise the issue that concerns me -- the objectivity of the peer review process. It seems that accepting the position there is nothing untoward about the quality of the science in the emails requires affirmation of that peer review process that includes and discards. It appears just the opposite has occurred. Once the review process was compromised, the actions that followed seem not to deserve the benefit of the doubt. Fruit of the poisoned tree.

  32. Outsiders are amused that the candidate who went off to war and was wounded was the one who had his war record smeared - as opposed to the candidate who got his daddy to keep him at home, where he often didn't even turn up, and who was the only one of his stay-at-home unit not to volunteer for action.

    There's no such thing as ideological truth! Now if you extremists can grasp that simple fact then you might realize that you are poisoning the well of honest skepticism.

  33. Could someone tell me what the acronym MET stands for?