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Something Is X in the State of Denmark

Filed under: — rasmus @ 29 November 2009

We received a letter with the title ‘Climate Change: The Role of Flawed Science‘ which may be of interest to the wider readership. The author, Peter Laut, is Professor (emeritus) of physics at The Technical University of Denmark and former scientific advisor on climate change for The Danish Energy Agency. He has long been a critic of the hypothesis that solar activity dominates the global warming trend, and has been involved in a series of heated public debates in Denmark. Even though most of his arguments concern scientific issues, such as data handling, and arithmetic errors, he also has much to say about the way that the debate about climate change has been conducted. It’s worth noting that he sent us this letter before the “CRU email” controversy broke out, so his criticism of the IPCC for being too even handed, is ironic and timely.

Update – the link in the letter is now fixed. -rasmus


353 Responses to “Something Is X in the State of Denmark”

  1. 51

    I am sympathetic to the idea of a law that would make false statements about climate change illegal. At this juncture, they are as toxic as dioxin. However, such an effort would probably have considerable blow back. The deniers would, no doubt, claim that the scientists could not justify their arguments on scientific grounds and were resorting to political tactics. I am not optimistic about how this would play out.

    Instead, I have another suggestion. Has anyone thought about a libel suit? I’m not a lawyer, but it does seem to me that a variety of statements attacking climate scientists do meet the criteria of libel. First, they are false. Second, they cause harm. Third, in at least some of the cases, the source was malicious, that is, they knew what they were saying was false and intended the harm.

    If the scientist is not a public figure, she does not have to prove the third point. But most scientists probably would be ruled public figures, since they published in academic journals on topics they knew would invite public scrutiny. The third point is where a lot of libel suits break down. Proving malice is hard, but not impossible.

    I know what I am talking about. I did win a libel suit against a politician who called me, in effect, an ecoterrorist. He, and a number of other people, “misread” a book review I wrote on the Unabomber’s Manifesto that I published in “Theory and Event,” an online journal sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. We settled out of court, when he agreed to fully retract his statements about me on his website. It was wonderfully delicious making him eat his words.

    It does seem to me like a couple of scientists involved in this website need to be talking to lawyers. If you do, you must be very careful to make sure that you hire a good lawyer, one that knows really well what they are doing, and one that won’t cut and run when things get ugly. Most lawsuits are won and lost as soon as the lawyers are hired. The winning side usually has the hardest working lawyer. On this issue, I imagine there would be lots of public minded lawyers out there willing to take the deniers on.

    A libel suit is not the ideal course of action, since it doesn’t exactly the main issue, focusing on personal harm instead of public harm, but there really aren’t that many alternatives out there that will force people to tell the truth about something as vitally important as climate change.

  2. 52
    Azimuth says:

    One thing I’ve tried to point out before to deniers is that a body like the IPCC, given that it is “intergovernmental”, is like to underplay, understate, rather than overstate, the actual threat posed by anthropogenic global warming. Very little likelihood that such a body would over report it. Intergovernmental bodies and their documents just don’t work that way. The conclusions drawn based on the research would be vetted and debated and anguished over. When I read the IPCC assessment reports, I tend to add in a 10-20% factor to whatever I’m reading just to account for this tendency to be on the conservative side. I’ve worked on a few intergovernmental documents before and believe me, getting consensus on any statement, let alone one with such significant economic implications, is like pulling hen’s teeth.

  3. 53
    graham scott says:

    Furthermore the self denial of the other comments here is mind boggling. No 47 is a good example.

  4. 54

    re: dhogaza

    tetchy tetchy, dear

  5. 55
    graham scott says:

    Perhaps you would like to show my first message.

    The second, starting with ‘Furthermore’ refers to Azimuth at 5pm.

    Your reply to the message at 4.23 is couched in the same terms as Phil Jones. Not too clever methinks.

  6. 56
    David Horton says:

    #52 Yes, and in addition we know that some governments in particular (the US under Bush comes to mind for no particular reason) demanded that risks be understated, science watered down, lower end of probabilities emphasized. As we are seeing now where the actual measurements are all in the top )or bottom) end of IPC probabilities or even outside them (John Cook is good on this at http://skepticalscience.com/Physical-realities-of-global-warming.html). Do the denialists know this and deny it, or do they really not understand that having a body with representatives from all over the world inevitably has resulted in caution not hyperbole?

  7. 57
    Tony O'Brien says:

    Climate change is not the only challenge ahead. We will have a no carbon economy by the end of the century. Either we will have developed a renewable economy, or we will have no economy because the fossil fuels will have run out.

    Gwynne Dyer used a quote “when faced with the choice of starvation or raiding, humans raid”. While climate change is going to be bad, very bad, the resultant conflicts will be worse.

    Even without ocean acidification, we have fished out so much ocean that almost half our food fish comes from fish farms.

    The nitrogen cycle is well out of balance, a global crisis in its own right.

    Species extinction is proceeding at a raid rate even where climate change is not yet a significant issue.

    So many of our would be leaders running around fingers in ears going “not real, not real” is a sure sign that most of our adaption will be post event. We will not raise the levees until New Orleans has flooded again and again.

    There is virtually no chance that society will cope with the inevitable changes ahead. Much milder changes have seen massive collapses continental in scope, we now have world wide society and world wide change.

  8. 58
    venge says:

    Gavin, there are more kinds of misconduct than just plagarism or falsifying data. And how can we know if they did falsify data when they ignore FOIA requests and have emails out asking people to destroy items for a FOIA requst? Why do they only provide massaged data and not raw data?

    They have excuses for them, but that is all they are.

    [Response: Yup, I'm sure it's a conspiracy that will simply come apart as soon as an FOI request is received. Listen to yourself. - gavin]

  9. 59
    ccpo says:

    Re: CC Misinfo Act

    I disagree with a new Act simply because it is unnecessary. We already have statutes, both criminal and civil, against the actions of CC denialist. It is already illegal/barred by statute to endanger the public by false statements. One will be prosecuted if causing a stampede in a theater with a false alarm of “Fire!”

    We need no new legislation, we simply need for everyone involved to stop fearing the denialists and worrying about being called an alarmist for doing what is clearly rational. The facts are in: dangerous climatic effects are afoot. Change is rapid on not only geologic, but human, time scales.

    There is, literally, no science supporting a non-ACC stance. Were this a court of law, climate science would easily win the case were you to have a judge and jury conversant in the scientific method.

    More importantly, we have the proof of collusion by Big Industry and conservative think tanks. We can prove they were formed for the purpose of denial. We can prove their provenance via Big Tobacco. We can show a pattern of behavior (as all the police dramas like to dramatize.)

    What we don’t have is a scientific community and an activist community that is willing to tell the public the absolute truth: we are in danger of destroying civilization as we know it. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but risk assessment and history tell us massive disruptions can come, and that this period of stability that allowed civilization to blossom is anomalous. Based on that *alone*, our survival as a global civilization is suspect. Virtually all (all?) natural systems go through boom and busts, equilibrium and disequilibrium. We are pushing the system to very probable greater gyrations than it might achieve of its own accord.

    Our forebears went through ice age cycles while small, mobile hunter-gatherers, not as settled billions living in cities. Complex systems do not stand up to major disruptions left to themselves. They crash. They require constant maintenance and repair. Denialists are preventing that repair.

    If we are willing to say smokers do not have the to murder us slowly in public, that drinkers do not have the right to murder us quickly with their vehicles, that corporations do not have the right to murder us slowly with their illegal dumping and short-circuiting of drug approval processes, etc., then how can climate denialists be allowed to commit sui-genocide?

    All that need be done is for people involved to invoke the laws that already exist. Less such actions, I guarantee you we will fail because the deluded and lied to will either prevent, or refuse to take, action until the Arctic is ice free and the clathrates are billowing to the surface en mass.

    This may be unpalatable, but the last twenty years prove this rationale to be so. Just look, now, when ACC science is incontrovertible, denialists are at their zenith in their ability to affect policy and, especially, public attitude – and you will not stop ACC without the developed and developing nations’ citizen accepting a new paradigm of sustainable societies.

    Get them in court. Make them prove ACC scientists are liars, frauds, conspirators. Take them to court and make them disprove the corporate payments for their opinions, the memos they claimed didn’t exist, the truth that they KNEW they were lying, and have done virtually nothing to correct the perception they still believe their denials made in the past.

    The best thing that could happen at this point is for the science to go on trial because it is a slam dunk. At the very least, the claims against the science and scientists would be shown to be lies, thus eviscerating the anti crowd’s ability to destroy via innuendo.

    Cheers

  10. 60
    Shirley says:

    One of the things that bothers me about the way this is unfolding is that it’s reminding me of the gross overall misconception by the public on this issue, and part of it is very fundamental:

    Average people seem to think that “scientists” or “climate scientists” are just a small handful of people dominating all research and all that which is published.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. There are 1000s of scientists working on different pieces of the many puzzles as they unfold. A look at the list of authors on the IPCC reports confirms this – open up the “authors” section in the Annexes scroll down about half way and be prepared to have your mind blown by the sheer numbers of people working on climate research in those reports alone!

    If anything can help with PR going forward, I think it would be very useful to try and find ways to remind people that these emails, while containing some well known names, are just exchanges between a tiny percentage of a sea of researchers, including many important researchers whose work may never end up in an IPCC report.

    I think that Laut’s letter is important, but I’m inclined to agree with another poster who said that it’s an old story with the same players. That said, it is only so if you’ve been paying attention, and not many people pay attention as closely as some of us do.

    What I’ve found over all with the “it’s the sun” crowd is that they seem to want to ignore CO2 completely, and try to make the case that solar influence is the only influence. Well, this just isn’t a scientific way of thinking, particularly regarding the atmosphere and other Earth systems. Their arguments can start to sound convincing (if you don’t notice the flaws in the data and the pretty obvious decoupling since the 70s) until you step back and realize they’re leaving out any other possibilities, which comes down to (perceived) correlation leading to (perceived) causation. Tsk tsk.

    All the research I’ve done to date shows me that CO2 is a primary influence, and that in all cases of massive paleoclimate changes and mass extinctions, CO2 is usually the dominant driver (aside from impacts, but that’s only a small story, especially if looking at lots of smaller extinction events like Hangenburg, etc., not just the big five) coupled with other factors and feedbacks. The “it’s the sun” crowd seems to want to pretend we can’t (or don’t) have ways to measure and infer the other factors involved, or that they’re too negligible to matter. Maybe it’s my initial training as an ecologist that helps me see how silly this is, because early on, I was taught how vastly interdependent biological systems are. I think everyone would benefit from this kind of study in order to realize that in nature, rarely is one force alone ever at work.

  11. 61
    Jen says:

    #15:
    No one would have to prove some anti-AGW case to kill the bill. They could just point out that if it passed it would provide a wonderful (and potentially far-reaching) precedent for the State to limit all sorts of speech- in an emergency, and for all our own good, of course.

    No, thank you.

  12. 62
    steve says:

    We the taxpayer wish for all data/methods/algorithms/notes be made available to the public in a fully documented manner. We understand this is a “pain in the butt” for you so we have no problem spending money to hire people to do the work for you. We prefer that you spend your time researching. This is nothing personal. We will hire independent and capable people to assist so that your time is minimally infringed upon. We the taxpayer believe such data must be made available because serious doubts have arisen in the public’s perception. Being quiet, like it or not, could make the public become skeptical. If you truly care about the planet and truly care about the science we do not believe this request is “over the top”. If it is resources you need they will be provided. All you need to do is ask. We take no position in AGW. All we want is the truth.

  13. 63
    Jeff Boarman says:

    A big problem as I see it, and this is mentioned by number 57, is that the AGW debate has hijacked all other environmental concerns. That is a real shame.

    Secondly, there are rumors afoot that much more data/emails, etc. were hacked, and the hackers are waiting for an opportune time to release them.

    Anyone else hearing these rumors?

  14. 64
    Joe Horvath says:

    Re #61.

    If you live in the US, you already have a wonderful and far-reaching precedent with the USA PATRIOT Act.

  15. 65
    Ike Solem says:

    By far the best discussion I’ve come across of the issue is this – but why aren’t the press outlets interviewing scientists like this one (who happens to be Director at ORNL’s Center for Biomolecular Physics):

    http://clubmod.blogspot.com/2009/11/hacked-climate-change-e-mails.html

    However, the U.S. media clearly has a horse in the race, the same horse that the fossil fuel lobby is riding. For example – George Will said that “we are wagering trillions of dollars and a substantial loss of freedom on climate models” in regard to the CRU hack – which ABC reported on – but they didn’t cover the substance, and merely said that opponents say that the emails reveal fraud. ABC did not conduct any sort of investigation or even ask for a rebuttal – that was their intro to George Will. Dishonest, biased yellow journalism? That’s what it looks like.

    ABC is owned by the media holding company Disney. Do the major shareholders at Disney have any bets riding on fossil fuels? Well, first we must identify the major shareholders and some of their ancillary interests: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/mh?s=DIS

    Disney (ABC) holdings
    FMR LLC -$2,607,692,712
    Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd – $1,895,011,497
    STATE STREET CORPORATION – $1,768,494,874
    VANGUARD GROUP, INC. – $1,671,690,932

    Exxon holdings
    FMR LLC 44,853,890 – $3,077,425,392
    Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd – $14,533,612,252
    STATE STREET CORPORATION – $11,912,422,296
    VANGUARD GROUP, INC. – $11,420,083,042

    Chevron holdings
    STATE STREET CORPORATION – $6,537,857,164
    Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd – $6,448,528,260
    VANGUARD GROUP, INC. – $5,017,846,342
    FMR LLC - $2,892,232,389

    ConocoPhillips holdings
    Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd – $3,399,239,624
    STATE STREET CORPORATION – $2,341,245,324
    VANGUARD GROUP, INC. – $2,307,240,883

    As we’ve seen, when the science and news team at CNN (owned my media holding company TimeWarner, owned in turn by many fossil fuel banks) started running reports on Arctic ice melt without contacting the API & ACCCE “media scientists” for dishonest quotes, they were all fired and control was placed in the hand of “senior executives.”

    It’s the height of naivete to think that these press outlets are going to be reporting honestly on climate science – and the “climategate” theme that’s been parroted by everyone from the NYT to the WaPo to ABC and even fluff magazines like Salon.com is just more proof that this is the case.

    Indeed, Chris Mooney’s “The Republican War on Science” might need to be rewritten – “The Corporate Media’s War on Science” is a far more accurate title. As far as why? What do you think would happen to the profits of those fossil fuel companies if their tar sand imports and coal-to-gasoline plans and heavy sour crude imports were all banned under binding emissions legislation, while government subsidies instead went to wind, solar and photosynthetic fuels? The banks that own them would lose billions – more than the value of their entire media investments, no doubt. Thus, if media outlets start reporting accurately on climate change, they instruct the Board to tell the CEO to fire the science team – unless someone has some alternative explanation for the firing of the entire CNN science team?

    For a typical example:
    http://www.salon.com/technology/how_the_world_works/2009/11/24/how_not_to_respond_to_climategate/index.html

    My own faith in climate science hasn’t been shaken by this episode, but I’m pretty dumfounded at behavior that hands what Pierrehumbert calls the “inactivists” — many of whom are working as fronts for the energy industry — a big stick to clobber me with. Please don’t hide behind invasion of privacy.

    Like his other conglomerated media allies, Leonard refuses to discuss the so-called ‘data manipulation’ – the tree ring records – and he also refuses to discuss the fact that “climategate” was a coordinated effort between the fossil fuel lobby and the fossil fuel-owned corporate U.S. press! Moreover, is there a single news outlet in the U.S. that wouldn’t scream about betrayal of confidentiality, if all their emails were hacked and dumped online somewhere? Every time there is a confidentiality issue with reporters and sources, the media outlets fight to protect themselves – they sure wouldn’t be running story after story about it in the leadup to Copenhagen.

    This is why we may very well need anti-trust legislation that bans media holding companies and gives media employees more rights and protections as a precursor to getting effective changes in energy production – because without reliable information, you can’t make good decisions, and the U.S. media has been remarkably un-reliable recently.

    Thus, if bad climate science wasn’t there to be promoted, they’d invent it themselves – but no need, the API and ACCCE “media scientists” are waiting and ready.

  16. 66
    John Cooknell says:

    Wade Sirkoski !!! A Climate Change misinformation Bill, have you thought this through, what will be the penalty if somebody infringes such a thing, imprisonment, hanging, flogging, who will decide what is the Truth! will it be Real Climate, Phil Jones, ????

  17. 67
    debreuil says:

    No problem if you don’t have the time of familiarity to answer that yourself, and I understand this isn’t your code. Until it is explained I think it has to stand as ‘evidence’ of data falsification though (and yes I have followed the code through myself and I do understand IDL).

    ;****** APPLIES A VERY ARTIFICIAL CORRECTION FOR DECLINE*********
    ;
    yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904] ;note 1
    valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,-0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
    2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor

    [Response: No you don't. You just need to see that valadj is transformed to yearlyadj and that the line putting yearlyadj into the main array is commented out. This is not a piece of code that is functional, and the calculation (if uncommented) appears in no scientific paper. Codes with research dead ends litter every researchers hard-drive. - gavin]

  18. 68
    isotopious says:

    “Who is to blame for the development of this irrational cult of a postulated solar influence upon the Earth’s climate?
    The IPCC is not without responsibility for providing the free ride for solar crusaders.”

    Exactly. Wag the dog.

    -Solar activity, volcanic activity, cosmic rays, and orbital cycles
    (can you guess what is missing from this crude list?)

  19. 69
    Thomas says:

    George, I’m sympathetic, but I think your suggestion would be a huge mistake in practice. I’m sympathetic because concern for the truth, and appreciation for the value of good epistemology is severely lacking in our society. The problem is, how to change the prevailing culture, to one that values truth seeking, over agenda pumping. I think that is a very longterm project -but a very worthwhile one. Threatening to force the issue would only generate a huge backlash. I also think it would be much easier to push major emissions caps or carbon tax, than pushing through your program. The fact that we aren’t close to being able to do that means your proposal has no chance. So we have to work on improving the quality of debate/thinking, one step at a time.

  20. 70
    Terran says:

    Henrik Svensmark’s replies to Peter Laut’s criticisms are viewable at:
    http://www.spacecenter.dk/research/sun-climate/Scientific%20work%20and%20publications

  21. 71
    tharanga says:

    Is the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics a particularly high-impact journal? I’d never heard of it. I wonder how many people are even aware of Laut’s analysis.

  22. 72
    Whit Blauvelt says:

    In response to, “I am really very surprised at the level of snide dismissive ad hominem attacks on people merely questioning methodology, transparency, the validity of extremely complex models founded on very little evidence”:

    Let’s start with “very little evidence.” To even say that shows that you haven’t surveyed the evidence. Because it would take you many, many months to survey it. At the end of which you couldn’t say “very little evidence” with a straight face. In saying those words, you’re not only launching a dishonest attack on the science, but on the integrity of those doing the science. Those words thus constitute a “snide dismissive ad hominem attack.” Yet I doubt you’re surprised by yourself.

    Now let’s go to the “validity of extremely complex models.” But of course the models are complex! The evidence itself is not just massive, but multi-dimensional. You find these models aren’t “transparent”? Have you done any programming? Even the best coders writing their clearest code can’t follow it themselves without immersing themselves in it for days at a time. It’s true whether you’re modeling climate, or modeling aerodynamics of an aircraft. You trust the airplanes you ride to stay up, right? Even though their airworthiness depends on “extremely complex models” that surely aren’t “transparent” to you?

  23. 73
    Jerry Steffens says:

    #25, #33

    The idea that the “urban heat island” is significantly skewing global temperature trends was essentially debunked by Peterson, et al., 1999. They showed that calculating the global temperature with urban stations removed produced nearly the same result as a calculation that used all the data.

    Reference:

    Peterson, T., et al., 1999: Global rural temperature trends, Geophysical Res. Letters, 26, 329 – 332

    (Google “Peterson rural temperatures”)

  24. 74
    BJ_Chippindale says:

    Re: CCMA (Ortega)

    No. No. NO!

    The answer to bad speech is more speech. You can’t “silence” the critics, they have to do that themselves. What the country needs is MORE information not less, a forum where the critics can raise their questions (once only) and let the points be hammered flat in a public way that is impossible to ignore. Almost all the cr@p science problems we have are repetitions of the SAME cr@p science in blogs around the country.

    The way to handle them is to publicly dismantle all the arguments they can muster. Allocate plenty of time for this, they’re a vociferous bunch, but don’t give them forever, or the opportunity to go back and figure out more questions. A week perhaps.

    There may be a couple of unresolved issues left once the public thrashing has been completed, but those are going to be genuine questions that we actually should be finding answers to anyway and they are NOT going to influence the conclusion that anyone with 3 working brain cells must draw from looking at the facts.

    Moreover, the fact of the conference and the taped answers would be available from then onto silence the repetitions of the same old chorus, and the folks trying to manufacture doubt would have a LOT less to work with.

    The media could fund a chunk of this. It would be (I think) a worthwhile exercise. All we need are scientists with the tongues of angels and the patience of saints :-) .

    However, I think you guys will have to do it instead.

    respectfully
    BJ

  25. 75
    George Ortega says:

    Wade Sikorski #51,

    I understand your concern regarding blowback from proposing climate change misinformation legislation, but ask yourself what other options are out there to get the global public focused enough soon enough on global warming, and to give our best scientists center stage in the media long enough for them to make their case. This is the main concern we face. If we wait for the warming to create enough natural disasters to convince everyone, that will be too, too late. We’ve tried public discourse and it has failed for an obvious reason; the public does not have the sufficient scientific background to understand either the problem or its potential solutions.

    If a climate change misinformation law passed, and there is no good reason why it should not, the global warming deniers could shout and scream until their heads fell off and it wouldn’t matter. The law would be in place and networks like Fox News would either begin to publish the consensus-based scientific facts about global warming, or they would first pay huge fines, and then ultimately lose their licence to broadcast and have their head decision makers do major prison time.

    I think your concerns regarding libel suits are on the mark. Many global warming deniers are not so much malicious as ignorant and irresponsible, much in the same way Sarah Palin could not be called malicious for thinking she was qualified to be a heartbeat away from the U.S. presidency.

    Given that it is estimated to cost an additional $500 billion for each year that we postpone major action on climate change, and given that we are still at risk of an abrupt, major and irreversible increase in global warming that could occur at any time, I don’t see that we have any rational choice but to make the publishing of misinformation illegal and finally get on with the business of action on global warming. As you acknowledged, the libel route if filled with problems, including it getting into the hands of a Libertarian or Right Wing Judge with an agenda. A climate change misinformation act would certainly succeed at getting people to understand exactly how serious our scientists and governments consider the global warming problem to be. And once that happened, the political will to address it would be possible.

    Ccpo #59,

    I very much hope you are right, but I am not aware of legislation currently on the books in the U.S. that would apply to climate change. Denying climate change is much different than shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre because the latter is clearly a malicious act while the former may simply be incredibly reckless and misguided. I would be very interested to know what existing statutes empower us to go after climate change deniers in a court of law. But even that approach has the same problem as with the libel litigation that Wade Sikorski proposed. If the trial ended up in the court of a Right Wing activist judge, it could easily fail. Even if it were appealed to the U.S. Supremer Court, we have five Conservative Judges now on the bench who stole the 2000 election for Bush, and will very soon consider granting U.S. corporations the right to make unlimited donations to political campaigns (which would, of course kill what is left of the American democracy). These judges are quite capable of opting for their Conservative ideology over the fate of civilisation. At that point it would be necessary for Obama to appoint two entirely new Supreme Court justices, bringing the total to eleven, who would overturn any denier or skeptic-protecting decisions.

    Again, I hope you’re right about there being statutes in place that would apply to climate change misinformation that need only be upheld. It would help if someone with a legal background could weigh in at this point with more details.

  26. 76
    Richard Steckis says:

    This is a quote from Laut’s analysis:

    “Who  is  to  blame  for  the  development  of  this  irrational  cult  of  a  postulated  solar  influence  upon  the  Earth’s  climate?”

    Is it irrational to postulate that the sun has an influence on earth’s climate?

    I would have thought that without the sun there would be NO climate at all.

  27. 77
    George Ortega says:

    Jen #61,

    We already have many, many laws prohibiting misinformation, like prohibiting corporations from making claims about drugs that have not been substantiated by science, or that have not been approved by a government authority like the FDA. There is no basis to the fear that creating a climate change misinformation act would eventually lead to the curtailment of many other forms of good free speech. You could just as well apply your fear to all anti-drug legislation by saying that if we make some drugs illegal we would be on the slippery slope to making all drugs illegal. Your fear as been shown by over a hundred years of laws curbing free speech to be unfounded.

    John Cooknell #66,

    Under the legislation I am proposing common citizens would still retain every freedom to weigh in on the global warming debate as much as they would like. The prohibition targets corporations and large organizations who now spend big money in campaigns that challenge the scientific consensus on climate change. The law would require that any conclusions they publish would have to first go through the peer-review process. As for penalties, I think that very heavy fines followed by the threat of revoking a corporation’s operating charter or a media corporation’s broadcasting licence would be sufficient to deter corporate misinformation on climate change. And if we needed to imprison top corporation executives for repeated and flagrant violations, that would be very in keeping with the egregious nature of their crimes against humanity.

  28. 78
    matt says:

    How about we gather all of the information,bunk data and nasty comments from the denier crowd into a 60mb package and give them a dose of their own medicine…will a congressman launch a congressional committee on that or will it turn into a “eco-bully” meme.

    Whatever it is, we still lose. The talkers have decided they don’t like Climate change, so our politicians must follow in lock step.

  29. 79
    emdwise says:

    i am not a scientist but here is my observation, that needs an analysis.

    in the northeast of the united states during spring 2009 we had a pretty cold spring and well into late spring acording to average years, and during fall 2009 season it was more warm compared to other years.

    now here is my analysis, all this is evidance and makes sense to me of man made climate change (if this was a global phenominon not just a northeaster) due to we had a globel great recession in the spring of 2009 therbuy less production and less transports therfore less carbons in the atmosphere, and when the global economy kicked into gear in the summer therebuy increasing production and transports therefore increasing polution and carbons and lagging into fall, thats why we have a unusual warm fall season.

    so it is pretty clear that this was not of changes in the sun, rather changes in human behavior.

  30. 80
    Steven Sullivan says:

    “We understand this is a “pain in the butt” for you so we have no problem spending money to hire people to do the work for you.”

    Bull. If that were true ‘you’ (and how pompous of you to assume the voice of all taxpayers) would fund climate science sufficiently so that labs could hire enough programmers, statisticians, and other support staff at researcher request. As things stand THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN. So what happens instead is that a budget supports just one guy to spend four years reconciling a bunch of disparate datasets in order to update a piece of software — as documnented in the supposed smoking gun ‘Harry’ logs. It appears to that CRU could use some money to support more IT security workers.

  31. 81
    Steven Sullivan says:

    Btw, Gavin, one thing I’d like to see more clarity on is what proportion of total HadCRU emails this hacked cache represents, from the years covered? In other words, how much ‘selection’ has been undertaken by the hackers?

    [Response: I imagine that people get something like 50 non-spam emails a day, and imagining that you are pretty good at tidying up the stuff that isn't important, maybe 20 substantive mails, 5 days a week, 3 people at CRU, 50 weeks a year, 10 year period = ~150,000 emails. So 1000 out of that is less than 1%. That's pretty selective (so far). - gavin]

  32. 82
    TJV says:

    The truth doesn’t need a law to defend it. The truth is the truth notwithstanding what any law might say.

  33. 83
    ccpo says:

    George:

    There is the memo exposed by the NYT. Proof positive.

    There are defamation laws which are broken every time a denialist of any stripe calls all climate scientists, and especially any specific one, a liar, a fraud, etc. When they state the entire field is a fraud, they’ve defamed every scientist involved.

    Etc.

    This is simple. Hansen is probably the most defamed. He should make an example.

    There is also the issue of crimes against humanity. I fail to see how an organized effort to lie about the science wouldn’t apply.

    Yes, sorting out who really believes what they spout and who doesn’t is a challenge, but a little logic will likely suffice. Still, whether they believe it or not, defamation would still apply.

    Cheers

  34. 84
    Andrew says:

    Re: #11 The “no warming since 1998″ meme is one that gets a lot of press. Some of the conventional wisdom support for this maybe the recent spate of cool summers in the midwestern US, especially this past one. Something my family comments on a lot when they discuss my chosen career as in “where’s your freaking global warming, we could really use it today” (aparently I’ve thrown my hat in with the wrong crowd). Here is the NOAA article discussing this:

    http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/atmosphere.htmlabs

    Discussing how the artic dipole weather pattern maybe displacing the artic occillation due to decreased artic sea ice. I’m guessing that one result of this pattern would be a hot north central Asia and cool Hudson Bay and upper US midwest during the summer.

    Could RC do a post on this?

  35. 85
    Don Shor says:

    “estimated to cost an additional $500 billion for each year that we postpone major action on climate change…”
    Your source for this number, please?

  36. 86

    Last night, I saw a wealthy-looking couple stroll up to a gourmet French restaurant, called “La Goddarde,” that’s been critically acclaimed around the world. Michelin gave it 5 stars, and the menu offered delicious choices such as Crème du Nobel, Salmon pour le bénéfice de l’humanité, all certified to be nutritious and good for your health as well as delicious. The couple paused, cast a brief glance at the menu, and she says to him: “Darling, I just know for sure the chef is trying to poison us; let’s go around the back alley and gnaw on some recycled spoiled meat in the gutter.”

    It beggars belief, doesn’t it?

  37. 87
    George Ortega says:

    Thomas #69,

    If we had several decades within which to “change the prevailing culture” as you suggest, your point might be more valid. But we don’t have that much time.

    Yes, climate change misinformation legislation would create a huge backlash, and THAT IS ONE OF THE MAIN PURPOSES OF PROPOSING THE LEGISLATION. Climate change needs to be FORCEFULLY thrust into the public spotlight so that the public cannot but be exposed to the scientific consensus on the matter, and cannot but be educated regarding the science, as opposed to the lies and misconceptions, about global warming. Climate change is now nowhere near the top of the list of topics at the forefront of media coverage. A strong push to enact climate change misinformation legislation would change all that in a fortnight.

    Where we are now is that the vast majority of the public has concluded that global warming must not be a big deal because if it were governments would prohibit misinformation about it like they now prohibit misinformation about dangerous substances and defective products. Can you blame the public for its skepticism and apathy when our scientists and the IPCC refrain from calling for laws prohibiting the kind of climate change misinformation that, by delaying action, is threatening to destroy civilisation as we know it. Can you imagine a group of medical researchers discovering a very harmful substance and refraining from calling on governments to stop individuals and corporations from telling everyone that the substance is completely safe? It would be the height of professional negligence and irresponsibility.

    Our world’s top scientists need to demand that our world’s governments protect their citizens from climate change misinformation. If they do not take up that call what reason do uneducated citizens have for believing global warming is a very serious threat? None. The basic principle here, and it applies to many other dangers, is that if a government allows something, or allows corporations to publicly claim that something is harmless, most people will quite understandably believe that it must be harmless.

    If the world’s scientists do not demand that the world’s governments prohibit lies and misinformation about global warming, THERE SEEMS NO OTHER WAY that the pubic will understand the gravity of the threat we face before it is much too late to save the future for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren… If you think otherwise, please let me know what other options remain to be tried.

    It’s high time that our world’s climate scientists demanded that our governments enacts legislation banning misinformation on climate change. Their failure to do so will ensure that too many of the world’s people will quite understandably conclude that global warming must not be that much of a big deal.

  38. 88
    Matt Marian says:

    To George Ortega #40 (and others)
    I follow science and Democracy , I might even be liberal in my politics.
    With all due respect and I truly mean that but …
    > “As I said before, we should leave climate change exclusively to the peer-review process, and make illegal fall other attempts to weigh in on the debate, because they are so dangerous.”<
    with that remark, I believe you are losing the plot.
    You would make certain people super-citzens, other thoughts are dangerous.
    I think some reflection is in order here. No one is stifling your ability to post, I may not be so lucky.

  39. 89
    gigel says:

    #1 Philip Machanick:
    “I have yet to encounter a situation where wishful thinking overturns a theory, especially when that wishful thinking runs counter to well-established physics (as is the theory of greenhouse gas warming)”
    Oh really? Well established physics? Would you think that clouds have an important role in warming? Scientists currently have next to NO IDEA how clouds influence the climate. So please cut your ****. Or maybe if YOU know all the stuff about clouds, you can share with your climate warming friends, who openly (and correctly) admit that our knowledge about this part of the climate is almost zero.
    Or maybe I’m wrong? But that’s what reputable people have been stating even in their drama filled talks I attended.

  40. 90
    George Ortega says:

    BJ Chippindale #74,

    You are advocating more, rather than less, speech. While that sounds good in theory, in practice it can amount to very dangerous anarchy. For example, you may be aware that the leader of Mexico’s top drug cartel is worth over a billion dollars. Suppose he were allowed by law to buy television ads in countries all over the world telling young people that the drugs that are illegal in those countries are actually safe, and pose little or no risk. He could also buy as many scientists to back up his claims as corporations have bought to confuse the public regarding the threat of climate change. Imagine the harm that would cause. Perhaps now you can understand how much harm over how many decades if not centuries misinformation on global warming is bound to cause Not all information is good. Lies are not good. Promoting very risky behavior that could lead to the needless deaths of many, many people is not good. Confusing the public about a climate change that can easily end civilization as we know it is not good.

    Scientists have already dismantled the arguments of global warming deniers, but it has done little good because the corporate media empires are not at all interested in either giving the climate crisis the attention it deserves, or in publicising scientific myth-busting about global warming.

    No. The time has come to move from a voluntary honor system way of dealing with global warming to the kind of strong legal action it requires and deserves.

  41. 91
    Jeff Boarman says:

    Gavin, your comments hint that there are more emails to be released?

  42. 92
    Chris Dudley says:

    #67,

    I have to agree with Gavin. Especially with IDL which is interpreted while you are developing, code is going to look like a notebook with things scratched out. People keep that stuff in the code sometimes in case they want to go back to where they were or to keep a record of what was tried. You can’t steal someone’s IDL scripts and expect to follow it easily. It is not intended to be clean. And, most likely there are many discarded scripts as well. If you want to know what a researcher thinks, read the paper not the code.

  43. 93
    David H. says:

    Gavin, you can settle your credibility issues rather quickly if you were to submit to a polygraph test through a reputable source and answer several questions:

    1. Have you ever knowingly falsified data or conclusions based on data about climate change for any purpose?

    2. Are you personally aware of any fraud perpetrated by staff members of the CRU?

    3. Are you hiding information from the public which contradicts your held political and scientifice positions on climate change?

    It’s simple Gavin. If you’re telling the truth then why not solicit questions from your readers and cement your credibility. You are a leading authority on policy issues affecting the financial well being of billions of people. I’d say your credibility is very much in question and could be significantly bolstered by a polygraph.

    Anyone else with me on this?

    [Response: The answer to all three questions is a resounding no. However, your view of my authority is highly inflated, as is your opinion on how much a polygraph test would do boost it. I would never encourage people to act based on my say-so alone. They should read the NAS reports, or the Royal Society reports or the assessment panel reports. They are far more likely to be complete and un-biased. - gavin]

  44. 94
    Russell Seitz says:

    , let us pray against the odds that 15 is a Poe, though 40 suggests it instead portends a heartfelt biartisan campaign to repeal the Bill of Rights- like environmental advocacy groups, energy corporations don’t have totalitarian ideas to propagate – people do.

    Substituting ‘Secondhand Smoke” for Climate Change ” in George Ortega’s clarion call for First Amendment repeal would at least make it possible to dismiss it on the grounds of bad taste , if not history-

    for the moment, Rc remains as much at liberty to add a sidebar link to Eric Hoffman’s cautionary essay on the authoritarian mind as to run paid adverts for The Index Journali Prohiborum , or vellum bound copies of the King James Version of AR4 adorned with Hansens autograph. If that sounds unattractive, there’s always Ortega’s opposite number at The Discovery Institute;

    http://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/discovery-institute-the-mask-falls-away/

    Condolences to Gavin as he tries to exercise his powers of diplomacy in the No Man’s Land of the emerging War Between the Cranks.

  45. 95
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Re: George Ortega, Hey Great Idea George! My wife is a law student in SE Qld Australia and has a law degree from the Philippines, I’ll get her to read your article as to how this might be implemented in the Australian Judicial system. As you alluded to; I don’t think it’ll be easy but luckily our present Rudd Government seems to understand the severity and importance of CC mitigation, but the federal senate is divided?.

  46. 96
    Bill K says:

    In order for science to occur, replication of experimentation must occur. A scientist can easily claim that he made Cold Fusion, or that Manhattan will be swamped under 100 feet of water by 2100, as long as he isn’t worried about replicating his results. Do you see why it is anti-scientific to make statements like these?

    [Response: First off, no scientist has said that sea levels will rise 20ft by 2100 (really, look it up). Second, making projections based on current knowledge and possible scenarios is perfectly valid. If those scenarios occur, that would be a valid data point with which to evaluate the state of current knowledge. Trends in temperatures projected back in the mid eighties worked out pretty well for instance. - gavin]

    [edit]

    Given that at least some of the emails about circumventing FOIA requests (http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=914&filename=1219239172.txt) were addressed directly to you, Gavin, I’m curious how you responded to them.

    [Response: Those emails were part of the discussion about the edits to this paper (which is actually a pretty good review of the state-of-the-art). I am not involved in any FOI actions involving CRU or IPCC and it is not my place to comment on what their response should be other than to state that of course they should follow the rules and take advice from the various Information Officers etc. - gavin]

  47. 97

    #76 Richard Steckis

    How can you still, after all this time, be representing ideas out of context, or why and on what supportable basis? What I find most disappointing is the lack of evolution in those that seem to just keep missing the relevant points and contexts.

    Since you seem to have missed what is reasonably obvious to those that have looked, the subject context is lack of GCR correlation with temp increase and insufficient forcing attributed to said GCR hypothesis to account for the observed temp increase; while other attributions, that of increases in industrial GHG’s do account for it, as well as correlate, as well as model match, and along with associated factors reasonably account for the the changes.

    There have been enough discussions of this subject on RC and you have been here long enough to know better… but you still don’t, I’m wondering why?

    Context is still key, and looking at things out of context still leaves you blind.

  48. 98
    phil c. says:

    “Now let’s go to the “validity of extremely complex models.” But of course the models are complex! The evidence itself is not just massive, but multi-dimensional. You find these models aren’t “transparent”? Have you done any programming? Even the best coders writing their clearest code can’t follow it themselves without immersing themselves in it for days at a time. It’s true whether you’re modeling climate, or modeling aerodynamics of an aircraft. You trust the airplanes you ride to stay up, right? Even though their airworthiness depends on “extremely complex models” that surely aren’t “transparent” to you?”

    Except: modeling aerodynamics is done to use the **understood** physics to create better planes. Then the plane is fully tested before letting people in them.
    Climate models are being used to make predictions when the physics is not fully understood – hence the poor quality of the predictions.
    If the physics was fully understood you would only really need one basic computer model – and it would work.

  49. 99
    debreuil says:

    Hi Gavin,

    Thank you for replying to my previous question about the code (and the other before it). For me (and most programmers I’ve talked to) I think this is the heart of the doubt. I understand this isn’t your code (it seems to be Briffa’s?) so you may not be totally familiar with it. You mentioned that the valadj array is in the end never used, but in the code of FOI2009 it is not commented out, and used in the later plot. The file is briffa_sep98_e.pro. The steps as far as what is in the code go:

    1) line 7: create the valadj array (I assume that stands for ‘values adjustment’)

    ;****** APPLIES A VERY ARTIFICIAL CORRECTION FOR DECLINE*********
    ;
    yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904]
    valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,-0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
    2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor

    2) line 57: interpolate that with yearlyadj (guessing that means yearly adjustment)

    ;
    ; APPLY ARTIFICIAL CORRECTION
    ;
    yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,x)

    3) line 58: append that to densall (next line)

    densall=densall+yearlyadj

    4) line 59: and then plot it (next line)

    ;
    ; Now plot it too
    ;
    filter_cru,20,tsin=densadj,tslow=tshug,/nan
    cpl_barts,x,densadj,title=’Hugershoff-standardised MXD from all sites’,$
    xrange=[1399.5,1994.5],xtitle=’Year’,/xstyle,$
    zeroline=tshug,yrange=[-7,3],bar_color=20
    oplot,x,tshug,thick=3,color=20
    oplot,!x.crange,[0.,0.],linestyle=1

    As you can see it certainly isn’t commented out, and it is used in the plot.

    [Response: Fair enough. The same code is in briffa_sep98_d.pro but there it is commented out. - gavin]

    I understand that there maybe be valid reasons for all of it, or the plot may be printed but not used, but as it is written it seems to be at least ‘evidence’ of data manipulation by whoever wrote it. Maybe it needs the original writer to clarify usage and intent, or are you familiar enough with it?

    [Response: Not at all. The 'correction' was calculated as the PC in an EOF decomposition of the divergence in the associated files (so it isn't arbitrary). I understand that this was done in order to test the sensitivity of certain calculations to the presence or absence of the post 1960 'divergence', but regardless of why it was done, it does not appear in any paper, nor does it impact any published data set. In no way can this be described as evidence for data manipulation in the sense you mean. This, like the junk that litters any researcher's hard drive, is just one of those calculations that didn't go anywhere or add anything particularly useful. That's the thing with stolen files - they don't come with context. - gavin]

    Once again thanks for the massive effort to help everyone understand here — looking up at the posts you seem to be up most hours of the day on this. I sincerely wish you well.

  50. 100
    Dave B says:

    #45 Ortega

    Perhaps a far better legislative plan would be to pass draconian laws against the corporate publishing of any more of this junk science known as humanly caused global warming. You needn’t worry about real truth of these disputed matters coming into the full light of day once all views are fairly aired and publically debated. It makes me nervous when one debater tries to have his opponent forcibly shut up. In the United States, that sort of nonsense will not be tolerated.


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