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Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind

Filed under: — group @ 24 February 2010

Guest commentary from Ben Santer

Part 2 of a series discussing the recent Guardian articles

A recent story by Fred Pearce in the February 9th online edition of the Guardian (“Victory for openness as IPCC climate scientist opens up lab doors”) covers some of the more publicized aspects of the last 14 years of my scientific career. I am glad that Mr. Pearce’s account illuminates some of the non-scientific difficulties I have faced. However, his account also repeats unfounded allegations that I engaged in dubious professional conduct. In a number of instances, Mr Pearce provides links to these allegations, but does not provide a balanced account of the rebuttals to them. Nor does he give links to locations where these rebuttals can be found. I am taking this opportunity to correct Mr. Pearce’s omissions, to reply to the key allegations, and to supply links to more detailed responses.

Another concern relates to Mr. Pearce’s discussion of the “openness” issue mentioned in the title and sub-title of his story. A naïve reader of Mr. Pearce’s article might infer from the sub-title (“Ben Santer had a change of heart about data transparency…”) that my scientific research was not conducted in an open and transparent manner until I experienced “a change of heart”.

This inference would be completely incorrect. As I discuss below, my research into the nature and causes of climate change has always been performed in an open, transparent, and collegial manner. Virtually all of the scientific papers I have published over the course of my career involve multi-institutional teams of scientists with expertise in climate modeling, the development of observational datasets, and climate model evaluation. The model and observational data used in my research is not proprietary – it is freely available to researchers anywhere in the world.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “scientific cleansing” allegation

Mr. Pearce begins by repeating some of the allegations of misconduct that arose after publication (in 1996) of the Second Assessment Report (SAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These allegations targeted Chapter 8 of the SAR, which dealt with the “Detection of Climate Change, and Attribution of Causes”. The IPCC SAR reached the historic finding that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. Information presented in Chapter 8 provided substantial support for this finding.

I served as the Convening Lead Author (CLA) of Chapter 8. There were three principal criticisms of my conduct as CLA. All three allegations are baseless. They have been refuted on many occasions, and in many different fora. All three allegations make an appearance in Mr. Pearce’s story, but there are no links to the detailed responses to these claims.

The first allegation was that I had engaged in “scientific cleansing”. This allegation originated with the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) – a group of businesses “opposing immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

In May 1996, a document entitled “The IPCC: Institutionalized ‘Scientific Cleansing’?” was widely circulated to the press and politicians. In this document, the Global Climate Coalition claimed that after a key Plenary Meeting of the IPCC in Madrid in November 1995, all scientific uncertainties had been purged from Chapter 8. The GCC’s “scientific cleansing” allegation was soon repeated in an article in Energy Daily (May 22, 1996) and in an editorial in the Washington Times (May 24, 1996). It was also prominently featured in the World Climate Report, a publication edited by Professor Patrick J. Michaels (June 10, 1996).

This “scientific cleansing” claim is categorically untrue. There was no “scientific cleansing”. Roughly 20% of the published version of Chapter 8 specifically addressed uncertainties in scientific studies of the causes of climate change. In discussing the “scientific cleansing” issue, Mr. Pearce claims that many of the caveats in Chapter 8 “did not make it to the summary for policy-makers”. This is incorrect.

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the IPCC SAR is four-and-a-half pages long. Roughly one page of the SPM discusses results from Chapter 8. The final paragraph of that page deals specifically with uncertainties, and notes that:

“Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long term natural variability and the time-evolving pattern of forcing by, and response to, changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and land surface changes”.

Contrary to Mr. Pearce’s assertion, important caveats did “make it to the summary for policy-makers”. And the “discernible human influence” conclusion of both Chapter 8 and the Summary for Policymakers has been substantiated by many subsequent national and international assessments of climate science.

There were several reasons why Chapter 8 was a target for unfounded “scientific cleansing” allegations. First, the Global Climate Coalitions’s “scientific cleansing” charges were released to the media in May 1996. At that time, Cambridge University Press had not yet published the IPCC Second Assessment Report in the United States. Because of this delay in the Report’s U.S. publication, many U.S. commentators on the “scientific cleansing” claims had not even read Chapter 8 – they only had access to the GCC’s skewed account of the changes made to Chapter 8. Had the Second Assessment Report been readily available in the U.S. in May 1996, it would have been easy for interested parties to verify that Chapter 8 incorporated a fair and balanced discussion of scientific uncertainties.

Second, the “pre-Madrid” version of Chapter 8 was the only chapter in the IPCC Working Group I Second Assessment Report to have both an “Executive Summary” and a “Concluding Summary”. As discussed in the next section, this anomaly was partly due to the fact that the Lead Author team for Chapter 8 was not finalized until April 1994 – months after all other chapters had started work. Because of this delay in getting out of the starting blocks, the Chapter 8 Lead Author team was more concerned with completing the initial drafts of our chapter than with the question of whether all chapters in the Working Group I Report had exactly the same structure.

The reply of the Chapter 8 Lead Authors to the Energy Daily story of May 22, 1996 pointed out this ‘two summary’ redundancy, and noted that:

“After receiving much criticism of this redundancy in October and November 1995, the Convening Lead Author of Chapter 8 decided to remove the concluding summary. About half of the information in the concluding summary was integrated with material in Section 8.6. It did not disappear completely, as the Global Climate Coalition has implied. The lengthy Executive Summary of Chapter 8 addresses the issue of uncertainties in great detail – as does the underlying Chapter itself.”

The removal of the concluding summary made it simple for the Global Climate Coalition to advance their unjustified “scientific cleansing” allegations. They could claim ‘This statement has been deleted’, without mentioning that the scientific issue addressed in the deleted statement was covered elsewhere in the chapter.

This was my first close encounter of the absurd kind.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “political tampering/corruption of peer-review” allegation

The second allegation is that I was responsible for “political tampering”. I like to call this “the tail wags the dog” allegation. The “tail” here is the summary of the Chapter 8 results in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, and the “dog” is the detailed underlying text of Chapter 8.

In November 1995, 177 government delegates from 96 countries spent three days in Madrid. Their job was to “approve” each word of the four-and-a-half page Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s Working Group I Report. This was the report that dealt with the physical science of climate change. The delegates also had the task of “accepting” the 11 underlying science chapters on which the Summary for Policymakers was based. “Acceptance” of the 11 chapters did not require government approval of each word in each chapter.

This was not a meeting of politicians only. A number of the government delegates were climate scientists. Twenty-eight of the Lead Authors of the IPCC Working Group I Report – myself included – were also prominent participants in Madrid. We were there to ensure that the politics did not get ahead of the science, and that the tail did not wag the dog.

Non-governmental organizations – such as the Global Climate Coalition – were also active participants in the Madrid meeting. NGOs had no say in the formal process of approving the Summary for Policymakers. They were, however, allowed to make comments on the SPM and the underlying 11 science chapters during the first day of the Plenary Meeting (November 27, 1996). The Global Climate Coalition dominated the initial plenary discussions.

Most of the plenary discussions at Madrid focused on the portrayal of Chapter 8’s findings in the Summary for Policymakers. Discussions were often difficult and contentious. We wrestled with the exact wording of the “balance of evidence” statement mentioned above. The delegations from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait argued for a very weak statement, or for no statement at all. Delegates from many other countries countered that there was strong scientific evidence of pronounced a human effect on climate, and that the bottom-line statement from Chapter 8 should reflect this.

Given the intense interest in Chapter 8, Sir John Houghton (one of the two Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group I) established an ad hoc group on November 27, 1996. I was a member of this group. Our charge was to review those parts of the draft Summary for Policymakers that dealt with climate change detection and attribution issues. The group was placed under the Chairmanship of Dr. Martin Manning of New Zealand, and included delegates from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Sir John Houghton also invited delegates from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to participate in this ad hoc group. Unfortunately, they did not accept this invitation.

The ad hoc group considered more than just the portions of the Summary for Policymakers that were relevant to Chapter 8. The Dutch delegation asked for a detailed discussion of Chapter 8 itself, and of the full scientific evidence contained in it. This discussion took place on November 28, 1996.

On November 29, 1996, I reported back to the Plenary on the deliberations of the ad hoc group. The Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti delegations – who had not attended any of the discussions of the ad hoc group, and had no first-hand knowledge of what had been discussed by the group – continued to express serious reservations about the scientific basis for the detection and attribution statements in the Summary for Policymakers.

On the final evening of the Madrid Plenary Meeting, debate focused on finding the right word to describe the human effect on global climate. There was broad agreement among the government delegates that – based on the scientific evidence presented in Chapter 8 – some form of qualifying word was necessary. Was the human influence “measurable”? Could it be best described as “appreciable”, “detectable”, or “substantial”? Each of these suggested words had proponents and opponents. How would each word translate into different languages? Would the meaning be the same as in English?

After hours of often rancorous debate, Bert Bolin (who was then the Chairman of the IPCC) finally found the elusive solution. Professor Bolin suggested that the human effect on climate should be described as “discernible”.

Mr. Pearce – who was not present at the Madrid Plenary Meeting – argues that the discussion of human effects on climate in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers “went beyond what was said in the chapter from which the summary was supposedly drawn”. In other words, he suggests that the tail wagged the dog. This is not true. The “pre-Madrid” bottom-line statement from Chapter 8 was “Taken together, these results point towards a human influence on climate”. As I’ve noted above, the final statement agreed upon in Madrid was “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”.

Is “suggests” stronger than “points towards”? I doubt it. Is “The balance of evidence” a more confident phrase than “Taken together”? I don’t think so.

The primary difference between the pre- and post-Madrid statements is that the latter includes the word “discernible”. In my American Heritage College Dictionary, “discernible” is defined as “perceptible, as by vision or the intellect”. In Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, one of the three meanings of the verb “discern” is “to recognize or identify as separate and distinct”. Was the use of “discernible” justified?

The answer is clearly “yes”. Chapter 8 of the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report relied heavily on the evidence from a number of different “fingerprint” studies. This type of research uses rigorous statistical methods to compare observed patterns of climate change with results from climate model simulations. The basic concept of fingerprinting is that each different influence on climate – such as purely natural changes in the Sun’s energy output, or human-caused changes in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases – has a unique signature in climate records. This uniqueness becomes more apparent if one looks beyond changes averaged over the entire globe, and instead exploits the much greater information content available in complex, time-varying patterns of climate change.

Fingerprinting has proved to be an invaluable tool for untangling the complex cause-and-effect relationships in the climate system. The IPCC’s Second Assessment Report in 1995 was able to draw on fingerprint studies from a half-dozen different research groups. Each of these groups had independently shown that they could indeed perceive a fingerprint of human influence in observed temperature records. The signal was beginning to rise out of the noise, and was (using Merriam-Webster’s definition of “discern”) “separate and distinct” from purely natural variations in climate.

Based on these fingerprint results, and based on the other scientific evidence available to us in November 1995, use of the word “discernible” was entirely justified. Its use is certainly justified based on the scientific information available to us in 2010. The “discernible human influence” phrase was approved by all of the 177 delegates from 96 countries present at the Plenary Meeting – even by the Saudi and Kuwaiti delegations. None of the 28 IPCC Lead Authors in attendance at Madrid balked at this phrase, or questioned our finding that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. The latter statement was cautious and responsible, and entirely consistent with the state of the science. The much more difficult job of trying to quantify the size of human influences on climate would be left to subsequent IPCC assessments.

Mr. Pearce’s remarks suggest that there is some substance to the “political tampering” allegation – that I was somehow coerced to change Chapter 8 in order to “reflect the wording of the political summary”. This is untrue. There was no political distortion of the science. If Mr. Pearce had been present at the Madrid Plenary Meeting, he would have seen how vigorously (and successfully) scientists resisted efforts on the part of a small number of delegates to skew and spin some of the information in the Summary for Policymakers.

The key point here is that the SPM was not a “political summary” – it was an accurate reflection of the science. Had it been otherwise, I would not have agreed to put my name on the Report.

A reader of Mr. Pearce’s article might also gain the mistaken impression that the changes to Chapter 8 were only made in response to comments made by government delegates during the Madrid Plenary Meeting. That is not true. As I’ve mentioned above, changes were also made to address government comments made during the meeting of the ad hoc group formed to discuss Chapter 8.

Furthermore, when I first arrived in Madrid on November 26, 1995, I was handed a stack of government and NGO comments on Chapter 8 that I had not seen previously. I had the responsibility of responding to these comments.

One reason for the delay in receiving comments was that the IPCC had encountered difficulties in finding a Convening Lead Author (CLA) for Chapter 8. To my knowledge, the CLA job had been turned down by at least two other scientists before I received the job offer. The unfortunate consequence of this delay was that, at the time of the Madrid Plenary Meeting, Chapter 8 was less mature and polished than other chapters of the IPCC Working Group I Report. Hence the belated review comments.

The bottom line in this story is that the post-Madrid revisions to Chapter 8 were made for scientific, not political reasons. They were made by me, not by IPCC officials. The changes were in full accord with IPCC rules and procedures (pdf). Mr. Pearce repeats accusations by Fred Seitz that the changes to Chapter 8 were illegal and unauthorized, and that I was guilty of “corruption of the peer-review process”. These allegations are false, as the IPCC has clearly pointed out.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “research irregularities” allegation

The third major front in the attack on Chapter 8 focused on my personal research. It was a two-pronged attack. First, Professor S. Fred Singer claimed that the IPCC’s “discernible human influence” conclusion was entirely based on two of my own (multi-authored) research papers. Next, Professor Patrick Michaels argued that one of these two papers was seriously flawed, and that irregularities had occurred in the paper’s publication process. Both charges were untrue.

On July 25, 1996, I addressed the first of these allegations in an email to the Lead Authors of the 1995 IPCC Report:

“Chapter 8 references more than 130 scientific papers – not just two. Its bottom-line conclusion that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate” is not solely based on the two Santer et al. papers that Singer alludes to. This conclusion derives from many other published studies on the comparison of modelled and observed patterns of temperature change – for example, papers by Karoly et al. (1994), Mitchell et al. (1995), Hegerl et al. (1995), Karl et al. (1995), Hasselmann et al. (1995), Hansen et al. (1995) and Ramaswamy et al. (1996). It is supported by many studies of global-mean temperature changes, by our physical understanding of the climate system, by our knowledge of human-induced changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, by information from paleoclimatic studies, and by a wide range of supporting information (sea-level rise, retreat of glaciers, etc.). To allege, as Singer does, that “Chapter 8 is mainly based on two research papers” is just plain wrong”.

In the second prong of the attack, Professor Michaels claimed that a paper my colleagues and I had published in Nature in 1996 had been selective in its use of observational data, and that our finding of a human fingerprint in atmospheric temperature data was not valid if a longer observational record was used. Further, he argued that Nature had been “toyed with” (presumably by me), and coerced into publishing the 1996 Santer et al. Nature paper one week prior to a key United Nations meeting in Geneva.

My colleagues and I immediately addressed the scientific criticism of our Nature paper by Michaels and his colleague Chip Knappenberger. We demonstrated that this criticism was simply wrong. Use of a longer record of atmospheric temperature change strengthened rather than weakened the evidence for a human fingerprint. We published this work in Nature in December 1996. Unfortunately, Mr. Pearce does not provide a link to this publication.

Since 1996, studies by a number of scientists around the world have substantiated the findings of our 1996 Nature paper. Such work has consistently shown clear evidence of a human fingerprint in atmospheric temperature records.

Disappointingly, Professor Michaels persists in repeating his criticism of our paper, without mentioning our published rebuttal or the large body of subsequently published evidence refuting his claims. Michaels’ charge that Nature had been “toyed with” was complete nonsense. As described below, however, this was not the last time I would be falsely accused of having the extraordinary power to force scientific journals to do my bidding.

A Climatology Conspiracy? More “peer-review abuse” accusations

Mr. Pearce also investigates a more recent issue. He implies that I abused the normal peer-review system, and exerted pressure on the editor of the International Journal of Climatology to delay publication of the print version of a paper by Professor David Douglass and colleagues. This is not true.

The Douglass et al. paper was published in December 2007 in the online edition of the International Journal of Climatology. The “et al.” included the same Professor S. Fred Singer who had previously accused me of “scientific cleansing”. It also included Professor John Christy, the primary developer of a satellite-based temperature record which suggests that there has been minimal warming of Earth’s lower atmosphere since 1979. Three alternate versions of the satellite temperature record, produced by different teams of researchers using the same raw satellite measurements, all indicate substantially more warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The focus of the Douglass et al. paper was on post-1979 temperature changes in the tropics. The authors devised what they called a “robust statistical test” to compare computer model results with observations. The test was seriously flawed (see Appendix A in Open Letter to the Climate Science Community: Response to A “Climatology Conspiracy?”). When it was applied to the model and observational temperature datasets, the test showed (quite incorrectly) that the model results were significantly different from observations.

As I have noted elsewhere, the Douglass et al. paper immediately attracted considerable media and political attention. One of the paper’s authors claimed that it represented an “inconvenient truth”, and proved that “Nature, not humans, rules the climate”. These statements were absurd. No single study can overturn the very large body of scientific evidence supporting “discernible human influence” findings. Nor does any individual study provide the sole underpinning for the conclusion that human activities are influencing global climate.

Given the extraordinary claims that were being made on the basis of this incorrect paper, my colleagues and I decided that a response was necessary. Although the errors in Douglass et al. were easy to identify, it required a substantial amount of new and original work to repeat the statistical analysis properly.

Our work went far beyond what Douglass et al. had done. We looked at the sensitivity of model-versus-data comparisons to the choice of statistical test, to the test assumptions, to the number of years of record used in the tests, and to errors in the computer model estimates of year-to-year temperature variability. We also examined how the statistical test devised by Douglass et al. performed under controlled conditions, using random data with known statistical properties. From their paper, there is no evidence that Douglass et al. considered any of these important issues before making their highly-publicized claims.

Our analysis clearly showed that tropical temperature changes in observations and climate model simulations were not fundamentally inconsistent – contrary to the claim of Douglass and colleagues. Our research was published on October 10, 2008, in the online edition of the International Journal of Climatology. On November 15, 2008, the Douglass et al. and Santer et al. papers appeared in the same print version of the International Journal of Climatology.

In December 2009, shortly after the public release of the stolen emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, Professors David Douglass and John Christy accused me of leading a conspiracy to delay publication of the print version of the Douglass et al. paper. This accusation was based on a selective analysis of the stolen emails. It is false.

In Mr. Pearce’s account of this issue, he states that “There is no doubt the (sic) Santer and his colleagues sought to use the power they held to the utmost…” So what are the facts of this matter? What is the “power” Fred Pearce is referring to?

  • Fact 1: The only “power” that I had was the power to choose which scientific journal to submit our paper to. I chose the International Journal of Climatology. I did this because the International Journal of Climatology had published (in their online edition) the seriously flawed Douglass et al. paper. I wanted to give the journal the opportunity to set the scientific record straight.
  • Fact 2: I had never previously submitted a paper to the International Journal of Climatology. I had never met the editor of the journal (Professor Glenn McGregor). I did not have any correspondence or professional interaction with the editor prior to 2008.
  • Fact 3: Prior to submitting our paper, I wrote an email to Dr. Tim Osborn on January 10, 2008. Tim Osborn was on the editorial board of the International Journal of Climatology. I told Dr. Osborn that, before deciding whether we would submit our paper to the International Journal of Climatology, I wanted to have some assurance that our paper would “be regarded as an independent contribution, not as a comment on Douglass et al.” This request was entirely reasonable in view of the substantial amount of new work that we had done. I have described this new work above.
  • Fact 4: I did not want to submit our paper to the International Journal of Climatology if there was a possibility that our submission would be regarded as a mere “comment” on Douglass et al. Under this scenario, Douglass et al. would have received the last word. Given the extraordinary claims they had made, I thought it unlikely that their “last word” would have acknowledged the serious statistical error in their original paper. As subsequent events showed, I was right to be concerned – they have not admitted any error in their work.
  • Fact 5: As I clearly stated in my email of January 10 to Dr. Tim Osborn, if the International Journal of Climatology agreed to classify our paper as an independent contribution, “Douglass et al. should have the opportunity to respond to our contribution, and we should be given the chance to reply. Any response and reply should be published side-by-side…”
  • Fact 6: The decision to hold back the print version of the Douglass et al. paper was not mine. It was the editor’s decision. I had no “power” over the publishing decisions of the International Journal of Climatology.

This whole episode should be filed under the category “No good deed goes unpunished”. My colleagues and I were simply trying to set the scientific record straight. There was no conspiracy to subvert the peer-review process. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories are easy to disseminate. Many are willing to accept these theories at face value. The distribution of facts on complex scientific issues is a slower, more difficult process.

Climate Auditing – Close Encounters with Mr. Steven McIntyre

Ten days after the online publication of our International Journal of Climatology paper, Mr. Steven McIntyre, who runs the “ClimateAudit” blog, requested all of the climate model data we had used in our research. I replied that Mr. McIntyre was welcome to “audit” our calculations, and that all of the primary model data we had employed were archived at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and freely available to any researcher. Over 3,400 scientists around the world currently analyze climate model output from this open database.

My response was insufficient for Mr. McIntyre. He submitted two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for climate model data – not for the freely available raw data, but for the results from intermediate calculations I had performed with the raw data. One FOIA request also asked for two years of my email correspondence related to these climate model data sets.

I had performed these intermediate calculations in order derive weighted-average temperature changes for different layers of the atmosphere. This is standard practice. It is necessary since model temperature data are available at specific heights in the atmosphere, whereas satellite temperature measurements represent an average over a deep layer of the atmosphere. The weighted averages calculated from the climate model data can be directly compared with actual satellite data. The method used for making such intermediate calculations is not a secret. It is published in several different scientific journals.

Unlike Mr. McIntyre, David Douglass and his colleagues (in their International Journal of Climatology paper) had used the freely available raw model data. With these raw datasets, Douglass et al. made intermediate calculations similar to the calculations we had performed. The results of their intermediate calculations were similar to our own intermediate results. The differences between what Douglass and colleagues had done and what my colleagues and I had done was not in the intermediate calculations – it was in the statistical tests each group had used to compare climate models with observations.

The punch-line of this story is that Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests were completely unnecessary. In my opinion, they were frivolous. Mr. McIntyre already had access to all of the information necessary to check our calculations and our findings.

When I invited Mr. McIntyre to “audit” our entire study, including the intermediate calculations, and told him that all the data necessary to perform such an “audit” were freely available, he expressed moral outrage on his blog. I began to receive threatening emails. Complaints about my “stonewalling” behavior were sent to my superiors at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at the U.S. Department of Energy.

A little over a month after receiving Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests, I decided to release all of the intermediate calculations I had performed for our International Journal of Climatology paper. I made these datasets available to the entire scientific community. I did this because I wanted to continue with my scientific research. I did not want to spend all of my available time and energy responding to harassment incited by Mr. McIntyre’s blog.

Mr. Pearce does not mention that Mr. McIntyre had no need to file Freedom of Information Act requests, since Mr. McIntyre already had access to all of the raw climate model data we had used in our study (and to the methods we had used for performing intermediate calculations). Nor does Mr. Pearce mention the curious asymmetry in Mr. McIntyre’s “auditing”. To my knowledge, Mr. McIntyre – who purports to have considerable statistical expertise – has failed to “audit” the Douglass et al. paper, which contained serious statistical errors.

As the “Climategate” emails clearly show, there is a pattern of behavior here. My encounter with Mr. McIntyre’s use of FOIA requests for “audit” purposes is not an isolated event. In my opinion, Mr. McIntyre’s FOIA requests serve the purpose of initiating fishing expeditions, and are not being used for true scientific discovery.

Mr. McIntyre’s own words do not present a picture of a man engaged in purely dispassionate and objective scientific inquiry:

“But if Santer wants to try this kind of stunt, as I’ve said above, I’ve submitted FOI requests and we’ll see what they turn up. We’ll see what the journal policies require. I’ll also see what DOE and PCDMI administrators have to say. We’ll see if any of Santer’s buddies are obligated to produce the data. We’ll see if Santer ever sent any of the data to his buddies”

(Steven McIntyre; posting on his ClimateAudit blog; Nov. 21, 2008).

My research is subject to rigorous scrutiny. Mr. McIntyre’s blogging is not. He can issue FOIA requests at will. He is the master of his domain – the supreme, unchallenged ruler of the “ClimateAudit” universe. He is not a climate scientist, but he has the power to single-handedly destroy the reputations of exceptional men and women who have devoted their entire careers to the pursuit of climate science. Mr. McIntyre’s unchecked, extraordinary power is the real story of “Climategate”. I hope that someone has the courage to tell this story.

Benjamin D. Santer

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow
San Ramon, California
February 22, 2010*

*These remarks reflect the personal opinions of Benjamin D. Santer. They do not reflect the official views of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory or the U.S. Department of Energy. In preparing this document, I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Tom Wigley, Myles Allen, Kristin Aydt, Graham Cogley, Peter Gleckler, Leo Haimberger, Gabi Hegerl, John Lanzante, Mike MacCracken, Gavin Schmidt, Steve Sherwood, Susan Solomon, Karl Taylor, Simon Tett, and Peter Thorne.

1,047 Responses to “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind”

  1. 151
    t_p_hamilton says:

    Pastuer01 realizes that the data being discussed at different times is actually different:”McIntyre, Santer and Bader all refer to the January 14, 2009 release as “data.” Yes, it resulted from intermediate calculations from the raw data that was previously available.”

    Your original question of Santer: “Did your immediate supervisor decide to release the data before you did?” If there are two sets of data (raw, and intermediate) being discussed, “the data” makes no sense at all.

  2. 152
    SecularAnimist says:

    Scott Mandia wrote: “Do you really believe that the scientists at CRU were able to squelch every scientist on the planet who tried to publish this landmark anti-AGW paper?”

    And the people who believe that call themselves “skeptics”. They know they are “skeptics” because Rush Limbaugh and Fox News tell them that they are.

  3. 153
    Allen C says:

    “No, you are not questioning the answers. You don’t believe them. So you ignore them.”

    Whoooaaa, I haven’t learned the art of mind reading. Perhaps you can tell me what else I am thinking??

    So questioning the “ANSWERS” is not allowed? Exactly what is wrong with questioning the “ANSWERS”? Isn’t that what Galileo did? Isn’t that what Einstein did? (btw, Einstein was not a physicist; he was a worker at the patent office at the time.)

    So one must accept the religion of the “ANSWERS” or what? Science is never settled.

  4. 154
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Scott A. Mandia says: 25 February 2010 at 2:44 PM

    Well, Scott, you’re supposed to focus on all the little bits of glittery tinsel being tossed in front of your eyes, not 24 ton weight hanging over your head.

    Get with the program, ok?

    Now, look at the emails! See how shiny they are!

  5. 155

    “””””Dr. Santer,

    Did your immediate supervisor decide to release the data before you did?

    “…preparation of the datasets and documentation for them began before your FOIA request was received by us.” Dr. David Bader, January 2009

    “A little over a month after receiving Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests, I decided to release all of the intermediate calculations I had performed for our International Journal of Climatology paper.” Dr. Ben Santer, February 2010.”””””

    Why don’t you read a Pulitzer prize winning author’s detailed book clearing Santer…”The Heat is on” Gelbspan (

    Pulitzer Prize winner Ross Gelbspan from the Boston Globe also writes in depth about Ben Santers accusations and clears him in the book “The Heat is On”. It was required reading at a pilot climate change course I took at the University of Denver.

    By the way (and I did not make this up), the Boston Globe had to issue a statement that yes, Gelbspan did indeed receive the Publizer Prize after the the oil lobby claimed that he had never received it. It is like a house of mirrors.

    See Gelbspan’s website for photocopied evidence.

  6. 156

    Hey, Sonja,

    I know John Houghton. I’ve worked with John Houghton. And let me tell you, Sonja–you’re no John Houghton.

    The implication that his science must be bad because of his religious beliefs was especially cute.
    [edit – I understand where you are going, but let’s not go down that road]

    Take your hateful attacks somewhere else.

  7. 157

    JP (118): The CRU emails were not stolen.

    BPL: Then why is there an ongoing criminal investigation into the theft?

  8. 158
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dr. Boehmer-Christiansen @107:

    Surely, the oil and coal people, as well as political conservatives, have an equal right and even duty to fight their corner and demand scientific honesty where policy would undermine their interests or beliefs. Smearing opponents has tended to be a failing of ‘warmers’ like Santer and his wider group of supporters.

    I can’t believe you said that with a straight face either. Are you completely unaware that the “oil and coal people” who “demand scientific honesty” are paying the same lobbyists who “fought the corner” of the tobacco companies? Did they have the “right and duty” to escape responsibility for pushing their deadly product? Are you ignorant of the abundant evidence for the concerted, sophisticated and richly-funded campaign by the “oil and coal people” to escape their own responsibility?

    Having studied climate scepticisim over a long time I agree that many sceptics have ‘right-wing’ values, are critical of environmentalism as a dangerous ideology and favour carbon fuels. Like I they are suspicous of environmentlaism because it tends to assume that humanity is at fault and that industrialisation damages the planet. But then, what is wrong with that? The opposite tends to be true for many ‘warmers’,’alarmist’ or ‘global salvationists’. Scientsts must become aware of their own filters or prejudices before declaring that only thay posess the truth.

    If your comment is sincere, you are demonstrating that your ‘right-wing’ values have blinded you to reality. Even if you’re dissimulating, you’ve presented a nearly perfect example of the tu quoque logical fallacy. No wonder Energy&Environment is held in such low regard by honest climate scientists!

  9. 159
    Smitty says:

    Here goes my first attempt to comment on RC.
    Up until last week, reading this blog was frustrating because of the one-sided hubris.
    Remarkably, these same characteristics have become quite entertaining. I just might subscribe to the RSS feed. Responding to the public’s concerns is much more informative than ignoring them. Kudos for moving past the initial phase of denial and moving into toward anger.
    As a skeptic, I am interested in challenging my positions. It strengthens them. The elite, prominent climate scientists might try it. If your hard work withstands independent scrutiny, you gain true confidence in your conclusions. Resisting the scientific process stunts the progression of knowledge.
    I’m not a climate scientist,so I pose no threat. Still I’m anxious to see if my contribution will be posted, as RC has the reputation of aggressive moderation.

  10. 160
    flxible says:

    Mapleleaf@148 “Now I, and others, should be demanding to see his emails to see what he has been up to. Anyone game?”
    Unfortunately McI isn’t subject to FOI requests. Probably would need some Chinese and Russions involved but, maybe John Peter could use his disdain for the privacy of email to hack the mail and publish it. Surely would be entertaining to have a few groups quote mining that correspondence! “Just sayin'”

  11. 161
    John Peter says:

    ray (125)


    You have helped me more than you know with CS. Let me try to help you with life.

    You said:John Peter,
    I am afraid that I found your posts about Ben Santer quite disingenuous as well. There was a time when scientists could do their work without harassment from the public and politicians. Now they face constant harassment, slander and even death threats.

    You are referring to the 20th century. We are now in the 21st century with a new and different environment. I don’t like it any more than you do. If you find somewhere else to go, tell me. I might just go along.

    You see fit to cast aspersions against Ben Santer,

    I told Nick mea culpa and I didn’t mean to cast aspersions. Read # 118

    but you evidently see nothing wrong with denialists fabricating quotes:

    It’s not that I see nothing wrong. A lie is a lie and not right in my book. It’s just that I don’t care what other people do. If I felt libeled, I’d sue if I could size the cost to me of their lie.

    The problem here really is that, while the deniers may be paid for by the oil companies, the warmers are being paid for by you, me, and the deniers. It’s not a symmetrical relationship.

    making unsbstantiated allegations against scientists and science itself:

    They sound like Fox news listeners

    hacking into email servers and releasing a portion of what they find taken entirely out of context.

    How many time do I have to repeat there is no – zero – zilch expectation of privacy for unencrypted email content on the internet. I’d give you the GW law professor rel again if I thought you would read it. In this matter you have no interest in facts. For shame!!! 8<(

    BTW if you look up the definition of "hacked" you'll discover that is precisely what Mann did to get the hockey stick.

    You say: “Your critics don’t want to go head-to-head with you on the science, they see the need to audit.”

    That’s not quite what I said. Judith and Ibelieve you’ve won your war with deniers. It’s the public that pay for you and the MSM that want you audited. They don’t trust you much more than they trust the bankers.

    Isn’t it interesting that science has gotten by just fine without auditing for 400 years. Revolutionized society, created prosperity. What is more, climate science has been examined by independent organizations ranging from the National Academy to the AAAS. Guess what, not one professional or honorific organization of scientists has dissented from the consensus. Just who would you have perform the “audit”–a self-appointed guarantor with only one peer-reviewed publication to his name? A former TV weather man who doesn’t even have a degree?

    Exactly what the bankers claim with different nouns. Tell me the difference between to big to fail and AGW.

    The problem is that the denialists are not interested in truth, only in delay.

    That’s just what they say about you.

    There are two sides to this debate, John: Science and anti-science. I suggest you choose.

    I choose to try to get you and the deniers together. Bank auditors get along well with bankers they do different jobs but they have the same objective. Success.

    Ray, to repeat, I owe you a lot – we just don’t see things the same way.

  12. 162
    Ken W says:

    Andreas Bjurström (149) wrote:
    “Sonja have written extensively on this, just dig in the peer review literature if you are interested….”

    I’ve been following the climate science peer reviewed literature fairly closely for the past 7 – 8 years, and I must say I haven’t seen anything which supports Sonja’s blanket accusation. Perhaps you could provide some kind of reference to (let’s keep it simple) the 1 or 2 best peer reviewed (no books or op-eds please) articles that support Sonja’s claim?

  13. 163
    ClimateCurious says:

    Dr. Santer,

    I’m a layperson trying to educate myself in this area. I appreciate the information provided in your rebuttal. I would guess that the average person might read it and wonder like me why you didn’t just send McIntyre the intermediate calculations in the first place, even if it was irritating to do so and he could do it himself. Could you kindly explain? (This is a sincere question.) Your reaction may be obvious to other scientists, but not necessarily to the general public. If you plan to respond thru the MSM, you’ll need to spell out things like this for non-scientists.

    Thank you and good luck.

  14. 164
    Steve Fitzpatrick says:


    Re: your response to my comment #75

    Tim Osbourn to Phil Jones and Ben Santer:
    “He also said (and please treat this in confidence, which is why I
    emailed to you and Phil only) that he may be able to hold back the
    hardcopy (i.e. the print/paper version) appearance of Douglass et al.,
    possibly so that any accepted Santer et al. comment could appear
    alongside it.”

    Which is of course what actually happened. I believe that many people found this (and several other actions) wholly inappropriate.

    [Response: Where was that ‘explicitly’ requested by Santer? The editor is in charge of his journal, and he is entitled to schedule publications when he likes. I happen to agree with him that this was a good idea – but it is a triviality in the greater scheme of things because hardly anyone reads the paper copies any more. Now, the egregious errors in the Douglass et al paper – they were really something ‘wholly inappropriate’. – gavin]

  15. 165
    CM says:

    Andreas (#149), when you direct us to Sonja B-C’s articles in the peer-reviewed literature, are you doing that to establish “objectivity” and thus gain political power? Just curious to learn more about the interface of science and policymaking.

  16. 166
    Deech56 says:

    RE Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen #107

    Just, wow.

  17. 167
    John Peter says:

    Hank Roberts 130

    One opinion I have is that if you keep going with this siege mentality you will continue to loose more and more of the public trust until they will cease to fund you. You don’t see this coming because you are paying attention to sovereign.

    Another opinion I have is that would be a terrible tragety for the world, but the world will survive.

    Read some of my copy paste, I’m not trying to debate you, I’m trying to get you to peek outside your box.

  18. 168
    ccpo says:

    I cannot see how deliberate lies and distortions, slanders and libels, can be allowed to continue any longer. We have seen the numbers of Americans who “get” climate science fall from around 75% to around 50%.

    That’s a death sentence for us all. This is serious stuff.

    If the scientists can’t see that a vigorous response is not only warranted, but ethically and morally necessary, perhaps it is time for a class action, grassroots legal campaign against these… less than truthful individuals and organizations.

  19. 169
    John Peter says:

    Theo Hopkins (82)
    Steve Fitzpatrick (83)
    dhogaza (84)
    Nick Gotts (118) (134)
    CDC (226)
    Secular Animist (135)
    Here’s my legal “facts” about the internet email, a post card, not a letter.

    Email on the Internet

    While adopting a policy of sending personal email only from home is an obvious step towards protecting your privacy at work, it doesn’t guarantee that your messages will be fully protected from prying eyes. After your email leaves your home it travels over multiple online services and open networks to reach its destination. Although interception of email transmission — that is, snooping while an email is in “real-time” transmission between sender and receiver — is a federal crime under the Electronic Communications Protection Act (ECPA) (18 U.S.C.A 2517(4)), it has been accomplished by hackers.

    The ECPA also permits an ISP to look through all stored messages, including email awaiting you in your mailbox or recently sent and received mail. Some ISPs temporarily store all messages that pass through the system. The ECPA normally prevents the ISP from disclosing the messages to others, but even here there are exceptions. Law enforcement officials, when armed with proper warrants or administrative subpoenas, can gather basic information about users from ISPs, including their names, and also gain access to the content of stored messages. Also, once the email reaches its destination, the ECPA does not protect against snooping at the recipient’s mailbox.

    Some ISPs, worried about their own liability for the email content, require subscribers to conform to an End User Service Agreement that further reduces the user’s expectation of privacy with ISP-favorable terms. For example, the service agreement for one popular ISP states: “Service Provider has no obligation to monitor the Service, but may do so and disclose the information regarding the use of the Service for any reason if Service Provider in its sole discretion believes that it is reasonable to do so, including to satisfy governmental or legal requests.”
    Keeping Email Secret

    Ultimately, the only way to ensure a high degree of privacy for your messages on the Internet is to encrypt them. Encryption is a system in which sophisticated software using cryptographic algorithms garbles your message, sends it across the networks as gibberish and then — assuming the recipient has the correct digital “key” — reconstitutes it, or “decrypts” it.

    Commonly used public key technology uses two keys: one that is unique and private and one that is public and freely distributed to all users of a particular system. These keys only work when matched — what one scrambles, only the other can undo. These techniques can also verify the integrity of the data (that it wasn’t altered along the way) and authenticate it (check to make sure the stated creator is the person who sent the message).

    But successfully using encryption requires some foresight, because the person receiving the message has to be able to decode it. Two popular encryption standards are Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (“S/MIME”) and Open Pretty Good Privacy (“OpenPGP”). Neither of these software products can decode the other’s algorithms.

    In the end, email’s speed and convenience outweighs its non-private nature for most every day discussions. But you should think of it like a postcard, not a letter — a message open to every eye along the way.”

    I already posted the GW professor who said we needed new legislation had no statues supported by case law.

    Come on guys, where are your legal “facts”. Scientists know that a lot of people saying or believing something doesn’t make it so.

  20. 170
    Pete Wirfs says:

    My local newspaper published this editorial titled “Facts no longer mean what they once did” by Leonard Pitts.

    From the editorial:
    “To listen to talk radio, to watch TV pundits, to read a newspaper’s online message board, is to realize that increasingly, we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth. We admit no ideas that do not confirm us, hear no voices that do not echo us, sift out all information that does not validate what we wish to believe.”

    But the optimist in me still says all is not lost. Eventually scientific facts will win.


  21. 171
    MapleLeaf says:

    This was posted at Pielke Jnr’s blog regarding Inhofe’s repeated attacks on scientists:

    “Roger, I find your wording on this intriguing. You are seemingly critical of Inhofe, but at the same time you do not explicitly state that what he is doing or proposing is ridiculous in the extreme. Does he even know that several of those scientists on his list do not reside in the USA? This is McCarthyism all over again.

    You also say that “Senator Inhofe is not alone in serving up red meat for his partisan followers”.

    True, but you have been engaging in similar (dog whistle) tactics for some time now. Not for “partisan followers”, but for so-called “skeptics”. And don’t try and deny it; the evidence is on your very own blog and elsewhere on the web.

    Anyhow, what I want to know is *exactly* do you stand on this persecution of scientists by Inhofe? For example, Do you denounce or approve of what he is proposing?

    I would like to see you do a post on why what Inhofe is proposing is so wrong and to take him to task on it. Anything less can easily and reasonably be construed as support for Inhofe by you.”

    No response yet from Pielke Jnr.

  22. 172
    John McManus says:

    Last week “dispatches ” CBC radio ( audio available on the website) ran a segment on the banning of Minarets in Switzerland. A strategist for the anti- immegrant party was ademant: play to emotion, but do not make people think. My reaction may have been skewed by the slimew, but I first thought that a simple , no thought , programme was right.

    I have had my third shower and I now think that if the reactionary right is terrified of people thinking, the voices or reason should always try to provide the information base for independant thought. Mr. Sanders” reply hopefully will enable the thought process.

    John McManus

  23. 173
    Jerry Steffens says:


    > you warmers

    “What do you call the marine biologists concerned about pH change — acidifiers?”

    And how about this for those who believe in gravity — downers.

  24. 174
    SecularAnimist says:

    Allen C wrote: “Exactly what is wrong with questioning the ‘ANSWERS’? Isn’t that what Galileo did?”

    Galileo pointed a telescope at the planets and reported what he observed.

    Back then, Galileo was threatened with torture by those who felt their wealth and power was threatened by the results of his scientific research.

    Now, legitimate climate scientists like the moderators of this site are being threatened with persecution and prosecution by the likes of Senator Inhofe — not to mention having their lives threatened by deranged, delusional, denialist Ditto-Heads — because the results of their research likewise threaten the wealth and power of the wealthy and powerful.

    Is that the parallel you were looking to elucidate?

  25. 175
    Hank Roberts says:“60+year+cycle”

    Yeah, there’s discussion of it. No, there’s not enough there to explain the trend. Nothing new here.

    Please try to find something new and interesting to argue about.

  26. 176
    Completely Fed Up says:

    MapleLeaf, funny Luke hasn’t been around to decry the uncalled for comment from Pielke.

  27. 177
    Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Re:your reply to my comment #164

    If delaying the Douglass et al printing so that Santer et al could appear along side was such a good idea, then why did Tim Osbourn ask that the information be held in confidence? I would venture that Osbourn believed people would see this as inappropriate; and I believe he was correct, people really do see it as inappropriate.

    If those involved just said something like “You know, we were upset about Douglas et al because we thought it was a really crappy paper, and because we were upset we did some things that, in hindsight, we probably should not have done.”, then the episode would become a non-issue. I just do not understand the steadfast defense of very questionable actions. Honestly, I just don’t see any value in it.

    [Response: So I should just agree with every random accusation because to defend myself for doing something that isn’t wrong makes you feel that I’m a better person? Nonsense. There just isn’t anything improper here. No-one asked for this to happen, the editor decided it would be appropriate – which was his prerogative. Who cares about this other than people who just want to find to nit to pick because Ben Santer is piñata of the month? Where are the hundreds of papers in the literature discussing the ethics of paper scheduling? They don’t exist, because this isn’t an ethical issue. It’s just another manufactured faux controversy. Sorry. – gavin]

  28. 178
    JRC says:

    #169 John Peters

    Well it’s quite obvious that these e-mails were most likely not sniffed from server to server. That they resided on a certain server, and not just passing through. Of course sniffing can be quite illegal and a felony offense.

    Just a link for you to peruse.

    The teen figured out Sarah Palin’s e-mail address he was indicted for crimes. Yet he didn’t hack anything in the literal sense but he did access without authorization her e-mail account.

    I can also show in different cases where people that worked at a company were found guilty of unauthorized access even though they worked at the company in question.

    I’m not sure how IT you are, but certainly it would be illegal regardless of whether it was hacked, insider, etc. It was unauthorized access to a computer which is against the law.

    Though there are certain less defined rulings on an employee who happened to copy his client list when leaving a company.

  29. 179
    Reasonable Observer says:

    Wow. It is amazing how much people on this blog just don’t get it. There is a reason that even left leaning papers and blogs are starting to grant the skeptic camp a lot more respect. Some points:

    1) This whole approach that you will provide the raw data but that the skeptics should do their own work just doesn’t fly. Why not just send the files? They must or at least should be sitting on a computer somewhere and they can be sent in 30 seconds. I understand that you don’t want to provide the skeptics with ammunition, but the reality is that you have given them a bunch more ammunition by making it look like you have something to hide. You are losing this battle and you should just stop. Post the data, the intermediate data, the code, whatever.

    2) The whole reason you are getting FOI requests is #1. It is hard to have a whole lot of sympathy when you really brought this on yourself.

    3) While the glacier thing has been damaging to the IPCC, the really damaging thing was the head of IPCC denying it and calling the claims voodoo science right up to the point where he had to admit the error. Errors happen and evenone gets that, but the denial makes the whole thing look like a partisan hack job rather than scientists weighting the available evidence and just trying to get it right. This blog would have gaining a lot of credibility if it had talked to some of those real climate scientists and agreed that the claim was wrong. It was an opportunitiy missed.

    4) This blog is only making it worse with some of these addiitional allegations. Any fair reader (like the various reporters) can go through the skeptic blogs and it is clear that the IPCC blew it. Now maybe by using terms like “up to” the claims aren’t technifically untrue, but they are clearly misleading and shouldn’t have gotten in the report. Trying to defend them just makes this website look bad. Most of these mistakes aren’t that big a deal. Just call a mistake a mistake and work with the IPCC to make sure they don’t happen again. Actually finding an area of agreement with the skeptics would give you a lot more credibility.

    The contributors to this website need to wake up and smell the coffee. When you start losing people who are naturally sympathetic to your arguments you need to understand that you have lost. Maybe you were trying to do the right thing but you screwed up. You can keep denying your errors and continue down the same path or just fix it.

    My sense is that if you don’t fix it yourselves someone in the scientific community will fix it for you and your won’t like it one bit.

  30. 180
    Sufferin' Succotash says:

    “I have had my third shower and I now think that if the reactionary right is terrified of people thinking”

    I took you three–THREE–showers to figure that out??
    This latest contribution to RC is extremely valuable and in fact RC generally is extremely valuable, especially for someone as unversed in the science as I am.
    But it has occurred to me that what Gavin & Co. really need is a pack of full-time Bulldogs. I mean modern-day T. H. Huxleys with combativeness, showmanship and gift of gab combined with thorough knowledge of the science, the sort who could slug it out with the deniers so that serious scientists wouldn’t have to. In effect, people who could do for climate change science what Huxley did for Darwinian evolution.

  31. 181
    SecularAnimist says:

    Reasonable Observer, your comment is a litany of ignorance and falsehoods, all delivered with sneering, belligerent arrogance.

    Which is not surprising since you seem to get all of your information from so-called “skeptic” blogs, which are dedicated to keeping people ignorant by spoon-feeding them lies and encouraging malice towards climate scientists.

  32. 182
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “1) This whole approach that you will provide the raw data but that the skeptics should do their own work just doesn’t fly”

    No, because it isn’t a plane.

    But this is how science is done.

    Pons and Fleischmann weren’t asked for their data. They were asked for their methods. And this didn’t stop scientists finding out that cold fusion by their method doesn’t happen.

    “2) The whole reason you are getting FOI requests is #1.”

    No, the whole reason they are getting FOI requests is because they want to halt any progress in science.

    Death by a thousand demands.

    Or don’t you know what spam is?

    “3) …but the denial makes the whole thing look like a partisan hack job …” So McIntyre’s, Monckton’s, G&T’s, Soon’s, Douglass’ (etc) denial about errors makes their work (which constitute the ENTIRETY of the denialist writings) look like a partisan hack job too.



    “4) …Now maybe by using terms like “up to” the claims aren’t technifically untrue, but they are clearly misleading”

    How about this:

    Where after Latif says “…for a few…even ten years…” then gets turned into, by the magic of reporting “for ten or twenty years… at least” and “…thirty years…”.

    Which isn’t even technically true.

    I take it that any fair reporter would have seen these and noted that the denial industry is failing.

    Oh, no, not reported.

    Maybe it’s not fair reporting going on, then.

  33. 183
    calyptorhynchus says:

    #107 Sonja writes

    “Sir John, as an example and there are many others, was much more than a scientist, he was and remains a reborn Christian who believes that pollution is a sin and that it is Man’s duty to save the planet whose demise he could foretell with science.”

    Well I was raised C of E and if I was still a Christian that’s pretty much what I’d think too. I don’t understand these fundamentalists who are happy to trash God’s creation just because Augustine decided nature was evil. If I was them I wouldn’t look forward to the Second Coming:

    Quando judex est venturus
    Cuncta stricte discusurus

    (apologies for any typos, I’m quoting from memory)

    However, most denialists seem to be secualr types who are worried that soc!alists want to take away their SUVs.

  34. 184
    Hank Roberts says:

    > “To listen to talk radio, to watch TV pundits, to read a newspaper’s online
    > message board, is to realize that increasingly, we are a people estranged
    > from critical thinking ….

    Oh, there have always been folks like that, probably more of them in proportion.

    What’s changed is they’ve learned to type, and we’ve got electronic reproduction and telecommunications.

    Instead of a scrawl mailed to one newspaper editor, or wrapped around one rock and thrown through one window, the old way, nowadays this kind of text gets into type (and in many cases spellchecked, and certainly repeatedly copypasted) it somehow seems like there’s more people behind it.

    I blame public education (wry grin).

  35. 185
    Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    “It’s just another manufactured faux controversy.”

    I read the complete string of emails (as well as the Douglas and Santer papers), and I honestly disagree with your evaluation. I believe that your dismissal is symptomatic of what has caused climate scientists to lose credibility with a lot of honest and fair minded people. That loss of credibility is unfortunate, and very bad for climate scientists. For what it is worth, I personally believe that some prudent steps should be taken to reduce CO2 emissions, although I recognize that this will be a political, economic, and values based decision as much as one based on science. I am trying to help, not to criticize Ben Santer or anybody else.

    Thanks for allowing me to comment unedited.

  36. 186
    MapleLeaf says:

    Reasonable Observer @179, contrary to you moniker, your observations and accusations are anything but reasonable. Engaging you is hopeless if the above is your unreasonable starting point. There is more going on here than you will read at CA or WUWT or other contrarian blogs. Your expectations are unrealistic and unreasonable, your characterization of what has transpired incorrect and grossly oversimplified.

    I for one do not defend the errors in WG-II of AR4. The IPCC is going to have to make some changes, and I think that almost everyone here would agree with that.

    Pachauri was actually correct characterizing the content at CA, WUWT, AirVent, Lucia, it is pretty much all voodoo science. It might be compelling to the untrained eye, but it is pseudo-science nonetheless.

    In science one is often required to preface statements with caveats or words like ‘possibly”, b/c we do not know for sure. One cannot prove anything in science, mathematics yes, but not science.

    Also, on one hand if the IPCC says that they are 100% sure that we are contributing to global warming, then you would mock us for being arrogant and omniscient. Then we say we are >90% confident, and then you turn around and say, that is all hand wavy and not ‘technically true’ (whatever that means). There is just no pleasing you.

    The truth is that there will always be uncertainties, and scientists have ways for quantifying those uncertainties. If you expect certainty, then you clearly do not understand science. We know that increasing GHGs increase temperatures in the troposphere and cool the stratosphere. The key question is exactly how much warming there will be for doubling CO2, well much research and brainpower has been invested in that and the data all converge to around +3C warming for doubling CO2. Can we give a definitive number? No. Can we give a range and quantify the uncertainty? Yes, 1.5-4.5 C. It is worth noting that the PDF for the sensitivity has a long tail extending out to ~10C warming for doubling CO2.

    The AR4 (IPCC) was too conservative on it estimates of sea level rise, and Arctic sea ice loss.

    And lastly, if you think Steve McIntyre is an honest broker, then think again. And I mean really think critically and apply that skepticism of yours to the actions of those in denial. That would be the reasonable thing to do would it not?

  37. 187
    Ian Forrester says:

    If anyone ever wonders why Energy and Environment is not even suitable for wrapping stinky dead fish they should read Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen’s views on climate science and scientists in general. I have never read such a radical anti-science view by someone who is an editor of what she, and her fellow deniers, like to call a “science journal”.

  38. 188
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Jerry Steffens says: 25 February 2010 at 5:14 PM

    >>> #130
    >>> you warmers

    >> “What do you call the marine biologists
    >> concerned about pH change — acidifiers?”

    > And how about this for those who believe in gravity — downers.

    those who believe it’s natural cycles — unicyclists, bicyclists, tricyclists

    I suppose this belongs at DenialDepot, to recruit more sincere suggestions.

  39. 189
    J Bowers says:

    Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen: “Sir John, as an example and there are many others, was much more than a scientist, he was and remains a reborn Christian who believes that pollution is a sin and that it is Man’s duty to save the planet whose demise he could foretell with science.”

    I trust someone on the editorial board of E&E is getting their facts right about Sir John Houghton for a change. That said, I’d prefer to see Sir John confirm it first.

  40. 190
    Hank Roberts says:

    You can look this kind of thing up—college students are expected to be able to do this, to figure out if the’re looking at a peer-reviewed source or not.
    Any library can help you with this kind of question.

    For example:

    Peer-reviewed journals, University of Sydney Library
    Use these resources to check if a journal is refereed (peer-reviewed):

  41. 191
    Hank Roberts says:

    Or, if you’re not a student (grin) you may want to use Wikipedia:

  42. 192

    Ian @187: Can you link to that statement by SB-C please? I’d be interested to read it.

  43. 193
    Peter Houlihan says:

    In response to #164.

    Seems to me that scheduling a critique of a paper(comment) to be published concurrent with the paper does nothing but improve the quality of the science.

    Do you have any substantial critique of the comment?

    It speaks volumes that this type of triviality is now one of the current obsessions of the confusionists.

  44. 194
    Peter Houlihan says:


    You should check before making things up – this blog never defended “the glacier thing”. RealClimate never defended the claim. Quite the opposite. They did put it in context.

    Read section: “Errors in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)

    As far as we’re aware, so far only one–or at most two–legitimate errors have been found in the AR4:

    Himalayan glaciers: In a regional chapter on Asia in Volume 2, written by authors from the region, it was erroneously stated that 80% of Himalayan glacier area would very likely be gone by 2035.”

    Don’t have time to dig further into your misrepresentations. But, I think I’ve made my point.

  45. 195
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John Peter,
    Are you familiar with the nonreci-procal formulation of the 2nd Law of Thermo: It says that if you mix a teaspoon of wine with a gallon of sewage, you get sewage; if you mix a teaspoon of sewage with a gallon of wine you get sewage. I am afraid that is also true of science and anti-science.

    Science has existed in more or less its present form for about 150 years. It works. The reason why it works is because of the way it has structured its checks and balances and filters and incentives.

    You don’t become a scientist without about 20 years of hard work and crappy wages. A corollary is that you don’t become a scientist unless you are passionate about understanding your subject matter. The curiosity-driven nature of science is one of the things that makes scientific fraud extremely rare. It also means that any fraud is likely to be detected fairly quickly, since an interesting result will attract a large number of researchers trying to reproduce it just to understand it better.

    Science also rewards ambition while at the same time punishing too great an emphasis on personal ambition. The way to get ahead is to set aside personal agendas and work to advance understanding.

    Peer review, scientific consensus–all the elements that make up modern scientific methodology–they are all there for good reason. And as I say, it works–astoundingly well. There simply is no better human institution for delivering reliable knowledge. Because science works so well, I am loathe to tinker with it. Add or subtract one element, and at best, you may slow the process. At worst, you could wreck it. I’m very conservative when it comes to things that work, but then, fortunately, there aren’t too many of those things in life.

    “Auditing” is not part of the scientific method. It adds no value. The ersatz skeptics have added not one iota of understanding about Earth’s climate. Indeed, that is not their goal. They have no passion to understand the climate. So where is their incentive for progress? Where is their incentive to put aside personal agendas and push understanding forward? The methods of the auditors are sterile–as evidenced by their abysmal publication record. In fact their methods are VERY similar to those of creationists, HIV deniers, anti-vaxers, tobacco companies, etc. They all concentrate on tiny perceived chinks in the evidence while ignoring the mountains of evidence all around them.

    So, John, just as we cannot teach “ID” in the biology classroom, we also cannot compromise scientific methodology to accommodate the methods of the “auditors”. If they want to influence science, they will have to do science.

  46. 196
    Kris Aydt says:

    Steve @ 185,

    you wrote:

    I read the complete string of emails

    So you read a compiliation of emails, stolen, and inferred context into them coming to a conclusion. Fair …. or not. Whatever string you read was “released” on purpose. You get that don’t you? You understand the entire record was not released, right? Have you questioned why? I wonder the reason all of the emails were flooding through the internet …. only some …. hmmm….

    It seems on dangerous ice to come to conclusions based on stolen emails …. but, then, I guess not everyone uses the same standard to come to sound conclusions.


  47. 197
    Ron Taylor says:

    Ben Santer, Phil Jones, Michael Mann and other climate scientists are undergoing a vicious attack intended to destroy their credibility as scientists, and to bully them into withdrawing from the debate. It is so sad to see people like Fred Pearce and Judith Curry drawn into this sordid business, even if that is not their intent.

    Several people commenting on this thread suggest that, since this smear effort has had some success, if scientists will just admit to what the public perceives, then all will be well.

    That is terrible advice and I am not sure it is offered in good faith. The proper approach is an honest and thorough response to the accusations. That is exactly what Ben Santer has done here, as have Gavin and others on earlier posts. If you truly think that throwing red meat to the people behind these accusations will satisfy them, I wonder what universe you are from. The scientific standard of objective honesty is the only approach.

    The greatest success of the campaign has been to shift the discussion from the science to procedure and politics. That is tragic. But I have a feeling that nature will soon redirect our attention.

    Ben, Gavin, Mike (and others), you guys are the age of my kids and you have become my heros. Not that that means much of anything, but please hang in there. This is the most critical issue of my lifetime (including MAD). I am deeply sorry that you have to put up with this nonsense.

  48. 198
    Eli Rabett says:

    In this whole foolishness about scheduling of the print editions, the Steve Fitzs of the world are looking in the wrong direction. Editors usually know the field they are editing in (although there have been a fair number of editori printing stuff they were clueless about, or politically motivated to print:) Hi Princess Denial, good to see you in fine fettle).

    Silly stuff does get through though and it can be embarrassing. Pretty obviously the editor of the International Journal of Climatology knew he had put a stinker into electrons and was holding off printing it on paper as long as he could. The Santer, et al. manuscript was a gift from the gods, a clear refutation of Douglass, Christy, Singer and someone else whose name Eli forgets, nonsense, that actually advanced the state of the art in comparing observation and modeling. Guess what happened.

    No dumb bunnies here.

  49. 199
    John Peter says:

    Marco (144)

    An internet email is not like a letter, it’s like a postcard. Read and try to be more understanding of my post *169.

    An internet email is free, a post card (and postal workers) cost money. You get what you pay for in this 21st century. You better believe it! 8<)

  50. 200
    J Bowers says:

    #23 dhogaza: “JBowers might need some help with the inevitable denialist shout-down at the guardian.”

    Thanks for thinking of me, it’s touching. I’ve only had a couple of suggestions to stop breathing and the like at The Guardian… so far ;) They can turn into real bloodbaths over there. Of course, I’m then immediately accused of being abusive and a pinko commie in a very predictable manner, although today’s suggestion after a particularly trying ding-dong that the denialists should move to another planet to conduct their CO2 experiment on may not go down too well. Oh well, c’est la vie, it’s not like I do it often… at The Guardian, that is.

    I tip my hat to Ben Santer for his thorough rebuttal.