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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. 201
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Reasonable Observer says: 25 February 2010 at 5:56 PM

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

    A few minutes’ reasonable observation of previous entries on this thread would have prevented you from making such an ignorant statement.

  2. 202

    The point of these attacks on scientists is that they are part of a well-funded attack by fossil-fuel companies. Steve McIntyre is their willing puppet.

  3. 203

    As someone who worked for 6 years as a technical editor on scientific journals for Elsevier Science Publishers, B.V., in Amsterdam, I can inform readers here that it would not be at all unusual to attempt to publish two related papers in the same issue and naturally this would involve paying attention to the production scheduling. And of course it also means that one paper might be delayed. So what?

  4. 204
    Howard Livingston says:

    Could global warming instigated by carbon dioxide pollution be causing the extinction of the honey bee around the world?

    [Response: No.]

    Along with the other purported causes like cell phone radiation and genetically modified crops. I understand that Bayer corporation is violently attacking biologists who suggest that GM crops are harmful to honey bees.

    “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

    Albert Einstein

    [Response: The grasses, which include all the major cereal crops, are wind (or self) pollinated. Even Einstein made mistakes.–Jim]

  5. 205

    whoops… found it (above), ignore previous post.

  6. 206
    John Peter says:

    Ian Forrester (187)

    I’ve been mentioning sovereign debt in my posts lately but nobody’s taken the bait. You’re a bright guy, get around so do you know what sovereign debt is?

    What is the average temperature of Iceland? Did they really go bankrupt last year? What did they do?

    Is Greece going to follow Iceland? When? Will the Euro survive?

    How about the US? Why are those nasty Wall Street bankers 10% of US GDP? What will US unemployment be next year? In 2020?

    BTW UK is in worse shape than we are.

    Will California go bankrupt? How about Michigan? New Jersey?

    Bottom line. The world assets are less than 1/3 of available credit. Now, not at the end of the century.

    I’m only trying to get you to think about what’s on the minds of a lot of other folk these days.

    If scienttists would work for $10/hr, I expect Sonja (whoever she is) wouldn’t bother to share her views. She’d work on someone else.

  7. 207
    John Peter says:

    MapleLeaf #186


    The skeptics pay your salary. They have to pay attention to sovereign debt.


  8. 208
    John Peter says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick (185)

    Right on!

  9. 209
    John Peter says:

    Hank Roberts (184)

    Hi again,

    I blame sovereign debt. Think about it

  10. 210
    John Peter says:

    calyptorhynchus (183)


    Iexpect their more worried about their job. You lose that first.


  11. 211
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    165 CM,
    I am trying to lure you all down into the abyss, haha

  12. 212
    John Peter says:

    CFU (182)

    You said:
    “…I take it that any fair reporter would have seen these and noted that the denial industry is failing…”

    Along with just about every other industry.

    Except in China, they burn coal…8<(

  13. 213
    Ken W says:

    Smitty (159) wrote:
    “Still I’m anxious to see if my contribution will be posted, RC has the reputation of aggressive moderation”

    A genuine skeptic might have been a little more skeptical before believing that claim ;-)

    If you follow RC very long, you’ll actually become amazed at their level of patience. They will respond to any legitimate questions and clarify things for those actually interested in learning something about climate science. But they will also block some comments when they are derogatory, far off-topic, or intentionally obtuse (they tend to allow those through a few times, but grow tired of it when the poster is unable/unwilling to grow-up).

    But keep in mind. There are a steady stream of newbies that come on here thinking they have the silver bullet which will destroy the evil theory of AGW. Patience is pretty short among most regulars for that kind of poster. If they aren’t willing to even click on the “Start Here” link at the top and attempt to educate themselves a little before posting, they don’t deserve a lot of patience.

  14. 214
    John Peter says:

    SecularAnimist (181)

    Well come on now, they do pay your salary…

  15. 215
    John Peter says:

    Sufferin’ Succotash (180)

    Where do you get the $$ to pay for bulldogs. PR is expensive.

  16. 216
    John Peter says:

    Reasonable Observer (179)

    Hi, glad to meet a reasonable person.

    Good post. I guess you are someone who does know what sovereign debt is.

    Keep up the good work

  17. 217
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    162 Ken W,
    What parts of the climate science peer reviewed literature do you follow? Sure, I can give you a few references, but what are you interested in? Sonja are saying many things, several are more or less accepted truths in the social sciences and she state these things on a general level. She also make some more strict factual claims (of which some are best judged by the physical scientists). And some normative claims where agreement mostly depends on whether you share her norms or not. Guess her claims are best backed up by her papers (not sure if she published recently, I have a couple of old ones that I have cited myself). She is also critiqued (among others for overstressing interests) and she is controversial within the social science community, also because of her political views on climate change. Give me a reply and I will give you a couple of references.

    As a starter I give you these two (not because they agree with Sonja, but because I like these papers, they are well cited and within the same kind of discussion):

    Cohen, S., Demeritt, D., Robinson, J., Rothman, D. (1998) Climate change and sustainable development: towards dialogue. Global environmental change 8(4):341-371

    Demeritt, D. (2001) The construction of global warming and the politics of science. Annals of the association of American geographers 91(2):307-337

    And these two books:

    Jasanoff, S., Wynne, B. (1998) Science and decisionmaking. In: Rayner S, Malone E (eds) The societal framework. Human choice and climate change, vol 1.

    Jasanoff S (ed) States of knowledge: The co-production of science and the social order.

  18. 218
    John Peter says:

    JRC (178)

    Thanks for the link.

    “…”Unauthorized access” entails approaching, trespassing within, communicating with, storing data in, retrieving data from, or otherwise intercepting and changing computer resources without consent. These laws relate to either or both, or any other actions that interfere with computers, systems, programs or networks…”

    My IT internet support were all authorized so I thought we had consent. I told the users in their terms of agreement, to encrypt if they wanted privacy. I also had it in our privacy policy.

    Oh well, live and learn I always say. 8<))

    I admit it's a murkey area but did the teen get convicted? A judge or jury determines whether or not we're guilty. Prosecuters just claim and you're innocent until proven guilty in the US.

    My GW Law proffessor said we would need new legislation to make conviction possible. If you can get bail and hang in there, the prosecutor will usualy give up.

    Do you know of any convictions?


  19. 219
    David Horton says:

    “[Response: The grasses, which include all the major cereal crops, are wind (or self) pollinated. Even Einstein made mistakes.–Jim]” well, yes JIm, but man does not live by bread, or rice, alone. If the the honey bees are doomed, for whatever reason, or combination of reasons, then legume crops and fruits, to name just two foodstuffs, are doomed, and human diet is going to get a lot less interesting and nourishing.

  20. 220
    John Peter says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick (177)

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

  21. 221
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Ray Ladbury says: 25 February 2010 at 9:31 PM

    That was an exceptionally fine summary, worth pinning on the wall.

    I especially liked this bit:

    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.

    Put another way, the more things misbehave or are inexplicable, the more fascinating they are and the more driven by mystification researchers will be, compelled in a way some would call pathological to satisfy both their curiosity and ambition.

    This is something I think a lot of rejectionists fail to understand. If by some unlikely circumstance it turns out that our climate does not behave roughly as folks such as Gavin Schmidt have modeled it, that’s not going to kill the fascination and ambitions of researchers focused on understanding the behavior of the ocean-atmosphere system. Quite the opposite– researchers in the field will be burning with curiosity to how the system has been misunderstood, and falling all over themselves to be first with a solid result explaining where things went wrong and what is a better approximation. Many rejectionists seem to imagine this is like football or some other game, where a “team” loses and leaves the field in humiliation, but that’s not a good model at all.

  22. 222
    flxible says:

    John Peter@199 – Where can I get some of this free internet you have? My ISP charges me one he-doublehockeysticks of a lot more than the post office and in exchange they also assure me they will abide by the privacy laws of this country, and I DO expect to get what I pay for.

  23. 223
    Lotharsson says:

    “An internet email is not like a letter, it’s like a postcard.”

    An electronic *copy* of a previously sent e-mail sitting on a private e-mail server…is NOT “like a postcard”. The derivation is left as an exercise for the reader.

    Your point does not lead to the implication that you think it does.

  24. 224
    Lotharsson says:

    “I mean send him several times a day massive volumes of your data relevant or not in the spirit of cooperation. Include him on all your email lists no matter what they are so he gets 10000 emails a day reminding people to clean the upstairs fridge on Friday. I mean too much information is surely better than none for him.”

    It’s an awesome way to manage a micromanager…but I suspect the problem with McIntyre is not micromanaging, but cherry-nit-picking (if I can make up a term). You can see this by his choice of nits to pick…the nits have a well-known anti-AGW bias ;-)

  25. 225
    Bob Close says:

    I agree with Reasonable Observer, the Climate science community similar to my own geologist community tend to live in their own academic world and their studies are not understood by 90% of the rest of humanity.
    Because science in the last two centuries has been largely responsible for changing civilization for the better and improving lifestyles, scientists as a group have been considered relatively apolitical and generally trustworthy, and respected in society.
    Enter the climate debate!- as a concerned bystander in the AGW debate -and it has become a real debate, not so much in scientific journals but in the public domain mainly in the “blogosphere”- it is evident that due to the science influencing the political arena as a consequence your community is now exposed to heavy world wide scrutiny.

    Naturally the public and big business at large doesn’t want to believe that their lifestyles and profits will be affected strongly by catastrophic future climate change and don’t necessarily want to pay for costly measures to militate against it right now.
    This is especially the case for Cap in trade / ETS policies where the same “financially savvy” people who gave us the GFC stand to profit from the proposed carbon trading schemes that have proved such a failure so far in Europe.
    Therefore the skeptics-deniers from all backgrounds- question the science behind the predictions hoping that they will be found to be wrong or not proven and so the mess can be avoided or mitigation will be less painful.
    This is not necessarily malicious or underhand and it is actually good for science to be more rigorously vetted by the broader not just the peer community- given the way that research funding has become ever more a political game and less objective.
    You have to admit that climate science has now become a political football and needs to be better understood by elected decision makers for the wider community, so they can make properly informed choices for us all.

    The IPCC practice of sexing up conclusions in legitimate research studies to suit particular political goals and frighten the public into submission is not to be condoned.
    Now that various gross errors have been detected in the IPCC political reports, particularly the temperature data manipulation to eliminate the Little ice age and other modern cooler periods, and the obvious person bias to AGW shown by the Jones clique of “Climategate” scientists; the educated public suspects it has been duped by climate change experts- political spin merchants and wants the evidence verified.
    As a scientist, I am more concerned about the integrity of the science process and our standing in the general community, now that the collapse of the political consensus on AGW has occurred after the Copenhagen debacle.

    Getting back to that science- It is clear the results of your collective research on global climate change show a general fluctuating mildly warming trend and a possible correlation with GHG escalation that is likely human induced in part. This is fair enough as it goes, however to then take this trend and subject to various climate forcing agencies in climate models to predict rapid uncontrolled global warming with consequent severe environmental problems for society in coming decades really amounts in my view to improbable scary science fiction!.

    I don’t admit to any predetermined disbelief in AGW, but having read a selection of recommended peer reviewed articles and portions of the 2007 IPCC report, I understand that global climate changes are different in the Northern and Southern hemispheres and we have a lot to learn about wind and ocean current patterns, and the effects of GHG.
    To single out and blame CO2 as a major driver in this AGW process is only an educated guess based on the evidence I have seen, because the limitations of other drivers are so poorly understood in particular the effects of solar irradiation. To build a whole political castle in the sky based on alleged CO2 pollution is irresponsible and asking for trouble.
    We the public need to see the smoking gun re CO2, and in my opinion you have not done that yet. I believe you have shown human civilization induced GHG’s are a factor as are sulphate aerosols but do they far outweigh natural climate pattern effects such as El Niño, volcanic eruptions and solar changes?- I strongly doubt it.

    You need to build confidence in this science by focussing on the understanding the key drivers of climate change, the relative importance of AGW and how this may reasonably effect our society in the short and long term. Goodluck!

  26. 226
    Jiminmpls says:

    158 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?

    I’ve been wondering….What field of science makes one an expert on both the climate and the health effects of smoking?


  27. 227
    Jiminmpls says:

    159 Still I’m anxious to see if my contribution will be posted, as RC has the reputation of aggressive moderation.

    You obviously haven’t been reading the comments lately. If they have been aggressively moderated, I’d LOVE to see the redacted comments.

  28. 228
    MapleLeaf says:

    Dr. Santer, thanks for fighting the good fight. The truth will win out, I just wish that you did not have to endure all the nonsense, threats of violence and nastiness that are unfortunately associated with fighting for the truth and integrity of science. Again, a sincere thanks.

  29. 229
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 169 John Peter says: 25 February 2010 at 4:57 PM
    “Come on guys, where are your legal “facts”. Scientists know that a lot of people saying or believing something doesn’t make it so.”

    You’re justifying theft on the grounds that emails, once they’re sent basically have a life of their own. Yes? The sender can not expect privacy once such a transmission leaves his computer.

    In the first place the first of the emails was from 1996, fifteen years old, well prior to any adjudications regarding privacy. It’s likely the senders did assume or expect privacy at the time. They can hardly be blamed for being unaware of current thinking on the subject.

    The fact is that the emails were just part of the package of archived information that was stolen. Are you saying that pdf files, raw data, program codes and word processing documents also fall under the umbrella of electronically recorded property without expectation of remaining secure?
    documents: 166.1 MB
    mail 10.2 MB

    The theft wasn’t from emails floating around in cyberspace. The theft was of an archive of all sorts of data that qualifies as intellectual property. It was CRU property that was stolen. A bank heist set up by some one on the inside doesn’t make it any less of a crime. Leak, hack, whatever. A theft is a theft.

    “Who leaked the Hadley CRU files and why”
    “Other commenters have observed that the very form and organization of the archive, which expands to 168 MB of text files, word-processing documents, PDF files, raw data, and even program code, indicate that someone already having access to the system logged in through his usual channels, made the archive, and then logged out.”

    Here’s an interesting take on the emails…
    No, climatologist Paul Dennis did _not_ leak the CRU data; there was cracking involved

  30. 230
    Radge Havers says:

    Smitty @ 159

    ” 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.”

    The object is to gain better insight into reality, not to publicly hash out and harden ones self-esteem issues.

    “Resisting the scientific process stunts the progression of knowledge.”

    “Elite, prominent climate scientists, resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”

    Has it occurred to you that just maybe the “elite, prominent climate scientists” here might have a much better grasp of the scientific process and how it should be practiced than do you? Did you think to check, Smitty?

    “I’m not a climate scientist,so I pose no threat.”


  31. 231
    John Peter says:

    Ray (195)

    Another excellent post! If you haven’t done so already, you should look into writing a book. You are an excellent advocate.

    You’re pretty good on science, how are you on auditing?
    Scientific programs get audited all the time. The audits are often called technical evaluations.

    There are three types of audits – internal, external, and consultive (Wickipedia audit – read it)

    What I was posting earlier was to get together with McIntyre – “better to have em inside pissing out, than outside pissing in”, the second unwritten law of engineering. What Judith says less crudely is get your former enemies, the deniers, with you as internal auditors, or you’ll get joe 6-pack as an outside auditor. I’ll make book on it, you’ll all prefer Steve McIntyre as an outside auditor to Inhofe or Gingrich or Palin.

    Again, I think your post is great. I agree with you about the joys of science. Why else would I want to learn climate science?

    Unfortunately, my second law of thermodynamics memory is pretty dim. I do remember we used to sing:

    Increasing, decreasing, increasing, decreasing
    what the heck do we care what the enthropy does?

    That said, if your “nonreci-procal formulation of the 2nd Law of Thermo” has anything to do with radiation chemistry in clouds, I’d sure appreciate learning about it. I studied from Hertzberg’s Diatomic, but I’m currently trying to work through Goody and Yung. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

  32. 232
    Edward Greisch says:

    Speaking of absurd: From Climate Progress: “Sen. Inhofe inquisition seeking ways to criminalize and prosecute 17 leading climate scientists” including RC people. Putting the link here causes rejection as spam.

  33. 233
    john frankis says:

    In response to Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen at #107:

    What in general is a scientist’s “environmental belief”? Does she suggest that the Christian faith she attributes to Sir John Houghton – saying he is “a reborn Christian who believes that pollution is a sin and that it is Man’s duty to save the planet” – is common to all scientists? That’s plainly absurd, but the lady doth go on …

    Sonja assures us that “business people and investors (like Al Gore and the BBC) hope to make money out [of] the ‘response strategies’ to the warming threat”. The BBC? It’d make more money out of a documentary or three deconstructing some of the gibberish people like her talk, I should think.

    “Science and ideology (political belief) cannot be separated in individual people” says Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen. She’s joking?! I think what she means is that she as a political scientist is indeed a political scientist, not a physical or natural scientist. Otherwise she ought to get started publishing her thesis because Nature (the bit we live in not the journal) is I’m sure just hanging on her every word to hear about its political belief system. She should be joking, it’s funnier that she’s clearly not.

    “Science, selected and diluted, has always been used and misused for the justification of policy ambitions” she says. Dear Sonja this is called “politics” not “science”. You can’t help but conflate the two completely different things in your mind but that’s a quirk of you and your journal, not science itself.

    “Like I they [my tribe] are suspicious of environmentalism … ” and – we should care?

    “Scientists must become aware … that only they possess the truth”. Completely pointless point so I imagine Sonja will appreciate my creative editing of it for her, or at least accept my political right to rearrange her words to amuse my own comic prejudices. “Political scientist” is turning out to be an oxymoron I suspect.

    “IMHO, the RealClimate group and their allies in quite a few other countries deserve criticim less for their science than for how they have ‘marketed’ and ‘branded’ their research outputs as true and above criticism.” Well! – truly spoken like one from a world of delusion where “marketing” and “branding” rule and science is either unknown or fears for its life.

    “… value judgments … hiding … the politics of science, a much neglected subject”.
    Laughing out loud, the chutzpah of her! Of course the IPCC and world leaders should listen more to Sonja than scientists on science, this much is quite clear.

    Sonja goes on to misrepresent the 1992 Convention on Climate Change, in the process showing why she’s in politics not science. Clear thinking is essential for one but just useful for the other.

    Finally “Challenging this justification – the climate threat to the planet and humanity – is indeed High Politics” and further gibberish. Well it sounds to me Sonja more like a job for science than for politics so perhaps you might like to sit it out, let the grown-ups get back to work, calm yourself a little?

    What a joke.

  34. 234
    sidd says:

    Mr. John Peter wrote at 25 February 2010 at 10:42 PM:

    “If scienttists would work for $10/hr…”

    Sir, I am a once and sometime physicist, and as a grad student and postdoc I routinely worked at least eighty hours a week. Often more. Every week. Years on end. Both experimental and theoretical physics. I once calculated that, as a postdoc, I was making far less than minimum wage.

    The professors I have worked with put in similar amounts of time, were paid better, but nowhere near the hourly rates that the unionized janitors made.

    So I quit.

    Work for myself these days, but still, I volunteer, work with my ex advisor, develop some large scale codes for free, and for my personal curiosity. The money isn’t why I did it, or why I continue. The money just ain’t there.

    Don’t get me started on the status and working conditions of grad students, or of the systemic corruption of an academic system that exploits people because they love a subject.


  35. 235

    Yet another reason to sign my petition.

    Ben, whatever these clowns say about you, their antics are no substitute for producing a superior theory that better explains the evidence.

    And that is … ? This may give you an idea.

  36. 236

    In response to #204 Howard Livingston:

    [Response: The grasses, which include all the major cereal crops, are wind (or self) pollinated. Even Einstein made mistakes.–Jim]

    Einstein was indeed human. In this instance he made the very serious mistake of being quoted saying something he almost certainly never said.

    In today’s world, he could be a climate scientist :(

  37. 237

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

    “de-basifiers” ;-)

  38. 238
    Alan of Oz says:

    The UK has some of the strongest libel laws on the planet, they should not be used to argue science or silence opinion but they should certainly be used when every paper in the land is falsely accusing you of criminal activity.

    Many people will see your lack of legal action as a tacit admission of guilt and perhaps this is what is happening at the Gaurdian. Stop being such nice guys! As loathsome as a court case sounds you need to vigoursly defend your hard earned reputations and hit the sources of the worst allegations where it will hurt them the most, in their back pockets. If you fail to stand up to such bully boy tactics then it’s only going to get worse.

  39. 239


    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.

    Scientific authors get along fine with their reviewers too, and with those attempting replication or otherwise checking their work — often appreciating their effort to the point of mention in the acknowlegements.

    Now, try and imagine a gang of doctrinary, unrepentant marxists-leninists insisting on ‘auditing’ the bankers… just try. Actually the mental image is quite entertaining ;-)

  40. 240

    Allen C (153): Science is never settled.

    BPL: Does the Earth orbit the sun? Is gravity inverse-square? How many protons does a hydrogen atom have? Will those questions ever be settled, do you think?

  41. 241

    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.

    Hear, hear.

  42. 242

    The misnamed Reasonable Observer: This whole approach that you will provide the raw data but that the skeptics should do their own work just doesn’t fly.

    BPL: We should do their work FOR them? Gee, you must have been a real hit with your professors. “Why is a hard question like this on the test? Why don’t you show me how to do it, step by step?” Because you’re supposed to be able to do it on your own. Duh!

  43. 243

    Sufferin’ (180),

    Arrange a debate for me with any of those denier blowhards and I will do my best to kick their sorry asses. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I know basic radiation physics and I’m not afraid to use it.

  44. 244

    JB (189): Sir John is, like myself, an evangelical Christian. The stuff about his motives Sonja made up.

  45. 245
    Julien says:

    Hi, thanks a lot for your work. I urge everybody here to send a mail to the Guardian asking them to correct their articles and guarantee a complete investigation of the facts in their future work. I copy-paste below the letter I sent, for interested readers to get inspiration from.


    I have been following the environmental pages of The Guardian for quite some time now, and have always enjoyed your broad, documented and scientifically sound way of exposing the facts, providing your readers with high quality information.
    It might help you understand my mail by mentioning that I have a very strong scientific education […] Science has been part of my daily life for almost ten years now, and its methods have definitely helped me understand much more than what is limited to my research field.

    I know that every single argument must be justified and proven using the appropriate mathematical tools, or experiments following a defined and rigorous procedure. And getting a result is not enough, the argument must be contemplated from different aspects in order to fully validate it. And I believe the same applies to journalism as well.

    In your series of articles dealing with the “climategate” you have several times failed to investigate what really happened by asking the concerned scientists about their own version of the story. You have failed in giving them the opportunity to once and for all give publicly their version of the facts and face it to the unfounded and dishonest attacks orchestrated by lobbies and free market dogmatists they have been the target of. In other words, you have given the attackers full coverage and silenced the victims.
    This is not journalism as it should be. Now those scientists must spend precious time justifying themselves on, with proofs and details that you should have given in your series of articles. Two lengthy posts (links provided) have been published those last days, explaining and debunking methodically some of your articles. Unfortunately in this “debate” skeptic readers will never go and check the other version on such a website. They will take what you write for granted. And what you write is biased, incomplete and deeply unfair. What you write is a signal to manipulating lobbies and think tanks, that they are winning the war against science.

    This is not what I was expecting from The Guardian. This is not what I expected from Fred Pearce either. There is a disinformation, anti-science campaign raging against climate science and The Guardian has the duty to keep to its high quality standards and give an objective overview of the issue. The public opinion believes less and less in AGW although the scientific community as a whole gets more confident every day about it. Scientists know the physics, laymen don’t. You, The Guardian, the media, shape the public opinion by acting as an intermediary between scientists and readers. What you are doing right now by misrepresenting real facts is failing to your job. And given the consequences of climate change on our societies, a failure of the media to do their job correctly could mean a failure of our civilization as well.

    I urge you to correct your articles by updating them according to the information provided by the concerned climate scientists on I hope you will take more time in the future to contact the concerned persons before writing any such incomplete posts. I understand that time costs money, but by choosing sensationalism over high quality investigations you will risk losing many readers, me included. By participating in delaying any necessary action on climate change, you will put countless lives at stake. Please do not. Provide your readers with the whole truth.

    Best regards,

    Julien C.

  46. 246
    Geoff Wexler says:

    In the news to-day; how significant? (a bit off topic)

    [Response: I’ve actually been to the Mertz glacier tongue which is (was) a very odd thin ‘river’ of ice sticking out for kilometers into the ocean. I’m actually surprised we’ve never seen it knocked out by a passing iceberg before. Very interesting for what impact it might have on local ecosystems (which are quite closely tied to the presence of the glacier tongue and the ‘shadow’ polynya to the side), but climatically, this is not going to be significant. – gavin]

  47. 247
    Nick Gotts says:

    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. – Allen C@153

    Right, so it isn’t settled that the earth is roughly spherical rather than flat, or that the sun is considerably larger than the earth? Really? If you want to be taken seriously, you don’t waste your time and everyone else’s pretending that nothing is ever settled to the extent that science should move on to other questions. BTW, you’re wrong about Einstein: he was a physicist working in the patent office. As wikipedia says: “Much of his work at the patent office related to questions about transmission of electric signals and electrical-mechanical synchronization of time, two technical problems that show up conspicuously in the thought experiments that eventually led Einstein to his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time.” Incidentally, are you seriously comparing yourself, or other denialists, to Galileo and Einstein? That way, madness lies.

    I told Nick mea culpa and I didn’t mean to cast aspersions. Read # 118 – John Peter@161

    A complete falsehood. You neither withdrew nor accepted blame for the unjustified aspersions you deliberately and maliciously cast against Ben Santer.

  48. 248
    Nick Gotts says:

    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. – Ron Taylor

    I am pretty sure it is not offered in good faith. The phenomenon of the “tone troll”, who appears on a blog to say “I basically agree with you, but saying/doing X harms your case”, where X is the most effective argument or action, is well known in the blogosphere.

  49. 249
    Completely Fed Up says:

    The thing that gets me about all this “heavy moderation” is how bad it is. Even if 1000 posts are removed by moderation, please explain the 100’s of nutcase posts that get through.

    [Response: Argue with the nutcases all you want, but posts that consist of ‘You’re a nutcase’ and similar are just noise. This goes for everyone: unsubstantive comments that consist only of abuse of other commenters are not welcome. – gavin]

  50. 250
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Except in China, they burn coal…8<("

    You mean, they're the biggest producer worldwide of renewable energy harvesting.

    The US burns coal, you know….