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The Guardian disappoints

Filed under: — gavin @ 23 February 2010

Over the last few weeks or so the UK Guardian (who occasionally reprint our posts) has published a 12-part series about the stolen CRU emails by Fred Pearce that are well below the normal Guardian standards of reporting. We delineate some of the errors and misrepresentations below. While this has to be seen on a backdrop of an almost complete collapse in reporting standards across the UK media on the issue of climate change, it can’t be excused on the basis that the Mail or the Times is just as bad. As a long-time Guardian reader and avid Guardian crossword puzzle solver, I’m extremely unhappy writing this post, but the pathologies of media reporting on this issue have become too big to ignore.

We highlight issues with three of the articles below, which revisit a number of zombie arguments that have been doing the rounds of the sceptic blogs for years. Two follow-up pieces will deal with two further parts of the series. Hopefully some of the more egregious factual errors can be fixed as part of a ‘group experiment‘ in improving the stories, though the larger misconceptions probably can’t be (and readers should feel free to use this information to comment on the articles directly). Why the Guardian is asking for group input after the stories were published instead of before is however a puzzle. Some of the other pieces in this series are fine, which makes the ones that get it so wrong all the more puzzling. The errors consist of mistakes in the basic science, misunderstandings of scientific practice, more out of context quotes and some specific issues that are relatively new. (In the text below, quotes from the articles are in italics).

Part 3: Hockey Sticks

Some of the more egregious confusions and errors were in the third part of the series. In this part, a number of issues that were being discussed among the paleo-community in 1999 were horribly mixed up. For instance, there was a claim that arguments on the zeroth-order draft of the 2001 IPCC report were based on Briffa’s reconstruction showed the 11th century as being almost as warm as the 20th century, while Mann’s graph found little sign of the earlier warming. But this is simply untrue since at the time Briffa’s curve only went back to 1400 AD (not the 11th Century) and the discussions had nothing to do with the medieval warm period, but rather the amount of multi-decadal variability in the three different reconstructions then available. This was corrected in the online edition, but the description of the dispute in the article is still very confused.

That discussion was conflated with a completely separate April 1999 issue based on a disagreement about a perspectives piece in Science (which appeared as Briffa and Osborn, 1999) and which was in any case amicably resolved.

That discussion is then further confused with the discussions about the framing of the SPM text which despite Pearce claiming that ‘the emails reveal how deeply controversial it was at the time, did not get discussed in the emails at all. And while the article claimed that the uncertainty was not discussed in the IPCC report, the discussion in Chapter 2 was actually quite extensive.

Part 5: Chinese weather stations

This piece concerns the response of Phil Jones at CRU to a FOI request for data that had been used in a 1990 paper on the urban heat island (UHI). This now-20 year old paper was an early attempt to try and assess the possible magnitude of the UHI impact on the global temperature records. (Note that this is not the same as thinking that UHI does not exist).

Starting from the headline “Leaked climate change emails scientist ‘hid’ data flaws” on down, the article is full of misrepresentations. To start with, the data in question (and presumably it’s flaws) were not hidden by anyone, but rather had been put on the CRU server in 2007 response to a FOI request. Hardly ‘hidden’. Exactly contrary to the truth of the matter, the article incorrectly asserted that ‘Jones withheld the information requested under freedom of information laws’.

These data assumed a much greater importance later in 2007 when they were used for a completely unsubstantiated claim of ‘fabrication’ and ‘fraud’ against Wei-Chyung Wang (a co-author on the paper) at SUNY Albany by a certain Douglas Keenan. These charges were found by the university to be baseless in 2009 and the matter was dropped. However, the Guardian noted that a couple of the emails mentioned the issue, and that one in particular had Tom Wigley asking Phil Jones about the situation. Curiously enough, Phil Jones’ response was not part of the archive, and Wigley’s current thoughts on the subject (presumably that have been informed by Jones’ answers) were not reported.

Pearce describes this conversation saying that ‘new information brought to light today indicates at least one senior colleague had serious concerns about the affair‘. However, Tom Wigley has subsequently passed on later conversations to me showing very clearly that he did not support Keenan’s allegations of ‘fabrication’ and the implication that he does here are very misleading. Indeed, the statement that ‘Tom Wigley, harboured grave doubts about the cover-up‘ is completely false. There was no ‘cover-up’; the email was written two years after the data had been posted online.

The line in the 1990 paper that has apparently caused the furore is the following:

“The stations were selected on the basis of station history: we chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times.”

For fraud to have been proven, it would have been necessary to show that Wang – at the time of the 1990 paper – deliberately misled in the line as it was written. It would not be enough to show that the statement was mistaken because of incomplete histories available to him at that time, nor that some stations had in fact moved. The statement is a declaration of a good faith effort to pick suitable stations. Instead, you would have to demonstrate that Wang was aware of substantial and important moves that made a material difference and deliberately concealed this fact. And for this there is absolutely no evidence. Keenan’s assumption of fabrication is merely that, an assumption.

Wigley’s ‘grave doubts’ were a suggestion that the key line be rewritten as

“Where possible, stations were chosen on the basis of station histories and/or local knowledge: selected stations have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times”

A change that doesn’t undermine the paper in the slightest, and would hardly be likely to set the blogosphere aflame.

Quite frankly this whole allegation is absurd – why would anyone do this? All the authors involved have written many papers on the problems in the temperature record and on Urban Heat Islands in general, and even in China. Indeed the story here is that information was provided under FOI rules, and that it was not used to constructively examine the science, but rather to provide ammunition for baseless accusations that led to pointless university inquiries into alleged misconduct. That might be a good reason for why FOI requests are now being viewed with suspicion.

Other claims that this ‘may yet result in a significant revision of a scientific paper that is still cited by the UN’s top climate science body‘ . and that ‘what data is available suggests that the findings are fundamentally flawed‘ are simply made up. The findings of the 1990 paper was that UHI was unlikely to be contaminating the global temperature records in any significant way has been upheld by any number of additional studies in the 20 years since it was published. Oceans are not warming because of UHI, spring is not coming earlier because of UHI, and indeed, glaciers are not melting because of UHI (they are of course melting, recent news reports notwithstanding). No evidence of significant UHI contamination was found by Parker (2004, 2006), the record from GISTEMP which applies a different UHI correction than HadCRUT does not differ substantially at the global or regional scale. Other studies by Peterson, Jones, and others all show similar results. Even the more recent analyses of the Chinese stations themselves and even in an environment where urbanisation is happening faster than ever, UHI effects are still small (Jones et al, 2008).

As an aside, Keenan has made a cottage industry of accusing people of fraud whenever someone writes a paper of which he disapproves. He has attempted to get the FBI to investigate Mike Mann, pursued a vendetta against a Queen’s University Belfast researcher, and has harassed a French graduate student with fraud accusations based on completely legitimate choices in data handling. More recently Keenan, who contacted Wigley after having seen the email mentioned in the Pearce story, came to realise that Wigley was not in agreement with his unjustified allegations of ‘fraud’. In response, Keenan replied (in an email dated Jan 10, 2010) that:

.. this has encouraged me to check a few of your publications: some are so incompetent that they seem to be criminally negligent.

Sincerely, Doug

This kind of knee-jerk presumption of misconduct (and criminal misconduct at that) when people disagree with you has no place in the scientific discourse, and serves only to poison scientific debate. Indeed, Jones adds in one of the emails: “I’d be far happier if they would write some papers and act in the normal way. I’d know how to respond to that”. For the Guardian to dignify this kind of behaviour – especially after the charges had been investigated and dismissed – is unconscionable and a public apology should be forthcoming to Jones, Wigley and Wang.

Part 6: Peer review

The discussion of peer review is the most replete with basic misconceptions about the scientific process. Pearce appears to conflate any rejection of a paper or even a negative review for any reason as a prima facie case of mainstream climate scientists … censoring their critics. But in none of the cases highlighted were anyone’s view ‘censored’. To have your opinion published in peer-reviewed literature is not some fundamental right – it is a privilege that depends on your ability to do the analysis and the marshal the logical arguments and data to support your point.

Pearce, surprisingly for someone who has been on a science beat for a long time, states that peer review is the supposed gold standard of scientific merit. This is not the case at all. As we’ve outlined in many articles, peer review is just a first (necessary) step towards scientific acceptance and as the number of badly flawed papers that do appear in the literature attest, it is no guarantee of merit. For it to work of course there need to be some standards that should ideally be met, and this will lead to the rejection of some submissions. Thus automatically equating rejections of bad submissions with squashing of ‘dissent’ is like assuming that anyone who gets an F on a test is being unfairly discriminated against.

Pearce also declares that the mere act of reviewing a paper that is critical of your own work is mired in ‘conflicts of interest that would not be allowed in most professions‘. This is wrong on multiple levels. First of all, peer review of the literature is hardly unique to climate science, and so his claim about improper conflicts of interest is an accusation against the whole of science, not just climatology. Secondly, he confuses the role of the reviewer with that of the editor. Editors often solicit reviews of a critical comment directly from those being criticised, since that is often the easiest way to judge whether the critique is substantive. That is not the same as giving the right of veto to the criticised authors since, of course, it’s the editor’s job to weigh the different reviews from different sources, and use their own judgment as to the merits of the critique. Not asking the original authors for comment can certainly be (and has been) problematic and unfair to them. The problems most often arise – such as in Soon and Baliunas (2003) or McIntyre and McKitrick (2003;2005) when the criticised authors are not involved at all.

In the cases mentioned in this article, there is absolutely no evidence of unfair discrimination. Indeed, in one case of a submission by Lars Kamel, the reasons for rejection are obvious and Pearce appears not to know what the criteria for acceptance even are. He states that “the finding sounded important, but his paper was rejected by Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) that year“. But papers are not accepted or rejected because a finding ‘sounds important’, but because that finding is backed up by analysis and logic while acknowledging the prior work on the topic. In this case, the author did not “however, justify that conclusion with any data or analysis“, and so a rejected manuscript would have been very likely, regardless of who the reviewers were. Similarly, the assumption that “some would have recommended publication” purely because it called into question previous work is unsupportable as a general rule. Filling the literature with papers ‘just asking questions’ that ‘sound important’ but not demonstrating any actual results is a recipe for wasting everyone’s time with poorly thought out, and even mendacious, critiques of mainstream science from HIV-denial to perpetual motion machines. Papers in the technical literature are not just opinion.

Pearce also assumes (without evidence) that Kamel was discriminated against because Jones “would certainly have been aware of Kamel’s [negative] views about mainstream climate research“. But why should this be assumed? Most scientists (luckily) go through their whole career without wasting their time investigating and cataloguing the cranks in their field. Some climate sceptics get addressed here on RC a fair bit, but it would be a big mistake to think that these people, particularly the more obscure ones, are the subject of water cooler conversations at climate research labs across the world. Indeed, I can find no reference to Kamel on RC at all and I was unaware of his peculiar views until this story emerged. Why Jones should be assumed to omniscient on this topic is unclear.

Pearce quotes McIntyre discussing “CRU’s policies of obstructing critical articles in the peer-reviewed literature” slowing the resolution of unspecified “issues”. This is simply disingenuous – what papers have been obstructed that would have resolved what issues? We are unaware of any such papers, and certainly none from McIntyre. Prior therefore to declaring that “evidence, flawed though it might be, is actively being kept out of the journals” it behoves Pearce to actually find such evidence. Otherwise, the simple non-appearance of these mythical critiques is apparently proof of the corruption of the peer review process.

As an additional example of problematic practice, Pearce highlights a June 2003 email from Keith Briffa, who as an editor ‘emailed fellow tree-ring researcher Edward Cook, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, saying: “Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting [an unnamed paper] to ­support Dave Stahle’s and really as soon as you can.”‘. However, without context this is meaningless. People often sign reviews and this could well have been a second go around on a particular paper whose first round reviews would have been seen by everyone concerned. Briffa (like many editors) can have a feeling that a paper should be rejected for multiple reasons but would like to have the reasons gone into in some detail, mostly for the benefit of the authors. This is one reason why reviewing bad papers is so much more work than good ones. Quoting this as if it absolutely demonstrated bad faith or misconduct is simply a smear.

Pearce then accuses Cook of some unjustified quid-pro-quo because he wanted to use some of Briffa’s data to assess the practical implications of a new analysis technique, that Pearce interprets as “attacking his own tree-ring work“. However, this too is a misreading. The work in question has subsequently been revised and the authors themselves have said that the current submission is improved over the initial submission. It goes along with the overall point made above, that pure criticism is not particularly useful – it is much better to demonstrate that some technical point actually matters. This is what Cook appears to be asking for help to demonstrate.

The article then moves on to the issue of the 2003 Soon and Baliunas paper in Climate Research. Pearce nowhere acknowledges that it is (and was) widely regarded as a complete failure of the peer review system. Six (very independent minded) editors resigned from the journal because of the publisher’s inaction on tightening up peer review standards and even the publisher himself declared that the paper’s conclusions were not supported by the data or analysis of the authors. Is this not germane?

Pearce suggests that the reaction to the demonstrably low standards at Climate Research involved “improper pressure“. This has no validity whatsoever. The suggestion was made that maybe people should not submit work to the journal or cite work that appeared there. But how can a suggestion made among colleagues and not transmitted more widely be ‘pressure’ of any sort? People have their impressions about journals determined by many factors, and if they are seen to be publishing bad papers, that will be noted. Compare the reputations of Science and E&E for instance. Which would you rather be published in if you had a good paper?

The one email that Pearce declares “means what it seems to mean” refers to the declaration (along with exclamation point) that Jones would “redefine peer-review!” rather than include two flawed papers in the AR4 report. But it should be obvious that no-one gets to redefine what ‘peer reviewed’ means, and the exclamation point underlines the fact that this was hyperbole. The two papers referred to (McKitrick and Michaels, 2004; Kalnay and Cai, 2003)) were indeed discussed in Chapter 2 of AR4 as the contributing lead author of that chapter Trenberth rightly pointed out. As an aside neither have stood the test the time.

The problem with lapses in peer review (which will inevitably occur) is that they are sometimes systematic, indicating a more institutional problem instead of simply an unfortunate combination of poor reviewers and a busy editor. This appeared to occur at Geophysical Research Letters over the period 2005-2006. There was a string of bad papers published – ones that did not properly support their conclusions and made basic errors in the science. For instance, Douglass and Knox (2005), Douglass, Patel and Knox (2005), Douglass, Pearson and Singer (2004), Douglass, Pearson, Singer, Knappenberger, and Michaels (2004), and Loáiciga (2006).

Science is indeed a ‘self-correcting’ process, but someone has to do that correcting, and scientists do get frustrated when they have to spend weeks dealing with the aftermath of bad papers in the media and putting together the comments that almost every single one of these papers generated. (For amusement and for an example of the lack of standards being talked about, look at the response of Bjornsson et al to the Douglass, Patel and Knox paper).

Are scientists supposed not to notice these patterns? Or never discuss them among colleagues? The implication that the mere discussion of the situation is somehow a corruption of the peer review process is completely unjustified. Peer review only holds the status it does because scientists are on guard against failures in the system and try to correct them when they occur.

Update: Coincidentally, David Adams on the Guardian makes many of the same points as we do.

In two follow-up pieces we will host a letter from Ben Santer on Part 7 and on the skewed reporting of the ‘Yamal‘ issue in Part 9.

362 Responses to “The Guardian disappoints”

  1. 101
    Ike Solem says:

    Mark Gibb says:

    “The establishment climate science community, with its circled wagons…”

    What is most curious here is that the heightened media attention over some hacked emails and some data presentation issues related to tree rings, and so on, is matched by an almost complete disregard for the scientific validity of the “global climate and energy projects” being pushed by the British and U.S. governments. Those include “clean coal”, nuclear and carbon trading projects.

    Obviously, each of these three has a large science component – but have science journalists bothered to examine these claims?

    In the first, it’s typical to see the British and U.S. press run reports that parrot the claims of coal and oil PR campaigns on these issues – especially when it comes to the dirtiest fuel sources, the heavy oils, shale-sourced oil & gas, enhanced oil recovery, coal-sourced liquids, and tar sand oil – switching to these fuels right now, which is the stated plan of the fossil fuel lobby, would result in a doubling of global emissions of fossil CO2.

    However, any scientific investigation reveals, startlingly enough, that no working CCS prototypes have been constructed and put through a public peer review process – not one, and yet GW Bush called for “zero-emission coal plants” in is 2003 SOTU address – along with hydrogen cars, right? Obama called for nuclear, clean coal and more offshore oil drilling. Complete silence from the media on this, isn’t there? The U.S. academic community isn’t doing much to raise any of the scientific issues, either.

    If CCS works for coal plants, it must also work for internal combustion vehicles, right? So why don’t we all just drive cars with onboard CCS, and when we go to the gas station we can offload all our emissions “underground” while tanking up with fresh fossil fuel. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Too bad it’s nonsense – it was a nice story. But where is the press?

    It’s almost as if the conservative media haa lost so much trust with the public that the fossil fuel lobby now needs the liberal media to carry their water for them, isn’t it?

    In the second case, the carbon trading and offsets are mostly nonsense. None of the “offsets” actually remove carbon from the atmosphere – it’s just a shell game that raises costs for some fossil fuel energy producers while lowering costs for others.

    A far better method is to use Renewable Portfolio Standards domestically, and tariff and trade restrictions internationally. For example, we shouldn’t allow Canadian tar sand oil into the United States; it should be illegal under basic pollution laws (which is what California has essentially done, to the outrage of Big Oil). Likewise, states should reward utilities that switch to renewable sources, and penalize those that don’t.

    Finally, nuclear is no cure for global warming, because you can’t expand it the way you can with solar and wind. It is, unlike CCS, a technological reality that produces some 20% of U.S. electricity today. However, you need a lot of water and uranium to operate a nuclear power plant, and with many aging plants and huge piles of hot fuel rods to deal with, plus massive costs, it’s pretty clear that massive expansion of nuclear is not going to happen – just keeping it going as is will be hard enough.

    Nevertheless, Obama put up $8 billion for Southern’s nuclear plants, while giving zero to any similar-scale solar or wind plants. If he had insisted that Southern close two coal plants in exchange for two new nuclear plants, that would have been more palatable – but that wasn’t the deal.

    So, what does the media do? They focus with microscopic attention on the climate scientists who have been working on the issue for decades and their work and correspondence, clearly in an effort to increase public doubt about climate science, while at the same time almost entirely ignoring the fossil fuel industry’s push into unconventional dirty oil & gas sources, the government support for this push, and the ludicrous nature of the “carbon capture” claims.

    At least a few people aren’t buying it:

  2. 102
    Killswitch says:

    Would it be possible to host a commentary on the state of Himalayan glaciers?

    Is there evidence for a recent acceleration of melting, as there is for other areas?

    [Response: Yes. – gavin]

    If you scroll down in the paper Gavin linked to, to the section titled “Confusion about the future of Himialayan glaciers:1″ the first bullet point says “Himalayan rates of recession are not exceptional.b”

    [Response: Compared to the rest of world, where they are all melting as well. – gavin]

    But what she asked for was evidence of recent acceleration, the linked paper does not provide such evidence.

    [Response: Try WGMS instead then. – gavin]

  3. 103
    Ray Ladbury says:

    RandyL, the thing is that “belief” is easy to manipulate when it is not predicated on facts. Constructing an effective response to this threat may well be the most difficult task our species has undertaken. That response must be based on the best science available, not upon “belief”. What is more, even if we successfully negotiate this threat, it is likely only the first of many our species confronts. Somehow, people have to learn a way to force themselves to look at the facts. If they cannot, then they simply will not survive. Oh well, perhaps the descendents of cockroaches may be more rational than the descendents of apes.

  4. 104
    Roly says:

    #8 Anand
    “You guys are so behind the game, seriously.” – i could tell the fred pearce story was a pup but it’s useful to get the proper debunking. that said, it would be nice if the rc team were able concentrate on real research and dissemination of this fascinating science.

  5. 105
    CFox says:

    Good work Gavin and nice link from Frank at 85.
    I have not found a climate scientist who is regularly interviewed on TV (in the US…I should also point out that unless the Olympics are involved I am not watching TV right now). While I think it gives denialists too much credit to be juxtaposed with a climate scientist on any level, I am wondering if it is happening on TV in particular and if we think that is a good idea? I have enjoyed watching profs Richard Dawkins and Ken Miller battle with Creationists and would love to see some of the similarly inane climate arguments refuted publicly. Jeffrey Sachs, in the latest SciAm, has reiterated his challenge to the WSJ editorial board to meet with Climate Scientists for a discussion or a debate. Is the best tactic to call the denialists out into the open? If so, who would be the recommend climate scientists? Again, this could legitimize the skeptics, but at this point, they appear to have a platform already.

  6. 106
    Kris Aydt says:

    @ Ray, #80 – You wrote:

    “I’m starting to conclude that evolution’s experience with intelligence appears to be a failure. People really don’t want to live in the real world, and unfortunately that’s the only one on offer.”

    (and just for fun, I’ll tie in something attributed to Gavin, of late) the Globe and Mail reported:

    “One little-known irony of the debate is that for all the harsh words, many scientists have a grudging respect for Mr. McIntyre’s intelligence. ‘He could be a scientific superstar,’ Mr. Schmidt says. ‘He’s a smart person’.”

    Since this is a science blog, let me suggest what the soft science of Psychology (my home base) proffers related to intelligence and “smart”. (If this is too off-topic feel free to delete!).

    Intelligence was originally a poorly defined, poorly normed construct that in the early days attempted to reflect the ability of one to do well in academics, Western-style.

    “We” now understand cognitive abilities with much more complexity. And, there is good news. Higher cognitive functioning is more than being “smart”. It requires, minimally, an ability of insight (to be able to see oneself and the world in relative accuracy), and flexible thought (being able to shift in the face of logical paths of evidence). Of course higher cognitive functioning requires all kinds of other stuff, but for the sake of my message, this will do.

    The stats – per the DSM-IV on those who have normal intelligence, but truly lack these needed personality constructs range in prevalence about 1-5% of the population. It can be maddening to deal with someone who seemingly is “smart”, but lacks things that most people seem to have (integrity, honor, empathy, flexible thought, insight, etc.). The real numbers on are 1-5% of the population is going to struggle in a truly pervasive way (see DSM-IV, basics on Personality Disorders).

    There ARE those, who come onto blogs, and run blogs without these very important personality components. There always will be. But, the real numbers, per the science of my field have not moved significantly, to my knowledge! So hang in there!


  7. 107
    kejr says:

    thanks for a great piece – as a guardian reader was rather dismayed by the coverage. But perhaps the sweetest part was to hear you too are a devotee to the crossword and presumably the genius that is Araucaria

    [Response: Indeed. – gavin]

  8. 108
    Anand says:

    Re Gavin
    “Because it is clear that it is not understood – not just in this article, but also far more widely.”

    Why dont you admit that a general malaise which can affect any peer-reviewed system, affected climate science and global warming science at a certain period of time, and may even be an ongoing phenomenon? Instead of all these special-case scenarios and explanations.

    Explanations and rationalizations are never convincing, even when they are true. And the veraacity of many of the explanations in the peer review section of the above posts is doubtful, to say the least. I dont even want to get into any specifics, because that’ll only result in post deletions.

    For one Fred Pearce, there are so many journalists who have defended the climate-science peer-review process. Nature and Science Magazine, Scientific American have written so many news features sympathetic to climate science practitioners, in the past and present.

    Politicization of science has been carried out by the scientists as much as the journalists and politicians. Let me quote just one example. Just recall the Douglas Kennedy’s editorial in Science, 2005 (10.1126/science.1117863). The paranoid concept of ‘harassment’ was used to shield Mann in the exact same fashion Nature defended the CRU against FOIA ‘harassment’ in its December editorial, another example of politicization.


    [Response: Why should I admit something I don’t agree with? I don’t agree there is a general malaise in peer review. It’s imperfect of course, but generally works well. Papers are better for it and the literature is enriched. There is no ‘crisis’ in peer review other than the fact that the burdens on reviewers are growing (I get asked a few times a week for reviews which I cannot possibly do). You appear to think that ‘harassment’ is only being used as an excuse – but you are very wrong – senatorial threats, threats of subpoenas, calls for investigations based on alleged misconduct, frivolous FOIA requests, improper pressures on granting authorities etc. are happening all over – and if you think that is part of the normal scientific process, you must be living on a different planet. – gavin]

  9. 109
    Rod Evans says:

    Regarding the sloppy coverage by the Guardian of the CRU business, Iam reminded of a true conversation I had with a lawywer some years ago:
    He said to me:

    “You as a scientist are interested in finding the truth, but as I a laywer am interested in winning a case. There is a fundamental difference”

    In the same vein, I can imagine a conversation with a journalist:

    “You as a scientist are interested in finding the truth, but I as a journalist am interested in selling large numbers of papers to people who like setting the world to rights after a few glasses of wine. Therefore, intellectual rigour is out of the question”

    In fairness to the Guardian, other ‘quality’ papers often slip up. That’s why your site is essential.


  10. 110
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    @69 Completely Fed Up,

    It is evident that the IPCC strategy is to use the authoritative voice of “objective” science to advocate policy. I´m sorry that you fail to see this. Guess I have to tell you the same thing as you guys tell laypeople: You do not have the required competence to understand the interface of science and policymaking. Please, go home and do your homework. Read the relevant literature and think these issues through seriously. Then we can have a discussion. I rest my case, many of you guys are “denialists”, it is just that you deny other things than the basic physical science denialists ….

    [Response: Perhaps you’d like to point to a document where the IPCC has advocated a specific climate policy? Just one. – gavin]

  11. 111
    Charlie Laurel says:

    Fascinating article I heard about on NPR yesterday afternoon concerning cultural cognition.
    Comes out of Yale studying tendencies for people to reject or accept science, authority, and consensus depending upon worldview. Concluding by saying that scientists have to learn to communicate better–not just throw more evidence at folks. Lot’s of interesting graphs in the study. Anyone else here picking up on that?

  12. 112
    Dan Whipple says:

    Re #101
    At the American Geophysical Union meeting in December, there was a presentation on the state of Himalayan glaciers by William Lau of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Susan Kaspari of Central Washington University, Jeffrey Kargel from the University of Arizona and Brent Holben, also of Goddard.

    Lau said that the atmosphere over the Himalayas has been warming at a rate two to five times faster than the global warming rate. In addition there are local feedback processes at work affecting the glaciers.

    An increase in atmospheric aerosols in the region is causing a local feedback process of an “elevated heat pump” which may accelerate glacier melt.

    A layer of atmospheric soot has accumulated over India’s Gangetic Plain up against the foothills of the Himalayas. Along the foothills, the atmosphere draws heat from the surface to the atmosphere. This heat rises up the face of the foothills hitting the upper surface and melts the glaciers.

    In addition, there is a three-fold increase in black carbon concentrations on the Himalayans snowfields in the period since 1970, compared to the period from 1890 to 1970, according to Susan Kaspari. “Black carbon on the surface can contribute to melt,” Kaspari says.

    Having said all this, though, the Himalayan glaciers cover a vast area and are not in danger of disappearing soon. Kargel said there is no evidence that Himalayan glaciers are retreating anomalously quickly, They are retreating, however, like glaciers elsewhere in the world.

  13. 113
    flxible says:

    John Peter@75 [and elsewhere] – re your questions concerning UHIE, put UHI in the RC search at top right, lots has been said about it by the group – also re human heat generation, see here and areas relating from that.

  14. 114
    Geoff Wexler says:

    It seems that Fred Pearce has changed sides

    I think we should be careful to avoid that diagnosis at this stage. Anyway its accuracy which counts for a journalist not “sides”. A false allegation could lead to a self fulfilling prophecy. These errors revealed by Gavin are very serious and reveal a degree of irresponsibility and lazyness. But if Pearce is attacked for being something which he isn’t, there could be a positive feedback and he could become a dangerous enemy. I think that such acceleration has happened to other journalists who have shown signs of changing e.g. over politics.

    In spite of appearances, the uneven quality in his reporting has not appeared over night. Is this just natural variability or a change in forcing *?

    When I first started reading about this subject I was determined to read only peer reviewed papers. It was going slowly and someone directed me to a summary by Pearce in the New Scientist. It included a section on the “skeptics” with a little bit that was rather ambiguous about Mann’s role in the hockey stick. He was hedging his bets and leaving a bit of suspicion behind. His later comments dropped this suspicion but I doubt if he really spent the necessary time before going into print. Later he dropped this suspicion, but that did not mean that he had really grasped it, especially the maths. I get the impression that he thinks that he owns the topic in some sense i.e that he has the right to write about all developments without serious additional work. The media likes its stars and rewards sensation more than accuracy; years ago it was Nigel Calder , who had also come from the New Scientist. Lets hope that magazine does not follow the recent example of the Guardian. Watch that space.

    There are other examples of Pearceian lazyness e.g the way he got involved with Latif.gate i.e. the misreporting of Latif by the pack.
    * This unknown refers to the pressure which may or may not be put on the media by corporate interests. Lets hope that the New Scientist doesn’t follow the recent example of the Guardian. After all, one of its ex-editors is Nigel Calder.

  15. 115
    Ken W says:

    Jobnls (92) wrote:
    “I would also believe that the anti vaccine lobby (who are great proponents of the “natural way”) are heavily sided with the AGW proponents on the climate debate and that I think sums it all up nicely.”

    The anti vaccine movement is based on a distrust of government and a preference to listen to fringe scientists vs. mainstream. Both of those views put them firmly in the camp with the AGW deniers.

    On a separate note, young earth creationists deny biological evolution and are overwhelmingly skeptical of AGW, so what? That doesn’t add to or subtract from the validity of either theory. Anti-science is anti-science. Sometimes an anti-science group may actually end up holding valid scientific view, but again that’s completely irrelevant.

  16. 116
    Josie says:

    Jobnls (92) wrote:
    “I would also believe that the anti vaccine lobby (who are great proponents of the “natural way”) are heavily sided with the AGW proponents on the climate debate”

    You ‘would believe’ that eh?

    Many of the same people and organizations have indeed been involved in climate denial, the UK medias MMR hoax, and HIV/ AIDS denial. Here are some quick examples:

    Melanie Philips of the Daily Mail (UK): climate denier and big ‘MMR causes autism’ proponent.

    The Daily Mail more generally: In the UK, the Daily Mail (right wing paper) has been a huge pusher of both the MMR scam, and climate denial.

    The Heritage Foundation: Has published the work of Duesberg (AIDS denialist) and is also a proponent of climate denial. They have also published Tom Bethell’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, which endorses AIDS denialism.

    The UK Spectator Magazine, who has recently supported Ian Plimer, has also recently flirted with HIV/ AIDS denial and supported the recent AIDS denialist propaganda film ‘House of Numbers’

  17. 117
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Ike Solem says: 24 February 2010 at 11:48 AM

    Thank you for pointing out those inconsistencies in how the press responds when confronted with prioritizing two different mounds of bulls__t.

    Dan M. says: 23 February 2010 at 9:59 PM

    “And, finally, what good scientific reason is there to dispose of raw data? I was taught that raw data is more precious than diamonds….and to guard it with my life.”

    Raw data? You mean, they went out to the various meteorological agencies and compelled employees to destroy their historical records? No wonder you’re morally outraged and keep on repeating this charge of CRU (not CDC, by the way) destroying data.

    That’s very shocking.

    How was this accomplished? Kidnapping of relatives followed by threatening notes to victim meteorologists? Bomb threats? Bribes? And did the money for sending out operatives to do wet work come from CRU, or somewhere else?

  18. 118
    Trevor says:

    Briffa via Guardian via Gavin: “Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting [an unnamed paper] to ­support Dave Stahle’s and really as soon as you can.”

    Trevor: “One question, Gavin. If this request by Briffa is perfectly legitimate, and it’s something that editors do all the time, and it was contingent on an unstated but (somehow) understood “if you are going to recommend rejection”, then why did Briffa precede the request with the word “confidentially”? “Confidentially” usually implies that whatever appears after that word should be kept secret. So why does Briffa want this request kept secret, if it’s really completely on the up-and-up?”

    Gavin: “Discussions between editors, reviewers and authors are always confidential – you are not supposed to show people drafts you have received as a reviewer, and your reviews are supposed to be for the author’s eyes only – whether you sign your reviews or not. But I have no further information into the context of this remark than anyone else. – gavin”

    Reply from Trevor: Your own statement (directly above) proves that Briffa doesn’t give a rat’s tail about the “rules” of peer review. If “your reviews are supposed to be for the author’s eyes only”, then Briffa, as neither the author nor the reviewer, would have no idea what was in Stahle’s review of the same paper, and thus would not know that a “hard and … extensive case for rejecting [the paper]” from Cook would be in support of Stahle’s review or not. Moreover, he should not have even told Cook the name of another reviewer (at least that’s my understanding of peer review), let alone reveal the main gist of what the other reviewer had to say (that’s YOUR statement about peer review). This email from Briffa violates the very “confidentiality” that you claim he is trying to remind Cook of. Briffa doesn’t care a whit about the confidentiality between author, reviewer, and editor – the only confidentiality he cares about is Cook confiding the fact that Briffa is trying to subvert the peer review process.



    [Response: In any resubmission there is usually a response to the reviewers and the reviewers then get to see the original reviews (which may have been signed) and the response. The parties to this conversation obviously already knew that Stahle was a reviewer from which I conclude that it is likely that Stahle signed his original review. If you want to imagine some sneaky conspiracy, do it elsewhere, but I’m not particularly interested in playing games based on fact-free speculations. – gavin]

  19. 119
    Theo Hopkins says:

    Gavin asks:

    “Why the Guardian is asking for group input after the stories were published instead of before is however a puzzle?”

    The series of article is a “work in progress”. So it can be refined.

    This is, presently, an unusual idea, but an idea that is possible in the new world of the web.

  20. 120
    Dan M. says:

    I find comment 100 to be ironic in the extreme. It is cost prohibitive to develop more effecient, inherently cheaper, nuclear power becasue of the unique reglatory burden that nuclear power has as the result of sucessful anti-nuclear campaigns of the last 30 years. Large scale scientific studies of the effect of low level radiation (e.g. studies that involve morbitiy rates for, IIRC, hundreds of thousands of people in Colorado that are exposed to 3x the average US level of background radiation) reveal no measurable effects. In fact, this particular study shows lower morbidity for this group (although it’s within the uncertainty of the measure). If low level radiation were the monster that Greenpeace says it is, then non-smoking households in Denver should have many times the rate of long cancer that non-smoking households elsewhere in the US does, because they get, roughly, 1000 mrem of radon radiation in the lungs from natural background. But, that isn’t seen.

    Health Physicists have been fighting bad science here for 30 years, with no sucess. Nuclear is not PC. Solar has been, as has been wind, which gets a 3 cents/kwH subsidy for the electricity it produces.

    The real bottom line here is that none of the discussion in the West will mattter. China has clearly shown that it will not allow an yone to measure its greenhouse gas production, and it will not sacrifice growth. If one compares the growth in oil imports alone, and then adds all the cheap coal plants in China, one will see that, even if the West were to cut CO2 emisssions in half during the next 10 years, total emissions will increase significantly. The only possibility for the West to influence China is by developing cheap alternate sources of energy. Cheap nuclear plants are one possibility. But, if you look at the cost of storing power for when the wind isn’t blowing (that’s why Texas stopped building wind farms when natural gas prices lowered), or looked at the high and relatively flat costs of solar power over the past 20 years, one sees that neither is close to being a cheap reliable source of energy.

    It’s amazing how most environmentalists believe in the “Captain Piccard” principal of engineering, you just have to tell your engineer “make it so”, and within days it’s done, just like Jordi. As someone who has inventions that are used industry wide, and who has friends who have inventions that have saved the world hundreds of billions of dollars in costs, I am very familiar with how inventions work and don’t work. Inventing is a dance with nature, and nature always leads. It’s not just a matter of willpower. That’s why Boing is putting out a new commercial version of the 747, over 40 years after it’s roll out. Can you imagine planes of the 20s being used for cargo transport on a large scale in the late 60s? There is a reason why there was tremendous advancement in aeronautics from 1930 to 1970 but not from 1970 to 2010. That reason is behind the problem with PC soures of energy.

  21. 121
    Killswitch says:

    But what she asked for was evidence of recent acceleration, the linked paper does not provide such evidence.

    [Response: Try WGMS instead then. – gavin]

    I was already familiar with the WGMS but apparently I’m unable to draw the same conclusions that you are. Perhaps you can tell us how their three decades worth of data shows that glacial mass loss is accelerating.

  22. 122
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Charlie Laurel says: 24 February 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Fascinating article I heard about on NPR yesterday afternoon concerning cultural cognition.

    I too heard that and it’s well worth taking in, though generalizations about attitudes did not really resonate for me. I’m generally enthusiastic about new technologies as long as they’ve been inspected from all directions and are actually beneficial, yet contrary to NPR’s stereotypes I also believe government must play a strong role in getting a grip on C02 emissions.

    Then again, I’m posting here so I’m by definition somewhat strange…

  23. 123
    Edward Greisch says:

    I endorse 47 Michael K

    71 John Peter: Of course we don’t need harm to our biosphere. The point is that much greater harm can only be avoided by people, especially Americans, becoming convinced that GW is real and dangerous. The only available thing that can shout down Rush Limbaugh is an act of Nature that cannot be ignored. It has to be hot and it has to happen in the US.

    83 Lynn Vincentnathan: I disagree with “regular journalists, without a heavy-duty science background”. Journalism students need to take the “Engineering and Science Core Curriculum” at least. They should also take a laboratory course in probability and statistics and a computer programming course. Being an innumerate in a conversation with a scientist is like being a blind person at a movie.

  24. 124

    [edit – sorry but nuclear is OT. It tends to dominate every thread that it is raised in to the exclusion of any other topic]

  25. 125
    aka_kat says:

    Peer review process @35 and 55
    Yes of cause the editors decision is final and they are entitled to reject papers without review and assign themselves as reviewers ect. But what they are not entitled to do is influence other reviewers. Suggesting to a reviewer that a paper is heading for rejection (even if it obviously stands no chance of publication) is wrong whatever the context. It is wrong if it is a resubmission and the editor thinks the resubmitted paper is unlikely to satisfy reviewers and it is wrong if the review is simply to provide information for the authors. That is not to say that the motive for the email concerning the review is not entirely innocent and the paper was unpublishable – never the less by not realising that the peer review process was compromised the possibility of this mistake happening again is much the greater.

  26. 126
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Andreas: “I rest my case, many of you guys are “denialists”, it is just that you deny other things than the basic physical science denialists ….”

    Yes, we deny a fantasy made up without any actual factual basis.

    This is called “sanity” in our world.

    Try it.

    Refreshing, no matter what The Tick says…

  27. 127
  28. 128
    Completely Fed Up says:

    PS does anyone know why Andy in 110 gets that switch to “you don’t understand how the interface between science and policy works” from my post 69 where I say that the IPCC doesn’t say peer review is right nor give this impression to the public?


    Anyone got the missing segue there?

    “IPCC doesn’t give the public the impression that peer reviewed works are infallible”


    “You don’t understand the interface of science and policymaking.”

    Anyone got what the $SOMETHING is?

  29. 129
    James Chamberlain says:

    “well below the normal Guardian standards” = disagrees with your view.

  30. 130
    RandyL says:

    Charlie Laurel.
    I heard that and have read that. This is somewhat the point I was trying to make with Ray. Facts, no matter how many or how clear, will not always sway a discuss to your favor when the other person has no personal or cultural background to understand, thus the facts actually may violate their beliefs.

  31. 131
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #93, & “Apart from my response above the fact that you compare the anti vaccination lobby to climate sceptics is a further indicator that you might not exactly be in touch with reality. We are talking about numerous studies where we can with a high probability rule out a correlation i.e. a situation where correlations are actually informative. This is in stark contrast to your own field where correlations are not so informative to put it mildly.”

    Science is based on both theories/laws and evidence. Just because there is or is not a correlation or association on something (like storks and birth rates) does not make it science. In the case of global warming, the scientists have known for over 100 years that anthropogenic global warming was possible & predictable, even without evidence at the time. They had figured pretty much out about the natural greenhouse effect, and they eventually understood about the energy/heat radiation properties of molecules, like CO2. Then the associations started becoming sign at .05 around 1995 on anthropogenic global warming. And then there is paleoclimatology to support this.

    Now with vaccinations and autism — there was no theory to suggest there would or would not be a link (to my meager knowledge). In fact, various medicines do have various negative side effects, and new side effects are found now and then. Plus the increasing rates of autism seem to suggest there is something out there in the environment or something we ingest that may be increasing it, and disorders and diseases can have more than one cause. And since this relates to the health of children (not some study of some bug), then all avenues should be pursued in nailing down the cause(s), including synergies and multiple factors.

    Climate change is on much more solid ground than what might be causing autism (I think), or at least on equally solid ground. And since AGW relates to life on planet earth, we’d do very well to migitigate it whatever our doubts, esp when mitigation saves so much money. We don’t want to chance ending up like some extinct species after the end-Permian great warming and its knock-on effect, like (perhaps) hydrogen sulfide outgassing.

  32. 132

    Dan M(inett) wrote in #17:

    “Let me focus on the behavior within the CDC that bothers me the most: the discarding of the raw data set compiled by the CDC.”

    You mean CRU?

    ” Let me do it by asking a couple of questions. How hard would it be to independently duplicate the raw data set the CDC disposed of?”

    The ‘raw data’ was not generated by CRU. It was aggregated by them from the various NMEs and agencies that actually generated it.

    “And, finally, what good scientific reason is there to dispose of raw data? ”

    Digital data going back to the 1980s? Storage concerns would be one.

    “I was taught that raw data is more precious than diamonds….and to guard it with my life. Is climate science different from physics in this regard, and if so, why?”

    Do you keep an enormous horde of raw measurement data, generated entirely by others, and gathered from numerous sites all over the world, going back to circa 1980? Or do you, perhaps more reasonably, expect those who actually generated the data in the first place to be primarily responsible for curating it?

    “I’d argue that a simple “we blew it, we were worried about X, so we discarded the data” would be very helpful….especially if X is something like “we might be legally required to break trust with folks we promised we wouldn’t reveal their data, and once that trust is broken, we’ll never get data from them on anything again.”

    Then again, if it isn’t anything of that sort, but simply a matter of a historical lack of resources to maintain other people’s data, then it all becomes rather less diabolical, doesn’t it.

    I’ve noted this overall concern-troll/harumphing ‘we don’t do things this way in physics’ tenor of argument by you several times now, Dr. Minett. I think RC has been very patient with you.

    CRU data availability statement, with links to data sets:

  33. 133
    Martin says:

    79.“Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting [an unnamed paper] to ­support Dave Stahle’s and really as soon as you can.”

    [Response: ……… But I have no further information into the context of this remark than anyone else. – gavin]

    Your response highlights the problem. On an unmentionable site they have a entire topic relating to this incident. They claim to know the paper and have dialoged with its author in what truly appears to be a comprehensive discussion of seemingly relevant facts. A layman (or reporter) after reading avaliable climategate information elsewhere, regardless of their point of view, may suppose that RC is uninformed at best or participants in the cover up.

    [Response: You are confusing papers. The author of the paper Cook was talking about appears to be M. Auflhammer, the author(s) of the paper Stahle and Cook reviewed is unknown. But please let me know if I am mistaken. – gavin]

  34. 134
    MarkB says:

    Re: #95

    Curry has a stunning level of factual inaccuracies and logical fallacies in her piece. It’s dissected nicely here:

    And no (pre-emptively), being a climate scientist doesn’t make her arguments any more robust.

  35. 135
    Walt The Physicist says:

    Dear Gavin,
    This is what you get as a result of publicizing the research and turning it into entertainment for the evening program on History channel. If one creates hype and then rides the funding wave generated by notoriety, he should expect that public will become very harsh if the mistakes are made. And you and your colleagues did make mistakes. And even if it will be ultimately proven that you are correct (in about 50 – 100 years), the public doesn’t care and, since the public pays your salary, public is ultimately right. It is also very educational to layman to learn from you that these practices so revolting to moral people, are actually everyday life of scientist and academia (you are correct, lamenting the fact that climate science is singled out). It will be interesting to see what would happen when layman will learn that his billions of tax dollars are spent to study wake field electron acceleration, modeling of comet impact on Jupiter satellites, Einstein – Bose condensate, neutrino detection, … did I miss something? How about Goddard Space Flight Center climate modeling activities? Please do not perceive this as an attack, but rather a help to understand why ordinary people, whom your supporters call names like “ignorant trolls”, are so much against you.

  36. 136
    John says:

    110: [Response: Perhaps you’d like to point to a document where the IPCC has advocated a specific climate policy? Just one. – gavin]

    Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said:

    “It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.”

    Note the words “impact policy makers” and tell me in what way this was NOT advocating policy?

    [Response: Well, first off, ‘action’ is not a policy. Second, this is not an IPCC report, it is an individual scientist, and thirdly, he didn’t even say it. Please try again. – gavin]

  37. 137
    Daniel Silva says:

    This post reminded me of the words of Keith Briffa, in one of those emails: “at what point does one come out looking aggressively defensive?”

  38. 138
    Trevor says:

    Gavin:In any resubmission there is usually a response to the reviewers and the reviewers then get to see the original reviews (which may have been signed) and the response. The parties to this conversation obviously already knew that Stahle was a reviewer from which I conclude that it is likely that Stahle signed his original review. If you want to imagine some sneaky conspiracy, do it elsewhere, but I’m not particularly interested in playing games based on fact-free speculations.”

    But the reviews “are supposed to be for the author’s eyes only”. Your words, Gavin, not mine. Stahle’s review was supposed to be FOR THE AUTHOR’S EYES ONLY. Not Briffa’s and not Cook’s. Now that I’ve caught you in a contradiction, you seem to be trying to modify your “author’s eyes only” statement to apply to only the period before the re-submission. So let’s be clear, Gavin, for once, so I can pin you down. Is there or is there not an “author’s eyes only” rule for reviews, does it exclude the editor, and when does it cease to apply? Please state this as clearly as possible [edit]

    [Response: Don’t be silly, of course the editor sees the reviews. I’m perfectly happy to amend my statement to ‘for the author’s and editor’s and other reviewer’s eyes’. The point was that they are not generally public. Please move on to something more interesting. – gavin]


  39. 139
    Deech56 says:

    Speaking out does have its rewards.

    THE EARTH is warming. A chief cause is the increase in greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. Humans are at least in part responsible, because the oil, gas and coal that we burn releases these gases. If current trends persist, it’s likely that in coming decades the globe’s climate will change with potentially devastating effects for billions of people.

    Contrary to what you may have read lately, there are few reputable scientists who would disagree with anything in that first paragraph. Yet suddenly we’re hearing that climate change is in doubt and that action to combat it is unlikely.

    This editorial actually makes some good points. Is the pendulum swinging back towards sanity?

  40. 140
    Dan M. says:

    Doug, in another post, I agreed that the raw data still exists in scattered form. Scattered, and isolated, it tells little about temperature trends, because there are many reasons influencing readings at individual stations. But, the CDC had, by all accounts, a fantastic set of raw data. I asked, and got now answer for how easy it would be to recompile that set of raw data. I’d argue the folks here at RealClimate probably have a good idea of how much time/effort it would take to recompile it…especially on the gross scale I provided. I’d guess, from the fact that the CDC got some of the data only after negociations, that the set of data that the CDC had was rare. From what I understand, there are probably two data sets that are of comperable quality. There may be more, but I’d be very interested in seeing how many data sets contained all the data in the CDC data set. The CDC had unique connections, as does NASA/NOAA and I think there is one more agency that I can’t think about.

    One of the reasons I asked you your training in science is that I didn’t learn the proper techniques of experimental science until I did my apprenticship: which is what a Phd dissertation in physics really is. I learned from master craftsmen, (e.g. my major prof. had a Nova program on his hobby almost 30 years ago: the Great Violin Mystery).

    Experimentalists are called “plumbers” within the community. We aren’t fancy dancy boffins, we only have our craftsmanship. If we fail in that, we are worse than useless.

    Feynman said “it’s easiest to fool people, and the easist person there is to fool is ourselves.” In science, all we have are the sets of data we have accumulated and the craft we use in accumulating and processing that data. Raw data sets are treated as golden becasue good sets of data are hard to put together, and if we make any mistakes (as all humans do) we can start over if we have the origional data set.

    It is true, you caught me writing with less than perfect precision: I should have said discarded a close to unique raw data set instead of raw data. I falsely assumed that everyone could see how hard it is to compile a raw data set as good as the one the CDC use to have. The statements that many nations gave the data only conditionally was a strong clue to me that it wasn’t just a matter of going to the web for a week or two and getting the data.

    The other clue is that I asked, with very knowledgable people reading, how hard it would be to reconstruct this data set. My honest question was met with silence. I would argue that, if such data sets abounded, someone would point it out to me….or at least I would do that if I knew of such sets and point the questioner in the right direction.

  41. 141
    Daniel C. Goodwin says:

    In message 80, Ray Ladbury responds to Michael K’s nostalgia for rational times by asking: when was that?

    “I had hoped that science could be a tool that forced humans to listen to unpleasant truths they did not want to hear. I’m starting to conclude that evolution’s experience with intelligence appears to be a failure. People really don’t want to live in the real world, and unfortunately that’s the only one on offer.”

    This is an eloquent cry of despair, but Ladbury’s long practice of going to so much trouble informing himself and others belies his placement of “hope” in the past tense. Leaving aside mankind as a whole for a moment, an individual’s intellect has languished when there remains no mechanism for hearing the things one does not want to hear. Intellectual freedom depends on the ability of the intellect to turn around.

    I believe such freedom is possible, as Ladbury demonstrates by example, and that free minds are more potent than bound minds.

  42. 142
    Michael K says:

    Not being a scientist, but an author writing fiction, I tend to believe that people have a deep-seated emotional relatioinship and attachment to the world around them.

    One could call this their ideological lens, which of course, also functions as a filter. Whilst visiting educational establishments to meet my fans, I’ve become increasingly aware of a disturbing trend; when presented with facts, many people simply refuse to accept that they are true, and express the view that “I just don’t believe it.” I find this worrying.

    It’s not that I’m against healthy scepticism, far from it, but to deny facts simply because they appear to contradict ones ideology, or world-view, is something else. It almost seems that ideology trumps facts for most people, most of the time.

    I used to believe that education was a cure for, let’s call it superstition, now I’m not so sure. I think I’ve severely underestimated the power of state/business propaganda to influence public opinion and manipulate the marketplace of ideas.

    When the science relating to the complex area of climate change began to gain headway and began to threaten powerful, vested interests; it, the science, became dangerous and therefore unacceptable, regardless of whether it was correct, that was irrelevant.

    Science that is perceived as a potential challenge to our current economic and social dogmas, is “unacceptable” science, and therefore has to be attacked using any methods that are deemed effective, it doesn’t matter especially whether they are “true” or not. All fair in love and war, after all.

  43. 143
    Andrew Adams says:

    Josie #116

    The UK Spectator Magazine, who has recently supported Ian Plimer, has also recently flirted with HIV/ AIDS denial and supported the recent AIDS denialist propaganda film ‘House of Numbers’

    Indeed, and Melanie Phillips who you also mentioned writes for them as well. Plimer though actually has a very good record of debunking creationism and intelligent design, which makes it a bit odd that he is so quick to indulge in the same kind of anti-scientific arguments himself when it comes to AGW.

  44. 144
    John Peter says:

    Hotrod (85) John S (95)

    Dr Curry’s letter provides for a balanced discussion of climate science.
    “I would argue that there are three strategies for dealing with skeptics:

    1. Retreat into the ivory tower
    2. Circle the wagons/point guns outward: ad hominem/appeal to motive attacks; appeal to authority; isolate the enemy through lack of access to data; peer review process
    3. Take the “high ground:” engage the skeptics on our own terms (conferences, blogosphere); make data/methods available/transparent; clarify the uncertainties; openly declare our values

    Most scientists retreat into the ivory tower. The CRU emails reflect elements of the circling of wagons strategy…” sharpens up the three options for tailoring scientific responses to an attack that have been mentioned on and off here on RealClimate.

    The 241+ responses provide broader and deeper opinions about ClimateGate (and Climate Science future) than I have able to find here in the last couple of weeks. The “circle the wagons approach” we have been using makes us feel good but really doesn’t stimulate much thinking.

    I hope that posters here will follow your suggestion and read Dr. Curry’s letter and some of the responses. It should expose readers to many important points of view.

    I join with you both in hoping that Gavin opens a topic to discuss Judith’s letter. I would hope the discussion would be lively, entertaining and educational. (However, I’m not really sure that Gavin’s agenda will allow it.)

    Repeating your reference for the convenience of any who might wish a look:

    [Response: Continuing to blog about climate science is hardly retreating to the ivory tower. – gavin]

  45. 145
    K-Bob says:


    You wrote a blog on 12-03-09 about the useage of the term “the science is settled”. You asserted that it is not settled and that climate scientist are not making this claim specifically. Why is it then that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson keeps stating this mantra? Speficially Ms. Jackson said the following in an article today in the Christian Science Monitor:

    “Let me begin by being direct: The science behind climate change is settled and human activity is responsible for global warming,” she said. “Not only have America’s top scientific institutions come to that conclusion, but so have numerous other industrialized countries.”

    Shouldn’t the climate scientist community speak up and set them straight about what scientist are really saying?

    [Response: Try reading the article I wrote. On that specific point, and on the science underlying the EPA Endangerment finding, she is correct. This is not a claim that all of science is known or that there aren’t uncertainties, but instead that there is enough information to conclude that continuing CO2 emissions constitute a risk. – gavin]

  46. 146
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Fresh Pearce, in New Scientist:

    Can we trust the IPCC on the big stuff?

    Apparently IPCC is maybe as reliable as Kamel, possibly more so. It’s hard to tell exactly because Fred’s natural variation of acceptability wobbles between articles.

  47. 147
    Jimbo says:

    “Over the last few weeks or so the UK Guardian (who occasionally reprint our posts) has published a 12-part series about the stolen CRU emails by Fred Pearce that are well below the normal Guardian standards of reporting.”

    Hi Gavin, I feel that you should go and read up about what journalists are supposed to do when reporting on press releases, blogs, news etc., Please note that I used to work for the BBC World Service and at the BBC headquarters at White City. Stick to the science Gavin, I have warned you before.

  48. 148
    William T says:

    Anand #108
    “Why dont you admit that a general malaise which can affect any peer-reviewed system, affected climate science and global warming science at a certain period of time, and may even be an ongoing phenomenon?”

    Don’t forget that ‘global warming science’ extends over a wide range of disciplines and even if a few individuals in the field of historical and pre-historical temperature reconstructions have been feeling the heat recently, that publication and peer review in other areas (eg space-based measurement; ice measurement; GCMs; ocean chemistry; biology; atmospheric chemistry; etc) are done by completely separate groups of reviewers and editors spread out over hundreds of journals. Whatever Jones, Briffa, and others related to CRU have done, they have influence in only one small scientific field.

  49. 149
    Tim Jones says:

    Fred Pearce writing for New Scientist. Someone was wondering about this coming.

    Can we trust the IPCC on the big stuff?
    24 February 2010
    by Fred Pearce

    Editorial: Honesty is the best policy for climate scientists

    “EVER since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 report on the impacts of climate change was discovered to contain a major error – that the Himalayan glaciers will be largely gone by 2035 – there has been a media feeding frenzy to find other mistakes. But it misses the point to focus on individual errors sprinkled through the report’s 1000 or so pages (see “Digging devils from the details”). How solid are its headline findings?”

    “Honesty is the best policy for climate scientists.” How about it being so for everyone else involved in this?

  50. 150
    J Bowers says:

    Fred Pearce has actually written a number of articles supporting the scientists and lambasting the sceptics, including a rundown of the disinformation campaign. I think part of the problem is that the online versions are not everything that appears in print, which took me by surprise when, after criticising one of the online articles in the comments, I later bought a print copy of the newspaper which had the online article plus a print-only criticism of the sceptics on the facing page.

    Try and bear that in mind about Fred Pearce. The Guardian will be under lots of pressure from the likes of Monckton, Lawson and Peiser, who will use any trick in the book to make sure they get even copy even though it’s a balance fallacy. They forced the BBC to review its coverage lately, including an internal inquiry, after geologist Professor Iain Stewart’s excellent series ‘Earth: The Climate Wars’ was aired, accusing him and the producers of all sorts of nonsense and misrepresentation (better known as ‘projection’ I believe). They just didn’t like Iain Stewart slicing, dicing and dissecting the denialsphere and exposing its innards and pseudoscience on national TV all the way back to pre-IPCC times. However, the rules on reporting balance and bias, especially for the BBC, are regularly used by opposing sides in a public debate to get as much coverage as possible for their argument.