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The Guardian responds

Filed under: — group @ 24 March 2010

We recently ran two articles that were quite critical of aspects of the Guardian’s coverage of the stolen emails. This is a response from Dr. James Randerson, the editor of the Guardian’s environmental website.

I edit the Guardian’s environment website and was part of the editorial team that produced the 12-part investigation by veteran science journalist Fred Pearce into the hacked East Anglia climate emails. I’m very grateful to RealClimate for giving us the opportunity to respond to the recent posts on the investigation: “The Guardian Disappoints” and “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind”.

I should say first that we hold RealClimate in very high regard. The site is part of the Guardian Environment Network, a collection of more than 20 hand-picked websites including Grist and Nature’s Climate Feedback blog with whom we have a mutual content sharing agreement. Under the arrangement, the Guardian website republishes RealClimate blogs regularly. We take seriously your criticisms and are considering them carefully. The Guardian has a commitment to accuracy and correcting factual errors.

Such is the public interest in this story that ever since the emails were released in November, there has been a strong demand for an in-depth journalistic account of what they tell us about how climate scientists operate. As RealClimate rightly pointed out, the response from much of the media has been lazy to the point of “pathology”.

No other media organisation has come close to producing such a comprehensive and carefully researched attempt to get to the bottom of the emails affair. The investigation tries to reflect the complexity and historical context of the story, and runs to some 28,000 words – of which around half appeared in the printed newspaper.

Dr. Schmidt did not mince his words though when he said that Fred’s investigation falls, “well below the normal Guardian standards of reporting”, while Dr Ben Santer wrote, “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.” Both have also criticised our experimental online exercise to harness the expertise of people with a special knowledge of the emails in order to create a “peer reviewed” account of what they tell us.

More on that later, but it is wrong to suggest that this is a lazy substitute for traditional journalistic standards and that key protagonists were not invited to respond prior to publication. On the contrary, the investigation was subject to rigorous editorial checking and Fred contacted numerous individuals in the course of his research. Many (particularly those at UEA) declined to comment.

The other side of the story

The RealClimate commentary reads like a distorted fairground mirror of the Guardian investigation – one that highlights the uncomfortable bits but blurs the rest. The posts did point out that “Some of the other pieces in this series are fine” but do not reflect the large amount of analysis in the investigation of the way the emails have been misused by those with a political agenda and the extensive context we included to indicate the pressure scientists writing those emails were under from time-consuming requests for data.

In part 2 (How the ‘climategate’ scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics’ lies), for example, we detail how the “hide the decline” email has been misused by Sarah Palin, Senator James Inhofe and others to create, apparently deliberately, the impression that climate scientists had fiddled the figures.

Almost all the media and political discussion about the hacked climate emails has been based on soundbites publicised by professional sceptics and their blogs. In many cases, these have been taken out of context and twisted to mean something they were never intended to.

In part 1 (Battle over climate data turned into war between scientists and sceptics) and in a separate piece that appeared in the newspaper (Climate scientists have long been targets for sceptics) Fred outlines the tactics and motivations of some on the “sceptic” side of the debate.

All this happened against the backdrop of a long-term assault by politically motivated, and commercially funded, climate-change deniers against the activities of many of the key scientists featuring in the emails.

Similarly in Part 7 (Victory for openness as IPCC climate scientist opens up lab doors) Fred explains how the emails give a special insight into what being on the end of that assault was like.

In the leaked emails, [Ben Santer] is seen sharing those experiences with other victims of hectoring and abuse by the more rabid climate sceptics. Others had their own horror stories, including Mike Mann over his hockey stick graph, Kevin Trenberth over his analysis of hurricanes and warming in the aftermath of Katrina, and later Jones over his escalating data wars. In each case, they argue, legitimate debates about scientific analysis and access to researchers’ data have been turned into vindictive character assassination.

And in the concluding part of the investigation (Part 12: Climate science emails cannot destroy argument that world is warming, and humans are responsible), Fred lays out unequivocally that nothing in the emails casts doubt on the case for climate change being attributable to human actions.

Is the science of climate change fatally flawed by the climategate revelations? Absolutely not. Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet. None of the 1,073 emails plus 3,587 files containing documents, raw data and computer code upsets the 200-year-old science behind the “greenhouse effect” of gases such as carbon dioxide, which traps solar heat and warms the atmosphere. Nothing changes the fact that carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to human emissions from burning carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil. Nor the calculations by physicists that for every square metre of the Earth’s surface, 1.6 watts more energy enters the atmosphere than leaves it.

And we know the world is warming as a result. Thousands of thermometers in areas remote from any conceivable local urban influences tell us that. The oceans are warming too. The great majority of the world’s glaciers are retreating, Arctic sea ice is disappearing, sea levels are rising ever faster, trees are climbing up hillsides and permafrost is melting.

These are not statistical artefacts or the result of scientists cherry-picking data.

Looking under every rock

There are few, if any newspapers in the world with a stronger commitment to action on climate change than the Guardian and our sister paper the Observer. We have a team of 6 full-time environment correspondents as well as three editors and a collection of bloggers and columnists.

It was the Guardian that orchestrated a global editorial carried by 56 newspapers in 45 countries on 7th December 2009 to call for action from world leaders at Copenhagen. [RC: Also at RealClimate]

And we have been instrumental in supporting the 10:10 climate change campaign which aims to inspire individuals, organisations and businesses to cut their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010. The UK branch of 10:10 has signed up nearly 60,000 people and over 4000 businesses and organisations.

But only by looking thoroughly under every rock can those of us pressing for action on climate change maintain with confidence that the scientific case remains sound. Fred’s investigation shows that confidence is indeed well placed, but to claim that the emails do not throw up some troubling issues looks like the inward-looking mentality that is sometimes (perhaps understandably) expressed in the emails themselves.

The two posts published so far on RealClimate come to over 8500 words and it has been suggested that a line by line response to each of the points made would not be productive. I say again that we are totally unembarrassed about correcting genuine errors, but many of the points raised at RealClimate are differences of interpretation. There were implications that the investigation omitted some key information which in fact appeared in Fred’s pieces – for example that the data on Chinese weather station locations from the Phil Jones et al 1990 Nature data were eventually released publicly and that the two studies Jones had threatened to keep out of the IPCC AR4 report were in fact cited there.

However, I would like to make four points:

  • Dr Phil Jones, the head of the Climatic Research Unit at UEA has said in an interview with Nature that the handling of the records of the Chinese weather station data from his 1990 Nature paper (which Fred wrote about in part 5 of the investigation) was “not acceptable… [it’s] not best practice,” and he acknowledged that that stations “probably did move”. He added that he was considering a correction to Nature. To our knowledge, no other media organisation or blogger had used the emails to shed light on the controversy over the 1990 paper so a correction would not be on the table without the Pearce investigation.
  • Dr. Schmidt states that we imply Dr Tom Wigley supported allegations of “fabrication” from climate sceptic Douglas Keenan. We do not make that assertion in the piece. Also, Dr Schmidt does not reproduce the most eye-catching quotes from a May 2009 email from Wigley to Jones in which he raises serious doubts about the quality of Jones’s scientific team and his handling of the Chinese weather station data.The hacked emails do not include a response from Jones if there was one.
  • As Dr. Schmidt pointed out, we have made three small corrections to the piece “Controversy behind climate science’s ‘hockey stick’ graph” at the request of Dr Michael Mann, but none changed the main point the article was making, which was that in 1999, Mann’s hockey-stick reconstruction was the subject of intense academic debate amongst climate scientists.
  • Neither of the RealClimate blogs dealt with Fred’s piece on FOI requests, but a statement from the UK’s deputy information commissioner Graham Smith has made clear that he believes that FOI legislation was not followed correctly. He wrote, “The emails which are now public reveal that [climate sceptic David] Holland’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information.” This is a serious issue worthy of discussion and debate.

Peer-reviewed journalism

I mentioned above our attempt to create a definitive account of the emails by leveraging the expertise of people involved or with a special knowledge of the messages and the issues they discuss. This account will eventually be expanded into a book. In practice, this means us adding annotations from people to the online versions of the articles so that readers can watch a form of living peer-review in progress. Click on the yellow highlights in the pieces themselves to read the annotations.

This represents an extraordinary commitment to transparency that we believe is unique in journalism. What other news organisation would open itself to direct criticism in this way including, for example, annotations that read “this is absolutely false” and “this is really bad”? The respected Columbia Journalism Review has praised the approach. “Regardless of whether you agree with Pearce or Schmidt, the Guardian’s approach appropriately acknowledges that evidence leaves room for some degree of interpretation. It is this kind of detailed, intellectually honest (even technologically innovative) reporting that news outlets like The New York Times should be striving for,” it wrote.

In the same spirit we have showcased diverse critical opinions on the issues and our own coverage of them, including from Dr Myles Allen, Dr Vicky Pope, Dr Mike Hulme and the Guardian’s environment correspondent Dr David Adam. Again few newspapers would have reflected such diverse viewpoints.

The reaction from some to our online annotation exercise has been hostile though. On our letters pages Dr Myles Allen and Dr Ben Santer wrote last week:

Claiming to produce “the definitive” analysis now is a brazen attempt to pre-empt the inquiries’ conclusions…What is wrong with the old-fashioned approach of checking facts before publication? When the final version is published, you will no doubt make much of the fact that “everyone had a chance to comment”, implying that any statement that was not challenged must therefore be true.

Our intention is not to undermine or pre-empt the ongoing inquiries into the CRU emails. Each of those has a very specific remit and none is attempting to produce a detailed account that uses the emails to shed light on recent climate controversies. Nor is this an exercise in blackmailing scientists into fact-checking on the cheap – if it were then it would be a monumental false-economy.

In truth, this is a serious-minded attempt to make sense of a large volume of new information about a complex and highly charged issue. No other newspaper has ever offered its journalism up for very public and exacting scrutiny in this way. We sincerely invite those involved who know the issues most thoroughly to contribute.

507 Responses to “The Guardian responds”

  1. 351

    I just took a look at the Nature interview that The Guardian response links to (note the provocative URL of The Guardian article: ). Part of Prof Jones’s response that they ignored is:

    “The science still holds up” though, he adds. A follow-up study verified the original conclusions for the Chinese data for the period 1954–1983, showing that the precise location of weather stations was unimportant. “They are trying to pick out minor things in the data and blow them out of all proportion,” says Jones of his critics.

    Remember also we are talking about a 1990 paper; anyone relying on a 20-year-old paper that has not stood up to subsequent follow-up studies is doing very poor science. The Guardian is guilty of picking over the bones of a very old story to find some juicy bits the jackals left behind. Jackals are very efficient scavengers. You have nothing to report, and would do well to go back to doing what you do best, reporting the news accurately, and telling it like it is, not the way some lobby would prefer it to be.

  2. 352

    Bob #326: much as I like your idea of “consumer=friendly science” (which is the gap some magazines like New Scientist and Scientific American try to fill but obviously not in time for the media spin cycle), I can’t see it happening on a wider scale than this site because scientists are not funded to do that kind of thing. Another problem is that, as we see with media releases, dumbing down the science creates the risk of inadvertently making points not supported by the evidence, or having to explain things laboriously that are clear to scientists (or should be) like statistical significance. Get any of this wrong, and you are back where you started, so the work involved would be significant, possibly more than writing the original paper.

    RC meanwhile is not a bad resource for what you want.

  3. 353
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Does Fred P misunderstand energy balance?

    We need to get this right or there is a risk of diluting the message we need to send to the Guardian.

    #252 I criticise Fred Pearce for shallow, initial understanding of the hockey stick (years ago)which I thought I remembered.

    ##302 Blair criticises Guardian phraseology concerning energy imbalance; claims that author shows no understanding. But comment looks wrong to me.

    #304 Hank’s comment (missed by me) quotes a paper which he thinks supports Blair. (No change to my view).

    #309 I criticise Blair for muddle and give partial support to Guardian’s phraseology

    # 311 Kevin McKinney weighs in with numbers

    #329 Blair comes back with more numbers and repeats orginal claim. It appears that Fred P is responsible for the Guardian’s remark.

    I don’t think anything has changed.
    I searched for old copy of his “The Last Generation”. His book has 5.5 pages devoted to the topic of energy imbalance, Chapter 17. Still no real change. Fred P’s wording is a bit ambiguous and can be interpreted to be both correct and incorrect.
    He likes to quote interviews.This time it is Jim Hansen. He quotes values of 1.8 W/m^2 and 0.8 W/m^2 respectively. If you read him carefully you can deduce that 1 W/m^2 has gone into heating the atmosphere and the quoted figure of 0.8 W/m^2 will be going in the next 30 or 40 years to heat the oceans. That will see the end of the imbalance, except that we are well on course to replace it by more forcing and Fred P does not put it that way. I think that he did and does probably understand this topic although his wording is not ideal. Remember this is a a popular book. I have seen much worse than these few pages.

    The melting of ice referred to in #329 is an interesting thought experiment or warning to us of what would happen if we keep repeating the forcings for a whole millenium.

  4. 354
    Henry says:

    While I respect James Hansen as a man of science and think he is accurate most of the time, I think it’s inappropriate for a NASA chief executive to keep mentioning the Indian religious ascetic and fanatic Gandhi. Why not Thoreau instead? a more science oriented historical figure.

  5. 355
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside — Did the Guardian ever mention that measurements of outgoing infrared from satellites have been measured and recently it’s clear this has changed as predicted? Or have a pointer that would help readers discover that this is has been observed? Studies are listed here:

  6. 356
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Henry
    > why not Thoreau

    Chuckle. There’s a useful science lesson in answering that.
    Have you read this?

    “… Thoreau was a great writer, philosopher, poet, and withal a most practical man, that is, he taught nothing he was not prepared to practice in himself. He was one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced. At the time of the abolition of slavery movement, he wrote his famous essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”. He went to gaol for the sake of his principles and suffering humanity. His essay has, therefore, been sanctified by suffering. Moreover, it is written for all time. Its incisive logic is unanswerable.” and 17

    and see

    Remember, science doesn’t build on and rely on the _first_ writing or on ae _founder_ or _originator_. The more recent work is relied on by current workers in the area. Science looks to see “how many grandchildren an idea has had” — how much good work has been done later by people extending and deepening the idea. The later work is the better work. That’s how it works.

    It’s quite appropriate to often cite later workers (like Gandhi), who have cited earlier workers like Thoreau.

    This is the habit always to practice when reading science. Look at the footnotes, look at the cited work, check that — and then look for more recent work citing the paper you have.

    Science grows like the kudzu, wherever it can — not like the mighty oak with a single taproot on which all else relies.

  7. 357

    James Radison’s reply was surprising to me.

    I mean, he’s an editor at the Guardian, right? the last bastion of real news for many of us,


  8. 358
    Bob says:

    Phillip, #352:

    I agree, and I disagree. I agree that it’s a lot of work, and that if you get it wrong it will lead to the same problems we’re seeing now. But I do think it would be done right more often than wrong, especially if it became common practice. Along those lines, it would be great if the publishing journals took the responsibility or, in the case of climate change, if any invested party or parties took the responsibility. It’s a sad world when the funding is basically there for the anti-AGW lobby to do this (and to purposely get it wrong), but no one on the side of the truth can afford to do it.

    I’m a software developer, primarily for businesses. Most software projects go bad in lots of ways, but the same ways over and over again. Every failure, however, can always be traced to miscommunication that results from the fact that the two communicating parties share minimal if any common ground. The system designer doesn’t really understand the business while the business doesn’t understand systems, or the programmer doesn’t understand the intricacies of the design while the designer doesn’t understand the specifics of the programming environment.

    Bridging all of these gaps is the key to successful projects. It’s also, I think, a lot of the problem being experienced in communicating climate change, at least as far as the impact and meaning of individual new papers. There are too many interwoven areas of science, plus mathematics, which must be communicated to journalists who in turn communicate it to “the masses.”

    I mean, I know it won’t happen, because in our “free market based society” only things that are profitable get done, and this wouldn’t generate any profits for anyone. But I do see a need, and the fact that it won’t get done (except piecemeal, as time and effort and passion allow, by sites like RC) is a shame, and hopefully not a tragically fatal shame.

  9. 359
    J. Bob says:

    John here is an example that might help explain the difference between accuracy and confidence level.

    Assume one has a thermometer to record temperature. If the observer takes say 100 readings in a short time interval (no temp change), he will have a certain level of confidence in his readings.

    However the temperature sensor will have a certain error. This can be do to initial manufacturing tolerance (+/- 0.5 deg.), aging,etc. That error will remain, no matter what the level of confidence in the readings. Hence to TOTAL ABSOLUTE ERROR is the combination of errors due to sensor accuracy and the readings. That is, one may have 100% confidence in the readings (samples)
    but still have the inherent sensor accuracy error. Hope this helps.

  10. 360
    Septic Matthew says:

    318, ccpo: You have no idea what you are talking about. Underpinning everything is resource constraints via population. Further,acidification is having, and will continue to have, negative effects on the oceans. When you attempt to separate out any aspect of the global system, you are making a grave mistake. Recent report: Dying corals = destabilized nations.

    If you can not solve one problem without first solving every problem, then you can not solve any problem.

    That’s my paraphrase of a quote from Bertrand Russell.

    All achieveable solutions in the shared world are partial and temporary, and for political purposes require majorities (or at least large and persuasive minorities) in support but not unanimities. My suggestion was that you (actually, John P. Reisman) could solve CO2 accumulation faster if you didn’t alienate too many large constituencies at the start, deep ocean fishermen and fish-eaters being two of those constituencies.

    290, John P. Reisman: It is safe to say we will be without the Arctic ice (virtually ice) free within 30 years, and there is a reasonably good chance we will be virtually ice free within 10 years, or possibly less.

    I think that you mean in the summer. “Virtually” ice free requires some additional definition. Even then, the trends over the last 30 years and last 3 years don’t forecast imminent disappearance of the ice, only the trend from about 2002 to 2006. Right now, ice continues to form in the Arctic, past the average peak date.

  11. 361
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Ghandi a fanatic? Right. In comparison of what? The one who shot him? Rush Limbaugh calling for scientists to be “drawn and quartered?”
    Please, don’t use words indiscriminately. The result can really look like stupidity.

  12. 362
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Philip Machanik, the problem is actually even bigger.

    It resides in the deep cluelessness of the general public. Once you have done some (not even a lot, or advanced) maths and science in general, you develop a quick appreciation of certain things, like what is quantitatively appropriate. If you do some mechanics, you will easily perceive at first glance whether a structural part somewhere is grossly undersized and not viable. Or oversized, creating an unnecessary burden. It becomes second nature. Some engineers can immediately tell if something is questionable in an airplane design just by looking at it, and they’ll ask you just the right questions about it too.

    At a more general level, a less developped but existing sense of what makes quantitative sense used to be common. It no longer is. Some people sincerely think that the heat mechanically generated by human activities could be a significant contributor to GW.

    The cluelessness runs deep. On that terrain, you can sell any ol’ scientific sounding snake oil.

  13. 363

    Re: #353–

    I had no opinion on the Pearce quote per se–just knew Blair’s point was not well-taken and said so. I did look around a bit to see if I could spot the source Blair referred to and understand a bit better what he intended–I didn’t quite get why Blair was so critical of Pearce. No luck, so I appreciate the explanation or summary you provide, Phillip.

    Since arriving at the .85 w/m^2 involves lots of calculation (see Hansen et al, 2005), and since Dr. Hansen is in fact a physicist, those parts of Pearce’s statement seem defensible to me–at least in the context of a brief, popular description.

    Where the 1.6 w/m^2 came from, I don’t know. (And am not excessively worried about.)

  14. 364

    #359 J. Bob

    Hence the 85% number I mentioned as opposed to 100%.

    By the way, I don’t have strong confidence in the number I gave you because I am relying on my memory which I don’t have complete confidence in pertaining to the conversation form last year. It will likely take a little time for me to resolve it unless someone else knows.

    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    Sign the Petition!

  15. 365

    #360 Septic Mathew

    Yes, I do mean summer minimum, typically September.

    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    Sign the Petition!

  16. 366
    Hunt Janin says:

    This may not be the right place to ask, but for a book I’m writing I’d like to list the best three climate-change websites OTHER THAN THIS ONE. Any suggestions?

  17. 367
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “While the bridge did pile up ice, the River Thames froze below it as well, and thick enough to bring elephants onto it as an attraction.”

    Nope the bridge slowed the water so that ice would more easily form.

    That ice then slowed down the water more so that more ice would more easily form.

    This is called a “feedback loop”.

    Tell me, if the bridge “piled up ice”, how did the ice get formed? Why did the known mechanism of “slower water flow” not allow something called “cooling of the water” to happen in situ more than before and, by the magic of “getting cold enough to freeze” cause ice to form?

    Given that you now admit that the bridge building had an effect, I posit to you that your assertion that it was cold therefore the thames froze is incomplete and therefore unsupportable. Before attempting to reassert this fallacy, please include in your model the missing unknowns like slower water, etc.

  18. 368
    Edward Greisch says:

    292 jo abbess: Just because you think the statistics required are elementary doesn’t mean that the average person or average journalist understands statistics at that level. They don’t. Nor do they understand any of that other stuff that you think everybody understands. To be blunt: Compared to you, the average person is quite stupid and very little educated, especially in math.
    The statistics that you assume everybody knows is in the first statistics course in sophomore undergrad PHYSICS programs. It is the course that sorts out who is going to get a degree in physics and who isn’t. Statistics is not required and not taught in almost all college degrees. A very small percentage of college grads have taken ANY statistics at all. Those who did not go to college of course did not take statistics.

    But a lot of people think they know a lot that they don’t.

    There is no such thing as “much more approachable mathematics” for most people. They stop reading at the first mathematical symbol. They just give up. There is no such thing as a “simple formula.”

  19. 369

    Steve Oregon (337),

    1) Miskolczi confuses emissivity with emission.

    2) He treats the Earth-atmosphere system with the virial theorem, which is grossly inappropriate since the Earth and the atmosphere are not in orbit about one another.

    3) His theory depends on more carbon dioxide in the air leading to less water vapor. This contradicts the Clausius-Clapeyron law, and all the measurements show the two have been rising together:

    Brown, S., Desai, S., Keihm, S., and C. Ruf, 2007. “Ocean water vapor and cloud burden trends derived from the topex microwave radiometer.” Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium. Barcelona, Spain: IGARSS 2007, pp. 886-889.

    Dessler AE, Zhang Z, Yang P 2008. “Water-Vapor Climate Feedback Inferred from Climate Variations.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L20704.

    Held, I.M. and B. J. Soden, 2000. “Water vapor feedback and global warming.” Annu. Rev. Energy Environ., 25, 441–475.

    Minschwaner, K., and A. E. Dessler, 2004. “Water vapor feedback in the tropical upper troposphere: Model results and observations.” J. Climate, 17, 1272–1282.

    Oltmans, S.J. and D.J. Hoffman, “Increase in Lower-Stratospheric Water Vapor at Mid-Latitude Northern Hemisphere Site from 1981-1994,” Nature, 374 (1995): 146-149.

    Philipona, R., B. Dürr, A. Ohmura, and C. Ruckstuhl 2005. “Anthropogenic greenhouse forcing and strong water vapor feedback increase temperature in Europe.” Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L19809.

    Santer, B. D, C. Mears, F. J. Wentz, K. E. Taylor, P. J. Gleckler, T. M. L. Wigley, T. P. Barnett, J. S. Boyle, W. Bruggemann, N. P. Gillett, S. A. Klein, G. A. Meehl, T. Nozawa, D. W. Pierce, P. A. Stott, W. M. Washington, M. F. Wehner, 2007. “Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content.” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 104, 15248-15253.

    Soden, B.J., D. L. Jackson, V. Ramaswamy, M. D. Schwarzkopf, and X. Huang, 2005. “The radiative signature of upper tropospheric moistening.” Science, 310, 841–844.

    4) Miskolczi’s equation (4) setting downward atmospheric IR emission equal to the absorbed longwave flux from the ground implies that the atmosphere can somehow tell which heat comes from infrared and which comes from conduction, convection, or evapotranspiration. If you think it through, this requires the atmosphere to be self-aware, intelligent, and possessed of magical powers.

    For more detail, try here:

  20. 370

    While, as a Christian, I have to reject Gandhi’s syncretism, it is much more reasonable and humane than the Hinduism of, say, the BJP. Gandhi would never have sanctified pogroms against Christians and Muslims.

    Ragupati ragava Rajah Ram,
    Putita bhavana sita Ram!
    Ishura Allah terenam,
    Duvco sun mutti de Bahagavhan!

  21. 371
    jo abbess says:

    Random selections from The Guardian Environment web page of today :-

    “The trillion-dollar question is: who will now lead the climate battle?
    Political and business leaders gather this week in an attempt to revive the world’s faltering challenge to global warming. But they face a battle to lift the cloud of scepticism that has descended over climate science and chart a new way forward : Paul Harris in New York, John Vidal and Robin McKie, The Observer, Sunday 28 March 2010”

    Excuse me ? A “cloud of scepticism” ? Only people working in the Media can think that the vapours currently emerging from the mouths of denier-obstructers constitute a significant “cloud”. Climate Change Science still stands in the bright sunlight, just like it did a couple of months ago.

    “…Politicians and negotiators are preparing another assault on the issue, though this time talks will be very different. For a start, climate science has suffered damaging setbacks…”

    Er, no. Climate Change Science hasn’t suffered any “setbacks”. In fact, Climate Change Science has been advancing apace.

    “…There was the leaking from the University of East Anglia’s climate research unit of email exchanges between some of the world’s top meteorologists…”

    You what ? The use of the dubious word “leaking” hinted that it cannot be established who was behind the liberation of the e-mails. The implication is that it could have been an inside job. As far as can be established, the “leak” was in fact a “hack”, a deliberate attempt by those outside Climate Change Science to steal something they could use to beat Scientists up with.

    “…as well as the discovery that a UN assessment report on climate change had vastly exaggerated the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers…”

    Again, no. There is clarity in the evidence that Himalayan glaciers are indeed melting. An Indian report of 16% loss over the last 100 years is not “exaggerated”.

    “…The former revelation suggested some researchers were involved in massaging the truth, sceptics claimed…”

    Why bother to repeat the claims of Climate Change sceptics ? They are unfounded and mischievous.

    “…while the latter exposed deficiencies in the way the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – authors of the report – go about their business…”

    No, no, no. The IPCC reports have contained “edge” problems, but the process is still excellent.

    “…The overall effect has been to damage the credibility of the large number of scientists who fear our planet faces climatic disaster…”

    Oh for crying out loud’s sake ! Climate Change Scientists are no less credible than before Climategate. In fact, the reason that this conference is happening in London on Wednesday is proof of that.

    It’s no good. I don’t want to read any more. It could risk a bout of high blood pressure.

    Do The Guardian realise that they are having this effect on their formerly devoted and believing readership ? Where’s the trust ? Why do The Guardian, and more ludicrously, The Observer have to be seen to be pandering to the viewpoints of the sceptics – who don’t have a cotton-picking leg to stand on (or even fall from) ?

  22. 372
    Robert Murphy says:

    “…There was the leaking from the University of East Anglia’s climate research unit of email exchanges between some of the world’s top meteorologists…”

    Meteorologists? Who would they be? When the reporters mess up the basics…

  23. 373
    Jack Maloney says:

    RE Comment by jo abbess #371

    Reminds me of the Black Knight in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, as his arm is hacked off: “It’s only a flesh wound!”

    Denial thrives on both sides of the climate issue.

  24. 374
    Martin Vermeer says:

    #366 Hunt Janin,

    I assume that by ‘best’ you mean offering useful information to someone seeking to understand the science and what is going on around it. My pick would be

    Very different sites, and interesting for very different reasons.

  25. 375
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Hunt (#366),
    I’ll offer four links instead of three because I can’t choose:
    Yes, this is a US-centric list. Welcome to the unipolar world.

  26. 376
    AxelD says:

    As Jack Maloney says, denialism thrives on both sides. The comments from Jo Abbess @371 are charming, but show just how out of touch this community is. Jo is preaching to the converted here, so is assured of a sympathetic hearing, but in the Real World, things have changed. It’s no use claiming that the pure lambent light of science shines brightly, because it patently doesn’t. Mo matter what the truth, or otherwise, of the claims of climate science, the reputation of science is damaged. Period. That’s it. I spent a lot of time in earlier threads showing what climate science could do to rescue itself (and there was even some reluctant acceptance from some quarters here) but the brand is badly damaged, and the press and their readers understand that.

    The Guardian’s interview with James Lovelock is instructive. He explains in very simple terms what’s wrong. On data: “You’ve got to be honest about it and explain why you’ve done what you have done.” On modelling: “If you make a model, after a while you get suckered into it. You begin to forget that it’s a model and think of it as the real world. You really start to believe it.” And so on.

    The community here would do well to listen to the man. He’s hardly a denialist, and he can see what’s wrong with “the science.” As he says, “The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they’re scared stiff of the fact that they don’t really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show. We haven’t got the physics worked out yet.”

    So let’s have a bit more – if not humility – then realism, at least, Lovelock-style. After all, this is supposed to be Real Climate.

  27. 377
    Sou says:

    @ #366 Hunt Janin
    Probably need more specifics, but to add to the excellent suggestions from Martin Vermeer and Anonymous Coward, here are a couple more:

    And to add an international flavour:

  28. 378
    Ike Solem says:

    “Nightmare’ rains drench East Coast – Second major storm this month expected to topple records for wettest March ever.”

    No discussion of water vapor response issues? That’s a legitimate scientific topic, isn’t it?

    On this:

    The Guardian’s interview with James Lovelock is instructive. He explains in very simple terms what’s wrong. On data: “You’ve got to be honest about it and explain why you’ve done what you have done.” On modelling: “If you make a model, after a while you get suckered into it. You begin to forget that it’s a model and think of it as the real world. You really start to believe it.” And so on.

    A few points on Lovelock:

    1) He’s never acknowledged the very real criticism of his “Gaia Theory” which has teleological issues. The notion that Lovelock promoted was “the evolution of the Earth as a planetary organism” – it might apply to Pandora, the Avatar world with the sentient biosphere, but what we really have here is what Steven Schneider called the “Co-evolution of climate and life”, which seems to be a much clearer way of looking at it.

    2) Blanket promotions for nuclear ignore the issues – fuel supply, waste disposal, construction costs, and need for large amounts of cooling water. Nuclear alone is not even close to a “global warming solution” but that’s the drum that Lovelock’s been beating.

    3) The coal carbon capture claims are a far greater scientific fraud case than anything related to the climategate emails and the truncated tree ring dataset – but neither RC nor the Guardian will discuss this.

    Why? Beats me… But it does raise certain questions about the overall agenda here.

  29. 379
    Geoff Wexler says:


    Summary. The propaganda is correct, and has always been.That if the press go on a witch hunt that it is the fault of the ‘witches’. Another obvious lesson from the CRU hack is that the climate modelers in the Met Office (who do a different sort of research in a different place) should resign and hand over responsibility to Jim Loveluck who is of course highly experienced in writing and testing big computer models.

    Finally they should stop being so arrogant and take Jim Lovelock’s advice that Nigel Lawson has written a good book. They should revise their view of Nigel’s statistical ability and scientific knowledge. Next
    step ?, they should apply Schrodinger’s cat theory, to climate science and assume that the science is a linear combination of Lovelock’s earlier wild alarmism and Telegraphese denialism.

  30. 380
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by Bob — 29 March 2010 @ 8:59 PM, and previous:

    Check out Science for an example of good science reporting. I have been getting their print publication for more than 40 years. I don’t think that the lack of sources of good science explanation is as big a problem as the lack of general media outlets and reporters who care, and the rising prominence of religious, market/economic, nationalistic, and technologic fundamentalism in the general public.


  31. 381
    Hunt Janin says:

    My sincere thanks to the authors of posts 374, 375, and 377 re climate change websites. These are the kinds of quick, calm, informative responses which are so useful to a rank beginner like me.

  32. 382
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Ike, you might be interested in Peter Ward’s complementary idea, the Medea Hypothesis.

  33. 383
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “As Jack Maloney says, denialism thrives on both sides.”

    It does???

    As much as in the G&T paper that says that greenhouse theory violates the second law of thermodynamics?

    Or the nearly 1000 denials listed here:

    which include such things as “it’s cooling” to “it’s warming because of cosmic rays which are increasing”, which can’t both be true, yet both proponents ignore that disagreement and merely concentrate on The Big Picture: IPCC is wrong, doesn’t matter how. This is how you spot denialism rather than skepticism.

  34. 384
    Gerry Quinn says:

    Re Jim’s commentary on my post #295:

    If the goal of the image had been “to portray the most likely temperature history up to the present” there would have been a single curve, not three!

    [Response: Wrong. Three gives a better sense of the likelihood of the mean and variance, and anyway my point was wrt the best estimate of proxy-based and instrumental T.–Jim]

    Clearly the goal of the image was to portray multiple independent proxy series agreeing with each other and with instrumental data. So the image was supposed to portray not only the most likely temperature history, it was also supposed to portray the consistency and reliability of that history. The portrayal of the most likely history is legitimate, but in the context of Jones’s manipulation of the original data, which is nowhere referred to, the portrayal of the consistency is certainly very dubious.

    [Response: Been discussed to death. “Clearly” only to those who’ve decided to interpret it that way.–Jim]

    My point about the standard error is simple and I am astonished that you have difficulty seeing it. Given that Jones knows that the proxy data series have diverged from the measured temperatures by several tenths of a degree over the last few decades, and that the reason is unknown, the claim that the data is accurate to 0.1 degree two centuries ago is quite impossible to substantiate. He simply cannot be 95% confident that they were not diverging then or at other times in the same way.

    [Response: You in fact made more than one point wrt variable standard error, and I addressed the one relating to sample size effects. WRT to divergence’s possible influence, do a sensitivity analysis incorporating reasonable estimates of pre-historical divergence if you’re concerned about it. This will require very careful attention to methods of course.–Jim]

    My post was completely on topic as it related to the interpretation of one of the ‘ClimateGate’ emails, the Guardian’s coverage of which is the thread topic. I have not at any time accused Jones of doing anything other than what he has admitted to doing.

    [Response: Very McIntyre-esque. What do you think scientists do if not endless manipulations of data? But somehow Jones doing so needs to be mentioned for some reason.–Jim]

    Nor do I think my interpretation is in any way unfair. Quite simply, Jones was overstating the accuracy/consistency of the presented temperature reconstructions.

    [Response: I thought you hadn’t accused him of anything he’s not admitted to.–Jim]

    How serious this was is a matter that everyone can come to their own judgement on. For some posters, it would appear that anything goes so long as it does not appear in a peer-reviewed paper. But this sits ill with the oft-made assertion that it is journalists who overstate the work of researchers, or with criticisms concerning lack of objectivity in other non peer-reviews sources.

    You also give a link to a recent Mann paper on proxy reconstructions. It is an interesting paper, but it has nothing to do with the topic at hand, which relates to the ‘ClimateGate’ emails and the events and reportage relating to them.

    [Response: It has everything to do with it, as Ray points out. If you were really interested in what the science has to say about past millenial temps instead of criticizing Phil Jones, you’d see it instantly–Jim]

    Martin Vermeer’s #306:

    The report is “a summary for non-experts of the state of the science anno 1999”. Yes. And as I have shown, it is a flawed one that overstates the accuracy of reconstructions and hides (Jones’s own word) a major issue with the proxy data.

    You say “if you want to learn the science, read the primary literature”. Thank you for that brilliant gem of advice.

    [Response: How about you follow it then.–Jim]

    However, in this thread we are not discussing how multi-proxy reconstructions are or should be done, we are discussing how certain multi-proxy reconstructions were in fact done, and related controversies.

  35. 385
    Gerry Quinn says:

    Re Jim Galasyn #340:

    Frank Giger says: even if we shut down all CO2 emissions from man we’d still face warming in the near future.

    In fact, we’d face warming for another couple of centuries.

    As I understand it, this is untrue. If anthropogenic CO2 emissions ceased, atmospheric CO2 would start to fall as the oceans continued to absorb at a rate proportion to the difference between the current concentration and the equilibrium concentration. Models indicate that the temperature would in this case stabilise and even fall slightly, rather than continue to increase.

    cf. Climate Change Commitments

  36. 386
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re: 379. (continued).

    (Using the same quantum metaphor.)

    The cat state may look incomprehensible, until you realise that it is an eigenstate of the inactivity operator

    .. in ordinary language, if the cat is dead it is already too late, if it is alive there is no problem , so that we can relax and continue as before except for some adaptation. If the Telegraph of Lawson and Monckton has anything to do with it,this will involve building tough immigration controls, higher flood defences and rigorous news management to keep out climate refugees, water, and bad news from the lower latitudes, respectively.

  37. 387
    Ray Ladbury says:

    It really is a pity that you don’t have a sufficient sense of irony to see how ridiculous it is for you to proclaim science to be damaged over a medium that exists precisely because science works.

    You remind me of the creationists who decry science while proclaiming the virtues of technology.

    Axel, the mountains of evidence that showed that we are warming the planet in November are still here in March, and they’ll be here next November, too. What the CRU hack really shows is that science produces reliable knowledge even when wielded by fallible humans. The science will be there waiting for people to confront it as soon as they’re done with their temper tantrum of denial.

  38. 388
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gerry Quinn says

    “You also give a link to a recent Mann paper on proxy reconstructions. It is an interesting paper, but it has nothing to do with the topic at hand,”

    Well actually, it does. It shows that you get pretty much the same result even if you don’t include the proxies you find questionable. So, it would appear that the topic is only of interest for those with a personal vendetta against certain scientists.

  39. 389
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ike, Lovelock rebutted the people reading teleology into his idea–long ago.
    I don’t know how old you are. Older folks may remember this:

    … against the charge that Gaia was teleological Lovelock and Andrew Watson offered the Daisyworld model (and its modifications, …

    … His theory has been called teleological by many critics. In his newer version of Gaia, Lovelock avoids saying that life regulates anything. …

    Online versions of the simple model, comments by Sagan and many others.

    This was a long, long time ago–lost in the mists of time I fear.

    Lovelock may well have gone emeritus, I dunno. But I was around when he first started publishing and don’t like seeing misstatements about him.
    Please take this in the spirit of primate grooming, a nitpick offered.

  40. 390
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “the claim that the data is accurate to 0.1 degree two centuries ago is quite impossible to substantiate”

    It is quite easy to substantiate.

    There’s 140 years of records with actual thermometer measurements to track against where the concordance is good.

    Just like when Linford Christie runs we KNOW he was a fast runner, but if someone has just given him squiffy water, we know he won’t run anywhere near as well (even if we don’t know that the water he’s been given is squiffy). That he can’t run whilst he has the trots doesn’t mean he was never a good runner.

  41. 391
    jo abbess says:

    @GerryQuinn (#385)

    As you rightly point out, if humankind Greenhouse Gas emissions were to cease tomorrow, then gradually, over time, Carbon Dioxide would be taken out of the air. This is the kind of curve :-

    However, as you can see, a large fraction of the Carbon Dioxide that has been added to the atmosphere by humankind over the last couple of centuries will continue to stay up there for quite some time, where it will continue to warm up the Earth :-

    And the oceans will continue to rise :-

    And the ice cover will continue to melt :-

  42. 392
    J. Bob says:

    #390, go to
    and correlate the longest running temp records (i.e. Uppsala, Paris, Berlin, etc.) with the Central England and DeBilt data. You might find some interesting patterns.

  43. 393
    Jack Maloney says:

    RE Comment #390 by Completely Fed Up
    “‘the claim that the data is accurate to 0.1 degree two centuries ago is quite impossible to substantiate’

    “It is quite easy to substantiate.

    “There’s 140 years of records with actual thermometer measurements to track against where the concordance is good.”

    How can those “140 years of records with actual thermometer measurements” support a claim of accuracy of 0.1 degree? According to NOAA’s USHCN Climate Reference Network (CRN) Site Information Handbook:

    “The research community, government agencies, and private businesses have identified significant shortcomings in understanding and examining long-term climate trends and change over the U.S. and surrounding regions. Some of these shortcomings are due to the lack of adequate documentation of operations and changes regarding the existing and earlier observing networks, the observing sites, and the instrumentation over the life of the network. These include inadequate overlapping observations when new instruments were installed and not using well maintained,calibrated high-quality instruments. These factors increase the level of uncertainty when government and business decision-makers are considering long-range strategic policies and plans.”

    [Response: He was talking about the correlation of instrumental with proxy.–Jim]

  44. 394
    Jack Maloney says:

    [Response: He was talking about the correlation of instrumental with proxy.–Jim]

    Correlation to 0.1 accuracy between thermometers and proxy seems rather meaningless when neither measurement is reliable even to +/- 1.0 accuracy. And when that correlation falls apart, what does that mean?

    [Response: Nonsense. Issues with neither data set, nor of their relationship to each other, invalidates the uniqueness of the current situation–Jim]

  45. 395
    Frank Giger says:

    @ Fed Up (Frost Fairs)

    Localized geography had an effect, but short term climate trends definately were driving the freezing of the Thames. While not a scientific model, we see colder and longer winters during the timeframe reflected in art, literature, and historical accounts.

    At the other side of the Gulf Stream, New York was freezing over as well, with pedestrian and vehicular traffic to and from Staten Island over ice at the same time. It wasn’t bridges causing it.

    In Italy, tree rings back up the long cold spell, which in turn effected the quality of wood, making it more dense. A certain violin maker of great skill took advantage of it (though not cognizant of why), and even today his works are regarded as the best ever made.

    Saying there wasn’t a LIA (to use the label) in the northern hemisphere that particularly effected Europe and North America is as incorrect as saying it is proof that AGW doesn’t exist.

  46. 396
    Hank Roberts says:

    > You might find some interesting patterns.
    It’s the easiest way to fool yourself, by seeing patterns very easily.
    If you were at risk of leopards lurking in the brush, that would be useful.
    The penalty for missing one is total; the penalty for imagining many is nil.

  47. 397
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gerry Quinn and Jo Abbess,
    There was an interesting discussion about the recent paper showing little warming if CO2 emissions stopped. Some folks here pointed out that if CO2 emissions stopped, so would SO2 emissions–and you would have increased insolation. Not as clear as it first appears.

  48. 398
    Geoff Wexler says:

    # Re 363 (and #353) Kevin McKinney

    the total forcing from 1750 to 2000 is about 1.7 W/m^2

    from the first link in #353.

  49. 399
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Steve Easterbrook and George Monbiot discuss scientists, journalism and their mutual intersection with the public at Climate Progress as followup to a reprint at Climate Progress of Dr. Easterbrook’s earlier post here.

  50. 400
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Here’s some news more important than a few rude emails:

    “A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.

    The environmental campaign group accuses Kansas-based Koch Industries, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.

    Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48m (£31.8m) to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008. From 2005-2008, it donated $25m to groups opposed to climate change, nearly three times as much as higher-profile funders that time such as oil company ExxonMobil. Koch also spent $5.7m on political campaigns and $37m on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.”

    (much) More: