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The Muir Russell report

by Gavin and Mike

The long-awaited and surprisingly thorough Muir Russell report (readable online version) was released this morning. We’ve had a brief read through of the report, but a thorough analysis of this and the supplemental information on the web site will have to wait for a day or so.

The main issue is that they conclude that the rigour and honesty of the CRU scientists is not in doubt. For anyone who knows Phil Jones and his colleagues this comes as no surprise, and we are very pleased to have this proclaimed so vigorously. Secondly, they conclude that none of the emails cast doubt on the integrity and conclusions of the IPCC, again, something we have been saying since the beginning. They also conclude as we did that there was no ‘corruption’ of the peer-review process. Interestingly, they independently analysed the public domain temperature data themselves to ascertain whether the could validate the CRU record. They managed this in two days, somewhat undermining claims that the CRU temperature data was somehow manipulated inappropriately. (Note that this exercise has been undertaken by a number of people since November – all of which show that the CRU results are robust).

All in all, none of the various accusations and insinuations that have been floating around the blogosphere have been sustained. (See some of the early media coverage of the report).

However, there are two issues that have come up that deserve some comment. The first are the evolving practices of data presentation and access, and the second is the issue of how to handle Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

As climate science has moved away from single researcher/single study/single site analyses towards synthesis across multiple studies, across the globe and involving more and more researchers, practices that were appropriate at one time don’t necessarily scale up to the new environment. Data requests dealt with on an ad-hoc and informal basis work fine if only a couple of people are interested, but more formal and automated procedures are needed when the data sets grow and many more people are involved (see the PCMDI/CMIP3 archive of model results for instance). Given too, the obsession in certain quarters with irrelevant details of smoothing techniques and end-point padding in decade-old papers, it is clear that the more information that is put out as supplementary material to the creation of high-profile figures, the better off we will be. Examples of this for figures in IPCC AR4 already exist, but it will be helpful for IPCC to adopt this practice more generally. Historically, this hasn’t been done – mainly because no-one thought it particularly interesting (most smoothing methods produce very similar results for instance), particularly for figures that weren’t for publication in the technical literature.

One example of this was the cover art on a WMO 1999 report which, until last November, was completely obscure (we are not aware of any mention of this report or this figure before November in any blogospheric discussion, ever). Nonetheless, in the way of these things, this figure is now described as ‘an icon’ in the Muir Russell report (one of their very few mistakes, how can something be an icon if no-one has ever seen it?). In retrospect (and as we stated last year) we agree with the Muir Russell report that the caption and description of the figure could indeed have been clearer, particularly with regard to the way proxy and instrumental data sources were spliced into a single curve, without indicating which was which. The WMO cover figure appears (at least to our knowledge) to be the only instance where that was done. Moving forward, nonetheless, it is advisable that scientists be as clear as possible about what sorts of procedures have gone into the preparation of a figure. But retrospective applications of evolving standards are neither fair nor useful.

With respect to the continuing barrage of FOI requests (which are predominantly for personal communications rather than for data), we can attest from personal experience how disconcerting these can be at first. Since there are no limits on what can be asked for (though there are many limits on what will be delivered), scientists presented with these requests often find them personally invasive and inappropriate. Institutions that do not have much experience with these kinds of requests, and who are not aware of what their employees do that is, and is not, covered by the legislation, are often not much help in sorting out how to respond. This can certainly be improved, as can the awareness of the community of what is recoverable using these procedures. While it is not relevant to the legislation, nor to what can be released, the obvious bad faith of many of the requesters indicates that actual information about the functioning of public bodies is not the primary goal in making these requests. However, it would be a terrible mistake for scientists to retreat from the public discussion on climate science because of these attempts at intimidation.

We will post on more specific aspects of the report, and perhaps the legacy of the whole affair over the next few days…

235 Responses to “The Muir Russell report”

  1. 51
    Mikel says:

    Let no one be in any doubt that the FOI legislation is complex. Here in the UK there are three interlocking Acts and Regulations. The Freedom of Information Act 2000(FOIA) covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has it’s separate Freedom of Information Act); the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), which is the UK’s implementation of an EU Directive, and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), which is also an implementation of an EU Directive.

    The FOIA has two legal codes of practice for the management of records and giving advice and guidance to requesters. The COP for the management of records has led to the Universities, through a body called JISC, to develop detailed schedules for retention times for all University records, including advice on transitory records. Emails are a particular source of difficulty. There are also separate provisions in the legislation for charging.

    In handling requests for information, those subject to this legislation need to understand that:

    The identity of the requester is crucial, when the information requested is personal data about the requester, called a Subject Access Request (SAR);
    The identity of the requester is not that relevant for FOIA/EIR. A valid address for receipt of the information is required;
    Providing information under FOIA/EIR (except for a SAR) is equivalent to putting the information into the public domain;
    Requests may be refused because they are ‘vexatious’ (FOIA) or ‘manifestly unreasonable’ (EIR). These provisions apply to the request and not the requester;
    Threre are criminal offences under FOIA and EIR for deliberately deleting, blocking etc. information which is subject to a request and would otherwise have been disclosed.

    Note that the enquiry did not find any evidence that anyone in CRU had deleted any information that had been requested. In other words, no evidence of a criminal offence being committed contrary to all the reporting earlier in the year, including comments from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

    In my experience, it is best practice that every effort is made to give out the information and only withhold when there is a legal requirement to do so.

    Apologies for a longish legal post on a climate science website.

  2. 52
    MX says:

    Is there a place where all FOI requests are published together with the names and affiliations of those making such requests?

    In a time of increasing austerity as huge cuts in budgets begin sweeping through the public sector, it would beneficial to ensure, in the public interest, that value for money in residual publicly funded research is not diminished through inappropriate and potentially mischievous FOI requests.

  3. 53
    Geoff Wexler says:

    BBC Radio 4.

    The Muir-Russell (MR) report was not in the headlines of the substantial 6PM news slot yesterday and only received a brief mention during the following 30 minutes. It was introduced as if it was just one more stage in a continuing investigation. This interpretation was supported by the one subsequent interview with Benny Peiser. I gather the earlier coverage was rather different.

    A ray of light at 10PM !
    Michael Mann was allowed to speak for a short while without the obligatory health warning stating what he has been accused of. It was an excellent hard hitting little item containing some key points. As far as I remember it actually used the term “lies”. Good; normally this word or its equivalent, only gets on to the media when it is used by contrarians against scientists. Michael Mann was followed by Stephen McIntyre who was relatively mild considering his recent behaviour. But what strikes me is the following:

    Here we had an opportunity for McIntyre to be asked some questions. His repeated allegations that he has been prevented from doing his auditing by being denied the data, has been exposed as a red-herring by MR and Michael Mann alluded to it. So why didn’t the interviewer have the guts to do a little polite cross examination? US readers may not realise just how tough BBC interviewers can be. For example the interviewer can interrupt and ask the same question in many different ways if the interviewee appears to be evasive. John Humphrys on Radio 4 and Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight are examples but there are others.

    Why don’t the BBC interviewers do their job on climate science?

    No mention of MR to-day. Is that all we shall get from the BBC? Perhaps the next time will be when Nigel Lawson and his deputy Benny Peiser start to canvas their own version.

  4. 54
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I would say that the actions of CRU personnel did not run significantly counter to normal scientific standards. In all matters scientific, the followed what the evidence indicated, and that is the main criterion. Scientists are human. Science is designed to produce reliable understanding even when weilded by frail humans. It has.

  5. 55

    30, Lynn
    31, Randy

    I kill a fair amount of time on denialist blogs trying to correct misconceptions. Whenever possible, I limit myself to exact, inarguable facts on details (like the example you gave, in understanding the importance of a mean versus anecdotal evidence). My theory is that for many people, if I can point out the number of flaws in denial arguments, and arm people with a proper understanding of the details, then those people will eventually reach the right conclusion on their own. I just need to help them to avoid the pitfalls.

    The biggest thing I’ve done is, in my own mind, to remember that I am not replying to the person who posted an ignorant or ill-informed comment (or, in some cases, the original post). I’m writing to all of the other people out there who are going to read that comment and potentially believe or at worst be confused by it. This approach is useful in tempering any emotional reaction I have. Get angry at the poster if you wish, but then think about speaking to the bystanders about what the poster said, rather than to the poster himself.

    With all communication: remember your audience, and your purpose. Target your audience. And in the case of blog comment threads, the audience is not the person who wrote the comment, but rather the tens of thousands that will invisibly wander through and read the tripe and, with luck, your response.

  6. 56
    sod says:

    good news. glad that Phil Jones is back to work.

    this will not stop the dishonest attacks though. truth is not the target of the sceptics. they want to delay action against climate change. so far, they are doing all too well…

  7. 57
    Mitch Lyle says:

    The CRU mess highlights the problem of data archival–from the paleoclimate perspective the system is horrible. Data I have archived at supposedly permanent archives is now apparently inaccessible (I can’t find it at any rate). My university takes no responsibility at all even though ultimately they are supposed to provide infrastructure. NSF is completely vague about funding archival, and don’t have any standards to define acceptable archival. It is unsurprising that data archives are a complete mess.

  8. 58
  9. 59
    Robert says:

    Hello All, this is off topic but I was wondering if any of the experts here could answer a question. I was wondering how anomalies are calculated for meteorological data/climatological data when station data/proxies do not cover the same reference period. Usually one would calculate the anomaly based upon say the average temperature over 1950-1980 but if most of the data covers different periods is there a standardization formula to be used or something?

    On the whole Cru affair, I think that these inquiries prove there was not any outright fraud. I do think however that over at climateaudit there have been some legitimate claims raised that deserve consideration, but nothing that is terribly significant.

  10. 60

    I want to highlight, and to appreciate, Bob (Sphaerica) at #55.

    I think he’s absolutely right that on many fora you have to write for the lurkers, not the “principals” with whom you may ostensibly be having a discussion. (Anybody who’s done this will be well aware that convincing any of the latter is going to be an extremely low probability occurrence.) Hence, the more reasonable you are, the more effective you are–I try to be as specific in providing good information and references.

    And attacks on intelligence and allied personal attributes probably ought to be covered by a Godwin’s law corollary: it’s extremely boring to witness folks calling each other idiots, and you don’t want to be the one who bores the lurkers.

    Well, I note that my tone here is becoming much preachier than I intended–so let me return to just saying that I think Bob’s comment is really excellent, and that I appreciate too the patience that is often required to carry out his advice–especially on denialist blogs, as opposed to ‘neutral’ newssites which are more what I favor.

  11. 61
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Geoff Wexler,
    I wonder if you might not be seeing a manifestation of Snow’s Two Cultures here, with the artsy-fartsy “journalists” (in the absolute loosest sense of that word) hoping to show up those “arrogant” scientists. Couple this professional jealousy with the fact that no one really wants the crisis to be true, and you have a pretty good recipe for self-delusion.

    BBC science coverage has never been all that good, frankly. It is neither broad nor deep, and the Gruniad for all it’s vaunted environmental commitment has never been all that discerning either. I’m afraid that those who say scientists must learn to communicate their work more effectively are right–we’ll certainly get no help from the press. The thing is, though, that unless we want to treat our discipline in a totally shallow manner, the public will have to meet us half-way on this. There is simply no way to communicate science to a public that doesn’t even understand the scientific method. This is really a prerequisite for effective citizenship.

  12. 62
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re My #53

    No change at the BBC.

    BBC Radio 4; 1.30PM; “Off the Page/Blinded by Science”

    After the ray of light at 10PM last night, the clouds have returned. The team which included Ben Goldacre, ought to have been well informed; but no luck. Dominic Arkwright the presenter bought up the subject of global warming to exemplify science, which had involved doubtful behaviour, and the team obliged by agreeing that some of it had recently * been exposed. Note: this is one day after the MR report.

    * This clearly referred to the unproven/falsified allegations about CRU.

  13. 63
    Peter K Miles says:

    Truly excellent article….for a while there I thought you guys had lost your way…..

  14. 64
    pete best says:

    That report says a massive amount on peer review but why is it doing that I wonder? Is it peer review that is in question?

  15. 65
    Aaron Alston says:

    The PDF document for me is screwed up. The text is not properly formated and there are letters missing. Anyone else having this problem? I downloaded the document to my hard drive using chrome and opened with Adobe.

  16. 66
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 40 and gavin’s reply

    Along with 43, I don’t see anyway to hear the reply except that some year in the 1850s was the warmest until this one.

  17. 67
    Yvan Dutil says:

    Personnaly, I have developed and inovative strategy: the false bot. Since denialist, almost always use the same argument, I have created standard message based on copied sentence from previous denialiste message. I post de message with the name XXXXbot closing by a line signaling that this a message generated by a bot.

    The effect is garantied!

  18. 68
    Lena Neal says:

    Hi guys,
    congratulations and well done to all of you. I am trying to fly the flag for you in my home country the Czech Republic – home to arch-denialist (and sadly the prezident of the country) Vaclav Klaus!Sadly, the attack in my country come even from members of Academy of Science on their “sceptical” webs.

  19. 69
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    [edit – no reason to pollute our site with the Telegraph’s venomous filth]

  20. 70
    Lawrence McLean says:

    An article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Paola Totaro (Australia) is repeating an error relating to the “hide the decline” issue. Totaro writes: “data that showed a decline in temperatures”, when in fact it was a decline in growth ring thickness.

  21. 71
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    The proper course of action now is for Jones (congratulations sir), and other members of the CRU to pick out a juicy denialist target and have them indicted on charges of Fraud and Defamation of character.

    It is the only way that this denialist caper can be turned into a definite win for the scientific community, and it would put the denialist vermin on notice that their non-stop campaign of lies and distortion will no longer be tolerated.

  22. 72
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “This is the third Climategate whitewash job and it would be tempting to see it as just as futile as its predecessors. That, however, would be to underrate its value to the sceptic cause, which is considerable.” – Gerald Warner –

    This is the planned intent.

    What do you intend to do about it?

  23. 73
    ghost says:

    RE: 55 Bob and 60 Kevin, I applaud and agree with your approaches. I think/suspect that some/many of the initial outrageous troll posts to which you/we respond are placed either by (i) employees of carbonators, their PR agencies, or their FUD boiler rooms who are paid to keep the lie drumbeats alive; or (ii) by or on behalf of the site owners themselves in an attempt to pump up the unique hit counts for their sites. Some/many of those sites surely receive financial benefit from high traffic numbers in the way of advertising on the site, contributions from carbonators, or both. In a way, the response attitudes described by Bob and Kevin turn (i) on its head, making the instigating troll post an opportunity to spread the correct science. As to (ii), I prefer not to visit the original site and give them an extra hit count, but it appears important to counter the FUD even if it helps give the sites the page view count fuel to continue. Egregious posts thereon probably/usually are picked up on more science-based sites, so in a roundabout way, the FUD posts on the nut sites also help drive page views on the science-based sites. I do think that many whacky posts on the deniosaur sites do not come from average everyday citizens. All IMO, of course :)

    RE: 67 Yvan, that strikes me as a novel and elegant approach.

  24. 74
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “Climatic Research Unit director Phil Jones was being whisked back to his desk at the University of East Anglia by the University’s Russell enquiry yesterday.

    But with exquisite timing, the Information Commissioner’s office chose the same day to confirm that CRU had twice broken the Freedom of Information regulations – once by ignoring the request, and twice by refusing the actual data. The breaches carry a civil penalty.” – Andrew Orloswki – The

  25. 75
    John E. Pearson says:

    73: ghost said: “I prefer not to visit the original site and give them an extra hit count” .

    I hadn’t thought much about hit counts but I try my best to never link to or mention denialist pages. I happily attack denialist arguements when I feel competent to do so, but I never feel compelled to give denialists additional publicity by providing links, names, etc.

  26. 76

    Arghhhh! OK its warm out there,
    and we discuss the crazy attacks against the confirmation by science that its getting warmer… out there…. which is true, not a wildly contrived effort to corrupt the incorruptible political decision making process :). Some Senators of which believe the whole thing is a hoax, fooling themselves along with many others in fermenting the politically motivated harassment of making scientist say that the whole thing is made up for a plush research grant or some other crazy neocon neverland dream hatched because they are too lazy to find out for themselves that its getting warmer. But If they fool themselves in a frenzy of dumbness lets expose them! We seldom see the manipulators hand in all these sordid accusations. I still want to know every time who is putting scientists down
    their names and why they are fooling themselves like those who believe that Astronauts went to the moon in Arizona. The cure is not discussing the accusations as much as the accusers ineptitude towards science.

  27. 77
    ccpo says:

    #55 All the research indicates you are wasting *your* time. Those that deny climate change do not do so on a rational basis, so rationality has no effect. The people you will be affecting will be those who really have no opinion and are looking for information. However, if they are visiting a place like Anthony W.’s distortion chamber rather than CA or RC, then they are likely not open-minded and are unreachable.

    See Oreskes’ and others’ older and more recent works on this.

    Not saying stop, just saying this ongoing, “Be rational, not confrontational” discussion does nothing but make you, and those who agree with you, feel better. Sorry, but we’re talking basic, documented psychology here.

    If you want to fight the denialist organization, and we know for a fact they are organized, then you will have to do so in a way that is unequivocal and hurts. That is, someone, somewhere is going to have to take legal action. Someone, somewhere, is going to have to make the media present the reality and stop with the false equivalence. Somebody, somewhere, is going to have to make a huge public deal of this that results in a refutation so stunningly one-sided *and* full of consequences, that the denialists have to be very, very careful about what they say.

    Until the scientists/activists are willing and able to do that, we would all be better off ignoring them and simply continuing the conversation without them. Why, pray tell, should climate science be the only scientific arena that allows charlatans and liars to stand equal to competent scientists? Are such people allowed in to surgery? No. Are they allowed to design airplanes? No. Are they allowed to sit at the table with particle physicists? No. Are they allowed to sit in with engineers and architects to build bridges? No. Are they given free reign in research labs of *any other field?* No.

    And if they do speak out in any other field, are they dealt with in such a way that their ideas are even given the time of day? No.

    Climate science should be no different. I was pleased to see a post above edited out with a message that the science is settled. THAT is how you deal with it.

    Bear in mind, repeating the lie leaves the *lie* most clearly in the mind of the observers, not the truth.

    Stop treating these people like their comments have any merit. No denialist talking point should be allowed to be published on any blog. Legtimate questions speak for themselves. Talking points? There is no ethical or moral imperative to allow lies to be published.


    [Response:Wow!!! Why don’t we just put you in charge of fixing the whole problem and be done with the whole thing, ’cause by gosh you’ve got all the solutions! The fact is that you make a whole bunch of extreme, blanket statements there that are nothing but your personal opinion, which you seem to believe is backed by the literature or hard evidence or whatever. Bob was talking about how to effectively communicate to the group of people on the internet who are unsure and curious about climate change, and difficult as it is to actually execute (I can’t last more than a few minutes at most of those sites), I completely agree with his strategy. It would be nice if we could make a magic wand and make the media and politicians and various bozos with power just snap out of it, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s a democracy with a very open media and almost anyone can say anything they want. People don’t just shut up or change their minds because you want them to or tell them to. It’s a slow and constant battle of evidence and ideas and education. Everybody who cares about the issue, and about the planet, is angry to varying degrees at what has gone down. The question is how to effectively respond. Nobody has the full solution, and that includes you. Ignore me and the rest of us if you want (and I imagine you will) as being too lame or whatever, but we are doing our best with the tools and energy we have. If it’s not good enough for you, then do your own thing. And please don’t end your diatribes with “Cheers”, it doesn’t go over well.–Jim]

  28. 78
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Ray at #61

    Yes, you might well have a point.

    As for Artsy people, perhaps they like to rely on drama and intuition more than ‘boring’ reason and evidence. The idea of people behaving badly is what makes the Arts world go round (I am deliberately generalising here and realise that is often wrong). Some of them treat Jim Lovelock as a great hero, especially as he had William Golding, a great pessimist about human nature, as a neighbour and friend but also because of his intuitive approach. So they were excited when he denounced CRU without providing any substantive evidence.

    It seems to me that Jones and Mann are quite different, cautious and careful. Without Jones,Mann, Realclimate, Open Mind, Grumbine, Ely Rabett, Stoat etc. we should be left with nothing but competing and wild intuitions ,real alarmism and denialist misinformation. That would be an ideal form of entertainment for some in the Arts. It would not be so different from the “Day After Tomorrow” (or whatever).

  29. 79
    HotRod says:

    It’s interesting that Harrabin and Pearce, both solid supporters of the consensus pre-Climategate, wrote pieces with more stress on the wrong-doing than the clean bill of honesty parts.

    That’s partly, in my view, because of the attacks on them, as here when the Guardian covered climategate, were taken badly by them. As were the attacks on people like Curry.

    You can’t tell an experienced journalist how to cover a story, and it certainly was a story, and they value FoI very highly, and regard breaches or obstruction as prima facie hiding something.

    When Mike Hulme says it’s a game-changer in scientists’ behaviour, he may have a point.

    If you lot had throttled back a bit they would have stayed onside to a much greater extent. In my opinion. (based at least in part on correspondence with one of them). the closing of ranks was overdone.

    [Response: We wrote a few posts criticising Pearce’s writing because he got so much wrong. He is still getting it wrong – particular in comments that suggest the science has been ‘forever changed’ by this (hype) and his understanding of peer review (poor). For someone who has been covering the science for so long, this was surprising, and I think, worthy of note. If you think we should not criticise people who are supposed to be on ‘our side’, then I will have to disagree. This isn’t a ‘side’ issue (much as some people want to make it one). Nothing any of the inquiries have come up with is significantly different from our instant responses in November. I fail to see why we should apologise for that. – gavin]

  30. 80
    Deep Climate says:

    Here’s the finding on the “iconic” WMO graph.

    Finding: In relation to “hide the decline” we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the TAR), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading in not describing that one of the series was truncated post 1960 for the figure, and in not being clear on the fact that proxy and instrumental data were spliced together. We do not find that it is misleading to
    curtail reconstructions at some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures should have been made plain – ideally in the figure but certainly clearly described in either the caption or the text.

    The most controversial aspect of the WMO chart (i.e. the “splicing” of paleoclimatic reconstructions and the instrumental record into one continuous record) was not present in the equivalent TAR figure, which showed the NH instrumental temperature record separately.

    So I would dispute the characterization of the TAR figure as “similar”.

    But it is good to that the report, like Oxburgh before it, makes the clear distinction between “curtailing” a reconstruction per se, and disclosure of that curtailment. This is a point often obfuscated by IPCC critics, who claim that any “curtailment” is misleading and represents lack of “disclosure”, even in cases where the curtailment and the reasons for it are fully disclosed.

  31. 81
    John Dodds says:

    The Muir report did not address the validity of the Science used by the CRU etc scientists.
    Specifically it did not address the mis-application of the Greenhouse Effect.
    Arrhenius’s thought experiment added a GHG to a stream of incoming photons to validly get GHE warming. He did NOT address what happens when you get to equilibrium conditions when either ALL of the photons or ALL of the GHGs are actually in use causing the GHE.
    ON Earth the 1366 W/M^2 of photons that can be absorbed are actually absorbed resulting in the 32C of Greenhouse warming. BUT we are left with excess CO2 and Water vapor available in the air (& in the ocean).- simple proof- when the incoming photons decreases (every night, every winter, or every time the temperature is lower than the maximum,) then the GHGs that were in use by the GHE become unused or excess in the air as the GHE decreases. Adding more GHGs just adds more unused excess GHGS, it does not cause more warming which contradicts the IPCC “More GHGs causes more warming (AR4 WG1, CH1, p116)

    In my mind this is a scientific mistake, and unintentional since Arrhenius actually said more GHGs means more warming. BUT if the scientists insist on this assumption when it is pointed out to be false, then that is academic malfeasance. This apparently was NOT investigated in the report.

    For an alternate explanation of what I think actually causes the very real cyclic climate change see “Gravity Causes Climate Change” at

    I really would appreciate a scientific rebuttal, rather than just simply refusing to print the comment.

  32. 82
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury: “I wonder if you might not be seeing a manifestation of Snow’s Two Cultures here, with the artsy-fartsy ‘journalists’ (in the absolute loosest sense of that word) hoping to show up those ‘arrogant’ scientists.”

    With all due respect, doesn’t referring to the humanities (the other “culture” of C.P. Snow’s two) as “artsy-fartsy” convey a certain sense of “arrogance”?

    What would be your reaction to hearing some literary type refer to scientists as, say, “pin-headed geeks”?

    And as for the “journalism” involved in the fraudulent “climate-gate” attacks on scientists, I don’t see what is “artsy” about bought-and-paid-for shills regurgitating the corporate-sponsored denialist propaganda that is spoon-fed to them by their major financial underwriters. “Fartsy” maybe, but not artsy.

  33. 83
    Leonard Evens says:

    Would someone comment on the coverage on today’s (7-8) NY Times front page? After reading the post here, I found the Times coverage a bit misleading, but without reading the entire report, I’m not sure about it. It harped on what it considered critical findings in the report, and left out some crucial findings such as the independent analysis of temperature data.

    I am also constantly amazed that Times reporters give such prominence to Pielke Jr for further information. Others are quoted only in passing at the end of the article and as if they agreed entirely with him.

    Since the Times likes to be considered the newspaper of record in such matters, I don’t think their reporters should be left off the hook when they err, even in relatively minor ways, either by inclusion or exclusion. I hope someone will make the effort to complain both to the reported and the the “public editor” whose column appears in the Sunday Week in Review.

  34. 84
    pete best says:

    Re, Re #79: I noticed quite a large peice on peer review in the report from yesterday but it seems that some people are using the notion of a perversion of peer review to be an issue from the stolen and released emails and hence some kind of victory. In fact Pearce has new book coming out on the entire issue as he sees/saw it and its probably not a good read AGW per se perhaps but as I have not read it then we cant tell i guess as yet.

    Maybe a book review section again as I remember doing the SOLAR one recently and ones befoee that. Maybe an article on what peer review is and really means would be useful to so that us none publishing people can get a grasp on the issues it seems to be presenting.

  35. 85
    CM says:

    Congratulations to Phil Jones and colleagues (I think; I haven’t had time to digest the details).

    Gavin said (at #79 or thereabouts):

    > Nothing any of the inquiries have come up with is significantly different
    > from our instant responses in November.

    Though it has been said before, it’s worth saying again: Those instant responses were a model of standing up for the science with informed, measured judgment. RealClimate truly rose to the occasion (while other noted commenters were doing the headless chicken dance). And instant they were; Gavin handled 1,000 comments over a weekend, responding to every fifth of them. Good man in a storm!

  36. 86
    Clippo says:

    Re: Geoff Wexler #53, 62 & Ray Ladbury 61,particularly,

    I have followed the BBC’s handling of ‘AGW’ for several years now at least. In summary, they are little different to the vast majority of the world media – on the lookout for ‘controversy’ because it sells.

    I accidentally saw the 10 pm TV news yesterday. The MR report was 4/5th in importance – not that I disagree with that much with lunatic gunmen on the loose, both at home and in Afghanistan – but what irritated me beyond belief is they followed MR’s televised summary with words of wisdom from Nigel Lawson – an unscientific politician member of the fossil fuel vested interest lobby. (I refuse to call him Lord Lawson of Blaby – when the House of Lords is reformed I will argue as best I can that there will be NO place for retired politicians).

    Several years ago, following the disgraceful ‘documentary’ by Channel 4, ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ – (which I seem to remember RC rightly taking apart), the BBC did actually produce a reasonably scientific correct and ‘denier’ critical 3-part documentary, ‘The Climate Wars, hosted by Geologist Iain Stewart. This exposed the AGW deniers clearly as politically motivated fruitcakes yet the BBC have not issued these documentaries on DVD. Why? (One can find the documentaries on Bittorrent sites but that is not the point).

    It seems to me, and I’ve seen many similar comments in the years I’ve read RC and other ‘Scienceblogs’, that the deniers have had real scientists on the back foot for far too long. What really upset the vested interests was of course, Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient truth’ and they quickly learned that the way to influence Joe Sixpack’s opinion (or whatever your nation’s name is for that social type) is VISUAL presentation either on paper or screen.

    Therefore, to fight back, in my opinion, senior Climate Scientists of all nations that significantly contribute to Climate Research, (and websites like RC), need to find a new media ‘champion’ – a person or persons wholly committed to scientific truth, not necessarily a scientist but with undeniable media presentation skills and preferably already respected’ by ordinary people.

    I’m sure that many Senior Climate scientists at RC ‘talk’ to many others around the world – so, in my opinion, it’s down to you to take on Fox news, or ‘The Australian’, the WSJ, Daily Telegraph Blogs etc. etc. etc.

    Here at RC, whose science and advocacy I respect beyond words, you can continue your honest scientific deliberations ‘til the cows come home’ as the saying goes, but if you don’t get that message across to the ordinary people, the deniers will get you on the back again & again

    Are there NO TV documentary producers that will take the challenge or owe some of you favours?

    Think about other tactics folks.

  37. 87
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Modern digital technologies permit the acquisition and manipulation of very much larger datasets than formerly. To enable proper validation of the conclusions, such datasets must be made freely available, along with details of the associated computational manipulation.
    “Scientific understanding that is transmitted into the public domain must be comprehensible to non-specia – lists, make appropriate and not excessive claims, and include careful statements of the uncertainties surrounding that understanding.”
    So Gavin – when can we expect your Coupled Atmospheric-Ocean-Economic General Climatology Dataset (in plain text, without all that incomprehensible station numerology and lat/long gridcell astrology) and Model ( in Basic – integer arithmetic only, and no differential equations; we’ll have to discuss the use of fractions versus long division)?

    “The importance of this process[Communicating to Policymakers ] is underlined by the potential magnitude of the economic and social consequences of governmental decisions in the domain of global climate change.”
    Typical hubris of government organizations – putting political decision carts before reality’s horses; those horses have riders – Warming, Famine, Pestilence, and Strife, the twenty first century’s Four Horsemen [although Strife is a goddess, “the Four Equestrians” doesn’t have quite the same tone].
    The importance of communicating to policymakers is underlined by the real and increasing economic and social consequences of global warming which have been caused by foolish and shortsighted governmental decisions. Those decisions led to western “civilization’s” expensive addiction to fossil fuels.

    Withdrawal will be painful –
    Addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control(buying Urban Assault Vehicles), craving and inability to abstain(drill baby drill), and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships(Iraq war). Like other chronic diseases, addiction involves cycles of relapse and remission(70’s oil crisis, first Gulf war).
    Without withdrawal, addiction is progressive and can result in disability(Gulf of Mexico ecosystem) or death. (adapted from

  38. 88

    [laughing to keep from crying.]

    The Faux News headline for this, buried under Sci/Tech, is:

    British Panel Criticizes ‘Climate-gate’ Scientists but Clears Them of Bias

    The link to the article, for those many, many readers that just grab the headline from the link and go no further, says:

    British Panel Criticizes ‘Climate-gate’ Scientists but…

    leaving the impression that the judgment of the scientists was bad, with just a dash of something good.

    Man, modern “journalism” just ticks me off.

  39. 89
    ThinkingScientist says:

    Having read some of the commentary [edit] about the Muir Russell enquiry I thought it would be interesting to pop over here to see what contributors at RealClimate have to say.

    I am very surprised to see that the general comments appear to be unchanged – lots of back slapping, high fives and “we stuck it to those denialists”. I have read Muir Russell and can see how it might be interpreted in the way described by many commentators here as a victory but it seems to me to be somewhat pyrrhic. Muir Russell is a politically based review – it can be viewed as nothing else. The truth is that without open engagement with opposing views and transparent data disclosure and source code there will never be closure and the argument will not be won. If the arguments in favour of AGW are so sound and the researchers such as Jones, Mann and others are working in the public interest then complete disclosure should be a mere formality. Even the most junior PR representative knows that to appear obstructive or evasive always leaves the impression that there is something to hide, whether that assumption is true or not. If the science is as sound as claimed it will withstand any critique.

    [Response: As of course it has, but this whole affair has nothing to do with that, despite what you might hear. For instance, GISTEMP is 100% open and transparent but is still being showered with pointless FOIA requests and subject to cable TV ‘specials’ accusing the scientists of manipulation and worse (despite the fact that all the code and data is public). Have you even glanced at how much data and code was released with Mann et al 2008? If not, go and look, and then come back and discuss how open climate scientists are being. The fact is, it is really easy to find some tiny detail in a 10 year old paper that makes no difference to anything and then jump up and down about how someone isn’t being open. It has great traction among people who don’t know what is available – but don’t confuse that with the reality. – gavin]

    As a professional Earth Scientist with considerable expertise in spatial and temporal correlated statistics as well as geophysics and geology, and with a degree in Oceanography and Soil Science with a special interest in post-glacial climate I am more than capable of reading, understanding and judging many of the papers presented by the various protagonists on both sides of this debate over the last 12 years. I would draw your readers attention to the impressions of Michael Kelly, Professor of Electronics at Cambridge [edit] on the merits of the various analyses and would respectively suggest that the protagonists who have been the subject of scrutiny following the unauthorised release of emails from CRU should learn a little humility and maybe reflect on his observations.
    In the face of predicting real world outcomes in my line of work I have learnt more than once to have a little humility when trying to second guess the complexities of natural systems.

    [Response: Humility is fine (and in fact you couldn’t find a better example than Phil Jones), but I feel you are confusing what people *say* about climate scientists and the science with what the reality is. There is no shortage of discussions in the community and the literature, and in talks and in interviews and even on this blog, of real uncertainties, real issues and where the real direction of research is going. But there is an occasional lack of patience when someone comes in for the umpteenth time this month and declares that CO2 can’t be a greenhouse gas, or that the evidence for global warming relies on a single tree, or that they had vineyards in medieval England. – gavin]

  40. 90

    Don’t forget the skeptics over at for an opinion about the Muir report:

    Basically they are saying that if C.R.U. paid for the investigation it makes it null and void. Hmmm…. so I guess if PSU sponsored it’s investigation exonerating Dr. Mann that must be invalid as well?

    They have an argument and I just don’t know what to tell them… “Should BP investigate itself?” What would we think if that happened?

    My only counter question to them is, “Where are all the investigations proving Dr. Mann was in the wrong or fudged data etc…?” Of course they can’t show me any.

  41. 91
    Brian Dodge says:

    “I really would appreciate a scientific rebuttal, rather than just simply refusing to print the comment.” John Dodds — 8 July 2010 @ 2:18 PM

    John, if you take your two models (low GHG concentration and high GHG concentration), and trace 100 different paths of photons through each, you will find that the number of “catches” – IR absorptions – is higher in the model with higher GHG concentration. The average path length from ground to the first absorption will be smaller, and the total number of absorptions before all photons escape will be larger.

    Is this a teaching moment, or a learning moment?

  42. 92

    Correction to my last post. “Don’t forget the deniers…” (I had used the word “skeptic” in my last post when I meant “denier”).

  43. 93

    77 (ccpo),

    I disagree with you on a few specific points.

    The people you will be affecting will be those who really have no opinion and are looking for information.

    This isn’t a small number, and these aren’t unimportant people. I also think there are a lot of people who are confused, or have been lead astray, but still have an open mind, or are only just beginning to look more closely at the problem. This may be a fairly large number of people, based on the fact that most of the rah-rah anti-AGW comments are seemingly posted by the same bucketful of people every day on multiple denier sites.

    However, if they are visiting a place like Anthony W.’s distortion chamber rather than CA or RC, then they are likely not open-minded and are unreachable.

    No, actually a huge number of people visit WUWT, and I’d be utterly shocked if that wasn’t a fairly even distribution of types of people with the exception of those that are already very well educated and know better than to waste time there. Those that post comments at WUWT tend to be hardcore zombies (clemmings, i.e. climate lemmings), but I think a whole lot of people read what’s there but still wonder what to believe, or are smart enough to ultimately detect truth versus fantasy if given both flavors to try.

    Somebody, somewhere, is going to have to…

    Until the scientists/activists are willing and able to do that, we would all be better off ignoring them and simply continuing the conversation without them.

    I adamantly disagree with this. Leaving the lie unchallenged leaves the implication that it is the truth. Ignoring it completely lets them use trickery to suck more and more rational but uneducated and open minded people into the denial fantasy world. A simple comment here or there which makes sense and comes across as educated, tempered and well considered will lead a lot of people to perhaps look for other information sources on the topic at hand, or at least to leave with doubts instead of nodding in agreement.

    Bear in mind, repeating the lie leaves the *lie* most clearly in the mind of the observers, not the truth.

    Which is why I don’t necessarily argue with the main point that a post or comment makes. I tend to strike at the foundation by pointing out that underlying statements are wrong, while leaving the conclusion completely unchallenged. The QED comes naturally to any reader without being explicitly stated, and any ensuing, ongoing argument about the foundation science ultimately draws attention away from the false conclusion, while leaving the reader with a suspicion that the original post is not to be trusted to begin with.

  44. 94
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #81 John Dodds.

    Your argument is that there is already too much CO2 and too much water vapour in the air and that there is a surplus of unemployed greenhouse gas molecules. If this were true adding more CO2 would just increase this unemployment but not the gh effect. Hence the MR inquiry is incomplete.
    This saturation fallacy is a classic zombie argument i.e one that was current a century ago, was killed by theoretical and observational work and then pseudo-revived by desperate contrarians.

    Please see:

    To summarise, absorption lines are broadened by pressure and temperature and only the centres of these lines become saturated at normal concentrations of gh gas. The wings remain where the absorption is low unless there is a lot of gh gas. The concept of unemployed gh gas is wrong. You also appear to deduce:

    More unemployed gh gas => even less AGW at night

    This is the opposite of what is predicted and observed.

  45. 95
    Snapple says:

    On my blog I harp on pseudoscience in Russia, although they have some really spectacular scientists. Often, they have rejected some crackpot “science” after a bit.

    Novosti (very authoritative/official Russian media) has a very interesting article about Russia’s problems with pseudoscience. Global warming was not addressed, but maybe it will happen. You can read the official word on today’s spy swaps, too.

    The first paragraph says:

    “But behind Russia’s reputation for scientific genius, the specter of pseudoscience looms large.”


    “Writing in the Moscow Times earlier this month, a distinguished Russian professor said he was amazed that the majority of his politics students are convinced that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were an ‘inside job.’”


    pseudoscience and fake medicine are tough adversaries to beat because slicker-salesmen can simply pay any of Russia’s hundreds of thousands of scientific “experts” to vouch for the quality of dubious herbal remedies. This never presented a problem in the Soviet times, when there were only mainstream scientific bodies. But with the Soviet Union’s collapse came the first “social” academies of sciences. These academies now number in the 200s, greatly expanding the number of “authoritative” sources which can vouch for certain types or courses of medicine. “Now you can simply buy these titles of ‘academics’,”


    “In 2003 the Russian Academy of Sciences met with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences to discuss the alarming impact of pseudoscience in Russia.”


    Rasputin-style infiltration into the upper echelons of power remains a problem even in post-Soviet Russia. “In the Kremlin there were whole groups of—I’m scared of calling them charlatans—but mystics, astrologists. These were prominent people—generals. The 1990s were an analogue of Rasputin’s time,” said Kruglyakov. Several appointments made by Boris Yeltsin suggested that he sought advice from odd sources. For instance, Yeltsin made General Georgi Rogozin, an ex-KGB officer and star-gazer, the deputy head of his Presidential Security Service. Rogozin led a team of 12 astrologers who would draw on their expertise to counsel the president.


    Even to this day there are clear connections between pseudo-scientists and the authorities. In March, Parliamentary Speaker Boris Gryzlov rushed to the defense of Russian inventor Viktor Petrik, who claimed to have devised a filter that makes radioactively contaminated water drinkable. Petrik has used the logo of Russia’s ruling party United Russia on his inventions to boost their credibility, but elsewhere his contraptions have been slammed as pure pseudoscience by venerable scientists.

    and finally:

    The rise of pseudoscience is far from just a Russian problem. But what started as a soothing balm for the troubled souls in the chaotic 1990s could well bring Russia’s reputation for scientific genius to its knees, if it is allowed to continue unchecked.

  46. 96
    Steve Metzler says:

    John E. Pearson #75:

    I hadn’t thought much about hit counts but I try my best to never link to or mention denialist pages. I happily attack denialist arguements when I feel competent to do so, but I never feel compelled to give denialists additional publicity by providing links, names, etc.

    The most important thing is that you don’t boost the Google PageRank of a shoddy site by linking to it from a reputable site. You do this by putting a rel=”nofollow” in the link. This tells search engines to not pay attention to the site you are linking to for the purposes of assessing its popularity. Here’s some sample HTML:

    <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Site of dubious merit</a>

    Linking to denialist sites is actually a public service of sorts, if not only for the entertainment value provided by reading the inane comments at these places. BTW, apologies in advance if that HTML example doesn’t pan out. Some of the blog commenting software out there filters that stuff.

  47. 97
    ccpo says:

    Response:Wow!!! Why don’t we just put you in charge of fixing the whole problem and be done with the whole thing, ’cause by gosh you’ve got all the solutions!

    Sarcasm works well when it has merit. It achieves nothing when used solely to insult. One is a teachable moment (not much of one) the other is just small unless well-deserved. (I happen to enjoy sarcasm, when properly used, and, insult can be one of those times. Your use of it is not deserved, so reflects only on you.)

    The fact is that you make a whole bunch of extreme, blanket statements there that are nothing but your personal opinion, which you seem to believe is backed by the literature or hard evidence or whatever.

    No, I have a psych background and most here are familiar with the *fact* that denialists’ stances are largely based on ideology. Again, watch and/or read Oreskes and others. The literature back me up, and it is the literature that shaped my understanding of this. I, too, used to think arguing/discussing with denialists was useful. I used to do a lot more of it here and at The Oil Drum. And here. What I found, and have described on this site in the past, is that the vast majority of people claiming to be “questioning” turn out to be using it as a ruse. It’s a known rhetorical tool to join conversations pretending to be a sincere questioner, but never quote seeming to be convinced… year after year…

    Bob was talking about how to effectively communicate to the group of people on the internet who are unsure and curious about climate change, and difficult as it is to actually execute (I can’t last more than a few minutes at most of those sites), I completely agree with his strategy.

    And? So you agree with him, and disagree with my suggestion, so it’s OK to attack my perceptions, analysis and suggestions? Seriously? A repeating pattern, by the way.

    It’s a democracy with a very open media and almost anyone can say anything they want.

    Sorry, but many denialists make specific statements about specific scientists and specific findings. These statements are actionable. It doesn’t matter if it’s a minion-type, or one of the well-known pseudo-scientists. Putting them in a place where they have to prove and defend their statements, unequivocally, is a good idea. And, yes, THAT is my opinion – unlike your characterization of Oreskes, et al., above, which is not my opinion, but their own conclusions.

    It’s a slow and constant battle of evidence and ideas and education. Everybody who cares about the issue, and about the planet, is angry to varying degrees at what has gone down. The question is how to effectively respond. Nobody has the full solution, and that includes you.

    And who said I did? (Though it is rather amusing that your statement is also opinion and has nothing to prove its accuracy. Ironic, no? In fact, logically, it is entirely possible that I am correct that the only thing that will override the denialists’ noise machine is a very public calling out, even prosecution.) And how is “slow and steady” more valid than my suggestion? That is purely your opinion and with what for support? I actually have a psych background. You? I actually have a teaching background in which I had to practice knowing when to input, when to solicit, when to facilitate. You? And, again, I base my opinions on the writings of scientists, not just my random opinion. You? Who are you citing?

    Ignore me and the rest of us if you want (and I imagine you will) as being too lame or whatever

    Whom, exactly, did I ignore? The word you are looking for is “disagree,” not ignore. Worse, at no time did I tell anyone to not do what they *are* doing, I said do this other thing, too.

    [edit more bs]

    but we are doing our best with the tools and energy we have.

    Did I not say someone, somewhere?

    [edit: don’t misrepresent what people say, I told you I don’t like that.]

    Better yet, in this particular case, I was quite specifically speaking to “Bob” and spoke of *his* behaviors. I did not say a word about *this* site. However, I will gladly state the same I have always said: The key metric in terms of the conversation will be the undeniable smack down of one of those denialists *or* the undeniable changes in climate. This site and the many like it will reach a limited, mostly choir, audience. (What percentage of Americans have ever visited this site?)

    [edit additional insults and misrepresentation]

    [Response: Undeniable smack down!!! Choir audience!!!]

    If it’s not good enough for you, then do your own thing.

    America! Love it or leave it! C’mon…

    And I do. That is the crux of your problem with me, isn’t it, by your own description, that I have an opinion based on my analysis, neither of which you like? And this is one of the places I do it.

    [Response: Yep, you have an opinion, that’s for sure.]

    And please don’t end your diatribes with “Cheers”, it doesn’t go over well.–Jim]

    LOL… I can’t say “Cheers” after stating my opinion and observations? Seriously? Actually, in practice and only occasionally, if I am seriously unhappy with a post to the point of not being able to respect it, I simply don’t sign off.

    In this case, I quite innocently offered my opinion, in good will, so naturally I signed off in a way that reflected that.

    Why you take what I say so personally is a mystery I have not fathomed. I find it quite strange. Let me repeat for clarity: I am not criticizing what the scientists at RC do. Else, why would I spend time here? Why would I praise their efforts on other blogs/sites? Why would I regularly cite their work? Why would I link RC from my own site?

    I am merely suggesting another tack is also necessary. [edit of more insults]

    [Response: Whatever, and I’m not interested in your self contradictions and justifications. You’ve said more than once that you think sticking to science arguments is a waste of time, which makes me wonder why you are even here. You’re not the only one with a clue or an idea of how to approach this problem, Einstein. Make your points clearly and without insult of the approach taken here, or have your comments deleted.–Jim]

  48. 98
    ccpo says:

    Hello Bob,

    It seems you were able to read and accept my post as it was intended. I appreciate that.

    Most of what you said was inherent in your original post, and we simply disagree. We are both working from assumptions on numbers, so not much use in arguing those points.

    # I disagree with you on a few specific points.

    Until the scientists/activists are willing and able to do that, we would all be better off ignoring them and simply continuing the conversation without them.

    I adamantly disagree with this. Leaving the lie unchallenged leaves the implication that it is the truth.

    Bear in mind, repeating the lie leaves the *lie* most clearly in the mind of the observers, not the truth.

    Which is why I don’t necessarily argue with the main point that a post or comment makes.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 8 July 2010 @ 5:51 PM

    Not repeating it explicitly probably does reduce the keeping of the statements in memory, but the effect we are speaking of has to do with the conversation much more than the specific statements, or words, used. This research has been discussed many times on many boards, so there’s not a lot of utility in discussing it. It is what it is. providing an opportunity for the unwanted idea to be repeated simply is often found to reinforces the lie.

    If it’s going to be done at all, it would suggest the way it was handled in this thread: deleted and denied in a declarative statement, preferably positive so as not to trigger the reinforcing effect.

    So, above someone wrote something to the effect, “The science is not uncertain,” which I would rewrite as, “The science is certain.”

    Smack applied, assertion not repeated.


  49. 99
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Isn’t it funny how “ThinkingScientist”@89 gives no indication of either though or of understanding the science. I can only hope he appreciates irony.

  50. 100
    Pete Baldo says:

    Most scientists work for large organizations which are pretty picky regarding what gets communicated and how it gets communicated. A scientist can get into a lot more trouble responding to a request for data, than by just ignoring it.

    One helpful change would be to put more scientific publications into online journals that don’t require pay-for-view.

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