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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. 101
    Daniel the Yooper says:

    Re: Comment 89, wherein ThinkingScientist @ 8 July 2010 at 3:43 PM says:

    “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.”

    Gee, you just described me, too (except I’m also a pretty fair volleyball player – gotcha). How nice. Does that mean that you, also, have understood what you read, too? That you assign perhaps similar credibility to “both sides” hints otherwise so…

    “…the protagonists who have been the subject of scrutiny following the unauthorized release of emails from CRU should learn a little humility…”

    Like humble ol’ you?

    In all seriousness, Mr. ThinkingScientist, coming into a place of shared learning, spouting appeals to personal authority based on espoused credentials isn’t going to win you style points. Nor an aura of credibility. The vast majority of commentators adding to the learning environment here dwarf the two us in credentials, publication record, working experience in the field, Mojo and Schwartz. And may (perish the thought) be better at volleyball than I. ;-)

    If you materially disagree with the Muir Russell report and can substantiate your position with proofs, please do furnish them. Same goes for overturning accepted climate science, the IPCC, the CRU principals, why bubblegum tastes better when left on the bedpost overnight, etc. Give us the goods, we’re all ears.

    Else, all you have is opinion. Which is cool. But it doesn’t change the fact that science & working scientists have been vindicated yet again, much to the chagrin of denialistas and delayers everywhere.

    And BTW, an “unauthorized release” is most definitely NOT the same thing as “stolen”, which is what actually happened. THAT is the true, and only, crime in the CRU email tempest-in-a-teapot.

    Sigh. Here’s the part where I usually try to be witty, but it’s been done so much better here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAaWvVFERVA

    Waiting for the goods,

    Daniel the Yooper

  2. 102

    #98–

    ccpo, here’s today’s example. A regular denialist ranter made a post saying, among other things, that 97% of CO2 was “natural.”

    I responded:

    “Tim’s”–again–the current CO2 burden of 392 ppm is approximately 35% anthropogenic.

    (Preindustrial concentration of ca 290, isotopes “fingerprint” the increase to human emissions, and accounting lets us know that the amount taken up by the atmosphere is only about 40% of what we emit–the remainder ends up in the biosphere and in the ocean. So this is quite definite, thank you very much.)

    Funny how you keep forgetting the correct figure and throwing out bogus numbers. I’d really thought you’d have got it straight by now.

    Oh, well, you can count on me if you do happen to forget again.

    Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/07/07/climategate-report-east-anglia.html

    As you can see, in this case I chose to use a highly ironic tone since this particular poster is a particularly egregious exemplar of ignoring correct information repeatedly. Hopefully this tone doesn’t seem too nasty for the lurkers on that site; they, not “Tim’s,” are my true concern.

    But the relevant part (for me at least) is seizing the opportunity to present correct information without restating the–well, in my heart of hearts I do believe it to be a lie, but call it what you will. Hank has repeatedly made the same point as you in this regard, and I think that it’s a good guiding principle.

  3. 103

    Oops–forgot you have to use the italics paragraph by paragraph. For clarity, everything between the two italicized sentences is part of the quoted comment.

  4. 104
    Deep Climate says:

    Terence Corcoran may well have just unleashed the National Post’s biggest whopper yet about climate science – and that’s saying something.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/07/09/terence-corcoran-whopper-manns-hockey-stick/

    Corcoran’s commentary on the recent Russell “climategate” email review lays one error-laden defamation on top of another, as he attempts to demonstrate that the report “provides plenty of evidence that climate science has been and remains an uncertain shambles”.

    Along the way, Corcoran even manages to confuse a little known Phil Jones graphic with Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” millenial temperature reconstruction. This leads to the astonishing (and entirely wrong) accusation that the hockey stick creators “eliminated some of the data from 1960 forward … and then spliced on actual temperature data”. Yet neither the “hockey stick” graph (the real one) nor the associated Mann et al study are mentioned in the report at all!


    Now Corcoran holds out the hope that bogus accusations might even lead to criminal trials for climate scientists. But, apparently, well-connected right-wing editors and columnists can spew falsehood after falsehood, and smear upon smear, without any consequences whatsoever.

    That’s the real scandal of “Climategate”.

  5. 105
    Edward Greisch says:

    82 SecularAnimist: Don’t you like a little retaliation once in a while for having been called “technological boors” all those years when we had no way to fight back? I do disagree with 61 RL’s choice of words. By the way, we also have an answer in case they mention their allegedly superior command of ethics or morals: Ethics and morals are now a new science. It is called SocioBiology or ScioBio. We don’t have Ethical Equations yet, but maybe we will some day. There are hundreds of books on SocioBiology.

    RC: I do wish we had a stronger way to fight back.
    http://www.theresourceinnovationgroup.org
    climlead.uoregon.edu
    It wouldn’t hurt to discuss the issue with any social scientists, public planners [whatever they are], economists, law professors, etc. who are interested.

  6. 106

    John Dodds 81,

    I pointed out why you were wrong 3 years ago. My post on your mistakes is still up, if you want to take a look:

    http://bartonpaullevenson.com/Dodds.html

  7. 107
    Martin Vermeer says:

    David Palermo #90

    “Should BP investigate itself?”

    You could point out that this is a valid metaphor for the inquiries in question only for very expansive definitions of “itself”. See

    http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/2010/02/15/psu-cover-up-extremely-unlikely/

    …and BTW U. of East Anglia as a whole got quite some flak from Muir Russell, in spite of footing the bill. Yes, valid critique is often worth paying for.

  8. 108
    David Horton says:

    #95 Very interesting account of Russia, Snapple, and frightening. The unintended consequences of the destruction of the USSR continue to grow it seems. But nothing to be proud of on this side of the former iron curtain either I’m afraid – http://davidhortonsblog.com/2010/07/09/blowing-in-the-wind/ – with the rise and rise of new age nonsense and anti-science generally.

  9. 109
    Martin Vermeer says:

    #52 MX:

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

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

    e.g.,

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/university_of_east_anglia

  10. 110
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #97

    …you … you … you…you..

    Research project. Determine the unknown parameter.

  11. 111
    Didactylos says:

    Pearce is writing a book about Climategate, isn’t he? Sadly, he has a vested interest in ensuring that history doesn’t start viewing the fuss as the storm in a teacup that it really was.

    I’m sure his reasoning is pure; he (and Monbiot) want to put climate science back on that impossible pedestal the media loves so much. And that requires throwing the baby out with the bathwater as they industriously clean a house that isn’t theirs, and which they don’t understand particularly well.

    It’s lose-lose. If they elevate scientists to the level of gods, perfect and inerrant, then scientists are just set up for the fall the next time some tiny mistake is found, or the next time someone says something tactless. But they won’t succeed in rehabilitating science in the way they want. All they will succeed in doing is dragging out a tiresome mess even more, when we should be drawing a line and saying “Climategate? Oh, those stolen emails last year? No, we don’t know who stole them yet.”

    I wish the media didn’t view things in absolutes. We expect that kind of childishness from the Daily Mail, but broadsheet readers can typically cope with more complicated thoughts.

  12. 112
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Pete Baldo says: “One helpful change would be to put more scientific publications into online journals that don’t require pay-for-view”

    You know, I keep seeing this proposal, but there are rarely any helpful suggestions as to how the journals should be funded. Technical editors are not cheap. Technical publishing is expensive. I’d love to see greater access. Are you willing to raise your taxes to cover it?

  13. 113
    Randy says:

    @112 Ray. Higher taxes? Not a good idea right now. Finding an “angel” to fund a so-called free site for scientific pubs would most likely be an easier sell. I don’t have a problem with paying for good scientific content if it means there is access. I get frustrated at times with the people who claim to support science and the results of good scientific research but are unwilling to pay for the information. I believe the correct term is “putting your money where your mouth is”.

  14. 114
    Ray Ladbury says:

    The problem is that when one abandons the evidence, one’s only resort is to slander one’s opponents. And when one cannot advance explanations or make predictions based on one’s own ideas, one has to try to make one’s opponents appear just as ignorant.

    This approach is practically diagnostic of anti-science. A scientist may tout the advantages of his theory over a competing theory, but no decent scientist will bring up a weakness in a theory and then offer no alternative.

    Anti-science has no alternative but to “get personal”. It is one reason why sciece vs. anti-science debates invariably turn nasty. And the more we emphasize evidence, the more they will respond with calumny. We will have to hope that at some point the public becomes sufficiently discerning to tell the difference between science and anti-science.

  15. 115
    Jeffrey Eric Grant says:

    I am searching for an authoritive debate between the AGW crowd and the Deniers. Hopefully, the protagonists are equally pursuasive. Keep to the subject and stay away from personal attacks. It would speed things along…
    anyone know of such a discussion?

    [Response: Try the MIT Climate Collabortorium. The IPCC process is the debate in the mainstream (no personal attacks to be found anywhere). – gavin]

  16. 116
    Jim Eager says:

    Kevin McKinney @102, you’ve mixed up your metrics and thus substantially overstated the anthropogenic fraction of atmospheric CO2.

    From the pre-industrial level of ~280 ppmv to the current level of ~389 ppmv is an increase of ~109 ppmv, or a ~39% increase.

    However, 109 is only ~28% of the current CO2 annual mean level of ~389 ppmv.

    Don’t needlessly give the pseudo-sceptics a crack in your argument to drive a wedge into.

  17. 117
    CT says:

    Not sure if this has been pointed out, but it should either be the ‘Russell Report’ or the ‘report by Muir Russell’. It’s one guy, Sir Muir Russell, the chairman of the review team, not two (‘Muir-Russell’).

    [Response: You are right. No hyphen. Thanks – gavin]

  18. 118
    Urban Leprechaun says:

    @ Jeffrey Eric Grant

    “I am searching for an authoritive debate between the AGW crowd and the Deniers.”

    Yes …. but who would talk for the deniers?

    First of all there would need to be a knock-out between:

    1. New Ice Age-ers (Get a woolly sweater now)
    2. There is no temp rise-ers (Urban heat islanders)
    3. It’s natural warming-ers (Galactic rays)
    4. (Possibly) It’s CO2, but we welcome this (Cornucopians)

    And then, taking #3, there would need to be a further sort-out between solar, tectonic plate friction causing heating, Martian invaders, etc.

    So who would choose the deniers?

  19. 119
    Snapple says:

    To David Horton @108 and others:

    I should have told people that the article I mentioned in the Russian RIA Novosti is to a large extent an interview with Eduard Kruglyakov, the head of the Pseudoscience Commission at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

    Did you know that the RAS has a Pseudoscience Commission?

    This Commission would be something to pay attention to. Russian scientists have a lot of experience with Rasputins…and Mad Moncktons.

    Meanwhile, maybe this will make you laugh!

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/07/ria-novosti-criticizes-russias.html

  20. 120
    Veidicar Decarian says:

    I agree completely with CCPO. Unless there is a vigorous challenge by the scientific community to the core sources of this denialist slander against science, there will be no significant progress, and science can only “hope” that the general public will “see the light”. We should “have faith” that science will win in the end.

    [Response: Do you also agree with him that scientists and activists need to be ignored because they’re unwilling to do anything?–Jim]

    Hope, Trust and Faith are not the basis for rational action, and inaction of course is a recipe for continued loss and disaster.

    At issue is the existence of organized slander against science, and scientists.

    There are laws on the books against slander of brands or products. I suggest that they be considered for use against the slander being employed against science.

    Consider the existence of so called “Food Libel” laws and the basis of their application against people who speak ill of a particular brand.

    Food libel laws, also known as food disparagement laws and informally as veggie libel laws, are laws passed in 13 U.S. states that make it easier for food producers to sue their critics for libel. These 13 states include Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas. Many of the food-disparagement laws establish a lower standard for civil liability and allow for punitive damages and attorney’s fees for plaintiffs alone, regardless of the case’s outcome.

    I strongly recommend that the CRU sue the National Post for slander.

    If you aren’t on the offensive, you aren’t in the game.

    [Response: And who’s going to do all these things–file all these lawsuits, pay for the lawyers etc? Scientists are supposed to do this, as well as educate the public, write letters to the editor, and of course do their science too? Should we run for congress too? Get our own cable network? There sure is no shortage of non scientists around here telling the scientists what they need to be doing (and how to be doing it).–Jim]

  21. 121
    Veidicar Decarian says:

    “no reason to pollute our site with the Telegraph’s venomous filth”

    Tra-la.. The air is the air… What can be done?

    Perhaps someone should consider a lawsuit.

  22. 122
    Jim Eager says:

    Re Jeffrey Grant @115 : “I am searching for an authoritive debate between the AGW crowd and the Deniers.

    Besides the lack of agreement among pseudo-sceptics, aka deniers, how could there possibly be an authoritative ‘debate’ between those bound by scientific evidence and those perfectly willing to make things up? It’s an exercise doomed to perpetual frustration from the outset.

    If you want counter-arguments to most pseudo-sceptic arguments supported by cites to the scientific literature try Skeptical Science:
    http://skepticalscience.com/argument.php

  23. 123
    Veidicar Decarian says:

    “And who’s going to do all these things–file all these lawsuits, pay for the lawyers etc?” – Editor

    If you exist in a university setting, then I suggest you give one of the universities law professors a call.

    In addition I suggest producing an organized group of motivated people to monitor the major sources of disinformation, document the slander and counter the FUD.

    How about pushing the AGU to review the lies and distortions coming out of Senator Inhofe’s office?

    [edit obscenity]

    [Response: Good, now suggest something that hasn’t been done already. And then take the lead on it.–Jim]

  24. 124
    Snapple says:

    Lawsuits might not be a good idea. I think a jury can be manipulated by all those lawyers’ tricks. That’s why Cuccinelli wants to get Dr. Mann in court.

    Here is a June 3, 2010 article about arguing with deniers. He says don’t argue with them before uninformed audiences–especially in court.

    The author describes “the dangers inherent in jettisoning science’s careful, deliberative pursuit of objective fact in favor of courtroom-style, adversarial combat. This account should serve as an object lesson for any scientist who is invited to debate a global warming denier before an audience of novices.”

    http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/climate_science_on_trial

    This publication has information about all sorts of crack-pot science. It has articles about the rise of pseudoscience in the former Soviet Bloc. Actually, it was always a problem.

    Do you know how I knew the USSR was going down? TASS published articles claiming that aliens had landed in Voronezh. Probably TASS didn’t get paid, and they figured lots of people would buy a paper claiming aliens had landed and abducted people.

    I write about junk science, so I tell about this here.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/01/day-aliens-landed-in-voronezh-russia.html

  25. 125
    Veidicar Decarian says:

    “Good, now suggest something that hasn’t been done already.” – Editor

    I wasn’t aware that the National Post had been sued by the CRU. Further I know of no lawsuits against any of the corporate propaganda groups in the U.S. like CATO, or the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, etc.

    Why don’t you list them for us.

    The fact is, there has been virtually attempt at an offensive by the scientific community.

    As to myself I am not a climate scientist. So I don’t think the courts would find that I have been damaged if I were to attempt to claim that I or my work has been slandered.

    But I bet I could put together a list of several hundred climate scientists for which their work and good name have been damaged.

    Call a freaking lawyer…. Stand up for yourselves.

  26. 126
    Rod B says:

    Geoff Wexler (94), Just for the purist, Doppler broadening is slightly enhanced with higher temp (proportional to the sq-rt of T) though it is small in any case, but pressure broadening, in most instances, is less with higher temps.

  27. 127
    Rod B says:

    Randy (113), I understand the published papers have to be paid for somehow, but it seems there ought to be some limit. I was recently asked for $35 to read a 41-year old paper about CO2 rotational energy. That would have been putting money in the other end, IMO.

    Does anybody know how much revenue on average comes from the $25-$50 charge for 24 to 48 hours of reading?

  28. 128

    112 (Ray Ladbury),

    You know, I keep seeing this proposal, but there are rarely any helpful suggestions as to how the journals should be funded.

    I’ve made a suggestion to Nature, with no reply. Perhaps someone else who might be listened to would float it their way. But part of the problem is that to have access to everything one must belong to multiple journals, each at a fairly large expense. That expense is nominal if you’re in the profession, or if your institution foots the bill, but large if you’re just someone who’s trying to stay informed.

    Meanwhile, a journal subscription (like Nature) gives access to dozens (hundreds?) of disciplines, many of which are irrelevant to the problem at hand.

    I’d be more than happy, myself, to pay for a subscription that gave me access to articles selected as applicable only to one specific area (i.e. climate science) if it was pared down to a manageable rate, particularly if it also worked across journals.

    Face it, there’s never been a heated, “popular” interest in an area of science the way there is now in climate science. There’s never been a market for “focused journal subscriptions for amateurs.” But there is now.

    But if they were to get organized, and offer such an option for specific disciplines (i.e. climate science) I think they’d make more money. They’d make every penny they do now, and then some.

  29. 129
    ccpo says:

    [Edit. You’ve now shown yourself to be a first class troll, equivalent to the some of the worst deniers we’ve had here, in a number of ways. All further submissions by you will be deleted until you have something other than opinionated invective and slander to contribute.–Jim]

  30. 130
    Phillip Shaw says:

    I rarely write because there are so many commenters more eloquent and more knowledgable than I, but I wanted to offer a counter opinion to CCPO and others urging lawsuits against denialists. Having just been through a lawsuit a neighbor dropped on us which cost us 41 months of stress and over $100K in legal fees, I see several good reasons to avoid the US court system if at all possible.

    The first reason is cost. A libel suit against a prominent denialist will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees at minimum, and could run well over a million. Who is going to foot the bill? The climate scientists? Their institutions? Don’t count on getting the money back when the suit is won.

    The second reason is time. Only on TV are lawsuits settled quickly. In the real world, particularly here in the US, a lawsuit may take years. If I remember correctly, the last of the Exxon Valdez suits was only recently settled. Is there any point to filing a suit tomorrow and annoucing a win in 2022? Who will care by that time?

    My third and last point is that it would be difficult to win, and very easy to lose, a libel lawsuit. All it would take is one Limbaugh fan on the jury and there won’t be a favorable verdict. A hung jury would be a win for the denialists.

    In an ideal world things would be different but, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we have to fight with the courts we have, not the courts we want.

  31. 131
    Seb says:

    @Jim…

    “[Response: Do you also agree with him that scientists and activists need to be ignored because they’re unwilling to do anything?–Jim]”

    To chip in, I don’t think he actually said that!

    [Response: Other than this you mean: “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.” This was mixed in with other assertions about our intent such as that we stick to the science because it “makes us feel good” but does nothing, that people adopting the patient strategy that Bob S explained are wasting their time” (proven by research he says repeatedly, but never offers any) and various other proclamations about what the deniers are all about and what needs to be done and not done. He has a complete disdain for much of what goes on here, and thinks he has the right to come in here and proclaim it. Go back and read it.–Jim]

    Depressingly, CCPO has a point. The denial of climate change isn’t motivated from a misunderstanding of the science, it’s motivated from a dislike of the policy implications. Willfull misunderstanding and missrepresentation of the science and slander of the scientists is a debating tactic.

    [Response: Nobody argues this. It’s a red herring introduced by ccpo because he is so bothered by other approaches to dealing with misinformation than his, and that actually have something other than a kneejerk reaction to them.–Jim]

    That requires two approaches, firstly to convince as many people who are genuinely confused and seeking to guide their actions with reference to objectie reality, which this site and those like it do very well.

    But it probably won’t be sufficient on it’s own because there are also going to be plenty of unconvinced people that will, like the “denialists”, actually be deciding their positions not by objectie reality but by how convenient the implied policies to combat the problem are for them. i.e. it’s easier and more confortuble to believe scientists are fraudulent etc. than vote for carbon taxes, and it is psychologically very difficult for people to say “I do believe in AGW, but to hell with it, I’d rather have a bigger car”. People like to be consistent.

    Couple that to cleaving to token partisan positions as part of the identity, the growing ability and tendency of people to be able to select which media they read and thus retreat into a echoboxes where their own comfortuble world view is unchallenged, and you can see that there is indeed the possibility that simply stating the case for AGW ever more cogently may not win the day.

    I would not underestimate how great a segment of society falls into the category of “not persuadable by scientific arguments alone”, and a more proactive approach of demolishing the other position as lies is necessary. In science the two are often seen to be the same thing, largely because we are all open minded and willing to be persuaded by evidence and all subscribe axiomatically to the idea that there is such a thing as objective reality.

    There are a lot of people out there that would agree with that statement, but at the same time demand their “right to an oppinion” and disengage should the evidence go against them.

    Suing etc. as a method to force reality into the comfort zones created by media/politics etc. shouldn’t be treated so dismisively, though indeed there is the question of who has the time and effort to do it. CCPO specifically stated someone, he wasn’t suggesting “you guys”.

    [Response: I’m not dismissing suing or any other tactic. They might be entirely necessary. It’s not the point. I’m objecting to someone with an attitude coming onto THIS site, which has for several years now steadfastly offered up scientific rebuttals to all kinds of crap from all sides, on the heels of two recent vindications of scientists and their institutions no less, and proclaim to us that we should be ignored because we’re doing this to make ourselves feel good and offer blanket declarations of how we need to be acting. Doesn’t sit well.–Jim]

  32. 132
    Simon Rika says:

    I have an idea. It is pretty radical and maybe utterly impossible, but I think it could be an amazing thing for humanity in general. Let me explain a little of my reasoning first so that the idea makes a little sense.

    It seems to me that the biggest problem we humans have today is that we’ve forgotten how we got here. We’ve become so used to the technological wonders around us, that we have forgotten that it takes science and scientists to give us these things, and our entire society is now utterly reliant on them. So I think what people need is a reminder. Think of that movie “A Day Without a Mexican”.

    Imagine a day (week, month, year, whatever) without scientists.

    A global multi-discipline strike of scientists who refuse to offer advice, counsel etc on any scientific matter to anyone, government or private, for the duration of the strike. Of course excluding those scientists who are involved in areas that have a potential threat of harm should scientists leave (nuclear plants etc).

    All other scientists though should just go on strike. Make all of us see just how much we owe to scientists in general, and maybe people won’t be so quick to ignore the opinion of scientists.

    Does that sound like a crazy idea, or what?

    [Response: I like it!–Jim]

  33. 133
    caerbannog says:


    “Good, now suggest something that hasn’t been done already.” – Editor

    I wasn’t aware that the National Post had been sued by the CRU. Further I know of no lawsuits against any of the corporate propaganda groups in the U.S. like CATO, or the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, etc.

    Regarding potential legal action by climate scientists, I am reasonably sure of two things:

    1) Climate scientists have already consulted attorneys about possible legal action.

    2) Climate scientists are smart enough to listen to the advice that the attorneys have given them.

  34. 134
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #126

    JD was trying to argue that he had shown how the Russell report has missed the (i.e. his) point.

    Are you trying to divert attention from the two criticisms of JD’s theory (theories)?
    (a) of the gh effect (see #106)
    (b) of the enhanced version (#94)

    If not, the point of your purist comment is unclear , just as it was with your earlier comments about DDT on Deltoid.

  35. 135
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Simon @ 132:

    I vote for crazy idea.

  36. 136
    Dan says:

    “[Response: And who’s going to do all these things–file all these lawsuits, pay for the lawyers etc? Scientists are supposed to do this, as well as educate the public, write letters to the editor, and of course do their science too? Should we run for congress too? Get our own cable network? There sure is no shortage of non scientists around here telling the scientists what they need to be doing (and how to be doing it).–Jim]”

    Actually Jim, I think we could use a few more scientists in congress. I agree with everything else you said in your response (why is the onus on scientists to do research, 101 administrative tasks, tackle naysayers who have little to no knowledge, put together lawsuits, etc., etc., when all they’d really like to do is ponder what’s really interesting to them?)! That said, a few more thinking people (or at least those curious about things other than how to get re-elected) in congress would work wonders. Even leaving those doing active research aside, a few more PhD’s in congress would be nice.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/10/science/10phys.html

    All the best, keep up the great work, and congrats doctors Mann and Jones!

  37. 137
    MarkB says:

    ccpo writes:

    “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.”

    To use a political analogy, John Kerry took that approach during the U.S. 2004 election fight. He chose to mainly ignore the Swift Boat attacks against his military service, figuring that addressing them would unnecessarily elevate them, giving them merit they clearly don’t deserve. While there is some truth to that, ignoring them turned out to be a worse course of action. They ended up festering and propagated throughout the media and he came out much worse than if he had addressed the smears head on. Barack Obama took the opposite approach. He was ready to handle any mud slung at him, and he had to deal with a lot of it. He threw back the “pal’ing around with terrorist” stuff that the McCain camp had been pushing, and he also did it on live television in the debate, smacking McCain over the head with it. This is the world we live in, like it or not. We have junk media and junk political hacks spreading lies to an audience that has an insatiable appetite for it. That won’t go away by ignoring it. Rational discourse might not prevail in the end, but it’s our only hope in the long-run.

    Addressing bad arguments rationally is not a bad thing, and it’s not at all mutually exclusive with handling some of the bad stuff aggressively and forcefully. You can say Dr. Schmidt did both in dealing with the CRU hack. His response was both rational and very assertive and most would agree RC and CRU are better off for it. Simply ignoring the garbage wouldn’t make it go away.

    I’m also in agreement that a few lawsuits would be a good idea. What the Muir Russell report failed to do very well was hold the key accusers accountable.

  38. 138
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Vendicar Decarian, I call your attention to what Voltaire said:

    “I was only ruined twice in my life; once when I lost a lawsuit and once when I won one.”

  39. 139
    Eli Rabett says:

    Eli favors a large variety of tactics. One size does not fit all.

  40. 140
    John Mashey says:

    Regarding lawsuits and such.
    People’s hearts may be in the right places, but maybe need to learn some more about defamation law (which is messy), and understand the asymmetric warfare element of this that makes it:
    – almost impossible for individual scientists to do this, which makes Andrew Weaver’s suite against the National Post interesting, especially has Weaver has a serious expert lawyer in this.
    – very difficult for universities, as well.

    if people want to get up to speed, you might start with the PDF @
    DeSmogBlog.
    In V1.0, read
    p.1.
    p.16, last few paragraphs.
    p.33
    p.184, which at least points at relevant sources on defamation law.

    The most plausible solution is: as I wrote on p.33:

    “Perhaps thoughtful private individuals might contribute, as it is unclear whether or not our institutions are really set up for this. In addition, most scientists do not face such attacks, leaving those under attack feeling rather alone. Some NGOs help with this, as do some lawyers doing pro-bono work, but none are really funded for serious efforts. Maybe it would be possible to set up a private foundation In Defense Of Science, because science and scientists are certainly under attack.”

    Note Markey hearing on attacks on climate scientists, 05/20/2010, i.e., the House has at least started to notice, a little, if not necessarily enough.

    We really need an organization that gets the expertise and experience to handle this stuff efficiently, because one fo the problems is that the attackers are experienced, whereas the attackees are less so, and try to play by the rules. Being a Penn State grad, I liken this to having the football stadium invaded by a “team” run by Genghis Khan. It’s a big surprise, and throwing penalty flags doesn’t work well, but by the time people figure that out the game is over. Then, the next Saturday, the Horde visits Ohio State… The Horde is experienced at this.

    (Now, before someone says “So do it!”, I have had some preliminary discussions already, have some ideas on organization, staffing and some ideas on funding. I’m really hoping somebody else does it (like, say, a part of UCS), but if not, after some current related projects get finished, and if it doesn’t get vetoed, I may well make a serious run at this. I say no more for now.]

    But please, before people hassle our scientists to “do something”, how about learning some more about the legal rules, and the constraints under which people operate.

  41. 141
    Snapple says:

    Eduard Kruglyakov, the head of the Pseudoscience Commission at the Russian Academy of Sciences, writes a good bit about how to confront pseudoscience. He’s a physicist.

    Sometimes his name is spelled Edward instead of Eduard.

    He has written articles and books about the problem of confronting pseudoscience.

    His books are titled Highway “Scientists” and Highway “Scientists”-2

    He blames the Russian media and government bodies for popularizing pseudoscience and undermining real science. A lot of the media is owned by the fossil fuel companies.

    This page from his second book gives you an idea. Maybe you all could read this link. If you hit control plus it will get bigger and you can see it.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/p7k1054wql07l726/

  42. 142
    Didactylos says:

    Maybe scientists should take more advantage of the libel laws in the UK, instead of complaining about them on the rare, rare occasions when a journalist is falsely attacked using them…..

    I think there are good reasons why the law is the way it is. The plaintiff is assumed to be innocent of whatever the defendant libelled him with, rather than the traditional situation where the defendant is presumed innocent. Yes, there can sometimes be “David vs Goliath” problems, but far more commonly, the “Goliath” is the newspaper guilty of libel.

    One important finding of the McLibel case was that repeating claims already published, or believing the claims to be true is no defence. Think for a moment about how this applies to climate science. All that garbage printed by the Telegraph (to name just one paper) was potentially libellous, even if they try to hide behind the defence that they were merely repeating what some random blogger said.

    It’s still not easy, though. I’m not demanding that scientists rise up en masse and take to the courts for every bit of nonsense printed. But I do hope that more scientists will draw a firm line, and defend it even if there is a personal cost. I also hope that more people, like John Mashey, will help defend the line.

    (As an aside, I wonder who is really behind the attack on UK libel law. I suspect that the people who stand to gain – massive media conglomerates – are standing behind and yanking on the strings…. while screaming “free speech” and hoping that nobody will notice that the merging of media groups kills free speech far more effectively than merely stopping people from publishing damaging lies.)

  43. 143
    Rod B says:

    Geoff Wexler (134), no, I wasn’t changing the thrust of anyone’s points or argument; just clarifying a small detail that technically you had wrong.

    Where on earth did that DDT-on-Deltoid come from?? For the record (again) I was lucidly clear then; the group just didn’t like what I was saying. (And I would suggest letting this lie; Gavin would not like the old stuff resurrected.)

  44. 144
    Veidicar Decarian says:

    “Do you also agree with him that scientists and activists need to be ignored because they’re unwilling to do anything?” – Editor

    The current path chosen by the scientific community produces no results in the area of mitigation for the next 20 to 30 years as far as I can see.

    So ignoring the climate science for those 30 years, or not has not effect on the situation.

    That is what CCPO was saying, and to that extent I agree with him.

    You can’t reason with the unreasonable.
    You can’t educate the willfully ignorant.

    You can however drag them to court when they try and destroy your reputation with lies and distortions.

  45. 145
    ghost says:

    For potential ordinary libel/slander suits in the U.S., I would be leery that the most aggrieved/best potential plaintiffs have become public figures or limited public figures, thereby raising their burden of proof. The same idea also might apply to attacks on the denial mouthpieces as well, if there are any that reach this level. If the abhorrent attacks on the scientists are organized, as they very well may be, then the source probably works under legal guidance and knows how to remain within the limits. Even if not, with the potential of drawing funding from every denial-friendly faction, a private suit likely would be a tremendous ordeal and the discovery process would be brutal. Taking up key scientist/research organization time with litigation rather than research and outreach has the potential to be a stepping-on-garden-rake affair as well. Finally, it might be possible to address certain affronts with torts other than libel/slander–wrongful disclosure of private information, for example. Pursuing injunctive relief has the potential to be a piecemeal affair, akin to hunting one restaurant cockroach at a time. In the end, I suspect that sue-the-bastards is likely to be a counterproductive response, at least under U.S. civil law. Unencumbered by intimate knowledge, I would not be surprised to learn that the apparently paradoxical current high-road approach is exactly the/part of the most effective strategy. I understand that the Justice Department is stretched thin by Homeland Security activity, but it also would not surprise me to learn that Justice is investigating the matter, as a RICO case or otherwise. Finally, not having investigated this point at all, I wonder if there is any relief available under the various trade treaties. If there is any, one supposes the action would be by the organizations, rather than by the individual plaintiffs, and that any such action would be much less public in nature than would be an ordinary civil suit.

  46. 146
    William P says:

    If all the emails were as some stated and there was some kind of cheating going on and lying, etc. So what?

    Could lying and the emails have caused the polar ice to melt rapidly? Could emails and lies cause CO2 to be nearly 400ppm (actual historic records tell us this level is very high and tell us what it causes). Could lies and emails have caused the sea to rise?

    This tempest is meaningless regarding proof or disproof about global warming. The tempest was, I am certain, ginned up by the big money that wants to mock and cause disbelief about global warming to protect their profits. The same thing was done by big tobacco and they succeeded in delaying information to get out and prevent millions of deaths. Profit was more important.

  47. 147
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    bit off topic.. been looking the sea ice extent on this site…http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/sea.ice.anomaly.timeseries.jpg
    Boy! it’s scary! From 1979-1989 it’s pretty much business as usual with each year’s graph following pretty much the same course, moderate highs and lows. From 1989-1999. There is a noticable trend in sea ice area curving downwards but still the yearly highs and lows are roughly consistant although getting slightly more irregular. From 1999-2007 the varaition is much the same but the graph continues it’s southern journey. But from 2007 till present there is suddenly a hell of a lot of variation from the lows and highs and the graphs look extremely irregular. If that post 2007 graph came from a ECG machine hooked up to a patient in hospital you would have bells and whistles sounding and an army of doctors rushing to his aid..it’s that obvious!..Have a look!

  48. 148
    Alan of Oz says:

    Congratulations to all at RC and the CRU on yet another strong affirmation of your integrity, and sympathies to your families for enduring such needless strees.

  49. 149

    #47 I posted this at the Fred Pearce article:

    Fred, you are clueless as ever, a disgrace to the usually high standards of journalism of The Guardian.

    I went to a talk by a leading bioinformatician from a top Ivy League university yesterday, and he bemoaned the lack of openness and transparency in biology data sets, the fact that much knowledge was embedded in lab notebooks that no one outside the lab could access, the proprietorial attitude to knowledge that made cross-institution work hard, and the complete lack of standards in biology information.

    This is just a short list of some of the problems he listed.

    By comparison, climate science is a model of openness. Phil Jones and his group could have been more helpful to people trying to sabotage their work but as is made very clear in the report, anyone legitimately attempting to reproduce their work could do so.

  50. 150
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #143

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/the-muir-russell-report/comment-page-3/#comment-180472

    I don’t want to continue this. Perhaps I should not have brought up the DDT ,but as for the other item , I don’t think that it clarified or corrected anything.
    No one else is interested.


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