RealClimate logo

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. 151
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Some clarification from me about my previous comment.

    I suppose you could have taken exception to three words in my footnote to #227 of the previous thread i.e. “pressure broadening which includes temperature” which phrase is almost indefensible.But the context was quite different and had nothing to do with JD’s theory.

  2. 152
    Didactylos says:

    Veidicar Decarian:

    Climate policy ultimately gets decided by politicians. While it may satisfy egos to sway public opinion 100% in our favour, that just isn’t a reasonable goal. Most democratic political systems are designed to act in the best interests of everyone – whether they are in the majority or not, and whether they agree or not. A difficult task under any circumstances!

    So, maybe a minority of politicians (as with the public) will be swayed by specious arguments and denialist smears. A few more will certainly use events such as Climategate for political cover. Over time, however, this won’t work for them. The fuss is forgotten as quickly as it started, and if anyone tries to resurrect it, there is not one but three independent reports to help put the nonsense back in its box.

    If it’s important enough, then legal action will help us, by bringing a higher level of attention to the facts, and disgracing the authors of whatever lie scientists decide is important enough to fight.

    But as a sole strategy? For every little thing? Scientists have more important things to do. Yes, we know all about climate change. But there are vast oceans of detail, of quantitative projections that still need refining, all these frontiers of science that need pushing back further to help inform long-term policy and to underscore the importance of immediate short-term action.

    Ask any scientist. There are not enough hours in the day.

  3. 153
    J Bowers says:

    Re. 51 Mikel (on UK FOIA): “Providing information under FOIA/EIR (except for a SAR) is equivalent to putting the information into the public domain;”

    Are you completely sure about that? I have a niggling memory that, where data and/or information is bound by non-disclosure agreements, the requester must either seek the appropriate permissions and also be bound by them, or accept the conditions promising not to release the material into the public domain. I’d check that again to be sure, if I were you. It may not be the case for EIR, but I’m fairly certain it applies to UK FOIA.

  4. 154
    ccpo 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.

    That’s not quite what I was saying. The context of my posts over years is important, and being ignored by Barrett808/Jim. In essence, however, you may have described it correctly. What I actually said was to one poster. I said that poster was wasting their time engaging denialists unless or until such a time that denialists were held accountable. The logical underpinnings of this are thus: 1. Getting the science irrefutably acknowledged as accurate will greatly weaken their hold on the minds of those who would be reachable *if* their anti-climate gurus were shown to be charlatans. 2. If denialists had to fear prosecution as a likely outcome of lying, they might reign themselves in.

    A further point has been outlined by me in this regard. At this point, taking action to prevent mitigation of the effects of climate change is a crime against humanity. Period. It meets the definition. What argument, despite the truth of it, gains no traction. We are all willing to try someone for shooting hundreds of thousands, taping tens or hundreds of thousands, maiming hundreds of thousands, but we can’t get excited about possible extinction? *That* is not worth prosecuting someone over?

    It’s madness.

    So, I focus on encouraging someone, somewhere to take that first step and get one of these people prosecuted.

    The denialists have been winning for decades while the mantra has been to patiently extol the science. We have actually seen declines in understanding of CC as a real phenomenon and/or that it is largely anthropogenic. Last previous winter they were posting all over the internet how by the end of the year CC would be toast. And they almost pulled it off. And still, almost nobody things prosecution is a legitimate tack to take. Meanwhile, the planet is going haywire.

    What I have not said, ever, is that RC should cease to exist – which would be the logical extension of what Jim claims I have said, but have not said. If I thought RC had no use or merit, I would say so. (I am hardly shy about my opinions or what I know to be fact.) For those people who choose to be educated about climate, RC is invaluable. But to say, even as the numbers have turned massively against CC among the public, that the slow and steady approach is the only way to go, and that it is insulting to scientists suggest otherwise, just doesn’t jive with reality. Jim is simply wrong here to ascribe to my intent what he wishes it to be, rather than what it is. Why he does this, I do not know, but I hope the actual scientists here will reign him in. We are talking about the fate of global population here, and one lone voice calling for strong action against a large group of people who are quite successfully keeping meaningful action from taking place is hardly inappropriate on these forums.

    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.

    Comment by Veidicar Decarian — 9 July 2010 @ 11:14 PM


  5. 155
    Didactylos says:

    J Bowers:

    The UK FOIA has an exclusion for confidential information, but that doesn’t override public interest.

    I believe in the CRU case, the data subject to NDAs was available by other means. The exclusion for data available by other means is absolute; there is no public interest test.

    That’s my interpretation of the FOIA guidance notes, anyway.

    The circumstances you describe, where additional constraints are placed on the requester, are explicitly not covered by the FOIA.

    If information is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act under section 41, public authorities may, in certain circumstances, still be able to disclose the information to the particular applicant concerned without this constituting an actionable breach of confidence at common law. For example, if a public authority considers that there is a strong public interest in a particular applicant knowing the exempt information and it would be both possible and in the public interest to disclose the information to that person, or if the information could be disclosed subject to an undertaking of confidentiality by the applicant without breaching the duty of confidence, the public authority may still be able to disclose the information even though the request has been refused under the Freedom of Information Act. The circumstances in which this is possible will be limited and will depend heavily on the identity of the applicant, a knowledge of the purposes to which the applicant intends to put the information and the ability of the authority to disclose the information subject to conditions of confidence without breaching the duty of
    confidence: legal advice should be sought where this is proposed.

    Departments must make very clear:
    • that the request has been refused under the Freedom of Information
    • the confidential terms on which the information is disclosed

    (emphasis mine) – Clearly, when a request is made in bad faith, there is no public interest argument that can justify making attempts to provide the information beyond what is required by law.

  6. 156
    ccpo says:

    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…

    In the end, I suspect that sue-the-bastards is likely to be a counterproductive response, at least under U.S. civil law.

    it also would not surprise me to learn that Justice is investigating the matter, as a RICO case or otherwise.

    Comment by ghost — 10 July 2010 @ 12:46 AM

    1. It would make sense to me that a group of people supporting the action could, hopefully would, free up the person in question from the mundane aspects of the process, leaving only those activities that required the persons’ presence.

    2. Perhaps the gov’t is, but given we are talking Big Business here, don’t hold your breath.

    3. The truest definition for what these people are doing and have done, is a crime against humanity. Unfortunately, the definition is too limited for a society in which corporations hold so much power, as it is limited to actions by governments. These are, indeed, crimes against all of humanity, which is why I call the behavior sui-genocidal.

    Now, if someone besides Jim Galasyn could explain how all this somehow insults the RC scientists, I’d be much obliged.


  7. 157
    Snapple says:

    “Maybe scientists should take more advantage of the libel laws in the UK.”

    Why do you want to go to court when Inhofe and Cuccinelli want to go to court?

    I think it’s better to debate denialism in scientific/academic forums where scientists control the playing field and are making expert judgements instead of ignorant juries–like the Muir Russell Review.

    BUT you can’t let pseudoscientists infiltrate the judging process. Pseudoscientists want to subvert the scientists’ control of scientific organizations. That’s why they are claiming the scientific organizations have “sold out” for government grants and are “rigged” against them. This claim that scientist have sold out to the US government is a tactic of RADICAL subversives, typical of communist infiltration, actually.

    These pseudoscientific operatives are not communists, but the subversive tactics are the same.

    Subversion of scientific organizations is what has happened in Russia where government agencies are subverted by pseudoscience and involved in the quackery. Maybe sometimes the KGB guys are not just cynical manipulators: sometimes they believe in astrology, ok?

    This is a kind of subversion by pseudoscientific RADICALS of the traditional, CONSERVATIVE scientific process. The authorities don’t do much about pseudoscience in Russia. One time, a magician finally got in trouble because he told people that if they paid him he could bring back their children from the dead who had been killed by terrorists in the Beslan school take-over.

    In Russia, they had a magician on GOVERNMENT-CONTROLLED TV after Chernobyl telling people to put their water in front of the TV so the TV rays could remove radiation.

    There is a lot of money to be made by tricking people. Politicians are sometimes tricked and sometimes in on the con. It’s hard to know.

    Another example of crackpot science is the 9-11 Truth Movement which tries to use “science” to prove that 9-11 was an inside job. In Russia, this conspiracy is widely believed by Russian university students. Some Truthers also believe in the Climategate conspiracy. So you have so-called “conservatives” like the RADICAL Inhofe, the tabloid Pravda, the uber-nationalist Russia Today TV, and the Truth movement on the same side. Strange bedfellows.

    You could start your fight for science by not using the language of your opponents. Inhofe is a RADICAL, not a CONSERVATIVE. Call him a RADICAL. Call yourselves CONSERVATIVES. You are the CONSERVATIVES–you are conserving the scientific process from the infiltration and subversion of pseudoscientific RADICALS.

    Real RADICALS understand very well that most people like the word CONSERVATIVE more than the word RADICAL.

    That RADICAL anti-scientific crackpot INHOFE is trying to use federal resources start up legal actions. The anti-science is infiltrating the government just like in Russia.

    UVA is trying NOT to go to court against the VIRGINIA GOVERNMENT, which is after Michael Mann. UVA is trying to CONSERVE the scientific process.

    The RADICALS, Inhofe and Cuccinelli, are basically American Rasputins. A court puts these Rasputins on equal footing with the scientists before an ignorant jury. And they have a hordes of money and hordes of ignorant followers–a cyber mob. These are the modern version of the manipulated pitchfork-weilding “workers and peasants” led by the Bolsheviks.

    I say this as a person who voted Republican for 40 years and who understands a little about Russia.
    The RADICAL forces around Inhofe are way over the top and engaging in the kind of RADICAL subversion of science that goes on in Russia where they used to fool people with an ideology called “scientific” Marxism-Leninism. Not all Republicans are on-board with this take-over of the Party by the forces of ignorance. Some of us are really CONSERVATIVES who want to conserve the scientific process and keep the charlatans out.

    Definitions matter. When you young guys rail against “conservatives,” you turn off people who consider themselves conservatives. Don’t fall into the trap of using your opponents’ vocabulary. I have always considered myself a “conservative,” but there is nothing conservative about subverting science, and climate scientists are not part of a Godless communist plot.

    INHOFISM is an uber-RADICAL ideological movement, not a conservative, pro-science movement. INHOFISM has kidnapped the “conservative” label as a mask for their uber-radical anti-science agenda because most Americans identify as conservatives, not radicals.

    This is not really conservative VS liberal. This is conservative vs radical/subversive.

    The values of the scientific method are not being conserved; they are being subverted buy a radical pseudoscience movement that demands an equal voice and “democratization” in scientific forums.


    Science is not a democracy. You have to earn your right to speak as a scientist through a traditional/conservative process. The pseudoscientific radicals are attempting the infiltration of scientific organizations in the name of democracy. Is it democracy to give kids who failed the test an A? Science is not a democracy.


    The pseudoscientists attempt to infiltrate real scientific organizations and also create new fake competing organizations–this is far-advanced in Russia where there are all sorts of fake science organizations and even politicians and government officials are confused. All sorts of quacks have medical degrees. There are few standards.

    In the past, powerful foreign entities like the KGB have taken advantage of these English libel laws for propaganda and intimidation. The US courts have also been exploited by these same foreign forces and now by these so-called “conservatives.” They can afford the best lawyers.

    There is even a book called “The KGB Lawsuits” by Brian Crozier. Of course, the KGB operators were behind the scenes in these lawsuits and acted through other people who may not even have realized what was going on; or the puppets didn’t care because they have a similar agenda for their own reasons.

    Sometimes the far left is used, and sometimes the far right. Both extremes exploit ignorance.

    Now, you also have not just Western fossil fuel companies sponsoring “scientific Institutes,” but also probably Gazprom trying to undermine legitimate scientific organizations by discrediting them as one-sided because they are “bought” by US government grants. The Russian media was saying the same thing about Climategate as FOX and Inhofe. Some of this is in English. Pravda was quoting FOX.

    50 years ago Stalin said that Soviet doctors had been bought by the CIA and were trying to exterminate the Soviet leadership. 25 years ago “crafty” Pentagon scientists were said to be cooking up the AIDS virus to exterminate blacks.
    Now the “plots” of “crafty” climate scientists are in the crosshairs.

    Does anyone see a pattern here?

    Gazprom own a lot of popular media (think why) and have a lot of money. Gazprom is running Russia to some extent now, I think. Their proxies will have all sorts of resources. A lot of KGB people went right over to Gazprom, and probably not for their expertise with gas/oil extraction. The KGB guys are there because of their expertise at public relations. They are the media people.

    GAZPROM hired them to do a job, and I am sure they are doing it.

    I hope it is a good sign that RIA Novosti has published the article called “Pseudoscientific Genius.”

    We will see what happens. Maybe they will start to discuss climate change.

  8. 158

    145 (ghost),

    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.

    Actually, in this case, no, I think that’s part of the evidence. That is, they have become public figures for a large part as a result of the slander. Take Mann, for instance. His name was known among people who look into climate science, and who follow the whole bizarre McIntyre episode (that’s going to make such a great movie around 2035), but I don’t think I’d have classified him as a public figure.

    Then he was tangentially referenced in the hacked e-mails, accused of academic misconduct (or whatever) as a result, properly investigated by his own university, and vindicated. In the meantime, he suffered unnecessary and unfounded attacks by everyone from journalists to bloggers to an out of control AG.

    The fact that their attacks turned him into a public figure does not, to me, change the burden of proof. If anything, it’s specific evidence of the malicious effect of the libelous attacks.

    Mind you, I’m still on the fence with the whole libel thing. If someone wants to pursue it, fine. If they don’t have the time, or interest, or don’t think their case will win in court and simultaneously result in a positive public perception, that’s fine, too. I only want scientists to be scientists. I’d like to see “them [the vicious deniers] get what’s coming to them,” but that’s going to happen no matter what (as the world continues to warm, and they and their arguments are eventually exposed to be 100% wrong).

  9. 159
    Lou Grinzo says:


    I could not agree more strongly with your approach. I’ve been trying my best to promote that view — we’re not trying to make deniers “switch sides”, since that’s virtually impossible, but we’re countering a propaganda effort that’s aimed at the newcomers.

    At various times I’ve called this the Google Effect. Someone finally finds a few minutes after work, after the kids are in bed, etc., to Google “climate change” or that “peak oil” thing their brother-in-law is always babbling about, and they very quickly wind up on either a denier site in the former case or one of the extreme doomer sites in the latter. Either way they quickly decide that there’s no substance to the concerns because climate change is either a crock or “still up for debate”, or the peak oil people are a bunch of wackaloons who should be ignored.

    BTW, I checked out your site. Great stuff. I’ll be sure to plug it on The Cost of Energy.

  10. 160

    147 (Lawrence Coleman),

    bit off topic.. been looking the sea ice extent on this site…

    Boy! it’s scary!

    I’ve been following the same thing, using multiple sites, since winter. I know how wildly wrong gross, gut perceptions and intuition can be on these things. I certainly don’t want to be a Goddard. With that in mind…

    I’ve been looking at the animations at Cryosphere Today, and comparing that to the movies (at the same site) of previous summer melts.

    The thing that is interesting that I take from these pics (and that interesting paper by Masayo Ogi in March) is that the melt process is really a combination of melt, breakup, and transport. Ice melts, breaks up into chunks, and is swept by winds and currents to other areas, where it may melt further, dissipate, or compact. For instance, in the animation you can see areas thin, and seemingly move (swirl), and then compact when they have nowhere left to go. What is odd (to me) this year is that, unlike previous years, there are many more avenues of escape (i.e. less chance that the ice will stall and compact somewhere).

    By the looks of it, there is every chance that later in the summer there will be “a way out” for every shred of Arctic ice. I’m not saying it will happen, only that in previous years it really couldn’t because there were large patches of relatively solid ice that blocked the way. But this year, given enough time, it feels like the ice could just break up, drift into open ocean, and then be gone. It definitely looks different from other years.

    Even now, if you watch the animation, you can see that there is virtually no spot in the Arctic which has steadily remained “solid” (i.e. concentration above 95%) for the entire past 45 days. There are some seemingly thick patches now, but they weren’t that way all through the spring/summer.

    [As a side note, I’ve seen an occasional “up tick” in measures of sea ice extent, such as here. That seemed odd to me at first. How could extent increase, i.e. more ice form, in summer? Then I realized that this is just an example of the ice unpacking. That is, you can have areas of 80%+ ice which break up and spread out over larger areas, while still maintaining a concentration above the threshold (usually 15% or 30%, depending on the method). On a graph, this will look like ice extent is increasing, when in fact it’s an illusion, and a dangerous step forward in the melt process.]

  11. 161

    Of interest to both the subject at hand (i.e. clearing Mann and Jones) and any sort of “counterattack”:

    Climate Probe — by Greenpeace

  12. 162
    Jim Eager says:

    The real take-home lesson of ‘climategate’ is that, to paraphrase Stuart Jordan, global warming/climate change deniers and pseudo-sceptics have simply run out of legitimate alternate scientific hypotheses that can account for the observed global warming, the measured increase in atmospheric CO2, and other observed ocean, terrestrial atmospheric and biological changes and they are desperate to find some way to discredit the prevailing science.

    Toward that end they have clearly demonstrated that they will stoop not only to mounting campaigns of misinformation, disinformation, and fabrication, but also to professional harassment, character smears, libel, denial of service attacks, data theft, actual break and enter trespass and theft, and even threats physical harm and death.

    These are traits of authoritarian movements the world over, and make no mistake, their tactics will escalate as they become more desperate.

  13. 163
    ghost says:

    RE: Bob, 156, 158, The “limited public figure” concept relates to public status attained solely as a result of the incident in question, which appears to fit your description of events. A commonly used recent example is the scenario surrounding Terry Rakolta. Whether a particular plaintiff fits that category is a fact issue, and I wouldn’t be able to say whether Dr. Mann (for example) fits that bill. (Which is why I said I’m leery about that issue in general–I don’t know the exact answer, but I know it can be messy.)

    For the benefit of other readers, public figure plaintiffs have a higher burden of proof than do non-public figure plaintiffs in U.S. libel/slander cases, i.e., the requirement that public figures establish “actual malice” under the New York Times v Sullivan standard. (One reason why politicians virtually never bring libel suits, and why we don’t see even more celebrity libel suits.) Non-pubic figures need not do so, generally speaking. It seems that actual malice would be easy to show, but it usually is harder than it sounds, and it can complicate libel cases considerably.

    (This probably wanders off-topic)–on the sea ice “extent” issue, a well-known weather forecaster apparently has staked his reputation on his prediction that “… NEXT SUMMER has the highest amount of sea ice since the early part of last decade” to be followed by global cooling back to 1960-80s levels. Decorum restrains me from saying more :) — Climate Progress has the downlow:

  14. 164
    Rod B says:

    Geoff Wexler (150), well, as I admitted it is a minor detail but it is on scientific point. You said in #94, “…absorption lines are broadened by pressure and temperature… .” I merely pointed out that, from the predominant collision cause of broadening, absorption lines are NOT broadened by temperature; they are in fact narrowed with higher temps (at least in the vast majority of situations.) I also pointed out that while Doppler broadening is enhanced by temperature, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans even where it is at least noticeable in the cooler and thin upper atmosphere.

    This is also right on JD’s point in that this directly addresses and is the primary answer to the critical question of saturation. That you got a piece of that science wrong is relevant. That, as you claim, nobody else is interested is even more telling, though I don’t think that is true (though they might not have an interest in discussing it here and now.)

    Or you may have been making just a general point without bothering with maybe confusing details — nothing wrong with that. I didn’t fully follow your #227 post on the previous thread. Or, on the third hand, Doppler broadening is sometimes called “temperature broadening” which, if that is what you meant, would make your statement correct and moot out my criticism. It would be confusing though.

    Plus as you imply this is probably the wrong thread to be digging into this.

  15. 165

    161 (Rod B),

    Or, on the third hand…

    Ah HA! I knew that climate hysteria was actually a subversive extraterrestrial invasion plot! Ah HA! You’ve tipped your hand, sir, or should I say “it”?

    Wait until they here about this over at Watts…

  16. 166
    Rod B says:

    Lou Grinzo, I googled “climate change” and none of the 1st ten sites were what you call deniers. And only one, maybe two, of the 1st ten referenced blog sites.

  17. 167
    Edward Greisch says:

    155 Snapple: That appears to me to be a sign of impending social collapse or re-organization. Are there any sociologists out there who could tell us better? The Citizens United case may lead to at least a Constitutional Amendment.

    I doubt that a scientist strike would work because science is generally too far in the future. More of us could run for school board or something after we retire. I would like to see a scientist appointed to the US supreme court and more scientists in congress.

  18. 168
    Lou Grinzo says:


    Sorry, but I’ve seen this effect, with both climate change and peak oil, firsthand. Relative newcomers do some preliminary investigation into these topics (and often that’s all they have time for), and find comforting information online that tells them it’s not a big deal, and then they tell others (including me, when I’ve given presentations about energy issues) what they’ve found, and I have to try to walk them back from their view that peakers are just another Internet cult or climate change is some fringe belief among scientists.

  19. 169
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re : #155

    Interesting and worrying.

    But yours is a simplified model and hard to generalise. For example, Nigel Lawson who is Inhofe’s counterpart in the UK, was part of the Thatcher government, until he fell out with his boss. Economically they were both neo-liberal radicals, but whereas she, as ex-scientist herself, had run of the mill scientific advisors (except for Chris Monckton!), Lawson has tied himself to the anti-science brigade and has managed to obtain support from a substantial portion of the UK right, such as the Telegraph-Monckton group.

    They have also found support from a much smaller fraction of the UK left who admire Pers Corbyn who was mentioned in one of Phil JOnes emails. Corbyn appeared in the Swindle TV programme together with Lawson. If you remember a part of the Swindle tried to blame the whole of global warming science on to Thatcher!

    We could think of other models such as ‘Mafia-capitalism’ or alternatively ‘charlatan-capitalism’ involving the promotion of untrained outsiders like Lysenko in the USSR. By the way that process has not completely succeeded in the West but it is an ever present danger.

  20. 170
    RichardC says:

    166 Rod googled “climate change”.

    I googled the more common “Global warming” First was wiki, second was a denier site.

  21. 171
    Ike Solem says:

    Some of the skeptical blogosphere response seems geared towards discrediting the IPCC methodology in general – specifically, that it doesn’t give enough weight to “voices of doubt.” That’s the general gist of Roger Pielke Jr.’s response, for example:

    The released East Anglia emails — for better or worse — revealed some problems associated with in-group control of parts of the IPCC. Muir Russell’s sanctioning of in group behavior in the preparation of IPCC reports is a notable shortfall in what otherwise appears to be a nuanced and comprehensive assessment of the implications of the East Anglia emails.

    While Pielke Jr. prefers insinuation to direct statements, it’s pretty clear what the agenda is:

    The IPCC is supposed to “identify disparate views” not hide them from view or take the side held by the author team. Had the Muir Russell review actually taken an accurate view of the IPCC, it is likely that its judgment about the appropriateness of the behaviors revealed by the emails would be considerably different.

    The IPCC, implies Pielke, is censoring “voices of doubt” on climate science – the very voices that the fossil fuel lobby relies for “third-party credibility” when it comes to distributing talking points. See this interview with Naomi Oreskes for a more complete discussion of why these “Merchants of Doubt” are in such demand by PR agencies:

    Notice, however, that Pielke refuses to point to any specific scientific issues or specific “voices” that have been censored – he’s just making a general point, that the IPCC is biased and can’t be trusted. It certainly looks like a deliberate effort to sow doubt, not an honest effort to discuss the issues.

  22. 172
    J Bowers says:

    Re. 155 Didactylos: “The UK FOIA has an exclusion for confidential information, but that doesn’t override public interest.”

    Take a look at this manual on FOIA for a British police force (PDF) and go to page 55 ‘The Public Interest Test’.

    “The ‘public interest’, is not however, what the public may find interesting, there must be some tangible benefit to the community in such a disclosure. Ultimately it must be something that serves the interests of the public.”

    Read also Section 21 starting on page 62: INFORMATION REASONABLY ACCESSIBLE BY OTHER MEANS

    Section 41 starting on page 100:

    “(1) (b) The disclosure of the information to the public (otherwise than under this Act) by the public authority holding it would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by that or any other person.”

    “Public interest” cuts both ways, for both the State (which is acting in the interests of the public) and for the individual, provided there is a benefit to the public and not just something of interest.

  23. 173
    Rod B says:

    Bob (Sphaerica), your 165 went right over my head. If it is humorous, I don’t get it. If it is serious I don’t understand it. help?

  24. 174
    Didactylos says:

    J Bowers:

    Yes, I know what “public interest” means in this context. The fact remains: if the data potentially falls under the confidentiality exclusion, then a determination must be made whether disclosure is in the public interest.

    Note also that “The question is whether disclosure ‘to the public’ would be a breach of confidence, and not whether disclosure to the particular person requesting the information would be a breach.”

  25. 175
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ike, I for one would love to hear more from the dissenters, but are we to enforce requirements of peer-reviewed publication only for the scientists in the consensus. Shouldn’t the dissenters be able to prove the worth of their position by providing genuine insight into the planet’s climate rather than merely wringing theiry hands and saying, “Oh, it’s all too complicated…” Shall we make the WG I report like the last race of the day at Elementary School field day, where everybody gets a ribbon just for showing up.

    Maybe we could give Anthony Watts his own working group and then treat the broken noses that result from all the face palming.


  26. 176
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, I believe that your mistake was in revealing you had a third hand…your alien masters will be displeased…

  27. 177
    Edward Greisch says:

    A little while ago, I saw an advertisement on CNN that spoke out against fossil fuel company denialist advertisements. I think it was by a company that sells wind turbines. BREAKTHROUGH!!!

  28. 178
    Edward Greisch says:

    161 Bob Sphaerica: Cheers for the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace! Another Breakthrough!
    This could be the beginning of the end for fossil fuels.

  29. 179
    Edward Greisch says:

    124 Snapple In that debate/trial at
    The lawyer on our side should have known that the photograph of a grill by a weather station was photoshopped false evidence and should have “indicted” his opponent lawyer for creating false evidence. It shows that our side needs a more knowledgeable lawyer, not that we can’t win. The system is indeed bad and in need of replacement, but how could they win with their lawyer in jail for perjury? If the photograph was not fake, then there is legal action to take against whoever put the grill next to the weather station. I think it has always been quite clear that weather stations are 50 feet from any other human structure and a grill is a structure?
    Unless that is another standard that Dick Cheney cancelled?

  30. 180
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Bob (Sphaerica), your 165 went right over my head. If it is humorous, I don’t get it. If it is serious I don’t understand it. help?” Rod B — 10 July 2010 @ 7:12 PM I suspect that your not as old and haven’t read as much SciFi as us old farts.

  31. 181
    Mikel says:

    My first attempt to post this got flagged as spam, so I’ve removed the URL references (which can be made available)

    Re: 154 Didactylos:

    “The circumstances you describe, where additional constraints are placed on the requester, are explicitly not covered by the FOIA.

    If information is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act under section 41, public authorities may, in certain circumstances, still be able to disclose the information to the particular applicant concerned without this constituting an actionable breach of confidence at common law. For example, if a public authority considers that there is a strong public interest in a particular applicant knowing the exempt information and it would be both possible and in the public interest to disclose the information to that person, or if the information could be disclosed subject to an undertaking of confidentiality by the applicant without breaching the duty of confidence, the public authority may still be able to disclose the information even though the request has been refused under the Freedom of Information Act. The circumstances in which this is possible will be limited and will depend heavily on the identity of the applicant, a knowledge of the purposes to which the applicant intends to put the information and the ability of the authority to disclose the information subject to conditions of confidence without breaching the duty of
    confidence: legal advice should be sought where this is proposed.

    Departments must make very clear:
    • that the request has been refused under the Freedom of Information
    • the confidential terms on which the information is disclosed”

    I have not seen this specific text before. I’d be grateful if you could provide a reference to this. It looks like specific guidance in a particular organisation.

    Re: 153 J Bowers

    Yes, I have now checked that again and did not find that in the Information Commissioner’s Guidance for Section 41 or in the UK’s Ministry of Justice guidance or in the guidance on the Environmental Information Regulations’ Exceptions.

    I do know that CRU specifically asked, very properly, for permission to disclose information covered by contracts and that, in certain cases, it was refused. In one case, the refusal to disclose was rescinded a couple of months later.

    Reference available if anyone wants to see the PDFs of the correspondence.

  32. 182
    Didactylos says:

    Mikel, it’s from the Ministry of Justice section 41 guidance. You must have missed it. Pages 16-17.

  33. 183

    I just caught up on this thread and see that there has been a war of words between ccpo and Jim Bouldin.

    In defense of Jim Bouldin’s strong words, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be an RC moderator. They spend much time posting and moderating this site on their own free time to try to educate us on cutting-edge climate science and time after time they are accused of all types of “sins”. The restraint that is typically shown by the RC moderators here is commendable. I recall Gavin appeared to be responding to Climategate comments for three days straight with no sleep. He must be a cyborg. :)

    In defense of ccpo, I am quite sure that when he stated we should ignore “them” he meant the denialists and not RC and scientists. Jim misunderstood that statement and it may have colored his interpretation of subsequent comments.

    As I have stated before, I concur that science alone has not been able to drive policymakers at the rate required to mitigate catastrophic consequences. Policy is not the theme here at RC, and I understand that, but I wish this well-respected group would go the route of Dr. Hansen and become more political. If not here at RC, maybe in some other forum. You folks have the clout and you will be listened to.

    Perhaps a happy medium might be to post more threads about projected negative consequences and possible mitigation/adaptation strategies? Essentially more WGII- and WGIII-type posts? More Paul Revere.

    These are just my humble suggestions but it does seem odd that the science can be dicussed so “clinically” when the fate of humanity appears to be at stake. In that regard I am with Edward Greish, ccpo, and others who may appear too alarmist. Of course, if you do become more politcally active, the targets on your back will become exponentially larger. Can we ask you to take more hits after all you have been through? It is a quandry. I would do it but I do not have your credibility. Who is going to take action because of what a junior college teaching faculty member says about climate change?

    Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
    Selden, NY
    Global Warming: Man or Myth?
    My Global Warming Blog
    Twitter: AGW_Prof
    “Global Warming Fact of the Day” Facebook Group

  34. 184
    Mikel says:

    Re:182 Didactylos

    Yes, I did miss that. Got it now, thank you.

  35. 185

    Interesting summary. I also found some useful information, like that the WMO 1999 was not that well known.

    I made my analysis of Climategate and this report with a data sharing angle. I have found that the discussion about the data sharing is not sufficiently based on knowledge of the field. It is not straight forward, to put it mildly.

    I wrote this on Science2.0 in an article I call Do you believe in global warming – Climategate revisited – Again.:

    As far as I understand, the major critic lies in the input to WMO 1999 report and misleading hockey stick graph. To my knowledge, the explanation of the graph is in the scientific article, but not included in the graph itself or in the caption. However, I found that the point of this article was the uncertainties in the data that were ‘evened out’.

    It still remains somewhat unclear to me, since people insist this part is omitted in the information. I have really a hard time believing that a scientific publication lack this information and would appreciate if someone could provide me with a reference or link where I can find this information.

  36. 186
    Rod B says:

    Ray and Brian, OH! (head slap). Now I get it! It’s pretty good, too. Thanks.

  37. 187
    Rod B says:

    btw Brian, I am easily old enough to know better…

  38. 188
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Bente Lilja #185, the WMO 1999 report is here:

    and it says in the caption

    Northern Hemisphere temperatures were reconstructed for the past 1000 years (up to 1999) using paleoclimatic records ([…]) along with historical and long instrumental records. […]

    hardly misleading, but very incomplete. Had this been submitted to a journal, the reviewers would have screamed in chorus — but this was not a journal article.

    BTW the uncertainties of the graph are discussed in a text box on page 4 (and I would say are also visually obvious from the differences between the three curves).

    If you want a version of this graph where everything is explained in detail, look no further than the TAR.

  39. 189

    I opened my copy of the Guardian Weekly today and found Fred Pearce’s article “‘Climategate’ forces researchers to make data open to scrutiny”. What really annoys me is that the online version reveals that he has published a book on the subject, but the print edition doesn’t. Bad in an article where he is getting on his high horse about the need for transparency.

    My letter to the editor (they haven’t published one yet from me on this subject):

    Fred Pearce pontificates on about how important transparency is in science (“‘Climategate’ forces researchers to make data open to scrutiny”).

    Well, now.

    Pearce has published a book on the stolen emails. Why did he not mention this in the article? Is there not a vague possibility that he may have an interest in hyping up this issue?

    Why has he only interviewed scientists who agree with his position that this whole thing is some sort of far-reaching scandal? Why has he not revealed which of those he interviewed are firmly in the anti-science camp?

    I work in a biology lab, a new field for me as a computer science academic. I can assure your readers that the kind of quibbles raised about accessibility of climate data are trivial compared with those of other scientific fields. Not only is most of the data CRU used available, but there are other data sets such as that of NASA that are fully available, and were long before the emails were stolen. In any field of science, the test of published work is not reproducing the exact experiment to produce the exact same results, but reconstructing it from first principles. The work CRU has done in measuring temperature trends is consistent with that of other research groups, and other researchers have recreated the disputed results only using publicly available data.

    All in all the only scandal in this whole affair is the horrible lapse in the Guardian’s usually high journalistic standards.

  40. 190
    Bente Lilja Bye says:

    Martin Vermeer #188. Thank you! :-)

    I thought it all had been covered earlier (than the latest review of CRU), the critics of the hockey stick, I mean.

    I am however being extra thorough in answering this comment I got on my article:

    ” “did not mention the trick for 10 years while it was on magazine covers”

    This is wrong Hank, the information about the ‘trick’ and everything else was in the publications from the scientists.

    There was not a single mention of this by any climate scientist in any popular media despite the fact that everyone knew it? In 2005,, written by climate scientists, discusses in “What If … the “Hockey Stick” Were Wrong?” that there is still a hockey stick if the medieval warming period were not included – no mention at all that the data since the 1960s and the data before then to make the hockey stick were pieced together and would not look like a hockey stick otherwise. So James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt, etc. chose not to even address it time and again on their blog. Mann himself in 2006 said “more widespread high-resolution data are needed before more confident conclusions can be reached and that the uncertainties were the point of the article” after his 1998 claims were disputed by multiple sources because of [edit]. Yet he appeared in panel after panel as The Man Behind The Hockey Stick. :)”


    To my understanding the point here is addressed in the publication itself (the WMO report even to a certain degree and in the TAR), the very focus of the scientific article being the uncertainties of the periods not included in the graph.

    If the above comment (in quotes and with link) makes sense to you – or perhaps Gavin who is referred to in it – it would perhaps be worth awhile to reply directly to that comment on the article?

    As I have been involved in the Group of Earth Observations ( I am mainly concerned with data policy issues. I think the discussion around Climategate is lacking in knowledge on data sharing policies and for the most part it is highly unfair to CRU et al.

    [Response: Temperatures for the last ~100 years come from intrumental records – there is no ‘trick’ in showing that. The problem post 1960 in *one* reconstruction (Briffa et al) is only an issue for that reconstruction. This does not affect the MBH reconstructions which go up to 1980 (and only stop there because of the lack of proxies that extended to the 1990s), and certainly doesn’t impact any of the more up-to-date reconstructions (Mann et al, 2008 for instance). – gavin]

  41. 191

    In other words, what Gavin is saying in his response to #190 is that there are in fact two separate issues: 1) the Briffa proxy reconstruction, affected by “divergence,” which is what gave rise to the “trick” of hiding the decline, and 2) the 1998 “hockey stick” graph.

    They are both graphs, and they are both linked by connections to Dr. Mann (albeit rather tangentially in the case of the WMO graph prepared by Dr. Jones) but they refer to largely different data sets, and are subject to different attacks from–well, I’ll just say, “the usual suspects.”

    Nonetheless, it is not too unusual to see them confused in the denialosphere. In fact, it’s not too unusual to see the graphs confused with the entire HADCRUT record. (That confusion, IMO, is a case of pure denialist wishful thinking.)

  42. 192
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Bente Lilja, I get the feeling that we’re talking past each other…

    The WMO 1999 graph was on the WMO report of 1999, something like an annual report with a shelf life of one year. Paleoclimatology is not its main subject of interest, and Jones’ contribution was a summary of the state of our knowledge, and as such completely correct. Not a peer-reviewed scientific article, and thus no detailed methods description given. Surely you have been asked sometimes to write overview pieces on a subject of your recognized expertise? You adapt to your audience.

    To my knowledge this is the only published graph where proxy and instrumental are shown together as one curve without mention of how this was done. And the only reason for all the noise about it is the denialist fiction that all proxy reconstructions are invalid because of the divergence phenomenon. Rubbish.

    I am disappointed that also Muir Russell got this wrong: an elementary didn’t-do-my-homework blunder. Luckily most denialists are stupid: they rather buy the flawed argument to attack CRU than use its flawedness to try undermine Muir Russell’s credibility. I wonder when they’ll wake up to this tactical error :-)

  43. 193

    On re-reading Muir Russell, I’m not sure that they did get it wrong: on p. 59, we find the statements that:

    The WMO report is a short document produced annually. It does not have the status or importance of the IPCC reports. The figure in question was a frontispiece and there is no major discussion or emphasis on it in the text.

    That seems clear enough, and is pretty close to what Martin wrote.

    In the next paragraph they speak of the figure’s “subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the TAR)”. Of course, that seems a bit harsh in a way; Dr. Jones could scarcely have known that the figure would become “iconic” sometime “subsequently”–but I guess we’re always supposed to watch our words, as the whole Climategate fiasco demonstrates from start to finish.

    The report is an example of this latter, too, carefully as they tried to write it–I’ve seen denialist spin which tries to assert that the descripion of the figure as “misleading,” taken from the findings, means that it was intentionally misleading–using as ammunition the phrase “intent to mislead,” which is included as a description of the allegations made.

  44. 194
    Martin Vermeer says:

    The report is an example of this latter, too, carefully as they tried to write it

    So true Kevin, so true. Steve Easterbrook gives a hilarious example of how Muir Russell write societally important software in only two days, without applying any proper software development or quality control methodology — precisely what they “accuse” the three-and-a-half CRU staff of!

    It’s rubbish I tell you, the whole Muir Russell report, rubbish! ;-)

  45. 195
    CM says:

    Kevin #193
    > using as ammunition the phrase “intent to mislead”

    Brings to mind the acrobatics of those who interpreted the phrase “plausible” in the NAS Surface Temperature Reconstructions report as alluding to “plausible deniability”.

    Scientists watching their words is all well and good, but that’s not the point. The point is that they’re dealing with people who interpret them in such perverse bad faith, anything they say no matter how precise can and will be used against them.

    Steve Easterbrook (link at #194) has it exactly right: “another tiresome exoneration” that fails to turn the searchlight around on the libelers.

  46. 196
    Geoff Wexler says:

    To UK readers … tomorrow.

    There is debate on this topic tomorrow (July 14th.)in London being run by the Guardian at RIBA. Bob Watson and the pro vice-chancellor of UEA against some of the prominent characters involved in publicising themselves in relation to this affair. I shall not be going, but others might be interested if it is not too late to get a ticket. Bob Watson might benefit from some knowledgable support from the floor.

    If anyone does go, I hope that they might send in a comment to RC e.g. to this thread.

  47. 197

    Thanks for that link, Martin–but careful, or the irony-impaired will be quote-mining you, too!

  48. 198
    Seb says:

    to Jim:

    I conceede on re-reading it he could mean “without scientists”, but I had read “them” in his sentence as “the deniers”, i.e. “don’t debate them as the lie tends to be re-inforced”. I’ve read plenty of psychology (particularly as it relates to politking and advertising) that supports the idea that in order to get the policy change, debating (in the context of how the media likes to conduct it with false equivalence to obtian a semblence of balance) may actually do more damage than good. I wouldn’t like to say that is “proven” for this case as I would guess you would vary on the break down of peoples attitudes from culture to culture and electorate to electorate. Anyway, that seems a little off topic for a blog that is primarily about the science rather than the best way to influence people. I do want to say I appreciate this blog for what it is and I certainly do not agree that such efforts are a waste of time.

    In an ideal world scientists ought to be able to give advice, and politicians should do the job of selling it, personally I think the big problem exposed in the issue of AGW is the abject failure in many democratic governments of politicians to provide leadership based on consulting experts to get a good idea of the facts in a rational way, and instead leave the job of convincing the public (i.e. conducting a political/media campaign) to the scientists to provide them with the cover to enact policies that are popular and win votes *before* they are proposed. Your sentiment that “Scientists are supposed to do research and poltical campaigning?” is bang on the money.

  49. 199
    Seb says:

    john Marshey:

    Simple solution: Sue them in England.

  50. 200
    Seb says:


    Actually, speaking as a UK citizen, our libel laws are awful. Far more often there are David V. Goliath problems, and often the little guy being crushed can be the scientist. See for example Simon Singh vs. the British Chiroprachters association… there have been several cases of medical researchers being persued by drugs companies because their research casts doubt on the efficacy of their drugs.

    This would be less of a problem were it not for one particular judge who seems to have a very liberal view over what counts as “published in the UK”… in one instance a website written in Khazak that had been shown to be viewed by less than 100 people in the UK counting.

    Still, it would be the perfect venue for suing climate deniers. The only problem is the huge cost. Libel and defamation claims cost a fortune to bring, and even if you won costs from the libeler, many US states are in the process of protecting US citizens from UK libel courts due to the rampant abuse.