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Two-year old turkey

Filed under: — gavin @ 22 November 2011

The blogosphere is abuzz with the appearance of a second tranche of the emails stolen from CRU just before thanksgiving in 2009. Our original commentary is still available of course (CRU Hack, CRU Hack: Context, etc.), and very little appears to be new in this batch. Indeed, even the out-of-context quotes aren’t that exciting, and are even less so in-context.

A couple of differences in this go around are worth noting: the hacker was much more careful to cover their tracks in the zip file they produced – all the file dates are artificially set to Jan 1 2011 for instance, and they didn’t bother to hack into the RealClimate server this time either. Hopefully they have left some trails that the police can trace a little more successfully than they’ve been able to thus far from the previous release.

But the timing of this release is strange. Presumably it is related to the upcoming Durban talks, but it really doesn’t look like there is anything worth derailing there at all. Indeed, this might even increase interest! A second release would have been far more effective a few weeks after the first – before the inquiries and while people still had genuine questions. Now, it just seems a little forced, and perhaps a symptom of the hacker’s frustration that nothing much has come of it all and that the media and conversation has moved on.

If anyone has any questions about anything they see that seems interesting, let us know in the comments and we’ll see if we can provide some context. We anticipate normal service will be resumed shortly.

666 Responses to “Two-year old turkey”

  1. 401

    Jon, the fact that climate science is complex is no excuse. Because there are lots of statements about climate science which are not complex.

    When someone make a statement like ‘Global warming, I mean climate change, was invented by Al Gore!’ it doesn’t take a Nobel Prize physicist to figure out that this statement is pure unadulterated nonsense. When someone makes transparently bogus statements like these, and persist on making such statements even after being corrected, then it’s clearly his own fault that he’s being misinformed.

    And if you keep using the ‘um, I’m not a scientist, this stuff’s hard to figure out’ excuse, then it starts to look like, you know, an excuse.

    — frank

  2. 402
    Ray Ladbury says:

    climatebeagle, Might I suggest that you read some of the writing of Niels Bohr for an idea of what happens when one struggles for too much precision in language.

    Bohr was famous for agonizing over every single word in his writing, sometimes through many drafts and weeks of analysis. What emerged was invariably incomprehensible without reading it several times. If you did read it multiple times, you would find it brilliant and arrive at a deeper understanding. Most people, including most scientists, do not put that kind of effort into reading a paper.

    Keep in mind that even if you are writing for experts, you are far more expert on what you have done than they are. Those who are expert enough will interpret a slightly ambiguous but accurate statement correctly. Those with less expertise will not get lost plowing through endless special cases, qualifiers and jargon.

    If you want mathematical precision, use an equation. Of course you lese ~10% of your audience for each equation, as well.

  3. 403
    CM says:

    Chris (#341),

    I thought you asked a couple of good questions awhile back, and got some very good answers back from Gavin. I was a bit disappointed when you replied you didn’t know if you were any the wiser, but OK, Gavin’s answers tend to be information-dense. There’s a lot of background here that it takes time to pick up, and some that laymen like me would have to go back to school for.

    But now you’re being disappointing on your own level, so to speak. Yes, of course it’s hard for you as a layman not to have a negative response to some of the emails. You have been spoon-fed stolen emails from a decade’s worth of correspondence, selectively released, excerpted to highlight anything that sounds even remotely suspicious or nasty, and then framed and spun to fit into conspiracy-theory narratives—well, how could you not get a negative impression? But more importantly: How can you not have the basic street smarts to see that you’re being played?

    Look, the people who wrote these emails are the kind of people who will bother to research and write a publishable scientific paper to rebut a paper they think is wrong. The kind of people who are anonymously publishing these emails, and the kind of people who are gleefully parroting them on WUWT are, well, the kind of people who will steal other people’s mail and smear their reputations because they don’t like their science, but wouldn’t know how to write a scientific rebuttal to save their lives. Why are you finding it so hard to see who you should trust?

    Heck, from the emails, it looks like the most nefarious collusion these scientists can manage is to talk with an editor who suggests he can delay print publication of a “skeptic” paper so both papers can appear in print at the same time. Would that be your idea of manipulation? Letting readers read a paper and its rebuttal side by side so they can compare them and make up their own opinion? How sneaky!—How about releasing new selected batches of stolen personal mail a few weeks before major climate treaty negotiations, does that strike you as a bit manipulative by comparison? A bit like a carefully managed political campaign? A bit different from what you’d expect from a “whistleblower” concerned to expose corruption of the scientific process?

    I’d have to disagree with you, the emails do not show an “inner circle” of scientists with “undue influence” over “the IPCC, politicians, scientific journals, etc.” Think about it. Science, like any other professional endeavor, is full of little circles of people talking with each other. The emails show a somewhat artificial circle of (a) scientists who got their mail stolen, and (b) correspondents of theirs that the hackers have chosen to highlight. This group includes some very eminent names in paleoclimate, and some authors for the IPCC; maybe that makes it an “inner” circle, I don’t know.

    The emails do not show that this circle has undue influence, even in the IPCC (which has lots of other authors, probably forming a few circles of their own). They don’t show that they were wrong to think certain studies did not belong on the scientific record. They don’t show them doing anything wrong to keep such studies out. They don’t even show them being particularly successful at it—“skeptic” papers got published and got discussed in the IPCC report against the very definite opinions of some of these scientists.

    And now I’m talking about arenas like IPCC reports and scientific journals, where the people involved actually have a bit of clout. If you imagine them having some kind of back-channel influence over politicians or journalists, I have to tell you you’re not thinking clearly. Pity. I thought you sounded clear-headed and open-minded enough when you entered this discussion. I hope I was right and that I haven’t spent my evening writing this for nothing.

  4. 404
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Clean Air Act … near the point of diminishing returns.

    Nonsense. You’re making your claims up.

    The Clean Air Act and Health — A Clearer View from 2011
    Jonathan M. Samet, M.D.
    N Engl J Med 2011; 365:198-201, July 21, 2011

  5. 405

    David Wright

    I found the Field.pdf

    If you wish to have a direct conversation on this matter. Contact me at +1-202-470-3299 I’d bet we could figure out a few things.

  6. 406
    dhogaza says:


    This is not Anthony Watts dumping on Mann’s work. Rather, it is a well-regarded climate scientist. Personally, I think that if the climate science community made more public statements along these lines, albeit phrased more diplomatically, the credibility of the community and the acceptance of those views where there truly is a consensus would increase, not decrease.

    Except your missing that bradley said this in 2004, and later in 2008 was co-author of a paper on the subject with … who? Why, Mann.

    The 2008 paper, of course, is where their consensus in their views lies … unless the only fact that interests you is the fact that they at times disagree, their published co-operative work is what’s important. Science moving forward. Denialists looking back for any sign of any mistake or disagreement in the past, in order to ignore or lie about where science is at present and the trajectory of science moving forward.

  7. 407

    re: David Wright @396

    It’s ridiculous to talk about “surviving”. That’s the threshold for action? Extinction?

  8. 408
    David Wright says:

    [Response: The moderators will indeed “chime in” to tell you that some of them don’t have time or patience for this increasingly off topic, tit for tat, game playing. It’s not a chat room. You’re welcome to make cogent, argued, on-topic points if you so choose.–Jim]
    My initial post was to argue an assertion, contained in this thread (by Gavin?), equating the value of climate models to aerodynamic models.

    From there it’s been an evolution of my responses to numerous arguments directed toward me by many of your (I presume) regular visitors. If their responses/questions are not OT, I don’t see how my response to them should be cut off.

    [Response: You might well be right. But I’m stepping in here based on what I’ve seen and the time I have to give it.–Jim]

    Nonetheless, the cost/benefit is certainly a diversion from the “two year old turkey” discussion (apparently a welcome diversion according to some of the posters).

    The climate emails are of only passing interest to me, being just more of the same IMHO.

    Thanks for your time. I enjoyed the dialogue. Sorry if you feel it was a waste of your time.

  9. 409
    David Miller says:

    DW opines: Not sure where you got those odds. Humans have survived several ice ages, and now have the capability to insulate themsleves against harsh conditions, thanks a great deal to cheap energy.

    As has been pointed out, nothing like our current civilization has survived a climate more than a degree or two away from where it is now.

    And something I’ll point out here is that you’re moving the goalposts. Again. See how you’ve changed from “… if the trend continues….” cornucopianism to “…species survived ….”

    Will the species survive 6C of warming? Almost assuredly, unless H2S releases from an ocean that stopped overturning wipes us out. But population will take a huge nosedive as most of our current living space, and most of our current agriculturally productive areas, become unlivable for reasons of temperature or drought.

    as for the probabilities, you should try reading the last IPCC report. The full text is long, but the SPC is bearable.

    What you view as gambling, I view as an investment in an infrastructure which has paid great dividends in terms of human sustainablility and quality of life. Most folks are not willing to give up those dividends.

    I see.

    So, David, how sustainable do you see indefinite growth being in a finite world?

    They will be willing to save money on energy, and as the technology progresses, will probably end up using less fossil fuel per person in the long run.

    So your fear may be alleviated, just not as quickly as you may wish.

    There is no question that per-capita use of fossil fuels will decline. We have a growing capita and a declining rate of fossil fuel production. That does little to alleviate fears of rational people who see the effects of burning all the fossil carbon we have. You see, the climate doesn’t care a wit what the per-capita use is, nor whether the carbon came from tar sands or natural gas. GDP doesn’t matter, nor does the carbon intensity of the economy. The only things that matter are CO2e PPM and climate sensitivity.

  10. 410
    CM says:

    Salamano #363,

    Jog my memory… How did the Council of Carthage quantify the confidence level on the attribution of the Epistle to the Hebrews, again? :-)

  11. 411
    Jim says:

    Please move the discussion back on topic. Request applies to everyone without exception. Thank you.

  12. 412
    David Wright says:

    Roger that! Over and out!
    Thanks again.

  13. 413
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Science is a game played by scientists. As such, they tend to keep their opinions within the community. What astounds me is that in the same breath, you guys can look at criticism between scientists and claim there is no consensus, while at the same time invoking conspiracy to explain away the utter inability of denialists to produce a shred of evidence supporting their position. Doublethink at its finest.

    [Response: My bold. Well said Ray. Truly astounding, isn’t it!?–eric]

  14. 414
    Salamano says:

    @ 367

    Ray, you said: “This not only decreased the amount of dissent, it had a salutory effect on cooperation.

    If you think the IPCC has anything like the power of a Roman emperor, you are sadly deluded. The IPCC does not define consensus. Instead, it tries to reflect the consensus to be found in the technical literature.”

    It would appear then that your main distinction you draw is that the test is how much power the IPCC has over dissidents…

    @ 373

    … John, you said: “It’s a red herring argument. debates about belief are not the same as discussions about evidence.”

    Logically it is not a red herring because I’m establishing the terms. I’m not responding to anyone else’s comments.

    But regardless, what do you suppose the difference is between the two as it relates to the functions of a council attempting to reflect the present understandings of key questions of their eras? No evidence gets to be presented in arguments over belief? If it’s discussions over evidence in a scientific context, it justifies omission of dissent?

    Even in 8-1 Supreme Court rulings, a published dissent is permitted (which, you may elect to term a red herring ;-) )

  15. 415

    #408 David Wright

    Hmm… another Dunning/Kruger claim victory and duck out of the room moment.

    Who could have ever predicted that one…

  16. 416
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Chris @ 341 vs the real story here: Chris starts with

    Further to my comment at #187 and your responses, I have kept looking at sites on both sides of the current “Climategate 2” email issue.

    I made the point that is hard, for a layman, not to have a negative response to some of the excerpts – even though we have accepted that these are taken out of context and we do not know the full background to many of the “highlights”.

    Of course it’s hard, because it is designed to be hard. People are being misled by professional misleaders. Chris continues with an almost Illuminati scale fantasy:

    Looking, for instance, at the specific accusation that there appears to be an “inner circle” that have undue influence over the IPCC, politicians, scientific journals, etc,…

    Wow Chris, the denial professionals hope to create enough general confusion and doubt to stop public pressure for alternative energy, but can anyone spell it out as you did and not realize it is crazy? At best yours is an an odd inference to draw from a bunch of examples of scientists criticizing each other. Yet you say next:

    …then based on a number of the emails, there looks to me, at least, like there is a case to answer.

    Chris, you need a break. Take a long walk out in nature if you can find some near where you live, preferably with someone who won’t want to talk much about this subject.

    Chris goes on to worry about the ethics of hard working well meaning people and concludes:

    I think that this is the problem and is not aided by the comments here on RC. If you read most of the comments from RC contributors (i.e. from those contributors that are natural supporters of RC), I don’t think I have seen one where the conduct of a particular individual is questioned or that the content of any of the emails makes one feel a little uncomfortable.

    Chris, assuming you haven’t gone on break yet, let me present a reason for what you see as “the problem.” The real story here is ….

    Science! First, there is natural competition among scientists. Competition for limited funding of course, but another special sort of competition: intellectual competition. Scientists are engaged in finding out how nature works, and each one hopes to gain important new knowledge for humanity before the other scientist at the next lab finds it out. This is importantly not the zero sum type of competition one is conditioned to envision. It is the opposite: highly constructive competition. The effect of this competition is that scientists worldwide are cooperating to construct reliable knowledge, as Spencer Weart put it somewhere in his book on the history of climatology.

    Second, like most branches of science climate science is continually advancing. Climate science does not have its own theory. The theoretical part (in the scientific sense of the word) is standard chemistry and physics. Climate science is the working out of the implications of physics and chemistry on a planetary scale, and this turns out to be a highly interesting and non-trivial exercise. One of the important ways science advances is by finding new ways to extract data from nature. Two examples that are very helpful in climatology for data of both the present and the past are very precise mass spectrometers and very exacting examination of living and preserved tree rings. Paleoclimatology in turn provides a very valuable context for understanding current climate and its changes. What are called “multiproxy reconstructions” of the history of our planet’s surface temperature are especially helpful. Starting with Mann, Bradley and Hughes 1998 (MBH98) (soon followed by MBH99, and many more as the years passed) the scientific value of multiproxy methods quickly became clear. Nevertheless it was a new method still being developed and improved, and naturally there were some arguments and disagreements as this happened. But Chris, if you can get past a handful of carefully selected snippets extracted from years of discussion what we have here is an account of how science works as new methods are tried and evaluated over nearly fifteen years. Thanks to Real Climate we are privileged to an extraordinary inside account of this part of scientific history, and it wonderfully bears out Spencer Weart’s description of the global scientific process.

    As data added up and climate worsened, fossil fuel interests had an ever greater problem. Their problem became acute in 1998 with the combination of the very strong El Niño and the publication of the first major multiproxy reconstruction paper and its disturbing graph. Soon and fatefully that type of graph was given a catchy name: the hockey stick. A name like that is much easier to attack than “figure n in a certain scientific publication.” To a professional climatologist it is just one figure in one paper, but by showing past and contemporary temperatures in a single graph it makes deniers look foolish at a stroke. This single graph says “Yes it is happening, and No it isn’t a natural variation, or at least there isn’t any natural variation that looks like this or warms the surface at this fast pace.” Deniers could see that they had a big problem and no legitimate solution. Mike Mann would never be forgiven.

    Today with our knowledge of increasing ocean heat content and decreasing total global ice we can easily dismiss many denier arguments on conservation of energy grounds. Fluctuations in ocean surface temperatures (like the AMO) may influence the global average surface temperature, but these fluctuations can not manufacture energy. As it gets harder and harder for deniers to fool people by sounding sciency, they rely more and more on personal attacks on individual scientists and generalized slurs on scientists overall. But Chris, as a member of the comparatively enlightened “inner circle” of learners here, you shouldn’t fall for this ploy. You have talked yourself into concern that the IPCC summary for humans might overstate the danger, yet if you think about it calmly you know that if anything the opposite has occurred.

  17. 417
    David Wright says:

    I am trying to comply with the request of the proprietor. I do not expect to change anyone’s belief, and I have not claimed any victory. Nor should you.

  18. 418
    Clippo (UK) says:

    As usual, I get into RC debates after the key moment but I hope you’ll allow me this comment please Moderator:-

    In #102, Jeff Short says :-

    [ …… and one might strongly argue that the evolutionary traits of much of the Australian Fauna and Flora would suggest climate variability similar to that of the last 200 years has existed for several hundred thousand]

    I have lost sleep over trying to understand the implications of this – climate the same over the last 200 years as over the last several hundred thousand?

    I know Oz is ‘different’ (smile) but …….

    …… please someone tell me what PaleoClimate resources Mr Short uses?

  19. 419
    dhogaza says:


    Even in 8-1 Supreme Court rulings, a published dissent is permitted (which, you may elect to term a red herring ;-) )

    But deliberations are not made public. “published dissent” is equivalent to published research followed by critical comments (and indeed takes a very similar form – paper followed by critical comments which attempt to shoot down the results vs. majority opinion followed by dissenting opinions which attempt to shoot down the majority one).

    Stealing private e-mail discussions and publicizing them is akin to bugging the supreme court during their private deliberations and releasing the recording …

  20. 420

    #417 David Wright

    Then call me so we can discuss it and comply with the moderators request.

  21. 421
    Salamano says:


    Dhogaza… Your point on Supreme Court private deliberations not being made public are well taken (though these days they are getting cameras in the court-room and therefore about as much ‘fodder’ as detractors need)

    I still don’t agree that publishing a separate paper though a separate channel is akin to having an equal plane response to the IPCC pronouncement (similar to how dissenting views are appended/packaged with the ruling opinion).

    However, you may be thinking the reason why there was no ‘dissenting opinion’ on the IPCC report is because by it’s nature it was not allowed to have any dissent, and that every nation must sign off on every sentence.

    Despite the acceptability of this statement on its face, (a) we should all realize how impossible it is to get ‘no dissent(for real)’ among a bazillion contributors and countries, and (b) it doesn’t seem to me that the selection process for authors, contributors, and evidence is all-encompassing (though it may have been most-so in its earliest form)…I believe there’s a new book out there that talks about that.

    (part ‘b’ is a red-herring…feel free to ignore it)

  22. 422
    oneiota says:

    And following on from #419:

    AS well as using email presumably scientists also use the telephone to communicate with one another…so would it be OK to secretly bug (tape) those conversations and then cherry pick those conversations and publish them?

    I don’t think that that is legal or moral either.

  23. 423
    dhogaza says:


    Dhogaza… Your point on Supreme Court private deliberations not being made public are well taken (though these days they are getting cameras in the court-room and therefore about as much ‘fodder’ as detractors need)

    The court room’s not private, and the justices are well aware that their words are being recorded. No, Supreme Court sessions aren’t televised, but they are open to reporters and are reported on. They’re not private sessions, and the words you see aren’t due to someone feloniously recording the sessions.

    To be really, really, specific and to the point here, not only are their private deliberations not publicized, nor are their *private e-mails*, i.e. questions they may shoot off to their clerks, colleagues, etc.

    [Response: It might be worth pointing out that Congress exempted itself from all FOIA legislation. – gavin]

  24. 424
    dhogaza says:


    (part ‘b’ is a red-herring…feel free to ignore it)

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone making a red-herring argument admit it in advance of being called on it.

    That’s good of you.

    I believe there’s a new book out there that talks about that.

    Yes, by a fruitcake.

  25. 425
    Susan Anderson says:

    Perhaps we’re taking it for granted that the background work on denial tactics and history is readily available to our persistent queriers.

    Just in case they haven’t taken it in, there are a variety of good books providing plenty of research on the subject, reaching back to the era of big tobacco etc. My personal favorite is Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science. Naomi Oreskes covered some of the ground in Merchants of Doubt. Stephen Schneider’s Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save the Earth’s Climate covers the work of the IPCC really well. The “team” here has published a wide variety of books, and every credible world organization involved with climate has weighed in, including the military and insurance companies. Most of them, as well as organizations like the BBC and New York Times have short summaries on their websites, and those more involved such as NASA have made real efforts to provide accessible communications. ClimateCentral and a variety of other organizations also covering breaking climate news, which is not directly related but readily available.

    The weight of the evidence is extremely powerful, so anyone claiming it’s not convincing is working really hard to avoid real sources. The people doing the science know the most about it, having given their lives (and are usually underpaid for their work despite claims to the contrary). It is hard but rewarding work.

    The PR campaign is quite a different kettle of fish, unreliable and prejudiced, and carefully calculated to mislead.

    I am among the less informed posters/readers here, but to me the evidence is obvious. I sometimes have to take people’s word for the calculus, but it seems quite clear.

    A layperson can certainly compare statements in the original with misquotations readily available in every denialosphere posting and website. The slant is quite obvious once you take a look. Once you see ordinarily people being attacked on the basis of misquotations, I would think you might step back and ask yourself who’s being economical with the truth.

    I try to avoid these, but recaptcha!
    sewage muchoz

  26. 426
    Rob Bradley says:

    To David Wright et al. on the public policy side of climate alarmism

    A recently concluded debate that I was a part of at THE ECONOMIST ( focused on energy density as the key to understand the problem of wind/solar and the growing backlash against (high-footprint) renewables. That the opposition won this debate–against the motion supporting renewables and premised against fossil fuels–says that the tide is turning…. That folks are not buying climate alarmism on the merits and that government failure must be balanced against market failure.

    [Response: Why are you people at the Economist using such inflammatory terms as ‘alarmist’, which bely your biases? My apologies to the Economist if you are merely namedropping and don’t actually have any real affiliation with them.–eric]

  27. 427
    Holly Stick says:

    The emails were stolen from one institution’s web server; how many people at that institution would have sent or received emails on that server? It seems to me the claim that a small cabal controls climate science is based on this one batch of emails which was probably mostly sent by a limited number of people to a limited number of people.

    How many other climate scientists are not part of the email cabal? How many IPCC lead authors are not part of the email cabal? (I won’t ask how many were only grad students: no ageism here.)

    [Response: And how many of the scientists who do show up here and there in the emails have been accused of being ‘part of it’ even though there is nothing in any of the emails associated with them that even the most ardent cynic could possibly think is problematic, context or no (last time round, I was accused of being ‘hip deep’ in the CRU emails, when all that was there was an email or two regarding travel planning for a meeting). –eric]

  28. 428
    John West says:

    Susan Anderson says:
    “I am among the less informed posters/readers here, but to me the evidence is obvious.”

    1) Obvious is not always a good thing, it could be zohnerism:
    It’s obvious to the mouse that the cheese is just layinglying there!

    2) What exactly is obvious? That the world is warmer now than it used to be.(agree) Humanity is impacting climate.(agree) That enacting carbon trading schemes or carbon taxes is the best way to proceed.(disagree)

    [Response: Sorry to correct your grammar but this is one of my pet peeves. It’s lying, not laying, no matter what NPR reporters say. No offense intended regarding the substance of your comment. –eric]

  29. 429
    CM says:

    Eric, couple of years back The Economist started a kind of online debate society. Subscribers can join in. Sounds like fun. But debaters’ choice of words doesn’t reflect on the newspaper, which, the last time I looked (it’s been a couple of years) was fairly sane about the science and actually had some brilliant blogging on the first CRUhack round.

  30. 430
    Chris R says:

    Rob Bradley #426,

    Firstly, I am not going to engage in further comment on the substance of this post. I have no interest in derailing the thread. If you were to actually read* the science (I do, it’s my hobby) you’d find ample cause for concern. By ‘read the science’ I mean follow your own undirected study as things interest you rather than read what others (with their biasses) tell you to read.

    For example one of the two papers I’ve read this morning gives reason for concern (the other was technical about sea-ice processes). The paper that made me sit up was Flanner et al, 2011, “Radiative forcing and albedo feedback from the Northern Hemisphere cryosphere between 1979 and 2008.”

    They use observations to make an estimate of the change in radiative forcing due to changes in the Northern Hemisphere cryosphere. Their calculated figure is substantially larger than estimates based on 18 climate models. They observe that:

    This discrepancy with our estimate indicates that either other surface processes are driving negative albedo feedback in models that offset strong cryosphere feedback, or the cryosphere is responding more sensitively to, and driving stronger climate warming than models indicate.

    What we are doing is an experiment. If you do not find the evidence persuasive at this stage we merely need to continue to see if observations of catastrophe become available.

  31. 431
    Joe Cushley says:

    @ 426 Eric asked: “Why are you people at the Economist using such inflammatory terms as ‘alarmist’, which bely your biases? My apologies to the Economist if you are merely namedropping and don’t actually have any real affiliation with them.”

    A quick look at the link indeed tells us that Rob Bradley is a crusading free market evangelist with all the correct affiliations (Cato Inst. etc). He was just on one side of a debate at The Economist against renewables which his side narrowly won. The Economist itself has been hearteningly steadfast – for a right-of-centre publication – in its support of the AGW view of things.

  32. 432
    ccpo says:


    You posited Gavin needs to convince you. incorrect. As a denizen of the planet, the responsibility lies with you,not Gavin. Gavin, et al., have provided ample scientific knowledge for you to determine a workable risk assessment. I am not sure why, but many seem reticent to point out to denialists a very simple fact: there are literally zero research papers that put any significant area of climate research in doubt. The research of the handful of denialists/lukewarmers/legit skeptics has repeatedly been shown to be in error in some way. Sometimes it’s more the poor science, other times it’s more faulty reasoning. But given the many thousands of papers on climate science, does it not seem reasonable a realistic challenge would have been found if there were one? But there are none. This is what the science tells us.

    If you can look at a batting average of 1.000 vs a batting average of 0.000 and come to the conclusion you have serious reason for doubt, the problem lies with you. That’s some really out of whack risk assessment.

    You are abdicating your responsibility to be an informed citizen and compounding it by accepting arguments against the risk that have no merit. The reasons for doing this are never based in good judgment or logic, so i leave you to figure out why you do this.

    To be fair, I think people on both sides of the argument on climate make a fatal mistake in not understanding risk assessment, or not applying it to the situation. While scientists understand error bars very well, thus constrain risk on a regular basis, their job is not to set policy, as has been stated by contributors here at RC many times. There is a huge difference in the functions of error and risk, and you are making the mistake of not engaging in appropriate risk assessment while scientists routinely avoid that discussion altogether to remain objective in their work; most would prefer to not be involved in policy-making. This is changing, but it is the norm and is a legit stance. Even I have stopped hounding them on this.

    But we do not need their help to do a risk assessment. It is very simple.

    Worst Case: existential threat to society, if not humanity, and definitely for many other species as the rate of extinctions is already faster than at any time in the history of the planet. (Depends whom you ask, but it’s a distinction without a practical difference.)

    Best Case: Sensitivity is very low and we hold at 2C pretty much regardless of what we do.

    Couple these with choices: Act or don’t act. We’ll assume acting keeps us at 2C, or even returns us to pre-industrial GHG levels over time and that not acting allows the worst for either choice. We end up with:

    Climate Change is existential threat/Do something: Result is 2c or lower; society remains intact; quality of life is good (evens out a bit with some now “poorer” and others now “richer” but there are still considerable “class” differences).

    Climate Change is existential threat/Do nothing: Result is eventual major disruptions to social fabric, economics, ecology, Sixth Great Extinction – likely including humans.

    Climate Change is *not* an existential threat/Do something: Result is a world based on sustainable systems, which not only deals with climate, but overshoot (note overshoot isn’t even addressed in this risk assessment in order to keep things simple).

    Climate Change is *not* an existential threat/Do nothing: Result is BAU. Whether you consider this neutral or positive would depend on your understanding of the global society. (Considering we are considered to be in overshoot by many, this would actually qualify as a negative outcome for me, but we’ll count it as neutral.)

    Summary: Do nothing risks existential threat or continued overshoot. Do something means avoiding existential threat and possibly moving to sustainable societal choices.

    As you can see, this simple thought experiment is all we need to do to make this choice. The devil is in the details, but that would require getting into other areas of discussion. The actions taken can be worked out and decided so long as there is agreement to act. There is no viable logic for not acting.

    There is no science to support you, there is no risk assessment logic to support you.

    Welcome to reality.

    That is not to say the science is not worth pursuing, it is. In fact, discontinuing the science might prove fatal, but, it is not necessary to add to our knowledge base to make the decision to act. The balance of the science is indisputable. That is not a point I am willing to argue with you any more than I would argue the non-existence of Santa Claus – neither climate denial nor Santa have any basis in fact.

    The question lies in what to do. Your argument, already stated, is that we just don’t know enough. I have already shown that to be logically fallacious. However, it is arguable as to how much to do and how quickly. but not really. The worst case parameter of the existential threat make it a moot point: the worst case is so bad it is stupid not to take every possible precaution. What many people fail to consider is that it is not the eventual outcome that will get us, it will be the non-linear and chaotic responses along the way that will leave us in a shambles long before we get to, say, 6 – 10C warmer. The Texas drought shows us why. given the entire Southern tier of the US is projected to possibly become desert, what we’ve seen in Texas is a baby in comparison. It’s only been a year! Restoring the top soil organic content, the moisture, will take time. If those people were not tied into a global grid of food production, we’d have starvation in Texas now. Think about that. then think about it happening all across the US from So Cal to Georgia. That alone is a massive disruption to food production. imagine the ripple effects. Look at the Russian heat wave, the severe flooding in various areas of the planet. And we are *just getting started.*

    Each of these spikes, or “anomalous” events creates greater weakness in the system, creates greater insecurity and greater fragility. As the events pile up and, as systems theory tells us, begin to cascade, what happens? We are currently experiencing a ratio of 2:1 or more of new high heat records to cool temp records. And we’re just getting started.

    So, consider your position carefully. It is untenable – and that’s the positive spin on it.

  33. 433
    DrTskoul says:

    Great analysis ccpo

  34. 434
    Joel Shore says:

    Re #426: Robert Bradley, Congratulations on winning a popularity contest after presenting the views of the fossil-fuel-industry-funded Institute for Energy Research that you represent ( and /wiki/Institute_for_Energy_Research ). I find it interesting that you are so concerned that the government unbalances the playing field when it subsidizes renewables but you seem to have no concern about subsidies for oil exploration, for example.

    However, I think you might be concluding a little too much from your “win”.

  35. 435
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Salamano, You conveniently ignored the other portion of my post–that most climate scientists are satisfied with the job the IPCC has done as summarizing the consensus. I tend to agree that you can read the IPCC summaries and get a pretty fair summary of the current consensus in climate science. But the IPCC doesn’t define the consensus any more than a good court reporter defines a court case.

    If you really want to understand consensus in science, you have to look at the ideas, theories and techniques used in the publications and at which publications are being cited. If a paper is immediately embraced by one’s peers, it is a good indication that it really does something to further understanding. If it sits there like a dog turd on a New York sidewalk, it is a pretty good indication of its value as well.

    The success of a scientist depends on his or her ability to advance understanding of their subject. Period. Scientists may be ideological. However, if your ideology interferes with your ability to embrace new theories and techniques (e.g. Einstein and quantum theory), then your output and your influence will suffer.

    The role of CO2 in climate is not controversial in the least among scientists, because that role is essential to understanding the behavior of Earth’s climate over eons. Don’t believe me? Look at the patetic output of the scientists who reject the consensus model.

  36. 436

    #426 Rob Bradley

    That folks are not buying climate alarmism on the merits and that government failure must be balanced against market failure.

    Your inputs are rather obviously are not entered correctly.

    You are weighing market failure and government failure against climate alarmism.

    You should be weighing market and government failure with climate change impact scenarios.

    And yes, just as all economic assessments are done, you will have to use models.

    My question to you is why are you doing assessments based on opinions rather than economic data and scenario potential? Or is this only a policy advocacy organization?

  37. 437
    Paul Briscoe says:

    ThinkingScientist @ #356

    I’m not convinced that the evidence for a breach of FOI law at CRU is as strong as you suggest (although I stress that I’m no expert!).

    First of all, as Gavin pointed out above, IPCC matters are not covered by FOI law. I can confirm, having checked the ICO’s guidance for higher education and research, that UK FOI law is framed such that only information directly related to the business of the public body (UEA in this case) is covered by the law. So emails and data relating to a third party such as the IPCC are indeed exempt. I believe that the emails requested related to IPCC matters and as such were exempt.

    It does appear to be an offence to delete emails which have been the subject of an FOI request, but it’s hard to see how an offence has been committed when they were exempt from disclosure in the first place!

    There are also exemptions for “safe space” (to discuss issues and reach decisions without external comment/media involvement) and “chilling effect” (loss of frankness in discussion).

    So UEA were entitled to argue against the ICO’s claim of “prima facie” evidence that an offence had been committed. An investigation might well have found that it had not.

  38. 438
    Septic Matthew says:

    306, Jeffrey Davis: And (most importantly) why not? We deal with the life around us with the tools we have.

    I agree: why not base policy on models, at least if they have been shown to be accurate enough? But read the comment I responded to, where it was asserted that models are not used to support policy recommendations.

  39. 439
    ccpo says:

    Re #426: All that debate shows is that economists don’t know much. One wonders if that debate included such facts as

    1. Fossil fuels are subsidized at greater than a 6:1 rate over renewables?

    2. That the full costs of Fossil Fuels are not included in costs to the consumer, i.e., the health costs and other costs to society? (Hint: if the full costs of fossil fuels were included renewables would be cheaper.)

    3. Acknowledged the massive slander campaign against climate science (which is nothing short of a mentally imbalanced stance in the first place, e.g. literally denying reality; putting profits before health, safety, society and the future of us all; asking for subsidies even as record profits line your coffers)?

    4. the costs of mitigation are constantly exaggerated, are always equated to maintaining current consumption, which is not an option due to resource depletion, rather than replacing the much smaller level of consumption necessary to get back within the carrying capacity of the planet…?

    Next time, contact and include Steve Keen in your debates for a nice touch of sane discussion. And, yes, I am stating, not suggesting, all of the behaviors listed a above are maladaptive, selfish and dangerous.

  40. 440
    Clippo (UK) says:

    Re: #425 Susan Anderson,
    Your sentiments are admirable, Susan, about suggesting books for ‘persistent queriers’ here.

    However, I have debated Climate Change on a UK rightwing political forum for nearly 7 years now and I have regularly suggested to those who deliberately ignore the vast scientific consensus on the Anthropogenic cause to read those books, and others.
    They won’t – because they cannot come to terms with their ‘denial’ problems.

    Old age and experience of internet debates has made me very cynical, so I also suggest many of your persistent queriers, (a nice phrase if I might say so), may not be ‘honest’ skeptics.

  41. 441
    Susan Anderson says:

    Fascinating. I chose to use “economical with the truth” after looking up spelling of lying as I wanted to avoid being excessively honest and give the fake skeptics some wiggle room.

    I agree that pricing carbon at its true worth is problematic, but as long as dirty energy is advantaged over clean energy, there is a problem. As long as people spread false information, the general population is being led by the nose down a path to their severe detriment. Those who, naively or not, follow their leaders in this effort are complicit in this crime against humanity.

  42. 442
    john byatt says:

    Some things just really crack me up,

    cop this contortion of logic at Jo Nova blog.

    In the high powered risky game of whistleblowing there are ways to make the the leaker a less attractive target.

    Pointman analyzes the ClimateGate whistleblower’s tactics and explains why he, she or they probably released those other 200,000 emails but kept them hidden behind the 4000-8000 character almost unbreakable password. He points out there are no emails released yet between key scientists and people in power, hence the worst, most damaging emails may be kept under a ” dead man’s hand detonator”. If politicians are afraid of what might be in those released-but-hidden emails, they may not want to expose or attack the whistleblower for fear of unleashing the other emails. The hidden emails buy the whistleblower protection.



  43. 443
    Louise Doughty says:

    Peter Dunkelberg @416 – thanks for a very clear comment on how science works

  44. 444
    PKthinks says:

    It is(does appear to be(inyho)) an offence to delete emails which have been the subject of an FOI request,
    Thats the important part in this case… and its something other public funded organisations have to do every day of the week in the UK. I sispect the BBC for example may well be the recipient of some new requests related to this topic

  45. 445
    DIck Veldkamp says:

    #432 ccpo Risk assessment

    There is one thing you do not address (at least explicitly) in your risk assessment, which is the probability of the different climate scenarios. As it happens, we are nearly certain that the outcome of ‘no action’ (BAU) will be disastrous, which makes it imperative to deal with the problem.

    People take out fire insurance against 1 in 10000 odds (or something like that). So why not take insurance (spend a few percent of GDP) against a disaster that has a probability of over 50% ? It’s a no-brainer really.

    The 4-box square argument is made in much more detail by Greg Craven. See

  46. 446
    Steve Metzler says:

    I concur, along with DrTskoul, that ccpo at #432 has put forth a good analysis of what mankind finds itself up against.

    The likelihood of us putting any effective policy in place to combat the undoubted ill effects of burning all that fossil fuel is, unfortunately, zilch. Too much mazooma involved concerning the fossil fuel status quo, and you also can’t argue that it’s cheaper than renewables, at least in the short to medium term (and, of course, ignoring all the external costs, which we are wont to do).

    Hansen is almost certainly correct: we’re destined to dig it all up and burn it, tar sands and all. The tragedy of the commons is our lot… unless some absolute climate shocker comes out of nowhere to wake us all up.

  47. 447
    climatebeagle says:

    Ray Ladbury (402):

    Still can’t reconcile the contents of 4712 with your claim of being ambiguous for readability, namely:
    “The point here is to have something that we can fall back on if anyone criticizes *any* specific input series”.

    Also if you have pointers/guidelines on use of “Constructive ambiguity” in science rather than pointing to work you see as overly precise.

    [Response: For what it’s worth, I don’t see any role for deliberate ambiguity in scientific papers. It is always much better to be precise about what is meant. I also note that the authors of the EOS paper in question obviously felt the same way (collectively) since the caption to Figure 2 in the published version reads:

    Fig. 2. Temporal histories of nine temperature-sensitive proxy records, chosen to illustrate a variety of proxy types, NH locations, and spatial and seasonal representation. All series have been smoothed with a 40-year low-pass filter, then normalized so that the filtered series have unit standard deviation over 1251-1980 (when all series have data) and the unfiltered series (to avoid edge effects of the filter) have zero mean over 1961-1990 (to facilitate comparison with Figure 1). Series have been offset by steps of 7 standard deviations for display purposes. Blue (red) shading indicates filtered values below (above) the 1961-1990 means (the latter are shown by thin horizontal lines). Original sources for each series are: “Western U.S.”/Mann et al., 1999];”Chesapeake Bay”/Cronin et al., 2003];”W.Greenland”/Fisher et al., 1996];”Tornetrask” /Grudd et al., 2002];”Low Countries”[van Engelen et al., 2001];”Yamal”/Hantemirov and Shiyatov, 2002, reprocessed in Briffa, 2000]; “Taimyr”/Naurzbaev et al., 2002];”Mongolia” /D’Arrigo et al., 2001]; and “China”[Yang et al., 2002].

    … and the word ‘quality’ does not appear anywhere in the entire text. – gavin]

  48. 448
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Septic Matthew,
    A scientific model is not a representation of reality. It is a simplified system in which we can determine the important factors in the real system and understand their interplay. It is the insight yielded by the models that should guide policy–not the model itself.

  49. 449
    David Wright says:

    “Hansen is almost certainly correct: we’re destined to dig it all up and burn it, tar sands and all. The tragedy of the commons is our lot… unless some absolute climate shocker comes out of nowhere to wake us all up.”

    Is it worth mentioning that we will not “dig it all up”? We are only able to recover a very small fraction of the hydrocarbons in the ground. The vast majority of it (not citing a percentage because I don’t know) will not be economically feaseable to extract.

    But Hansen is probably right, we will extract it so long as it’s the most economical source we have available.

    No comfort for those who still think combustion will be the death of us all.

  50. 450
    ZT says:

    Any context on this thread – which might be interpreted to constitute a coordinated effort to have someone dismissed for not following the party line?

    [Response: The issue has nothing to do with not ‘following the party line’, but rather of being guilty of appalling editorial practices, whereby papers were published with claims that were not justified by the analysis, or that were accepted almost ‘as is’ regardless of the views of referees. Hans von Storch in email 2106: “For me it is important that we admit that the result of the review process of Soon & Baliunas was insufficient”, and noting the pattern “We should have been more vigilant after we had seen that actually two critical comments were written on the first Soon paper” (also handled by de Freitas). The corruption here was de Frietas, not anyone who responded. – gavin]