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Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind

Filed under: — group @ 24 February 2010

Guest commentary from Ben Santer

Part 2 of a series discussing the recent Guardian articles

A recent story by Fred Pearce in the February 9th online edition of the Guardian (“Victory for openness as IPCC climate scientist opens up lab doors”) covers some of the more publicized aspects of the last 14 years of my scientific career. I am glad that Mr. Pearce’s account illuminates some of the non-scientific difficulties I have faced. However, his account also repeats unfounded allegations that I engaged in dubious professional conduct. In a number of instances, Mr Pearce provides links to these allegations, but does not provide a balanced account of the rebuttals to them. Nor does he give links to locations where these rebuttals can be found. I am taking this opportunity to correct Mr. Pearce’s omissions, to reply to the key allegations, and to supply links to more detailed responses.

Another concern relates to Mr. Pearce’s discussion of the “openness” issue mentioned in the title and sub-title of his story. A naïve reader of Mr. Pearce’s article might infer from the sub-title (“Ben Santer had a change of heart about data transparency…”) that my scientific research was not conducted in an open and transparent manner until I experienced “a change of heart”.

This inference would be completely incorrect. As I discuss below, my research into the nature and causes of climate change has always been performed in an open, transparent, and collegial manner. Virtually all of the scientific papers I have published over the course of my career involve multi-institutional teams of scientists with expertise in climate modeling, the development of observational datasets, and climate model evaluation. The model and observational data used in my research is not proprietary – it is freely available to researchers anywhere in the world.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “scientific cleansing” allegation

Mr. Pearce begins by repeating some of the allegations of misconduct that arose after publication (in 1996) of the Second Assessment Report (SAR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These allegations targeted Chapter 8 of the SAR, which dealt with the “Detection of Climate Change, and Attribution of Causes”. The IPCC SAR reached the historic finding that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. Information presented in Chapter 8 provided substantial support for this finding.

I served as the Convening Lead Author (CLA) of Chapter 8. There were three principal criticisms of my conduct as CLA. All three allegations are baseless. They have been refuted on many occasions, and in many different fora. All three allegations make an appearance in Mr. Pearce’s story, but there are no links to the detailed responses to these claims.

The first allegation was that I had engaged in “scientific cleansing”. This allegation originated with the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) – a group of businesses “opposing immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

In May 1996, a document entitled “The IPCC: Institutionalized ‘Scientific Cleansing’?” was widely circulated to the press and politicians. In this document, the Global Climate Coalition claimed that after a key Plenary Meeting of the IPCC in Madrid in November 1995, all scientific uncertainties had been purged from Chapter 8. The GCC’s “scientific cleansing” allegation was soon repeated in an article in Energy Daily (May 22, 1996) and in an editorial in the Washington Times (May 24, 1996). It was also prominently featured in the World Climate Report, a publication edited by Professor Patrick J. Michaels (June 10, 1996).

This “scientific cleansing” claim is categorically untrue. There was no “scientific cleansing”. Roughly 20% of the published version of Chapter 8 specifically addressed uncertainties in scientific studies of the causes of climate change. In discussing the “scientific cleansing” issue, Mr. Pearce claims that many of the caveats in Chapter 8 “did not make it to the summary for policy-makers”. This is incorrect.

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the IPCC SAR is four-and-a-half pages long. Roughly one page of the SPM discusses results from Chapter 8. The final paragraph of that page deals specifically with uncertainties, and notes that:

“Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long term natural variability and the time-evolving pattern of forcing by, and response to, changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and land surface changes”.

Contrary to Mr. Pearce’s assertion, important caveats did “make it to the summary for policy-makers”. And the “discernible human influence” conclusion of both Chapter 8 and the Summary for Policymakers has been substantiated by many subsequent national and international assessments of climate science.

There were several reasons why Chapter 8 was a target for unfounded “scientific cleansing” allegations. First, the Global Climate Coalitions’s “scientific cleansing” charges were released to the media in May 1996. At that time, Cambridge University Press had not yet published the IPCC Second Assessment Report in the United States. Because of this delay in the Report’s U.S. publication, many U.S. commentators on the “scientific cleansing” claims had not even read Chapter 8 – they only had access to the GCC’s skewed account of the changes made to Chapter 8. Had the Second Assessment Report been readily available in the U.S. in May 1996, it would have been easy for interested parties to verify that Chapter 8 incorporated a fair and balanced discussion of scientific uncertainties.

Second, the “pre-Madrid” version of Chapter 8 was the only chapter in the IPCC Working Group I Second Assessment Report to have both an “Executive Summary” and a “Concluding Summary”. As discussed in the next section, this anomaly was partly due to the fact that the Lead Author team for Chapter 8 was not finalized until April 1994 – months after all other chapters had started work. Because of this delay in getting out of the starting blocks, the Chapter 8 Lead Author team was more concerned with completing the initial drafts of our chapter than with the question of whether all chapters in the Working Group I Report had exactly the same structure.

The reply of the Chapter 8 Lead Authors to the Energy Daily story of May 22, 1996 pointed out this ‘two summary’ redundancy, and noted that:

“After receiving much criticism of this redundancy in October and November 1995, the Convening Lead Author of Chapter 8 decided to remove the concluding summary. About half of the information in the concluding summary was integrated with material in Section 8.6. It did not disappear completely, as the Global Climate Coalition has implied. The lengthy Executive Summary of Chapter 8 addresses the issue of uncertainties in great detail – as does the underlying Chapter itself.”

The removal of the concluding summary made it simple for the Global Climate Coalition to advance their unjustified “scientific cleansing” allegations. They could claim ‘This statement has been deleted’, without mentioning that the scientific issue addressed in the deleted statement was covered elsewhere in the chapter.

This was my first close encounter of the absurd kind.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “political tampering/corruption of peer-review” allegation

The second allegation is that I was responsible for “political tampering”. I like to call this “the tail wags the dog” allegation. The “tail” here is the summary of the Chapter 8 results in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, and the “dog” is the detailed underlying text of Chapter 8.

In November 1995, 177 government delegates from 96 countries spent three days in Madrid. Their job was to “approve” each word of the four-and-a-half page Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC’s Working Group I Report. This was the report that dealt with the physical science of climate change. The delegates also had the task of “accepting” the 11 underlying science chapters on which the Summary for Policymakers was based. “Acceptance” of the 11 chapters did not require government approval of each word in each chapter.

This was not a meeting of politicians only. A number of the government delegates were climate scientists. Twenty-eight of the Lead Authors of the IPCC Working Group I Report – myself included – were also prominent participants in Madrid. We were there to ensure that the politics did not get ahead of the science, and that the tail did not wag the dog.

Non-governmental organizations – such as the Global Climate Coalition – were also active participants in the Madrid meeting. NGOs had no say in the formal process of approving the Summary for Policymakers. They were, however, allowed to make comments on the SPM and the underlying 11 science chapters during the first day of the Plenary Meeting (November 27, 1996). The Global Climate Coalition dominated the initial plenary discussions.

Most of the plenary discussions at Madrid focused on the portrayal of Chapter 8’s findings in the Summary for Policymakers. Discussions were often difficult and contentious. We wrestled with the exact wording of the “balance of evidence” statement mentioned above. The delegations from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait argued for a very weak statement, or for no statement at all. Delegates from many other countries countered that there was strong scientific evidence of pronounced a human effect on climate, and that the bottom-line statement from Chapter 8 should reflect this.

Given the intense interest in Chapter 8, Sir John Houghton (one of the two Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group I) established an ad hoc group on November 27, 1996. I was a member of this group. Our charge was to review those parts of the draft Summary for Policymakers that dealt with climate change detection and attribution issues. The group was placed under the Chairmanship of Dr. Martin Manning of New Zealand, and included delegates from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Sir John Houghton also invited delegates from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to participate in this ad hoc group. Unfortunately, they did not accept this invitation.

The ad hoc group considered more than just the portions of the Summary for Policymakers that were relevant to Chapter 8. The Dutch delegation asked for a detailed discussion of Chapter 8 itself, and of the full scientific evidence contained in it. This discussion took place on November 28, 1996.

On November 29, 1996, I reported back to the Plenary on the deliberations of the ad hoc group. The Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti delegations – who had not attended any of the discussions of the ad hoc group, and had no first-hand knowledge of what had been discussed by the group – continued to express serious reservations about the scientific basis for the detection and attribution statements in the Summary for Policymakers.

On the final evening of the Madrid Plenary Meeting, debate focused on finding the right word to describe the human effect on global climate. There was broad agreement among the government delegates that – based on the scientific evidence presented in Chapter 8 – some form of qualifying word was necessary. Was the human influence “measurable”? Could it be best described as “appreciable”, “detectable”, or “substantial”? Each of these suggested words had proponents and opponents. How would each word translate into different languages? Would the meaning be the same as in English?

After hours of often rancorous debate, Bert Bolin (who was then the Chairman of the IPCC) finally found the elusive solution. Professor Bolin suggested that the human effect on climate should be described as “discernible”.

Mr. Pearce – who was not present at the Madrid Plenary Meeting – argues that the discussion of human effects on climate in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers “went beyond what was said in the chapter from which the summary was supposedly drawn”. In other words, he suggests that the tail wagged the dog. This is not true. The “pre-Madrid” bottom-line statement from Chapter 8 was “Taken together, these results point towards a human influence on climate”. As I’ve noted above, the final statement agreed upon in Madrid was “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”.

Is “suggests” stronger than “points towards”? I doubt it. Is “The balance of evidence” a more confident phrase than “Taken together”? I don’t think so.

The primary difference between the pre- and post-Madrid statements is that the latter includes the word “discernible”. In my American Heritage College Dictionary, “discernible” is defined as “perceptible, as by vision or the intellect”. In Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, one of the three meanings of the verb “discern” is “to recognize or identify as separate and distinct”. Was the use of “discernible” justified?

The answer is clearly “yes”. Chapter 8 of the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report relied heavily on the evidence from a number of different “fingerprint” studies. This type of research uses rigorous statistical methods to compare observed patterns of climate change with results from climate model simulations. The basic concept of fingerprinting is that each different influence on climate – such as purely natural changes in the Sun’s energy output, or human-caused changes in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases – has a unique signature in climate records. This uniqueness becomes more apparent if one looks beyond changes averaged over the entire globe, and instead exploits the much greater information content available in complex, time-varying patterns of climate change.

Fingerprinting has proved to be an invaluable tool for untangling the complex cause-and-effect relationships in the climate system. The IPCC’s Second Assessment Report in 1995 was able to draw on fingerprint studies from a half-dozen different research groups. Each of these groups had independently shown that they could indeed perceive a fingerprint of human influence in observed temperature records. The signal was beginning to rise out of the noise, and was (using Merriam-Webster’s definition of “discern”) “separate and distinct” from purely natural variations in climate.

Based on these fingerprint results, and based on the other scientific evidence available to us in November 1995, use of the word “discernible” was entirely justified. Its use is certainly justified based on the scientific information available to us in 2010. The “discernible human influence” phrase was approved by all of the 177 delegates from 96 countries present at the Plenary Meeting – even by the Saudi and Kuwaiti delegations. None of the 28 IPCC Lead Authors in attendance at Madrid balked at this phrase, or questioned our finding that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. The latter statement was cautious and responsible, and entirely consistent with the state of the science. The much more difficult job of trying to quantify the size of human influences on climate would be left to subsequent IPCC assessments.

Mr. Pearce’s remarks suggest that there is some substance to the “political tampering” allegation – that I was somehow coerced to change Chapter 8 in order to “reflect the wording of the political summary”. This is untrue. There was no political distortion of the science. If Mr. Pearce had been present at the Madrid Plenary Meeting, he would have seen how vigorously (and successfully) scientists resisted efforts on the part of a small number of delegates to skew and spin some of the information in the Summary for Policymakers.

The key point here is that the SPM was not a “political summary” – it was an accurate reflection of the science. Had it been otherwise, I would not have agreed to put my name on the Report.

A reader of Mr. Pearce’s article might also gain the mistaken impression that the changes to Chapter 8 were only made in response to comments made by government delegates during the Madrid Plenary Meeting. That is not true. As I’ve mentioned above, changes were also made to address government comments made during the meeting of the ad hoc group formed to discuss Chapter 8.

Furthermore, when I first arrived in Madrid on November 26, 1995, I was handed a stack of government and NGO comments on Chapter 8 that I had not seen previously. I had the responsibility of responding to these comments.

One reason for the delay in receiving comments was that the IPCC had encountered difficulties in finding a Convening Lead Author (CLA) for Chapter 8. To my knowledge, the CLA job had been turned down by at least two other scientists before I received the job offer. The unfortunate consequence of this delay was that, at the time of the Madrid Plenary Meeting, Chapter 8 was less mature and polished than other chapters of the IPCC Working Group I Report. Hence the belated review comments.

The bottom line in this story is that the post-Madrid revisions to Chapter 8 were made for scientific, not political reasons. They were made by me, not by IPCC officials. The changes were in full accord with IPCC rules and procedures (pdf). Mr. Pearce repeats accusations by Fred Seitz that the changes to Chapter 8 were illegal and unauthorized, and that I was guilty of “corruption of the peer-review process”. These allegations are false, as the IPCC has clearly pointed out.

The 1995 IPCC Report: The “research irregularities” allegation

The third major front in the attack on Chapter 8 focused on my personal research. It was a two-pronged attack. First, Professor S. Fred Singer claimed that the IPCC’s “discernible human influence” conclusion was entirely based on two of my own (multi-authored) research papers. Next, Professor Patrick Michaels argued that one of these two papers was seriously flawed, and that irregularities had occurred in the paper’s publication process. Both charges were untrue.

On July 25, 1996, I addressed the first of these allegations in an email to the Lead Authors of the 1995 IPCC Report:

“Chapter 8 references more than 130 scientific papers – not just two. Its bottom-line conclusion that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate” is not solely based on the two Santer et al. papers that Singer alludes to. This conclusion derives from many other published studies on the comparison of modelled and observed patterns of temperature change – for example, papers by Karoly et al. (1994), Mitchell et al. (1995), Hegerl et al. (1995), Karl et al. (1995), Hasselmann et al. (1995), Hansen et al. (1995) and Ramaswamy et al. (1996). It is supported by many studies of global-mean temperature changes, by our physical understanding of the climate system, by our knowledge of human-induced changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, by information from paleoclimatic studies, and by a wide range of supporting information (sea-level rise, retreat of glaciers, etc.). To allege, as Singer does, that “Chapter 8 is mainly based on two research papers” is just plain wrong”.

In the second prong of the attack, Professor Michaels claimed that a paper my colleagues and I had published in Nature in 1996 had been selective in its use of observational data, and that our finding of a human fingerprint in atmospheric temperature data was not valid if a longer observational record was used. Further, he argued that Nature had been “toyed with” (presumably by me), and coerced into publishing the 1996 Santer et al. Nature paper one week prior to a key United Nations meeting in Geneva.

My colleagues and I immediately addressed the scientific criticism of our Nature paper by Michaels and his colleague Chip Knappenberger. We demonstrated that this criticism was simply wrong. Use of a longer record of atmospheric temperature change strengthened rather than weakened the evidence for a human fingerprint. We published this work in Nature in December 1996. Unfortunately, Mr. Pearce does not provide a link to this publication.

Since 1996, studies by a number of scientists around the world have substantiated the findings of our 1996 Nature paper. Such work has consistently shown clear evidence of a human fingerprint in atmospheric temperature records.

Disappointingly, Professor Michaels persists in repeating his criticism of our paper, without mentioning our published rebuttal or the large body of subsequently published evidence refuting his claims. Michaels’ charge that Nature had been “toyed with” was complete nonsense. As described below, however, this was not the last time I would be falsely accused of having the extraordinary power to force scientific journals to do my bidding.

A Climatology Conspiracy? More “peer-review abuse” accusations

Mr. Pearce also investigates a more recent issue. He implies that I abused the normal peer-review system, and exerted pressure on the editor of the International Journal of Climatology to delay publication of the print version of a paper by Professor David Douglass and colleagues. This is not true.

The Douglass et al. paper was published in December 2007 in the online edition of the International Journal of Climatology. The “et al.” included the same Professor S. Fred Singer who had previously accused me of “scientific cleansing”. It also included Professor John Christy, the primary developer of a satellite-based temperature record which suggests that there has been minimal warming of Earth’s lower atmosphere since 1979. Three alternate versions of the satellite temperature record, produced by different teams of researchers using the same raw satellite measurements, all indicate substantially more warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The focus of the Douglass et al. paper was on post-1979 temperature changes in the tropics. The authors devised what they called a “robust statistical test” to compare computer model results with observations. The test was seriously flawed (see Appendix A in Open Letter to the Climate Science Community: Response to A “Climatology Conspiracy?”). When it was applied to the model and observational temperature datasets, the test showed (quite incorrectly) that the model results were significantly different from observations.

As I have noted elsewhere, the Douglass et al. paper immediately attracted considerable media and political attention. One of the paper’s authors claimed that it represented an “inconvenient truth”, and proved that “Nature, not humans, rules the climate”. These statements were absurd. No single study can overturn the very large body of scientific evidence supporting “discernible human influence” findings. Nor does any individual study provide the sole underpinning for the conclusion that human activities are influencing global climate.

Given the extraordinary claims that were being made on the basis of this incorrect paper, my colleagues and I decided that a response was necessary. Although the errors in Douglass et al. were easy to identify, it required a substantial amount of new and original work to repeat the statistical analysis properly.

Our work went far beyond what Douglass et al. had done. We looked at the sensitivity of model-versus-data comparisons to the choice of statistical test, to the test assumptions, to the number of years of record used in the tests, and to errors in the computer model estimates of year-to-year temperature variability. We also examined how the statistical test devised by Douglass et al. performed under controlled conditions, using random data with known statistical properties. From their paper, there is no evidence that Douglass et al. considered any of these important issues before making their highly-publicized claims.

Our analysis clearly showed that tropical temperature changes in observations and climate model simulations were not fundamentally inconsistent – contrary to the claim of Douglass and colleagues. Our research was published on October 10, 2008, in the online edition of the International Journal of Climatology. On November 15, 2008, the Douglass et al. and Santer et al. papers appeared in the same print version of the International Journal of Climatology.

In December 2009, shortly after the public release of the stolen emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, Professors David Douglass and John Christy accused me of leading a conspiracy to delay publication of the print version of the Douglass et al. paper. This accusation was based on a selective analysis of the stolen emails. It is false.

In Mr. Pearce’s account of this issue, he states that “There is no doubt the (sic) Santer and his colleagues sought to use the power they held to the utmost…” So what are the facts of this matter? What is the “power” Fred Pearce is referring to?

  • Fact 1: The only “power” that I had was the power to choose which scientific journal to submit our paper to. I chose the International Journal of Climatology. I did this because the International Journal of Climatology had published (in their online edition) the seriously flawed Douglass et al. paper. I wanted to give the journal the opportunity to set the scientific record straight.
  • Fact 2: I had never previously submitted a paper to the International Journal of Climatology. I had never met the editor of the journal (Professor Glenn McGregor). I did not have any correspondence or professional interaction with the editor prior to 2008.
  • Fact 3: Prior to submitting our paper, I wrote an email to Dr. Tim Osborn on January 10, 2008. Tim Osborn was on the editorial board of the International Journal of Climatology. I told Dr. Osborn that, before deciding whether we would submit our paper to the International Journal of Climatology, I wanted to have some assurance that our paper would “be regarded as an independent contribution, not as a comment on Douglass et al.” This request was entirely reasonable in view of the substantial amount of new work that we had done. I have described this new work above.
  • Fact 4: I did not want to submit our paper to the International Journal of Climatology if there was a possibility that our submission would be regarded as a mere “comment” on Douglass et al. Under this scenario, Douglass et al. would have received the last word. Given the extraordinary claims they had made, I thought it unlikely that their “last word” would have acknowledged the serious statistical error in their original paper. As subsequent events showed, I was right to be concerned – they have not admitted any error in their work.
  • Fact 5: As I clearly stated in my email of January 10 to Dr. Tim Osborn, if the International Journal of Climatology agreed to classify our paper as an independent contribution, “Douglass et al. should have the opportunity to respond to our contribution, and we should be given the chance to reply. Any response and reply should be published side-by-side…”
  • Fact 6: The decision to hold back the print version of the Douglass et al. paper was not mine. It was the editor’s decision. I had no “power” over the publishing decisions of the International Journal of Climatology.

This whole episode should be filed under the category “No good deed goes unpunished”. My colleagues and I were simply trying to set the scientific record straight. There was no conspiracy to subvert the peer-review process. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories are easy to disseminate. Many are willing to accept these theories at face value. The distribution of facts on complex scientific issues is a slower, more difficult process.

Climate Auditing – Close Encounters with Mr. Steven McIntyre

Ten days after the online publication of our International Journal of Climatology paper, Mr. Steven McIntyre, who runs the “ClimateAudit” blog, requested all of the climate model data we had used in our research. I replied that Mr. McIntyre was welcome to “audit” our calculations, and that all of the primary model data we had employed were archived at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and freely available to any researcher. Over 3,400 scientists around the world currently analyze climate model output from this open database.

My response was insufficient for Mr. McIntyre. He submitted two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for climate model data – not for the freely available raw data, but for the results from intermediate calculations I had performed with the raw data. One FOIA request also asked for two years of my email correspondence related to these climate model data sets.

I had performed these intermediate calculations in order derive weighted-average temperature changes for different layers of the atmosphere. This is standard practice. It is necessary since model temperature data are available at specific heights in the atmosphere, whereas satellite temperature measurements represent an average over a deep layer of the atmosphere. The weighted averages calculated from the climate model data can be directly compared with actual satellite data. The method used for making such intermediate calculations is not a secret. It is published in several different scientific journals.

Unlike Mr. McIntyre, David Douglass and his colleagues (in their International Journal of Climatology paper) had used the freely available raw model data. With these raw datasets, Douglass et al. made intermediate calculations similar to the calculations we had performed. The results of their intermediate calculations were similar to our own intermediate results. The differences between what Douglass and colleagues had done and what my colleagues and I had done was not in the intermediate calculations – it was in the statistical tests each group had used to compare climate models with observations.

The punch-line of this story is that Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests were completely unnecessary. In my opinion, they were frivolous. Mr. McIntyre already had access to all of the information necessary to check our calculations and our findings.

When I invited Mr. McIntyre to “audit” our entire study, including the intermediate calculations, and told him that all the data necessary to perform such an “audit” were freely available, he expressed moral outrage on his blog. I began to receive threatening emails. Complaints about my “stonewalling” behavior were sent to my superiors at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at the U.S. Department of Energy.

A little over a month after receiving Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests, I decided to release all of the intermediate calculations I had performed for our International Journal of Climatology paper. I made these datasets available to the entire scientific community. I did this because I wanted to continue with my scientific research. I did not want to spend all of my available time and energy responding to harassment incited by Mr. McIntyre’s blog.

Mr. Pearce does not mention that Mr. McIntyre had no need to file Freedom of Information Act requests, since Mr. McIntyre already had access to all of the raw climate model data we had used in our study (and to the methods we had used for performing intermediate calculations). Nor does Mr. Pearce mention the curious asymmetry in Mr. McIntyre’s “auditing”. To my knowledge, Mr. McIntyre – who purports to have considerable statistical expertise – has failed to “audit” the Douglass et al. paper, which contained serious statistical errors.

As the “Climategate” emails clearly show, there is a pattern of behavior here. My encounter with Mr. McIntyre’s use of FOIA requests for “audit” purposes is not an isolated event. In my opinion, Mr. McIntyre’s FOIA requests serve the purpose of initiating fishing expeditions, and are not being used for true scientific discovery.

Mr. McIntyre’s own words do not present a picture of a man engaged in purely dispassionate and objective scientific inquiry:

“But if Santer wants to try this kind of stunt, as I’ve said above, I’ve submitted FOI requests and we’ll see what they turn up. We’ll see what the journal policies require. I’ll also see what DOE and PCDMI administrators have to say. We’ll see if any of Santer’s buddies are obligated to produce the data. We’ll see if Santer ever sent any of the data to his buddies”

(Steven McIntyre; posting on his ClimateAudit blog; Nov. 21, 2008).

My research is subject to rigorous scrutiny. Mr. McIntyre’s blogging is not. He can issue FOIA requests at will. He is the master of his domain – the supreme, unchallenged ruler of the “ClimateAudit” universe. He is not a climate scientist, but he has the power to single-handedly destroy the reputations of exceptional men and women who have devoted their entire careers to the pursuit of climate science. Mr. McIntyre’s unchecked, extraordinary power is the real story of “Climategate”. I hope that someone has the courage to tell this story.

Benjamin D. Santer

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow
San Ramon, California
February 22, 2010*

*These remarks reflect the personal opinions of Benjamin D. Santer. They do not reflect the official views of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory or the U.S. Department of Energy. In preparing this document, I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Tom Wigley, Myles Allen, Kristin Aydt, Graham Cogley, Peter Gleckler, Leo Haimberger, Gabi Hegerl, John Lanzante, Mike MacCracken, Gavin Schmidt, Steve Sherwood, Susan Solomon, Karl Taylor, Simon Tett, and Peter Thorne.

1,047 Responses to “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind”

  1. 1
    FishOutofWater says:

    You need to read George Lakoff’s work on framing a political argument. You should never repeat a derogatory allegation in an effort to refute it. Repeating the allegation reinforces it.

    The attacks on climate scientists are political, not scientific. Attempts to respond to political attacks by a scientific approach will not be successful in the public arena. The public in the U.K. is losing trust in climate scientists because scientists are responding in a way that reinforces the negative framing of the attackers.

  2. 2
    John Atkeison says:

    The vicious and unprincipled tactics of the deniers has been swept under the rug by far too much of the media. These tactics display their character, but only for all those who can see. To much of the media turns a blind eye and so hides reality from the rest of us.

    This behavior requires a vigorous response. Bullies must be push back with energy or they continue to gnaw away at social norms of decency. IMHO, decency is one of the essential elements of civilized behavior that can contribute to our survival. The deniers who behave like thugs or unrestrained parasites should be treated as such. Their enablers should be called on their behavior as well.

  3. 3
    Larry Saltzman says:

    Scientists are being chewed up by disreputable and dishonest political attacks. I am angry that reputable scientists have to take the time to rebut the nonsense cited in this article. However, I agree with both previous comments, that a far different tact is needed in responding to the global warming deniers. If all of you at Real Climate haven’t read Lakoff I recommend doing it immediately.

  4. 4
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    What ever could have moved Mr. Pearce to publish these zombie allegations without following the usual rule of contacting the primary source?

    But I’m curious about another thing: I have heard that you have received death threats! If so, when? Were the threats a reward for your “fingerprinting” research?

  5. 5
    pete best says:

    Your doing a great job. The right are now desperate. Carry on for science is the ultimate philosophy of humans. Dont let the political system and its vitriolic ways intimidate the scientists. This site is has been that beacon along with climate progress amongst other I am sure.

    A good article.

  6. 6
    Halldór Björnsson says:

    Thanks for a great post.
    In 1919 Eddington led measurements during a solar eclipse that seemed to confirm Einsteins General Relativity. Since then many studies have further confirmed relativity. However, it is sometimes claimed that Eddingtons measurements were incomplete, and did not really confirm GR.

    First when I came across the “audit” method it was compared to regular business practices, where financial statements etc are audited. I remember wondering if those applied to science. It seemed to me that replicating the findings of a study is usually a matter of showing they are robust to new data and methods.

    That was years ago and my initial feeling for this has proved correct. The audit method is not applied to advance the search for scientific truth but for kicking up dust. A good example is the 1990 study of Urban Heat Island effect that has been the subject of recent reporting by the guardian and others. The question if the study had insufficient station history is to me beside the point. What the authors purported to show was that a certain proposed physical mechanism was not very strong. What matters is if their claim was true.

    If they are correct those findings should be replicable using other data from other cities and other periods, – the details of the physics should not apply solely to China. Since the 1990 study many other studies have replicated the findings and shown that regardless of the details of the original study the findings are robust.

    Auditing the original study misses the point that the validity of the claim no longer rests on that particular study.

    It is the same as with Eddingtons 1919 measurements, the validity of General Relativity no longer depend on Eddington. You could audit his study for historic reasons (I belief this has been done), but it would not have any bearing on the physics of relativity.

  7. 7
    Dale Power says:

    In small measure, this is the kind of reply needed. Now, I ask the real scientists here to find the salient points and distill them into one line “sound bites”.

    Don’t leave it to the denial squad to pick the response, force them instead to respond to very tight. very clear “bites” of information.

    Scientists need to do this so that the information is not ignored as irrelivant by those in the media.

    Good, well thought out rebuttal from a layman’s perspective here.

  8. 8

    Dear Dr. Santer,

    Please be assured that you have the support of science-minded people, and those just devoted to basic fairness, around the world. Keep doing the right thing, and expect to be persecuted for it (Mark 10:29-30). We’re going to lose this war, but we’ll go down fighting.

  9. 9

    Ben, thanks for this detailed and comprehensive rebuttal. The inside story of the events in the mid-90s is particularly useful for people like me who were not involved then.

  10. 10
    Sloop says:

    Not so, Fish out of water.

    Attempts (and re-attempts) at framing of the issues by the doubt creation movement in a manner that defames individuals and research can only be countered by a thorough, independently verifiable recounting of the facts of what has occurred. That is what Santer provides in this post.

    The charges that have been and continue to be leveled by doubt creationists against Santer and others of the scientific community are, in addition to their corrosive (but far from fatal) effects upon international and national climate policy formulation, libelous.

    It is the responsibility of socities and nations to ascertain the facts surrounding these charges and dismiss or confirm them in appropriate fora.

    While Lakoff’s framing theses may be somewhat useful in charting activities and communications strategies in the policy realm, they are not relevant to investigating and resolving such conflicts as they (possibly) begin to be taken up by the courts.

  11. 11
    Dan says:

    Now if only this post could be seen by the same people who read and are subsequently misled by the on-line Guardian story.

  12. 12
    Bob says:

    Isn’t there any opportunity for legal action amidst this constant barrage of baseless attacks? Slander, libel, character defamation… doesn’t something apply?

    I think scientists have better things to do with their time, but at some point someone has to make an example of somebody…

  13. 13
    calyptorhynchus says:

    This and the previous article have been wonderful refutations of sloppy journalism from a supposed ‘quality’ newspaper. It’s a pity this isn’t done more often.

    Ben, I really sympathise with what you have had to go through, which should not have been necessary if the media upheld the standards they are supposed to uphold.

    Veritas omnia vincit

  14. 14
    R. Gates says:

    Nicely written rebuttal. These are trying times and unfortunately the attacks on honest climate scientists (which certainly most are) will only increase in the short term. It is a battle for public and political perception. Billion of dollars are at stake, and if the majority of climate scientists are correct…so too could be the fate of humanity. In matters such as these, as has been the case in so many epic battles, ultimately the weather will dictate the outcome. When enough people experience climate change on a regular basis, no amount of bickering over the facts will matter, as the facts will have swept away their home or left their bellies hungry. Let us hope that if there are some nasty climate tipping points upon which we are soon approaching, that wisdom and rationality can return before they are crossed.

  15. 15
    Tony O'Brien says:

    It has got to the point where climate scientists and perhaps all scientists will have to undertake media studies. Dealing with a terribly biased media requires a different sort of finess that is alien to the nature of science.

    Detailed nuance is the field of scientists, media is almost a nuance free zone. Scientists are used to answering the question asked, they need to answer the question as it should have been asked.

  16. 16
    Gail says:

    I have much sympathy for the ridiculous ordeal your have had to endure, which is a rotten distraction from your research.

    Please keep slogging along, you are indispensable and the only hope humanity has.

  17. 17
    nvw says:

    “Me thinks the lady doth protest to much.”

  18. 18
    Jim Steele says:

    What goes around comes around!

  19. 19
    caerbannog says:

    A little over a month after receiving Mr. McIntyre’s Freedom of Information Act requests, I decided to release all of the intermediate calculations I had performed for our International Journal of Climatology paper. I made these datasets available to the entire scientific community. I did this because I wanted to continue with my scientific research. I did not want to spend all of my available time and energy responding to harassment incited by Mr. McIntyre’s blog.

    Silly question: It’s been well over a year since McIntyre got access to those intermediate calculations. What, if anything, has he (or any of his fellow “auditors”) done with them?

  20. 20
    Josie says:

    Fishoutofwater says “You need to read George Lakoff’s work on framing a political argument. You should never repeat a derogatory allegation in an effort to refute it. Repeating the allegation reinforces it.”

    I think that this is a profound (and common) misunderstanding of Lakoff.

    Lakoff talks about the importance of the over-arching metaphorical ‘frame’ and suggests that you should project your own view of the world and your own values, language and metaphors rather than spending all your time using your enemies values, language and metaphorical frames. In other words, go on the offensive.

    He particularly condemns the left wing’s hopelessness at projecting their own vision and they way they have pandered to the right by using the right’s language, values and concepts, allowing them to win the battle to determine how society is thought about. (He uses the example of ‘tax relief’ but I think that ‘tax-payers money’ and ‘stakeholder’ are 2 better examples).

    That is all perfectly in line with common sense. But it hardly means you should not respond to specific accusations and lies. The fact that you should not spend all the time on the defensive (good idea) is very different from suggesting that you should never defend yourself (very stupid idea)!

    Lakoff’s work may suggest that climate scientists should spend more time explaining the REAL science to the public and not spend so much of the time on the defensive replying to the deniers, as the latter is allowing the deniers to dictate the ‘frame’. But it isn’t like RealClimate don’t also explain the real science! Most of the time actually.

    There has been a great deal of blaming climate scientists for the nonsense in the press and telling them that they are crap at communicating. But I think a lot of the time they are very GOOD at communicating. They are just being faced with an impossible situation that would throw anyone: a well funded and vicious smear campaign by dishonest, unscrupulous individuals.

    (UEA are an exception. Their response to the emails has been pathetic, precisely because they HAVEN’T defended themselves).

  21. 21
    Kate says:

    Great to hear directly from Ben Santer, even though the IPCC incident is long passed….because it will never be truly resolved in the media; someone will always bring it up. I was only a toddler when the accusations were going through the media of Santer’s “misconduct”, so it’s nice to hear a full rebuttal now.

    It’s incredibly unfortunate, and frightening, that the media has treated accuracy as irrelevant when it comes to climate change. I wrote a post just today ( about how frustrating it is that truth, our strongest weapon in this political battle, has become useless. Writing it out calmed me for a while. Reading this riles me up again. When will it end?

  22. 22
    prokaryote says:

    One of the best article on the topic. Should everybody read, specialy those who are confused by the media coverage.

  23. 23
    dhogaza says:


    Now if only this post could be seen by the same people who read and are subsequently misled by the on-line Guardian story.

    Someone posting as JBowers (I’ve seen his handle elsewhere) has posted what might be called the juicier bits, including this very powerful closing paragraph by Dr. Santer:

    My research is subject to rigorous scrutiny. Mr. McIntyre’s blogging is not. He can issue FOIA requests at will. He is the master of his domain – the supreme, unchallenged ruler of the “ClimateAudit” universe. He is not a climate scientist, but he has the power to single-handedly destroy the reputations of exceptional men and women who have devoted their entire careers to the pursuit of climate science. Mr. McIntyre’s unchecked, extraordinary power is the real story of “Climategate”. I hope that someone has the courage to tell this story.

    This is a fantastic closer, very well done, and captures what to me is the most disgusting aspect of McIntyre’s attacks over the years – his ongoing attempts to destroy the careers of scientists who dare present research results McIntyre doesn’t like. He is truly the Joe McCarthy of the anti-science mob.

    JBowers might need some help with the inevitable denialist shout-down at the guardian.

  24. 24
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I’ve given a lot of thought to why debates between science and anti-science always turn nasty. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the fact that science is about evidence, and anti-science has none. When confronted with scientific evidence, the anti-science fanatic can only respond by attacking the source of the evidence, namely the scientist. Scientists, being human, respond in kind. Indeed, the escalating nastiness of the anti-science contingent makes it clear that we must respond.

    It will be interesting to see how the anti-science side responds once they find their campaign of lies, distortion and slander have availed them nothing–that they are still surrounded by mountains of evidence against them. I think it would be naive to expect them to fole. Their position has never been evidence based. No, they will escalate their campaign of lies, distortion and slander even further. These are, after all, all they have.

  25. 25
    Justin Wood says:

    Simply adding my gratitude for the detailed rebuttals. And to urge Ben, and all others like him, to keep just keep going.

  26. 26
    Geno Canto del Halcon says:

    The problem, here, is that most of the deniers and their followers do not read RealClimate, and actively resist doing so when I have suggested this to some whom I’ve known. So, while the climate community may be doing good science, the forces of denialism are winning in the political realm, because too many voters are misinformed about these issues. To make matters worse, our politicians are frequently misled by lobbyists, and even those who believe “we’ve got to do something” fall victim to other lobbyists whose interest is more commercial than it is sound public policy.

  27. 27

    Pulitzer Prize winner Ross Gelbspan from the Boston Globe also writes in depth about Ben Santers accusations and clears him in the book “The Heat is On”. It was required reading at a pilot climate change course I took at the University of Denver.

    By the way (and I did not make this up), the Boston Globe had to issue a statement that yes, Gelbspan did indeed receive the Publizer Prize after the the oil lobby claimed that he had never received it. It is like a house of mirrors.

    See Gelbspan’s website for photocopied evidence.

  28. 28
    Mike says:

    @19. Yes, it’s a silly question. Pick from the following answers:

    a) McIntyre doesn’t understand how to check the intermediate calculations or what they mean, but is too embarrassed to ask for help.

    b) McIntyre checked them, but found nothing wrong, so it has all gone quiet.

    c) McIntyre hasn’t checked them, and never intended to, as he was just trying to “prove” that data was being hidden.

  29. 29
    BJ_Chippindale says:

    Thank you Dr Santer.

    There is nothing good about the mob.

    Eventually the climate itself will explain the truth to them.

    At that point it will be too late for us.

    It is still important to defend the truth and it is important to present the actual science.

    Whether the mob believes it or not.


  30. 30
    Matthew says:

    “Balanced account of the rebuttals?”

    I could swear this blog was firmly opposed to such in the media. Or are the rules different when the topic is scientific ne’er-do-wells?

  31. 31

    Dr. Santer,

    I appreciate the time you have taken to try to clear your name. It is a shame how much time you and others such as Dr. Mann and Dr. Briffa have wasted answering these baseless claims.

    I just hope Dr. Judith Curry reads this and realizes that she needs to stop promoting McIntyre.

  32. 32
    Donald Oats says:

    I thought that Ben Santer’s comments are clear, direct and convey Ben’s concerns perfectly adequately. The risk of “framing” as it is called, is that the framer may lose credibility with the very audience that they seek to inform. The use of the word “framing” has unfortunately moved to take on a derogatory meaning, akin to “manipulate” or “deceive”. Scientists such as Ben will never get the last word on a political hot potato, but they can provide the material in a form that others may frame. The problem is that at the moment the science journalist and journalism itself is in something of a crisis – the rise of the partisan journalism strategy has made significant inroads against the investigative journalism of older times. Science journalists aren’t free from these pressures to the extent that they once were.

    The real question in my mind is why is it that so many science journalists, even some of the deservedly respected old timers, have morphed into what in all kindness I’ll call sloppiness. Less kindly would be to assume a particular agenda is set for the journalist to adhere to or lose the job, and most unkindly would be to assume their personal politics now trumps truth and accuracy. It’s probably a bit of each factor, as well as the competitive threats brought about by new publishing technologies (web etc).

    As a final comment, the day may be coming when the most vital popular science magazines are under the control of one particular media mogul. If that happens then I’ll wager a more vicious campaign against climate science than what we’ve seen so far.

  33. 33
    Testing says:

    #19 Caerbannog: According to Mr. McIntyre, he submitted a comment to IJOC on this matter over a year ago ( I do not know whether it has been published. Mr. McIntyre also reported that it is not quite as simple as Dr. Santer suggests in the head post here to extract precisely the same “raw data” that some one else has previously extracted for purposes of later statistical analysis (

  34. 34
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 20 Josie … 24 February 2010 at 8:06 PM
    I can’t vouch for Lakoff as a source, but the advice not to repeat false claims even to rebut them is well documented by good research.

    Tara Smith of Aetiology (one of the Scienceblogs) discusses it, and I’ve cited it before because the temptation to repeat falsehoods when debunking them is so strong, and so counterproductive.

    Here’s the story and a bit from the blog:

    Correcting misinformation can backfire.

    The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either “true” or “false.” Among those identified as false were statements such as “The side effects are worse than the flu” and “Only older people need flu vaccine.”

    When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

    The experiments do not show that denials are completely useless; if that were true, everyone would believe the myths. But the mind’s bias does affect many people, especially those who want to believe the myth for their own reasons, or those who are only peripherally interested and are less likely to invest the time and effort needed to firmly grasp the facts.

    The research also highlights the disturbing reality that once an idea has been implanted in people’s minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.

    Obviously, this has implications for correcting these myths. The article suggests that, rather than repeat them (as the CDC “true and false” pamphlet does, for example), one should just rephrase the statement, eliminating the false portion altogether so as to not reinforce it further (since repetition, even to debunk it, reaffirms the false statement). Ignoring it also makes things worse, as the story noted that other research “…found that when accusations or assertions are met with silence, they are more likely to feel true.”

    Of course, all this is easier said than done–and not everyone wants to “bust” these sorts of myths. Indeed, politicians and others interested in getting their (maybe not wholly correct) message out there can take (and have taken) advantage of this phenomenon–get their mantra out there first, and it’s reinforced even when an opponent tries to correct it.

    See the original, with links, at:

  35. 35
    Hank Roberts says:

    > it is not quite as simple … to extract precisely the same “raw data”

    How would you know if you got “precisely” the same raw data as someone else?
    And why would you want to?

    Your new query should extract _current_ data from the source, which may have changed over time — all databases do, for example as corrections are made. If both studies are done reasonably well, any differences will be minor; if the results are really different, that’s when researchers want to start comparing methods, visit one another’s labs, watch one another work.

    This is how it’s done. Sometimes it leads to something fascinating.

    There’s a famous old study in which a lab in Europe tried and tried to replicate growing some kind of insect larva, following the methods used by a lab in North America. After repeated failures and much comparison, the only difference turned out to be the paper towels used in the cages — the ones from North American trees had traces of something that killed the insects (and gave the trees some resistance to infestation). The paper towels from trees in Europe lacked those traces.

    It led to a whole field of research.

    This is why replication is done by _redoing_ the study not taking the first scientist’s materials and using them.

    Imagine if the biologists in Europe had required shipping over the entire lab, paper towels and all, to replicate the North American study — they wouldn’t have discovered anything (nor had anything interesting to publish).

    Designing your query is part of the exercise of replicating work — figure out how to ask the question, ask it, get the data set, do the study, and see if the _results_ replicate the prior _results_.

    Independently doing the work is science. Fishing through other people’s information is politics.

  36. 36
    Lotharsson says:


    “You should never repeat a derogatory allegation in an effort to refute it.”


    “I think that this is a profound (and common) misunderstanding of Lakoff.”

    AFAIK both are essentially correct.

    Josie’s explanation of Lakoff matches my recollection and is well worth understanding and using. In addition, other research (not Lakoff, IIRC) has been reported recently that seemed to show that repeating the allegation prior to refuting it seems to reinforce the “truth” of the allegation for a significant proportion of the population. To be more effective, you need to rephrase the allegation as the refutation-of-the-allegation, i.e. the inverse of the false allegation.

  37. 37
    Hank Roberts says:

    David Brin speaks up:

    Just the beginning:

    let’s focus on the core matter at hand. What factors would distinguish a rational, pro-science “skeptic” – who has honest questions about the HGCC consensus – from members of a Denier Movement who think a winter snowstorm means there’s ni net-warming of the planet? Is such a distinction anything more than polemical trickery?

    Well, in fact, it happens that I know some people who do qualify as climate change “skeptics.” Several are fellow science fiction authors or engineers, and you can quickly tell that they are vigorous, contrary minds, motivated more by curiosity than partisan rigor. One who I could name is the famed physicist Freeman Dyson. (In fact, if truth be told, there are some aspects of HGCC that I feel I want clarified — that seem to be poorly-justified, so far. I am an ornery, contrarian question-asker, of the first water!) After extensive discussions with such folk, I found a set of distinct characteristics that separate thoughtful Skeptics from your run of the mill, knee-jerk Denier dogma puppet. Here’s the first one: — WHO IS AN EXPERT?—-

    click the link for the rest

  38. 38
    Mark A. York says:

    RE: Bob in #12,

    One would think so, and maybe? I’ve studied this issue as part of my journalism degree and it appears we are approaching “actual malice” against specific scientists in this en masse kerfuffle, but proving intent is tough. For public figures such as the climate scientists, the test is New York Times Actual Malice. Times V. Sullivan.

    At the least of it, in my view, public retractions are in order. You can’t allow media to repeat falsehoods that undermine a researcher’s reputation, but it would take a loss of status in the climate community, as opposed to the eyes of a dubious public, to prove a loss due to the printed lies. Tricky stuff. The defamatory language on comment threads is out of control. Can such moronic behavior ruin a career? I doubt it but it can sure influence public policy. Where I come from, them’s fightin’ words.

  39. 39
    Tim says:

    Ok. Read your complaints about McIntrye and Christie and thought you might have a point so I went back and reviewed the CA postings as well as the AT article where Christy accused you of rigging the process.

    What I found was:

    1) McIntrye spent a lot of time analyzing your paper before he even asked for the data. He asked for the data because he ran into a puzzle that he could not solve without seeing exactly what you did.

    2) After submitting FOI request for the data David Bader sent a letter to McIntrye claiming that the release of data was planned all along but it takes time. This makes your original refusal appear extremely petty. If the data was going to be released anyways you could have said that and there would have been no FOIs. You seem to be the author of your own misfortune unless you wish to accuse David Bader of lying about the release being planned.

    3) The CRU correspondence referenced by Christy makes it clear that you “negotiated” preferential terms for your submission with the assistance of Osborn. Whether you knew the editor beforehand is irrelevant. What is clear is the editor gave you preferential treatment and that you would not have been able to publish your paper so quickly under your terms without that consideration.

    I realize that you believe you have been wronged by McIntrye and Christie but the facts really don’t seem to support your argument.

  40. 40
    Gordon Cutler says:

    With apologies to Gertrude Stein, an ideologue is an ideologue is an ideologue. I see no difference between the socio-political processes currently going on trans-nationally and what went on in China during the Cultural Revolution, except, of course, that the stakes are immeasurably higher.

    As a Guardian & Observer reader for over 30 years I was appalled by Pearce’s laziness and mendacity. I sent the link to Gavin’s post yesterday to the Guardian reader editor with a complaint and a demand that the record be set straight. I did the same tonight with Dr Slater’s response.

    I also informed the Guardian that Pearce no longer exists for me, that I will not read anything under his byline. I also told them that whether I continue to be part of their readership will depend on how well they clean up Pearce’s mess. I would urge everyone as concerned as I am to do the same. It is a shame in the current age the volume of complaints matters at least as much as the quality of a refutation.

    My heartfelt thanks to Gavin and friends/colleagues who run this site, as well to all the other scientists, climate and otherwise, who also take the time to listen, inform and instruct. As an old Humanities graduate and longtime lurker heading into my 7th decade, I have profited immensely from your patience and scholarship which has broadened and deepened my understanding of our planet. You are doing great work!

  41. 41
    Peter D. Tillman says:

    Readers of Dr. Santer’s “Close Encounters with Mr. Steven McIntyre” may be interested in reading the original email exchange with Mr. McIntyre, available at

    Santer’s refusal of McIntyre’s data request ends with:

    “Please do not communicate with me in the future.
    Ben Santer”

  42. 42
    cbone says:

    I find it to be somewhat interesting that Dr. Santer liberally provides links in the entire article to back up his assertions except in one area. The answer is obvious, Dr. Santer knows that he is mischaracterizing the actions taken by Steve McIntyre. I got a chuckle that even when you quote him you still couldn’t bring yourself to provide a link to the quote so that the interested reader could put the quote in its proper context. Your dodging the issue like this only gives Steve more credibility.

  43. 43
    Doug Bostrom says:

    There is a lot of highly specific information provided here by Dr. Santer, leaving Pearce’s account seeming very incomplete. All of this seems to reveal just how much conjecture is infecting these stories in the Guardian and substituting for information.

    Fred Pearce needs to write much less and research much more. He’s published an astounding quantity of material in the past weeks but it’s becoming painfully apparent he’s cutting corners on taking the time to get his facts straight.

    How can Mr. Pearce possibly have time to be writing sanctimonious editorials for New Scientist when his own work appears to be far more rushed and consequently sloppier than anything he’s criticizing?

  44. 44
    Bern says:

    So, have I understood this correctly?

    McIntyre: Hey everybody, Santer is hiding stuff from us. He wont give anyone his raw data.
    Santer: Hey, this is where I got it from, you can get a full copy of it there.
    McIntyre: That’s not good enough! We need your calculation methods too.
    Santer: That’s fine, here they are.
    McIntyre: That’s not good enough! We need all the results of your intermediate calculations as well!
    Santer: Um, you can get that by using the calculation methods on the raw data.
    McIntyre: See everyone? He’s hiding the ‘truth’ from us!
    Santer: Well, if you’re going to be like that, here they are.
    McIntyre: …

  45. 45
    thefordprefect says:

    The “fraud” statements are incorrect (hopefully!!). They are therefore a clear case of defamation.

    People’s careers and finances will be put at risk or have already been affected.

    It is time that those affected used the power of the courts to right these wrongs.
    In the UK (the defamation capital of the world!) It would cost less than £2000 to serve a writ.
    The submission for the writ requires NO input from legal representative. A straight forward statement of facts is all that is required. Only tenuous connections to the UK are required to be able to use the courts here.

    In the UK defamation is the only case where you are assumed guilty and have to prove innocence.
    Once a writ is raised the defendant is therefore forced to provide a defence. I would suggest that most claiming fraud have no proof and so would be wise to settle out of court.

    To allow these statements of fraud to stand without taking action just encourages them to make further damaging claims.

    Action is required!

  46. 46
    thefordprefect says:

    In the UK Libel (written defamation) does not require proof of financial loss.

  47. 47
    Peter D. Tillman says:

    Readers may also wish to read Roger Pielke, Jr.’s comments on the McIntyre-Santer kerfluffle, at

    It’s also worth noting that Santer made this request in his refusal email:

    “I gather that you have appointed yourself as an independent arbiter of the appropriate use of statistical tools in climate research. Rather that “auditing” our paper, you should be directing your attention to the 2007 IJoC paper published by David Douglass et al., which contains an egregious statistical error.”

    Had Santer looked at earlier Climate Audit posts, such as

    — he would have found a lively discussion of both Santer 2008 and Douglass 2007, with interesting criticisms of both papers. Indeed, CA contributors expressed substantial doubts as to whether either Santer et al. OR Douglass et al. got it right.

    Peter D. Tillman
    Consulting Geologist, Arizona and New Mexico (USA)

  48. 48
    Testing says:

    #35 Hank Roberts: “And why would you want to?” Answer:
    When one is doing a statistical analysis on a dataset for purposes of comparing, contrasting, or building upon a previous statistical analysis, it is essential to have the identical dataset that was used by the previous researcher and not one that is similar, or worse, updated. No?

  49. 49
    Tim Jones says:

    Belief In Climate Change Hinges On Worldview
    Christopher Joyce, NPR
    Published February 24, 2010
    “Over the past few months, polls show that fewer Americans say they believe humans are making the planet dangerously warmer, despite a raft of scientific reports that say otherwise.
    “This puzzles many climate scientists — but not some social scientists, whose research suggests that facts may not be as important as one’s beliefs.


  50. 50
    Doug Bostrom says:

    One other thing I find astounding about Pearce’s story on Santer: Pearce completely misses the really histrionic story he could be using to titillate his readers, which is that Santer has now been facing persecution by a mob of dung-flinging monkeys for well over a decade with no sign of the attacks stopping. That’s a remarkable thing, arguably much more dramatically appealing to readers than doing a dismally poor job of relating details of a meeting 14 years dead.

    Meanwhile, Inhofe seeks to tar climate scientists with a criminal reputation.

    This is (hopefully) a rhetorical flourish, but it’s with a purpose. This will be instantly propagated, it’ll appear in the mainstream press shortly and ultimately we’ll end up with a bunch of citizens scratching their heads wonder if climate scientists really -are- criminals.