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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. 101
    Marc says:

    In reference to #79: yes, real scientists replicate the work of others independently; we don’t want people to spoon-feed us everything that they do.

    *This is how we cross-check one another.*

    Lazy people like McIntyre, on the other hand, demand that other people do all of the work for them. This may be because they’re not competent enough to do steps that are standard for people in the field, or because their intent is to harass working scientists with results that they dislike.

    But, no, I *never* expect others to derive things for me which I am perfectly capable of doing myself. I *might*, for example, have already generated some final results, gotten a different answer, and then return to someone to ask them why we did not see the same thing. *That* is the stage where sometimes you ask someone to do something extra. You actually have to bother to do some work first, that’s all.

  2. 102
    Nick Gotts says:

    Theo Hopkins@82,

    Actually, that screed from the Guardian indicates to me that they now realise Pearce has produced a sloppy, inconsistent mess, and are trying to get expert help to clear it up, while saving face.

  3. 103
    Allen C says:


    “And the deniers call themselves skeptics to kid on that they COULD be persuaded but aren’t, so there’s no point doing anything yet.

    Denying evidence that ANSWERS the question “to what degree are humans affecting this change” is denialism.”

    And when one stops questioning the “ANSWERS”, it becomes religion extolled by zealots. This is anti-science.

  4. 104
    Nick Gotts says:

    Is that the response of a scientist who embraces openness and transparency? Of course not. It is a totally absurd. By now, no one really needs to defend McIntyre’s requests for data. Yes, McIntyre knows the equations can be found in the papers. He wants the intermediate data because he wants to know if Santer did it right. – Ron Cram

    What ridiculous nonsense. It is the response of a scientist exasperated beyond endurance by years of persecution from ignorant and mendacious climate science denialists. If he has the competence to assess whether Santer “did it right”, he has the competence to do it himself and see if his results agree. If they do not, he can send a comment to the journal where Santer published, and if they won’t publish it, send an article to Energy and Environment: they will publish any old rubbish provided it fits the denialist agenda.

  5. 105
    Pasteur01 says:

    McIntyre, Santer and Bader all refer to the January 14, 2009 release as “data.” Yes, it resulted from intermediate calculations from the raw data that was previously available.

    And thanks for the primer on averaging.

    Perhaps your question regarding the materiality of the point is better directed to Drs Santer and Bader. They both felt compelled to reveal the rationale and timing of their release of the data. I’m not sure either statement was necessary.
    But since they chose to make the statements I’d think they would want to have their stories straight. They are both well familiar with the scrutiny given by the audit legions to everything that occurs in this debate. Inconsistencies, even tiny ones, fuel the fire.

  6. 106
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “I’ve given a lot of thought to why debates between science and anti-science always turn nasty.”

    The phony “debate” about climate science is “nasty” because the ExxonMobil side has trillions of dollars in profit at stake.

    The “debate” is nasty because RUTHLESS, RAPACIOUS GREED is nasty.

    It’s really as simple as that.

    Much breath and many keystrokes are wasted debating the nature of “science” and “evidence” and so on with the deniers. You need to realize that they don’t care. They are lying. They know they are lying. They are not going to stop. And the closer that human societies move towards the urgently needed phase-out of fossil fuels, the more frantically and viciously they will lie in order to delay and obstruct that phase-out as long as possible. Every single hour that it can be delayed means millions of dollars in profits.

  7. 107
    Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen says:

    I agree with 39 above. I respond as a political scientist with some knowledge of climate science and over 2 decades of observation of the climate science/policy and energy politics interface.

    Having myself observed an IPCC negotiation session (as researcher investigating the IPCC)in the mid 1990s, I can only report that Sir John Houghton entered with the final text ready in his hand, and while there was some debate and even opposition, his text was accepted unaltered.(Don’t ask me when and where…I gave all my IPCC papers away but have published a lot in the policy literature.)

    Sir John, as an example and there are many others, was much more than a scientist, he was and remains a reborn Christian who believes that pollution is a sin and that it is Man’s duty to save the planet whose demise he could foretell with science. Other scientists I interviewed felt compelled by their environmental belief to support the dangerous man-made warming hypothesis, others because this idea has been funded and doubts could onoy be expressed in private. Business people and investors (like Al Gore and the BBC) hope to make money out the ‘response strategies’ to the warming threat. Recommending response strategies was of course another duty of the IPCC, well establihed by 1988.

    Science and ideology (political belief) cannot be separated in indiviual people. Surely, the oil and coal people, as well as political conservatives, have an equal right and even duty to fight their corner and demand scientific honesty where policy would undermine their interests or beliefs. Smearing opponents has tended to be a failing of ‘warmers’ like Santer and his wider group of supporters.

    [Response: I can’t believe you wrote that with a straight face. – gavin]

    Science, selected and diluted, has always been used and misused for the justification of policy ambitions. Seeking funding and recognition by peers is the ‘interest’ of the science lobby, in my analysis it was a major political actor in the climate ‘game’. What would have happened to CRU (a project-funded research body)and its US equivalents if ‘research’ had withdrawn or weakened its support for ‘decarbonisation’ while policy was being negotiated?

    [Response: Nothing. There is enormous amounts of research to do in climate science regardless of the ‘decarbonisation’ policies. – gavin]

    Having studied climate scepticisim over a long time I agree that many sceptics have ‘right-wing’ values, are critical of environmentalism as a dangerous ideology and favour carbon fuels. Like I they are suspicous of environmentlaism because it tends to assume that humanity is at fault and that industrialisation damages the planet. But then, what is wrong with that? The opposite tends to be true for many ‘warmers’,’alarmist’ or ‘global salvationists’. Scientsts must become aware of their own filters or prejudices before declaring that only thay posess the truth.

    [Response: No scientist has ever declared that. This is claimed only by people who want to paint us as rabid zealots. Strawman. – gavin]

    With ‘Climategate’ and it world-wide effects, the ‘warmers’ (and Al Gore) have at last got what they deserve, a closer look at their manners and scientific practice. The well funded egos supporting the IPCC have indeed been offended by peoplelike Steve McIntye, McKitrick, Singer, Christy and many others, and they seem to respond as a ‘pack’ (note the help Santer received in writign the above).

    IMHO, the RealClimate group and their allies in quite a few other countries deserve criticim less for their science than for how they have ‘marketed’ and ‘branded’ their research outputs as true and above criticism.

    [Response: Again, a complete strawman. Perhaps you’d care to point to anything any of us have ever published where we said this was true and above criticism? Just one. And if you want to come back and say ‘well I didn’t really mean it’, don’t bother. – gavin]

    In the end, the value judgements they are hiding in their work are not for them to publicise as truths, but belong to the world of politics, including the politics of science, a much neglected subject.

    And please remember that the 1992 Climate Convention agreed in Rio already enshrines in law that global warming is dangerous, man-made and caused by GHG emissions.

    [Response: Not true. It says that countries should aim to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference in the climate system by the emission of greenhouse gases. And if even Saudi Arabia can agree to that, I’m surprised you can’t. (Though actually nothing much surprises me anymore). – gavin]

    Scientists were not asked test this as a scientific hypothesis but were asked to assume it in order to justify a major international policy effort involving not only energy, but also new politial structures, aid flows, forestry, agriculture and much more. Challenging this justification – the climate threat to the planet and humanity – is indeed High Politics. Doing so seems very necssary, if only in the light of ‘unintended consequences’ for science and much else.

    Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen (editor Energy&Environment) former senior research fellow at the Energy Group, SPRU, University of Sussex)

    [edit advertising]

  8. 108
    Snorbert Zangox says:

    A while back, I posted a comment that included an estimate that the US Government had invested $50 billion in climate research during the past 20 years. Several respondents criticized me severly for my serious error. I have just learned that the total US Government investment in climate research since 1989 is approximately $79 billion. I apologize for any inconvenience that my mistake may have caused.

    [Response: Almost all of that is for satellite observations. Perhaps you’d like NASA and NOAA to stop doing that? – gavin]

  9. 109

    @79–“Yes, McIntyre knows the equations can be found in the papers. He wants the intermediate data because he wants to know if Santer did it right.”

    Ridiculous. If McIntyre had done his own intermediate calculations (not “data”), then he would know “if Santer did it right.”

    It didn’t happen, presumably because it was too much trouble for McIntyre.

    As to “please don’t communicate with me again,” it’s straightforward enough. I don’t see anything “childish” about it. IMO, McIntyre has had the problems he has experienced essentially because he insists that the only way to do things is his way. He’s bringing a business/accounting culture to an area which has different customs, much as nineteenth-century missionaries sought to impose their cultural norms as being unquestionably “superior.” Science here is, in a very real sense, resisting “colonization.”

    Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. Perhaps there could be practices that could be usefully “imported” into scientific culture–I’ve seen more than a few fairly specific suggestions here and in other fora. But McIntyre’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach is guaranteed to produce conflict. IMO, it’s primarily for the (uninvited) guest, not the host, to make the effort to try to understand what’s what–and then make a reasoned account of the desirability of change.

    Cries of “fraud” ain’t gonna do it.

  10. 110
    BlogReader says:

    #70 Marco : McIntyre himself ‘audits’ Santer et al, but doesn’t ‘audit’ Douglass et al at all.

    So? Does he have to write a comment about every paper if he criticizes one? I’m not sure what your point is.

  11. 111
    Dave G says:

    John Peter says:
    25 February 2010 at 3:26 AM

    “Some of the e-mails are in bad form; for instance, climate scientist Benjamin Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory makes a crack about “beat[ing] the crap out of” opponent Pat Michaels…””

    I’m surprised that Jim Hansen didn’t do exactly that when, in 1998, Michaels deleted two lines (including the “most plausible” line) from Hansen’s 1988 graph and then held the doctored graph up as evidence that Hansen’s predictions were extraordinarily inaccurate.

    Yeah, I know violence isn’t the answer, but it must be really tempting to chin someone who is dishonestly misrepresenting your work. Thankfully, neither Hansen or Santer have resorted to violence. They have more self control than I think I would have under similar circumstances.

  12. 112
    John Mason says:

    #78: Allen C says — 25 February 2010 @ 8:54 AM

    “Perhaps you should take a dose of your own medicine and have the decency of not using the word “deniers”. Skeptics don’t deny the climate is changing, they just aren’t sure to what degree humans are affecting this change. True scientists are always skeptical.”


    True scientists are always skeptical, indeed. That’s the way to distinguish them from denialists. The latter are always highly reactionary against any publication that dares to suggest that humans are affecting the climate, whilst they lap up anything that says the opposite like a dog having been given a bowl of stout!

    Put it another way – when is McIntyre planning to “audit” the Douglass et al paper, or maybe the writings of Watts? If you are highly sceptical of publications that state position ‘A’ but simply lap up publications that state position ‘B’ then you are NOT sceptical – you are behaving according to your inherant onboard prejudice. This works both ways of course, but it’s a pattern that is overwhelmingly seen within the camp who are opposed to mainstream science.

    Cheers – John

  13. 113
    flxible says:

    tamino@76 – One would think that McI et al would have started with a similar look at available data – having found as you did, a policy-advising mineral-exploring statistician who wished to disprove/discredit the findings would necessarily be pushed to other tatics, like discrediting the individuals and institutions involved. And I hope none of his targets are underestimating his math skills, statistics are a powerful tool to confuse the masses and policy makers. Once some, like Michael Mann or Ben Santer or Phil Jones or [especially] James Hanson were hung out to dry by the witch hunters, the “auditors” would by default have gained the legitimization they seem so desperately to want. WHY they think discrediting the scientists will help anything, can only be because they really believe climate change isn’t an insurmountable problem for tecnological man, and they do seem largely to be “tecnocrats”. McI’s backing doesn’t need to be “big oil”, he likely has a govt pension from his work as policy analyst for the Canadian govt, on top of the profits from many years in the minerals business.

    The current posts by the group and comments by supporters are focusing on methods [of the “opposition”], what’s really more relevent IMHO is the motives. While it may be the case that the climate future is not as bleak as some have been interpreting it to be, it surely would be a sad confirmation of humanities history to see the science snuffed in favor of immediate profit-as-possible for the “aristocracy”.

  14. 114
    Dennis says:

    If I understand the McIntyre events correctly, they can be summarized as follows:

    1. Douglass et al. publish a paper.
    2. You detect flaws in the paper.
    3. You publish a paper which corrects the flaws.
    4. McIntyre insists you give him everything on your paper.

    If McIntyre were genuinely interested in science, would the proper course of action be for him to do the same rigorous analysis on the Douglass paper that he wants to do on yours?

  15. 115
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Ron Cram says: 25 February 2010 at 9:00 AM

    Yes, McIntyre knows the equations can be found in the papers. He wants the intermediate data because he wants to know if Santer did it right.

    Whoa there. Stop for a minute and think about this. If McIntyre wants to know if Dr. Santer did his sums correctly, the best way to do that is to use the methods and data Santer did and perform the same calulations independently. If McIntyre then gets different results, there could be a problem either with his computations or Dr. Santer’s, which of course would warrant McIntyre checking his own work carefully then letting Dr. Santer know either by correspondence or a publication that Santer may have a problem.

    Getting literal copies of tables of numbers representing Dr. Santer’s intermediate product is completely useless as a means of checking Santer’s methods.

    Is there something about this that you don’t understand? If so, here’s the place to ask; you might actually get an answer from Santer himself.

  16. 116
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Theo Hopkins says: 25 February 2010 at 9:22 AM

    Sorry, but when he published his rubbishy narrative about Kamel Pearce damaged his own credibility, no question about it. Producing sloppy work, publishing it and then expecting others to finish the job for him is not what he’s paid to do, I suspect.

  17. 117
    Ken W says:

    John Peter (60) wrote:
    “In addition to admitting to modifying an IPCC technical section – which will continue the assault on trust”

    The word “admitting” can infer some sort of wrong-doing, which is clearly not the case here. The more appropriate way to phrase it might be “making the necessary edits to clarify the points raised during the Madrid meeting”. That’s kind of the purpose of a lead author, to make sure the document is clear and understandable by the readers.

  18. 118
    John Peter says:

    Nick Gotts (75)

    Whoa, slow down. I don’t know you, you don’t know me, you’ll kill the messenger.

    I’m a technical guy, know little or nothing about CS, trying to learn from RC. I am very grateful for the privilege, don’t want to offend anyone because you all are providing me with a very valuable education and I know it. The opinions I post are just that – you are free to reject them – they are given by me to you in return for that valuable education you give me. Of course they have nowhere near that value, but they do represent some life experiences of a technical guy. Good climate scientists are a pretty tight group, my opinions seem to be way outside their box, you might be wiser to consider them carefully. I have no intention to debate but I will try to explain where I’m coming from.

    That said, I have a couple of my opinions to share.

    1- The CRU emails were not stolen. Emails usually pass through several servers, the servers are owned by the IT administers, from time to time they need to examine them. so if you want the content private, encrypt them. I can’t see how anyone with half Ben’s intelligence, based at LRL could miss that. It may make you feel good to call them stolen but the internet world, that has to deal with stuff like identity theft all the time, will think you’re silly.

    2- I don’t care about McIntyre but I do agree with Judith. You warmers have won your war with the deniers. What you’re into now is, like the bankers, you need regulation. Your critics don’t want to go head-to-head with you on the science, they see the need to audit. Just like the banks.
    If you want the public to pay for you, in this period of sovereign debt, you’re going to have to teach them to trust you. The biggest problem the military has succeeding is that the generals want to fight the last war. Wise up, Judith is trying to help.

    That’s it for now -you are great people and hope you’ll let me stay.

  19. 119
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Last week someone was talking about an unrelated issue involving ideologues, and told how they keep shouting the same wrong stuff. He added, “but shouting that misinformation louder doesn’t make it more right.”

    I would add, “Repeating a lie over and over doesn’t make it right.”

    OTOH, sad to say, there is sociologist W. I. Thomas’s theorem: “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”

    So we just have to keep shouting the truth louder and more and more often. When I encounter these lies re climate science and climate scientists, I tell them they’re wrong and give them the RC link. Or in longer conversations I add in a few talking talking points.

    One being, “The natural greenhouse effect has been well accepted by science for a looooog time — there’d be no life without it — and any dufus should be able to figure out anthropogenic global warming by themselves.”

    For the “It’s cold today as disprove of GW” point, I say, “Well first you have to know how to average; you add X1 and X2 and X3 and so on, then divide by the number of cases.”

    These sometimes backfire, bec they are a bit sassy.

  20. 120
    John Peter says:

    BPL (90)

    Yeah, but you shouldn’t let on.

    When I first began my technical career, my boss handed me a booklet called the unwritten laws of engineering. I still remember #1 ” Be nice to everyone you pass on the way up, you’ll meet them again on the way down.

  21. 121
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Snorbert says, “I have just learned that the total US Government investment in climate research since 1989 is approximately $79 billion.”

    Just curious, Snorbert, is it possible for you to post a single sentence that doesn’t contain a distortion, lie or denialist talking point? Just wondering.

  22. 122
    John Peter says:

    Dave G (110)

    I agree, CS is tough work. Ben/Jim need ways to blow off steam. But don’t use an unencrypted internet email.

  23. 123
    John Peter says:

    Ken W (116)

    I don’t agree and neither do many observers of the so-called IPCC process. The editor’s job is to get the writers to correct their own work.

    That’s how peer review is supposed to work and IPCC makes a big deal of peer review.

    Jim Hanson went over his manager’s head – to a congressman I believe – when his manager tried to change some of Jim’s wording to be more “politically correct”(?)

  24. 124
    Ken W says:

    Ron Cram (79) wrote:
    “Is that the response of a scientist who embraces openness and transparency?”

    It’s exactly the kind of response I’d expect from a scientist that:
    A) Has already been harrassed and falsely accused of wrongdoing
    B) Has already spent nearly a year to point out an error in someone else’s paper
    C) Knows a legitimate request from an actual researcher would have been for the raw data and algorithms, not for his intermediate calculations
    D) Can quickly see from McIntyres blog that’s he’s not a researcher, but an activist that seems intent on confusing the actual science

    The part where he says: “I see no reason why I should do your work for you” is especially appropriate and if McIntyre were a serious researcher interested in forwarding scientific knowledge, that should have been the end of it.

  25. 125
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John Peter,
    I am afraid that I found your posts about Ben Santer quite disingenuous as well. There was a time when scientists could do their work without harassment from the public and politicians. Now they face constant harassment, slander and even death threats.

    You see fit to cast aspersions against Ben Santer, but you evidently see nothing wrong with denialists fabricating quotes:

    making unsbstantiated allegations against scientists and science itself:

    hacking into email servers and releasing a portion of what they find taken entirely out of context.

    You say: “Your critics don’t want to go head-to-head with you on the science, they see the need to audit.”

    Isn’t it interesting that science has gotten by just fine without auditing for 400 years. Revolutionized society, created prosperity. What is more, climate science has been examined by independent organizations ranging from the National Academy to the AAAS. Guess what, not one professional or honorific organization of scientists has dissented from the consensus. Just who would you have perform the “audit”–a self-appointed guarantor with only one peer-reviewed publication to his name? A former TV weather man who doesn’t even have a degree?

    The problem is that the denialists are not interested in truth, only in delay. There are two sides to this debate, John: Science and anti-science. I suggest you choose.

  26. 126
    Completely Fed Up says:

    JP: “That said, I have a couple of my opinions to share.”

    Oh dear. This isn’t going to be good.

    “1- The CRU emails were not stolen. ”

    Yes they were.

    I knew it.

  27. 127
    Completely Fed Up says:

    BlogReader says:
    25 February 2010 at 11:33 AM

    #70 Marco : McIntyre himself ‘audits’ Santer et al, but doesn’t ‘audit’ Douglass et al at all.

    So? Does he have to write a comment about every paper if he criticizes one”

    No, but if he’s asking for more than he needs but ONLY for people who all have this one thing in common: they show AGW effects, then you have a claim for bias.

  28. 128
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Allen C says:
    25 February 2010 at 11:13 AM

    And when one stops questioning the “ANSWERS”, it becomes religion extolled by zealots. This is anti-science.”

    What do you think all those papers in GRL, Nature, et al are???

    No, you are not questioning the answers. You don’t believe them. So you ignore them.

    Facts do not rely on belief or disbelief.

    But whether you accept them does.

  29. 129
    John Peter says:

    dhogaza (84)

    So what? If they really care, and you don’t want to show it to them, they can try to get a court order. Since we all believe that, while perhaps inappropriate, there wasn’t any really “bad” content, sooner or later they’ll have to trust you and go away.

    Full disclosure is much better, ask Hanson. And count to ten before you hit the send button.

  30. 130
    Hank Roberts says:

    > John Peter
    > you warmers

    What do you call the marine biologists concerned about pH change — acidifiers?

    You haven’t got opinions of your own, yet. Please make the effort to develop your own. They won’t duplicate the copypaste stuff, if you think this through.

  31. 131
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Barton Paul Levenson says:
    25 February 2010 at 10:26 AM


    As it happens, I’m a liberal Democrat.”

    This has no effect on the observation.

  32. 132
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Snorbert Zangox says: 25 February 2010 at 11:30 AM

    Janitors scrubbing toilets at JPL? Climate science.

    Sure thing, “Snorbert.”

  33. 133
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Dan Hughes says:
    25 February 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Dr. Santer, FOIA is the Federal law of the land.”

    Ever read it?

    There’s plenty of reasons why FOI requests may not be valid and can be ignored.

    Much the same was as the right to access to the court system for redress is the law of the land, but you still have the crime of “vexatious litigant” which, in the case of one lawyer in the US has caused them to be barred from ever entering a plea with the court ever again.

    Try reading the law of the land.

    PS it’s the law of the land you can’t break the speed limit. Unless there’s a reason accepted as a reason to do so by law.

  34. 134
    Nick Gotts says:

    The CRU emails were not stolen. – John Peter

    You can repeat this garbage as many times as you like, it won’t make it true: when someone obtains private correspondence by underhand methods and publishes it, that’s theft. You made your agenda quite clear@60, and by using the term “warmists”@118. With “friends” like you, climate science wouldn’t need enemies. BTW, I’m not a climate scientist, nor do I personally know any of the people involved in all the pseudogates.

  35. 135
    SecularAnimist says:

    John Peter wrote: “I have a couple of my opinions to share … The CRU emails were not stolen.”

    Whether the emails were “stolen” or not is a matter of fact and a matter of law, so your “opinion” is irrelevant.

    And your comments in support of your irrelevant opinion demonstrate ignorance of both the facts of the case, and of the relevant law.

  36. 136
    Ken W says:

    Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen (107) wrote:
    “Scientists were not asked test this as a scientific hypothesis but were asked to assume it in order to justify a major international policy”

    Kind of like: “Hey, Dr. XYZ, we’ll give you lots of money if you’ll do studies that prove AGW. Don’t worry about any peer review, because we’ve got all the other climate scientists around the world on our payroll too”

    I’m eager to see what solid incriminating evidence you have to support your assertion.

  37. 137
    Completely Fed Up says:

    JP “I still remember #1 ” Be nice to everyone you pass on the way up, you’ll meet them again on the way down.”

    Almost all the denialists seem to have ignored this one.

    You yourself are no beacon of amity when you’re accusing third parties of malfeasance without any evidence.

  38. 138
    Mal Adapted says:

    If your goal is for the public to trust your work enough to base policy decisions on it, then you darn well had better make all data and calculations available for “audit” by any interested party.

    Is that what Santer’s goal was? The goal of most of the professional scientists I know is contribute to the body of scientific knowledge. They are hoping that their professional peers will examine their work, and determine whether it’s valid and correct. They expect that if any of their professional peers want to replicate their findings, it will be done the way Hank described in #35:

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

    Independently doing the work is science. Fishing through other people’s information is politics. [emphasis mine]

    For better of for worse, it’s up to the public to decide whether they should trust McIntyre the pugnacious denier, or the community of climate scientists who have evaluated Santer’s work by the criteria of their community.

  39. 139
    Ken W says:

    BlogReader (110) wrote:
    “Does he have to write a comment about every paper if he criticizes one? I’m not sure what your point is.”

    No, McIntyre is free to only criticize those papers that support AGW and ignore the obvious flaws in papers that don’t. His “credibility” will clearly reflect that.

  40. 140
    trrll says:

    “Is that the response of a scientist who embraces openness and transparency? Of course not. It is a totally absurd. By now, no one really needs to defend McIntyre’s requests for data. Yes, McIntyre knows the equations can be found in the papers. He wants the intermediate data because he wants to know if Santer did it right.”

    I am not in the Climate Science field, but I would certainly have much the same response as Santer to a request of this nature. I think most scientists would bridle at being asked to spend their time to provide somebody else with intermediate results that that person could just as well calculate for himself. Certainly this goes far, far beyond the bounds of professional courtesy. The very fact that McIntyre is clearly not interested in whether the scientific conclusions are right, but rather whether Santer “did it right” is highly revealing. Anybody who has done science knows that if you pore over somebody’s detailed calculations in enough detail, you will almost always find something that is incorrect–typos, rounding errors, etc.–although it almost never affects the conclusions, because errors tend to be random and cancel out, and if the methods are robust an error has to be so massive as to be obvious to change the conclusions. McIntyre has a history of finding small, scientifically insignificant errors and presenting them in such a way as to imply that the conclusions are in error, larded with dark hints that the data has been intentionally manipulated to mislead, while maintaining a blog in which commenters routinely make wild accusations of fraud and malfeasance without restraint. I can’t help wondering if McIntyre is really just the scientific crank that he appears to be, or whether his behavior is part of a coordinated effort to create doubt in the public media over the field of climate science. It is certainly the case that McIntyre has made zero meaningful contributions to the actual science, but has managed to consume huge amounts of the time of productive laboratories–time that would otherwise have been spent on research. Is this by accident, or is this the true intent?

  41. 141
    flxible says:

    Kevin – “McIntyre’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach is guaranteed to produce conflict. IMO
    Actually it appears more to be calculated to produce conflict – and confusion. :(

  42. 142
    Marco says:

    @blogreader #110:
    Apparently you failed to have noticed that McIntyre posted a comment from Douglass et al (well before Santer et al came out). It’s a consistent pattern of Steve McIntyre: certain people are audited all the time, while those that make the most grievous mistakes or have significant issues that are poorly discussed are given free reign. Soon&Baliunas? Let’s not comment on that. Loehle? Let’s not be critical of its choice of proxies. Douglass et al using shoddy statistics? Let’s attack the paper that shows how shoddy the original paper was!

    The auditor appears to be rather one-sided in his auditing. Of course, he already admitted that his interest lies not in publishing in the scientific literature, but in keeping his blog audience happy…and we know what most of those want: dirty laundry. Even if it requires pouncing on a comma.

  43. 143
    John Peter says:


    Glad to meet you and this fine example of your craftsmanship. I do have a question. You say
    “…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…

    “balance of evidence” might be considered stronger than “these results”
    and would seem to me to be more important than discernible.

    If you have questions about me, please read my post #118


  44. 144
    Marco says:

    @John Peter:

    Letters go through the post office and past several postmen/women. You’ll be OK with them opening up your letters, reading them, and put some of the saucy details on the Internet?

  45. 145
    dhogaza says:

    John Peter (60) wrote:
    “In addition to admitting to modifying an IPCC technical section – which will continue the assault on trust”

    The word “admitting” can infer some sort of wrong-doing, which is clearly not the case here. The more appropriate way to phrase it might be “making the necessary edits to clarify the points raised during the Madrid meeting”. That’s kind of the purpose of a lead author, to make sure the document is clear and understandable by the readers.

    If they’re not allowed to edit based on feedback and live meetings, I guess there’s no point in requesting feedback or holding meetings such as the Madrid one.

    And, yes, thinking there shouldn’t be feedback or meetings to reconcile them is as stupid as it sounds.

    I’ve participated in (largely meaningless) software standards efforts, and I know how difficult it is to get agreement on wording even when Saudi Arabia’s financial health isn’t possibly at stake (at least, that’s how they view efforts to cut emissions). Nothing unusual at all about the laborious effort Dr. Santer describes.

  46. 146
    Wildlifer says:


    A true skeptic (as opposed to a ideological denier) would be skeptical of all papers and “audit” all papers, whether they were in philosophical agreement with the conclusions or not.
    So it proves McIntyre is a partisan hack.

  47. 147
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Words matter. Here’s what an “honest broker” says:

    Talking about the prosecution of scientists is a good way to get a debate going, and this thread will meet that demand…

  48. 148
    MapleLeaf says:

    BlogReader @110 “I’m not sure what your point is.”

    Think very carefully how professional auditing is done and how they select who/what is audited. Now ask yourself how many papers written by ‘skeptics’ CA had ‘audited’? And also ask yourself, when did McI discover an error that changed the original conclusions of a paper? And also ask yourself why McI needed to see Santer’s emails when he was asking him for data, while at the same time bad mouthing Santer in the public domain? And ask yourself when exactly was the last time CA actually tried to audit something?

    CA is a fraud, and a front for an egregious and malicious agenda. If anything, CA and their acolytes are being obstructionist and hindering the advancement of science; that much is blindingly obvious to anyone with an understanding of how real science works. McI operates in a fantastical microcosm and is seemingly completely oblivious of the much bigger and more important picture.

    Now I, and others, should be demanding to see his emails to see what he has been up to. Anyone game?

  49. 149
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    124 Ken W,
    Sonja have written extensively on this, just dig in the peer review literature if you are interested….

  50. 150


    Excuse the sarcasm but….

    To date, there has not been a single credible journal article that shows a natural cause for the modern day warming while also showing how record high greenhouse gas concentrations are not significant.

    NOT ONE.

    Do you really believe that the scientists at CRU were able to squelch every scientist on the planet who tried to publish this landmark anti-AGW paper? Is there no sense of the low probability and the large scale of this conspiracy for this to be true?

    If one throws out the HadCRU data and all papers by these folks, there is still a mountain of evidence for AGW.

    Do the rapidly melting ice sheets and glaciers have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?

    Do the various climate models that show GHGs as the dominant forcing mechanism have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy?

    Do the GISS, UAH, RSS data that show global warming of approximately 0.2C per decade over the past 30 years have access to these emails and joined in on the conspiracy? Certainly Spencer and Christy who run UAH and are well-known skeptics of AGW would not align themselves with AGW and yet their satellite-derived measurements track reasonably with GISS, RSS, and HadCRU. (BTW, 2009 was the second warmest year since 1850 even though it was the “weakest sun” in 100 years!)

    Does the ocean read these emails and magically increase its heat content?

    Does the cooling stratosphere (even accounting for ozone loss) read the emails and join in on the hoax?

    Do the plants and animals read these emails and decide to die off and/or change their migratory habits so that they can support the conspiracy?

    I could go on ad infinitum.

    For quite a long time, we have known that a doubling of CO2 will warm the climate at least 1C and there is fairly good certainty that the resulting feedbacks will produce at least 2C additional warming with 3C more likely. We are also measuring CO2 increases of 2 ppm and climbing and we have levels that have not been seen in the past 15 million years.

    Are we to conclude that these emails deny all of this evidence?

    There are many scientists from many fields that have published data that show the effects of global warming and why humans are the primary drivers of this warming. These scientists include some of the obvious: climatologists, meteorologists, geologists, modelers, and oceanographers. Some less obvious include: biologists, marine biologists, zoologists, chemists, astrophysicists, economists, environmental politics reasearchers, and others. I am quite confident that MANY of these folks have NEVER spoken to the CRU folks nor emailed them.