Climategate revisited

by John Quiggin on February 11, 2010

Now that the main charges of scientific misconduct arising from the hacking of the University of East Anglia email system have been proven false, it’s possible to get a reasonably clear idea of what actually happened here. For once the widely used “X-gate” terminology is appropriate. As with Watergate, the central incident was a “third-rate burglary” conducted as part of a campaign of overt and covert harassment directed against political opponents and rewarded (at least in the short run) with political success.

The core of the campaign is a network of professional lobbyists, rightwing activists and politicians, tame journalists and a handful of scientists (including some at the University of East Anglia itself) who present themselves as independent seekers after truth, but are actually in regular contact to co-ordinate their actions and talking points. The main mechanism of harassment was the misuse of Freedom of Information requests in an effort to disrupt the work of scientists, trap them into failures of compliance, and extract information that could be misrepresented as evidence of scientific misconduct. This is a long-standing tactic in the rightwing War on Science, reflected in such Orwellian pieces of legislation as the US “Data Quality Act”.

The hacking was almost certainly done by someone within the campaign, but in a way that maintained (in Watergate terminology) “plausible deniability” for the principals. Regardless of what they knew (and when they knew it) about the actual theft, the leading figures in the campaign worked together to maximize the impact of the stolen emails, and to co-ordinate the bogus claims of scientific misconduct based on the sinister interpretations placed on such phrases as “trick” and “hide the decline”.

The final group of actors in all this were the mass audience of self-described “sceptics”. With few exceptions (in fact, none of whom I am aware), members of this group have lost their moral bearings sufficiently that they were not worried at all by the crime of dishonesty involved in the hacking attack. Equally importantly, they have lost their intellectual bearings to the point where they did not reflect that the kind of person who would mount such an attack, or seek to benefit from it, would not scruple to deceive a gullible audience as to the content of the material they had stolen. The members of this group swallowed and regurgitated the claims of fraud centred on words like “trick”. By the time the imposture was exposed, they had moved on to the next spurious talking point fed to them by the rightwing spin machine.

To keep all this short and comprehensible, I haven’t given lots of links. Most of the points above are have been on the public record for some time (there’s a timeline here), but a few have only come to light more recently. These Guardian story brings us up to date, and names quite a few of the key players (see also here). For the role of allegedly independent journalists in all this, see Tim Lambert’s Deltoid site (search for “Rosegate” and “Leakegate”).

Update I should have mentioned that much the same team had their first outing in the controversy over the Mann et al “hockey stick” graph. All the same elements were there – supposedly disinterested citizen researchers who were in fact paid rightwing operatives, misuse of accountability procedures, and exceptional gullibility on the part of the “sceptical” mass audience. Details are here (h/t John Mashey).

{ 167 comments }

1

Nick 02.11.10 at 1:44 pm

Where is your evidence that there was actually any hacking involved?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/04/climate-change-email-hacker-police-investigation

2

Pete 02.11.10 at 1:50 pm

“handful of scientists (including some at the University of East Anglia itself)”

Who? That’s quite a paranoid-sounding allegation ..

3

Rob 02.11.10 at 2:08 pm

The hacking was almost certainly done by someone within the campaign

The abuse of the term ‘hacking‘ aside, what counts as ‘almost’ certainty? The existence of a motive is all that I can see. The Guardian makes it fairly clear that we don’t even know that any illegal activity occurred, or that the files were copied by someone on the outside of CRU. It’s not an unreasonable working theory that someone did crack a password or otherwise gain illegal access to the system, but the police haven’t found any evidence of this (and we’re long past the days when ‘computer crime’ is tackled by befuddled plods who can barely work a mouse). Your Watergate analogy, whilst cute, does rest upon something that hasn’t been proven and lacks any evidence other than the existence of a motive. The old saw that we should not attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence might well hold true here; I think that the likeliest explanation is that there was little or no security on the files to crack in the first place.

The core of the campaign is a network of professional lobbyists, rightwing activists and politicians, tame journalists and a handful of scientists (including some at the University of East Anglia itself) who present themselves as independent seekers after truth, but are actually in regular contact to co-ordinate their actions and talking points

I don’t think that any of this is necessary. This description conjures up an image of a conspiracy which might have organisers and a membership and so forth. Surely it’s possible to imagine individuals working towards a common goal without the need for explicit coordination? There seems to be an assumption that this ‘campaign’ must operate in the manner of a mafia crime family or a military force, which is leading us into unnecessary assumptions, in much the same way that Bin Laden’s rag-tag band of Islamists morphed into the shadowy ‘network’ (a weasel-word if ever there was one) of Dick Cheney’s fevered imagination. It’s perfectly possible that disparate individuals, for their own reasons, have developed a sceptical/cynical/hostile/malevolent attitude towards AGW and its proponents, but they don’t need to have a secret handshake or hold private deliberations in smoke-filled rooms.

The final group of actors in all this were the mass audience of self-described “sceptics”. With few exceptions (in fact, none of whom I am aware), members of this group have lost their moral bearings sufficiently that they were not worried at all by the crime of dishonesty involved in the hacking attack

Possibly because no such ‘attack’ has been proven, not to mention that CRU’s moral authority over their own privacy is somewhat undermined by their own flouting of British FOI law.

Equally importantly, they have lost their intellectual bearings to the point where they did not reflect that the kind of person who would mount such an attack, or seek to benefit from it, would not scruple to deceive a gullible audience as to the content of the material they had stolen.

Again, this rests on the allegation that there was an ‘attack’ carried out illegally by a morally bankrupt individual or group. Maybe you’re right, but your words could just as easily be spoken by the CEO of Trafigura after the ‘illegal’ violations of a legal injunction on the reporting of that company’s alleged harms caused to the people of Ivory Coast by the dumping of toxic waste. You’re saying that because you believe that a law was broken in order to make the data public, we should assign a lower weight to the importance of the data, or interpret it differently. Would you make the same judgment in all cases where a law may have been broken in order to make information public?

Also, I do recall some scepticism about the material when it was first presented, centering on whether it had been cherry-picked or presented in a misleading way. However, the vast bulk of the information is actually quite dull, and plenty of it shows the scientists of CRU in a positive rather than negative light.

The members of this group swallowed and regurgitated the claims of fraud centred on words like “trick”. By the time the imposture was exposed, they had moved on to the next spurious talking point fed to them by the rightwing spin machine.

I would count myself as a ‘soft’ sceptic. I wasn’t particularly swayed by the use of the term ‘trick’ because, as a software developer, I use words like that all the time to describe perfectly innocent activities. Some people got excited by it, but in the course of the debate I think it was fairly well debunked by putting the phrase in context. The ‘rightwing spin machine’ again conjures the image of coordination and uniformity of purpose that ‘network’ did earlier, without giving any real explanation of the mechanisms of this machine. I think it’s perfectly likely that there are malevolent, malicious individuals spreading propaganda out there, and some of them may be cooperating. But not all sceptics are malevolent and, for that matter, not all proponents of radical climate action are honest and rational either.

4

BrendanH 02.11.10 at 2:19 pm

Nick,

The article you link to (which JQ also links to, above) merely suggests that there is no need to posit sophisticated hacking.

5

Dan H 02.11.10 at 2:21 pm

Nick wrote: “Where is your evidence that there was actually any hacking involved?”

Realclimate.org was hacked. That is the place where they first tried to disseminate the cherry-picked documentation.

6

Neil 02.11.10 at 2:23 pm

Who? That’s quite a paranoid-sounding allegation ..

Right, completely paranoid (coughPaul Denniscough). No one at UEA was involved.

7

Nick 02.11.10 at 2:29 pm

‘The article you link to (which JQ also links to, above) merely suggests that there is no need to posit sophisticated hacking.’

Wow so you can become a hacker by deleting ‘ht’ from the beginning of a URL and putting ‘f’ in its place. Who knew!?

8

Alex 02.11.10 at 2:37 pm

Well, of course you could implement a side-channel timing attack on SuperJANET’s lightwave network using quantum computing, or build a homemade UAV powered by an ex-Soviet radio-thermal generator and fly it through Phil Jones’ office window, but if all it takes is to find their public ftp server, why waste your valuable time?

It’s still both rude and illegal to read other people’s letters.

9

Nick 02.11.10 at 2:45 pm

It is also illegal to destroy data in response to an FOI request. So I’d say it is a case of ‘tu quoque’.

10

alex 02.11.10 at 2:50 pm

Well, in that case, why don’t we abandon the rule of law, all tool up, and have it out at the windswept and deserted industrial site of your choice? Winner gets to gnaw on the loser’s carcass. After all, it’ll just be practice for what happens when the ‘sceptics’ win and comprehensively fuck the world.

11

Neil 02.11.10 at 2:51 pm

Nick: it is not hacking if it is easy.
Alex: yes it is.
Nick: Well, yes it is, but its not hacking if the person you hacked isn’t nice.

12

Eli Rabett 02.11.10 at 2:55 pm

In addition to the hack at CRU there was a hack of Real Climate. The hackers did gain access to the system, but were thwarted when the attempted to upload a file with selected stolen Emails to the system. And yes, they did hack the East Anglia system as well.

That bird is beyond not flying, it is dodo dead.

13

Nick 02.11.10 at 3:00 pm

‘Nick: it is not hacking if it is easy.
Alex: yes it is.
Nick: Well, yes it is, but its not hacking if the person you hacked isn’t nice.’

I never agreed that what happened was hacking. I acknowledged it was illegal. Opening someone else’s post isn’t ‘hacking’.

14

Nathan 02.11.10 at 3:01 pm

So, a University saying there is no reason to further investigate an accusation of misconduct is the same thing as the accusation being proven false?

15

Nick 02.11.10 at 3:06 pm

‘Well, in that case, why don’t we abandon the rule of law, all tool up, and have it out at the windswept and deserted industrial site of your choice? Winner gets to gnaw on the loser’s carcass. After all, it’ll just be practice for what happens when the ‘sceptics’ win and comprehensively fuck the world.’

Not necessarily. Sometimes breaking the law in a way that can be compensated for might be the best thing to do, given certain non-ideal circumstances. For example, bribing a policeman is illegal just about everywhere and in general a bad thing to do; but in some far from ideal jurisdictions, you might be better off being prepared to do so in certain circumstances. That doesn’t take away from the general value of the rule of law.

16

bm 02.11.10 at 3:09 pm

Wow! What a scene! The very foundations of the UN climate change architecture are quaking and tottering all around him* but still the dogged Professor Quiggin remains crouched, nose to the temple floor, on the trail of those damn hacker mice. Admirable, really.

* http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7017907.ece
(The statement by Bob Watson is especially significant).
* http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/14/climate-talks-un-sidelined

17

Neil 02.11.10 at 3:09 pm

I never agreed that what happened was hacking. I acknowledged it was illegal. Opening someone else’s post isn’t ‘hacking’.

I apologize. I mistakenly took you to be in contact with reality.

18

Marc 02.11.10 at 3:23 pm

The parallels between creationism and climate denialism are what I find striking. The 3:09 post above me by bm has the line that “the very foundations of the Un climate change architecture are quaking”. Yup, just like the theory of evolution from natural selection is in crisis.

What’s frightening to me as a scientist is the clear illustration that there are no boundaries involved. We’re not trained in partisan warfare; we operate on the basis that we’re trying to figure out how nature works. We exhibit skepticism towards our own ideas; we’re willing to consider unorthodox ideas which probably are wrong but might be interesting. And these are used as weapons against us by ideological and political partisans.

Any of us would have our research crippled if we were flooded with freedom of information requests, or had people demand our codes and flood the airwaves with accusations of fraud for minor bugs or subtle defects in data handling. It’s not enough for the denialists to think that the scientists are wrong. They also have to be personally and professionally destroyed in scorched-earth fashion. It’s despicable.

19

rea 02.11.10 at 3:35 pm

I never agreed that what happened was hacking. I acknowledged it was illegal. Opening someone else’s post isn’t ‘hacking’.

If you concede illegality, there isn’t any point in debating whether it amounts to “hacking” as you define it. Let’s agree to call it,”dancing a quadrille” if you want, and put the people who did it in jail (or gaol, considering that it happened in the UK)

20

P O'Neill 02.11.10 at 3:43 pm

And for quality climate change clowning, there’s Fox News.

21

engels 02.11.10 at 3:56 pm

‘I agree that it’s illegal but it’s not right to call it “hacking”‘ does sound like a typical blog comments argument. Let’s see if we can make it to 200 comments…

22

christian h. 02.11.10 at 4:00 pm

This thread demonstrates the problem we face. Clearing the scientists of misconduct is, by the denialists, only interpreted as proof that the conspiracy is even bigger than they assumed. I confidently predict that when London is flooded, they will claim that the rise in sea levels was the result of fiendish machinations by climate scientists intent on covering up their previous misconduct.

23

bm 02.11.10 at 4:10 pm

Marc at 3.23 misreads my comment. The existing UN based institutional foundations for dealing with climate change (UNFCCC, IPCC etc) are indeed in trouble, as the comments by Bob Watson and the chief US negotiator make clear. This is a separate matter from battles over the truth or validity of climate science. So Marc’s comparison to the theory of evolution is a non seqitur.

Look, I don’t want to spoil what looks like a lot of fun. My point is that the impressively wide-ranging minds gathered at Crooked Timber might want to rise above their present fascination with the trail of the hackers and also take up some broader questions of why the UN framework is in trouble, whether reform is inevitable, and, if so, in what direction it ought to go. Then again, maybe not.

24

BrendanH 02.11.10 at 4:30 pm

bm has a serious point, though I’m not sure that ragging on the UN is part of the solution.

The progress towards dealing with climate change is very poor, and recent events have shown that the process is very easily derailed (the global economic crisis matters perhaps more than storms in teacups about e-mails or glaciers). I may be too pessimistic but I can’t see adequate action coming in time — the required international give-and-take will be enormously hard to achieve[1], and the public understanding and support for the problem is shockingly poor. Really significant numbers of people refuse to believe in it, because it has implications that are not congenial, whether from a lifestyle or an ideological point of view.

From this point of view, making the case and debunking the denialists is really important.

fn 1: As David McKay puts it, we pretty much have to give up fossil fuels entirely — this may be feasible but not without enormous political will.

25

Marc 02.11.10 at 4:43 pm

Read the comments to the article that you linked bm, and then get back to me on which side has the problem with extremism and factual inaccuracy.

26

Pete 02.11.10 at 5:30 pm

By “paranoid-sounding allegation” I meant that you were treating it as an organised conspiracy, and sweeping anyone who questions the validity of any piece of climate science into the same conspiracy. Whereas it seems likely that there was an insider in the CRU who assembled the material and then leaked it, but possibly driven by concern over the failure to respond to FOI requests, his/her own concerns about the materiel, or some personal grudge.

I’m quite happy to believe that there is an oil-company funded pro-fossil fuels lobbying movement with no regard for the truth. But it concerns me that in response to that the anti-global warming movement is calling anyone who questions anything a denialist, and that evidence that global warming might not be as catastrophic as feared is being hidden.

What is your understanding of the “hide the decline” email?

27

Dan 02.11.10 at 5:37 pm

members of this group have lost their moral bearings sufficiently that they were not worried at all by the crime of dishonesty involved in the hacking attack

Let me get this straight. When scientists at the CRU break the law by repeatedly withholding information that, under the Freedom of Information Act, they were legally bound to release in a timely manner, that’s all fine and dandy. But when sceptics use hacked material (which should have been in the public domain anyway), they have lost their moral bearings?

28

gyges 02.11.10 at 5:39 pm

I’ve advocated that the people at the centre of ‘climategate’ should have been investigated with a view to prosecuting them for offences against the Freedom of Information Act, misconduct in public office and fraud.

They would have been guilty of the first offence (FOI Act breach) if the complainant hadn’t been out of time.

As for the second and third offences (and perhaps other offences), until they have been investigated with a view to bringing prosecutions against the scientists involved; I don’t accept that anyone from the ‘climategate’ camp has been exonerated.

Further, the ‘climategate’ scientists should demand that they are subjected to this process in order to clear their names.

Bear in mind that I’m not saying that they should be prosecuted: that would depend upon a thorough investigation.

29

Neil 02.11.10 at 5:51 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Pete. Now I know you’re a troll.

30

gmoke 02.11.10 at 5:52 pm

“After all, it’ll just be practice for what happens when the ‘sceptics’ win and comprehensively fuck the world.”

I thought that had already happened. But then I believe we live in a geoengineered world that Thomas Midgley Jr created by accident when he discovered Freon at the behest of Charles Kettering.

31

Marc 02.11.10 at 6:00 pm

gyges: you apparently believe that it’s A-OK to flood working scientists with repeated frivolous requests for information and then charge them with criminal charges if they can’t keep up fast enough.

That demonstrates your (lack of) character pretty completely, but I doubt that you’re either honest or bright enough to realize why.

Scum.

32

Ben Alpers 02.11.10 at 6:08 pm

After all, it’ll just be practice for what happens when the ‘sceptics’ win and comprehensively fuck the world.

Actually, the denialists don’t even need to win. They just need to sufficiently muddy the waters so that governments and non-state actors fail to act (or to act sufficiently). And they may not even have to do that, given the policies proposed by such non-denialists as our current President (“clean coal,” anyone?).

33

Tanya 02.11.10 at 6:09 pm

So after having studied the code, you feel confident about the results produced by it? What is your coding background?

34

toby 02.11.10 at 6:14 pm

@Pete asked “What is your understanding of the “hide the decline” email?”

The best discussion of the CRU farrago is on the Real Climate blog http://www.realclimate.org

Here is how they answer your question. “Mike” is Michael Mann, who was just cleared by Penn State. It should be added that no one made formal complaints against Mann – the enquiry was begun by the University because of the pulic attention.

“No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term “trick” to refer to a “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.”

35

alex 02.11.10 at 6:34 pm

@28: that sounds like ‘win’ to me. Gnawed femur, anyone?

36

kevincure 02.11.10 at 7:43 pm

Look, it’s ignorant to deny climate change when the evidence is overwhelming. But it’s absolutely legitimate to question whether certain potential effects of climate change are being exaggerated by scientists for political reasons. And we’ve seen multiple examples of precisely this over the past few months – the Himalaya Glacier error being the most serious.

I suppose you could argue that missing footnotes or misattributed (or outright wrong) data are inevitable when it comes to projects like IPCC. I would think, though, that given the importance of climate change policy, IPCC reports need to have every fact verified until it is rock solid, and every chart or projection presented in a conservative manner. It’ s obvious that the credibility of the IPCC has taken a major hit over the past few months, and rightfully so! Those of us who are not climate scientists need to be able to trust IPCC reports.

37

musical mountaineer 02.11.10 at 8:01 pm

the main charges of scientific misconduct [at the University of East Anglia] have been proven false…

…by the partial exoneration of one researcher at a different university. Nice try, Quiggin.

At least you’ve finally acknowledged something happened regarding the CRU at East Anglia. Baby steps.

38

politicalfootball 02.11.10 at 8:10 pm

Pete, I’d be interested in hearing your answer to your own question:

What is your understanding of the “hide the decline” email?

You figure it’s just generally understood among client scientists that they are defrauding the public, and so hiding data is a routine and normal part of doing business that scientists need not even conceal from each other? Or what?

39

Salient 02.11.10 at 8:13 pm

certain potential effects of climate change are being exaggerated by scientists for political reasons

…who stands to gain politically from climate change? I can’t think of a government on Earth that would prefer to have to worry about it.

Even the leftiest of lefties are at best resigned to having to deal with the problem (resignation combined with an expression of urgency should not be mistaken for enthusiasm for something happening in the first place — nobody’s excited about the prospect of climate change destructive to human life, any more than anyone was excited to hear about the earthquake in Haiti).

I just don’t get who stands to gain from climate change. It’s a political loser, and a severe headache to the political left everywhere (because it seems we’re the ones who are going to have to expend political capital addressing the climate change problem that we’d rather spend on, e.g. in the U.S., health care).

40

libertarian 02.11.10 at 8:15 pm

…by th prtl xnrtn f n rsrchr t dffrnt nvrsty…

… wh sn’t vn sbjct f th K nvstgtn. Fck qggls, jst hw dmb d y thnk w r? Dn’t nswr. W knw. h bt hw lng fr th dy whn mrlly nd ntllctlly sprr dckwds sch s yrslf ssm thr rghtfl cntrl f th wrld cnmy. Thr wll b skttls nd ncrns fr vryn.

41

Maurice Meilleur 02.11.10 at 8:26 pm

‘IPCC reports need to have every fact verified until it is rock solid, and every chart or projection presented in a conservative manner.’

Critics and deniers, on the other hand, apparently need do no such thing. All they’re required to do is suggest, hint, wonder, imply–or, when they’re feeling their oats, squirt squid ink all over everything. Or call their opponents dickwads. For the record, if anyone’s interested: if I ever assume control of the world economy, there will be skittles and unicorns for everyone but libertarian and musical mountaineer.

42

Marc 02.11.10 at 8:30 pm

You must have caught a link from the denial-sphere John. As a side-note, it was the denial of inconvenient truths (e.g. climate change) that convinced me that libertarianism was a intellectually bankrupt cult rather than an ideology to take seriously. And the libertarian post is important for another reason; he let slip his ideological reasons to reject science that he doesn’t like, because somehow it’s all an evil plot to take over the world economy.

43

alex 02.11.10 at 8:32 pm

Hi libby, I’ll gnaw on your femur any day, you ignorant potty-mouthed relic.

44

toby 02.11.10 at 8:32 pm

I think there is a difference between climate science and the public policies that need to adopted in order to prevent/ modify/ take advantage of it.

At this point, I find it hard to accept that anyone would really query the science. The reduction in arctic and antarctic ice, the shrinking of glaciers, and the rising sea levels seem incontrovertible. There is no questioning that the noughties were warmer than the 90’s, and 90’s were warmer than the 80’s. We hear little or nothing about “The Hockey Stick is broken!” or “Global warming stopped in 1998!” any more. The really far-out denialists have moved from attacking the science to attacking the scientists.

What may be a more fruitful discussion is … what is to be done? I know – we need a communist world government! Only kidding, but meeting short term targets on drastically reducing carbon emission seems fruitless. Oil and coal money has such a stranglehold on the US Senate that getting the necessary legislation through it seems another waste of space. China can’t can even control its own mining industry – an unlicensed mine opens once a week!

We may need a desperate geo-engineering solution – not Dubner and Levitt’s sulphur dioxide, I hope! Artifical trees to absorb CO2 more efficiently that natural trees is my own pet solution.

http://www.aboutmyplanet.com/environment/artifical-trees-to-absorb-carbon-dioxide/

On the other hand, I like this blog of Joe Romm’s which continues to be optimistic in spite of all the gloom and doom.

http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/10/polls-public-support-for-clean-energy-and-global-temperatures/

45

libertarian 02.11.10 at 8:42 pm

<>”Th rdctn n rctc nd ntrctc c”

Hw mch ntrctc c hs bn lst tby? Lst tm ths dmbfck, scnc-htng, nndrthl lbrtrn lkd t th ltrtr — knw, dffclt wth my knckls scrpng n th grnd, bt t trns t n cn nvgt brwsr sng spch rcgntn nd srs f wll-tmd grnts — ntrctc ws gnng, nt lsng c.

46

scathew 02.11.10 at 8:42 pm

Unfortunately the truth will make no difference here. The scandal was “page 1″ and the rebuttals will be page “14C”, if at all. Moreover those who want not to believe will claim that those letting the scientists off the hook are all biased, etc., etc.

This is not a struggle over facts, it is a struggle over religion – those who claiming global warming is false are on a crusade and will not let a little things like facts dissuade them.

It’s why a large percentage of Americans still believe there were WMDs and still believe Saddam was aligned with Al Qaeda. To believe otherwise would crush their precious sense of self, and will do anything to avoid such even if it requires watching the earth get destroyed in the process.

47

harry b 02.11.10 at 8:54 pm

If this were my thread I’d be deleting libertarian, who seems intent on insulting all comers. My suggestion is that contributors ignore. (JQ is, I presume, enjoying a good night’s sleep).

48

musical mountaineer 02.11.10 at 9:24 pm

…who stands to gain politically from climate change? I can’t think of a government on Earth that would prefer to have to worry about it virtually unlimited funds, and a pretext to control every aspect of the economy and every detail of people’s lives.

FIFY

49

scathew 02.11.10 at 9:26 pm

Libertarians = Republicans (except more selfish if that is possible)

Ok, certainly that is not true of every one (the selfish part) and there are charms to Libertarians, but in all honesty every one I met was seriously touched. Very smart, very talented, very deluded. Really you can’t fault them for idealism – in fact it’s sort of the opposite problem. It’s idealism cranked so high that it turns to rabidly blind ideology. It is the exact opposite of the “communist” coin – the (real) communists thought that the answer to the broken free markets was sharing everything. The Libertarians think the answer to sharing too much (ie: taxes) is to share nothing. Both of them are akin saying to yourself, “When my son is thirsty, I give him a glass of water and he’s satisfied. Ergo, if I hold him under water, then he’ll be really satisfied!”

And before I get called an elitist, my parents were at the bottom end of middle class, I’ve only got a high school degree, and I grew up in about as small of a town as they come. I never got given a car, I got no help when I did try to go to college (dropped out), and my high school graduation gift was $15 and a piece of crappy luggage (ok, it wasn’t that bad – I still have it). So f-off about that.

50

politicalfootball 02.11.10 at 9:44 pm

As a side-note, it was the denial of inconvenient truths (e.g. climate change) that convinced me that libertarianism was a intellectually bankrupt cult rather than an ideology to take seriously.

The entirety of libertarianism is the denial of collective action problems. To the extent that you acknowledge that collective action problems exist – or even can exist – you aren’t a libertarian.

One of these days, Oliver Sachs will explain exactly which chunk of the brain enables the recognition of collective action problems, and what goes wrong with libertarians. Who knows? Maybe someday there will be a cure.

51

musical mountaineer 02.11.10 at 9:46 pm

libertarian…seems intent on insulting all comers

Insulting himself preemptively is more like it. I don’t care for his style much (though I don’t blame him; Quiggin is annoyingly perverse). I note that his challenge regarding polar ice has gone unanswered.

My suggestion is that libertarian ignore Quiggin. I usually do.

52

Es-tonea-pesta 02.11.10 at 9:54 pm

How much Antarctic ice has been lost toby? Last time this dumbfuck, science-hating, neanderthal libertarian looked at the literature—- I know, difficult with my knuckles scraping on the ground, but it turns out one can navigate a browser using speech recognition and a series of well-timed grunts—- Antarctica was gaining, not losing ice.

Look, nobody’s stereotype of libertarians is that they are dumb. People’s stereotype of libertarians is that they are amoral and inhumane greed-monsters.

53

Substance McGravitas 02.11.10 at 9:57 pm

I note that his challenge regarding polar ice has gone unanswered.

Well, Toby was wrong, and maybe it’s a slip-up for Arctic ice. But Antarctica is the coldest place in the world – if there’s more precipitation you’ll have more ice and it’s not gonna matter if -20 becomes -10. Shelf ice there, sitting in a warming ocean, has indeed receded.

54

Tom Hurka 02.11.10 at 10:03 pm

Well, I happen to have sat next to Steve McIntyre at a college dinner last night. I don’t know him, he was someone else’s guest, and I didn’t talk to him much. But it did make me read JQ’s post with additional interest.

JQ may be 100% right about the science — he probably is — but his post is basically a series of unsubstantiated innuendos about people like McIntyre — about how someone among them did the CRU hacking (your evidence, John?), about their funding (your evidence?), and about their behaviour (they’re accused — shock, horror! — of communicating with each other and coordinating their actions).

The lowest point is the reference, in the Update about the hockey-stick graph, to “supposedly disinterested citizen researchers who were in fact paid right-wing operatives.” An operative isn’t just someone who gets funding; if he were, I’d be an operative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He’s someone who’s hired specifically to promote his hirer’s agenda. McIntyre is the principal “citizen researcher” who raised doubts about the hockey-stick graph. What’s JQ’s evidence for the “paid operative” innuendo?

Sorry, John: you may be entirely right about the climate science but your post is largely unsubstantiated ad hominem nastiness.

55

Marc 02.11.10 at 10:03 pm

Climate models for the arctic and antarctic differ drastically because of the presence of land vs. sea at the poles and the very different ocean currents. Note that the extremely rapid pace of change in the arctic isn’t contested by the denialists, who prefer instead to jump on a small slip up (note also that antarctic ice is usually predicted by models to be stable in the presence of climate change, at least initially. Eventually, of course, all of the ice will melt.) But, yes, arctic ice is thinning rapidly and antarctic ice is not.

56

Substance McGravitas 02.11.10 at 10:04 pm

if -20 becomes -10.

I should note here that I have no idea if Antarctica is warming or cooling as a whole.

57

Lemuel Pitkin 02.11.10 at 10:16 pm

58

Substance McGravitas 02.11.10 at 10:17 pm

Hard to link them though.

59

musical mountaineer 02.11.10 at 10:19 pm

Speaking of unanswered challenges, nobody on this thread can defend Quiggin’s opening sentence:

the main charges of scientific misconduct [at the University of East Anglia] have been proven false

That’s a large claim, with vast implications. It does not rest on the findings of the Penn State inquiry Quiggin linked, any more than a pyramid in Egypt rests on a pier in Poughkeepsie. Did any of you non-denialists bother to follow the link?

Though Quiggin’s claim is not a scientific one, it bears a certain resemblance to what we have come to expect from AGW spokespersons: claims far out of proportion (even out of relation) to the supposed proof. Of course, many of the most sensational AGW claims have been retracted lately, for exactly those reasons.

I’m somewhat agnostic on AGW (at least on the science; my mind is pretty well made up on the politics). I don’t find either side’s scientific arguments thoroughly convincing.

But Quiggin’s credibility really ought to take a hit here. That glib little assertion in the first sentence is significant to his thesis, and significantly dishonest or stupid.

60

Salient 02.11.10 at 10:24 pm

virtually unlimited funds, and a pretext to control every aspect of the economy and every detail of people’s lives.

But that’s easier to accomplish (at least in the U.S.) by just declaring War on X. If what the lefties wanted was what you’ve said, we’d just throw our hats into into the anti-whomever hysteria ring and … invade Iraq, or something?

World War II comes to mind as a time when the U.S. economy was under the most direct control of its government. There’s nothing like a massive military buildup to achieve virtually unlimited funds (which can get spent on “defense contracts” = whatever) and a pretext to control every aspect of every thing (with a large subpopulation cheering us on and some support from the right wing, no doubt).

61

Lemuel Pitkin 02.11.10 at 10:24 pm

Sorry. Here, via RealClimate.

62

Lemuel Pitkin 02.11.10 at 10:34 pm

(Also, my sneer was at libertarian and pals, not you, S. McG. Altho I suppose it’s better not to sneer at all.)

Anyway, the thing about East Anglia isn’t either the supposed misconduct or the e-mail theft, but the fact that, if you follow climate stuff at all, East Anglia just matter. There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of climate scientists around the world, and essentially all of them agree on the basic outlines of anthropogenic climate change. The mistake of mountaineer, etc. isn’t in believing the charges of misconduct — which I assume are baseless, but who knows — but thinking that even if they were true in their most extreme form they would have any informational content about climate change.

63

Lemuel Pitkin 02.11.10 at 10:35 pm

just *doesn’t* matter.

64

william u. 02.11.10 at 10:40 pm

Marc at 16 nails it. Quoted for truth, as they say:

“What’s frightening to me as a scientist is the clear illustration that there are no boundaries involved. We’re not trained in partisan warfare; we operate on the basis that we’re trying to figure out how nature works. We exhibit skepticism towards our own ideas; we’re willing to consider unorthodox ideas which probably are wrong but might be interesting. And these are used as weapons against us by ideological and political partisans.”

One might also quote Yeats on passionate intensity.

Look, as a physicist-in-training who does computer simulations of problems involving fluid transport, I’d like to think I’m better qualified to understand climate science than, say, Melanie Philips. But without a thorough grasp of the literature or years of experience in the field, I’m inclined to defer to my colleagues in the Earth Sciences department, rather than barge in and say “UR DOIN IT WRONG” and seize upon every little dispute that arises in the course of normal science as evidence the whole shoddily built edifice is collapsing, noes!!

I’m troubled by a collapse of trust in science. Surely you must understand, “libertarian,” that I’m suspicious that what has convinced you isn’t the weight of carefully studied scientific evidence, but rather ideological distaste for acknowledging there might be a global problem requiring global coordination, or the earth’s atmosphere isn’t an infinite garbage can that we can forever perturb without consequence.

65

Substance McGravitas 02.11.10 at 10:44 pm

Also, my sneer was at libertarian and pals, not you, S. McG.

No worries. I was relying on that there self-correcting internet to fill in what I wasn’t gonna Google. Thank you Lemuel.

66

nick s 02.11.10 at 10:44 pm

I can’t wait for the gang assembled here to start sending bucketloads of FOIA trolls to theoretical physics departments.

67

musical mountaineer 02.11.10 at 10:44 pm

It’s usually not that hard to find answers to these questions, if you actually want them.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to find whatever answer you want. For instance, I found this, which seems pretty even-handed, and concludes that we ought to not worry about polar melting. Your cite (assuming your excerpt is representative, I didn’t RTWT) doesn’t directly address Antarctic ice, only the temperature trend. So I could declare victory! But I don’t, because I doubt you’d trust my source.

Someone here dinged Quiggin for ad hominem nastiness. And they have a point. But in a way, ad hominem nastiness is about all we’ve got to go on. One scientist says X, another says not-X. Whom to believe?

Well, you can try to ferret out conflicts-of-interest, and you may have some success getting at the truth that way. But sometimes you get solid evidence that someone is shitting you, at which point you really ought to just cross them off, even (or especially) if they’re on your side. The Penn State inquiry seems on track to fully exonerate Mann. That’s the truth, and a nice score for AGW proponents. But as we can see, the truth isn’t good enough for Quiggin.

What the hell does an economist know about climate, anyway?

68

Uncle Kvetch 02.11.10 at 10:48 pm

I’m somewhat agnostic on AGW (at least on the science; my mind is pretty well made up on the politics). I don’t find either side’s scientific arguments thoroughly convincing.

So, it doesn’t really matter which side is right — the crux of the issue is that “liberals” (whatever you may imagine them to be) really, really bug you, and if they’re for something, you have to be against it, and vice versa. Because they bug you.

You could get a sweet gig writing for the Washington Post with that kind of perspective, MM.

69

Substance McGravitas 02.11.10 at 10:50 pm

For instance, I found this

…on that site with the John Birch ads. Also, the Bat Boy has been captured.

70

Alex 02.11.10 at 11:19 pm

I always thought that a working e-mail address and or a URI was a requirement to comment here. Mods?

71

scathew 02.11.10 at 11:24 pm

I don’t find either side’s scientific arguments thoroughly convincing.

One of the problems of the modern media, at least in the US, is that you can have 500 sane people on one side telling you X and one batshit insane person on the other side saying Y (or more correctly “anti-X”), and they have to treat both sides as being of equal caliber and deserving equal coverage. Top this off with the inability to risk being the least bit controversial (ie: calling out the batshit insane) and it makes for a rather muddled mess.

While I’m not saying all anti-global warming types are batshit insane, certainly the more calculated on their side (ie: those with a vested interest in knocking down the science) have used this “feature” of modern media to their advantage. Doubt is their friend and they’re going to take advantage of it.

Certainly this goes both ways, but as of late the conservatives have been particularly adept at its employ, from everything from global warming to torture denial.

72

John Quiggin 02.11.10 at 11:59 pm

@Tom Hurka You say the suggestion that the hacking was done by someone inside the FOI harassment campaign is “unsubstantiated”. I say that given the pattern of behavior revealed in the Guardian report it is highly likely, but impossible (at least thus far) to prove. Feel free to clarify whether you think this is an unreasonable inference from the evidence.

Second, you object to the use of the term “operative” to describe McIntyre and McKitrick, the leading figures in the hockey stick campaign. The evidence in the cited link is in fact of funding for McKitrick, whose organisational and financial links to the organised political right are much better documented than McIntyre’s. But your use of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to suggest that funding of research doesn’t imply pursuit of a specific agenda is naive. The SSHRC is supposed to fund independent research – the rightwing thinktanks who support the work of McIntyre and McKitrick are not. Feel free to substitute another term for “operative” if you like, but McIntyre and McKitrick are part of the rightwing political machine, and their attacks on scientists and researchers are undertaken to promote the goals of this machine.

But your main objection seems to be one of tone. You complain of “ad hominem nastiness”. “Ad hominem” seems a bit confused here. I am criticising the actions of M&M and other anti-science campaigners, so of course my criticism is directed at them personally, and not at any arguments that they might have put forward. The hint that there is an ad hominem fallacy here is misplaced. As for nastiness, I think it’s nasty to steal people’s mail (as someone did) and equally nasty to seek benefit from the theft by using to distorted quotes to falsely accuse scientists of fraud, as McIntyre and many others did. It is hard to describe such behaviour in neutral tones.

To end with a couple of questions.
(1) Do you think “disinterested citizen researcher” is a better description for McIntyre (and McKitrick) than “rightwing political activist”?
(2) Do you think that McIntyre’s treatment of the stolen emails was morally appropriate or neutral, such that criticism like mine is unfair?

73

John Quiggin 02.12.10 at 12:04 am

Libertarian, you’re banned, but I will thank you for a most appropriate choice of handle. As others have noted, you are representative of what libertarianism has been reduced to.

74

banned troll 02.12.10 at 12:19 am

[trolling]

75

Mrs Tilton 02.12.10 at 12:35 am

Wasn’t Kane banned and, if so, when was his ban lifted?

76

Brer Fox 02.12.10 at 12:39 am

Your blog starts with an assertion that some allegations have been proven false. Thus far only 3 of the 4 against Mann have been dropped from the Penn State inquiry. They are still likely to be brought by the Federal Government. Jones was proven to have violated the FOIA. Fraud charges may well be brought against him.

That the emails and documents were “hacked” appears to be unlikely. At this point it is appearing more and more like they were left on an insecure ftp site, readily available for download by the public. A “skeptic” had advised them some time before they were released that there were files on the server that were not secure.

Since you start with two blatant lies I see no reason to continue reading your blog.

Perhaps you should actually read the emails before you try to act like you know what you are talking about.

No fraud? Consider this email from jones
Tue Jul 5 15:51:55 2005

John,

“This is from an Australian at BMRC (not Neville Nicholls). It began from the attached
article. What an idiot. The scientific community would come down on me in no
uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only
7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.”

Your stuff is right off the fanatic pages.

77

Tom Hurka 02.12.10 at 12:44 am

John:

When you say “their attacks … are undertaken to promote the goals of this machine” you’re again attributing motives. On what basis?

Yes, the Guardian link has information about McKitrick’s funding, but he’s not a “disinterested citizen researcher” because he’s an academic. The “disinterested citizen” can only be McIntyre, and you give no evidence whatever about his funding. And what David Kane said about “political activist.”

Part of the disquieting tone of your post is that it’s obviously about specific individuals but doesn’t mention them by name — giving you “plausible deniability”?

If you’re fussy about “ad hominem” I’ll drop the term. Your post just contains nasty unsubstantiated innuendos.

Which, again, isn’t to disagree about the science or the importance of climate change action.

78

Maurice Meilleur 02.12.10 at 1:12 am

‘ … but he’s not a “disinterested citizen researcher” because he’s an academic.’

And what exactly would McKitrick’s ‘interest’ be, Tom, that he has by virtue of being an academic scientist? Please spell it out–because otherwise, that claim is what those in the philosophy trade call ‘bullshit’.

79

Maurice Meilleur 02.12.10 at 1:21 am

See, this demonstrates the point Salient made: You just can’t sustain a reasonable narrative in which climate scientists and geologists and such benefit from tricking everyone into thinking global warming is real when it’s not. They study the whole fucking planet; there are any number of possible research projects and lines of inquiry they could pursue. Christ, if they were nothing but greedy charlatans, they could go to work for the petrochemical industry–there’s so much more money there. Why on earth would a selfish conspiracy of scientists pick a line of argument they’d have such a hard time persuading people is correct and from which they’d make a relative pittance compared to their corporate colleagues?

80

musical mountaineer 02.12.10 at 3:07 am

So, it doesn’t really matter which side is right—the crux of the issue is that “liberals” (whatever you may imagine them to be) really, really bug you, and if they’re for something, you have to be against it, and vice versa.

Expecting our current leaders worldwide to fix climate change is like sending the Three Stooges’ evil twins to intercept a nuclear warhead in space and convert it into a hydroponic garden with an old-growth forest in it, before it reenters the atmosphere. I do not believe these people have the smarts to fix the problem. Given the vast resources required to do so, I’d expect them to mostly buy things like palaces, helicopter gunships, torture facilities, etc. So I’d much rather just take my chances with climate change, and I don’t give a rat’s ass who agrees or disagrees.

81

Substance McGravitas 02.12.10 at 3:13 am

I don’t give a rat’s ass who agrees or disagrees.

So the purpose of communicating is…

82

ionlyreadobits 02.12.10 at 3:14 am

“Expecting our current leaders worldwide to fix climate change is like sending the Three Stooges’ evil twins to intercept a nuclear warhead in space and convert it into a hydroponic garden with an old-growth forest in it, before it reenters the atmosphere. I do not believe these people have the smarts to fix the problem. Given the vast resources required to do so, I’d expect them to mostly buy things like palaces, helicopter gunships, torture facilities, etc. So I’d much rather just take my chances with climate change, and I don’t give a rat’s ass who agrees or disagrees.”

You’re right, but you’re only right because the liberal democracies are full of people like yourself who are too jaded or too confused to demand leaders that can and will fix this problem. And really, I would rather not have my kid “take chances” with climate change, and it seriously pisses me off that he will have to because of people like yourself.

83

John Quiggin 02.12.10 at 3:19 am

Tom, in this context, both McK and McI present themselves as citizen researchers. It’s true that McK is an academic economist, but, as another commenter said above “What would an economist know about climate change”. As I said, the evidence on McK’s organizational ties with the right is clear, and McI and McK were the joint authors of all the main material in the hockey stick controversy. I see no reason for a presumption of innocence here – the duck test applies.

But I wasn’t primarily concerned with motive, and I am not making innuendos. I am stating straight out that McIntyre made a series of dishonest (or at best, recklessly disregardful of truth( attacks on Jones, Mann and other, including accusations of scientific fraud, which he knew to be false and to be based on a misrepresentation of stolen material. I’ll ask again whether you deny this, and if it’s true, why you’re complaining about my treatment of this guy.

84

Omega Centauri 02.12.10 at 3:34 am

I think most of the coordination is pretty loose, and most of the “attackers” are amateur fellow travelers. The main co-ordination is that right wing think tanks send talking points to talk radio, and similar print and video outlets, where they get trumpeted. Then the unpaid fellow travelers pick up on it. Of course there may well be a core of fossil fuel funded actors, who are taking advantage of the situation.

One thing that needs to be discussed, is the fallacy of false positives. Take a large sample of people, and heavily heavily scritinze them, and you will find some things embarrasing. Heck I’m one of the safest drivers out there, but if I had a police car following me all week, I’m sure there are some moving violations they could tally up. This attack on science is like that, harras then publically, and highlight an irregularity that comes up (even if the irregularity is terminology whose meaning is different in science as in the general public). As Jesus said “let he who is without sin…”. Pretty much an acknowledgment that if you scrutinze carefully enough anyone can be made to seem guilty. It ought to be important (regardless of one’s position on the political spectrum), to guard against the possibility that a highly motivated hostile minority can destroy the reputation of a group of people.

85

musical mountaineer 02.12.10 at 3:36 am

scathew@71: I’m not sure how your comment follows from mine. I guess you mean I wouldn’t have any doubts, if only climate skeptics had no voice in the media or something.

By far the strongest arguments I’ve seen against the AGW hypothesis have come from the pro-AGW scientists themselves. For example, Phil Jones once said, “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?” That’s about as anti-scientific as one can get. If that’s the spirit in which Jones does his research, then he’s more likely than other scientists to reach wrong conclusions.

86

Es-tonea-pesta 02.12.10 at 4:03 am

Expecting our current leaders worldwide to fix climate change is like sending the Three Stooges’ evil twins to intercept a nuclear warhead in space and convert it into a hydroponic garden with an old-growth forest in it, before it reenters the atmosphere. I do not believe these people have the smarts to fix the problem. Given the vast resources required to do so, I’d expect them to mostly buy things like palaces, helicopter gunships, torture facilities, etc. So I’d much rather just take my chances with climate change, and I don’t give a rat’s ass who agrees or disagrees.

This is what everyone assumed you believed already. Stop pretending that you think the earth is unlikely to be destroyed in the next century.

87

musical mountaineer 02.12.10 at 4:14 am

…they could go to work for the petrochemical industry—there’s so much more money there. Why on earth would a selfish conspiracy of scientists pick a line of argument they’d have such a hard time persuading people is correct and from which they’d make a relative pittance compared to their corporate colleagues?

AGW proponents get bigger money and better treatment from the press.

Michael Mann’s research has brought about $6 million in grants in the last ten years. I don’t know what Mann charges for a speaking fee, but it’s presumably hefty. Al Gore gets $100K – $175K for a one-hour speech.

Name one climate skeptic who can command that kind of cash, either for research or as a speaker. AGW research is a huge business, and its investors do expect returns.

88

Popeye 02.12.10 at 4:23 am

Exxon Mobil still spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to fund lobby groups that question the existence of global warming. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap to hire Michael Crichton to talk for an hour either.

89

Lemuel Pitkin 02.12.10 at 4:42 am

Michael Mann’s research has brought about $6 million in grants in the last ten years.

I can’t prove you were doing the Dr. Evil pinky-gesture while you typed that, but I like to imagine you were.

90

John Protevi 02.12.10 at 4:56 am

AGW proponents get bigger money and better treatment from the press.

Michael Mann’s research has brought about $6 million in grants in the last ten years. I don’t know what Mann charges for a speaking fee, but it’s presumably hefty. Al Gore gets $100K – $175K for a one-hour speech.

Name one climate skeptic who can command that kind of cash, either for research or as a speaker. AGW research is a huge business, and its investors do expect returns.

This is indeed a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.

91

bad Jim 02.12.10 at 4:56 am

The climate change deniers are funded by some of the wealthiest industries on the planet, the oil and coal companies, and they assert that the average climatologist is corrupt. This has got to be the lamest conspiracy theory ever concocted.

Cui bono points in one direction only; in a sane world the environmentalists would be all over the news pointing out that the energy industries are generously funding the soi disant skeptics. Instead, they’re typically portrayed as plucky contrarians bravely bucking the trend, rather than paid mercenaries and their sycophants.

An aside: creationism and climate denialism require a conspiracy to account for the countervailing scientific consensus in order to resolve cognitive dissonance: since the preferred view is so obviously right, there has to be something deeply wrong with their opponents. So many of them agree that they can’t simply be mistaken; they must know they’re wrong, and it follows that they must have some foul incentive to maintain a united front.

Sure, it sounds silly, but can 75% of Republicans (who are creationist, according to one poll) be wrong?

92

David 02.12.10 at 4:57 am

It is hard to choose just one from the many tendentious and wrong assertions that MM has made in this thread but I’ll go with one from his post @67: One scientist says X, another says not-X. Whom to believe? In this case, one scientist says not-X and 900 scientists say X. Whom to believe. Gosh MM has convinced me.

93

John Protevi 02.12.10 at 4:59 am

To get the full effect of the devastating allusion to Mr Goldberg all you need do is imagine the preceding post with proper formatting!

94

onymous 02.12.10 at 4:59 am

Michael Mann’s research has brought about $6 million in grants in the last ten years. I don’t know what Mann charges for a speaking fee, but it’s presumably hefty. Al Gore gets $100K – $175K for a one-hour speech.

Yes, that’s how we scientists live, jetting around in first class, commanding tens of thousands of dollars for a one-hour speech, kicking back at our opulent penthouse after a long day of bilking the public out of its tax dollars….

Wait, sorry, I just woke up from that daydream. What I mean is, writing code at midnight to try to finish a publication that I’ll get invited to give a few talks on, at places that will reimburse my airfare (coach, of course) and maybe even buy me a $20 dinner and, if I’m lucky, a beer or a glass of wine. Oh, the luxury!

95

Maurice Meilleur 02.12.10 at 5:16 am

Anyone who knows how ‘bringing in grants’ works at a research university knows that Mann isn’t putting $600k in his pocket every year, even assuming your figures are correct.

I don’t have to name a skeptic who bills him- or herself as such who gets as much money as Al Gore does to speak (but: Sarah Palin? Dick Cheney? I suppose Dick just asks for an egg salad sandwich and a ride back to the airport?), because that wasn’t my point. My point was to say that if a person with a scientific bent is greedy and selfish and willing to sell out science for profit–the charge behind all this talk about conspiracies, and behind snide comments about research being a ‘huge business’ and people wanting a ‘return on investment’–she gets her PhD in and goes into a field where the most money is. If you think that by far the deepest pockets aren’t still on Exxon’s and BP’s side of the debate, aren’t behind research into petrochemical location and extraction, then we have little left to talk about.

96

bad Jim 02.12.10 at 5:27 am

Protevi, that actually sounded more like a Manchurian Candidate allusion (“the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”)

97

Check it 02.12.10 at 5:52 am

How can you say this! Don’t you know that the recent accord in Copenhagen was in fact based upon the false science of climate change, which the “science scandal of the century” (Michele Malkin) helped to expose.

Just ask the nation’s leading energy and science expert, and the wonderful Washington Post newspaper.

It turns out climate is not ultimately controlled by the atmosphere and heat trapping gases here on earth, but by Glenn Beck and ideological spin — which says, don’t worry, climate change of course exists, “due to natural, cyclical environmental trends.”

Bad Michael Mann. The entire climate change understanding had nothing to do with the independent analyses or data of thousands of scientists world wide, or the underlying facts themselves (which a good scientist or geo-physicist , armed with the record before us, doesn’t even need other scientists for) but him! Michael Mann!!

And he might even have fudged some data to average out some inconsistencies, never before done in the annals of man –and, gasp, he or his cohort had the nerve — and this is really hard to believe (biggest science scandal of mankind’s entire history is more like it) — to say in emails that they should try to keep what they thought was ideologically and non science motivated crap from being presented in peer review journals as objective scientific analysis.

Oh. My. Gawd. How is the media not still talking about the magnitude of this enormous scandal, on its front pages, as it was for a time??

How!!!

98

Logern 02.12.10 at 7:35 am

they could go to work for the petrochemical industry—there’s so much more money there

Aye, it sure wasn’t climate scientists summoned before congressional committees about record profits awhile back.

99

Zamfir 02.12.10 at 9:42 am

Scientists don’t have to pocket big wads of money to have a stake in the game. That 6 million dollar over ten years isn’t making Michael Mann a rich man at all, it is making him head of a relatively independent unit at his institute who can set his own agenda and have his pick of graduate students. Without it, he might be the tree-ring guy at the end of the coridor who would sell his soul for funding the next 6 months.

Most scientists need to show some level of direct social relevance of their research to get more funding. Someone I know works for a large grant-distributing organization, and over the last years they have seen an enormous rise in the proposals for studying the “Effects of climate change on topic X” from people who would have wanted to study topic X anyway. There is nothing nefarious about their motives, climate change really is making some fields more relevant than before, and for a given amount of money it reduces the relevance of other fields.

The same logic largely works for environmentalists. Many of them would support massive efforts to reduce fossil fuel use in any case, and climate change becomes an extra argument for policies they would favour without it too. Ironically, this puts them in almost the same political position as the nuclear industry, and both sides are uncomfortable about that.

100

toby 02.12.10 at 10:08 am

“How much Antarctic ice has been lost toby? Last time this dumbf**k, science-hating, neanderthal libertarian looked at the literature….Antarctica was gaining, not losing ice”

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/06/ice-shelf-instability/

The Antarctic Ice Shelf is thinning, as was repeated above, it is not hard to read the evidence if you look.
@Musical Mountaineer wrote “For instance, I found this, which seems pretty even-handed, and concludes that we ought to not worry about polar melting…”

You are joking, right! A right wing news site called “New American” that headlines Obama’s “falling popularity” and boldly attacks “Queen Pelosi”. If you expect climate science to get a fair shake on a site like that, then you are fooling yourself.

There are major problems in the article itself. It uses an old Creationist technique called “quote mining” – you pull quotes selectively from different scientists to sow a sense of confusion in the reader & sell them on you main point – in this case, that the globe is actually cooling.

Wiselav Mislowski, who is quoted, as been in the news before.

http://climateprogress.org/2009/12/15/gore-derangement-syndrome/

German scientist Mojib Latif is cited as if he was agreeing that there were cycles of global warming and cooling. See
http://climateprogress.org/2010/01/14/science-dr-mojib-latif-global-warming-cooling/

Just to show how bad it is, the article then trots out the worst denialist crook of them all, Viscount Monckton (self-styled adviser to Margaret Thatcher), to summarize, and then adds comments from an article written in 1922!

“this”= http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/tech-mainmenu-30/environment/2871-are-the-ice-caps-melting

101

alex 02.12.10 at 10:21 am

But anyone who wouldn’t “support massive efforts to reduce fossil fuel use” is a moral cretin, so what’s your point?

102

magistra 02.12.10 at 10:49 am

Scientists don’t have to pocket big wads of money to have a stake in the game.

Yes, but the scientist who convincingly proved that all previous theories about AGW were wrong would get a Nobel prize for that. Look at what happened when Robin Warren and Barry Marshall proved that stomach ulcers are largely due to infections rather than stress, like everyone had thought before. And a refutation of AGW would be a bigger and more important discovery than this. Big scientific discoveries are winner takes all: it’s the people who make big breakthroughs who get remembered, not the ones who confirm the current consensus. Are you saying that scientists wouldn’t be interested in being known as the person who got it right after all those years of every other researcher being wrong?

103

Ciarán 02.12.10 at 11:12 am

I don’t know what Mann charges for a speaking fee, but it’s presumably hefty. Al Gore gets $100K – $175K for a one-hour speech.

I don’t know what height Mann is, but presumably he’s tall. Al Gore is tall.

104

Howard 02.12.10 at 11:47 am

Of all the “accusations” arising from this, the one that disturbs me the most is the accusation that some leading researchers could and did somehow interfere with the journal referring process to keep opposing views from being published, simply because the views were opposing (not because the science was bad). (As I recall one email says, ‘if they ever do get that paper published in such and such journal, we’ll simply put such-and-such journal on our list of not-really-respectable journals and leave it out of our literature review.’)

I wish JQ or someone who knows more about climate science would rebut this, or discuss it. For two reasons: first, there was an effective sales effort to interested non-experts along the lines of ” this is settled science, with no respectable disagreement”; second, this seems like an odd way to run a discipline. In my discipline (economics), a good path (the best path?) to publication is to challenge a widely accepted stylized truth: David Card (and Krueger) takes on minimum wage and wins the John Bates Clark medal; Stiglitz takes on markets and information — Nobel; for that matter JQ takes on widely held positions and gets his book published at Princeton U Press. Of course, you don’t get published just for holding your breath and stamping your feet — your opposing views have to be based on clear theory and statistical evidence.

I have a hard time believing that this is different in the climate-science field; but there is a strong suggestion of this arising from the climate-gate material; and I haven’t seen it clearly rebutted.

105

alex 02.12.10 at 12:13 pm

“your opposing views have to be based on clear theory and statistical evidence”. And there you have it. Random anecdotes and ‘but,but, but… what about my ferrari?’ blitherings don’t cut the mustard. There just IS no well-argued empirical challenge to AGW – because if there was, you can bet your arse that the oil companies and the right-wing thinktanks would have it all over the front pages, all the time. Heroic dissident scientists would be on Fox News twice a night talking about their struggle to have their theories accepted, and explaining – with charts! – why the IPCC is wrong. Instead it’s gossip, insinuation, nit-picking over some tiny micro-percentage of the available data, point-blank denial, etc etc.

106

Marc 02.12.10 at 12:40 pm

Mountaineer: you clearly have no idea at all about how academic grants work, do you? The display of sheer idiocy on Mann’s 6 million dollars of grants should disqualify you from writing out of sheer shame. Why, you might ask?

***Because science professors get very little additional personal money from grants.* We are typically on 9 month appointments, and can get 2 additional months from grants. That means that – you guessed it – all of the rest of the money goes to funding students, postdoctoral researchers, and so on. The skeptics get substantially *more* money for themselves, since they are in many cases fully paid to mouth their propaganda by fossil fuel companies.

We’re also so naive as a group that we give scientific talks *for free*, or at best we get reimbursed for our plane tickets. This may be dismaying to true capitalists, of course, but what would you expect from a cadre of evil Marxists bent on world domination?

Howard: those claims were made and aren’t even close. The basic problem was that there were several high-profile *breakdowns* in the refereeing process, where flatly erroneous skeptical papers got published even in the presence of elementary errors. The emails contained typical complaints about the quality of the refereeing process, which is very different from suppression. Talking about whether source X should be included or not in a paper is pretty moot when, in the end, it *is* included.

107

Maurice Meilleur 02.12.10 at 12:43 pm

Absolutely, Alex. If there were sound science to refute the findings for significant anthropogenic warming and the threats that ensure, surely the scientists and associated corporate and other interests could find a better spokesman than James Inhofe, or a better line of argument than sticking Al Gore’s book in a snowdrift and declaring him refuted.

108

Marc 02.12.10 at 12:45 pm

Zamfir: scientists tend not to be interested in pursuing fraudulent research paths, and that is what they’re being accused of. Climate change is about as controversial within the field as evolution is in biology – in both cases there is an enormous amount of evidence and a well-developed theory. Yes, there are a lot of grants being written and research being done on the topic – because it’s clear that there is something major that we’re doing to the planet and we need to figure out of the consequences.

So the idea that people are chasing an effect that they don’t really believe exists, and are frauds…

well, what can I say? Denialist = creationist.

109

John Quiggin 02.12.10 at 12:52 pm

Zamfir, as someone who works in one of these fields (irrigation in Australia) and peripherally in another (management of coral reef ecosystems), I can assure you we had plenty of problems before climate change came along. Obviously, my research proposals now contain reference to climate change, for the reason that there is overwhelming evidence that climate change is happening globally, and a lot of evidence to suggest it is already affecting these systems. But if climate change were disproved tomorrow, my research support would be entirely unaffected.

110

JoB 02.12.10 at 1:01 pm

“Denialist = creationist.”

If that would have been the average quality of argument used in defense of Darwin, most of us maybe would still be uninformed enough to be creationists ;-(

111

Maurice Meilleur 02.12.10 at 1:11 pm

JoB: that’s not a defense of global warming findings, it’s a useful analogy to describe the denialists. In fact, if it’s not appropriate, it’s only because creationists have a consistent explanation of how such an enormous scientific conspiracy against Biblical truth works: the devil makes them do it.

112

alex 02.12.10 at 1:12 pm

Go to realclimate.org, and come back when you’ve read several thousand pages of scientific argument, then. What do you want from a one-paragraph comment?

113

JoB 02.12.10 at 1:17 pm

I don’t see where it’s useful other than to cope with an onset of anger. Justified anger but anger still. The task is to inform and convince. Not to bully. You can leave that to the other side – I’m sure they’re better at it anyway.

(& now I’ll bow out because I don’t want to provocate)

114

politicalfootball 02.12.10 at 1:38 pm

Of all the “accusations” arising from this, the one that disturbs me the most is the accusation that some leading researchers could and did somehow interfere with the journal referring process to keep opposing views from being published, simply because the views were opposing (not because the science was bad).

I’m probably making a mistake in trying to answer this, because I’m not steeped in all the “climategate” details, but I’m pretty sure this is an example of how propaganda has been used to distort this issues. Note your language: “some leading researchers could and did somehow interfere with the journal referring process”. I’m pretty sure that even the mail thieves aren’t claiming they have evidence of this. Their claim is that influencing journals was attempted. My understanding is that the relevant papers were published.

115

scathew 02.12.10 at 2:23 pm

Of all the “accusations” arising from this, the one that disturbs me the most is the accusation that some leading researchers could and did somehow interfere with the journal referring process to keep opposing views from being published, simply because the views were opposing (not because the science was bad).

I worried about that too based on the phrases that were taken out of context, but it turns out in one of the comments of the first hyperlink of the OP it gives a good dissection of why this claim is bogus:

http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/12/03/climategate-exxon-fascism/

Put in its context it all makes a lot more sense why someone might have considered (and that’s all they did) censoring the opposing publication in question.

Unfortunately it doesn’t matter if you can explain the issues rationally as:

a) It’s too late.
b) You just become “part of the conspiracy”.

This is just a Red Sox versus Yankees thing and facts are just a distraction.

116

ajay 02.12.10 at 2:54 pm

100: this seems like an odd way to run a discipline. In my discipline (economics), a good path (the best path?) to publication is to challenge a widely accepted stylized truth… Of course, you don’t get published just for holding your breath and stamping your feet—your opposing views have to be based on clear theory and statistical evidence.
I have a hard time believing that this is different in the climate-science field; but there is a strong suggestion of this arising from the climate-gate material; and I haven’t seen it clearly rebutted.

Ah yes, if only climatology were as free from political posturing, as intellectually rigorous, as firmly based on a solid foundation of impeccably-observed fact, and as reliably predictive as the science of economics!

117

Barry 02.12.10 at 3:18 pm

Howard @ 100:

“I have a hard time believing that this is different in the climate-science field; but there is a strong suggestion of this arising from the climate-gate material; and I haven’t seen it clearly rebutted.”

Actually, there isn’t a strong suggestion about this; and so far the accusations trail off into nothingness.

However, continuing Ajay’s theme, you are providing another data point on the quality of the economic professoriate. If your judgement of academic scandals is this bad, you’ve got some problems.

118

onymous 02.12.10 at 3:19 pm

Keeping stupid wrong papers that disagree with overwhelming evidence out of journals isn’t censorship, it’s peer review. And any scientist, in any field, will have plenty of anecdotes about wrong papers that got published anyway, or good papers that got rejected for stupid reasons, which are failures of peer review. That’s the sort of grumbling that was going on in those emails.

119

politicalfootball 02.12.10 at 3:40 pm

Howard, as you reflect on conspiracies, you should ask yourself: What chain of events brought this false narrative to your attention, such that it became so disturbing to you?

The people pushing these narratives are bullshitters. I’ve never studied the details because it doesn’t actually take too long to identify them as bullshitters. I suppose I agree with JoB’s implication that taking the time to refute bullshitters is worthwhile, and that merely identifying them as bullshitters is inadequate – but really, folks like you and me who aren’t making a study of this particular line of bullshit just need to know that the people on one side are scientists, and the people on the other side are bullshitters. Science is flawed and inaccurate, but bullshit is bullshit.

120

ajay 02.12.10 at 3:52 pm

113: I should add that I’m not saying that most or indeed many economists are dishonest, political hacks, bad scientists or innumerate. Most aren’t. Most are honest, smart, and try their best to produce impartial results.
But economics has not exactly covered itself in glory recently in any of these areas, and it’s certainly not a good idea for any economist to be holding up economics as an example of how to do rigorous science.

121

toby 02.12.10 at 3:58 pm

@politicalfootball,

Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit” is appropriate here. Frankfurt said, among other things, that at least liars and hypocrites have some respect for the truth, but bullshitters have none.

122

Steve Reuland 02.12.10 at 4:40 pm

@48:

…who stands to gain politically from climate change? I can’t think of a government on Earth that would prefer to have to worry about it virtually unlimited funds, and a pretext to control every aspect of the economy and every detail of people’s lives.

So, let me see if I understand how the conspiracy works…

Governments that already have the power to tax and regulate the energy industry have decided that they need the power to tax and regulate the energy industry, because these taxes and regulations, as opposed to all others, magically give governments virtually unlimited funds and the ability to control every aspect of the economy and people’s lives.

And because they need political cover to seize a power that they already have, governments have enlisted legions of scientists who are told to generate conclusions that they don’t believe in. And since the scientists have nothing to gain from this, the government bribes them with grant monies that they would have dispersed to them anyway, and that must be used for… research. Scientists need the research funds because falsifying data is very expensive.

And here comes the really sneaky part. After scientists from the world over — not just those working for government agencies, but those in academia, and nearly every professional society — come out and dutifully claim that global warming is real and needs to be addressed, the governments… do almost nothing! What better way to cover up their nefarious scheme of bribing scientist than to systematically ignore their recommendations? This having been accomplished, the path to unlimited money and power is, um… ???? … Profit!

Yeah, makes sense.

123

dsquared 02.12.10 at 4:45 pm

In my discipline (economics), a good path (the best path?) to publication is to challenge a widely accepted stylized truth

I very much disagree with this.

124

Zamfir 02.12.10 at 4:47 pm

Zamfir, as someone who works in one of these fields (irrigation in Australia) and peripherally in another (management of coral reef ecosystems), I can assure you we had plenty of problems before climate change came along. Obviously, my research proposals now contain reference to climate change, for the reason that there is overwhelming evidence that climate change is happening globally, and a lot of evidence to suggest it is already affecting these systems. But if climate change were disproved tomorrow, my research support would be entirely unaffected.
Sure, but if there currently are no problems in the field you would like to study, then showing that global warming is likely to cause future problems in that field makes your research suddenly more relevant to society. Which can lead to some people overestimating the importance of climate change on their field of interest. Nothing conspirious, just people interpreting stuff a bit too much to their interest.

As far as I can tell, this is a real problem for the “working group II” section of the IPCC, who have to decide which of the many reports on the effects of climate change are solid enough to include. Sometimes the process makes a mistake and lets an overstated claim through, and at the moment even small errors can have a huge effect on public opinion.

If we want a public that has a robust trust in scientific results, I personally suspect that setting up scientists as a class of desinterested searchers for truth is counterproductive. Because scientists are just human, they make mistakes, hold petty grudges and once in a while someone is just fraudulent.

As more people become involved in climate related research, at some point someone will be caught who really did undeniably cook the books, or was perhaps even being bribed by some interest group. At that point people will have to be convinced that science works despite individual faults, and not just because of the ethical high standards of scientists compared to the low right-wing hacks.

125

climator 02.12.10 at 4:47 pm

Most of the tomfoolery going on in the journal refereeing process involves arses with grudges or other personal problems pissing all over results that are easily as publishable as the majority of crap already published. In the grant review process you also get arses pissing all over fundable requests so that their similar research has a greater chance of being funded. And were Jesus, Buddha, Allah and Boog Powell to make a joint appearance announcing that they’d dealt with global warming and that all was copacetic, the climate researchers would be cranking out proposals to study something else within the hour. The political foofaraw is another little game for the endians to play while they’re getting boned. I prefer drinking games.

126

ajay 02.12.10 at 5:16 pm

but if there currently are no problems in the field you would like to study, then showing that global warming is likely to cause future problems in that field makes your research suddenly more relevant to society.

…and an example of one of these problem-free fields would be…?

127

roger 02.12.10 at 5:21 pm

“100: this seems like an odd way to run a discipline. In my discipline (economics), a good path (the best path?) to publication is to challenge a widely accepted stylized truth…”

This is so funny. Here’s a quote from an article that made the rounds in December:

“After the EPI gathering, Peter Dorman, an economist at Evergreen State College with a gentle, bearded air, related an e-mail exchange he once had with Hal Varian, a well-respected Berkeley economist who’s moderately liberal but firmly committed to the neoclassical approach. Varian wrote to Dorman that there was no point in presenting “both sides” of the debate about trade, because one side–the view that benefits from unfettered trade are absolute–was like astronomy, while any other view was like astrology. “So I told him I didn’t buy the traditional trade theory,” Dorman said. “‘Was I an astrologer?’ And he said yes!” – Christopher Hayes, Nation.

Economists are about the least accepting group when it comes to heterodoxy. Yet, who has called for Varian to “resign” because he is ‘suppressing’ the other side?

128

DMonteith 02.12.10 at 5:27 pm

Sure, but if there currently are no problems in the field you would like to study, then showing that global warming is likely to cause future problems in that field makes your research suddenly more relevant to society.

Enterprising grad students take note. A surefire thesis proposal: “Hey, this field I’m trying to enter has no problems to work on (!), so I’m going to gin up some tangential connection to climate change in an effort to look busy.” Tenure is just around the corner!

129

Robert 02.12.10 at 5:39 pm

Varian is the author of maybe the second-most popular introductory grad textbook on microeconomics. And he is, at best, incompetent. Ian Steedman, J. S. Metcalfe, and others proved back in the 1970s that the “benefits” from trade can be negative.

130

Salient 02.12.10 at 6:03 pm

ajay: see the BHL thread for several examples of problem-free fields, many of which you proposed ;-)

131

Hidari 02.12.10 at 6:07 pm

‘In my discipline (economics), a good path (the best path?) to publication is to challenge a widely accepted stylized truth

I very much disagree with this.’

A few days ago in the Guardian, in the Comment is Free section, there was an article that I can no longer find, which asked the question: ‘What if (conventional, neo-liberal) economics faced the same skepticism as climate science?’. It’s a good question. What would we find if ‘we’ hacked into the emails of the neo-liberal ‘elite’? What would we discover about the ‘peer review process’? Would we find an open, liberal (sic) tolerant academic community keen to hear the voices of outsiders, happy to share its empirical data, and tolerant of alternative approaches?

Or would we find something else?

Of course the comparison is preposterous because AGW scientists can be ‘caught out’ by making incorrect empirical predictions, whereas neo-liberal economists can never be caught out in this way, because they rarely make empirical predictions, and when they do they are invariably wrong. And yet AGW faces skepticism from the corporate media in a way that the ‘science’ of conventional economics does not.

I wonder why.

132

james 02.12.10 at 6:07 pm

Could someone clarify the following:

It is my understanding that providing a scientific proof requires the following;
The proof, the raw data, the steps to reproduce. If a computer model is part of the proof this would extend to the code and the computer program. Is this accurate?

My limited understanding of this issue, is that the proof and the output data is readily available but the raw data, steps to reproduce, computer code and computer programs are all restricted. Is this normal for the natural sciences fields?

133

alex 02.12.10 at 6:28 pm

By using the word ‘proof’ in this context, you show that you don’t really understand anything about the process at all. Moreover, in the instance of UEA, what was taking place was a systematic effort to prevent scientists getting on with the work they were paid to do, by basically trying to force them to perform their jobs with a crowd of gobshite wankers staring over their shoulder and poking their fingers into anything they tried to do. How would you like that? Maybe you would get angry, and maybe you would even try to keep what you were doing away from these idiots, because you thought it was important, and they were trying to wreck it. Maybe not, who knows?

134

toby 02.12.10 at 6:32 pm

Flash! Tim Lambert (he of the Deltoid blog) debated leading AGW denialist Christopher Monckton this morning. Read all about it here:

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/02/moncktons_mcluhan_moment.php

135

politicalfootball 02.12.10 at 6:39 pm

Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit” is appropriate here.

Exactly. I was thinking of Frankfurt when I wrote that comment, and using “bullshit” in the technical sense.

Dsquared’s customary humility keeps him from pointing to his classic work of scholarship on the subject, but this, too, was invaluable to me in understanding how to treat the claims of climate change deniers.

136

politicalfootball 02.12.10 at 7:05 pm

Is this normal for the natural sciences fields?

You’ll find that the PETA types, for example, have made labs very paranoid – universities keep buildings with lab animals under very tight security nowadays. Basically, the rule is: If people feel the need to sabotage your work, there are strong practical reasons to keep your work as tightly held as possible.

Of course, the only people I’ve heard complain about the source code thing are climate change bullshitters, so there’s no particular reason to suppose there is anything behind the complaint.

137

bianca steele 02.12.10 at 7:12 pm

I’m surprised how many people are complaining about how people doing scientific work are somehow being “interfered” with by people outside the organization making public statements about what the organization does and its worth. There are layers and layers of management, etc., shielding most of those people from all that. The high-level people (yes, I know these e-mails are from high-level people among themselves) may end up losing sleep over the impossibility of doing all their work, keeping their hand in with the science, and dealing with extraneous political stuff too, but everyone else (probably 80-95% of the scientists and lab workers) is doing normal science, carrying out prescribed experiments and analyses, this kind of thing. The number of people who need to worry about outside skeptics and so forth “poking their fingers into their own work” seems likely to be pretty small.

138

Jim Harrison 02.12.10 at 7:44 pm

In war, there is ordinarily a huge home-field advantage; but in political disputes, you’re better off fighting on your enemy’s turf. Hill and Knowlton, the PR firm that pioneered the modern art of scientific denialism, perfected the technique in its classic campaign for the tobacco industry by focusing public attention on every conceivable flaw in the research that linked smoking and cancer while making sure that nobody looked at the remarkable weakness or non-existence of science on the other side. Results unfavorable to the tobacco companies were evaluated with hyper-Popperian methodological scruples while the occasional finding that tended the other way was instantly accepted as legitimate. The theoretical possibility of bias on the one side was highlighted as scandalous while the obvious parti pris of the other side was never mentioned. And so forth. To combat this strategy, which is being employed afresh in the climate debate, often by the very same people who once fought the good fight for cash and carcinoma, it is necessary to bring the war to the enemy.

By the way, why hasn’t Hill and Knowlton ever been prosecuted under Rico?

139

cpo 02.12.10 at 8:15 pm

Discovering that email may or may not have been stolen, or that Mann can be unpleasant, does not change what has preceded. Here’s a timeline (derived from multiple sources):

Joseph Fourier (1824, commonly though inaccurately cited as 1827)—atmosphere keeps Earth warmer than if there were no atmosphere (ballpark = 50 degrees F)

John Tyndall (1859)— CO2 and water vapor identified as greenhouse gases

Svante Arrhenius (1896)—calculates (using paper and pencil!) climate model including albedo and feedback effects

(early 20th century): greenhouse effects of water vapor diverts attention of researchers away from CO2)

Guy Stewart Callendar (1938): predicted continued atmospheric warming due to CO2, based on observed rises in temperature and his own study of on the absorption bands of various atmospheric gasses; effect of industrial CO2 becomes known as “Callendar effect”

Gilbert Plass (1954/55): first climate model on an electronic computer; writes in 1956: “If at the end of this century, measurements show that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere has risen appreciably and at the same time the temperature has continued to rise throughout the world, it will be firmly established that carbon dioxide is an important factor in causing climatic change.”

Charles Keeling (1958)—begins precise regular measurements of atmospheric CO2

Mario J. Molina and F. S. Rowland (1974): while innocuous in the troposphere (lower atmosphere), in the stratosphere (upper atmosphere) CFCs catalyze the breakdown of ozone; Nobel prize in Chemistry awarded 1995.

[Multiple studies in late 1970s and early 1980s find no reason to believe that atmospheric temperature increases due to CO2 will not continue: see Robert White, Jule Charney, JASON advisory group]

Montreal Protocol (1987)—global program to combat effects of CFCs agreed to [note: more supported by American businesses than European, as the Americans had an alternative product to market]

IPCC founded 1988, in part to reproduce the CFC “miracle”

“There were more Congressional hearings on climate change in 1992 alone than there were between the 1994 Republican takeover and the December 1997 Kyoto Conference. In the hearings that did take place during this time period, five contrarians testified approximately as often as did [any of the] thousands of mainstream climate scientists publishing in the scientific literature” (Aaron M. McCright, “Dealing with Climate Change Contrarians,” 203). In this way, the “Contract with America” served as a frame, influencing which science-based questions were addressed and how.

Michael E. Mann, Raymond S. Bradley, and Malcolm K. Hughes (1998, 1999): propose correlating thermometer and multiple proxy records during recent times as standard for determining temperatures in times before thermometer record

McIntyre, Stephen and Ross McKitrick (2003, 2005): Condemn MBH results, no alternative theory offered.

Keith R. Briffa and Timothy J. Osborn (2007, representative example): MBH method problematic, but proxy concept sound

(2009, 2010) Climategate: deniers complain, but still climate scientists remain nonplussed

N.B.: In the 4AR, alternatives to the current predominant theory are assessed and falsified throughout the Working Group 1 report. A convenient collection of the falsifications is located between the Technical Summary and Chapter 1.

Re “scientific certainty”: As descriptors of physical reality, Einstein may be popularly described as having displaced Newton, and quantum mechanics did as much to relativity. Past theory continues to well describe the universe it was created to describe, but is supplanted when the bounds of its descriptive and predictive powers is exceeded. On this basis “certain science” is a contradiction in terms. Better might be as John Christy describes: “What we know at our present level of ignorance is…”

140

magistra 02.12.10 at 8:26 pm

I’m surprised how many people are complaining about how people doing scientific work are somehow being “interfered” with by people outside the organization making public statements about what the organization does and its worth. There are layers and layers of management, etc., shielding most of those people from all that.

Not when Freedom of Information requests are made. If you are being asked for specific data on a particular topic, the request will have to go down to the people who actually deal with the data on a regular basis, and since those requests have (in theory) to be dealt with within a specified time limit, that can be disruptive. Think of what happens if you’re asked for some information at work, particularly if it’s not in exactly the format in which you’re currently storing it. And climate change sceptics seem to have picked up on the technique of using campaigns of multiple FOI enquiries, so you’ll get fifteen requests with slight variants, rather than just one.

141

bianca steele 02.12.10 at 8:33 pm

james@126
There seems certainly to be a good argument that the code should be included. On the other side, it will open up an even more immense number of nits to be picked (even assuming there’s nothing really, really embarrassing in there, code so bad it’s evidence of real stupidity, or worse, code that’s been plagiarized, and I could go on)–I don’t think that’s what the point of releasing the source code is supposed to be.

I don’t see why not releasing the source code would be a problem, as anyone who knows the science should be able to rewrite the program as well as reproduce the experiment.

142

bianca steele 02.12.10 at 9:06 pm

magistra,
I think the US FOIA deals only with records and not with whatever may happen to be in the minds of the people who know, so what you’re describing sounds a bit counter-productive.

143

Steve Reuland 02.12.10 at 9:08 pm

@ 131:

“I’m surprised how many people are complaining about how people doing scientific work are somehow being “interfered” with by people outside the organization making public statements about what the organization does and its worth. There are layers and layers of management, etc., shielding most of those people from all that.

There are? That doesn’t sound like any university research department that I’ve ever worked at or visited. In the real world, the only “management” consists of a department head and a dean who leave the scientists alone to deal with their own problems.

Getting inundated with frivolous FOI requests and having to constantly answer baseless accusations leveled on blogs and in the media would be nothing short of debilitating. This is not lost on the denialists.

144

LizardBreath 02.12.10 at 10:49 pm

135: I’m a lawyer who occasionally deals with FOIL/FOIA requests, and of course they’re massively burdensome, and of course they have to be dealt with by the people who have actually generated and work with the records requested in ninety-nine out of hundred cases. (The hundredth case is where there’s a dedicated staff devoted solely to maintaining records and responding to such requests, but that obviously doesn’t apply to researchers.)

Think about it — who other than a researcher is going to be able to compile and produce the records relating to their research? It’s not as if a university admin could plausibly go rifling around through various network directories looking for anything that looked related to the request.

145

jeremy 02.12.10 at 11:01 pm

c’mon, let’s not be too hard on libertarians. they’ve got at least half the story right. the soc1alists have the other. all hail libertarian soc1alism. i’m thinking in the vein of, say, george woodcock’s “anarchism.”

[apologize in advance for writing a comment that has little to do with the post at hand. i say "little" instead of "nothing" only because a libertarian soc1alist perspective might have something of interest to say about the broader climate debate. i'm too tired, though, to be the one to say it. but i'm confident something interesting could be said.]

146

onymous 02.12.10 at 11:19 pm

james in 126 wrote:

My limited understanding of this issue, is that the proof and the output data is readily available but the raw data, steps to reproduce, computer code and computer programs are all restricted. Is this normal for the natural sciences fields?

It’s completely normal (though I have no clue what you mean by “proof”). Some experiments release raw data, but many do not; in many cases, no one would know what to do with the raw data anyway, without also having massive amounts of code and documentation made public, which would multiply the work involved by an absurd amount.

Computer code is often a hacked-together mess that works but is incomprehensible to anyone else who reads it. Sometimes scientists will clean up code and release it, if they think other people will find it useful. I’ve released some public code, which I wrote to be much more general than the specific task I was using it for, and which has proven to be a major pain as I have to put in the time to maintain it and fix bugs that have nothing to do with my current research.

In general, the people complaining about climate scientists make it abundantly clear that they have no idea how science works. Science isn’t about making every little thing you do public; it’s about figuring things out, and publishing clear explanations. The point isn’t to let someone repeat all of your steps exactly, as a rule; usually it’s to make things clear enough that other people can do different, related things that confirm what you did. You don’t want people poring over your code with a fine-tooth comb, because it’s not a very useful thing to do; they should be writing their own code, from scratch, and then if there are disagreements, you can try to hammer them out.

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Phillip Hallam-Baker 02.12.10 at 11:27 pm

Since the data concerned was known to be confidential and nobody was authorized to disclose it, it is rather hard to see how it could have been disclosed without a criminal offense being committed.

Even if an authorized computer user found that the files were insufficiently protected, they were not authorized to disclose the contents.

And the term ‘hacking’ is used in the black hat sense to refer to any malicious behavior, not just prosecutable criminal acts. Getting off on a technicality (just wanted to have a look at her telephone closet) does not make it legitimate.

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Howard 02.12.10 at 11:42 pm

Thanks to all who responded to my comment (100).

1. I seem to have set off a minor red-herring on the problems of economics. (comments 112, 113, 116, 119, 122, 125). I didn’t actually mean to say, “Economics is great; we have no problems; everyone should be like us.” But on international trade orthodoxy, I’d have to say Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize by taking on hecksher-ohlin and pointing out realistic circumstances in which there are losers from trade. In any field there is a “meta” or “macro” orthodoxy that defines “how we agree to dispute”, and a set of “micro-orthodoxies” that define how those of us who have agreed to abide by the meta-orthodoxy believe on individual issues. So classically trained economists (abiders in the meta-orthodoxy) have micro-orthodoxies that might include “free trade benefits all” or “minimum wage laws reduce employment”. I was referring to differences on the micro-orthodoxy level. I believe that Stiglitz, Krugman, Card, Quiggen show that fighting micro-orthodoxies is not just acceptable, but encouraged, in economics.

2. On the issue I did mean to raise, comments 101, 110, 114, and 115 do address it, and 111 (sathew) is especially helpful in providing links to a rebuttal. That rebuttal provides links to the article
http://www.int-res.com/articles/cr2003/23/c023p089.pdf
and to the (stolen ?) email exchange
http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=297&filename=1047474776.txt

The paper itself does not look silly to an outsider like me: it is pretty convincing (again to an outsider) that the question of whether or not there is a medieval warming period (table 1); and they describe what appears (to an outsider) to be a legitimate way to answer the question. The emails do contain suggestions that there are serious flaws: “The phrasing of the questions at the start of the paper determine the answer they get. They have no idea what multiproxy averaging does.” But they also recognize the need to rebut the paper, and the question is where and how to rebut it. (They are talking amongst themselves; they understand each other; I don’t expect to understand the substance of their objections from the emails.)

The problem is: if they respond, they can no longer claim, “it is settled science”, because if it had been settled, why would they need to respond?

It’s not clear to me that the accusations trail off into nothingness (comment 113). I see hints of intimidation: “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor. A CRU person is on the editorial board, but papers get dealt with by the editor assigned by Hans von Storch.” “It results from this journal having a number of editors. The
responsible one for this is a well-known skeptic in NZ. He has let a few papers through by Michaels and Gray in the past. I’ve had words with Hans von Storch about this, but got nowhere.”

So, what’s wrong with having this debate as comments and rebuttals to the paper and new papers on the issue? Maybe they exist. Expose the errors. I’m not convinced at all by assertions of bullshit (comments 115 and 117). Read the paper and you (at least I) don’t come away thinking “this is bullshit”. That’s why it needs a more careful and informed rebuttal. And I’m not convinced at all by assertions that Exxon funded the research. (“If Exxon funded the research then the medieval warming period did not exist.” Find the logical flaw in that sentence.)

All of this said: I don’t doubt the existence of anthropogenic climate change. But I still want a better defense to the assertion that there is a “climate change establishment that tried and to an extent succeeded in quashing opposing ideas.”

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onymous 02.12.10 at 11:57 pm

Howard in 141: a rebuttal of the Soon + Baliunas paper was published [PDF link]. I’m no expert, but did a lot of poking around the web trying to understand this a couple of years ago; there seemed to be a widespread consensus that their paper was of low quality and should not have been published. (Such things are often not apparent to non-experts; I could point you to any number of superficially plausible-looking papers in my own field [far from climate science] that were, to experts, obviously wrong from the outset, which were nonetheless published due to bad choice of referees by journal editors.)

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onymous 02.12.10 at 11:58 pm

151

Chris 02.13.10 at 1:31 am

Surely it’s possible to imagine individuals working towards a common goal without the need for explicit coordination?

It’s quite possible for that to *happen*, but for partially hairless East African apes to *imagine* it is a much taller order.

Remember, this is the same species that used to take seriously the idea that *the weather* might be a sentient being that was angry at them and had to be bought off. (I wish I could be confident that a similar explanation hadn’t been advanced for global climate change.) To say that we see meaning and purpose and intention in every shadow is an understatement.

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Marc 02.13.10 at 2:40 am

If you release the source code for analyzing the data you’re releasing code which is typically complex, poorly documented, and far from straightforward to operate. As a result, you then have to dedicate a lot of time to teach people how to use it.

When they are hostile to the scientific enterprise, looking for confirmation of their political biases, etc. then it’s even less appealing.

Also note that people spend a lot of time writing many of these codes (mostly for themselves), so it’s pretty typical to have a window of time when you use your code an get checked by competitors. If you just give code away then you’re, in effect, subsidizing your competitors to take advantage of your hard work and skim the cream.

So there are huge problems with releasing source code, especially to political fanatics not operating in good faith.

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Concerned Economist 02.13.10 at 2:41 am

@Hidari: You are swinging at air. The criticism you are appealing for is present within the discipline (economics) itself.

@dsquared: I know it’s difficult for you to believe this but Howard (100) is basically right. There is an effective subsidy for contesting conventional wisdom in economics journals. I imagine that this is true in many other fields as well.

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Michael Turton 02.13.10 at 9:38 am

Hurka, the post author is not engaging in ad hominems. The networks that drive denialism and link all these people are old and they pre-exist the modern global warming “debate”.

At the awesome site WeatherUnderground there’s a great paper on this called The Skeptics vs the Ozone Hole.
http://www.wunderground.com/education/ozone_skeptics.asp

It turns out that many of the same names you find in the current anti-science movement on AGW you also can find in the Ozone Hole “debate.” Before that they were working for Big Tobacco. These networks are old and everyone in them knows how the game is. For example, just today in a discussion with a skeptidork on a forum I was given Gerhard Gerlich’s awful paper claiming that the second law of thermodynamics refutes AGW — another of the many echoes between Creationism and AGW Denial, since Creationists love to cite the Second Law. Gerlich, as probably some of you know, is a nutcase who believes in dowsing, but more importantly, he has old links one of Big Tobacco’s fronts, the European Science and Environment Forum. As a commenter in yet another one of discussions elsewhere noted: “The agenda of this group was to discredit government safety regulations and reports on such things as genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone, pesticides, public smoking, and global warming. Gerlich’s coalition fought to discredit the World Health Organisation, and attempted to rebuff the science used by the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Gerlich also worked with the Weinberg Group which ran special conferences for the tobacco industry to fight regulations against second-hand smoke. Gerlich participated in the anti-global warming study co-produced by the Exxon-funded George C. Marshall Institute, ‘Climate Change and Policy: Making the Connection’.”

Name one climate skeptic who can command that kind of cash, either for research or as a speaker.

You’re kidding me, right? Exxon alone has pumped millions over the years into funding a large network of organizations dedicated to Denialism, and before that the “skeptics” got big sums from Big Tobacco, DuPont on Ozone, etc. In fact squabbles over the PR cash involved had led to some quite bitter organizational battles between the various entities in the Denialist campaign.

As for individual speakers commanding the big bucks, there are many. Monckton has gotten $100k for engagements (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/jan/13/climate-scepticism-talk-lord-monckton), and him not even a former Veep. The well known Denialist Patrick Michaels has received hundreds of thousands from fossil fuel interests (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2010/feb/03/hacked-climate-emails-sceptics-funding). Etc.

But all this is really beside the point. If Exxon et al could get the data/results to destroy AGW, they would pay some scientist and that would be the end of AGW. There’d be no need for the multimillion dollar PR effort that the fossil fuel industry is engaged in, because the science would nail it for them. But the existence of Denialism, and the PR machine, and the attacks on the scientists, are actually evidence that the science is sound. If it weren’t AGW would rapidly disappear.

Michael Turton
The View from Taiwan blog

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Hidari 02.13.10 at 12:38 pm

‘The criticism you are appealing for is present within the discipline (economics) itself.’

Gosh well this is a first. This sounds like an economist (pause for effect) making a testable, empirical claim!

Well to complete my humiliation it shouldn’t be difficult to produce real world, empirical data to prove that mainstream economics journals are simply overflowing with aggressive critiques of the neo-liberal consensus.

A few web links should suffice.

I’m off to make myself a cup of coffee, I take it you’ll have some links by the time I get back.

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A Bear 02.13.10 at 4:02 pm

I hope that some of you realize that this kind of discussion is exactly why many people simply don’t give a crap about any of this.

You have people calling anyone who questions data a Denialist (with a capital D), an intended insult, which does nothing to help discussion. They say that these phrases, such as the infamous ‘hide the decline’ phrase, are taken out of context and yet they completely fail to explain what that context is. Anyone who doesn’t Believe in man-made global warming is immediately branded a heretic and an idiot. There’s climate models being used that are primitive and can’t even approximate on a basic level the entire climate system, and yet they are followed religiously. It really does not help that data and methods are often kept secret until they are forcefully pulled out into the open. Isn’t science about having an open exchange of ideas and information?

This sound too much like the Catholic Church in the middle ages. The Priests are the only ones holy enough to read and interpret the Bible, and anyone who might question the Word of God is banded a heretic to be burned alive.

You cannot have any kind of meaningful, healthy discussion in this kind of environment. The common people, myself included, see this kind of crap going on and we just see Talking Head Number One in a box on the left and Talking Head Number Two in a box on the right, screaming at each other, and we end up changing the channel.

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Concerned Economist 02.13.10 at 5:28 pm

Hidari,

I’m hesistant to respond in this thread since this really has nothing to do with climate science or policy. That said, it is fairly easy to provide examples of critiques/tests of, and departures from traditional neoclassical economics (though I have to admit I’m not sure what you mean by the phrase “neo-liberal consensus” — is this something that even exists?).

The Krugman example above is a good one. So is the Card and Krueger example. You could add to this list the work of Camerer (Experimental, Neuroeconomics, Learning), Melitz (Trade), Schotter (Neuroeconomics), Schmeidler (Ambiguity Aversion), Caplin (Behavioral), Rabin (Behavioral), Laibson (Behavioral), Levitt (Empirical economics nec), Brunnermeier (Asset Price Bubbles), Bikshandani (Herding Behavior), Werning (Political Economy, Optimal Insurance), Gul and Pesendorfer (Choice Theory), Rangel (Neuroeconomics), Oswald (Happiness economics), Allen and Gale (Asset Price Bubbles), Bernanke, Gertler (Financial Market Imperfections), Lones Smith (Herding, Matching, Search), etc …

Another way to check this is to take a look at the most recent issue of the AER. There you will find:

Salience and Taxation : Theory and Evidence by Chetty et al.

Spousal Control and Intra-Household Decision Making … by Ashraf

One Chance in a Million: Altruism and the Bone Marrow Registry by Bergstrom et al.

The Effects of High Stakes High School Achievement Awards … by Angrist and Lavy

Hindsight, Foresight and Insight … by Ivanov et al.

Narrow Bracketing and Dominated Choices by Rabin and Weizsacker

None of these papers conforms to traditional neoclassical approaches. Some are openly inconsistent with neoclassical predictions.

The degree to which (or whether it is at all true that) academic economists internally critique their field would be a good topic for a separate thread. Perhaps it is something that Prof. Quiggin would weigh in on. Whether such an on-line discussion would be informed and dispassionate or whether it would quickly devolve into cliches and half-truths is something we would have to see.

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gyges 02.14.10 at 11:07 am

In response to,

Marc 02.11.10 at 6:00 pm

gyges: you apparently believe that it’s A-OK to flood working scientists with repeated frivolous requests for information and then charge them with criminal charges if they can’t keep up fast enough.

That demonstrates your (lack of) character pretty completely, but I doubt that you’re either honest or bright enough to realize why.

Scum.“

May I draw your attention to,

The University of East Anglia rejected requests for information relating to claims by academic staff that global warming was being caused by man-made emissions.

The Information Commissioner’s office ruled that UEA was in breach of the Freedom of Information Act – an offence which is punishable by an unlimited fine.

But it said it was unable to prosecute the people involved because the complaint was made too late. ” See, University scientists in climategate row hid data.”

The Information Commissioners Office and I may well be scum in the eyes of Marc but if the ‘deluged with requests’ defence had any legs why wasn’t it pleaded? Further, the idea of a lone scientist being deluged with requests is a huge misrepresentation of the situation.

However, I would like to thank Marc for drawing my attention to his argument and manner of reasoning.

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guthrie 02.14.10 at 2:05 pm

gyges #150 – in fact the information commission has ruled on nothing. I have seen no official statement, press release or any other comment on the CRU and any hiding of data. I have seen press quotes of a fairly senior person at the information commission saying that on the basis of the e-mails some people at CRU did wrong.

Thats not the same as a ruling or official finding. Can you find anything else on the topic?

160

gyges 02.14.10 at 4:54 pm

guthrie @151 You make a very good point. My opinion is based upon the numerous press releases that quote deputy information commissioner Graham Smith.

In the following report from the Times the original complainant, Mr Holland, talks of a Catch-22 situation. He says, “[t]here is an apparent Catch-22 here. The prosecution has to be initiated within six months but you have to exhaust the university’s complaints procedure before the commission will look at your complaint. That process can take longer than six months.

Perhaps there is another Catch-22 that arises from the complaint being out of time. Since the complaint was out of time the Information Commission are unable to make any ruling; hence, Mr Smith’s comments to the press have no legal basis and so they cannot be reported on the Information Commission’s webpage like the rulings born of other complaints. However, this is mere speculation on my part.

161

Thon Brocket 02.14.10 at 5:56 pm

Newsflash: Jones of UEA has cracked. Says warming stopped in 1995.

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Hidari 02.14.10 at 6:34 pm

‘Newsflash: Jones of UEA has cracked. Says warming stopped in 1995′.

Assuming you are not being ironic, then this is very easily disprovable bollocks. .

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alex 02.14.10 at 6:41 pm

If only he actually said that:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1250872/Climategate-U-turn-Astonishment-scientist-centre-global-warming-email-row-admits-data-organised.html

A man rather foolishly trying to be nuanced to a tabloid newspaper:

“He also agreed that there had been two periods which experienced similar warming, from 1910 to 1940 and from 1975 to 1998, but said these could be explained by natural phenomena whereas more recent warming could not. He further admitted that in the last 15 years there had been no ‘statistically significant’ warming, although he argued this was a blip rather than the long-term trend.”

Rather pitiful, but hardly in the league of the Grand Master of the Illuminati turning up to give the pope back the Holy Grail…

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alex 02.14.10 at 7:09 pm

Hidari beats me to it, and more incisively… Meanwhile, t’other Alex, doing good work:

http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2010/02/very-serious-indeed.html

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guthrie 02.14.10 at 9:15 pm

gyges #132 – yes, I suspect it might be something along those lines, and the problem is that it gives a confused picture to what is going on. Also it is a little premature to be condemning someone purely on the basis of stolen e-mails that may well not tell the full story. Hence why it has all gone a bit quiet.

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noen 02.15.10 at 8:11 pm

@ 67
“Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to find whatever answer you want.”

I take this more as a plea, sort of a “I’m not waving, I’m drowning”. I think that might make an interesting idea for a post all on it’s own. This feeling of being lost in a sea of information with no ability to find one’s way. Together with the incessant desire for some big Other to tell one what to think and how to think it.

Someone please take this horrible burden of free will away from me. Please let me sleep, let me close my eyes. I can’t deal with this gnawing uncertainty. I just want to dream of a place where everything is known and functions like clockwork. I want to be an unthinking animal again. I want to live like they do, simply acting on instinct with no thought beyond “where is my enemy, where is my food, where is my mate”. Why do I have to struggle and choose? Just let me sleep a little longer. It is such a beautiful dream.

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toby 02.16.10 at 10:47 pm

A Bear said “You have people calling anyone who questions data a Denialist (with a capital D), an intended insult, which does nothing to help discussion. “

No, a Denialist is someone who stubbornly rejects facts, no matter how clearly they are presented. So much so that one is led to believe an ulterior motive and an intent to confuse the public. Like the Holocaust Deniers who insist that the Jews died of typhoid. Or the Tobacco Lobby that declared in the face of all the evidence that smoking did not cause cancer & heart disease. Or the ones who still attempt to deny the link between HIV & AIDS. Or the Creationists who insist “Darwinism is about to be disproved”.

Personally, I found out what I could about climate science by reading blogs, books & magazines. There are good primers on the web – even a full undergraduate course given by Professor David Archer of the University of Chicago (see below). Archer sometimes blogs at http://www.realclimate.org which is probably the best scientific site, with http://climateprogress.org/ as the best one on public policy. If you just visit contentious blogs, you will just get the wrong end of the stick. You will find most of your questions asked and answered here: http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/2008/07/how_to_talk_to_a_sceptic.php

Archer’s course is at:
http://geosci.uchicago.edu/people/archer.shtml

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