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« How does Nebraska escape the recession? | Main | Phil Jones on Phil Jones »

November 24, 2009

Comments

Mark

Well said.

Neo

Obviously, all of this "ClimateGate" stuff will be ignored by the White House ...

Obama Science Czar John Holdren is directly involved in CRU’s unfolding Climategate scandal. In fact, according to files released by a CEU hacker or whistleblower, Holden is involved in what Canada Free Press (CFP) columnist Canadian climatologist Dr. Tim Ball terms “a truculent and nasty manner that provides a brief demonstration of his lack of understanding, commitment on faith and willingness to ridicule and bully people”.
The name, John Holdren (Obama's Science Czar) shows up in 6 of the e-mail streams. Five are merely cc:-s, but one to Michael Mann is from Holdren where he pokes fun at his "Harvard" colleagues Soon and Baliunas (1066337021).

Kevin

You fools, you're going to kill us all! Don't you realize that not believing in global warming alarmism CAUSES global warming!?

When the seas start boiling away sometime next year, we'll all know who to thank: Frank, Mark, and Neo.

Jerks.

Kevin

Oops, forgot to add /sarc to the end of my last comment :)

Heh. Check out this post at rcp:

For more than a decade, we've been told that there is a scientific "consensus" that humans are causing global warming, that "the debate is over" and all "legitimate" scientists acknowledge the truth of global warming. Now we know what this "consensus" really means. What it means is: the fix is in.

Agreed.

George

I believe Phil Jones, the director at CRU, will have to step down after this. He should be forced to immediately release those data he threatened to destroy and resign or be fired. Maybe he can then get a job as a low paid secretary processing FOIA requests for the CRU.

jj mollo

I'm not expecting anyone to be fired. I read over the e-mails you linked, Frank. I really don't see anything unusual. Maybe I'm not reading it closely enough. I have to admit that I initially thought the Lancet/Hopkins report was OK.

There is a general misunderstanding of how Science really works. It is political! It always has been. It is close to religious. People feel very strongly about their positions and will defend them to the hilt, but for the most part they play by the rules. What I see in those e-mails is a general resentment of those who present opposing evidence. This is not in the least bit unusual. It makes me look like a fool when you knock down my theory. But if I suspect you are knocking it over with a corked bat, then I get angry.

These people obviously believe what they've been trying to prove. The discussion is all about, as near as I can tell, how to present the evidence in such a convincing way that the opposition will be forced to concede. There is no suggestion that they are intentionally perpetrating a fraud. And there is certainly no evidence that they are trying to hide anything any more than a ball player is entitled to hide his tactical intentions. They fully intend to play by the rules, they just want to make sure that the opposition has to follow the same rules. Peer-reviewed journals are supposed to act as the umpire.

The people who have been promoting this as evidence of a massive conspiracy are, for the most part, lawyers. They have a different mindset.

Here's a concluding paragraph from a post on Watts up with that:

Climate science is in its infancy, and every proposition is controversial. What climate scientists like those at East Anglia don’t know dwarfs what they do know. They can produce a model for every occasion, but are the models any good? If so, which one? One thing we know for sure is that they don’t generate reliable predictions. In every scientific field other than global warming, a scientific hypothesis that generates false predictions is considered disproved. When it comes to global warming, however, there is no such thing as falsification. Which is the ultimate evidence that the alarmist scientists are engaged in a political enterprise, not a scientific one.

There's a lot of truth in what he says, especially the first part. The science is based on a lot of assumptions and statistical inference. Predictions have been made, but for the most part they are hard to evaluate because of the stochastic nature of climate measurements. It takes more time than we have to be certain.

And if a prediction turns out to be wrong it doesn't necessarily disprove the underlying theory. For instance, one idea for the recent cooling trend, if it is a trend, is that India and China have been pouring as much SO2 into the atmosphere as CO2. The reflective properties of SO2 may have a more than compensating cooling impact.

Unfortunately, that may actually be terrible news. Sooner or later these countries are going to get around to cleaning up the annoying parts of their pollution, and when they do the previously cloaked impact of CO2 will rebound dramatically.

It may yet turn out that the climate scientists are wrong in toto, but that's really not the way to bet.

Frank Warner

I agree it's not the way to bet. I assume the growth of CO2 can't go on forever without some ill effect.

But ethical scientists should not be keeping their data and methods secret on something they want nations to spend trillions of dollars to fix.

This isn't a game where one side is supposed to be hiding signals or the pitcher's ball grip. This is supposed to be the open search for understanding of natural phenomena. All scientists are supposed to be skeptical. What happened to that premise?

Generally, the e-mails say the doctrinal scientists don't like the skeptics. That would be fine if that's as far as the e-mails go. But there also are several e-mails clearly aimed at hiding the weaknesses in their arguments and shutting down legitimate contradictory research.

Kevin

I'm going to disagree with you here, jj.
There is a general misunderstanding of how Science really works. It is political! It always has been. It is close to religious.

I've never known this to be true in all of my years working in the chemical industry. Adding politics to the mix is a very new, and very unscientific change. Sure, people will defend their theories, but never to the point of hiding or coercing data so that it agrees with their theory. And I do mean NEVER. Name a scientist willing to support a theory that cannot be repeated by any other schmo scientist. I'm betting that, other than these climatologists, you can't. And for good reason.

I also disagree with, "It may yet turn out that the climate scientists are wrong in toto, but that's really not the way to bet."

In truth, it IS the way to bet. Here's why! If you agree with a scientific theory without proof, with no other reason than the predictions of that theory are too horrible to imagine, then you've just joined a religion - of fear. There's no proof. Just belief. That's not science.

jj mollo

In my experience, scientists who work in a corporate environment are much more emotionally secure than those who work in academia.

I had a professor, a petrologist, who wanted to inventory the mineral wealth of the planet. His theory was that, rather than have separate teams searching for separate resources according to their field-specific theory base, it would be more efficient to test for every mineral resource at the same time. At the time, geologists tended to have a theory-du-jour about deposition and segregation of minerals. He was extremely skeptical of that approach. He thought that our knowledge was bound to have shortcomings because it was based on opportunity samples rather than systematic data gathering coupled with some statistical rigor. He proposed some sort of geodesic sampling grid that his grad students worked out, and he tried to publicize the concept through the University. He suggested that a cooperative international consortium could drill at those sites and collaboratively analyze the mineral content. From these samples we could legitimately assess the near surface mineral make-up of the world, for everyone's benefit.

I admired the guy and thought that the plan made a lot of sense, but to my surprise he was ridiculed in public and became known as "the man with ten thousand holes in his head"

Another thinker who was ridiculed by the geological community was Alfred Wegener who substantially established the theory of continental drift, but only for his own students. He died in the thirties but his ideas were not widely appreciated until the 60's.

An example of someone who held on to a theory far beyond its expiration date was Fred Hoyle, who kept coming up with evidence for a steady-state universe long after the rest of the astronomers had accepted Hubble's view. He never gave up. If you want it bad enough, proof can be had. You should look into Thomas Kuhn's theory on shifting paradigms. My professor believed that the only reason Wegener's theory was accepted was that, "the dinosaurs finally died off."

Academic scientists can be very selfish, mean-spirited even. They work for the glory as much as for the social benefit. Most of them never really accomplish all that much, but when they do get something they are inclined to hide their cards to keep their competitors out of the limelight. Data hoarding is very common, and a variety of nasty tricks have also occurred. I'm thinking of the senior Indonesian scientist who actually stole the priceless homo floresiensis fossils from that active worksite. I'm thinking of the early research on HIV where Robert Gallo, a very distinguished scientist, apparently used his prestige to bully a French team into sharing the priority of discovery. I'm thinking about the scholars who kept the Dead Sea Scrolls away from public scrutiny for decades. The fact is that people are very possessive about their data, no matter who paid for its development.


SciAm has a post from the September issue on hoarding in paleontology. Nature had a recent cover article on data hoarding.

jj mollo

If you agree with a scientific theory without proof, with no other reason than the predictions of that theory are too horrible to imagine, then you've just joined a religion - of fear. There's no proof. Just belief. That's not science.

You're not distinguishing between motive and method. People believe things for whatever reasons they have. Yes, it's kind of religious in nature. Then, if they adhere to the scientific philosophy, they develop evidence for their point of view, and they don't rest easy until they have convinced everyone else of the correctness of their point of view. If they, at some point, come to the conclusion that they might have been wrong themselves, they usually just shut up, retire, or mumble a lot. Sometimes, as in the case of Fred Hoyle, they keep looking for a refutation of the latest counterargument until the Great Paradigm gathers them to its bosom.

The "proof" for AGW is very disperse, statistically tenuous and apparently unconvincing to many. I happen to believe the general thrust of the argument, but not because I really want to. I would gladly be convinced that there's nothing to worry about. And I believe that is the likely motive behind most of the public skepticism. People just don't want to believe it.

Good scientists keep bringing up counter-arguments. That's a good thing. Scientists who have the greatest emotional investment in the AGW theory will get annoyed by that phenomenon and run around breaking sticks and raising a lot of dust. That's unfortunate, but it is human nature.

In the end, however, they will get busy and try to make their point of view more convincing. They will do this any way they can, hopefully by publishing more recent evidence. But they will also be afraid to break the rules for fear of being exposed as frauds, as Powerline and others have purportedly done. You will be able to tell whether Powerline has really hit home by the response from the climatologists. If they try to hide under a rock, it will be an acknowledgment of culpability. If they come out swinging, you can be sure they find the attacks to be unfair and unfounded.

For my part, I find the supposed exposee to be unconvincing. I think these latest attacks are fundamentally unfair because of the attorney-minded methodology. How is it relevant to a scientific argument to hack into people's personal correspondence and display it to the world? It's just an intellectual panty-raid. Motive is not the issue. Addressing the method is. McIntyre has done that in the past, effectively. His success has provided them with a lot more motivation to get things right.

Kevin

Working from the bottom up, I don't believe that it WAS hacked data. But even if it was, I have no problem with them sharing it with the world since $trillions are on the line here.

The relevance is that the model used to prove AGW is not using real data. This is admitted repeatedly in the comment lines. There's much more, but this is by far the most damning. They're using fake information to prove what they believe is the truth. It's very Dan Rathery.

I understand and agree with your analysis of scientist mentality. Yes, they want to be proven correct. True, they will prevent others from seeing their info/calculations before publishing. But once the theory is completely formulated, they always open the floodgates so that everyone can check their work and congratulate them on a job well done.

And sure, when proven wrong, sometimes they don't accept it, and go on trying to prove their original hypotheses. BUT THEY DON'T HIDE DATA, AND THEY DON'T FALSIFY COMPUTER MODELS. That's not what true scientists do.

Perhaps you are right that paleontologists hoard stuff. I can't offer an opinion because the study doesn't interest me :(. It seems more like history than science.

But climatology is supposed to be hard-core science, based in verifiable reproducible mathematics. That they kept it secret that they were unable to do that without falsifying data proves beyond a doubt that their reports are worthless.

There may still be AGW that will destroy the world. There's just no good reason to believe such a thing at this point in time.

Kevin

From the guy who the CRU people would rather delete data than hand it over to him...

People seem to be missing the real issue in the CRU emails. Gavin over at realclimate keeps distracting people by saying the issue is the scientists being nasty to each other, and what Trenberth said, and the Nature “trick”, and the like. Those are side trails. To me, the main issue is the frontal attack on the heart of science, which is transparency.

Science works by one person making a claim, and backing it up with the data and methods that they used to make the claim. Other scientists attack the work by (among other things) trying to replicate the first scientist’s work. If they can’t replicate it, it doesn’t stand. So blocking the FOIA allowed Phil Jones to claim that his temperature record (HadCRUT3) was valid science.

This is not just trivial gamesmanship, this is central to the very idea of scientific inquiry. This is an attack on the heart of science, by keeping people who disagree with you from ever checking your work and seeing if your math is correct.

Neo
Why I think that Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Rahmstorf should be barred from the IPCC process Eduardo Zorita, November 2009

Short answer: because the scientific assessments in which they may take part are not credible anymore.I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. They depict a realistic, I would say even harmless, picture of what the real research in the area of the climate of the past millennium has been in the last years. The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.
These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the ‘politically correct picture’. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the ‘pleasure’ to experience all this in my area of research.

Dean

Wow hats off to you guys for a resonable discussion with views from opposing points of view and no (or very little) hyperbole and trash talking. The extreme difficulty of having reasonable conversations to elucidate the actual situation is one of the saddest things that this "climategate" has pointed out. Obviously a few emails about data misrepreseantation cannot undermine a broad scientific finding and consensus, if such exists. Equally obviously, impartial science is hard when one is in thrall to a religion.
Politics is always with us, Europeans label Americans as naive when they refuse to see that. In this instance its not the same kind of political slant as actual repression and distortion of data by the Bush administration. (Which hugely set back public knowledge of climate studies and is partly to blame therefore for the present overblown (IMO) reaction to the self-seeking and childish behavior of certain so-called scientists.)
On the possible present slow-down of warming, it seems that it can be explained in one way by chosing a specific time frame - 1998-2008, when 1998 was a recod high temperature year. Take a different or longer period, say since 1945 (the first atomic bomb...) and its a different picture.
So much could be said, and is, on all this. I won't presume further on anyone's time.

Mark

I agree, the emails are interesting but not mind blowing. The code bothers me much more. If this is the actual code that they used to generate their "public" data and associated graphs, then there is a real possibility the data and everything built upon it is practically useless. I understand the original data set is no longer with us.

George

It's not clear what data sets are no longer with us. The CRU disposed of "original data" but those data didn't originate at the CRU. Many say it is still available from the true original sources but that assumes that they have archived it. If the CRU can't keep it archived, what is the likelihood that all of its sources kept it archived? I fear that, like Humpty Dumpty, the data can never be reconstructed. Is there enough to recreate a reasonable record? Probably yes. However, after Climategate, agreeing on what is reasonable could be very difficult. Anyone gathering the data will be suspected of motives

It really is a mess.

Mark

Right. I just saw where Jones says the original sources should still have their data. BUT who knows what data set the CRU used.

maineliberal

The scientific method is the best way yet discovered for winnowing the truth from lies and delusion. The simple version looks something like this:


1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.
3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

When consistency is obtained the hypothesis becomes a theory and provides a coherent set of propositions which explain a class of phenomena. A theory is then a framework within which observations are explained and predictions are made.

GW is still hypothesis not theory, collection, measure and observe continues.

It is acceptable to toss data when a sample is skewed. ie lest take a statistical sample of avg income that shows 50k. another sample of same size shows avg income of 700 million. 2 data points include ( warren buffet and bill gates), it is acceptable to toss those 2 data points.

So what if GW is myth, what harm is there from those acting independently to reduce the carbon footprint. thru conservation and
action.

George

What harm is there? Just the trillions of dollars of destroyed wealth when this fraudulent theory is used to justify legislation that starves the global economy of its cheapest and most abundant sources of energy.

Our quality of life is dependent upon energy consumption. The U.S. is criticized for consuming 25% of the world's energy production. However, the U.S. is 25% of the world's economy. In my opinion, there is a strong correlation between those two figures. Forcing the U.S. to reduce energy consumption doesn't solve anything. It would just destroy our economy (further). The answer is to increase world energy production.

Furthermore, with huge government controls over energy comes huge corruption. We've seen this just this week in Denmark.

One more point: we've got an administration jumping on the opportunity to place huge taxes on our current necessary sources of energy in the name of reducing CO2 while doing virtually nothing beyond some meager solar/wind projects to create new sources of energy that do not create CO2. Obama's $800 billion boondoggle/pork spending provided no new money for nuclear power plant development. It could have bought well over 100 nuclear plants which create good long term jobs, energy and could help keep $1 trillion of our own money at home every year.

It apparently isn't about reducing CO2; it's about getting the tax revenue and spending on the political party.

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