The National Association of Scholars Takes on Climategate…

…and they get it just right. It begins,

Climategate, both 1 and 2, are textbook cases of gross lapses in professional ethics and scientific malfeasance.

Author H. Sterling Burnett goes on to say,

Climategate parts one and two are a series of leaked e-mails from arguably the most prominent researchers promoting the idea that humans are causing catastrophic global warming. The e-mails show the scientists involved to be violating their professional ethics with the result that climate science in particular and science as an institution more generally is brought into question. 
The first group of e-mails released in 2009 showed scientists attempting to suppress or alter inconvenient data, destroying raw data so that others would be unable to analyze it, using tricks to change reported outcomes, conspiring to avoid legally required disclosure of taxpayer-funded data, and trying to suppress dissent by undermining the peer review process.  On the latter point the researchers involved threatened to boycott and get editors fired at journals publishing findings questioning the urgency of the climate crisis. 

before he goes on to examine a number of the Climategate emails themselves, he wraps up his piece with,

To be clear, these e-mails do not disprove that humans are causing potentially catastrophic global warming. Whether or not humans are or are not, in fact, causing or contributing to dangerous climate change, the only thing clear that emerges from the Climategate e-mails is that the scientists claiming that “the science is settled” and that there is “consensus” among scientists that humankind are acting as planet killers, can’t be trusted, nor can their research be pointed to as solid proof of anthropogenic global warming. 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Please read the whole thing.

As I have said numerous times on this blog, I am appalled at the excuses, rationalizations, and the “nothing to see here, move along” attitude of mainstream science toward Climategate. It is corruption of science at its worst.

Dr. Ross McKitrick: Fix the IPCC or Fold It!

Published in Canada yesterday, please read the whole piece:

For many years, attempts to encourage debate on global warming science or policy have run into the obstacle that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued definitive statements, and therefore—the reasoning goes—the era of debate is over. The IPCC is made up of thousands of the world’s top scientists, it has one of the most rigorous and exhaustive review processes in the history of science, and the oversight by 195 member governments ensures balance, transparency and accountability. Or so we are told.
These claims about the IPCC are not true, but until relatively recently few were willing to question what they were told. Things began to change in 2009 with the leak of the Climategate emails, which prompted some observers to begin questioning their assumptions about the IPCC. Then this fall, Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise released her book The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, a superb exposé of the IPCC that shows convincingly that the IPCC has evolved into an activist organization bearing little resemblance to the picture of scientific probity painted by its promoters and activist allies.


As I mentioned yesterday, Climategate 2 has broken.

Some background: Climategate 1 was the release of thousands of emails to and from the clique of climate researchers around the world who have been highly influential in the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Along with the emails was some computer code used in various climate projects.

Climategate 1 was important because it cast doubt on the science behind perhaps the most important argument of the pro-catastrophic global warming case: The “hockey stick.” The hockey stick purported to show that temperatures are warmer now than they have been any time in the past 2,000 years. Climategate showed the “blade” of the hockey stick to be — and, I’m being kind here — an invention.

Climategate 1 also showed — unquestionably — the subversion of the scientific method by the leaders of the climate science ’cause’ (see below). For me personally, this was the worst aspect of Climategate.

Climategate 2 broke yesterday with the release (I have no clue as to whether they were hacked or released by an insider, no one knows the answer to that with regard to Climategate 1, either) of thousands of newer emails. Based on the very limited number of emails I have reviewed, the following seem clear:

  • This crew was in no way chastised when its anti-science behavior was exposed in Climategate 1.
  • They refer to promoting the religion of catastrophic global warming as “the cause.” That phrase shows up in multiple locations.
  • And, in spite of what you are likely to read in the mainstream media, Climategate 2 clearly casts even more doubt on the science itself.
All this said, I’m unlikely to get deeply into Climategate 2 because I have so many other things I’m involved in at the moment. Here is a fair news story on the latest developments. 
And, for more technical coverage, let me recommend a couple of good blogs to that are following this issue:

Climategate, "Hide the Decline" Explained Easily

From that hotbed of political conservatism, University of California Berkeley. I appreciate the honesty of Professor Richard Muller. He says, of “hide the decline*” that “this is not acceptable in science.” Exactly!

* As we have discussed on the blog before, “hiding the decline” was done by Prof. Michael Mann (with the collusion of others) to splice temperature data onto tree ring data (the tree ring data showed recent temperatures going down, calling the validity of the entire project into question) in a way that no one would notice. This created Al Gore’s and the IPCC’s (and others’) famous “hockey stick” graphic.

While on the subject of Climategate, there is a new editorial in the British press. It concludes,

We now know that the work done at Climatic Research Unit barely qualified as science; they kept it secret to stop other scientists checking it; thus breaching one of the foundations of the scientific method.
To stop politicians cheating, athletes taking drugs and financiers embezzling, we have increasingly strong regulators. We cannot assume scientists come from a higher moral plane.

Sadly, this applies to much of climate ‘science.’

Hat tips: Roger Pielke, Jr. and Climate Audit

One Year Anniversary of Climategate

This weekend is also the one year anniversary of “Climategate” where a hacker or whistle-blower (we don’t know which) released emails and other data from prominent climate researchers. The emails revealed illegality (deleting emails to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests), attempts to deceive (“hiding the decline” [of temperatures]), and duplicity (i.e., saying in public that global warming is “incontrovertible” while, in private, asking “where is the warming?”).

While global warming is one of my least favorite subjects, I write about it because it is important and so much of what the media publishes on this subject is incorrect.

That said, it was a coincidence that the blog was started at the same time as Climategate, but it certainly gave me plenty to write about the first few days!

If you would like to read the posting that alerted me to the emails release, go here.

Why Should Climate Science Get a Pass?

I dislike writing so much about global warming because I sense readers are as tired of the subject as I am. Nevertheless, I want to bring your attention to a column that will likely be picked up by the mainstream media.

You’ll remember Climategate which started 11 months ago with the hacking/release (no one knows which except the person[s] who did it) of emails and other communications between various pro-GW scientists.

This column talks about one of the least well-known aspects of Climategate, some “comments” regarding the computer code used by the British to compute average global temperatures,

When hackers leaked thousands of e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, last year, global-warming sceptics pored over the documents for signs that researchers had manipulated data. No such evidence emerged, but the e-mails did reveal another problem — one described by a CRU employee named “Harry”, who often wrote of his wrestling matches with wonky computer software.

“Yup, my awful programming strikes again,” Harry lamented in one of his notes, as he attempted to correct a code analysing weather-station data from Mexico.

Although Harry’s frustrations did not ultimately compromise CRU’s work, his difficulties will strike a chord with scientists in a wide range of disciplines who do a large amount of coding.

I read the Harry-ReadMe comments and they indicated the quality of the computer program was awful.  But here is where the above commentary completely misses the mark:  While the  comments of the programmer were released the source code (as far as I can determine) was not. Source code is the actual construct of the computer program that enters data, does calculations, then outputs a result. So, while it is narrowly accurate to state “no such evidence emerged” it would be equally accurate to say, “there may be a smoking gun in the source code.” We simply don’t know.

What is interesting is the author seems to recognize this later in the column…

As a general rule, researchers do not test or document their programs rigorously, and they rarely release their codes, making it almost impossible to reproduce and verify published results generated by scientific software, say computer scientists. At best, poorly written programs cause researchers such as Harry to waste valuable time and energy. But the coding problems can sometimes cause substantial harm, and have forced some scientists to retract papers.

[emphasis mine]

In this case, the source code has not been released so that others can verify whether the results are accurate. Literally trillions of dollars of spending to fight ‘global warming’ may be based on non-verified, sloppy computer code.  Reproducibility is one of the key tenets of science. I’m disappointed that Nature seems to be giving climate science a pass.

Why should climate science be exempt from “scientific method 101?”

R.I.P., Hockey Stick

If there is a single icon for ‘global warming,’ it is the “Hockey Stick” (HS) created by Dr. Michael Mann.

The HS was featured on the cover of an IPCC report and was featured in Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Not only did the HS purport to show that recent temperatures are unprecedented but that the well-known Medieval Warm Period (MWP) didn’t exist (see graph below) which, until the HS, was accepted by most meteorologists and climatologists.

From almost day one, the HS has been controversial. Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick published two peer-reviewed papers calling the HS into question. McKitrick commented,

“The Mann multiproxy data, when correctly handled, shows the 20th century climate to be unexceptional compared to earlier centuries.”

In other words, the temperatures we are experiencing now are not higher than those of 900 years ago! 

If today’s temperature levels have been previously reached naturally, before humans started driving up atmospheric concentrations of CO2, then the certainty that today’s temperatures are due to CO2 goes away. It also tends to falsify the IPCC’s hypothesis that CO2 is the driving force behind changes in climate. 

As you can imagine, this finding created a firestorm in the climate ‘science’ community. I put science in scare quotes in this instance because of the behind-the-scenes efforts (revealed in the Climategate emails) to keep McIntyre and McKitrick’s work from being published  – efforts which were the antithesis of science.

The firestorm rose to the level that Congress ordered an independent investigation via the National Research Council’s Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate. Their report concluded there were errors in Mann’s techniques and that there was low confidence in the temperature reconstruction from years 900 to 1,600 AD but found that Mann’s basic work was correct. However, a major criticism of Mann’s work remained unaddressed — that the statistical techniques themselves used by Mann were not sufficiently rigorous.

In 2006, a team of university statisticians was created to review the HS at the request of Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. Ed Whitfield. The team was led by Dr. Edward Wegman, chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. Some findings:

  • [Mann's papers] were found to be “somewhat obscure and incomplete” and the criticisms by McIntyre and McKitrick were found to be “valid and compelling.”
  • The paleoclimate community is relatively isolated; its members rely heavily on statistical methods but do not seem to interact with the statistical community. Sharing of research materials, data, and results was done haphazardly and begrudgingly.
  • Overall, the committee believed that Mann’s assessments, that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium, cannot be supported by his analysis.

This wasn’t all that was wrong with the HS. Over time, it became known that a “trick” was used to create the famous HS graph because the data used to estimate temperatures from years 1000 to 1950 showed falling (declining) temperatures after 1950 when thermometer measurements showed rising temperatures. This “divergence” in the data would — even to the most unseasoned novice — call the entire HS into question. So, they had to, in the words of the Climategate emails, “hide the decline.”

The decline was hidden by truncating the data (all lines above except red) when the divergence in the HS data begins. The extreme zoom above reveals the technique.

You might think that all of this was more than enough to call the Hockey Stick into serious question. Yet, many in climate science brushed aside these numerous troubling aspects of the HS because of its importance to their crusade against CO2.

This brings us to the present. A new paper peer-reviewed paper is going to be published that subjects Mann’s work to the long-overdue rigorous statistical examination.

The next issue of The Annals of Applied Statistics will publish a paper by Blakeley McShane and Abraham Wyner titled, “A Statistical Analysis of Multiple Temperature Proxies: Are Reconstructions of Surface Temperatures Over the Last 1000 Years Reliable?” (scroll down to last paper, click on the title to download the entire paper).

I have done a screen capture of the conclusions (above, click to enlarge) so our blog readers can read it for themselves.  ”Our methods of estimating model … accuracy are in sharp disagreement [with the HS]. … we conclude unequivocally that the evidence for a ‘long-handled’ hockey stick (where the shaft of the hockey stick extends to the year 1000 AD) is lacking in the data.”

Their paper indicates that there were not only warm temperatures 1000 years ago (the Medieval Warm Period) but that they were approximately the same as today’s. The paper does confirm that there has been a relatively rapid runup from about 1850 to present (graph above reproduced from the paper, click to enlarge) but the “uncertainty bars” (cyan colored) indicate that the runup may not be as great as indicated due to problems with current temperature measurements.

Since this is a peer-reviewed paper, the preponderance of the evidence (i.e., this paper combined with McIntyre and McKitricks’) is that the hockey stick is invalid.

What does all of this mean? My interpretation is:

  • There is no immediate global warming crisis. Certainly nothing that requires us to immediately turn the world’s economy upside down and to subsidize inefficient energy sources (i.e., wind energy). 
  • As I have previously written, there is an urgent need to create an accurate record of earth’s temperatures for the last 150 years and there is an urgent need to get a handle on ocean heat content. 
  • We are running a chemistry experiment pumping high levels of CO2 into the atmosphere and the results may be, on balance, unfavorable. We don’t know.  Smart decarbonization makes sense while we sort out the answers.
  • We will likely know in 3 to 5 years whether the IPCC’s hypothesis is correct. That is soon enough that we can wait to make these critical decisions whether widespread decarbonization is necessary.
  • Tom Fuller has an excellent proposal as to where we go from here as far as the science is concerned.
I suspect you will not be hearing much about this in the media because it is technical and it goes against the pro-GW narrative that dominates their coverage of this issue. Nevertheless, the McShane and Wyner paper is an important contribution to our knowledge of climate evolution.

UPDATE:  Statistician Matt Briggs agrees

A Terrific, Valuable Interview

James Lovelock is an environmentalist and inventor of the Gaia theory. Here is a terrific interview with him regarding the current state of climate science. By the way, Lovelock believes in global warming and is quite concerned about it.

Some quotes,

“Fudging the data in any way whatsoever is quite literally a sin against the holy ghost of science. I’m not religious, but I put it that way because I feel so strongly.”

“We tend to now get carried away by our giant computer models. But they’re not complete models. They’re based more or less entirely on geophysics. They don’t take into account the climate of the oceans to any great extent, or the responses of the living stuff on the planet. So I don’t see how they can accurately predict the climate.”

“We do need scepticism about the predictions about what will happen to the climate in 50 years, or whatever. It’s almost naive, scientifically speaking, to think we can give relatively accurate predictions for future climate. There are so many unknowns that it’s wrong to do it.”

“I’ve always said that adaptation is the most serious thing we can do [to fight global warming]. Are our sea defences adequate? Can we prevent London from flooding?”

Lovelock also makes the point that there is a real risk to putting billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and I agree. That is why we need a smarter energy mix.

While I certainly do not agree with every point Lovelock makes, I have always endeavored to include well-thought-out opposing views on this blog. Hope you have enjoyed reading the interview.

A Fascinating Online Discussion

Michael Mann’s climate reconstruction of the past 1,000 years that created Al Gore’s famous “hockey stick” hid the fact the 20th Century tree ring data did not match the temperature data. The tree rings indicated temperatures went down in the 20th Century when the thermometers indicated temperatures rose.

Here is a graph from Anthony Watt’s blog showing the tree ring temperatures declining in recent years.

This is the famous “hide the decline” from Climategate. If the tree data was truly representative of temperatures, the tree ring data would have shown increasing temperatures. So, the “divergence” of the 20th Century tree rings from the thermometer data obviously called the entire exercise into question. Rather than simply disclose this, they made the decision to splice the temperature data onto the tree ring data.

The “trick” was discovered by Steve McIntyre who discusses it here. The researchers truncated the

declining temperatures (multiple lines) and spliced in the thermometer record (red line).

With that lengthy introduction, here is the bottom line: This is apparently accepted practice in academic research. I had no idea. There are discussions at the blogs of Roger Pielke, Jr. (see comments) and Bishop Hill. It has created such a controversy that Roger has created a second post on the subject.

Roger and I have been friends for years and I know him to be a person of integrity. I take him at his word that this is common practice in academia and that, he says, it is justified (rationalized?) because they are working in “speculative” fields and endeavors.

However, from my perspective, when these scientists (who I believe crossed the line from “scientist” to “advocate”) advocate spending literally trillions of dollars based on their research, they should held to the highest standards of disclosure and integrity.

More Climate Science Hijinks

Unfortunately, some in climate science appear not to be learning the lessons from Climategate. Here is the concluding paragraph from Roger Pielke, Sr.’s blog:

Ross’s entire article is worth reading. I also will be posting further examples of this deliberate attempt to surpress scientific studies which refute or raise serious questions on the IPCC perspective in the coming weeks and months.

In science, papers should be published in journals based solely on their scientific merit.  Anything less is a perversion of the scientific process.

For readers who are not scientists, here is how the process works:  A scientist has an idea or hypothesis that he or she wishes to communicate to the larger scientific community. It is sent to the editor of a scientific journal who sends it to three reviews who are supposed to have expertise in the specific topic discussed in the paper. Those reviewers are anonymous, in theory so they will be free to be critical. Fine.

However, given what we have learned about a clique in climate science deliberately attempting to suppress papers from those outside the clique, I believe it is time that the author of the paper be kept anonymous. While that would not solve all of the problems in peer-review revealed by Climategate, it would be a useful first step.

At Last: A Balanced Story on ‘Global Warning’

While there are factual errors in this story (the world is not currently warming, ocean heat content is down, Arctic ice is growing, not shrinking) about the state of climate science, it is a model of fairness and balance and, for that, I salute them.  Remember, reporters are not scientists and so pretty much have to interpret what scientists tell them. Please read the whole thing.

Here are some quotes from the article (which is balanced, not anti-GW) that need to be proclaimed in every media report on the subject:

“Fearmongering is the wrong way to go about it,” says Storch. “Climate change isn’t going to happen overnight. We still have enough time to react.”
“Scientists should never be as wedded to their theories that they are no longer capable of refuting them in the light of new findings,” he says. Scientific research, Hüttl adds, is all about results, not beliefs. Unfortunately, he says, there are more and more scientists who want to be politicians.
“Unfortunately, some of my colleagues behave like pastors, who present their results in precisely such a way that they’ll fit to their sermons,” says Storch. “It’s certainly no coincidence that all the mistakes that became public always tended in the direction of exaggeration and alarmism.”

But, please, read the whole thing.

The Flaw in the NY Times’ TV versus Climatologists Article

Several have been kind enough to email me this article from The New York Times.

The article discusses a new poll of TV meteorologists which indicates considerable skepticism about ‘global warming.’ The article challenges the qualifications of some TV meteorologists. Fair enough, some are superbly qualified in atmospheric science, some have qualifications that are weak to non-existent. But, consider this comment:

Resentment may also play a role in the divide. Climatologists are almost always affiliated with universities or research institutions where a doctoral degree is required. Most meteorologists, however, can get jobs as weather forecasters with a college degree.
“There is a little bit of elitist-versus-populist tensions,” Mr. Henson said. “There are meteorologists who feel, ‘Just because I have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on.’ ”

The underlying premise of the article is that ‘climatologists’ are “qualified” to discern the workings of the atmosphere. But are they?

Lets take, for example, the leading ‘climatologist’ on the pro-global warming side, Dr. Jim Hansen of NASA. Dr. Hansen says coal trains are “death trains.” His resume is here. Dr. Hansen has a great deal of education, but none of it is in atmospheric science.

I have found this lack of a background in atmospheric science to be the case with many leading global warming proponents.

Of course, the Times doesn’t like the fact that many meteorologists are not global warming proponents,

Seeing danger in the divide between climate scientists and meteorologists, a variety of groups concerned with educating the public on climate change — including the National Environmental Education Foundation, a federally financed nonprofit, and Yale — are working to close the gap with research and educational forum.

I attended one of these meetings, in Denver. Of course, only one side of the ‘science’ was presented. TV meteorologist after meteorologist went to the microphone, intimidated by the Ph.D firepower in the room, and began whatever question they wished to ask with, “I accept the IPCC’s position on global warming…” It was embarrassing. It reminded me of the way AA meetings are depicted on television (“I’m Joe Schmoe and I’m an alcoholic…”).

Given Climategate and the very serious issues it raised, it seems to me that the best approach would be to stop trying to convince TV meteorologists and concentrate on improving the quality and accuracy of climate science.

I’ll have more to say on a better approach in the next posting in a few hours.