Global warming review

January 9, 2014

In honor of the passing of the polar vortex, I’d like to review what I think we know about the state of climate science:

  1. The earth is warming, probably as a result of human carbon dioxide emissions.
  2. The amount the earth has warmed in modern times so far, although measurable, is negligible. The warming trend we see (as in the famous “hockey-stick” charts) uses a smoothing function, and is much, much smaller than the year-to-year variation.
  3. Thus, anyone who says this or that weather is the result of global warming, is a fool, a liar, or both. Generally climate scientists refrain from making such statements, but climate activists and politicians do not. (This problem seems particularly prevalent in Britain, where both parties’ leaders believe global warming is affecting current weather.)
  4. We can calculate the direct impact of increased carbon dioxide on the climate as a straightforward physics problem. The direct impact is small.
  5. Predictions of dire consequences are based on feedback loops. For example, warming causes ice to melt, which results in more clouds, which either increase or decrease warming depending on where and how they form. Climate scientists differ on whether positive or negative feedbacks will dominate, but the former camp (i.e., feedback leads to more warming) seems to be larger, and is certainly more influential and better funded.
  6. There is no way to test whether the positive or negative feedbacks dominate, and by how much, so climate scientists build models. Predictions of future climate are made on the basis of these models.
  7. Most climate scientists (at least the influential, well-funded ones) believe that the strong-positive-feedback models are more convincing.
  8. KEY POINT: However, there is no way actually to test the long-term predictions of these models without waiting for the long term. The short-term predictions of the models have generally not come true. (In fact, in 2005 Gavin Schmidt could only point to one instance in which a climate model made a prediction that was subsequently validated.)
  9. Consequently, we just don’t know what long-term effects increased carbon dioxide will have, scientifically speaking.
  10. However, we do know that cutting carbon dioxide emissions to a degree that would make a difference (according to the models) would not only be disastrous, it is literally impossible, barring an unforeseen technological advance.
  11. Thus, we ought to be looking at reasonable, cost-effective ways to limit CO2 emissions (e.g., nuclear energy, carbon sequestration), but not ridiculous ways (e.g., everything the left wants). We should also be looking at geoengineering in case the worst comes to pass.

Note that above I am not criticizing any of the work of any climate scientists. I simply don’t have the background to do it. Other people who do have the background have criticized their work (the media calls them “climate skeptics”), but I have no way to judge who is in the right. Thus, I’m relying on the consensus view (by which I mean actual consensus, not the consensus of just one side, which is how the media seems to use the term), and — in points 8 and 9 — my basic understanding of the scientific method.

One area in which I do have the background to criticize their work is in their programming. Much of climate science relies heavily on data sets that must be processed by computer. Unfortunately, it seems that their standards of programming is very low, at least if the story of HARRY_READ_ME.txt is typical. This means that the data they are using is suspect. (And, unfortunately, the raw data doesn’t exist any more!)

Worse, there is very good reason to worry that the academic process itself in climate science is badly broken:

  • Climate scientists refuse to share their data, and actually delete their data when they might be forced to release it. (They also lie about it, and even break the law.) From scientists this is astonishing and horrifying, and it tells us that we simply cannot believe their results.
  • Influential climate scientists have subverted the peer-review process. This corrupts their entire field, not just their own work.
  • On occasion, they tell outright lies.
  • Alas, there’s no indication that anything has improved in the field since all the above misconduct came to light.

So where does this leave us? Climate scientists have a tough job: they can’t run controlled experiments and their most important predictions can’t be tested. You can’t blame them for that. You can blame them for shoddy programming, and for academic misconduct.

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Hadley CRU takes another hit

February 7, 2010

The Guardian reports:

Phil Jones, the beleaguered British climate scientist at the centre of the leaked emails controversy, is facing fresh claims that he sought to hide problems in key temperature data on which some of his work was based.

A Guardian investigation of thousands of emails and documents apparently hacked from the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit has found evidence that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed and that documents relating to them could not be produced. . .

It also emerges that documents which [Jones’s collaborator, Wei-Chyung] Wang claimed would exonerate him and Jones did not exist. . .

The temperature data from the Chinese weather stations measured the warming there over the past half century and appeared in a 1990 paper in the prestigious journal Nature, which was cited by the IPCC’s latest report in 2007.

Climate change sceptics asked the UEA, via FOI requests, for location data for the 84 weather stations in eastern China, half of which were urban and half rural.

The history of where the weather stations were sited was crucial to Jones and Wang’s 1990 study, as it concluded the rising temperatures recorded in China were the result of global climate changes rather the warming effects of expanding cities.

The IPCC’s 2007 report used the study to justify the claim that “any urban-related trend” in global temperatures was small. Jones was one of two “coordinating lead authors” for the relevant chapter.

The Guardian also notes that Jones withheld the information when it was requested under the freedom of information act. Of course, that sort of behavior from Jones and his colleagues is old news now.

The Independent adds one more detail:

However, it has been reported that when climate sceptics asked for the precise locations of the 84 stations, Professor Jones at first declined to release the details. And when eventually he did release them, it was found that for the ones supposed to be in the countryside, there was no location given.

The point was to disprove the urban heat-island effect, so the non-urban measurements are key. And those are the ones that seem likely to be bogus.

(Via Instapundit.)


Climategate figures broke the law

January 28, 2010

But they won’t face any consequences, the London Times reports:

The university at the centre of the climate change row over stolen e-mails broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public scrutiny.

The University of East Anglia breached the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to comply with requests for data concerning claims by its scientists that man-made emissions were causing global warming.

The Information Commissioner’s Office decided that UEA failed in its duties under the Act but said that it could not prosecute those involved because the complaint was made too late, The Times has learnt. The ICO is now seeking to change the law to allow prosecutions if a complaint is made more than six months after a breach.

(Via Instapundit.)


Climate fraud

January 24, 2010

A whole new climate scandal is now erupting, and this one has nothing to do with the leaked emails from the Hadley CRU. Last December, a climate scientist named Madhav Khandekar raised issues with the 2007 IPCC report’s prediction regarding the Himalayan glaciers. Writing on the blog of Roger Pielke (another climate scientist who might be described as a moderate skeptic), he pointed out that there was no support in peer-reviewed literature for the claim that the Himalayan glaciers would be entirely gone by 2035. In fact, the only paper on the subject predicted that the glaciers would survive until 2350. He speculated that the 2035 date was nothing but a typo, and added:

In summary, the glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating, but NOT any faster than other glaciers in the Arctic and elsewhere. The two large and most important glaciers of the Himalayas show very little retreat at this point in time. . . It is premature at this stage to link global warming to the deteriorating state of Himalayan glaciers at this time.

The IPCC’s 2035 prediction was a huge deal. As Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker explains:

To understand why the future of Himalayan glaciers should arouse such peculiar passion, one must recall why they have long been a central icon in global warming campaigners’ propaganda. Everything that polar bears have been to the West, the ice of the Himalayas has been – and more – to the East. This is because, as Mr Gore emphasised in his Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth, the vast Himalayan ice sheet feeds seven of the world’s major river systems, thus helping to provide water to 40 per cent of the world’s population.

The IPCC’s shock prediction in its 2007 report that the likelihood of the glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high” thus had huge impact in India and other Asian countries.

At first, the IPCC tried to defend the prediction. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, mocked a contrary report from the Indian government, calling it “voodoo science”. Ultimately, however, the IPCC was forced to admit the mistake:

One of the most alarming conclusions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a widely respected organization established by the United Nations, is that glaciers in the Himalayas could be gone 25 years from now, eliminating a primary source of water for hundreds of millions of people. But a number of glaciologists have argued that this conclusion is wrong, and now the IPCC admits that the conclusion is largely unsubstantiated, based on news reports rather than published, peer-reviewed scientific studies.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the IPCC admitted that the Working Group II report, “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,” published in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), contains a claim that “refers to poorly substantiated estimates. ” The statement also said “the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedure, were not applied properly.” . . .

The error has been traced to the fact that the IPCC permits the citation of non-peer-reviewed sources, called “grey literature,” in cases where peer-reviewed data is not available. It requires that these sources be carefully scrutinized, but that didn’t happen in this case.

In fact, the literature that supported the 2035 prediction was very grey indeed:

The claim that Himalayan glaciers are set to disappear by 2035 rests on two 1999 magazine interviews with glaciologist Syed Hasnain, which were then recycled without any further investigation in a 2005 report by the environmental campaign group WWF.

This brings us to the latest development. So far, this could be written off as a bad case of scientific malpractice, but now it is revealed as a deliberate fraud:

The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.

‘It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.’

(Via Instapundit.)

One misrepresentation in the IPCC report could be written off as an isolated incident. Combine it with this fraud, and the whole report now must be questioned.


How not to respond to scrutiny

December 17, 2009

I had hoped that the climate scandal would lead climate scientists to change their ways and begin making their data available for public scrutiny. Obviously, the data that has been destroyed cannot be published, but at least they can publish what they still have.

Alas, it appears that the Hadley CRU, at least, will not be taking that tack. In fact, quite the opposite. CRU has taken down its entire web site, thereby withdrawing all their data that used to be publicly available.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


How not for scientists to address skepticism

December 11, 2009

(Via Big Government.)


Hypocrisy

December 7, 2009

When the climate scandal broke, the New York Times decided not to publish the leaked emails and documents, making the risible argument:

The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.

Of course, the NYT publishes illegally acquired documents all the time (often damaging national security). But that’s when the documents’ publication serves to further the NYT’s political aims.

Now the NYT ombudsman, Clark Hoyt, is doing his job, which is to defend the NYT regardless of how indefensible its position is. Hoyt says:

As for not posting the e-mail, Revkin said he should have used better language in his blog, Dot Earth, to explain the decision, which was driven by advice from a Times attorney. The lawyer, George Freeman, told me that there is a large legal distinction between government documents like the Pentagon Papers, which The Times published over the objections of the Nixon administration, and e-mail between private individuals, even if they may receive some government money for their work. He said the Constitution protects the publication of leaked government information, as long as it is newsworthy and the media did not obtain it illegally. But the purloined e-mail, he said, was covered by copyright law in the United States and Britain.

Oh, I see. The NYT’s policy is that it will publish illegally obtained documents when they belong to the government, but they won’t publish them if they are private.

Does that sound plausible to you? No, it didn’t sound plausible to me either. Of course the NYT would have no qualms of publishing private, stolen documents if they served the NYT’s purposes. You needn’t accept my judgement either, because it took less than a minute of googling to uncover this:

In May 1994, the Times published a series of stories about the tobacco industry that were based on the pre-Internet equivalent of leaked e-mails. The paper’s coverage later led to a book by reporter Philip J. Hilts titled Smokescreen: The Truth Behind The Tobacco Industry Cover-up.

The circumstances surrounding the tobacco industry then and the climate science community now are remarkably similar, yet the Times reached exact opposite conclusions about how to cover the news.

In the tobacco case, the NYT published documents that were illegally obtained and private, just as the climate documents. In fact, not only were they private, there was a legal injunction in place forbidding their publication. The NYT chose to defy the court and publish anyway. (ASIDE: I’m not saying they were wrong to do so.)

So let’s drop the nonsense about copyright law. That’s not even a good bogus argument. Obviously the NYT is perfectly willing to defy the law when they feel like it. The point is they didn’t want to publish these documents.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Fair is fair

December 1, 2009

Michael Mann is facing some embarrassment for a statement he made on RealClimate.org in 2004. In response to this remark:

Whatever the reason for the divergence, it would seem to suggest that the practice of grafting the thermometer record onto a proxy temperature record – as I believe was done in the case of the ‘hockey stick’ – is dubious to say the least.

He replied:

No researchers in this field have ever, to our knowledge, “grafted the thermometer record onto” any reconstruction. It is somewhat disappointing to find this specious claim (which we usually find originating from industry-funded climate disinformation websites) appearing in this forum.

But he was misinformed. As reported in the New York Times, that’s exactly what Phil Jones did when he prepared the cover graph for the 1999 World Meteorological Organization report. Jones discussed doing so in his infamous “hide the decline” email.

This is embarrassing for Mann, whose intemperate response to the suggestion that anyone in his field would have done such a thing now looks foolish.

It’s even more embarrassing to Jones and his defenders, because they are now trying to argue that Jones’s presentation was appropriate, and Mann’s intemperate response implicitly concedes that it was not. In fact, in Mann’s comments on the scandal, he says that Jones was not trying to fudge the data, but he stops short of defending Jones’s presentation of the data.

But Christopher Horner has gone further and accused Mann of dishonesty. He points out that Jones got the “trick” from Mann’s 1998 article in the journal Nature. How then could Mann claim to be unaware that anyone does it?

That isn’t fair. In his intemperate response, Mann went on to make a distinction:

Often, as in the comparisons we show on this site, the instrumental record (which extends to present) is shown along with the reconstructions, and clearly distinguished from them.

In other words, Mann says, it’s okay to graft the instrumental record onto the reconstruction, as long as it is clearly marked which is which. That’s what he did in the Nature article, plotting the instrumental record with a dotted line that did not exactly stand out, but was clearly distinguishable. That’s also exactly what Jones did not do in the WMO report.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Withholding the data

December 1, 2009

I thought I’d made my last remarks about the climate scandal, but another development has occurred that requires comment. First some background.

One of the serious criticisms of the climate science community that predates the leak of the CRU documents is its frequent refusal to disclose their data and methodology. Real Climate tries to argue that doing so is perhaps unfortunate, but no worse than that:

From the date of the first FOI request to CRU (in 2007), it has been made abundantly clear that the main impediment to releasing the whole CRU archive is the small % of it that was given to CRU on the understanding it wouldn’t be passed on to third parties. Those restrictions are in place because of the originating organisations (the various National Met. Services) around the world and are not CRU’s to break. As of Nov 13, the response to the umpteenth FOI request for the same data met with exactly the same response. This is an unfortunate situation, and pressure should be brought to bear on the National Met Services to release CRU from that obligation. It is not however the fault of CRU.

But that’s crap. CRU researchers have made it clear that they have no desire to release their data, and their reasons have nothing to do with agreements with third parties. For example, in 2005 Phil Jones (the now-embattled head of CRU) wrote to an Australian scientist named Warwick Hughes:

We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

So Jones was not punctiliously observing his agreements with national met services; he was protecting his data from skeptical scrutiny.

That was known before the climate scandal hit. Now, the leaked emails [1107454306, 1106338806, 1212166714, 1155333435] make it even more clear that CRU was looking for a pretext not to release their data:

  • Phil Jones wrote of “hiding behind” various excuses for withholding the data (including agreements with third parties). He gives no hint that he really wants to release the data but unfortunately cannot. Quite the contrary.
  • Jones also suggests that he will “delete the file rather than send [it] to anyone”.
  • Tim Osborn wrote to people asking if their emails were intended to be confidential. When at first he didn’t get the desired response he made his intention explicit: if they said yes, “we will use this as a reason to decline the [freedom of information] request”.
  • Keith Briffa wrote that he was just too busy to release his data, but “Will supply the stuff when I get five minutes!!” That was in 2005, and it seems it never happened.

That brings us to today. It is now revealed that CRU deleted their raw data:

SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. . .

The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation.

The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

It seems safe to say that if they really wanted to release the data, they would not have deleted it. Real Climate’s claim notwithstanding, the “main impediment” to releasing the data is not the national met services; the “main impediment” is the data is gone!

You might think that over at Real Climate they would be hanging their heads in shame, but no. They say that the data is not lost, because:

The original data is curated at the met services where it originated.

Terrific. The data wasn’t destroyed; someone could go collect it all over again.

This is disingenuous for at least four reasons:

  1. Who is to say that the met services still have the data? Governments (I still believe) are more corrupt than scientists. If CRU deleted the data, maybe some of the met services have as well. As barring that, maybe some of the data has been destroyed accidentally.
  2. If the data is still there, someone would still have to go collect it again. That would take ages in the best of circumstances; and with the debate as politicized as it now is, we are hardly in the best of circumstances.
  3. No academic is going to go to the effort to collect that data again. Academia runs on publications and you cannot publish something that’s been published before. Recreating the CRU data is not likely to result in an original research result, so no academic will take the time to do it. Those skeptics who might be so inclined generally don’t have the expertise to do it.
  4. Here’s the kicker. In any case, no one can reproduce the raw data set that CRU used. Even if someone re-collected all the raw data, realistically it would not be exactly the same data set. It’s not as though there is a definitive list of agencies, each of whom has a file called “the definitive historical meteorological data” that has been unchanged since CRU first collected it. And even if, beyond all probability, someone did manage to re-create the exact data set that CRU destroyed, they could never know that they had done so. Consequently, no one can analyze what CRU actually did with the data.

In short, the data is gone. It’s highly unlikely anyone will ever reconstruct it, and if they do, it won’t be exactly the same, so no one can ever check CRU’s work.

(Previous post.)

UPDATE: I agree with just about everything Megan McArdle writes here.


The climate scandal

November 28, 2009

As an outsider to the global warming debate, as nearly all of us are, it is hard to evaluate the claims and counter-claims. Some say there is a consensus. Is that true, and if so, is the consensus right or merely the product of group-think?

Last year, I was able to have a conversation with a mainstream (i.e., not a “skeptic”) climate scientist and got his account of the state of play in the field. He said that the evidence is very good that the climate is warming and that carbon dioxide levels are increasing, and that it seems very likely that humans are responsible. In regard to projections of future climate, he said that the direct effect of increased carbon dioxide is not very large, and estimating the indirect effects depends on computer models.

Unfortunately, (this is my opinion now, not his), we cannot rely on the computer models, because they do not make predictions that we can test, so we really don’t have any good science for predicting the future. Nevertheless, we have a pretty good idea about the past.

That’s what I thought, but my confidence was shaken two months ago when I read a National Review article alleging that prominent climate researchers refused to reveal their data and methodology. The allegation is serious; if true, it completely undermines their work. We don’t accept scientists’ word for their results. Even if a scientist is honest, he might make a mistake. We need to be able to verify the results. Refusing to reveal the data and methodology is like a mathematician claiming a theorem and refusing to provide the proof. Such a result is worthless.

Even worse, the article alleged that the researchers withheld their data specifically to keep it from skeptical scrutiny, saying: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?” The answer is: because that’s how science works.

Still, the article seemed to be based on interviews with just one side, so perhaps they weren’t a fair account of what happened. I did some googling, but I was unable to verify the claims independently. So I waited, hoping something would come out to clarify matters. And now, of course, something has.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave without internet access, or you get your news from the mainstream media, you’ve heard of the leaked emails and documents from the Hadley CRU. They show that the National Review article was absolutely accurate. The Hadley researchers were determined to withhold their data, specifically to protect it from skeptical scrutiny [122833062910596647041074277559, 12543451741256735067]. They were even prepared to delete it, rather than release it to the wrong people [1107454306, 1212073451].

The emails also show a deliberate campaign to corrupt the peer-review system. They discussed submitted papers (which are supposed to be confidential) and how to sabotage them [10547569291077829152, 1233249393]. They worked to oust editors with a skeptical bent, or who were even suspected of a skeptical bent [1051190249, 1106322460]. They spoke explicitly of “plugging the leak” at journals that sometimes published the work of skeptics [1132094873]. So when people speak of a consensus among peer-reviewed research, it turns out that doesn’t mean as much as you might think.

But let’s return to the withholding of data and methodology, because it turns out they had much to conceal. I’m not sure if the data was included in the leak; if so I haven’t seen an analysis of it yet. However, the code is part of the leak, and the code, frankly, is complete crap.

One file, the now infamous HARRY_READ_ME.txt, chronicles the effort of one poor programmer (Ian Harris, according to Real Climate) to maintain the code base for one of their temperature databases. It documents endless problems with the code: subscripts out of range, segmentation faults, overflow (e.g., causing a sum of squares to become negative), underflow, division by zero, silently ignoring exceptions. Pretty much a complete disaster. (UPDATE: Good link as of January 2014.)

ASIDE: The last one is so appalling it’s worth a short look. (Fuller story here.) At one point in Harry’s tale he had to deal with the code that determines whether a station contributes to a cell (whatever that means). This amounts to determining whether two points are within a certain range of each other. Rather than do the necessary geometric calculation, the code uses the graphics library instead (!):

..well that was, erhhh.. ‘interesting’. The IDL gridding program calculates whether or not a station contributes to a cell, using.. graphics. Yes, it plots the station sphere of influence then checks for the colour white in the output.

But better yet, when IDL occasionally generates a plotting error, the code simply ignores it and moves on. (You can find this in documents/cru-code/idl/pro/quick_interp_tdm2.pro).

There’s much, much, more. Near the end of Harry’s tale of horror comes this:

I am seriously close to giving up, again. The history of this is so complex that I can’t get far enough into it before by head hurts and I have to stop. Each parameter has a tortuous history of manual and semi-automated interventions that I simply cannot just go back to early versions and run the update prog. I could be throwing away all kinds of corrections – to lat/lons, to WMOs (yes!), and more.

The bottom line is that nothing their code produces can be trusted.

Some people are delighted by all this. I am not. Instead, I am furious. As a libertarian, I would like to believe that global warming is a myth, but I have thought it unlikely that an entire scientific field could be wrong. But now, who’s to say? Since it now appears that the peer-review process in climate science is corrupt, an outsider cannot begin to assess which claims are valid and which are not; we can only assess which ones are in and which are out. I feel as though I’ve been lied to. (And perhaps I have. How can I know?)

It would be exaggerating to draw from this that there is no science of climate, but not by all that much. Here’s the thing: climate change matters, if it is real that is (which I still think it probably is, retrospectively at least). It would be useful for us to know something about it.

(Previous post.)


Circling the wagons

November 25, 2009

The University of East Anglia (home of the Hadley CRU) has decided to circle the wagons. In a statement issued by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, they claim to have done nothing wrong. The statement includes some howlers:

In relation to the specific requests at issue here, we have handled and responded to each request in a consistent manner in compliance with the appropriate legislation. No record has been deleted, altered, or otherwise dealt with in any fashion with the intent of preventing the disclosure of all, or any part, of the requested information.

Phil Jones said something similar to the Guardian:

We’ve not deleted any emails or data here at CRU.

This is plainly untrue, as this shows:

The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind.

And this:

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise.

And this:

About 2 months ago I deleted loads of emails, so have very little – if anything at all.

The statement also says this:

The Climatic Research Unit holds many data series, provided to the Unit over a period of several decades, from a number of nationally-funded institutions and other research organisations around the world, with specific agreements made over restrictions in the dissemination of those original data. All of these individual series have been used in CRU’s analyses. It is a time-consuming process to attempt to gain approval from these organisations to release the data.

I have no idea if they went through the motions or not, but it is plain as day that they are unwilling to release the data. As the first email above said, the head of the CRU would “delete the file rather than send [it] to anyone”. And he has said openly his reason for refusing to release the data: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

This part takes chutzpah:

The University of East Anglia and CRU are committed to scientific integrity, open debate and enhancing understanding. This includes a commitment to the international peer-review system upon which progress in science relies. It is this tried and tested system which has underpinned the assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is through that process that we can engage in respectful and informed debate with scientists whose analyses appear not to be consistent with the current overwhelming consensus on climate change.

But the emails show plainly that CRU has deliberately corrupted the peer-review process. Also, the “respectful and informed debate” includes celebrating the death of a skeptical colleague.

The statement concludes:

We have, therefore, decided to conduct an independent review, which will address the issue of data security, an assessment of how we responded to a deluge of Freedom of Information requests, and any other relevant issues which the independent reviewer advises should be addressed.

Obviously a lot of stuff could fit under “other relevant issues”, but the administration at least doesn’t view CRU’s corruption of the peer-review process and the plausible allegations of data tampering as requiring investigation. You would think they would want to investigate them, if only to clear their name. If they are innocent, that is.

(Via Roger L. Simon, via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


More on the Hadley scandal

November 24, 2009

The most troubling aspect of the scandal arising from the Hadley CRU emails is the perversion of the peer review process. True, there is no doubt that the Hadley researchers withheld their data from skeptical scrutiny, and it appears that they may have even fudged their data, but those offenses taint only their own work. But by subverting the peer review process, they have tainted their entire field. The documents make clear that the Hadley researchers and their correspondents worked successfully to oust journal editors who had views contrary to theirs, or who they even suspected had such views:

Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.

Worse, they did not follow proper protocol in refereeing submitted papers. Submitted papers are supposed to be confidential until accepted for publication, but the emails are rife with discussion of papers under review. For example:

With free wifi in my room, I’ve just seen that M+M have submitted a paper to IJC on your H2 statistic – using more years, up to 2007. They have also found your PCMDI data -laughing at the directory name – FOIA? Also they make up statements saying you’ve done this following Obama’s statement about openness in government! Anyway you’ll likely get this for review, or poor Francis will. Best if both Francis and Myles did this. If I get an email from Glenn I’ll suggest this.

Examples such as these make it clear that the peer-review process is not working property in climate science. Now I don’t believe, as some do, that this scandal somehow washes away all the evidence that the earth’s climate is warming, likely due to human activity. There is still much convincing evidence that it is.

What the scandal does do is destroy any notion that there is a consensus among scientists on the matter. Whatever consensus might appear to exist is because some have conspired (I use the word deliberately) to silence opposing views. Climate science, as a field, needs to take affirmative steps to right its ship, and quickly.

As George Monbiot (an impeccably credentialed British environmental activist) put it:

It’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

I’m also deeply disillusioned by RealClimate.org. In their view, the leak did not expose a problem in the field, but rather the leak itself is the problem, and they are focusing on explaining away the damning material in it. Worse is this email from the leak:

Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [RealClimate.org] in any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.

You’re also welcome to do a followup guest post, etc. think of RC as a resource that is at your disposal to combat any disinformation put forward by the McIntyres of the world. Just let us know. We’ll use our best discretion to make sure the skeptics dont’get to use the RC comments as a megaphone…

(Emphasis mine.) This makes clear that Real Climate is simply not, as it is billed, an impartial scientific resource. Pity. It would have been nice to have such a thing.

I culled this information from mainly from two summaries: by Charlie Martin and Iain Murray.

POSTSCRIPT: I want to note again that for those fighting ruinous government proposals like cap and trade, this is the wrong hill to die on. The work discussed here is primarily paleoclimatology, the study of past climate. What matters to policy is future climate, and the work in climate projection is very weak, as I discussed here. Our purposes are not served by making paleoclimatology the center of the debate.

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)