Scientific understanding and faith simultaneously on display:
‘For climatologists, the search for an irrefutable “sign” of anthropogenic warming has assumed an almost Biblical intensity.’ – Fred Pearce, New Scientist, October 1996
This being near Climategate time, it is worth reflecting upon that heady time in late November 2009 when the world of climate science saw its edifice of assumed scientific integrity broadsided by its own hidden reality. Much like what goes on with the SkS kidz and their private forum, what was said by climate prima donnas (to borrow words from Dr. John Christy) when they thought nobody was looking, was far different from the presentation made to the public.
I recall that about this time of publication December 9th 2009, I was in the middle of trying to get Climate Audit back online after being crashed by the traffic generated by news on November 19th from WUWT: Breaking News Story: CRU has apparently been hacked – hundreds of files released
So, given that distraction, I must have missed this article from Michael Kelly then, the whole period was a furious whirlwind of commentary as the inner sanctum of climate science was revealed. I’ll start with a significant excerpt, much more and a link to the full article follows. There are gems that I’ve never read, like this one from Keith Briffa in 1996, before team climate science and funding glut became the norm:
As always I seem to have been away bullshiting and politiking in various meetings for weeks! I try to convince myself that this is of use to us as a dendrochronological community but I am not so sure how much that is really true these days.
It is well worth your time. h/t to reader Ian W
From the writings of Michael H. Kelly, Dec 9, 2009:
Tom  tries to soothe Kevin further with a nice bit of Jesuitry: ‘I didn’t mean to offend you. But what you said was “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment”. Now you say “we are no where close to knowing where energy is going”. In my eyes these are two different things — the second relates to our level of understanding’ and the first, presumably, to our degree of faith.
(I can’t make Tom out at all as a character, however. He is an enigma to me, as changeable as, well, the climate. At times he can be the scourge of the heathens, and in very unpleasant ways; at others a stern voice of reason, moderation, and scientific standards, compared to some of the others. Next, for example, in 1255553034, he rebukes Mann ‘The Figure you sent is very deceptive … In my (perhaps too harsh) view, there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC’ and Schmidt ‘I just think that you need to be up front with uncertainties and the possibility of compensating errors’, referring to a graph which Mann says will reassure Kevin and doubters in the outside world. An unquestioning true believer who won’t see his beloved cause brought into disrepute? This is fun. This must be what it was like to be a Kremlinologist or someone who studies the inner machinations of the Vatican. We need scientists, number-crunchers and other experts on this story to annotate the mails and other files fully, but we will only fully understand what happened and the people involved when someone writes a novel about it.)
In 1256765544 Gentleman Phil Jones complains about scientist Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen to someone at her university. She has forwarded articles about the Yamal scandal and the disappearing CRU data [they are also in the mail and are worth reading if you are coming newish to this] to someone at UKCIP [UK Climate Impacts Programme] she thinks ought to know about it: ‘I expect that a great deal of UKCIP work is based on the data provided by CRU (as does the work of the IPCC and of course UK climate policy). Some of this, very fundamentally, would now seem to be open to scientific challenge, and may even face future legal enquiries. It may be in the interest of UKCIP to inform itself in good time and become a little more ‘uncertain’ about its policy advice.’
Gentleman Phil disparages these articles with the standard line about peer-reviewed lit and in the next breath disparages Boehmer-Christiansen’s peer-reviewed literature: ‘You are probably aware of this, but the journal Sonja edits is at the very bottom of almost all climate scientists lists of journals to read.’
Boehmer-Christiansen’s colleague commiserates with Phil, and says ‘I’ll try and have a quiet word with her’ about using her ‘Reader Emeritus’ title in communications of this sort, ‘but at the moment in fairness she is entitled to use it in the way she does.’ Also ‘I’d want to protect another academic’s freedom to be contrary and critical, even if I personally believe she is probably wrong.’ But reassures Phil he’s personally onside: ‘Since Sonja retired I am a lot more free to push my environmental interests without ongoing critique of my motives and supposed misguidedness – I’ve signed my department up to 10:10 campaign and have a taskforce of staff and students involved in it.’
1256760240. Phil cautions Keith not to respond to mails he has forwarded, from an academic at another university, who has written expressing concern over various matters pertaining to Keith’s Yamal work and the other studies that have drawn on it, including:
1) The appropriateness of the statistical analyses employed
2) The reliance on the same small datasets in these multiple studies
3) The concept of “teleconnection” by which certain trees respond to the
“Global Temperature Field”, rather than local climate
4) The assumption that tree ring width and density are related to temperature in a linear manner.
Whilst I would not describe myself as an expert statistician, I do use inferential statistics routinely for both research and teaching and find difficulty in understanding the statistical rationale in these papers. As a plant physiologist I can say without hesitation that points 3 and 4 do not agree with the accepted science.
There is a saying that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. Given the scientific, political and economic importance of these papers, further detailed explanation is urgently required.
He has sent further questions after Keith posted an explanation on the CRU site, saying, ‘I find your explanations lacking in scientific rigour and I am more inclined to believe the analysis of McIntyre.’
1256735067. Mann to Phil: ‘be a bit careful about what information you send to Andy [Revkin? Of the NYT? Of 'the prestige press doesn't fall for this sort of stuff, right'?] and what emails you copy him in on. He’s not as predictable as we’d like.’
In 1257888920, November 10th this year, someone from UKCIP is writing about problems with the CRU database. See the ‘Harry_read_me’ file for more.
The mails end shortly after with references to a new IPCC working group. There is mention of a ‘Good Practice Guidance Paper’.
Rather than end with a whimper I will now go back a bit.
1254751382, October 5th, 2009. This is perhaps the climax, where it really all falls apart. The mails at the top of the file are just the gang damage-limiting. But scroll down below, where there are newsgroup mails they’ve forwarded to each other. Scientists talking about the Yamal revelations: I could well be wrong but when I first read it it looked to me like a generation of younger scientists, fighting free of the dead hand of the established old blokes at CRU and elsewhere. This may be the happy ending, if you like, at least unless and until this new blood become as crusty and stuck on their pet theories as the old guard.
…Tree ring-based temperature reconstructions are fraught with so much uncertainty, they have no value whatever. It is impossible to tease out the relative contributions of rainfall, nutrients, temperature and access to sunlight. Indeed a single tree can, and apparently has, skewed the entire 20th century temperature reconstruction.
2) The IPCC peer review process is fundamentally flawed if a lead author is able to both disregard and ignore criticisms of his own work, where that work is the critical core of the chapter.”
the IPCC has depended on 1) computer models, 2) data collection, 3) long-range temperature forecasting and 4) communication. None of these efforts are sitting on firm ground.”
…’This is terrible but not surprising. Obviously I do not know what gives with these guys. However, I have my own suspicions and hypothesis. I dont think they are scientifically inadequate or stupid. I think they are dishonest and members of a club that has much to gain by practicing and perpetuating global warming scare tactics.
That is not to say that global warming is not occurring to some extent since it would be even without CO2 emissions. The CO2 emissions only accelerate the warming and there are other factors controlling climate. As a result, the entire process may be going slower than the powers that be would like.
Hence, (I postulate) the global warming contingent has substantial motivation to be dishonest or seriously biased, and to be loyal to their equally dishonest club members. Among the motivations are increased and continued grant funding, university advancement, job advancement, profits and payoffs from carbon control advocates such as Gore, being in the limelight, and other motivating factors I am too inexperienced to identify.
Alan, this is nothing new. You and I experienced similar behavior from some of our colleagues down the hall … in the good old days. Humans are hardly perfect creations. I am never surprised at what they can do. I am perpetually grateful for those who are honest and fair and thankfully there is a goodly share of those.’
But I will give the last word to scientist John Christy, from a mail to one of the team members at the end of July 2009 .
We disagree on the use of available climate information regarding the many things related to climate/climate change as I see by your responses below – that is not unexpected as climate is an ugly, ambiguous, and complex system studied by a bunch of prima donnas (me included) and which defies authoritative declarations. I base my views on hard-core, published literature (some of it mine, but most of it not), so saying otherwise is not helpful or true. The simple fact is that the opinions expressed in the CCSP report do not represent the real range of scientific literature (the IPCC fell into the same trap – so running to the IPCC’s corner doesn’t move things forward). …The “consensus” reports now are just the consensus of those who agree with the consensus. The government-selected authors have become gatekeepers rather than honest brokers of information. That is a real tragedy, because when someone becomes a gatekeeper, they don’t know they’ve become a gatekeeper – and begin to (sincerely) think the non-consensus scientists are just nuts.
The real ending is up to us.
At this point we are already guaranteed to be the laughing stock of the future, for having entertained this nonsense for even a single year. A cautionary tale of mass hysteria, comparable to the witch-burners or the millenarian doom-cults, all the more so because we were more technologically advanced and fancied ourselves so superior to them.
If you’re a fairly youngish person reading this, you can expect one day to have bratty grandkids dancing around you taunting you about it. ‘Ha ha ha! In Granddad’s day they were afraid of carbon dioxide! Ha ha ha!’ They will breathe on you. ‘Look, look, I’m poisoning Granddad! Look, I’m destroying the planet with my poison breath! Oh no, Granddad – I think I’m going to fart – shall I put a cork in? Granddad, there’s a cow in the field going to fart – shall we kill it? Granddad, do you think Mummy will burn in hell for driving a car? Do you call them the Devil’s Chariot, Granddad? Do you think light-bulbs are sinful, Granddad? Do you flog yourself when you turn one on? Do you think Mummy was sinful for having children, Granddad? Should I not have been born, Granddad? Granddad … you’re choking me…’
At least, I hope you do. That’s what’s up to us now. If we sit back and allow them to enact radical changes at Copenhagen in spite of what’s been revealed, more likely your grandchild will be a pious little snot in a sackcloth habit who every time he visits will point and yell, ‘OIL-BURNING PLANET-KILLER!’ and spit on you.
Or they will not have been born, because you couldn’t afford to buy the indulgences to have kids.
I sincerely hope I’m being alarmist and shrill saying that. But if something gets pushed through at Copenhagen it will be only the beginning. The history of the past few years has shown that even good, worthwhile movements for social change keep going through inertia and simply don’t know when to stop even when they’ve become destructive. This will be destructive from the start and will simply never end of its own accord because they will go on calling for more and more sacrifices to an unappeasable god, because none of what we do will make a blind bit of difference because they are barking up the wrong tree.
I’m not expert at what cap and trade schemes will lead to but it seems to me that, rather than being ‘socialism’ as some opponents claim, it will enable big companies (and economies) to get bigger at the expense of smaller ones. People are already making huge amounts from carbon-trading, and companies like Shell are preparing to cash in on carbon-capture. It’s what will come after that worries me. Discouraging all but the rich from flying or driving would only be a first step. After that, eating meat will be punitively taxed, everything else you buy or do will be rationed on some carbon measure rated by a massive new bureaucracy, and I suspect that after a while you won’t be able to have children without purchasing a license for all the CO2 they’ll put out over the course of a lifetime.
Already there is a new scheme, endorsed by the great and good, whereby you can assuage the guilt of taking a plane trip by preventing an African from being born.
When I visited that article almost none of the commenters seemed to find that tasteless, let alone disturbing or deeply wrong; pretty much the only objections were from people who said it would be much better to stop people in the Western world being born.
I’m having to bite my fingers to keep from triggering Godwin’s Law. And I suppose it would be wildly inappropriate, after several thousand words mocking people for betraying science and reason, to make any reference to the devil.
Read it in full here
- Lives of the Climate Bloggers (2): Michael H. Kelly (geoffchambers.wordpress.com)
- Behind the SKS Curtain (climateaudit.org)
- The Economist: problems with peer-review undermine self-correction of science (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
- Climatologist Dr. Judith Curry message to Climategate’s Michael Mann: ‘You continue to damage the credibility of climate science in ways that you apparently can’t imagine’ (climatedepot.com)
- Public Relations (Spin Doctors) Deliberately Deceived Public About Global Warming and Climate Change (wattsupwiththat.com)