It is really too bad that I don’t have a subscription. I’m a bit late to commenting on this editorial that appeared in Nature magazine yesterday, but I feel it is important to say a few things about it, even though many WUWT readers have probably already seen the editorial.
1. For a scientific journal to use the label “denialists” is in my opinion unconscionable, and highlight’s Nature’s own bias. For the record, while there may in fact be a few people who deny any warming has occurred in the past 100 years (it has) the real issue is the cause. That is what skeptics are about. There are many academics and researchers that have questions about what is being presented in the mainstream climate science today. To put the full weight of Nature behind a broad brush labeling them as “deniers” or “denialists” is a huge mistake. The scientific integrity of one of the foremost scientific magazines has been tarnished by the use of a cheap slur.
2. The claims of harassment are ludicrous. The very foundation of science is based on the ability of other scientists to perform replication via data sharing. Finding excuses to not do this, and actively setting up hurdles to those requesting data for replication is not only not part of the scientific method, it is obstruction of the method. Had the files been provide in early FOI requests, no escalation of requests would have happened. CRU brought this on themselves, mainly due to the stubborn refusal of Dr. Jones to allow data for replication purposes. Besides, UAE has a person specifically assigned to handling FOIA requests. Jones had the data to fill the requests, all he had to do is hand them to the FOIA officer. He chose not to, further in one of the emails it was revealed that Jones and his staff lobbied that FOIA officer not to honor these requests. My hunch is that is where this row started.
3. For Nature to claim that:
Researchers are barred from publicly releasing meteorological data from many countries owing to contractual restrictions. Moreover, in countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom, the national meteorological services will provide data sets only when researchers specifically request them, and only after a significant delay.
Is pure rubbish. See point 5 below also – they provided the data to Peter Webster. The majority of weather stations that report data used in the CRU are from public airports worldwide. Here is a list of stations that was grudgingly provided by Phil Jones after years of effort, and it was delivered broken. McIntyre had to fix it. See the cru_station_info file. Pick a few stations in France, Germany, and United Kingdom, then go to weatherunderground.com and see if they are available as hourly reports, or check many of the publicly available climate data sistes It is public data. Yet CRU claims it is proprietary and protected by agreements and we can’t see the data they are using?. Something is wrong there.
I picked three from the countries listed at random from the cru station info file:
GERMANY HOHENPEISSENBERG See http://www.tutiempo.net/en/Climate/HOHENPEISSENBERG/109620.htm
FRANCE BOURGES See: http://www.tutiempo.net/en/Climate/Bourges/72550.htm
UK WADDINGTON See: http://www.tutiempo.net/en/Climate/Waddington/33770.htm
Anybody with a PC and Internet connection can get some of the data CRU uses that is claimed proprietary, so why the need for protectionism when a researcher asks for data from the same locations collated as used in CRU processes?
4. Nature assumes it was a hack in, but the evidence points to a leak, or even a carelessly left file on a public FTP site at CRU (which has happened before) Hackers are usually smash and grab affairs, with little time for understanding of what they are grabbing since they don’t know how long it willbe before they are discovered. They’ll sort it out later. The FOIA2009.zip appears to have been carefully assembled, pointing to someone with specific knowledge and broad access across systems. Further, hackers usually tout their exploits as “badges of honr”. We’ve heard nothing.
5. Previously, Nature reported on Steve McIntyre’s attempts to get access to this data in their report on August 12th, 2009 without so much as a disparaging word against Mr. McIntyre. They wrote then:
McIntyre is especially aggrieved that Peter Webster, a hurricane expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, was recently provided with data that had been refused to him.
Webster says his team was given the station data for a very specific request that will result in a joint publication with Jones. “Reasonable requests should be fulfilled because making data available advances science,” says Webster, “but it has to be an authentic request because otherwise you’d be swamped.”
Yet today, they drag out the slur denialist over the very same issue: data access and replication. If replication is not a valid request, then climate science is doomed.
Yes, I’d cancel my Nature subscription if I had one. – Anthony
Here is the Nature editorial as posted here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7273/full/462545a.html
Nature 462, 545 (3 December 2009) | doi:10.1038/462545a; Published online 2 December 2009
Climatologists under pressure
Stolen e-mails have revealed no scientific conspiracy, but do highlight ways in which climate researchers could be better supported in the face of public scrutiny.
The e-mail archives stolen last month from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, have been greeted by the climate-change-denialist fringe as a propaganda windfall (see page 551). To these denialists, the scientists’ scathing remarks about certain controversial palaeoclimate reconstructions qualify as the proverbial ‘smoking gun’: proof that mainstream climate researchers have systematically conspired to suppress evidence contradicting their doctrine that humans are warming the globe.
This paranoid interpretation would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse to stiffen their opposition to the country’s much needed climate bill. Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails.
First, Earth’s cryosphere is changing as one would expect in a warming climate. These changes include glacier retreat, thinning and areal reduction of Arctic sea ice, reductions in permafrost and accelerated loss of mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Second, the global sea level is rising. The rise is caused in part by water pouring in from melting glaciers and ice sheets, but also by thermal expansion as the oceans warm. Third, decades of biological data on blooming dates and the like suggest that spring is arriving earlier each year.
Denialists often maintain that these changes are just a symptom of natural climate variability. But when climate modellers test this assertion by running their simulations with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide held fixed, the results bear little resemblance to the observed warming. The strong implication is that increased greenhouse-gas emissions have played an important part in recent warming, meaning that curbing the world’s voracious appetite for carbon is essential (see pages 568 and 570).
A fair reading of the e-mails reveals nothing to support the denialists’ conspiracy theories. In one of the more controversial exchanges, UEA scientists sharply criticized the quality of two papers that question the uniqueness of recent global warming (S. McIntyre and R. McKitrick Energy Environ. 14, 751–771; 2003 and W. Soon and S. Baliunas Clim. Res. 23, 89–110; 2003) and vowed to keep at least the first paper out of the upcoming Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Whatever the e-mail authors may have said to one another in (supposed) privacy, however, what matters is how they acted. And the fact is that, in the end, neither they nor the IPCC suppressed anything: when the assessment report was published in 2007 it referenced and discussed both papers.
If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden.
The theft highlights the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers.
The e-mail theft also highlights how difficult it can be for climate researchers to follow the canons of scientific openness, which require them to make public the data on which they base their conclusions. This is best done via open online archives, such as the ones maintained by the IPCC (http://www.ipcc-data.org) and the US National Climatic Data Center (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html).
But for much crucial information the reality is very different. Researchers are barred from publicly releasing meteorological data from many countries owing to contractual restrictions. Moreover, in countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom, the national meteorological services will provide data sets only when researchers specifically request them, and only after a significant delay. The lack of standard formats can also make it hard to compare and integrate data from different sources. Every aspect of this situation needs to change: if the current episode does not spur meteorological services to improve researchers’ ease of access, governments should force them to do so.
The stolen e-mails have prompted queries about whether Nature will investigate some of the researchers’ own papers. One e-mail talked of displaying the data using a ‘trick’ — slang for a clever (and legitimate) technique, but a word that denialists have used to accuse the researchers of fabricating their results. It is Nature‘s policy to investigate such matters if there are substantive reasons for concern, but nothing we have seen so far in the e-mails qualifies.
The UEA responded too slowly to the eruption of coverage in the media, but deserves credit for now being publicly supportive of the integrity of its scientists while also holding an independent investigation of its researchers’ compliance with Britain’s freedom of information requirements (see http://go.nature.com/zRBXRP).
In the end, what the UEA e-mails really show is that scientists are human beings — and that unrelenting opposition to their work can goad them to the limits of tolerance, and tempt them to act in ways that undermine scientific values. Yet it is precisely in such circumstances that researchers should strive to act and communicate professionally, and make their data and methods available to others, lest they provide their worst critics with ammunition. After all, the pressures the UEA e-mailers experienced may be nothing compared with what will emerge as the United States debates a climate bill next year, and denialists use every means at their disposal to undermine trust in scientists and science.