The Spectator on the Antarctic Ice Capades

Nicolas Lewis and Matt Ridley have written a scathing article in the Spectator (UK) regarding the treatment of O’Donnell et al during the peer review and post peer review process.

I’ve been privileged with receiving an advance copy. Since this is a subscription only magazine, I can’t show you the entire article, but I can say, I think they got it right. There is however, an op-ed  by Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, which you can read in full here.

I expect there will be some damage control in Real Climate tomorrow, or perhaps a letter of rebuttal to the Spectator, or both.

The Team, and climate science in general, comes off looking badly. Here’s an excerpt:

“Nature’s original peer-review process had let through an obviously flawed paper, and no professional climate scientist then disputed  it – perhaps because of fear that doing so might harm their careers. As the title of Richard Bean’s new play – The Heretic – at the Royal Court hints, young scientists going into climate studies these days are a bit like young theologians in Elizabethan England. They quickly learn that funding and promotion dries up if you express heterodox views, or doubt the scripture. The scripture, in this case, being the assembled reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

“Papers that come to lukewarm or sceptical conclusions are published, if at all, only after the insertion of catechistic sentences to assert their adherence to orthodoxy. Last year, a paper in Nature Geosciences concluded heretically that `it is at present impossible to accurately determine climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide’ (high sensitivity  underpins the entire IPCC argument), yet presaged this with the (absurd) remark: `Earth’s climate can only be stabilized by bringing carbon dioxide emissions under control in the twenty-first century.’Likewise, a paper In Science last month linking periods of migration in European history with cooler weather stated: `Such historical data may provide a basis for counteracting the recent political and fiscal reluctance to mitigate projected climate change.’ Sceptical climatologist Pat Michaels pointed out that the sentence would make more sense with `counteracting’ removed. 

Science as a philosophy is a powerful, but fragile thing. In the case of climate, it is now in conflict with science as an institution.”

Note from Anthony: I highly recommend purchasing a copy to support the magazine’s efforts at making this issue known, you can purchase the most recent copy here:

http://www.spectator.co.uk/buy-this-issue/5324661/buy-the-current-issue.thtml

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Jeremy

What can RC say about climate-gate now that they’re being caught red-handed doing the very things that the climate-gate e-mails hinted they were doing?
How can this debacle (love that word, so rarely use it online) not make them all look like total fools bent on lying to the world?
To re-cap:
1) Alarmists say skeptics don’t have anything peer-reviewed to point to, so ignore them
2) Climate-gate exposes gaming of peer-review by alarmists
3) Alarmists say climate-gate taken out of context, all is well.
4) Alarmists caught doing what climate-gate had previously illustrated
…? The reaction posts at RC in the next few weeks should be as interesting as the initial reaction to climate-gate… that is to say, they’ll probably clam up for a while.

DJ

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the inclusion of those same “catechistic” disclaimers exactly what happened in the paper on cosmic rays and clouds just covered here??
“…The climatic forcings resulting from such solar – terrestrial links may have had a significant impact on climate prior to the onset of anthropogenic warming, ..”
http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/10/10941/2010/acp-10-10941-2010.pdf

MSO

I would have bought a copy had a google account not been required.

John V. Wright

Hey Anthony,
Great article, but…
…I went straight to the Spectator site to buy the magazine to show my support (and because I want to read it). Having gone through Google’s payment procedure I get this message:
Request Entity Too Large
Your client issued a request that was too large.
Whatever that means. Anyway, the end result is, I can’t order the magazine online.
Anyone else having this problem?

Sean Houlihane

Already ordered my copy. I wouldn’t want to seem to be in favour of paywalls, but for £1.99 it seems reasonable (and it is presumably not something which is going to be quoted by other work, so need not be public)

Science as a philosophy is a powerful, but fragile thing. In the case of climate, it is now in conflict with science as an institution.

That is the kind of paragraph that makes you sit up and think. Very well said.
The analogy with theology students in a theocratic context is also very well judged. When you include the mainfold policies of ‘mitigation’ this has all the makings of another modern political religion – as both Bolshevism and Naziism were, according to historians like Michael Burleigh. And they didn’t turn out well for the ordinary person, to put it mildly. I’ll be buying and reading with great interest.

John Peter

Live in UK. In no way would I entrust Google with my private information. I will buy the Spectator in my local W H Smith.

I haven’t read the piece yet. But, consider this. They may have gotten things right, but, unless Andy Revkin at the Times also produces something similar, this will simply be dismissed as just another right wing political attack.

anopheles

The Spectator’s paywall is not insurmountable. Just wait a week and the website will have this week’s mag articles online.

Annabelle

Ordered

PM

I would have bought a copy too if a Google account had not been required.
I’ll try and remember to look for it in the shops.

David Larsen

I would say the anti – Earth bunch are the anti- CO2 group. Plants need CO2 to survice and plants are green, just like Greenland used to be. Increased CO2 levels should increase overall green activity on Mother Earth.

Doug Proctor

A remarkable consequence of successfully defeating a foolish but orthodox (“consensus”) opinion is continued social disapproval. The “whistleblower” does not receive applause but ostracism – social silencing, a reversal of the ability to speak publicly when the crowd awaiting the public humiliation to be heaped upon the heretic. Any of us who contradict – with data – a warmist at a gathering well recall the chill that descends upon the room and the turning of backs.
When the CAGW alarm goes away, Morano, Watts, McIntyre will be persona non grata more than they are now. The “cranks” will become the boring, annoying fist-shakers proclaiming on soapboxes in Hyde Park. The powerful and social leaders – the Gores, the Romms – may back off on their pronouncements, but they will not be replaced with their detractors. Think of how Paul Erhlich, for all his bizarre pronouncements, still is an honorary director of The David Zuzuki Foundation! Will the researchers who prevail when they demonstrate that polar bears are not facing extinction end up advising environmental movements? I think not.
The social phenomena of the climate change debacle will be an interesting chapter in a future update on the Madness of Crowds and Other Popular Delusions.

Hu McCulloch

Great front cover to counter Nature’s! Could the image of it way down be moved to the top of the post?

Mark Twang

Who needs science when you have surety of fact and purity of motive?
http://www.viciousbabushka.com/2011/02/chabad-tackles-climate-change.html
The speaker was Mark Dreyfus QC MP, who is the Federal Minister for Issacs and also a cabinet secretary as well as Parliamentary secretary for climate change and energy efficiency.
Mr. Dreyfus stressed that taking action today on climate change would leave the world a better place for our children.
“Climate change is a huge problem,” he said. “The more people there are the more green gas being released into the air and the carbon emissions lead to climate change.”
———
Yep. The many-too-many people and their green gas are to blame. Now what would be a quick and simple solution to that? Do it for the chirrun!
Oh, wait…

Nature comes off looking badly too.
Ordered!

glacierman

I think it is important to remember that Real Climate is a Public Relations blog specifically set up to shape public opinion in one way and to provide talking points to the media. PR firms have been retained to more effectively get their “message” out – Environmental Media Services. http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2009/11/warming_blog_realclimate_run_b.html
Hard to put this together with a reviewer making statements just being debating the science.

My order went through easy as pie with Google.

Mark S

In the interest of fairness/setting readers expectations you should disclose that one of the authors of the Spectator piece is a co-author of the paper with O’Donnell. If one is expecting a balanced piece of reporting you will not find it there.

Scott Thomas

I ordered it but they only charged the 1.99, nothing extra for the overseas postage. The 1.99 was only supposed to cover local mailings. I’m not expecting to actually get it.

D. King

“Science as a philosophy is a powerful, but fragile thing. In the case of climate, it is now in conflict with science as an institution.”
Let’s see just who RealClimate.org is, shall we?
http://www.whois.net/whois/realclimate.org
Admin Organization:Environmental Media Services
Oh look, someone has done the research for me!
http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/07/truth-about-realclimateorg.html
Why anyone is surprised by a political / philosophical link, surprises me.

Vince Causey

[snip . . . isn’t this all just ad hom?]

Lance Wallace

Thanks for the link–ordered it via Google account in about 2 steps lasting 30 seconds.

James Sexton

“and no professional climate scientist then disputed it – perhaps because of fear that doing so might harm their careers.”
========================================================
That’s charitable. How about ‘no professional climate scientist then disputed it — perhaps because they don’t understand statistics.’?

Ockham

It has become clear to me over the last year, after reading the blogs, Montford,s book and now this debacle, that Paleoclimatology is more art than science.

Paul Deacon

This is refreshing news. It is interesting too, that the play “The Heretic” is mentioned – it seems to be doing OK and is perhaps the first mainstream sceptic play (I haven’t seen it, I rely on reviews). For the acting community to do a sceptic play is quite a big step, I think. I wonder how long it will be before we see a mainstream sceptic film (I won’t hold my breath).

glacierman

Ockham said:
“It has become clear to me over the last year, after reading the blogs, Montford,s book and now this debacle, that Paleoclimatology is more art than science.”
Well it fits perfectly well into a Post-Normal Scientific world.

Stephen Brown

The Spectator magazine has organised what looks to be a very interesting debate.
http://www.spectator.co.uk/shop/events/6699018/spectator-debate-the-global-warming-hysteria-is-over-time-for-a-return-to-sanity.thtml
The global warming hysteria is over. Time for a return to sanity
Participants will be:-
For the motion, will be Lord Nigel Lawson, Chairman, Global Warming Policy Foundation and Dr Benny Peiser, Director, Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Against the motion will be Professor Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, Oxford University and Simon Singh, Science Writer.
Should be interesting. I wonder if a recording or transcript of the debate will be available?

FrankK

In the Oz ABC 7 pm news last night an announcement that “Its true” (human) climate change is causing extreme events. A recent paper in Nature apparently using data and “computer model” has shown conclusively that this is valid. Wow! Amazing.
And in the most recent EOS magazine (Vol 91 No 50 14 Dec 2010) an advert on page 497 by Monash University (Melbourne Australia) for a position as Research Fellow (ARC Super Science) in Atmospheric Dynamics. Quote “ This three-year fixed term position will work on the dynamics of subtropical anticyclones and their connection to drought, heatwaves and bushfires in southern Australia using numerical models run on the NCI supercomputer”
Wow! This going to be ground breaking fundamental research
/sarc
To bad the models are not worth a bees digit and Nature Journal (or is that a magazine) has lost most of its past credibility in my opinion.

Theo Goodwin

Mark S says:
February 17, 2011 at 11:29 am
“In the interest of fairness/setting readers expectations you should disclose that one of the authors of the Spectator piece is a co-author of the paper with O’Donnell. If one is expecting a balanced piece of reporting you will not find it there.”
The intro says that. That O’Donnell and coauthors are writing on behalf of science and statistics but Steig on behalf of the team and Big Warming was established loooooong ago.

Vince Causey

Vince Causey says:
February 17, 2011 at 11:44 am
[snip . . . isn’t this all just ad hom?]
Pulitzer prize material, dear boy 🙂

Theo Goodwin

Doug Proctor says:
February 17, 2011 at 10:53 am
“When the CAGW alarm goes away, Morano, Watts, McIntyre will be persona non grata more than they are now. The “cranks” will become the boring, annoying fist-shakers proclaiming on soapboxes in Hyde Park. The powerful and social leaders – the Gores, the Romms – may back off on their pronouncements, but they will not be replaced with their detractors.”
I see that you do not follow American politics. If the present situation in the USA continues until November 2010 then not one Democrat will be elected for anything. There will not be so much as a Democratic dogcatcher. The days of state control are behind us, though some considerable fights remain to take back ground that was all too quickly surrendered.

Jordan

I’ll buy this off-the-shelf tomorrow.
I hope “The Spectator” finds this to be a rewarding topic of general public interest.
I hope they will do more to examine those quaint scientific practices which don’t really matter when there are no public interest matters at stake, but are not good enough when there are.

bob

If we didn’t have the Steig et al paper and only had the O’Donnell et al paper, which concluded that there was statistically significant warming on the west anarctic ice sheet, what kind of reception would it recieve here?
We have established that the Anarctic ice sheets are warming, now we are only arguing how much.

Jeff

“professional climate scientist” ???? when someone finds one on the alarmists side let us know …

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Wow, in this internet age things are really getting confusing.
Do I buy the digital version, and Save The Planet by using less energy and generating no landfill waste?
Or do I buy the print version, and Save The Planet by sequestering carbon in a form that will be safely stored in a landfill?
=========
I expect there will be some damage control in Real Climate tomorrow…
My apologies, I’m avoiding cerebral depletion by avoiding that site, but what else are they doing these days but various forms of damage control?

DSW

D. King says:
February 17, 2011 at 11:41 am
Oh look, someone has done the research for me!
http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/07/truth-about-realclimateorg.html
Why anyone is surprised by a political / philosophical link, surprises me.
==================================================
Me too. Thanks for the link – I love rocks like this to put in the bag for later when I’m surrounded by believers.

Annei

I will look out for ‘The Spectator’ next time I’m in town; I wish I’d known about it before going to town today.
We haven’t been to the theatre in London for quite some years; it’s all rather a hassle from where we live. We might make an exception to see ‘The Heretic’!

Bill Adams

I’m in the US, but was able to buy a digital copy for my Kindle for $2.49.
Link is here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Spectator/dp/B002CVUQ2M
You don’t have to buy a whole subscription, you can just buy the current issue (button on right).

Jordan

bob says: “We have established that the Anarctic ice sheets are warming, now we are only arguing how much.”
No bob. It has been established that “injecting” different “signals” into Steig’s method produces results which have no meaning or logic. Kinda leading to the conclusion that perhaps – just perhaps – Steig’s methods cannot be relied upon.
That’s an interesting result in itself. But also interesting that Steig’s method made it to publication, that those (ahem) “professional climatologists” did not report the issues as would have been expected from healthy peer review, and the people who did report issues have had the publication of their findings unduly delayed.
Spot any problems in all of that bob?

John Brookes

The implication here is that O’Donnell et al were treated badly during the peer review process. Peer review – isn’t that when you get his lordship to review it? (boom boom)
Anyway, I imagine the thrust of this will be that Steig (as a reviewer) was unduly harsh in his criticism, and demanded lots of changes. But the paper was published anyway. Having read some of Steig’s comments on this, it seems he had legitimate reasons for wanting changes. In particular, it seemed the choice of one parameter by O’Donnnell et al was made so as to minimise west antarctic warming, and that no compelling justification existed for this choice.
As I understand it, when it works well, the peer review process is pretty tough, particularly if your paper is critical of work that preceded it. That it was so in this case is not surprising, and no sign of science being carried out badly. I shall be interested to read the Spectator article once its available for free.

Roger Knights

Bill Adams says:
February 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm
I’m in the US, but was able to buy a digital copy for my Kindle for $2.49.
Link is here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Spectator/dp/B002CVUQ2M

Thanks, I just clicked and bought in under 30 seconds.

Jordan

“As I understand it, when it works well, the peer review process is pretty tough, particularly if your paper is critical of work that preceded it.”
Yeahhhh – and when the journal reviewer has an interest in making it tough.
Insider dealing can be very lucrative too but, oddly enough, it’s illegal.
It’s normally called “not in the public interest”. If you think it can be played-down as some kind of quaint process among specialists, you’re setting yourself up for a rather rude awakening.

The article talks about science in a scientific world. We’re going past the 30 year mark, into the post-scientific world, by my reckoning. Look at how long all the tom-foolery has been going on in the climate and drug research fields has been going on. (Maybe longer?)
We’re now in an age where opinion and politics, peers, profit and funding are the drivers of our new science. And the funding really only cares about whether a profit is turned, not whether something is “true” or not.
The old science, science that seeks the truth, is dead. Long live the new Science!

Rick Bradford

It’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it?
1. I write peer-reviewed papers which support the overwhelming consensus
2. You publish contrarian science in second-rate journals
3. He is a climate crank.
I don’t see how ‘climate change’ can be characterized as a scientific debate when the response to a single established, but non-scientific event can be so polarised. i.e. ask someone the following: “In your opinion, what was the most important issue surrounding Climategate — the theft of supposedly private e-mails; or the content of the e-mails themselves?”
Warmists overwhelmingly say the former; skeptics the latter. No science involved, but polar opposite responses made on moral or political grounds. How, then, can we expect any attempt at meeting of minds on contentious scientific topics?

Michael in Sydney

Hi Bob
Do you think that is a reasonable summary of the O’Donnell paper? I don’t, and if you were to read the paper, or a good summary of it like that presented in the Spectator, you may be embarrassed by the main conclusion you have drawn.
Kind Regards
Michael

It's always Marcia, Marcia

Stephen Brown says:
February 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm
The Spectator magazine has organised what looks to be a very interesting debate.
http://www.spectator.co.uk/shop/events/6699018/spectator-debate-the-global-warming-hysteria-is-over-time-for-a-return-to-sanity.thtml
The global warming hysteria is over. Time for a return to sanity
Participants will be:-
For the motion, will be Lord Nigel Lawson, Chairman, Global Warming Policy Foundation and Dr Benny Peiser, Director, Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Against the motion will be Professor Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, Oxford University and Simon Singh, Science Writer.
Should be interesting. I wonder if a recording or transcript of the debate will be available?
===========================================================
I am hoping it will be videod taped and put on YouTube.

bob

For Jordan and Michael in Sydney
“Notably, though we find warming in West Antarctica to be smaller in magnitude, we find that statistically significant warming extends at least as far as Marie Byrd Land. ”
That quote is from the abstract of the O’Donnell paper, take it for what it’s worth.

John Brookes

Jordan@February 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm you don’t get it.
If a journal receives a paper critical of an earlier paper, then the right thing to do is to get one of the authors of the original paper to review it.
Firstly for the obvious reason that if your work is being disparaged, it makes sense to let you comment on that.
Secondly, because you’ve already taken the trouble to become acquainted with the material in the paper, so you are probably better placed than just about anyone else to review it. It should be noted that the editor of the journal has the final say, and in the end decided that Steig had enough of a say, and did not include him in the final round of reviews of the paper. After all, its the editors journal, and he/she lives or dies by the quality of the journal, so they get the final say – fair enough.
From what I hear, its not easy to get good reviewers, as the review process is difficult. I have a friend in academia who asserts that many published papers should never have got that far – probably because it was too hard to get a reviewer who would take the time to really go into the offending paper.
If someone writes a paper critical of O’Donnell et al, or even just extending their work, then one of the authors of O’Donnell et al should be a reviewer.

Theo Goodwin

bob says:
February 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm
“We have established that the Anarctic ice sheets are warming, now we are only arguing how much.”
You overlook the moral matter entirely. Was that by accident or are you a communist?