Guest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
The public face of climate science practiced by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and their offspring the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were for a political agenda and only secondarily for the money it engendered. However, their methods were made much more effective by magazines and journals who promoted their flawed science primarily for money and sometimes secondarily for politics. Magazines and Journals, often with considerable influence, latched on like giant sucker fish to further themselves not to promote truth, accuracy, and public understanding.
There was a time when Scientific American (SA) occupied a unique niche on the newsstands. It was a magazine about science for the public. It was genuine science usually written by scientists, not a popular pseudo-science magazine like all the others. It was interesting because most people did not understand much of what was written. People that knew about the topic realized it was a very broad overview, but realized it was for public consumption. They published fascinating articles drawing issues to public attention without political bias. Three I recall that were valuable in the climate debate were; John Eddy’s article on the missing sunspots; Stommel and Stommel’s piece on 1816, the year with no summer; and an early article about the influence on ocean temperature measurements of the switch from leather to metal buckets and then engine intakes.
Now, SA is a sensationalist, biased, apologist outlet for the IPCC global warming science. It appears the transition was driven, even before the full impact of the internet, by declining sales. Now, in my opinion, SA is no different from any of the other pseudo-science sensationalist magazines. Coincident with the shift was a decline in contributions from scientists and an increase in articles by professional (?) journalists. With climate articles, the majority came from scientists directly involved in the IPCC deception. Doom and gloom and sensationalism sells and even better if it fits the political bias of those involved in producing the magazine.
The same pattern developed with the two pre-eminent journals Science and Nature. There was a time when academics paid to have articles published and also paid for receiving a quantity of the article once published. There was a period when universities paid for subscriptions and a few academics purchased their own. As the cost of producing the journals increased subscription costs became prohibitive. This coincided with declining government and private monies to researchers and universities. Some publishing houses, such as Elsevier, saw a business opportunity and took over. We are all now familiar with the ‘paywall’. We also experience the merchandizing that occurs if you buy an article. It triggers an ongoing email promotion of “articles that might be of interest” similar to the follow ups from Amazon.
As global warming became a bigger political issue some in the media began searching for sensational scientific speculation articles. They were written up with the active voice headline declaring “scientist says,” then followed by an article with some of the conditional phrases academics use to temper their arguments. A major problem is that few journalists have science degrees or any scientific training. This means they only look at the science that feeds their sensationalist, “the story is everything” objective.
Some journals spawned different vehicles to expand circulation and exploit sensationalism. Nature started Nature Climate Change in 2007. I was made aware of its existence and bias at the 2009 Heartland Climate Conference when a reporter from that publication asked for an interview. I quickly realized he was not interested in objectivity or elucidation so terminated the interview.
Their editorial policy is set out on their home page as
Scientists are often accused of poorly communicating their findings, but improving scientific literacy is everyone’s responsibility.
True, but only if it is balanced and objective.
Nature Climate Change is owned by the Nature Publishing Group that is a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. This is interesting because they were the publishers involved with the Velikovsky travesty, one of the most egregious examples of the conflicts that occur between publishers and a search for the truth. You can read Velikovsky’s side of the story in his book Stargazers and Gravediggers that Amazon describes as follows.
In one of the greatest acts of censorship in American history, a powerful lobby of establishment scientists forced Macmillan to suspend publication of Immanuel Velikovsky’s “Worlds in Collision” – the first shot fired in the campaign against Velikovsky’s “heretical” views. Here, with enormous dignity and intelligence, Velikovsky himself tells the full story of one of the most shameful book-burning episodes of our time. This is Velikovsky’s final word on the matter, and it forms an important inside account of a scandal that shook the worlds of science and publishing alike.
Velikovsky became a target for Carl Sagan, an early promoter of human CO2 caused global warming. That claim became central to the argument about the threat of higher CO2 levels. He challenged the claims of the levels and cause of temperatures on Venus. Sagan felt so threatened that he published a book Scientists Confront Velikovsky. It is about all his claims thus collectively including Venusian CO2. He is not to be believed on anything.
The interactions between publishers and scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were revealed by the leaked emails in the Climategate scandal. On the web site Reason a 2009 article titled Climategate and Scientific Journal Chicanery by Ronald Bailey reports on the experiences of Eduardo Zorita.
By writing these lines I will just probably achieve that a few of my future studies will, again, not see the light of publication. My area of research happens to be the climate of the past millennia, where I think I am appreciated by other climate-research ‘soldiers’….
I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. They depict a realistic, I would say even harmless, picture of what the real research in the area of the climate of the past millennium has been in the last years. The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.
These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations, even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph. D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the ‘politically correct picture’. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the ‘pleasure’ to experience all this in my area of research.
The important point here is that Zorita expects retribution from the reviewers and editors thus making them accessories before and after the fact.
Another way to control the message is to be both reviewer and journal editor. This appears to be what happened in the dominance of IPCC and CRU scientists as editors of the Journal of Climate. Donna Laframboise poses the question
We’re supposed to trust the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because much of the research on which it relies was published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
But what happens when the people who are in charge of these journals are the same ones who write IPCC reports?
After listing all the people, some 13 by my count, who served as editors or in some other editorial capacity on the Journal, Laframboise asks,
“Is no one concerned that there is no distance whatsoever – never mind anything approaching a firewall – between the people who decide whether a study deserves to join the haloed ranks of the scientific peer-reviewed literature – and the people who then write IPCC reports declaring what this peer-reviewed literature tells us about climate change?
And let’s not even talk about what percentage of the published papers authored by some of those mentioned above earned their peer-reviewed status via the Journal of Climate. That’s another story for another day.”
In an article written shortly after the leaked emails appeared Robert Tracinski said,
“Not content to block out all dissent from scientific journals, the CRU scientists also conspired to secure friendly reviewers who could be counted on to rubber-stamp their own work. Phil Jones suggests such a list to Kevin Trenberth, with the assurance that “All of them know the sorts of things to say…without any prompting.”
Sadly, many were willing for various reasons. Tracinski summary is telling.
The picture that emerges is simple. In any discussion of global warming, either in the scientific literature or in the mainstream media, the outcome is always predetermined. Just as the temperature graphs produced by the CRU are always tricked out to show an upward-sloping “hockey stick,” every discussion of global warming has to show that it is occurring and that humans are responsible. And any data or any scientific paper that tends to disprove that conclusion is smeared as “unscientific” precisely because it threatens the established dogma.
A major factor in making journals and magazines vulnerable to persuasion from the people at CRU was the business model applied and the requirement for a profitable operation. It was the practice of the business world to either ignore the science as I explained in an earlier article or donate money to those attacking them in a form of corporate market place appeasement. Proof of this is seen in the fact that one company fighting back makes a headline – Exxon Stands Up to the green Bullies.
The real breakthrough will come when this headline appears in the mainstream media, but don’t hold your breath, there is much more money available as long as government funding continues.
Addition by Anthony. (3/6/2016)
There is a follow up to this post here:
For the record I’ve never supported Velikovsky’s ideas in the book Worlds In Collision. But I DO support discussing them in the context of learning, because if you can’t learn from mistakes, you aren’t doing science. – Anthony Watts