Guest essay by Ola Røyrvik
Can the public have confidence in what is presented as science, or do politicians dictate what scientists can say? Well, if Norwegian scientific and political institutions are used as indicators the answer to the first part of the question is a definite NO and to the second a resounding YES. The Norwegian scientific community appears to operate with different facts depending on what is scientific or politically correct as illustrated by the following.
For a number of years we have witnessed a debate about the global climate in a number of different media. It has been an interesting experience to observe numerous nonsensical claims from people on both sides of the aisle that one might think should know better. Even in the scientific literature there are questionable statements that are best ignored. However, some time back I came across something so far out that it raised questions about what can pass as science in scientific literature, and about how taxpayers’ money is squandered.
The following example started with an article written by S-I Akasofu (Climate, 2013, 1, 4-11). This article was a straightforward presentation of some data. In other articles, he has pointed out that until we know the natural variation of the climate, we cannot have any confidence that we can predict the climate variation caused by anthropogenic CO2 (which should be self-evident).
But this article in Climate did not please Nuccitelli et al. who wrote a very incoherent and largely unscientific attack on Akasofu (Climate, 2013, 1, 76-83) because he does not support the climate scare as put forward by the IPCC.
The Nuccitelli et al. paper is worth reading because it attempts to redefine either the word “memory” or our fundamental understanding of physics. But before we dive into this, it is important to realize that among the et al. is The Norwegian Meteorological Institute (NMI) represented by Benestad.
We can start with a statement that can stand as a standard for what NMI stands behind.
They conclude that Akasofu is “demonstrably incorrect.” However, one statement that is actually demonstrably incorrect is by Nuccitelli et al.: “Furthermore, thermal systems do not contain ‘memory’ of past climate states, as inferred by .” And  is Akasofu, but I cannot find that Akasofu has mentioned the word “memory” in that article. If he had, he would be right in claiming that the climate has a memory. There were other statements that could be picked on, but I leave them out to avoid overkill.
How can a statement like that quoted above be put into print in a scientific journal? Could it possibly be a misuse of the word “memory” and that the meaning was intended to be different from what it appears to say? That scenario is not very likely since requests for clarification to two of the characters involved resulted in statements that (1) NMI only conducts science of the highest quality, and (2) that Akasofu’s view of the physics involved is like a ball bouncing and that that was wrong. I received no believable explanation to indicate that the intended meaning was different from what the quoted sentence seems to say.
Could it be that the authors actually believe that thermal systems like the earth do not have memory? Definitely not! Not long afterwards, NMI published on its web page something like “the weather has a good memory” (my translation from Norwegian to English). Furthermore, NMI must be aware that when they try to predict the weather for tomorrow they use yesterday’s weather as a starting point, a memory of at least two days. Does NMI suffer from doublethink, or are they consciously lying? I find it very difficult to come up with any other interpretations.
So how could something so outrageous pass peer review and be accepted for publication in a scientific journal? It would be interesting to see the peer reviewers’ comments to some of the revolutionary statements in this paper. So how to get hold of this information?
My first step was to ask some questions of the editor-in-chief of the journal Climate. I got a very polite letter back that I interpreted as saying that the paper by Nuccitelli et al. was never peer reviewed, that it was published behind the back of the EiC (against the rules of the journal), and that it resulted in the replacement of the assistant editor who handled the paper. That was interesting, considering that the governmental department (which pays NMI more than 200 million Norwegian kroner annually) requires NMI to publish a minimum number of peer-reviewed articles per year and that NMI lists the said paper as having been peer reviewed.
Norway has its own version of the “freedom of information act” (OHL). When NMI informed its government department that the paper had been peer reviewed, it became an official government act. Therefore, OHL appears to give any citizen the right to have a copy of any document related to the case. So for NMI to claim that the paper had been peer reviewed, it must have, or have access to, the peer-review report. NMI refuses to let me see this report. Given that the law lists several exceptions, it became necessary to find out if my request for the peer-review report is not covered by the law. Who would be in a better position to answer this than the responsible department? After numerous letters back and forth to various officials, I finally managed to get an answer from the minister in charge that he (the department) could not answer if the law gives me the right to see the peer report. Nor would he instruct the NMI to let me have a copy of the report. Curtain down and case closed.
So what can I conclude from all this? That somebody among the following has a very elastic relationship to the truth: the EiC of the journal Climate, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, and/or the minister of the department. I have a hard time believing that the EiC has any reason to be dishonest in a way that is not flattering to the journal. It is very difficult for me to come to any other conclusion than that the Norwegian establishment is lying.
Is it reasonable to suspect the Norwegian government establishment of lying and breaking the law? We can gain some insight by referring to a statement by one politician who admitted that all branches of the government lie if it is for a good cause, including the ministers and the parliament. So would they consider this a good cause? Of course. The parliament of Norway is nearly unanimous that AGW is real and will destroy mankind, so it is therefore a good cause to have all government agencies support this idea in any way possible. One of the ways to do this is to appear to defame Akasofu, who is on record as being dubious about AGW. One of my concerns is that other persons related to governmental institutions use this probably-not-peer-reviewed NMI paper as a proof that Akasofu is “demonstrably incorrect.”
Furthermore, it seems that the Freedom of Information law was not meant to be used to embarrass NMI or contradict any governmental institution. That would not be a good cause. That is perhaps the reason why the law does not stipulate any consequences for any institution that does not live by the law. The law appears to say one thing, but the government can ignore it if it is not in their interest. Or to put it a little differently: the Norwegian parliament passes laws with the understanding that the government does not have to abide with these laws if it could contradict a politically correct theory.
I cannot imagine that Akasofu is terribly concerned about a fifth-rate institution in an out-of-the-way place somewhere in the backwater of a stale continent making utter fools of themselves. But for me who is forced to support this shenanigan with my taxes, I find it utterly appalling that the politicians can be so ignorant of very basic science that they can support the NMI without raising serious questions. But then again we know that the parliament is full of snowflakes and WUPs (willfully uninformed politicians). And these people are the ones who dictate who are on the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
The responsibility for this mess rests squarely with the parliament. The possibility of them being wrong in their support of the AGW crowd does not seem to faze them. It is tempting to refer to “the theory of wicked problems,” where the final point is that planners do not have the right to be wrong. In other words, if you are wrong you are nevertheless responsible for the consequences of making the wrong decisions. It is going to be interesting to see what the parliament will use as an explanation in 10-15 years when they have wasted years of GNP on an AGW mirage.