Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
I knew something was wrong when I read the headlines.
- “Earth’s oceans ‘soak up 60% more heat than thought’ and it could mean the planet is warming FASTER than scientists predicted.”
- “World’s oceans have absorbed 60% more heat than previously thought, study finds.”
- “Our oceans are 60% hotter than scientists originally thought, according to a new report.”
They were referring to a Letter published in Nature by Resplandy et al., with 9 other authors. I am automatically wary when there is a multitude of authors. My second wariness was the 60% figure. I am aware of the preposterous and extreme claims made in the exploitation of the environment and climate, but 60% is eye-catching. For me, it signaled something wrong with the science, but for those who produced the number, the headline was all that mattered. Finally, there is the fact that they published the article as a Letter. This format appeared several years ago as a way of floating an idea quickly, establishing proprietary credit, or responding to criticism. In response to the question about peer-review of Letters John Flavin wrote,
Apparently the articles receive less peer review than you would guess. In some cases an article’s illegitimacy is discovered after publication. Springer publishing, (Springer Nature as of 2015), was forced to pull articles that one would think would be screened in advance through the peer review process.
Nature’s history of publishing peer-reviewed papers later found incorrect, is evidence of the porous methods used. The journal’s history reflects the bias of editors to pro-AGW articles and Letters. Of course, they can extend this power by sending material to reviewers who will provide a favorable result – what I call editorial censorship.
It appears there was a rush to get this finding into a headline to support the alarmism of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This document gives a clear enunciation of extremism in its title.
“Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.”
The Press Release added to the extremism and urgency.
The public understood the epithet global warming skeptic as an insult. The truth is a person is not a scientist if they are not a skeptic. As Thomas Huxley explained,
“The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, skepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”
Further urgency included the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) 24 in Katowice, Poland. Here is the stated goal.
The key objective of the meeting is to adopt the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. This is crucial because it ensures the true potential of the Paris Agreement can be unleashed, including ramping up climate action so that the central goal of the agreement can be achieved, namely to hold the global average temperature to as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Everything is on the line. Polls show the public is not concerned, money is not going into the Green Climate Fund, and Trump pulled US support for the Paris Agreement. Drastic times require drastic actions. This is the science of emotion and politics which justifies the ‘by any means possible’ mentality that drives proponents of AGW.
If skepticism is the highest duty of a scientist, then it applies to all research, including a scientist’s own work. My father taught me the important lesson of being my own hardest critic. Sadly, the misuse of climate for a political agenda makes me cynical. I am now a self-appointed global warming cynic, especially about work produced by scientific bureaucrats and those funded by a government.
Some said that the result was “too good to be true.” Of course, that depends on your objective. For a cynical scientist or even a healthy skeptic, it raises red flags about the data, the method, and the analysis, or all of them. A normal scientist getting even half the 60% difference would check the results many times and get as many objective colleagues as possible to check it. For a person whose perspective and objectivity are badly skewed by financial or political persuasions, it is a superb result.
People are praising one author of the paper Ralph Keeling for acknowledging the error, but there was little choice. When you find an error, you admit it and move on, or you double down on your defense.
There is an interesting parallel with another example of an error in the global warming deception. They published the 60% error paper in Nature after peer-review. It used what one media outlet described as “a novel way to measure the amount of heat being absorbed by the world’s oceans.” Another study, with similar shock potential as the ocean temperature study, also appeared in Nature. In 1998. Mann, Bradley, and Hughes (MBH98) produced a peer-reviewed paper that used a novel statistical technique to achieve its result.
The Wegman Report set up to investigate what happened with MBH98 and the infamous “hockey stick” shows parallels with the Scripps debacle. Here are Wegman’s recommendations.
Recommendation 1. Especially when massive amounts of public monies and human lives are at stake, academic work should have a more intense level of scrutiny and review. It is especially the case that authors of policy-related documents like the IPCC report, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, should not be the same people as those that constructed the academic papers.
Conclusion 3. As statisticians, we were struck by the isolation of communities such as the paleoclimate community that rely heavily on statistical methods, yet do not seem to be interacting with the mainstream statistical community. The public policy implications of this debate are financially staggering and yet apparently no independent statistical expertise was sought or used.
Recommendation 3. With clinical trials for drugs and devices to be approved for human use by the FDA, review and consultation with statisticians is expected. Indeed, it is standard practice to include statisticians in the application-for-approval process. We judge this to be a good policy when public health and also when substantial amounts of monies are involved, for example, when there are major policy decisions to be made based on statistical assessments. In such cases, evaluation by statisticians should be standard practice. This evaluation phase should be a mandatory part of all grant applications and funded accordingly.
Conclusion 4. While the paleoclimate reconstruction has gathered much publicity because it reinforces a policy agenda, it does not provide insight and understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change except to the extent that tree ring, ice cores and such give physical evidence such as the prevalence of green-house gases. What is needed is deeper understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change.
Based on the history of Ralph Keeling and the Scripps Oceanographic Institute, it is difficult to accept that an error of such magnitude with large implications for the human-caused global warming agenda could occur. His father Charles Keeling was a major player from the start of the entire AGW story. One obituary says he
“…set off current concerns of global warming through measurements beginning in the 1950’s that showed steadily rising amounts of carbon dioxide in the air.”
“It became clear very quickly that his measured CO2 increase was proportional to fossil fuel emissions and that humans were the source of the change,” said Dr. James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. “He altered our perspectives about the degree to which the earth can absorb the human assault.”
The Keeling family hold the patent for the carbon dioxide measuring instrumentation at Mauna Loa. The annual estimates of atmospheric CO2 are produced and controlled by the IPCC.
In an FAQ section, the IPCC explains,
“Utilising IPCC procedures, nominated experts from around the world draft the reports that are then extensively reviewed twice before approval by the IPCC.”
Ralph Keeling was a contributing author to the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report (AR5). Naomi Oreskes made unsubstantiated and statistically misleading claims about the ‘consensus’ in the AGW debate. Scripps is an Institute at the heart of the AGW deception to the point where objectivity, mandatory to good science, was never in play.
We are indebted to mathematician Nic Lewis for noticing the mathematical error. He wrote in his article at Judith Curry’s website,
“[j]ust a few hours of analysis and calculations … was sufficient to uncover apparently serious (but surely inadvertent) errors in the underlying calculations.”
This is similar to the discovery of the MBH98 misuse of statistics by Steve McIntyre, who though at the time unfamiliar with climatology, recognized the errors inherent in the plot of the ‘hockey stick’ graph.
At first, McIntyre gave MBH98 the benefit of the doubt, but that gradually changed over time with the reaction he received. Lewis gave the Scripps paper similar benefit when he called them “serious (but surely inadvertent) errors.” This is where the Scripps people differed. MBH98 authors still deny their errors. Ralph Keeling quickly acknowledged the error and submitted a revision to Nature.
All appears resolved, but in my opinion, it is not. The Los Angeles Times quotes Lewis.
“Despite this, a quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results.”
This implies the error was obvious. The error was also very large. Both factors suggest that the authors were either incredibly incompetent, so blinded by their bias that it is no longer science, or they believed they could get away with it. Whatever the case, they should no longer hold their positions.
My view is that it is the last option. Keeling and those associated with the deception know that what will remain in the public mind is the original 60% headline. Like all corrections, they never receive the same frontpage headline status as the original story. As far as I could determine, many media outlets did not carry the correction at all. The end justifies the means, and the objective of COP24 is proof that they will continue to pervert and misuse science. We saw that in the leaked emails of Climategate.
However, don’t just take my word for the deeply engrained corruption of science. Consider the words of another Lewis, University of California Emeritus Professor of physics, the late Hal Lewis. In his October 2010 letter of resignation from the American Physical Society (APS) after the executives supported IPCC science without consultation with the members.
“…the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.”