ClimateGate and Groupthink

It’s all a mistake, perhaps. An unfortunate outbreak of ‘groupthink”. From the Wall Street Journal.

Can so many experts be wrong? Well, it is worth remembering that the experts were supposedly united about the apocalyptic dangers of the Y2K millennium bug. Half the world was persuaded to spend an estimated $600 billion to save us from disasters that embarrassingly failed to materialize in the countries and companies that omitted to take any pre-emptive action. Then intelligence agencies around the world were allegedly so convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that we went to war, only to find—zilch. In both cases there was a solid foundation of truth on which enthusiastic professionals and governments constructed an exaggerated scare story that the media lapped up. I was skeptical enough to delve into both those scares and rapidly found the experts were not as unanimous as supposed. But the dissenters were persuaded to keep quiet, bar a handful who were ruthlessly stereotyped as mavericks or worse.

Okay, so it does happen. The article goes on

The recently leaked email exchanges between scientists at the Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia and their colleagues in the U.S., who are among the illuminati of the global warming movement, show vivid evidence of groupthink at work. These scientists have become so committed to a cause that they think it natural to perform “tricks” to “hide the decline,” as one email says. Another is so upset by “The fact… that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t” that he suggests “the data are surely wrong.” It is reminiscent of the German philosopher Hegel who, on being told by his disciples that the facts refuted his scientific theories, replied: “So much the worse for the facts.” It is clear that while governments think they are pursuing evidence-based policies, these institutes have been serving up “policy-based evidence.”

That’s the rub – policy-based evidence does not happen by accident. This is not a groupthink exercise, this is a planned conspiracy against the public. When the ClimateGate scandal first broke, Gavin Schmidt argued “There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy”. But Jones and his mates are the conspiracy. Pat Michaels, also writing in the WSJ, describes how it was done.

Few people understand the real significance of Climategate, the now-famous hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU). Most see the contents as demonstrating some arbitrary manipulating of various climate data sources in order to fit preconceived hypotheses (true), or as stonewalling and requesting colleagues to destroy emails to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the face of potential or actual Freedom of Information requests (also true).

But there’s something much, much worse going on—a silencing of climate scientists, akin to filtering what goes in the bible, that will have consequences for public policy, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent categorization of carbon dioxide as a “pollutant.”

The bible I’m referring to, of course, is the refereed scientific literature. It’s our canon, and it’s all we have really had to go on in climate science (until the Internet has so rudely interrupted). When scientists make putative compendia of that literature, such as is done by the U.N. climate change panel every six years, the writers assume that the peer-reviewed literature is a true and unbiased sample of the state of climate science.
That can no longer be the case. The alliance of scientists at East Anglia, Penn State and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (in Boulder, Colo.) has done its best to bias it.

The result of all this is that our refereed literature has been inestimably damaged, and reputations have been trashed. Mr. Wigley repeatedly tells news reporters not to listen to “skeptics” (or even nonskeptics like me), because they didn’t publish enough in the peer-reviewed literature—even as he and his friends sought to make it difficult or impossible to do so.

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16 Responses to ClimateGate and Groupthink

  1. Jc

    The result of all this is that our refereed literature has been inestimably damaged, and reputations have been trashed. Mr. Wigley repeatedly tells news reporters not to listen to “skeptics” (or even nonskeptics like me), because they didn’t publish enough in the peer-reviewed literature—even as he and his friends sought to make it difficult or impossible to do so.

    This is truly shocking. It’s the Bernie Madoff scandal of science. In the end if any of these fuckers are found to have subverted science by manipulating the research process or fucking around with the data, they ought to be placed in cells next to Bernie for the same duration.

  2. Jc

    It would actually be interesting to see if claims of civil compensation could arise from this in the same ways Pharma is sued for bad therapies.

    As someone said recently it will be interesting to watch the legal space to see what comes out of there.

  3. Jc

    The other shoe that should fall is Gavin Schmidt and the rest of the political advocates at Realclimate who would stop at nothing to destroy reputations at any opportunity if they didn’t conform to the team.

    Schmidt needs to be dismissed from his day job and perhaps people like Nir Shaviv ought to seek legal redress from Schmidt personally and remorselessly.

    Nir should be aware there are plenty of enterprising personal injuries lawyers in NYC where Schmidt is based.

    http://landshape.org/enm/nir-shaviv/

  4. C.L.

    Also now revelead: warmenist cult members re-wrote Wikipedia articles and deleted non-warmenist entries from that source – one of the most popular reference tools in the world.

  5. John H.

    Libertarians complaining about groupthink is like a cult member asserting everyone else is brainwashed. Groupthink is everywhere and science is no exception. In “The Trouble with Physics” Smolin presents evidence of its existence within the physics community. Read enough peer reviewed literature and you begin to realise that groupthink is alive and well. It will never go away because it is integral to our cognition.

    It is better to always presume the presence of groupthink yet many prefer to think they are not victims of groupthink. Take the recent ruckus over ADHD drugs in the Aus guidelines for ADHD treatment. 7 of the 10 doctors on the panel had received money from the drug companies that make these drugs. This is so phenomenally stupid I can only surmise the drug companies must have actively lobbied the Health Dept to have these doctors on the panel. Simple fact is none of these doctors should have been on that panel because money is sometimes even better at distorting our perspective than groupthink. If want to start suing scientists over groupthink issues in relation to AGW you may as well start suing the entire financial community because of the stupid way they drove us into this current economic mess.

  6. Jc

    Group think?

    I excerpted this from Bishop Hill to demonstrate not just how delusional but how ruthless these religious cult members actually are.

    It’s actually quite funny in a black humored sort of way. Deep Climate, a fairly significant blog and “pretty high up in climate change” does some sleuthing and comes up with a unique, hybrid, look-back form of reverse plagiarism.

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2009/12/18/the-heights-of-bizarre.html

    Aptly titled, “The heights of bizarre”, by Bishop Hill.

    Warmist blogger Deep Climate has been doing some detective work and has found an extraordinary similarity between a paragraph of the Wegman Report (which demonstrated that the Hockey Stick algorithm was wrong) and a paragraph of a book written by a sceptic physicist, Donald Rapp.

    ——
    Here’s the Wegman section:

    The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors including sunlight, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and even carbon dioxide availability in the atmosphere. Obviously there are many confounding factors so the problem is to extract the temperature signal and to distinguish the temperature signal from the noise caused by the many confounding factors.

    And here’s the Rapp equivalent

    The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors including sunlight, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and even carbon dioxide availability in the atmosphere. Obviously there are many confounding factors so the problem challenge is to extract the temperature signal and to thus distinguish the temperature signal from the noise caused by the many confounding factors.

    ———

    Too similar to be accidental, I’m sure you would agree.

    The Wegman Report was published in 2006, while Rapp’s book appeared two years later. Now you or I would therefore assume that Dr Rapp had pinched the relevant paragraph from Professor Wegman, but in the bizarre world of climate science such simple explanations do not hold. Deep Climate concludes instead that Dr Rapp was a ghostwriter for the Wegman report.
    And slowly the awful truth dawned on me. The Wegman report section was an early version of the text book chapter, not the other way around. I had just discovered a hitherto well hidden fourth author.
    I’m speechless. I simply do not have the words to express how ridiculous this is. I’m not the only one either. One of Deep Climate’s commenters wonders if our hero hasn’t maybe got things back to front:
    DC, are you sure you don’t have the plagiarism backwards? Rapp author was ripping off Wegman, rather than Wegman ripping off/collaborating with Rapp?
    To which our supersleuth replies thusly:
    [DC: That doesn’t work. First off, Wegman has no knowledge of climate proxies at all. But suppose he or one of his co-authors wrote it. Then you have to suppose Rapp took that and extended it to three other proxies but kept the same style. And kept on going. I just can’t see it. Something else is going on here ..

    And he’s congratulated by some of his commenters such as this loon by the name of John Mashey who is on every website known to man discussing Endtimes.

    Mashey refers to it as elegant sleuthing…

    Deepclimate has a cool off period, possibly reading Bishop Hill blog piece and then goes over to the AGW fraud, Lambert’s site and suggests he “overreached”.

    Overreaching isn’t the right word way to describe the need to get psychological support.

    It’s a cult.

  7. Jc

    In another thread Bishop Hill finally does the right thing and declares conflict of interest issues he has when discussing climate science, admitting his now deeply compromised.

    (Declaration of interest – I know a guy who works on an oil rig. That’s my credibility shot then.)

  8. C.L.

    Gerald Warner has a most enjoyable take on the Copenhagen disaster – especially that last minute “leak.”

    He concludes:

    This week has been truly historic. It has marked the beginning of the landslide that is collapsing the whole AGW imposture. The pseudo-science of global warming is a global laughing stock and Copenhagen is a farce. In the warmist camp the Main Man is a railway engineer with huge investments in the carbon industry. That says it all. The world’s boiler being heroically damped down by the Fat Controller. Al Gore, occupant of the only private house that can be seen from space, so huge is its energy consumption, wanted to charge punters $1,200 to be photographed with him at Copenhagen. There is a man who is really worried about the planet’s future.

    If there were not $45trillion of Western citizens’ money at stake, this would be the funniest moment in world history. What a bunch of buffoons. Not since Neville Chamberlain tugged a Claridge’s luncheon bill from his pocket and flourished it on the steps of the aircraft that brought him back from Munich has a worthless scrap of paper been so audaciously hyped. There was one good moment at Copenhagen, though: some seriously professional truncheon work by Danish Plod on the smellies. Otherwise, this event is strictly for Hans Christian Andersen.

    Here’s my suggestion for a global warming soundtrack.

  9. C.L.

    Warming cult members have stopped a coal train in Newcastle to protest Copenhagen’s failure to formalise the destruction of the Western economy.

  10. C.L.

    HAHAHAHAHA! George Monbiot has finally flipped his lid:

    Goodbye Africa, goodbye south Asia; goodbye glaciers and sea ice, coral reefs and rainforest. It was nice knowing you. Not that we really cared. The governments which moved so swiftly to save the banks have bickered and filibustered while the biosphere burns.

  11. tal

    So shaving their hair and starving hasn’t worked?

  12. dover_beach

    John H, you make a fair point. Two points though: firstly, the fact that people generally think conventionally (similarly as opposed to the identically) about any issue is neither shocking nor a problem in the long run because these views happen to change. Not only do they change for the individuals concerned but they change in respect of what is now as opposed to then thought of as the conventional wisdom. To this extent, I don’t think that ‘groupthink’ is a problem here nor in any other discipline because in reality there is always a greater degree of heterogeneity then appears at first blush. Secondly, the problem is not ‘groupthink’ per se but the attempt to impose upon an entire academic community, at least in public, the appearance of a unanimity of opinion, the so-called ‘consensus’, which is more or less absent. If ‘groupthink’ were in fact the natural condition of climate science there would have been no need to engage in gatekeeping, etc. since they would more rather the less have agreed on the issues before them. The emails themselves indicate that they disagreed amongst themselves. And the only thing that keeps the purported consensus being somewhat credible is the extraordinary generality of the theses that are supposed to be its object. As soon as this extraordinary generality disappears, so too, does the consensus.

  13. C.L.

    Climate faster Anna Keenan denounces COP15. But there is an upside:

    Ultimately, this is why I have decided to come off the fast – because I have a whole lot more to give to the climate change movement yet. There is a whole lot of work to be done. And I need to get stuck into doing it – as does each and every one of us.

    If she had an ounce of sincerity she’d starve herself to death to show how much she cares.

  14. tal

    Hey whatever happened to the hole in the ozone layer? That was so popular in the 90s

  15. asf

    So will those such as Stern, who are on record as saying Copenhagen was the last chance to do something to stop AGW, now move on to discussing adaptation options?

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