ClimateGate Fallout

One of the more incorrect arguments put forward over the last few years has been the notion that only scientists can evaluate science. Everybody else must just believe. But we all read novels – and you don’t have to be a best-selling author to know the difference between good writing and bad writing. More or less that analogy applies to most things. Milton Friedman told us that we don’t have to understand trigonometry to play pool or mechanics to drive a motor car and so on.

The other point to emphasise is the public choice arguments made by James Buchanan. He makes the argument that economists give advice as if they were advising an onmiscient, omnipotent dictator. That advice isn’t always appropriate in a democratic society that requires agreement and cooperation. The convergence of these two ideas is crunching the AGW lobby at the moment.

A lot of the people are pointing to a new BBC survey that shows that the number of people who don’t think global warming is occurring is up to 25 percent. The interesting graphic in that study is this:

“It is very unusual indeed to see such a dramatic shift in opinion in such a short period,” Populus managing director Michael Simmonds told BBC News.

“The British public are sceptical about man’s contribution to climate change – and becoming more so,” he added.

“More people are now doubters than firm believers.”

So let’s unpack some of that change. Popular support for the AGW hypothesis is down 15 percent. The ‘happening but AGW unproven’ view is up only 6 percent. The last two categories that are hostile to the AGW hypothesis or AGW lobby are at 25 percent, just one percentage point lower than the ‘firm believers’ on 26 percent and probably within the margin of error.

The Canadian Globe and Mail picks up the story.

None of this is to say that global warming isn’t real, or that human activity doesn’t play a role, or that the IPCC is entirely wrong, or that measures to curb greenhouse-gas emissions aren’t valid. But the strategy pursued by activists (including scientists who have crossed the line into advocacy) has turned out to be fatally flawed.

By exaggerating the certainties, papering over the gaps, demonizing the skeptics and peddling tales of imminent catastrophe, they’ve discredited the entire climate-change movement. The political damage will be severe. As Mr. Mead succinctly puts it: “Skeptics up, Obama down, cap-and-trade dead.” That also goes for Canada, whose climate policies are inevitably tied to those of the United States.

“I don’t think it’s healthy to dismiss proper skepticism,” says John Beddington, the chief scientific adviser to the British government. He is a staunch believer in man-made climate change, but he also points out the complexity of climate science. “Science grows and improves in the light of criticism. There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can’t be changed.” In his view, it’s time to stop circling the wagons and throw open the doors. How much the public will keep caring is another matter.

The BBC have published an essay spelling out a view of scientific practice that the AGW lobby should consider very carefully and adopt sooner rather than later.

So we have a three-fold revolution in the demands that are placed on scientific knowledge claims as they apply to investigations such as climate change:

To be warranted, knowledge must emerge from a respectful process in which science’s own internal social norms and practices are adhered to
To be validated, knowledge must also be subject to the scrutiny of an extended community of citizens who have legitimate stakes in the significance of what is being claimed
And to be empowered for use in public deliberation and policy-making, knowledge must be fully exposed to the proliferating new communication media by which such extended peer scrutiny takes place.
The opportunity that lies at the centre of these more open practices of science is to secure the gold standard of trust.

This is especially true for scientific work that informs policy making. By contrast we have not had anything like that at all. The actions of the ClimateGate crowd have very much brought the scientific endeavor into disrepute. Here is how the WSJ describe it:

Will the parade of dime-store doomsayers, high-tech patent-medicine merchants and bureaucratic grant-grubbers establish a fourth stock scientist: the cheat, the humbug, the phony? Call him Professor Marvel, who wasn’t a whiz of a wiz if ever a wiz there wasn’t.


Perhaps such spectacles won’t penetrate too deeply into the public consciousness. But I suspect they already have. Just this week I was chatting with a friend who, over the years, has helped her kids slog through the obligatory science-fair projects.

“The experiments never turned out the way they were supposed to, and so we were always having to fudge the results so that the projects wouldn’t be screwy. I always felt guilty about that dishonesty,” she said, “but now I feel like we were doing real science.”

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24 Responses to ClimateGate Fallout

  1. you don’t have to be a best-selling author to know the difference between good writing and bad writing
    .
    Often best-selling authors are appalling writers. :) Whydo they sell so well. Because there’s a great mass of semi-literate herd animals with shite for taste.
    .
    One of the more incorrect arguments put forward over the last few years has been the notion that only scientists can evaluate science.
    .
    If by ‘scientists’ one means someone authenticated by work title, University qualification etc – no. But how do you, say, subject string theory to a solid critique if you don’t even know what electrons are. Science is a way of thinking…
    .
    Everybody else must just believe.
    .
    And this is the opposite of science.

  2. And of course this wrestling with scientific theory and data between factions in the political-economy has nothing to do with science either.
    .
    For example:

    Will the parade of dime-store doomsayers, high-tech patent-medicine merchants and bureaucratic grant-grubbers establish a fourth stock scientist: the cheat, the humbug, the phony?

    News Ltd has run a concenrted campaign to undermine and discredit AGW using every dishonest piece of PR skullduggery available. The above is a gross caricature. They are not on the side of facts anymore than Bob Brown is.
    .
    But because they say things you like that’s okay.

  3. daddy dave

    you’re behind the times, Adrien.
    Bolt and Blair were right all along. The whole AGW enterprise was a political movement, and was rotten to the core.

  4. daddy dave

    But how do you, say, subject string theory to a solid critique if you don’t even know what electrons are.
    .
    You go and find out what electrons are. Look, your point is valid that science sometimes rests on layers of advanced mathematics and theory; but fundamentally its defining characteristic is openness. You shouldn’t need to study in a monastery for several years and don priest’s robes in order to make informed commentary on science.

  5. Schiller Thurkettle

    The remarkable thing, despite the change in demographics, how durable poorly-informed opinions prove to be. Consider all the frauds and scandals:

    Stationgate: NASA GISS’ disappearance of 70 percent of temperature station data (many stations are still there) generates warming trend
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/ghcn-the-global-analysis/

    Codegate: NASA GISS running different code from what it says it runs
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/is-the-null-default-infinite-hot/

    Boliviagate: GHCN finds heat island on the snow-capped peaks of Bolivia — without using Bolivian data
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/ghcn-gistemp-interactions-the-bolivia-effect/

    Madagascargate: GHCN says data unavailable in electronic form — but anyone can easily find it
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/mysterious-madagascar-muse/

    New Zealandgate: NZ climatologists generate warming trend from data which turn out to have actually disappeared
    http://bethyada.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/new-zealand-not-warming/ and
    http://briefingroom.typepad.com/the_briefing_room/2010/02/breaking-news-niwa-reveals-nz-original-climate-data-missing.html

    Hockeygate: Penn State climatologist Michael Mann invents a computer program that will generate a warming trend from random data
    http://joannenova.com.au/2009/12/fraudulent-hockey-sticks-and-hidden-data/

    Hollandgate: Wild exaggeration of amount of the Netherlands below sea level
    http://niklowe.blogspot.com/2010/02/climategate-another-exaggeration.html

    Bootsgate: IPCC uses boot-cleaning guide to ‘prove’ Antarctic climate ‘clear vulnerability’
    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/the_great_ipcc_scam_now_it_quotes_a_how_to_clean_boots_guide/

    Glaciergate: Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2035
    http://climateaudit.org/2010/02/05/anatomy-of-glaciergate/

    Citegate: Greenpeace, WWF, et. al. provide ‘research’ to IPCC, which is then ‘reviewed’ by Greenpeace, WWF et. al. IPCC ‘expert editors’
    http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/?p=6540&cp=52#comment-166149

    Amazongate: IPCC says global warming could deforest nearly half of the Amazon – based on WWF speculations regarding forest fire
    http://www.climatechangefraud.com/climate-reports/6186-after-climategate-pachaurigate-and-glaciergate-amazongate

    Disastergate: IPCC cites unpublished research about global warming causing increase in disasters. When published, the research denies the connection.
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/01/castles-built-on-sand.html

    FOIAgate: Hadley scientists broke UK FOI laws to avoid peer review of their work
    http://offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.com/2010/01/hadley-off-on-technicality.html

    Yamalgate: Russian heating trend based on rings of only one tree
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6738111/Climategate-reveals-the-most-influential-tree-in-the-world.html

    Russiagate: British Meteorological Office caught tampering with Russian climate data by cherry-picking station data
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100020126/climategate-goes-serial-now-the-russians-confirm-that-uk-climate-scientists-manipulated-data-to-exaggerate-global-warming/

    Darwingate: US GHCN ‘adjusts’ data from Australia’s Darwin Airport to turn cooling trend into warming trend
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/08/the-smoking-gun-at-darwin-zero/

    Canadagate: NOAA uses only one Canadian station on a coastal island to represent all temperatures north of 65 degrees latitude
    http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Scientists+using+selective+temperature+data+skeptics/2468634/story.html

  6. Bolt and Blair were right all along.
    .
    Perhaps, but if so they were so thru prejudice and not observation. Now which one of these attributes is scientific and which one is not?
    .
    The whole AGW enterprise was a political movement, and was rotten to the core.
    .
    Indeed, and Mrs Thatcher kicked it all off at Tory shindig in 1988. Jeez.
    .
    You go and find out what electrons are.
    .
    I know what they are insofar as anyone does.
    .
    You shouldn’t need to study in a monastery for several years and don priest’s robes in order to make informed commentary on science.
    .
    I agree. You need information. And it’s a cold summer’s day in Detrot hence we’re not cooking the planet is not good enough.

  7. Apart from “Climategate,” surely everyone would have to acknowledge that a survey done in England while still in the coldest winter for decades is going to sway some to warming skepticism. (This effect on popular opinion will be felt all over the world too, given the images of freezing weather is not just confined to the Northern Hemisphere.)

    Yet the satellite temperatures for January just released show how misleading this impression is. That is why I have said before that public opinion on global warming is pretty fickle, because the topic is not as “intuitive” to understand as many people may like to think.

  8. JC

    Indeed, and Mrs Thatcher kicked it all off at Tory shindig in 1988. Jeez.

    She did. That’s quite correct. However what you’re leaving out is her cure, which wasn’t sticking propellers on fucking sticks or putting a magnifying glass on a plastic panel, subsidizing the shit out of them and pretending these extremely dilute forms of energy production could produce energy to fuel an industrialized civilization.

    She advocated nuclear energy. If people had listened to her R&D by now would have got us to 3rd and 4th generation fast breeders making this whole discussion redundant as we could very well be looking at technology producing energy at a cheaper rate than coal.

    The idea that Maggie would even want to share the same planet with Ken Livingston- a global warming leftoid- is ROTFL material. She fired the fucker.

    The idea that Maggie would want to share the podium with Doc. Pach leaves me speechless.

    Maggie was proposing technological solutions to the real long-term problem of AGW. Not propellers in the fucking sky and magnifying glasses on plastic panels.

    (Not you) Any leftie invoking her name in the AGW debate without supporting her real policies as the solutions ought to stop the dishonesty.

  9. daddy dave

    I agree. You need information. And it’s a cold summer’s day in Detrot hence we’re not cooking the planet is not good enough.
    .
    sure. Although no sceptic really regards these things as disproving AGW. I regard Blair in particular as the antidote to the pro-warmist propaganda. If you go back a few years, every time there was hot weather or a bushfire or any other freak weather event, you’d get serious-looking talking heads on TV talking about how this was a portent of things to come. You see that less and less.
    .
    Now which one of these attributes is scientific and which one is not?
    You could rename “prejudice” as “hunch”. As for observation, the only people who used “observation” to decide the issue were the people running digital simulations of the weather in 2100 using current parameters. What they “observed” on their monitors is the backbone of what everyone else thinks they know.

  10. entropy

    Aiden:
    Even in the absence of AGW this year would have globally averaged warmer than normal temps because of the strong El Nino in the central pacific. The ENSO cycle is the biggest factor driving global temperature anomalies (as it is the largest area most subject to changes in temperature). This anomaly will disappear by August as central pacific SSTs return to long term average.

  11. entropy

    Tim Blair doesn’t believe weather anomalies mean one thing or the other. He just loves pulling the chains of the more enthusiastic of AGW boosters. That and a bit of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  12. JC – I agree. The good thing that comes of all this is that it might be a stop to Cap n’ Kill. We differ on energy sources (I want more choices) but the solutions so far are dumb. People take modern life for granted they have no idea what things would be like if we reverted to some Agrarian idyll. The CPRS wouldn’t've done that. It’d just create even more fucking meetings, tithes and kickbacks.
    .
    Thing is we need facts, we need those facts undistorted, relatively, by political views. And the whole AGW debacle has put paid to that. The Left are just as guilty. But leftist leaders don’t understand what free speech means. And leftist followers always question their leaders when they shouldn’t and always fail to question them when they should.
    .
    But if it’s a problem it won’t go away just because the IPCC does.

  13. Entropy – You mean Tim Blair is a professional controversialist. I’m awaiting the establishment of the degree programme.

  14. C.L.

    Uh-oh. Just in from the UK Telegraph:

    New errors in IPCC climate change report.

    Examples:

    The publication of inaccurate data on the potential of wave power to produce electricity around the world, which was wrongly attributed to the website of a commercial wave-energy company.

    Claims based on information in press releases and newsletters.

    New examples of statements based on student dissertations, two of which were unpublished.
    More claims which were based on reports produced by environmental pressure groups.

  15. dover_beach

    Yet the satellite temperatures for January just released show how misleading this impression is.

    As entropy noted, the reason for the ‘dead cat bounce’ in January is El Nino since most of the anomalously warm temps are being recorded over the oceans (particularly over the Eastern and Southern Pacific) rather than over land. When you combine this with the declining trend in ocean heat content, I’m guessing that this anomalously warm reading in January and maybe Feb portends colder temps for the rest of the year.

  16. John A. Jauregui

    The silence is deafening. Our national media’s continued silence on ClimateGate and increasing revelations of outright fraud and wrongdoing at all levels of government, academia and the media itself, tells the truth of the tail. That truth is there’s a lot more to this ClimateGate story than what little is being reported. The small (2 to 3 dozen) international cabal of climate scientists could not have possibly gotten to this point without extraordinary funding, political support at virtually all levels of government, especially at the national level and unparalleled cooperation from the national and world media. This wide-spread networked support continues even as we-the-people puzzle over what this is all about. I ask you, “What are you seeing and hearing from our national media on the subject?” Anything? What are you seeing and hearing from all levels of our government, local and regional newspapers and media outlets? Anything of substance? At all of these levels the chatter has remained remarkably quite on the subject, wouldn’t you say? Why? What points and positions are you beginning to hear on the radio and see on the television? This cabal of scientists has an unprecedented level of support given the revelations contained in the emails, documented in the computer software code and elaborated in the associated programmer remarks (REM) within the code. And —- this has gone on for years, AND continues even in the presence of the most damning evidence one could imagine, or even hope for. Watergate pales in comparison, given the trillions of dollars in carbon offset taxes, cap & trade fees hanging in the balance and the unimaginable political control over people’s lives this all implies. The mainstream media’s conspiracy of silence proves the point. Their continued cover-up is as much a part of this crime as the actual scientific fraud. ABC, CBS and NBC are simply co-conspirators exercising their 5th Amendment rights.

  17. The change in opinion in the UK is remarkable. The articles in the Guraniad over the last few weeks have been startling. To see them start to run things that would only have been in the Torygraph a year ago is a major shift.

    There has to be a big question about what the political response to this is going to be. Will the Tories change tack on the issue?

    Der Speigel has also been writing about this and having interviews with people like Von Storch and Pielke Jnr. It would be interesting to see if German public opinion is changing.

    Other sizeable states in the EU, includng Poland and Italy, have not been keen on C02 emission’s reduction schemes. They will comply if offered sufficient compensation but even this may crack if public opinion in those countries shifts and the international setup changes.

    In the US things have also changed. No treaty that requires 67 votes is going to pass. The Democrats have to be worried about a backlash in November. It’s hard to imagine them doing much.

    India has withdrawn their support from the IPCC process and wants to set up their own scientific board. If China were to join them the whole UN framework would pretty much be dead.

    Which leads on to what is Australia going to do. Will The ALP, which is probably going to win the next election, keep with their current program in response to the changes internationally or are they going to change tack?

  18. Peter Patton

    Look, this whole “the science is too complex, we must trust the experts” is such a crock.

    Any one of us and our kids can make very intelligent contributions to this debate with just Year 10 Science and Geography.

    1. We have all learnt about the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, etc).

    2. We have all learnt about basic animal phsyiology and photosynthesis.

    3. We all have a basic knowledge of the periodic table, and where abouts on it elements like carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen sit. We all know about atomic numbers and atomic masses. So we know how oxygen binds with carbon, hydrogen, etc.

    4. We have a basic idea of the carbon/hydrogen/oxygen/nitrogen cycles.

    5. We either already know, or could find out in a jiffy, that the major greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. It might surprise a lot of us to be told that the largest concentration by far is water vapor at 60% or so.

    5. Now, when the issue turns to how these gases affect temperature, things suddenly get very complicated as we enter the realm of radiative forcings – the heat energy beamed back down to the atmosphere by the greenhouse gases themselves – and the big scary Darth Vadar of them all external forcings which covers all the astronomy on changes in earth’s three orbital cycles. HSC Physics should do the trick.

    So all in all, the quality of debate among the Australian laity should be 1,000 times higher. It’s not rocket science. ;)

  19. gallopingcamel

    I tested some claims in D’Aleo and Watts concerning the declining number of weather stations included in the GHCN v2 (NOAA/NCDC).

    I found that D&A were right but it took the wind out of my sails when someone pointed out that similar information was published 13 years ago by Peterson & Vose (1997).

    Thank goodness the Mormon church does not run their on-line IGI database the way NASA and NOAA run theirs!

  20. Steve_from_Brisbane -

    “Apart from “Climategate,” surely everyone would have to acknowledge that a survey done in England while still in the coldest winter for decades is going to sway some to warming skepticism.’

    It wasn’t that. It was that according to the UK Meteorology Office, this winter is the warmest in living memory. Really.

    “From a Met Office staffer’s internet posting to a newspaper (in early January):

    “This will be the warmest winter in living memory, the data has already been recorded. For your information, we take the highest 15 readings between November and March and then produce an average. As November was a very seasonally warm month, then all the data will come from those readings.”

    At some point in time, people are going to compare what such people are saying, look outside the window, and say “hang on…”.

    While one can quite reasonably say that minor variations in weekly weather – or even major ones – aren’t symptomatic of anything apart from short-term variability, a claim that this is not just a warm winter, but the warmest in living memory indicates that some have lost their grip on reality. Not just by substituting the pseudoscience of political climatology vs the ill-understood science of actual climatology, but thinking that everyone would ignore unsubtle and blatantly obvious evidence that they’re off with the faeries.

  21. Abu Chowdah

    Adrien… Tch, tch, tch.

  22. Abu Chowdah

    Perhaps, but if so they were so thru prejudice and not observation. Now which one of these attributes is scientific and which one is not?

    Right, Adrien. Ri-i-i-g-hht.

    Curse them for publishing scientists who contradicted the orthodoxy. Do you not see how your blinkered position undermines your credibility?

    Let me summarise your position: “curse them for proving me wrong, their evidence only hardens my resolve in my religious beliefs.”

    You people really are embarrasing.

  23. Chris

    @Zoe Brain

    That quote was not from the MET office, or any staffer. It was a troll post on a forum that has become viral.

  24. rloader

    Would you trust the Rudd Govt on climate change policy after the disastrous pink batts controversy where four young Australians died and the PM fully endorsed the Minister Garrett who got it so badly wrong? Garrett was warned repeatedly by various top Electrical bodies and refused to do anything about it.
    I cannot believe this sort of thing is happening in our Parliament. They must be the laughing stock of the world for incompetence and for bullying and badmouthing the Opposition and we pay their undeserved salaries.

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