A stuff-up but no conspiracy

The University of East Anglia established an inquiry to look at the integrity of the research being undertaken at the CRU. That is quite appropriate. The report is in – all five pages, seven if you include appendices. The bottom line is

We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures
were rather informal.

In and of itself, that conclusion isn’t a problem; it might even be true. Yet the report itself doesn’t allow anyone to follow the logic of how the inquiry came to that conclusion. Nor does it select examples of where there may well be integrity problems and then go through a discussion of the process whereby it is shown no integrity problem actually exists.

Rather we get comments like this

Although there are certainly different ways of handling the data, some of which might be superior, as far as we can judge the methods which CRU has employed are fair and satisfactory. Particular attention was given to records that seemed anomalous and to establishing whether the anomaly was an artefact or the result of some natural process. There was also the challenge of dealing with
gaps in otherwise high quality data series. In detailed discussion with the researchers we found them to be objective and dispassionate in their view of the data and their results, and there was no hint of tailoring results to a particular agenda. Their sole aim was to establish as robust a record of temperatures in recent centuries as possible. All of the published work was accompanied by detailed descriptions of uncertainties and accompanied by appropriate caveats. The same was true in face to face discussions.

In short; trust us, we’re an inquiry. The problem is all about a collapse in trust. Compare this with the equivalent investigation into Michael Mann, the report there went into some detail as to specific issues and questions posed to Mann and how he answered them, this report has none of that.

I did enjoy this line.

… CRU publications repeatedly emphasize the discrepancy between instrumental and tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature during the late 20th century, but presentations of this work by the IPCC and others have sometimes neglected to highlight this issue.

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53 Responses to A stuff-up but no conspiracy

  1. rog

    As you say Sinclair, the problem is all about a collapse in trust.

    Are you still parroting Andrew Bolt?

  2. daddy dave

    Right, no evidence of scientific malpractice. how about destroying data, and blackballing scientists with dissenting views. I guess it’s all how you define “malpractice.” And as Sinclair points out, if you don’t explain how you reached your conclusion, you can say pretty much anything at all.

  3. Sinclair Davidson

    Not following your point rog. It was always about trust – you can’t trust a man who uses a trick to hide the decline. This committee was meant to provide an explanation and has failed to do so.

  4. Boris

    I work in a science area which is much less sensitive (I’d say, not at all). Usually I do not hide data or uncertainties, but if I wanted to, I would certainly not discuss this by email. I do not know if they were seriously cheating but they acted stupidly.

  5. JC

    Hey Rog, when did you stop liking Andrew Bolt and start using him as a way to discredit someone’s point.

    You dickhead.

  6. dover_beach

    The members of the Oxburgh committee did not interview a single critic of the Unit’s work in order to determine what, in fact, their criticisms were. The whole process was thus a waste of time.

  7. dover_beach

    The Oxburgh Eleven includes five tree ring articles (Briffa et al, Nature, 1998; Briffa et al, Roy Soc Lond 1998; Briffa 2000; Briffa et al 2001; Briffa et al 2008). Four of these articles were noted relatively favorably in my May 2005 post in which I first drew attention to the “trick” A Strange Truncation of the Briffa MXD Series (see image below). I had no complaint with the original Briffa articles – it was the IPCC spaghetti graph with its false rhetorical effect that bothered me. Even for veteran watchers of peas under thimbles, it’s pretty amazing that four CRU articles – that not only had had not been the subject of criticism, but had been used to locate the trick – were chosen as somehow “representative” of the CRU corpus, while the articles that had actually been criticized here were for the most part excluded. Every CRU hockey stick article (Jones et al 1998; Mann and Jones 2003; Osborn and Briffa 2006) was excluded.

    So, in addition to not taking any evidence from CRU critics or targets, the terms of reference for the execrable Oxburgh “inquiry” diverted its attention away from articles that actually were at issue to other articles that had actually been used as source material to identify the trick in the first place.

    This raises a few obvious questions. The Oxburgh Report states that the eleven articles were “selected on the advice of the Royal Society”. However, they did not provide any information on how the Royal Society determined that these eleven publications were “representative”. Nor did they mention who at the Royal Society actually made the selection. The report says that UEA agreed that the Royal Society selection was a “fair sample”. I wonder who at UEA actually agreed that the selection was a “fair sample” and what their criteria were.

    http://climateaudit.org/2010/04/15/a-fair-sample/

    This inquiry raises more questions than it answers; saying it is “execrable” is being too kind.

  8. dover_beach

    The Oxburgh Eleven includes five tree ring articles (Briffa et al, Nature, 1998; Briffa et al, Roy Soc Lond 1998; Briffa 2000; Briffa et al 2001; Briffa et al 2008). Four of these articles were noted relatively favorably in my May 2005 post in which I first drew attention to the “trick” A Strange Truncation of the Briffa MXD Series (see image below). I had no complaint with the original Briffa articles – it was the IPCC spaghetti graph with its false rhetorical effect that bothered me. Even for veteran watchers of peas under thimbles, it’s pretty amazing that four CRU articles – that not only had had not been the subject of criticism, but had been used to locate the trick – were chosen as somehow “representative” of the CRU corpus, while the articles that had actually been criticized here were for the most part excluded. Every CRU hockey stick article (Jones et al 1998; Mann and Jones 2003; Osborn and Briffa 2006) was excluded.

    So, in addition to not taking any evidence from CRU critics or targets, the terms of reference for the execrable Oxburgh “inquiry” diverted its attention away from articles that actually were at issue to other articles that had actually been used as source material to identify the trick in the first place.

    This raises a few obvious questions. The Oxburgh Report states that the eleven articles were “selected on the advice of the Royal Society”. However, they did not provide any information on how the Royal Society determined that these eleven publications were “representative”. Nor did they mention who at the Royal Society actually made the selection. The report says that UEA agreed that the Royal Society selection was a “fair sample”. I wonder who at UEA actually agreed that the selection was a “fair sample” and what their criteria were.

    http://climateaudit.org/2010/04/15/a-fair-sample/

    This inquiry raises more questions than it answers; saying it is “execrable” is being too kind.

  9. Meanwhile, NOAA reports that March was the hottest on record, and this with a more moderate El Nino than happened in 1998. The expectation is that 2010 as a whole is going to be the hottest year ever (although I wonder if the Icelandic volcano might prevent that.)

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100415_marchstats.html

    I still say McIntyre has been living off his 15 minutes of fame for years now, yet no body that looks into complaints about the science overall is agreeing that there is a fundamental problem with the “mainstream” temperature record.

    In fact (maybe D-b can answer this for me) does McIntyre even claim that his gripe with the hockey stick means that no one should believe in AGW? Does he believe it means there should be no concerted effort to reduce CO2? Or is it just all about him griping forever that he doesn’t like the way the IPCC did one graph, when in fact all climate scientists knew about the divergence of the tree proxies from the temperature record anyway.

  10. C.L.

    “…the hottest year ever.”

    LOL.

    Eleventy zillion!

    The world was hotter in the MWP and nobody gave a crap.

  11. ken n

    steve – how about reading McIntyre yourself?
    He is not, overall, a climate sceptic and indeed has a much more nuanced and thought-out set of views than many climate scientists have, who feel the need to toe the party line.
    The world needs, in this area and many others, people who question and doubt received religion in a way that is itself not just another dogma.
    To me, the requirement that scientists stick to the party line to get grants and career advancement is just about the most frightening thing about this whole issue.
    Can you imagine a young scientist (at the age when most good work is done) setting out to build a career on questioning, even in small details, AGW package?
    I doubt that he would even get an interview for a tutor’s job. Does that not bother you?

  12. Infidel Tiger

    Steve, are you still wearing bell bottom trousers? Still sporting a flat top haircut? Climate Change is so yesterday, mate. Nobody gives a fat rat’s ring gear about it anymore. Move on.

  13. ken n

    A commentator on another blog writes:
    “I’m not sure if it has been suggested anywhere else but I’m going to look into suggesting Phil Jones gets an OBE or some other Royal award.”

  14. ken n: I didn’t go to McIntyre because I find him a tedious windbag to read. I have read at other blogs people complaining that he while he claims to sit on the fence, his blog with its unremitting complaints about the hockey stick etc certainly gives the impression of being anti AGW. I don’t know if he has ever been pressed in an interview (or has made his position clear) as to whether he thinks his “auditing” of climate science actually means the he personally believes that AGW is a fatally flawed concept.

  15. CL: As it’s a matter of religious belief for you that AGW is merely a matter of religious belief, there is no point in discussing it with you.

    IT: if 2010 does turn out hot (especially in populated areas) I expect the fickle finger of public opinion will swing back to taking action.

  16. Infidel Tiger

    While your waiting for public opinion to swing back, perhaps you can busy yourself by designing Turnbull for PM banners.

  17. Yeah, well, I sure as hell know no one need bother getting the “Abbott for PM” ones ready.

  18. ken n

    “gives the impression of being anti AGW”

    Same problem – anyone who does not buy the complete package, including it seems, the political prescriptions, is a denier and is to be attacked.

    I am an “acceptor” of the AGW science because I do not know enough science to question what seems to be the consensus. But I must say that I have more sympathy and indeed respect for those courageous enough to raise questions that I have for many of the true believers.

  19. daddy dave

    IT: if 2010 does turn out hot (especially in populated areas) I expect the fickle finger of public opinion will swing back to taking action.
    .
    But how can that be? I thought weather isn’t climate.

  20. Ken n: maybe “gives the impression” was too soft. I don’t think anyone can reasonably say that McIntyre takes a neutral stance in the language he uses and the comments he allows to go unchallenged on his blog. He is happy to be seen as being on the side of the AGW do-nothing skeptics, I reckon.

  21. dd: don’t be silly – of course a large number of snowbound people of North America were saying “where’s my global warming?” They would be wrong, but of course cold weather influences public opinion on AGW.

  22. dover_beach

    steve – how about reading McIntyre yourself?

    Indeed, Ken.

    ken n: I didn’t go to McIntyre because I find him a tedious windbag to read. I have read at other blogs people complaining that he while he claims to sit on the fence, his blog with its unremitting complaints about the hockey stick etc certainly gives the impression of being anti AGW. I don’t know if he has ever been pressed in an interview (or has made his position clear) as to whether he thinks his “auditing” of climate science actually means the he personally believes that AGW is a fatally flawed concept.

    For you its an all or nothing proposition. And he has many a time stated that he accepts a lukewarmist position. But, for some, that isn’t good enough.

    IT: if 2010 does turn out hot (especially in populated areas) I expect the fickle finger of public opinion will swing back to taking action.

    Lets look at the following map:

    http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2010/04/14/lower-tropospheric-msu-plot-of-march-2010-from-the-university-of-alabama-at-huntsville/

    Hmmm, presents a problem for you doesn’t it. And lets get a grip here, this hottest year on record claim depends upon a single year being less than 1 C warmer than the average for the late 20 C. Do you really think anyone in Australia, for instance, noticed this during the last summer?

  23. ken n

    steve: “a neutral stance”? What the heck does that mean? Who is taking a neutral stance?
    And you condemn him for not contradicting some of the comments on his blog. If a blogger was responsible for comments not blogger – left right or wherever – would go unhung.
    Please first read McIntyre or anyone else you want to take down. It’s only fair.
    I read some quite dreadful blogs by some left wing academics so I can remind myself how foolish they are. It’s the least you can do to read McIntyre and Watts and all before condemning them.

  24. ken n

    And steve, if you have time to read and write about Larry King’s marriages you don’t really have a scarcity of time on your hands.

  25. “Do you really think anyone in Australia, for instance, noticed this during the last summer?”

    No, because global warming is about the globe, and things like whether high temperatures in Greenland, for example, are going to lead to a 1 m sea level rise (as the recently revised opinion – showing that the IPCC had been too conservative – now holds).

  26. I read Watts regularly, ken. McIntyre is in a stuck record all of his own, however.

  27. Watts is, incidentally, another try-hard whose guesses as to what might be wrong with the temperature records keep being proved to be wrong.

    He does let in pro-AGW concern posts occasionally, but again I think this is just to show a fake open-mindedness while letting a lot of anti-AGW rubbish (and comments in particular) dominate his blog.

  28. dover_beach

    No, because global warming is about the globe, and things like whether high temperatures in Greenland, for example, are going to lead to a 1 m sea level rise (as the recently revised opinion – showing that the IPCC had been too conservative – now holds).

    So why are you talking about global temps if variations in regional temps are more important?

    Ahh, these new projections of sea level rise now hold do they, until, I suppose, the new projections emerge, and so on.

    McIntyre is in a stuck record all of his own, however.

    How would you know, you admitted to never reading him. I dare say what grates you about McIntyre is that his criticisms have largely been vindicated, and that his arguments are generally specific, well-argued, detailed and coherent. Not qualities to be slighted, I would have thought.

  29. ken n

    “(and comments in particular)”
    Steve, do you ever read the commentators on some of the left wing blogs? Do you judge those bloggers by the comments?
    I repeat, I think McIntyre and Watts are probably wrong on the science (except for the WMP and the tree rings, where McIntyre did nail it) but I am very glad they are there.
    If this was a truly scientific issue they would be respected (or at least accepted as idiosyncratic) but it has become 10% science, 60% politics and 30% a strange kind of secular religion.

  30. JC

    Hey Steve from brisbane

    You realize the average person in the US doesn’t give a shit about global warming?

    Do you have a theory why there are so many Australians who think like you do and are so ‘vironmentally conscious to the point of being that it’s a joke.

  31. JC

    oops …..of being a sick joke…..

  32. Steve – 21 to 79 cm sea level rise and a mean of 57 cm.

    Who gives a shit? Building levees couldn’t cost more than a few hundred billion – in about 70-90 years time. Mitigation would cost Australia at least 6% of GDP.

    Species can begin adaptation in about 20 years.

    If we have anything but a no regrets policy we’re just stooging ourselves.

  33. JC

    SRL

    We don’t even have to worry about this crap if the world did the right thing and allowed nuclear energy to take it’s proper place. It could even be cheaper than coal as economic scaling takes the cost of plants closer to zero :-)

    The entire issue is overblown as we have the technology to deal with it.

  34. dover_beach

    JC, its more than likely that the changes in temp. experienced over the last 150 years are within the range of natural variability.

  35. JC

    You’re right Dover, but the record is so nontransparent that we really have no idea.

    I’m just saying this country seems to be crawling with giants sized betwetters to use a birdian phrase.

    It’s truly extraordinary.

  36. JC, just taking a guess here, but somehow I don’t expect that a person with your career background would move much within circles that are likely to be particularly interested in the environment. (I’m sure you’ll correct me if I am wrong, and you have a lot of Democrat voting mates.) Secondly, why are you ignoring my point that it’s hardly surprising that many Americans thought last winter meant AGW probably wasn’t worth worrying about?

    You know I agree with you on nuclear power, but I think you’re wildly over-optimistic on the time frame needed to get enough nuclear going to make a big enough difference. Your schizo approach to AGW, whereby you hate some AGW scientists and proponents, and go on about independent audit of temperature record before we do anything, while at other times quoting someone who you seemed to trust who worried about run away warming due to Arctic warming feedbacks, means I just put you in your weird category of “just can’t decide whether its worth doing something yet or not, but jeez I hate those climate scientists.” Which is pretty much the same as a do-nothing approach, in my books.

  37. “I don’t expect that a person with your career background would move much within circles that are likely to be particularly interested in the environment.”

    Steve, I don’t expect you to be any different from a dangerous sociopath….

    FMD you make some cheap, double barreled shots.

  38. SRL: do try to keep up. Even Watts up With That posted this week on a new “consensus” view that sea level rise in a 100 years was likely to be 1 m.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/04/13/ipcc-sea-level-prediction-not-scary-enough/

    I honestly don’t know what level of study has been done about the cost of dealing with that, and sure there would be time. But it’s double the size of the problem that the IPCC thought was coming.

    As for JC – don’t be so precious. Of course if he was a school teacher I would expect him to know lots of people who were uncritical greenies. It’s no snide shock to say that some professions are more notoriously interested in some topics than others.

  39. JC

    Dude, I don’t hate anyone. I don’t hate climate scientists. In fact I’d even let my daughter marry one if he wasn’t “taught” at East Anglia.

    You’d be more than a little surprised at the American circle of people I know. I honestly only know of one GOP supporter while the rest are soft lefties or liberals sitting in a sort of northeast center.

    There were two people I know sympathetic to the GOP….. myself and another guy, as you could count GOP’ers in NYC with two fingers. LOL.

    Am I schizoid on the subject? Not really as I think the problem is a big long term one, which is something I’ve always maintained.

    I don’t have any time for most of the senior crop in this field of science, as I think it’s populated with spruiking, dishonest arseholes such as people like Mick Manne-Costanza and his evil-twin Mini-me Gavin Schmidt, the Indian Swami and shit heads in the NGO’s.

    However I do have a lot of time for people like Judith Curry and her types that seem to have an inclusive attitude and who do think AGW is real enough. I also have huge time for people like Barry B who is firmly in the alarm camp but seems to possess the intellectual consistency of not trying to hurt people’s living standards by supporting nuke.

    As for the speed of nuke… need I remind you of the time it took the Manhattan project to go from the blackboard to detonation? We are perfectly capable to speed things along but I don’t have any hope on that score as a result of governments like Rudd’s. Have you paid attention at the time it’s taking to allow our communications system to move ahead while fuckheads like Controy and the piddly little small time former bureaucrat (Rudd) make a decision. The one they seem to be making is to spend 43 billion on the NBN thereby re-nationalizing that industry which is taking years.

    These are the people you are expecting will turn down the thermostat 2 degrees? FFS.

  40. d_b: I didn’t say I never read him. I was reading him quite a lot during the height of Climategate – that’s how I formed my view that he’s a 15 min of fame windbag.

    And stop being a debating tactic twit when it comes to global/regional warming issues. The point that the Arctic having the most warming (now and likely in the future) leads to a global consequence in sea level rise is obvious, and deflates Pielke’s argument that we only have to think about local temperatures.

  41. JC – I have argued before here and at my blog that it may well be that Labor, via its entrenched anti-nuclear stance that will take forever to overcome, may well be the slower party to take effective action.

    But – with the Liberals now dominated by do-nothings who are only going along with Abbott’s mitigation scheme so that he can try to maintain some vague credibility with younger voters, the Liberals have become the worst looking option for now.

    I have argued before too that for those on the Left who have gone pro-nuclear, they need to devote a lot of effort to turning around Labor policy. They aren’t going to have a problem with the Liberals, who just like the idea of nuclear anyway.

  42. JC

    So it’s the liberals fault the left are anti-science on nuclear. Is that right , Steve.

  43. No. Although I said the Liberals are naturally sympathetic to it, it is also true that they couldn’t justify nuclear power for Australia economically; they would have to argue it is needed environmentally. That’s why I can’t see the Liberals going first on a “build nuclear” policy under the Coalition as currently constituted. (That and the fact that it would still be an irresistable target for Labor and the Greens.)

    Politically, the only way I can see it happening is for Labor to change its policy first from within, on environmental grounds, and then for Liberals to not resist.

  44. JC

    The liberals should resist because I’m more than certain that the type of regulatory controls labor would place on nuclear power would be so cumbersome and trog-like that it would end up crippling it.

  45. JC

    This is truly freaking interesting.

    http://www.intellectualventures.com/docs/terrappower/IV_Introducing%20TWR_3_6_09.pdf

    Yes, nuclear has the potential to produce energy at close to zero cost.

  46. Yes, that’s the type of reactor Bill Gates has been touting. Trouble is, as a Scientific American article recently noted:

    “But significant materials advances would be required to create a cladding, or cover, for the core that could contain a fission reaction for decades. “It will confront horrendous materials issues in achieving the long lifetime cores that are envisioned,” Cochran argued.”

    I’m guessing it must be very tricky adequately testing the life of the cladding. I suppose you try to simulate the history of radiation exposure via higher exposure over short time; but how do you deal with the combined effect of radiation and high heat over 30 or more decades?

    Anyhow, reference is:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-new-types-of-reactors-needed-for-nuclear-renaissance

  47. JC

    …but how do you deal with the combined effect of radiation and high heat over 30 or more decades?

    Dunno, perhaps it could be done by coming up with a material through nano-tech that strengthens moves around the atoms to make a stronger steel.

    This stuff is truly exciting and it’s stuff like this that makes me super-optimistic.

  48. JC

    I’m betting heavily this firm
    http://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSE:USU

    gets the DOE loan guarantee to build advanced centrifuges which goes under the name of ” The American centrifuge Project”.

    When i was in NYC an I-banker friend got me an audience with a nuclear engineer and i spent a decent amount of time finding out stuff about the industry. This dude had jobs building and running nuclear power stations. He was a wonderful source of info.

    He didn’t quite know about Usec but a few days later he came back to me and said he was tipping some money into the stock too as it looks like they are hitting the hurdles the DoE has set for them to get the mullah.

    They will be the only US firm building centrifuges.

    This stock could go from 6 bucks to 178 bucks a share. I’m not kidding.

    If they can raise their profit to $1 billion annually or look like doing so and achieve a 20 multiple they get achieve 197 bucks a share.

    20 multiple on $1 billion is = $20 billion.

    Current market cap is 715 million

    20 billion/715 million = 27.97 times current stock price = $178 a share.

    The trouble with getting much info on how the development of the new centrifuge is going is basically blocked for national security reasons and they can’t give much info away.

  49. daddy dave

    Australia needs to make a decision pretty soon. We either have to build some more coal fired power stations or go nuclear.

  50. dover_beach

    d_b: I didn’t say I never read him. I was reading him quite a lot during the height of Climategate – that’s how I formed my view that he’s a 15 min of fame windbag.

    Well, this must be the longest 15 min I’ve ever experienced, since he has been going strong since 2003 and he’s managed to school some rather more obvious ‘windbags’.

    And stop being a debating tactic twit when it comes to global/regional warming issues. The point that the Arctic having the most warming (now and likely in the future) leads to a global consequence in sea level rise is obvious, and deflates Pielke’s argument that we only have to think about local temperatures.

    The only place in the Arctic that temps matter for sea level rises is Greenland. So, rather than telling me how much it has warmed, tell me what the actual average temps in winter and summer are for the interior and the coast. Let me give you a hand:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/city_guides/results.shtml?tt=TT001000

    The temps for Thule are analogous to those in the interior.

    And, no, it doesn’t deflate Pielke’s argument it at all, it actually strengthens it by focusing our attention upon variations in regional temp., for instance, Greenland’s, which are more concrete than than the abstract, global temperatures.

  51. dover_beach

    And lets not forget that regional temps were higher in Greenland during the MWP without causing catastrophe.

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