They Can Be Heroes

By Keith Kloor | November 23, 2010 10:06 am

I was struck by this news article in the Guardian yesterday, which gushes over the new Climate Science Rapid Response Team (my emphasis):

the three scientists behind the project ““ John Abraham, Scott Mandia, and Ray Weymann ““ have come off almost as climate science super heroes, which in a sense they are.

Wow, move over Batman and Robin.

Seriously, I know the UK newspapers aren’t so hung up on the whole faux objectivity thing, but isn’t that a bit too smoochy?

This is not to cast any aspersions on climate scientists volunteering their time to help communicate the complexity of their field. But it’s not like they’re running into burning buildings or ridding the world of Lex Luther. People might want to hold off on the hero worship–at least until these caped climate crusaders have their own comic book.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized
  • RickA

    I worry that it will just be about  PR and spin doctoring.

    I would be more impressed if they rushed out to point out the uncertainty in any new science article.

    Still – I guess we can hope they will stick to facts and accuracy.

  • TimG

    Why are your surprised?

    One of the biggest problems with the anti-CO2 movement is its tendency to paint people who are skeptical of the claims of catastrophe as villians. This leads to all kinds of abuses from breaking the FOI laws to keep data away from sceptics to videos where children are blown up because they don’t show enough enthusiam for their teacher’s green evangalism.

    It also encourages a similar response from skeptics who firmly believe that they are on the side of ‘rationality and goodness’ trying to defend society from the rampaging eco-facists (sic).

  • http://jlvernonphd.tumblr.com/ Jamie Vernon

    “…it’s not like they’re running into burning buildings or ridding the world of Lex Luther.”
    No.  They are doing something much, much more important.
    Not to mention, Lex Luther is an imaginary character.

  • Vinny Burgoo

    Seriously, I know the UK newspapers aren’t so hung up on the whole faux objectivity thing, but isn’t that a bit too smoochy?
    Wait until the Telegraph copies the story. The smoochiness will still be there but any facts will get mangled by witless paraphrasing.

  • Ed Forbes

    A Super-Hero “…able to duck and weave in a single bound when asked to debate face to face with a sceptic…” :-)

  • Steven Sullivan

    Because of course, ‘face to face’ debate  is the gold standard for  dispassionate evaluation of truth.








     

  • cagw_skeptic99

    I also saw the announcement of the new team.  The first press release claimed that they had institutional backing, but the institution quickly forced them to stand on their own.

    There have been few public events since Climategate where any of the leading lights from the CO2 alarmist’s camp have been willing to answer unscripted questions.  Al Gore, for example.

    I don’t expect the new super heroes to appear in public either.  Face to face with anyone who can ask intelligent questions is apparently not part of the current alarmist PR scenario.  Better to rely on MSM propaganda pieces and public statements than to risk public embarrassment.

  • NewYorkJ

    Batman and Robin never had their emails robbed, parsed, and propagated by fanatics, or accused of fraud and misconduct by more than just the Joker and a few other nutty villains.  I guess Watts is the Joker, Monckton the Riddler (who can figure out what he’s saying really?), Curry the Catwoman, and Morano the Penguin, but all with a greater popular following who are willing to engage in similar behavior.

    Climate scientists are in a sense heroes for choosing a field where scientists are under routine attack.  Maybe the ones that put their names out in the public eye, exposing themselves to greater risk for the benefit of the public, are superheroes, but no need to take that literally.

    From the article, it’s interesting to note that two Republicans (leaving or retired) are chastisizing their colleagues for denying global warming.  It makes me wonder how many of the Republican denier politicians are sincere, or just following their fanatical base, knowing that any hint of accepting climate science is likely to get them lynched.

  • Jon P

    NewYorkJ Says:
    November 23rd, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    “Climate scientists are in a sense heroes for choosing a field where scientists are under routine attack.”

    So Wegman is a hero of yours?

  • NewYorkJ

    Wegman’s not a climate scientist, and he’s one of the attackers – one of a villain’s henchmen if we’re using comic book analogies.

  • Tom Fuller

    Well, it could solve the taxonomy debate about what to call skeptics–Lutherans!

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Horrors! someone wants to put some real scientists into journalists address books.

  • TimG

    #8 NewYorkJ,

    Don’t make me laugh. Climategate would have never happened if Jones had acted like a professional and provided the data that was requested instead of forcing people to issue FOIs. Instead he broke the FOI law and then whined about getting caught. 

    The same goes for Mann. All he needed to do is acknowledge that his 98 and 99 papers were crap and withdraw them. The “science” would have survived.  Instead he runs around attacking the messagers and spewing conspiracy theories that would make Oliver Stone blush.

     To make matters worse, the science establishment defends these clowns which leaves the impression that all scientists consider such childish and unprofessional behavoir to be acceptable within scientific circles.

  • NewYorkJ

    “The same goes for Mann. All he needed to do is acknowledge that his 98 and 99 papers were crap and withdraw them. ”

    Now that makes me laugh.  If only Mann gave in to the demands of the smear merchants, trashed his own work, and swore off paleoclimatology forever because Joe Barton and Co. didn’t like the results of his work (largely validated by the NAS and subsequent research, by the way), all would be good.

    If only Jones dealt with harassment and answered every frivolous request with the undying patience and tact of Mother Teresa, political hacks would leave them alone.

    And for the record, the only law that was broken in ClimateGate was the theft of the emails.  Skeptics heralding the person (or persons) involved as a “whistleblower” leaves the impression that all skeptics consider such illegal behavior to be acceptable within skeptic circles.

  • TimG

    #13 NewYorkJ

    The biggest problem in this debate are people like you who know absolutely nothing about what the complaints of sceptics are yet you try to speak if you were informed.

    First, the problems with Mann’s papers have been clearly documented by people who know statistics. The North inquiry agreed with Wegman’s assessment on the methodological flaws. The only difference between Wegman and the North is North tried to spin the criticism to make it sound like the papers had merit. i.e. North basically said: Mann methods were wrong but his results might be right – Wegman just said his methods were wrong. In either case, the papers should have been withdrawn because the methods were wrong.

    As for Jones, the FOI requests only came after Jones refused reasonable requests to provide data which he now agrees he should have provided. The emails also show he sought to delete material that was subject to an FOI which means he broken the law. There is no debate on this point. The only issue is the 6 month statute of limitations on FOI charges in the UK which means he will never see the inside of a courtroom.

  • JohnB

    Sorry mate, but Jones did break the law when he requested people delete emails that were the subject of an FOI request.

    Whether or not the others complied is beside the point, it was the act of asking that was illegal.

  • NewYorkJ

    The biggest problem in this debate are people like you who know absolutely nothing about what the complaints of sceptics are yet you try to speak if you were informed.

    It’s notable that we never get details from people like you.  Just the same inane talking points passed down from your icons, repeated as if the repetition itself bolsters your argument.  From what I’ve seen from Wegman and McIntyre, they know little about climate science, and know well how to lie with statistics.  Take a break from your comfort zone a bit.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/11/16/replication-and-due-diligence-wegman-style/

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/10/25/the-wegman-report-sees-red-noise/

    The Wegman Report should be withdrawn, although if it is, it will probably be due to blatant plagiarism as opposed to the junk analysis and the distortion of Bradley’s work, which are at least somewhat more serious acts.  In fact, if any shortcoming in an analysis is grounds for withdrawal, McIntyre should withdraw his stuff, as should most skeptic papers I’ve seen to date.  Else, if we follow contrarian logic, the next step will be hacking into their email system, although the emails might not be readily found…

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/11/vergano-reports.html

    In the meantime, perhaps you can step into the 21st century. 

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/mann2008/mann2008.html

  • John Whitman

    KK,

    Trivially this thread started out with the premise that there are two kinds of people in the world _____ and _____;  where anyone can just arbitrarily fill in the blanks.  Then everyone so far is fillling in the blanks arbitrarily.  What an example of the trivial intellectual world Hegel created with his false dialectic materialism.

    John

  • TimG

    #17 NewYorkJ Says:

    I have gone over the arguments of and counter arguments of the hockey stick many times (and unlike you I actually made an effort to understand Mann’s POV instead of simply assuming that SteveMc/Wegman et. al. were right). The only person guilty of lying with statistics is Mann and his defenders.

    The idea that Wegman’s analysis of statistics (his expertise) can be dismissed because of poorly cited background material shows how deperate you are to ignore facts and arguments that do not fit with your world view.

    Unlike Wegman, the shortcomings of MBH mean the conclusions are not supported by the analysis. This is most definately grounds for withdrawal. In fact a recent paper on SLR was withdrawn for exactly the same reason. The only difference I can see between the MBH and SLR rise paper is the SLR paper did not support the IPCC narrative.

    Lastly, Mann 2008 is just as bad as MBH but for different reasons. Of course, you have no way to know that because you don’t bother to read and understand what skeptics say. A few  uninformed smears by an anonymous blogger is all you need to quiet any cognative dissonance and continue living in a fantasy world where your “climate science heros” can do no wrong.

    Frankly, I do not understand this need to believe that climate scientists can do no wrong. I do not think SteveMc, AnthonyM or any other sceptics are paragons of virtue (I disgree with their claims at times). Nor do I think that every climate scientist is as bad as  Mann and Jones (I think most do their best within a bad system). My problem is I cannot really trust a system that seems to be unable to correct errors if those errors were found by people outside the “old boys” network. 

  • AMac

    New York Jew (#17) –

    I am surprised when I see Mann et al. (PNAS, 2008) cited as an example of strong work in paleoclimatology.  That paper had a number of problems.  In particular, its central claim — that a “hockey stick” picture of climate history is supported by non-treering  data — has been undermined.  In the S.I. of Mann et al (Science, 2009), the authors acknowledge that Mann08′s pre-1400 non-treering reconstructions are only skillful when the Tiljander data series are used.

    The three (not four) Tiljander data series are probably not very good proxies for temperature, in my opinion.  In any case, due to post-1720 contamination by non-climate-related signals, they cannot be calibrated to the instrumental temperature record, and are thus not usable by the methods employed in Mann08 to produce CPS or EIV reconstructions.

  • laursaurus

    I don’t see how using a text-book, boiler plate description to explain the basic science in layman’s terms has anything to do with the conclusion of the Wegman Report. The section explains how tree rings develop and how the climate likely affects the appearance from year to year. How does this have any relevance to whether the criticism of the statistical analysis?
    I don’t get why the same people who are claiming this makes Wegman’s conclusions invalid are the same people who defend the IPCC AR4 using gray literature to conclude that the Himilayan Glaciers would disappear by 2030. So outright fictitious projections are excusable, but one potentially plagerized paragraph falsifies Wegman’s conclusions?
    Back on the topic of the original post, calling these guys super heroes is completely ridiculous. Why aren’t they presenting their overwhelming scientific evidence that supports global warming.

  • Ed Forbes

    Steven Sullivan Says:
    November 23rd, 2010 at 5:37 pm Because of course, “˜face to face’ debate  is the gold standard for  dispassionate evaluation of truth.
    ————
    The court of public opinion is the only court that matters at this point in time.
    ..and this “court” is fully aware that if one side does not have the balls to stand up to directly confront their critics face to face, and with a free and open discussion of the issues, that their “evidence” is likely lacking.

  • laursaurus

    #11, Tom Fuller
    Welcome back!!! I’ve missed you :)

  • harrywr2

    The registrant for the website climaterapidresponse.org  is John Cook of Sveloid Art, a comic book maker and the owner of the website ‘ skeptical science’.
    Climate Science from people who write comic books, what will we think of next?

    The ‘comic book super hero’ analogy would be funny, if it wasn’t true.




     

  • Tom Fuller

    Hi Laursaurus–still lurking, but no time for my usual antics. How’s the blogosphere these days?

  • Jon P

    NewYorkJ Says:
    November 23rd, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Understood it is an US vs Them, no need for consistent application of a set of standards.

    Typical.

  • Sashka

    TimG (19)

    Good post.

    The psychology part is not that difficult if you think about it. Political convictions are not that different from religious and are shown to be controlled by the same part of the brain. When it comes to religious/political convictions there is no more cognitive dissonance. The fanatics (of both colors, to be sure) simply block it off.

  • NewYorkJ

    TimG,

    I have gone over the arguments of and counter arguments of the hockey stick many times (and unlike you I actually made an effort to understand Mann’s POV instead of simply assuming that SteveMc/Wegman et. al. were right). The only person guilty of lying with statistics is Mann and his defenders.
    To this you follow with:

    The idea that Wegman’s analysis of statistics (his expertise) can be dismissed because of poorly cited background material shows how deperate you are to ignore facts and arguments that do not fit with your world view.
    which makes the first paragraph appear even funnier.  It’s clear that plagiarism are not the only problems with Wegman’s report, and they aren’t even close to being the worst of them.   The analysis I’ve cited from DC here and on other KK threads is something you should get busy reading if you want to at least pretend you understand the issues.

    Your approach is interesting, though.  If you think a paper has shortcomings (perceived or real), then demand the authors retract it.  If not, harass them and steal their emails.  And if nothing nefarious is found, pretend it was, spinning their emails to support a narrative.

    Let’s take that approach to McLean, Freitas, and Carter, who published an absolutely atrocious statistical analysis.

    http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/trenberth.papers/Foster_et%20alJGR09_formatted.pdf

    Let’s extend that to Lindzen and Choi.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/01/lindzen-and-choi-unraveled/

    This is why most climate scientists are in a sense heroes.  They have to deal with politically-motivated attacks from people like you (some much more sophisticated) on a regular basis.
    Unlike Wegman, the shortcomings of MBH mean the conclusions are not supported by the analysis. This is most definately grounds for withdrawal. In fact a recent paper on SLR was withdrawn for exactly the same reason. The only difference I can see between the MBH and SLR rise paper is the SLR paper did not support the IPCC narrative.
    If you’re referring to Siddall et al., this is an indication that you haven’t read this paper or the IPCC conclusion, as Siddall et al. was close to the IPCC conservative estimate (not a “narrative”), and a departure from recent studies indicating sea level rise will be higher.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/08/ups-and-downs-of-sea-level-projections/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/the-ipcc-sea-level-numbers/

    AMac,

    Why do you assume the “J” stands for “Jew”?

    Tijlander makes little difference in the reconstruction.  It also indicates that anti-paleo bloggers are reduced to picking around the edges, although note that every issue tends to be ballooned at some point.  You appear to be familiar with this discussion:

    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2009/11/tiljander_again.php

  • TimG

    #28 – NewYorkJ

    I find DeepClimate’s conspiracy rants to be next to incomprehensible. I have tried to make sense of them but gave up. I am basing my opinion the rebuttals provided by RealClimate at the time. Do you have a problem with me using RC as a preferred source for Mann’s POV on this topic?

    My standard for withdrawing papers is the same standard that was used to justify the withdrawal of the SLR paper. In that case, the errors meant the conclusions could not be supported by the analysis.  BTW - I use ‘IPCC narrative’ to mean ‘catastrophic AGW narrative’ which that paper did not support.

    I also agree the McLean and Lindzen papers were bad. I am waiting for Lindzen’s update which is supposed to in the works.  Perhaps they should be withdrawn too. However, I will agree that withdrawing papers for problems can get rediculous when taken to extreme.

    I want MBH withdrawn because it would demonstrate a willingness to acknowledge mistakes. At this point in time I have no confidence in climate science because I do not believe that scientists will correct mistakes that overstate the climate problem if they are left to their own devices.

     

  • Jon P
  • NewYorkJ

    I find DeepClimate’s conspiracy rants to be next to incomprehensible.

    You mean you don’t understand DC’s analysis of Wegman/McIntyre scientific and statistical blunders, which the two links I cited cover.

    BTW - I use “˜IPCC narrative’ to mean “˜catastrophic AGW narrative’ which that paper did not support.

    The IPCC, like many consensus documents, tends to be somewhat conservative, sea level rise being one clear example.  If you were familiar with the projection of Siddall et al. and the IPCC, you wouldn’t have said Sidall differs from the “IPCC narrative”.
    I also agree the McLean and Lindzen papers were bad. I am waiting for Lindzen’s update which is supposed to in the works.  Perhaps they should be withdrawn too. However, I will agree that withdrawing papers for problems can get rediculous when taken to extreme.

    An update is one way to acknowledge possible shortcomings in a current approach and is usually how it’s done, although does anyone ever expect Lindzen to make significant upward adjustments to climate sensitivity estimates?  His biases are pretty entrenched at this point (check out his recent Congressional testimony). 

    Just as Mann 1998 was a vast improvement over the scribble graph cited by the first IPCC report (and inappropriately used and abused (and STILL used) by Wegman and others), later studies (his own and that of other scientists) are a clear improvement over the 1998/1999 studies, which involved more limited proxies and wider error bars.  Demanding the early studies be withdrawn is like saying Newton’s early work should be eliminated because he and later Einstein improved on it.

  • TimG

    #31 NewYorkJ

    I already have a good understanding of the criticisms of MBH and Mann’s counter arguments as provided by Mann himself. I don’t see why I should bother to slog through the rantings of an anonymous blogger especially when Wegman is a secondary source on the problems with MBH.  In the end it comes down to a question of significance tests. I do not feel that Mann’s ‘make it up as I go along’ approach to significance testing is good science.

    I also understand Linzden’s own biases and I take them into account. Just like I assume no “consensus” scientist would ever acknowledge that sensitivity might be lower than they claim. I try to to look at the arguments presented which can be difficult because most of them depend on SWAGs.

    As I said, the problem is not the Mann paper. The problem is the absolute refusal on the part of the climate establishment to acknowledge the problem and admit an error. This failure tells me that climate science may not be a “self-correcting” as claimed.

  • Steven Sullivan

    TimG:
    “Don’t make me laugh. Climategate would have never happened if Jones had acted like a professional and provided the data that was requested instead of forcing people to issue FOIs. Instead he broke the FOI law and then whined about getting caught. ”

    I saw that device that lets you see alternate timelines, on a Star Trek episode once.   Man, it must be great to have one.  Where’d you get yours?  And does it let you do data capture?  If so, can you please post to Youtube, the part that shows ‘climate auditors’ folding their beach chairs and going home after Phil Jones accedes to their FOI requests? That would be awesome.

     

  • Steven Sullivan

    Ed Forbes
    “The court of public opinion is the only court that matters at this point in time. ..and this “court” is fully aware that if one side does not have the balls to stand up to directly confront their critics face to face, and with a free and open discussion of the issues, that their “evidence” is likely lacking.”

    To borrow from Roger Pielke Jr.:  that’s insane.

    Richard Dawkins refuses, as a matter of policy , to participate in public debates with evolution ‘denialists’, who are btw every bit as righteously sure of themselves as ‘climate change’ skeptics are.

    Do you seriously think it’s because he lacks either evidence or balls?
     

  • TimG

    #33 Steven Sullivan

    Anyone who has read the background on climate audit knows that FOIs are a last resort. Requests for data always start with an informal polite inquiry. Scientists that refuse these polite requests invariably attract suspicion because it looks like they have something to hide.

    In the UEA case, they tried to stonewall by refusing FOIs for reasons that were obviously lies. This, in turn, resulted in more FOIs designed to prove that the UEA folks were lying about their reason for rejecting the FOIs. It is was a vicious cycle that Jones is *entirely* repsonsible for starting. 

  • charles

    Tim G is right. The later FOIs only came along because they refused to comply with the earlier ones, coming up with a sequence of false excuses. And the earlier ones were only needed because informal inquiries were refused. In many cases these informal inquiries only arose because full detail of what was done was not explained in the papers or the supplementary information.
    Even now information is still coming out (thanks to FOI) about how the “independent inquiry” into the emails tried to hide or delete evidence that was submitted to it (see BH and CA blogs).
    By the way Tim #32 , dont forget the email 1024334440 where Ed Cook and Keith Briffa give their opinion in words of one syllable (and four letters) about the quality of Mann’s work.

  • Ed Forbes

    Steven Sullivan Says:
    November 24th, 2010 at 6:19 pm
    ———–
    Steven,
    at this point, if you can not prove your case to the “court”, your policy ideas to address your CAGW stand is a loser.

    As the US House just changed with over 60 seats to those who will mostly vote against CAGW policy, it looks to me that the “climate realists” ( I like this term better for the Anti-CAGW side) have the ear of the “court”.

    Why is addressing reality “insane” as you call it.  If you can not win the political fight, you lose. For public policy, politics is king. 

  • Robert Grumbine

    #37 — listen to Rep. Shimkus’s discussion of climate:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7h08RDYA5E&feature=player_embedded

    then get back to us as to what scientific arguments you think might change his mind about the possibility of climate change?  He clearly didn’t reach his conclusion about the topic by studying the science.

  • Steven Sullivan

    Ed Forbes, political reality is never absurd and even harmful to the polis,  in your world?  That sound like a nice world.   But it’s also a  world where ‘CAGW’ is part of the scientific parlance,  so maybe not.

    (You at least realize, I hope, that the natural world is *more real* than your reality, and doesn’t give a hoot who is ‘king’.)






     

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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