Guest Post: Faye Flam on the Challenge of Climate Reporting

By Mark Trodden | January 27, 2010 6:55 pm

Over the last few months I have had the pleasure of discussing science and science journalism with Faye Flam, who covers science for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Faye reports on all kinds of science, and a number of other topics, as you can read about on her web site. But most recently she has put a great deal of work into covering climate change; even interviewing Michael Mann, who will be visiting us at Penn for a physics colloquium in just a couple of weeks. And she has found it enough of a challenge that she has chosen to write about it as a (first of several, I hope) guest post.

This is a hot topic, as we all know, and I’m hoping we get a thoughtful and respectful discussion in the comments. Nevertheless, this might be a good place to remind people that we’ll generally delete comments that are off topic or offensive.

Now, here’s Faye.

There must be some redeeming lesson to come from covering the so-called climate gate scandal that’s dragged on over the last two months. Member of the public actually care about science. They’re even passionate about it. But when that happens it’s not always pretty.

Never in my 14 years as a newspaper science writer have I found myself on the receiving end of such a powerful stream of hate mail – searing bombs of name-calling that get fired into my personal and work inboxes, as well as screaming, profanity-laced screeds landing in my voice mail. There’s much gloating about the downfall of newspapers and speculation that soon I’ll perish on the streets, begging for pennies.

I even got my first death threat following this story. It was the first of three stories I wrote on this topic for the Philadelphia Inquirer after a cache of e-mail messages were stolen from some prominent climate scientists and picked over by their worst enemies for signs of malfeasance.

Many member of the public are raging at me for failing to point out what they see as an inexcusable case of scientific fraud. For them, there’s no distinction between committing fraud and being wrong. That might worry some members of the scientific community.

I wasn’t ordered to write anything on this issue. During the same period I also wrote a nice story about the Hubble Telescope, and one about heroic cancer researchers. I could easily have skipped this whole mess and written other nice stories – on Kepler, or maybe LHC. People always like stories about planets and particles.

But instead, I returned from Thanksgiving vacation to write this quick overview, followed by the more offbeat Q and A story linked above.

Then, in a fit of masochism, I decided to profile one of the scientists involved – Michael Mann – because he works nearby at Penn State University. That gave the whole thing a local angle.

Mann’s work has been scrutinized for years, after a researcher in Canada pointed out a possible statistical flaw in some climate reconstructions done in the 1990s. That eventually led to an investigation by a National Academy panel. They concluded that Mann’s initial papers weren’t perfect but the general conclusions held up, and there was no evidence of fraud.

In other areas of science, the public can be more tolerant. Back in the 1990s, people were in some disagreement about the age of the universe. When new information came in, some were shown to be off be a few billions years, give or take, but they didn’t get carted off to Siberia.

Others had wrong ideas about the shape and fate of the universe, since nobody back then thought it was accelerating. That’s the beauty of science. It’s self-correcting – though sometimes the corrections can take a while.

The other lesson here is that many people don’t understand the role of uncertainty in science. There is uncertainty over the way water vapor changes the situation, for example, with most experts saying it will create a positive feedback but a few arguing for a negative one.

And still, some people write to inform me that the science is “settled.” These critics are not sure what’s settled but they’ve heard this and seem to think it’s important to repeat.

Others recognize the uncertainty in climate science and find it appalling. That’s particularly true of engineers, who seem pretty well-represented among self-proclaimed global warming skeptics. It’s a level of uncertainty that would never fly in modeling systems for chemical refineries, or so they tell me.

One MIT-trained engineer said his own calculations prove that the climate models can’t work because, in short: “junk in equals junk out”. It would make for a great story if a local guy who worked for a chemical refinery took down the whole climate science establishment on the back of an envelope. Unfortunately, I have to consider the possibility that he hasn’t.

The global warming skeptics also love to use the term “AGW theory”. This proved a great strategy for debating because the scientists don’t really refer to anthropogenic global warming as a theory, and many aren’t sure what AGW theory means. That gives the critics the freedom to say it means that only humans can influence the climate – and that the climate never changed at all before humans hit the scene. Then they can point to this untenable position and say, “ha ha – aren’t these scientists dumb!”

Coming from the more liberal side of things, a reader suggested that even if some fatal flaw crops up in both the climate models and the climate reconstructions, and the world does plunge into a protracted global cold spell, the scientists who had done the original work shouldn’t necessarily be thrown in prison or burned at the stake.

It might seem strange, even insane, for the public to base views of the carbon cycle and water vapor feedbacks on politics. Is it a problem of science illiteracy? I don’t think so. We could all be better educated about basic physics and chemistry and this debate would still play out the same way.

It all makes more sense, though, in light of the way differing political philosophies tolerate uncertainty – whether they’re considering government-funded scientists delivering uncertainty or the prospect of policy changes based on uncertain science. How much should we know before we start conserving energy? Classify CO2 as a pollutant? Submitting to international regulations? The best we can do as scientists and science writers is respect those political differences, state what’s known as clearly as possible, and be honest about what’s not known. People will still hate us, of course. There’s no way to escape that.

  • AlanR

    There is much passion because those who find warming science poor and not convincing-whether they were scientists or the public- have been denigrated as “deniars”.. They have been told that “the science is settled”. Now, we are finding the IPCC has been fraudulent about vital sections of their report including the Himalayan glaciers and the concept that there is NO evidence that warming has caused more climate disasters (perhaps because warming doesn’t actually exist?).New scrutinity is showing that the temperature data was collected with bias, excluding most areas in the arctic and using weather stations at airports and large urban heat islands that look artificially warm. People in Britain died this winter because the gov’t was unprepared to deal with cold..after totally commiting to non-existant warming.Warming is not just a hoax-but a bastardization of science. Yes, those of us who love science are very mad.

  • Renee

    But I hear from “AGW deniers” that it isn’t about the science, it’s about the money. Even if we’re right, we can’t afford it – we’d be better off buying mosquito nets for kids in Africa and whatnot; the economy can’t stand adopting green tech. They take the precautionary principle and apply it upside-down: if the science isn’t settled, err on the side of the economy. It’s harder to argue, because the role of uncertainty – on those terms – strikes against pre-emptive action. It’s crap, obviously, because the consequences of inaction are MORE expensive, but.

    AlanR, you realize that the greenhouse effect doesn’t necessarily mean local weather conditions will be warmer, right? Right? Because if you love science, maybe do some research or something. A recent study came out showing that even “bad” surface stations are surprisingly accurate, even measuring slightly cooler on average than well-sited ones. But thanks be to the prophet Watts, eh?

    Saying that “the science is settled” is misleading, and it was a simplification done initially out of fear of people like AlanR there, who don’t understand how science progresses (falsification) and don’t understand the complexities involved in such a large and significant amount of data forming a fairly solid theory, despite variations in agreement on outcomes and fluctuations in micro-theories. I’m not sure where the middle ground is, though, with so much data spread over so many different fields, making it hard for even the most gifted synthesists to put together. How DO you present that to the public in a way that accurately represents the general consensus? A puzzler.

  • Maledict

    Elizabeth Kolbert wrote a review in a recent New Yorker where she pointed out that a segment of the Right has developed a truthiness wherein information is contorted to evidence their viewpoints, rather than developing viewpoints from the information; and information that does not conform with their viewpoint is automatically labeled erroneous. Sarah Palin’s “Death Panels” was one of Kolbert’s examples, and the Birther movement another.

    There is no known recourse for dealing with True Believers–like gravity, they simply suck. Educate your children to think inductively, and hope for the best (but prepare for the worst).

  • Zoe

    … it’s like having the public argue the merits of different nuclear reactor constructions. They’ve poured a foundation for their BBQ pit, so they figure that they should be able to follow the ins and outs of cooling tower dynamics. (And the deniers saying that uranium is not actually a fissionable material, and it’s all a conspiracy because their radioactive watch dial stopped glowing the other day, proving that the physicists are all full of crap.)

  • Thomas Larsson

    Cold = weather.
    Warm = climate.

  • Lonley flower

    I am an ordinary person who wants to know the truth about climate change, I am not biased because simply I don’t know. I was some how shocked by the glaciers of the Himalya .

    People who deny climate change are all of them non scientists or non experts
    If among them there are experts, why would those experts deny climate change if it is really exists? and why there are people as I think call those scientists believers in consiperacy theories?

    Why climate change is not as any other subject in science, people can believe in or deny it
    without exchanging

  • RandomGuy


    “People who deny climate change are all of them non scientists or non experts
    If among them there are experts, why would those experts deny climate change if it is really exists? ”

    This statement is not true. There are scientists (and by scientists I mean university professors, national lab scientists) who are doing climate research to find alternative explanation for climate change besides CO2.

    My biggest problem with the climate change, even when it is really caused by CO2, is that the policies which are:

    - too drastic and catastrophic in nature, but at the same time are not justified given the current uncertainty and confidence level in the prediction. I have yet to see a quantitative confidence level in the climate change prediction.
    - the local aspects of climate change are often neglected, while it is actually the local aspects which matter!
    - more often than not, unrealistic in economics and engineering aspect. Cap and trade, carbon accounting, are not going to work.

    Furthermore, the party which have always promote climate change rarely mentioned (let alone recommended) the following policies which IMO are much better than the currently recommended policies.

    - Create a technology to filter CO2 from combustion, based on nanotechnology.
    - Find a technology to store electric energy efficiently for a long period of time. This problem has deluded engineers for more than 100 years.
    - Support nuclear power, and research into nuclear fusion.
    - Biofuel from algae . One of first major venture into this endeavor is pioneered by Exxon – the one often called ‘big and evil oil company’ ?

    It is the fact that IPCC does not recommend policies which IMO are more realistic and can make greater impacts [like the four mentioned above] which make me suspicious of IPCC. Instead, IPCC keeps recommending the more-or-less same policies and reciting the same catastrophic predictions. To me: IPCC is simply not doing their job properly.

    Here is simple idea: Let’s create a time capsule to record all this debates and open it 100 years from now. Let our descendants read the time capsule later to learn whatever the outcome of this debate.

  • charon

    The problem is that global warming is a massive problem, but one with great inertia, and humans are generally bad at predicting the future. By the time 99.5% of the people are truly convinced, it will be far too late. And people get freaked out about even the most milquetoast solutions when they think these solutions will impact their daily life.

    Holy cow, people, let the scientists do their jobs. If you don’t believe in global warming, fund research to falsify it (or go get a PhD in climatology and do the research yourself). You can’t fight a deluge of data and sophisticated models with “it was cold in Britain this year!” (Britain, I hasten to say, is about 0.05% of the Earth’s surface. And this winter is a time scale short enough to be sampling high-frequency noise, not trends. And… confirmation bias much? You know, we had an unusual cold spell in the Pacific Northwest this year. Then, a few weeks later, it was unusually warm. Hmm.)

  • Janne

    Why are meteorologists using much less sophisticated models for doing weather forecasts?

  • Thomas Larsson
  • Lab Lemming

    Someday I’ll write a post on skeptics vs denialists, but I don’t have the energy right now.

    A marginally more engaging question is this: How should we respond to uncertainty?

    Should people driving into fog speed up if they don’t know the road?
    Should they eat doughnuts if they don’t know the condition of their arteries?
    Should they stay on the ground if they don’t know how airplanes work?

    More importantly, is there a way of approaching these questions that doesn’t just degenerate into going with your gut choice and making up a justification?

  • Lab Lemming

    #10 Janne:
    A lot of the institutions that make global climate modelers also write the models that predict hurricane paths and strengths. During the northern hemisphere hurricane season, you can read the 6-hourly reports of how meteorologists interpret them and make them into forecasts.
    here is an example from last season:

  • Mark

    Hi all. I deleted one comment, since the writer couldn’t help but end with an insult. I should have replaced the comment with a statement that it had been deleted, because I messed up Lab Lemming’s referencing. In #12 he says “#10 Janne:” This should now be read as “#9 Janne:”. I’ll try to avoid doing this again.

  • Warren Bonesteel

    The author is under-playing what the IPCC/ERU scientists actually did. …not even their computer models can be replicated. That’s how bad they were at keeping accurate records of their own work. They can’t even replicate their own work, themselves. They conspired to prevent any opposition to their work and to prevent others from actually attempting to replicate their work. They conspired to prevent any peer-reviewed journal from publishing work which would question their own work in any particular, including going to the point of ruining the reputations of and replacing editors of those publications…

    In other news, it’s now been revealed that the NOAA and NASA have both ‘fudged’ the science on their reports wrt global warming. This “AGW” fraud has been revealed in India and in Australia, as well.

    Policymakers around the nation and around the globe have been promoting laws and regulations not based upon bad science or even inaccurate science, but upon fraudlent science.

    Review the facts…or replace science with mere faith and belief, which requires no evidence.

  • Jerry Vinokurov

    So Warren, you’ve, like, totally got proofs of all that fraud and fudging of science, right? Let’s see it.

  • Adrian Burd

    As a former cosmologist, now marine scientist, I must admit to being gob-smacked by some of the responses this post has garnered. Though I suppose I should not be. I do not know the academic backgrounds of those posting comments here, but one thing that switching fields taught me is to be very careful about what you think you know. Science is littered with stories of experts in one field making pronouncements about another and humiliating themselves in the process.

    Alan (#1): If you have evidence that the IPCC acted fraudulently, please share it. The evidence indicates that this was a sloppy mistake, not fraud

    I’m not sure what “bias” you are referring to in the temperature record – several supposed biases have been reported and shown to have not effect on the trend in global (or even local) temperatures. For example:

    In some cases, as Warren (#14) alludes to in his reference to Australia, some cases of supposed bias results from the well known fact that as you climb a mountain, it gets colder.

    and others come from a misunderstanding of standard data homogenization techniques.

    Understanding long term trends in climate data requires long term records


  • Mike

    Here is a very good example of how the science isn’t really settled:

  • joel rice

    Look – the real issue at stake is trying to justify CAP AND TRADE.
    There have been letters trying to justify alarmism in Science – it is
    totally disgusting.

  • Scott B

    Faye, thanks for the piece and I do sympathize with journalists that are covering this topic. Things have become so polarized that your damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In general, I simply wish journalists would do some research on some of the dire predictions that come out from groups. Don’t just accept what they say. Read the paper it is based on, look at the other side’s opinion on the piece, and if they disagree, judge if their argument has any merit. If it does, include that argument along with the dire prediction.

    I also wish there was more focus on all of the bad practices exhibited by the people in the leaked e-mails, including (especially) Michael Mann. It places all of climate science into disrepute. Here is the best paper I’ve seen that places many of the e-mails into context:

    These scientists were focused on finding any way possible to not share data with both colegues they didn’t trust to agree with them and skeptics. They black-balled journalists that didn’t report exactly what they agreed with. This is not the way to move forward on this issue. Transparency, as much as possible, is required. The only way this is going to happen is for journalists to force them by exposing their mistakes and not acting as a mouthpiece for them.

    @Lab Lemming:

    There is a way to go about these questions. It is by truly looking for the answers. A panel needs to be formed from specialists on all sides of the argument with the mission of laying out the true probabilities, with what we know today, of the various impacts that climate change (not just that caused by CO2) could have. Then for each of those impacts, the cost and benefits of those impacts need to be weighed against the social and economic impacts of various possible solutions. This isn’t an easy task. It would require years of collaboration and research across many different scientific and financial disciplines. Instead of just waving our hands in the dark, it would provide us a little bit of light to make an honest determination on the actions we should take. The problem right now is that the political will to do this is absent from both poles of the debate. The “denier” side wants to do nothing. The “warmist” side wants to push through cap & trade when it most likely won’t help.

    @Adrian Burd:

    I think this rundown, with the imbeded links, gives the best description of the problems with the Himalayan glacier issue. The more worrying thing is the obvious conflict of interest with Dr. Pachauri.

    There’s also this issue of misrepresenting scientific findings on the link between AGW and disaster loses. There’s many pages in the same blog on this since it’s the IPCC’s report is in direct conflict with the blog author’s published findings. The two main posts are: (IPCC Statement and his response).

    About the temperature record, nothing has conclusively shown bias in the temperature record. This goes back to openness though. Read through the first link in my post and see how many hoops these people jumped through to ensure people couldn’t check the temperature record. The recent pressure has improved things some, so hopefully we’ll start to see some more findings that confirm or cast doubt on the current temperature records. Another thing that would help is for scientists to stop asserting the temperature records are independent. They are all, except the satellite record, based on GHCN data.

    Kind of aside, but somewhat in reference to your link under “Understanding long term trends in climate data requires long term records”, is there anything out there that explains why a little over a 100 years of data enough for us to conclusively determine a CO2 signal?

  • Adrian Burd


    Yes, the details of the science are not settled – few reputable scientists would say it is. Both the Science Daily report and the original Nature article refer to the range of likely values of the carbon component of the climate sensitivity – this range is 1.7-22.4 ppmv CO2 per C of warming. Their analysis is able to exclude very high values which have been inferred from a few previous studies.

    There are many things that we currently do not know about the global carbon cycle, and are unable to quantify with reasonable accuracy. This is why multiple models and ensemble runs are used, to try and get ranges of predicted values. The fact that we do not know everything there is to know about how this system (the Earth, climate, biogeochemical cycling) works, is why people like myself work long hours in our research.


  • Sam Gralla

    For someone who emphasizes the distinction between being wrong and doing unethical things, you don’t do yourself credit by comparing climategate (involving unethical behavior) to the age of the universe (involving being wrong).

  • Mike

    Thanks Adrian,

    I thought the paper was interesting for a couple of reasons. In your prior post you made the (correct) comment that “[u]nderstanding long term trends in climate data requires long term records.” The paper, which examines three ice cores over the period 1050-1800 ad and which is based on more than 200,000 individual comparisons, is a very good example of long term records. This, I think, increases its credibility.

    You also point out that the paper concludes that the range of likely values of the carbon component of the climate sensitivity is 1.7-22.4 ppmv CO2 per C of warming. The Science Daily article says the high end is 21.4, but I haven’t seen the paper and the article could be a misprint, or perhaps I don’t understand the calculations. However, the median they arrive at is 7.7, which (if correct) is, from what I understand, a pretty significant difference from the mainstream work done in this regard — perhaps more than a “few previous studies” — although I suspect there haven’t been too many studies on the precise issue anyway. Is that correct?

    One question you may be able to address is, assuming for the sake of argument that the paper’s conclusions are reasonably correct, what would be the impact on the “cooling” (or slower heating) effect of reducing CO2 emissions?

    All of this pertains to the fundamental issue I think. Assuming GW is occurring (which is a pretty safe assumption), how much is due to human generated CO2 emissions? What would be the impact on the climate of various programs to reduce CO2 emissions? And, in light of the answers to these questions, what are the best ways of addressing the problem?

    Above, Lab Lemming offered up the question whether it made sense for a person to speed up driving into fog if they don’t know the road? Well, no it doesn’t, because the cost of slowing down is relatively small. However, the cost of taking the view that the danger posed by human generated CO2 emissions is immediate and massive is quite substantial. And, even assuming that we conclude that the risks are so great the immediate and strong action is required, what should that action be? More questions than answers I know.

    As an aside, I’ve spent the last 20 years working on the legal side of renewable energy projects — and I think renewable energy is important, if only for energy and economic security reasons — so at least I don’t consider myself some kind of unsympathetic “denier”.


  • a dood

    When you discover that a group of people has been lying to your face for years, and insulting you for questioning them, not to mention demanding that you pay them increasingly large amounts of money, you might find yourself getting a little angry…

  • RandomGuy

    To quote Adrian #19

    “Yes, the details of the science are not settled – few reputable scientists would say it is. ”

    I think this nail down the crux of the issue.

    Furthermore, while the details of the science are not settled, yet hyped catastrophes are being predicted, and extreme policies are being recommended.

    If climate change really happen, then hypes are unnecessary. My opinion is because of those hypes that many people became suspicious that there is something else behind the climate change movement.

  • RandomGuy

    Mike #21

    Additional comment regarding the paper (I have access to it): The quoted confidence level is 80%.

    FYI: High-energy physicists do not claim evidence of new particles if the confidence level is not at least 99.7% (the three-sigma rule).

    I personally would not make such catastrophic predictions and extreme recommendations regarding climate change if the basis is more-or-less similar to the mentioned interval (low confidence level, wide margin, etc). Of course IPCC is free to make whatever predictions and recommendations, but I am also free to not consider IPCC’s works seriously and asked for a more rigourous work (smaller interval, higher level of confidence, Bayesian approach to demonstrate robustness w.r.t. priors/assumptions).

  • Aaron Sheldon

    If only the broader public understood that all of atmospheric research boils down to measuring the response of global heat capacity, absorption spectra, and scattering spectra to temperature.

    Part of the blame for the lack of understanding lies squarely on the shoulders of atmosphere scientist, and is due to their enthrallment with high precision numerical models; especially when these models operate at a level of precision many orders of magnitude above the precision of the actual observed data (do we really know the masses of the ocean and atmosphere to 7 decimal places?). I guess everyone loves a sexy picture or two, but the bulk of the grunt work of the argument for global warming remains in adding up the terms in the heat capacity and scattering spectra.

  • Arrow

    Science has done wonderful things for all of us but it isn’t a silver bullet which can magically solve all of our problems. It is important to remember that science derives all it’s power from one simple principle – scientific method. This method can be summarized as follows:

    1. collect data,
    2. form a hypothesis explaining the data,
    3. design an experiment which tests the hypothesis,
    4. if experiments agree with predictions based on said hypothesis – great a new piece of scientific knowledge is generated, if it doesn’t throw out the hypothesis and return to 1.

    This simple iterative process ensures that our scientific knowledge is always improving but it has one fundamental weakness – it is completely dependent on experiments. Without experiments there is simply no way to tell which hypothesis is the correct one and the process is hopelessly stuck.

    This is important because it explains why different branches of science are not equally reliable and should not be afforded the same level of public trust, which brings me to the main point:

    The ease of performing experiments in a given scientific discipline directly determines the reliability of it’s accumulated knowledge.

    This simple fact is the reason why our knowledge of for example physics or chemistry is much more reliable then our knowledge of psychology or economy – experiments in the first two fields are much easier to perform, control and interpret.

    So what about climate science? Unfortunately in climate science most experiments are very hard or simply impossible and there is often no way to test certain hypotheses including the most important one – that humans are responsible for significant portion of recent climate change. This is why from scientific point of view anthropogenic global warming is still just a plausible hypothesis.

    Of course the inability to prove or disprove AGW doesn’t prevent many scientists from voicing their personal opinions on the subject but those are just that – opinions – and should never be confused with actual science which is built on experimentally verified facts only.

  • Surferosad

    Here we go again…

    From the scientific american web site: Seven answers to climate contrarian nonsense.

    About “climategate”:
    Climate Denial Crock of the Week – Climategate: Smacking the Hack Attack –

    There are other episodes of Climate Denial of the Week that are well worth watching.
    I particularly like this one: The Great Petition Fraud:

    It exposes the fundamental dishonesty of the climate denial industry.

    And of course, there’s the mother of all sites on global warming… I suggest you spend some time here:

    And Arrow, I know your kind: anything that supports your opinion is “real science”, and everything that doesn’t is pseudoscience. I suspect you wouldn’t recognize “real science” if it hit you over the head with a mallet.

  • Tony

    @16 Adrian Burd: Alan (#1): If you have evidence that the IPCC acted fraudulently, please share it. The evidence indicates that this was a sloppy mistake, not fraud

    The glacier claim was not one sloppy mistake, it was a deliberate fraud:

    “But even before the 2007 report was published, it now emerges, the offending claim was challenged, not least by a leading Austrian glaciologist, Dr Georg Kaser, a lead author on the 2007 report.”

    The guy who made the claim and therefore knew full well that it was unsubstantiated has been employed by IPCC chairman – Patchuri for the last two years! What’s even more appalling they both used this fradulent claim to win huge grants:
    “What has now come to light, however, is that the scientist from whom this claim originated, Dr Syed Hasnain, has for the past two years been working as a senior employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the Delhi-based company of which Dr Pachauri is director-general. Furthermore, the claim – now disowned by Dr Pachauri as chairman of the IPCC – has helped TERI to win a substantial share of a $500,000 grant from one of America’s leading charities, along with a share in a three million euro research study funded by the EU.”
    “Even more damaging now, however, will be the revelation that the source of that offending prediction was the man whom Dr Pachauri himself has been employing for two years as the head of his glaciology unit at TERI – and that TERI has won a share in two major research contracts based on a scare over the melting of Himalayan glaciers prominently promoted by the IPCC, using words drawn directly from Dr Hasnain.”

    And it’s not just one error, it’s just the most glaring one, there are others for example IPCC included unsubstantiated claim that rapidly rising costs from events such as floods and hurricanes were linked to climate change:

    There are also plenty of other locations in the report where WWF is the only source cited and other mistakes:
    “But what is particularly bizarre about the Chapter 8 reference is that, not only is it [WWF], a study of Nepal, India and China is used to support assertions relating to “the Himalayas, Greenland, the European Alps, the Andes, Cordillera and East Africa.”

    It is obvious that IPCC is not about science but about politics and green money grab.
    Their credibility is zero.

  • Tony


    Also see here:
    “This post deals briefly with the extraordinarily arrogant, unprofessional and dishonest nature of Rajendra K Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, but goes on to show in detail that the UN and the scientific community were well aware as far back as 2004 that the claim of the imminent disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers was a lie propagated by advocacy groups and vested interests, and yet they deliberately incorporated the lie into the AR4 report in 2007. We show how the falsehood was embroidered stage by stage by advocacy groups, politicians and bent ‘scientists’ to appear as one of the most outrageous scientific claims in modern times.”

    The report also contains claims about amazon forest coming from WWF

  • karaktur

    I would like to see this issue discussed, on TV, by a panel of alarmists and deniers moderated by someone with a really big stick so we could have access to information that is not puncutated with venom, anger and childish behavior.

  • Adrian Burd


    If it turns out that fraud (still unproven, only suggested) played a part in the decision to include the statement about glaciers, then those responsible should be held accountable. My feeling is that I would be surprised if it did and would like to see hard evidence before making leaping to a decision.

    “There are also plenty of other locations in the report where WWF is the only source cited and other mistakes:”

    OK, I don’t have the time to count all the references in the AR4 report and find how many are to WWF reports. However on a cursory check I couldn’t find any in WR1, WR2 had a couple (one in the section on Asia, and two in the section on Latin America). This is out of several hundred references in each case. Now, if you wish to believe that such a frequency invalidates the whole AR4, yet you believe anything written in the Daily Telegraph, or on the other sites you list, then that’s up to you, and I have far better things to do with my time than argue these points.


  • Adrian Burd

    One important thing that Faye Flam’s article doesn’t delve into is this.

    First, there is a call for climate scientists to release data. Rather than a simple email or a simple inquiry, this is usually done through a FOI or open records request. Usually these requests are so vague and all-encompassing that those on the receiving end must spend long hours getting it ready. Most climate scientists publicly release data anyway.

    The release of the data is frequently followed by urgent emails to explain why data point 5347 (out of maybe 10,000) has a particular value. Or to explain why these two temperature records were changed (usually because the instrument was moved or changed). In almost all cases, these questioner could have answered these questions themselves by reading the notes and log entries that accompanied the data.

    Then the call comes to release computer code (something which many of us do regularly anyway). This is quickly followed by demands to be shown how to use the code – these are often of the form”I double click on the filename climate.f and nothing happens. How do I run this model?”

    After several of these adventures, the climate scientist stops answering emails, goes home and relaxes with a nice single malt.


  • Adrian Burd

    RandomGuy (#24 and 25)

    The problem with waiting is that it may very well be far too late. Now, I strongly suspect that “too late” is a time beyond my (and I suspect your) lifetime. So it won’t affect us too much. It will affect our children and grand children. So I guess the question is, are you willing to bet on it being incorrect?


  • Adrian Burd

    RandomGuy (25)

    Oh for the days of three sigma! There is a fundamental difference between particle physics (and most physics in general) and any environmental science. Heterogeneity. When combined with non-linearity, the possibility of getting a result to three-sigma go out of the window. This is why most texts on environmental sciences do indeed deal with data analysis from a Bayesian perspective. However, the lesson is, the heterogeneity and nonlinearities always work against you.

    Does this mean we should all give up and go home? No. Because it turns out that there are trends and large scale patterns that become very detectable.

    So, be very very careful about making comparisons between these two sciences.


  • Adrian Burd

    Aaron (26)

    I know of no modeller, or field scientist in oceanography or atmospheric science who gives results to 7 decimal places. Given the heterogeneity and non-linearity of the system, that would be utterly meaningless. Modellers present results that are given with precisions similar to those of the data if comparisons with data are being made.


  • John A. Jauregui

    This is MediaGate, not ClimateGate! Are you angry about this obvious RICO Act fraud and the national media’s complicity in the cover-up, misinformation, reframing and misdirection of the issue and the related “carbon derivatives” market Obama’s Administration is spinning up? Why pay for propaganda? Take responsibility and take action. STOP all donations to the political party(s) responsible for this fraud. STOP donations to all environmental groups which funded this Global Warming propaganda campaign with our money, especially The World Wildlife Fund. They have violated the public trust. KEEP donations local, close to home. MAKE donations to Oklahoma’s Senator Inhofe, the only politician to stand firmly against this obvious government/media coordinated information operation (propaganda) targeted at its own people. People that government leaders and employees are sworn to protect. WRITE your state and federal representatives demanding wall to wall investigations of government sponsored propaganda campaigns and demand indictments of those responsible. WRITE your state and federal Attorneys General demanding Al Gore and others conducting Global Warming/Climate Change racketeering and mail fraud operations be brought to justice, indicted, tried, convicted and jailed. Carbon is the stuff of life. He (Obama) who controls carbon, especially CO2, controls the world. Think of the consequences if you do nothing! For one, the UK is becoming the poster child for George Orwell’s “1984”. The mendacity of UK’s John Beddington, Robert Watson and Ed Miliband prove the point. The US government’s sponsorship of this worldwide Global Warming propaganda campaign puts it in a class with the failed Soviet Union’s relentless violation of the basic human right to truthful government generated information. Given ClimateGate’s burgeoning revelations of outrageous government misconduct and massive covert misinformation, what are the chances that this Administration’s National Health Care sales campaign is anywhere near the truth?

  • Aaron Sheldon

    Not that anyone every listens to me, but…

    The focus on paleoclimate reconstruction, and historical temperature records as -the- smoking gun of climate change is really misleading for everyone on all sides of the debate. Those experiments are important for elucidating how the planetary heat capacity changes with temperature, and most importantly the dependence of the heat capacity on biologically and tectonic mechanisms, but they are not proof of current day global warming.

    There is irrefutable evidence of global warming, but it is from satellite observation. Since nearly the beginning of the space age many earth observing and solar observing spectrometry missions have been launched into space. We have available very precise measurements of the solar 5900K black body flux, the scatter of that solar flux off of the planet, and the 273K terrestrial black body flux, plus the absorption lines of O3, H20, CO, CO2, CH4,… When you add all the components together nearly everything cancels expect for a small amount. The net result is that there is slightly less radiation re-radiate to space than is absorbed (the planet is gaining heat). Now because Earth is large enough to be a classical body we can be certain that the planetary heat capacity is positive, so the planet must be warming because we have a net addition of heat (the re-radiation imbalance). Now if the heat capacity was constant as a function of state, we would all be cooked in an oven because the planetary temperature would rise indefinitely. Thus we know the heat capacity must vary, and in particular increase with temperature (for example water has a higher heat capacity than ice). Exactly how much, and the mechanism of the change in heat capacity is one the of the central studies of climate science, there other being how the scattering flux of the Earth will change with temperature (and of course atmospheric composition, which is what got us into this mess in the first place).

  • RandomGuy

    Adrian #34

    “The problem with waiting is that it may very well be far too late. Now, I strongly suspect that “too late” is a time beyond my (and I suspect your) lifetime. So it won’t affect us too much. It will affect our children and grand children. So I guess the question is, are you willing to bet on it being incorrect?”

    Yes, I am willing to bet (or donate).

    If the timescale of climate change require that long time to affect us, then so be it. If climate change really happens, I am sure action against climate change will never be “too late”, unless the intellectual level of our descendants degrade below the minimum level required to read and understand scientific records. To some degree I would prefer that our descendants make better, informed decisions even a bit later/late rather than us adopting policies made in a hurry without enough information.

    Again I iterate, it is statements like “too late” which sends alarm to a lot of people.

    Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have problems with reducing deforestation, recycling, bike to work, developing clean air technology, or any sensible activities with direct and clear positive impacts. I don’t have a car, I use public transport and sometimes walk to work.
    I do have problems with carbon trading/auditing, incentives for or enforcement of inefficient “alternate energy sources”, and anything labeled “Green” but actually are either not-quite Green or ineffective.

    I rest my case here. I am quite sure that many people out there are actually in the middle like me: care about the environment yet cautious enough with regard to unrealistic policies.

  • Lonley flower

    Hello all,
    You may find this article useful or intersting

  • Don WV

    I admit global warming is real, but I personally don’t think it is going to ruin the planet. Global warming needs to be addressed, but we don’t need a global cap on emissions that is in name only, with politicians sniggering as they pledge that their successors will invent a way to meet those caps!
    Here is a snippet of an email I received from a friend who was a reviewer,
    “> the climate gate situation really goes well beyond the set of emails. i
    > have met scientists from ipcc who are super arrogant. there needs to be turn
    > over in the ipcc.
    > finally, i am no longer at ncar. i was fired from there in 2008, i
    > suspect for reasons related to not towing the line on ‘selling science’ to
    > the public. my goal was to share and explain the science, certainties and
    > uncertainties”
    Politics needs to stay out of science. As you can see from the email snippet that politics is alive and well when it comes to climate science.
    Here is another snippet from one of my friends emails, I hope this will give you an idea of what actually goes on behind the climate science doors!

    “hi, i thank you! you know what you are talking about. i think from my perspective there are things that can be done well before scientists are let loose to try geo-engineering of the global climate system. i know these guys and they really have an attitude (i have heard them say “we don’t have try to explain climate science to the public. they won’t get it anyway”. “

  • Don WV

    Lonely Flower, I found a discrepancy in the article you posted.
    “It turns out, said Asmerom, that whenever the Greenland ice shows a warm period, the New Mexico stalactite shows less rainfall and snow coming from the Pacific Ocean. That suggests the warmer periods are causing the jet stream — which brings in Pacific storms — to retreat northwards, taking the winter moisture with it.”

    The last few years the jet stream carrying moisture has been tracking to the south, not the north as the article states. This would suggest a cooling trend IF the facts in the article are accurate.

  • Adrian Burd

    RandomGuy (39)

    The way I see it is that you’re willing to make this bet on behalf of others who have no say in the matter (they’re not born yet). If this was a problem which would last a couple of years or take a couple of years to fix, then I probably wouldn’t be too concerned either. However, climate timescales run to centuries and millennia. That now becomes a different kettle of fish. What’s more, any potential solution is likely to become far more expensive as time progresses.


  • Adrian Burd

    Tony (@29)

    Your comment about the costs of hurricanes etc. based on an article in an Indian newspaper which was in turn based on an article in the Sunday Times has been quite thoroughly laid to rest.

    and I urge you to follow and read all the links in that post – that includes the original Sunday Times article, the original IPCC reports, the rebuttal by the IPCC. Then, make up your own mind.

    What does continually amaze me is the habit of folks to leap on a report they find on the internet and assume it’s true. A little digging, even going back to the original sources, such as the IPCC reports which can be obtained online, often reveals a very different tale – journalists also have agendas and biases and can have monetary and professional gains from writing such stories.


  • Adrian Burd

    Don (@ 41)

    The email you report on is interesting. If you’re correspondent was dismissed for the reasons they give, then they have excellent grounds for unfair dismissal proceedings against UCAR and NCAR.

    As with any science (or almost any human endeavour) there are a few who are arrogant. However, most scientists (even those with arrogant and abrasive personalities) will admit to wrong ideas and change them if they can be shown those ideas are wrong.


  • Don WV

    Adrian, Unfortunately, it is a clannish, ‘us vs. them’ mentality that has killed the momentum of the fight against global warming. Because of the way the movement organised itself, they built a wall. On the inside were the chosen few and, they hoped, the willing masses. On the outside were any who dared to question the pronouncements of the Al Gores, Rajendra Pachauris, James Hansens, Stephen Schneiders, etc.

    Because they have built a wall, people can only get evicted–not admitted. So people get excommunicated from the movement, but there is no real recruitment–their message strategy is purely preaching to the choir and letting policy makers know how big the choir is.

  • Andrew

    What is the motivation for lying about global warming, aka climate change? If really good evidence came out that global warming was not going to effect the earth or wasn’t happening at all then politicians on either side could very easily say, “isn’t this great, we can cut all funding to alternative energy and instead focus our money into renewable biofuels,” or something like that. I just don’t see a logical reason to create such a massively spread conspiracy (if that’s what you think it is). On the other hand, I can see very distinctly why someone might want to lie and call global warming a conspiracy: oil companies will continue to profit, and the lying party can say they will be saving everyone money by not pumping it into unnecessary alternative energy and cap and trade type legislation. I would actually like to hear why other people think there might be some intrinsic value for someone/group of people to have made up the whole global warming story… maybe as a scare tactic? But scare people into doing what?

  • Don WV

    Andrew, some scientist lied because they think it will improve goverment policies against polution, and I am sure some lied to protect there funding. As far as Rajendra Pachauris, and Al Gore it is all about the money! James Hanson is another issue, he wants to remove all industry at any cost! Last summer he went as far as create a seen at a mountaintop removel demonstration and trespassed on Massey Energy property, along with getting arrested to make his point. This man will go to any extreme to push his beliefs. I new he was radical the first time I met him. I also consider myself a enviromentalist, but not an obstructionist! Industry can exist in a enviromentally friendly world, but it has to be done responsibly. Unlike Hanson I will not promote cival disobedience to prove a point! I consider myself a realist, at the present time we do not have the technology to provide all our energy needs from solar and wind, the only true way to cut carbon is nuclear power which personally scares me!

  • Scott B

    33. Adrian Burd Says:

    “First, there is a call for climate scientists to release data. Rather than a simple email or a simple inquiry, this is usually done through a FOI or open records request. Usually these requests are so vague and all-encompassing that those on the receiving end must spend long hours getting it ready. Most climate scientists publicly release data anyway. ”

    This is complete dishonest misinformation. The only reason people have resorted to FOIA requests is because courtious e-mails have been ignored. You obviously didn’t choose to read the first link in my previous reply. It is obvious that the people in the released e-mails tried to find every loophole and excuse possible to not give enough information for outsiders to be able to reproduce their papers. I’m not going to claim what you say never happened, I’m sure some requests were made that were unreasonable. To act like that’s the norm and these people are flooding you poor people with tons of FOIA requests so you can’t get any of your important work done is a joke.

  • Adrian Burd

    Dear Don (46 & 48),

    I’m really sorry to say that your attitude saddens and frightens me. I really have no idea where you get your information from. I’ve personally criticized some of the statements that Mr. Gore has made and so far, I’ve not been ostracized from the community of climate scientists. Many others have done the same.

    As for scientists lying to protect their funding, this would be very difficult indeed. All of us regularly get proposals for funding rejected – in fact I would guess that an average individual scientist in the US has less than about a 10-20% probability of getting a grant funded through e.g. the NSF.

    As for Mr. Gore wishing to make money, this is true of almost every individual on the planet I suspect. This would include the owners, directors and share-holders of Massey Energy.

    We may not currently have the technology to produce ALL our energy needs from solar and wind sources (that is debatable), but no-one is asking for this. Denmark produces something like 25% of its energy needs from wind. Imagine what would happen to fossil fuel usage in the US if every building in the southern states had solar panels on it and those panels fed into the grid. I’m no necessarily promoting these as ideas to follow, but they do indicate that significant inroads can be made even with current technology.

    Adrian (who is now going to return to his research).

  • Andrew

    Don, I can understand that there may be a few entities or individuals out there that can profit off of predicting global catastrophe, such as Al Gore, but that doesn’t make much sense for the entirety of the conspiracy theory. As for scientists lying to prevent pollution, well, I’m afraid that doesn’t really have a any weight in my mind either; the scientists could simply scare people with thoughts of toxic air (think acid rain, which of course was another real problem). To secure funding scientists to tend to produce positive results, it can be very hard to publish with negative results, so I can see why you might think that the data is biased towards the idea of global warming. However, a with models like these a positive result is anything that they get from the model, whether it is global warming or global cooling. They can publish on either result with the same efficiency, it is only if they were to say that their model could not predict anything that they would have a very hard time publishing that result.

    I still don’t see any reason that the “conspiracy” would have been propagated in the first place. Alternative energy companies may want to use global warming to boost profits but they came about after the introduction of the idea of global warming. In this case it’s not a “chicken or the egg” situation, we know that the idea of global warming, as well as peak oil, arose well before these companies really started to become profitable.

    I still don’t see any good reason the “liberal media” or scientists would have come up with a myth about global warming and then continued to propagate that idea this far…

  • Adrian Burd

    Scott (49)

    Dishonest information? OK. Firstly, the scientists at CRU were at one time getting dozens of FOI per week from climate skeptics!!!!!! I don’t know if you’ve ever had to deal with one of these, but they are not trivial from what I understand. Now, that number is at the top end, but it gives some idea as to what was going on. As for the polite emails, as far as I am aware, they were politely responded to by saying that CRU were NOT ALLOWED TO RELEASE THE DATA BECAUSE SOME OF THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES THAT COLLECTED THEM HELD THEM AS PROPRIETARY (apologies for the caps, but this has been explained over and over and over again and some people just don’t want to hear it).

    As for the first link you refer to, yes, I scanned it and gave up in disgust. There maybe some useful analysis and truth in it, but to sift through the (excuse my language) uninformed speculation that pervades that document to find such nuggets would take far more time than its worth.

    To give you an example of what I mean, on page 145 the author of the report refers to the email by Kevin Trenberth. The author of the report first neglects to include the whole of Trenberth’s email, and then goes on to completely miss what Trenberth is talking about. If you really want to know what Trenberth is talking about go read the paper referred to in the email. Oh, you mean you don’t what paper that is? That’s because the author of the report didn’t include the whole email. If you can’t be bothered to read Trenberth’s paper (and I have) then you can find out what he was talking about here

    You accuse me of being dishonest yet seem to swallow hook-line-and-sinker a report that reeks of ignorance and dishonesty from page 1 through all its 150-odd pages.

    Now do you understand why many of us prefer to get on with our research – which is what I’m now going to do.


  • Surferosad

    Blah, blah, it’s a conspiracy… Balh, blah, blah, THEY LIE… Blah, blah, it’s a conspiracy… Blah, blah, blah, THEY LIE…

    And so on and so on, ad nauseam.

  • Don WV

    Andrew, “As for scientists lying to prevent pollution, well, I’m afraid that doesn’t really have a any weight in my mind either;” answer “The Sunday Mail’s David Rose reached Murari Lal, the coordinating lead author of the 2007 IPCC report’s chapter on Asia. Lal told Rose that he knew there were no solid data to support the report’s claim that Himalayan glaciers – the source of drinking and irrigation water for downstream areas throughout Asia – could dry up by 2035. Said Lal: “We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.” In other words, Rose says, Lal “last night admitted [the scary figure] was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.””

  • Don WV

    Here is one example of grants based on flawed science.
    It can be revealed that The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), whose director is Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the IPCC, was awarded a portion of two grants, which were worth a total of almost £3 million for research on the glaciers after the inaccurate claims were published.
    As far as a conspiracy, I have do not believe a Global conspiracy exist, each scientist accused of ethics violation has there own agenda.
    2.Idiology (as with James Hanson)
    3.Lies for the common good? (dunno)
    4. arrogance ect.

  • Adrian Burd

    Don (@54)

    If what Lal says is accurate, he should be face the consequences of his actions. However, the IPCC report is authored by many individuals. The comment about the glaciers occurs in the Working Group II report. The Asia chapter alone has 4 coordinating lead authors, 6 separate lead authors, and 13 contributing authors. Does this then make you dismiss the whole IPCC report? If so, do you also dismiss anything you read in the Daily Telegraph, no matter who wrote it?

  • Adrian Burd

    Don (@55)

    There are very, very, very few scientists who are accused of ethics violations in all the fields of science combined.


  • Don WV

    Adrian, yes I do know very few scientist are accused of ethics violations. But we are discussing the IPCC report. I do not dismiss the entire IPCC report, but I do think alot of its conclusions are exaggerated. As far as the Daily Telegraph, I use several sources for my information, NY Times (Andrew Revkin) ect. But one thing I do not do is disregard all information just because it may be skeptical or pro global warming. For instance EM Smith has several theories about the data collection method. If the data collection was flawed, or temperature stations been left out this would make any model not correct in there predictions. Just food for thought! I do not know if he is correct or not, I haven’t had the time to go through the data sets myself and compare. But I will not disregard his allegations without solid proof. Also I would not give his theories a very solid status without more research. But we do know some of the scientist involved not all would go to any measure to prove they are correct unfortunately.

  • Don WV

    Adrian, I thought you might like to read a little about peer review, here is another snippet of email from a reviewer. “i would like to see mcintyre and a few others at the negotiating table but it is not likely, though an impact of climate change could make it possible.i am hoping that the peer review process (so-called) will be investigated. i know that i have been sent papers by editors who expected me to kill them for publication, but i did not do so if they were solid. so peer review should really be called ‘so-called’ peer review.”

  • Adrian Burd

    Hi Don

    Your comments at 58 are interesting, and a good exemplar of why many of us get so frustrated (though I hasten to add that this is not your fault). From what I understand, EM Smith’s analysis is what led to the analysis reported in second link I gave way pack in post #16. The ultimate issue is that we have temperature records from hundreds of stations all over the globe. Taken as a GLOBAL AVERAGE, they show an increase in temperature. It doesn’t matter if you leave some out, you still see an increasing temperature. This result is quite robust

    The problem is, does Smith know what he’s doing when analyzing large data sets? I don’t know. From his website, he’s a trained economist. Economists and climate scientists analyze data in different ways because they are looking for different types of signal. My suspicion is that Smith is analyzing the data the way an economist would thereby missing some fundamental signals. I may be wrong, but that’s what I suspect. Is he right? Has be found something that hundreds of climate scientists have missed? Maybe. But I would rate the likelihood of that as being very small. To give a different example, one can come across many websites at the moment about the miracles of Marine Phytoplankton taken as a dietary supplement. Knowing a little about marine phytoplankton, I can pretty safely say that these are, without exception, complete bunk! Even so, the testimonials are impressive, showing people either believe this stuff, or else the marketers of these products are making stuff up.

    As for comment (59), I agree with your correspondent; if a paper is solid science, it should be published. However, some papers are just flawed, plain and simple. Many of the things that McIntyre says and writes have been shown to be incorrect.


  • Don WV

    Adrian, I think you missed the meaning of comment (59), he was referring to solid papers editors wanted killed. Also the comment about McIntyre was in response to my email which stated
    “How can skeptics evaluate the work of climate scientists with a view to replicating results of their analyses when it takes five years in some cases to get usable datasets with metadata from your colleagues? When the appropriate material is provided to people like Steve McIntyre, it takes him two days to publish errors that are found or corrections he has made.” Have you really looked at EM Smiths website? If you had you would have seen that he and Joseph D’Aleo has stated that the 1500 temperature stations was actually compared to the 6000 temperature stations in the pre 1990 data sets, which included the cold stations. As anyone would conclude if you compared the average temperature data from a smaller data set made of warmer stations and compared it to a larger data set including colder stations you will have an average increase even if none exists. Like I stated before, I do not know if this is actually the case but I would think this needs to be investigated furthur.

  • Don WV

    Adrian, Have you looked at the newest research paper on water vapor?
    “[S]tratospheric water vapor very likely made substantial contributions to the flattening of the global warming trend since about 2000. Although earlier data are less complete, the observations also suggest that stratospheric water contributed to enhancing the warming observed during 1980–2000.” This is in direct conflict with NASA, which just released its findings that 2009 was the warmest year on record.(the flattening of the global warming trend since about 2000)
    Also, according to a team of Swiss scientists, heat from other greenhouse gases is causing more water to evaporate, releasing the vapor into the atmosphere above Europe. That vapor in turn, adds to the greenhouse effect, further warming the region. (source 2005 studies) If water vapor decreased in the upper atmosphere since 2000, and more CO2 390ppm, what has caused the decrease in water vapor if the earth is still in a warming trend?

  • Adrian Burd

    Don (61)

    From what I understand, Smith and D’Aleo claim that later data sets are biased because they favor coastal (thereby warmer) sites and that they preferentially exclude high latitude sites.

    As you state, ” As anyone would conclude if you compared the average temperature data from a smaller data set made of warmer stations and compared it to a larger data set including colder stations you will have an average increase even if none exists.”

    So first, Smith and D’Aleo are claiming that a multitude of climate scientists have missed this very elementary fact. It’s possible, but exceedingly unlikely. I’m afraid that I really have to admire the temerity of Smith and D’Aleo, to stand there and effectively “You scientists are so dumb, you missed this!”. AS in the link I provided in a previous post, there were some elementary and basic tests of their hypothesis that Smith and D’Aleo could have done to show they were right. They didn’t do any of them. Someone else did and showed the Smith and D’Aleo analysis to be a red herring.

    Again, to quote one of my favorite TV programs “You don’t buy a Degas from Senor Bonatti” (kudos points to anyone who can say where that one comes from! – Big Hint: Bonatti is talking to someone called George Smiley). Caveat emptor, as they say.


  • Tom

    Adrian, Just wanted to thank you for you persistent, educated, patient, and respectful answers. I hope others appreciate that, even if they come into the fray with a disagreement over the science.

  • Don WV

    Adrian, you never responded to post (62)? I was looking forward to answer? By the way I could not find that link on Smith and D’Aleo, I must have missed it? Adrian Thanks for the debate, I really enjoy a good debate! Not that our views are that different. The only difference is I still think global warming has been exagerated.

  • Don WV

    I will leave you tonight with a email from one of my friends. This has to be one of my favorite quotes! “there is no planet B” :) I think we all need to think about this!

    hi, one sign that i saw in copenhagen (i went with a chinese ngo) captured my attention, not just for global warming but for the way we treat the environment in general. it read “there is no planet B”. i wrote on the frag ecol blog site about street slogans that decisionmakers should listen to and think about. signs can say in a few words what we tend to take much longer to write about. thanks again for the thoughtful thoughts . mickey

    Michael H. Glantz, Director
    CCB (Consortium for Capacity Building)
    University of Colorado

  • Zarquon

    There have been new developments in the Rosegate, the scandal about the way David Rose sexed up his story about the IPCC and the Himalayan glaciers. Andrew Revkin has posted an email from Murari Lal, the scientist that Rose verballed:

    I am not a Glaciologist but a Climatologist and the statement attributed to me in “Glacier scientist: I knew data hadn’t been verified” By David Rose in UK Daily Mail on 24th January 2010 has been wrongly placed. I never said this story at any time and strongly condemn the writer for attributing this to me.

    More specifically, I never said during my conversation with Rose the following statements being attributed to me:

    (a) ‘it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.’

    (b) ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.’

    (c) ‘It had importance for the region, so we thought we should put it in.’, and

    (d) ‘We as authors followed them to the letter,’ he said. ‘Had we received information that undermined the claim, we would have included it.’.

    Contrary to the claim by Rose that “Hayley Fowler of Newcastle University, suggested that their draft did not mention that Himalayan glaciers in the Karakoram range are growing rapidly,” the Asia Chapter does include this finding under section on page 477.

    What I said was “As authors, we had to report only the best available science (inclusive of a select few grey literatures as per the rules of procedure) which is “policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral” and that’s what we collectively did while writing the Asia Chapter. None of the authors in Asia Chapter were Glaciologist and we entirely trusted the findings reported in the WWF 2005 Report and the underlying references as scientifically sound and relevant in the context of climate change impacts in the region.

  • T

    Adrian Burd; “I’ve personally criticized some of the statements that Mr. Gore has made and so far, I’ve not been ostracized from the community of climate scientists.”

    So it looks like the only people left defending IPCC are not surprisingly climate scientists themselves who directly profit from all the climate alarmism.

    You are wasting your time, no sane person will ever trust “scientists” who would rather commit a crime and delete(!) their data then make it public. And not just any data but the ones on which supposedly the future of the whole planet depends! It screams scam to any neutral observer, and this scam is happening at the very top of climate establishment.

    Now add to this IPCC which supposedly provides “the most authoritative assessment of climate change” is purposefully including false statements to pressure politicians and milk funding agencies for green money and it’s becoming obvious what climate “science” is all about. If you cannot see the pattern here then it’s your problem. General public is neither blind nor stupid and this is why all the polls show public support for AGW evaporating.

    Good luck with your whitewashing Adrian, one wonders if you also have guilty conscience.

  • Adrian Burd

    Tom (64),

    Many thanks for your kinds words.


  • Adrian Burd

    Don (65)

    I’m not sure which work you’re referring to. Are you referring to the work recently published By Susan Solomon in Science? If so, I’ve not read it, nor am I an atmospheric scientist, so anything I would say may very well be wrong. However, if you look through various legitimate climate sites such as “Open Mind” and “RealClimate” you may find something.


  • Adrian Burd

    T (68)

    I really do not know where to start in answering your post, so I won’t.

    Adrian (who does indeed have a guilty conscience … about the delicious chocolate biscuit he just ate when he shouldn’t have because he was already full from the rather delicious lunch he had)

  • coolstar

    Adrian, I wish I had a tenth your patience. I will try to use your responses here as a guide when I’m asked about “controversial” topics in my field. I’ve also found Amanda Peet’s take on similar situations useful: (plus, it starts with a great xkcd comic that most who browse here may have already seen).

  • Saul

    >>> It would make for a great story if a local guy who worked for a chemical refinery took down the whole climate science establishment on the back of an envelope. Unfortunately, I have to consider the possibility that he hasn’t.

    This is a nice reference to individual rational choice .When we ask “should I waste my time on this?” we are good at finding the right answer which make things efficient. When it is someone’s else time we may become more generous. And finally, when the resource in question is public money we can become extra generous (unless we are some sort of conservative Republicans from other state than California) .

    Consider fictional scenario where we all agree that probability of AWG which leads to global catastrophe is .05. How much money we are going to bet to stop it. Even here the answer depends a lot on your attitude to spending public money which is correlated with your political affiliation. It so much more so when you ask question “How much should we know before we start … Submitting to international regulations?” If you are a liberal lawyer who believes in living and breathing Constitution and wants to see larger role of UN you would not need to know anything before submitting to international regulations, you would be looking for “science” which calls for urgency of doing it.

    >>>It might seem strange, even insane, for the public to base views of the carbon cycle and water vapor feedbacks on politics. Is it a problem of science illiteracy?

    IMHO public cares about theoretical underpinning of science just as much as an average customer of used cars cares about mechanics and thermodynamics of car engine. The questions are: (1)can I trust this dealer? (2) will this good looking car really work or will its engine blow up in a month?
    If you caught you dealer lying, you would go somewhere else. Similarly, if you got IPCC caught in 4 climategates and got NASA and NOAA using interpolation methods which generate warming , you would do not take them any seriously, nor would you consider their “science” as science.

  • Adrian Burd

    Saul (73)

    Politics aside (that’s a whole other discussion), there are some mis-representations in what you say.

    “If you caught you dealer lying, you would go somewhere else.”

    If the car dealer said that the car had an engine under the hood, but on opening the hood, one finds no engine, then yes, I suspect most people would go elsewhere. If the dealer said that the car had no scratches on its bodywork, and you found a small, 1 cm long shallow scratch on the underside of the rear fender, then I suspect most people would still stay with the dealer.

    ” Similarly, if you got IPCC caught in 4 climategates”

    Perhaps you would like to elucidate on what you think these are and their impact. I can only count two – well, one and a bit really:

    1) The melting of the Himalayan glaciers – a grand mistake, but not one that impacts the science behind global warming, climate change or the record of what is happening. The mistake arose in part from using a WWF report as a source (the WWF report had the date wrong) and was never a main conclusion of the IPCC reports.

    2) The use of a WWF report concerning the effects of global warming on the Amazon. In this case, the WWF accurately reported the science -the IPCC report should have used the primary citations, instead it used an NGO report which summarized that information, albeit accurately. So, this is not really an issue. By the way, according the rules of the IPCC, reports are allowed to cite a very small number of NGO reports.

    “got NASA and NOAA using interpolation methods which generate warming”

    OK, this is a new one on me. Are you referring to the hypothesis by Watts and Pielke about the placement of temperature sensors? Or are you referring to the hypothesis of Smith an colleagues concerning long term temperature records being biased by changing the number and distribution of stations?

    In both of the above cases those who posed the hypotheses could have done some elementary checking to see if their hypotheses were correct or not. Instead, others had to this for them and in both cases have found their hypotheses to be incorrect (see the links I’ve posted in previous comments on this thread).

    Or perhaps you’re referring to the cases in Australia and New Zealand where people posed the hypothesis that temperature time series were corrected to show a warming that was not present in the raw data? Well, the corrections were made to take account of the fact that temperature stations were moved to higher elevations and, as well all know, temperature decreases as we move to higher elevations. So in this case, the climate skeptics hypothesis is also false.

    So, if I were to take your car dealer analogy, I would not listen to or believe anything coming from Watts, Smith, D’Aleo, Pielke – i.e. some of the main characters trying to disprove global warming.

    If one were to keep a score card, even with the so-called “climategate” and the IPCC blunder, the IPCC still comes out far ahead of the skeptics whose hypotheses have been demonstrated to be incorrect.

    So again, using your car-dealer analogy, one should still prefer to “buy a car” from the IPCC, NASA or NOAA, rather than from the likes of Watts etc.

    I am actually aware of only one argument from any climate skeptic that has stood the test of time and the data. That’s the claim by McIntyre that the original Mann et al., hockey stick paper messed up their principal components analysis (this is a type of multivariate analysis that is used to
    reduce the number of variables determining the amount of variance in the data). It turns out that Mann et al., did indeed make a small mistake in their PCA analysis, and when this was accounted for, it made next to no difference in the result – the hockey stick was still there. Once the error was pointed out, Mann et al. corrected things and admitted the mistake. By the way, their codes and data are freely available.

    A modus operadni that seems prevalent amongst the climate skeptics (even those who should know better) is to do an analysis and find a discrepancy with a standard, or published, result. They then rush to their blogs or to the newspapers and claim that global warming is not happening or is grossly exaggerated. Now, I frequently re-analyse data or work through some calculations and from time to time I get a different answer than the accepted one. However, what I (and I suspect most respectable scientists do the same) do is to check and re-check my calculations. Have I missed something? Have I made a mistake? If, mulling it over I cannot find my error, I try and find out why my result differs from the accepted one. If I still cannot make these two results compatible, I contact the original authors to see if I’ve missed something, or maybe there was something I should have been aware of that was not in the original paper. Most cases never get this far, and I realize my blunder – though one has to admit that sometimes I’ve missed an assumption that, on reflection, might not be valid, and this prompts me to contact the original author and discuss our sets of results with them.

    So, the skeptics seem to assume that they are correct and the many climate scientists who have sweated over the data are wrong or have missed something (possible, but don’t ask me to put a lot of money on it). Most scientists will assume that, if they get a result contradicting others, that there is a mistake somewhere and will work very hard to find out what it is.

    As I’ve said before “You don’t buy a Degas from Snr. Bonatti”.


  • Saul

    all responses from NASA scientists to Smith, D’Aleo points (which I am aware of) look more like responses of used car dealer to presumably credulous customers. Gavin Schmidt says: ” the data do not come from us, it is another agency,” he says : ” we used interpolation and it is too subtle for you fools to understand what interpolation means .” I looked at many of those responses and they do not look pretty. What exactly you are alluding to by mentioning your above posted links?

    As long as I remember New Zeeland “skeptics” come with some calculations, not just general ideas about altitude influence. There is also those Russian report about missing data stations and the calculations that show the impact of this action.

    >>However, what I (and I suspect most respectable scientists do the same) do is to check and re-check my calculations. Have I missed something?

    CRU folks would not thin this way, or else why to hide the data and calculations?IPCC: The climategate #1 exposed criminal behavior in violating the FOIA (it is now official). That was a crime, plain and simple. The other climategates undermined the clime of robustness of IPCC scrutiny, which was a big advertisement points: “consensus,” “robust peer reviews.” When one claims that there is consensus and that science is robust and then it happened to be completely false, who needs to care about or take seriously the content of “science” (or of used car sales pitch)?

    How many climategates do we need to start asking questions?
    I guess the answer would totally depend on political affiliation :-)

  • Adrian Burd

    Saul (75)

    “all responses from NASA scientists to Smith, D’Aleo points (which I am aware of) look more like responses of used car dealer to presumably credulous customers. Gavin Schmidt says: ” the data do not come from us, it is another agency,” he says : ” we used interpolation and it is too subtle for you fools to understand what interpolation means .” ”

    How about this, from Gavin Schmidt

    “Their claim is apparently that coastal station absolute temperatures are being used to estimate the current absolute temperatures in mountain regions and that the anomalies there are warm because the coast is warmer than the mountain. This is simply wrong. What is actually done is that temperature anomalies are calculated locally from local baselines, and these anomalies can be interpolated over quite large distances. This is perfectly fine and checkable by looking at the pairwise correlations at the monthly stations between different stations (London-Paris or New York-Cleveland or LA-San Francisco). The second thread in their ‘accusation’ is that the agencies are deleting records, but this just underscores their lack of understanding of where the GHCN data set actually comes from. This is thoroughly discussed in Peterson and Vose (1997) which indicates where the data came from and which data streams give real time updates. The principle one is the CLIMAT updates of monthly mean temperature via the WMO network of reports. These are distributed by the Nat. Met. Services who have decided which stations they choose to produce monthly mean data for (and how it is calculated) and [has] absolutely nothing to do with NCDC or NASA.”

    I don’t see anywhere where Schmidt says “it is too subtle for you fools to understand”. Perhaps you could point me to where you got this quote from – it is a quote isn’t it? Notice that Gavin gives an explicit reference, so you can follow that up and find out exactly what was done.

    By the way, if you wish to learn something of how things are done and why they are done, you can read Tamino’s blog “Open Mind”. There he discusses technical aspects of why and how climate data are analyzed.

    Further, you state “As long as I remember New Zeeland “skeptics” come with some calculations, not just general ideas about altitude influence.” Your point being? Calculations can be wrong as well! To see an explanation of the New Zealand debacle, look here

    “CRU folks would not thin this way, or else why to hide the data and calculations?”

    Actually, I would be surprised if they did not think this way, and there is no credible evidence that they have hidden data or calculations.

    “The climategate #1 exposed criminal behavior in violating the FOIA (it is now official).”

    First of all, the data was dumped back in the 1980s. Also, the original data still exist, and yes, even you can ask for them (look at the last sentence in this extract from

    “At issue is raw data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, including surface temperature averages from weather stations around the world. The data was used in assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reports that EPA has used in turn to formulate its climate policies.

    Citing a statement on the research unit’s Web site, CEI blasted the research unit for the “suspicious destruction of its original data.” According to CRU’s Web site, “Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e. quality controlled and homogenized) data.”

    Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit, said that the vast majority of the station data was not altered at all, and the small amount that was changed was adjusted for consistency.

    The research unit has deleted less than 5 percent of its original station data from its database because the stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends, Jones said.

    “When you’re looking at climate data, you don’t want stations that are showing urban warming trends,” Jones said, “so we’ve taken them out.” Most of the stations for which data was removed are located in areas where there were already dense monitoring networks, he added. “We rarely removed a station in a data-sparse region of the world.”

    Refuting CEI’s claims of data-destruction, Jones said, “We haven’t destroyed anything. The data is still there — you can still get these stations from the [NOAA] National Climatic Data Center.”"

    On this basis, I’ve destroyed data. I’ve deleted data from my computer. Do the data still exist? Yes!! Either as backups, or in paper form somewhere else.

    “The other climategates undermined the clime of robustness of IPCC scrutiny, which was a big advertisement points: “consensus,” “robust peer reviews.” When one claims that there is consensus and that science is robust and then it happened to be completely false, who needs to care about or take seriously the content of “science” (or of used car sales pitch)?”

    The science, as far as we know it (and there’s a great deal we do not know), is pretty robust. To give you an idea as to how science is actually done, take the recent article by Solomon showing the effects of stratospheric water vapour. This is something people hadn’t really considered before, and there’s still a great deal we don’t know about it, but her work has opened up new questions and new lines of investigation.

    I repeat, the science in the IPCC report is NOT “completely false” as you claim. One very small sentence about the the effects of global warming on Himalayan glaciers was shown to be wrong. One sentence out of the hundreds of thousands in the IPCC report.

    “How many climategates do we need to start asking questions?”

    Scientists ALWAYS ask questions, it’s what we do BY DEFINITION!!!!! Given your predilection for swallowing anything that comes out of places like climateaudit, perhaps it’s YOU who should be asking questions.

    “I guess the answer would totally depend on political affiliation”

    I guess it does doesn’t it……let me know when you start asking questions.


  • Adrian Burd

    I’ve been thinking more about the comments by Saul and others. Saul (#75) says

    “When one claims that there is consensus and that science is robust and then it happened to be completely false, who needs to care about or take seriously the content of “science” (or of used car sales pitch)?”

    Firstly, there was (as far as we know) one mistake in the IPCC report – a mistake that had nothing to do with the science behind climate change, but instead was a prediction of what would happen in the future if global warming continued apace. If average global temperatures continue to rise then at some point, the glaciers will melt (unless global warming also brings about a cessation of the laws of physics), the date given in the IPCC report was woefully incorrect. This prediction had nothing to do with the science underlying global warming. Yet Saul appears to claim that this makes all the science behind global warming “completely false”. This seems a huge leap.

    Earlier in post #75, Saul states:

    “all responses from NASA scientists to Smith, D’Aleo points (which I am aware of) look more like responses of used car dealer to presumably credulous customers.”

    So, in other words, Saul doesn’t believe the climate scientists. Why? I don’t know. Instead he seems to believe Smith and D’Aleo. Why?

    Doing a quick internet search for various climate related stories one tends to find that the first several pages of links refer to pages of noted climate skeptic sites (climateaudit, wattsupwiththat etc) and of other climate skeptic sites linking back to them. In fact, one has to dig quite far to get to the responses by the climate science community. Is this because answers are not forthcoming? No. It seems partly because the climate science community takes care and time to assess the claims of skeptics. The popularity of the skeptic sites also accounts for this low signal strength in internet searches.

    However, if one does dig, and one is persistent, one does find that just about every claim from all the skeptics has been shown to be either false or not to make a difference. Current global warming is caused by cosmic rays – no. It’s an artifact of the way you handle data – no. It’s caused by the sun – no. etc. etc.

    Saul goes on to say:

    “How many climategates do we need to start asking questions?”

    I agree. How many times does a “climate skeptic” have to be wrong before people stop believing them? After all, it would appear that Saul disbelieves climate scientists at the drop of a hat – the first minor, tangentially related mistake and the whole of climate science is questionable. Yet Watts, Pielke, Smith, D’Aleo, McIntyre….oh boy, they’re always believable.

    So, perhaps it’s not really about asking questions. If it were, Saul would be equally inquisitive about the climate skeptics. He appears not to be. Why?

    My suspicion is that Saul, and those like him, hold these views because of their preconceived notions. Climate scientists are telling them things they don’t want to hear, so they take the slightest opportunity to attack it without applying the same criteria to the arguments (and motives) of the skeptics.

    The fact of the matter is that there is now a vast body of disparate data and science pointing towards global warming. There is similarly a vast body of disparate data and science pointing towards the role that human activity plays in global warming. The tactics of the deniers are not to challenge this corpus of knowledge directly (they would lose). Instead, they snip at the heels with many rapid, small attacks. All the casual on-looker sees is the multitude of these attacks and, seeing their large number, concludes that there must be something to these arguments. Without digging further, they do not realize that all these attacks either are false, or have no impact on the conclusions of climate change science. Those, like Saul, who call for people to question the climate scientists do not make similar calls to question the climate skeptics; it’s one-sided. Similar tactics are employed by those who argue against evolution.

    Saul suggests that:

    “I guess the answer would totally depend on political affiliation”

    I disagree. I know scientists whose politics are right of center and yet are convinced of climate change and the role humans play. I think it is more likely that those like Saul see something they do want to hear and rather than examining it and examining their own lives and thoughts, fight hard against the messengers. Rather than live in the real world, they wish to continue to delude themselves that things are ok, that they don’t have to change what they do and the way in which they live.

    How do we change this? I don’t know. Scientists must do a better job of communicating their science and showing that the arguments of the climate skeptics are wrong (where they are indeed wrong). People in general need to do a better job in confronting themselves and asking themselves tough questions about the way they live.


  • Tony

    Adrian: “Firstly, there was (as far as we know) one mistake in the IPCC report”

    One mistake in IPCC?

    1. Glaciergate – publishing of an absurdly false prediction which claims that lives of millions of people will be in grave danger despite knowing full well (scientists informed IPCC about the error well before publication) that it is nonsense just to press politicians and obtain million dollar grants. This alone is enough to sink the credibility of IPCC forever, but there is more, much more:
    2. Amazon – another set of absurd false claims.
    3. Using anecdotes from student dissertation as credible scientific evidence.
    4. Using anecdotes from mountaineering magazine(!) as credible scientific evidence.
    5. Using not peer reviewed WWF nonsense in numerous other cases beyond the above.

    And those are just examples found during the last few days of which I am aware, there are likely many more.

    This is *pseudoscience* plain and simple. As a scientist myself I am appalled that some pathetic characters at the top of climate research decided to squander public trust of science for their own political and financial gain, this fiasco will hunt all of science for decades.

    And you Adrian, as a climate scientist and a true believer (i presume) that AGW is a serious threat to the planet, should be even more appalled as the actions of IPCC and some of your peers not only put the whole discipline in a terrible light they also irreparably harm all efforts aimed at preventing AGW – so they indirectly contribute to the demise of millions of people which according to the likes of you will die due to catastrophic climate change.

  • Adrian Burd

    Tony (#78)


    “One mistake in IPCC?
    1. Glaciergate – publishing of an absurdly false prediction which claims that lives of millions of people will be in grave danger despite knowing full well (scientists informed IPCC about the error well before publication) that it is nonsense just to press politicians and obtain million dollar grants. This alone is enough to sink the credibility of IPCC forever, but there is more, much more:”

    Yes, that’s the one – at least it was the only one I was aware of on Sunday.

    “2. Amazon – another set of absurd false claims.”

    No idea what you’re talking about here. If you’re talking about the reference to drought in the Amazon, this is not “absurd”, not “false”. Yes, the authors of WGII quoted a WWF report which in turn ACCURATELY described the published science – see the following.

    “3. Using anecdotes from student dissertation as credible scientific evidence.
    4. Using anecdotes from mountaineering magazine(!) as credible scientific evidence.”

    Since these were described in the Sunday Telegraph (affectionately known as the Torygraph) over the weekend, and that’s not something I’m in the habit of reading (even on an occasional basis), it’s not surprising that that was not in my count.

    “5. Using not peer reviewed WWF nonsense in numerous other cases beyond the above.”

    Come on Tony, be quantitative why don’t you? How many times exactly? Which page numbers? Have you checked? Where are the references to WWF in WGI?

    “This is *pseudoscience* plain and simple.”

    All the above examples occur in WGII (I’m assuming you know what that is). If you think that errors in WGII affect the scientific underpinnings of climate change and global warming, then, well, I suggest you do some more background reading from reputable sources. To clarify

    WG I: The Physical Science Basis
    WG II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
    WG III: Mitigation of Climate Change.

    “And you Adrian, as a climate scientist…”

    Ummm….I don’t believe that I have ever characterized myself as such, here or anywhere. Some of research involves climate, but that’s not how I would characterize myself.

    ” …[you] should be even more appalled as the actions of IPCC and some of your peers …”

    Thank you for telling me how I should feel, I was trying to figure it out for myself but was having trouble.

    “…contribute to the demise of millions of people which according to the likes of you will die due to catastrophic climate change.”

    Did I say that? Did I say that millions of people will die? Funny, I don’t recall ever saying that, writing that or thinking that. Can you provide me with the reference, I seem to have lost it.


  • Patrick Lalande

    “The best we can do as scientists and science writers is respect those political differences, state what’s known as clearly as possible, and be honest about what’s not known.” – Faye Flam

    Scientists are not being intellectually honest when they enter the political arena. There is never a time to politicize science because that draws into question their motives and casts doubt upon their methods and data.

    Great science and great scientists have all been silenced by political processes both in and out of the science community.

    If science is to be redeemed, for the betterment of mankind, it is up to the those that revere science to see that the stain of politics is removed and remain absent in their discussions. If any individual can not do this then they dishonor science and should give up their rights to carry the title of “scientist” with honor.

  • Jules

    John @ #37:

    Even if I was a climate skeptic, I wouldn’t donate anything to those folks. They just have a habit of denying any science that’s inconvenient for their politics. Not smart.

  • Russell

    Thankyou for the reasoned article, there doesn’t seem to be enough of them.

    I wonder about the scientific illiteracy cliam, though – managing error and uncertainty are a large part of science (I’d hazard a guess that it’s in a different manner to engineering). The understanding of the impact and meaning of error – which apply from statitsical error in psychological studies right through to the physical error when using large hadron colliders – is essential to science. This broad understanding should ideally be taught in high school, not just atomic theory and Pavlov’s dog, which are specific to individual fields.

    In short I think scientific literacy is more about the understanding of factors such as error than it is about trivial facts like rubidum’s atomic weight or the width of a mitochondria. The lack of this form of scientific literacy is hampering the climate change discussions to a great degree.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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