If Only Oil Spills Would Evaporate Like Climategate

By Sean Carroll | June 25, 2010 6:04 pm

Even if I’m on hiatus, there’s no reason not to post links to interesting things that I would be tweeting anyway. Blogs are still much better places to have conversations, whatever the Twitter triumphalists might think.

With that in mind: check out this story by Sharon Begley from Newsweek, on how media are slowly backing away from the Climategate hysteria. (Via PZ.) She very rightly highlights the real damage: the backing-away won’t undo all the misimpressions of scientific malfeasance that people absorbed when the story was at its height.

  • http://sarajdavis.net/ Non-Believer

    I wonder why people always remember the mistake or the lie and ignore correction and honesty. I hope her article helps to inform and bring more attention to the mistake.

    I get so frustrated when people are wasting energy on the pointless debate of whether Climate change exists. There are so many legitimate issues that need to be debated on this subject, so many avenues that need to explored and discussed and researched and we are drowning in the mire of the misinformed debate. We have barely touched the surface of the real issues in the public media because they can’t get past climate gate.

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  • Dougetit

    Because the media has backed off climategate doesn’t mean it evaporated.

    The hits just keep on coming.


  • http://rationaldreaming.com Dreamer


    What a ridiculously hyperventilating article. The Norwegian government rep says”I find that this paper, which certainly can be correct, is given too much weight” and the writer of the piece tosses the words “scandal” and “fraud” around as if they were confetti.

    No wonder climate deniers are hard to take seriously.

  • http://popast.nu Robert Cumming

    So the only arguments which work on the deniers will be the ones that back up one of their other opinions.

    In this case: you can’t trust the newspapers to give you the truth on climate change.

  • count nukem

    “But not only did British investigators clear the East Anglia scientist at the center of it all, Phil Jones, of scientific impropriety and dishonesty in April…”

    Hmmm…, anyone who cares to look at the details can’t help to notice that both of the CRU investigations where more like a whitewash:




    The “ivestigations” do not clear CRU, they only implicate those who were involved in the investigations. No ammount of propaganda in MSM will hide the fact the corruption and dishonesty found home in the highest levels of scientific establishments in UK and USA. Have a look at this stab at PNAS:


  • count nukem

    Here is latest news about Lord Oxburgh “investigation”: the opinions where not unanimous, but if a professional carbon trader decides what the bottomline should be then you alraedy know waht will be the result:


  • ecocampaigner

    The scandal was that this paper was attacked as non-peer reviewed. It actually was peer reviewed, but the citation was not included, so it looked like it came straight from the WWF.

    More importantly than the citation or peer review issue, is the fact that this study in question has been proven false, if it was peer reviewed or not. The study uses modeling from 1998 to suggest that …

    “that up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically and be replaced by savannas from even a slight reduction in rainfall.”

    … but that was just a model forecast. In 2005, a real drought actually happened, of far more magnitude than the model used. Subsequent research has shown that the predictions of the WWF paper were incorrect. Real world actual data, as opposed to model data, showed that the 2005 dought had no significant effect on the rain forest. This new study was fully peer reviewed, and carried out by a joint team from NASA and Brazil.


    Both Deniers and Warmists were wrong on this one. The deniers were wrong on the WWF paper’s legitimacy and the Warmists were wrong on the validity of the paper’s conclusions.

    Both sides need to be willing to take criticism, and accept that new evidence can prove them wrong.

  • Steven Douglas

    Evaporated? Wishful thinking in a title; one that, ironically, proves that it is still in the forefront, and far from evaporated.

  • Dr. Morbius

    The reason this happens is that currently the media is only interested in sensationalizing the news. Whether something is accurate or not is a secondary consideration. If they actually broadcast the news rationally and calmly it wouldn’t be as entertaining.

  • Gordon

    Just what misconceptions, Sean? BTW, you cannot lump all “deniers” in the same category.
    One can question things about the IPCC version, and the actual importance of climate change without denying that warming is occurring; yet, you would likely slot them into the denier box. The arrogance of the AGWers is staggering. Do you really believe that East Anglia’s troubles were all fictional? What about the code and the comments from the programmer who was checking it? Come on….

  • Haelfix

    I hate polarized stances. A lot of orthodox climate scientists treats every denyer like they were complete imbeciles (nevermind some of those imbeciles have nobel laureates in the hard sciences). Many denyers treat every AGW like they were Michael Mann or Hansen, read paranoid individuals who think big oil is out to get them..

    Meanwhile the truth is that theres a lot more consensus between factions than is really demonstrated in internet conversations, were people to actually listen rather than just high horse it out. For instance, I very much doubt most ‘deniers’ believe there is zero human cause to the empirical warming of the 20th century . Of course, the devil is in the details.

  • Arrow

    What did you expect Sean? That the press will keep reporting the same news forever?

    Climategate happened, it was reported and the damage to climate science credibility is a done deal.

    I for one will never trust a “scientists” who would rather commit a crime by deleting the data subjected to FOI then release it for verification. The crappy quality of the modeling code and dirty politics used to silence any dissent only solidify my perception that climate science is more about politics then truth.

    The damage caused by climategate won’t evaporate until we see some spectacular success coming from climate science, but don’t hold your breath.

    But the main problem with anthropogenic global warming hypothesis is not climategate, it’s the fact that there is absolutely no evidence linking man-made emissions to the warming seen in the last decade. Such a link can only be proven using climate models since we cannot repeat the last century without human intervention. Unfortunately there are no reliable models of the global climate.

    As you know very well Sean before a complex scientific model can be trusted it first has to be verified by comparing it’s predictions with actual data. Only if the model reliably predicts the data it’s predictions can be trusted, in the case of climate science there are no such models when it comes to global climate, not a single climate model has passed such a test. Not a single climate model has been able to correctly postdict the climate of the past century. Not a single climate model has been able to predict the almost complete absence of warming in the last decade. Without such verified climate models there is simply no way to test how big an impact man-made emissions have on climate and therefore *anthropogenic* global warming is only a plausible hypothesis.

  • Janne
  • Carl Brannen

    I started college back before the left wing academic geniuses got onto the CO2 kick. The climate fear back then was that we’d go into a new ice age. This is basic geology; it’s where we are going to be in a few thousand years. But you couldn’t blame the west for something that’s been cycling for 2.6 million years, so the ivory tower and their lackeys in the free press largely ignored it.

    Back then they were still openly Marxist. They believed that the Soviet Union was a worker’s paradise while workers in the United States were essentially slaves. Probably the high point of the whole thing was when a communist literature teacher took control of Cambodia. He banned money. He made the population write short autobiographies. If they didn’t like your essay they beat you to death.

    I don’t think the global warming stick is going to come back. Individually, you can believe whatever you want to believe. But the evidence is sufficiently clear that the strong government push towards CO2 amelioration is over. The political will is gone. I wonder what the next bad idea will be.

  • Janne

    You should have nuked those dirty commie bastards.

  • Carl Brannen

    I should probably add that, at least for a while, Pol Pot was a US ally. It was a great power thing, US and China versus the Soviet Union. So nuking him wasn’t an option. I forget if he was still in power at the time that the US supported him. There was also a time where he gave up Marxism in favor of outright nationalism, but no one seemed to believe him on this.

  • sHx

    @8. ecocampaigner Says:
    June 26th, 2010 at 9:15 am
    “The scandal was that this paper was attacked as non-peer reviewed. It actually was peer reviewed, but the citation was not included, so it looked like it came straight from the WWF.

    Both Deniers and Warmists were wrong on this one. The deniers were wrong on the WWF paper’s legitimacy and the Warmists were wrong on the validity of the paper’s conclusions.”

    That is not correct. It actually was NOT peer-reviewed. I repeat the Amazon rainforest story and the figure of “40%” being under threat does not originate from any peer-reviewed paper whatsoever.

    The Sunday Times retraction has mistakenly led CAGW cultists to believe the IPCC has been vindicated. Since Thursday, George Monbiot has been asked repeatedly to provide the citation for the claim, but eco-warrior Monbiot has gone MIA. He doesn’t have it. There is none. Monbiot and others have made gaggle of geese of themselves and their devotees by pre-mature triumphalism, and now they are in hiding.

    For those who still think that the IPCC claim was based on peer-reviewed literature, here is the story straight from the horse’s mouth:


    “31 January 2010

    A WWF/IUCN Global Review of Forest Fires (2000) has been the subject of comment in media regarding its use as a source for the IPCC and questioning the credibility of some of its claims. Some commentators have concluded that potential climate impacts on the Amazon are overstated and unsupported. WWF refutes this conclusion and stands by the credibility of its report.

    WWF-UK would like to clarify the following details:

    • The Global Review of Forest Fires says that “up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall.” WWF’s source for this statement was Fire in the Amazon, a 1999 overview of Amazon fire issues from the respected Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM – Amazon Environmental Research Institute). The source quotation from Fire in the Amazon reads “Probably 30 to 40% of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon are sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall.” Our report does NOT say that 40% of the Amazon forest is at risk from climate change.

    • WWF acknowledges that a reference to Fire in the Amazon as the source of the 40% claim outlined above was mistakenly omitted during the editing process of the Global Review of Forest Fires report.

    • The essential point made in the report (and referred to by the IPCC) is that reduced rainfall increases fire risk and that a drying of the “normally fire-resistant Amazon forest” could impact the hydrologic cycle with implications for regional and global climate.


    1. The IPPC references to a WWF report, relying on an assertion FROM WHICH THE REFERENCE HAS BEEN “MISTAKENLY OMITTED”.

    2. THEREFORE, the IPPC is relying on a source which is not peer reviewed which has made (in the document) an UNREFERENCED statement..

    3. THE WWF claims as its source a document: “Fire in the Amazon” as the source of the 40% claim, with the reference “mistakenly omitted”.

    4. HOWEVER, “Fire in the Amazon” is also a non-peer reviewed document.

    5. THUS, the IPPC relies on a non-peer-reviewed document for an assertion which originates from a document which in not specified but which turns out also to be non-peer-reviewed.

    6. Furthermore, the WWF claims its reference refers to the Brazilian Amazon – its report does NOT say that 40% of the Amazon forest is at risk from climate change. But that is what the IPPC does say. But the Brazilian Amazon is less than half the total area of the entire Amazon forest. “

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    Historical narratives always have an element of fiction about them because no matter how scrupulous their creators, they radically simplify events. Mr. Brannen’s version of the 20th Century, however, amounts to the script of an hallucination.

  • http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/quotes Jack D. Ripper

    I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

  • toasterhead

    18. sHx Says:
    June 28th, 2010 at 1:48 am

    1. The IPPC references to a WWF report…
    2. THEREFORE, the IPPC is relying on a source…
    5. THUS, the IPPC relies on…
    6. But that is what the IPPC does say…

    The IPPC is the Initiative for Pediatric Palliative Care, which has little if anything to do with climate science. Perhaps you were meaning to refer to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which goes by the acronym IPCC. This is quite a glaring error that you failed to correct on four occasions.

    As an obvious proponent of science denier logic, I’m sure you’ll agree that since this small detail of your argument is incorrect, the entirety of your argument has thus been rendered invalid. This ruling applies to all of your prior and future postings on this and other forums, as they have all been invalidated by this grievous error.

  • sHx


    toasterhead, ha ha! I am pretty error prone myself with spelling and grammar but if you look carefully you’ll find that those particular mistakes were made by WWF, the World Wrestling Federation. Wrestlers tend to be thin on their science.

  • Maxxed

    What the author fails to explain is that these liars and their institutions were “cleared of wringdoing” by investigations populated by their own staffs.

  • Slide2112

    Not all physicist like Sean want to believe politics before science.

    “My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.” – Freeman Dyson


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .


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