Nature Editorial on Climate Emails

By Chris Mooney | December 3, 2009 12:54 pm

Another major scientific voice–Nature‘s editorial page–has now come out stating that the Swifthack affair has no impact on the credibility of mainstream climate science:

Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails.

And again:

The stolen e-mails have prompted queries about whether Nature will investigate some of the researchers’ own papers. One e-mail talked of displaying the data using a ‘trick’ — slang for a clever (and legitimate) technique, but a word that denialists have used to accuse the researchers of fabricating their results. It is Nature‘s policy to investigate such matters if there are substantive reasons for concern, but nothing we have seen so far in the e-mails qualifies.

From people familiar with modern climate science and the robustness of its conclusions, I can confidently predict that this message will continue to be echoed. You can read the full Nature editorial here.

Comments (54)

  1. It is a sad thing that the primary audience of the Climategate smear campaign — that being the Fox News – Talk Radio – Conservative Blog audience — isn’t reading Nature magazine or any other authentic science magazine, nor would they heed anything that these magazines or actual scientists say, nor would any amount of scientific evidence convince them of anything.

    At some point is becomes necessary to surrender the anti-science nuts to their nuttiness. Bypass them and leave them in the dustbin of history.

    The creationists and young-earthers and flood geologists are still active 150 years after Darwin and their audience, that small percentage of the public who won’t accept scientific conclusions under any circumstance, will keep on going with them until the movement finally dies out for good. They’re well beyond the reach of science, reason, logic and evidence.

    The climate change denial crowd is going to still deny climate change even after Bangladesh, New Orleans, Miami and New York City are all underwater. The oil industry will keep on denying global warming until the last molecule of fossil carbon is burnt into the atmosphere. Americans aren’t going to change their lifestyle until China cuts up America’s credit card, and even then the Chinese will simply replace the Americans as polluters since the Chinese seem more than happy to live in cities so smoggy that they cannot even see the sun.

    Humankind is hellbent of self-destruction. I don’t see this cycle stopping until humankind has finished driving itself extinct.

    It is tough to get 180+ nations to agree about anything, especially something which involves mutual cooperation and sacrifice and radically modifying humankind’s place in the Universe. It demands too much humility from a species which has anointed itself the King of the Earth and the Most Intelligent Animal in the Universe.

    There’s an article in Wired Magazine saying this very thing. Humans are just so smart and inventive that no amount of damage to the Earth is sufficient to knock us out. We’ll invent our way out of every single problem just as James Bond can defy death against all odds.

    What is ironic is that the article mentions all of the mass extinction events in the past and somehow the author imagines that humankind is exempt from such a fate. Stupid, stupid animal. Humankind is a hopelessly self-destructive evolutionary dead end.

  2. Janus

    You people just don’t get it! In a war of perception, FACTS DON’T MATTER. This event has given the public the perception that scientists (not all, not a majority, but some at least) have been FAKING IT. It has delivered a crushing blow to the credibility of climate research everywhere. Too many people are wondering the same thing now: just how much have “they” deceived us. You can’t tell us “Well THIS data is accurate. Trust us.” That won’t win over anyone stung by the revelation of scientists lying and deceiving the public.

    You need to stop trying to pretend this incident is of no concern, when it is a huge concern in the realm of public opinion. You don’t win public opinion with dry data. You win it by sending out your big guns, the scientists that are well known and well respected, to APOLOGIZE for the behavior of their own kind and to try, somehow try, to convince a now jaded public that there is a real problem. And instead of trying to downplay the incident, you need to publicly and loudly denounce and crucify the deceivers.

    Your house is a mess, and you’d better start cleaning it up!

  3. IGORE

    These emails show “scientists” hiding data, blackballing and conspiring to destroy the careers( LIVES) of others scientists that do not share their misguided OPINIONS on man made global warming. All those should be investigate for FRAUD and STEALING FROM THE AMERICAN TAXPAYERS! Not to mention racketeering. Scientists covering up the facts stand to make money on grants!! This all goes to AL GORE and his plan to CHARGE CARBON CREDITS.
    WAKE UP AND SMELL THE FACTS! Notice how global warming has become “CLIMATE CHANGE” due to the last 4 years of cooling.

  4. This event has given the public the perception that scientists (not all, not a majority, but some at least) have been FAKING IT.

    Says who? I know you think that facts don’t matter. But try supporting your conclusions with some evidence anyway.

    You win it by sending out your big guns, the scientists that are well known and well respected, to APOLOGIZE for the behavior of their own kind

    Sure, that’s bound to work. What are they supposed to apologize for again? Are they supposed to apologize for things people think they’ve done?

    And seriously, “their own kind”?

    And instead of trying to downplay the incident, you need to publicly and loudly denounce and crucify the deceivers.

    And now we’re back to the Galileo topic. Who’s trying to silence who now?

  5. “It has delivered a crushing blow to the credibility of climate research everywhere. ”

    No, Janus. Not “everywhere.” Not “a crushing blow.” That’s the kind of language you hear from cranks and ideologues. Thanks for playing.

    * * *
    Now, there’s no denying that the email fracas is a Big Win for the denialists . . . in the Court of Manufactured Public Opinion.

    In this court, vetted evidence and deliberation count for much less than speeches and courtroom antics. The concerns of a bubba faced with a world where he doesn’t have a vehicle on which to hang Truck Nutz mean more to the court than the prospect of no more polar bears or wrecked ecosystems. The anecdotes by some fearful, narrow-minded midwestern church lady outweigh all the evidence for evolution.

    Actual scientists, and policy planners in places like the DOD, don’t pay attention to the decisions of the Court of Manufactured Public Opinion.

    Unfortunately, politicians do. The fossil fuel industry has a lobby Bubba votes. The Church Lady will run for for the board of education.

  6. I love how this:

    These emails show “scientists” hiding data, blackballing and conspiring to destroy the careers( LIVES) of others scientists

    was posted immediately after this:

    you need to publicly and loudly denounce and crucify the deceivers.

  7. Jon

    loudly denounce and crucify the deceivers.

    Man, this is twisted stuff. Substance free too.

  8. vic

    What is really distressing to me about the whole affair is the state of disrepute it place ALL of 21 st century ” Big Science”

    Until iIread the nature editorial above I had always considered Nature to be the epitome of science. I can no longer do that.

    The editorials author remains anonymous but his diatribe makes his science and scientific bent suspect.

    here is why:
    1. “This paranoid interpretation would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse to stiffen their opposition …”

    Are these the words of a scientist opining in the foremost scientific journal in the world, or the words of a political hack.

    2. ” denialists often maintain……” and ” e-mails reveals nothing to support the denialists’ conspiracy theories”

    This is not fair reasoned and balanced well thought out words coming from the mouth of a scientist…… this increasingly shrill tone sounds awfully like the high priest of an evangelical religion threatening fire and brimstone and eternal damnation against heretics and apostates. Calling them skeptics is OK, skepticism has a long and honorable tradition in science. Calling them “denialists” takes on a somewhat more strident religios tone…no!
    Iis this what science has become.

    Shame on you, editor for be besmirching your PhD.

    And more importantly … Shame on you ” Nature” for allowing a reputation for scientific integrity build over so many years to allow this shameless rant to occupy your editorial space.

  9. Sorbet

    It’s interesting that the Nature editorial does not say anything about hiding the decline.

  10. bilbo

    …probably because said decline was the actual focus of the original Nature paper. The “hide the decline” conspiracy goes away when you consider the context of why the paper was even written in the first place.

  11. Ian

    Isn’t claiming that “climategate” is indicate of some massive international climate science conspiracy somewhat akin to claiming that the Catholic church is an organization entirely devoted to the sodomization of childen?

    It is usually more likely that things such as this are explained by the ignorance, apathy, greed, or fear of a few rather than the intention, intelligence, and perfect cooperation of many.

  12. The editorial title is misleading. It is not climatologist who are under pressure, but only those who are being accused of wrongdoing.
    This is the first time I see someone referring to the e-mails as being “stolen”. There is also the possibility that someone from inside CRU wanted the truth to be known.
    It is not only to “denialists” that the leaked e-mails seem at least confusing. What we see in some of these emails is not what we expected from reputable scientists. To mention just one example: asking to delete some e-mails is not a very transparent way to play.
    I believe in science and up to this morning I also had Nature in high esteem.
    I hope this editorial will be revised.
    Saludos,
    Al Godar

  13. Eric Barnes

    It is so disappointing that Discover can’t even see that this is not a problem of the science of AGW, but a problem of ethics of a group of very influential scientists. It must have been a real struggle for Discover “journailsts”? to read those emails and then come up with the apology for some extremely unethical and even criminal behavior. I’ll be going elsewhere with my dollars when I’m at the local bookstore.

  14. Brian Too

    In the past week I have been involved in multiple conversations that mentioned “tricks” and suggested “tricky techniques”. Nothing to do with the East Anglia situation, not even science. It’s internal shop talk referencing non-obvious algorithms. Not only is there no hint of deception, but the authors of the tricks are proud of themselves because this displays skill and intelligence. They become the go-to people with answers.

    Therefore I find it more than passing strange that people, most already with a clear agenda towards denying climate change, seize upon this word as “proof” that climate change is wrong.

    Really? It’s proof? Not so much.

  15. It is not climatologist who are under pressure, but only those who are being accused of wrongdoing.

    You think so? Here’s what Republicans are doing with the pseudo-scandal:

    The letter calls on EPA to withdraw several regulatory initiatives until it can show the science underlying them has not been compromised. They want the agency to pull back its proposed endangerment finding that greenhouse gas emissions threaten human health and welfare, a precursor to regulatory emissions limits. They also want to halt planned rules on emissions from cars and light trucks.

    So CRU gets hacked and Republicans demand that the EPA withdraw it’s initiatives and waste time on a top-down review of all the science despite the fact that the EPA isn’t the CRU.

    This is the first time I see someone referring to the e-mails as being “stolen”. There is also the possibility that someone from inside CRU wanted the truth to be known.

    Unless Phil Jones is your mystery whistleblower, his emails were stolen.

    To mention just one example: asking to delete some e-mails is not a very transparent way to play.

    Remembering that all of this is based on the work of anonymous hackers. I don’t suppose everyone on your side has suddenly decided to give open access to their own emails?

    I believe in science and up to this morning I also had Nature in high esteem.

    I’m sure you did.

    I hope this editorial will be revised.

    I’m sure you do.

  16. Sorbet

    Bilbo, no conspiracy, but extremely bad scientific practice. Graphing another measurement’s increase on the initial measurement’s decline is not scientifically honest by any standards. John Tierney clearly shows the two graphs:

    http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/hacking-the-climate-debate/#more-7709

    As scientists who have long argued the global warming, let’s uphold the highest standards of scientific integrity and call a spade a spade.

  17. Sorbet

    that should be “the global warming cause”

  18. bilbo

    First off, Sorbet, I’ve never argued for global warming as a “cause.” I’ve argued it as science. At least that’s howI interpreted what you said.

    Anyway, I still think you’re missing the issue with the Briffa et al. debacle. In the blog you linked to, the blogger says “Scientists preparing the top graph discussed how to “hide the decline” in the green line, which was taken from recent tree-ring analyses they considered unreliable.”

    The key phrase here is “recent tree-ring analyses they considered unreliable”, because that was the very reason the Mann et al. and Briffa et al. papers were written to begin with. In the climate proxy world, it has long been held that some proxy data are unreliable in reconstructing recent temperature data due to a complex, scientifically-valid laundry list of factors – not simply because actual temperatures don’t match the proxy data. “The decline” in the proxy data at issue here was decided to be a false read far before Mann or anyone who any code to “hide” it, and for reasons much deeper than that it doesn’t give credence to one specific view of climate change. This is just a much more complex issue than “bad scientific practice,” and its an issue that can’t b grapsed by looking at the Swifthack emails (or Bob-Somebody’s blog post) alone.

  19. bilbo

    “who” should be “wrote” above.

  20. gonzo

    Frankly, as an environmentalist for 20 years, I always thought Nature would be ideologically captured by industry, since they had the resources.

    Instead, the editorial linked above proves that Nature while no longer scientific, has instead become ideologically the tool of AGW zealots and not AGW scientists.

    Exhibit A: The use of the term “denialist” — a loaded agenda laden word plainly intended to meme-morph the AGW skeptics into some kind of equivalent with deniers of the Shoah. I noticed when Republicans started changing “late term” abortion to “partial birth abortion” that it reflected a desperation in their tone and an effort to smear just by the words used. Real independent reporters resisted, and refused to use that phrase in independent reporting. Yet here is Nature putting all its prestige behind a similarly loaded term. That speaks volumes to me. It speaks of an agenda being advanced by those so enthralled with themselves that they will lower the tenor of the debate to word games just to further their cause.

    Exhibit B: Saying that the intention to seek to exclude perceived heretical papers doesn’t matter as long as the papers were, en the end, discussed. I suppose that we must give a prosecutor who is caught in private emails making racial comments the benefit of the doubt if there is later an allegation that he seeks harsher sentences for black defendants than for Caucasians. Claiming that bias doesn’t matter as long as lip service is given to pretending not to be biased does not answer the allegation or deal with the conern. Missing is the effect of bias at the outset on perceptions of fair review and scrutiny. I personally believe the papers in question were crap and should have been roundly criticized. But to attempt to exclude them is NOT science under any measure.

    I could go on, but I cannot emphasize enough the danger of this episode to the movement, and Nature’s flippant editorial will hurt itself and the cause rather than help. Being right on the issue is no reason to refuse to use good science. The chemistry journals did not call Percy Julian a “denialist” when he challenged Robinson’s article from Oxford claiming to have synthesized physostigmine. Robinson didn’t refuse to publish his raw data, but instead gave the detailed information which indeed led to proof that while he was close he had not performed the synthesis. As scientists, we encourage vigorous challenge to our results and analysis because that is how we advance knowledge and understanding.

    As much as I would like to flippantly blow off these newly publicized materials, as do the editors of Nature, what I see in those writings and, worse, in the source code itself (and I’m not just talking the comments) is NOT science. And it is not helpful for Nature to pretend otherwise.

  21. bilbo

    Denial: A refusal to grant the truth of a statement

    Denialist: one who engages in denial

    How is the word “denialist” a bad word if the people its describing are those engaging in denial?

    If you’ve got a problem with it, well, then don’t deny.

  22. Realth

    The nature article is such crap (sorry-but they keep using “denialist”, denialist fringe-very intellegent). They quote Arctic Ice melting as a key to “global warming” Trouble is NASA has recently concluded that this effect since 1976 has been mainly driven by aerosols (SOx,NOx, pariculates) and NOT CO2. The key issue is that these charlatens conspired to keep other analyses out and fake data to “hide th decline”. There is no context which can excuse this. If I had a PhD student who came in and said my theory didn’t match the daya so I “corrected” the data he probably wouldn’t grauate.Further, the original data was destroyed so all anyone has who wants to check is “value added” (i.e fudged) data. Defending this is al,ost worse than the original offenses. Hopefully all the investigations world wide will not whitewash this and expose these criminals

  23. Wil

    I agree with Gonzo on this. If “Nature” was truly concerned about science, they would be taking agressive steps to ensure that all of their past climate-related articles were untainted and based on firm science. That they do not even see the need to investigate, is just arrogant and unbelievable beyond words.

    One of the accusations included in the numerous, mean and childish personal attacks against commenters in this website who have questions or are skeptical regarding man-made global warming, is that they are anti-science.

    I submit that maintaining a cult-like, emotion-based belief in man-made global warming, with the main response to possible scientific problems in the theory being knee-jerk denial, immediately followed by nasty personal attacks and name calling, is not even close to the scientific method. Indeed, the scientific method requires seriously looking at ALL facts and information, even the material one does not like. It also requires keeping an eternally open mind. Many global warming believers seem more like members of a zealous religious cult, than followers of the scientific method.

    I believe that if Phil Jones’ data showed what he so very, very much wanted it to show, then he would not have hid, destroyed, cherry picked or manipulated data. He wouldn’t have had to, because his overwhelmingly desired outcome (man-made global warming) would have come out of the data for all to see. In fact, he would have been extremely eager to release all of his data to anybody who would listen, starting years ago, because he would have known that it proved his case, without any cherry picking or manipulation what-so-ever.

  24. gonzo

    Bilbo: You make my point quite well, I think. “Truth” is the key word, it seems to me.

    We don’t yet have “truth” in many areas of science, and certainly consensus on AGW while compelling is NOT YET “truth.” We continue to add to our pool of knowledge and to account for the balance of the heat equation by addition of new understandings.

    It is pure hubris to suggest as a scientist that you have proven all knowledge that there is to know, and that anyone who may challenge your findings is denying “truth.” It is precisely that unjustifiable leap in logic which makes the loaded term inappropriate.

    Einstein’s work on physics did not “deny” Newton’s work. Newton’s work, while representing a quite coherent physics was not “truth,” and indeed it turned out that as our ability to measure became more sensitive, we learned that there were situations where Newtonian mechanics could not explain the result. I suppose the Scientific community could have shouted down Einstein on the theory of G.R., and called him a “denialist” of Newton, but since his approach explained things in that very narrow area where Newton’s work would not, the reality is that Einstein advanced science and advanced knowledge.

    Stopping him in his tracks, conspiring to keep his papers out of the literature, etc., based on perceptions of Newton’s work as unfailing “truth” would have been a mistake, don’t you agree?

    I think a true climate scientist has to recognize the evolving nature of our understanding of climate change. There are facts and feedback loops and other phenomena that are not yet reflected in the models or the models would work better and the range of error would grow smaller as the predictive force of the models increased. We will ONLY get at this knowledge and achieve a fuller understanding by letting the scientific progress work, and that means hearing out dissenting, challenging and heretical viewpoints and airing them out in the marketplace of ideas.

  25. Sorbet

    When I say “cause”, I mean a cause grounded in science so I am using the two words equivalently here.

    Now, coming back to the main issue. Agreed, it’s unreliable data, but there’s still a serious problem. Because if the data is unreliable, then you simply don’t include it, that’s it. You don’t graft data from other measurements on to it. That seems to me to be the clear problem here.

    Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to measure the effects of a high cholesterol diet on mortality. You have three different techniques for measuring mortality. Let’s say one part of the measurement from one technique gives data that is full of noise. It’s clearly unreliable. What you then do is this, and this is common and honest practice which I have seen followed in countless publications by myself and others. You have a table in which you report the full spectrum of measurements from the two techniques which are reliable. In case of the third measurement, you fill up the table with measurements until the point where the data includes noise and is unreliable. For all the following entries you say “Not Applicable” (N.A.)” or “Not Determined (N.D.)”.

    However, what was done above would be tantamount to filling up this part of the table with values from the other two measurements. This would be quite startling to say the least.

    Although I disagree entirely with the denialists that any of this “disproves” global warming, I agree that a graduate student in a good department would be severely reprimanded at the very least if he did this. In the worst case he would be accused of making up data. It’s terrible scientific practice by any standards and most working scientists would tell you this.

  26. bilbo

    Your confusion of a body of knowledge and evidence with “truth” highlights your grave misunderstanding of science, gonzo. I doubt that even the scientists involved in the Swifthack would talk about climate science as “truth.”

    But denialists of climate change often seem to make the assumption that climate change is (and I quote from this very blog) a “lie.”

    Hence, denialism.

  27. John Kwok

    @ David (@ 1) -

    I would strongly recommend that you (or others) who have Representatives or Senators who believe in both “ClimateGate” and global warming denial should send them copies of this important – and also sadly necessary – editorial published in Nature. Unfortunately this editorial will not influence those scientists – among them I include a former geology professor from college – who are highly skeptical of global warming.

  28. Anthony McCarthy

    Short term, this is a political catastrophe for science, long term, since climate change is getting worse and worse, it will turn into a disaster for the planet.

    Welcome to politics, science folk, welcome to the sleazy standards of what passes for journalism in a eutrophic empire.

    As this shakes out I wonder what lessons will be missed by scientists about their habits and language and how they should change them in order to prevent this kind of stuff from happening in the future.

    One of the more interesting comments I’ve heard was this morning on the BBC, where one science journalist said it points to a basic misunderstanding of what science is and how it works, a misunderstanding that predominates in the largely science illiterate media. It’s also one that a good many scientists have allowed to go uncorrected because it enhances their prestige and social status.

    They should all be on notice that their correspondence is liable to be hacked and to be a bit smarter about how they express themselves, though I’m not expecting that they’ll be any better than anyone else at exercising wisdom in their everyday life.

  29. Thanks for posting this, Chris. It seems obvious that if Nature had any reason to believe there were fabrications, et al. within papers they have published, they would say so, unless of course they are also part of the giant, planet-wide conspiracy.

  30. Graphing another measurement’s increase on the initial measurement’s decline is not scientifically honest by any standards.

    Sorbet, this shows you lack even the faintest understanding of the paper in question, which is from 1998 and was published in Nature itself. You might want to read it.

  31. ERJohnson

    And now the highly regarded magazine Nature resorts to juvenile name calling using the slur “denialist”. It is a slur designed to shut down debate and evoke images of a horrible time in our human history where the Nazis exterminated millions of innocent people through gassing, shots to the head, and starvation.

    Nature shows how the debate is now, officially, out of the control of the scientific community and now in the hands of the public — and it likely won’t end well for anybody.

    Name calling is a primary sign of a failed argument.

  32. John Tierney clearly shows the two graphs:

    But Tierney doesn’t show the original graph he shows a graph from a summary report. The original is in Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998), Figure 5, in which the reconstructed temperatures are plotted as a solid line (up until 1980 when the proxy data series ended) and the thermometer measurements are plotted as a dashed line. The lines overlap for several decades and they are explicitly defined in the key.

    A simplified version of the graph is plotted in Figure 7, and again the instrumental data are clearly delineated from the reconstructed temperatures by a change in line type.

    The original paper is still available here, if you have access to a Nature subscription:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v392/n6678/abs/392779a0.html

  33. bilbo

    And now the highly regarded magazine Nature resorts to juvenile name calling using the slur “denialist”. It is a slur designed to shut down debate and evoke images of a horrible time in our human history where the Nazis exterminated millions of innocent people through gassing, shots to the head, and starvation.

    Umm, I don’t think that’s what it means at all, ER. You’re flying off the deep-end here, buddy.

  34. bilbo

    Has ANY climate skeptic here read, word-for-word, then entire Nature paper Jinchi posted above? I’ve still yet to meet one on this blog who has.

  35. IGORE

    Is it not ODD that this magazine/website has not PUBLISHED any of the leaked emails.
    I bet if it was the other way around that BIG BUSINESS was covering up emissions this site and the rest of the american media would be all over it. BTW climate change science is BIG BUSINESS now.
    You know Corey Powell the editor of this magazine makes money off of lectures on “CLIMATE CHANGE”. Maybe he is a little worried about losing those sweet gigs.
    FOLLOW THE MONEY!

  36. Gonzo

    Bilbo: Spare me the personal attacks.

    YOU, in your post above, introduce the word “truth” to the discussion. You equated any position perceived as running against the anointed orthodoxy as “denial” of “truth.”

    I have two final points to make and then I shall leave you all to foment in your own enthusiasm for your respective tribes.

    1. No scientific proof anywhere at any time has depended upon or had any increased validity based on the success of its creators in affixing the worst pejorative nickname on an opposing or skeptical camp. The “name game” is the refuge of weak minded shysters, and as we (those who have been persuaded by the integrity of climate science and the effect of human activities on the environment) have confidence in our position, it is not necessary for us to go around burning heretics at the stake. It is profoundly unhelpful in fact, as it damages credibility as was my point about the conspicuous use of the term in Nature’s editorial.

    2. As your latest post demonstrates, one risk of going down that road is to apply the pejorative too broadly. Someone who, despite seeing snow on the ground, “denies” that there has been precipitation at least can be said to fit in the label you advocate as a “denier.” But it is a mistake to suggest that if there is snow on the ground and two scientists are arguing about different theories of weather patterns and evaporative feedback on atmospheric albedo, then it is silly to call one of them a “denier.” Once you take to trying to dismiss people by affixing to them your intentionally polarizing and pejorative label, it is too easy to go overboard and dismiss legitimate criticism and legitimate new analysis just because it is not fully in accord with your preferred “camp.”

    In the end, you have your theory on this topic and I have mine. We shall see, I suspect, over the course of the next several years whether the juvenile use of the “denialist” label advances the cause of getting the world to deal with climate change or whether such polarization ultimately proves self defeating.

    Cheers, Gonzo.

  37. I’ll also point out that if Mann had wanted to “hide the decline” he would have been within his rights to terminate the reconstructed temperature series in 1960 since that’s explicitly when Briffa warned that the Northern Hemisphere tree ring data significantly deviate from the temperature records and therefore no longer act as adequate proxies. Doing that would have hidden the decline completely.

    But he didn’t. He plotted the whole thing.

    And for those of you who complain that this means tree ring data are never acceptable proxies, notice that Mann’s original figure also includes error bars. For those of you without access to the Nature paper, there is a fairly accurate reconstruction of the figure here:

    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/images/fig2-20.gif

  38. bilbo

    1. No scientific proof anywhere at any time has depended upon or had any increased validity based on the success of its creators in affixing the worst pejorative nickname on an opposing or skeptical camp. The “name game” is the refuge of weak minded shysters, and as we (those who have been persuaded by the integrity of climate science and the effect of human activities on the environment) have confidence in our position, it is not necessary for us to go around burning heretics at the stake. It is profoundly unhelpful in fact, as it damages credibility as was my point about the conspicuous use of the term in Nature’s editorial.

    Then show me some unequivocal, scientific evidence that totally refutes climate change and shows it ALL to be hoax, and I’ll revoke the “denialist” label. Fair enough.

    2. As your latest post demonstrates, one risk of going down that road is to apply the pejorative too broadly. Someone who, despite seeing snow on the ground, “denies” that there has been precipitation at least can be said to fit in the label you advocate as a “denier.” But it is a mistake to suggest that if there is snow on the ground and two scientists are arguing about different theories of weather patterns and evaporative feedback on atmospheric albedo, then it is silly to call one of them a “denier.” Once you take to trying to dismiss people by affixing to them your intentionally polarizing and pejorative label, it is too easy to go overboard and dismiss legitimate criticism and legitimate new analysis just because it is not fully in accord with your preferred “camp.”

    Same answer as #1. I can argue my side with two decades’ worth of 1000s of independently published scientific articles that are based on independent data sources that all come to the same conclusion. Now, kindly post the scientific evidence that refutes these 1000s of scientific articles that are all in agreement, and you’ll have a case.

    See gonzo, you’re playing the “innocent bystander” denialist game. If you were really here to express your levelheaded opinion on climate change, you would do it with evidence and a discussion of science. Instead, I have seen a lot of ranting and rambling from you that isn’t attempted to be backed up by much…even though your position is the less-supported one, by default. Yet here you are claiming “I’m just an innocent guy with an opinion, and you’re yelling at me!!”

    Actually, no. We’re not just two guys who view something differently. I’m a guy who can back up my “side” with a freaking mountain of empirical evidence spanning several decades. You’re simply screaming “I don’t like that!!!” without backing yourself up. Forgive me for pointing out that gross disparity.

    And if you come back with another argument about tone, I’ll know you’ve got nothing.

  39. Sorbet

    Doug Watts, let’s remain polite. Jinchi, Watts et al., I have read the 1998 paper. Figure 5 which clearly shows the decline and is therefore honest is rather poorly drawn, but that’s a relatively minor point. The real point is not the 1998 paper but the 1999 reconstruction for the WMO; that’s the graph that Tierney points out which is *not* like the 1998 graph. The problem is with Jones, not with Mann. I really don’t understand why it is so hard to admit that Jones made a mistake that was uncalled for.

    This does not disprove global warming, this does not mean the science is disputed (after all tree rings proxies are but one piece of evidence), this does not mean the crazy deniers are even partially right, this does not mean the cretinous squid Sarah Palin is right. But it does mean one scientist did not follow good scientific practice. Are people here not agreeing to this simply because they don’t want to fan the denier flames? If so, I understand.

  40. bilbo

    I really don’t understand why it is so hard to admit that Jones made a mistake that was uncalled for.

    But it does mean one scientist did not follow good scientific practice. Are people here not agreeing to this simply because they don’t want to fan the denier flames? If so, I understand.

    I think those two statements paint things well, Sorbet. If Jones indeed did “make a mistake” or didn’t follow “good scientific practice,” that’s a far, far cry from the evil conniving conspiracy that the denialists paint this as.

  41. gonzo

    Bilbo:

    The following statement in your most recent response to me (post 39) seems to be match point in favor of the position I am trying to get across:

    “Then show me some unequivocal, scientific evidence that totally refutes climate change and shows it ALL to be hoax, and I’ll revoke the “denialist” label. Fair enough.”

    The standard you set is absurd. In order to be qualified to present a contra- viewpoint on any aspect of global climate change, you want the purveyor of tthe questions or skepticism to first refute the entire body of climate science on the other side. Otherwise you will use the “denialist” label and shout down anything they have to offer or inquire about.

    That’s just foolish. To follow on an example I made above, it was not necessary for Einstein to invalidate the whole of Newtonian mechanics in order to observe that in a narrow category of circumstances, the Newtonian model failed to explain observed results. Under the standard YOU posited and I quoted above, you would call Einstein a “denialist” unworthy of offering his views because he had not refuted the entirety of Newton’s work .

    Here’s what I’ve “got” for you: I have no idea whether the raw versus value added data set issue would have any bearing, but I do know its bad science to toss out data because it limits the ability for others to reproduce the results. I don’t attribute a conspiracy or sinister plan to it, but I do know it is bad science.

    But, putting that aside, what I DO know is computer code. And the source code (not the comments, but the code itself) released in the hacker/whistle blower emails reflects what can only be described as “F” level work. The addition of OOYB* numbers from artificial matrices to newer temperature data and subtraction of different OOYB* data reflects, without some compelling explanation, outrageously bad science and this massaging of the output is not even acknowledged much less described in the papers relying on the models. (*”OOYB” = Out Of Your Butt, a technical term of art ;-) — The source code comments do label these things as “very artificial” adjustments, I should add).

    What is wrong with me having the integrity to say to myself: Look, I have been so far persuaded by the papers I have read on global climate change, but I want to KNOW MORE about these “hard wired” adjustments in the source code? Why were they used? Why wouldn’t most working scientists object to that approach as creating a model that output a result the modeler forced rather than an output which followed from the data? If the adjustments are to counter the effect of a perceived feedback mechanism, then lets have a paper on that and chew on it. But these adjustments BETTER be described in any other papers that rely on output from the model, because to to otherwise is not good science.

    If remaining persuaded by 99.9% of everything I have read about climate change but wanting an answer to what appears to be very unscientific work in the source code makes me a “denier” because I have a nuanced concern rather than any desire to refute the whole of the published work, then you have actually proven my point about the risk and intellectual sloth of substituting name calling games for actual consideration of the arguments people are making. Science will suffer, and since we eventually have to persuade a larger public to make drastic changes in their lives to stop the catastrophic effects of AGW, the resulting lack of credibility when scientists start behaving like name calling pre-schoolers or mud slinging politicians, will ultimately lead to bad things for humanity.

  42. Figure 5 which clearly shows the decline and is therefore honest is rather poorly drawn, but that’s a relatively minor point. The real point is not the 1998 paper but the 1999 reconstruction for the WMO

    See, but now you’ve changed the argument. People have been yelling about Mann’s trick (not Jones’) and they’ve been referencing reconstructions of Mann’s original figure and insisting that his original paper needs to be withdrawn. It’s true that the original black and white figure isn’t ideal (this is typical of figures from the 1990′s), but it has been reconstructed many times using color scales instead (as in the IPCC 2001 report I cited above) and you can do it youself if you have the PDF from Nature and a very basic skill with Adobe Illustrator (each of the lines is a separate object).

    The figure Tierney shows is a summary of 3 different studies (noted on the figure itself) and is not original science. The green line is from Briffa (1999) figure 5 which clearly shows the decline relative to the measured temperatures and notes right in the caption:

    Note the recent disparity in density and measured temperatures (T) discussed in Briffa and Briffa et al., 1999b). Note that the right hand axis scale refers only to the high-frequency density data.

    Notice now that I’ve identified 3 direct sources (Mann’s paper, Briffa’s 1999 paper and the IPCC 2001 report) that correctly plotted the data and all I’ve done is looked at the original references. Tierney shows us a figure where someone made a mistake by oversimplifying possibly by a simple transcription error. Who? I don’t know. Does it undermine the conclusions of the original work? No. Are any other studies of climate using the faulty figure as data. Not that anyone has shown me. Is anybody hiding or manipulating data? No.

    Anyone doing research, skeptical or otherwise, would immediately see the correct figure and have access to the correct data. The idea that climatologists have lied and worse manipulated data simply doesn’t hold up, nor does the allegation that the original work has been discredited – which is fundamentally what the denialists are claiming.

  43. I have no idea whether the raw versus value added data set issue would have any bearing, but I do know its bad science to toss out data because it limits the ability for others to reproduce the results.

    Apologies for posting this again, but before we get start on this “raw data” debate maybe we establish what raw data is.

    I’ll suggest some definitions:

    (1.) The original records made at the recording stations themselves, whether they be machine printouts, handwritten notes, magnetic tapes or photographic plates.
    (2.) A faithful reproduction of those original records onto different media ( a personal notebook, published report, electronic tape, or digital record)
    (3.) A faithful conversion of all data to a common format (e.g. Fahrenheit to Celsius, inches of mercury to Pascals etc)
    (4.) A corrected version based on known site issues (such as a clock error)
    (5.) A merge of all the data from different instruments to a single document.
    (6.) A compilation of data from multiple sources and institutions
    (7.) A copy of any of the above.

    I claim that all of those are raw data.

    The complaint is that CRU threw out it’s original paper and magnetic tape notes and thus, no longer have the “raw data”. CRU denies this and states that none of the raw data have been lost. This seems to be a disagreement about whether only the original notes can be raw data (which I consider an absurd definition).

    Those of you who believe that (1) is the only acceptable definition should realize that by that definition, CRU never had the raw data (The originating institutions did). And by definitions (2-7) they never had exclusive copies of the raw data. NOAA and other institutions also have copies and aren’t dependent on CRU for the raw data.

    You also might consider what the result of a FOIA request would be. Is that raw data?

  44. And the source code (not the comments, but the code itself) released in the hacker/whistle blower emails reflects what can only be described as “F” level work.

    Okay. What research was this code used on? Was it used on anything?

    Also remember that we have climate model source code. It’s freely available online. You can debug it to your heart’s content. Those are the codes that we know published research is using. As someone who knows code, have you seen “F” level work in that? And why haven’t the skeptics published reams of criticism on the code that has been available for years? Have they even bothered to look at it?

  45. Sorbet

    Jinchi, I haven’t changed the argument since I never said I was blaming Mann. The WMO figure is one that was put up by Jones et al. and that’s clearly missing the decline. That’s where the problem lies. So Briffa and Mann did show the decline but Jones et al. hid it.

    -Does it undermine the conclusions of the original work? No. Are any other studies of climate using the faulty figure as data. Not that anyone has shown me. Is anybody hiding or manipulating data? No.

    I never said and have never believed that anyone or anything is doing anything of this sort. I would appreciate it if you don’t tie me to denialists since I am not one by any standards. I have given dozens of talks to high school students about the dangers of global warming. There is no way that any of this data undermines the basic facts of climate change. But Jones did hide the decline in the 1999 WMO graph; it’s a simple fact which does nothing to question the validity of climate change but is still true.

    I am not sure if you are trying to probe my arguments for denialist overtones because you are not going to locate any.

  46. I never said and have never believed that anyone or anything is doing anything of this sort.

    I’m not attributing any statements to you personally. But this is what the debate is about, even in these very threads. Nobody is complaining about a faulty plot. They are asserting fraud and data manipulation throughout the field of climatology and demanding political and criminal investigations.

    And in this case, they are asserting that something was hidden despite the fact that it’s been published repeatedly and specifically in multiple journals as well as in the IPCC report.

  47. Sorbet

    Jinchi, I unfortunately have to agree that if you don’t include meaningful data, for whatever reason, you should not be surprised if people accuse you of fraud even if you did not intend it. I am not accusing Jones of fraud, but of sloppiness. However, he should be ready to take the heat for fraud now since prima facie there is no way to distinguish between fraud and sloppiness since you don’t have access to a person’s intentions and mental states.

  48. gonzo

    Jinchi:

    Regarding raw data: The reporting this week suggests that the only data still available at CRU is value added — which I presume to be data that was adjusted, for urbanization encroachment around stations, for example. I agree with you that it would be meaningless to argue about missing data sets where the numbers on each set are identical, or where the deltas are the result of an algorithm that can be reproduced to walk the numbers back to what they were and which therefore does not leave any gaps in reproducibility. I know science reporting is notoriously bad, but the current articles all seem to be suggesting that only adjusted data is available and that there is no way to know what the original measurements were. I believe that is bad. Not because I believe that there is any sort of cover up or conspiracy, but because it prevents independent examination that could put to rest the objections and speculation about the original data.

    On the code:

    The biggest problem with the code from the CRU emails is the absolute absence of source and version control. Someone get these guys using CVS and we’ll all be better for it. We don’t know when code excerpts were added, when other pieces were commented out, we don’t have run files affixed to data outputs that show what conditions were active when the code was run, etc. I suspect that stuff exists somewhere, but good science would include it I suppose.

    As for your question, point me to a repository of the public code base you want me to look at and I’ll give you specific impressions — but my sense by and large, and we see this in open source all the time, once code is open and public you tend to see better revision control, etc.

    To be sure, I don’t believe anyone has ever seen the sort of “a posteriori” biasing seen in the released code applied by public source code models. Which makes sense: If you need to adjust modeling data (for example to deal with nearby origin volcanic mists or temp bias in urban stations), you would make those adjustments a priori. I don’t know why and to what extent the released code differed or was leveraged in any particular papers, but the inclusion of an after the fact biasing mechanism in the code doesn’t look good.

    Look guys, this is frustrating to me. I am heavily supportive of the consensus view of climate change, and I am heavily supportive of doing something about it. I dislike very much feeling like we have to be adversaries just because I dislike of silly pejoratives for the skeptical camp, and because I think we all would do well to avoid squandering the public’s confidence in science. But in my country at least, people have a thing for indulging conspiracies and so it behooves climate science to be so “above board” that there is no possibility to foment that sort of thinking.

    Well, I’ve got project work in the field all afternoon and this weekend, but will try to stop by and check on this thread Sunday. Until then, have a good weekend all.

  49. Shama

    Jinchi@9:01 am re “if you have access to a Nature subscription” let me assure you that in these days of free content and the Web, scientific publications remain the most expensive and inaccessible. Theoretically the knowledge is supposed to be public but unless you belong to an academic library that provides access or have deep pockets you can forget about a subscription. Just the other day a Science article I required was available at $15 for *one hour* access.

    The Nature editorial is lousy. Why are Phil Jones, the magazines etc. writing as if they are rebutting Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck’s points? Your readership are scientists, folks. Or are they addressing the issue of continuance of grants for the climate programs?

  50. Regarding raw data: The reporting this week suggests that the only data still available at CRU is value added — which I presume to be data that was adjusted, for urbanization encroachment around stations, for example.

    Here’s what the original TimesOnline report says:

    The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.

    They don’t tell us what revised means so it’s impossible to know whether they are referring to changes in format, corrections for site error or simply a merge of multiple station data sets into a common database structure.

    Here’s CRU’s response:

    It is well known within the scientific community and particularly those who are sceptical of climate change that over 95% of the raw station data has been accessible through the Global Historical Climatology Network for several years.

    and more to the point

    The procedure for releasing these data, which are mainly owned by National Meteorological Services (NMSs) around the globe, is by direct contact between the permanent representatives of NMSs

    In other words, the NMS’s have the original, raw data, not CRU. CRU has copies which have been merged together and digitized. Since many skeptics are explicitly saying that CRU manipulates it’s data set, they almost certainly don’t consider CRU’s database to be raw data.

  51. Doug

    The “Nature” article reads very poorly indeed for such a prestigious journal. The public perception of science is surely dealt a severe blow if one of the leading scientific journals of the day can print this sort of response.

    The CO2 pushers are clearly reaching for the low shelves in their arguments now, amusing and sad somehow at the same time. Give it up, the CRU data was central to the CO2 hypothesis, if that is corrupt and it matches other data sets known to be connected to the same mob we can reasonably presume the other data sets were similarly massaged.

  52. Nature herself will have the last laugh and does not give a damn what Ms. Palin or Rep. Senselessbrenner thinks or says.

  53. ehmoran

    In the late 1800’s, Arrhenius built upon Fourier’s assessment of atmospheric properties by plotting CO2 and temperature data collected in industrialized England. Arrhenius’ plots and calculations showed a relation between CO2 and ambient temperatures. In 1930’s, Callendar extended the analysis using long term observations from 200 stations arguing that there was a link between CO2 and climate warming. Keeling began collecting atmospheric CO2 samples from the Mauna Loa Observatory site in Hawaii in the late 1950’s and is the most complete record.

    The USGS reports that all volcanic activity produces nearly 200-million tons CO2 annually; much less than that produced by human activity. Mauna Loa, near the Observatory and the world’s most active volcano erupted 39 times since 1832, had major eruptions in 1950, 1975, and 1984. Atmospheric CO2 levels measured at volcanoes indicate the degree of activity and estimates of heat flow from one volcano have been reported at140-mW/m2. Correlating CO2 and temperatures from data collected near an active volcano should be significant but not show a cause and effect relation; however, correlating world-wide data significantly shows CO2 lagging temperature by approximately two years. The data analyzed by Arrhenius and Callendar also could be significantly biased similarly owing to the urban heat-island effect and extensive coal burning at the time, as CO2 is an abundant byproduct of burning.

    Apparently, no laboratory control experiment to date, such as in a biodome, has shown CO2 levels influencing ambient temperatures. Tyndall (1861) measured the absorptive characteristics of CO2 followed by more precise measurements by Burch (1970). Absorbance is a measure of the quantity of light (energy) absorbed by a sample (CO2 molecule) and the amount of absorbed energy can be represented as specific heat of a substance. Specific heat of CO2 ranges from 0.791-kJ/kgK at 0-degrees F to 0.871-kJ/kgK at 125-degrees F and average atmospheric concentrations 0.0306-percent. As revealed, the specific heat of CO2 increases as ambient temperatures increase showing CO2 likely is an ambient temperature buffer.

    The atmospheric generally consists from 4-percent water vapor in the troposphere to 40-percent at the surface. The specific heat of water vapor is relatively constant at 1.996-kJ/kgK. Water absorbs energy (heat) and evaporates to water vapor. During condensation (precipitation), latent heat is released to the atmosphere thus increasing ambient temperatures. Water vapor holds the majority of atmospheric heat and regulates climate and temperature more than any compound. Historically, however, the characteristics of water vapor related to climate were much less appreciated but investigations into the significance that water vapor plays in global climate-dynamics are just beginning.

    The amount of energy not stored in the atmosphere is released into space through radiation. Re-radiation is the emission of previously absorbed molecular radiation. The specific heat of molecules of water vapor and CO2 shows that water vapor reradiates significantly more energy back to the Earth’s surface and the atmospheric quantities for each compound further justify this case. Thus, this and other publicized reports suggest that the minute variability in atmospheric CO2 concentrations likely results in an insignificant affect on climate change; whereas water vapor is the significant factor.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »