Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guardian still in denial

David Adam, the Guardian's environment correspondent, has a comment in today's edition. He writes:
The release of private emails between climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that show malpractice and conspiracy have had their effect. Public acceptance of the reality of global warming has dipped, politicians are retreating and changes to how science is done and scientists behave are required.
I do not accept this. I believe this seductively simple narrative is based on ignorance, scientific illiteracy and hypocrisy. Worse, it is dangerous and will erode the very public confidence it seeks to restore.
What is he talking about? Well, he rejects any link between public opion polls and Climategate. Based on the BBC poll data (which we discussed on this blog as well) he says: 'The evidence shows that the battle for hearts and minds in the fight against climate change has been strengthened, not weakened, by the East Anglia affair.'
He then goes on to discuss the meaning of 'hide the decline' and the role of peer review in science. He claims that the first is systematically misrepresented by sceptical voices and that scientists themselves were always aware of the problem and discussed it by the technical term 'divergence problem'. They may have done so, but not in public. This was the whole point. And it is here where Adam defends the East Anglia researchers:

It is true the East Anglia emails suggest that Jones and other scientists did not enter the brave new world of open data and Freedom of Information requests with gusto. In fact, they fought it tooth and nail. Any failure to comply with the regulations should be punished, but equally we should not forget the context in which many of these emails were sent... Climate scientists, left to fight this pretty much alone, were seriously angry with those who they saw as engaged in a systematic effort to undermine their profession.
Is Adam endorsing what Jones said in one of the emails, that FoI should not apply to 'evil' requests? Does he not realise that the practicising of double standards is what got these scientists into trouble? 'The brave new world of open data' -- does he really say this is a horrible thing?

It is noteworthy that Adam's comment is on the email scandal and problems of peer review only. No mentioning is made of the IPCC and its recent problems. Why the focus on the 'older' story? Could it be because the Parliamentary inquiry  is due to start on Monday? If this is the case, Adam's well meaning piece in support of the CRU scientists might well be a disservice.


P Gosselin said...

I have always maintained that climate science finds itself in an impossible dilemma. If it opens up and gets back to real science, then we will see there wasn't much behind the AGW hypothesis to begin with – and that's bad for those whose funding and religion depend on it. And if the climate institutes refuse to open up, then of course the story will only get worse and worse and us pesky sceptics will continue to have fun.
With Adams, I think he cannot come to terms with the fact that his religion is evaporating. He's trying to salvage what's left of it. Surely it cannot be easy to believe in something for years and years, and then find out it was all a big joke.
On climate science itself, we need some climate science and there is a use for it. But we don't need billions of euros pouring into it every year. The research infrastructure can be seriously scaled back and still produce much better results. In fact, some of the most useful findings have been generated by shoe-string operations.
The saga of climate science ought to serve as a lesson on how not to do science. And thanks to the Team, media and many policymakers, we could not have a better case study to illustrate this.

Steve Carson said...

I don't think The Guardian understands.

Zealous for "the truth" - running non-stop stories about "deniers" and their evil ways. But creating more "deniers" with every story.

Is it legitimate to have questions?

The last few "climate science" textbooks I have read by scientists, professors, with 20-30 years in the profession, have clearly indicated that not all of the "AGW theory" is beyond reproach. They do it in tactful ways, of course..

On Science of Doom I have seen many people who are "deniers" as the Guardian would call them, just asking the basics because they don't know the basics! Why is that a surprise? It's ok to have questions.

Marco said...

@Steve Carson:
Having questions is not the issue, if one is aware of one's own ignorance. Claiming to have questions, while making sweeping statements about fraud, hoax, and conspiracy is. I'm seriously doubting those people are coming to your website and ask questions.
Add the people who will run after any paper they can perceive as contradictory to AGW, while dismissing all other papers, and the term "denier" really isn't that incorrect. "Skeptic" most certainly *is* incorrect, as it is a conditional skepticism.

Marco said...

@Reiner Grundmann,

You state "They may have done so, but not in public. This was the whole point."

I seriously wonder what you consider "not in public". It's in the scientific literature. It's in the IPCC report. It's a minor issue with one type of proxy in certain parts of the world for certain parts of the 20th century. Should this be discussed "in public", as in outside the literature? Why?

Science is filled with caveats that are never discussed "in public" (other than the scientific literature). Not because they put doubt on the observations, but because they will be constructed by lay people as doubts on the observations. And that's even *without* ideological filters applied.

Lois said...

Marco, here you have a better use for the word "denier":

Rise of the Natural Climate Cycle Deniers.

Lois said...

Sorry, "Lois" is "Plazamoyua".

Steve Carson said...

for Marco, who said:

"Claiming to have questions, while making sweeping statements about fraud, hoax, and conspiracy is. I'm seriously doubting those people are coming to your website and ask questions.."

They ask questions like on CO2 - Visualization and CO2 can't have that effect because..

-"oh, how can longwave radiation be 396W/m^2 at the earth's surface and only 240W/m^2 at TOA? Where does the radiation go?"

-"If 1W/m^2 is absorbed by the earth's atmosphere and then 1W/m^2 re-radiated won't that increase the radiation out of TOA?"

-"How can solar radiation be separated from longwave radiation, don't they overlap?"

-"The volume integral looks wrong."

-"Doesn't that violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics?"

-"How did you work out the TOA solar radiation as 240W/m^2?"

But you doubt these people with their "sweeping statements" about "hoax and fraud"..


a) maybe you are jumping to conclusions?

b) or maybe all people with simple questions about climate science are bad people with hidden agendas?

You chose b).
I wonder what everyone else thinks..

Reiner Grundmann said...

Science is filled with caveats that are never discussed "in public" (other than the scientific literature). Not because they put doubt on the observations, but because they will be constructed by lay people as doubts on the observations.

So do you think science should best be kept secret?

BTW, Mann and others thought that revealing the uncertainties would give fodder to the enemy. Can this be reconciled with a scientific ethos?

itisi69 said...

Well after the first shock (see Monbiot's first articles after the Climategate emails) apparently the Graudian decided to go full out Propaganda War in true Stalinistique style. This and other recent piece, full of innuendo, straw men, half and zero truths, is only contributing to a further alienating of the people they try to convince. People know a rat when they see one, no matter how loud the AGW evangelists start to shout. Looking at the comments and the recommand numbers, the majority just do not buy this garbage.

Yes, again in true revisionist style the AGW advocates do not want any interverence or control of their shoddy work. Jones typically said: "why should I give you the data if the only thing you want to do is find mistakes?"

Time is over for "Trust Me"- science.

Marco said...

Perhaps you misunderstood what I said: I stated that it is those that 'ask questions' while making sweeping statements that are unlikely to come to your website. Those would be the "deniers". Those with a genuine interest and legitimate questions, and without putting it in heavily ideology-qualified statements, are not "deniers".

Marco said...

I again ask you the question what you consider "in public". Is the scientific literature a secret? I don't think so.

And could you please provide a reference to the e-mail you imply contains bad scientific ethos?
I remember it rather differently.

Werner Krauss said...

@ Rainer:

'... this seductively simple narrative (...) will erode the very public confidence it seeks to restore'

Connecting Himalaya glaciers, Pachauri, IPCC and climategate in a simple narrative while waiving the flag of the savior of pure science and the honest broker - this is clever power politics, I guess. To give every other days interviews and state that public confidence has to be restored, is clever, too. It is maybe legitimate to do that, but it is power politics. I just want to say that those defenders of ethical science have a power agenda of their own. 'In the name of science' can easily become a cheap argument, too, especially when it serves to legitimize the own agenda. This does not mean I take position or want to judge; I think it is just fair to consider this aspect, too. Science is never outside of those power plays, even though we wish it were. Instead, good science is enabled by re-positioning science in these power relations. This is what happens in the moment, and there are victims, of course.

Steve Carson said...

I made a comment on that Guardian page. I expressed a similar point to my earlier comment on this blog.

I said that the Guardian would find it difficult to change its course. It had run non-stop climate scare stories intermixed with 'why are people still deniers?'

But that lots of people have genuine questions. I said that the science was strong but that didn't mean there weren't still questions or uncertainties.

And that I feared the Guardian will never understand how many people it has moved to the skeptics camp - yet with the best of intentions.

The comment was "more recommended" than most comments around it after the first hour or two.

Now I check many hours later and it is deleted by the moderator.

Perhaps the Guardian should not allow comments..

Steve Carson said...

For Marco:

I apologize, I misunderstood what you were trying to say.

However, I do believe that the characterization of people as "deniers" is a big part of the current problem. Atmospheric physics and advanced statistics are not easy subjects. And many people who understand these subjects find it difficult to accept the full validity of GCMs, including, as far as I can tell, many professors of physics working in the climate field.

And yet all these people are in the same league as those who cannot accept the validity of many photographs, film footage and eye witness accounts of probably the worst atrocity in history?

Anonymous said...

I will give a try to answer the set of questions posed by Steve carson.

-"oh, how can longwave radiation be 396W/m^2 at the earth's surface and only 240W/m^2 at TOA? Where does the radiation go?"

It is absorbed by the atmosphere, and part radiated up and some other part down. There are also latent and sensible heat fluxes and absorption of solar radiation going to the atmosphere. If you make a real balance, considering that there are conversions of energy between reservoirs (latent heat flux from the surface to the atmosphere contirbutes to radiation from the atmosphere), then, you will realize that the balance is closed. Take a pen, some sheets of paper, and consider fluxes going in and fluxes going out and you will convince yourself.

-"If 1W/m^2 is absorbed by the earth's atmosphere and then 1W/m^2 re-radiated won't that increase the radiation out of TOA?"

No, the atmosphere radiates up and down. I hope this answers your question, not very clear to me what are you really asking.

-"How can solar radiation be separated from longwave radiation, don't they overlap?"

Mostly not, just 1% (Petty, 2006), the overlap is very small. There are additional good reasons to separate them, due to the very different mathematical treatment of some terms. For instance, the differences in the source term corresponding to shortwave and longwave radiation in the equation of radiative transfer. Study it in a book about that topic (Liou is really good, you can also trust Bohren + Clothiaux, 2006). Too complex for a blog. It has to do with the fact that the atmosphere is too cold to radiate in the same frequencies/longwaves that characterize the solar radiation.

-"The volume integral looks wrong."

You should be more specific, which volume integral, of what quantity, why does it look wrong?

-"Doesn't that violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics?"

No, you have to consider net energy transfers. If you place a cold plate in from of a hot plate, there is radiation from each one to the other. The hot one sends more energy to the cold one, but the cold one still radiates energy to the hot one.

-"How did you work out the TOA solar radiation as 240W/m^2?"

This is not the quantity used by IPCC, perhaps you have a typo in this one (342-107=235). Anyway, the quantity used by the IPCC has been deduced by means of satellite measurements, detailed in (Kiehl and Trenberth, 1997) and (Trenberth, Fasullo, Kiehl, 2009)

Hope this helps.


Steve Carson said...

For Jon -

Thanks for trying. I was illustrating questions I get on http://scienceofdoom.com to make a different point..

A point that people have many questions because it's a difficult subject. That doesn't make them bad people..

Anyway, you scored well on my questions!

So perhaps you can help answer the harder questions on my blog..

Marco said...

@Steve Carson:
What do you make of two physicists who deny the greenhouse effect? What is the right word for that, if not "denial"? Stupidity? Incompetence? None is a very nice label.

Oh, and sadly, amongst those that deny the holocaust there are plenty of people who intellectually should be able to know better. In many cases ideology gets in the way. If we add HIV=AIDS denial (yes, that's denial, too), we add yet another group where you'll find plenty of people with good educations who should know better. There's also people who deny that planes brought the WTC down, many with PhDs (I guess you've heard about the academics for 9-11 truth).

I will repeat myself: *legitimate* questions are not the problem, it's framing those questions with implications of fraud, hoax, and/or conspiracy. In many cases you'll also see some deliberate distortions or straw man attacks.

Steve Carson said...

Marco, thanks for sharing your ideas.

I don't know these two physicists. They might have a crazy idea that they believe in. To them, it might be a great idea, an idea that will change the world.

Will we make progress denying our opponents' humanity?

I don't think so. So we will have to just agree to differ.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Have a look at Mann’s email of 22 Sept 1999 here.

He refers to an IPCC meeting where it was decided to include the hockey stick graph in the report and how to draw it. He says:

‘….everyone in the room at IPCC was in agreement that this was a problem and a potential distraction/detraction from the reasonably concensus viewpoint we'd like to show w/ the Jones et al and Mann et al series.’

‘This’ refers to an inconsistency in different temperature reconstructions, relating to Keith [Briffa]'s dataset.

Mann continues:

‘So, if we show Keith's series in this plot, we have to comment that "something else" is responsible for the discrepancies in this case. Perhaps Keith can help us out a bit by explaining the processing that went into the series and the potential factors that might lead to it being "warmer" than the Jones et al and Mann et al series?? We would need to put in a few words in this regard. Otherwise, the skeptics have an field day casting doubt on our ability to understand the factors that influence these estimates and, thus, can undermine faith in the paleoestimates. I don't think that doubt is scientifically justified, and I'd hate to be the one to have to give it fodder!
This indicates to me that the problems associated with the temperature reconstructions were NOT discussed in the scientific literature at the time. They were discussed in the emails and at IPCC meetings where the inner circle discussed it.

I wonder if you can point me to scientific literature published before November 2009 that discusses these problems.

Anonymous said...

The Guardian article is completely taken to pieces by the first two excellent comments underneath it by commenter moveanymountain. (no, that's not me!)

Reiner Grundmann said...

Marco (and others)

The chair of the US National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone, stated at the AAAS meeting in San Diego that 'scandals including the "climategate" e-mail row had eroded public trust in scientists.'

The BBC has the story here
Science damaged by climate row says NAS chief Cicerone: Leading scientists say that the recent controversies surrounding climate research have damaged the image of science as a whole.

Marco said...

@Steve Carson:
Meet Gerlich&Tscheuschner:
Just so you know where the "doesn't this violate the 2nd law of themodynamics" comes from.

With loads of strawmans and handwaving they dismiss over 100 years of science, going back to the old science which has been refuted time and time again. They even have a 'nice' sneer in the direction of Hans von Storch (don't know if he even is aware of that).

And calling them deniers doesn't deny them their humanity.

Marco said...

thanks for referring to the e-mail. A little bit strange you consider it bad scientific ethics to want to add an explanation for one specific reconstruction being different from the other. As Mann's words indicate, he's 'afraid' of people casting doubt where there essentially is none.

And I suggest you actually read all papers with reconstructions, where there is plenty of comparisons with other reconstructions, and discussions as to why they may differ.

Reiner Grundmann said...

you do not seem to get the point: Mann was 'afraid' and so they solved the 'divergence problem' through the trick. Not through explanation. If yo read the email again it should become clear that he wanted to avoid such explanations.

Where are the papers that discussed these problems? I would be grateful if you could direct me, and the readers of the blog to them.

itisi69 said...

"As Mann's words indicate, he's 'afraid' of people casting doubt where there essentially is none."

This spin is amazing and probably you're the only one who believes it has merit.
Apparantly there is a problem, otherwise he would have included the data and explained and defended the divergence? Isn't that what science is all about? Feynman is turning around in his grave. Cargo cult science optima forma.

And after all this you still believe Mann on his words?

itisi69 said...

In the meantime let's leave people like Marco and Mann quibling behind in the trenches of the Great AGW War and proceed to greener pastures with those who want to work together in a truly open, honest and scientific way;


Marco said...

@Reiner and itisi69:
You are apparently confused. The divergence problem has NOTHING to do with the issue Mann is discussing in the e-mail! Nothing!
(oh, and it's discussed amongst others here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1692171/)

I also suggest you read the response from Mike Mann to Briffa on September 23.

Marco said...


GISTEMP has open data, open source, and all procedures explained in the peer reviewed literature. The *extra* that the Met Office proposes is to get (sub-)daily updates, rather than monthly.

What do you think this will change?

Hans Erren said...

Marco, that's absolutely no guarantee for quality.
e.g. GISTEMP adjusts station step discontinuities with a trend, and has an extremely poor track record with updating available temperature data.
They really could do with some professional statisticians and DBAs.

Henk Hak said...

The Guardian article is now closed for comments. Can't find the old comments either.

re 24 Reiner: the original MBH98 paper discusses the divergence. It just was left out of the IPCC report.

re 23 Marco: doubt where there is none? Since when is it ok to graft actual temp data on to truncated proxy data in the same graph and then not explain that?

Henk Hak said...

BTW Judith Curry has a guest post on WUWT (because it has the largest blogosphere readership) "On the credibility of Climate research part 2" you all may find interesting.

_Flin_ said...

A few words about the term "deniers".

There are people who on the one hand propose they prefer satellite data, but when you show them 3 studies that prove the GHG effect of CO2 by satellite measurements of the infrared spectrum from space with 4 different satellites they react... not at all.

The next thing they say is that positive feedbacks violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. And how Mauna Loa is on a volcano.
And grab a paper from Dipl.-Biol. Beck in Energy & Environment "proving" that historical CO2 levels are all wrong anyway. When asked where all the CO2 came from for the supposed rise from 320 ppm in the early 1920s to 440 ppm in the early 1940s and back again until and how it all vanished without a trace until the early 50s (and, if you are mean, ask them how this is consistent with thermodynamics)... you don't get an answer.

So satellite data for these people is only good, if it proves their own point. And if something proves their point, and be it some 19th century CO2 measurements in a garden in rural Prussia, it's perfectly valid, no matter how many high-level scientific papers have been written on the same subject that come to the exact opposite conclusion.

People who have no problem to smear scientists (be them particular persons or just "the alarmists" or "the climate science religion")with accusations of fraud and scientific misconduct.

For these people "deniers" is actually a very polite term.

Marco said...

@Hans Erren:
NCDC uses a different procedure, and gets the same answer. So maybe that procedure of GISTEMP isn't too bad...
Of course, GISTEMP relies on submissions to GHCN. If the Met Office can make sure its colleagues are better at submitting its data to GHCN, GISTEMP doesn't have a problem (note that NCDC and HADCRU have the same issue with at times slow reporting to GHCN).

Marco said...

@Henk Hak:
"Since when is it ok to graft actual temp data on to truncated proxy data in the same graph and then not explain that?"

This is not what Mann did. This is not what is shown in the IPCC reports. It was done in one graph for a WMO report. But...the legend to the graph explicitely points to a backgrounder in a related WMO publication. I looked it up, and it discusses amongst others the divergence problem!

plazamoyua said...

A few words about the term "deniers".

According to Flint, you would use the term to any one who uses a bad reasoning, or even lies. For instance someone like Al Gore.

According to Dr. Curry ( a seen on On the Credibility of Climate Research, Part II: Towards Rebuilding Trust) “I reserve the word “deniers” for people that are explicitly associated with advocacy groups that are politicizing this issue…” For instance Al Gore.

But, surprisingly, Nor Flint, nor Judith Curry, seem to be eager to call Al Gore a denier. Why is this so? Because there are quite many other more proper words for what Al Gore and the likes are doing. The same words which would be the proper words to call those who Flint and Curry are calling deniers.

So, there is something special with the word denier. And you only need to look backwards to realize denier was applied in the first place to avoid a debate before the debate begun. They are only "deniers", the debate is over.

For me, denying the existence of a valid scientific debate, would be reason enough to call such a denier a denier. But I wouldn't do it, even so. Because I think the person who uses such a term, is automatically discredited.

Sorry, just my opinion.

Hans Erren said...

read this:
Apparently my Hohenpeissenberg data was good enough for GISS, but why didn't they use other available data from DWD, or even KNMI?
Hiding behind GHCN and their crappy updates is not what I expect for a 21st century database from NASA, that is influencing global policy decisions.

It's time that the database gets an audit/overhaul from the experts at STAT-USA, or dutch CBS.

Marco said...

@Hans Erren,
Your asking the question to the wrong person. It doesn't quite seem to be necessary either. GISTEMP, NCDC, HADCRU, JMA, all give essentially the same result. Even the satellites give essentially the same distribution of anomalies over the globe.

More data: always nice. Making a major effort to get more data without a change in the result: let others do it if they so desperately want. Instead, certain people just like to jump up and down, make false claims, or claim there's not enough data (guess what they'll say if there is more data? They'll want even more data).

itisi69 said...

"What do you think this will change?

This maybe?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Marco 27
It is not helpful being evasive here. If the Guardian is wrong in equating the issues about 'Hiding the decline' with the 'divergence problem' then this is a matter to raise with Adam.
My point (and your related query) was about the avoidance of raising problems with the dataset in public. And I see strong evidence that especially Mann wanted to avoid giving explanations in the IPCC report and preferred a nice and tidy story. And he prevailed. You misinterpreted Mann's email to the effect that he wanted to give explanations in the report -- which is clearly not the case. He rejected this for political reasons ('not to give fodder...').

It does not help pointing to Briffa's published paper as his data was the cause for concern.

Marco said...

Reiner, I seriously, honestly do not understand why you suddenly point to the Guardian.

*You* claimed that a certain e-mail showed bad scientific ethos, and linked the e-mail it to the divergence problem. But the e-mail is *not* related to the divergence problem, it's as simple as that.

Allow me also to quote part of the e-mail:
"We would need to put in a few words in this regard." It's right before you made a big part bold. It boils down to "we need to add an explanation, or it will be abused by 'skeptics' ". This is in stark contrast to your claim that Mann did NOT want to add explanations.

What I find at least as disingenious is your dismissal of Briffa's article. You asked me where the divergence problem was discussed in the literature, and I pointed to an article that discusses the divergence problem. Notably a whole year before the Mann e-mail you indicated. But if Briffa's article doesn't suit you, here's another: http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~liepert/pdf/DArrigo_etal.pdf
Note the references in that article, including one to a paper in 1995 discussing the divergence issue. But let me restate again that this was *not* what Mann was alluding to in the e-mail you cite.

Marco said...

Changing error bars doesn't change the trend...
(and apparently, they may be overestimated and underestimated in certain grids, if the analysis on that blog is correct).

Henk Hak said...

re 34 Marco
Sorry Marco, I got the various publications mixed up. Remains a very questionable thing to use tree ring data up until 1960 and then truncate. If the data seems supported by actual temp data only for a certain stretch, 1850 -1960,but not after re the divergence, why trust data prior to 1850?
Anyway, have seen some of the discussion on CA and RC about this, I imagine you are familiar with the arguments

Marco said...

@Henk Hak:
Regarding your question on trusting the tree rings prior to divergence, please see my link in 40 to D'Arrigo et al.

In essence there is plenty of evidence that the tree rings work well until about the mid-20th century for those trees at high latitude. At lower latitude the divergence problem isn't that big.

Hans von Storch said...

Tree-ring/divergence: I remember the meeting with the National Research Council in Washington (when the science behind the hockeystick was examined; http://coast.gkss.de/staff/storch/material/060302.nrc.pdf; 2-3 March 2006) - also M. Hughes and R. d'Arrigo were asked about the divergence: if he/she could exclude the possibility that already in earlier times such divergence may have happened. Hughes: No, I can not. d'Arrogo: Yes, I do.
I thought that remarkable. Which conceivable evidence would give us certainty that it would be so?

itisi69 said...

Isn't this what d'Arrigo basicaly says (and therefore it's true?):

1) Tree-ring proxy reconstructions are reliable before 1960, tracking closely with the instrumental record and other independent proxies.

2) The divergence problem is unprecedented, unique to the last few decades, indicating it's cause is anthropogenic.

Everything is explainable and when it's not it's anthropogenic.
"In the absence of a substantiated explanation for the decline, we make the assumption that it is likely to be a response to some kind of recent anthropogenic forcing. On the basis of this assumption, the pre-twentieth century part of the reconstructions can be considered to be free from similar events and thus accurately represent past temperature variability." (Briffa 2002).

"Without a satisfactory explanation, we make the untested assumption that the decline is due to an anthropogenic factor that did not occur earlier in the reconstruction period." (Osborn 2005.)

This is rather thin scientific ice to tread on? BTW was there ever an explanation for the truncation?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Steve McIntyre's submission to the UK Parliamentary Committee deals with several of these issues here