Saturday, March 6, 2010

Climate wars in the blogosphere

There is a war going on in the blogosphere. Have a look at one of the current debates between two heavy weight bloggers, Joe Romm versus Roger Pielke jr:

This summary is far from objective, of course; Roger Pielke jr. is a senior fellow of the Breakthrough Institute.  However, the link gives a great insight into the debate and its political context. It is a debate between 'warmists'; both believe in anthropogenic warming. The political subtleties of this case suggest that scientific debates (and the topics discussed) are closely embedded in the political context in which they are staged. The history of anthropogenic climate change is always a political one.
Even more interesting, this debate between Romm and Pielke jr offers a (somehow frightening) insight into the newly emerging culture of the blogosphere.
 Blogs are the winners of the current crisis in climate science. They are praised for many reasons such as opening up the debate for other voices, making climate knowledge transparent, and building up new trust between science and public. On the other hand, the blogosphere also brings forth new forms of scientific culture. One of the characteristics of the climate blogosphere is the dominance of a few influential blogs. These blogs are indeed making opinion, and they do so in relation to each other. In this virtual world between anonymous posting, science communication and political influence, a strange subculture has emerged. Scientists turn into heavy weight champions; scientific debates are staged as cockfights with prize money; scientists organize and direct their fan base and turn it into a mob, and the applause of the audience is the new peer-review. If this is the future of post-normal science, you'd better run!


Tobias w said...

In this particular example it's one scientist vs one one former political adviser. Joe Romm has virtually flogged Pielke Jr for wanting better policies. The fact that he comes from within the warmist movement it means he gets the same treatment as Björn Lomborg got. However, this world of internet fighting is rather strange I suppose...

plazamoyua said...

On the other hand, the blogosphere also brings forth new forms of scientific culture.

Quite so. And not only scientific culture. The rules have changed. Because now, with blogs, anybody can realize wether you:

- Accept to debate your thesis, or not

- Need the help of censorship, or not

- Answer in a straight way, or with "tricks".

And the money, predominance in the media, consensus, and so forth, won't help you to avoid the new rules.

Marco said...

Unfortunately, the blogosphere also allows one to spout nonsense with impunity. The new rules include that even the craziest idea, however much contradicted by the data, is now *also* 'mainstream'.

Tobias W said...


"craziest idea", being what exactly?

Marco said...

@Tobias W:
Let's start with the claim of deliberate removal of data stations from the GHCN network to increase the warming trend (Watts, D'Aleo, Smith). From the same people, claiming there is no warming in England since the 18th century...and show only the data for summer (guess what happens when you show the annual data). CO2 snow on Antarctica (Steve Goddard on WUWT). Volcanoes emitting much more CO2 than fossil fuel burning (It's been refuted many times, but just keeps on coming back).
Gerlich & Tscheuschner, with their "violation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics" is now 'mainstream' because of the blogs (most certainly not because they got it published in an obscure journal).

Climate science is not the only area where 'blog science' has resulted in a revival of the crazy. For example, AIDS=HIV denialism is kept alive mainly by blog 'science'. The anti-vaccers have found ways to establish world-wide connections through the blogs, still trying to convince people thimerosal/thiomersal is the cause of autism. Or else it's the MMR vaccine.

Add the 9/11-'truth' movements, young-earth creationists, and the Illuminati conspiracy, and you got yourself a nice collection of crazy.

Just a few examples.

Tobias W said...


Thank you! The GCHN-network thing I've certainly heard of, the rest are new to me. Could you explain your criticism of their assertion?

However, when it comes to the rest (excluding climate science), it may be alive and kicking in the bloggosphere but they can hardly be called "mainstream" anywhere, can they?

Marco said...

Regarding English (summer) temperatures, see Tamino:

CO2 snow essentially isn't possible on Antarctica. It took a while for the WUWT'ers to realise it, but ultimately they did, so I'll take that one back
Volcanoes emitting more CO2 than fossil fuel burning is, amongst others, in Ian Plimer's book Heaven and Earth, and you can still find references to it on various blogs. That is, commenters using it as an argument. Even at a debate between Plimer and Monbiot the former did not yield, despite all the evidence thrown at him by people actually doing research on the matter.

G&T's "violation of 2nd law of thermodynamics" you can also still find being used as an argument against AGW (well, it's an argument used against the greenhouse effect per se).

All the others are *also* getting credibility from many people and media, and can thus be seen as 'mainstream': that is, they have a much wider impact, simply because the nonsense is spread through the blogosphere on 'science blogs'. For example, the first several links I get on google when searching for "thimerosal autism" are websites that make false claims. People looking for information will thus find these first. It's better for the "MMR autism", but mainly due to the recent ruling against Andrew Wakefield (in my opinion several newspapers should actually have been on trial (also)). AIDS/HIV denial has been pushed a little bit back thanks to an active (but not open) campaign to get the links to the bad information out of search engines (rather, down on the list). Still, the number of websites doubting the link between HIV and AIDS is large. Same goes for 9/11 denierwebsites. There are *many* more 9/11 denierwebsites than websites that explain what actually happened. In many places of the world people, and media, still refer to these websites. The young-earth creationists are actually still getting loads of attention, especially in the US, where several newspapers freely refer to them as trustworthy sources on science.

"blog science" and "internet science" has simply given new possibilities for cranks to spread their message.

Tobias W said...


Finally, I do agree with you whole heartedly! "internet science" has certainly given new possibilities for cranks to spread their message, although I would certainly widen that to also include a lot of wild claims of "science" by "warmists" as well.

But I was still a little interested in your critique of Watts et als assertions about the GCHN database, and the dropping of all those stations. Why do you think they are wrong?

corinna said...

Marco, 7

could you explain this to me?

>AIDS/HIV denial has been pushed a little bit back thanks to an active (but not open) campaign to get the links to the bad information out of search engines (rather, down on the list).

What kind of campaign is that and who can one push links down? How do you know about this, is there information about such campaigns available?

itisi69 said...

Hmmm... Tamino's "Open Mind" (rather cynical name) is very biased. Tamino aka Hansen's Buldog is censoring most of the opposing people even those giving him valuable advise (see the thread on Lucia's blog).

About craziest ideas becoming mainstream; do you also mean all these freak events adressed to Global Warming we've seen the passed years?

itisi69 said...

"Climate science is not the only area where 'blog science' has resulted in a revival of the crazy."

Do you mean: all sceptic blogs science are crazy, or do you want to tone your sweeping statement a bit down?

Re the AIDS/HIV hype, maybe the fact that the predicted pandemonium hasn't been realised added to the fact that it's less prominent in the press lately. With your remark about HIV and search engines being created by denial blogs you create your own conspiracy LOL.

Each decade needs it's own Global Doom scenario, from acid rain via ozone hole, AIDS, mad cow disease, SARS, various flu pandemoniums to Global Warming. Well, at least it keep the scientists busy and funds flowing for more research on Planet Fear.

plazamoyua said...

Marco (3)

Unfortunately, the blogosphere also allows one to spout nonsense with impunity. The new rules include that even the craziest idea, however much contradicted by the data, is now *also* 'mainstream'.

I don't agree. At all. In fact, the examples you provide, has not became "mainsteem". Not even between anti AGW crowd.

There have always been people believing crazy things, and there will allways be. The difference with the blogosphere, is that those (very few) willing to know who has straight arguments and who has "tricks", has quite an easier way to get it.

You just go to RealClimate, you see thay can not survive without a very tight and unreasonable censorship, and you inderstand how "robust" their science is.

Marco said...

@Tobias W:
Let's first divide the claim of Watts et al into two sub-claims:
1. Removing data stations at high latitude and/or altitude introduces a warming trend
2. The data stations were removed on purpose.

What is their evidence?
1. None cited.
2. None cited.

Several people have done the analysis that Watts et al *should* have done regarding point 1. That includes Tamino, Zeke Hausfather, and the people from All show the same thing: if there is *any* effect on the trend, it is actually towards *cooling* (mainly due to data in the early part of the 20th century).

Regarding point 2: there's not only no evidence for the supposed *deliberate* (or "purposefully", as Watts et al write) removal of data stations, it is actually data *infill* from older stations. That is, there has been a major effort in the late 1980s, early 1990s to gather data from non-reporting stations. Those data were then entered into the database. No station removal, but station addition!

Marco said...


Much can be done by using the right tags on homepages and plenty of cross-referencing. Gets you high on google rankings.

Marco said...

I'm not painting all blogs the same. There are, however, clear pseudoskeptic blogs (WUWT being the prime example).

Regarding the scares:
1. The ozone hole still is an issue, despite rapid action to mitigate. Something that in the end hardly cost the world a dime. It's a good example where after mitigation, people say "see, there *was* no problem".

2. Same actually goes for HIV/AIDS: there *is* a pandemic, and it's a mass murderer (over 2 million deaths in 2007). That we have taken measures in the Western world to reduce its spread, as well as have developed drugs to treat people, is another form of mitigation.

3. Mad cow disease. Guess what? Once again rapid measures to prevent its spread. Add a bit of media hyping à la MMR/autism, and we have a good example of scientists getting the blame where there is none.

4. SARS. Gee, it is getting boring, but also there *rapid* action was taken to prevent further spread. We were also talking about a 10% fatality rate, not something to take lightly (it's similar to the 1918 flu pandemic in terms of mortality)

5. The projected flu pandemic is one based on centuries of experience: there *will* be one. And the most likely one is a 'new' virus. As a noted virologist indicated: we're damned if we do warn, and we're damned if we don't. In the first case we may well be wrong, as we can't predict whether it truly will be; in the second case we'll be blamed if it *does* become a major pandemic with plenty of deaths.

Marco said...


"You just go to RealClimate, you see thay can not survive without a very tight and unreasonable censorship, and you inderstand how "robust" their science is."

Is this seriously your argument against Realclimate? I'm quite happy they try to keep the discussion on topic and don't let people post the umptieth repetition of long-debunked stuff (often also worded in something that comes down to "you are all stupid, listen to me, I know better"). I can imagine that such censorship is problematic for people who suffer from major Dunning-Kruger.

Besides that, I'm pretty sure they can survive without censorship, too. All they need to do is not allow comments (Pielke Sr, Roy Spencer) or simply neglect any and all comments, whether they are valid or come from complete nutcases.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

surely you must be joking. Honestly, can you imaginge having the debates we are having on the Zwiebel on Realclimate or Climateprogress?

plazamoyua said...

Marco (16)

If you say so, I guess you have not read many skeptics or even lukewarme blogs, with posts deleted at RealClimate. Or the way they dismiss opinions from statistitians and engineers, without further explanation, just because they are not climate scientists. Not too clever from their part, because the casual reader gets the impresion that climate statistics are different from statistics.

Any case, you seem to think blogs are worthless to get an idea and know who is giving arguments, and who is giving "tricks". I just don't agree with you. And may hope the future will tell us. My personal bet is future is not so far away.

Marco said...

Yes and no. On Realclimate some of the discussions we have here would be no problem. Some others are simply not part of the realclimate realm (in IPCC terms realclimate is mostly WG1, klimazwiebel also has WG2 and 3, + other social science).

Also, I think you will find klimazwiebel altering a lot when it gets the same traffic as realclimate. That includes the noise of veritable trolls, and the noise by some die-hard ideologues who truly and honestly believe they know better than anyone else, or truly and honestly believe a certain person knows better than everyone else, regardless of any counter-argument. If the people involved at klimazwiebel also become prominent participants in some type of controversy, in which one side (whichever it is) is pointing to them as the bogeyman, you can expect an influx of some really nasty people. Post-moderation (rather than prior-moderation) will be insufficient to keep the 'war' out.

I've seen websites without moderation being taken over completely by trolls (no one wants to wade through 15 posts of which 13 contain irrelevant nonsense, insults, abuse, and whatnot), by cheering crowds, and by people with a complete and utter inability to read and/or understand. Note that various others *will* react to various inappropriate posts, adding to a more volatile atmosphere. Add a few spambots, and the signal-to-noise ratio rapidly sways to the wrong side.

plazamoyua said...

There is no question about it, Marco (19). A growing blog (in participants) will reach the point where prior moderation is unavoidable. But then, you have many kind of prior moderation. And of course it also depends on how many moderators you have. That's probably a good reason for Pielke Sr and Spencer to close the comments. Not every one can do it.

But I insist; there are many ways to moderate. Some are fair, some a "tricky". And about anyone will get his opinion on the matter after a few days. Not every opinion will be the same, though.

Marco said...

I don't disagree that there are many ways to moderate. That realclimate's way of moderating in any way shows that their science is shoddy is in my opinion not based on any real facts, but much more on a feeling. Are comments from statisticians just ignored? I don't think so. Neither are comments from engineers. *As long as they are relevant* and posited in a way that does not say "you are all wrong, even on the topics you have been educated in, I am right, now pay attention".

I am much more skeptical about people, in general, being capable of seeing the forest for the trees. I would say that the majority of the people going to realclimate, climateaudit, or WUWT have little to no idea whether what is claimed is correct or not. However much I wish it was different, humans simply do not have the mental ability to handle complex questions, paradoxes, and contradictory information in all aspects of life. Shortcuts are made, sometimes based on at least the ability to discern more and less credible sources and information, sometimes based on ideology, sometimes based on whoever screams loudest (or not), sometimes based on appearances.

itisi69 said...

A good example of a very good, almost unmoderated, climate blog is Lucia's Blackboard.

Maybe it's the friendly, but very knowledgeble approach of blog owner Lucia that keeps the usual ad hominem and pedantic tone away that some climate blogs have.

Some of the contributors would like to see Klimazwiebel becoming antoher clone of the heavily moderated blogs like Real Climate, Climateprogress and "Open Mind", but I'm sure the blog owners of Klimazwiebel won't let that happen, fortunately.

MikeR said...

@Marco. I'm a little bewildered by your comments about GHCN. Where did WUWT make a claim of _deliberate_ removal of stations? I'd like to see a reference.

Also, you said
"1. Removing data stations at high latitude and/or altitude introduces a warming trend
What is their evidence?
1. None cited."
Is it possible that there was evidence cited, but you're just not aware of it? That's pretty common, for instance, when someone is just quoting from a website they heard of via a website that disagrees with it.
Actually, they have a very extensive source, long predating tamino, and continuing to post extensive details; here's one from today:
He has many more posts, and the amount of detail given is quite large.

Marco said...

Bewildered? Read this piece: (warming, very big pdf, 6 MB)

Page 5:
"Around 1990, NOAA began weeding out more than three-quarters of the climate measuring stations around the world. They may have been working under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It can be shown that they systematically and purposefully, country by country, removed higher-latitude, higher-altitude and rural locations, all of which had a tendency to be cooler."
and page 6:
"Calculating the average temperatures this way would ensure that the mean global surface temperature for each month and year would show a false-positive temperature anomaly – a bogus warming."

I read through the piece, and there is no evidence cited that removing the stations introduces a warming trend. The best (and in essence only) way of testing this hypothesis is to take those stations that were 'removed' (remember, this is point 2 where they are wrong), and compare the trend in those data with those that were not 'removed'. They simply didn't do it.

E.M. Smith has already tried to backtrack on Lucia's website, claiming "I take no position on motivation (malice, stupidity, ?) as I can’t see inside folks minds." comment#36337

Rather contradicts what he authored elsewhere, eh?

And yes, his details are great. That doesn't mean he is right. John Nielsen-Gammon also put in his two cents:

MikeR said...

@Marco, your link doesn't work to get to a pdf. Perhaps there's a link from there?
You are claiming a "backtrack", whereas all I see (at least from the quotes you have given) is that you misunderstood the initial quote. While I can see that someone might read it to imply malice, all he (or they - was chiefio the author of that particular phrase?) is claiming is "purposeful". In other words, that the data shows that one particular type of thermometer is the kind getting dropped. I don't see a contradiction. Perhaps you might give the benefit of the doubt.

As to the actual claim, chiefio's post today, for instance, does provide evidence for causing a warming trend. He brings the example of New Zealand, for one, where exactly one cold thermometer gets dropped, and solely because of that one sees a warming trend. He does the same for the Pacific basin. In other words, he did exactly what you said he didn't do.

As an aside, has anyone explained why the number of thermometers has gone down 80%? And specifically the warmer ones? Only four left in all of California, etc. I don't get it at all. Even if it is actually possible to massage the data so it doesn't matter, why would anyone do that? Before you impugn me, I'm not suggesting any malice either, I'm just bewildered.

Tobias W said...


I am also bewildered, although I'm not shure aboout all the warmer ones...

_flin_ said...

Please correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the whole removal-of-thermometers and urban-heat-island complex all pointing into one direction, being the suspicion that Temperature measurements are not reliable?

So that the fact that there is a warming can be doubted? There are enough observations that indicate warming, like glacier retreats, sea level, early arrival of spring.

Apart from that, there are plenty of global temperature measurements. You can choose whatever you like, land surface, sea surface, satellites, weather balloons, ocean temperatures. They all show that it is warmer now than 30 years ago.

So what is actually the point in all of the doubting of temperature measurements?

Marco said...

@Tobias W:
Don't understand why you cannot get the link to work, it works fine on my computer. Anyway, try looking for "surface temperature record: policy driven deception"

In all fairness, Smith is not the author of the piece, but he did provide just about all the graphs.

"Purposefully" cannot be understood other than "on purpose", that is, with a specific goal in mind. Add the "Calculating the average temperatures this way would ensure that the mean global surface temperature for each month and year would show a false-positive temperature anomaly – a bogus warming."
and there really is no other interpretation than a claim of malice.

Furtermore, I would like to point again to a whole range of people who did the actual data analysis for the whole world, finding exactly the opposite to the claims in the piece from the SPPI (and Smith): if anything, *cooling* bias, not warming bias. That Smith claims(!) he has evidence to the contrary, and then comes with some examples, isn't very much evidence. In particular when others have pointed out that Smith actually doesn't even know what he is doing. Or maybe he does, in which case it *would* be deliberate deception, from his side.

Regarding the 'loss' of stations: it is a *back-reporting*. In the late 1980s, early 1990s an effort was made to gather station data from non-reporting stations. Also known as retroactive reporting. Moreover, there is such an correlation between regions in terms of temperature trend, that you actually do not need many temperature stations. You can thus remove those stations that are reporting poorly, need many adjustments, are poorly cited, etc. etc. One would "do that" to remove issues with stations, without really affecting the result.

MikeR said...

Marco, I really think you should read that latest post by chiefio. He deals directly with all what you're saying. I'm not an expert, but I get the impression from his posts as opposed to the other ones you listed, that he is a much bigger expert in data analysis than his opponents. He is just working on a level of detail much finer than theirs.
"That Smith claims(!) he has evidence to the contrary, and then comes with some examples, isn't very much evidence." I couldn't follow this. He did exactly what you said should be done: Showed the impact of the removal for New Zealand and the Pacific basin. If the other posts claim that it all averages out worldwide, fine. It doesn't affect his basic claim: The database is badly degraded by the loss of recent station data, and some (many? most?) of the anomalies reported are actually artifacts of the missing data.

"In the late 1980s, early 1990s an effort was made to gather station data from non-reporting stations." "Moreover, there is such an correlation between regions in terms of temperature trend, that you actually do not need many temperature stations." It could be that this goes back to the discussion up above: Is our goal just to get an overall average (other posts), or is it to get the best data set we can (chiefio). It is just not credible to me that with all the money being spent on climate studies, that we should not be trying to get the best temperature measurements possible. Surely it would be helpful to have reliable local data? Surely today one could easily make tiny cheap sturdy microchip thermometers, powered by solar cells, reporting in by radio, placed everywhere with tens or hundreds of thousands of them reporting worldwide. Pardon, but it smacks of incompetence on their part to say that we only care about the overall anomaly, so four thermometers is enough for California, and we'll all have fun arguments on whether it "really affects the results"...

Marco said...

Sorry, MikeR, but the appeal to authority does not work for me. Chiefio has been called out on multiple occasions for making mistakes in his analyses. That includes a whole range of well-known qualified people (those that know who Tamino is, know he is likely much better educated on the math than chiefio; Zeke Hausfather is at least as educated; John Nielsen-Gammon is a well educated climatologist (MIT) etc.).

That you claim he did show what I asked for his flatly wrong. He hasn't done the analysis! He has NOT shown that removing a "cold" station introduced a warming bias. He shows nothing at all about the trend in temperature anomalies and removing a "cold" station. He just does not want to look at anomalies. This shows he doesn't really understand what he's doing. I can do loads of math, too, but whether it is relevant requires that I actually understand what I am doing.

Note that his chart of New Zealand and the pacific basin suggest a warming rate that is really scary: something like 4 degrees in a century. That's what happens if you don't look at area coverage and use absolute temperatures.

Marco said...

Regarding the number of thermometers:
More data=more controls required (UHI, data glitches, maintenance, etc), who's doing the reporting (this *is* one of the major problems today: plenty of thermometers, few reporting), and does it really improve the data quality?

The 'incompetence' lies mainly with NMSs, who are responsible for reporting, who either don't want to report all their data, or simply don't do it. And then those doing the analysis on the available data get attacked! Of course, when you do like Phil Jones did, getting data from the NMSs directly, you get attacked for not handing over data you are not allowed to hand over...Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

MikeR said...

@Marco, I made no appeal to authority. I have no idea how "educated" all of them are. I may be more "educated" than any of them, with a PhD in Math (though I am pretty thoroughly a beginner on climate issues). You are the one appealing to authority.
But there is a certain specialty in analyzing raw data, and my impression is that chiefio is taking it seriously, and the others are focused on extracting a single number period. I've done this kind of analysis, and if you're stuck on that before you start, you can miss a lot of what's going on. First you should look at the data, so you don't take the mean of a bimodal distribution and the like.

"That's what happens if you don't look at area coverage and use absolute temperatures." Could be I'm not making sense, being a beginner at this, but I don't understand. How do you get a trend out of flat data, as these examples clearly were? How can it be anything more than an artifact of the data manipulation? Maybe I'm just not understanding properly. Are you just insisting that chiefio use the formulation that everyone else is used to? Maybe his way of looking at the data is better.

corinna said...


Without having followed the blog discussions to which you referred (might be a lot of accusations followed which were actually the reason to make you so upset),
I only could say that the topics addressed in the pdf document are very relevant for the temperature reconstructions (if this has to be understood as being done by purpose, is another issue of course). The point here is homogenity of the time series and sampling error. The sampling error is the largest error in Geoscience, and we dont know the magnitude of the error. I think that any additional analysis of the existing data and innovative investigations of existing time series should be very welcome, we should not forget that the advancement of science is our common interest. In my view the results presented here provide certainly reason to re-think and re-evaluate the impact of the inconsistency in the data set on the global temperature reconstruction.

I don´t think that the discussion of the real or potential qualifications and educations are of any value to reject objections. Appealing to authority is a rather disqualifying argument.

Marco said...

@MikeR and corinna:
I think you both fail to understand when the "appeal to authority" is a logical fallacy: it is when people point to someone as an authority on a subject, when he in reality is not. For example, pointing to a professor in math giving his opinion on evolution as a authorative opinion on the subject.

Regarding chiefio's work: his analysis is bound to lead to confusion, because he looks at absolute temperatures, not temperature trends through anomalies, thus getting major influence of removing or adding stations. He then jumps up and down and clearly *suggests* that removing or adding stations affects the trend. Well, NOT in the various temperature reconstructions, since they use anomalies. Chiefio is thus barking up a different tree (and has for a long time shown unwillingness to go to the right tree). Whether he's barking at a *better* tree depends on what your aim is. For looking at global temperature trends it clearly isn't. It's too sensitive to adding or dropping thermometers.

My biggest problem is indeed the tone of the language: it is an *open* accusation of fraud, without doing the actual data analysis, using blatant manipulation (English summer temperatures show no real trend for over 350 years, but *annual* temperatures do, so let's keep those out), and repeating discredited claims (poor siting introducing a warming trend in the US is refuted by Menne et al 2010). We're not talking about attempts to improve the data analysis, we're talking about active attempts to discredit the analysis using false allegations.

Note also that Smith on no occasion has said "wait, you can't do that with my data, I'm looking at it a different way".

MikeR said...

See if we can agree on a brief summary:
1) Chiefio has apparently not contradicted himself and not claimed malice. WUWT probably did, believing that chiefio's results can only be explained in that way.
2) That is, WUWT believes that the thermometers were removed on purpose; GISS et al explain rather that they just stopped bothering to try to use as many thermometers as possible, because it was too much trouble and not necessary.
3) You don't like the tone of what WUWT et all said; I'd point out that your comments about them and chiefio are about as unkind.
4) There is considerable disagreement on methods of analyzing the thermometer data; you prefer the ones who disagree with chiefio. I would prefer more and better data to trying to analyze away problems, but perhaps better data just isn't available. I don't see why the take-away from this whole issue isn't, Let's use modern technology to really improve the quality of our local temperature data worldwide.

Marco said...

1. Chiefio is pretty good in 'hiding' his claims of fraud. Stuff like "It is very hard to have “warming” with no data, but somehow GIStemp, with GHCN, manages to do just that. I guess Bolivia is somehow magical, so I just call it “The Bolivia Effect”… and it is warming the planet."
"Further down, under “Climate” it says:
Winters are frigid, but summers are slightly warmer than at other places in the Canadian Arctic.
I guess now we know why it was kept…"

2. GISS et al is dependent on GHCN. They can't do much if NMSs don't report to GHCN. Neither can NCDC. They could, every now and then, take the merry-go-around and harass the NMSs to release their data, but we've already seen that that's not that easy.

3. Watts and D'Aleo have been proven spectacularly wrong. They even use outright data manipulation (only UK summer temperatures, leaving out the rest of the years that *does* show warming; you need to remove that data purposefully, unlike the non-reporting data stations). Contrary to Watts and D'Aleo, I can provide direct evidence for my claims. The same goes for chiefio, who provingly attacks a strawman.

4. Chiefio's analysis is taken (by himself) as some kind of evidence that there is something fishy with the thermometer data. He's been informed, on many occasions, that his analysis cannot be used to claim what he does. His response? Handwaving dismissing the anomaly method. More damning: the satellite data agrees with the ground-based thermometers (especially when taking into account some of the oddities in the UAH analysis).

Again, I would gladly support improvements of quality. I do not support false allegations based on shoddy, or even absent, data analysis. People need to be called out for their attempts to subvert science, even if it merely is a major Dunning-Kruger effect on their part (just google that one).

MikeR said...

Sigh. Marco, I know you think you're right and the other side is wrong. It's not even a surprise that you think you can _prove_ it. What is distressing is the constant imputation of bad faith, both by you and by the other side.
I don't know if you're going to accept it, but you are your own worst enemy in these things. It is exactly that kind of presentation that makes the rest of us not trust your side's scientific results. Nor the other side's neither. That was the real impact of ClimateGate. We want to see scientists doing their jobs, not busy trying to tear down the other side, certainly not trying to tear down their characters.
"But I'm right, and they are liars."

Marco said...

Right, people don't trust "the other side". I guess that explains why so many people are repeating Watts and D'Aleo's lies. Sorry for the snark, but there really is no way to kindly say that they are making false claims. The IPCC is crucified in public for making a mistake (the comments often have implied malice by the IPCC), Watts and D'Aleo are provingly making false claims of fraud...and MikeR gets pissed at Marco for calling them out!

Real scientists would love doing just their job, but that ain't easy when everything they do is attacked, sometimes in the most vile language possible (fraud, manipulation, hoax, conspiracy, crime), while when they (internally) voice rather strong opinions on bad papers, they get crucified for using strong words. Sometimes "liar" is the accurate description.

MikeR said...

Marco, I'm a newcomer to the climate debate, but I've been watching this for a while in regular politics. Everyone is sure he is absolutely right, and the other side are not only wrong but liars. They all have proofs, that is, posts by the other side that they are sure they can disprove. And better: Of course the other side really knows deep down that it's not true, so they're not only wrong but liars, and now we've proven it. And of course our side would never do that.
It's all completely symmetrical, and all of them are sure it's completely asymmetrical. None of them can imagine any point of view but their own.
It's your choice. If you want the rest of us to think of you-all as a bunch of politicians doing politics, I think you're going about it the right way.

Marco said...

If you use politics as your benchmark, I can understand you. Unfortunately, it isn't the right benchmark.

Take the difference between people making claims (Watts, D'Aleo) versus people doing the actual analysis (Zeke Hausfather, Tamino, the guys from clearclimatecode, Roy Spencer). Take the *known* faster rate of warming at higher latitudes. It all leads to the same conclusion: the claims were false.

Tell me, how are scientists to deal with false claims without saying they are false claims?

Allow me also to point you to a blogpost from Bart Verheggen:

MikeR said...

Marco, I have no problem with scientists working out who's right. That's fine, and great. I'll even leave it up to them. What I don't like is the nastiness. Point out the other side's mistakes, if you think you understand them; if you go on to throw in an insult or two, you detract from your arguments.

The link you added is unfortunately a good example of this kind of partisanship. On each point, he brings only his own side. He talks about the consensus, by which he means that no one really disagrees. See the Bray/von Storch survey for the truth: A strong majority of climate scientists agree, but a decent minority don't, on many different important issues. He talks about expertise just as if there were no experts on the other side, and no incompetents on his. He talks about profit motive just as if there are no profit motives in supporting the consensus. And so forth. For a partisan, of course, that's fine: There is only one side. For the rest of us, it raises warning flags - he is clearly someone who can only see his side, so how can one trust a single word he says?

corinna said...

>My biggest problem is indeed the tone of the language: it is an *open* accusation of fraud, without doing the actual data analysis, using blatant manipulation (....) We're not talking about attempts to improve the data analysis, we're talking about active attempts to discredit the analysis using false allegations.

I realized this and also don´t think that this is the right way of communication. However, following the debate already for a couple of years I can also understand why this tone appeared. Prominent members of the climate community were not very careful in their discussion style, skeptics were indeed blamed often and discredited. There are many that feel that the climate research establishment has started the harsh tone and did not hesitate to make personal accusations (justified often by the "good" political intentions).

The situation is now a bit like that of an old couple, which got engaged in a many years long battle.
From the outside: both parties are right and wrong at the same time. That the pubic will select a final winner from the 2 parties is highly unlikely.
The verbal slander is quite annoying and outsiders do not really like to dig into it.

There is only one way out of the situation: to accept the own responsibility for the communication style and starting a civilized dialog.
MikeR is very right, you are your own worst enemy in this debate.

Unknown said...

Excuse me, I am not interested in the discussion between Romm and Pielke. But I would like to comment on the role which blogs can take part in science-related issues.

What we need is substantial discussion, or "extended peer review" as called by Jerome Ravetz (see old threads here). We do not want partisan debates or "wars".

And I think that blogs are not so effective as a forum of discussion, as I said as a comment in the thread of Lennart Bengtsson's message.

One problem is that they are likely to be overwhelmed by quick responses rather than considered discussions.

Another is that each blog tend to make an effectively closed circle of people, perhaps after a few quarrels, even if it is technically open to everyone.

It seems that "the Blackboard" of Lucia (mentioned by itisi69 here) has really good discussions concerning the re-evaluation of alleged bias intruduced by the change of surface station network (the subject of MikeR and Marco's discussion here).

Maybe "extended peer review" is possible in cases like this. But I still think that the feasibility heavily depends on both the characteristics of the subject matter (e.g. whether reproducible by amateurs) and the attitudes of people involved.

My view of RealClimate is as follows. It is not a forum for discussion (neither "extended peer review" nor partisan debate), but a PR site. By PR, I do not mean deceit, but essentially one-way propagation of information which the host thinks true. Information there is useful for those who already have basic knowledge of climate science and want updates (like me). Whether a commenter there can get good response is haphazard. According to a comment at Roger Pielke Jr.'s blog, Realclimate is "apologetics, not evangelism". Though the vocabulary of religious movements is not mine, the characterization seems valid.

There are various blogs, and I do not think that all of them should strive in the same direction. Also we should note that blog as a technique is so designed that the roles of the host and commenters are asymmetrical.

As someone already suggested in some thread here, the open peer review done by several journals of European Geosciences Union (for example, ) is surely in a good direction, though I do not think that all peer-reviewed journals will become like those.

Marco said...

@MikeR and Corinna:
Sure, the tone is a problem and the establishment started it...
Of course, Santer getting threatened already in 1996 and being attacked by Frederick Seitz is just because the establishment used harsh words against (pseudo)skeptics. Right? Sorry, but wrong. The 'establishment' is continuously on the defense. It has to react to attack after attack after attack. Debunking false claims usually takes many more lines than actually making the false claim. Being on the defense already puts one in a disadvantage, as politicians will be able to tell you.

Note also that many media don't care about the 'civilised' debate, they want controversy. Watts and D'Aleo's piece is great controversy, I've seen it repeated in many media outlets. The debunking, however, was put in only one newspaper, and hidden deeper in the newspaper. It is unfortunate, but it appears that scientists must go on the attack. That some people don't like that and side with the underdog, too bad. You can't please everyone.

corinna said...


it is not about that some people don´t like it, but it is that you come not through with your message. It is about that you loose more and more people which in the beginning were on your side. It is just counter-productive. It is your choice to use this or not, I actually do not much care and do not insist to convince you. I just feel a bit sorry.

> Sorry, but wrong.

This is your view, others have another opinion. Fruitless to try to find the "truth" and not at all of interest.

> The'establishment' is continuously on >the defense. It has to react to >attack after attack after attack. >Debunking false claims usually >takes many more lines than >actually making the false claim.

This is the nature of the public debate. It never stops and you cannot expect that your opinion is overtaken because you are an expert. If you would like to convince people (guess that is it about, not to debunk false claims) than you have to participate in the public debate. It is your choice to what extend you participate.
You don´t have to react on every claim (false or not) nor do you have to participate in IPCC or discuss with the press.

I hope that you don´t feel my comments to be insulting, they are definitely not meant such.

I guess Kooiti Masuda is right, there are other topics which are more interesting to discuss and I like to comment on the role of blogs: I don´t see them by any means replacing peer reviewed publications not are they replacing comments or replys to publications. However, they have their role in shaping the positions of contributors and followers,
by enabling wider individual debates and exchange ( with more or less close colleagues and other interested people), complementing the coffee break and private discussions which take place all the time.

Marco said...


If the nature of the public debate is that scientists are continuously attacked with false claims, and that those spreading the false claims are *not* held to accountability (whereas e.g. the IPCC is), then don't be surprised when many scientists give up being nice. It isn't just a problem of climate science, it is observed in many areas of science. The new media 'rules' are that the media (in general, there are exceptions of course) has little accountability, and are mostly interested in controversy. To get attention, and not let the anti-scientists have the upper hand, it is sadly necessary to be loud.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

The new media 'rules' are that the media (in general, there are exceptions of course) has little accountability, and are mostly interested in controversy.

This is such a pretty sweeping argument. I wonder if you have evidence for it? Are you referring to a body of research or to your own impressions? And: do you refer to blogs as examples of 'new media', or to media in general?

MikeR said...

I don't have much to add; several other commenters have made their points very well.

I would like to say that there was a narrative for the last decade or so from the pro-AGW side, something like this: All competent scientists know that AGW is correct. The ones attacking are not scientists, not competent, and not sincere. They are largely in the pay of Big Oil. Their "science" is a joke - they can't even get anything published in a peer-reviewed journal. All their talk about their research has been "suppressed" and such is just a way to try to manufacture a controversy where there is none.

The other side had a different narrative: All the money and power is actually on the first side. We are the David vs. their Goliath. We are trying to sort out what is reliable in climate science. The establishment is blocking us at every turn. They won't let us see their data, and won't let us see their methods for analyzing it. When we have gotten the chance, we find mistakes. We can't publish in peer-reviewed journals because the reviewers are from the establishment and just won't let us do anything. It's hard to know what one can trust because so much of the work is behind a firewall.

Whether they admit it or not, the Climategate story showed beyond question that the second narrative was correct. There was an concerted attempt going on to suppress the opposition, exactly what the first side was saying wasn't necessary even as they were doing it. The damage from that will be hard to fix. But they should start by admitting it instead of making excuses about how necessary it was. They lied to us.

Marco said...

I was referring to the new (wait a few second) media rules. That is, the media was once better at actually doing some major investigative work before publishing something and in correcting mistakes. There's a big difference between countries, however, in how mistakes are handled.

It's also more than an impression. You could start with "Bad Science" by Ben Goldacre for many examples where science is mangled and battered beyond recognition by the media. Craig Silverman in "Regret the error" also has a long, long list of media errors. Many are easily preventable.
There's also this research:
and this comment a while ago

Certain blogs could be considered "media", others are more like diaries.

Marco said...

Please list some papers that were supposedly kept out of the peer reviewed literature, while not being shown wrong.

The facts are that:
1. There really are not that many 'skeptics'.
2. Of those, only few participate in actual scientific research and publish in journals.
3. Those people don't have problems getting their work published (e.g. Lindzen, Pielke Sr, Spencer, Christy, Michaels), although their work is often shown to be wanting.

Now, we automatically also get into a 'problem' with peer review: it *is* a gatekeeping excercise. Keep the obvious nonsense out. Have you even considered the possibility that much of what the 'skeptics' produce *is* nonsense and/or wrong? I'm sure there are a number of Chinese groups that are pretty p-o'ed at me, since I have kept their work out of (some of) the peer reviewed literature. Gatekeeping. Reason? Outrageous mistakes for which a basic 1st year student would be flunked. Sadly, they have published elsewhere anyway, with only some actually realising (some of) their mistakes.

The CRU e-mails also contain some references to bad papers. Soon & Baliunas can be explained to you by Hans von Storch. Michaels & McKitrick mixed radians and degrees. Correcting the error essentially invalidated their claims. It would seem that the harsh words in the CRU e-mails are actually quite appropriate for the papers they discussed...

corinna said...

Marco: on keeping papers out..
I heard Eduardo reporting such experience and also Svensmark. I´m sure others can add. Taking up what you said, some Chinese groups might be able to add examples too?

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Marco, I see where are you coming from but you do not answer the question which was about the media seeking controversy.
In the first link to the Columbia study they talk about Magazines and their online practices (of silently correctiong errors). The second link to the BBC is about the concern of the scientific establishment of losing trust (MMR example).
Do yo have evidence that the new media has mostly an interest in controversy?

Chinese groups will not be able to tell you (at least not here) because they are very unlikely to see our blog (Blogspot is under the Google ban)

Marco said...

Two things:
1. Every scientist has had papers "kept out". I have my share of papers that were rejected, and in my opinion certainly not all on what *I* would consider solid ground. But I don't start screaming "conspiracy" right away.

And yes, several of those Chinese groups will probably be complaining about their papers being kept out of certain journals. But if I flunk my 1st year students if they make the same basic mistakes, how can I let those papers through into the literature? They can come back after they use the correct methodology (and no, there is absolutely no scientific controversy on what constitutes the correct methodology).

Marco said...

The Columbia study shows the lack of (accepting) accountability of media. The second link is an unfortunate introspective analysis by a scientific body, as you really can't blame the Lancet for several newspapers starting the MMR/autism scare. I've yet to see *any* newspaper apologising for giving Wakefield so much attention. Worse even, some are still defending him as the champion of "the truth". In the US some media have done some soulsearching after following the "WMD doctrine" 'too uncritical', but most have just ignored their faults. I'm also still waiting for Jonathan Leake to admit he completely misrepresented Mojib Latif and the Keenlyside paper. There are plenty of examples where the header is 'inflammatory', but hardly covers the content of the article itself. Slightly different, but still related, is the uneven reporting on many subjects, resulting in people e.g. believing that child murders have suddenly increased by a factor x, while it merely is the reporting that has increased, but where the reporting also suggests an increase ("it's already the third in a month").

Where is the journalistic pride in accurate reporting, adding perspective, and correcting mistakes?

I'm not claiming the new (no pause) media has mostly an interest in controversy, but that the media as such has new 'rules' where controversy is a prime objective. Surely not on every topic. But if something can be constructed as a controversy, you will find plenty of media outlets presenting it as a controversy. In fact, "stirs up controversy" is a very common sentence used in the media itself. Do a search and look at the extent of many of these "controversies". In most cases it is an overreach on a tiny topic.

(but, yes, my statement was rather swooping).

@ReinerGrundmann said...

newspapers are not academic journals. Accuracy is not their prime virtue and readers know it (journalists get away with inaccuracies more easily than academic authors). Media are after novelty and drama (not necessarily controversy). They need to raise and keep the attention. This has been established through theories like the issue attention cycle (Downs 1972) and other media analyses.

The MMR controversy was partly spurned by parents' suspicions about a new (more economical) vaccine. They demanded the option of separate vaccinations as before but big pharma did not want this. Wakefield is 'only' the scapegoat.
His papers would not be an issue had there not been some resonance among the population.

Just a hunch: could it not be that those social groups that did not trust big pharma in MMR and did not want to believe the reassuring statements from the medical establishments are the same groups that (with regard to climate change) do not want to believe the sceptics (because of big oil), but most importantly, do not want to believe that action to halt global warming will be costly?

Unknown said...

I agree with Marco that the media tends to frame actually non-controvertial issues as controversies, especially in the cases of CRU and IPCC. But the tendency differs much between countries (or rather language communities in the case of the Internet).

In the USA, the attitude seems to be years old, as Boykoff brothers discussed (probably many times).

Jules Boykoff and Maxwell Boykoff, 2004: Journalistic Balance as Global Warming Bias -- Creating controversy where science finds consensus.

(See also Max Boykoff's commentary at "Nature" web site in 2008: )

I read somewhere that this general attitude of the American media to show two sides became strong in the time of President Reagan (early 1980s), but I forgot the reference.

In Japan, the attitude to show two sides is not universal, but just occasional. Recent controversies about climate scientists are usually reported as news from the USA or UK. Japanese TVs have legal mandate to be neutral, which causes different problems. Personal blogs and paperback books tend to show just one side, often very extreme in either way.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Kooiti 56

If you think about the antonym of controversy, it would be consensus, wouldn't it? Do you really want consensus reporting? Even within climate science mainstream there are many unknowns. Should the media silence them?

What do you mean when you say CRU and IPCC are 'non-controversial'? Do you mean the media has invented a controversy where in reality there was consensus?

Boykoff has provided evidence for the US journalistic practice of creating a balance between positions which does not reflect the 'real' weight of their importance within science. This analysis is true, for the US, until 2003. (I did a study on Germany and the US and could find evidence for 'balanced reporting' in the US, but not Germany).*

In a later publication Boykoff found that after 2003 balanced reporting in the US had withered away. In the British media it did not exist.**

This is to say that in the US, UK and Germany over the past six years or so there was no 'artificial' boosting of sceptical arguments in the press.

*Grundmann, R. (2007). Climate change and knowledge politics. Environmental Politics, 16(3), 414-432. Click here

**Boykoff, M. T. (2007). Flogging a dead norm? Newspaper coverage of anthropogenic climate change in the United States and United Kingdom from 2003 to 2006. Area, 39(2). here

Marco said...

In science you better correct, or someone else will do it for you. The media is the prime source of information for the general population, and while some people will know that mistakes are made, they are usually hard to discover. We're "too busy" to do factchecking, and should be able to trust journalists to at least get the facts right.

Regarding the MRR controversy, please read the following from Ben Goldacre:

I'll refrain from commenting on your hunch.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

@Reiner Grundmann (#57)

Thank you for showing your professional knowledge.

I made a mistake in composing my answer, and posted a correction, but I want to retry. Sorry for making holes.

In #55, by "controversy reporting", I meant framing issues as if disputes in two sides. I did not mean the opposite of "consensus reporting" that is reporting as if there is no separation of opinions. The opposite to my "controversy reporting" may be showing many aspects of the issue, or showing a continuous spectrum with density distribution along a selected axis.

So, my previous use of "non-controvertial" did not mean "no problem", but that there are problems which are not disputes between two sides.

Unknown said...

More clarification of my #61.

If media reports the problem of IPCC as a dispute between two sides, and tells that IPCC defends itself, then the readers expect that there is a certain anti-IPCC position within which there is some consensus. But that is not true.

Now I try to classfy various positions in terms of multiple dichotomies:

1. Climate change is no problem, so we need neither IPCC nor its replacement.
2. Climate change is a problem.
2a. IPCC is useless as a part of the answer. We should abolish it and pursue another mechanism.
2b. IPCC is useful.
2b1. The process of IPCC should be completely revised. Therefore it should stop the current prosess towards AR5.
2b2. The process of IPCC should be somewhat revised along with working towards AR5.