You can stop checking your shoes, readers. Wonder no more how that subtly stercoraceous fragrance that permeates the climate literature got there. (Answer infra.)
Like apples? You may have noticed these apples in your Twitter feed-bag this morning:
Unless you’re a non-scientist (such as a science reporter, climate-blog tragic, or climatologist for instance), you can’t possibly have heard the term ‘Gavin Schmidt.’ So let me attempt a definition.
In the photograph above, you can just make out—behind the smirking hobo—the diner from Seinfeld. And it’s in that particular Manhattan building, somewhere between the first floor and the second story, that NASA—the Wash., DC-based science agency—stores its most valued and mission-critical employees. Employees like Gavin Schmidt, or “Gavin” to friends.
But who exactly is Gavin? (Besides father, family man, environmentalist, astronaut and chief censor of his own blog, RealClimate—one of the oldest and least-read climate blogs for scientists, by scientists, about scientists they don’t consider to be proper scientists?)
It’s easier to explain who Gavin’s not: he’s not just any scientist. That’s who he isn’t.
Gavin has, in fact, been described as one of the Leading 2,500 Scientists On Earth—or IPCC for short—by none other than Rajendra Pachauri, a railway climatologist thought to have chaired the Panel for thirteen years or more. In fact, if Dr Pachauri hadn’t suddenly retired from the climate world in 2015 to spend less time with his girlfriend, he’d probably still be in charge of the IPCC and its estimated 150 to 160 scientists.
Scientists like Gavin Schmidt, who isn’t really like any other scientist.
In an age when most climatologists wouldn’t know their distal alimentary meatus from their olecranon, Schmidt has won respect on both sides of the non-existent debate by not being a complete imbecile.
But even the incompleteness of his imbecility has its limits—as the embarrassing events of ‘DebateGate’ made clear.
The year was 2013. In an eyeblink, climatology turned to tragicomedy when the good Professor schmadt himself on national television. John Stossel, the popular talk-show host, had barely finished inviting him to debate a climate skeptic when “the prospect of being in the same studio with a notorious [scientist] and well-known [scientist]” caused Schmidt to evacuate in fear.
Embedded in the Tweet embedded in the Tweet embedded above is a link to a fascinating Business Insider profile on Schmidt.
The article hits peak relevance towards the end, when discussion turns to
the conspiracy theory widespread fears that incoming President Trump may be scheming “to censor […] bad climate science.”
Censor bad climate science? For 97% of the climate-hyphenated workforce, the implications are chilling.
If there was a campaign to censor […] bad climate science under Trump, Schmidt said that outside researchers would notice.
(As the Lord saith: emphasis is mine.)
Not only does climate science [henceforth “the science”] value the contributions of, and enjoy excellent relations with, “outside researchers,” it also has a secret weapon against those who would plot its demise in the shadows of the Oval Office: a technology it calls peer review. [Click to hear an actor explain how important it is to avoid getting your information from actors. It’s not only boring but informative.]
To the wider world, scientific peer review has long been a subject of mystery, rumor and confabulation.
Transparency, after all, is the enemy of science. In an effort to minimize public knowledge, the science community has never even told us where peer review takes place. (Indeed, the quality of some recent studies has led observers to question whether it occurs at all.)
Until this morning, when Dr Schmidt let the cat out of the bag.
How do I put this euphemistically?
Let’s just say: it seems the scientists have been performing their most sacred of rituals intra posteriorem this whole time. I’m talking Where The Sun Don’t Influence Temperatures; right under our noses, in the last place anyone would want to look; up the Khyber Pass without a paddle. Or, in American,
“We peer-review all our papers up the wazoo,” he said.
Which adds a whole new meaning to ‘hidden in plain sight.’
Before it was a colloquial term for “[in someone’s] rectum,” Wazu or Wazoo was of course the Nobiin name for Egypt’s second-longest river, a treacherous torrent up which more than one expedition has paddled to its downfall. And it still is, since the nationalistic Nasser government outlawed the use of the river’s English name—Schmidt Creek—in 1956.
When the War On Drugs succeeded in driving narcotics underground, it also drove heroin-filled condoms up the bottoms of drug mules. But the donkey is a versatile and capacious beast of onus. And so, from the moment we began our War On Science, it was inevitable that the minds of the Schmidts of the world would turn to asses.
Scientists can never be too careful these days, what with the forces of anti-science slavering to discover and rectify their every carelessness. So a degree of self-rectification, or ‘peer review,’ is a necessary evil. But if they want to keep this process safe from the contamination of scrutiny, they have to secrete it somewhere; and anal secretion is simply the logical choice.
Looking back in hindsight, we probably should have seen this coming up at us in the rear-view. But foreign objects, as they say, May Be Closer Than They Appear. This is simply Fundaments of Cognitive Science (the class we call Psychological Proctology 101 down under). No warning sticker can change basic human nature.
The whole Insider piece is worth reading. You’ll laugh. You’ll learn. You’ll weep as Dr Schmidt struggles to put a brave face on the changing of the guard at NASA:
“The NASA appointee from what I can tell is going to be somebody who’s going to be very focused on Mars or human spaceflight, and I don’t think that’s terrible,” he said.
As a scientist Gavin isn’t allowed to be honest, but we are: the appointment isn’t terrible, it’s execrable.
What is the world coming to when NASA—America’s biggest climate assessment agency—is put in the hands of some would-be Buzz Armstrong whose mind continually drifts off into (literally) space?
Oscar Wilde once quipped that people “can’t predict shit—especially in advance.” In these increasingly unforeseeable times his words are looking more and more prescient.
But one thing we can say to a moral certainty is that Trump Asses Up Everything.
Every night, before I get up to blog, I pray that the unidentified “patriots” who assassinated President Obama in his first term—as we all knew they were going to, but nobody listened—have kept their sniper-rifle licenses up-to-date. Please come out of hiding; all is forgiven!
Some Probing Questions for Dr Schmidt
Intrigued by the tidbit Schmidt let slip, I just had to pump him for more.
The following Tweets, sent to @ClimateOfGavin throughout the day, have been translated into English for your comprehension pleasure. I’ve also merged the odd pair of half-twits into a single twitticism for improved flow, so forgive me if a bit of the wit was spilt ‘twixt the cup and the lip, brevity being the soul of levity and all that.
@ClimateOfGavin, visibility up the human wazoo is often limited at best. Could a change of venue, maybe, help Scientists™ get closer to the ultimate goal of the peer-review process (spotting your own blunders before @ClimateAudit does)?
@ClimateOfGavin, if a paper that ‘smells like Lindzen‘ is ‘peer-reviewed up the wazoo,’ does it come out smelling like Schmidt?
@ClimateOfGavin, up whose wazoo, exactly, was the Aussie Hockey Stick* when it underwent a gruelling half-hour of peer review back in 2012?
Come on, @ClimateOfGavin, don’t be coy.
OK @ClimateOfGavin, it’s 11 hours and not a sound from your end. To misquote The Simpsons, we’ve reached the limits of what banal probing can teach us.
@ClimateOfGavin, don’t make me request a Cavity Audit. The FOI form is right in front of me. I’m looking at the box marked ‘Up the wazoo.’
Don’t think I won’t tick it, @ClimateOfGavin.
@ClimateOfGavin, I’ll do it. I swear. Think your sphinx-like sphincter is gonna keep your secrets forever?
@ClimateOfGavin We want to help make the hurting stop, but you have to let us in. You have to let somebody in.
Please, @ClimateOfGavin, friend, don’t make us get HR involved. Nobody wants to see the climate debate become unpleasant or adversarial.
*I was referring here to the 2012 paper ‘Hockey Stick Found At Arse End of World!’ by Australian paleoclimatologist Joelle Girgis, one of a tiny handful of disproportionately-vocal “scientists” who deny the reality of climate change before 1900.
The study is said to have been 3 years in the making and 3 weeks in the breaking. For those interested in the technical details, it emerged that the Stick had only been introduced as far as the semicolon, resulting in a half-assed peer review in which screeners failed to screen for the Screening Fallacy.
Bottom line: the paper came out prematurely, and Dr Gergis is still traumatized by the mathematical gang-reaming that ensued on skeptical sites.
Concerned faculty members rushed the scientist to Casualty, where a team of spin doctors worked through the night to retract the article from Gergis.
But so badly had she been torn a new one by the skeptosphere, an artificial perineum had to be created using a donor face. The re-buttal was a complete success, even scoring a writeup in the Australasian Journal of Reconstructive Surgery—Dr Gergis’ main contribution to science to date.
Her sponsor on the paper, Prof. David Karoly, was not so lucky. Karoly was caught in the cross-reaming, and injuries to his dignity required months of intensive rehab. The exercises helped, but he’ll probably never walk and lie at the same time again.
Dr Karoly—who lost more than 40% of his face in the incident—calls that whole period his annus execrabilis.
UPDATE: Some mothers may have ’em but some motherless sons evidently don’t like it up ’em, because I’ve just received a rather triggering series of long-distance phone calls.
A man identifying himself only as “his new boss” wanted to tell me that Dr Schmidt “regrets he can’t answer your questions, and recommends you take them and shove them where Kevin Trenberth’s heat is hiding. Good day sir.”
He subsequently rang back to add, “I said good day.”
The caller—who also said he reads CliScep religiously, and to keep up the excellent work—never gave his name. But the voice, with its Queens, N.Y.-raised accent, was somehow familiar; I’m sure I know him from somewhere.
This is going to bug me all night.
UPDATE 2: Below the crease, TinyCO2 butts in with an unimpeachably ass-backwards analysis. I duplicate it here for posterity. It’s one of those passages I hope you’re not sitting down for.
Schmidt is truly in for an Annus Horribilis of the gluteus maximus type. Some say that NASA has arrived at its conclusions a posteriori and others think that they come out of their assessments, but we see that there is little behind their claims. I don’t want Trump to give Schmidt the bum’s rush. I want him to audit the ass off the entire field. Find a team of experts who are anal about fine detail. Give them the task to sort order from ordure. Scrape away all the muck and we might be left with a fine rump of science that can tell us what we really know about climate. If Trump pooh-poohs climate science and sends Schmidt base over apex, he will be seen as an ignorant arse but who could find fault with him if he sets out to find the diamond in the dung heap?
Ouch. Somewhere, those opposite are thinking: with cleanses like this, who needs enemas?