David Rose in the Mail on Sunday has broken a story which may be as signficant as Climategate in its implications. It concerns one single paper (the Karl 2015 “Bury the Pause” paper) which, it it is claimed, is based on false and non-replicable data. And this time the source is not some anonymous whistleblower/hacker, but the US government scientist who was responsible for laying down the rules that government scientists at NOAA and elsewhere are supposed to follow. You can read the account by the ex-NOAA scientist John Bates who provides the basis for the Mail on Sunday story at Judith Curry’s site and the reaction of Anthony Watts and hundreds of his readers here.
Defence of the Karl paper and attacks on David Rose have appeared with astonishing rapidity. Zeke Hausfather’s article at CarbonBrief came out about five hours after the Mail on Sunday article, and the Guardian followed a few hours later with an article by John Abraham, (who plays Bud Abbott to Nuccitelli’s Lou Costello as one half of the 97% team, who do the Guardian’s factual stuff now that their science and environment correspondents have given up.)
Paul Matthews will be posting soon with a more scientific analysis of this story, but in the meantime, here are some ruminations which might help discussion, (or not.)
I’ve just read Andrew Montford’s excellent ebook “Hiding the Decline” which I bought when it came out years ago. (Not knowing what “epub” meant, and not being able to open it, I left it in a corner of my computer where it’s been maturing quietly ever since, like a fine wine.)
The book (in case you haven’t read it, which you should) covers:
1) the manoeuvres of Mann, Jones and a number of fellow scientists to suppress criticisms of their scientific work on the historical temperature record, as revealed in the Climategate emails
2) the manoeuvres of a vast number of academics, officials, civil servants, journalists and politicians to cover up the reality exposed in the Climategate emails
The book is a monument of precision, politeness and circumspection when it comes to attributing motives. (Only in the short section where he deals with attacks on his own work for the GWPF does he betray a spark of anger.) Yet, despite his admirable reticence, the impression given is that absolutely everyone involved is a liar, a fool or a charlatan, or maybe all three.
So is the theory of catastrophic climate change a conspiracy? According to the strict dictionary definition, it is, in that the people concerned clearly conferred together to do something wrong – namely introduce a consistent bias in the scientific research, and then cover it up. Which is not to say that Mann, Jones, Schmidt, Briffa, Amman, et al. ever got together and decided that the theory of catastrophic global warming must be defended at all costs. It is enough that a number of scientists converged on a scientific hypothesis, sold it to the politicians and other interest groups, and that a vast number of people now have a stake in it, and are forced to defend it in order to protect their reputations and their careers.
The politicians, university administrators, civil servants, journalists etc. who conspired in the different cover ups were by and large just doing what they always do: protecting the status quo, and, indirectly their own jobs and status.
The scientists were doing the precise opposite of what they are supposed to do. But what were they doing? Was it bad science, or non-science, or politics, or noble cause corruption, or grant chasing or what?
Precisely similar questions are raised by the Karl paper which is now the centre of the breaking scandal. It would help if it was accepted that the “debate” (or “fight to the death”, to give it its technical name) is not about science, but about data collection; about non-existent Chinese temperature records; about conclusions drawn from one Siberian tree; about Scandinavian mud samples turned upside down.
Once it’s accepted that the problem is data collection and not science, the whole nature of the debate is shifted, and anyone can join in. Changing ocean temperature records decades after the event is no different in kind from changing the results of an opinion poll predicting an election after the result. Which is not to say that it should never be done, but that it should be done according to rules established beforehand and should be closely examined by interested parties, i.e. us.
Zeke Housefather’s claim that the Karl results have been independently verified seems irrelevant. It’s as if a polling company announced that they’d rerun their pre-election poll data and discovered that they’d correctly forecast the Brexit result after all; that they couldn’t tell you why, because the computer they’d done it on was broken; but that they knew they’d got it right this time because other polling organisations had done the same thing.
Pull the other one, it’s got adjustments on.