Science: One Damned Adjustment After Another?
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.
Fact checkers the Carbon Brief, fact check another Rose’s about a principal scientist at NOAA being whisteblower, without being able to actually give the name of the ‘whistle blower!
It’s almost as if they don’t want their readers to know……. (Dr John Bates, Principal Scientist, NOAA)
Guardian did the same….
this story will not be going away.. Obama has left the building.(climate scientist need to understand the rules of the game have changed)
this timeline, is going to haunt NOAA
Click to access NOAA%20Karl%20Study%20One-Pager.pdf
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“NOAA not only failed, but it effectively mounted a cover-up when challenged over its data. After the paper was published, the US House of Representatives Science Committee launched an inquiry into its Pausebuster claims. NOAA refused to comply with subpoenas demanding internal emails from the committee chairman, the Texas Republican Lamar Smith, and falsely claimed that no one had raised concerns about the paper internally.” via WUWT
this is going to hurt NOAA politically.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “I thank Dr. John Bates for courageously stepping forward to tell the truth about NOAA’s senior officials playing fast and loose with the data in order to meet a politically predetermined conclusion. In the summer of 2015, whistleblowers alerted the Committee that the Karl study was rushed to publication before underlying data issues were resolved to help influence public debate about the so-called Clean Power Plan and upcoming Paris climate conference. Since then, the Committee has attempted to obtain information that would shed further light on these allegations, but was obstructed at every turn by the previous administration’s officials. I repeatedly asked, ‘What does NOAA have to hide?’
“Now that Dr. Bates has confirmed that there were heated disagreements within NOAA about the quality and transparency of the data before publication, we know why NOAA fought transparency and oversight at every turn. Dr. Bates’ revelations and NOAA’s obstruction certainly lend credence to what I’ve expected all along – that the Karl study used flawed data, was rushed to publication in an effort to support the president’s climate change agenda, and ignored NOAA’s own standards for scientific study. The Committee thanks Dr. Bates, a Department of Commerce Gold Medal winner for creating and implementing a standard to produce and preserve climate data, for exposing the previous administration’s efforts to push their costly climate agenda at the expense of scientific integrity.”
Thanks for the links Barry. (The Guardian link goes to Barry’s profile as a Guardian commenter. You have to trawl through the comment thread to see Barry’s comments in context.)
The GWPF has the story http://www.thegwpf.com/ with links to articles by Matt Ridley and David Whitehouse.
There’s good post on the Manhattan Contrarian about this – http://manhattancontrarian.com/blog/2017/2/5/the-greatest-scientific-fraud-of-all-time-part-xiii
The author, Francis Menton, thinks there may be scope for criminal proceedings in there somewhere:
An intensive public investigation does seem to be in order, at the very least. Menton begins his article with a note of considerable optimism:
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Yes that is the evidence for the FRAUD! Should not the incompetence be drained as well?
TdeF February 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm
“Firstly the ocean is far bigger in mass. The ocean is on average 3.4km deep. At one atmosphere per 10 metres, that is 340x the weight of the atmosphere and about the same volume. So the ocean has at least 340x the heat capacity and given air is an insulator, far more. So the total heat to for a change in temperature of 1C for the atmosphere is only 1/340th degree for the ocean. Impossible to measure.”
While I agree with your analysis you seem to miss the tall pole under the tent, namely the latent heat of evaporation of airborne water colloid (haze, clouds) to the visually transparent water vapor (WV). There exists in Earth’s atmosphere approximately 2 x 10^16 grams of perceptible water (H2O) in all six phases of water. Not all of this can be WV, as most of the atmosphere does nor contain sufficient sensible heat (temperature), for this to be the case!
What is left is that insolation, in the morning, with no change in temperature, is continuously converting airborne water colloid to WV at the rate of 2400 W/g(m²); with continuous reversion back to airborne water colloid releasing that same 2400 W/g(m²) to space via EMR in the nighttime. What does this do to that colorful cartoon by Kevin Trenberth known as “energy budget”?
All the best! -will-
“2 x 10^16 grams of perceptible water (H2O) in all six phases of water. ”
wrong!! 2 x 10^16 kg of perceptible water (H2O) in all six phases of water.
Hell! Zeros have no mass!
I’m just going through Bates’ post at Judith Curry’s. It’s quite technical and a bit daunting for anyone not that familiar with data processing techniques. But so far, I’ve isolated a few key quotations which appear to damn Karl et al 2015 and might reasonably be taken into account by Science when deciding whether or not to withdraw the paper:
“This is confirmed by parsing the file name actually used on the FTP site for the K15 dataset [link]; NOTE: placing a non-machine readable copy of a dataset on an FTP site does not constitute archiving a dataset).”
Some people are claiming that K15 did archive its data, but it was not in machine-readable form. Furthermore:
“That is, the folks who did the processing for K15 and saved the file actually used the correct naming and versioning, but K15 did not disclose this. Clearly labeling the dataset would have indicated this was a highly experimental early GHCN-M version 4 run rather than a routine, operational update. As such, according to NOAA scientific integrity guidelines, it would have required a disclaimer not to use the dataset for routine monitoring.”
It appears there was no disclaimer. A fact which is rather concerning when Bates goes on to say:
“All software has errors and it is not surprising there were some, but the magnitude of the problem was significant and a rigorous process of software improvement like the one proposed was needed. However, this effort was just beginning when the K15 paper was submitted, and so K15 must have used data with some experimental processing that combined aspects of V3 and V4 with known flaws. The GHCNMv3.X used in K15 did not go through any ORR process, and so what precisely was done is not documented.”
This comment might be better placed on Paul’s post, but I wasn’t sure, so decided to put it here to be safe!
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Tim Worstall has put up a post on this topic. Guess which consensus enforcer was on hand to poo-poo it.
“Since the version GHCNM3.X never went through any ORR, the resulting dataset was also never archived, and it is virtually impossible to replicate the result in K15.”
“The K15 global merged dataset is also not archived nor is it available in machine-readable form . . . .
The lack of archival of the GHCN-M V3.X and the global merged product is also in violation of Science policy on making data available [link]. This policy states: “Climate data. Data should be archived in the NOAA climate repository or other public databases”. Did Karl et al. disclose to Science Magazine that they would not be following the NOAA archive policy, would not archive the data, and would only provide access to a non-machine readable version only on an FTP server?”
I think the answer is probably no. So, going through Bates’ evidence, it does seem that that there is sufficient grounds for Science withdrawing publication of Karl et al., which of course would render Hausfather et al, which reportedly independently confirms K15’s findings, somewhat redundant. There seems little point in referencing a withdrawn paper. They will have to start from scratch to produce a paper which demonstrates there is no Pause.
Geoff, the book surely undermines itself if it gives the impression that “absolutely everyone involved is a liar, a fool or a charlatan, or maybe all three”. That is just not realistic.
Also, your analogy is poor. Polling data is nothing like temperature data. Unless you can find biases in answers, such as reliable changes in replies according to the time of day, location etc. Complaining about adjustments is the same as saying that even if we can recognise biases in measurements, we should pretend that they do or did not exist.
“I finally decided to document what I had found using the climate data record maturity matrix approach. I did this and sent my concerns to the NCEI Science Council in early February 2016 and asked to be added to the agenda of an upcoming meeting. I was asked to turn my concerns into a more general presentation on requirements for publishing and archiving. Some on the Science Council, particularly the younger scientists, indicated they had not known of the Science requirement to archive data and were not aware of the open data movement [!]. They promised to begin an archive request for the K15 datasets that were not archived; however I have not been able to confirm they have been archived. I later learned that the computer used to process the software had suffered a complete failure, leading to a tongue-in-cheek joke by some who had worked on it that the failure was deliberate to ensure the result could never be replicated.”
So, all this nonsense about Rose using “fake graphs” and climate scientists being able to independently confirm K15 by using data ‘archived’ at the FTP site is just a diversion from the main issue. Rigorous scientific procedure was not followed. The requirements for data access as set out by Science were not adhered to by K15’s authors who were, it seems fairly obvious, very keen to get their paper into publication before Paris. K15 can never be replicated. It should be consigned to the waste bin of climate alarmist history.
And William Connolley, on that Worstall post, comes out as a pause denier. Some chutzpah these enforcers have!
“K15 can never be replicated. It should be consigned to the waste bin of climate alarmist history.”
Such has scientifically been so consigned by all with ‘any’ personal\professional integrity,! Now what?
Thanks for one of the clearest layman’s’ expositions of the “adjustment” problem that I’ve read Geoff.
Like many moderately numerate sceptics, I can’t believe how many hours of my life I’ve spent struggling to climb down the rabbit-hole of climate numerology – without actually mastering the art with enough confidence to challenge the high priests.
Your piece triggered a thought that’s been lurking in my befuddled brain for a while though.
I’ve always been surprised by the tiny magnitude of the temperature variations that are supposed to strike terror into our hearts. Plotted as actual temperatures in degrees C, F or K – they’re pretty well invisible to the naked eye.
The pause-busting breakthrough of Karl’s paper was to raise annual temp increase from 0.113C per to 0.116C per decade during the “pause” period – i.e. 0.003C per decade.
In the competing narratives of the current controversy, we find that the difference between measuring sea temperature via ships’ engine intakes or measurement buoys is either 0.07C or 0.12C – a variation of 0.05C. More than 10x the disputed decadal variation.
Remembering anecdotally that previous adjustments have been made for transitions between ancient leather and modern steel buckets – and then from steel buckets to early ships’ intakes – and then again for the transition to modern ships’ intakes.
And remembering that land temperatures have regularly been adjusted for decades – to compensate for alleged errors of long-gone public servants in diligence, time-keeping & truthfulness.
And bearing in mind that all these corrective “adjustments” are really just the informed opinion of modern scientists on historical measurements taken by others.
Is it unreasonable to ask whether there is any meaningful real data left in these multiply adjusted datasets – or are the protagonists just like so many medieval monks debating how many angels can dance on a pin?
I was a working engineer in the era from the slide-rule to the early PC and every time I look at climate data I come to the conclusion it would have been discarded as virtually meaningless & functionally useless in any role I occupied.
I don’t think the climate high priests have any data – just chicken entrails.
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Foxgoose, you are being quintessentially numerate because you are questioning the numbers, trying to make sense of them, and looking at the contexts and ‘narratives’. The worst example [I’ve heard of,] of weather data recording (a basic input into climate change assessment de nos jours) was in East Africa, where one year someone noticed a remarkable similarity between the current and
the previous[an archived] year’s observations. An ‘observer’ was saving himself some trouble by looking up the previous[the archived] year’s readings for each date, and submitting them as his return from some remote outpost. Easy money!
Bingo! And I say this as one who readily admits to being congenitally “graphically challenged” – a handicap I’ve rarely succeeded in overcoming. To paraphrase the immortal Eliza Doolittle, “Don’t show me graphs, show me numbers.”
And maybe I missed it – being on this side of the pond, where we have our very own ignorant hashtagging climateers in office – but has anyone heard anything about this from the UK Met Office? Because, as I had noted, back in the day (i.e. circa July 2013) this “jewel in the crown” had proffered three papers acknowledging “the pause”.
Your objections to climate numerology mark you as someone who has been living too long in the real world, where statistics are valued for their relevance to humanity. One of my introductions to the strange world of climatism was a discussion at Climate Audit, where Steve McIntyre and his colleagues were trying to puzzle out the effect of a changeover in the early 20th century from leather to oaken buckets for gathering water samples for measuring ocean temperature. Someone pointed out that it was important to know the weight of the cabin boy, since that would effect the depth at which the sample was taken.
Then round about 1939 there was a massive change from buckets to ships’ intakes, due to the fact that merchant shipping, which had been 70% British owned, suddenly became American. Real life suddenly interrupted data gathering, and all those sailors dipping their thermometers into buckets of wood or leather or steel checking for that decadal change of a few hundredths of a degree that meant life or death for our planet suddenly had something else to worry about.
We may be at one of those crucial moments in history, where NOAA scientists ironing out a wiggle in an imaginary line may have something more serious to worry about, though let’s hope it’s nothing worse than a Senate hearing.
Popular Science has come out fighting against claims that NOAA fabricated data. Was that even a claim? Whatever, the headline says this:
“No credible evidence supports that NOAA fabricated data; evidence still points to climate change.”
The rant pays scant regard to what Bates actually said, which is actually the issue. Reading down I came across this:
“The Karl paper is also not the only one to tackle the hiatus. Studies in Nature by Stephan Lewandowsky of the Cabot Institute University of Bristol, and this one in the journal Climate Change by Bala Rajaratnam of Stanford University, all say the same thing.
The Karl study’s high profile, however, has made it a frequent target for criticism.”
So when Karl et al, 2015 is withdrawn, we’ll only have Lew’s word for it that the Pause is a myth, plus an obscure 2015 paper that purports to statistically erase the Pause! Too funny.
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The whole thing is utterly ridiculous. But didn’t they finally get Capone for tax fraud? It seems clear the correct process wasn’t followed – especially for a “highly influential” scientific assessment. I look forward to an example being made.
Here is a paper from 2008, which says
The main correction, which produced the change presented in Karl et al., was recognised as being required in 2008.
Hmm, am I understanding Ken’s quotation from that paper correctly?
” . . . . the merged in situ data without bias adjustment can have a cool bias relative to data with no ship–buoy bias. As buoys become more important to the in situ record, that bias can increase. . . . . The increasing negative bias due to the increase in buoys tends to reduce this recent warming.”
Something not quite right here. The assumption actually is that ships DO NOT have a warm bias, whereas buoys ACTUALLY have a negative bias (not a RELATIVE negative bias), resulting in real warming being understated as buoys replace ship intakes. Is there any justification for this viewpoint Ken?
No, I don’t think that what you’ve said is correct. In the context of anomalies, there isn’t some correct temperature reading – everything is relative to a baseline. Saying the ships are warm relative to the buoys, is equivalent to saying that the buoys are cool relative to the ships.
The point (as I understand it) is that there is a bias between the ships and buoys. If the number of data points from buoys is small, the effect of this will be relatively small, but will increase as the number of buoys increases, and the number of ships decrease. Hence, if you do not correct for this bias, there will be a cool bias, relative to what would be the case where this correction applied.
Just a reminder of what Ross McKitrick said in 2014: it’s the flaws (in climate models) not the pause that is the really significant thing about the far from perky recent temperature record (to use the technical term). That’s what makes Karl-style pausebusting so meaningless to any right-thinking observer. Though not of course necessarily to Paris policy supremos advised by the current set of climate cronies, which is why Steve McIntyre’s point about the stipulated process for a “highly influential” scientific assessment must also apply.
The whole catastrophist house of cards depends on models being an accurate reflection of the real world. Going right back to 1988 they clearly haven’t been. I’m sure that we too will come back to it.
I can see what you’re saying Ken, that there is essentially no difference between correcting for a warm bias (cooling the past) or correcting for a cool bias (warming the present), but I’m sure we’re missing something here. I’ll have to go away and think about it more carefully.
I still think we’re missing vital factors here.
Reliable sources have informed me that it was not uncommon for 19th century cabin boys, while bending over the rail to adjust the depth of their buckets, to be “surprised” by the chief steward – on his way back from checking the rum rations.
Such encounters could seriously imperil accurate judgement of depth – even, on occasion, leading to the complete loss of the bucket and sometimes, tragically, the cabin boy as well.
Surely there’s a university department somewhere prepared to put in a bid for a few hundred grand to study “The intersection of 19th maritime sexual norms and the global temperature record”.
I bet they’ll find it’s much worse than we thought.
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Exactly, and that is what people have been pointing out for ages.
There is no difference other than you are correcting good data to match bad. You then have to adjust all future temperature readings. At some point people will use the old data without knowing it’s bad or the current data not knowing that it’s adjusted, despite being correct. Reality is not relative.
This has knock on effect to past and future papers that use the data. Should they use the corrected value or the real value? The main reason to not do a mass change to the old data is so that all the work already done doesn’t instantly become wrong. And or make climate science look like it’s still a work in progress and not the rock solid science it pretends to be.
No, you’re not. You’re combining different datasets that are trying to measure the same regions using different measuring devices. If there is an offset (i.e., one device measures a slightly different temperature to the other, when they should be the same) then you should correct for that offset. Not doing so would produce a less accurate record, than doing so.
…AND THEN THERE’S PHYSICS (07 Feb 17 at 12:01 pm)
Ken Physics’s intervention is as red a herring as ever blushed for shame.
A temperature graph is like a piece of wet string attached at one end to the present (which is as perfect as we know how to make it) and some point in the distant and incorrigible past. Karl can poke it in the middle at some point to make it wiggle as much as he likes, but there’s the same number of extra Joules under the surface as there was before. He’s just displaced the kink to somewhere else.
Taking a historic measurement accurate to a degree or two and averaging it until you’ve got the two or three decimal places you need to measure where Trenberth’s hidden heat went was never going to work.
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“Taking a historic measurement accurate to a degree or two and averaging it until you’ve got the two or three decimal places you need to measure where Trenberth’s hidden heat went was never going to work.”
To my mind the real issue here.
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Pretending that there is some magic constant offset between ship and buoy data is, in any event, absurd.
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The concept of accuracy when you are comparing measurements taken in different ways is an interesting one. It seems a bit like measuring my temperature with a rectal thermometer compared with a thermomenter held against my face while I was standing in the open air. How close would the readings be? If there were differences, would the “offset” be constant?
In real science, they would do experiments to try to characterise the differences in different situations. I wonder if, in the wacky world of climate pscience, they just asked Phil Jones to pull a number out of his backside?
After all, as far as I know, no one has even done the experiment of planting trees in carefully controlled conditions to see whether the ringwidths somehow approximate to global temperatures. It’s been long enough since Mann hauled the hockey stick out of thin air for someone to do such a basic experiment. That no one seems to have done it just shows what a bunch of clowns these guys are. Ridicule is required rather than any respect whatsoever.
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FREDERICK COLBOURNE (07 Feb 17 at 3:48 pm)
Thanks for supporting my argument. A large part of my reason for being here is the contention that my A-level (= high school) science and some experience of sampling from working in market research half a century ago provide sufficient knowledge to counter many of the claims of climate science. The difficult stuff I leave to Paul Matthews and others.
MAN IN A BARREL (07 Feb 17 at 6:40 pm)
Exactly. And that was my point in referring to Andrew Montford’s book in this article. The facts are well known to everyone here, but utterly unknown outside our circle.
Karl is a minor functionary, designated by the powers that be to shift a few figures a few hundredths of a degree (thanks Foxgoose.) Bigger fish have been fried, to no effect. For example, when Mann defended the use of tree ring data that was thirty years out of date by claiming that updating it would be difficult, involving hauling heavy equipment over difficult terrain, Steve McIntyre formulated the Starbucks Hypothesis: that he could collect the said material and be back in time for coffee, which he did. See https://climateaudit.org/2007/10/12/a-little-secret/ where the data is brought up to date.
Has anyone thanked him? Has anyone written it up? Have the great and the good at the Royal Society or the equivalent American organisations which spend millions trying to popularise science praised this example of citizen science in action? Have they castigated Mann for his refusal to look at the facts, like some mediaeval bishop refusing to look through Galileo’s telescope?
And why not? Because Steve’s is proper science, with its tongue in its cheek and its mind activated by curiosity anchored in a 2500 year-old tradition that we have all but forgotten.
We’re doomed, I tell you. The Chinese and the Indians are not hidebound by our hatred of the new (or do I mean the old?) – the truth difficult to assimilate (and difficult to sell to an electorate.)
I’ve already publicised this link, but I do so again. http://www.21bcr.com/a/shiye/yuwai/2010/0907/1563.html
One day I’ll try to translate it. McIntyre has his supporters in the higher echelons of the Chinese scientific establishment. Maybe we’re not doomed after all.
FOXGOOSE (07 Feb 17 at 12:16 pm)
But eating of the captain’s biscuit her colour did destroy
And the waist did swell of pretty Nell the handsome Cabin Boy
Please understand I’m not supporting the politics of the Maoist and Scottish Nationalist Ewan McColl, though I see nothing to criticise in the politics of his mandolinist – ex-whaler, ex-sheep farmer, ex-International Brigadist, ex-actor in Kubrick’s “Moby Dick”, ex-professor of ethnomusicology at Goldsmith’s College, and lifelong communist Bert Lloyd.
The song might provide some support to the BLT brigade or whatever they’re called. I don’t mind what they do, as long as they don’t interfere with the climate.
The particulars of this latest scandal don’t excite me terribly much, but something in Geoff’s description of why the theory of catastrophic climate change is a conspiracy rang a bell with me.
There was an irritating documentary I watched some years ago (probably a “Horizon”, travesty of its former self that it is) which was drawing ever more intricate theories of cultural migration to explain why the African and American pyramids align so neatly on a common axis. To any sane person it was pretty obvious it was because they line up neatly under the same Sun.
Likewise, when similar governments employ people with similar training, in similar jobs, with similar incentives, there doesn’t need to be a conspiracy for them to end up with similar results, and I don’t think describing it as a conspiracy helps very much. The fault is with the incentives; the climate scientists are just responding to them — rats running in a maze if you will.
“Steve McIntyre formulated the Starbucks Hypothesis: that he could collect the said material and be back in time for coffee, which he did.”
No he didn’t. It took at least 3 days apparently: “I only went up Almagre on the first day. Our permit lasted a month and Pete and Leslie spent two more days on Almagre, finally locating and sampling tagged Graybill trees on the third day.”
It then took months and several thousand dollars to get the samples processed and to analyze the data, all for the little blue squiggle in this: https://climateaudit.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/almagr6.gif
…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….
Kuhn describes what is going on perfectly in his master work on scientific revolutions.
Once a scientific ‘paradigm’ has become what Kuhn calls ‘normal science’, most science work involves ‘filling in the small gaps’ of knowledge, using the ‘normal paradigm’ as the template. Thus, most astronomy after Ptolemy involved showing how all the planets’ movements fitted the Epicycle paradigm.
Gradually, small problems occur with the ‘normal paradigm’. Kuhn brilliantly explains how these are ignored or treated as exceptions by the mass of scientists, until they become too great to ignore. he explains how people who raise these exceptions are suppressed if possible – Galileo was a classic example. Eventually, of course, the dam breaks, and suddenly everyone starts believing in the ‘new paradigm’. This often only happens when many of the older scientists have died off – science ‘advancing one funeral at a time’.
In fact, this description is not only limited to science. It applies to ALL human activity. ‘Evidence-based’ activity is a bit of a myth – most business, science, art and every other compartment of human life proceeds in the way Kuhn describes – a ‘way of viewing the world’, a building on this foundation, a crumbling, and then a new way of viewing the world takes over…
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Well said, though I wouldn’t say that “‘Evidence-based’ activity is a bit of a myth..” but rather that evidence-based changes in human belief systems come about in tectonic shifts, and not smoothly. This is hardly surprising, since the strructure of human society is at least as complicated as the geological structure of the earth’s crust, and we’re a crusty lot.
Yes, same causes, same effects. But scientists are supposed to be insulated from the kind of base influences which motivate the rest of us by their own innate desire to discover the truth, and by a certain independence of thought guaranteed by academic tenure and the privileges of the university system. Why that has gone so wrong is a massive question which should be a prime target for investigation by social scientists. But since they are among those benefiting from the system there’s not much hope.
The little blue squiggle you mention is some science which McIntyre and his friends did for free. It adds thirty-odd years of confirmation to Graybill’s finding that stripped bark pine trees have not been tracking temperature since about 1870 (except now, during the pause of course.) Mann said it couldn’t be done. Supermann McIntyre did it.
I’d be surprised if Mann said it *couldn’t* be done unless he was talking about practicalities such as obtaining funding and persuading a grad student to waste six months doing it. I imagine the value in such studies is in the large sweeps of time, where they might give hints about gross environmental changes, not in 30 recent years.
Len, why do you find it necessary to defend the anti-scientific practices of climate science? Surely obtaining evidence and proving hypotheses ought to be central to the work they do rather than just calculating crap?
“….I’d be surprised if Mann said it *couldn’t* be done unless he was talking about practicalities such as obtaining funding and persuading a grad student to waste six months doing it….”
Actually, Len, you are quite close. I remember it well.
McIntyre had wondered out loud if and when a particular series which he thought very suspicious would get updated. Mann came out with all sorts of reasons for delaying over the years, and finally said that it couldn’t be done because it was too difficult to reach the original trees.
So McIntyre drove up to them for him, took the samples, and IIRC, paid for them to processed in a lab to obtain the data. It only took a day. The series still didn’t get updated, though…
@Geoff …Well said, though I wouldn’t say that “‘Evidence-based’ activity is a bit of a myth..” but rather that evidence-based changes in human belief systems come about in tectonic shifts, …
Actually, that was an intentional remark, and came from my own experience of trying to drive evidence-based decisions in security risk analysis. You rapidly find that you are constrained by the paradigm you and your colleagues are thinking in – issues outside that paradigm may not really be considered as evidence at all.
Kuhn points out very good examples where, for instance, Aristotelian physics was well supported by extensive evidence – so long as you thought in terms of Aristotelian physics, and accepted such principles as Natural Motion and Perfect Shapes. We do not accept these nowadays, and consequently deny Aristotle’s evidence – but many clever people believed it for a long time. So also will we seem to inhabitants of this planet in another 2400 years.
If, like me, you are more of a Platonist, you are forced to point out that there is no absolute truth in this world, only relative knowledge…
I’m not sure this is a problem with science at all. The main problem is that the scientific side is being driven by politicians: people who draw strength from the threat of disaster.
Anyone with a modicum of sense can see that accurately modelling climate is impossible (even if all the inputs were known). The people who try should be allowed to do it in the peace and comfort of their own little labs, and to go to the occasional conference where they can exchange notes on their futile efforts. But along the way some politicians realised that the models can serve political ends quite well. The climate scientists now find themselves in the limelight and we wind up with the perverse business of adjusting measured temperatures by any means necessary so they accord with the useless but politically favoured models.
I think it isn’t right to call it a conspiracy. Just that most politically active people in western countries love government intervention and will do whatever they can to increase it. That’s the great big thumb on the scales.
Happily, the cure won’t depend on sociologists. Unfortunately, it probably does require our politicians to mend their ways. Tall order. Can Trump and May be today’s Reagan and Thatcher?
So sorry Robert Swan but your carriage precedes your nag. Those luvly models run on big, all flashing, computers with hoards of acolytes in attendance and which cost much dinero to run. That money came primarily from state-funded granting agencies (administered mostly by academics), from university research funds or by agencies like the Met Office. To increase funding it was the academic community that convinced politicians (falsely) of the significance of their endeavours. Subsequently industry joined in.
Thanks, that’s most interesting. I tended to agree with ROBERT SWAN, seeing it as a circular pattern of influence running from activists to journalists, picking up scientists on the way in order to influence politicians, who finance both activists and scientists. But your point raises the question of why the academics who run the state-funded granting agencies favour the “luvly models run on big, all flashing, computers” rather than the run-of-the-mill scientist working “in the peace and comfort of his own little lab.”
Robert’s reference to Mrs Thatcher as a politician who opposed these tendencies is contradicted by her splashing out a billion pounds setting up the Hadley Centre, against her natural budget-cutting instincts. But her specially-commissioned report recommending the closure of the coal industry was one of the first examples of government creating their own evidence. Coal miners and their powerful tradition of working class solidarity represented a danger to the political climate she was aiming to create.
Geoff. Activists and scientists are/were not always separate people, that is part of the problem.
I think both (Robert and Alan) are correct – it’s a vicious circle.
Alan is right that academics proclaim how important their own research is (the most successful ones, anyway – there’s a reason that I’m not a professor). This happens in all fields. In fact the system forces you to do it, if you want to climb the greasy pole of grant funding – you have to write an impact statement, basically saying that your research is going to improve the UK economy and cure cancer.
The more you exaggerate past or future climate change or its impacts, the more important your research looks and the more likely it is to get funded (“Look, my research showing that millions could die by 2050 has been reported in the Guardian! Impact!”)
Then politicians love it because they can go to Paris and shake hands with each other and announce that they’ve reached a historic agreement to save the planet, which of course will require giving even vaster sums of cash to climate scientists.
Those with leftish big-government political views, both in academia and in politics, massage the science to fit with their anti-business, anti-industry views, consciously or sub-consciously. There are a few people who come pretty close to admitting this, like Mike Hulme.
There appears to be confusion between what is happening now – a non-virtuous circle where back-scratching is mutually done by scientists, politicians, NGOs, the media and industry, keeping the climate gravy train running, and how this sorry state of affairs began – a topic I thought Robert Swan was addressing and which I believed happened differently.
It wos the “science gang” wot started it Sir, then everybody piled in.
Alan, I don’t think our views are all that different. I wasn’t trying to say who started it, just that “conspiracy” was not the right word to describe it.
As you said, it’s quite possible for a scientist to be an activist. I need hardly point out that scientists are just people, not the stereotype (how do you tell an extroverted scientist? He talks to your shoes). What I think has happened is that some scientists, motivated by the very unscientific pursuit of prestige (big budget, flashy computer, big team, celebrity), ran their pitch by the politicians who saw the power of the story. And the vicious circle spun up.
All the same, I sympathise with the less active climate scientists. By definition, we won’t see the ones who shun the limelight, but I’m sure there are many who quietly disapprove of the tabloid travesty that their field has become. It adds insult to injury to lump them in as conspirators.
Robert Swan. You wrote.
“What I think has happened is that some scientists, motivated by the very unscientific pursuit of prestige (big budget, flashy computer, big team, celebrity), ran their pitch by the politicians”.
Maybe in part, but I would be more generous. I think the major players believe (or believed) in the importance of what they do and are (were) genuinely worried or scared by what pumping CO2 into the atmosphere will do. So I would modify your quote to –
“What I think has happened is that some scientists, motivated by their concerns of environmental changes , ran their pitch by the politicians and in so doing gained prestige (big budget, flashy computer, big team, celebrity)”.
Those climate scientists I knew or met at UEA were not really venal, they were fairly ordinary types getting on with their jobs. I would say only one I met had a messianic complex. I think there is a very real danger of sceptics treating their opponents as out and out villains, when in reality they are not. This does not exclude the reality that your quote is partially correct. As you point out, climate scientology adherents are human.
“Geoff Chambers says:
10 Feb 17 at 9:20 am
Thanks, that’s most interesting. I tended to agree with ROBERT SWAN, seeing it as a circular pattern of influence running from activists to journalists, picking up scientists on the way in order to influence politicians, who finance both activists and scientists.”
I agree with Geoff (I think). Activists lie at the root of the problem.
When I was young, we called them “protest groups” which was a pretty fair description of the psychology of those who joined them. Now they call themselves NGOs and seem to have acquired a level of political influence which far exceeds their legitimacy.
There’s nothing wrong with activism of course. Passionate belief and the desire to persuade others of the rightness of your cause is a noble thing and not to be discouraged. It must be borne in mind though that such activism is often the antithesis of democracy since it usually involves a vocal minority seeking actions that the majority have opposed or ignored.
It’s also an unfortunate result of extreme enthusiasm that it tends to make activists play fairly fast-and -loose with truth – or even with the law in many cases.
In the past, fairly extreme activist groups were tolerated in the name of freedom of expression. At the height of the cold war we tolerated huge CND marches & the Greenham Common women. I don’t think however that any elected government would have considered inviting them to help formulate defence policy.
In the glorious Blair years we had a lot of senior Labour politicians who had cut their political teeth in various protest movements such as CND & CCL & it seems to me that they never really realised the importance of the gulf they stepped over in going from activism to democratic government.
It was around this time that we began to hear activist groups described as NGOs and see them used as consultees to government on all sorts of issues – culminating in Friend of The Earth activist & Eng Lit graduate Bryony Worthington being brought into government to take the lead in formulating national energy policy.
It would be hard to think of a bigger insult to voters in a democracy than giving the last word on important decisions to people whose only qualification was the amount of noise they made,
This turned out to be not only a UK problem unfortunately. I was shocked to learn that NGO activists were allowed to sit alongside scientists and government representatives while IPCC statements were formulated. Why? No one voted for them & no one knows who they truly represent.
I remember Donna LaFramboise explained in one of her books how, in the very early days of IPCC, WWF signed up many lead authors to one of their programmes – in parallel with their IPCC duties – putting their objectivity in question from the start.
So, I believe the evolution of the climate problem was – activists being given undeserved legitimacy by governments and then using it to insert themselves into the dialogue between scientific advisers & government in a way that made objective & impartial analysis of data impossible.
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Alan, that confirms we are in agreement. I only said “some”, suggested many are unhappy about it and that in any case we shouldn’t call them conspirators. I don’t even blame the activist scientists. The politicians are the ones meant to serve the public interest, but some of them have done the exact opposite and taken every opportunity to boost alarmism. And their objective isn’t mere prestige.