Climate Science “A Glassy-Eyed” Cult” – Guardian

There’s an excellent article by the Guardian’s science editor (yes you read that right) which is highly relevant to Paul’s recent articles on the Bates/Karl scandal and the possible Lamar Smith enquiry. The author, Hannah Devlin, has a PhD in biomedical imaging and has only been at the Guardian since 2015. I was going to quote a few passages in support of Paul’s articles but it’s so good that I’ve decided to share it in its (almost ) entirety. All I’ve left out are some of the quotes from Obama’s science adviser John Holdren, which were only included to provide “balance” from the bonkers 97%. In the interest of fairness I will be devoting a whole article to Holdren some time soon.

Trump’s likely science adviser calls climate scientists ‘glassy-eyed cult’

William Happer, frontrunner for job of providing mainstream scientific opinion to officials, backs crackdown on federal scientists’ freedom to speak out

The man tipped as frontrunner for the role of science adviser to Donald Trump has described climate scientists as “a glassy-eyed cult” in the throes of a form of collective madness. William Happer, an eminent physicist at Princeton University, met with Trump last month to discuss the post and says that if he were offered the job he would take it. Happer is highly regarded in the academic community, but many would view his appointment as a further blow to the prospects of concerted international action on climate change.

There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult,” Happer told the Guardian. “It’s like Hare Krishna or something like that. They’re glassy-eyed and they chant. It will potentially harm the image of all science.”

Trump has previously described global warming as “very expensive … bullshit” and has signalled a continued hardline stance since taking power. He has nominated the former Texas governor Rick Perry, a staunch climate sceptic, as secretary of energy and hopes to put the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who has been one of the agency’s most hostile critics.

John Holdren, Barack Obama’s science adviser, said Happer’s outspoken opinions would be a “substantial handicap” for a job that has traditionally involved delivering mainstream scientific opinion to the heart of policy-making. “Every national academy of science agrees that the science is solid, that climate change is real,” he said. “To call this a cult is absurd and … an insult to the people who have done this work.”

Happer also supports a controversial crackdown on the freedom of federal agency scientists to speak out about their findings, arguing that mixed messages on issues such as whether butter or margarine is healthier, have led to people disregarding all public health information.

So many people are fed up of listening to the government lie to them about margarine and climate change that when something is actually true and beneficial they don’t listen,” he said, citing childhood vaccines as an example. “The government should have a reputation of being completely reliable about facts – real facts.”

Happer dismissed concerns that Trump is “anti-science”, saying he had a positive impression of the president during their January meeting. “He asked good questions – he was very attentive, actually,” he said. Climate change was mentioned but was not the main focus of discussions, according to Happer, who revealed that Trump had expressed support for solar energy in areas like Arizona “where it makes sense”.

His comments were that of a technically literate person,” he said. “He wasn’t ideologically opposed to renewables; he wasn’t ideologically in favour of them either.

Unlike many of his scientific peers, Happer is in favour of contentious legislation aimed at reining in the ability of federal agency staff to hold press conferences, give television interviews and promote their findings on official websites.

The “Secret Science Reform Bill”, which is being pushed by the Texas Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the House science, space and technology Committee, would require federal agencies to publish all the raw data underpinning any proposed regulations and for new findings to be scrutinised extensively by outside experts before being announced. However, critics view the bill as an attempt to strip federal agencies of autonomy and reduce their regulatory powers.

There is this special need for government science to be especially clean and without fault,” said Happer. “It’s OK to have press conferences, but before you do that you should have the findings carefully vetted.”

When asked for examples of where the current vetting process has failed, Happer cited a recent controversy surrounding a high-profile paper published by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists showing that global surface temperatures had risen again after temporarily levelling off.

Earlier this month, a retired NOAA scientist, Robert Bates, accused his former colleagues of rushing out the paper ahead of the UN conference, prioritising political impact over scientific rigour – although Bates later clarified that he had an issue with timing and transparency rather than “tampering with data”.

This disappearance of the hiatus in global warming, which was trotted out just before the [UN] Paris conference … it was clearly just a political fanfare,” said Happer. “We shouldn’t be doing that. They were fiddling with the temperature records to make the hiatus go away.”

Happer argues that climate monitoring, such as the collection of CO2 and atmospheric temperature data, is valuable and should be continued. However, he claims that the overall threat posed by global warming has been overplayed by scientists swayed by a political agenda and power-hungry civil servants.

There’s a huge amount of money that we spend on saving the planet,” he said. “If it turns out that the planet doesn’t need saving as much as we thought, well, there are other ways you could spend the money. When you talk about fossil fuel companies being motivated, well, there’s nobody more motivated than the people working for the federal government,” he added. “You can’t rise in the American bureaucracy without some threat to address.”

Happer said he began to question the emerging consensus view on climate change while working as director of research at the Department of Energy as part of the George W Bush administration. Climate scientists would “grudgingly” present their work to administrators, he claims, while those in other fields would share their results with enthusiasm. “I would ask questions but they were evasive and wouldn’t answer,” he said. “This experience really soured me on the community. I started reading up and I realised why they weren’t answering the questions: because they didn’t have good answers. It was really at that point that I began to get seriously worried about climate as a science.”

Concerns about the Trump administration’s apparent disregard for mainstream scientific thinking on climate change has triggered a wave of activism, including plans for a science march in various cities. However, Happer said that the public, who may view scientists as part of a privileged elite, may be less sympathetic.

There’s a potential downside [to the march] of them being seen as a greedy bunch of spoiled people,” he said. “I don’t think they’re that way myself, but it could be easily twisted into that kind of narrative.”

26 thoughts on “Climate Science “A Glassy-Eyed” Cult” – Guardian

  1. Well, Happer will certainly see a revival of past attacks on his character, intellect and funding. Pity, really, as if you read that without his name attached it would be relatively unobjectionable.

    Hare Krishna or Hara Kiri?

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  2. Happer comes across to me as having the incisive intelligence I would expect in a leading physicist. He also has some political nous it would seem, since ‘glassy-eyed cult’ is a splendid soundbite, one readily adopted by politicians and others in the public square. This may not be very high-falutin, but soundbites from the CO2 Scarers have been part of their success, and it may be about time that those on the side of the angels played that part of the game as well.

    Eric Worrall, in a later post at WUWT about this Guardian (!) piece does note that the comparison with Hare Krishna is a bit harsh on Hare Krishna. In his experience, the followers of that cult are gentle, kindly people who do not wish to force their views on anyone. Compare them with the various, and often hideous, impacts and aggressions of those deranged by their obsession with, or their exploitation of, CO2.

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  3. Another contender for the post of science adviser is apparently David Gelernter, mentioned at the end of the Guardian article. He’s a computer scientist at Yale. There’s a recent interview with him here, where he says he would take the job if offered, and sounds quite sceptical on climate.

    “The evidence I’ve seen has not convinced me that the cause of this global warming or an appreciable contribution [to it] is human activity. But not until I spend a lot more time with the topic . . . would I be in a position to give anybody advice on it.”

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  4. Isn’t it odd to be wanting full openness of data and yet aim to prohibit people who know what the data mean from speaking openly? Could anyone really want all government scientists to be chaperoned as in Canada, or is it only to be for climate science? If sceptical arguments are valid they should stand without muzzling science.

    A plain falsehood is evident in Bates having clarified that there was no “tampering with data” and yet Happer suggesting “fiddling with the temperature records to make the hiatus go away.” on the basis of that evidence he seems unreliable.

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  5. William, I think “tampering” and “fiddling” are two different things. Fiddling is exactly what they did. In any case, according to the Guardian, Happer is a respected physicist.

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  6. There’s a good discussion of ‘fiddling’ at Clive Bests’s blog, in the context of HadCRUT. Climate scientists fiddle about with different methods until they find the one they like, which is of course is the one that gives the most warming. The GHCN adjustments are another good example. Each time they re-do the algorithm a little bit more warming miraculously appears. I guess that’s what Bates means by ‘thumb on the scale’.

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  7. People have been complaining for years about supposed fiddling, and sceptics even went to the trouble of replicating the work in BEST. Result: confirmation and then rejection and more complaints of fiddling! It would be interesting to hear if there is any process that you would accept as a valid way to compute a global temperature index.

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  8. Paul Matthews says: 16 Feb 17 at 12:03 pm

    “Another contender for the post of science adviser is apparently David Gelernter, mentioned at the end of the Guardian article. He’s a computer scientist at Yale”
    Lest you think he is just a computer scientist:
    “We can’t have artificial intelligence until a computer can hallucinate.” -David Gelernter-

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  9. William says: 16 Feb 17 at 9:38 pm

    “People have been complaining for years about supposed fiddling, and sceptics even went to the trouble of replicating the work in BEST. Result: confirmation and then rejection and more complaints of fiddling! It would be interesting to hear if there is any process that you would accept as a valid way to compute a global temperature index.”

    Why would there be ‘a valid way to compute a global temperature index’? Can some statistical global temperature ever be a temperature, or have any meaning at all. If two temperatures are averaged; is there anything physical about such ‘average’? If not physical, such remains but ‘your fantasy’!

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  10. BTW, The Consensus Enforcement Ministry is now after Happer, perhaps because the Guardian dared to publish a relatively unbiased article on him. Just in case the CEM is too stupid to realize this, Trump and his team are not going to pay any attention to what you say. In America, the public have vastly lower confidence in the Press than in Trump, with approval ratings around 20%. 70% of independents don’t trust the Press. Amoung Republicans its close to 90%. The question here is aside from virtue signaling, what is accomplished by all this? It just make you look mean spirited , partisan, and untrustworthy.

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  11. The article has been lifted and reused at the Independent, where comments are allowed.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-climate-change-science-adviser-william-happer-global-warming-hare-krishna-a7584781.html

    On the Guardian dared to publish a relatively unbiased article (accompanied by a video compilation of interviews with Happer): I suspect that the Guardian believes his views are so outrageous that no comment is necessary. Anyway, no comments are allowed.

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  12. Will, average temperature at the equator is higher than at the poles. Yet you think that has no physical meaning? If temperature averages have no meaning, what happened to the ‘pause’ or to the little ice age or medieval warm period or last summer?

    I’m still interested to hear from someone whether there is an acceptable process to compute a global temperature index. If it is not GISS or HADCRUT4 or the sceptically sourced BEST, what is it? Paul, as a mathematician, can you not suggest how to remove measurement bias and produce a reliable average?

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  13. William says: 17 Feb 17 at 1:16 pm

    “Will, average temperature at the equator is higher than at the poles.”

    Perhaps, but so what? The phrase, ‘average temperature’, can have no physical meaning. Such can have some stastical value, but still no meaning!

    “Yet you think that has no physical meaning? If temperature averages have no meaning, what happened to the ‘pause’ or to the little ice age or medieval warm period or last summer?”

    Are ‘the pause’, medeval warm period’, or ‘little ice age’ some sort of statistical average of temperatures? Who says so? Temperature can only be a normalized “measurement” of but one form of mass accumulation of power, called ‘sensible heat’. A measured temperature value is always equal to some ratio of other mass properties (sensible heat/entropy) for any ‘heat sink’, (sensible heat/specific heat) for all other mass! What meaning can an average of two temperature measurements possibly have? A one m³ Styrofoam container with one kilogram of 95 °C water, and one kilogram of 15 °C air (80kPa pressure), has a statistical average temperature of 55 °C! So what? That average tells nothing about sensible heat, how much sensible heat will be converted to ‘latent heat of evaporation’, pressure, or the single equilibrium temperature value of that combination!

    “I’m still interested to hear from someone whether there is an acceptable process to compute a global temperature index.”

    Why? Only to continue the CAGW scam?

    If it is not GISS or HADCRUT4 or the sceptically sourced BEST, what is it? Paul, as a mathematician, can you not suggest how to remove measurement bias and produce a reliable average?

    Perhaps Paul can tell you some possible meaning of statistical ‘average’ temperature, besides some intent of confusion to continue the scam!

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  14. Perhaps someone with a more rational perspective can describe how an index that sceptics would accept could be produced.

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  15. William, A lot of people do accept the idea of a temperature index and just want to see better science. The only way that can happen is through skepticism and vetting.

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  16. dpy6629 says: 17 Feb 17 at 9:08 pm

    “William, A lot of people do accept the idea of a temperature index and just want to see better science. The only way that can happen is through skepticism and vetting.”

    A temperature history at any single location (latitude), indexed by year, day of year, and time of day; would give much insight as to the periodic and deterministic; but not cyclic, nature of planet Earth in relationship to its own orientation within all of this solar system. ANY temporal or spatial aggregation or averaging, simply destroys the very measurements needed, without adjustment, to provide some understanding of the Earth’s weather and the wonderful various CLIMATES available for choice!
    All the best! -will-

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  17. I think Will and I agree that the calculation of an average global surface temperature, combined with a demonstration of how that average temperature increases or decreases over time is not a particularly useful or meaningful metric for measuring climate change on a global scale and is next to useless for informing us about regional climate change. It seems to have developed out of the necessity to measure the global warming concept of an imbalance in energy coming into the so called ‘earth system’ and energy going out – supposedly due to an accumulation of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere trapping re-radiated solar energy via the greenhouse effect. But changes in GMST can also be due to localised internal variability, simply redistributing heat around various parts of the system and climate science still has not satisfactorily quantified the contribution of decadal and multi-decadal internal variability to recent ‘climate change’, much less the contribution of externally forced natural change and the natural positive and negative feedbacks from increasing CO2 (which greatly affect climate sensitivity).

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  18. I agree with Will J. GMST is a statistic (and not even a well defined one), nothing more. The only
    useful metric is OHC – and I don’t think we have the spatial coverage, precision or record length to
    say anything meaningful about that.

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  19. DPY, BEST was the ultimate in “skepticism and vetting”. What makes that unacceptable? Others, rejecting the only measure we have of surface temperature in favour of nothing seems unhelpful.

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  20. William,

    BEST is fine as far as I’m concerned. That doesn’t mean further work and challenge is not needed.

    However, I also take the point that global average mean temperature is a terrible way to judge the skill of climate models. First, it’s a very easy measure to match in the hindcast. Second, the single minded focus on this largely meaningless metric, means that the failure of GCM’s in showing skill in regional climate prediction is not much discussed. That’s a shame.

    I also take the point from Will J. above that “climate” in so far as it affects human beings is better described by the distribution of temperature than by its average. The climate system is enormously complex and we did after all get an ice age during a time period of essentially constant total forcing. It was the change in the distribution of forcing that changed the climate.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. William [is that a sub for Len or Raff?] says: 18 Feb 17 at 7:03 pm

    “DPY, BEST was the ultimate in “skepticism and vetting”. What makes that unacceptable? Others, rejecting the only measure we have of surface temperature in favour of nothing seems unhelpful.”

    BEST was some half hearted effort to clean up physical ‘measurement technique’! Such gives no credibility to your claim that a statistical average global temperature has ANY physical meaning!

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  22. DPY, if entry to and exit from a glaciation can occur as the result only of a change in distribution of solar energy, what do you think an extra 3 or 4 Watts per square meter might do?

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  23. William (Raff) says: 19 Feb 17 at 7:39 pm

    “DPY, if entry to and exit from a glaciation can occur as the result only of a change in distribution of solar energy, what do you think an extra 3 or 4 Watts per square meter might do?”

    1) Just where did DPW claim “change in distribution of solar energy,”?
    2) Is ‘its highnass’ incapable of understanding what is clearly written?
    3) Where oh where are you getting some “3 or 4 Watts per square meter” of flux that has never been … observed\measured even once?
    4) Is such flux from sky “radiance” which is less than surface radiance at every frequency interval?

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  24. William, the ice ages are caused by nonlinear ice feedbacks from the forcing distribution change. Warming from here is not nearly so nonlinear I suppose. In any case my takeaway is that climate is going to change. We need to be prepared. In some cases the changes are rapids

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