The Climate Change Email Controversy: What Have We Learned?

For those of you who don’t keep up with the comments, we’ve been having a spirited, off-topic conversation about the news that the email servers of Britain’s Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia were hacked, with the result that some very revealing and embarrassing emails have been made public.

Climate skeptics are pointing to the emails as proof of a conspiracy to promote the cause of human-caused global warming, without regard to the scientific evidence.  Those convinced of the threat of human-caused global warming are – well, let’s face it – they’re disassembling, throwing up all kinds of red herrings, and generally retrenching in the face of a true setback.

And a setback it is, no matter what spin is put on the incident.  There is no doubt that the emails show a mean-spirited, vindictive insider mentality at work, a mentality where evidence that goes against the cause is discounted, “hidden”, ignored, and actively fought against.  The emails also show a group of scientists with little regard for ethics – there is open discussion of circumventing Freedom of Information requests, of massaging data, of celebrating the death of a skeptic, even of redefining the time-tested method of publishing scientific results:

In one e-mail, the center’s director, Phil Jones, writes Pennsylvania State University’s Michael E. Mann and questions whether the work of academics that question the link between human activities and global warming deserve to make it into the prestigious IPCC report, which represents the global consensus view on climate science.

“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report,” Jones writes. “Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

In another, Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal not to accept the work of climate skeptics with whom they disagree. “Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal,” Mann writes.

“I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor,” Jones replies.

Forget global warming for a minute – any scientists who engaged in such behavior in an organization that I headed would be immediately dismissed, no matter the quality of their work or their reputation.  Science has long been revered as a search for truth – but these scientists are involved in a political quest to push a viewpoint, the evidence be damned.

Does this mean the evidence of human-caused global warming is manufactured?  No.  There is a large and growing body of peer-reviewed research supporting the theory.  However, what it DOES mean is that we cannot be sure that evidence is not being suppressed that goes against the prevailing orthodoxy.  Nor can we be certain that the data is not being cherry-picked, on the basis of emails such as this:

Here are some speculations on correcting SSTs to partly
explain the 1940s warming blip.

If you look at the attached plot you will see that the
land also shows the 1940s blip (as I’m sure you know).

So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC,
then this would be significant for the global mean — but
we’d still have to explain the land blip.

I’ve chosen 0.15 here deliberately. This still leaves an
ocean blip, and i think one needs to have some form of
ocean blip to explain the land blip (via either some common
forcing, or ocean forcing land, or vice versa, or all of
these). When you look at other blips, the land blips are
1.5 to 2 times (roughly) the ocean blips — higher sensitivity
plus thermal inertia effects. My 0.15 adjustment leaves things
consistent with this, so you can see where I am coming from.

Removing ENSO does not affect this.

It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip,
but we are still left with “why the blip”.

and this:

The Figure you sent is very deceptive. As an example, historical
runs with PCM look as though they match observations — but the
match is a fluke. PCM has no indirect aerosol forcing and a low
climate sensitivity — compensating errors. In my (perhaps too
harsh)  view, there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model
results by individual authors and by IPCC.

What is the ultimate result?  Lay people cannot be expected to understand the science – they have neither the time nor the expertise to review and replicate research.  What anyone can see, however, is that this particular group of scientists is fond of denigrating dissent, manipulating data, and hiding inconvenient facts and opinions.  They are a disgrace to their cause and to the scientific community.

Skeptics need to temper their reaction:  this is not the smoking gun that disproves human-caused global warming…but it DOES reinforce the skeptic’s viewpoint.  Who could FAIL to be more skeptical of the science, when we see the blatantly unethical behavior behind the scenes?…

38 comments to The Climate Change Email Controversy: What Have We Learned?

  • Back in 2004, Chris Mooney had a good review of the Climate Research imbroglio.

    I wonder whether your view of these emails about the matter is influenced by knowing the background of the case (for instance, that half the editorial board ended up resigning, for reasons explained here and here).

    I imagine we’ll get around to discussing the other issues you raise, but that seems like a good place to start.

  • I didn’t know half the board resigned…I’ll check out your links…

  • No, it doesn’t prove the case against AGW. Sadly, it makes a real debate on this topic even less likely. (can you go less than 0?) There’s hardly a paper or speech given on this topic that doesn’t reference or use the work from CRU. And these people have destroyed their own credibility. I wouldn’t believe them now if they told me “2+2=4″.

    I started to change that to “I wouldn’t believe them unless they offered proof”, but we’ve now seen their idea of “proof” so I wouldn’t believe it even then.

    It’s worth mentioning that this smells less like a “hack” and more like a “whistleblower” at this point, but that is just Informed Speculation on my part.

    The code is just as “impressive” as the e-mails. Gotta love comments in the code like these:

    ;Plots (1 at a time) yearly maps of calibrated (PCR-infilled or not) MXD
    ; reconstructions
    ; of growing season temperatures. Uses “corrected” MXD – but shouldn’t usually
    ; plot past 1960 because these will be artificially adjusted to look closer to
    ; the real temperatures.

    And here’s one of my favorite e-mails, admitting that Briffa has a problem with Yamal.

    But, more generally, (even if it *is* irrelevant) how does Keith
    explain the McIntyre plot that compares Yamal-12 with Yamal-all? And
    how does he explain the apparent “selection” of the less well-replicated
    chronology rather that the later (better replicated) chronology?
    Of course, I don’t know how often Yamal-12 has really been used in
    recent, post-1995, work. I suspect from what you say it is much less
    often that M&M say — but where did they get their information? I
    presume they went thru papers to see if Yamal was cited, a pretty foolproof method if
    you ask me. Perhaps these things can be explained clearly and concisely — but I am not
    sure Keith is able to do this
    as he is too close to the issue and probably quite pissed of.
    And the issue of with-holding data is still a hot potato, one that
    affects both you and Keith (and Mann). Yes, there are reasons — but
    many *good* scientists appear to be unsympathetic to these. The
    trouble here is that with-holding data looks like hiding something,
    and hiding means (in some eyes) that it is bogus science that is
    being hidden.

    And then there’s deliberate deletion of information requested under FoI:

    Email 1107454306 is particularly interesting. In it, Dr Jones writes:

    The two MMs [McKittrick and McIntyre] have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.

    What makes this interesting is that the CRU, in later years, announced that they had “inadvertently deleted” their raw data when they responded to an FOIA request from … McIntyre.

    The really sad thing is that there are people out there attempting to defend this group and spin it in a positive light. This is indefensible and no amount of spin is going to change that.

    The only possible response is that these are fake. However, with each passing day, that seems less and less likely.

  • Bob from Ohio

    peer-reviewed

    When all the “peers” are corrupt, that fact that they approve of each other’s work does not mean much.

    Mark, I can’t find it right now but there are several East Anglian e-mails dealing with the Climate Research paper and the “spontaneous” resignations. There was an active campaign to get the editors to resign. So, don’t rely on a 2004 article, especially one approved by Jacques.

  • Link bad on Yamal. Not sure what I did. Correct link is here

  • There’s of course no convincing Bob, who’s position is that the entire scientific community is in on a massive fraud, and hence nothing anyone says is trustworthy. Of course, Bob’s beliefs, in this regard, are not particular to climate change. They hold for the entire field of econometrics, too — where we learn that all of corporate America is also either in on the fraud or are passive dupes (“herd mentality”). Take your pick.

    This is Bob’s way of dismissing uncomfortable facts — by asserting that there’s no such thing as facts at all. So, you can see that I was more than a little generous when I called Bob’s avowals of ‘respect’ for Science “a sham.”

    Anyway, back to Yamal.

    To make any sort of headway, one has to assume (as I think Chris, at least, is willing to do) that there is actually a “right answer” to the question of how to hand the tree-ring data in question.

    Briffa’s rather detailed response to McIntyre

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/people/briffa/yamal2009/

    is still offline, thanks to the hack.

    So I’m going to post some links from other sites, looking into the “controversy”.

    The best overview is this one.

    For the specifics of McIntyre’s analysis of the Yamal data, there’s an excellent 5-part series of posts at “Delayed Oscillator”, which I’ll link to in a separate comment, to get around Mark’s Spam Filter.

  • Bob from Ohio

    entire scientific community is in on a massive fraud

    No, just the Global Warming mob.

    Econometrics

    Oh, they have a cute name.

    I stand with Harry Truman and his search for a three handed economist. Harry knew it was bunk.

    Jacques, your trouble is that you think if one has a PhD after his name, they are above criticsm. Or somehow immune to bias.

  • Just one more word on the “divergence problem”, which is alluded-to by all of the folks discussing the tree-ring data, but perhaps not well-spelled-out.

    The assumption is that, for these sub-Arctic trees living, as they are, at the very edge of where it’s possible for trees to grow at all, the limiting factor in their growth is temperature. If it’s a wee bit warmer, they grow faster; cooler, they grow slower.

    That’s, of course, not true of the trees in my front yard. There are plenty of things that influence their growth rate (and, if anything, I’d bet their annual growth rate is anti-correlated with the heat of an Austin summer).

    In the case at hand (and, in some others), people have 100 years of temperature data and, for the most part, the growth of these sub-Arctic trees does track temperature quite well.

    Except … when it gets warm enough that other factors, limiting the growth rate, come into play. Initially, the trees grow faster, as the temperature rises. But, after a certain point, the temperature keeps going up, but the trees stop responding (their growth, presumably, being limited by other factors). That’s the “divergence problem.”

    Of course, if you already have temperature readings, you don’t actually care about the tree rings. What people want to do, is use the tree rings as ‘proxies’ for temperature (in the case of Yamal, stretching back two millenia).

    For that to be valid, you don’t particularly care about present-day divergences. What you want to know is: were there divergences in the past? And, if so, what hints would you see in the record?

    That’s not an issue that McIntyre and co. spend any time addressing.

  • I stand with Harry Truman and his search for a three handed economist. Harry knew it was bunk.

    Ah, so the entire field of economics is “bunk”.

    Thanks for letting me know that I can safely ignore everything you have to say about the Economy.

    Jacques, your trouble is that you think if one has a PhD after his name, they are above criticsm. Or somehow immune to bias.

    Your problem, Bob, is that you think that actual knowledge of the subject at hand is irrelevant, and that — if you don’t like the conclusions arrived at by experts studying actual data — you can simply dismiss the entire field as “bunk.”

    Why you think anyone should take your fact-free assertions seriously, as a substitute for the conclusions of people who actually know something about the subject at hand (be it economics, climate science, or just about anything else), still escapes me.

  • Bob from Ohio

    I don’t know the original source but

    “An intellectual is someone who has been educated beyond their intelligence.”

    pretty much sums up my view.

    I distrust experts in general but recognize that they can be useful if you look at their product with a jaundiced eye. {What are the biases involved, is there a political slant, are the conclusions out of whack with “common sense” every day observations}

    Maybe I go overboard but, being an intellectual yourself, you go too far the other way. Its like scientists are some group of demigods who toil only for the good of humankind.

  • Its like scientists are some group of demigods who toil only for the good of humankind.

    Quite the opposite.

    It’s the process of science that I believe in, not the good intentions of individual scientists. Since I interact with them on a daily basis (and have done so most of my adult life), I know full well that scientists count, among their numbers, the usual quota of fools, knaves, and miscreants.

    [That's why I'm not particularly interested in the "revelation," of the CRU emails, that the scientists in question are not saints (duh!). Scientific errors, whether due to honest mistakes, or to deliberate fraud, simply don't stand up over time.]

    [A]re the conclusions out of whack with “common sense” every day observations

    It is my experience that — outside of a very narrow range of subjects — ” ‘common sense’ every day observations” are a crappy guide to what’s true. That’s why we need science, in the first place: because, in all but the simplest of cases, “common sense” gives you the wrong answer.

  • Wow, I actually downloaded the file. I’m glad the e-mails are searchable online, but the other docs are just as interesting, if not more so, and will take forever to go through. Some code, too. My FORTRAN-77 is rusty, and I’ve never done anything in FORTRAN-90, but I’m sure I can figure it out.

    Deep Climate has an absurd piece ridiculing McIntyre’s Yamal work. It misrepresents much of what McIntyre has said, and apparently expects McIntyre to be psychic. Rebuttal here.

    But, as McIntyre has endlessly pointed out, the real problem with Briffa’s Yamal data is that he constructs his hockey stick using a ridiculously small number of trees, as few as 5. In other works by Briffa, he doesn’t do this and adds trees to get a better sample size. Hence, McIntyre’s addition of the Schweingruber trees. Some of this is documented here, where McIntyre discusses “the divergence problem” in brief.

    Briffa’s problem with the Schweingruber isn’t “the divergence problem” unless by “divergence problem” you mean, “divergence from Briffa’s theory”.

    Finally, for some really interesting reading, I recommend this: How to Make a Hockey Stick. There are several follow-up posts.

    It’s important to understand the point of this tree-ring circus, and what divergence is all about.

    First, there’s no evidence that one can divine temperature data from tree ring width. That’s what one of the whole points of this effort is. What Jeff shows in the “How to Make a Hockey Stick” posts is that what Mann et al., do is simple. They gather a whole bunch of tree ring data, and set it on a time-linear scale. Then they toss out any trees that don’t show a sharp uptick at the end (the ones thrown out exhibit ‘divergence’), and leave the rest. This is supposed to show us that temperatures are much higher now than they were hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Of course, when you toss out better than 60% of your data to get this conclusion, it makes it somewhat suspect. Jeff uses this same practice to show that he can find a sharp uptick or sine wave or square wave in the middle if he wants, just by gathering a different set of tree data.

    Mann et al. want you to believe that these proxies are valid because they have this sharp uptick, which we already “know” represents true temperature data recorded elsewhere. And they’re saying that since they have this uptick, that you can in fact, infer temperature data from the tree rings. But, the causal analysis is incomplete. And, unfortunately, will likely remain so. The real problem is that we don’t know for certain WHY the graph of the data from these particular trees showed a sharp uptick at the end, or why data from other trees showed upticks elsewhere. Or, even worse, we don’t know if these particular trees that don’t diverge recently do diverge at earlier times in history. This IS the divergence problem.

    You might think that the solution to the divergence problem would be to add more trees, and thus eliminate the noise. That’s what one typically does in a situation like this. However, that doesn’t really work with tree ring data. You want to have as much as you can, but if the trees come from too far away, that generates noise on its own. The “climate” for the trees must be as close to the same as possible. Still, however, 5, or even 12, should be thought of as too small a sample size. And that’s basically McIntyre’s criticism.

    And this is what others mean when they discuss this effort as “junk science”. As I keep saying, I try to keep an open mind on the subject. My view is that CRU and others are making an intuitive leap here that may be supported by the data, but isn’t definitely so. That would be bad enough, but then they claim falsely that it is a definite thing, knowing that it isn’t, and they deliberately obfuscate and hide the fact that they selected trees that fit their theory. You can read literally thousands of articles online as to whether this constitutes cherry-picking and why or why not.

    Jeff claims that it does, while McIntyre has been tiptoeing around this issue and very carefully avoiding saying that. He even discusses that in particular in one of the Yamal posts.

  • Well, but you’re soft pedaling, Jacques – of course they aren’t saints – but they’re talking about suppressing contrary viewpoints, rewriting the rules of peer review, not complying with legal requests for information – in short, at the bare minimum, not only do they not qualify for sainthood, but they are extremely unethical, and engaged in some behavior that is borderline (if not all the way over the line) criminal…

  • Freedom of Information requests, after all, are not “if you feel like” or “if it’s not terribly inconvenient” – compliance is mandated with the force of law. Now, maybe there are extenuating circumstances, or there’s more to the story – but on the surface, these allegations should be enough to permanently discredit those involved…

  • Freedom of Information requests, after all, are not “if you feel like” or “if it’s not terribly inconvenient” – compliance is mandated with the force of law.

    Compliance is mandated if the request fits certain criteria. Just because someone files an FOI request doesn’t mean that it’s valid.

    I don’t know what the UK laws are, but I summarized the corresponding US laws here.

    As far as I understand (and, I’m sure Chris or Bob will jump in to correct me, if I’ve misunderstood), all the aforementioned FOI requests were turned down (at the University level) because they failed to meet the relevant criteria ,whatever they are, under UK law.

    That said, the researchers could have released the data anyway, regardless of whether they were legally-obligated to do so. And they certainly should retain the data, even after the legally- (and University-)mandated retention periods ended.

    That would, if nothing else, be the saintly course.

    As to “suppressing contrary viewpoints”, I’m not sure what the complaint is (but if it’s not the Climate Science imbroglio, I’m sure someone will tell me). There’s no “equal time” provision in science. If a paper is wrong, I don’t see any reason why it should deserve leniency, just because it expresses a “contrary viewpoint.”

    Sorry if that sounds elitist, but science is nothing, if not elitist.

  • Well, look, I haven’t devoured every email or read every article. Like most people, I’m pressed for time. But it certainly seemed to me that the emails excerpted weren’t really concerned with how sound the contrary papers were scientifically, but rather with the conclusions reached.

    Maybe these scientists are so locked into their belief system that they think anything that contradicts it simply CAN’T be right. If so, I would submit as a non-scientist who nevertheless has great admiration for scientists that they have lost the impartiality that ensures bias doesn’t lead to overlooking sound research that might not fit in to the world as you see it…

  • Here’s George Monbiot in the Guardian, who is obviously a believer in human-caused global warming, and who reaches a conclusion quite similar to my own:

    It’s no use pretending this isn’t a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I’m dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

    Yes, the messages were obtained illegally. Yes, all of us say things in emails that would be excruciating if made public. Yes, some of the comments have been taken out of context. But there are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad. There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.

    Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.

    But do these revelations justify the sceptics’ claims that this is “the final nail in the coffin” of global warming theory? Not at all. They damage the credibility of three or four scientists. They raise questions about the integrity of one or perhaps two out of several hundred lines of evidence. To bury man-made climate change, a far wider conspiracy would have to be revealed…

  • Now, Monbiot is writing in a British paper, and he’s saying the same things I am regarding destroying material subject to FOI requests…doesn’t mean he’s an expert on British law, either, but shows my reaction to be entirely sensible and shared by many…

    Note also that he calls for the resignation of Phil Jones. I think that, too, is entirely justified…

  • Hmmm…spam filter got me again, I see. I thought I only had 5 links. Apparently, among my many faults, is the lack of ability to count.

    I’m not going to try to rewrite all I said about Yamal. I enjoyed writing it, though. :)

    On another topic, in response to an earlier post from Bob…

    I believe if you go here and search on “Baliunas”, you’ll find the stuff that Bob was talking about on regarding the editors of Climate Research. The article in question was posted in early 2003, so look at e-mails from around that time.

    There’s a whole lot of links there, and I’m not going to bother to quote or link. Sorry. Read them yourself. I’ve told you how. :) I will summarize, though, and I freely admit that this is my point of view and others could read the same mails and come up with a different point of view.

    Nothing in the “Baliunas” e-mails is all that awful. There’s a little smoke, but I don’t see any fire. The scientists in question behave childishly and unprofessionally, but that in itself isn’t too bad. As others have said, and it’s true, who among us has not done similar things in e-mails, blog posts, comments, etc.? I know I certainly can not cast the first stone here, as readers of this blog can attest.

    There’s some name calling, and questioning of whether the article in question should have ever been published (they’re probably right that it shouldn’t have…more on that later), and perhaps the most damning, an “us vs. them” philosophy along with musings that CR’s editorial board had been taken over by “them”.

    Ok, let’s not kid ourselves, that’s a little beyond petty childishness. But it’s hardly a new event in scientific circles. Sit in on a 200 or 300 level class in Psychology at any university in the United States. You’ll discover the same kinds of things. There are distinct camps of belief in psychology and it’s quite often that the people of one camp fail to take another camp seriously.

    There may be more e-mails on this topic that my simple search didn’t find. There probably are. You could search on “Climate Research”, and CR. I started to do that but was getting too many hits. Some of those e-mails might contain things that make the CRU folks look worse on this topic. I wouldn’t be surprised if such e-mails existed, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t.

    Now, about the article in question. Should it have been published? Did it go through a proper peer review? I don’t know and I don’t know. If I had to guess I’d say “no” on both counts, but that’s just an opinion. However, bad science gets through peer reviews and is published every year, in just about every field. The most egregious failings get quick and forceful rebuttals published as well. That’s how this works. And it’s how it should work. I’d rather that some bad stuff got through and was rebutted than the thinking of one group dominate and not allow any criticism or, for lack of a better phrase, “alternative thinking” to be published. The folks at CRU apparently don’t agree with me on this one, and that may be one of their biggest sins.

  • Fargus

    Chris,

    Completely divorced from the specifics of the discussion, consider the following. Let’s say scientists observe a phenomenon, for which explanations A and B arise. However, explanation A far outnumbers B in official literature, in peer-reviewed journals, etc. Does this mean that B is being systematically suppressed by dogmatic supporters of A? Maybe. But could it not also mean that the scholarship supporting B simply does not pass muster?

  • Regarding FoI requests in the UK:

    Another potential concern are Jones’ emails stating that he convinced FOI officers not to release data to greenhouse skeptics because they planned to harm the university or setback climate science. “Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit,” Jones wrote in a 2007 email.

    According to Moffatt, the U.K.’s FOI law is supposed to be “identity blind” meaning that requests should be judged on the merits, not who does the requesting.

    Also, the fact that they got “advice from the Information Commissioner” on how to resist FOI requests is disconcerting, to say the least.

    Look, you can pick apart each piece and attempt to spin this, but the end result is the same. You still end up with questionable research, questionable code, hidden data for the aforementioned questionable research, obfuscation and hiding the fact that some data was deleted, little to no explanation of why data was deleted, and resistance to FOI requests (I’m not assuming guilt here, resisting FOI doesn’t necessarily mean you have anything to hide, but one of the fundamentals of science is that research be reproducible–if one is not willing to release information specifics on how conclusions are reached, it’s not science), attempts to shut down opposing views and, as I mentioned earlier, an “us vs. them” mentality.

    Add that all up, and it ain’t pretty. And no amount of spin is going to turn it into Cinderella at the Ball.

    Yes, Jones should resign or be forced out. The same is probably true for Mann, and neither should be part of any future papers released by the IPCC. I’m tempted to add more names here, but we don’t know enough yet.

    Based on what I’ve read, it’s hard to believe that no criminal activity has occurred, but it’s also hard to believe that there’s enough evidence to prove that. So, I don’t want these people behind bars. I just want them ejected from the scientific community.

  • Fargus,
    That is completely disconnected from the specifics of the discussion, but it’s also completely disconnected from reality. Your hypothetical implies a situation that clearly does not exist. You imply that the supporters of A have a passive role in the elimination of publications by B, but the evidence in the e-mails clearly indicates an active role. You can debate how active all you want, but you don’t get to pretend that it’s passive.

    Remember, I said that if I had to guess, the paper in question should not have been published.

  • A good summary of issues discovered in the e-mails can be found here.

    Many fall into the category of petty childishness as I’ve stated previously. However, there are plenty that fall into the “questionable behavior” (at best) category. The list seems to be receiving new updates.

  • Fargus

    Chris, I started out saying completely divorced from the specifics of this particular case, in reference to those like Bob, who allege a global conspiracy on the part of all scientists. This individual case would therefore be nothing but a symptom. I was saying that there is another plausible explanation than widespread conspiracy to suppress dissenting opinion. Regardless, trying to refute what I was saying by bringing up the specifics of the case seems pretty wrongheaded to me, when I was explicitly trying to make a point divorced from the specifics of this case.

  • Fargus,

    Fine. I don’t have a problem with what you said. It’s a very nice hypothetical, and I’d agree with it. It’s just very clearly not the case here.

    More on peer reviews and integrity at RealClearPolitics.

    Tracinski engages in a little bit of hyperbole in his conclusions. I’m not going to try to defend all of his interpretations, but the essential facts appear to be correct.

    We are all assuming at this point that the e-mails, documents, and code are real, are we not? I don’t want to have to keep adding the caveat to everything “assuming this is not fake”, but I will if we have people here who require it.

    I think we can safely assume that a large majority of it is real and accurate. Is it possible that some of these are fake? That seems more and more unlikely. Unless I’ve missed it, Gavin at RealClimate has not made that claim about any of it, and neither has anyone else.

  • Now, about the article in question. Should it have been published? Did it go through a proper peer review? I don’t know and I don’t know. If I had to guess I’d say “no” on both counts, but that’s just an opinion. However, bad science gets through peer reviews and is published every year, in just about every field. The most egregious failings get quick and forceful rebuttals published as well. That’s how this works. And it’s how it should work. I’d rather that some bad stuff got through and was rebutted than the thinking of one group dominate and not allow any criticism or, for lack of a better phrase, “alternative thinking” to be published. The folks at CRU apparently don’t agree with me on this one, and that may be one of their biggest sins.

    Attitudes towards peer-review vary from discipline to discipline.

    In Mathematics, they take a very rigourous line: it take a long time (a minimum of six months, sometimes years) for a paper to make it through the refereeing process.

    The flip side is that that produces a highly-reliable published literature. One of my colleagues in math can pull a dusty, bound journal volume off the library shelf, flip it open to a random page, and use the result written therein with complete confidence in its being correct.

    In my field, people take a somewhat more laid-back approach to refereeing. The lag, between paper submission and its acceptance for publication, is much shorter. But the flip-side is that, unless you know the reputation of the author, or have checked the result yourself (or both), you can’t rely on the correctness of some published paper. Peer review filters out the most egregious crap, but is no guarantee of correctness.

    What is (or should be) the standard for peer-review in climate science? I appreciate Chris’s argument for tolerance. But, if people are going to base public policy decisions (sometimes, as Mark likes to remind us, very expensive public policy decisions) on what appears in the published literature, then I think you want to apply a pretty rigourous standard of correctness to what is allowed to appear in the peer-reviewed literature.

    As to the reaction to the editorial shenanigans at Climate Science, if a once-respectable journal, in my field, started routinely publishing crap papers, I would certainly complain to the editors. And I’d certainly decide to send my own papers elsewhere. This wasn’t a case of “routinely” — we’re talking about the reaction to a single paper — but the breakdown of the refereeing process (with the evident complicity of one of the editors) was enough to cause half the editorial board to resign in protest. That should tell you something …

  • Bob from Ohio

    all the aforementioned FOI requests were turned down (at the University level) because they failed to meet the relevant criteria

    As Chris already pointed out, Jones and his fellow co-conspirators improperly had “talks” with the university officials so to fix the process. So, the university decisions are, shall we say, suspect.

    was enough to cause half the editorial board to resign in protest

    As the e-mails show, there was a campaign to get them to resign to discredit the journal. So you can’t then say, “see, they resigned which proves the submisions were crap”. The process was corrupted.

    I thought you were a defendant of the “scientific process” not scientists? Seems you are doing a lot of spinning to justify pretty shaky behavior on Jones’ (at least) part.

  • Bob from Ohio

    Off-topic, the government reduced the GDP increase for the third quarter by 20% and cut the effect of “Cash for Clunkers” in half.

    Heck of a stimulus there,Barackie.

  • More on FOI requests with a nice timeline comparing requests and responses to the e-mails.

    Lots of people are saying this is criminal. I have no idea. I’m not an expert on FOI law even in the U.S., and certainly not in the UK. My gut instincts are that proving that a criminal offense has occurred would be difficult, if not impossible.

    It is damning, however.

  • Off-topic, the government reduced the GDP increase for the third quarter by 20% and cut the effect of “Cash for Clunkers” in half.

    This from the man who just said

    There is no, zero, nada way to measure that.

    whilst comparing economic forecasting to alchemy (and calling all of economics “bunk”).

    I’ll bite: “reduced the GDP increase for the third quarter by 20%” compared to what?

  • Bob from Ohio

    Its the government stats. I think you believe in them. Its not a job measure either.

    And its not a “forecast” of the future, it is a “result” as in last quarter’s.

    “reduced the GDP increase for the third quarter by 20%” compared to what?

    The first figure was 3.5 and it is now 2.8. (or so, I’m not looking it up again)

    Did the “econometric” boys use the estimates for their forecasts? If so, they will have to re-do them. I’m no “econometric-ist” but weaker third quarter implies continued weaker growth, right?

  • Bob from Ohio

    Back on topic, via Instapundit and a CBS blog (Taking Liberties–seems to be a conservative or libertarian but on CBS’s site):

    Another approach lies in e-mail messages discussing grants from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to East Anglia; one says: “We need to show some left to cover the costs of the trip Roger didn’t make and also the fees/equipment/computer money we haven’t spent otherwise NOAA will be suspicious.”

    So now we have the covering up of possible theft of US grant money.

    Another pebble dropping. How soon until the house of cards collapses?

  • Did the “econometric” boys use the estimates for their forecasts?

    To answer your question, you merely need to look at the graphs posted.

    Of the three, Macroeconomic Advisers predicted GDP growing the fastest in Q3 2009. But not even they were projecting a 3.5% annualized (ie, 0.88%) growth for the quarter.

    I imagine you could get updated forecasts from them taking account of actual results for recent quarters.

    But you’d have to pay for that …

  • Hmmm. It sure looks to me like the Q3 results (“with stimulus”) are the same for the three forecasting firms. Macro Advisers have it growing faster in subsequent quarters, but for Q3, they all seem to agree.

    And, if I read the graphs right, the Q3 GDP growth was around .7% (2.8% annualized).

    Sounds like they’ve been listening to you, Bob, and used the (revised) actual growth for Q3.

  • Chris, saved your earlier comment – sorry it got caught in the filter…

  • Frances Griffin

    Let’s not forget the precautionary principle. If you aren’t sure it’s safe and you don’t HAVE to do it, don’t do it. We can’t play with the future of the planet.

    Anyway, who would miss air pollution, lung disease, oil dependency and removing mountaintops to get at coal. Not me.

    Green energy and energy efficiency are total win/wins.

    p.s. Do look into cool roofs. They last way longer and save money while cooling the planet.

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