Sunday, November 22, 2009

Credibility Meltdown

I loved that title, so I lifted it from Sorry bout that.

This has been and exciting week for anyone that is skeptical of the "consensus" on Global Warming. A hacker or someone from the inside out to get someone, posted emails, documents, and other sundries from the Climate Research Unit (CRU)'s webmail server. There is even a search engine for you to enjoy. I won't blame anyone in the US for not knowing about it, the only US MSM outlet that I know to do a story about it was Washington Post. Leave it to the Brits to call out the MSM for their shoddy reporting on what can be described as one of the greatest scandal for science in the last 100 years.

Skeptics have wanted to see the data for years. If AGW is the threat that the alarmist have been saying, then the data should speak for itself. Only then, can we all agree on a course of action to take. Much to the chagrin to the alarmist side of the debate, there is no "consensus." The debate is far from "over." These series of email show how some reportedly "reputable" scientists have been doing not so scientific things to the data. They have been hiding data, messaging data, threatening journals not to publish contrarian views and much much more. Here are some of the highlights:
  • From Michael E. Mann (withholding of information / data):
Dear Phil and Gabi,I’ve attached a cleaned-up and commented version of the matlab code that I wrote for doing the Mann and Jones (2003) composites. I did this knowing that Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future, so best to clean up the code and provide to some of my close colleagues in case they want to test it, etc. Please feel free to use this code for your own internal purposes, but don’t pass it along where it may get into the hands of the wrong people.
  • From Nick McKay (modifying data):
The Korttajarvi record was oriented in the reconstruction in the way that McIntyre said. I took a look at the original reference – the temperature proxy we looked at is x-ray density, which the author interprets to be inversely related to temperature. We had higher values as warmer in the reconstruction, so it looks to me like we got it wrong, unless we decided to reinterpret the record which I don’t remember. Darrell, does this sound right to you?
  • From Kevin Trenberth (failure of computer models):
The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.
  • From Michael Mann (truth doesn't matter):
Perhaps we'll do a simple update to the Yamal post, e.g. linking Keith/s new page--Gavin t? As to the issues of robustness, particularly w.r.t. inclusion of the Yamal series, we actually emphasized that (including the Osborn and Briffa '06 sensitivity test) in our original post! As we all know, this isn't about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.
  • From Phil Jones (withholding of data):
The skeptics seem to be building up a head of steam here! ... The IPCC comes in for a lot of stick. Leave it to you to delete as appropriate! Cheers Phil
PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!
  • From Phil Jones (fudging the data to fit the model)
Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow. I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline. Mike’s series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
  • From Michael E. Mann (using a website to control the message, hide dissent):
Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [ - A supposed neutral climate change website] Rein any way you think would be helpful. Gavin and I are going to be careful about what comments we screen through, and we’ll be very careful to answer any questions that come up to any extent we can. On the other hand, you might want to visit the thread and post replies yourself. We can hold comments up in the queue and contact you about whether or not you think they should be screened through or not, and if so, any comments you’d like us to include.

What does this all mean? Well for one, this means that, as said above, the debate is far from "over." Anyone that used that excuse in the first place, has no notion of what science really is. Science is not about fudging the data. Science is not about withholding data. Science is not about disregarding the data if it doesn't fit the model.

Science is above all else about skepticism. Skepticism is the core of scientific progress. It's about rejecting the consensus view and looking for new answers to old questions and in the process coming up with new questions that need answering. The word skeptic comes from the Latin; 1) to analyze 2) to think through thoughtfully. That's what science is!

This scandal also means that science is not above the political. Hiding, evading and trying to control the message are all elements of the political, not the scientific realm. The AGW skeptics have been trying to show how politicized the debate has become for years. The emails, going back to 2000, show how Jones has been trying to control the message and stifle debate. It can't be stressed enough, that is not science. While Jones and the rest at Hadley have PHds, what they did crosses a very fine line. One could say they should take an ethics class, but just as in the political realm, ethics is very subjective. Even Jones' response seems like a political response, "it was taken out of context." How many times have we heard a politician say the exact same thing.

The AGW alarmist crowd is in full CYA (Cover Your Ass) mode as can be seen at The cries of how it's "just interoffice emails so please don't pay attention" might reassure some, but it smells of a con job to me. There are emails talking about deleting data that might come under a British FOIA request, that doesn't seem to strike me as just "run of the mill" interoffice mail. Sorry alarmists, your going to have to come up with better. Now I fully admit some of the emails might actually be "out of context." We only have a small sample and the only way to put everything in the proper context would be to release everything; emails, memos, data, reports...everything to the public. Ha, I'll be holding my breath for that one.

While most of the skeptic crowd is jumping on the band wagon, I think people are missing how this fundamentally destroys the reputation of that data we have and are going to use in the future. (Sorry alarmist, but even Jones said the emails were authentic.) The James Hansen affair already shook my confidence in the GISS data. No matter how much NASA might say that the current data is the "true" measure, my confidence in their credibility is gone. Indeed the credibility of all the data is now suspect in my eyes. Once you have "reputable" scientists talking about hiding and deleting data, no amount of spin is going to make me forget that sin.

Crediblity has been lost. I'm afriad of what that might do to some. I'm sure there are a lot of laymen that feel that science is the be all and end all of reason. That science and scientists are above the political and the petty partisanship. In essence, you can question politicians, but the scientists are usually always right, so trust them when they are talking about something; a very romanticiszed veiw of science. Now that romanticizm is crushed. Scientists are now mere mortals and are nto above regular human falibilities. They have been shown to manipulate data to serve their own ends. I'm afriad there might be a backlash against science. Once it is shown that a small group of a whole that is in a position of trust is corupt, then people tend to veiw the whole group as corupt. We do it all the time with politicians, clergy, media; I do it myself. It's a very human emotional response, the whole fool me once...fool me twice cliche. Are the once faithful going to rebel? Are they going to dig in against all evidence contrary to try and save face? I don't know. All I know is that the CRU has betrayed the public trust and hopefully people will be more skeptical in the future.

Update: To add some more thoughts on the Denial of ClimateGate by the Left here.


  1. I don't know about anyone else but I'm damn tired of hearing about the "consensus". At one time the "consensus" was that the earth was flat and at another time the "consensus" was that the sun revolved around the earth.

    And people who are so convinced that their science is "right" shouldn't have a problem with allowing those that disagree with them to have a voice.

    Seems that when ever "politics" rears it's ugly and corrupt head the people are not well served. JMO

  2. Great article. The attitude of "debate is over" was the most unsettling facet of supposed global warming. Will the "climategate" revelations be enough to put doubt and skepticism in the minds of the most ardent true believers?