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Climate Hustle

The question that skeptics don't want to ask about 'Climategate'

Posted on 18 November 2010 by John Cook

A year ago, the climate debate was rocked by 'Climategate'. Email servers at the University of East Anglia were hacked, emails were stolen and distributed on the Internet. Out-of-context quotes were cited as evidence that the entire scientific case for global warming was all just a conspiracy. Even now, 12 months later, 'Climategate' is the most popular skeptic argument. But there is one question that skeptics seem to avoid:

Has 'Climategate' changed our scientific understanding of global warming?

Has the science changed? Is there any change to the many independent lines of evidence for human-caused global warming? This question is never asked because of the answer:

The evidence for human caused global warming is as solid as ever.

There are many lines of evidence that humans are causing global warming. Independent measurements of different aspects of the climate using a range of techniques by scientists all over the world all point to the same answer.  When we consider the full body of evidence, we see a distinct, discernable human fingerprint on climate change.

The 'Climategate' controversy is an attempt to divert attention away from the science. This is a common tactic in movements that seek to deny a scientific consensus - assume a conspiracy theory. But there is no evidence of any conspiracy. A number of independent enquiries have investigated the conduct of the scientists involved in the emails. All have cleared the scientists of any wrong doing:

  1. In February 2010, the Pennsylvania State University released an Inquiry Report that investigated any 'Climategate' emails involving Dr Michael Mann, a Professor of Penn State's Department of Meteorology. They found that "there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data". On "Mike's Nature trick", they concluded "The so-called “trick”1 was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field."
  2. In March 2010, the UK government's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report finding that the criticisms of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) were misplaced and that CRU’s "Professor Jones’s actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community".
  3. In April 2010, the University of East Anglia set up an international Scientific Assessment Panel, in consultation with the Royal Society and chaired by Professor Ron Oxburgh. The Report of the International Panel assessed the integrity of the research published by the CRU and found "no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit".
  4. In June 2010, the Pennsylvania State University published their Final Investigation Report, determining "there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann".
  5. In July 2010, the University of East Anglia published the Independent Climate Change Email Review report. They examined the emails to assess whether manipulation or suppression of data occurred and concluded that "The scientists’ rigor and honesty are not in doubt".
  6. In July 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency investigated the emails and "found this was simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues that arise in compiling and presenting large complex data sets."
  7. In September 2010, the UK Government responded to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report, chaired by Sir Muir Russell. On the issue of releasing data, they found "In the instance of the CRU, the scientists were not legally allowed to give out the data". On the issue of attempting to corrupt the peer-review process, they found "The evidence that we have seen does not suggest that Professor Jones was trying to subvert the peer review process. Academics should not be criticised for making informal comments on academic papers".

Just as there are many independent lines of evidence that humans are causing global warming, similarly a number of independent investigations have found no evidence of falsification or conspiracy by climate scientists. However, there is an important lesson to be learnt from 'Climategate'

The real scandal of 'Climategate'

A year since 'Climategate', we can look back retrospectively and understand what happened. Anonymous hackers illegally stole emails from climate scientists in a deliberate campaign to sow doubt about climate science and discredit climate scientists. Quotes were taken out of context in an effort to mislead the public about what's happening to our climate. In the last 12 months, the scientific evidence of the negative impacts of global warming has only got stronger. The real scandal of 'Climategate' is the illegal smear campaign designed to distract people from the scientific reality of global warming.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 161:

  1. Arkadiusz Semczyszak@49 the text you quote is not in the text you reference. Hence it isn't a conclusion.

    Maybe in future you will refrain from misleading.
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  2. Actually it should be pointed out that British scientists are less fazed by the label climategate than nutty skeptic intellectuals:

    There have been many positive outcomes from 'climategate' mostly confounding the skeptics I'm afraid, at least in the UK.
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  3. RSVP @45... "At the end of the day, the leak, hack, or whatever, may have been someone's desire to provide certainty on a different level."

    The claim made by fydijkstra was that the leaked emails "proved" that scientists were attempting to hide the uncertainties in climate science.

    With over 1300 references to "uncertainty" in WG1 fydijkstra's statement is nothing short of absurd. It's a colossal case of missing the trees while standing in the middle of the forest.

    At the end of the day, the person or people who hacked and leaked the emails had to go to extreme lengths to create an image of impropriety by cherry picking a total of 3 or 4 quotes out of 10 years of emails. The only certainty of a different level this provides is the certainty that there is a well orchestrated attack campaign against climate science.
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  4. To further Rob's point, one also does not crack into a university computer system and go directly for emails related to climate science. There are much more juicy targets for free-lance crackers. This was a commissioned job; the buyers had no idea what they'd get. It's not only possible but likely that other systems were hacked but nothing juicy was found. The buyer had to go with the best bet, because having multiple systems hacked would obviously suggest a well-organized effort. The best they could get was to pull "trick" and "hide the decline" out of context, roll up the rhetoric machine, and wait for it to go viral amongst the gullible and those in need of such ideas.
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  5. @Albatross here it is" Canada's govt kills climate bill public wants
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  6. JMurphy (28)
    (1) Concrete examples that the Climategate e-mailers were highly in doubt can only be given from interpretations of the e-mails. We are discussing here the question whether Climategate changed our understanding of global warming. Well, as I claimed, Climategate confirmed that the science is not settled and that the e-mailers were highly in doubt. The knew in 1999 that their arguments that the present warming is unprecedented in 1000 years were weak. Just one example: e-mail 0983566497 Chris Keller about the temperature variations in the past: “what can generate large temperature variations over hundreds of years … If we can’t [explain] this, then there might be something wrong with our rationale that the average does not vary much even though many regions see large variations. This may be the nub of the disagreement, and until we answer it, many careful scientists will decide the issue is still unsettled, and that indeed climate in the past may well have varied as much or more than in the last hundred years.” Well, they did not explain this, but calculated averages of different series so that the variations were masked.
    And there are many more of such cases. You can give a friendly white washing interpretation of some of these e-mails (‘out of context’, ‘informal talk’ etc.), but not of all. There are too many of them!
    (2) Concrete examples that they wanted to hide uncertainty and prevent that other views are published. Again, we are talking about the interpretations of the e-mails: the e-mailers wanted to get the term ‘inconclusive’ out for conclusions with a probability of 34-66% and suggested the term ‘quite possible’ (e-mail 0967041809). And what would you think of ‘relaxing the criteria determining what agreement means would yield a greater agreement’ (e-mail 0968705882). OK, this was informal talk, and they did not publish it, but it was a serious proposal.
    There are many examples of attempts to prevent the publication of other views. You only need to visit to find many examples. Several of Steve McIntyres stories are confirmed by the Climategate e-mails.
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  7. Rob Honeycutt (38, 53)
    Simple counting of the word ‘uncertain’ in the IPCC reports does not say anything about the openness of IPCC about uncertainty (and no: you need not do the same count in others reports!). By the way, in the Summery for Policy Makers (2007) the word ‘uncertain*’ occurs only 14 times, mostly in footnotes and in captions of figures explaining the shaded areas and only 4 times in the main text. But that is not the point. The IPCC makes the science more robust in the SPM than in the underlying reports. Moreover, they often assign a confidence level to a conclusion without any quantitative basis. That is why the IAC recommends: “Quantitative probabilities (as in the likelihood scale) should be used to describe the probability of well-defined outcomes only when there is sufficient evidence. Authors should indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (e.g., based on measurement, expert judgment, and/or model runs).” The IAC does not recommend this without a reason! There were too many examples of confidence statements without sufficient evidence.
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  8. Marcus (35) and Chantreau (40)
    Were the e-mails hacked or leaked? We don’t know for sure, but leaking by a whistleblower seems “more probable than not” (sorry for this IPCC-speak). A hacker would have an enormous job to find all these relevant texts, and he must have hacked many times without being noticed. For an internal whistleblower, this is all much easier. And indeed (RSVP, 45) a whistleblower could have known where he had to look. But I don’t suggest any name.
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  9. #58: "leaking by a whistleblower seems “more probable than not”"

    In one sentence, you say 'we don't know for sure'; in the next sentence, you've got a more probable outcome. Isn't that called a guess?

    In fact, nothing in the stolen e-mails or computer code undermines in any way the scientific consensus—which exists among scientific publications as well as scientists—that climate change is happening and humans are the cause. -- SciAm 4 Dec 2009

    Stolen. Not leaked. Let's don't conflate the two.
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  10. fydijkstra... @58 If it were a "whistleblower" they would have nothing to worry about and could come out and be the hero of the denier community. Whistleblowers are protected by law.

    @57... A count of the word "uncertain" would tell us little if there were only a few occurrences. But 1300 occurrences tell us very clearly that the IPCC reports discuss uncertainties in climate science extensively and in depth.

    Now, you may have a personal opinion that the uncertainties are higher than what they report. You can debate that. You can NOT though, in any way, suggest that the IPCC it trying to hide uncertainties as you originally stated.
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  11. fydijkstra:
    "Climategate confirmed that the science is not settled and that the e-mailers were highly in doubt."

    No it doesn't.

    "e-mail 0983566497 Chris Keller..."

    The email you refer to is firstly misquoted by you, hence I assume you have taken it from a doctored or rewritten version from a skeptic web site (a bad one).

    The email dates to 2001, not 1999. That is a millenia as far as climate science goes.

    Firstly you have cherry picked the email, here is part of the original:

    "...This may be the nubbin of the disagreement, and
    until we answer it, many careful scientists will decide the issue is
    still unsettled and that indeed climate in the past may well have
    varied as much or more than in the last hundred years."

    One obvious difference is that you have replaced 'nubbin' with 'nub'.
    Nub means 'the core'.
    Nubbin means 'small or underdeveloped'.

    You can not replace words in a quote. By doing so you are forcing your meaning on the text and misleading the reader.
    The full email is quoted totally out of context, because we do not know what emails preceded or succeeded it. Also unless you understand the author, you will never understand the text.

    You seem to read what you want to see fydijkstra and then mislead people purposefully. One would like to think it was because you didn't fully understand the subject.
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  12. fydijkstra....

    “Quantitative probabilities (as in the likelihood scale) should be used to describe the probability of well-defined outcomes only when there is sufficient evidence. Authors should indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (e.g., based on measurement, expert judgment, and/or model runs).”

    The IPCC is not out of line with this statement from the IAC. You just happen to disagree with the expert judgements.
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  13. I'm afraid I don't buy the honourable "whistleblower". Whoever it was that tried to upload this stuff into other systems was either a very strange kind of whistleblower or a malignant hacker.

    The hacker didn't "search" for lots of individual emails. They stole thousands of pages of stuff and then released only partial "juicy" bits they thought would cast a negative light on the writers.
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  14. Stephen @55,

    A sincere thanks. The world, especially the world of journos, needs more people like you.
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  15. Climategate emails showed the climate researchers suppressed dissenting views, even if that meant getting editors fired, or redefining what peer reviewed literature meant. They also subverted Freedom of Information laws by deleting information like Ollie North did.

    "The emails include discussions of apparent efforts to make sure that reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that monitors climate science, include their own views and exclude others. In addition, emails show that climate scientists declined to make their data available to scientists whose views they disagreed with."
    "In another, Phil Jones, the director of the East Anglia climate center, suggested to climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University that skeptics' research was unwelcome: We "will keep them out somehow -- even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!" Neither man could be reached for comment Sunday."
    "John Christy, a scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville attacked in the emails for asking that an IPCC report include dissenting viewpoints, said, "It's disconcerting to realize that legislative actions this nation is preparing to take, and which will cost trillions of dollars, are based upon a view of climate that has not been completely scientifically tested.""

    The statute of limitations prevents them from being prosecuted, but they broke the Freedom of Information law, deleting data that had been requested under FOI

    "In his statement, Smith said that Holland's request was not dealt with correctly by the university. "The emails which are now public reveal that Mr Holland's requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information."

    But he added that it was now too late to take action because the legislation requires that sanctions are imposed within six months of the offence. "The ICO is gathering evidence from this and other time-barred cases to support the case for a change in the law. It is important to note that the ICO enforces the law as it stands – we do not make it.""

    Squeaky clean white knights they are NOT!

    Chris Shaker
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  16. Fydijstra's first example of scientists doubt is claiming that the last decade is not the warmest in the past thousand years. In Schmidt and Mann's response to Mcshane and Wyner, they calculate a 99% probability that the 1990's were the warmest decade using the lasso technique of MW. If 99% is uncertain then what does Fydijstra think is certain?? Mann et al discount the 99% in the end, but that is the calculated result of MW's technique. Since the 2000's have been warmer, where is any doubt left? If that is the best doubt you can find you need to get a new argument.
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  17. fydijkstra refering to e-mail 0983566497 Chris Keller:

    "Well, they did not explain this, but calculated averages of different series so that the variations were masked."

    Where is your evidence that any variations were masked?
    As has been pointed out many times, emails are not much use when understanding an issue.

    The discussion in the email is a genuine ongoing discussion about proxy timings, regional variations and various issues you would expect in an ongoing analysis.
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  18. cjshaker:
    "They also subverted Freedom of Information laws by deleting information like Ollie North did."

    Totally incorrect.
    Where is your evidence that any data was deleted?
    Data was not deleted, some source data was not archived, but the data was held by the nations authorities that supplied the data.
    The CRU wasn't an archive facility, so it was happy for sourcing authorities to keep their own archives.

    BTW the UK has it's own FOI laws, they have nothing to do with the US.
    So to be honest it's not really any of your business!
    I doubt if you actually know what is in the UK FOI legislation.
    I know Tony Blair has said that the FOI legislation in the UK was never intended to be used the way it was, aggressively against the CRU. The CRU were spammed by deliberate repetitive requests by a bunch of techie nutters.

    As a result of the emails theft, the CRU now have the money to archive data. The point being that the issue was a management one, not a science one.
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  19. cjshaker:
    "In addition, emails show that climate scientists declined to make their data available to scientists whose views they disagreed with"

    OK this is quoted from a Wall Street Journal article not long after the event in 2009. It is interesting to note that cjshaker is to lazy to reference the article directly via a link. Poor research and cherry picking.

    It has little valid relevance now, although is of historical relevance to see how media hype something and speculate immediately after an event.

    The CRU had problems with source data licensing. Not all data is open and public, even public data has licensing agreements.
    For instance, in the UK the public weather data and national weather forecasting is run by the Ministry of Defense, there is a good reason why much weather data is historically held by military authorities. This causes issues in licensing, since some countries still see it as militarily sensitive.

    In the same article the American Association for the Advancement of Science is quoted as saying:

    The association believes "that climate change is real, it is related to human activities, and the need to counteract its impacts is now urgent,"

    eg.they were unfazed by the thefts.
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  20. cjshaker:
    "Squeaky clean white knights they are NOT!"

    Clean up your own act before criticising others.
    As I pointed out the article you referred to was published immediately after by the Wall Street Journal.

    An analogy would be to quote a news article about someone arrested a year ago by the police for murder on the day after the event. Ignoring the fact that months later the arrested person was found to be innocent and more recent news articles publishing updates.

    It is pretty dumb to quote old news.
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  21. Clean up my own act? I just posted comments from sources, and included the actual sources. So far, I have not yet found your post where I assume you do the same.

    Your main intellectual activity seems to be name calling. It is not very flattering.

    Chris Shaker
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  22. I found the Wikipedia on Climategate interesting reading as well. Gives a good description of the event, and what we've learned about it.

    Chris Shaker
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  23. cjshaker... I hope you read the "reports" section on wiki as well.
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  24. Yes, I did read the 'reports' section

    "The committee criticised a "culture of non-disclosure at CRU" and a general lack of transparency in climate science where scientific papers had usually not included all the data and code used in reconstructions. It said that "even if the data that CRU used were not publicly available—which they mostly are—or the methods not published—which they have been—its published results would still be credible: the results from CRU agree with those drawn from other international data sets; in other words, the analyses have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified." The report added that "scientists could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by aggressively publishing all their data instead of worrying about how to stonewall their critics." The committee criticised the university for the way that freedom of information requests were handled, and for failing to give adequate support to the scientists to deal with such requests.[101]"

    "The committee chairman Phil Willis said that the "standard practice" in climate science generally of not routinely releasing all raw data and computer codes "needs to change and it needs to change quickly". Jones had admitted sending "awful emails"; Willis commented that "[Jones] probably wishes that emails were never invented," but "apart from that we do believe that Prof. Jones has in many ways been scapegoated as a result of what really was a frustration on his part that people were asking for information purely to undermine his research."[8] In Willis' view this did not excuse any failure to deal properly with FOI Act requests, but the committee accepted that Jones had released all the data that he could.[8] It stated: "There is no reason why Professor Jones should not resume his post. He was certainly not co-operative with those seeking to get data, but that was true of all the climate scientists".[82]"

    I've got a big problem with people claiming to do science, then not making their data or methods available to other researchers for verification. If it can't stand up to a hostile researcher, it is not science. And it also talks about their efforts to avoid providing data according to the Freedom of Information laws.

    Chris Shaker
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  25. cjshaker... I hope you not missing these parts:

    The Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry reported on 31 March 2010 that it had found that "the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact". The emails and claims raised in the controversy did not challenge the scientific consensus that "global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity". The MPs had seen no evidence to support claims that Jones had tampered with data or interfered with the peer-review process.


    The report of the independent Science Assessment Panel was published on 14 April 2010 and concluded that the panel had seen "no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit." It found that the CRU's work had been "carried out with integrity" and had used "fair and satisfactory" methods.


    In July 2010, the British investigation comissioned by the UEA, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, and announced in December 2009, published its final report saying it had exonerated the scientists of manipulating their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming. The "rigour and honesty" of the scientists at the Climatic Research Unit were found not to be in doubt.
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  26. cjshaker... If you read a little further as well, you discover that not all the data was theirs to hand over. The data was provided to the CRU by other organization under license. It was NOT their data to just give out. McIntyre and his minions knew that, had ample access to the actual data they were filing FOI requests for, but continued to barrage the CRU to release the data.

    This is a time honored legal trick. You bury your opponent in paperwork so they can't get their job done.
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  27. One can question the wisdom of using data that isn't available to hostile parties for science research.

    If you're doing science, don't you usually expect your work to be examined and questioned? If it is based on proprietary data, say from researchers in China or in France, who don't want to give their data out to hostile parties, how can that verification happen?

    I'd expect people to think about that, especially if your science is at all controversial.

    I'm a retired computer scientist. My work was peer reviewed, by other computer scientists. In spite of our best efforts, our code always has some undetected flaw in it, either by design, because we didn't fully understand the problem before we started out trying to solve it, or by accident, because of some interaction with other code that we didn't know about, or by simple coding error. I don't know why these computer models of the climate would be any different.

    I would find the AGW premise a lot easier to buy if it wasn't accompanied by a political machine that tries to ram it down our throat by any means possible. That political machine, and the religious frenzy of the true believers make the science look bad.

    Chris Shaker
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  28. Re: cjshaker (77)

    You miss the point: the data that the Hadley CRU people used to produce their products was publicly available - from the originating countries. Something the "hostile parties" were well aware of, long before their endless FOI onslaught.

    If you have an issue with the originating countries withholding the datasets, then take up your beef with them. CRU was legally bound to not release data subject to the nondisclosure agreements.

    Several independent parties have replicated CRU's work, including the investigating Muir Russell Commission (which they accomplished in a mere 2 days, saying it wasn't hard to do and was something that any competent researcher could have done similarly).

    So ask yourself, if it's true that replication of the work can be done in 2 days and wasn't hard to do, as the Muir Russell Commission did and said, why haven't any of the "independent" or "hostile" parties clamoring for glasnost/openness done so?

    So the science CRU was accomplishing was only controversial in the sense that certain parties exist with a vested interest in making it so.

    Anyway, I think AGW would be a lot easier for the public to accept if it wasn't constantly obstructed by an active disinformation campaign.

    The Yooper
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  29. Regarding the post from whomever 'The Ville' is, I provided the link to an article which talked about the reported failure to follow FOI laws, and the deleting of emails. I'll provide it again for you:

    "The University of East Anglia flouted Freedom of Information regulations in its handling of requests for data from climate sceptics, according to the government body that administers the act.

    In a statement, the deputy information commissioner Graham Smith said emails between scientists at the university's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) that were hacked and placed on the internet in November revealed that FOI requests were "not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation".

    Some of the hacked emails reveal scientists encouraging their colleagues to delete emails, apparently to prevent them from being revealed to people making FOI requests. Such a breach of the act could carry an unlimited fine, but Smith said no action could be taken against the university because the specific request they had looked at happened in May 2008, well outside the six-month limit for such prosecutions under the act."

    As for your claims that their breaking FOI laws is none of my business, I disagree, and I don't know why I should care that you think it is none of my business.

    Chris Shaker
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  30. cjshaker, letting "hostile" (strange terminology really) researchers use data and code is not the problem. The problem is hostile bloggers and a crowd without the qualifications or even the desire to do real research with the data and code.

    That crowd's only intentions is to distort, cherry-pick, misrepresent and twist the data to reach predetermined conclusions, without the burden of peer-review.

    This has now been going on for years. I note that the likes of McIntyre or Watts are the only ones compaining about data availablility, whereas real researchers do not seem to have that problem. How come?

    Watts has had for a long time the data to verify if the basic premise of his web site's existence is valid. Still no data analysis to date. McIntyre is notorious for having complained about Briffa not releasing data to him, while he had already had access to these data before. He simply forgot that at the time he was making his rethorical complaint, whose only purpose was to fire up his crowd.

    Many were all fired up about GISS code and foaming at the mouth about how Fortran didn't phase them. They were all over it the moment GISS code was made public, and what happened? Nothing, zilch. Having learned his lesson, Michael Mann had both data and code available with his latest reconstruction. How many publications were submitted by skeptics following that?

    The truth is that skeptics quickly loose interest when there is real work to do. The most they produce with data and code will amount to a little cherry picking here and there with a blog post about it. It's more productive for them because they get more public attention anyway, especially considering that what they put out there would never pass review, except perhaps at E&E.

    Climate researchers are in a "damned if you, damned if you don't" situation. If they do release, all sorts of unqualified ill-intentioned characters try to use it in the public media to undermine their results, and their reputation. If they don't, the same characters accuse them of all the world's evil.

    After watching skeptics complain about this for years, it is obvious to me that the skeptics' complaints about data and code are made for the sake of rethoric and amount mostly to hot air. In fact, in the majority of instances, the data is available, they just don't bother looking carefully.
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  31. Daniel:

    I would be happy to read URLs from reputable sites saying that the data they were seeking was available to them from the source countries. I have not yet read that, but would be interested in doing so.

    Those of us in the general public don't get a very good picture of climate scientists. We read about things like this:

    "Phil Jones, the director of the East Anglia climate center, suggested to climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University that skeptics' research was unwelcome: We "will keep them out somehow -- even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

    Chris Shaker
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  32. Philippe:

    Your post seems to be a good justification for always releasing the data and software. If they never do anything with the data anyway, why not disarm them with total disclosure?

    Full disclosure increases credibility with other scientists, and with the general public.

    Chris Shaker
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  33. cjshaker, the few agencies that withhold some of their data from free distribution do so in order to charge for the data, to fund the data's collection and archiving. Many of the agencies that distribute their data for free insist that the distribution come from them alone rather than second hand, to help ensure that anyone thinking they have the data really do have the real data rather than a version that might be incomplete or erroneous.
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  34. Tom, DeVille, etc:

    I'm happy to read news reports that should have told me that the data they were seeking was actually available, if you'd like to point me at them.

    Or, give me a clue about what to search for with Google, and I'll take a crack at it.

    Chris Shaker
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  35. Better than that, Chris, is RealClimate's page of links to data and code.
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  36. As a member of the public, Climategate is what got me interested in reading about the whole issue of AGW, and the controversies surrounding it.

    I was reading articles like this one, which talks about suppression of opposing views from scientific journals, and subverting the peer review process:

    "In another email exchange CRU scientist Dr Keith Briffa initiates what looks like an attempt to have a paper rejected. In June 2003, as an editor of an unnamed journal, Briffa emailed fellow tree-ring researcher Edward Cook, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, saying: "Confidentially I now need a hard and if required extensive case for rejecting [an unnamed paper] – to ­support Dave Stahle's and really as soon as you can. Please."

    Stahle is a tree-ring professor from the University of Arkansas. This request appears to subvert the convention that reviewers should be both independent and anonymous.

    Cook replied later that day: "OK, today. Promise. Now, something to ask from you." The favour was to provide some data to help Cook review a paper that attacked his own tree-ring work. "If published as is, this paper could really do some damage," he said. "It won't be easy to dismiss out of hand as the math appears to be correct theoretically, but it suffers from the classic problem of pointing out theoretical deficiencies, without showing that their improved [inverse regression] method is actually better in a practical sense.""

    Chris Shaker
    0 0
  37. Re: cjshaker (81)

    Here's a link to the Muir Russell report. The relevant section is Pp 45-48. Links to the openly available datasets are therein, as well as the methodology used by the investigative team.

    In light of the multiple investigations (and exonerations in every instance) into this matter, your quote-mining of the WSJ piece you link (and others) reflects poorly on you.

    Here's the latest Skeptical Science post on this matter. Consider it a must-read for anyone maintaining to have an open mind.

    (-edit: fixed, thanks! -end edit-)

    The Yooper
    0 0
    Moderator Response: The second link is broken.
  38. RealClimate seems to be Dr. Mann's webpage. I have looked at it before, attempting to see any acknowledgement of the problems with statistics supposedly identified in his work.

    Professor Muller at Berkeley claims to have also verified problems with his statistics work. Search for 'Global Warming Bombshell' at

    "But now a shock: Canadian scientists Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick have uncovered a fundamental mathematical flaw in the computer program that was used to produce the hockey stick. In his original publications of the stick, Mann purported to use a standard method known as principal component analysis, or PCA, to find the dominant features in a set of more than 70 different climate records.

    But it wasn't so. McIntyre and McKitrick obtained part of the program that Mann used, and they found serious problems. Not only does the program not do conventional PCA, but it handles data normalization in a way that can only be described as mistaken.

    Now comes the real shocker. This improper normalization procedure tends to emphasize any data that do have the hockey stick shape, and to suppress all data that do not. To demonstrate this effect, McIntyre and McKitrick created some meaningless test data that had, on average, no trends. This method of generating random data is called "Monte Carlo" analysis, after the famous casino, and it is widely used in statistical analysis to test procedures. When McIntyre and McKitrick fed these random data into the Mann procedure, out popped a hockey stick shape!

    That discovery hit me like a bombshell, and I suspect it is having the same effect on many others. Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics. How could it happen? What is going on? Let me digress into a short technical discussion of how this incredible error took place.

    In PCA and similar techniques, each of the (in this case, typically 70) different data sets have their averages subtracted (so they have a mean of zero), and then are multiplied by a number to make their average variation around that mean to be equal to one; in technical jargon, we say that each data set is normalized to zero mean and unit variance. In standard PCA, each data set is normalized over its complete data period; for key climate data sets that Mann used to create his hockey stick graph, this was the interval 1400-1980. But the computer program Mann used did not do that. Instead, it forced each data set to have zero mean for the time period 1902-1980, and to match the historical records for this interval. This is the time when the historical temperature is well known, so this procedure does guarantee the most accurate temperature scale. But it completely screws up PCA. PCA is mostly concerned with the data sets that have high variance, and the Mann normalization procedure tends to give very high variance to any data set with a hockey stick shape. (Such data sets have zero mean only over the 1902-1980 period, not over the longer 1400-1980 period.)

    The net result: the "principal component" will have a hockey stick shape even if most of the data do not.
    McIntyre and McKitrick sent their detailed analysis to Nature magazine for publication, and it was extensively refereed. But their paper was finally rejected. In frustration, McIntyre and McKitrick put the entire record of their submission and the referee reports on a Web page for all to see. If you look, you'll see that McIntyre and McKitrick have found numerous other problems with the Mann analysis. I emphasize the bug in their PCA program simply because it is so blatant and so easy to understand. Apparently, Mann and his colleagues never tested their program with the standard Monte Carlo approach, or they would have discovered the error themselves. Other and different criticisms of the hockey stick are emerging (see, for example, the paper by Hans von Storch and colleagues in the September 30 issue of Science).

    Some people may complain that McIntyre and McKitrick did not publish their results in a refereed journal. That is true--but not for lack of trying. Moreover, the paper was refereed--and even better, the referee reports are there for us to read. McIntyre and McKitrick's only failure was in not convincing Nature that the paper was important enough to publish.

    I looked for this to be addressed at, and found this condescendingly named article, which should be addressing the claims:

    I don't actually see Professor Muller's claims about the supposedly easy to understand mistake being addressed.

    I have NOT studied statistics. It appears that Professor Muller is well respected in the scientific community, as far as I can tell.

    Did Dr. Mann screw up? If so, did he ever admit his mistake?

    Thank you,
    Chris Shaker
    0 0
    Moderator Response: Please do not post such long quotes. Instead link to the source, and direct readers to the most relevant portions, and perhaps provide a few highlights.
  39. Daniel:

    I have not seen any claims that these quotes from scientists who appear to be behaving poorly were fabricated. Have I missed such?

    Thank you,
    Chris Shaker
    0 0
  40. Daniel:

    I think the quotes that I've mined from the articles reflect poorly on the scientists involved, and do not make climate science look very credible to the general public.

    I'm not sure how I'm supposed to ask questions about Climategate, or respond to questions without using sources and quoting from them...

    Chris Shaker
    0 0
  41. Cjshaker, you did not fully read. They do things with the data: cherry-picking, misrepresentations, distortions, innuendo, gratuitous attacks on people's integrity, all summed in blog posts with shocking titles.

    The FOI requests thing is so abusive that anyone who really cares about conserving the FOI process should be concerned. One of McIntyre's blogposts generated 48 FOI requests in a week-end. That qualifies as harassment. Not suprisingly, that's when bloggers have more time on their hands. A disproportionate share of these requests were for private communications instead of material useful for research.

    As for your confession that you need pointers and clues to look into the reality of this, it unfortunately indicates that your investigation has so far been superficial. Real Climate has a good search engine.

    However, if you really care, forget about news reports. Look at peer-reviewed litterature. If the research was really flawed, everyone looking to make a name in science (that's a lot of sharp young people) would have latched on, gone over the "bad stuff" and published rebuttals. New findings or comments on existing papers would have flourished. Has that happened? Of course not.

    Climategate is a mountain out of a molehill, a non-story not worthy of any attention if one cares to actually try to understand the state of scientific knowledge in the field.
    0 0
  42. Chris, type "hockey stick" into the Search field at the top left of this page.

    Do the same in the Search field at the top right of any page on RealClimate. In particular, read the article by the statistician Tamino, titled The Montford Delusion.

    I have studied statistics, and used it as a scientist, and taught it to PhD students, and peer-reviewed the statistical aspects of submissions to scientific journals. I am not anywhere close to having Tamino's expertise, but I am expert enough to judge his opinion is well grounded.
    0 0
    Moderator Response: In particular, see "Hockey stick is broken."
  43. Re: cjshaker (88-90)

    1. RealClimate is not Michael Mann's website. Mann's site is here.

    2. The McIntyre and McKitrick paper is overblown. They had a minor point, it was adopted, the reconstructions were re-done. The result? Hockey sticks. With or without PCA. With or without tree ring data. Read it for yourself, here. If you have any questions after reading this post, come back here and ask. (slow typist I am, I see Tom Dayton already linked this for you)

    3. Read the Muir Russell report for context on the stolen emails.

    The true hallmark of intellect is to rise above what one is taught, to see the merits and weaknesses of the teachings, and to surpass the teacher. You have the intelligence, Chris. I have pointed the way to you. But it's a looonnngggg road to the truth. And few walk it. And fewer still reach the destination.

    Will you?

    The Yooper
    0 0
  44. CJ, Mann et al 2008 has similar findings to the paper you allude to, using different methods and data. The data and code are available. Have McIntyre and McKitrick attempted to publish anything about it? How about the multiple other reconstructions that show similar results?

    In fact, exactly how many papers have M&M attempted to publish in the many years of casting suspicion and spreading rumors about fraud, conspiracy and what not? How many have they actually published? Do they even bother with trying E&E, where skeptics can have their say to the exclusion of all others? If papers as poor as Soon&Baliunas or McLean et al made it to peer-review, surely the serious work of M&M should pass, shouldn't it? So why is there none to be read?
    0 0
  45. chris@88

    You didn't look very hard. If you go to Mann's CV
    you'll find a list of publications when you scroll down (a fair way, he's a busy man). You can count for yourself the number of _listed_ publications since the date you seem to be worried about.

    Many commentators, including your good self, behave like literature critics getting stuck into a writer because characters or plot seem a bit underdeveloped in the first chapter of a book. The fact is that everyone who's read the rest of the book says that none of this matters because the whole book is well written.

    Dr Mann's done what all scientists do. He's kept on working and produced better and better work. Is the reason that people harp on about this early piece that they've found nothing to criticise in the many, many papers he's since written? So they have to stick with nagging about the one and only thing they have any argument at all with.
    0 0
  46. Philippe:

    Your post seems to be saying that the FOI laws need to be updated to add a 'rate limiting' feature, and or some way of preventing them from being used for harassment? A friend of mine who is currently working on modeling fire fighting systems told me about how distracting some of the scientists find the FOI requests.

    I'm currently reading the report that Daniel pointed me at:

    I like the fact that the panel of reviewers were not climate scientists. Seems like a diverse group of well educated people did the review. They also say

    "15. But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display
    the proper degree of openness, both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the
    part of the UEA, who failed to recognise not only the significance of statutory CHAPTER 1: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
    requirements but also the risk to the reputation of the University and, indeed, to
    the credibility of UK climate science. ".

    Continuing to read.

    Thank you for the pointers,
    Chris Shaker
    0 0
  47. What justification would they have had for withholding station identifiers?
    I assume that is just the ICAO name of the weather reporting facility?

    "18. On the allegation of withholding station identifiers we find that CRU should
    have made available an unambiguous list of the stations used in each of the
    versions of the Climatic Research Unit Land Temperature Record
    (CRUTEM) at the time of publication. We find that CRU‟s responses to
    reasonable requests for information were unhelpful and defensive."

    Chris Shaker
    0 0
  48. They address third party data that was not generally accessible, but now is archived:

    "24. On the allegations in relation to withholding data, in particular concerning
    the small sample size of the tree ring data from the Yamal peninsula, CRU
    did not withhold the underlying raw data (having correctly directed the
    single request to the owners). But it is evidently true that access to the raw
    data was not simple until it was archived in 2009 and that this delay can rightly
    be criticized on general principles. In the interests of transparency, we believe
    that CRU should have ensured that the data they did not own, but on which their
    publications relied, was archived in a more timely way. "

    They address the FOI act as well:

    "27. On the allegation that CRU does not appear to have acted in a way
    consistent with the spirit and intent of the FoIA or EIR, we find that there
    was unhelpfulness in responding to requests and evidence that e-mails
    might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a
    subsequent request be made for them. University senior management should
    have accepted more responsibility for implementing the required processes for
    FoIA and EIR compliance. "

    They criticize University Management for not having proper FOI compliance
    procedures in place.

    I'll ask some possibly stupid questions regarding this paragraph:

    "One of CRU‘s most important contributions to climate science is the production of
    a land based, gridded temperature data set showing how the temperature has
    varied year by year since 1850 relative to the 1961 to 1990 average."

    I noticed that convention, of storing a delta from a temperature average in looking at
    the temperature proxy data extracted from the ice cores. Why do they store a delta?
    And what is the 1961 to 1990 average? Is it some kind of global average? Or an average
    for the reporting station over that time period?

    Thank you,
    Chris Shaker
    0 0
  49. Phillipe:

    Given what has been reported in the press about suppression of articles critical to the AGW premise,
    criticizing someone for not having a peer reviewed article may be a circular argument.

    Given what Dr. Muller says on his website, I'm not surprised that M&M were unable to get a paper published.

    "Some people may complain that McIntyre and McKitrick did not publish their results in a refereed journal. That is true--but not for lack of trying. Moreover, the paper was refereed--and even better, the referee reports are there for us to read. McIntyre and McKitrick's only failure was in not convincing Nature that the paper was important enough to publish."

    Here is one from Israeli Astrophysicist, Nir Shaviv:

    "I witnessed how an editor rejected a paper I wrote without forwarding the reviewers my detailed response to their comments (he was perhaps afraid that the reviewers would actually be convinced with my detailed response which included detailed referrals to published results proving my points).

    I saw another rejection (perhaps by the same editor...), this time of a paper written by a colleague that included the punch line: "any paper which doesn’t support the anthropogenic GHG theory is politically motivated, and therefore has to be rejected"

    I saw how proposal reviewers bluntly reject funding requests, based on similar beliefs in the global warming apocalypse. I even know of someone who didn't get tenure because he advocated non party line ideas. "


    Chris Shaker
    0 0
  50. Chris, temperatures are converted to anomalies to reduce noise. See NCDC (hat tip to the Yooper) and the IPCC Working Group I report from the TAR.
    0 0

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