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Mail on Sunday launches the first salvo in the latest war against climate scientists

Posted on 7 February 2017 by John Abraham

In this new political era, climate scientists and their science are under attack. The attack is from multiple fronts, from threats to pull funding of the important instruments they use to measure climate change, to slashing their salaries and jobs. But there is a real fear of renewed personal attacks, and it appears those fears are now being realized. What the attackers do is identify and isolate scientists – a process termed the “Serengeti Strategy” by well-known and respected scientist Michael Mann who suffered these types of attacks for years.

The author of the recent attack piece, David Rose in the UK, has a history of denying the well-established science of climate change. He has a long history of making incorrect climate change statements. In the attack, Mr. Rose claims that scientists used misleading data in a recent (2015) paper that studied the rate of temperature change across the globe. He reportedly obtained information from someone who works at NOAA to imply that internal review procedures were not followed as the paper was prepared for publication. What Mr. Rose omitted however, is incredibly telling and he does a disservice to his readers.

First, he neglects to mention that the work from the 2015 paper authored by Dr. Thomas Karl and others at NOAA has already been independently verified by other researchers.

The second thing Rose neglects to mention is that his story’s source was never involved any part of the work. According to a colleague of the authors Peter Thorne, this source:

never participated in any of the numerous technical meetings on the land or marine data I have participated in at NOAA NCEI either in person or remotely. This shows in his reputed (I am taking the journalist at their word that these are directly attributable quotes) misrepresentation of the processes that actually occurred. In some cases these misrepresentations are publically verifiable.

Mr. Rose further neglects to mention that Dr. Karl was not involved in the development of the critical sea surface temperature data that was used in the study. That information was already published before the Karl paper appeared.

The attack piece also claims that the scientists discarded high-quality temperature measurements in favor of low quality data. This claim is demonstrably false, as described here and here.

The lengths to which Mr. Rose goes in his attack are disheartening and dishonest. He includes a graph that appears to show two temperature results that disagree. When they are replotted correctly, as temperature anomalies with correct baselines, the discrepancy disappears. This finding shows that the NOAA results from 2015 actually agree extremely well with data from other institutions.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 19:

  1. The following article discusses this NOAA temperature adjustment issue. It is very illuminating, and is from Carbon Brief, and is commentary by a scientist from Berkely Earth who are apparently one of the agencies who verified NOAAs work and reached essentially the same conclusions as NOAA by analysing the raw data in their own way. The article also has a discussion of this issue around buoys and ship intakes.

    I suppose it's possible (but as yet entirely unproven) that NOAA hurried publication, but the fact that their results have been verified by several other parties is the more important thing in my opinion. 

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  2. @1 nigelj Agreed, there are occasions when publications are "rushed", but the checks and balances of the scientific community make short work of those that are demontrably bad science. 

    What worries me most about this article is the blatant dishonesty of Rose. He must have known that his claims were false, and if he did not, then his journalism is sloppy at best.

    At the risk of making a political statement, unfortunately there are people making significant decisions about our futures, who are reading and accepting the writings of people like Rose, without bothering to track down the facts.

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  3. nigelj @1.

    As far as the timing of all this, the timeline of publication is being utterly ignored by the denialists. This is suggestive of a non-story (or in modern-speak fake news).

    Karl et al 2015 was submitted for publication in  December 2014. The publication process contains no controversy (according to the magazine editor) who tweeted this image - Roz Pidcock ‏@RozPidcock Feb 6 - Editor-In-Chief of @sciencemagazine @jeremymberg just sent me this re Mail on Sunday article. Yellow is full response to @DavidRoseUK

    Roz Pidcock e-mail

    If you then ignore all the blather from John Bates about events post-submission, I don't think there is anything of significance left of his kiss-and-tell story.

    As far as the David Rose story is concerned, Judith Curry who as ever plays the role of climate expert in Rose's story actually dismisses Rose's story as "verbage" and defends John Bates's allegations directly, but not very convincingly.

    The only substance is from Curry herself who is firstly trying to make a mountain out of the difference between ERSSTv4 and ERSSTv5. We will have to await sight of a paper by Huang et al submitted for publication in November ( a draft version of which Curry says she is quoting from) to get any further on that front. She is also trying to make an issue of the adjustment of the buoy and ship SST measurements in Karl et al (2015), again citing the Huang et al draft paper. This is the question Does it make any difference if you calibrate the ship data against the buoy data or if you calibarate the buoy data against the ship? Curry is saying that according to the paper, it does.

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  4. There is a real problem here: This is being touted as ClimateGate2 and there are calls on all sorts of platforms not only to fire but to jail the people involved. The denialists act as though they have demonstrated a proven pattern of dishonesty, tampering, and fraud with regards to the data. This article has made a big splash.

    In fact, what controversy there is, is not about the data, but about strict compliance with very technical methodologies about record keeping and storage, where John Bates feels others have not paid full homage to his proposals since being retired. Even if that is 100% true, even he does not articulate any doubts about the truth and reliability of the data and the arguments in the article.

    Rose is a master manipulator, a sophist in the worst sense of the word, he has sold his soul to the devil and willingly serves evil.

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  5. My understanding is that it is relatively easy to sue for liable and slander in the UK

    Perhaps such a suit would bring Dr. Karl to heel.   And consider that the Queens husband is very much a green person :-)

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Off-topic remark snipped.

    Please take the time to review the SkS Comments Policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding in this matter.

  6. Al @3 - "As far as the timing of all this, the timeline of publication is being utterly ignored by the denialists."

    Something that's also been utterly ignored by the likes of Dana Rohrabacher & Lamar Smith is the "pre-bunking" of ex Prof. Judy's "shock news" by my very good friend "Snow White". Reproducing her news release at Climate Etc. yesterday:

    Speaking from their Ivory Towers near the North Pole, Great White Con spokesperson Snow White announced by the light of the silvery moon:

    We are extremely proud to have been selected as Feedspot’s 21st best Global Warming blog on the web. Whilst it’s galling to be below WUWT we’re well ahead of the GWPF and Climate Etc. is nowhere to be seen.

    By way of celebration we have some Shock News to impart!

    We flipped the switch on the first beta test version of Snow White’s Alternative Facts Wetware™ (AFW™ for short) AF detection subsystem early on Saturday morning (UTC). We were astonished when the needle literally flew past the end stops later that morning. Initially we suspected a bug must have sneaked in via one of Snow’s unprotected ear canals. However when she rather reluctantly ran her exhaustive diagnostic routines they revealed that her mission was in actual fact absolutely nominal.

    What happened next therefore came as no surprise whatsoever!

    Surreal? Moi?

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  7. Factotum @5 - Ever heard of IPSO? We're on the case!

    Scroll down the comments a bit for the "libel" discussion too:

    So, let’s just sit this one out and see who takes legal action.

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  8. MA Rodger @3

    Yes it seems pretty obvious from your document that the process was indeed not rushed. Other articles I have read said the same, which is why I said there was no proof anything was rushed.

    I really didn't have much time to comment. I just wanted to post a connected article which seemed interesting, and make a brief comment on what I generally thought.

    I have been following the climate debate for 20 years, just as a casual observer, and seen hundredss of attacks on the science and hundreds of sceptical claims. Every one has turned out to be deceitful, or nonsense, or worse. Right now I believe nothing scpetics say, even if they have some documents, until I see an independent, high quaility investigation. Needless to say all those have turned up nothing as well, eg Climategate. This NOAA issue is yet another beat up. There is nothing there that warrents any investigation.

    It's time some of these sceptical bodies were sued for harassment  or the like.

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  9. Mail On Sunday - Alternative Facts!

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  10. Uncletimrob @2, yes journalism has become very poor quality, especially on science. People say it's because print media have had cutbacks in staff due to competition form the internet, but that is no real excuse. It's often just laziness.

    Here is a hint for journalists. If anybody is making a remotely controversial claim, even if it's a qualified sceptical climate scientist like Pielke or Singer etc, check it out in minute detail. You will find there are virtually always flaws in what they say, and strong published science refuting them, but you have to track it down. I have done this a few times out of personal interest. Start with some proper detective work, it's what you are paid for, and supposed to aspire to. Get some ideals!

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  11. Paul @9 - Precisely so! Hence the recent extension of our ongoing research project south of the Arctic Circle:

    Be warned that that the main project methodology is listed as "Irony". You have to laugh, or you wouldn't be able to stop crying?

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  12. I still read Skeptical Science from time to time but not quite as often as I used to. However, after Trump I've come to the conclusion that the Climate Scientists are losing the battle regarding Climate Change. It's quite clear in the world of social media, Climate Science, despite the overwhelming belief of Climate Scientists, is losing out.

    While it is important for Climate Scientists to have venues to discuss their research, and Skeptical Science serves that purpose very well, but it does not serve the purpose of countering Climate Denial very well. In the popular media, Climate Deniers like David Rose are never put under the proper scrutiny of having to justify their position. Having Climate Scientists, just providing more and more information regarding Climate Change is not going to change the mind of Climate Change Deniers who have formed their opinions from the rhetoric of deniers who form their politically based arguments from the cherry picked data of real scientists. In this poltical debate it is too easy to say "climate change is crap" and too involved scientifically to debunk that argument. Perhaps, it is better to debunk who the deniers are instead.

    So how do scientists meaningfully enter into what is essentially a political argument? It is not to overwhelm ordinary people with more information. It is better to ask the right carefully crafted questions for the Deniers to answer, and demand that they answer them properly, or to be reveal to be the scientific frauds they seem to be. Now the basis of questioning should be based on the mathematical idea of proof by contradiction. The proof that root 2 is an irrational number is such a proof. You assume that the scientific premise of the denier is true, and then you question them to show the scientific contradictions in their logic, by using scientific facts that we know to be true. For instance, lets assume that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. What are the logical scientific consequences from such a statement? What are the questions that should be asked of the Denier to show that what they are surmising is not scientifically correct. Another assumption of the denier is that the planet is not warming? What questions does the denier have to answer to explain the observations that indicate that warming is occurring? Let's assume there is a consipracy as the deniers like to imply. What does this mean? What would science be like if it is a consiracy? What questions are needed to indicate that there isn't a conspiracy? Let's assume that CO2 is just a colourless harmless gas? What are the properly  framed scientific questions that need to be answered to indicate that it isn't? What is the denier's explanation for what is being observed? What is the denier's explanation? The deniers needs to be nailed down scientifically and exposed for the superficial scientific agent provocateurs they are. Just more facts aren't going to counter the likes of David Rose, but more properly framed scientific questions that he is required to answer just might. Only Climate Scientists have the knowledge to frame the questions for Deniers. Perhaps some Climate Scientists need to game the deniers like David Rose to create a bank of questions for him based on the scientific contradictions of his stance, so that other scientists and the media can use them to show him up, rather than Climate Scientists just keeping on accumulating more and more evidence that AGW is actually happening. Exposing the Deniers for who they are will be more effective, rather than trying to counter their denial rhetoric in a political debate.

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  13. Stefan Rahmstorf pulls no puches in his Real Climate post of today…

    Distortion? False information? Conspiracy theories? Hacked email? Climate scientists have known all this for decades. What can be learned from their rich experience with climate propaganda.

    The world is slowly waking up. “Post-truth” was declared the word of the year 2016 by the Oxford Dictionaries. Finally, people start to widely appreciate how dangerous the epidemic of fake news is for democracy.

    “Stir up hate, destroy discourse, make insane claims until no one can distinguish the most bizarre absurdity from the truth any more.”

    Thus the Austrian author Robert Misik aptly describes the strategy of right-wing populists.

    Some call it “alternative facts”. (Those are the convenient alternative to true facts.) Let’s simply call it propaganda.

    Fake news, hacked mail, alternative facts – that’s old hat for climate scientists by Stefan Rahmstorf, Real Climate, Feb 8, 2017

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  14. Mancan 18 @12, I think those are basically good ideas worth a try.

    Having said that, they do add layers of complexity. It's is this detail and complexity that can alienate the public, as you yourself noted. Still worth a try though, and I'm just being a "devils advocate".

    "Another assumption of the denier is that the planet is not warming? What questions does the denier have to answer to explain the observations that indicate that warming is occurring? "

    This is good, in a well contolled setting. But in many instances I have seen sceptics asked this sort of thing, and they just just change tack, and immediately say well of course the climate is warming, "but" we aren't causing it. Then the next day they are back saying the climate isn't warming. Christoper Moncton is an example of this. It's like a virus constantly changing form.

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  15. John Hartz@13,

    This is an outstanding article by Stephan on RC that brings into perspective all political attacks on climate science. This is like Mike Mann's books & articles, even more chilling because so condensed. Thanks for citing it.

    Another interesting quote from there:

    But Trump, who owns holdings in oil companies, has now appointed former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Tillerson has received a friendship award from Putin, and in 2012 he has sealed a $ 500 billion oil drilling deal in the Russian Arctic, which is currently blocked because of sanctions over the annexation of Crimea [my comment: executive order by Obama in March 2014]– one of the plausible motives for Putin to support Trump in the election campaign.

    (my emphais)

    We have very clear motives of Putin's involvement in in the Nov 2016 election. After having installed his man in The White House he can now celebrate. And that man - appallingly immature, selfish moron - may not be as moronic in his business dealings; in fact he maybe very clever in this (and probably only) aspect of his life.

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  16. Mancan @12 , the climate scientists would be wasting their valuable time if they were to undertake extensive engagement against the Deniers.  Hard-core Deniers are beyond reason — they actively oppose reason, fact, and anything truly scientific.

    Press them, and the Deniers immediately deflect their end of the conversation, into an ever-changing kaleidoscope of Alternative Facts and pseudo-science and conspiracy allegations.

    Sure, the scientists should and must fire occasional salvoes at the Deniers' nonsense.   But really, wherever possible, the scientists should be aiming to persuade the "middle ground" of the population (who base their own opinions on the continual acid drip of propaganda via Daily Mail, Fox News, and similar).

    For scientists, that is an uphill task, made more difficult by the weak-kneed attitude of much of the publicly-owned media.

    But the "middle ground" is the Deniers' weak point — since you can't fool most of the people all of the time (in the long run, anyway!).

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  17. Chriskoz @15, I agree Trump is appalling, immature and selfish. I think he has some personality disorder myself, and also doesn't do his homework on policy.

    But I doubt he is a moron, as in a low intelligence quotient.  Quite the reverse, he is probably well above average intelligence (please people don't laugh). Look how quick witted he is, and he has a very good degree. He is smart and not some "idiot savante" just on property development.

    But his intelligence is very undisciplined, for some reason. We would call him a "loose  cannon" and quite dangerous.

    And he lacks much general knowledge, by all accounts, and gets bad information fed to him by his team. This means you have no real data within which to make decisions that are refined or sensible.  You get "garbage in, garbage out" regardless of how bright he is.

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  18. Intriguing news from my personal perspective. I've long advocated that surrealism is the better part of valour, and it seems the Met Office has picked up that baton with enthusiasm! See Richard Betts mercilessly poking David Rose with a pointy stick:

    Eat your heart out Josh!

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  19. David Rose's second salvo appeared in the Mail on Sunday today. There was even less substance to it than in his first article, and hidden away an alleged "correction" to his first "whistleblower" article.

    I don’t see an accurate graph in Mr. Rose’s profuse apology. I see no mention of “World leaders not duped, Mail readers conned again”.


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