"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bug Report

Bug Report (cartoon via xkcd)

Does "climategate" really have "legs"? The CRU hacking incident seems to be doing damage even though not all that large of an audience professes interest.

Two Alarming Observations

My friend and occasional critic Victor has recently been, from a standing start, taking an interest in climate science and climate change. Victor is a mathematician/programmer and a successful computational scientist. He has found a couple of things I have said convincing, found Alley's keynote compelling, and is reading Archer's textbook now.

He said a couple of things over coffee yesterday that fits in with my impressions, and it's something we very much need to think about, in the context of the remarkable and discouraging success of the swifthacking publicity push.

The first is that, in researching any climate-related question that has crossed his mind of late, Google (presumably Bing is no better) seems to come up with nine denialist sites for every actually informative site. This was Victor's estimate, not mine.

The second is that he has been entangled in a debate with a "climategate" afficionado on a mailing list for computational music.

Both of these facts attest to the political brilliance of the opposition.

The progressive left has been congratulating itself with its grasp of the internet as a marketing tool, starting with the Dean campaign and going through the Obama campaign, but is constrained by an ethical sense which doesn't burden the opposition. Marc Morano, to the extent he has orchestrated these events, and/or whoever else is behind it, is a political genius unfettered by decency.

Let's consider what has happened. (It is sort of the opposite of a "miracle".)

The Ludicrous Conspiracy Theory

A ludicrous theory exists that people have invented "global warming" from whole cloth in order to advance either our own personal interests (the idea mocked by the title of this blog) or, more recently, a subversive political agenda intended to
  • 1) weaken the west in favor of the less developed countries
  • 2) weaken the less developed countries in favor of the west
  • 3) reinstate a Stalinist totalitarian state or
  • 4) corner the energy market and drive small businesses into bankruptcy.
The various elaborations of the theory are strikingly mutually inconsistent, but details of the vast conspiracy are left to innuendo, stoking the particular paranoia of the listener.

The Violation of Privacy and Probably of Law

As everyone with the slightest interest in the matters of this blog already knows, some emails and other files were published on the internet under circumstances that reek of data theft and violation of law and decency, including an attempted illegal hijacking of the RealClimate site. Nevertheless, the act is being called "whistle blowing".

What Was Actually Revealed
  • a rehash of a well-known controversy about how to present tree-ring data
  • frustration about too much attention to substandard scientific papers slipped into the literature by marginally qualified people with nonscientific agendas, and discussions about how to handle that
  • frustration about opposition by filibuster via freedom of information requests
  • a single suggestion about "deleting emails", without any context, which plausibly does not refer to deleting emails from a server (scientists are probably aware that end users cannot really do this) but rather to deleting them from a response to one of many FOIA requests
  • some sloppy code and a pretty sad but perfectly typical lack of understanding of the advantages of dynamic programming languages
  • a couple of fudge factors explicitly labeled as such probably used in testing, commented out
  • some older data for which CRU is not the originator or primary repository is not in any known dataset at CRU
  • about 985 emails and 1995 other files of no apparent interest to anyone
In other words, (with the possible exception of the email deletion incident, which I imagine the lawyers are fretting about) the only things remotely unusual here are a direct consequence of the existence of a politically rather than scientifically motivated opposition.

How This is Spun

People who have been able to convince themselves of the existence of a conspiracy are able to convince themselves that the thousand emails are totally incriminating, and that anyone who is mentioned in any of the emails (including Revkin, Pielke Jr, Annan, etc.) and by extension even anyone who "believes in" something like the IPCC position is in fact part of this vast and monumentally evil conspiracy which obviously will assassinate anyone who gets the least bit out of line. After all, NOBODY (of the cast of thousands) has ever confessed, so the threats as well as the rewards must be vast; you'd think someone's conscience if not their desire to write a million-selling expose would get the better of them.

See for example this ludicrous attack on William Connolley's excellent efforts to keep politics out of climate science at Wikipedia, and the follow-up comment here
Doesn't the fact he is being paid by the Climate Research Unit to astroturf Wikipedia for the AGW POV pose a fiduciary conflict of interest with his role as editor here? I thought astroturfing was banned at Wikipedia?
What sort of world does this person live in where an academic research unit has money to pay people to subvert Wikipedia, I wonder. Anyway, the above fortunately was met with the appropriate rejoinder:
Since that hasn't happened no. Please don't abuse the word "fact" in future.
It's interesting to see the Wikipedia process in action. But it's amazing to see what sorts of things the conspiracy-tuned mind comes up with.

How This Spreads

We've all seen the overheated rhetoric in the press. The Wall Street Journal has been particularly egregious. The message received by the public is simply that "some climate scientists have fudged some data". Since there are plenty of examples of dishonest scientists in other fields, this isn't hard for people to believe.

Is Jones blameless? I am not sure. Is any of this important? Well, no.

It surely is no evidence of a conspiracy to see Jones or Mann being argumentative in emails against other scientists; surely it is the opposite of a sign of the massive big-bucks evil windmill conspiracy of the IPCC.

What's hard to understand is the pervasiveness of the whole thing on the internet: the fact that people flogging conspiracies far more extreme than appear in even the Wall Street Journal or the National Post appear everywhere, and the prevalence of their websites. Here is the secret weapon of the denial squad; and I would be surprised if it isn't operative around other extravagant right-wing conspiracy fantasies.

Am I Taking This All A Bit Too Seriously?

You'll forgive me. The fact that my paternal grandfather among other close relatives was in fact killed at a concentration camp on the basis of right-wing conspiracy theories makes it hard for me to take the matter all that lightly. I don't imagine that climate scientists are going to be rounded up and gassed anytime soon, but the reinvention of the techniques for stirring up mass paranoia would disturb me greatly even if they weren't directed, you know, at me and at some of the people I respect most in the world.

So What is Going On?

Somebody or something is motivating people to repeat conspiracy theories about science on the internet. This is what we need to understand.

Even the most extreme of them pretend to the purest of motivations, but they are inaccessible to reason. There is a small grain of truth in what they say, scientists being human and all. Honest people cannot claim to the sorts of certainty that dishonest people can claim, after all.

Meanwhile, legitimate and honest inquiry keeps bubbling up. Some people are legitimately skeptical, and people looking into it have varying degrees of capacity for examining technical evidence. The purpose of "climategate" it seems was not to disrupt Copenhagen. Copenhagen was going to flounder of its own accord, and very few people there were taking this matter seriously.

No, the purpose of "climategate" was explicitly a Googlebombing. It was to keep real science and real policy discussion out of sight of people taking the occasion to investigate climate science. As such, it was a shocking and discouraging success. Even defenses against these calumnies, necessary as they are, actually help the bombing process along.

In the end, we need to tell the truth, but we also have to motivate people to understand it and repeat it and rehash it, so the network isn't swamped with noise if for no other reason. It's not as if we can convince the most extreme people of anything of course. What we need is for valid information to be as easy to find and absorb as lies and paranoid pathologies. At least let's try to get to the point where people easily find a reasonable point of view to weigh against any paranoid theory.

Sympathy for the Devil

A couple of odd personalities are at the center of all this. In particular there is Steve McIntyre, and some genuine skeptics among his followers. Eli recommends we treat McIntyre with the same sort of contempt we justifiably aim at the likes of Singer and Michaels. I disagree. While he doesn't exactly play by the rules, McIntyre raises some real issues.

I think there is a real point that the stakes are higher than they have been, that the conduct of climate science needs to be formalized, and that data provenance and computational reproducibility are henceforth core issues for our field. I am deeply disappointed that we did not understand this ten years ago when the first controversies erupted regarding the Mann hockey stick.

What traditional practitioners of climate relevant sciences need to understand is that the practice of science must change as we transition from a curiosity-driven field to a necessity-driven one. We also need to grasp that our methods of bringing people into the fold do not scale, and do not meet the very real, substantial and important demand for outside review.

On the other hand, people casting themselves as our opposition need to understand that such changes do not come easily or cheaply. If we need to make a transition to an engineering-level discipline we need to be funded like one. Certainly advocates of geoengineering need to support a vastly invigorated climate modeling discipline.

The Bottom Line

Finally, and yet again, critics of our field (and to some extent I count myself among them) need to understand a crucial fact. Costs increase nonlinearly with the amount of climate change. Therefore, the less you trust the IPCC results, the more dangerous the risk profile you face, and the more severe the constraints on carbon emissions and other anthropogenic forcings need to be. Yet, almost everybody argues this crucial point backwards.

Update 12/25: Morano is featuring this story prominently. Apparently he works Christmas Day.

Update 12/26: Obviously I'm being Godwinned here. I am amazed that right wing people have so little grasp of what "right wing" means and what the dangers of that point of view are, but I suppose leftwingers probably disown Stalin in pretty much the same way.

Anyway, the point about the dangers of deliberately invoked public paranoia is the key to this whole piece, so it has to stand, Godwin or no.

That said, I don't want to spend time on the ridiculous argument about which flavor of totalitarian disaster Nazism is. It's not an especially relevant piece of historical, um, controversy. So "right-wing" is removed as a descriptor of paranoia. I think that improves the article anyway.

Update 12/26: A related article at the Christian Science Monitor.

Update 12/28: A related article at Media Matters and a related video by Potholer54.

Note: The discussion thread for this article is closed at 100 comments. Please feel free to continue comment on this related posting.


Anonymous said...

mt, you stole my idea....and what a brilliant job you did! I linked to you here: http://climatesight.org/2009/12/24/michael-tobis-takes-part-3/

David B. Benson said...


Florin Diacu
Megadisasters: the science of predicting the next catastrophe
Princeton University Press

Unfortunately, the anti-science crowd won't pay attentiion to that, either.

EliRabett said...

Eli starts with the simple observation that you look at what people do, not what they say they do.

We know Steve Mc from way back, and he is no innocent, he raises issues the way a three year old plays why with his daddy. Basically he is high maintenance, low content with a nasty crew that he plays like a trumpet.

Anonymous said...

I'd love it if someone who has "sympathy" for McIntyre's endless insinuation circus would describe what he or she believes McIntyre has contributed to science, to our net understanding of the climate system, to the millennial paleo picture, etc. Grammar nazis, for instance, may have legitimate points about this or that, but they don't advance and frequently derail meaningful discussions.

Aside from the Creationist-like quote mining, the constant aspersions about RC authors, the drawn out, shaggy dog story, "dressing up" in conspiratorial garb pretty innocuous stuff, etc.- would anyone interested in being taken seriously (as opposed to filling a certain role) have Watts as a guest poster and site administrator?

Scruffy Dan said...

For some reason your post made me think of the Bush administration lost emails from the months leading up to the war in Iraq.

Those crying loudest because of the suggestion to delete emails by Jones, have been surprisingly silent about the Bush emails. Can't say I am surprised.

Martin Vermeer said...

So what if you get all those reforms made and climatology turned into an engineering science, at great cost (the greatest probably being the replacement of creativity and new ideas by managerism)?

The public doesn't recieve "scientific results"; it receives "claims by scientists (i.e., fraudsters) of having obtained scientific results".

Your "solution" doesn't solve anything. It won't even make McIntyre happy.

Martin Vermeer said...

> You'll forgive me.

You're easy to forgive, but I won't make it easy. As a condition, use 'denialist' where appropriate, as you know it is, and before the body count rubs it in.

Steve Bloom said...

I see that even word verification agrees with Michael: "phrackus"

But actually it's not that bad IMHO. A few things to bear in mind:

The object of the hacker(s) was indeed a Googlebombing, but the timing had everything to do with Copenhagen. The perps may or may not have thought the CRU emails actually would affect Copenhagen, but one thing they could be confident about was that a Googlebombing would already be underway, and that the emails could provide a good focus for it. If it hadn't been the emails, it would have been recent temps. We'll see more of this next year around Bonn/Mexico City and the incipient U.S. climate legislation, which ought to make for some interesting comparisons.

The wingnut activity we saw recently wasn't *new* wingnut activity, rather it was a burst of energy from the existing crowd, many of whom would normally be focused on other issues and/or had gone silent on climate. Things would have been (or more to the point would have appeared to have been) a lot worse if the health care debate hadn't been going on at the same time.

The scandal was made much worse by two factors that don't get a lot of discussion: The near-complete silence of CRU and the UEA press office in the critical days following the release, giving plenty of time for others to frame things, and Andy Revkin's front page NYT story (which was an old-fashioned journalistic Googlebombing that I supect wouldn't have gotten that placement or even been written the way it was were it not for the proximity to Copenhagen). The former can be excused, but I don't think it's possible to heap too much blame on the latter. I suppose Revkin fans can blame his editors instead, and there may be something to that.

Re McIntyre, Eli, is right. What's so funny about the "auditing" meme is that when auditing happens in the real world it covers what's been gotten right in addition to what's been gotten wrong. McI opportunistically focuses only on those things that he thinks he can find something wrong with, however minor. There's not a hint of intellectual respectability about this. Playing with their new data verfiication toy, McI and his minions very much won't ask for more money for "engineering quality" work to be done since their objective is to screw up climate science by trying to make such work happen on present resources. Note that it was others who undertook the GISTEMP code project, and that it was the "outside auditor" JohnV who pointed out the fundamental wrongheadedness of the Watts surface station project that McI had been ceaselessly flogging.

Ken Green said...

Pot-Kettle-Black? First, I think your conspiracy argument is a straw-man. Nobody I know seriously argues that there is a conspiracy of climate scientists, merely a case of group-think. It doesn't take a conspiracy to get the lemmings off the cliff, just a herd instinct, which the climategate emails revealed in spades.

As for conspiracy theorists, you don't have to look beyond your own post, where you wrote "Somebody or something is motivating people to repeat conspiracy theories about science on the internet."

"Somebody or something?" Really? Perhaps it's aliens from another planet who want things to warm up so they can colonize? Now if that's not a conspiracy mindset, what is?

Oh, and let's talk about hypocrisy, shall we? Your indignation over the email theft/leak is somewhat selective. Where was your indignation when Greenpeace stole skeptic Chris Horner's trash to mine for discrediting information? Where was your indignation when one of your fellow scientists, Andrew Dessler posted my own personal correspondence to the internet, where it was spun into a deranged internet legend about efforts to "bribe" UN scientists.

If climate science wants to rehabilitate itself, a good place to start would be to stop demonizing the people who revealed just how disorderly climate science is.

Drop the "denier" language and odious holocaust comparisons. It just makes you look arrogant and possibly unhinged.

Show some humility, accept some responsibility, institute *real* transparency, and come down from Olympus. Maybe then you'll get some credibility back with the masses.

Willis Eschenbach said...

Oh, please. Your grandpa was a victim of Nazi oppression, so you fear the meanies have it in for climate scientists? As much as I despise what the Nazis did, that's a bit of a stretch ...

As to what is of substance, I was the person who made the first FOI request to Jones and CRU. They illegally and unethically blew off my request, and it came back to haunt them. So I reject your claim that it was just "boys will be boys". See this link for my discussion of my experience with CRU.

Science lives and dies by transparency and openness. Jones and his friends did everything they could to destroy transparency and openness. They refused to show their code and data. In the IPCC process they blocked some papers from public view and lied to bring others to public view. They destroyed evidence, and counselled others to do the same. They "packed the jury box" of peer review, passing their friends' papers and keeping others out. They illegally blocked or ignored FOI requests, including mine. All I did was ask for his freakin' data, for goodness sake. I was not harassing him in any way. I was merely asking for what every real scientist provides as a matter of course, the means to replicate his/her work. Filing an FOI was my last resort, not my first, I asked politely first.

Either you think that this is trivial or you are engaging in damage control. Real scientists don't think this is trivial. These actions strike at the heart of science. Even George Monbiot was aghast at what the CRU emails revealed. Yet you say move along, folks, nothing to see here ...

It will be interesting to see if you post this, as your decision poses the same issues of openness and transparency as the CRU incident. Jones and his friends would censor it in an instant ... what will you do, I wonder?

Many thanks,


Michael Tobis said...

Ah, Christmas day. The two smartest of the denialist comments are above, and as you can see they really are pretty clued out about what I am saying.

As with Obama, I will continue to go out of my way to recognize such few valid points as they have even as they foam at me.

Since these are the least unkind as well as the smartest of about a dozen provocative comments, Eli's point about the company McIntyre keeps is certainly bolstered.

Readers are informed that this blog is moderated for a reason. If what you say only irritates me without interesting me at all, I make no promise to post it.

Please try to be interesting, and slightly more polite than you want to be. Thanks.

One peabrain insisted that Nazis are leftwingers because they have the word "socialist" in their name, and that my confusion on this point invalidates anything else I have to say. Refutation on that point is left as an exercise for the reader.

Michael Tobis said...

I distinguish between skeptics and deniers.

I know nothing about Chris Horner and nothing about Ken Green vs Andrew Dessler. I believe that if A corresponds with B without an explicit agreement from B to maintain confidentiality, B has the right to reveal said correspondence and C does not.

I think regarding the prognosis for climate, the CRU emails are completely trivial.

Obviously, as a political matter they are not trivial, but this is because of malicious spin, not because of any importance of the underlying alleged wrongdoing.

Whether such allegations are correct is based on a single item which is missing context. I withhold judgment; I really don't know if it represents anything actionable.

I do not think people who try to take over other people's websites are correctly described as "whistleblowers".

I don't believe the timing was intended to disrupt Copenhagen. I believe the coincidence with Copenhagen was likely not accidental, though. My belief is that it is an attempt to distract the population's attentions from the real substantive issues.

We need to understand how and why these flames are fanned. That's crucial. It would be nice if the flame fanners told us something about their own motivations.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Michael Tobis:

I'm sorry for the loss of your paternal grandfather. But let's remember that the Holocaust wasn't ended by Allied forces trying to understand the motivations of Hitler's supporters and then talking nicely to them.

And to use your tortoise and hare analogy, if the tortoise of climatology is to outrun the hare of climate change denialism, then the tortoise can't simply keep doing the slow things and wish that some day it can magically outrun the hare.

It simply isn't going to work. And you know it.

The fact is that many of the things that the denialists are doing are extremely simple, yet extremely effective. You said yourself, "the purpose of 'climategate' was explicitly a Googlebombing." And Googlebombing is extremely simple. A group such as the Heartland Institute can simply set up half a dozen domain names to Spread their Message. A shill can simply cut-and-paste the same article at different blogs dozens of times. Combine that with thousands of willing idiots who can't wait to amplify their nonsense, and the effectiveness of these simple techniques is multiplied a thousandfold.

The question is, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to counter every "let's just cut-and-paste this thing 87 times" with "hey, we need a big fat fantastically complicated PR machine that'll take decades to research and implement"? I think that's a sure recipe for failure.

We need to find counter-measures which are just as simple, if not simpler.

-- bi

Ken Green said...

Jews often work on Christmas, it's how we get ahead of Christians going into the new year, and avoid Christmas Carols.

As for "Denialist," you've got me in the wrong category. I have a doctorate in environmental science and engineering, and I understand that greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere. I believe that some of the warming of the last 100 years is due to anthropogenic GHG emissions, I just think it's on the lower end of the spectrum.

I am SKEPTICAL about estimates of high climate sensitivity - I don't think the empirical data bears that out.

I'm also SKEPTICAL of all predictive modeling exercises that are riddled with assumptions that often can't be validated at all. Anyone who saw the recent economic collapse (which was not predicted by the vast majority of economic models) should have learned not to place their faith in soothsayers and astrologers, even if they have fancy computerized horoscopes.

I'm also SKEPTICAL that we can do much of anything to reduce anthropogenic climate change at this time, with our current level of technology. I think trying to sharply reduce GHG emissions now would do much more harm than good, not only to ourselves, but to future generations who will be less well-off and less able to deal with their own challenges.

Finally, I'm deeply SKEPTICAL that environmentalists and policymakers are willing to address the risks of climate change without sliding in a million other purely political objectives, many of which I strongly oppose.

Michael Tobis said...

Ken Green's first two points are on topic for a WGI type like me and will continue to be raised in my writings as well as those of several other excellent blogs by physical scientists. He is basically wrong.

His third point is to me an arguable one, and I am sympathetic to the fourth, but we should start from a realistic position on what the evidence actually shows, which Ken Green misses.

In his prior message he rather belligerently asks me to take a position in favor of real transparency, which I find unfair. I have done so in the past and do so in this very article.

Finally, Morano is Jewish? Oy. A shonda!

Ken Green said...

Not sure if Marc is Jewish, I was only speaking for myself. And, I'm only tribally Jewish, not observant.

We'll agree to disagree on climate sensitivity and predictive modeling. Time will tell who is right.

And, having also lost relatives in the Holocaust, I find the use of the term "denier" to be the equivalent of hate speech. "Denialist" is somewhat better, though I think few are truly denialists who are often labeled that way.

guthrie said...

Willis - I read some of your link. I'm not really impressed.
Firstly, you only have one side of the story, having missed out a number of years and have ony quoted a red highlighted section of Jones e-mail, never mind what else it says of it. Perhaps we could see Warwick Hughes complete e-mails to Jones?
Secondly, you reaction to being told that the data was publicly available makes no sense to me. Why not go and fetch the data yourself, rather than demand that CRU gift wrap it for you?

Ken Green, please prosecute me for hate speech, for I use the word denialist to describe many who I meet online, for their willful ignorance of the science we put in front of them.
And you can actually do it here in the UK, if you try hard enough, we don't have very good free speech laws, one of these areas we could learn from the USA.

On the other hand, perhaps you could stick around and join in some of the discussions? It sounds like you know what you are talking about.

Anna Haynes said...

Googlebombing. "...in researching any climate-related question that has crossed his mind of late, Google (presumably Bing is no better) seems to come up with nine denialist sites for every actually informative site."

Why are the "we're not evil" folks at Google complacently allowing their tool to be co-opted by disinformation bombers bent on destroying the future?

The clueless I can understand and forgive, and the desperate (and the Fortress of Evil) I can understand - but under what rationale does Google allow this situation to continue?

Anyone know anyone at Google, who could explain?

A year ago, at the SYRCL Wild and Scenic Film Festival, I collared a Google rep who seemed unconcerned about Teh Google being misused, in that case with denialist textads. Maybe I'm slow, but it's only now dawning on me that the "Don't be evil" inculcation might just be PR.

Michael Tobis said...

I hope Google stays ethical, but at present I have little doubt that they are.

Google is not in a position to edit the results of every possible search. If bad information rises to the top, it's because bad information is more prevalent, better crosslinked, and more popular.

Google results are a symptom, not the problem. It's not a good idea to blame the messenger.

Bob Armstrong said...

What does Morano do other than link a large sample of AGW related posts ?

What does facilitating the debate do other than speed the path to understanding ?

Ken Green said...

Guthrie - I'll visit now and then, and contribute where I think I can offer a different perspective. I'm also a "WG1" guy, having served as an expert reviewer on the WG1 report of the Third Assessment Report, as well as on an IPCC report on Aviation and Global Climate. I subject myself to the masochistic ritual of reading the WG1 reports in full when they come out. As I've written elsewhere, the technical body of the reports is pretty good, but by the time things get distilled into summaries, I think confidence levels wind up overstated, and emphasis creeps toward high-end scenarios that, as one of the Climategate authors pointed out, are not meant to be even slightly realistic.

As for denialist, I wouldn't sue over that. I use the term alarmist or catastrophist to describe those who emphasize the high-end scenarios, more than I think reasonable, but I just call climate scientists "climate scientists."


Michael Tobis said...

re Morano:

Well, as in this very case, as well as the time he really got me in trouble, and as well as many others, Morano quotes selectively from consensus and worse-than-consensus articles to highlight minor points rather than the thrust of the argument.

He celebrates marginal and incompetent results that call the consensus into question. He celebrates the failures of international treaties. He is a fountain of snark, and a major source of dishonest talking points.

Other than that, I am sure he is a good neighbor, mows his lawn and tips the paper boy. But what he doesn't do is "facilitate the debate". Quite the contrary, he manufactures debate in places where a reasonable person would be trying to promote public understanding.

Some of today's "facilitations":

"Texas State Climatologist: UN IPCC AR4 was flat out wrong' – relied on flawed WWF report"; No, a single sentence in a single report was wrong. John is not saying to throw away the consensus.

"Climategate prompts conversion: From Global Warming Believer To Skeptic: 'Climategate jolted me into confronting the massive fraud and deception by top global warming scientists' Hmm, do you report anyone switching the other way?

Blizzard breaks DC snowfall record! Well, the fact that this is actually beside the point (record cold would be another story, but even then merely a data point among many) one notes that heat records are never reported on Morano's site and cold records frequently are, despite the fact that heat records are becoming more common and cold records less so. That's advancing the debate.

Watch TV Debate: UK Astrophysicist Piers Corbyn: 'It is failed science based on fruadulent data''It's not science, it's a political operation. It's a thieves kitchen to rob the world'. Where's the Royal Society? Where's the EGU? WHere's the AAAS and the AGU and the American Meteorological Society? Where are the national academies of all the major countries? No, Morano advances debate by giving a cranky astrophysicist a headline.

And finally...

"Watch now! 'King of the Skeptics' -- Climate Depot's Marc Morano -- on Canadian TV" I guess that's neutrality for you.

Give us a break.

Anna Haynes said...

re Googlebombing & MT's "don't-blame-Google" statement
"If bad information rises to the top, it's because bad information is more prevalent, better crosslinked, and more popular. Google results are a symptom, not the problem. "

I disagree. (And I thank you for this post BTW, since I don't think it had previously occurred to me that the *reason* why folks like my local denialists keep pumping it out, despite the refutations & despite the damage to their personal reputations, was to googlebomb.)

Google is being used as a disinformation delivery vehicle. Google uses algorithms of its own devising to maintain its value as a search engine, to return quality information rather than spam. Are the folks at Google making it a priority to craft those algorithms so as to prevent being spammed on the most important issue in existence? (if you'll forgive what sounds like hyperbole)

You design for the users and spammers you have, not for the ones you wish you had. If Google's not making an effort to serve those users accurate information about climate science and policy, and instead gives them disinformation, it's doing the equivalent of delivering viruses to its users.
(and, if MT's view is prevalent there, it's defending itself by saying "well, they're viruses")

Ian Forrester said...

Willis Eschenbach said:

"To me, the main issue is the frontal attack on the heart of science, which is transparency".

No, the heart of science is honesty and you deniers are severely lacking in that department. Why would anyone freely give their data to anyone who they know to be dishonest and will distort it? You, sir, are a prime example of this dishonesty (http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/12/willis_eschenbach_caught_lying.php).

The first thing you deniers need to do if you want to engage in meaningful dialogue is revert to honesty in your dealings with respected climate scientists. If you do not, you will be treated with the disrespect that you deserve.

Michael Tobis said...

I am sure these topics are very common on the search engine team, Anna.

If you can come up with an algorithm that resists being gamed better than what they already have, your ship has come in, and I suggest you run, don't walk, to the nearest Google recruiter.

If you just wish they could do better, well, you have to define what "better" means.

I think at present the conspiracy theory people are more energized about climate change than the realists are, and this will create a vicious circle in Google rankings.

Much of what we need to do is write about it, well and interestingly. Then we need to link each other.

Anna Haynes said...

Michael, you are utterly brilliant on so much...
(I wonder if I see this & you don't because you weren't steeped in ecology&evolution?)

re MT's "Much of what we need to do is write about it, well and interestingly. Then we need to link each other."

How, exactly, is that different from "Usenet is being spammed all to hell, but the way to reverse it is for us nonspammers to post more"?

It makes a whole lot more sense to create better filtering, than it does to try to drown out noise by getting more people to add signal.

If I were Google, even a dumb Google, and I wanted to lift a finger for my children's future, I'd make a list of disinfo sites, and a list of quality sites, and de-weight the former and upweight the latter. Viola. It's not hard, they'd just have to care, a little.

Anna Haynes said...

One other thing - thanks for putting into words the distinction between curiosity-driven and necessity-driven science; IMO this captures the science some(? many? classical?) science journalists are comfortable covering vs. the science they're not.
(Largely because necessity has adversaries where curiosity doesn't, except in a wallet-driven "why should we pay for this research" sense.)

Rod said...

Right wing conspiracy? You might want to take a look at the Jan 3, 2010 issue of The Nation.

Michael Tobis said...

Rod, if by "the Nation, Jan. 3" you mean the same things as Morano means by "Paging Tobis...What 'right-wing' conspiracy?' The Nation Mag. rails on Climategate:
'CRU e-mails graphically undermine the claim of the Warmers that they command the moral as well as scientific high ground'", which is to say, Alex Cockburn, who has been getting this story wrong for many years.

Nothing new here. His conspiracy theory is as lame as all the others.

"Deceitful manipulation of data, concealment or straightforward destruction of inconvenient evidence, vindictive conspiracies to silence critics, are par for the course in all scientific debate. But in displaying all these characteristics the CRU e-mails graphically undermine the claim of the Warmers that they command the moral as well as scientific high ground. It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate-modeling enterprises and a vast archipelago of research departments and "institutes of climate change" across academia. It's where the money is. Skepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker."

Still awaiting my slice of the billions, frankly. Not knowing the science, of course, is a career breaker in science, so there's an alternative theory as to why so few young to middle aged scientists think a sensitivity under 2 C per doubling is even on the table, never mind almost certain.

Michael Tobis said...

Wow, this Nazis are left-wingers meme has been quite thoroughly spread around in some circles. Talk about revisionism! It certainly goes a long way to explaining the bizarre Obama with Hitler mustache posters we saw during the health care debate.

It's really off topic for this blog, but this amazing piece of propaganda needs to see the light of day somewhere. Has anybody sane remarked on it?

Anna Haynes said...

re "[Nazis-leftists] this amazing piece of propaganda needs to see the light of day" - MT, a new post on that topic, please? (stub is fine) so we don't pollute the comments on this one with OT discussion about that?

(I sure wish Blogger had threaded comments like Wordpress does.)

Michael Tobis said...

Anna, agreed. It does not belong on this blog, but if nobody else has written about it somebody needs to.

Michael Tobis said...

Some useful stuff in email, thanks. I don't see any sign that the mainstream or the left is aware of this clever sleight of handedness regarding the Nazis.

I will pick this business up elsewhere. For those of you who find it endlessly entertaining, you can look here for more.

Yours in extremity,


Hank Roberts said...

Anna, the Usenet problem was solved I think as well as it could be with killfiles and blocklists and the occasional Internet Death Penalty voluntarily imposed on inveterate spam hosts.

Nowadays with dynamic IP addresses you can't just identify a bad IP and list it for those who might choose to block it, and as far as I know killfile works with userids not anything unique.

Now, if I were a programmer, I'd come up with a little tool that would simply search Google for each of these lines in succession, lather rinse repeat, til they all rose to the top of Google's search engine:

Steve Bloom said...

I just googled "global warming" and then "climate science" and I have to say I'm not seeing anything like what Victor reports.

Tom Yulsman said...

Michael, you say that the "purpose of 'climategate' it seems was not to disrupt Copenhagen . . . the purpose of 'climategate' was explicitly a Googlebombing. It was to keep real science and real policy discussion out of sight of people taking the occasion to investigate climate science."

Would you still say the same thing if it could be shown that the Chinese were behind it? There is good reason to believe that they wrecked any possibility of a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen, and now there is very tentative evidence that Chinese hackers, perhaps with the support of the government, were behind "Climategate."

Anna Haynes said...

Steve Bloom ("I have to say I'm not seeing anything [in Google results] like what Victor reports"), Google is sneaky that way - it personalizes the searches, it tries to bring you stuff that you'll like, which it ascertains based on what you've clicked on in the past. Thus your search results won't look like Victor's.

Another consequence of this design feature: it makes Google ideal for reinforcing confirmation bias.

Another: you can't reliably use Google results as a tool for estimating the frequency of some occurrence relative to background noise, since once it figures out what occurrence you're curious about, that's what it'll try to bring you.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Michael Tobis:

"Much of what we need to do is write about it, well and interestingly. Then we need to link each other."

Besides the fact that (as Anna pointed out) it just makes the din louder, it's also much, much, much slower than cut-and-paste. Can one reasonably expect people to write 87 interesting articles in the same amount of time that some bloke cuts-and-pastes the same crud 87 times?

Sometimes I wonder if we should just create The World's Ultimate Mindless Link Propagation Network From Hell, and call it, well, "The World's Ultimate Mindless Link Propagation Network From Hell", and make it suck up so much Googlejuice that finally Google will actually be motivated to do something about the blogspam problem. (Seriously, what can we do that'll have a chance of actually working?)

-- bi

Unknown said...

@Steve Bloom: one particular search that I remember doing with for Lord Monckton. Search for his name as such, and google gives you first his wikipedia bio, then half a dozen links that show him to be an expert / sympathetic / victim of UN repression, and one link that explains how silly he is. Google for "lord monckton global warming" and the first debunking link is not on the first results page.

Ken Green said...

Something you said in the original post has been turning over in my mind. You implied that it was past time to turn climate science into something with the rigor of engineering sciences, which are rigorous mainly because people's lives are on the line. Yet the recommendations of climate scientists about the maximum concentration of CO2 to avoid dangerous interference, and the projected timelines were used to promote policies with *vastly* greater implications for harming human health if they went wrong than would be the case for any bridge, or high-rise. Had climate science gone that route 15 years ago, none of this mess would have happened. As for more money...I dare say climate research has gotten considerably more than the engineering schools for a decade now. We might want to check the numbers on that, but governments have poured many billions into climate science already.

Guillaume said...

How is the gold distributed, in this conspiracy? What is the per person share of the federal grant money going to the academic researchers themselves? Does the money reach all the people who would have to be in on the scam?

Do governmental employees (NASA, NOAA, etc.) have similar financial incentives?

How do they recruit new conspirators, now that grant money would be presumably increasing on its own, with increasing temperatures?

Unknown said...

Mr Tobis
You believe that the repeated efforts of the Jones-run CRU to not comply with FOI requests is a trivial matter? And that they 'decided' not to comply with the requests because they believed that MCIntyre and others were out to bring them down - you are comfortable with that?

You are perfectly happy with the fact that Briffa was not happy with mutilation of his graph? Whatever he might have argued in the literature notwithstanding?

It doesn't trouble you that an unpublished Briffa graph was allowed into the IPCC TAR and the related rationalizations were thrown into the literature like an afterthought?

Aren't you baffled by the fact that Kevin Trenberth considers it a travesty the Team's models could not predict the latest decadal trend, in private, and yet he unfortunately and dishonestly trips himself with his own words as recently as December this year in a TV interview about AGW?

Michael Tobis said...


1) Science in general and climate science in particular should be set up to share information easily, but it isn't as yet. On the other hand, if Jones dragged his feet on FOIA requests and was rude about it, it may be because he felt besieged by requests meant to disrupt his work, not to replicate or extend it. Surely FOIA is not the normal way to request data; one does not normally insert attorneys into the process.

2) I incline more toward Briffa than toward Mann on the controversy in question, but I am not well-informed about it. I am mostly in alignment with Richard Alley on the tree ring question. Tree rings simply aren't a good large scale temperature proxy. The whole controversy is pretty marginal scientifically.

3) The IPCC process is massive, and unprecedented, managed by flawed human beings. To make matters worse, it is a time-limited consensus process among scientists whose expertise is other than political. Not every decision will stand up to every possible critique. On the whole the WGI reports have been extremely useful and reliable. Nobody claims they are flawless. Finding a few sentences to criticize out of dozens of large volumes turns out to be possible. Nevertheless the bulk of the evidence remains coherently centered around a 2.5 C to 3 C sensitivity. A serious reading of the WGI reports will make that clear.

4) Finally, your misinterpretation of what Trenberth says is severe. If you actually took the time to understand it you might begin to get a better idea of what climate physics is actually about.

Tom said...

Without going into the content of the leaked files, I'd like to contest your characterization of them as a leaked Googlebomb meant to disrupt Copenhagen. To do so is falling into the same conspiracy trap that you recognise in so many skeptics. I think it is clear (and has been since the beginning) that what was leaked was the collected files of a FOIA examiner pertaining to McIntyre's request for information. The day his request was denied, the file was leaked. It was almost certainly an internal leak, it almost certainly had nothing to do with events in the outside world, and it almost certainly was one person acting alone. I think the content leads to different conclusions than you do, but you are an important voice for 'sanity' on your side of the fence and I don't want you to get sidetracked by this kind of nonsense. Good luck.

Michael Tobis said...

Tom, you may be right about the origin of the file in the FOIA, and even in its timing for all I know, though that's the first I've heard of it. Recall, though, that there was a simultaneous attempt to hijack the RealClimate site. This hardly seems the work of an innocent scientist even if you presume that the files are so shocking as to cause someone who actually knows the people and cultures involved to rise to the occasion of whistleblowing, which I doubt.

In any case, the effect has been to activate the echo chamber and drown out any serious consideration of the serious evidence about climate change during the Copenhagen period. So even stipulating for the purpose of argument that it was a merely fortuitous coincidence for the obfuscators, a googlebombing is the net result.

Not all conspiracy theories are paranoid. Fossil fuel interests have been known to collude in disinformation campaigns with certain "think tanks" and political interests.

This idea is very different in character from the idea that the world's science academies have sold out to a mysterious cabal of Stalinist windmill manufacturers. Leaving aside whether it's true or not, it has a plausible set of motivations, adequate funding, and no need for absolute secrecy.

Tom said...

Hi Michael,

The 'attempt to hijack RC's site' was the whistleblower's attempt to post the files there first. All he needed was an RC password, and several posters there had given CRU workers admin rights to the blog. Eventually, somewhere, a conspiracy theory will actually prove to be true, I'm sure. But I doubt if it's this one.

njredeye said...

MT, You say this was for a Googlebomb. Good! The debate finally reached a lot of us, the little taxpayers of the USA. Look MT, we are only looking for a real debate, and when you are talking about OUR taxes, do us a favor, drop the smug responses to "Deniers" (I love that, Denier, and how that indeed quickly becomes "Flatearthers" and then indeed we "deniers" become the Nazis..or now the derogatory Teabaggers, spare me) Just simply have your Science PROVE that Cap and Trade will bring down Global Warming, (Now Climate Change, ha ha.. it's so See-through.. ) We want to know that the solution works, not that the problem exists. Our former VP is your spokesperson in the USA, and nobody believes him anymore. AG Needs to simply debate the "SKEPTICS". It is our tax money, and we just want it spent on something that works. People getting rich on this stinks. I know it pains you to have to lower yourself to listening to us simple folk, and our demands for the truth, but it's our money, and best of all Our Vote, and we can stop this if you don't prove and debate your findings, AND prove that Cap and Trade will solve the problem. Something I never have heard will work especially in the USA!. Steak tonight!

Michael Tobis said...

Quoth Wikipedia:

"According to Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate, "At around 6.20am (EST) Nov 17th, somebody hacked into the RC server from an IP address associated with a computer somewhere in Turkey, disabled access from the legitimate users, and uploaded a file FOIA.zip to our server."[16] ... The hack was discovered by Schmidt only a couple of minutes after it had occurred. He temporarily shut down the website and deleted the uploaded file.[18] RealClimate notified the University of East Anglia of the incident."

Tom said...

Hi Mike, Yes, I've read that. But Schmidt can use the word hack just to mean that the user was unwanted and more or less everything else can be true in both his version of events and mine.

Michael Tobis said...

njredeye, let me start with saying that I am inclined to agree with James Hansen that cap and trade is a bad idea for CO2. So I don't accept your challenge on those grounds. I think your comment has several errors, but first things first. This blog does not promote Waxman-Markey.

Anyway, I wonder what "proving" legislation would look like. Has any law been "proven" prior to enactment in a way you find satisfactory? Which ones? How? Do you think only such laws should be passed?

Michael Tobis said...

Tom, if a person had signed in through ordinary channels their user ID would be recorded in the server log. And if that were a responsible person, they would not "disable access from legitimate users".

Tom said...

Hi Michael, I don't think it was a typical user, just one who had acquired a password. And yes, I can believe he disabled comments on the post--maybe even to the entire site. But I think he had the key to the front door, due to carelessness with password administration on the part of RC.

Michael Tobis said...

Tom, if your belief is based on more than guesswork you might wish to consider sharing your information with the appropriate enforcement agencies. Otherwise you should be saying that you are guessing.

Tom said...

Hi Michael,

Well, I am writing a book on this with Steve Mosher, so I have some inside information, but it's more in the nature of 'informed speculation' than any hard evidence. So I wouldn't advance it as anything more than a theory, which I guess makes me just like any other conspiracy theorist at this point. I do believe more information about this subject will surface, though.

In a way, I'm sorry I brought the whole subject up, as you are rightly focusing on the content, which I hope you keep doing. There's going to be a flood of negative news following Pachauri's finances and other sidebar stories--and I'll be writing some of them, you can be sure--so you stay focussed.

Unknown said...

Mr Tobis
"The IPCC process is massive, and unprecedented, managed by flawed human beings...etc...." Responding to why Briffa's graph was modified and put in the IPCC TAR.

You don't know what you are talking about do you? The Briffa graph is the one Mann had to chop off - Mike's Nature Trick (TM) was employed in the IPCC graphs as well. In his emails, Briffa objects to this as best as he could but in the end he relented. Consensus then prevailed. The very scientific consensus that you apparently derive the confidence from to declare that the emails do not contain anything damning!

Kevin Trenberth *did* express his uncertainties about the models to Tom Wigley when he talks about the 'travesty' in question. Not once but twice. The Team then discusses how best to spin the decadal temperature declining trend. Enough context is available for anyone to see. RealClimate-style smearing about 'knowledge of climate physics' doesnt really help my friend.


Michael Tobis said...

"Briffa objects to this as best as he could but in the end he relented. Consensus then prevailed. The very scientific consensus that you apparently derive the confidence from to declare that the emails do not contain anything damning!"


That makes no sense to me at all.


The IPCC does not create the scientific consensus, it endeavors to report it.

I haven't seen anything in the emails don't contain anything that calls the consensus into question.

Now, about "anything damning"; well there is the one email that out of context doesn't look good. I have said I hold no opinion about it, lacking context. But at worst, they reveal come casual conversations among people who work together.

They reveal no fraud, no cooking of data, no conspiracy. They do reveal an insular mentality and a lack of interest in politics outside scientific circles, which is pretty much the opposite of what they stand accused of.

The emails are being blown out of proportion by people who have some strange and fabulous conception of who we are, what we do, and why.

I really, honestly, don't see what other people think they see there.

Anyway. Suppose I'm kidding myself and this reveals gross malfeasance somehow other than through vague innuendo.

The sensitivity remains most likely 2.5 C to 3 C per CO2 doubling no matter how you shake your fist at it, as it has been estimated for half a century. The WGI reports explain why this is and display an enormous amount of corroborating evidence.

Even if you are 100% in sympathy with Jones' and Mann's critics and 0% in sympathy with them, you are a very long way from demonstrating some sort massive conspiracy well enough to sensibly ignore the greenhouse gas problem.

Even on the worst possible interpretation of the emails (for instance, the idea that some quality control should be exercised in the peer reviewed literature can be, in the usual standby theory of paranoid crackpots, interpreted as censorship of opposing hypotheses), that consensus has only a little less evidence behind it.

In other words, noise, noise and more noise. You guys have nothing, and that's because there is nothing to have. You aren't arguing with a conspiracy, you see. You are arguing with a physical object: the earth.

That tends not to work.

Peter T said...

I do not know how to lower the noise level of the "debate" to allow rational consideration of policy. Some reading on other tipping points suggests that some coercion by the establishment (once that had made its collective mind up) was an essential ingredient. For instance, the isolationist Father Coughlin was progressively denied access to radio and postal services in the 30s. I doubt this would work now and, anyway, the problem is global.

One useful effort might be to highlight countries where acceptance of the science is greater, and some steps are being taken to meet the situation. Inb other words, appeal to national competitiveness.

guthrie said...

Tom, thats rather a large conspiracy theory in its own right, that a disgruntled FOIA involved employee oeaked the e-mail files. Some evidence would be nice, starting with how such an employee would even have gotten hold of e-mails in the first place going back over 10 years, yet not every single e-mail only a nicely embarasssing selection...

Whether cap and trade will solve the problem is for the economists to work out, not the hard science scientists. They can tell you the various likely outcomes if it works or not, but speak to the econmomists about whether it will or not. Personally I'm not convinced, because it'll give the same section of society who were involved in the last financial blowup more stuff to trade on the markets.

Michael Smith said...

“thingsbreak” wrote:

I'd love it if someone who has "sympathy" for McIntyre's endless insinuation circus would describe what he or she believes McIntyre has contributed to science, to our net understanding of the climate system, to the millennial paleo picture, etc.

The fact that you ask for such a description is proof that you’ve not read -- or, at least, have not at all understood -- what McIntyre posts at his web site or in his papers.

This highlights a fascinating cultural aspect of the AGW movement. At web sites like this one and RealClimate, one encounters literally dozens of people anxious to denounce Steve McIntyre in the strongest possible terms, and to dismiss all of his work as “fraudulent”, “false”, “misleading”, “error-filled”, “refuted”, etc. -- just to name a few of the claims I’ve seen over the years.

Yet, virtually none of these same people are willing to come to ClimateAudit.org, where the comments section is wide open, and prove their claims. If McIntyre is, in fact, as egregiously wrong in his claims as all these people insist, they should easily be able to thoroughly embarrass and humiliate the man at his own web site. Yet, such people are rarely seen in the ClimateAudit comments, and they almost never address the technical issues at hand.

And this same thing applies to those scientists whose studies McIntyre has audited and found wanting. He has a standing, open invitation to any climate scientists to post an unedited column on ClimateAudit.org defending their studies against his findings. But again, we do not see this happening.

It’s an interesting phenomena.

Michael Smith said...

Michael Tobis wrote:

The IPCC does not create the scientific consensus, it endeavors to report it.

The authors of the IPCC reports are the same authors that create the papers cited by the IPCC -- authors who can and do ignore any papers that conflict with their own. Small wonder, then, that an appearance of consensus results.

For an example of how these "independent" IPCC reviewers suppress dissenting views, go to this address and read the series of exchanges between IPCC author Keith Briffa and expert reviewer Steve McIntyre:


Fen said...

"No, the heart of science is honesty and you deniers are severely lacking in that department."

Transparency, not honesty. And when you slime people as "deniers", do you mean the ones who don't believe in AGW or the one who don't believe its been revealed as a fraud?

"Why would anyone freely give their data to anyone who they know to be dishonest and will distort it?"

I see. And three guesses, you get to determine who is "honest" enough to check your data? Did you work for CRU?

"The first thing you deniers need to do if you want to engage in meaningful dialogue is revert to honesty in your dealings with respected climate scientists."

Respected? Name three. Because the only climate "scientists" I know of are the hacks associated with CRU. And those that defend them.

"If you do not, you will be treated with the disrespect that you deserve."

Righ back at ya.

bbbeard said...

Ah, mt, you master of irony! You write:

“Both of these facts attest to the political brilliance of the opposition.”

“Marc Morano, to the extent he has orchestrated these events, and/or whoever else is behind it, is a political genius unfettered by decency.”

“details of the vast conspiracy are left to innuendo, stoking the particular paranoia of the listener.”

“the existence of a politically rather than scientifically motivated opposition.”

“the secret weapon of the denial squad”

“Somebody or something is motivating people to repeat conspiracy theories about science on the internet.”

“the purpose of "climategate" was explicitly a Googlebombing.”

“A couple of odd personalities are at the center of all this.”

“people casting themselves as our opposition”

“deliberately invoked public paranoia”

“This hardly seems the work of an innocent scientist even if you presume that the files are so shocking as to cause someone who actually knows the people and cultures involved to rise to the occasion of whistleblowing, which I doubt.”

“Fossil fuel interests have been known to collude in disinformation campaigns with certain "think tanks" and political interests.”

And finally, the quote that sums it all up:

“But it's amazing to see what sorts of things the conspiracy-tuned mind comes up with.”

Boy, that last one hits the mark.... If you can’t see how you’re hurting your case, not helping it, I feel sorry for you….


Unknown said...


"Because the only climate "scientists" I know of are the hacks associated with CRU. "

You know you've just exposed yourself as totally ignorant? That you have just admitted not having studied any of the literature? That you have just thrown away any reason to be considered a participant in the debate?


Michael Tobis said...

Note how Fen (who follows up three minutes later with a vulgar expletive about moderation of these comments, not published) and Michael Smith have trouble distinguishing between those who study the instrumental and recent paleo global temperature record and the whole population of climate scientists.

My answer to "name three" of the top of my head, limiting to currently practicing scientists, and none of them especially focussed up on the global mean temperature record:
Bretherton Jr
Z. Liu

These are the sorts of people who, when they contradict me, I tend to instantly back down. This is not because of some chain of authority, but because in my experience they understand the climate system better than I do. It's called expertise. I recommend reading anything these people have published. Note, however, that much of it will require considerable background study.

More to the point, though, is how the spin about hockey sticks has totally distorted people's views as to what the actual intellectual content of the climate sciences is about.

Unknown said...

From my perspective, the reality-denial is coming from the 'pro-AGW' camp: hysterical ad-hominem attacks, and logically flawed, myopic argument and sheer hypocrisy.

Science has moved on, weakening the case that CO2 is a significant driver of climate (to the extent proposed by the IPCC).

Michael Tobis said...

Amral22, normally I would not publish your content-free submission. I offer it here as an example of "not constructive".

If you would care to try again, please be sufficiently specific as to have some chance of starting a maningful conversation, and please be no more rude than you would be to a fellow guest at a party. This site is always open to discussing matters of substance with people who show signs of being reasonable.

Unknown said...

Fair enough Mr. Tobis, but my next post did contain an example of a crude ad hominem attack by EliRabett in this thread - you edited out my comment, but left his standing.

The pro-AGW web commentariat has been using a condescending, dismissive and frankly rude approach in dealing with genuine critics, skeptics and enquirers for some time now. I believe this tone may have been originally set by RealClimate.

I have no interest in debating the AGW issue with you or anyone here - I'm sure I wouldn't be able to change your mind in any case.

Since you asked for specifics, however, I've prepared a list of papers which, at a minimum, indicate to me that the IPCC's calculation of climate sensitivity is incomplete, and their result too high:

- Satellite observations of atmospheric temperature, water vapor, and incoming and outgoing EM radiation, with comparisons to model predictions:

Pierce D. W., T. P. Barnett, E. J. Fetzer, P. J. Gleckler (2006), Three-dimensional tropospheric water vapor in coupled climate models compared with observations from the AIRS satellite system, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L21701, doi:10.1029/2006GL027060.

John, V.O. and Soden, B. J., Temperature and humidity biases in global climate models and their impact on climate feedbacks, Geophys.Res. Lett., 34, L18704, doi:10.1029/2007GL030429

Gettleman, Collins, Fetzer, Eldering, Irion (2006), Climatology of Upper-Tropospheric Relative Humidity from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder and Implications for Climate, J. Climate, 19, 6104-6121. DOI: 10.1175/JCLI3956.1

Wielicki, B.A., Wong, T., Allan, R.P., Slingo, A., Kiehl, J.T., Soden, B.J., Gordon, C.T., Miller, A.J., Yang, S.-K., Randall, D.A., Robertson, F., Susskind, J. and Jacobowitz, H. 2002. Evidence for large decadal variability in the tropical mean radiative energy budget. Science 295: 841-844.

Chen, J., Carlson, B.E. and Del Genio, A.D. 2002. Evidence for strengthening of the tropical general circulation in the 1990s. Science 295: 838-841.

-- Papers showing that solar forcing from the 11-year cycle has a stronger effect than predicted from the 0.18W/m2 TSI variation

Tung and Camp 2009
White et al. 1997 “Response of global upper ocean temperature to changing solar irradiance”

-- A few of the papers showing mounting evidence for an indirect solar effect on climate via modulation of galactic cosmic ray flux by variations in the solar magnetic field

N. J. Shaviv & J. Veizer “Celestial Driver of Phanerozoic Climate?”

Nir J. Shaviv, "On Climate Response to Changes in the Cosmic Ray Flux and Radiative Budget"

“Cosmoclimatology: a new theory emerges” (Svensmark 2007) - this is a review of past publications on the Sun-GCR-climate link, including the vital work done by Nir Shaviv.

Svensmark, Bondo, Svensmark 2009, GRL “Cosmic ray decreases affect atmospheric aerosols and clouds”

Michael Tobis said...

That's a list, not a position.

The point of this article is that the impact of the CRU emails are being grotesquely exagerrated. If your reply is to support Shaviv and Svensmark (I am not sure they agree, but both positions are not stringly supported by theory or data) you should argue (on this blog or elsewhere) on threads about cosmic or solar forcing.

None of your evidence has any bearing on the present question. Please note that I have been in debates about climate change for almost twenty years now and know a red herring when I see one.

Here's a solar thread that still gets some traffic if you want to talk about it there.

Your evidence is completely irrelevant to the present topic, but I'm sure we can revive the solar conversation here or elsewhere if you are interested.

Changing the subject, though, is another way not to be constructive.

Ken Green said...


I find it amusing that climate scientists get so huffy and dismissive when non-scientists weigh in on science issues, then seem to see no contradiction when they say something like this: "let me start with saying that I am inclined to agree with James Hansen that cap and trade is a bad idea for CO2" What the hell does James Hansen know about economics and public policy that qualifies him to go crusading for or against specific policies? And talk about late to the prom! I was ripping apart cap-and-trade before 2007.

And to head off the likely question about why I qualify for public policy analysis even though my doctorate is in environmental science and engineering, that's because the degree was policy oriented. The degree is a D.Env, from UCLA's Environmental Science and Engineering Program: http://www.ph.ucla.edu/ese/

Kenneth P. Green
Resident Scholar
American Enterprise Institute

Unknown said...

Sorry Mr. Tobis - I thought you wanted specific reasons as to why I thought the skeptical position is not unreasonable (and hence not needing a conspiracy theory to explain).

The only question I found in your post was in the first line: 'Does "climategate" really have "legs"?'

I have no idea as to the answer to that, sorry, but the 'googlebomb' theory seems to be conspiracy-minded - you certainly didn't present any evidence in your post to back up your assertion. There are simpler explanations, but you choose to ignore them.

The "ludicrous conspiracy theory" you present strikes me as a strawman argument - there are many ridiculous accusations on both sides of the debate (eg. "the oil industry is behind the skeptics").

The conspiracy, if it can be called that, that appears to be revealed by the emails is one of avoiding releasing data and methods to the public, and of attempting to influence scientific journals in their choice of publications.

Personally, I'm more interested in seeing an independent verification of the CRU work, rather than poring through someone else's emails.

Michael Tobis said...

amral22, OK, fair enough.

There are some attempts at constructing a skeptical position, but they are pretty thin gruel compared to the consensus understanding. One wonders how people choose which papers to believe.

Did you come up with the list yourself? Are you prepared to discuss it?

Leaving aside what I think of Svensmark and Shaviv, your first batch contains some names I recognize and have every reason to expect are in touch with climate physics (Barnett, del Genio, Soden). I wonder if these works say what you think they do. If you are interested in making the case and have actually read these papers, let me know and we can discuss them.

Steve Bloom said...

amral22: "Science has moved on, weakening the case that CO2 is a significant driver of climate (to the extent proposed by the IPCC)."

The problem with this statement is that any close observer of the science will recognize it as a fantasy. If anything, work subsequent to the AR4 has strengthened the case for the significance of CO2. By all means don't take my word for that, but watch Richard Alley's Bjerknes lecture from earlier this month (available on the AGU site) or read the relevant portions of the Copenhagen Diagnosis.

I can understand not liking the scientific consensus, but you fool only yourself and your fellow denialists by pretending it's other than what it is.

Ian Forrester said...

Here is a link to one of the most slanderous and ant-science rants I have seen in a long time. The author is that arrogant and slanderous Ken Green.


Here is a quote:

"Finally, people know that a fish rots from its head. The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was considered the top climate research community. It was the source of a vast swath of the information then that was funnelled into the supposedly "authoritative" reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If scientific objectivity is corrupt at the top, there's every reason to think that the rot spreads through the entire body. And evidence suggests it has.....
.....The Climategate scandal, like others in biology and medicine erodes the credibility of both the scientists involved, and the institution of scientific research. And it should: it has become evident that there is a lot of rot going on in the body of science, and too little effort made to fix it".

It is obvious that people like Green are on an anti-science crusade, they hate science and scientists since they are the ones showing the harm being done by many large corporations, corporations who are providing the money so that Green et al. can spread their lies and distortions.

What I do not understand is why are not more scientists, not just climate scientists, getting involved in showing the distortions put out by the likes of Green.

In Calgary, the only academic scientist who has stood up against the anti-science rhetoric has been Dr. David Reid, a biologist at the University of Calgary. Where are the other scientists who are being smeared by Green's lies and dishonesty?

Michael Tobis said...

Ian, thanks for the very interesting link.

Please try to temper your language on this blog. I would like to maintain some decorum around here and leave room for intelligent disagreement, of which, given that we disagree, there is far too little these days. That doesn't mean we like or admire each other, just that we leave enough room for substance over emotion.

Every post decision I make is based on what I find constructive vs destructive, and there is much of value in your contribution. I have to admit that anything this aggressive from the naysayers would be flushed instantly. Of course, they suffer from being wrong, too, while you bring some important evidence to the table. But I'd just as soon we all aimed at restraining our anger.

That said idea that CRU is "the top" is a useful fiction/delusion for the naysayers. Thanks very much for pointing to this explicit example of this flavor of nonsense.

This is why it's important for us to tell the intellectual story, and explain what the evidence really is about, rather than always playing defense. As long as we are back on our heels in our public posture, people will misunderstand the whole nature of the problem.

Ken Green said...

Thanks for the plug, Ian, I didn't realize my Calgary Herald piece was out yet! You might take note of Reid's unbelievably arrogant article that I responded to, as well as our previous exchange in the Calgary Herald. For that matter, you might find my piece in Canada's Financial Post where I rip into CCS as a technology that is almost certainly not gonna happen.

As for science, I LOVE it, and spent 16 years in college studying biology, molecular genetics, and environmental science. I'm an atheist and strict evolutionist.

What I *hate* is that true environmental science (as well as other sciences) have been hijacked by people who want to support a pre-ordained policy agenda more than they want to find the truth. It has been further distorted by the unremitting gusher of government funds that decides what is and isn't "good" science to explore. And the news cycle, which feeds on disaster stories (or "breakthrough") stories has led to even more distortion of what is studied, and how results are presented.

It was realizing that in my doctoral studies that led me into policy analysis. Sorry if you don't like it, but hey, that's life!

Steve Bloom said...

amral22 seems to like AIRS, so he ought to appreciate this. Hmm, no wonder the Bush regime did what it could to cut the satellite climate observation budget.

Unknown said...

MT, the list is my own selection, fwiw. I've posted a few variations of it recently, using my usual web-commenting name of 'oneuniverse', but in this case Blogger didn't allow me to use that, and I ended up using my Blogger id 'amral22'.

I said earlier that I don't wish to debate it here, however it seems churlish to refuse - I'm willing to listen, to ask and answer questions and to be persuaded eg. a question : Tung and Camp found that the 11-year solar cycle can cause global temperature changes of 0.2C, even though the TSI change is only 0.18W/m2. This seems to me to indicate that the IPCC's understanding of the solar effect on temperature is incomplete, and by the looks of it underestimated. This implies that warming ascribed to CO2 & other GHG's in the IPCC's calculations needs to be recomputed. Is that reasoning wrong?

Steve Bloom :

You yourself might want to view this 1 hour lecture by Jasper Kirkby, particle physicist at CERN, going through the evidence linking solar variability, GCR flux and climate changes on Earth over different time-scales. He also describes the CLOUD experiment at CERN, which he’s heading, and which was inspired by the findings of Svensmark, Shaviv and others:


re: AIRS
I'm aware of Dessler's work - that's why I pointed out the other studies of the AIRS satellite data, which come up with different conclusions.

Unknown said...

@ Anna December 27, 2009 12:17 AM

The following page describes how to disable Google's personalised search:


Steve Bloom said...

amral22, recall that the issue was the present state of the consensus as regards the role of CO2. A lecture by a particle physicist is irrelevant to that point. What's been demonstrated here is that you like to make things up. As I said, it convinces no one aside from the already-convinced.

Re the AIRS results, to make any sort of legitimate argument along those lines you need to look at the entirety of the relevant literature. You obviously haven't done that. It's not at all clear that you've even read the papers you cited. If any of those papers really had provided a basis for substantially reducing estimates of sensitivity, given the prominence of the authors it's exceedingly likely that Michael would have already known about it. Heck, it's likely *I* would have known about it.

Michael Tobis said...

amral22 or whoever you are, you are asking us to bet the planet not on your reasoning just being plausible but on its being certainly much more plausible than that of the bulk of the scientific community. That is a very tall order.

Perhaps it would be best if you would point us to an exposition of the whole argument. This is serious business and you or whoever you've handed this off to obviously has thought about this angle a lot.

I'm not opposed to considering it, presuming there's a substantive case somewhere. So where is it?

Off the cuff, if the earth is more sensitive to TOA solar forcing in watts it is likely more sensitive to TOA carbon forcing. So that wouldn't obviously help your case. On the other hand there isn't really a strong 11 year signal, is there? So the whole thing rests on very weak foundations as far as I know.

If you choose to take this further, start with a link to a coherent argument. I'll start a thread if I see one.

PS - You'd be more credible if you signed your name and described your background.

Steve Bloom said...

OK, I picked a paper at random (John and Soden 2007) and dug up a public copy. The abstract:

"A comparison of AIRS and reanalysis temperature and humidity profiles to those simulated from climate models reveals large biases. The model simulated temperatures are systematically colder by 1–4 K throughout the troposphere. On average, current models also simulate a large moist bias in the free troposphere (more than 100%) but a dry bias in the boundary layer (up to 25%). While the overall pattern of biases is fairly common from model to model, the magnitude of these biases is not. In particular, the free tropospheric cold and moist bias varies significantly from one model to the next. In contrast, the response of water vapor and tropospheric temperature to a surface warming is shown to be remarkably consistent across models and uncorrelated to the bias in the mean state. We further show that these biases, while significant, have little direct impact on the models’ simulation of water vapor and lapse-rate feedbacks." (emphasis added)

Oops. Of course, technically amral22 didn't claim the authors agreed with him.

Oh, and I see that JPL has an AIRS research page from which our friend appears to have just cut-and-pasted those references. Imagine that.

Unknown said...

Steve Bloom: "What's been demonstrated here is that you like to make things up."

What did I "make up"? I assume you're referring to my mention of climate sensitivity?

The IPCC's estimates of CO2 and GHG contributions to temperature rely on us having a complete picture of the forcings and feedbacks - if our understanding of these change, the estimates need to be need to be re-estimated. I believe the papers I cited (specifically, Shaviv's, Shaviv and Veizer's , Tung and Camp's, White et al's., Svensmark's and Svensmark et al.'s) demonstrate that the IPCC's picture is incomplete.

Michael Tobis:
"Off the cuff, if the earth is more sensitive to TOA solar forcing in watts it is likely more sensitive to TOA carbon forcing. So that wouldn't obviously help your case. On the other hand there isn't really a strong 11 year signal, is there? So the whole thing rests on very weak foundations as far as I know."

Either the climate sensitivity is higher, or the solar contribution to climate change is not fully understood ie. there might be a secondary mechanism by which the sun is affecting climate.

As to my name and background, could you please explain why that is pertinent to the discussion?

By the way, you didn't answer my simple question?

Michael Tobis said...

I did answer your question. You claimed that the IPCC sensitivity was too high, yet provided evidence that it is slightly on the low side.

From the Tung and Camp preprint here:

" This
model-independent, observationally-obtained climate sensitivity is equivalent to a global
double-CO2 warming of 2.3 -4.1 °K at equilibrium, at 95% confidence level. "

Leaving aside the wisdom of betting the entire planet on a single recent result, this result says the opposite of what you are claiming.

Enough, amral22. Explain what you are saying in detail, provide a link to such explanation, or go away. No more handwaving please.

Michael Tobis said...

Ken Green:

"What I *hate* is that true environmental science (as well as other sciences) have been hijacked by people who want to support a pre-ordained policy agenda more than they want to find the truth."

You state this as fact rather than hypothetical. Can you back it up?

Steve Bloom said...

Let's see, I wrote: "amral22, recall that the issue was the present state of the consensus as regards the role of CO2. A lecture by a particle physicist is irrelevant to that point. What's been demonstrated here is that you like to make things up. As I said, it convinces no one aside from the already-convinced." (emphases added)

amral22 responded: "What did I 'make up'? I assume you're referring to my mention of climate sensitivity?"

So either amral22 has the reading comprehension of a turnip or his objective all along was to have fun wasting Michael's and my time.


Michael Tobis said...

amral22 sent in a little more handwaving in response to my request for no more handwaving. amral22 shows no signs so far of serious familiarity with or even serious interest in climate science.

I agree with Steve on this. I'm voting "troll" on amral22.

Ken Green said...

While I venerate the tradition of anonymous publishing (which was a critical element in the formation of our country), in this case, I have to agree - in this particular discussion, where one is not likely to be dragged out and shot for expressing their point of view, a person should put up his/her real name, and be prepared to provide reasons why their opinion should be given more credence than that of any person on the street.

In light of my involvement here, I've actually sharpened up my profile to make sure it shows exactly who I am, and what I've done.

EliRabett said...

The point about being a well published anomoninaut is what you write is what you are.

Michael Tobis said...

Ah, but Eli, we all know you are for real.

amral was being coy about having any actual knowledge, and had best put up or be shut up.

Steve Bloom said...

Courtesy of Eli's interesting current post on the correction by others of a critical error by Scafetta and Willson, I came across this recent work by Ken. Although his opening point (demonstrating to Sen. Kerry that there are papers differing with the consensus) is true, a number of interesting porkies are told. For example, having listed some specific examples of anti-consensus papers, he proffers the "Popular Technology" 450 list as evidence for the existence of a large number of such papers. Tch. The claimed dedication to the truth seems rather fleeting.

Michael Tobis said...

Well, obviously Green is confused at best.

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt on first encountering them. And turning a CEI senior fellow into someone who actually understands the problem is obviously a very long shot, but it would be a very useful achievement indeed.

Ken probably thinks he has an open mind and is obviously far from stupid. So I'd like not to chase the fellow off too quickly.

Anyway he has already said things that are interesting. Interesting opponents are worth cultivating, I think, even if they are stubborn. Us oldtime usenetters, if we are honest, miss John McCarthy as an intelligent foil.

Ken Green said...

Steve, Michael - Tsk.

Steve first: to pick one sentence out of my last publication, where I don't speak out for the accuracy of the link, but only provide it for convenience of the reader, is the very nature of "taking things out of context," which is the excuse du jour in public life, particularly in "Climategate."

I'll let my response to Senator Kerry stand by itself, but as you point out, the man put his foot deeply into his mouth in badgering me in public testimony, and deserved to have my help in fixing the record.

Now, Michael - nobody has called me "Green" since the high-school jocks used to slap me on the back in Phys. Ed. I'll call you Michael, and you can call me Ken.

And, both of you, please pay attention: while I have great respect for my friends at CEI, I am not with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, I'm with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a think tank that has been around since 1938, and is one of the oldest, and most influential think tanks in the United States.

Unlike many other think tanks, AEI actually operates like a university without students: you can find a range of opinions on climate change at AEI from the high-end scenarios, to the low-end, and everything in between.

Please don't engage in the grouping behavior that you dislike in others.

Happy New Year!


Ken Green said...

Oh! And lest I forget, I was also an old time usenetter, as well as an IRCer, and both fora were prone to occupation by people with entirely too much time on their hands to exercise petty grievances.

Site bans and K-lines were used to screen out points of view considered politically incorrect, which has been fixed by the open-ness of the blogosphere, fortunately.

Steve Bloom said...

Ken, I should hasten to say that since your article doesn't actually quote Kerry, we can't be quite sure that your refutations are on point. But taking things at face value:

The papers you listed as contradicting the consensus are dodgy in the extreme. Try to have some standards.

You say you don't vouch for the accuracy of the 450 list, yet many of the papers on it don't fit your description. Dodgy again.

You said you would prove that Maslowski had withdrawn his model result projecting a near-ice-free summer Arctic Sea as soon as 2013, but instead just quoted a few people who are dubious about it. Yet more dodginess.

Saiers was ousted? Really? You're quite sure his 3-year term didn't just expire? This is the sort of fact you need to be quite sure about.

The rest of your stuff on peer review and the CRU emails has been beaten to death elsewhere. But as to your general assertion that peer review by itself is insufficient, I think that's well understood. I'm just surpised to see you making the case for the IPCC, CCSP etc.

Anyway, if this submission is any indication of the level of your scholarship, don't be surprised if more people assume you must work for CEI rather than AEI.

Unknown said...

Mr. Tobis, since we were in the middle of a discussion, started at your invitation, I'd appreciate it if you could publish my post so that others can determine for themselves what was hand-waving about it. Personally, I found nothing hand-waving about it, so I'm curious too.

It would have also have been more appropriate to raise your objection to my anonymity, and indeed to posit rules about hand-waving (not that my rejected post was in any way hand-waving), before we started the debate.

Michael Tobis said...

amral22, nope.

You claim to have a theory that will overthrow the consensus. You must state it in detail for it to be of interest to me or my readers. I am not interested in exchanging random three sentence bundles with you ad infinitum.

If there is really something you believe that those papers demonstrate, you should be able to explain it at length. Then we can either correct you or, or if you are as clever as you seem to think, learn from you. If nobody else has reached similar conclusions, you should be preparing your thoughts for peer reviewed publication, shouldn't you? If on the other hand, others have reached similar conclusions, you should have already provided a reference for us.

It is my impression that you are not advancing a coherent position. I believe that you grab a few sentences you understand from here and there and make some guesses that suit you. You may think that is how science works, but it isn't. It's a waste of my and my readers' time to put your guesses here.

As long as you claim no training, make no substantive argument, and refer us to no publication that summarizes your position, let me direct you to the remaining 99.9999% of the internet as a suitable venue for your opinions.

Here are the rules: I am the editor here. I don't like to bore my readers. Say something I find interesting or go away.

I don't usually play this card, by the way, but it's Doctor Tobis to you. There are probably fifty professors who read this blog regularly. Don't waste their time.

EliRabett said...

Ah, Mr. Green. Eli presumes that you will edit your opus to reflect the fact that Scafetta and Willson were using the wrong SATIRE model, one that was useless for their purpose, to bridge the ACRIM gap, and that this has been corrected by Krovova, Solanki and Wetzlar.

Eli is such a hopeful bunny

EliRabett said...

And oh yeah, Amral, Stevereno has played enough games with Eli that there is no problem calling him out for what he is, you know, the kind of guy who walks up to you and says, let's you and my posse fight and then hides behind his posse.

Ken Green said...

Eli -

As I said in the piece, I was not claiming that the papers I cited accurately reflected reality, or were even good science, merely that they existed. Senator Kerry seemed quite adamant that there were not such papers in the peer-reviewed literature at all.

Michael Tobis said...

The thread is closed at an unwieldy 100 comments. Please feel free to comment on this related thread.