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Climate Change Fraud?


Ash Lael
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So either a hacker or a disgruntled insider got a hold of 61MB of documents and emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit. For those who have no idea what that is, it's one of the main bases of climate research, and where many of the scientists work whose studies are the basis of the whole idea of climate change and global warming.

 

These files were posted online about a day and a half ago, and blog sites all over the internet have gone crazy tearing through them. Climate sceptics are claiming that they show severe misconduct on the part of these scientists, including manipulating data to get the results they wanted, and then refusing to release the raw data when subjected to Freedom of Information Act requests.

 

Now, for those who don't know, I have a horse in this race. I'm a climate sceptic. But I don't believe you need to be one to be disturbed by some of the things that these scientists have privately admitted to.

 

I personally think that these emails call the whole basis of climate change policy into question. But feel free to read and interpret for yourself. You can search the database of emails at: http://www.anelegantchaos.org/cru/emails.php?eid=154

 

There's loads, most are benign, many are boring. But some raise big red flags for me. Here's a list of some of the quotes that concern me the most (bolding is mine).

 

“The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.” – Kevin Trenberth

 

“We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!” – Kevin Trenberth

 

“If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.” – Tom Wigley

 

“The other paper by MM is just garbage - as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well - frequently as I see it. I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!– Phil Jones

 

“I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” – Phil Jones

 

“Anyway, I’ll maybe cut the last few points off the filtered curve before I give the talk again as that’s trending down as a result of the end effects and the recent cold-ish years.” - Mick Kelly

 

“Here are some speculations on correcting SSTs to partly explain the 1940s warming blip. If you look at the attached plot you will see that the land also shows the 1940s blip (as I’m sure you know). So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC, then this would be significant for the global mean—but we’d still have to explain the land blip.” – Tom Wigley

 

”Phil and I have recently submitted a paper using about a dozen NH records that fit this category, and many of which are available nearly 2K back–I think that trying to adopt a timeframe of 2K, rather than the usual 1K, addresses a good earlier point that Peck made w/ regard to the memo, that it would be nice to try to “contain” the putative “MWP”, even if we don’t yet have a hemispheric mean reconstruction available that far back….” – Michael Mann

 

“And don't leave stuff lying around on ftp sites - you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? - our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it - thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that.” – Phil Jones

 

“Francis Zwiers is till onside. He said that PC1s produce hockey sticks. He stressed that the late 20th century is the warmest of the millennium, but Regaldo didn't bother with that. Also ignored Francis' comment about all the other series looking similar to MBH. The IPCC comes in for a lot of stick. Leave it to you to delete as appropriate !

Cheers

Phil

PS I'm getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don't any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!” – Phil Jones

 

”Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He's not in at the moment - minor family crisis. Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don't have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise. I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!” – Phil Jones

 

****

 

So what do you think? Internet overreaction or legitimate concern?

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Eh? From some of the things I've read, this was way more than that. If I ever received some of the e-mails like those from a colleague, I would be seriously concerned, and would definitely bring it to someone above me's attention.

 

I've seen physicists interpreting data be crucified for a lot less than the things that seem to have happened here, and if I were working with people like this, I'd be afraid this kind of thing could contaminate my carrier.

 

And the withholding data stuff mentioned worries me a lot, too. That's pretty bad. In physics (and other expensive experiments) it's often the case that data is temporarily withheld, but that's so the group of people who just paid for their fancy new billion dollar piece of equipment can use it first. And in almost all cases the data are released eventually, and usually with the publication of papers about it so other scientists can verify their work!

 

This also does not surprise me, because, having seen some of their methods in published work... they are not doing high-quality science to begin with...

 

Their models and statistical analysis are typically pretty seriously flawed.

 

Now, this is not necessarily a problem. Lots of times in experimental science you have situations where what you're looking at is way too complicated to model all of, and you've got things depending on billions of parameters and you can only guess at what 3 or 4 of them might even look like!

 

The thing is, in order to make your science progress, the best thing to do is publish a paper saying "here's our model, it sucks, and this paper is about everything that's wrong with it!" And then, if that's the best anyone can do, a bunch of smart people will look at it and say "well, I think I can add a little bit here" and someone else adds a little bit there, and pretty soon, you have a better model, and you go out and test it. Then, you see it's crappy too, but a little less crappy. And you go on and on until you have something you're marginally less ashamed to be associated with.

 

That's how good science is done! But that's not what's going on here.

 

As an example, when you read the stories in the media like "Scientists prove chocolate causes caner!" So you, being a reasonable person, think "that's stupid, scientists can't possibly have said something that dumb!" And then you go and read the paper they're talking about. And what you find is they injected some chemical into a rats brain. And some of the rats, say one or two got brain cancer. Then the scientists got out their biochem books, and decided that the chemical they injected the rats with inhibited such-and-such protein from binding to something else. And under such-and-such conditions, that can cause cells to mutate in this particular way. And statistics have linked this particular mutation, in combination with some genetic factors, to cancer. And, oh, by the way, that chemical they injected, they produced with chocolate because it was cheaper than buying it directly from the chemical supply company.

 

And the scientists go on TV, and try to correct the reporters, and the reporters smile and nod while the scientist explains. Then conclude the story with "so should I be eating less chocolate then?" And the scientist dies a little inside.

 

In this situation, what happens? Well, you see in the media, "scientists predict 10 degree / century warming due to CO2 production!"

 

And then you read their paper, and it says "models predict warming of 10 degree / century, therefore we'll get warmer by .1 degree / year." And it goes on to say things like "to find the probability of warming, let's use statistics" and you think, ok, maybe this will clarify things. And then they say "given a prior distribution that predicts warming to lie within the range of 3-10 degrees/century with 3-sigma confidence, we find the posterior probability distribution to tell us warming is almost certainly going to happen!"

 

And then you stop reading the paper.

 

And then the scientist comes on, and talks about how it's going to get 1 degree hotter per year and what that would mean. Then the reporter says "so we should driver cars less?" And the scientist says "yes, if we want to decrease temperatures, we should do that!"

 

And then we all die a little inside!

 

The thing is, to do competent science, you have to be a horrible critic of your own work (and others'!). You have to be pretty ruthless, particularly in understanding important data, if you want to be taken seriously.

 

To quote someone much smarter than I on the topic, this is what Feyman, one of the greatest physicists of the century has to say about it, from a Caltech commencement address in 1974 (c.f., full text, http://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm)

Quote:
[...]That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school--we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

 

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else

come out right, in addition.

 

In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

 

The easiest way to explain this idea is to contrast it, for example, with advertising. Last night I heard that Wessen oil doesn't soak through food. Well, that's true. It's not dishonest; but the thing I'm talking about is not just a matter of not being dishonest, it's a matter of scientific integrity, which is another level. The fact that should be added to that advertising statement

is that no oils soak through food, if operated at a certain temperature. If operated at another temperature, they all will--including Wesson oil. So it's the implication which has been conveyed, not the fact, which is true, and the difference is what we have to deal with.

 

[...]

 

We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off, because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little

bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

 

Why didn't they discover that the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of--this history--because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong--and they would look for and find a reason why

something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to

Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that. We've learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don't have that kind of a disease.

 

[Note: This is the same thing that happened with the value of Hubble's constant. It's changed very slowly from it's first measurements over the years by like an order of magnitude! Although this was partly also due to systematic errors in equipment used to measure it IIRC.]

 

But this long history of learning how not to fool ourselves--of having utter scientific integrity--is, I'm sorry to say, something that we haven't specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you've caught on by osmosis.

 

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after

that.

 

I would like to add something that's not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you're talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you're not trying to be

a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We'll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I'm talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to

have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

 

For example, I was a little surprised when I was talking to a friend who was going to go on the radio. He does work on cosmology and astronomy, and he wondered how he would explain what the applications of this work were. "Well," I said, "there aren't any." He said, "Yes, but then we won't get support for more research of this kind." I think that's kind of dishonest. If you're

representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you're doing--and if they don't want to support you under those circumstances, then that's their decision.

 

One example of the principle is this: If you've made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish both kinds of results.

 

I say that's also important in giving certain types of government advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether drilling a hole should be done in his state; and you decide it would be better in some other state. If you don't publish such a result, it seems to me you're not giving scientific advice. You're being used. If your answer happens to come out in the direction the government or the politicians like, they can use it as an argument in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don't publish it at all. That's not giving scientific advice.

 

[...]

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Originally Posted By: Thuryl
Honestly, all of this seems like pretty standard academic politics that goes on in absolutely any field. There's nothing pointing to any kind of grand conspiracy.



Oh, there's nothing grand about this conspiracy. No one's motivated by money or a desire to de-industrialise the world. From all I've read - and I've read a lot of these emails now - it seems very much to be about ego. The most telling quote:

"IPCC, me and whoever will get accused of being political, whatever we do. As you know, I'm not political. If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn't being political, it is being selfish." - Phil Jones

Basically, these guys have lost the scientific detachment from their own work, and have reacted to sceptics (particularly Steve McIntyre) poking holes in it by becoming very defensive. They don't admit flaws, they work to bar their critics entry to major journals, they hide their data.

Yes, I'm sure that this happens in other fields and situations. But that doesn't make it benign.

The effect has been that they've created the impression that their conclusions are a lot more definite than they really are. This impression is the basis of the political movement towards imposing carbon emission limits.
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Yes, it's clearly ego, ego, ego...

 

However, science isn't based on accepting scientists' conclusions when they are really cool, admirable, ethically sound individuals. It's based on accepting their conclusions when they are reproducable and verifiable. I'm not entirely convinced that standard academic ego means data should be thrown out, but even supposing it does in this case, unless the data in question was actually part of the case for climate change, it doesn't really have any impact on the status of climate change theory itself.

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It's mostly ego and you have that in all fields.

 

The models are inadequate and the data is incomplete so reconcilling the two is never going to completely happen. So it comes down to individuals trying to decide what data should be used since they know there are problems with both.

 

This allows both sides to claim that they are correct because they are comparing apples to oranges. There are limits to fixing the old data because of how it was collected. If the fear mongers are right, then we don't have time to waste waiting for new and more accurate data to be collected. If they are wrong, then some of their recommendations still won't hurt.

 

But without a decent model to predict changes, which was mentioned, then you can't make major changes and know if they will help. So ideas like simulating a major volcanic eruption to promote global cooling are risky.

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You say you have a dog in this fight as a skeptic.

 

No offense, but I still don't see how that makes you involved. If anything, it would make you uninterested and uninvolved. The world is a big place filled with lots of people. Why do you care so much what a bunch of folks are talking about? What is it about this particular issue that concerns you?

 

Now, what concerns me is that someone released exactly those files which would cause the most controversy. It's obvious that that person has a dog in this fight, and they are trying to discredit something. I guarantee that there are more than 61 MEGAbytes of files at whatever University it was that you quoted.

 

This whole thing strikes me as their typical blogosphere rabble-rousing and hysteria. No offense, but you seem to have taken your previously undefined prejudice against attribution of climate change and used this "release" of information as fuel.

 

Instead, why not look around your own country, and tell us if the climate seems to have changed in the past 100 years. I'm much more convinced of you position if you can tell me about average annual temperatures staying the same, rainfall staying the same, extreme weather being unusual. I know that media report on the weird and fascinating, so will discount the numerous reports of drying rivers, extremely high summer temperatures, forest fire maelstroms, and species extinction that are happening in Australia.

 

Edit - Does anyone know if Universities are even subject to the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000? My understanding was that it only applied to rule and law making bodies within the government. This whole "story" is starting to smell more and more like herring.

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Some of this at least is probably more benign that it appears. Climate data is not results from controlled experiments. The observations are sparse samplings from a few hundred places scattered around a whole planet, over a few decades or less. The simulations are enormously simplified models for the real world. So there are many excellent reasons why data stored on a server might actually be grossly misleading; keeping it out of the hands of untrained propagandists who might draw unwarranted naive conclusions is not the same as hiding the facts. This data may be facts about the observations and simulations that have been made, but it is not facts about world climate.

 

Similarly, reducing a 'blip' by .15 degrees doesn't mean lying about a .15 degree rise; it means accounting for the .15 degrees so that it is no longer part of the unexpected 'blip', either by finding some kind of standard explanation for .15 degrees of real increase, or by arguing persuasively that .15 degrees of average world temperature (or whatever it was) was an inaccurate inference from the actual observations. Both are perfectly possible, and making the case for or against .15 degrees of blip is a substantial scientific effort, given the data and understanding that are actually available.

 

All of this means that climate research is a much less cut-and-dried science than, say, particle physics. I'm sure there's room for ego and politics to have an impact. That doesn't mean that it's all hooey, though. I've never worked in the field, or followed it very closely, but ten years ago I was generally sceptical, based on the sorts of things I heard colleagues saying about how poor our understanding was of basic issues. Nowadays I'm more or less persuaded that human-driven climate change is real, based on a similar second-hand impression of how solid the case has become.

 

Climate change is a huge topic. Its epistemology is glacial: this year something melts here; last year something froze over there; but over a decade or two, the big picture trend becomes clear even though a lot of details remain in flux. Maybe it's all crap, driven by hype-supported grant systems; I wouldn't really know, since it's not my field. But at this point I doubt it, and I don't really see any huge red flags in the quoted statements.

 

And unfortunately, although everyone likes to think that science provides certainty, and that anything less than certainty can therefore be disregarded because it is not science, there is actually no rule that says that if climate change is not proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, Nature has to let us off the hook. This isn't trial by jury. It's guess which cup the ball is under, for the prize of a better world for the next generations.

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Originally Posted By: Poached Salmon
Edit - Does anyone know if Universities are even subject to the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000? My understanding was that it only applied to rule and law making bodies within the government. This whole "story" is starting to smell more and more like herring.


When the research funding is from certain government grants, some information is supposed to be available for public access. The actual availability varies with the funding agency and country. I don't know the particulars for this case.

This is a massive ego war to see who controls the direction of research and the funding for it.
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Originally Posted By: Salmon
This whole thing strikes me as their typical blogosphere rabble-rousing and hysteria. No offense, but you seem to have taken your previously undefined prejudice against attribution of climate change and used this "release" of information as fuel.


This. A million times this.

Also, any climate scientists who still think of climate change only in terms of warming deserve to be discredited. Not that the above emails are clear evidence of anything to that effect, as I also doubt that 61 MB of files is more than a grain of sand on the beach that is that university's database.

So yeah. My views remain unaltered. Thanks for ruining my afternoon.
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Originally Posted By: Poached Salmon
This whole "story" is starting to smell more and more like herring.


I have to agree with Salmon here, you even have the 'ol "Delete your emails" thrown in. Which to me, reeks of "trying to make it seem real" BS.

Even if this is real, and global warming is truly a sham, should we go on polluting our environment? If it is a trick, then it's having a beneficial effect IMO, getting people to realize that we're killing our planet.
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This is, at most, evidence that one research group compromised their scientific standards for publicity and publication. Climate change is not built on one university, and most of the researchers are honest and open about their work. They want to be, because their data show that climate change is happening.

 

So what does this show? There are not so great people doing science. Nobody should be shocked. Disappointed, yes; shocked, no. Rejecting climate change on this basis would be like deciding all of any group is untrustworthy because one member is. That's just not how one should think.

 

—Alorael, who has seen the other side of the blogosphere. The pro-climate change types are bashing their heads on their desks. This has been a PR disaster and sets back real work that isn't massaging data substantially. Actually, it sets it back more than it really should. If an internal review had found shady practices, it would have been cleaned up. Having the internet get ahold of it means chaotic, hysterical disaster.

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I think Alorael hit the nail on the head. Ideally, Feynman's description (in cfgauss's post) is what every scientist should strive for. Realistically, nobody should pretend for a minute that academic and intellectual dishonesty aren't commonplace -- scientists are humans, and as such can become too attached to their own pet theories and beliefs, and let this get in the way of finding out the truth.

 

But this doesn't, for a minute, suggest that the entire scientific community is being mislead about climate change. As others have said here and elsewhere, it is in our interests to be more cautious and wrong, than more reckless and wrong.

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Originally Posted By: Poached Salmon
This whole thread strikes me as rabble rousing to be honest. Nothing is more fulfilling to a skeptic than to toss a live grenade in a room of altruists and walk away.

Ash might not check this "discussion" for a year or more. The direction it takes is pre-ordained, why bother?


Knowing nothing about Ash here, or the history of this discussion on spiderweb, it seems like Salmon's statement here is a really unfair assessment of the situation. As has been said by Student of Trinity and Randomizer, this is an extraordinarily complex matter: modeling climate change requires humongous amounts of variables, and trying to tease out the effect of human additions of CO2 or other compounds to the atmosphere, and then predicting exactly what will happen down the road, is enormously complicated. To attempt to do so has taken decades, with thousands of studies on the matter. I doubt many of us have read through these thousands of scientific manuscripts, and I doubt many of us are qualified to make a statistical assessment of the evidence. So it doesn't surprise me for a minute that people like Ash would have suspicions or confusion on the matter, and that certainly makes it worth discussing.

For me, I find no reason to disbelieve the opinion of the many, many, many scientists who have statistically analyzed the evidence and found it to be compelling.

Secondly, as has been stated, finding a handful of lying or dishonest scientists is not, in my opinion, tantamount to disproving the entire mountain of data collected by other scientists elsewhere. This is just like intelligent design advocates claiming that the evidence for a particular fossil or a particular feature like the bacterial flagellum is lacking, and thus evolutionary theory is wrong and god did it.

Thirdly, as a purely utilitarian argument, it seems logical to act under the assumption that our actions can negatively impact the environment and thus we should treat the situation seriously. There is less to lose if we take a few extra precautions unnecessarily, than if we do nothing and the situation really is dire.

These are all discussions worth having, so being dismissive of Ash's skepticism (it's hard to fully interpret someone's intentions based solely on text, so I apologize if I am mischaracterizing Salmon's position) seems a bit distasteful to me.
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Absolutely. But Ash hasn't posted in aeons, we haven't talked about this subject in months, and then this thread appears. We aren't even talking about the implications of climate change, and how we, as humans, should be preparing and reacting. We're just digesting the startling fact that some tainted information of unknown heritage has been leaked to the media, and making excuses for it.

 

What is the value in this discussion, except to excite the spleen?

 

 

(I've not dismissed his skepticism, just the value of this data he is using to either add bouyancy to his skepticism, and its applicability to the same. Remember, 61Mb of data out of how many Tb have been leaked?)

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Originally Posted By: Salmon
(I've not dismissed his skepticism, just the value of this data he is using to either add bouyancy to his skepticism, and its applicability to the same. Remember, 61Mb of data out of how many Tb have been leaked?)
61 MB is quite a lot, actually. Image files are big, audio files are big, video files are huge, but plaintext e-mails use next to no space. A plaintext copy of War and Peace is a little over 3 MB. If the 61 MBs are nothing but e-mails, that's a lot of correspondence.

(Haven't read that much of TFA, so I could be misreading it. If it was 61 MBs of sampling data, it would be small, but still potentially sizable depending on how often data was sampled (10 stations? 1000 stations? Hourly? Daily? Monthly?) and how it was formatted.)
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All I know is that in summer, it seems like global warming is a very hot topic (no pun intended), and everyone cites it as the reason for high temperatures on hotter days. And then in winter, especially when a record low temperature is recorded, people ask some variation of, "Global warming? What's that?"

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Global warming is really a misleading term. Climate change is more accurate. I recall having it described as just greater variance and less predictability in weather, as well as increased severity of storms and such. I'm no expert, but that's my understanding, and it explains both hot and cold.

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Only misleading at the local level, as the data seems to show an average planet temperature increase. Many clever people, and many more people who think they are being clever, point at the record snowfalls and cold summers and laugh, sure that this is indeed evidence that global warming is <fill in the blank>.

 

Global warming causes global climate change, which has resulted in climate shift over the past few decades. It may be that it is easier to just call it climate change, since that does relieve a rather large burden from some unimaginative minds.

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Originally Posted By: Master1
Global warming is really a misleading term. Climate change is more accurate. I recall having it described as just greater variance and less predictability in weather, as well as increased severity of storms and such. I'm no expert, but that's my understanding, and it explains both hot and cold.

or its possible that all climate change is the result of butter-fly's flapping their wings. tongue
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Originally Posted By: Poached Salmon
This whole thread strikes me as rabble rousing to be honest. Nothing is more fulfilling to a skeptic than to toss a live grenade in a room of altruists and walk away.

Ash might not check this "discussion" for a year or more. The direction it takes is pre-ordained, why bother?


A little early to be declaring me gone, don't you think?

Quick point for those calling BS: Please, follow the link I posted at the start of this thread. Look through the mountains of emails, mostly banal. You seriously think someone faked or even "carefully selected" them?

Also, the CRU has confirmed that they're legit.

Quote:
You say you have a dog in this fight as a skeptic.

No offense, but I still don't see how that makes you involved. If anything, it would make you uninterested and uninvolved. The world is a big place filled with lots of people. Why do you care so much what a bunch of folks are talking about? What is it about this particular issue that concerns you?


My government is days away from potentially imposing a tax on the air, for a start. But never mind that, that's not really what gets me.

What gets me angry is the deceit. My government is telling me that unless I accept their tax, the seas will rise six metres. They're telling me 97% of our agriculture will be wiped out. They're spending millions on the pipe dream of "clean coal".

And the scientists who are supposed to be interested only in objective truth?

Professor David Karoly, one of the two main "public faces" of climate science here in Australia recently claimed that there was not one scientific paper that seriously contradicted the claims of the IPCC. In fact, there are hundreds (despite the efforts of Wigley and others to shut sceptical scientists out).

The other public face, Professor Will Steffen, asserted that there was no debate about the role of CO2 in the climate change research community. He said this as an excuse to avoid debating a member of the climate change research community on that very topic.

What these emails show is that Karoly and Steffen are not the exception, but the rule. This debate is not the scientists vs the sceptics. It's the establishment vs the outsiders. The warm-mongers are trying desperately to cling to their supremacy in the climate research community, and are prepared to lie, hide, delete, and distort in order to do so.

One of the things that really struck me reading the emails was how paranoid these guys are of sceptics. They're constantly worrying that someone or other may secretly be a sceptic, may no longer be "onside", or may not be "sound". They feel they are under siege. It's not about the science anymore for these guys. It's about their team vs the other guys.

Of course, I should be fair, and point out this isn't the case for all. Keith Briffa in particular comes across quite well in the correspondence, and seems much more willing to admit uncertainty and consider the merits of McIntyre's critiques. He still hates sceptics, but he does at least seem like a good scientist. If there were more like him and less like Jones, I'd be much less passionate about this whole issue.

Does that answer your question?
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One of the aspects of 'global warming' one should not really forget is the ice caps melting and Siberia's tundra thawing. When that happens the results in all probability will be devastating and it won't really matter if temperatures in another part of the world did infact decrease to counter the global rise statistically.

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A reaction to the emails from Hans von Storch, who resigned as editor of Climate Research after a poor quality sceptical paper was published there:

 

"Going through the files, which due to the sheer size I can do only in a sampling mode, the mails begin in the late 1990s and extend to about today. They are all mails to/from Phil Jones. There are a number of problematic statements, which will be discussed in the media and the blogosphere. I found the style of communication revealing, speaking about other people and their ideas, joining forces to "kill" papers, exchanges of "improving" presentations without explaining.

Also mails from/to Eduardo Zorita and myself are included; also we have been subject of frequent mentioning, usually not in a flattering manner. Interesting exchanges, and evidences, are contained about efforts to destroy "Climate Research"; that we in the heydays of the hockeystick debate shared our ECHO-G data with our adversaries; and that Mike Mann was successful to exclude me from a review-type meeting on historical reconstructions in Wengen (demonstrating again his problematic but powerful role of acting as a gatekeeper.)

I would assume that more interesting issues will be found in the files, and that a useful debate about the degree of politicization of climate science will emerge. A conclusion could be that the principle, according to which data must be made public, so that also adversaries may check the analysis, must be really enforced. Another conclusion could be that scientists like Mike Mann, Phil Jones and others should no longer participate in the peer-review process or assessment activities like IPCC."

 

I recommend searching for emails about Storch at the linked site.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
Some of this at least is probably more benign that it appears. Climate data is not results from controlled experiments. The observations are sparse samplings from a few hundred places scattered around a whole planet, over a few decades or less.


Definitely true.

Quote:

The simulations are enormously simplified models for the real world.


Even more definitely true.

But the problem here is that, while it may make good sense to use these models, and calculate with them, and compare them to reality, and improve them, and do as much as you can with them, it does not make sense to predict with them. In fact, the models they use are all pretty well known to have a 100% failure rate for quantitative predictions.

And quantitative predictions are pretty much the gold-standard in science!

Not that there's anything wrong with qualitative behavior. Qualitative behavior is what's driven almost the entirety of my field from the beginning until now wink.

But qualitative behavior is not something to base quantitative policies on.

And that's what I find the problem in the field to really be. Their best semi-quantitative arguments are things like "within 1-sigma models are consistent with warming" okay. But it's also the case that their models are consistent with warming being caused by random fluctuations, natural effects, any of the number of periodic cycles in climate, or man made sources.

And the relative amplitudes of these effects are completely unknown.

From statements like that, an an understanding like that, it's completely inappropriate to be making any exact claims about their field at all.

This is really no different than the "chocolate causes cancer" argument above. "CO2 causes warming." Well, sort-of. But did you know it causes warming roughly logarithmic to quantity (and in fact pretty quickly saturates), or that the atmosphere's absorption spectrum is dominated by H2O? The real mechanisms behind the warming in the model are not really even CO2 increases, since that could not account for all of the apparent warming.

So I find the claims that the scientists make in public, at the least, pretty distasteful and misleading. And I honestly do not believe they are the kinds of statements good scientists make.

Not to say that the whole field's bad, I've talked with, and heard from, climate scientists and physicists who study these things carefully who are absolutely great scientists. But these are not the people at this institution, are not the people who show up on TV, and are often not the people who the government asks for advice. (c.f., the last paragraph in Feynman's speech above!)

And it's very difficult to determine incompetence from not looking at exactly what people've done, and without having some background knowledge in what they're doing.

A great example in physics of this is a lot of people (and all of the media) talk about the "alternatives to string theory." E.g., talking to people like smolin or surfer physics guy.

Well, surfer physics guy literally wrote down equations (in his paper he published on some forums) which were absolutely batshit crazy. He literally writes equations down that are not defined at all. It's really, literally, nonsense.

And there's the "loop quantum gravity" people who write stuff that makes just as much sense. And when they're not writing that they write bizarre rants against how they're persecuted by physics.

At any rate, the absolute nutjob statements these people make has not stopped the media from thinking these guys are "new Einsteins," nor has it stopped almost everyone outside the high energy physics community from thinking they're probably saying something reasonable, and we're just quibbling over some detail. Nope, no details, they're just morons.

But you're unlikely to know that living outside the community.

So keep that in mind the next time you listen to what your favorite news station, political party, or pundit talking about this!

That being said, I'm obviously not a climate researcher. But I'd like to think I am a competent physicist, and I have read some of their papers.

Though I do like how the news can have a "debate" between "pro" and "anti" "global warming" "scientists" and both of them could not be more wrong.

Originally Posted By: Sporefrog

For me, I find no reason to disbelieve the opinion of the many, many, many scientists who have statistically analyzed the evidence and found it to be compelling.


But you have to understand what that means. What the scientists "agree" on is not what's reported in the media. And there is a huge difference between statements like "our models predict" and "this will happen." Those kinds of statements are often not even comparable.

Most of the models I deal with in my work every day have very little to do with reality! But they're still good models to work with because, while they aren't literally reality, can help us understand important features of reality! Although if I were to go on CNN and claim that my paper on mesons in ads/cft makes predictions we can go out and measure, I'd be laughed at!

Originally Posted By: Master1
Global warming is really a misleading term. Climate change is more accurate. I recall having it described as just greater variance and less predictability in weather, as well as increased severity of storms and such. I'm no expert, but that's my understanding, and it explains both hot and cold.


Actually, "climate" is a much more accurate term wink. Climate change is already politicized. It's like studying "dynamical change" instead of dynamics! There would be no need to do climatology if it didn't change, huh? Would pretty easily lead to 100% accurate predictions!

Originally Posted By: Poached Salmon
Only misleading at the local level, as the data seems to show an average planet temperature increase. Many clever people, and many more people who think they are being clever, point at the record snowfalls and cold summers and laugh, sure that this is indeed evidence that global warming is <fill in the blank>.

Global warming causes global climate change, which has resulted in climate shift over the past few decades. It may be that it is easier to just call it climate change, since that does relieve a rather large burden from some unimaginative minds.


Well, first of all, "global mean temperature" is already dangerously close to being meaningless. Averages are only (extra-)sensible when you have particular kinds of distributions, and the temperature distribution on earth at any time is not one of these distributions, so it's not immediately clear what this means in terms of change. In terms of basics like thermodynamical equilibrium, it's easy. But it makes it hard to correlate things with as easily as things which follow more reasonable distributions.

For example, one might guess a more accurate characterization of climate change would be something like "take the temperature at each point on earth today, but at only at 12:00 local time, and average these numbers together." Or only do at at that time and at a certain altitude. Or only at an altitude that corresponds to a specific pressure, or whatever other variables you want.

But it's less clear what such a messy thing as "average temperature" means, since it's really an average over a whole bunch of different parameters, not just one.

Which goes back to what I was saying about the things they claim not being technically accurate...

Edit:
This reminds me of me being a smart ass a while ago. I was walking to get something to eat with one of my friends, and it was windy and rainy out. I had a coat on, but he was just wearing short sleeves or something, and was complaining it's cold out. So I say, "oh, don't worry, I'll increase our average temperature!" So I put my hood on.
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Originally Posted By: cfgauss
This reminds me of me being a smart ass a while ago. I was walking to get something to eat with one of my friends, and it was windy and rainy out. I had a coat on, but he was just wearing short sleeves or something, and was complaining it's cold out. So I say, "oh, don't worry, I'll increase our average temperature!" So I put my hood on.


I think I'd like you wink
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Actually global average temperature is a very good thing to try to model and measure, even though it's hard to infer accurately from the data we have, and even though its implications for any particular local climatic variable may be complicated at best. CO2 mixes throughout the atmosphere; that's why all this human-driven-warming stuff started with measurements of CO2 levels in Antarctica, where there aren't very many power plants or cars. So the whole issue is looking for long term, planetary scale trends, in a system with huge local and short-term fluctuations. That's not easy, but it's the job at hand. And it's definitely meaningful, one way or the other. From year to year and state to state, the long term trends are impossible to see; but if there is a significant long term trend, then over a century it becomes a smack-in-the-face fact.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
Actually global average temperature is a very good thing to try to model and measure, even though it's hard to infer accurately from the data we have, and even though its implications for any particular local climatic variable may be complicated at best.


That's true, no one says it's a bad thing to measure, it just doesn't mean what most people think it means.

Quote:
CO2 mixes throughout the atmosphere; that's why all this human-driven-warming stuff started with measurements of CO2 levels in Antarctica, where there aren't very many power plants or cars. So the whole issue is looking for long term, planetary scale trends, in a system with huge local and short-term fluctuations. That's not easy, but it's the job at hand.


But it doesn't mix uniformly through the atmosphere, it's only true to "first order" in some sense. There are lots of active and passive ways CO2 is interacting with things in the environment, so what's really needed to understand this is a 3D map of CO2 concentration vs. time for a reasonable scale to identify experimentally what and how much things have an effect on this.

In fact, the models that assumed the mixing was uniform were (roughly) the same ones that predicted we'd all be dead by the '90s due to the massive ozone hole that mysteriously shrunk despite an increase in ozone depleting chemicals.

Right now models only poorly understand why, in Earth's past, the CO2 level has been ~12 times the current level, but with similar temperatures.

Eg,

The Cambrian, 542 - 488 million years ago, 4500 ppm, 21 °C
Ordovician, 488 - 444 mya, 4200 ppm, 16 °C
Silurian, 444 - 416 mya, 4500 ppm, 17 °C
Devonian, 416 - 359 mya, 2200 ppm, 20 °C
...
Paleogene, 66 - 23 mya, 500 ppm, 18 °C
Recent past, 2 mya, 280 ppm, 14 °C
Today, 0 mya, 385 ppm, 14 °C

So at the very least, naively looking at the last two data points, where conditions are the most similar, we'd expect a 105ppm increase to get us about 1°C, with increases ~1ppm/year (with fairly poor error bars) we'd expect to see about a degree per century at most... but the log fit between the last two points would predict a current temperature about 2 degrees higher than we see.

So you can pretty easily see here that there's very little correlation between CO2 and temperature directly. And this is largely due to environmental effects since the climate is in an equilibrium.

There have also been volcanic eruptions that have increased CO2 levels by significant amounts for long periods of time which did not increase temperatures.

In fact, the reasoning used in models to justify the significantly lower temperatures than you'd expect for 15x higher CO2 concentrations than you see now is the same reasoning that was used in the ~80s to predict that increased CO2 concentrations would cause global cooling wink.

Anyway, the point is that it's a long way to go from the completely true qualitative "all things being equal, more CO2 causes temperature to increase" to a quantitative "adding x ppm to the atmosphere will cause a t°C temperature increase within the next y years."

The former is good science, the latter (right now) is bad science. Sadly, the latter is what's done increasingly often. And a lot of people seem (from the papers I've read) to be more interested in continuing to say the latter, rather than to improve models to make it good science.

Partly, you can't blame them for thinking like that, because their models have not, on a theoretical basis, improved significantly in a decade or two. There have been big numerical improvements, of course, but that's little comfort to calculate to 10 digits something that's an approximation only good to 1 wink.

They would certainly not be the only scientists to make claims like this on the basis of wishing they had better models. But that still doesn't make it good science.
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