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The Climategate Fiasco

by Steven Novella, Dec 07 2009

In March of 2006 a female student and exotic dancer accused three Duke lacrosse players of raping her. In the following weeks media commentators wrote and spoke about the moral implications of this heinous crime. What does this mean about the moral fabric of our society, about the role of privilege, class, and justice? It seemed that everyone had their opinion about the meaning of this crime.

That is, right until it was revealed that the accusations were a hoax – there never was any crime. After the revelation there was barely a “nevermind” (ala Gilda Radner from SNL ) from those so free to moralize based upon the initial accusations. One exception was David Brooks who wrote:

Witch hunts go in stages. First frenzy, when everybody damns the souls of people they don’t know. Then confusion, as the first wave of contradictory facts comes in. Then deafening silence, as everybody studiously ignores the vicious slanders they uttered during the moment of maximum hysteria.

It feels to me, with the Climategate scandal, that we are in the frenzy stage of this witch hunt. But already the “first wave of contradictory facts” are coming in also.

Someone hacked into the computer network at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia and published thousands of stolen e-mails and computer code on the internet. Global Warming dissidents (I won’t get into the whole “skeptic” vs “denier” thing here) then poured through the e-mails and came up with several statements they felt were smoking gun evidence of scientific fraud. To them, these e-mails confirmed what they had always suspected – anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a fraud perpetrated by a small cadre of liberal scientists.

Writing for the Telegraph, James Delingpole declared (or at least his headline writer did) that climategate was the “final nail in the coffin of AGW.” Fox news wrote: “This coordinated campaign to hide scientific information appears unprecedented.” And some declared this the greatest scientific fraud of modern times.

But is it really? Like the Duke “rape” case, it is prudent to first ask what actually has been going on at the CRU. Perhaps we should wait for an investigation before we hammer that nail into the coffin.

Here are some of the e-mails:

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

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.

“This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board…What do others think?”

Certainly statements like these, coming from scientists, are very concerning, not to mention embarrassing. But they are not smoking-gun evidence of fraud. Those of us who have done research and published papers, or just worked with scientists, probably recognize some of the chatter as the normal kinds of discussions that happen in the messy process of science. Using a “trick” can simply be a euphemism (although poorly chosen) to refer to a statistical method. And “hide the decline” can simply refer to making a complex graph of data look better.

But there can be a fine line between analyzing data and “massaging” the data. So as I said – such statements are concerning, but potentially innocent, and should be independently investigated – but not prematurely condemned.

What about e-mails about refusing freedom of information (FOI) request for the raw data, and the accusations that the CRU “destroyed” their raw data? Again, very concerning – as a rule raw data should always be preserved, and should be made available for independent analysis. No one can reasonable deny this. But the emerging story is more complex.

For example, Jeff Masters explains that resistance to FOI requests was not an attempt to conceal fraud, but was resistance to harassing trivial requests by amateurs who were putting an undue burden on the data managers. In fact they suspected that some of the requests were meant to distract them from their work and eat up their resources.

I don’t know if this is true, but it is a plausible alternate explanation. It does reveal the “bunker mentality” that the CRU scientists had developed, and no matter how this shakes out that is a problem that needs to be addressed.

What about destroying data? This refers to the fact that the CRU threw out raw data backups in the 1980s (before the scientists responsible for the e-mails) that were on paper and magnetic tape when they moved their facilities. Further, they claim that much of this data is still available from the original sources and not lost at all.

Again – I have not seen confirmation of this latter claim, and I await the investigation and the revelations that will come in the next few months. But if true it potentially eliminates the accusation that data was destroyed as part of a cover up.

Dr. Phil Jones, the head of the CRU, has stepped down while the investigation is ongoing, and I think that is prudent. I also think that, given the controversy, we need absolute transparency with this data and independent analysis. This is actually a good opportunity to refocus on the science and evidence of AGW.

But I doubt that the maximally hysterical pronouncements of the extreme AGW dissidents, for whom this scandal was an instant confirmation of all their darkest accusations, will pan out. It seems highly unlikely that climategate will change the consensus of scientific opinion on AGW. It also seems unlikely that the degree of fraud that is being accused has in fact occurred.

One reason for this opinion is that, after pouring through thousands of e-mails, these are the worst that the AGW dissidents can come up with. The lack of more compelling evidence for fraud is itself very telling.

Some AGW dissidents argue that the e-mails are not the real evidence, but the computer code used to “analyze” data will be the smoking gun. I have not seen any definitive information about this, so far this is just preliminary accusations. Phil Plait points out that such computer code often goes through many iterations – it’s not as straightforward as you might think. Just because you can find older code that had serious flaws does not mean there is a conspiracy of fraud.

If early indications are representative, then it seems that the scientists are guilty of some poor judgment, poorly chosen words, and not dealing well with the pressures of being at the center of a scientific controversy. But even this moderate conclusion is tentative, and must wait for the results of a thorough investigation.

For global warming dissidents I recommend that you put your rhetoric in check. The witch-hunt frenzy so far in evidence cannot possibly serve you well. If it turns out there was real fraud at the CRU, you will still be criticized for being prematurely shrill and you will lose credibility. Also, the more extravagant your condemnations, the more likely it is that the reality will not be as bad as you are stating – and therefore even if some indiscretions come to light, you will have actually softened the blow because they will not be as bad as the worst hysterical claims. And of course, if it comes to light that no real fraud occurred, the credibility of AGW dissidents will have been dealt a severe blow.

If, on the other hand, you take a cautious and, dare I say, skeptical approach – say that the e-mails are evidence of a troubling attitude at the CRU and deserve full independent investigation, but show restraint in making premature accusations, then you can only win. If the CRU is cleared, you will be praised for your restraint and objectivity. And if any degree of malfeasance comes to light, you can portion your condemnation to the evidence, and will have gained a serious upper hand in the AGW debate. You will be taken seriously the next time you call AGW predictions into question.

I have received many e-mails and have read many blogs and articles on climategate, and find that those who were most adamant that AGW dissidents had been treated unfairly, were also the ones who were being the most hysterical and premature in their conclusions. While demanding to be taken seriously, they were behaving is such a way that almost guaranteed that they would not be.

I have also seen some reasonable responses from those unsure about the claims of climate change and just wanting to get to the truth, and upset that they are being painted with the same brush as the extreme fringe. I understand their concern, but they should not assume that responding to the extreme is equal to painting with a broad brush. We can do both – debunk the hysteria, while acknowledging there is the full range of opinions from dedicated AGW deniers to AGW true-believers. I do not mean to suggest that the truth is a matter of splitting the difference. In my opinion, the science so far favors the conclusion the AGW is real and a potential problem that should concern us. But there is room for ideology and irrationality on both sides of this controversy.

I don’t know what the lessons of climategate are yet – we need to see what actually happened first. But how people deal with climategate says a lot about their process. Those who are making bold claims based upon ambiguous, circumstantial, and out-of-context evidence, are not doing themselves or their side any favors.

Now – let the comment storm begin.

206 Responses to “The Climategate Fiasco”

  1. Tom says:

    It seems that Novella is suffering from Belief Perseverance, which is not what one would expect from a contributor to “skepticblog”.

    • Dax says:

      And how is that, Tom?

      All he is saying is that Climatechange deniers should wait for the investigation and that the “uncovered evidence of fraud” is mostly just relatively harmless chatter by scientists (scientists are just people, after all). As a scientist himself, Novella knows how scientists can word things incorrectly or still fall for biases.

      Even if the CRU has messed with the data, this does not prove ACG wrong at all. There are many independent institutes following many independent leads to discover what is going on, and what will happen in the future. One of the best sources of evidence is one that, unfortunately, remains overlooked by the media: ecology. Ecologists have observed changes in biodiversity and ecological processes directly related to changing climates!

      I wonder why the ACG skeptics are so vehemently opposed to even the idea that something is taking place.

      • Tom says:


        Are you really so credulous? Here we have entreaties to delete materials in order to defeat FOI requests (along with assurances that others have already done so), manipulation of output shown in both emails and code, and discussion of how to pervert the peer review process in order to stifle dissenting views.

        I would say that is pretty serious stuff…not “relatively harmless chatter”. As far as I know, the only “investigations” that have been launched are “reviews” by UEA and Penn State. Excuse me if I am underwhelmed.

      • MadScientist says:

        “What I quote-mine must be true!”

      • John Noble says:


        It’s like you didn’t even read Steve’s article.

        He explained why the various “scandals” aren’t really so, then you use those exact examples as “scandals” to prove him wrong.

        That was just really weird.

      • John Noble says:

        Oops, obviously I meant “Tom”. Apologies, Dax.

        I’m clearly a blog-post-author denier. Sorry, skeptic. ;-)

  2. Shane Brady says:


    It’s a small point, but the Fox News link you pointed to was not a news story, but an opinion piece from an outside contributor, and was not presented as hard news. I think attributing the story to FoxNews leaves the impression it was their news dept that wrote that. Again, just a small point.

  3. kostas says:

    Even thought i am a physicist myself i know very little about climate change science.

    That said i believe AGW is a reality just because credible people whose judgment i trust (that would be you) seem to think so.Not to mention that if the right opposes it its probably true (thats being said only half jokingly)

    But in this post you seem to be overly apologetic.Personally i dont really see what the big deal is.I have to admit i dont follow the news closely but from the excerpts you present here there is practically nothing that could ever be taken as evidence of a conspiracy by any (even a little) reasonable person.To be honest , i dont really see whats embarrassing or warrants an investigation.

    I am saying all that because i find your tone and manner to be very unlike your usual and you re giving the impression like we ve been “cornered” somehow but i really cant see why

    Am i missing something ?

    • MadScientist says:

      Yes, you don’t see the AGW Conspiracy standing behind him with pitchforks, ropes, and tar as he types.

      The denialists seem to just be getting more shrill and really pumping out the lies in the lead-up to the Copenhagen negotiations. For example, in New Zealand the denialists are pretending that they’re such heroes for “discovering” public meteorological data and they claim it proves there’s no warming in their region. It doesn’t matter that they have no understanding of instrumental continuity, calibration, and correction for adiabatic lapse rate; they’ll just make a simple plot in MSExcel (if even that) and claim that they’re right. Can you imagine just anyone off the streets looking at seismic data and interpreting it properly? There’s an awful lot more to meteorological data than simply looking at a cheap thermometer or home weather station. For example, I have instruments in the field which measure pressure, temperature, and so on – for my purposes I don’t really need to calibrate those instruments. My data would not be acceptable for inclusion in a weather bureaus data set.

      It’s a similar story for EAU – the denialists have (immorally) gone through all those stolen emails to pick out a few which they can take out of context and claim to support their allegations that human-induced global warming is a hoax. No doubt many of those denialists receive their information from well-paid denialists who, conceivably, may have even paid the criminal organization which hacked the computers.

      • Tim says:

        I’m starting to suspect that many of these demagogues are the same people.

      • Beelzebud says:

        How rational, well reasoned, and skeptical. No flaw in that logic at all! If they don’t agree with you, they must be the same person!

        Speaking of demagoguery…

    • Steve says:

      I don’t trust the AGW folks because they are the same liberal groups that tried to scare us about running out of fossil fuel in the 70’s, would have us believe that we are polluting the US into oblivion when air and water are cleaner now than 30 years ago and don’t seriously have a plan to crank up our nuclear energy capabilities. People who seriously believe that Co2 is the cause of our warming and believe the dire consequences projected are not believable if they don’t firmly embrace nuclear power. The death and destruction caused by the economic disaster we will experience from cap and trade, solar, wind and other proven uneconomical solutions. If the earth is warming I think it is reasonable to question whether it is anthropogenic. DDT is one of the most effective ways to control mosquitoes. Environmentalists freaked out about DDT, jumped to conclusions and got it banned. We are now learning that this response was largely an extreme overreaction. How many people have died due to malaria because of this reaction. I think we will find out that AGW is the same. Besides China and India are going to produce so much CO2 in the next 20 years that nothing we do will put a dent in the overall output. If we are to believe the climate scientists prediction we may as well just prepare for what they say is going to happen.

  4. WIL says:

    There was a consensus 30 years ago that there was “global cooling” by much more respected scientists like Carl Sagan that turned out to be false.

    • Max says:

      1. No there wasn’t.
      2. Carl Sagan was a popular astronomer, not a respected climate scientist.
      3. It takes more than a few scientists to build a scientific consensus.

      • WIL says:

        SCIENTISTS AGREE WORLD IS COLDER; But Climate Experts Meeting Here Fail to Agree on Reasons for Change – By WALTER SULLIVAN
        January 30, 1961, Monday – Section: BUSINESS FINANCIAL, Page 46, 1326 words
        The New York Times

        After a week of discussions on the causes of climate change, an assembly of specialists from several continents seems to have reached unanimous agreement on only one point: it is getting colder

        The article, written by Walter Sullivan for The New York Times (cited by Peterson et al. for his 1975 climate-related articles), refers to a 5-day Conference co-chaired by Rhodes W. Fairbridge of Columbia University and Charles G. Knudsen of the United States Weather Bureau, in the January of 1961.

      • Max says:

        1961 is more than 30 years ago. Plate tectonic theory wasn’t even developed yet.

        But look at this

        The ’70s was an unusually cold decade. Newsweek, Time, The New York Times and National Geographic published articles at the time speculating on the causes of the unusual cold and about the possibility of a new ice age.
        But Thomas Peterson of the National Climatic Data Center surveyed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles from 1965 to 1979 and found that only seven supported global cooling, while 44 predicted warming. Peterson says 20 others were neutral in their assessments of climate trends.

      • Steve Athearn says:

        Incidentally, speaking of plate tectonics and Professor Rhodes Fairbridge, the latter was one of many scientists who have, over the years, given serious consideration to the expanding Earth hypothesis – which was described recently on this blog as inherently “a pseudoscientific notion” and “a fringe idea, never taken seriously by the scientific community.” A google search of “Rhodes Fairbridge earth expansion” will uncover the following quotation on Google Books:

        “Professor Rhodes Fairbridge, of Columbia University, gave a comprehensive review in 1964 of the literature on, and the evidence for, an expanding Earth. He pointed out that all the ocean basins are youthful, and that theoretical consideration of the gravitational constant, mantle-core evolution, and geodetic consequences of mass displacements, polar shifts, and paleogeographic development, all converge to support a youthful expansion of the globe. In a further review (1965), Fairbridge could find no evidence that could justify the ocean trenches as compressional phenomena, nor did orogenic belts call for primary crustal compression. On the contrary, he interpreted the deep-sea trenches as contemporary prototypes of eugeosynclines (see Chapter 18), as tension gashes in a crust extending continuously at an increasing rate.” (From S. Warren Carey, Theories of the Earth and Universe, Stanford University Press, 1988, p. 147.)

      • itzac says:

        So if I make a mistake, even if I later discover and correct it myself, anything I say from then on should automatically be assumed to be wrong. Then I guess no one will ever be right about anything ever again.

      • Anthony O'Neal says:

        Not to mention that the cooling was basically a bit of chatter, and never reached near the level of acceptance that global warming has gained.

  5. johnc says:

    “…That is, right until it was revealed that the accusations were a hoax.”

    Yes, indeed. Hoax. You got that right there. Though your comparison seemed to insinuate that climategate was a hoax, and not Anthropological Global Warming. You see, one definitely happened, and the other is a profitable but inaccurate prediction.

    “Some AGW dissidents argue that the e-mails are not the real evidence, but the computer code used to “analyze” data will be the smoking gun. I have not seen any definitive information about this, so far this is just preliminary accusations.”

    The code is far more damning than the emails, IMO. It’s very clear that the warming figures were artificially bolted on. The ‘adjustments’ even resemble a hockey stick when plotted on their own.

    “Phil Plait points out that such computer code often goes through many iterations – it’s not as straightforward as you might think. Just because you can find older code that had serious flaws does not mean there is a conspiracy of fraud.”

    Plait is just a pseudoskeptic who has strong bonds with NASA, and they have being toeing the same line as the CRU for quite some time now. He’s probably scared of the sh*tstorm that NASA are going to suffer over their data, if they ever give it up.

    Splicing measured data with an array of adjustments is fraud. It’s nothing to do with iteration, it’s about one line of code that completely changes the shape of a graph for political reasons. Newer versions of the software, if they exist, would still have to use the same data.

    • Steeeve says:

      ” it’s about one line of code that completely changes the shape of a graph”
      The ‘one line’ of code does look bad by itself. Interesting though, is the fact that the ‘one line’ in question is never called in the code. The line that calls it had been commented out.
      Just worth noting that sometimes it is worth looking at the complete picture.

      • johnc says:

        I very much doubt this was a final build.

        I never comment out code if I actually intend to delete it. Commenting out usually indicates an intention to keep it, I usually do to trace bugs and test performance.

        As the results seem to match the artificial data, I’d say that line of code was compiled, or the data was injected elsewhere.

      • Brian van Doren says:

        I comment out code, and then uncomment it, and maybe comment it out all the time, especially if I’m *testing* something.

        Could someone reference the file and line numbers in question?

      • Kitapsiz says:

        I spend most of my time with C#.

        Any time you’re pulling the try/catch, commenting is your best friend.

        I agree, fairly standard practice to comment out, and very often leave it that way. There aren’t very many software design companies that maintain standards; at least none of the ones for which I’ve worked. I’ve been reprimanded for grousing about lack of standards adherence. LOL.

      • mark says:

        oh well that proves it then

        unless of you course you take another anecdotal sample – like for instance all of the developers I’ve had working for me over the years: a good many of whom comment out code “just in case” rather than deleting it. With a number of teams I’ve had to make the point that code not used should be deleted because even in the worst case scenario – its still in source control.

        There certainly are problems with the code – good commentary here:

        but until its reviewed properly then we don’t know either way (which is the point of the article)

        From what I can see the worst case is that the tree proxy data is thrown into doubt (although there are explanations for why the recent record is wrong) but there are still lots of data sets pointing to the recent rapid warming.

  6. Max says:

    As I mentioned in another thread, I’d be careful before accusing the CRU climatologists of fraud, considering that they’re in the UK with its libel laws.

    • Tim says:

      What is your point? Are you saying that people should be silent out of fear?

      • Max says:

        It’s up to them.

      • Tim says:

        Do you consider the English law just or unjust?

      • Max says:

        Unjust because it puts the burden of proof on the defendant, but it does seem rational because the defendant is the one who made the offending claims.

        Suppose I call you a drug dealer and you lose your job as a result. If you sue me in the UK, I’d have to prove you’re a drug dealer. If you sue me in the US, you’d have to prove you’re not a drug dealer. What seems fair?

      • Tim says:

        The US.

        In this country we have the freedom of speech and you cannot use force and coercion to silence people just because they say things that you do not like. The UK system is not rational, it says that you may use fear and force to silence people. If you regard that as just, then I regard you as wicked.

        You do not have the right to not be offended.

      • Beelzebud says:

        I’m pretty sure that in the US hacking into someone’s email account, cheery picking the messages, and then publishing them online is illegal.

        No one really seems to care about the 4th amendment these days, though.

      • Tim says:

        Red herring. The topic here is freedom of speech and the issue of libel.

    • Kitapsiz says:

      LOL, not everyone lives in the U.K.

      Their libel laws mean nothing.

      • Shahar Lubin says:

        British law allows for the suing of foreign citizens if the alleged libel was published or available in any way in the UK.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        Good luck with that, British “Law”, and any Parliament member who brought it about or supports it, can have the sweat off my balls; only cowardly fascists and weak minded effeminized socialites would want such in place.

        But then, that will be the epitaph of humanity; sunk by the genetically aberrant and socially fearful.

  7. johnc says:


    A predicted 200 billion pounds of taxpayers money over the next few years says I’m comfortable accusing them of fraud. It’s my money, and they lied to get it. I’m in the uk, they can have my address if they ask, the more publicity I can give this scandal the better.

    • MadScientist says:

      Wow! Who’s getting the 200B bucks? Why aren’t my buddies in the UK Met. Office telling me they’ve struck gold? Maybe they just don’t want to share it with me – selfish bastards!

  8. John Paradox says:

    A little on ‘global cooling’, starting with Sagan…
    In the science series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, physicist Carl Sagan warned of catastrophic cooling through the burning and clear cutting of forests. He postulated that the increased albedo of the Earth’s surface might lead to a new ice age. He also mentioned that this may be counteracted and overcome by the release of greenhouse gases.

    The ‘acceptance’ of GC among scientists: Of those scientific papers considering climate trends over the 21st century, only 10% inclined towards future cooling, while most papers predicted future warming.[2] The general public had little awareness of carbon dioxide’s effects on climate, but Science News in May 1959 forecast a 25% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the 150 years from 1850 to 2000, with a consequent warming trend. (The actual increase in this period was 29%.)[3] Paul R. Ehrlich mentioned climate change from greenhouse gases in 1968.[4] By the time the idea of global cooling reached the public press in the mid-1970s temperatures had stopped falling, and there was concern in the climatological community about carbon dioxide’s warming effects.[5] In response to such reports, the World Meteorological Organization issued a warning in June 1976 that a very significant warming of global climate was probable.[6]
    This hypothesis never had significant scientific support, but gained temporary popular attention due to a combination of press reports that did not accurately reflect the scientific understanding of ice age cycles, and a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s. General scientific opinion is that the Earth has not durably cooled, but undergone global warming throughout the 20th century.

    The cause for cooling: Human activity — mostly as a by-product of fossil fuel combustion, partly by land use changes — increases the number of tiny particles (aerosols) in the atmosphere. These have a direct effect: they effectively increase the planetary albedo, thus cooling the planet by reducing the solar radiation reaching the surface; and an indirect effect: they affect the properties of clouds by acting as cloud condensation nuclei. In the early 1970s some speculated that this cooling effect might dominate over the warming effect of the CO2 release: see discussion of Rasool and Schneider (1971), below. As a result of observations and a switch to cleaner fuel burning, this no longer seems likely; current scientific work indicates that global warming is far more likely.


  9. philipp says:

    What astonishes me is that the code and the data weren’t openly available in the first place.

    Very important and costly decisions are based on these reconstructions.

    I doubt that in other fields of science, say medicine, such far reaching decisions would be made based on results coming from such intransparent a process.

    Perhaps I a mistaken, but this sound to me a bit like:
    Hey guys, here is the new medicine. Can’t show you the raw data or the methods used to test it. Only my beautifull graph.
    You see? Its great. Believe me!

    • Max says:

      “I doubt that in other fields of science, say medicine, such far reaching decisions would be made based on results coming from such intransparent a process.”

      I think there’s less transparency in medicine, where a lot of the research is done by private pharmaceutical companies.

      A lot of defense-related research is classified.

    • Tim says:

      Well California banned thimerisol on nonsense data, so yes this sort of nonsense is what far reaching government policy is made of.

    • MadScientist says:

      One big problem is that not just any yokel has what it takes to interpret the data. You’re welcome to try – go to any number of NASA/NOAA data repositories and download the raw data (Level 1A) for *any* satellite instrument and see if you can make sense of that. You at least need a little training with basic meteorology to be able to just look at raw meteorological data; you also need other documentation or the data is pretty much useless. Unless you have all that information and know how to use it, you can’t say anything. I can’t imagine that the FOI requests on the UEA were made by anyone who knew what they were doing so it is simply harrassment. However, unless the UEA are using their own private data, the data they are using will in fact be publicly available through other institutions. The UEA code doesn’t matter at all; other groups do similar work, have published their code, and do get results which agree with the UEA work. In fact, Mann’s group makes all the data and code available to anyone who cares to click and download it.

      • Beelzebud says:

        It reminds me of what Dr. Richard Lenski dealt with when asked to provide samples of his e. coli strains to the guy that runs conservapedia. His email exchange with Schlafly was pretty amusing.

        For those who haven’t seen this story, Dr. Lenski has done a pretty amazing experiment with e. coli that shows they are evolving on different branches. Here is the email exchange with the operator of “conservapedia”.

      • MadScientist says:

        In Lenski’s case it would have been unethical and also unlawful to give bacterial strains to just any yokel who asked. The vast majority of climate data is in fact publicly accessible, and even in the hands of ignoramuses it can’t cause any physical harm – the worst case is you have ignoramuses pretending to be experts, and we’ve certainly seen an awful lot of that.

      • Beelzebud says:

        That’s true, but I still see parallels here. I’m not sure it’s a wise use of their time to respond to every request of data from people who aren’t even climate scientists. Especially given the fact, that you mention, that most of the data is already out on the internet.

  10. CW says:

    I’m wrestling with the analogy to the Duke Lacrosse players story, because on one hand I think your point about ‘jumping the gun too quickly and feverishly’ is a valid connection to this climategate e-mail story. I think one would consider ‘confirmation bias’ as a driving force in both stories?

    However, the error by the media was in believing one person’s anecdotal account of the situation. In this particular issue, there is confirmed e-mail writings that are not hoaxed and is tied to a decades long scientific dispute/disagreement. Those that are claiming that the context and language of the e-mails are being overblown or taken out of context does seem to many middle-grounders to be not indicative of a “wait and see” attitude, but rather an a priori defense.

    Perhaps a better analogy would be some kind of discovery that garnered a massive amount of media attention that turned out to be hoaxed or misinterpreted? Piltdown Man? UFO/Roswell issue?

    • CW says:

      “Those that are claiming that the context and language of the e-mails are being overblown or taken out of context….”

      Quick clarification – by “those”, I am referring to Chris Mooney, Phil Plait, and a few others that have conveyed that in their writings. Those are the ones that seem like an a priori defense of this story.

  11. This hardly seems skeptical. That scientists should ever have a political bias or proclaim their lack of evidence “a travesty” should set off some serious alarm bells.

    Scientists are supposed to let data, studies and experiments speak for themselves.

    No amount of explanation can explain away why scientists were using language like this.

    • Max says:

      It’s quite skeptical to reserve judgement until more information is available.
      What’s not skeptical is to jump to a conclusion and proclaim that no other explanation is possible.

    • Gordo says:

      Scientists almost always have a bias. Expecting them to be some sort of robots who have no beliefs is misguided at best. In fact, scientists almost always use some sort of inductive reasoning to jump to a conclusion, then test it with real data.

      The theory of relativity was based on holes in the current theory, and Einstein jumped to a conclusion, which was then tested with hard evidence….

      So please, lay off the “scientists must be superhuman” rhetoric.

      And, though skepticism is good, you must be careful to apply it to all sides… Including those who claim that global warming is not reality. What evidence do they have? Does it stand up to scrutiny?

      • Tim says:

        The burden of proof lies on those that make the proposition. If people make the claim that we are deep frying the planet then they have to prove it. Saying that skeptics must disprove AGW is like saying that atheists have to disprove God. It is nonsensical. One should view every argument put forward critically, that I agree with.

      • Beelzebud says:

        I agree that the burden of proof lies with those that make the proposition. The idea has been proposed that these emails prove AGW is a fraud. Let’s see the proof.

      • Alan says:

        As far as the scientific community is concerned AGW is proven (or as much as the science allows) — it has passed all the necessary (and very difficult) hurdles to become the accepted consensus. At this point it is up to deniers to demonstrate how the scientific method/establishment has completely failed to the extent of being an effective conspiracy.

        So, AGW Denial doesn’t need to “disprove” AGW so much as it has to prove that science has utterly failed in this instance.

        BTW, the old Creationist trick of sitting back and demanding “proof” no matter how much evidence is laid at your feet doesn’t count as “proving” science has failed.

      • Tim says:

        First, to equate skepticism of AGW to people who deny the Holocaust is fucking disgusting. It says a great deal about what your values and standards are as well as your priorities. Second, AGW has not been demonstrated scientifically which is why it depends upon consensus. CO2 rates have been shown to follow temperature changes, previous gatherings of evidence included in the IPCC has been shown to either be false or clearly manipulated (such as the “hockey stick graph” by Michael Mann who is involved in this email scandal), and temperatures dropped in the post WWII era while CO2 levels were taking off and temperatures have dropped off during the past 10 years again while CO2 levels have increased significantly. Indeed the evidence appears to have almost no correlation with temperature changes except for the previously mentioned correlation which shows that there does seem to be a long term correlation between CO2 and temperature in which CO2 follows temperature changes.

        Science has not failed, scientists have failed to use science and have substituted consensus for the scientific method. These emails reveal that prominent members of this scientific community have sought to exclude people from academic journals, manipulate data to fit a narrative, find ways around the freedom of information act (information that does not include patents and other privacy related information and other exceptions), and so on. Current AGW advocates are using as their main means of argument argument by verbosity, to create so many different climate models (which just run on the number that they put in it rather than according to the laws of nature) that there simply are not enough resources to show why and where each model is wrong. However the common theme in all these models is that they predicted warming over the past ten years and the Earth has cooled instead.

        Now what do I think? I think the sun heats the Earth, and I based that on the fact that temperature changes correlated precisely with solar activity and because the solar radiation can be observed and measured. AGW on the other hand is unfalsifiable. If it gets warmer, global warming. If it gets colder, global warming. I also break out my baloney detection kit and ask myself where all the nuts are. Where are all the people chaining themselves to bulldozers, vandalizing smoke stacks, and setting SUV dealerships ablaze? Which side has groups of people who believed before AGW that various policies should be put into place and now, ah ha, all these policies happen to be the solution to this AGW problem? Which side uses phrases like “denier”, “creationist”, and “the debate is over”? The bottom line is that all the nuts are on one side. All the agenda driven people are all on one side. Do all the nuts being on one side disprove a theory? No, of course not, but it does raise a red flag.

      • MadScientist says:

        “Saying that skeptics must disprove AGW is like saying that atheists have to disprove God.”

        False analogy. If there were incontrovertible scientific evidence for the existence of a god (any god will do), then you’d have a valid analogy. No cigar for you; simple-minded rhetorical tricks don’t work on thinking people.

      • Tim says:

        What is this incontrovertible evidence?

      • Beelzebud says:

        Ask Phil Plait what he thinks about GW being caused by the sun. He’s gone over that topic on a bunch of times…

        And no one compared it to holocaust denial, so nice try with the strawman. However, denial is denial.

  12. Max says:

    Interesting analogy to the Duke lacrosse case.
    I would’ve pointed to Steven Hatfill, the first “person of interest” in the 2001 anthrax attacks. What drew the attention of the FBI was his report on the possibilities of terrorist anthrax mailing attacks.
    The New York Times reported that he obtained the antibiotic Cipro before the attacks, but didn’t mention that it was for sinus surgery.

    With enough out-of-context circumstantial evidence, you can turn anyone into a criminal.

  13. Nicholas Nengergold says:

    You call these embarrassing, but the only mail that I think I can judge without context is the last one, and that one is perfectly reasonable. Of course, at first sight the talk about ‘deleting all mail related to X’ sounds very juicy to a conspiracy theorist, but something more mundane may be going on. I’ve been in administrative functions, and I’ve had similar conversations, once because we were consolidating our mail backup into a single archive, and once because after we were discussing the possibility of someone being not quite kosher we found out that the allegations were built on ice and we didn’t want anyone in the future finding the mail and starting the suspicion all over again.
    As for ‘poorly chosen words’ – this was private mail. One should not have to write every mail one sends as if someone is watching over your shoulder. And that is where the real story is. Maybe this will say something to do with global warning, but not much, there is too much data that has been vetted that would be contradicted by any hypothetical position reversal, so that won’t happen. However, the implications of the fact that all this mail has come to light as such are huge.

    • Mover says:

      “One should not have to write every mail one sends as if someone is watching over your shoulder.”

      I advise everyone I know who uses a computer that there is no such thing as “privacy” when using electronic communications. Especially at the workplace.

      There is a record of everything you write and send in an email, to include where you sent it from. Where I work, incoming and outgoing emails are archived as they are sent, all of it. The moment you are suspected of anything, the subpoenas and warrants will start popping out of prosecutors’ and lawyers’ offices all over the place. If you work for the government, your emails and any data come under FOI requests.

      Am I paranoid? No. Just realistic. I don’t even send off color jokes to any coworker. You just don’t know where it will end up.

      I know of 6 people in the past year who had their workplace computers confiscated by law enforcement and 2 of them are gone (fired/retired early).

  14. WIL says:

    Will the Skeptologists be doing “guerrilla skepticism” on al gore?

  15. Tim says:

    This is an up-against-the-ropes post. Every tactic is typical from making up excuses for liars and frauds, demanding that we wait for more data when we have the data, false analogies about the Duke Lacrosse team (which seem to fit pushers of AGW), a passive-aggressive attack on those who condemn this fraud (with the link to an opinion piece on Fox while giving the impression that it was coming from their news department), hollow shared concern over the fraud, saying you won’t get into the whole “skeptic vs. denier” thing and then closing your post by calling people who disagree deniers (because raising an eyebrow when politicians start arguing over the weather is the same as denying that 6 million Jews were systematically slaughtered by Nazi Germany), but my favorite bit of typical nonsense is this:

    “For global warming dissidents I recommend that you put your rhetoric in check. The witch-hunt frenzy so far in evidence cannot possibly serve you well. If it turns out there was real fraud at the CRU, you will still be criticized for being prematurely shrill and you will lose credibility. Also, the more extravagant your condemnations, the more likely it is that the reality will not be as bad as you are stating – and therefore even if some indiscretions come to light, you will have actually softened the blow because they will not be as bad as the worst hysterical claims. And of course, if it comes to light that no real fraud occurred, the credibility of AGW dissidents will have been dealt a severe blow.”

    Oh, how I do know how you suffer thinking about the well being and credibility of AGW deniers (or dissidents if you think that is somehow a neutral term). I see how even if AGW skeptics are right they will still be criticized for being mean. Oh, where would the skeptics be if when proven right they were still not knighted by those who were wrong as credible. After all, just because the establishment used lies and fraud to promote an unfalsifiable theory which was used by most as a vehicle for social and economic control (and were ultimately wrong about the science) doesn’t mean that you still don’t have to kiss their ass and gain credibility only through them. Yay they are great.

    I don’t give the benefit of the doubt to these people and I will tell you why. One of the scientists in the emails was Michael Mann. Mann has a record. He has already falsified data with the rather infamous “hockey stick graph” and therefore is undeserving of the benefit of the doubt. Mr. Novella, I love your other posts and your blog in general, but this post was so typical that the only thing I can think of that you left out was to be critical of the whistleblowers (of course maybe you were when you called them hackers, but hackers is a fair term so despite the pattern of passive-aggressive behavior that is overflowing in this post I will assume that you didn’t attack them).

    • MY says:

      Since you seem to be the lead AGW skeptic here, I want to ask you some questions. This is not meant to be an attack. I’m only curious about the origin of your main arguments.

      AGW skeptics talk a great deal about The Data supporting cooling over the last 10 years. In fact, you wrote a lengthy reply about this up thread. You make this sound as though The Data is irrefutable and widely known and accepted. But I’ve never seen this data: I’ve only heard it cited by numerous journalists (usually journalists of the same political leaning). So my question is, can you provide a link to scientific data that supports this claim? I want the actual study data or report, and not a summary from a news source or blog.

      Another point AGW skeptics always put forward is how AGW proponents are trying to take over social, economic, political control. My question is in what way do you think this would impact you negatively (if for the sake of argument, I allow that AGW proponents are really trying take control of everything)? How do you envision this will lead to grave mass suffering?

      Finally, supposing AGW skeptics are correct and man-made CO2 is not the main (or minor) driver of climate change, and global warming is attributable to solar forcing, is the position of AGW skeptics that as long as it’s not us causing the problem, then there is no problem? Do AGW skeptics also view ecological changes evident around the world as non-issues? Or perhaps only temporary? And if temporary, how temporary?

      I really just want to fully understand the position you’ve taken. I’m not judging or attacking.

  16. Max says:

    Glossary for laymen

    trick: clever solution
    hack: quick but inelegant solution
    error: difference between computed and measured value
    fudge factor: an adjustment to a model that improves its fit of known measurements

    • CW says:

      Max, thanks for the glossary. It is useful. But it’s hard to convey this to other laymen without it sounding dubious.

      I tried using a cooking analogy. If you realize you are missing an ingredient, then a “trick” could be to grab a similar ingredient that will do something very similar – thus still leading to the same result. But I don’t think this analogy held up well, because the idea of grabbing a different ingredient to achieve the “intended result” seemed to be fraudulent.

      • CW says:

        What would be the glossary for layman about the remark in one of the e-mails “hide the decline??”

      • Beelzebud says:

        Put those three words in context of tree rings. That’s what they’re talking about. If you want to debate this, fine, but using three words taken out of context isn’t going to win over people who don’t talk in sound-bytes.

      • Max says:

        A trick can be any clever solution. Peeling boiled eggs under running water is a trick.

  17. Neil Jones says:

    Very minor but very distracting point: I think it should be ‘poring through’ rather than ‘pouring through’… apart from that, thank you very much for the clear-headed analysis.

  18. Max says:

    The following email exchange explains one reason for the resistance to FOI requests.

    First, some douchebag thinks he found fraud, and says he talked to the FBI and will notify the media, which is what cranks do instead of publishing papers.

    From: “D.J. Keenan” (douchebag)
    To: “Steve McIntyre” (GW denier)
    Cc: “Phil Jones” (CRU director)

    I intend to send the final version to Wang’s university, and to demand a formal investigation into fraud. I will also notify the media. Separately, I have had a preliminary discussion with the FBI–because Wang likely used government funds to commit his fraud; it seems that it might be possible to prosecute Wang under the same statute as was used in the Eric Poehlman case. The simplicity of the case makes this easier–no scientific knowledge is required to understand things…

    Phil responded:

    Wei-Chyung, Tom,

    I won’t be replying to either of the emails below, nor to any of the accusations on the Climate Audit website.
    I’ve sent them on to someone here at UEA to see if we should be discussing anything with our legal staff…
    I do now wish I’d never sent them the data after their FOIA request!


  19. Brian Blais says:

    I am still amazed that the original data and source code is *required* for publication in the journals. The argument about multiple iterations of code is irrelevant, because what I want to see is the original data and source code to produce all of the figures in a peer-reviewed published article. That way it is a snapshot of the work. The fact that this is not done causes all of the FOI requests, so the researchers shouldn’t complain.

    With such a high-stakes game, the data and methods should be that much more transparent. Is there a reason why it’s not?

    • Alan says:

      Ah, but there are limits to what researchers are supposed to provide for FOI requests. Not every last bit of their work is free for anyone to get a copy — parts, like computer code for example, are generally seen as being the proprietary material of the author. It’s just like how a scientist isn’t expected to automatically give a patent or copyright up to the public domain even if his work was publically funded.

      From an interview given by one of the Climategate scientists I heard he and his compatriots have decided to provide computer code regardless, but they are doing so voluntarily, not because they have to. The fact that they did not do so in the past is therefore not evidence of a problem — except, of course, with the Deniers asking for more than they deserved.

      (And, for the record, that same interview related how the Denier requests also often asked for material that was either already freely available from different sources or for material that the scientist in question did not have the legal right to give out — but, no matter, any rejection for any reason is enough for Deniers to cry foul)

  20. Brian Blais says:

    (oops…first sentence should read is *not* required. I’m amazed that journals don’t require it).

  21. Alan says:

    I think you are being far too concilitory toward AGW Deniers, Steven — especially given the strong, if minority, group of Deniers within the Skeptic community.

    Climategate does nothing to diminish the overwhelming scientific consensus that AGW is real and a serious threat to future generations. The fact that some stolen emails may reveal personal failures in a few scientists hardly changes that, but “skeptic” AGW Deniers have been hot and heavy about using this exaggerated scandal to revel in their conspiracy theories. Hardly a day goes by without reading the triumphant posting/email of a Denier within the skeptic community declaring that this finally “proves” AGW was one giant hoax. More importantly, it allows Deniers to engage in all the sorts of tactics we see and criticize from our “usual suspects” — Truthers, Creationists, Alt-Med proponents, etc. — with success since the rest of us hesitate to speak up in the face of this supposed Climategate “scandal”.

    Sure, let’s investigate what happened and determine guilt as necessary, but in the process we shouldn’t start implicitly condoning unscientific AGW Denial within our own ranks. Hold Deniers up to the same standards that as Skeptics we demand of any group trying to overturn the scientific consensus. Too many “Skeptic” Deniers are using Climategate as an excuse to indulge in all sorts of magical thinking. Let’s not let our embarrassment over the possible meanings of a handful of emails taken out of context let them get away with it without the criticism they deserve.

  22. MarkP says:

    It’s pretty clear now that there was no hack. This was a leak. The history of email, etc. make it pretty clear how improbable a hack has been. (See for detailed information.)

    More importantly, there has been no evidence whatsoever of a hack. Never. Yet the press (and even the skeptic community) has credulously repeated the “hacked” line.

    • Beelzebud says:

      What an unbiased source. I denier website. No wonder you masked the URL…

      Upon reading the article, it presents no evidence whatsoever that it was a leak. It makes a lot of assumptions, and proves nothing.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        Highly dubious that it is a “denier” site; considering the accolades received for “science” blog.

        It actually makes some logical assertions, when backed by knowledge of networking systems, basic hacking tools, (i.e. putty, web scarab, tur, any of a multitude of encrypt/decrypt tools, self-engineered scripts, etc.), general security policies and protocols, stand as logical assertions.

        What is obvious is that no one has the facts, if there are even any to know.

      • Beelzebud says:

        Their accolade consists of the webblog award, which is determined by vote via website. It’s about as scientific as the denier blog.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        There hasn’t been anything shown to be actually scientific on either side of the AGW matter; it is all the antics of partisan BS, lobbying, activism, pressing the flesh, and any other manner of outward manifestation of “fornication for funding” behavior.

        I notice two notable blogs that were finalists for that same award; Bad Astronomy and Neurologica.

        From your assertion if either of those won, they couldn’t be considered any more scientific than the denier blog either.

      • Beelzebud says:

        To say there hasn’t been any science done on AGW, is just flat out bullshit.

        Furthermore, It doesn’t matter which blog wins a webblog award. Their scientific credentials are established by their content, not by how many people vote for them.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        No. 1 & 2 promoters of AGW:

        1. Al Gore; prostitician, moron, deceiver, possibly the worst hominid mind to ever exist. Possibly, there could be others I am not aware of.

        2. The UN; a flaccid organisation riddled with corruption, and an utter waste of both time and resources.

        I guess as a proxy of the Al Gore mention, that would necessarily make Larry King a promoter as well, considering how often the bloated fool Al Gore is on his show.

      • Beelzebud says:

        Thanks for revealing your hand. Partisan bullshit is not a scientific refutation of the theory. Neither are out of context statements from stolen emails.

      • Tim says:

        Out of context? Okay, what is the context?

      • Kitapsiz says:

        What are you touting?

        Where is the evidence for “Anthropogenic” global warming? I’ve yet to see anything beyond speculative “consensus”, “agreements” of conjecture, and political lobbying for funding.

        Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum; proven.

        Dryus periods, a number of them; proven.

        Natural climatic shifts are categorically shown throughout the history of the planet. Anthropogenically? Not shown.

        If you have irrefutable evidence, post it. I love to read science.

  23. John Ellis says:

    Well, is is an excerpt from the BBC Newsnight program. Simply fast forward to about 30 secs before the end and listen to Andew Watson sum the situation up in the final 2 seconds of this live on air broadcast :-)

  24. Kitapsiz says:

    Dr. Novella,

    I certainly agree with you that restraint, and a highly skeptical perspective, towards both proponents and detractors of this “scandal”, is absolutely demanded.

    On the issue you bring up of “hide the decline”; that is worse than poor choice of vernacular, it makes intent appear to be part of the situation.

    On the failure to meet with FOI requests, because I have no actual working knowledge of the process, are there grounds for dismissing such requests?

    On this note, I’ll beg to differ with you and Mr. Plait, I work for the company with the world’s largest legal database, so my experience says something different.

    Phil Plait points out that such computer code often goes through many iterations – it’s not as straightforward as you might think. Just because you can find older code that had serious flaws does not mean there is a conspiracy of fraud.

    Unless the company/organisation has fallen flat and gone away completely, and not had their code bought out by another source, all computer software goes through iterations; but that is well known and not the issue.

    Just as with anything science based, documentation is your most important asset. Where I work, we use several different means of tracking production and testing changes, it is actually, a number of layers deep. If science isn’t following the same suit; that is piss poor discipline at best.

    Also, code errors/bugs have nothing do with iterations necessarily. Often times, newer languages or newer versions of language become available and hence, forces a new iteration ~ but that still has nothing to do with the logic of the software build. One of the worst areas of modern society is IT/Software development; there are no checks/balances/oversight and fraud in this arena has never been adequately addressed. How soon we forget the coercions of Microsoft, in the face of the entire market, and even the Federal government.

    Likely, this will turn out to be a baseless sham, especially closer to the surface; but I’m always quick to remember what my most respected professor told our class repeatedly. His name was Dr. Truman Thurman, (casually, T^2), and his warning was always the same, “Squeeze the data hard enough, and it will scream whatever you want ~ but that’s not science”.

    Not withstanding, these scientists have shown no indication of attempting to keep the politics out of the issue. Bad business that is …

    • Max says:

      “On the failure to meet with FOI requests, because I have no actual working knowledge of the process, are there grounds for dismissing such requests?”

      Yes, there are always exemptions for personal privacy, intellectual property, national security, and others.

      The emails often talk about consulting the legal department.
      For example:

      “I will be consulting LLNL’s Legal Affairs Office in order to determine how the DOE and LLNL should respond to any FOI requests that we receive from McIntyre.”

  25. Max says:

    Whether the CRU team’s attacks on “dissenting views” were justified depends on whether the “dissenting views” were well-researched and scientific or poorly-researched and unscientific. The former deserve to be published, the latter do not.

  26. MadScientist says:

    “final nail in the coffin of AGW.”

    Hehehe. I can imagine what the AGW coffin looks like – boards don’t lap properly, boards don’t even join at the correct angles, and all other nails have fallen out except for the newly placed “final nail” which is just clinging on by the pinpoint end.

  27. Mover says:

    It is hard to determine how legitimate the reports behind AGW are at this point. But all of this new doubt demands that it be fully investigated before job killing policies, such as Cap & Trade, are made into the law of this land.

    While I understand that no one, and no country, with something to gain from the green agenda wants to put the breaks on their grab for other people’s money, it does disturb me that the talks in Copenhagen are on schedule with no word of them even acknowledging that there may be a problem. Maybe this is due to the legacy media’s lack of emphasis on it.

    • Alan says:

      Delaying is one of the main aims of AGW Deniers — if they can’t prove their case then at least muddy the waters enough to create doubt and get people to “delay”. It’s no different than Creationists trying to “Teach the Controversy”.

      The simple fact remains that AGW is the scientific consensus and it became such because the science and evidence show it is by far the most logical explanation. AGW Denial relies on trying to make people think that we are still in 1980 and the matter is entirely up in the air. It’s not — on the big question the science is settled. It’s only the details that still need to be debated.

      • Tim says:

        To the contrary, this debate is far more similar to the vaccines causing autism debate. The case of AGW is virtually non-existent and is based almost entirely on computer models rather than real evidence. All the nut jobs are on the AGW side from “scientists” chaining themselves to bulldozers, to vandals damaging smoke stacks, to fanatics setting SUV dealerships ablaze. All the displaced Marxists from the fall of the Soviet Union and all the anti-rationalist fanatics are using global warming as a vehicle for their other beliefs. After all, a theory that says that capitalism and its biproduct prosperity are destroying the world is quite the temptation for the leftists and anti-rationalists. Just look at how they approach the issue:

        Also, the idea that human beings are changing the temperature of the planet by producing energy is not the most logical conclusion, indeed it is the least logical. The most logical conclusion for temperature change would be changes in the sun.

      • Beelzebud says:

        Yes all of these climate scientists are just ‘leftists’ and ‘marxists’. For someone who always bemoans demagoguery, you certainly do practice it quite a lot.

      • Max says:

        Anti-rationalist! Haven’t you learned that by calling Tim a hypocrite you tear down all that is right and build up all that is wrong?

      • Tim says:

        Deliberate misrepresentation. Did I say that all climate scientists are just leftists and Marxists? No. Why do you show it that way? To demagogue. Am I demagoguing? No, but if I point out how people are not using reason then you can misrepresent the opinion by incorrectly claiming that I am attacking motives and therefore demagoguing. Why show me as a demagogue? Because I regard demagoguery as wrong and reason as right so if you can misrepresent me as the opposite then you can call me, as Max did, a hypocrite. Do you try to show where and how I am being a hypocrite? No, you just use misrepresentation and Max used ridicule.

        Look at the next post by Max. First and foremost as an anti-rationalist you must attempt in all your efforts to undermine the very notions of right or wrong. So what does he do? First, he refers to the debate as a non-debate. Clearly there is debate, but if you can convince people that there is not a debate then there will be no disagreement. If there is no disagreement then there is nothing to fight over. If there is nothing to fight over then there is peace and that is wonderful. Next, Max uses the demagogue and motivation tactic. He says that debate X which is thought to be about finding the truth is actually a distraction like debate Y which of course we all know isn’t just clearly wrong, but the people who try to debate Y are just trying to make money at your expense. In this case, he inserts AGW for X and smoking causing cancer for Y. The purpose of this argument again is not to show one side as right or wrong, not to discover truth, but to neutralize argument. Finally, Max closes by inverting the original accusation and uses the equivalence tactic. He says “I wonder what the deniers’ emails would reveal.” He of course uses the word denier to belittle, ridicule, and dismiss the people who are attempting to keep the debate going. The main purpose of this last statement though is to show how the side that thinks the other side is wrong is exactly the same as what they are being critical of. Not only that, but the format of the equivocation also dismisses the Climategate Fiasco as not a big deal because he is sure that the other side does it to. He really doesn’t care if there was an effort to suppress knowledge or not. Why? He doesn’t believe evidence makes knowledge, he believes intentions make knowledge.

        Now the mere act of identifying such a radical philosophy makes me sound like the radical because it is difficult to believe that people could actually believe such a philosophy. A description of an incorrect epistemology could therefore easily be dismissed as an attack on intentions and indeed anti-rationalists frequently attempt to do just that. Demagoguery however is the attempt to make or dismiss an argument by appealing to emotion rather than reason. I leave it to the fairness and intelligence of the people who choose to read these exchanges to make up their own minds on whether I am using demagoguery or making an epistemological critique.

      • Max says:

        This non-debate is most similar to tobacco companies muddying the waters regarding the health hazards of tobacco products. I wonder what the deniers’ emails would reveal.

      • tmac57 says:

        Once again Max, you took the words right out of my mouth. Can you imagine what the e-mail chatter at the Heartland Institute would show?

      • Alan says:

        All the displaced Marxists from the fall of the Soviet Union and all the anti-rationalist fanatics are using global warming as a vehicle for their other beliefs. After all, a theory that says that capitalism and its biproduct prosperity are destroying the world is quite the temptation for the leftists and anti-rationalists. Just look at how they approach the issue:

        Honestly, how could anyone (let alone a “skeptic”) make a paranoid statement like this and expect to be taken seriously?

        (And, before anyone complains, it would be just as bad if this argument was that AGW is a “Right Wing” conspiracy for business to fatten profits)

      • Beelzebud says:

        He calls other people (namely scientists) anti-rationalists, while accusing them of being marxists and leftists that cooked up AGW after the fall of the Soviet Union, as a way to get back at capitalism.

        That has all of the woo-woo markings of a conspiracy theory.

      • Tim says:

        No Beelzebud, I do not simply call other people anti-rationalists, I call you an anti-rationalist.

      • Mover says:

        I don’t believe actual scientists, other than maybe a very few that are heavily invested in the outcome of the AGW debate, would be aiding a Marxist agenda.

        However, if you look at what is happening in America, a case can be made that some politicians and their supporters see an avalanche of government control over industry and individuals and another incumbency protection plan, just the way Marxists might like.

        Between the EPA’s Lisa Jackson announcing plans to regulate “greenhouse gases” as a threat to the public, a health care reform bill that will control every aspect of individual lives in America, a stimulus bill that doubles the deficit without creating jobs and devalues the US dollar, along with last years TARP bill to keep their high roller friends on top of their game, it’s no stretch that some might consider the possibility that the ultimate goal is Marxists-like control over the country.

      • Mover says:

        “The simple fact remains that AGW is the scientific consensus”

        A lot of people confuse the word “consensus” with the term “peer review”.

        Peer review would leave few doubts about the science. Just as peer review debunked the hyped “cold fusion” story a few years ago. But, I’m afraid there isn’t much evidence of peer reviewed studies of AGW. Especially since CRU has resisted sharing the raw data. It has been mostly groups of like-minded academics, politicians and entrepreneurs, engaging in group-think who have a consensus.

        “the science and evidence show it is by far the most logical explanation.”

        Maybe not.

        Made-made CO2 & naturally occurring CO2 is a very small (0.04% of the atmosphere) factor in climate change (if that figure is to be believed). It’s less of a factor than methane (another small percentage). Why is water is never mentioned even though it is a major factor at 200 times the amount of CO2 in the air)? And let’s not forget solar energy, the number one influence on climate change.

      • Alan says:

        AGW HAS been peered review — in extensive depth. That is why it is the consensus.

        There is also plenty of information out there that demonstrates this. If you are unwilling to find it (or just want to take what you read on Denier websites at face value) then that is your business. However, something isn’t wrong just because you refuse to read the information proving it.

        As for CO2, it is the critical factor because we are making a lot extra of it. The fact that it is overall a small effect on climate is utterly beside the point — like a fish tank slowly overflowing you don’t need more than drips adding to the amount of water to, if given enough time, flood the whole house.

      • Mover says:

        “AGW HAS been peered review”


      • Mover says:

        Oh, let me add that there is another study (can’t say if it was peered review or not). MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen says CO2’s real effect on climate change is nada. 15 years of ERBE satellite data indicates that more heat was radiated back out into space as was radiated into Earth’s atmosphere.

        If that is true, how could the “greenhouse gas”, CO2, be warming the place up? Especially when it’s been cooling off (.01 deg F or so) for the last 11 years.

      • Mover says:

        Let me help.

        I found an essay from 2004 that opines on refereed climate change studies, 928 of them. The author cites the IPCC as the source of the data. And of course we know that the IPCC gets data from CRU.

        I problem I see is the claim (from the recently published CRU communications) that they have resisted releasing years of “raw data” and reports are circulating that the good people at CRU have destroyed that data.

        So I ask; How can a scientific conclusion be peer reviewed if the peers doing the reviewing do not have access to the raw data?

  28. Mind boggling.

    Has no one ever worked with complex models before? “Fudge factors,” “corrections,” and “adjustments” are frequently used in complex models with many unknowns (as I’m sure climate models would have to be) to bring predicted values in line with observed data, not to obfuscate but because there are always factors we don’t entirely understand and because the purpose of a model is to reflect reality. If it doesn’t, the model must be adjusted (whether we understand why or not) because reality doesn’t change no matter what model one uses.

    As for emails, how many years or emails does this represent? How many people? Try to think of your own professional emails and think of whether or not any stray comment, opinion, frustrated comment couldn’t be used by someone who didn’t like you if they had access and could use it out of context. And, yes, I mean professional. If you’ve never written anything you might have written better if you’d known it was shown to the world, I’d be mighty surprised.

    As for old data, folks, there are dozens of reasons why it could be unavailable. Several dumpsters of documents and data were once tossed during a reorganization of the library at a NASA center. Old tapes lose data and fidelity. Data can be trapped in archaic databases that can be read by any modern equipment that are prohibitively expensive to convert. Frequently, with tight budgets, the response is to discard it for fiscal reasons, especially when it’s decades old. I personally hate the data that gets lost. It grieves me, but it happens with no malice intended by any, just no resources to keep it. This also happens when private contractors take over existing data as has also happened.

    I shudder to think of the potential (and unfunded) workload of providing raw uncorrected data (i.e., corrected for altitude and location and measurement system and measurement device accuracy, etc. for example) to a layman – because, of course, they’ll demand to understand what it means, so time will be spent recreating that with someone looking for any error to glom onto to disprove the overwhelming whole, only to provide the same conclusion that was originally published.

    Whether this means anything can be readily answered. Is there independent scientific data that validates the scientific consensus here? If so, this aberration means nothing. If, however, this is the source of 100% of the scientific consensus on Global Climate change papers and analysis, then this is indeed, worth getting to the bottom of. If not, it’s just another tempest in a teapot.

    Unfortunately, though, no matter how inflammatory the accusations or attacks, no one will hold the hysterical witch hunters to account for their accusations and, if it turns out (as I suspect it will) to be much ado about nothing, no will notice the vindication but remember the accusations as if they were convictions. At least, that has been the way things have tended to date.

    Not that I’m cynical or anything.

    • Max says:

      “If you’ve never written anything you might have written better if you’d known it was shown to the world, I’d be mighty surprised.”

      Even if you’re savvy enough to only say incriminating things in person and never by email, that only makes you better at covering your tracks, but it doesn’t make you a better person.

      • Bill says:

        But Stephanie wasn’t making any statement of moral value regarding the quality of anyone as a person.

        She was only pointing out that we’ve all probably written something in e-mail that could be embarassing if it was made public. And that our original meaning when we wrote it could be misconstrued or taken out of context.

  29. Max says:

    The simulationist’s code of ethics

    1. Assure product and/or service quality by the use of proper methodologies and technologies.
    2. Seek, utilize, and provide critical professional review.
    3. Recommend and stipulate proper and achievable goals for any project.
    4. Document simulation studies and/or systems comprehensibly and accurately to authorized parties.
    5. Provide full disclosure of system design assumptions and known limitations and problems to authorized parties.
    6. Be explicit and unequivocal about the conditions of applicability of specific models and associated simulation results.
    7. Caution against acceptance of modeling and simulation results when there is insufficient evidence of thorough validation and verification.
    8. Assure thorough and unbiased interpretations and evaluations of the results of modeling and simulation studies.

    • Kitapsiz says:

      That’s all well and good Max, but it’s just like the “Mission Statement” of virtually any corporation/organisation; intended verbosity towards the appearance of ethics ~ as long as that perception doesn’t interfere with profit margins.

      Not withstanding, trusting a model, built on software, for tracking all the possible variables of a global climate system; I don’t buy it, because I’ve done too much software. It only takes one logical error to bring down the whole system’s integrity, and nothing is more of a bugger than a logical error; because they don’t have to be visible from the output.

  30. S says:

    Don’t call yourself a skeptic if you label someone more skeptical than you a denier. Do call yourself a hypocrite.

    • Beelzebud says:

      Oh so it’s not about the science, it’s about who is MORE skeptical, is that it?

      There is a fine line between skepticism and cynicism…

    • Max says:

      Do you call AIDS deniers and Moon landing deniers skeptics?

    • Alan says:

      A “denier” (in the practical sense as meant here) is someone who believes in something despite the strong evidence demonstrating otherwise.

      In this case AGW is a well supported scientific consensus and one for which there is plenty of material available on the web to read if you have any questions. Now, if you want to contest AGW theory then go right ahead, but you need to realize that in trying to debunk established scientific consensus you have a hell of a task requiring some great evidence and argument — the most obvious being having to demonstrate how an effective scientific conspiracy (intentional or not) could be in place to hide the truth. One would think that anyone who identifies with the Skeptic movement would understand this.

      Problem is that (at least in my experience) “Skeptic” Deniers use all the tactics we routinely criticize woo-woo proponents of using. For example, a Denier may all at the same time: Hint strongly at there being an effective conspiracy to hide the facts; yet bristle at having their ideas called a “conspiracy theory” given the negative connotations the term has in skeptical circles, while when pressed; suggesting that the science is so unsettled anyway that any conclusion is preposterous. In other words, they try to pretend that it is still 1970 while otherwise covering all their bases.

      In short, they want to have things both ways — Validate their skeptical “cred” by celebrating science and the method behind it while in effect arguing that in the case of climate change science has not just failed miserably, but amounts to a giant conspiracy to hide the truth.

      Apparently, the rules of skepticism and critical thinking change the moment the idea being discussed is one you hold dear.

      • Max says:

        One standard denier trick (and I don’t mean clever solution) is to look for some minor anomalies expecting the whole conspiracy to unravel. Hence, the Holocaust deniers announced, “No holes, no Holocaust,” referring to vents in the roof of the Birkenau gas chamber.
        Or, “Larry Silverstein said ‘pull it’, therefore 9/11 was an inside job.”

      • Beelzebud says:

        Or “We haven’t gone back to the moon, because we never went there in the first place!”

        This is standard conspiracy theory minded thinking.

    • MadScientist says:

      Oh, shut up you hypocrite, I am more skeptical than though. Humph!

      Oh, denialists hate it when skeptics tell the world that denialists are not really skeptics – they only claim to be in vain hopes of stealing some prestige from real skeptics. It’s analogous to creationists pretending to be scientists.

      • Alan says:

        I see it more as an interesting example of how being “informed” and “skeptical” (like any other positive trait you care to name) is no defense against magical thinking or double standards.

        This is something any of us can and no doubt have done in the past, so I don’t mean the above as a condemnation or, worse, somehow as evidence of anyone’s “superiority”. Quite the contrary, I think we Skeptics too often fall into the trap of overly celebrating our own supposed “intelligence”. After all, how many times have we said/posted/blogged about some silly thing from pseudo-science and metaphorically patted ourselves on the back for not falling for such “nonsense?”

        Speaking personally, Climate Change is for me a reason to stay humble — I sure as hell wish it wasn’t true since depending on the seriousness and our reaction to it the lives of millions may hang in the balance. I would gladly admit to the mistake rather than have one person suffer in the least merely so I can feel good about my “skepticism”.

        If somehow “science” only ever tells us whatever feeds our egos then something is wrong.

      • MadScientist says:

        The thing about being a skeptic is you have to go out there and look for the evidence to help you decide for or against something. With global warming, you have a choice of looking at the work of a vast number of people who have studied the historical records as well as the derived historical record, and looking at the rabid rantings of some people with vested interests and who invariably do not have even the most basic understanding of meteorology, much less paleoclimatology. I always whine about the climate modelers wanting attention and distracting people from the instrumental record and the analysis.

      • Tim says:

        But the evidence and historical record have shown most of the theories to be incorrect by the ice core record such as the clathrate gun theory and many historical analyze from prominent members of the scientific community which had results put into the IPCC reports such as the hockey stick graph by Michael Mann have erased from history well documented periods of climate change including the little ice age. So being skeptical of the scientific community is necessary. Hell, being skeptical about the scientific community is what the scientific community is supposed to be doing, it is a defining characteristic.

      • Beelzebud says:

        So Tim, where is your evidence that AGW scientists are “displaced Marxists from the fall of the Soviet Union and all the anti-rationalist fanatics are using global warming as a vehicle for their other beliefs.”, because that is some big-time woo-woo conspiracy theory BS.

        Frankly I’m not sure how you can expect people to take you seriously after spewing such paranoid garbage. You seem more motivated by ideology than the science.

      • Tim says:

        It’s not conspiracy theory, it is an alignment of interests (and I think you know that). People from Van Jones to Andy Stern to really any member of Greenpeace. Indeed Patrick Moore left Greenpeace precisely for this reason. There are entirely socialist movements which are based on using environmental hysteria as a vehicle for their socialist beliefs.

        You continue to fit the anti-rationalist mold. Again, you do not say that I am wrong or try to explain what is correct, but you attack the very notion of attempting to be right. If I value reason, then you say I am putting forth woo-woo nonsense. If I express a serious point of view then you design your argument to trivialize it so that people won’t read it. If I say that in order to embrace science you must embrace reason, then you challenge my motives. Everything you posted is designed to attack the very notion that opinions can be right or wrong and that is what makes you an anti-rationalist. You don’t make arguments like I did at the beginning of this post and then move into discussions of epistemology and ethics, but rather you view disagreement as the source of all evil which is why you attempt to degrade, ridicule, and insult rather than use reason, logic, or evidence. Don’t be mad at me because I have you figured out. Give up this pseudophilosophy now, while there is still time. If you carry this nonsensical philosophy for too long then it will destroy your moral core if it hasn’t already.

      • Beelzebud says:

        You can call me an anti-rationalist all you want. You’re the one advancing wild conspiracy theories involving soviet marxists having a hand in global warming research. Your views are all through the lens of your political and economic ideology.

      • Max says:

        “Your views are all through the lens of your political and economic ideology.”

        Tim might take it as a compliment.

        His defensive diatribes boil down to: “I’m right and rational because I say so, and therefore everyone who ridicules me is anti-rational.” Whatever makes you feel better, Tim.

      • Tim says:

        Your hucksterism is obvious to me and I do what I can to explain it. You seem to be living up to it. If you are not going to explain how I am wrong then I’ll just leave the issue here and let people make up their own minds.

  31. Kitapsiz says:

    I’ve spent roughly six hours looking for definitive conclusions on “anthropogenic” global warming. Although the effort was not a waste, it certainly did not yield the results that many here seem to put forth as “conclusive”, “incontrovertible”, “irrefutable” …

    Most often, what can be found in the pertinent literature is “likely”, “very likely”, “consensus”, “broad agreement”, etc.

    So, for all those busy bashing anyone who disagrees, with such hubris and petulent vigor, it might be a good idea to check the parameters of individual “skepticism”.

    There are issues to consider, especially with respect to “modeling”; modeling, in any perspective, is speculative, especially as concerns forecasting, which is actually the largest part of the current geopolitical arguments for policy change. No such model exists that can guarantee any level of future accuracy, regardless the claims of “consensus”.

    Blind skepticism is useless, to actually be a correct skeptic, there has to be the inclusion of pragmatics. Which is not showing itself to be any part of the discussion here, or literally anywhere this particular discussion takes place.

    • Max says:

      Where were you looking?
      Can you find definitive conclusions on other subjects like age of the universe or flu vaccine safety?

      • Kitapsiz says:

        Nice attempt at infantile sarcasm Max, but I pulled everything I could find from direct links to the involved groups on the Wiki page.

        Continually, “likely” “appears to be” “thought to be” “inferred” …

        The anthropogenic aspect is not proven, and only in a few instances of ethically and scientifically disciplined behavior did any of those groups admit that the modeling is incomplete because of computational limitations.

      • Max says:

        If you look for the age of the universe, you will also find “likely” “appears to be” “thought to be” “inferred”.
        I think you’re applying a double standard.

  32. anon says:

    I suggest you re-review Feynman’s Cargo Cult Science, and compare it to Phil Jones who writes to a critic saying, “Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

    And then look at Jones’ statements where he suggests deleting emails, and frustrating FOI requests. “But they are not smoking-gun evidence of fraud.” I am not sure why everyone demands smoking-gun evidence of fraud. Is that the step that “forces” an investigation? Having smoking-gun evidence? Or is it just probable cause, reasonable suspicion, and tests like that?

    Are Jones’ statements “smoking gun evidence” or are they probable cause, reasonable suspicion? So I think it’s a distraction to laugh over the lack of “smoking-gun evidence.”

    On other matters, I think linking global warming skeptics of any sort to Holocaust denial is a pretty disgusting ad hominem. And I believe in anthropogenic global warming!

    • Max says:

      What’s the source of that Jones quote?
      I suspect that it’s not a direct quote but someone’s biased self-serving interpretation.

      Here’s why:

      From: Kevin Trenberth
      To: Phil Jones

      This is awful stuff and I can’t imagine that this could be published. I know of this fellow Peiser though and he is extremely biased (against you likely). So treading with caution is warranted…
      At the very least you should be critical of the statement in 4. that he “politely requested an explanation”. He quotes you as saying: “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”.

  33. I may regret this, given the level of vitriol in his thread, but just a quick word on those exclaiming offense at the association with Holocaust denialism:

    It’s not a moral or value judgment….no one is accusing you of being anti-Semitic in the slightest. It’s about the issue of denying obvious facts and scientific consensus (Yes, it IS consensus….deal with it). In the context of skepticism/denialism/dissent, denying the anthropogenic nature of global climate chance is functionally the same thing as denying the moon landings in the face of overwhelming photographic and physical evidence, denying that Islamic extremists perpetrated 9/11 in the face of video, photo and flight-record evidence, and denying the Jewish holocaust in the face of over a decade of multiple-lines of evidence.

    AGW has several decades of data that clearly shows the link between rising CO2 levels and increasing temperatures, yet even in this thread people are denying a link at all, and point to these embarrassingly weak-sauce emails as evidence to the contrary?


    Denialism is denialism. You can’t call yourself “more skeptical” just because you reject more things.

    • Tim says:

      No, it is not the same thing and for you to say such a thing is fucking disgusting. It says that you clearly have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. You talk about vitriol debate and then go on to accuse people who disagree with you as not only being the same as Holocaust deniers, but 9/11 truthers, and moon landing hoaxers. Fuck you. I think for believing in AGW in spite of clear evidence that it is not going on makes you like an anti-vaxer. Have I convinced you that you are wrong by calling you that, asshole?

      Look at the data again. During the post-war economic boom when CO2 rates were skyrocketing temperatures were on the decline, increased for a few decades, and since 1998 temperatures have been on the decline yet again despite man-made CO2 production being at an all time high. There is legitimate debate on this topic because there is no conclusive data on GW let alone AGW. There is conclusive evidence proving the Holocaust, there is conclusive evidence on the moon landing (indeed testable data since reflectors were left on the moon which are used to measure the distance between the Earth and the moon), there is conclusive evidence on evolution, there is nothing close to that level of evidence relating to AGW and the original post on the Climategate Fiasco touches on that fact. Evolutionists do not need to hide the platypus, Holocaust historians do not need exaggerate events at Dacau, but AGW pushers need to ‘hide the decline’ and play with computer models precisely because they don’t have science on their side. What they do have on their side is demagoguery (like yours), fanatics (like James Hansen), and agenda driven groups (like GE and Center for American Progress). So why don’t you stop diminishing the Holocaust by using it as a means of silencing people and make an argument.

      • Max says:

        If you’re not going to keep it civil, you don’t deserve a response other than a reminder of the Skepticblog comment policy.

        “Please also keep vulgarity to a minimum. We do not want to pre-judge any specific use of foul language (sometimes it’s even justified), but gratuitious use of graphic or vulgar language is likely to distract from the conversation.”

      • Tim says:

        Typical. You have no response so you try to silence people. Here you are now clearly trying to make an appeal for censorship. Shame on you.

      • tmac57 says:

        Tim, I don’t see Max’s comment as trying to censor your opinions. Its just that when someone resorts to such inflammatory and foul language, it just deteriorates the debate to a base level. By all means, go ahead and vigorously assert and defend your position, and expect the same in return, but I think that it is self evident, that if we all resort to that kind of vulgar exchange, then we have lost the high ground, and probably the respect of those who read and evaluate our attempts at rational debate.

      • Max says:

        Actually I have a very good response, but I won’t post it until you learn to watch your language. If you want to continue the discussion, post your comment again without resorting to vulgarity. It’s an appeal to civility, as is the comment policy. Shame on you for dragging the discussion into the gutter.

      • Tim says:


        Dude, Holocaust denier is far more profane than any four letter word.

      • Max says:


        You properly responded in the second paragraph by arguing that it’s a false analogy.
        But what response do you expect after cussing someone out? An apology? “Thank you sir, may I have another”? No, you get more cussing, and it goes downhill from there.

      • Tim says:

        Max, I think one thing we can agree on…hold on, I am having a little trouble with that idea…okay, I think I’ve got it…one thing that we can agree on is that this thread went downhill as soon as the word “denier” was thrown out. As soon as the Hitler comparisons are broken out the discussion pretty much comes to an end.

        Another thing we might be able to agree on is that this thread was bound to head downhill because of its nature. It is an article on basically nothing. It says that some people might have committed fraud but here are some reasons why he might not be guilty. It is basically an apologist piece which is going to attract people who find AGW convincing to add to the defense and attract people who do not find AGW convincing to go after Mr. Novella for (1) potentially defending a guilty man in order to defend a conclusion and (2) go after Mr. Novella for his arguably condescending remarks regarding what they should do and how they should calm themselves down to maintain credibility (which Mr. Novella obviously doesn’t care about and is obviously just trying to manipulate people into working towards their own self destruction by tempering their outrage at something outrageous). Maybe we can agree on that inevitable decline of this thread.

        However I stand by my position that “Holocaust Denier” is far more profane than “fuck.” Also seeing as I did not use that profanity towards you I don’t see how you take offense (well I do, but that is a different discussion).

      • JJ says:

        “During the post-war economic boom when CO2 rates were skyrocketing temperatures were on the decline, increased for a few decades, and since 1998 temperatures have been on the decline yet again despite man-made CO2 production being at an all time high.”


        “I think the sun heats the Earth, and I based that on the fact that temperature changes correlated precisely with solar activity and because the solar radiation can be observed and measured”

        …don’t seem to add up. The sun goes through cycles of around 11 years:

        Which don’t line up with the temperature changes. The warming peak at 1998 doesn’t correspond with any solar activity peak. There have been ~6 cycles between the end of the second World War and now, but the temperature record paints a different story:

        Nothing about that trend from 1980 onward appears strongly related to an 11 year cycle.

        One is only left to assume that there are many factors at play, which I would hope a group of dedicated scientists would know better than a layperson like me. There is room for skepticism in this debate but it is not likely at this point that a ‘smoking gun’ or some other major oversight is in the cards.

  34. James says:

    As an interested layman and not a scientist, I’m genuinely convinced that I have no idea what to think. I am the middle of the road guy here. I believe that a lot of evidence has been gathered that shows that AGW is possible for two reasons:

    First, without the natural green house effect our planet would be uninhabitable.

    Second, Carbon has been shown to trap more levels of heat than other gases and that levels of carbon have been rising since the industrial revolution.

    I say that I belive AGW is possible because whenever I try do research on my own I get the polar opposites of the debate. It’s either your dumb for not believing or your dumb for believing. I can’t make heads or tails of it. Isn’t there some kind of resource that I can just get the simple facts?

    Plus, unless I’m missing something, isn’t this just ONE climate lab? Suppose that they were indeed falsifying data, does that matter? Aren’t there other climate labs throughout the US and around the world?

    • Max says:

      The Wikipedia article looks decent.

      I’m guessing you’re referring to the “debate” in pop culture, not among scientists. I don’t trust the AGW skeptics/deniers. Instead of publishing papers, they blog and go to the media. Often, they get basic facts wrong. Some are paid by oil companies. Some are associated with libertarian think tanks like Cato Institute that are funded by oil and tobacco companies. Some have a background in economics, and it’s funny to hear them criticize climate models, as if economic models are any better.

    • Tuffgong says:

      The issue that I’ve seen over the years since this debate has been going on and what sets this apart is that EVERYONE is on the same playing field. As a human being I will put myself as an individual on the line in saying that this is the greatest scientific controversy that I can remember.

      The reason being that skepticism IS the weapon here to cut through and here’s why. You would have to be an absolute fool to believe AGW is true or believe it false. Those terms are too absolute and so is the arguments concerning consensus (which people need to stop with already). That is the meat of the issue, PH.D scientists and those that run the gamut below them are all equally able to be questioned.

      No one knows what the real answer is and hence it becomes frustrating and polarizing when it’s such a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation.

  35. Peter Naegele says:

    As soon as people began using terms like denier, this was no longer a scientific debate. Climate-change is a question of faith, not of fact.

    It is unfortunate that so many scientists are being turned into parishioners of this new religion.

    Trials for heresy cannot be that far off……

    • Max says:

      It’s the deniers who have faith in their theory despite all the evidence against it. For example, AIDS deniers have faith that HIV does not cause AIDS despite conclusive evidence that it does.

      • Peter Naegele says:

        Max, you statement not only reinforces what I originally said, it is a classic example of how the basic scientific method has been abandoned.

        Alan, you don’t understand the argument to begin with. Science should not be made up of “the faithful” and “the heretics”. Science is about finding the objective truth beyond a belief system. It’s not about what you or I or Mann or Watts believes, it’s about an objective reality that exists independent of our presuppositions.

        …but, the agenda is already in motion…the FDA has forced through its ruling on CO2, thereby totally pushing Congress out of the picture. Regulation is a mere Presidential signature away.

        “The victor will never be asked if he told the truth”

    • Alan says:

      So, are you among those who argue that science is merely a matter of opinion or a “faith based belief?” I guess you must if you are suggesting that believing the results of the scientific process when it comes to “climate change” is just a “question of faith.”

      Or, are you like other “skeptics” in effect arguing that the conclusions of science can only be correct if they happen to validate your preconceptions?

      We complain all the time about people who accuse skeptics/scientists of just pushing a particular personal ideology for selfish reasons. Maybe they aren’t quite as wrong as we thought. :-(

  36. People who claim to be skeptics complain all the time that they are dismissed out of hand, yet, when asked to provide evidence, they retreat behind statements like “burden of proof” while focusing on tiny inconsistencies and ignoring the large and readily demonstrated consistencies and tangible evidence (check your local glacier). Scientists are accused of overblowing risk, then, when those same scientists note dissimilarities between observed fact and their models, even if, as in this case, the models have consistently underpredicted the changes, the groups of “skeptics” glom on to that as if it disproves the original premise.

    The only effective counter to science is more science, hard facts and data. Demonstrate (not insinuate) that the conclusions based on hard data are erroneous and that meticulously built (but complex) models are misleading by providing your own that can withstand scientific scrutiny, that can explain observed facts. Science, in this case, is constantly countered with “everybody knows” arguments and economic hysteria (that is contrary to past experience, I might add. See ozone hysteria).

    What’s most ironic is that, even if GW were not in place, the need for alternative energy would be as accute, given the finite resources and the rapidly increasing costs to obtain it. The times before we effectively run out isn’t measured in centuries, either, but in decades.

    For scientists, there is no right answer. If they warn based on the preponderance of data, particularly something that can be addressed better in the short term rather than the long term, they are branded alarmists and discounted, particularly if things don’t go as badly as they predicted (even if their warning is a factor). If it goes as badly and they say nothing, they are sanctioned and considered criminals for letting people suffer needlessly. If they say something and are crucified in the press, misrepresented, belittled, even fired for saying so in a hostile environment, and it goes as they predicted, they will be crucified again for not trying “harder”.

    If they show data, they will be hounded for every mistype, every transposed digit which will take untold hours away from vital research as they painstakingly take antagonistic laymen through an explanation the laymen will never accept anyway, knowing any stray word or suggestion will be twisted and put into blogs and hyped by media all over the world. If they fail to show the data to anyone who asks, no matter how often and by whome, they are blasted as conspirators.

    The amazing thing is not that scientists are frustrated in trying to tell the truth to an unreceptive public that brands them, without a shred of evidence other than rhetoric and insinuation, as charlatans and fools, but that they keep bothering to try to educate and support an the ungrateful public who mistreats them so severely.

    • Tuffgong says:

      What happens when both sides throw equally valid data at one another? What happens when people are able to argue, yell, refute, and show data until they are old men?

      That is the problem and that is why skepticism is the most important thing in this debate. Not denialism, not elitism (which is what people have been falling into in this very comments section). We are the last people to claim causality and when there is reason to question the causality at the prestigious level, you have a frenzy. That means any number of biases, arguments, straw-men, and other things are used and no one can tell that they are used.

      I’m too much of a middle-ground guy and (dare I say it) skeptic to jump to one side. I have to consider plausibility, flaws in arguments from both sides, consider evidence from both sides, and reach a reasonable, if not sound conclusion.

      Why does it seem like people have lost the ability as skeptics to take a step back and analyze both sides? Because without that we get this ilk (by this I mean these idiotic arguments that have been persisting for years).

      Guess what, if people are assholes about their arguments, why does that detract from the direction they’re going in? Yeah a person can be a denier but that doesn’t mean that his particular argument should be used as an excuse to dismiss all those who disagree. Likewise as a person who is particularly skeptical about the theory, I see no reason to claim conspiracy and see this as a giant scam/fraud. There is some merit to what both sides are saying but when you consider the human factors, I see it as a reasonable that AGW is a little too severe to use as a means of enacting political and social change.

      What if these emails originated from a lab or research group that refutes or is attempting to refute the theory? How skeptical would we be of it then? I highly doubt people would do anything more than use it as an excuse to shit on deniers, feels a sense of satisfaction, and move on with their day.

      • Alan says:

        I think you repeat the same error that is at the core of this “debate” — the mistake of thinking that somehow this is still 1970 and the question of climate change is still undecided. Quite the contrary as far as climate scientists are concerned the overall question has been answered — AGW is real. Only the details need to be debated.

        Thus, we shouldn’t treat both sides as equal because they aren’t.

        This doesn’t mean that people can’t theoretically overturn science and show that somehow the whole scientific system has failed. If they can then they deserve to be praised — and more.

        However, the requirements to do so are very high as, among other things, deniers have to demonstrate that an effective conspiracy (deliberate or not) is at work hiding the truth. Maybe there is, but until they provide some impressive evidence deniers haven’t earned the right to be considered at the same level as the climate scientists who have proven AGW through hard work and peer review.

        Basically, deniers face the same requirements of anyone else trying to overturn the scientific consensus — extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      • Stephanie B says:

        And that’s where I struggle. I have yet to see any scientific explanation that answers the mail other than the one provided by climate scientists. Believe me, no one, not even scientists with grants they’re vying for, want the worst case to come to be.

        At best, I have heard deniers pose questions that the climate scientists can’t yet answer (and far fewer of them than advertised. But no one (or not enough) advertises the repeated debunkings of the basic off-dragged-out talking points many of which have been disavowed by their original authors as more data has come in.

        Controversy sells newspapers and gets viewers, not consensus. Even if it’s inappropriately fostered.

  37. Miles White says:

    I’m interested to see what Skepticblog readers think of this video. How legit are their accusations?

    • Max says:

      It’s anti-science propaganda, kind of like “Expelled”.

    • Tim says:

      It is a fascinating expose on dissenting opinions focusing on the evidence available in the first part and then in the second part considering both the reasons behind those pushing AGW and the potential consequences of implementing various solutions to the perceived problem.

  38. BlueCollarCritic says:

    I claim not to be some enlightened intellect of superior thought but that does not mean I do not posses a basic level of common sense and as far as AGW, Climate Gate and now Ante\i-Climate gate goes there are too many questions about Global Warming to simply say its proven now lets move on with the Global Governance and hurry it up because my Swiss Bank account (where I keep the earnings from all my green technology investments) needs some growth!

    While I respect the need for skepticism I believe the author has failed to be unbiased (which he should be in this matter regardless of his own take on Global warming since he is coming at this from a skeptics take) and therefore failed to deliver a valid counter piece on climate gate. I am no conspiracy nut job (so please leave out the name calling) but I do have a basic understanding of misdirection and of manipulation at many levels (I have studied the magical arts) and it would not be a stretch to point out the subtle use of ‘Climate True Believers’ and ‘Climate Deniers’ to refer to the pro and anti Global Warming groups respectively. This subtle use these tags for each group helps to subtly drive home the idea that thsoe in belief of Global Warming are the TRUE while those in doubt of Glabl Warming are the Deniers; the same tag applied to a number of hate groups like the Holocaust Deniers. The authors need to use these descriptions points out a very slanted view on Global Warming and Clinate Gate and is threfore not qualifiedto be speaking as a skeptic about this unles the sskepticism is only applied to those stances thatare not iin full agreement with the Global Warming crowd.

    I find it very interesting how those in favor of Global Warming have no problem using the terms “proven” or “the debate is over” to push their belief of Global Warming,er I mean Global Change (perhaps we will be back to Global Cooling by the end of this month) and yet when it comes to the opposite side of the Global Warming debate they want to take a skeptics stance and say we should not jump to conclusions and or make excuses for a number of issues raised by climate gate related information.

    I’m not saying that I as a climate denier (even though I do not doubt we have a climate) am right and you as a Global Warming TRUE Believer are wrong but that the same arguments you make against climate gate you refuse to use or apply to the idea of global warming or global change or whatever its now being called.

    For the record, since the author seems to have a strong need to leave out vital and or key points about this that bring logic to why those in opposition to Global Warming act the way they do, i will raise these now. The anti-Global Warming crowd is pushing so quickly and so heavily the climate gate related material because there is very little time before our politicians meet and determine how best to throw out any liberties we have left and slice up and distribute what wealth those of us in the various classes of the working world, those who actually have to work be it for minimum wage or a 1 million dollar salary, have left; the monies yet to be taxed away by our governments.

    As self-proclaimed skeptics you do a disservice to yourself and the rest of humanity to so quickly discredit all anti-global warming related stances and or data while at the same time refusing to reserve any level of skepticism for the pro global warming group no matter how off the wall some of the ideas they are spreading are. Does anyone believe the very powerful and uber rich of the world involved in these green technologies are all really doing it out of humanitarianism? Its all about the money and when you fall the money trail you will often find the truth.

    If you have %100 bought into Global Warming after having read about what was found in the climate gate related info and still have no doubts that man is causing Global Warming, er I mean Global Cooling, no wait a sec it’s global change, yeah that’s it, Global Change (this way it works hot or cold) then I offer this one piece of advise, when they start serving the kool-aid be sure to wait it out and make sure no one else starts dropping before you take a sip of yours. You may yet be able to save your life even if you’ve already lost your soul to the Gorebal Warming.

  39. BlueCollarCritic says:

    From Michael Shermer himself, “..a “Baloney Detection Kit” — ten questions we should ask when encountering a claim.”

    If you ask these 10 questions of Global Warming which did come before Climate Gate although it was after Global Cooling, does Global Warming stand up to his own 10 Baloney questions? me thinks not.

    1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
    A) Prior to climate gate the source was an established set of professionals in the filed however after seeing the inner thoughts (via their email correspondence) one has to ask how do you measure “reliable” in this case?

    2. Does the source make similar claims?
    A) Part of the source does or did although it was cooling instead of warming and was more then a few years ago. It by the way never came to pass, that is global cooling.

    3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
    a) Yes however others, many in the same area of expertise have raised questions in opposition to.

    4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
    A) This is not so black and white. On one hand the idea of a warming trend is logical but what is not is that its caused by man or that a natural by product of man (carbon dioxide), which plants just happen to use to reproduce oxygen is somehow the key to changing this warming trend and that the best way to implement this is by making those with less (financial resources) pay more and work harder for less while those with more (financial resources and power) either make little to no change and or are recipients of what is taken from the many that have less. In other words taxing everyone more for the basic needs of life such as food and breathing will not magically make the warming trend go away. It will however continue the cycle of resource re-distribution from the many to the powerful and wealthy few.

    5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
    A) Do we even need to say yes?

    6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
    A) From a colleective few under the guise of the UN. Anyone else trying to get in on the action is labeled a denier or something worse and made to feel intimated for daring to say “but”.

    7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
    A) Thanks to climate gate we can say %100 NO.

    8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
    A) See #7above

    9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
    A) Does Global Warming account for Global Cooling which is now labeled Climate Change so as to be less subjective to name corrections in the future? Good question

    10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?
    A) I honestly ddo not belie the answer here is yes but that doesn’t mean the results aren’t still skewed and the contents of the climate gate emails and source code comments clearly shows us that Global Warming or Global Cooling or Climate Change in general has been proven to be the primary result of mans actions in the world. If anything it is more likely that our politicians are producing the bulk of the hot air entering our atmosphere.

  40. populist says:

    a big part of the climate change denier vanguard is made up of “truthers”. These are the same people who were leading the charge against getting vaccinations last month. Wanted to share this youtube presentation, its an investigation into the weird worldview of the truth movement from someone who spent lots of time among them. Worth checking out.

    • Stephanie B says:

      One of the sad trends is that professional deniers and the like are never called to order if it turns out their “revelations” are debunked. They make a claim. It’s meticulously picked apart. They make another and the public, swallows that one, too.

      If you did that in science, you’d lose your job and your reputation in a heartbeat, especially if it was discovered you truly (not allegedly) falsified data or tilted your finding for financial reasons.

      A substantial number of the global warming skeptics began their careers as smoking health issue deniers. Surely that would be enough to discount their credibilty, but, sadly, it hasn’t.

      It would if they were scientists.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        No, Stephanie, you’re wrong on that count.

        Making assertions without the benefit of the facts, doesn’t bode well:

        Science has become part of the lobbying/political chain, more and more, with each passing year.

        Here’s some interesting statements, from the head of the IPCC, bolding emphasis mine:

        “Jarraud said that most parts of most continents showed the warming trend with the exception of the United States and Canada, which were slightly cooler than in previous years. Parts of Asia, Africa, and Australia are likely to have experienced the highest temperatures on record though, he added.”

        That’s called ambiguity. It sounds strangely like opinion, speculation, very socially human, average behaviors; but not scientific.

        It is also what is called “reasonable suspicion”.

        Example: if this is “global” warming, directly attributable to anthropogenic behaviors, why isn’t the warming actually global? North America, a continent falling outside the “most” category apparently, (that would be the U.S. and Canada from the above paragraph from the IPCC Chair), again ambiguously, was “slightly cooler”.

      • Max says:

        Sounds like science to me. You really don’t know what science sounds like, do you? It’s funny, deniers attack AGW proponents for exaggerating things and being alarmist and overly confident, and here you present the exact opposite. Did you expect the guy to rattle off exact percentages and geographic coordinates off the top of his head?

        “Example: if this is “global” warming, directly attributable to anthropogenic behaviors, why isn’t the warming actually global?”

        Are you saying that anthropogenic warming has to be uniform? Do you ask the same thing about non-anthropogenic global warming? Why can’t some parts of the world heat up a lot before cooling off for a while? If a microwave oven can’t warm up my burrito uniformly, I don’t expect us to warm up the planet uniformly.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        That may actually be the dumbest thing I have ever seen posted.

        Comparing global warming variance to microwave heating?

        You can have your opinion of what “sounds” like science and what doesn’t; it is of no consequence to me, beyond the fact that I have a different standard.

        Your baseless, and typically senseless labeling, does nothing for the argument, and you make of yourself exactly what you claim of detractors to your argument. No, I don’t expect you to understand.

        I am not denying there hasn’t been a warming trend; what I question is this validity of it being primarily human attributed. The planet naturally goes through warming cycles, cooling cycles, and a myriad of other things.

        My position is that the error is in the perspective of individuals who have this unspoken assumption that there is “stability” to the global environment. Just because human perspective assumes, erroneously, that because in our experience the environment has generally been stable, means nothing.

        Look at the conditions of the planet; volcanism, glacial and interglacial periods, thermal maximums, dryus periods, tectonic shifts, etc. Then realise how science views the periods between these events; uniformly, we are geologically overdue for almost all of them.

        Another thing to consider, if you had any objectivity, is the fact that the global environment is a closed system; the enemy of any closed system is entropy ~ always. We are approaching polar reversal, by all acounts. If the current warming activity is part and parcel of the planetary life, an ice age isn’t far off either. When was the last time we had a caldera/super volcano eruption? Major asteroid event? Hell, the planetary motion is degrading, mostly due to friction caused by lunar and solar tides … wouldn’t that have an effect upon the global environmental condition?

        So while you are busy with your inane media labelings, your hubris, your rants, you pretentious self-aggrandising know it all mentality ~ I’ll continue to be skeptical until there is something beyond international political lobbyists posing as scientists who come forth with actual data, not from speculative, incomplete modeling software.

      • Max says:

        “Comparing global warming variance to microwave heating?”

        A microwave oven is designed to heat food evenly, and still can’t do it, yet you expect human activity to heat up the infinitely more complicated earth in a nice even manner without any intervals of cooling anywhere? THAT’S what’s dumb. If this is not what you implied when you asked, “if this is “global” warming, directly attributable to anthropogenic behaviors, why isn’t the warming actually global?” then what did you mean?

        You took issue with the qualification “most parts of most continents”.

        Do you ever use medicine? Every drug lists “rare side effects” and “more common” side effects. Is that too vague and unscientific for you too? If not, then I would cosider it a double standard that’s a sign of bias.

        “Your baseless, and typically senseless labeling, does nothing for the argument”

        What labeling?

      • Kitapsiz says:

        Do you ever use medicine? Every drug lists “rare side effects” and “more common” side effects. Is that too vague and unscientific for you too? If not, then I would cosider it a double standard that’s a sign of bias.

        No actually, it isn’t bias, because you have just reinforced my position.

        Because of the fact that we cannot, with absolute accuracy, account for every single gene, and it’s level of expression, and how that expression might combine with other genes and their level of expression, (i.e. science does NOT know everything about gene expression and possible combinations, too many variables), those disclaimers on medications are directly an admission of lack of knowledge. Ask any MD or geneticist, they’ll tell you they don’t know with certainty.

        As opposed to the IPCC chair making sweeping generalisations as definitive statements, as if their knowledge is complete, and it has been certified that the warming is anthropogenic.

        That’s the best example you could have picked, thank you Max.

      • Max says:

        You want to talk lobbying?

        Start with the George Marshall Institute

        A 2007 Newsweek cover story on climate change denial reported that: “In April 1998 a dozen people from the denial machine — including the Marshall Institute, Fred Singer’s group and Exxon — met at the American Petroleum Institute’s Washington headquarters. They proposed a $5 million campaign, according to a leaked eight-page memo, to convince the public that the science of global warming is riddled with controversy and uncertainty.”

        Noted skeptics Sallie Baliunas and (until his recent death) Frederick Seitz are on its Board of Directors, Patrick Michaels is a “visiting scientist” and Stephen McIntyre, Willie Soon and Ross McKitrick are “contributing writers”. Richard Lindzen served on the Institute’s Science Advisory Board. Four members of GMI’s Board of Directors have been involved with Fred Singer’s Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).

        In February 2005 GMI co-sponsored a Congressional briefing at which Senator James Inhofe praised Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear and attacked the “hockey stick graph”.

        In 2006, The Guardian reported:

        “There are clear similarities between the language used and the approaches adopted by Philip Morris and by the organisations funded by Exxon. The two lobbies use the same terms, which appear to have been invented by Philip Morris’s consultants. ‘Junk science’ meant peer-reviewed studies showing that smoking was linked to cancer and other diseases. ‘Sound science’ meant studies sponsored by the tobacco industry suggesting that the link was inconclusive. Both lobbies recognised that their best chance of avoiding regulation was to challenge the scientific consensus. As a memo from the tobacco company Brown and Williamson noted, “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

        That’s why they’re called deniers, not skeptics.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        Newsweek, Guardian, all garbage … that’s not journalistic news, it is media editorialism and smut.

        I’m not wasting my time discussing those types of lobbyist trash, they do nothing but create greater issues. Phillip Morris even went to the point of changing their corporate name to try to hide from their deceptions.

      • Max says:

        “Newsweek, Guardian, all garbage … that’s not journalistic news, it is media editorialism and smut.”

        Did you find something wrong with the parts that I quoted?

        “I’m not wasting my time discussing those types of lobbyist trash, they do nothing but create greater issues.”

        Unfortunately for us, the big name “skeptics” ARE those lobbyist trash. Stephen McIntyre’s name appears in 10% of the leaked CRU emails. And get this, “Junkman” Steven Milloy, whose corporate lobbying is described below, is currently attacking what? Corporate lobbying for cap-and-trade legislation. “These conscienceless CEOs are armed with lobbyists and are dangerous to America,” he says without a hint of irony. And by “dangerous to America”, he means “competing with my CEO and his lobbyists like me.”

        The CRU scientists are saints compared to these types of lobbyist trash.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        Did you find something wrong with the parts that I quoted?

        I thought I was clear about it: Newsweek, Guardian, not journalism, trash, shit, worthless, don’t care what they print, they don’t even qualify for “half-truths”.

        Get it now?

        The CRU scientists are saints compared to these types of lobbyist trash.

        Lobbyists are trash, uniformly. You know the CRU scientists personally? Spent time with them, have you? Know accurately their individual levels of ethics?

        There are no “saints”; if it’s human, there’s the agendas, the biases, the slant, the need for validation, etc.

        As I said before, perche non e` titoli gli uomini, ma gli uomini e` titoli.

      • Max says: is run by Steven Milloy, founder of The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), an industry-funded lobby group which promotes the idea that environmental science on issues including smoking, pesticides and global warming is “junk science”, which should be replaced by “sound science”.

        Science advisors to TASSC included Fred Singer, Fred Seitz, Bruce Ames, Michael Fumento, Michael Gough of the Cato Institute and Patrick Michaels.

        The Guardian has reported that, in 1993, Philip Morris established the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) in conjunction with the APCO public relations firm as part of a plan to combat proposed regulation of secondhand smoke: “Philip Morris, APCO said, needed to create the impression of a ‘grassroots’ movement—one that had been formed spontaneously by concerned citizens to fight ‘overregulation’. It should portray the danger of tobacco smoke as just one ‘unfounded fear’ among others, such as concerns about pesticides and cellphones.”

        THAT’S why these shills are called deniers.
        That’s also why I’m skeptical/cynical of “grassroots movements” and “independent researchers” or bloggers who don’t appear to earn a steady paycheck.

      • My points exactly. Having a sponsor who stands to profit unbelievably if we refuse to wean ourselves from oil would seriously compromise a scientist arguing his point and taint prospective papers he would like to get peer reviewed unless the data supported him.

        For deniers, they appear to be made of teflon.

        The rules are not the same and, ironically, the rules for scientists are self-inflicted for the very purpose of preventing falling in love with an idea, data or not.

      • Kitapsiz says:

        Perche non e` titoli gli uomini, ma gli uomini e` titoli.

  41. Noiqrqd says:

    Levels of CO2 rise, along with avg. global temp……

    In these so-called peer reviewed data sets which mere mortals couldn’t possibly understand, does the one “lead” the other (avg. temp vs CO2 levels) ? Or do they “follow” each other alternately ? Independent of the answer….why ?

    Where’s the mathematical formula which outlines the impact of CO2 levels in our atmosphere on global temperature ? Surely that would shut everyone up ? I’m not saying that the lack of such a formula is proof of anything though…but if there was one, then it should match the “behavior” of avg. global temp vs CO2 levels up to now. Surely ? Then all the “deniers” (I’m sure there must be a climate scientist or someone qualified enough somewhere who doesn’t agree!), can take the formula, match it against the data, and viola, no more argument.

    Saying “Look look, it’s hotter outside, and there’s a bit more CO2 in the air!” does not convince that the one caused the other. Even if you’ve been saying it for 50 years. Without the science behind it, all you have is a gut feel, even if you’re gut feel might turn out to be correct, that’s still all it is. (And yes, having all the “raw data”, and computer models, and goodness knows what else, and not having a proper mathematical answer / formula, then it’s still only a gut feel, albeit one based on a bit more than looking out the window and seeing it’s sunny while your neighbor is busy tuning his hotrod with the engine running).

    Like Bill Maher says, I’m sitting on the corner with “doubt”.

    Notice I’m not directing this at anyone. Flaming allowed but not encouraged or sought :)

    • Noiqrqd says:

      Oh, and saying “it’s much more complex than that” to the math formula question, at least to me, is tantamount to saying “I don’t know what I’m talking about” (meaning you).

      Saying we can’t explain something mathematically because it’s too complex and has too many variables, excludes us from saying we understand the very same topic to support our own presuppositions on AGW or GW or GC.

    • Max says:

      Radiative forcing (ΔF) can be used to estimate a subsequent change in equilibrium surface temperature (ΔT) arising from that radiative forcing via the equation:
      ΔT = λ ΔF
      ΔF = 5.35 ln(C/Co) W/m^2,
      where C is the CO2 concentration in parts per million by volume and C0 is the reference concentration.
      A typical value of λ is 0.8 K/(W/m2), which gives a warming of 3K for doubling of CO2.

    • CO2 as a greenhouse gas can be readily demonstrated. Kindly direct your telescopes to Venus to see it at the extreme (and I’m NOT saying that will happen here).

      The effects on light with CO2 are readily demonstrable (in lab experiments). On a global scale, in our complex environment, the situation is not so simplistic, which is one reason why there are uncertainties in the extent of the impact. However, the effects of CO2 aren’t really subject to doubt.

      That people have added appreciably to the level of CO2 is also not subject to doubt. One need only estimate the level of oil, coal and similar combustion as well as deforestation and compare that to the actual changes to demonstrate our effect (as has been repeatedly done).

      Yet, for some reason, these two well-known and readily demonstrated factors (both of which could be demonstrated in any lab) combined with observed data suddenly cause people to scream the impossiblity.

      I don’t think people contributing to CO2 is in question (it certainly shouldn’t be) or that CO2 can cause greenhouse effect (it certainly shouldn’t be). What can be brought up as potential other effects are natural sequestering mechanisms for the earth (and the side effects like oceanic acidity) and other mechanisms that might effect heating, such as particulates, and another long list. Those other features are what makes evaluating the extent of the effects challenging, but I don’t think the original mechanism is really in question.

      • Jere Krischel says:

        Venus has a higher atmospheric pressure than the earth. PV=nRT. In the venusian atmosphere where it is equivalent to 1 earth atmosphere, the temperature is not all that different than earth’s, given the closer proximity to the sun.

        Venus == runaway global warming is a very poor argument.

  42. Noiqrqd says:

    Thanks Max, appreciated !

    Another question if you feel like entertaining some more :

    What contribution on global temp. has man made developments, i.e. building of cities, suburbs and tarring of roads all over the planet, had so far ? (I’m talking physical structures, not CO2 emissions).

    On a hot summer’s day I’d rather stand bare feet on a patch of grass, as opposed to a patch of tarmac. In the evening that same piece of tarmac is radiating all the heat it stored during the day, whereas the patch of grass has long since cooled. (Wonder how many gazillions of miles of tarmac we have all over the world today, compared to 1940).

    No impact ? Negligible ?

  43. Celestial Teapot says:

    The only thing I see wrong with this article is that it is too accommodating to the people that illegally obtained these emails. From a scientific standpoint there is no need for an investigation of anything. There is no proof of anything, only innuendo. The only investigation that should be taking place is the criminal investigation of the people who hacked in to the university servers.

    If an IDer were to post a quote such as this:

    “Paleontologists cannot operate this way. There is simply no way simply to look at a fossil and say how old it is unless you know the age of the rocks it comes from. And this poses something of a problem: if we date the rocks by their fossils, how can we then turn around and talk about the patterns of evolutionary time in the fossil record?” -Niles Eldredge

    would we all call for a thorough investigation of evolution as a possible fraud? Of course not. It is an out of context quote mine and that is all these choice selections from the emails are.

    • Will says:

      Actually that quote is talking about a problem not all that related to the theory of evolution. You can not date rocks from fossils and then use that as a basis to determine which species evolved into another based on their order of existance. Not being in paleo I only know from the occasional talk I have heard but I believe they use radioactive marker beds and superposition to establish relative dates that they use for dating.

      Even if it was, it is pretty common for well established theories to be re-tested, as evolution has been. You come up with a new method to test something then re-testing a well established theory is a safe paper to go to work on, if your not at least in grad school yet you may not realize how important publishing is to your career. You have a very good idea how the theory your testing works so you can make a hypothesis that will be easy to test without a great deal of time being needed to examine your data. Look at plate tectonics, it was accepted before GPS and inSAR. Field observations, geophysical observations, and VLBI work had been done prior to the existance of those technologies and at least in the USA and Europe it was the academically dominant theory for decades. That did not stop people from re-testing it once new technologies that could test it came out. It may sound boring to re-test but most research is not all that thrilling and it is probably for the best that we re-test as if you do find that your new method does not fit what is expect then you may have found something not only important but also interesting.

  44. Jim Lippard says:

    Tim says that Michael Mann made the Medieval Warming Period disappear. It’s actually discussed in every IPCC report, most recently in IPCC AR4 WG-1 Ch. 6, pp. 468-469. There was regional warming in that period, most notably in parts of the northern hemisphere but not clear that there was *global* warming in that period.

    Tim says that the earth has been cooling since 1998. That’s not quite accurate–global temperatures have been relatively flat since then, and 1998 was an El Nino year. The current decade is the warmest decade on record, and 2009 is on track to be the 6th warmest year on record.

    BlueCollar Critic says there were previously claims of imminent global cooling. While there were a few studies with such conclusions in the 1970s, there was never a consensus and there were in fact more studies arguing for warming during that time.

    An excellent resource for comparing the reputations and publication records of climate scientists is:

    • Jim Lippard says:

      Correction: 2009 is on track to be the *5th* warmest year on record, not the 6th.

    • Max says:

      El Nino makes the whole planet warmer? Where does the energy come from?

      • Jim Lippard says:

        ENSO results in increased average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, and increased average surface temperatures in N. and S. America. The energy comes from the ocean (and ultimately from the sun).

        “El Nino clearly influences globally averaged temperatures which go up a few tenths of a degree C a few months following the peak warming in the tropical Pacific. This is because the tropical Pacific loses large amounts of heat to the overlying atmosphere during El Niño. So some of the extreme warming observed in global temperatures in 1997-98 can be traced back to the occurrence of El Nino in the tropical Pacific.”

  45. Jim Lippard says:


    I wrote a paper in a climate change class this semester on who the climate change skeptics are. The SEPP, the SPPI, the GMI, the Heartland Institute, Cato Institute, Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and so forth. There’s a huge amount of overlap between groups and a lot of lists of “experts” with no credentials or relevant expertise, along with a few people with genuine expertise who are supporting organizations that make more extreme claims than they themselves do (e.g., “there’s no global warming,” which I don’t think any climate change skeptic with relevant expertise says).

    A lot of these organizations and people promote other sorts of crackpottery. Roy Spencer, who has legitimate climate science expertise and a science advisor for GMI, is also a creationist. OISM’s “faculty” includes Jane Orient of AAPS, whose journal published the Robinson, Robinson, and Soon paper that was circulated with the Oregon Petition. AAPS’s general counsel is Andy Schlafly of Conservapedia, and their journal publishes articles that say things like vaccination causes autism, HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, homosexuality causes crime, and evolution is false, along with their global warming denial. The founder and chairman of SPPI argues that cell phones cause cancer and other illnesses. Fred Singer of SEPP says we shouldn’t have banned DDT or CFCs, and second-hand smoke doesn’t cause cancer.

    If you’re going to back this crowd, you should look into what they’re all about.

  46. Max says:

    The Associated Press didn’t find corruption or fraud after having five reporters read all the emails and getting feedback from experts in research ethics, climate science and science policy.

  47. Goodbye organized skepticism. I’ll be back when you learn to separate political belief from science, and when a liberal political affiliation is no longer a litmus test for admission.

    Devil’s Advocate

    • tmac57 says:

      I think that it is fair to say that both sides of this issue have politicized it. Read some of Tim’s comments. I agree with you, that the science should drive the debate.

  48. Jim Gentry says:

    In my field (forensic science) if anyone got caught emailing about deleting data and avoiding FOI requests like Phil did they would be taking the “administrative leave” but quickly. Not only that, but every case they every worked on would be opened up for extreme scrutiny. Its time to face the facts, Phil and gang were caught being extremely unscientific. Regardless AGW, Phil violated a basic tenant of science, replicability, out of shear ego. Hardly actions a respectable scientist should want to defend or shrug off as irrelevant.

    • Max says:

      Looks like the AGW deniers were already charging the CRU with destroying data in October before the emails were leaked.
      Phil Jones and LLNL’s Ben Santer already responded to the charges.

      Ben Santer:

      As I see it, there are two key issues here.

      First, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Pat Michaels are arguing that Phil Jones and colleagues at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (CRU) willfully, intentionally, and suspiciously “destroyed” some of the raw surface temperature data used in the construction of the gridded surface temperature datasets.

      Second, the CEI and Pat Michaels contend that the CRU surface temperature datasets provided the sole basis for IPCC “discernible human influence” conclusions.

      Both of these arguments are incorrect…

      Phil Jones:

      Almost all the data we have in the CRU archive is exactly the same as in the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) archive used by the NOAA National Climatic Data Center [see here and here].

      The original raw data are not “lost.” I could reconstruct what we had from U.S. Department of Energy reports we published in the mid-1980s. I would start with the GHCN data. I know that the effort would be a complete waste of time, though. I may get around to it some time. The documentation of what we’ve done is all in the literature.

  49. Jim Lippard says:

    Jim: Phil Jones did step down pending independent review of the case:

    • Max says:

      The deniers only consider their own organizations, described above, to be independent, and the rest to be in on the conspiracy. Let’s just have ExxonMobil review the case.

  50. Jim Lippard says:

    New Scientist on “Deniergate”–some of the many scandals of climate change skeptics:

    On #3, the stated outcome must be sarcastic; compare:

    On #4, they could have pointed to this detailed critique of Monckton’s paper:

    Devil’s Advocate: Who’s arguing for a liberal political litmus test for skepticism?

  51. Truth-is-Fact says:

    ClimateGate certainly revealed a “fiasco,” the biggest scientific scandal of our generation.

    The truth shall set you free!

  52. Janus Daniels says:

    STEVEN NOVELLA, Dec 07 2009
    “… For global warming dissidents I recommend that you put your rhetoric in check. The witch-hunt frenzy so far in evidence cannot possibly serve you well…”
    Your naïveté is charming.
    Kudos to “Truth-is-Fact” for citing!) as a credible source.

  53. GoneWithTheWind says:

    I think most people are confusing to different issues: Global warming vs AGW. This is the 33rd global warming since the last ice age. It is much milder then the 32nd was in the 11-12th century. It will be followed by the 33rd global cooling and I sincerely hope the next global cooling is not as harmful as the last one was. We can’t cause them and we can’t prevent them. Many of those on the AGW side prefer to argue that the deniers don’t believe in global warming because it is a much easier thing to prove them wrong. Most “deniers” get caught up in believing that when they say “global warming is not real” that we understand they are using a shorthand statement when they really mean AGW is not true. The confusion works to keep both sides from discussing what is real. Global warming is real! AGW is a theory which is only still popular because it can be used to extract trillions of dollars with the help of complicit politicians. For the less then honest scientist it is a win-win. They benefit from keeping the question alive and any “proof” either way translates into more grants and more study. The only thing that will put the AGW controversy to bed will be the coming global cooling. When? Who knows, it could be next year, next decade, next century. But in the meantime your taxes will increase and the loot will be transferred to the AGW pimps.

  54. Linda Rosa says:

    Re: Kevin Trenberth…

    I am writing the below opinions on behalf of Advocates for Children in Therapy, a not-for-profit organization that opposes unvalidated and abusive psychotherapy.

    There is something that concerns us greatly about Kevin Trenberth, a major figure in global climate research. We aren’t convinced he is really a scientist.

    Dr. Trenberth and his wife Gail have long been known as leading family in promoting a highly abusive and pseudoscientific psychotherapy used on adopted children. Gail Trenberth is co-founder of the national organization: Attachment Disorder Network (currently called Attachment & Trauma Network). This organization promotes the most brutal forms of Attachment Therapy. Some refer to proponents as a “therapy cult.”

    For over 40 years, “Attachment Therapy” has been linked to criminal cases involving children being starved, caged, isolated, and even killed. It is not hyperbole to say that Attachment Therapy (aka Rage Reduction, Holding Therapy, Compression Therapy, Rebirthing, Nancy Thomas parenting, etc.) is torture. (We are applying the definition of torture used in the UN Convention on Torture.)

    We recently approached Dr. Trenberth, thinking that recent developments might cause him to reconsider Attachment Therapy. We pointed out that in the last 40 years there has been no valid research on Attachment Therapy and that in 2006 the American Psychological Association and APSAC condemned the practice as abusive and “inappropriate for all children.” Alas, Dr. Trenberth continued to staunchly defend Attachment Therapy as “effective.” He wrote:

    “Well a key part of science is empirical experimentation and some of this works, whether you like it or not.”

    Oh dear. Wrong answer, Dr. Trenberth.

    Dr. Trenberth apparently considers subjecting children willy-nilly to Attachment Therapists is “empirical experimentation.” He certainly would be hard pressed to name any published studies on Attachment Therapy. His other comments revealed to me that he accepts Attachment Therapy’s unique beliefs about child development, as well.

    Here is a clip of the type of “therapy” that Dr. Trenberth thinks is “effective” in creating a loving attachment between parent and child, or as he puts it, “breaking through defenses” to attachment:

    We believe we are on firm ground when we assert that Dr. Trenberth is not in the habit of thinking like a scientist, and especially not when it comes to the welfare of defenseless children.

    It is our opinion that Dr. Trenberth’s continued defense of quackery puts all of his scientific endeavors into question.

    We believe that Dr. Trenberth’s continued promotion of Attachment Therapy is unfortunate behavior for a scientist and because of this, his studies merit especially close scrutiny. Global warming is a serious issue and we need reliable data to act responsibly. It’s not something about which we would automatically be comfortable trusting to Dr. Trenberth.