Friday, December 11, 2009

The Devil is in the Details

The response offered from the alarmists is largely an effort at slight of hand. It is wholly inadequate in addressing the heart of the problems that the Hadley CRU documents have raised.

Most scientific debate remains in the field of science, and as such is best left there. But the alarmists entered the political sphere with an idea, and the idea they presented was a whopper: the things we do to make our lives easier are causing the destruction of the planet.

With this theory as the justification, a tremendous amount of political activity has both been proposed and enacted, resulting in massive taxation, wealth transfers from first world nations to third world nations and massive governmental regulation of the world economy.

As the alarmists are the ones proposing actions to be taken, it is the alarmists that carry the burden of proof. Failure of the alarmists to prove their claims is more than enough reason to refuse to take the actions and bear the inherent costs they recommend. The skeptics are not obligated to prove anything.

Up until the Hadley CRU document release we were obliged to accept the claims of the alarmists on faith. Multiple efforts to examine their data were rebuffed. This is poor practice for science in general, criminally poor practice when the recommendations have such wide impact on every person on the face of the earth. The details released with the document dump have provided far greater transparency, and have lifted the veil that concealed the truth.

Our very own Wakefield Tolbert (the Devil's Advocate as it were) has proposed a smoke screen of a defense to the shattered AGW argument. Let us address the major attempts at rebuttal presented in his post:

First, there is a notion advanced that if global warming is not shown to be an elaborate conspiracy then the skeptics have failed, as articulated by Mr. Johnson at LGF:

"Despite efforts by the climate change denial industry to promote this as the definitive proof that global warming is a “hoax” by evil scientists trying to get rich and dominate the world, the fact is that there is nothing in the emails that even comes close to this exaggerated, hysterical claim."

Get a hold of yourself, Mr. Johnson. No one is making this exaggerated, hysterical claim. The skeptics merely question the alarmists interpretation of the data. If there is no clear evidence to support the alarmists view then they can ponder the future all they like, but no cause for action will exist. This strawman notion of a global conspiracy is without merit.

Next up is the denial that the CRU destroyed the raw data by which their projections were made. What was destroyed was the raw data records that the "adjusted" climate models were based on. Yes, one can go back to the original records from the stations, but why would one have to do so? This was the essential data that the CRU folks were using to justify their claims. Why would anyone throw the raw data away? The excuse offered, that they were moving between buildings and discovered they lacked the storage, is ridiculous for a number of reasons as discussed here. Far more likely, the team at Hadley did not want anyone seeing how the temperature adjustments had been accomplished.

Willis Eschenbach looked at just the set from Darwin Station Zero, as we see in this post. After reviewing the raw data he is struck by the fact that there is no good reason the data had to be "adjusted". Worse, the adjustments made changed a well established downward trend to a highly unsupportable upward trend.

"What on earth justifies that adjustment? How can they do that? We have five different records covering Darwin from 1941 on. They all agree almost exactly. Why adjust them at all? They’ve just added a huge artificial totally imaginary trend to the last half of the raw data! Now it looks like the IPCC diagram in Figure 1, all right … but a six degree per century trend? And in the shape of a regular stepped pyramid climbing to heaven? What’s up with that?

Those, dear friends, are the clumsy fingerprints of someone messing with the data Egyptian style … they are indisputable evidence that the “homogenized” data has been changed to fit someone’s preconceptions about whether the earth is warming."

Egyptian style, so says Mr. Eschenbach, due to the markedly unnatural step-like changes the "adjustments" made in the graphical representations.

The efforts to paint the skeptics as hired hands, bought and paid for by industry leaders is laughable. A money stream may trickle toward the skeptics, but utterly cascades down upon the alarmists, via the unholy alliance that exists between the AGW scientific research community and the government programs and grants that fund them. The disproportion of money spent studying climate science is illustrated in an article titled Climate Money by Joanne Nova from July 21, 2009.

"In total, over the last 20 years, by the end of fiscal year 2009, the US government will have poured in $32 billion for climate research—and another $36 billion for development of climate-related technologies."

That's a pretty hefty investment. How likely is it that research dollars will be granted to projects that would undermine the "science" of global warming? And against those many billions, how great has been Exxon's investment into skeptical points of view? 23 million - or 0.03% of what is spent on researching and developing technologies to combat "anthropogenic global warming".

Perhaps the most damning evidence for the Devil's attempted defense has to do with the examination of Professor Jones and his use of a trick to manipulate Keith Briffa's tree ring data to match the IPCC story line of a thousand year history of rising temperatures. The innocent explanation that the word "trick" was a commonly used expression for a solution to a technical problem does not wash. The entire e-mail file was searched, over 1,000 e-mails. The word 'trick' only came up eight times, and only once in reference to managing data, as shown here. A critical look at what the practical significance of the helpful trick Dr. Jones employed can be seen with Steve McIntyre's excellent technical article here. The obvious explanation for the meaning of the word is correct - Dr. Jones was removing the tree ring data and replacing it with temperature data after 1960 to hide the declining numbers. The key point: you cannot falsley increase the confidence of a measurement by masking it's breakdowns. To do so is to fraudulently present the information.

Back to the Devil:
"As to the other condemnations of faux outrage (this time, morals of the methodology and "suppressing" dissenting papers):

'Some of the leaked emails reveal the climate researchers' unhappiness with the publication of certain scientific papers questioning the global warming consensus, and discuss removing journal editors they perceived as being sympathetic to global warming sceptics. This sounds horrifying to some non-scientists. But many are confusing two very different things: attempting to block publication in certain scientific journals and the suppression of information.'"

First of all, let me assure you, the outrage is real.

As to this ridiculous explanation, the efforts on the part of the alarmists were to control the debate, limit access to the information and control the peer review process. Ordinarily, scientific theories are subjected to rigorous debate. It is a necessary part of the process at arriving at the best view of the facts. It is how we go about discovering truth and advancing our knowledge. The global warming community attempted to avoid this process and arrive at a consensus. Science is not about consensus. Politics is about consensus. The alarmists advanced an ideologically based political argument. This is highly objectionable behavior, and was as blatant as anything you will see.

Next in the line of defense comes a disparagement of the claim that the present climate may not necessarily be the "ideal" climate.
"Said one commenter to the NS article, in response to the glib notion that some Denialists posted that at least we'll have lots of CO2 "plant food" in reserve to help with crops, etc

Like many of the arguments made by global warming deniers, this is simplistic. Plants will consume more food--up to a point--then, like an over-fed goldfish's bowl, they'll die.

Utter nonsense. Plant life adapts to the climate it exists in. Why do cabbages grow so large in Alaska? The summertime day is longer, so more sunlight is available for the plant to grow. Likewise, carbon dioxide is the basic component of photosynthesis, upon which nearly all life on the planet depends. It makes up only 0.038% of the atmosphere. Increasing CO2 levels will not poison the air for plant life. It is a preposterous notion. Furthermore plant life and CO2 cannot be compared to the feeding of goldfish. Excess food given to goldfish will be consumed by other organisms, that much is true, but what other entity will consume 'excess' CO2 and choke out plant life? Really, to even advance such an argument is to display utter contempt for your audience. It will not due.

As to the Freedom of Information Requests:
In some emails, Jones discusses ways not to fulfil requests made under the UK's freedom of information laws. In one, he calls on other researchers to delete certain emails. While on the face of it this does not look good, whether any researchers broke any laws or breached any university guidelines remains to be determined.

The bar is not whether or not the state will be able to convict Dr. Jones. The bar is has an attempt been made to deny the public access to the information which is being used to change the world's economy. As such Dr. Jones has the following to say regarding his stated reasons that the Freedom of Information requests were denied:

In email 1106338806.txt, Jan 21, 2005 Professor Phil Jones states that he will be using IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) to shelter the data from Freedom of Information requests.

In email 1219239172.txt, on August 20th 2008, Prof. Jones says “The FOI line we’re all using is this. IPCC is exempt from any countries FOI – the skeptics have been told this. Even though we (MOHC, CRU/UEA) possibly hold relevant info the IPCC is not part our remit (mission statement, aims etc) therefore we don’t have an obligation to pass it on.”

Clearly he is looking for means by which he can avoid scrutiny. This is unacceptable and by itself is reason to forego any further discussion of cap and trade and limiting CO2 emissions until the whole matter can be openly studied and subjected to proper inquiry.

"But the pressures climate researchers are under does help to explain why many are so reluctant to make all data public."



  1. Thanks for posting this, Nick, and the cross-reference. I'll be very busy this week but somehow will congeal all of this later on and will be making some follow up posts, as you've also added (here and elsewhere) some interesting tidbits on the money side and politics of all this, not to mention both of our understanding on the ideology of AGW.

    Also, glad I got that blasted formatting to finally work without too much balking.

    Tis the Season for miracles, though.

  2. OK Nick. The Devil was drawn to the spot on the floor where you drew a Pentagram and sprinkled goat's blood and said "I summon Thee"....(LOL).

    I posted this over at ChicagoBoyz just to see what they're made of. You, no doubt, will enjoy as well:

    "OK. Let’s forget about the ideological angles of all this, the conspiracy theories, and scare stories about having to nix more people than Stalin in order to rightsize what we’ve done to the climate and assume this will be just some Laodiciean hellfire at most, with little more than lost ski slopes and drowned polar bears and species lost elsewhere (all of the above already happening.)

    What about visual confirmation?

    Does that count for nothing?

    We have polar ice caps melting, and the fact that the poles are warming faster than temperate regions is EXACTLY what AGW theory set forth in a well-known prinicple of geophysics: colder bodies warm much faster than bodies relatively warmer to start. This fits why we can OBSERVE–human-emotion emails and faux codes or not, what we have about Arctic ice meling, and why people remark that little has changed in climate in the regions where most of us live–the temperate zones.

    In fact, at this point the “theory” angle of this is purely academic.

    (Thus for example I’m quite sure the residents of Hiroshima would laugh at the notion that theories about mass to energy conversion are not fully tested, even if the term STILL technically applies to radiation. Yep–it’s a “theory” in technical terms.)

    A friend of mine had the following précis on all the foregoing, and it might be worth a gander:

    CLAIM: Scientists had private doubts about whether the world really is heating up.

    TRUTH: Combing through over a decade of personal correspondence, which is then taken out of context can seem to prove just about anything.

    Skeptics have been pointing to one email from Kevin Trenberth, in which he said,

    “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” However, this is clear example of cherrypicking quotes. Trenberth was referring to that there was an “incomplete explanation” of the short-term variability of temperatures, but concludes that “global warming is unequivocally happening.”

  3. ___________________________

    CLAIM: These scientists worked to suppress evidence and deleted emails.

    TRUTH: Thousands of emails from over 13 years were stolen, and edited, and have been taken out of context for those with a political agenda.

    As blogger Jeff Masters writes,
    “Even if every bit of mud slung at these scientists were true, the body of scientific work supporting the theory of human-caused climate change which spans hundreds of thousands of scientific papers written by tens of thousands of scientists in dozens of different scientific disciplines; is too vast to be budged by the flaws in the works of the three or four scientists being subject to the fiercest attacks.”

    As climate czar Carol Brower says, “I’m sticking with the 2,500 scientists [of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.] These people have been studying this issue for a very long time and agree this problem is real.”

    CLAIM: Scientists have been working to remove skeptical peers from the climate discussion.

    TRUTH: Organization politics, disagreement and strife are hardly foreign ideas in university, research and scientific communities.

    As the blog run by climate scientists Real Climate writes, “Since emails are normally intended to be private, people writing them are, shall we say, somewhat freer in expressing themselves than they would in a public statement.” Again, this does not remotely prove any sort of cover-up, and the critiques of these papers were made and debated by scientists PUBLICLY, but perhaps less bluntly than they were stated in the emails. (Here’s what the “infamous” line about keeping people out and peer review was ACTUALLY about.)

    CLAIM: These emails are the final nail in the coffin for the idea that humans cause global warming.

    TRUTH: If the denier’s wildest claims were true that are bantered around throughout the Internet, wouldn’t nearly 15 years of emails ACTUALLY SHOW some of these insipid rumors to be true?

    More from Real Climate: “More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords.

    The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.”

    CLAIM: This reignites the debate about if global warming is real.

    TRUTH: There is strong consensus in scientific community that global warming is real and is caused by humans. The top scientists in the world have just released a new report on the realities of global warming.

    Kevin Grandia summarizes some of the key points about emissions, melting ice sheets, and rising sea levels. The emails don’t change any of this reality.

    CLAIM: Scientists have manipulated data.

    TRUTH: Skeptics have been pointing to an email from scientist Phil Jones where he said he used a “trick” with his data. As climate expert Bob Ward writes, “Scientists say ‘trick’ not just to mean deception. They mean it as a clever way of doing something — a short cut can be a trick.” RealClimate also explained that “the ‘trick’ is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term ‘trick’ to refer to … ‘a good way to deal with a problem’, rather than something that is ’secret’, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all.”

  4. I looked briefly over at Chicagoboyz but couldn't find your comment or posting.

    Nevertheless, the document dump from Hadley CRU was a thermonuclear blast over the heads of the proponents of anthropegenic global warming. What initially appeared to be troubling, on further review turned out to completely and utterly devastating to their efforts to position themselves as above the fray and to place the question of AGW as a matter of settled science (as if there was such a thing).

    Steve McIntyre's dissection of the 'trick' and the efforts to 'hide the decline' could not be any more clear. What was practised by Jones, Mann and Briffa was not science, it was politics disguised as science, and the fraud they were perpetrating should result in prosecutions and long, long periods of incarceration. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle, and all the efforts at spin and damage control do little but undermine the credibility of the defenders of the AGW cabal.


    Should still be located at the above.

  6. It's clear you've gotten a hold of some juicier info than I have. Damn it, Nick.

    Good come back on the CO2 thing as well, though that was addressed in the recent Skeptical Inquirer post. Though, the claim was that with rising temps plants cannot assimilate CO2 as well.

    Ah well. More to come. The AGW crowd is utterly apoplectic.

  7. PS--good play on words with Devil. Love it.

    Classic moments are rare.

  8. Wakes, you are a frickin' warrior on this AGW stuff. I knew once you got the parts from Peoria it would be tough to stop the Wake from drilling down for a core sample.