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Penn State researcher and his CRU/IPCC colleague treated AGW like a religious "cause" despite warnings from peers

Anthropogenic global warming is a fascinating hypothesis that mankind may be able to systematically increase the Earth's temperature in the long term by burning deposits of hydrocarbon fuels.  But the key thing to note is that despite the intriguing premise, little definitive information has been determined in this field even as politicization runs rife.  In fact, researchers are still struggling to explain why warming has stalled in the last decade even as levels of carbon dioxide -- supposedly the most important greenhouse gas have rose.

I. Climatologists "Pull an Enron", Shred the Evidence

The recent University of California, Berkley "BEST" study -- perhaps the most comprehensive climate change investigation to date -- was blasted by AGW proponents.  They were upset that the study -- funded in part by the charity of a major oil entrepreneur -- highlighted the fact that temperatures had flat lined over the past decade, and were more upset still that the study suggested that other factors like sea currents could have driven the warming that occurred in the 1960s-1990s.

But newly reportedly leaked emails reveal that accusations of bias are perhaps a bit of projection.  The new emails include discussions that sound as shocking or more so as the infamous "Climategate" emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU).

The new emails revisit embattled climate researcher-cum-AGW evangelist Phil Jones, a scientist working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In one email Professor Jones explains to researchers how to best hide their work to prevent anyone from being able to replicate it and find errors:

I've been told that IPCC is above national FOI [Freedom of Information] Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process.  Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get – and has to be well hidden.  I've discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.

Of course Phil Jones and his supporters will likely claim that the emails were taken out of context of some larger more appropriate discussion.  But as a researcher it's pretty damning to make comments that even would seem to imply that you were engaging in trying to suppress peer review of questionable data -- academic fraud.

Particularly trouble is the phrase "cover yourself", which suggest a conspiratorial, political undertone to what is supposed to be a transparent field of research.

The emails contain outright requests for the destruction of professional communications regarding research in an effort to cover up public scrutiny of public flaws.  The leaks add yet another humiliating scandal to Pennsylvania State University as they implicate prominent Penn State climatologist Michael Mann even more directly than the last release.  

Writes the Professor Jones to Professor Mann:

Mike, can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith [Briffa] re AR4 [UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment]?  Keith will do likewise. … We will be getting Caspar [Ammann] to do likewise. I see that CA [the Climate Audit Web site] claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!

Michael Mann and Phil Jones
Michael Mann (left) and Phil Jones (right) appear to share tips on how to best destroy damaging climate evidence. [Image Sources: (left) PSU (right) Chris Bourchier / Rex Features]

Some professors and experts even tried to reach out to Professor Mann, warning him of the danger of turning science into religion by purposefully ignoring evidence.  Peter Thorne of the UK Met Office writes:

Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary.  I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.

Even Tom Wigley, a scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research who was implicated in the first CRU email scandal for suggesting the removal of an editor who allowed peer-reviewed skeptical studies to be published, seemed to agree on this extreme instance:

Mike, The Figure you sent is very deceptive … there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC.

The IPCC did eventually change the draft somewhat -- perhaps due to this feedback -- but critics say it still did far too much cherry picking of its sources.

II. Forget Science: You're Either For the Cause, Or You're Against It

In a later email, Professor Mann implies AGW advocacy is a political/pseudo-religious "cause" and that those who question it on scientific merits are enemies of the "cause".  He writes, "I gave up on [Georgia Institute of Technology climate professor] Judith Curry a while ago. I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing, but its not helping the cause."

Ironically, Professor Curry appears to be the only one behaving like a true scientist.  The emails neglect the forgotten truth that the distinguished Georgia Institute of Technology began as a believed in man-made global warming, publishing a notable 2005 study published in the prestigious Science journal investigating the potential correlation between hurricanes and man-made temperature increases.

The study earned scathing criticism from warming skeptics, but rather than treat her work as religious dogma, she carefully considered the criticism.  Supported by her co-author, she personally met with some prominent critics and considered their claims.  After all, she recalls in a Scientific American interview, "We were generally aware of these problems when we wrote the paper, but the critics argued that these issues were much more significant than we had acknowledged."

Soon she began to blog for AGW a skeptical blog run by Roger Pielke, Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, and Climate Audit, run by statistician Steve McIntyre.  She began blogging hoping to convince skeptics of the merits of AGW theory via an open discussion.  But in time she found herself increasingly troubled by the lack of transparency and conclusive evidence on such an important topic.  She singles out the IPCC as a particularly guilty party, accusing it of outright "corruption."

Given the released emails it's hard to argue with that assessment.  Writes Jonathan Overpeck, lead coordinating author of the IPCC's most recent climate assessment:

The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guid[e] what’s included and what is left out.

Aside from destroying evidence and ostracizing colleagues, the emails also reveal another sign of dogma and the antithesis of science -- ignorance.  In one email Phil Jones admits he has no idea how to perform the basic statistical analysis that forms the basis of one of his past claims, writing:

I keep on seeing people saying this same stupid thing. I'm not adept enough (totally inept) with excel to do this now as no-one who knows how to is here.
What you have to do is to take the numbers in column C (the years) and then those in D (the anomalies for each year), plot them and then work out the linear trend. The slope is upwards. I had someone do this in early 2006, and the trend was upwards then. It will be now. Trend won't be statistically significant, but the trend is up.

III. When in Doubt, Deny

Already AGW advocates are jumping to the defense of the researchers implicated in the scandal.  Writes Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard:

Rather than smearing scientists, reporters might want to try some actual reporting.

The new round of hacked emails from climate scientists floating around the internet hasn't generated the same buzz as the last iteration—at least not yet. But in certain circles, it's playing out much like the first batch of emails did in 2009. In addition to the tranche of emails, the poster included a list of "greatest hits"—short quotes from the emails taken out of their context that are intended to paint scientists as scheming or lying. The entire batch was quickly posted in searchable format on another site.

But such critical reports have thus far failed to actually provide virtually any such contextual explanations, despite their suggestion that they must exist.  Further, the critics of the email publication are ignoring the fact that there are certain types of things that researchers should know to never say -- such as making comments that even sound like suggesting the destruction of academic evidence.

The reports also ignore the fact that while it's easy to accuse the media, the oil industry, et al. for a mass conspiracy to silence anthropogenic global warming advocates, there's just as compelling a cause for AGW proponents to conspire to silence their critics in a dogmatic, non-scientific fashion.

Such an approach not only guarantees researchers lucrative research grants, it guarantees their political allies potential billions of dollars in windfalls in "carbon credits" and other AGW-inspired wealth redistribution schemes.  Al Gore in particular has made close to a billion dollars based on his evangelizing AGW in lectures, film; via carbon credit investments; and by pushing the government to funnel money to his high-risk "green energy" investments in the name of fighting AGW. 

Al Gore
AGW political proponents like Al Gore stand to make billions more if they can convince world governments to fully enact their wealth redistribution schemes under the auspice of "fighting warming". [Image Source: Associated Press]

You can download a torrent of the emails here.

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RE: Please stop!
By michael67 on 11/26/2011 4:03:02 AM , Rating: -1

RE: Please stop!
By Dorkyman on 11/26/2011 10:01:29 AM , Rating: 5
So four of you people have the AGW "religion." Fine.

But please don't let your faith stand in the way of healthy skepticism. Science is nothing if not a constant testing and retesting of hypotheses. That a number of AGW churchmen were discussing ways to hide their tracks is or should be big news. If it's not to you, perhaps you should reflect on what that tells you about YOUR belief system.

RE: Please stop!
By eskimospy on 11/26/11, Rating: -1
RE: Please stop!
By freshmint on 11/26/11, Rating: -1
RE: Please stop!
By ekv on 11/26/2011 3:27:54 PM , Rating: 5
I've been on the receiving end of the "tabloid journalism", and on the giving side (as it were). It is quite uncomfortable on the receiving side, like you feel now.

I am not w/o sympathy. Believe me. But then, when it rains, it rains on good people and bad. I've noticed some improvement in Jason's articles. He's much more specific [links are almost always included for actual scientific results]. Sure, you get the sensational title, but that's just the standard hook. All journalists do that to get you to read the article (and for the on-line case, generate ad rev). Can you ask for more from Jason? Are you really suggesting the guy lose his job (in this economy)? If he were grossly negligent, ok, but I don't see that. Even if I agree with you in general, generalizations don't really help here.

In addition, AGW is particularly surrounded by hyperbole. [Another poster used the term "AGW churchmen" lol, great term]. From my perspective, the data just isn't there to support the theory. The theory further suffers in light of this articles revelations (about AGW proponents). If the hype were not there, then the chances of rationally and calmly evaluating the data would be exponentially greater and the theory could be legitimately tested.

My two bits.

RE: Please stop!
By JNo on 11/27/2011 7:17:46 AM , Rating: 2

This Jason Mick bullsh*t propaganda machine is ridiculous. I'm not saying that global warming is real or not or that it isn't sad if AGW proponents have been proselytising instead of researching objectively.

However, carefully selecting articles to portray an anti-climate change argument because that's what you believe in is pathetic. If you feel that justifies your lack of interest in doing anything about it then you'd be better off channelling your efforts into being more energy efficient *just in case* AGW is correct. Improved efficiency is beneficial regardless of AGW being true or not at any rate.

RE: Please stop!
By ekv on 11/27/2011 7:42:13 PM , Rating: 2
This Jason Mick bullsh*t propaganda machine is ridiculous.
How so? specifics please.
However, carefully selecting articles to portray an anti-climate change argument because that's what you believe in is pathetic.
Am I missing something? What you say here sounds kind of like, "a criminal defense lawyer carefully selecting cases based on the type of crime, because that's what he believes in is pathetic." Why would you NOT argue something you believe in? I say it is pathetic not to argue something you believe in, you'd just be lying to yourself.
Improved efficiency is beneficial regardless of AGW being true or not at any rate.
I don't see anything in Jason's article that says otherwise. In fact, doesn't Jason cover Ford's MyTouch and EcoBoost? For me, a Ford Fusion would be a step up as far as efficiency is concerned, but there are other bills that take priority at the moment. Not to mention the "new and improved" April 15th tax bill looming around the corner.

RE: Please stop!
By TakinYourPoints on 11/27/2011 4:52:49 PM , Rating: 2
It's barely tabloid journalism

It wouldn't be DT if this wasn't the case

RE: Please stop!
By IvanAndreevich on 11/27/11, Rating: 0
RE: Please stop!
By Tony Swash on 11/27/2011 10:47:58 AM , Rating: 3
Healthy skepticism against the theory of gravity, and the theory of evolution too? Please..

A comparison like that only works as long as one can argue that the body of theory on how the global climate works is as well founded, as well established and essentially as strong as the theoretical underpinning of the theory of gravity and evolution. I believe one cannot make that comparison because the theory of global climate is so much more incomplete and basically shaky, the science is simply far less developed. One way to illustrate this is to simply list a series of basic climate phenomena about which, amongst climate scientists, there is absolutely no commonly agreed explanation, for example:

What caused the recent flat lining in global temperature from 1998 until 2011?

What caused the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period?

What was the mechanism and connection which seemed to have linked the disappearance of sun spots during the Maunder Minimum to the Little Ice Age?

What caused the period known as the climatic optimum, which which ran from roughly 9000 to 5000 years ago during which time average temperature seems to have been a couple degrees hotter than now?

What caused the Younger Dryas period of sharp cooling between 12,800 and 11,500 years before present which interrupted the climb out of the last ice age?

What caused the last ice age to end when it did?

When will the next ice age start?

What caused the period know as the Snowball Earth some time earlier than 650 million years ago when ice sheets seemed to have extended to the tropics?

One could go and on with such a list.

It's not that there are no hypotheses and theories about all these things, its that there are no agreed theories, or even theoretical frameworks, which the world's leading climate experts would all accept to explain these phenomena. Not even close. And when you have a science where there are no agreed theories about even the most significant and fundamental phenomena being studied then that says to me the science is not very well developed. That's it's early days in climate science. That's it like what physics was like in say 1850.

RE: Please stop!
By sdoherty74 on 12/2/2011 12:08:36 PM , Rating: 2
The problem that you global warming zealots have is condescension and arrogance. To declare the "debate over" and "the science settled" is to disparage science--which history has taught us is NEVER over and to insult our intelligence with your "absolutist" pap! Combined, they engender skepticism and doubt that the debate is about science but rather about politics and the transfer of resources. The reason that a legion of skeptics continues to grow exponentially is a direct result of your insistence that the "unprovable" has indeed been "proven." And what is your proof? A picture painted of collusion, lying, deceit, and subterfuge by the very "experts" you continue to quote chapter and verse.You've created your own vortex and it's sucking ALL of you into the trash bin of history.

RE: Please stop!
By gladiatorua on 11/27/2011 1:44:30 AM , Rating: 2
Healthy scepticism is good. My view is that I don't know. I need more information. And loud screams of denialists and "true-believers-zealots" only get in the way.
I'm all for healthy debate between scientists(laymen can debate all they want but they don't know shit so it's just vibration of air and movement electrons), but on DT articles that are close to any kind of politics are kind of one-sided.

I can think of any number of reasons to hide or remove data. Tabloids love to speculate and jump to conclusions and once the shit hits the fan it's very hard to convince anybody.
DT is about tech. These amounts of politics are not healthy.

RE: Please stop!
By Amedean on 11/27/2011 4:44:43 PM , Rating: 2
Fifth - and we are not talking about healthy skepticism but speculation filled with bias.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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