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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: Real science s about evidence
By Tony Swash on 11/26/2011 6:43:05 AM , Rating: 5
A number of interesting points have been raised in response to both the article and my comment. Here are my thoughts.

I think one could fairly summarise the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) position as follows:

It is proposed that human emitted CO2 was the main cause of the recent period of global warming in the two decades after 1975 and that after carefully modelling the earth's climate no other factor could explain this warming which therefore was not the result of natural climate fluctuation. Using the same models back at the end of the 1990s various projections were made based on different assumed levels of human CO2 emissions and all showed that continuing emissions would lead to continuing temperature rises. Further it was also claimed, based on the same and related models, that climate sensitivity was high and that warming by CO2 could cause accelerated and further warming in a sort of run away affect. In addition it is argued that such warming, either that from the CO2 directly or the extra warming caused by climate sensitivity, will be so dangerous for humans that it warrants urgent action to reduce CO2 and indeed that the only really safe option is to at the very least curtail any further rises in CO2 emission. If rises CO2 were to be stopped this will cost many trillions of dollars but it is worth it because the probability of dangerous CO2 caused warming is high.

I hope that is a fair summary.

That position gained widespread support in the late 1990s as temperatures appeared to be pushing even higher following the 'super' El Nino' event in 1998.

The problem as I see it is this. What followed was a sort of grand experiment. CO2 emissions in the almost decade and half since 1998 have been at the upper end of those projected back in the late nineties and from 2001 through September, 2011 the atmospheric CO2 increased by 23.6% of the total increase from 1800 to 2001. The climate models being used to predict the affects of CO2 all projected the same outcome under these circumstances, ongoing and quite rapid warming. None of the models showed error bars which allowed for a non-rising global temperature under such circumstances. And yet that is what we have had. No temperature rise since 1998. None

I think under these circumstances it is reasonable to question the climate models and the conclusions reached using those models.

If, as an explanation for the lack of warming, we are now told that the models can't make very accurate projections except over very long time periods, or that they have very large error bars (big enough to accommodate a 23% rise in CO2 not causing warming), or that in fact CO2 isn't such a powerful climate driver as was argued and that other factors can overwhelm it's effects, then I get a bit suspicious. It sounds to me like a series of rationalisations to defend a flawed theory. Moreover it means that the climate models that are being used to argue for very significant and extraordinarily costly economic and social changes are not that accurate in which case the argument for those changes is very much weakened.

I would add that the various climategate documents do seem to show a bunch of the key climate scientists working together to hide date, avoid outside scrutiny of their work, block alternative theories and working with a degree of commitment that at times seems overtly political and that that doesn't seem healthy.

It appears that the international structure to achieve a consensus view on AGW, the IPCC, has operated like a large political bureaucracy (which of course is what it is) which means the operation within it of cliques and groupings, the use of bureaucratic manoeuvre to block dissenting views and the dumbing down of science and the elimination of health scientific doubt for the convenience of policy formulation and PR effect. That also is not healthy

It is worth remembering that as a direct result of the AGW theory funding for climate related research has increased a thousand fold, from millions to billions. If the AGW theory were to be fundamentally questioned then it is likely that that funding would dry up and many climate scientists careers would be very adversely affected. That doesn't seem very healthy to me either.

I can't but help feel that it is time for a new start in climate science.

RE: Real science s about evidence
By Dorkyman on 11/26/2011 10:09:52 AM , Rating: 2
What he said.

RE: Real science s about evidence
By bug77 on 11/26/2011 11:05:35 AM , Rating: 2
I think we're missing the point here: temperatures were rising even before the industrial revolution, so even if we stopped producing any CO2 at all, they'd still be rising.
Second, what happens when the Earth gets warmer? It could very well turn into an equatorial environment all the way to the poles (with more water evaporating because of higher temperatures).
What exactly are these guys (AGW proponents) trying to accomplish?

RE: Real science s about evidence
By Tony Swash on 11/26/2011 1:01:04 PM , Rating: 4
I think we're missing the point here: temperatures were rising even before the industrial revolution, so even if we stopped producing any CO2 at all, they'd still be rising.
Second, what happens when the Earth gets warmer? It could very well turn into an equatorial environment all the way to the poles (with more water evaporating because of higher temperatures).

Before 1975 back until the 1940s, the period before the short recent warming period, was a cooling period. This coincided with the post war increase in CO2 emissions.

Before that was a warming period that probably started in the mid nineteenth century (when CO2 emissions were tiny by today's standard) and which was actually the earth recovering from the coldest period since the last age, the period known as the Little Ice Age (LIA) which ran from about 1650 to around 1850.


This warming period peaked in the 1930s when the hottest year of the 20th century was recorded (see also CO2 levels were minimal at this time and none of the uneven warming period after the end of the LIA seems to correlate well with CO2 emissions.

Before that was a period known as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) when average temperatures seemed to have been somewhat higher than today. Almost no CO2 had been emitted by mankind at this point.

When the earth fully emerged from the last ice age only about 10,000 years ago and entered the modern climate period known as the Holocene, sorely after the period known as the climatic optimum began which ran from roughly 9000 to 5000 years ago during which time average temperature seems to have been a couple degrees hotter than now and the temperature at the North Pole seems to have been as much as 4 degrees warmer than now. Note that no runaway warming process were initiated by this warming and the polar bear survived as did the Greenland ice sheet. Humans had not emitted any measurable amount of CO2 at that time.

The rise and fall of the reconstructed past temperatures based on ice core samples taken from the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets is shown in a short animated video which is here.

My judgement at the moment, based on the evidence I can find, is that there has been some warming over the last century. I see nothing in the evidence that proves that this recent warming is in any way unusual or unprecedented when compared to past and recent climate changes. Although it is possible that the greenhouse gas effect of human CO2 emissions has contributed to this warming there is no evidence to prove this and it is just as likely that the bulk of the recent warming is the result of natural processes. This recent warming appears to have stopped just over a decade ago but it is possible that this gentle warming may resume but I do not see evidence that if it did that it would have catastrophic effects. Based on the evidence it is also possible that the gentle warming will cease and that the global temperature may decline.

Because of the evidence about the profound changes taken place in solar activity at the moment and because of the strong correlation of solar activity with climate change in the past on balance I think that a period of cooling is likely in the next decade or two.

If the evidence changes I will change my mind.

RE: Real science s about evidence
By bug77 on 11/26/2011 5:08:33 PM , Rating: 2
I was looking at the even bigger picture: ever since the last ice age, the Earth has been getting warmer and the polar ice caps have been getting smaller. I don't think we can stop that, no matter what.

"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot

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