Thursday, November 26, 2009

The CRU hack

Regular followers of this blog know by now that I am a staunch believer that climate change is a very real phenomenon and threat to our existence on earth. Call me stupid, gullible, or whatever but I'll take my chances. It's like Doberman has pointed out on numerous occasions, consider what we have to lose if the deniers are wrong. I have not discussed my solutions to the problem because it is important to get people to first acknowledge that there is a problem. Ron therefor I'm posting a rebuttal to your post Climategate: Leaked a-mails exposes climate fraud.

As many of you will be aware, a large number of emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia webmail server were hacked recently (Despite some confusion generated by Anthony Watts, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hadley Centre which is a completely separate institution). As people are also no doubt aware the breaking into of computers and releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical. We therefore aren’t going to post any of the emails here. We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day.

Nonetheless, these emails (a presumably careful selection of (possibly edited?) correspondence dating back to 1996 and as recently as Nov 12) are being widely circulated, and therefore require some comment. Some of them involve people here (and the archive includes the first RealClimate email we ever sent out to colleagues) and include discussions we’ve had with the CRU folk on topics related to the surface temperature record and some paleo-related issues, mainly to ensure that posting were accurate.

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. For instance, we are sure it comes as no shock to know that many scientists do not hold Steve McIntyre in high regard. Nor that a large group of them thought that the Soon and Baliunas (2003), Douglass et al (2008) or McClean et al (2009) papers were not very good (to say the least) and should not have been published. These sentiments have been made abundantly clear in the literature (though possibly less bluntly).

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.

Instead, there is a peek into how scientists actually interact and the conflicts show that the community is a far cry from the monolith that is sometimes imagined. People working constructively to improve joint publications; scientists who are friendly and agree on many of the big picture issues, disagreeing at times about details and engaging in ‘robust’ discussions; Scientists expressing frustration at the misrepresentation of their work in politicized arenas and complaining when media reports get it wrong; Scientists resenting the time they have to take out of their research to deal with over-hyped nonsense. None of this should be shocking.

It’s obvious that the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. but it’s important to remember that science doesn’t work because people are polite at all times. Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person. QED isn’t powerful because Feynman was respectful of other people around him. Science works because different groups go about trying to find the best approximations of the truth, and are generally very competitive about that. That the same scientists can still all agree on the wording of an IPCC chapter for instance is thus even more remarkable.

No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and 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 “a good way to deal with a problem”, rather than something that is “secret”, and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the “divergence problem”–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

The timing of this particular episode is probably not coincidental. But if cherry-picked out-of-context phrases from stolen personal emails is the only response to the weight of the scientific evidence for the human influence on climate change, then there probably isn’t much to it.

There are of course lessons to be learned. Clearly no-one would have gone to this trouble if the academic object of study was the mating habits of European butterflies. That community’s internal discussions are probably safe from the public eye. But it is important to remember that emails do seem to exist forever, and that there is always a chance that they will be inadvertently released. Most people do not act as if this is true, but they probably should.

It is tempting to point fingers and declare that people should not have been so open with their thoughts, but who amongst us would really be happy to have all of their email made public?

Let he who is without PIN cast the the first stone.

14 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

I must say that I feel somewhat vindicated, as I have always maintained that although I am a believer in climate change, the fact that it is suddenly to be taxed smells of something that had died.

I therefore remain by my initial standpoint and that is that climate change is real, but picking on carbon dioxide is only done because of MONEY.

Once you establish a worldwide tax, you are in the first stages of global governance and this is the goal.

The rest as they say is mere details and the lapdogs always eat what the media prescribes.

A4

Anonymous said...

The one thing that is fact, is that sice 1998 every year has been colder.

It is this detail that has been the little problem that the hysterical what the global warming crew had been facing.

Remember when they tried to float global dimming as a possible reason for the decrease in temperature.

But alas when it turned out that the world wasn't going to fall for such silliness they decided to leave the dead horse for what it was.

Have you guys noticed the very, very, very subtle change away from GLOBAL WARMING TO CLIMATE CHANGE.

A couple of years ago it was global WARMING this and global WARMING that.

Today you will be hard pressed to find any reference to heat at all.
Instead it is all abut climate change.

At least they are realistic enough to know when a horse is dead.

Give them that.

A4

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the average temperature for the past decade is colder for the corresponding decade in the 1800's.

Must be all that melting ice coo ling the planet down.

A4

Anonymous said...

It is very simple to see through the smoke in mirrors.

FACT: There is an enormous push for the creation of an global empire.

If you are still in denial over this fact, well then perhaps you should start to smoke weed, as it will make no difference.

FACT: These people, let's call them the "globalists" will stop at nothing to realise this dream, even if it involves bending the truth.

If you deny this, well then I suppose you can upgrade from spliffs to zol pipes.

We have witnessed the bending of the truth, in for instance the drive to brainwash the people into believing that we are all genetically the same. Today we know this to be a lie, but they still tried.

So here is some easy advice. The globalists will push any agenda that contributes to the formation of a global government, such as egalitarianism, multiculturalism, immigration, .....anything that can help and yes, even pollution.

So anything that happens to advance their agenda should be viewed with suspicion and the suspicion level should be increased in proportion to their media exposure.

Thus the more effort they are putting into it, the deeper should be the public scrutiny.

Boy they must hate this age, where most people have access to information at the source level.

A4

Viking said...

Great post!

I have stayed silent on the issue until now largely because it is such a divisive one.
I think most sensible people know that pollution is a problem and that looking after our environment by recycling etc and by not poisoning the earth is a good thing (well, duh).

But most people seem incredibly suspicious because of the characters that support the idea of big changes to combat global warming, and that "environmentalism" as a dogma is used a stick to beat first world countries into submission.

There are also those who see it as an opportunity to increase government interference in business and they don't really care about the issues.

But those facts don't mean there isn't a problem!

thanks for an interesting article.

Anonymous said...

Once you use the term "denier", you will lose much of your credibility.

The idea that CO2 drives the earth's climate is just a scientific theory. Not a religion, but merely a scientific theory. Very important difference.

Given the fact that we have had ice ages in the past whith much higher atmospheric CO2 contents, I remain very sceptical of this theory.

Dachshund said...

In the oldest forms of Buddhism, monks were reluctant to answer metaphysical questions. If answers were offered, they were expressed undogmatically: take it or leave it. Even if true, a philosophical opinion might be of little help, or even a hindrance on the Eightfold Path.

I think that's sound philosophy. ;)

Anonymous said...

@ Viking,
i agree with you that pollution is bad, and that things must be done to combat it. who in their right mind would dispute this, unless they have self-interests that override their conscience.
@ FishEagle,
you said: "Gravity isn’t a useful theory because Newton was a nice person."
the difference is that newton's teachings are scientific facts, not theories based on archieving political goals. i am not aware of any one scientist disputing his laws, teachings or theories, let alone petitions signed by over 30 000 scientists disputing them.
you see, FE, the reason the IPCC scientists singled out CO2 as the culprit that is causing global warming is because there truely is a link between global temperature rises and CO2. but they claim temp rises are a result of CO2, but the reality is that it is actually the other way round. if warming occurs, oceanic temps increase, which will release stored CO2 into the athmosphere. also remember that CO2 makes up less than 0,05% of all greenhouse gases, and man made CO2 is a fraction of a fraction of that amount. in perspective, water vapour (clouds) make up 75% of all greenhouse gases.
to make it easier, let me use another analogy; we all know that itching and scratching are related and proportional to each other. Al Gore will have you believe that scratching will occur first, triggering the consequence of itching, but we all know very well that it is the other way round. a half truth is worse than a complete lie, for it is cunningly designed to mislead with false pretences.

Anonymous said...

Pollution is real, nobody is in denial over this fact, but we have many different forms of pollution, like for instance water pollution, nuclear waste from nuclear power plants, or the biggest culprit of them all, consumerism.

Carbon dioxide however is an integral part of life. The higher the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, the better plants grow.

BUT what attracted the elite to CD footprint, is that every human has a carbon footprint, as you have to breathe.

Think about the wet dreams of greed that they must have, salivating at the mere thought of a tax that can be imposed on all people, a tax for being alive.

As much as this sounds like science fiction, this scenario could be possible, because we are currently witnessing the possible birth of the carbon tax footprint taxation scheme and although at this point in time in is largely aimed at corporations, this does not mean that the elites won't change the focus in baby steps and that their end goal is to have a personal carbon footprint tax imposed on individuals.

Anyway even if the corporations are taxed, the person that the burden gets shifted on to, is always the middle class tax payer.

Remember that the middle class is the enemy of the communist elites.

A4

Anonymous said...

http://cofcc.org/2009/11/nick-griffin-
mep-on-global-warming/

Above is a link to a video that shows Nick Griffin from the BNP's, view on the whole carbon scam.

Max said...

We all know that over population and pollution are damaging to our earth, but when people spinning stories like we have to reduce the population of live stock (cows etc.)because their flatulence causes climate change, then I know somebody is bull shitting somebody. (Pardon the pun)

Anonymous said...

Do us all a favour and watch this right to the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zOXmJ4jd-8

"denier" seems to the new liberal word to replace "racist" to shout someone down who don't agree with their beliefs.

Climate change alarmists are who traffic light people - Greens who are too Yellow to acknowledge they are Reds...

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 3:37 PM

they call us deniers because they want to put us into the same category as holocaust deniers.
to combat that, just ask them if they are global cooling deniers, and see how quickly they shut up.

Anonymous said...

i urge all readers to read the following debate about global warming. it is between authorities on the subject from both perspectives. i know it is long, but it food for thought and it will open your eyes

http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/debate_at_last.pdf