More on Climategate

I write about some contrarian pieces published over the past few days.

“Hide the decline”

Everyone is aware of this email-

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,

Once Tim’s got a diagram here we’ll send that either later today or first thing tomorrow.

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. Mike’s series got the annual land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999 for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.

Thanks for the comments, Ray.

Cheers
Phil

The “trick” and “hide the decline” have been explained away in many different ways, with the media buying it without questioning the explanations, by saying that’s how scientists talk and that nothing was really being hidden and the scientific community is aware of the fact. Maybe. But what it is that is being hidden and not known beyond a small minority working within the industry?

Its the fact that some proxies were actually showing a decline whereas instruments were pointing to a temperature increase. (That should actually put a question mark on the techniques used to rely on the proxies, and I am not sure what is being done about the same.) The first time I read it was when Tierney referred to it in the NYT and which I have linked to earlier

Most of the graph was based on analyses of tree rings and other “proxy” records like ice cores and lake sediments. These indirect measurements indicated that temperatures declined in the middle of the millennium and then rose in the first half of the 20th century, which jibes with other records. But the tree-ring analyses don’t reveal a sharp warming in the late 20th century — in fact, they show a decline in temperatures, contradicting what has been directly measured with thermometers.

Because they considered that recent decline to be spurious, Dr. Jones and his colleagues removed it from part of the graph and used direct thermometer readings instead. In a statement last week, Dr. Jones said there was nothing nefarious in what they had done, because the problems with the tree-ring data had been openly identified earlier and were known to experts.

But the graph adorned the cover of a report intended for policy makers and journalists. The nonexperts wouldn’t have realized that the scariest part of that graph — the recent temperatures soaring far above anything in the previous millennium — was based on a completely different measurement from the earlier portion. It looked like one smooth, continuous line leading straight upward to certain doom.

The “Hockey Stick,” and alarmism, not science, has been used to convert people over to the new faith. And the “hide the decline” helped create the impression that there were no problems hiding underneath. This is not scientists at work, but politicians aware of how the chart will be interpreted by a lot of people. Ever heard about this news?

French politicians want to stamp a “health warning” on photographs of models that are altered in order to make them more appealing; part of a campaign against eating disorders.

[…]

“These images can make people believe in a reality that often does not exist…”

Unlike fashion magazines and marketing techniques, photoshopping the decline could lead to a multi-trillion dollar bill.

You can find a devastating account of what was massaged, how and why, at the American Thinker (and to a lesser extent here). From Marc Sheppard at AT-

Since the release of CRU’s FOI2009, alarmists have continued their claim that there’s nothing deceptive about the “trick” and that it has been openly discussed in scientific journals like Nature since 1998.

But I defy anyone to compare the above chart – the one Jones wrote he had applied MNT to – to the unadulterated version above it, and tell me there’s been no deception committed. At least with MBH98, a sharp eye might recognize the ruse. Here — there is no indication given whatsoever that the graph represents an amalgam of proxy and measured temperatures. This, my friends, is fraud.

I simply don’t know!

Austrian economist Robert Murphy linked to a piece of his in a post on the Mises blog yesterday. This one. And he finds a different problem with a different set of emails-

In contrast to these harmless remarks, this email exchange between Tom Wigley and Kevin Trenberth stunned me. Most coverage of the CRU emails has mentioned Trenberth’s statement, “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.” But the folks at RealClimate have argued (seemingly plausibly) that Trenberth was just being a good scientist, wanting to dot his i’s and cross his t’s. According to the damage control coming from RealClimate, the public shouldn’t buy into the lies of the deniers and think that Trenberth was doubting the basic idea that human activity is responsible for 20th century warming.

But hold on just a second. Trenberth’s follow-up email was even more interesting than the one receiving the bulk of the press coverage. Tom Wigley quoted Trenberth’s statement and said, “I do not agree with this.” In other words, Wigley was saying that he thought he and his colleagues could explain the lack of warming, and so there was no travesty. To this Trenberth replied (bold has been added):

Hi Tom

How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!

Kevin

At the risk of being melodramatic, I do declare that the above email is simply jaw-dropping. If the climate scientists cannot tell if a particular remedy is working, it means that they aren’t exactly sure how the climate would have evolved in the absence of such a remedy. In other words, Trenberth at least is admitting that he is not at all confident in the precise, quantitative predictions that the alarmists are citing as proof of the need for immediate government intervention. And this expression of doubt wasn’t from the distant past: Trenberth sent the above email in October of this year!

In a response to a comment on the piece, Murphy writes-

Mr. Dodge, you misunderstood the significance of what Trenberth said. He didn’t say, “We aren’t sure right now if geo-engineering will work.” You’re right, that would be analogous with treating cancer, and would not make us doubt the doctor’s skills or prognosis.

But to be actually analogous to what Trenberth said, the oncologist would have to say to the patient, “I think you have cancer, and some people suggest this thing called ‘chemotherapy’ to cure it, but even if I administered the treatment, I wouldn’t be able to tell if you still had cancer. It is a travesty. So, can I cut you open?”

Would you have a lot of faith in the diagnosis of that particular oncologist?

Just to tie things up nicely, here’s Tom’s response to the second Trenberth mail-

Kevin,

I didn’t mean to offend you. But what you said was “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment”. Now you say “we are no where close to knowing where energy is going”. In my eyes these are two different things — the second relates to our level of understanding, and I agree that this is still lacking.

Tom.

Crushing dissent

Bradley Fikes writes about a Washington Post article which didn’t do its homework. I have removed the links (too many of them)-

That’s an excellent example of how the peer review project has been perverted by those pushing the AGW alarm. Some context: the AGW activists don’t like the idea that land use changes affect temperatures, because it takes the focus off of carbon dixoxide. And it also calls into question the accuracy of temps recorded in urban areas, the “urban heat island effect.” This is wrong not for scientific but for political reasons: Anything that questions the rate of warming makes it more difficult for AGW activists to drive policy in their direction, which in crass terms threatens their grants. (If AGW activists like Michael “Dirty Laundry” Mann can slam skeptics as corrupted by corporate funding, pointing this out is fair game.)

But the WaPo reporters blew it by uncritically printing Karl’s false rebuttal.

Mainstream climate scientists say they have kept an open mind but have rejected papers that lack proper evidence. In Pielke’s case, “the literature doesn’t show” his ideas about the importance of land use are correct, said Tom Karl, head of the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

Pielke, who apparently wasn’t given a chance to respond that claim, knew it was false. Since he couldn’t correct the facts in the Washington Post (as I write this, the erroneous claim remains in the story). Pielke took to his blog.

[…]

The result is a half-baked story, with a few dissenters (although Pielke accepts AGW) against “mainstream” scientists (as if Pielke, a noted climate scientist, were somehow not “mainstream”). This is standard fare for the mainstream media, a very hazy look at an important issue, with people neatly divided into opposing groups, and an annoying refusal to look at the most important parts of the picture.

An interesting piece in Reason on objectivity and Climategate-

The Yale project finds that based on their values Americans fall roughly into four groups: egalitarians, communitarians, hierarchists, and individualists. I wonder into which value group Hoggan might fall? Hmmm. To see how values might affect how people think of risks, the Yale group conducted a survey on beliefs about man-made global warming:

In the new study, the Project researchers conducted one survey of 1700 subjects about their attitudes about the risks of climate change. As the researchers expected the egalitarians and communitarians were worried about global warming and the hierarchs and individualists were skeptical. In one part of the survey some subjects read one of two newspaper stories about a study by a group of climate change experts. The stories were identical with regard to the facts about global warming, e.g., the earth’s temperature is increasing, humans are causing it, and that it would likely cause dire environmental and economic damage if unabated. The only difference was the policy solution. In one story the experts called for “increased anti-pollution regulation” and in the other they recommended the “revitalization of the nuclear power industry.”

The subjects who read the nuclear power version were less culturally polarized than the ones who read the anti-pollution version. Why? Because the individualists and the hierarchs who read the nuclear version were less inclined to dismiss the facts about global warming than the individualists and hierarchs who read the anti-pollution version were, even though the factual information and the source were identical in both stories. Interestingly, the individualists and hierarchs who read the anti-pollution version were more skeptical of global warming than those in a control group that did not read either version of the newspaper story. This suggests that a real-world consequence might be that media reporting on scientific evidence coupled with calls for interventionist policies such as the Kyoto Protocol hardens individualist and hierarchal skepticism on global warming…

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