Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 7, 2009
POLITICS: Science And Its Enemies On The Left, Part II(C)

4. Not So Interested In Sharing

Even before the Climategate story broke, we learned perhaps the most damning fact of all about the CRU: its refusal to share the raw data that purports to demonstrate that the Earth is getting warmer. There is nothing more essential to scientific integrity than the willingness to share data to enable everyone - colleagues, competitors, skeptics - to peer-review the conclusions drawn by applying your processes to that data. In a world of many minds, you can never know who will bring new insight to a problem, and the spirit of open inquiry demands that the largest number of minds be brought to bear on any problem. Yet, AGW proponents have fought tooth and nail to avoid sharing their data, until CRU admitted this summer that critical data supporting the AGW hypothesis has been tampered with to the point where it is no longer accessible in its original, unadulterated form:

In the early 1980s, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists at the United Kingdom's University of East Anglia established the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to produce the world's first comprehensive history of surface temperature. It's known in the trade as the "Jones and Wigley" record for its authors, Phil Jones and Tom Wigley, and it served as the primary reference standard for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) until 2007. It was this record that prompted the IPCC to claim a "discernible human influence on global climate."

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In June 2009, Georgia Tech's Peter Webster told Canadian researcher Stephen McIntyre that he had requested raw data [regarding global temperatures], and Jones freely gave it to him. So McIntyre promptly filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the same data. Despite having been invited by the National Academy of Sciences to present his analyses of millennial temperatures, McIntyre was told that he couldn't have the data because he wasn't an "academic." So his colleague Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph, asked for the data. He was turned down, too.

Faced with a growing number of such requests, Jones refused them all, saying that there were "confidentiality" agreements regarding the data between CRU and nations that supplied the data. McIntyre's blog readers then requested those agreements, country by country, but only a handful turned out to exist, mainly from Third World countries and written in very vague language.

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Roger Pielke Jr., an esteemed professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, then requested the raw data from Jones. Jones responded:
Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e., quality controlled and homogenized) data.

Jones' email response to McIntyre included a classic example of the mindset of politicized science:

We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.

H/T. As Bruce McQuain concludes from this shoddy episode:

Anyone familiar with data storage throughout the short history of the computer age knows this is nonsense. Transfer of data from various systems to newer systems has been accomplished without real difficulty all thorough its development. What Jones is trying very hard to do is one of two things a) hide data that he's pretty sure won't support his conclusion or b) admitting to a damningly unscientific procedure which should, without his ability to produce and share the original data, call into serious question any findings he's presented.

In short:

[T]he raw data on which the landmark 1996 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based its conclusion has been destroyed. The University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit acknowledged in August that it discarded data that, in addition to the IPCC report, has been cited by other international studies as the main justification for severe restrictions on carbon emissions worldwide.

More here on additional shenanigans with CRU's computer models. As the CRU emails reveal, the destruction of data was something of a pattern driven by the need to avoid scrutiny:

A May 2008 email from Mr. Jones with the subject line "IPCC & FOI" asked recipients to "delete any emails you may have had" about data submitted for an IPCC report. The British Freedom of Information Act makes it a crime to delete material subject to an FOI request; such a request had been made earlier that month.

Only the subsequent breaking of "Climategate" has finally forced CRU to agree that it will begin to release the raw data on which its studies rest.

As things stood until mid-November 2009, the refusal to share raw data was bad enough. But it was about to get uglier.

5. "Hide The Decline"

The "Climategate" revelation of the CRU emails - which show deliberations among the CRU's scientists and with allies such as Prof. Mann - came from an unknown source, almost certainly as a byproduct of McIntyre's battle to get the concealed data. But no one now seriously contests their authenticity, and they are damning in the extent to which they confirm all the worst suspicions about the politicization of the science underlying AGW theory at an institution that has been a central player in shaping the IPCC's "consensus" reports:

In global warming circles, the CRU wields outsize influence: it claims the world's largest temperature data set, and its work and mathematical models were incorporated into the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report. That report, in turn, is what the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged it "relies on most heavily" when concluding that carbon dioxide emissions endanger public health and should be regulated.

At least one major figure in the scandal, CRU's Prof. Phil Jones, has already stepped down from his position pending an inquiry into the affair.

I can't hope to catalog here the full scope of the CRU emails - for example, accounts of the scientists cheering the death of one skeptic and musing about punching another in the face or questioning the motivations of their critics and comparing them to critics of Obama's health care plan - but will hit a few of the high points. The emails show CRU personnel frankly admitting the political process' impact on the science

Other emails include one in which Keith Briffa of the Climate Research Unit told Mr. Mann that "I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC, which were not always the same"...

More broadly, they reveal a point of view in which facts need to be found to fit the theory rather than the other way around. Here's one email response to the BBC piece linked above regarding the lack of warming over the past 11 years:

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. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

In what is now the most notorious email, Jones, in a 1999 message to Mann and four others, discussed imitating a "trick" used by Mann to "hide the decline" in certain post-1960 temperatures (context explained here and here):

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 [sic] from1961 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.

(Mann, for his part, has offered the most unconvincing of explanations as to how he could be ignorant of what this email was talking about).

This graph shows precisely the impact of Jones' trick on the dataset at issue:

Hide the Decline

H/T

A similar attitude is found in a 2009 email to Jones from Wigley, presenting strategies to "explain" a "warming blip" in the data from the 1940s - again, the sort of thing one does if presenting data in an argumentative format, rather than in the spirit of disinterested inquiry:

Here are some speculations on correcting SSTs to partly explain the 1940s warming blip. If you look at the attached plot you will see that theland also shows the 1940s blip (as I'm sure you know).

So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC, then this would be significant for the global mean - but we'd still have to explain the land blip. I've chosen 0.15 here deliberately. This still leaves an ocean blip, and i think one needs to have some form of ocean blip to explain the land blip (via either some common forcing, or ocean forcing land, or vice versa, or all of these). When you look at other blips, the land blips are 1.5 to 2 times (roughly) the ocean blips - higher sensitivity plus thermal inertia effects. My 0.15 adjustment leaves things consistent with this, so you can see where I am coming from.

Removing ENSO does not affect this.

It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip, but we are still left with "why the blip".

A similar example of Jones insisting that the data can't be right if it contradicts his "gut feeling" is discussed here, and here an example of the CRU crew's reactions to questions raised by skeptics that they recognized as having some validity. And the examples of the CRU's misconduct may not be isolated incidents, as examination of official data at NASA and in the New Zealand government’s temperature records suggests.

Another of the alarming but - to observers of the AGW debate - unsurprising revelations was the extent to which the CRU cabal sought to control the peer-review process to determine its outcome:

Here's what Phil Jones of the CRU and his colleague Michael Mann of Penn State mean by "peer review." When Climate Research published a paper dissenting from the Jones-Mann "consensus," Jones demanded that the journal "rid itself of this troublesome editor," and Mann advised that "we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers."

So much for Climate Research. When Geophysical Research Letters also showed signs of wandering off the "consensus" reservation, Dr. Tom Wigley ("one of the world's foremost experts on climate change") suggested they get the goods on its editor, Jim Saiers, and go to his bosses at the American Geophysical Union to "get him ousted." When another pair of troublesome dissenters emerge, Dr. Jones assured Dr. Mann, "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

Eduardo Zorita, a German climate researcher who reviewed papers for Climate Research, has called for three of the leading (Jones, Mann, and Stefan Rahmstorf) to be ousted from the IPCC, arguing that the CRU emails confirm what was already known by climate researchers about the corruption of the process:

I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. They depict a realistic, I would say even harmless, picture of what the real research in the area of the climate of the past millennium has been in the last years. The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.

These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture'. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the 'pleasure' to experience all this in my area of research.

Others have also come forward with stories of Jones' involvement in using peer review to stifle dissenting points of view. The structure of scientific peer review and of academia more broadly unfortunately creates opportunities for politicized groups to capture these institutions and enforce their particular brand of groupthink in a field like climate science. The critical way this is done - hinted at by Jones' threat to "redefine" peer review - is the existence of gatekeepers. An establishment consisting of a comparatively small number of people controls publication, which controls who gets to get jobs in academia and who has to go out into business. That establishment also controls or influences grant funding (which is often government grant funding, depending on the field), which controls whose jobs are made permanent with tenure and whose aren't. You have to publish and get funding to get and keep your job. If the gatekeepers refuse to publish or fund any dissenters, and they do refuse, then scientific consensus is not reached by reasoning but manufactured by brute force.

The kind of thinking apparent in the CRU emails is so common among AGW proponents that they are sometimes unafraid to say it aloud. Economist Thomas Schelling told The Atlantic that "It's a tough sell. And probably you have to find ways to exaggerate the threat" before musing that "I sometimes wish that we could have, over the next five or ten years, a lot of horrid things happening -- you know, like tornadoes in the Midwest and so forth -- that would get people very concerned about climate change."

Some environmentalists, like British leftist George Monbiot, found Climategate too much to stomach, leading calls for Jones to step down. But the head of the IPCC, after the fashion of all UN bodies, has circled the wagons around the Climategate miscreants; while he chastised them for being "indiscreet" in putting their comments in writing, he "said an independent inquiry into the emails would achieve little, but there should be a criminal investigation into how the emails came to light."

The Obama Administration's response, as the President prepares to journey to Copenhagen to promote new restrictions on the U.S. economy in the name of preventing AGW, has similarly been one of sheer denial of the need for re-examination of the science:

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stressed this afternoon, and the White House nonetheless believes "climate change is happening."

"I don't think that's anything that is, quite frankly, among most people, in dispute anymore," he said during Monday's press briefing.

Climate czar Carol Browner was equally dismissive, leaning on the crutch of "consensus":

Ms. Browner initially shrugged when asked about the e-mails, saying she didn't have a reaction. But when a reporter followed up, she said she will stick with the consensus of the 2,500 climate scientists on the International Panel on Climate Change who concluded global warming is happening and is most likely being pushed by human actions.

And "science czar" John Holdren saw nothing unusual in the CRU’s behavior:

"It's important to understand that these kinds of controversies and even accusations of bias and improper manipulation are not all that uncommon in all branches of science," Holdren told the House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

This is unsurprising, since the email archive includes Holdren's own emails sharing support and suggestions with a number of the Climategate figures.

Pay no attention, in other words, to the politicized hacks behind the curtain; just know they have reached a "consensus."

C. Cutting The Corners

The assiduous use of shady science for political ends usually runs further under the radar than John Edwards' snake oil or the Climategate scandal. As liberal Slate writer Will Saletan admits of efforts to use politicized junk science to prop up "sin taxes" on junk food and fast food as a means of meddling with individuals' personal choices:

To justify taxes on unhealthy food, the lifestyle regulators are stretching the evidence about obesity and addiction.... Liberals like to talk about a Republican war on science, but it turns out that they're just as willing to bend facts. In wars of piety, science has no friends.

And Congressional liberals can be quite as uninterested in science when acting on product safety scares driven by junk science, quackery or Luddism, as NPR noted earlier this year:

A new federal ban on chemical compounds used in rubber duckies and other toys isn't necessary, say the government scientists who studied the problem.

The ban, which took effect in February, prohibits making or selling duckies and other children's products that contain chemicals called phthalates, which are used to make plastic soft. Congress passed the ban in 2008 after concluding that the chemicals posed a risk to children who chew on their toys.

The action came despite advice not to enact the ban from scientists at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates toys.

The commission opposed the ban because "there was not a risk of injury to children," says Dr. Marilyn Wind, deputy associate executive director for health sciences at CPSC.

It reached that conclusion after studying phthalates in toys for more than 25 years and acting several times to make sure children were not exposed to even a slight risk from products that contain the chemicals.

Overlawyered has extensive archives on the the Boxer-and-Feinstein-pushed legislation in question, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), and its disastrous effects in practice - another reminder that injecting bad science into politics has real-world consequences. In fact, there is ample historical precedent, in the hard sciences as well as in social science, for left-wing political and social agendas to drive scientific hackwork whose influence far outstrips anyone's ability to replicate its underlying research:

Consider the residue of such frauds as Rachel Carson, Alfred Kinsey, and Margaret Mead. Carson's invented findings and unscientific methods led to the banning of DDT, which in turn cost the lives of tens of millions of children in undeveloped nations. Kinsey's tortuously doctored "sex research," as Dr. Judith Riesman has so amply demonstrated, was not only invented to sate his perverted lusts, but created scientific myths about normal and abnormal behavior which haunt us to this day. Mead also simply invented research to fit her idea of what the science of anthropology ought to be in order to justify her own immature and immoral behavior. Carson, Kinsey, and Mead had an agenda before they did any research, and this agenda governed everything else.

Which brings us to the root cause of politicized science: the temptation of power.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Enemies of Science • | Politics 2009 • | Science | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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