Climategate

This continues a previous discussion.

My piece in today’s Irish Times was meant for Friday.

The chair of the IPCC has now called for an investigation. A day later, WG1 of the IPCC declared that all was fine. A vice-chair of the IPCC declared that this whole affair is a waste of time.

The Irish Times published two regular articles on this matter, under foreign affairs (here and here). The environment correspondents was in the Maldives (at the taxpayers’ expense), incorrectly claiming that “it could be lost unless progress is made at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen”. The momentum in sea level rise is such that atolls are doomed, now matter what we do about greenhouse gas emissions. Frank McDonald is now in Copenhagen, where he toes the IPCC WG1 line. The Irish Times today published an appeal to Copenhagen, writing that “the science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to two degrees”. This suggests that science demands such a limit. This is not true. Any target is a value-judgement. The two degrees target is a political fact, not a scientific one. (See here.) It seems that, like the Climate Research Unit, the Irish Times mixes up science and politics.

84 replies on “Climategate”

When the management of a newspaper feels it needs use a chain letter as editorial content, I feel it time to part company. I pay for thoughtful prose, not trite verbage.

I have bought my last copy of the Irish Times.

In any normal scientific debate, the failure of a hypothesis to be confirmed by experimental data would lead to major questions. The failure of the models of the Global Warming lobby to accurately predict climate developments in the last five years rather calls into question the power of those models to predict climate developments over the next century.

But this scientific debate is being politically run. Faith in carbon-caused global warming trumps clear signs that key scientific evidence has been tampered with. Breathless efforts to declare that “the global warming debate is over” are illustrative of a neediness to lock in on certain conclusions rather than an openess to follow the data wherever it may lead.

NB I don’t dispute signs of global warming over the last century. I simply question whether carbon is the cause and whether the whole phenomenon is something humans need to reverse or just adapt to.

@Cormac
Climate models are designed to conditionally forecast secular trends in climate, not for medium-term (5 yr) forecasts.

Decadal variability is substantial, as shown by data and models alike. In order to accurately predict the weather for five years (as you seem to demand), one would need to measure the ocean temperature at the surface and at depth. Such an observation system does not exist, so you cannot blame the models for failing this test.

Decadal variability is separated from long-term trends, so your demand is irrelevant.

@richard,

what did you expect from IT? If environmental writers McDonald, Gibbons etc are not paid up members of the Green Party, they certainly act like it. Theirs is activism/evaneglism, not journalism.

Here is a skeptical piece about the the 1000y temperature reconstruction known as the hockey stock.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6738111/Climategate-reveals-the-most-influential-tree-in-the-world.html

The relative size of anthropogenic co2 vs natural climate forcings is the central issue. The “hockey stick” was critical in convincing many skeptical people of a unique, urgent threat from anthropogenic co2.

No serious person can claim that co2, ch4 etc are not greenhouse gases. Or that atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial co2/carbon do not increased due to fossil fuel burning etc. The question is whether radiative forcing from atmospheric co2 is really swamping natural variability.

In the wake of “climategate”, the honest answer is that this question is re-opened. Whatever the IT says, the question will only be settled by transparent observations and analysis.

@ richard

The Irish Times is a disaster on the climate change question, despite your own efforts to put the UAE “Climategate” affair into perspective. Gibbons and McDonald are doing untold damage to the cause they would doubtless claim to represent.

What really annoyed me a couple of weeks ago was when Gibbons asserted that “the sceintific debate was over”. I penned Madam a 2-liner to the effect that the scientific debate is never over, but not for the first time she protected her columnist from even moderate criticism.

@ Richard

Do you really believe that it is “irrelevant” that climate change models are unable to predict climate 5 years hence but we are supposed to divert huge resources to avoid a change in climate the same models predict for 100 years hence? Does that not show that these models’ predictive power may be rather weak?

The fact that the lull in global warming this decade was not predicted by any of the immensely complex computer models which embody the conventional wisdom is clear evidence that the science is far from settled.

But this is largely a political debate rather than a scientific one. More’s the pity.

@Cormac
I do not do belief.

Predicting climate at the decadal scale is no proof of (lack of) skill at the centennial scale and vice versa. These are different problems. The physics are the same, but starting values are different.

The Hamburg climate model, by the way, did predict the lack of warming of recent years, and says it’ll be coolish until 2020 or so.

@bg
The Irish Times does not list the political affiliations of its contributors. The Green Party does not publish a list of its members. Frank McDonald does not have his own website. John Gibbons does, but it is quiet about political membership.

Before anybody start talking about kettles and pots: I’m not a member of anything.

Christopher Booker is already notorious for his misinformation about climate change – so his articles in the Daily Telegraph would be the last place you should look for unbiased opinion. See

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/07/christopher_bookers_misinforma.php

A look at the following climate blogs should give a balanced view – see Tim Lambert’s blog (above) and http://www.realclimate.org/

Incidentally, I have not seen the justification for Richard Tol’s remark in today’s IT that “the climate change graph from 1850 to the present cannot be reproduced” and I wonder if he could supply it?

The so-called “Climategate” has been grossly exaggerated. In particular the science/ politics dichotomy is quite inane – if the science does not inform the politics, then what is the point of publicly funded science in the first place?

The CRU hubbub no more discredits global warming then debunking Piltdown Man discredited the fact of evolution.

Richard says:

“CRU does not understand their algorithms and deleted data, so they cannot redo let alone reproduce their work.”

My understanding is that raw data was not deleted & can be retrieved from its source or other institutions. “Not understanding the algorithms” must come from the famous “Harry”, who seems to have been a poor programmer struggling to deal with many intractable data sets. I have not seen anywhere in the few snippets of e-mail posted any admission that the scientists do not “understand the algorithms”.

In any event, other institutions (such as NASA) have charted temperature data from other sources e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_record_since_1880
This originated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Basically, I found Richard’s article a much weaker defence of climate science than is warranted. He might have pointed out that only a handful of emails have been bruited about, even though the number hacked runs into thousands.

For more forthright defences, see http://www.desmogblog.com/ and http://www.grist.org/article/nasas-james-hansen-on-hacked-emails/

Paddy Orwell (clearly no relation) said:

“Thanks Toby, glad to see you can engage in the debate with a sense of humour!”

Well, thank you, Paddy, and if that’s your best shot, then I’m still laughing!

It’s ignorant to declare a debate on the issue over.

The case may not be as conclusive as the majority of scientists claim but the focus on renewables and reduction in pollution, will be a positive development in places like China and India.

Action on deforestation in Indonesia will also be positive.

Most summers, the burning peatlands in Sumarta, results in smog over the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

@Toby
No data has been deleted. However, the data are no longer on the CRU servers. That means that they cannot reproduce their work without first reassembling the raw database. They need to either reconstruct the data exactly as it was (which is impossible) or rewrite the data input procedures (which they do not understand).

@Richard, I think you have highlighted the fact that an excessive burden is being placed on science to justify a target for a maximum increase in global temperature that might facilitate universal agreement on a politically palatable package of measures to achieve this target. Once a target is agreed, the role of economics is to identify the most efficient means of achieving the target.

Of course more than one agenda is being pursued. It makes sense to curtail the extent to which carbon dioxide is deposited in the atmosphere – particularly when the long term impacts are uncertain and there is a serious risk of catastrophic, irreversible damage. It also makes sense to curtail the exploitation of finite, exhaustible hydrocarbon resources when energy markets are insufficiently developed in global terms to convey the appropriate price signals to encourage the neccessary investment in research and development required to roll-out feasible alternatives. And for developed energy deficit economies it makes sense to reduce their reliance on hydrocarbons and to reduce the market and political power of
hydrocarbon exporters. In addition, as Michael H points out, reducing carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation will have direct benefits for developing economies.

However, it would prove impossible to generate a universal consensus around these policy objectives and science is expected to justify a target that might attract the necessary support. This is not what science is for. Unfortunately there are those working with the science (I am reluctant to call them scientists) who are prepared to accept this responsibility.

Hi, Richard, if I can reproduce your statements from today’s article:

“The e-mails reveal a systematic effort to deny legitimate freedom of information requests. They contain evidence that the rules of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were deliberately broken to include a paper that supports a particular point of view. The e-mails show an intolerance of views and facts that do not support the received wisdom of the people involved. One of the stolen documents reveals that a key result, the instrumental record of the global mean temperature since 1850, cannot be reproduced.”

The importance of these seems to me to be exaggerated. One paper does not a science make. So these scientists tried to dodge their responsibilities to people they considered to be cranks and frauds? Deplorable, but understandable. Punishable, of course, but it does not make any case against anthropogenic climate change.

The most serious charge is that ” the instrumental record of the global mean temperature since 1850, cannot be reproduced”. If a scientific result cannot be reproduced, it is discounted, so this is a serious charge indeed.
What is not made clear is that it CAN be reproduced, by different institutions, using different data. So this does not undermine the science in any respect, also.

Richard now admits that CRU can reproduce the instrumental record if itre-collects the raw data from the sources. I have seen no evidence that CRU cannot re-run their algorithms and have them peer-reviewed. Indeed, I presume this will happen as part of the IPCC investigation.

It has not been mentioned that the difficulty is not with the “instrumental record” but integrating recent tree-ring data with the instrumental data. Tree rings are important indicators for eras before instruments were used. The difficulties with tree ring data (taken out of context by the email hackers) are the subject of ongoing debate in the climate science community – which shows a lively research programme in progress. Let us hope climate sceptics are not becoming like ceationists who interpret every dispute between evolutionists as “Darwin is being disproved!”.

It’s fascinating that those who pride themselves on a rational, evidence-based approach to economic and fiscal matters turn into Lyndon LaRouche conspiracy-theory denialists on this issue. Is it that only economists can use data to draw conclusions, and scientists in the fields of meteorology, oceanography, etc. cannot? The clinging to the crankery of a bombastic Telegraph columnist is exactly the sort of thing the writers on this site would disdain if the shoe were on the other foot. Sure, Richard, sneer at the Maldives hosting a cabinet meeting (“at taxpayers expense”, shamelessly larding on the manufactured outrage. Heavens to Betsy! The poor Maldivian taxpayers, for whom you are such a tireless advocate!). You malign scientific writers for “toeing the party line” while you toe the fantasist, denialist, Michael Crichton line. Now you take a German blog post that consists largely of an angry tirade assuming a base political motive for all scientific research on this topic, and you present this, blithely, as fact. You present a link to a crank blog that you is contrary to the scientific consensus (or, “party line”, if you must) and that, you state, unequivocally, is the truth, and what decades of scientific research and consensus say is wrong. It would be harder to conceive of better examples of confirmation bias, outcome bias, and, ultimately, projection: you know what you want the truth to be, you cannot easily contemplate the consequences of it being otherwise, you search for someone who shares your opinion, and then you accuse everyone else of engaging in politically-motivated chicanery.

Economists could at least do scientists the professional courtesy of assuming that not every scientist is a mercenary, corrupt liar in the pay of the … Green Party? (That’s it! The Irish Green Party runs the world, the poor lobbyists who represent the fossil-fuel energy industries barely get a look in.) You could even do newspaper publishers the basic courtesy of considering that they might be at least sincere. But, no, on planet denialist, everyone is part of a sinister Green Party conspiracy to benefit … I don’t know. I’ve never really understood cui bono according to denialists.

Economists on this issue start from an assumption that all the science is wrong, that the scientists who have established a solid academic consensus are liars, that a quack who writes for the Telegraph knows better, that some bloke who pontificates on an Irish economy blog has a better interpretation of the data, that an anonymous, angry German is unquestionably right, that carbon dioxide is a health food, etc. etc., etc.

The hostility towards the scientific consensus on this issue is reminiscent of creationism, 9/11-was-an-inside-job conspiracies and anti-vaccine hysteria.

@Ben
May I suggest that you read what I wrote and respond to that?

Frank McDonald travelled to the Maldives at the expense of Irish taxpayer. Maldivian taxpayers did not contribute.

@Toby
Note that I also wrote that “[n]othing has changed in our understanding of the seriousness of the problem”.

I stand by my assertion that the CRU temperature record cannot be reproduced. That does not make it wrong. In fact, there are four other such records that show the same trends.

The editor clipped my soccer analogy. Henry did wrong, but France is still going to South Africa. CRU did wrong, but anthropogenic climate change is still there. [[Added later:]] The analogy works better when you’re French.

Thanks for that, jc. From Sourcwatch:

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a United Kingdom group opposing action to mitigate climate change. Founded by Nigel Lawson,[1], it is a registered educational charity “deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated” to mitigate global warming.[2]. Although founder Lawson claims to accept that anthropogenic global warming is occurring, his acceptance is unconvincing[3]; the group’s banner image sports a short-term temperature graph to appear as though the world is not warming.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Global_Warming_Policy_Foundation

Wow, just looking at that GWPF website – Linzen *and* Plimer are associates?

I guess that what we’re witnessing is the latest evolution in tactics for the denialist community (along with what’s popping up over at irish Election right at this moment, as well).

@EWI
The GWPF aims “to bring reason, integrity and balance to a debate that has become seriously unbalanced, irrationally alarmist, and all too often depressingly intolerant.”

You display such intolerance by dismissing a body because you seem to disagree with 2 out of 15 board members, both of whom have a more distinguished academic record than most.

Richard wrote:

“The editor clipped my soccer analogy. Henry did wrong, but France is still going to South Africa. CRU did wrong, but anthropogenic climate change is still there. [[Added later:]] The analogy works better when you’re French.”

The editor was right. France going to South Africa because of foul play is unjust for all time; claiming that the CRU’s inappropriate behaviour renders null all of the theory of anthropogenic global warming would be just stupid. There is a lot more to climate change than the CRU.

Incidentally, many crucial scientific results have more than a whiff of “handball” about them e.g. Mendel’s famous results on the genetics of peas have a variance that is unnaturally small, and suggests a degree of cherry-picking in the data i.e. he threw out results that did not confirm his theory. Other close things were Millikan’s measurement of electron charge, & Eddington’s demonstration of Einstein’s General Relativity. Luckily for these famous men, they handled the ball and were only found out after the theory was otherwise confirmed (maybe we would not complain if France scored two more goals fairly) … unlike Piltdown Man and Cold Fusion.

I will count CRU with Mendel, Millikan & Eddington if they are indeed shown to have “adjusted” the data to fit the theory, and even that is not clear.

@EWI, @jc, @ben

that is one seriously distinguished advisory panel. we should be very pleased that an economist working in ireland is represented.

Freeman Dyson is one of the people who discovered quantum electrodynamics, one of the great achievements of physics. Lindzen has made major contributions to meteorology, even if you don’t like his views on AGW. I don’t know anything about Plimer, but he acquitted himself well on the Pat Kenny show recently against weak opposition.

Cries of “heretic! heretic!” belong in the 16th century. They have no place in science or economics.

@Richard Tol

I picked the two best-known denialists on the board, whom those so inlined can read more on at the excellent SourcWatch: Plimer and Lindzen.

Let’s work through the rest out there at Lawson’s collection of pet denialists:

Benny Peiser Director)
Philip Stott
Gwyn Prins (one of the “Inhofe 400”)
Paul Reiter
Peacock also denies AGW. Dyson denies that AGW is occurring. Whitehouse says that AGW has “stopped” (a new variation). The list goes on, and I think that I’ve proved our point here.

In summary, I find it hard to believe that you don’t know most of the above details already. Care to comment, as you indeed have been so eager to parade the supposed sins of CRU on this blog and in the pages of the IT, and so cannot complain when you’re yourself not measuring up to standards of transparency and relevant disclosure?

I have regret for the sterling reputation as a dependable, non-ideological institution that ESRI used to have. Instead it’s become just another ‘results focused’ right-wing think-tank.

@ Richard,

Interesting discussion as always.

I had a think about the concept of the ‘environmental think tank’ myself about a year ago. This stuff is all very new to me. I was merely trying to get my head around it. Reading your article today in the Irish Times I was reminded of my old copy book full of notes I had scribbled down a year ago, to try and gather some of my thoughts on the concept of an environmental think tank. I was struck while reading your article today, how you hit a couple of similar issues. Here are some of the things I was thinking about myself a year ago.

At a meeting I was informed,

The Harvard Group and the upcoming Copenhagen prospective agreement might mean, that countries themselves will set their own targets for carbon emission reductions. But a linkage of some sort will still be necessary on a global scale to deal with short falls.

The Irish environmental think tank is hoping to have their carbon reduction scheme implemented by the Irish government in advance of the Copenhagen talks. They will take a ‘working prototype’ to Copenhagen to present and gain credibility on the wider global scene.

In other words, an Irish environmental think tank tries to plan 12 months in advance in order to put together their ‘product’ or idea so to speak. Then use the window of opportunity presented by Copenhagen to get it some profile. The Irish environmental think tank was not tied down to their own ideas specifically. But were also very aware of work going on in other organisations around the globe.

Unfortunately though, their policy document which took a load of time and effort from such a small group dealing with wafer thin resources, was developed during a time of higher oil prices. If it was introduced today into the Irish taxation system the levy proposed would not make any difference.

This particular small Irish think tank simply didn’t have resources available and time, man power etc to re-work a simple scheme they had developed a year or two hence. These are the facts of life for the environmental think tank, the limitations in which they try to operate. It is fine for journalists to talk and criticise but it comes down to very small chips indeed. Being used to the construction industry myself, where finance comes down in a flood when it does flow, I find this a very different culture.

At the moment, they are trying to amend it quickly, by proposing to slap a standard rate on fossil fuels, a barrel of oil for say a standard 80 dollar rate or something. So that investment could flow into renewable energy technologies.

The environmental think tank has to spend a lot of time playing with and ‘tinkering’ with something to make it fit right. This is work that needs to happen I guess. Someone, somewhere has to get an idea of the ‘mechanism’ and how it might work before anything gets to parlimentary debate stages or legislation draft stages.

You can see though a good deal of ‘program management’ of resources, time and windows of opportunity is required to pass any of their environmental schemes in Ireland or any country.

The environmental think tank have to get a complete policy recommendation document into the Irish taxation department by the end of the month.

This is ‘paying work’ as opposed to charity work. The department of taxation has commissioned them to study a small segment of taxation policy related to carbon taxation. In other words, there was no space or resources available in the small think tank to do anything during that month of January, 12 months ago.

The environmental think tank does not lobby I was informed today, nor are they political. Which cuts them out of a lot of funding. Neither do they want to collaborate too much with industry – industry generally want to sell some large infrastructural solution to governments.

This is interesting, because often the members of an environmental think are a member of a political party – some of them, quite active member of political parties. But when they do work for the think tank, a different set of rules apply.

The environmental think tank seem very open to working with groups abroad, and indeed a lot of the environmental issues they deal with, require a global view.

Self explanatory.

I understand now, when you get into the environmental and sustainable debate, you are taking on a lorry load of different topics.

I mean, being a small publically funded institution and trying to tackle something as wide as environmental issues, is not a great fit at all.

I always remember when Steve Jobs returned to Apple computers, the first thing he did was shelve a lot of their product range, and reduce it back down to something manageable.

But with environment, if you do one thing, you have to take it all on.

The program management task with these organisations must be mental.

I was glad to read in Richard Tol’s article in the Irish Times today, he admits quite bluntly, the much of the environmental system we don’t understand at all. But try telling that to a typical environmental think tank with wafer thin resources and a workload sufficient for a couple of armies.

One of the project managers working in the think tank had an idea to develop a whole replacement for the concept of money.

Because he felt that the problem demanded a solution that was ‘that large’.

A new trading network it was called. His software expert was at the meeting today, who had flown in from Holland to work on setting up a platform for the trading network.

You can see from the above a distinct notion of collaboration with other networks, organisations across the globe. In fact it almost sounds like a script for a 007 James Bond triller.

That appears to be an identifying characteristic of the environmental think tank. You would have to like this global collaboration idea to enjoy life inside an environmental think tank. Otherwise, if you are like me and stick to your own parish mostly, there would be frictions.

In fairness though, while the above concept of a trading network did start out very, very large in its ambition, it was later whittled down to something very practical and resulted in a quite sensible research paper proposal submitted to government. Indeed, I could see a lot of ideas coming out of the environmental think tank having quite a good mainstream commercial appeal and application.

I hope you have enjoyed the above. It is just some snippets or thoughts I had rolling around in my own head, about 12 months ago. I recognise certain similarities between the culture of the environmental think tank and that of the architectural profession. When I studied architecture as a younger man I was often shocked by the sheer scale of ideas that some other architecture students had in the brains.

Many years down the road, I must admit I am more excited by the idea of the Toyota ‘continuous improvement’ model or Kaizen as it is known. I enjoyed exploring the idea of Kaizen in working for companies such as Dell and Zoe developments. But I do have to admit, there is a very powerful form of creative thinking which starts up in the heavens and gradually comes down to earth to find real applications and usefulness.

Brian O’ Hanlon

The Global Warming Policy Foundation seems a most august body, but its efforts to bring “reason, integrity & balance” are worthy, if rather late in the game (near the end of extra time, in fact, to murder that analogy one more time). That horse, I am afraid, has well & truly bolted.

Think tobacco & sugar advocacy, HIV denialism, Creationism, Star-Wars-ism from the Ronnie Reagan days, & the anti-vaccine movement .. the usual suspects lining up to defend the “free market” & attack the Communist-Atheist conspiracy led by Al Gore to wreak jihad on the Confederacy …. or something like that …(yawn)… they’ll have their work cut out.

I am concerned at the inability of modelling to account for recent temperatures. Like many I took part in the BBC desktop modelling experiment that was supposed to look at ‘all’ possible outcomes by slight variations in the input paramters. That was some years ago and I’m slightly bemused that it hasn’t been repeated. Has climate been modelled so thoroughly?

Anyway, my point is one of systems theory, which goes something like – if you are already this wrong, this early, there’s not much hope that you’ll get back to where you want to be, unless you’re very wrong about something else too….

The ‘wrong’ in the short time-scale must be accounted for – both for tipping point theory and also, and more importantly, so we can decide what it is we are to do. Is there some regulation mechanism? (There clearly is in Ireland as the weather has decided to be sunny at night and cloudy/rainy in the day…). If there is supposed to be excess heat, where has it gone? What are the effects of it going there? What effects will those effects have?

The models should, at least, account for expected variation such as solar cycles. Time to get some of those master of the universe quants from the financial services sector…. eh, maybe not!

@ yoganmahew,

Its easy to run down a blind alleyway with this, so lets step back from it for a moment. Bear in mind that a huge proportion of our atmosphere is breathed in and out by vegetation each year. It is pointless to try and imagine a tonne of Co2 as something you might find in a laboratory. The only way I can visualise a tonne of Co2 is to imagine something majestic and expansive like a forest. In a sense, these environmental think tanks are on the right track in trying to ‘think very large scale’.

I did listen to Mark Maslin from UC London talk in Dublin a while ago. Mark is focussed on research to do with tropical rain forests, and how economies of many poor nations depend on timber. As I understand it, Mark reckons the kinds of tools required to model the climate were not advanced enough at the time of Kyoto to test the impact of forests on climate. But nowadays, the climate modelling tools are much better. Hence the hope that in Copenhagen, the biosphere as it is often referred to, can become part of the plan for the future.

One of the Irish think tank project managers made the important point that while the atmosphere is ‘common’ to everyone and no one as such had deed or title to it. That is not the case with forest on the ground. How do we compensate developing nations for keeping forests, when the Europeans etc cut all of theirs down.

The best Irish reference at the moment I think is Coford. A state run organisation tasked with doing research into forestry. I don’t know too much about them, except a lecture I attended. But you could bounce a few questions off of them I am sure. The reason I mention Coford, is they seem to be on a similar track to Mark Maslin in the Uk. Except Coford is tasked with management of Irish forests rather than equatorial forests.

BTW, the last time people tried to think big was back in the 1950s – but it was for other reasons – namely, the population bomb and nuclear bomb. But anyhow, if you look at your 1960s period there was a fashion back then for thinking ‘big’, as in world sized. The James Bond trillers do capture some of that idea in a popular culture sense – the world is not enough.

@EWI

Rest assured. I will step down from the GWPF when it does something wrong. It has not done much, so its “crimes” are your speculative extrapolation.

The board members vigorously disagree with one another. The only thing we have in common is that we don’t follow a fad just because everyone else does.

@Toby
“claiming that the CRU’s inappropriate behaviour renders null all of the theory of anthropogenic global warming would be just stupid”

That is exactly what I argued.

But inappropriate behaviour it was, and the scientists-turned-activists of the CRU have handed a stout stick to the opposition.

@ Richard Tol

“Crimes” is your choice of words, not mine.

And I think that people will find the GWPF’s front page, right this moment, very illuminating as to the “vigorous[…]disagreement” on AGW that Richard claims:

http://www.thegwpf.org/

But inappropriate behaviour it was, and the scientists-turned-activists of the CRU have handed a stout stick to the opposition.

More of a twig, but it certainly has been aired here on Irish Economy twice in the past week (and again today in the pages of the IT) – all by the same ESRI employee.

@EWI, jc

Can you please stop putting words in my mouth? Just read what I write, and disagree however much you like. Please stop disagreeing with things I did not write.

@EWI

Time will tell whether climategate is a twig or a stick. It certainly looks like a stick to me. I’ve been in the climate game for almost twenty years now, and this is unprecedented.

@ Richard

So poorly misunderstood.

I read what you wrote – you don’t believe a fad becuase everyone else does. The thing is it’s not (or is very unlikely to be) a fad; do you disagree?

Look you are part of an organisation which suggests that global warming is not occurring. They are clearly prepared to use fair means of foul. Look at their logo – what’s behind that?

First the data was manipulated to make the graph look more stark.

The continue to present the data in that selective manner so as to suggest that we have nothing to worry about.

It’s a sham and you are part of it. Enjoy the attention; enjoy your stick.

@ All,

Anyone interested in what environmental think tanks aught to be doing in the future as opposed to how they might have behaved or mis-behaved in the past? I have laid out a couple of observations above, which do relate to real life, on-the-groun-zero everyday challenges in any environmental think tank.

Any constructive discussion should really begin from there. Asking ourselves who the heck we might go about organising labour and resources available to us and what we might hope to achieve productively in short, medium and longer terms. There are hundreds of ideas, hundreds of suggestions and hundreds of ‘people’ involved in some shape, form or another.

I attended a lecture recently based on Ireland’s hosting of the special olympics, which was a huge event with a huge amount of volunteer participants. It is the same problem with climate change. It is not a lack of assistance, but perhaps too much assistance and a lack of understanding of how to organise it effectively.

Actually, one of the main problems the project manager of the Irish special Olympics had was trying to get volunteers to ‘go home’ at the end of the first day. They were so enthuasiastic about everything the first day, they didn’t want to go home. But the project manager knew from experience, that volunteer organisers tire themselves out completely on the first day and then are sapped of energy required to get them through the week.

There are huge similarities with the organisation of a climate change taskforce in Ireland.

Okay, I couldn’t resist a cheap shot at Frank McDonald while I am here. In the best 007 James Bond, the world is not enough theme, perhaps the villian might open the hatch door over the Maldives? Great plot.

Tis all handbags tonight !!!

Perhaps this cant be debated here and now???
Tis getting a little metaphysical…

Richard, your views obviously make you evil or acquiescence of this evil, and you deserve to be tackled on the content of your character as well as the content of your opinions…

Thats what going on..
Isnt it?

Al

Of course the misanthropic greenies don’t want to admit they could be wrong and their gloom&doom global warming – excuse me – climate change is a hoax.

“Mann”, “Hockey stick graph”.

It’s not the first time data has been manipulated to exaggerate a claim by AGW proponents. Whether AGW is a fact or not will eventually be shown by valid observations. Science will perform these readings and we will then know. At present there is controversy about the accuracy/legitimacy of the readings. The one sure thing is that we must not allocate scarce resources for no good reason. So we must wait. I suggest we wait about 25 years. Then we should have a good idea about whats happening.

In the meantime we can build 5 nuclear power stations. The stable base-load output from these five together with savings in energy use by other “Green” practices such as improved building regs. etc. would me we would be able to provide 100% of our energy requirements. Indeed Ireland might become a net energy exporter. Lots of employment during the commissioning phase. Huge offset in fossil fuel imports and if it turns out that AGW is true, we have in the interim managed to dramatically reduced our carbon footprint. Job done. No brainer really.

@jc – Joseph Curtin
I wrote that I am not inclined to following fads. You turn that into “[s]o you agree […] that global warming is a “fad””. That does not follow and you know that it is not true.

You condemn the GWPF even though it has hardly begun its work.

@Al
Sadly yes.

I’ve argued against polarization of climate policy since 1994 or so. I don’t think that demonising your opponent is a sensible strategy for solving a long term problem. Demonisation typically leads to short term gains and fiercer opposition in the medium term.

Unfortunately, the environmental movement, while proclaiming its care for the long-term future of the planet, all too often opts for a short-term strategy.

The CRU is a good example. They seem to have manipulated evidence in support of a political argument. They’d been at it for years, but in the end it blew up in their face and tainted their cause.

The saddest thing is that the alleged manipulation did not make their case much stronger. The CRU’s actions had small gains in the short run for large losses in the long run.

@ Richard,

Congratulations on a very fine article. I had scanned the IT and the Indo over the past few days in the expectation that one or other must at some stage invite a contribution from one of the few people in the country with the expertise and qualifications to deliver an informed perspective. Your article is a breath of fresh air in the fetid atmosphere that generally discusses ‘climate change’ almost exclusively within the context of prevailing political rhetoric.

The only criticism I would offer of your piece is that you may be assuming too much knowledge of the basic science of AGW on the part of IT readers. The notion of a more open and dispassionate discussion of climate change and of the economic implications of our urgent global problem is not something with which they are necessarily familiar. That will change, though, as the costs of the policy become apparent. If I were offering strategic advice on how to ignite a public debate I would suggest a focus on the economic arguments as a catalyst.

As for some of the comments above, from my own post on CRU-gate on irishelection.com. ; you’ll no doubt be interested to know (without ever being referenced in my own post) that you are labelled as a ‘right wing’ climate change ‘denier’, whilst I am clearly the equivalent of a she-devil. I don’t do labels, myself. I’m too old to be bothered. In any case, they never advance understanding of any issue in my experience.

Since we both are concerned about AGW and its potential ultimate impact on human society – although our personal perspectives might diverge – I have to say that in advancing a neutral perspective on irish election.com I found the level of personal abuse to which I was subjected by one commentator quite extraordinary; if amusing in an odd sort of way. Even more bemusing was that in calling for a debate on both the science and the solutions, people who find the whole global warming scenario too much to take on board became concerned I was labelling them as ‘deniers’.

I guess if one is being attacked by both sides of an argument, there’s a possibility that one has struck a nerve (?).

I looked up ‘thinkorswim’, by the way. Far from fascinating, I find it quite boringly predictable. The trouble with John Gibbons, unfortunately, is that he appears to think he’s a journalist when in fact he’s a polemicist and also quite incapable of making the distinction.

@ Sarah,

So your column appears on Wednesdays? Hmmn…..

Please don’t cry. You’ll spoil those pillows. Anyway, it doesn’t suit you. Besides, the column is readily accessible through the IT website without ever having to buy the paper. And you’ve loads of fans looking forward to it every week…even me! Cheers.

@ Richard

On what planet is:

“The only thing we have in common is that we don’t follow a fad just because everyone else does”

=

“I am not inclined to following fads” ?

We usually use of the singular, especially within the context of the discussion of a particular phenomenon, we assume someone is referring to that phenomenon.

On the other hand when we use “fads” as you did in you second bite at the cherry, then we are talking generally.

So it’s not a fad then? Good.

@Paddy

Morning Ireland is now online: http://www.rte.ie/news/morningireland/player.html?20091208,2663992,2663992,real,209

Ray Bates roughly agrees with me (no reason to doubt the basic science, but CRU seems to have acted inappropriately), and suggests that the IPCC should be taken out of the UN. (I agree with Ray on this, but there is little prospect for this happening any time soon.)

John Sweeney argues that climategate is a distraction and that the IPCC is a wonderful organisation.

Richard, Your remark on the Hamburg model predicting some cooling and the 2020 date has me intrigued….

Do you know of a good on-line resource or article which gives a summary of the different models and their predictions? If you were introducing a newcomer to the state of play, where would they look?

@ All

By the way, the reason that CRU coultn’t respond to FOI requests was because they didn’t have permission to release data that was provided from other sources, specifically the British Met Office.

The British Met has now made all data available, see: http://en.cop15.dk/news/view+news?newsid=2881

80% of the remaining right-wing blogger hysteria is put to bed here:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack-context/

Those links are for anyone who is truly trying to get to the bottom of this in a open-mind way.

@Joseph Curtin
That is a very generous interpretation of the behaviour of CRU. If it were true, they could have written a simple letter and pointed people to the relevant archives.

Some of the people at RealClimate are either implicated by ClimateGate while others have fallen foul of the same confusion between evidence and conclusion.

@ Richard

It seems to me that you are the one jumping to conclusions. What exactly are you saying? That the actual input data has been falsified? That would be a very serious accusation.

I’m not defending the behavior of CRU, I’m just pointing out the facts reported in the press release as they seem to contradict earlier reports.

The MET rely on 6500 data sets from stations around the world. 1500 will be released, the other 5000 are provided on a confidential basis (perhaps for military or other reasons??), and they therefore have no right to release them at this time.

According to the press release they will work with the data providers to make the remaining information available. They have also promised to make the computer code used to aggregate the data available.

I think that would be welcome as this information needs to be in the public domain. Having said that I can’t see all governments/weather stations agreeing.

@Joseph Curtin

I regularly get data requests. I find that a waste of time. So I put the data on the web.

I also use confidential data. If someone asks for such data, I write an email explaining that I cannot share this data and where they’d need to apply for access.

If you’d read the CRU emails, you’d find that they did not follow this procedure or anything remotely like it.

@ Richard

I know that the emails suggest that CRU had a peculiar approach to data requests which I wouldn’t even being to defend. One possible explanation that has been posited is that there was something in the data they sought to hide.

Now that the data has been made available to the greatest extent possible (and it doesn’t contradict what we already know), and we have a commitment that the rest of the data will be made available as soon as possible, I should think that we can be fairly confident that this is not the case.

Perhaps another more likely explanation is that an unhealthy and unacceptable culture of secrecy and mistrust developed which affected all areas of the center.

@Joe Curtin
If there’s nothing to hide, why would one? It is illegal to deny a legitimate freedom of information request.

The data release by the Met Office does not solve the problem by the way. The issue is that data homogenisation and averaging is unclear. Having the raw data available on one server and the processed data on another is no good without a concordance table. Even with a concordance table, one’d only know that data were homogenised, but not how or why. One cannot reverse-engineer the averaging procedure.

@ Richard

Because a culture of secrecy developed, a them-against-us mentality? Because of an irrational fear that they might have made an mistake that would be exposed? I dunno..

Having no clue how these things work, I would have thought the computer coding used in the averaging along with the data would be enough to satisfy most. Couldn’t they then just run it again?

@Joe Curtin
Over at http://www.thinkorswim.ie/, you demonstrate a lack of knowledge about climate change that is amazing for someone who is a senior researcher on energy and climate, and now you show that you do not know what it takes to construct the instrumental record of the global mean surface air temperature. You seem to have missed the announcement that Hadley will redo this, and hope to have it finished in 2011. Your economics also fail you again. There is obviously a lot of demand for temperature records, yet supply is low. CRU has obviously been reaping substantial monopoly rents. There is a lot of excitement and speculation about the methodology, the algorithms, and the data. So, why would it be easy to do this?

They cannot “run it again” because they messed up their data and their code.

@ Richard

By demonstrating a lack of knowledge about climate I take it you mean someone who disagrees with you. That would also include 99% of the the economists, scientists and policy makers operating in the area who don’t subscribe to your blinkered views, or anyone who is not ignorant enough to believe than we have a 100 years to sort this out as you reliably informed the Irish public today.

Is the Hadley center you cite above the same one that projected that the 4 degree threshold would likely be reached by 2070, leading to warming of 12 degrees in certain parts of the globe (in business as usual scenario)?

Is this another example of your “scaremongering from the grey literature”. Presumable you would place Professors Hansen and Schellenhumer in this category also?

Oh and in response to your conspiracy theory question “if there’s nothing to hide, why would one?”, here is a better response than mine (and a far superior explanation to your own from someone who actually has a clue what they are talking about):

Re: CRU data accessibility.

National Meteorological Services (NMSs) have different rules on data exchange. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) organizes the exchange of “basic data”, i.e. data that are needed for weather forecasts. For details on these see WMO resolution number 40 (see http://bit.ly/8jOjX1).

This document acknowledges that WMO member states can place restrictions on the dissemination of data to third parties “for reasons such as national laws or costs of production”. These restrictions are only supposed to apply to commercial use, the research and education community is supposed to have free access to all the data.

Now, for researchers this sounds open and fine. In practice it hasn’t proved to be so.

Most NMSs also can distribute all sorts of data that are classified as “additional data and products”. Restrictions can be placed on these. These special data and products (which can range from regular weather data from a specific station to maps of rain intensity based on satellite and radar data). Many nations do place restrictions on such data (see link for additional data on above WMO-40 webpage for details).

The reasons for restricting access is often commercial, NMSs are often required by law to have substantial income from commercial sources, in other cases it can be for national security reasons, but in many cases (in my experience) the reasons simply seem to be “because we can”.

What has this got to do with CRU? The data that CRU needs for their data base comes from entities that restrict access to much of their data. And even better, since the UK has submitted an exception for additional data, some nations that otherwise would provide data without question will not provide data to the UK. I know this from experience, since my nation (Iceland) did send in such conditions and for years I had problem getting certain data from the US.

The ideal, that all data should be free and open is unfortunately not adhered to by a large portion of the meteorological community. Probably only a small portion of the CRU data is “locked” but the end effect is that all their data becomes closed. It is not their fault, and I am sure that they dislike them as much as any other researcher who has tried to get access to all data from stations in region X in country Y.

These restrictions end up by wasting resources and hurting everyone. The research community (CRU included) and the public are the victims. If you don’t like it, write to you NMSs and urge them to open all their data.

Oh and one last thing: I don’t pretend to be a statistician and never have.

Richad Tol
You believe in pacifism. You believe in belittling those who advocate violence, when you do not believe in it. Your arguments are shockingly arrogant even for an inhabitant of an ivory tower.

Baltic Exchange. Read about it and the effect that one bomb detonated there had on Northern Ireland! British “intelligence” control of the IRA was pervasive and advocated a policy of killing civilians as the Brits did in WWII. When the PIRA changed to the City of London, talks that had been sub rosa speeded up!

You have beliefs alright! Please be less denunciatory! Lets see if thisn is posted here or if I have to post it elsewhere!

@Pat

Sorry about that. I’m not amused when people deliberately misinterpret what I say. One may argue that with Joe Curtin one does not know whether he is disingenious or thick. He pretends to be anonymous here, and uses a sock to smear my name on other blogs, so I think disingenuity is a better explanation.

@Pat

Cap-and-trade is essentially a licensing system with trade in licenses. It’ll work as long as there is adequate monitoring and enforcement. In the EU, enforcement is done by the Member States — Italy, Cyprus, Bulgaria.

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