How Wide-Spread Is The Damage?

I’m certainly not familiar with the literature, but I’m sure that a lot of people out there are, and I hope that they’re starting to survey just how far-reaching the destruction of the recent revelations from East Anglia and Happy Valley are to the “settled science” of climate change. In theory, someone could put together a tree of citation dependencies, and see how much of the existing papers are dependent on what we now know to be bogus data and models, either directly or second or third generation. How much original research is there out there that isn’t either derivative from this flawed analysis, or was similarly “pushed” to match it through peer and other pressure?

Until we have the answer to this question, I’m not going to take seriously people who tell me that the vast majority of the work continues to confirm climatic disaster if we don’t immediately put into effect measures to wreck the global economy. And I hope that we can have an answer before Copenhagen. Not that any of the scientific illiterates at that meeting, including Carol Browner, will care.

[Update a few minutes later]

There’re a lot of similar thoughts in comments in a related post by Jonathan Adler.

One other thought, per those comments. I agree with this:

My own sense from reading the emails and the code is perhaps not so much that there was active fraud but rather that there was just a strong pressure to conform results to the desired output combined with a poor understanding of statistical and software methodology.

People will invariably fool themselves if they can. Actually most of the scientific method arguably is designed to prevent people from fooling themselves — from seeing spurious patterns in noisy data. People inexpert in modeling large systems or in the dangers of statistical modeling not only will always find spurious patterns, but will actually believe the patterns exist.

Here, once a certain fairly small critical mass of scientists citing one another’s papers and voting one another grant money is reached, it’s not realistic to expect them to see the problems with their data. Their computer code shows they are desperately trying to get answers they want and need, but they just don’t have the software skills, or statistics skills, or knowledge of large-scale data modeling to do it reliably. And they don’t really want to know either.

Was there some fraud involved? I’m not so sure this is fraud in the classical sense. I think it is more a set of institutional incentives that force researchers to publish or perish, to win grant money or leave academia: the researchers remaining have a certain mercurial stance, combined with a love of the topic but poor statistical analysis and software skills. It’s very easy to understand how they could come to believe they are seeing patterns that are not there.

I’ve called them charlatans, but that’s too harsh. I think they’re true believers in their new religion. But what angers me is when they and their defenders accuse me of being “anti-science” (even sometimes to the degree of lumping me and others in with creationists) when it is they who abandoned science, even if they don’t realize it.

[Sunday morning update]

Mann is going to be investigated by Penn State. As the blogger notes, will it be a real investigation, or a whitewash?

[Sunday evening update]

When you’ve lost the geeks, you’ve lost the war:

Along with a hoard of emails, some source code for the computer climate models was also hacked and released to the public — and the source code is an unusable mess. It doesn’t take expertise in climatology to look at source code and determine that the code is garbage. There are many more geeks with software expertise than with climate expertise, and the geek community will go through every line of code and likely conclude that the computer models are so flawed that any conclusions drawn on them are without merit.

Despite the liberal tendencies of many geeks, I believe that the source code evidence will be insurmountable for most. Some will continue to cling to AGW because of a devotion to left-wing politics, but the majority ofgeeks will abandon their belief, and that abandonment by geeks will truly spell the end for AGW.

I wonder how long it will be before we reach the tipping point at which no one will admit to having been fooled by this nonsense? After the war, it was hard to find a Frenchman who wasn’t in the resistance.

95 thoughts on “How Wide-Spread Is The Damage?”

  1. In my opinion you have this one right Rand. It is a common mindset that cannot see any other reality, not a conspiracy. The difference though, is mostly academic.

  2. Don’t forget the corollary, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo”. That may be a bit more appropriate.

  3. Yes, but excluding the work that directly depends on the discredited institutions, IMHO, is not enough. We’ve had our first glimpse at the inside of the AGW research culture and found corruption; I think we need to demand that ALL climate science that hasn’t revealed its raw data and source code be discounted. THEN how much evidence for AGW remains? Inquiring minds want to know.

  4. I think “Pious Fraud” is the term you are looking for. Consider that these emails, files, and code were extracted at random from just one of the many climate science centers. Is is reasonable to suppose that they are unique? If you are sitting in a restaurant and see a roach crawl up the wall, do you say to yourself: Oh, there goes the only roach!

  5. “If you are sitting in a restaurant and see a roach crawl up the wall, do you say to yourself: Oh, there goes the only roach!”

    That remark only proves all you people are Right-Wing Libertarian Weenies. What evidence do you have that the commercial bank underwriting the loan to the restaurant conspired to put that roach there?

  6. Rand, I think you’re asking the wrong question. Don’t concentrate your efforts on finding out how the “smoke and mirrors” worked, but focus instead upon what they’ve been hiding all this time.

    Whatever comes out of this little episode, it does nothing to change the underlying science: we always knew CO2 can act as a greenhouse gas from the basic physics (i.e. the science is settled) but we have little, if any, evidence that the positive feed-backs that are required to “fix” the models — and amplify a 6C “mountain” — tell the whole story (i.e. the science is by no means settled).

    Given these facts, which come straight out of the IPCC reports, it really doesn’t matter if the temperature is increasing, the ice caps melting or the sea level rising. The fundamental point is that if CO2 is not the dominant driver, all plans for decarbonising the world’s economy are, literally, nothing more than hot air.

    The real magician’s trick these guys have pulled is not the corruption of data. The real trick is that they managed to misdirect people away from the “single thread” by which the whole AGW narrative hangs: a single thread that’s been there from day one and visible to anyone who cares to look.

    The simple but sad truth is that they’ve not corrupted the most important pieces of evidence because there was never anything there to corrupt in the first place!

  7. Rand, for some reason part of the text I enter gets erased. I wanted to type “and amplify a less than 1C molehill into a greater than 6C mountain” but the first part got erased both times, even though it appeared correctly in the reply echo above the entry box.

    Is this a blog feature or just me being ignorant about the use of symbols?

  8. But what about the influence of the papers they stopped from being published?

    Lack of transparency applied to the insiders is half the story. The opacity applied to outsiders is the other half.

  9. I agree it’s not fraud in the sense of intent to deceive. Once these guys became convinced by whatever means that AGW is real, the single most important thing in their minds became establishing that as settled science so the politicians would act in time to save the planet. When you think you’re saving the world it is tempting to believe that the ends justify the means. So if some guy is trying to publish a paper that you just know is wrong and will confuse the poor, uneducated public you do whatever you can to stop him.

  10. Godzilla sez: Only mainstream science as shitty as AGW is string theory.

    Excellent analogy (wish I’d thought of it first!). I was rereading Lee Smolin’s thoughtful and entertaining The Trouble With Physics the other day, and the comparisons between the string theory crowd and the AGW people are numerous, starting with “hypotheses don’t match experiment” (in string theory, the complete inability of string theory to replicate the standard model; in AGW, the lack of predictive power of any model that reproduces past history), all the way through “nonbelievers are apostates” (Smolin cites numerous examples of the overt hostility of the string theory crowd to non-believers, and the similar examples among the AGW people are legion). Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin’s witty A Different Universe also attacks the ivory tower of those who won’t bother to actually look at the data.

    The bottom line: follow where the data lead, which is what the AGW proponents seem to have lost.

  11. The easiest person to fool is yourself. Science is full of people trying to justify the hypothesis their ego wants.

    Seriously, reading Science or Nature, I tended to think at least 25% of the articles in each issue didn’t adequately test their hypothesis or they jumped to conclusions on their conclusion and grasped for a little too much out of too little data. Or didn’t understand how to use statistics — you wouldn’t believe how many “scientists” will take any data, plug it into Excel and do a linear fit on it without knowing if the underlying phenomenon *is* described by a linear equation, or knowing what the assumptions involved in a linear fit are. It’s just so easy, so they plug it in and come up with some haphazard plot that means nothing, and an equation that describes nothing.

    Bad experimental design, bad logic, and a whole lot of fooling themselves. There are too many scientists right now, just like there are too many programmers. There is more demand for their services than there are competent people to fill the roles.

  12. Only mainstream science as shitty as AGW is string theory.

    Not really. There’s no systematic effort to coopt journals in string theory to present an approved point of view. Even the strongest string theory proponents will admit publicly the flaws of string theory to some degree. There’s no “consensus” that string theory is wholly true with detractors vilified for attempting to confuse the issue with unscientific and should-be-illegal counterarguments.

    There are other valid and competitive ideas (loop quantum gravity, for example) which are recognized by the scientific community.

    In other words, AGW in certain important ways is shittier than string theory.

  13. “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” – Sherlock Holmes.

    Of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective also served up some classic fallacies, such as the timeless argumentum ad ignorantiam statement “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Such thinking was the hook upon which the greater part of the AGW cloak was hung.

    This entire endeavor has had a Queen of Hearts modus (Verdict first! Trial afterward!) from the get go. It was always apparent to me, though I did at one point try to suspend my disbelief long enough to dig into the details and give the notion a fair hearing. I came away even more convinced that the public was being herded into a stampede based on shallow science.

    In the five or six years since, I have had many occasions to revisit the old saw “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is a nutball claiming he can “see”, whatever that means.

  14. As long as we’re quoting…

    There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

    — Mark Twain

  15. But what angers me is when they and their defenders accuse me of being “anti-science” (even sometimes to the degree of lumping me and others in with creationists) when it is they who abandoned science, even if they don’t realize it.

    Fair enough; in fact, I was going to comment about that very possibility. If I may say so, perhaps prudence warrants taking care not to do things like calling Frank Tipler a “real scientist” (in a previous post). I would no longer apply that label to the author of The Physics of Immortality, The Physics of Christianity and more, even though he earned serious scientific credentials early in his career.

    Godzilla commented, Only mainstream science as shitty as AGW is string theory.

    I think that AI merits mention too–and, even though it is not mainstream science, its Singularitarian offshoot.

    That’s not to say that AI will never happen. That’s not to say that a Singularity will never happen. That’s not to say that the concepts may not inspire entrepreneurs to do things that are actually useful.

    But, on its own merits, AI (and the Singularity more so) has been so overhyped that IMO it belongs with string theory and climate “science”.

  16. Dennis Wingo Says:
    November 28th, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    In my opinion you have this one right Rand. It is a common mindset that cannot see any other reality, not a conspiracy. The difference though, is mostly academic.

    Certainly many of the individuals involved in the science may have simply been following along, and publishing work that fit the accepted pattern.

    On the other hand, I must disagree that this is not a conspiracy. The emails clearly document an intent to surpress information by subverting peer-review. By sharing this info in an email, I think this begins to establish that both parties are involved.

    From Phil Jones To: Michael Mann (Pennsylvania State University). July 8, 2004
    “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!”


    From Phil Jones. To: Michael Mann. Date: May 29, 2008
    “Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise.”

    This is direct evidence of conspiracy to avoid a FOIA in the UK.

    AGW is debatable.

    However, Phil Jones is a crook.

  17. I suspect we will find proof of a big echo chamber that gave rise to an orgy of pseudoscientific inbreeding.

  18. I don’t think the people who are most vocal about climate change really think there is much danger. If they did, they wouldn’t be acting the way they did, they’d be looking for real solutions. Now they’re just looking for an excuse to tax and spend.

    On the other hand, just because the people warning about the problem are a bunch of crooks and idiots doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. We have the planet Venus as an example of what could go wrong if you continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. On the other hand, it might be just what is needed to avert another ice age. Or it might be bad after all and too late to do anything about it. In which case I should considering relocating to a place further away from the sea.

    I worked for an oil major for a while and some of my colleagues thought greenhouse gases might be a real problem. They weren’t worried about peak oil, since there is enough coal to last us a couple of hundred years. At a price of $200 a barrel you could use coal AND sequester the CO2. But if you didn’t do anything about the CO2, they thought that might be a problem.

  19. I think that AI merits mention too–and, even though it is not mainstream science, its Singularitarian offshoot.

    AI has probably consumed more research money than “climate change” has. It’s as mainstream as any 40-50 year topic in computer science can be. It also is harder than anyone ever imagined.

  20. The December 18, 1989 issue of Physical Review Letters (PRL) carried a paper entitled “Anomalous Weight Reduction on a Gyroscope’s Right Rotations about the Vertical Axis on the Earth” by Hideo Hayasaka and Sakae Takeuchi of Tohoku University, Japan. It presented detailed experiments with three dissimilar gyroscopes, all of which exhibited up to 12 milligrams of weight loss when rotating vertically in a right hand sense, and no weight loss when rotating in a left-hand sense. Normally PRL publishes no more than 8 weeks after submittal. This paper took 21 months to clear the peer-review process, because of its extraordinary claims.

    An on-line account states: “Reportedly the paper was delayed because the PRL editors and referees were very skeptical of the reported effect but could find nothing wrong with the experimental techniques described. After repeated revision of the paper, some re-refereeing, and much editorial deliberation, paper was finally published.”

    No one has been able to get the same results (though the attempts at replication about which I’ve read were very, very sloppy, compared to the original). It is a dead issue in physics. But PRL did not simply block it because it was “impossible.”

    This is the peer-review process in action. The perversion apparently envisioned by some on the Left, and in the AWG movement (a Venn diagram looks almost like one circle…) is definitely NOT peer-review.

  21. “We have the planet Venus as an example of what could go wrong if you continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. ”

    Having twice the solar energy imput and 80 times the atmospheric density helps too.

  22. What is funny about these idiots is that they actually don’t care about two genuine problems that actually ARE caused by man :

    a) Plastic waste in the oceans
    b) Mercury entering into the marine food pyramid

    Those really are caused by man. Yet these enviro-nuts have no interest in these issues.

  23. ““Having twice the solar energy imput and 80 times the atmospheric density helps too.”

    90 times, in fact, according to Carl Sagan.

    Plus an atmosphere of H2SO4 is not a bug, its a feature!!

  24. Well, I looked at the code and that awful Harry_read_me.txt file and as a programmer, I’m not impressed. Depressed maybe, but not impressed.

    Crappy data in, crappy results out. Of course, since they “lost” most of the original data, no one, including themselves, has much to stand on. Interesting in most of the “hockey stick” graphs is the rise in temperatures starting in the 1970s. This was back in my High School-College days, and the days of “A new ice age is coming, we’re all gonna die.”

    I find that rather “inconvenient” for the CRU crowd.

  25. Martijn,

    You make several good points.

    Knowing the factors that change the climate would be quite helpful, although far from necessary, for humans to go about their daily lives. It is a shame that the current crop of crooks posing as legit scientists have probably wasted years of research of the entire discipline through their frauds.

    Question: Assume it is not a false premise that normal actions of today’s society can cause massive harm to future habitability (in today’s sense) of the planet.

    Is preferable to suffer today for the future OR for future persons to solve things in their time?

    Climate studies

  26. “AGW is debatable.

    However, Phil Jones is a crook.”

    Ding, ding ding!

    The guy who said words to teh effect of “I’m not going to give you my data, because I’ve been working on this for 25 years, and all you want to do is try to prove me wrong” is not a scientist. he’s a whore, and a crook. There is nothign good that could ever be said about him.

  27. It isn’t just the sanctimonious true believers in science: what science has Barack Hussein Obama ever studied other than “scientific socialism”? Yet he and Al Gore together make an Einstein? Sorry, they don’t even make a Pons.

    These people always wanted to raise your taxes, so lo and behold, nature needed them to raise your taxes. An entire generation of politicians and scientists should be shamed into early retirements over their complicity in this mania.

  28. Eliminating anthropogenic CO2 emissions is the most simplistic science option, it is the “we do not understand the science” solution.

    If the climate “scientists” did have the science under control then they would not be ignoring the economics and they would be suggesting low cost solutions that would know would actually work. This suggests to me that they do not much understand the science, and therefore, that their predictions of future climate can not currently be much trusted.

    We now perhaps need to audit climate “scientists”, observe what the climate actually does, and be ready to respond in the most rational manner possible. Climate change is pretty much a given, as is an anthropomorphic component.

    Also, lets not forget that there are ten thousand other things out there (known and unknown) that could do life on this planet a lot of damage – that need their share of attention.

  29. Regarding the meme that CO2 has a direct impact on temperatures, here are a pair of interesting graphs

    The first graph illustrates the complete absence of any correlation between CO2 levels and temperature…

    The second graph shows that there is a strong correlation between temperatures and solar activity…

  30. “Having twice the solar energy imput and 80 times the atmospheric density helps too.”

    And the excess of atmospheric density is mostly carbon dioxide.

    The leading theory about “what went wrong” in the case of Venus is this. Three or four billion years ago, during the era in which both Earth and Venus were being heavily bombarded with the comets that gave both planets most of their atmospheres, both planets had very similar atmospheres; nitrogen, ammonia, methane and a small amount of water vapour and CO2. Venus indeed had more solar irradiation, and hence the greenhouse effect ran away early – and all its nascent oceans evaporated creating a huge greenhouse effect. And then the balance between CO2 output into the atmosphere and fixing of carbon went all the way towards CO2 in the air. Eventually, all the planet’s carbon turned into CO2. After that, Venus lost a very large proportion of its hydrogen by photolytic breakdown of water vapour in the high atmosphere. Venus is actually cooler than it once was, by this theory; the best estimate for Venus’s peak temperature is about 3000C. Also, the mass of carbon in the Venusian atmosphere is approximately the same as that combined in Earth’s fossil fuel deposits and carbonate rocks; Venus has essentially no carbonates.

    The worst-case scenario is that on Earth, the fixing of CO2 by dissolution in rainwater and subsequent rock weathering will just about stop; after all, all gases dissolve worse in hot water than cold. And then, continued fossil-fuel burning and – yes – volcanic emissions continue to pour CO2 into the air; at some point the various methane clathrate deposits become unstable and such things as peat bogs start releasing their carbon by various means, thus further increasing the greenhouse effect, and water vapour in the air gets higher further amplifying this effect.

    An Earth with most of its carbon in the air and a lot of its water also in the atmosphere would not be like Venus. It would be worse. It ought to be remembered that the solar “constant” is about 15-20% higher than it was when life started, too.

  31. So how about an estimate of how long all this will take, Fletcher?

    How do you intend to move the Earth closer to the Sun while we’re at it?

    Get a grip. Instead of worrying about what humans are doing to the biosphere, figure out what the rest of the lifeforms are doing. Maintaining an atmosphere high in free oxygen amongst other things. Providing condensation nucleii for clouds and rain for another. Forming halogen compounds which destroy ozone. Sequestering CO2.

    Humans are nowhere near figuring all this out but if there was one thing that a clever planetary engineer would do it would be to increase the trace amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to create a margin of safety for the plants. We’re scarily close to their lower limit of survival. Extra CO2 has never been a problem in the past.They are trying for a suicide/murder by sequestering all the CO2 as fast as they can and after killing themselves off they will have succeeded in murdering all the animals including us.

    Except for what we can get off planet. If you need a reason for the existence of the human race that’s it. We’re the guardians, shepherds, gardeners and planetary engineers and we’d better get damned good at it. No fake science allowed.

  32. fletcher Christian

    You missed one leeeeetle detail. The earth is covered with carbon-based lifeforms. That’s a humungous sink.

    And if the work of Scotese and Bernier is still the gold standard, the temp of our planet hasn’t risen more than 10C even with CO2 PPM over 7000 for at least almost a billion years.

  33. A scandal nearly as large as climategate is the failure of the mainstream (?} media to cover it. Not only is there a near total void in coverage, there seems to be stepped up fright stories of polar bears drowning.

  34. AI has probably consumed more research money than “climate change” has. It’s as mainstream as any 40-50 year topic in computer science can be. It also is harder than anyone ever imagined.

    Hey, do not diss AI. Research in AI brought us that wonderful piece of technology that was Microsoft Office Clippy. All hail Clippy!

  35. My wife is an actual scientist at a top US research institution, not some huckstering charlatan. I explained to her what was going on with ClimateGate and she was completely shocked, especially with this “dog ate my data” business.

    She told me that if someone accused her of scientific fraud and she couldn’t produce every last scrap of data since she started publishing in the early 1990s, her ass would be in a sling, possibly under indictment for misusing millions in taxpayer money. Certainly she would be apt to be fired, even though she’s been tenured since 2000.

    These climate people are not scientists, regardless of how many degrees they have, what titles they hold, how many papers they have, or any other metric.

    They should be absolutely raked over the coals and vilified.

  36. Mike Borgelt – A full runaway greenhouse effect on Earth would take thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of years. How many thousands would depend on how long the carbon-based lifeforms on Earth survive, which is a function of climate, rainfall and other issues. We have had mass extinction events before, where 90% of all species alive at the time just die off.

    Regarding “solar constant” – as the Sun ages, it is getting brighter. Three billion years ago, the sun was at least 20% dimmer than currently – thus Venus was getting solar radiation equivalent to Earth today.

  37. No Fletcher, 20% does not equal 100%. Study the inverse square law. Venus, even if your assertion about 20% is correct, does not equal the fact that Venus being a third closer to the sun recieves more than twice the solar imput. Remember, if you halve the distance, you quadruple the imput.

    Even with your 20% factored in, Venus got way more imput then than the Earth today.

    And lets not forget that CO2 by Vulcanism is dependant on tectonic activity. The amount of tectonic activity three billion years ago was considerably more than today on both Venus and Earth.

    If anything, we are in more of a danger off too much carbon being sequestered by subduction of carbonates. If man had not came along, the CO2 levels might have dropped so low that the bioavalibility of carbon would become too low and make it impossible for trees and woody plants to survive. The train of subduction and subsequent volcanic release of carbonates (and hydrates for that matter) is slowing down. Historically speaking, on a Geologic Timescale, the level of atmospheric carbon is quite low.

    The earth is becoming constipated and only man can treat this malady by releasing the carbonates and eventually the hydrates.

  38. “Regarding “solar constant” – as the Sun ages, it is getting brighter. Three billion years ago, the sun was at least 20% dimmer than currently – thus Venus was getting solar radiation equivalent to Earth today.”

    You too fail to comprehend the inverse square law. See my above post.

  39. Regarding “solar constant” – as the Sun ages, it is getting brighter. Three billion years ago, the sun was at least 20% dimmer than currently – thus Venus was getting solar radiation equivalent to Earth today.

    Wow. Venus of that time would be getting roughly 60% more solar radiation than Earth today. And Earth today has most of its carbon tied up in carbonates like limestone. Even burning all the fossil fuels that we could feasibly dig up isn’t going to release enough CO2 to trigger a Venus effect. In fact, we would poison the atmosphere first (10% CO2 content in the atmosphere is lethal to human life).

  40. A little surprised at the rush to absolve these guys of fraud. The legal definition, at least in California, is:

    Civil Code 1709. One who willfully deceives another with intent to induce him to alter his position to his injury or risk, is liable for any damage which he thereby suffers.

    Civil Code 1710. A deceit, within the meaning of the last section, is either:
    1. The suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true;
    2. The assertion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who has no reasonable ground for believing it to be true;
    3. The suppression of a fact, by one who is bound to disclose it, or who gives information of other facts which are likely to mislead for want of communication of that fact; or,
    4. A promise, made without any intention of performing it.

    The issues is sub 2 of section 10. Did they have a reasonable ground for believing it to be true. The fact that their pyramid scheme convinced so many people is not an indicator of the reasonableness of their belief. I’m pretty sure you could convince a jury that these guys had no reasonable grounds for their beliefs, i.e. they engaged in fraud.

    Here’s the link:

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