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]
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.