Inquiry Submission – Downplaying uncertainty?

One of the submissions is from Peabody Energy — the largest private sector coal producer in the world.

Here is just a brief excerpt from the submission:

The CRU emails, however, reveal that the authors of this material did not present a neutral view of the science. In particular, they downplayed the considerable uncertainty inherent in trying to approximate temperatures from proxy data over a 1000-year period, they suppressed contrary information, and they suppressed dissenting views in ways that made even their own colleagues uncomfortable. Thus, in one representative email written during the preparation of the TAR, Keith Briffa stated that “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple. He went on to say that “I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago.” Similarly, another key researcher, Ed Cook, in a lengthy email bristling at the effort to eliminate the MWP, wrote that “I do find the dismissal of the Medieval Warm Period as a meaningful global event to be grossly premature and probably wrong.

Science has its uncertainties and its debates about how uncertain data is and how valid methods are. Here, the article claims that the IPCC ignored or brushed aside Briffa’s concerns that the MWP was as warm as the current warm period. That was not the consensus view. Was it really brushed aside?

First, here is the email PE is citing:

There is debate about what graphic to use in the TAR Chapter 2:

Here’s Phil Jones:

As for the TAR Chap 2 it seems somewhat arbitrary divison to exclude the tree-ring only reconstructions. Keith’s reconstruction is of a different character to other tree-ring work as it is as ‘hemispheric in scale’ as possible so is unlike any other tree-ring related work that is reported upon.  If we go as is suggested then there would be two diagrams – one simpler one with just Mann et al and Jones et al and in another section Briffa et al. This might make it somewhat awkward for the reader trying to put them into context.   The most important bit of the proxy section is the general discussion of ‘Was there an MWE and a LIA’ drawing all the strands together. Keith and I would be happy to look through any revisions of the section if there is time.

Here’s Chris Follard’s reply:

A proxy diagram of temperature change is a clear favourite for the Policy Makers summary. But the current diagram with the tree ring only data somewhat contradicts the multiproxy curve and dilutes the message rather significantly. We want the truth. Mike thinks it lies nearer his result (which seems in accord with what we know about worldwide mountain glaciers and, less clearly, suspect about solar variations). The tree ring results may still suffer from lack of multicentury time scale variance. This is probably the most important issue to resolve in Chapter 2 at present.

Here’s Briffa’s response — the part referenced by PE:

There is still a potential problem with non-linear responses in the very recent period of some biological proxies ( or perhaps a fertilisation through high CO2 or nitrate input) . I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple. We don’t have a lot of proxies that come right up to date and those that do (at least a significant number of tree proxies ) some unexpected changes in response that do not match the recent warming. I do not think it wise that this issue be ignored in the chapter.  For the record, I do believe that the proxy data do show unusually warm conditions in recent decades. I am not sure that this unusual warming is so clear in the summer responsive data. I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago. I do not believe that global mean annual temperatures have simply cooled progressively over thousands of years as Mike appears to and I contend that that there is strong evidence for major changes in climate over the Holocene (not Milankovich) that require explanation and that could represent part of the current or future background variability of our climate. I think the Venice meeting will be a good place to air these isssues.[my emphasis]

Clearly, Briffa disagrees with others on how to proceed with the TAR Ch 2. He mentions the divergence issue. He mentions the uncertainty in the proxies, he states his opinion that the MWP was as warm as today and that there have been majorchanges in the Holocene that require explanation (MWP and LIA).

Here’s Mann’s reply:

I am perfectly amenable to keeping Keith’s series in the plot, and can ask Ian Macadam (Chris?) to add it to the plot he has been preparing (nobody liked my own color/plotting conventions so I’ve given up doing this myself). The key thing is making sure the series are vertically aligned in a reasonable way. I had been using the entire 20th century, but in the case of Keith’s, we need to align the first half of the 20th century w/ the corresponding mean values of the other series, due to the late 20th century decline.

So if Chris and Tom (?) are ok with this, I would be happy to add Keith’s series. That having been said, it does raise a conundrum: We demonstrate (through comparining an exatropical averaging of our nothern hemisphere patterns with Phil’s more extratropical series) that the major discrepancies between Phil’s and our series can be explained in terms of spatial sampling/latitudinal emphasis (seasonality seems to be secondary here, but probably explains much of the residual differences). But that explanation certainly can’t rectify why Keith’s series, which has similar seasonality *and* latitudinal emphasis to Phil’s series, differs in large part in exactly the opposite direction that Phil’s does from ours. This is the problem we all picked up on (everyone in the room at IPCC was in agreement that this was a problem and a potential distraction /detraction from the reasonably concensus viewpoint we’d like to show w/ the Jones et al and Mann et al series.

So, if we show Keith’s series in this plot, we have to comment that “something else” is responsible for the discrepancies in this case. Perhaps Keith can help us out a bit by explaining the processing that went into the series and the potential factors that might lead to it being “warmer” than the Jones et al and Mann et al series?? We would need to put in a few words in this regard. Otherwise, the skeptics have an field day casting
doubt on our ability to understand the factors that influence these estimates and, thus, can undermine faith in the paleoestimates. I don’t think that doubt is scientifically justified, and I’d hate to be the one to have to give it fodder!

So — the debate in the email PE cites is about whether to include Briffa’s recon and to mention divergence and uncertainty about climatic variation in the Holocene including MWP and LIA. Everyone seems amenable to Briffa’s suggestions.

Let’s look at the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers in the TAR:

Globally it is very likely that the 1990s was the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in the instrumental record (1861–2000) (see Box SPM-1). The increase in surface temperature over the 20th century for the Northern Hemisphere is likely to have been greater than that for any other century in the last thousand years (see Table SPM-1). Insufficient data are available prior to the year 1860 in the Southern Hemisphere to compare the recent warming with changes over the last 1,000 years. Temperature changes have not been uniform globally but have varied over regions and different parts of the lower atmosphere.  Q2.7

Here’s the AR4:

Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1300 years. {1.1} [my emphasis]

Note that in both reports, the SPM uses the following terms: very likely for the instrumental record/past 500 years and then likely for the previous 1,000 – 1300 years, covering the MWP. So, neither SPM does not claim outright that it is certain that the CWP is warmer than the MWP but that it is likely but that there are still uncertainties in the records. This is because there are few good proxies going back that far and the ones that do go back have large error bars due to larger levels of uncertainty.

Here’s an excerpt from the SAR WG1 Chapter 2 that was discussed above in the CRU Email on paleoclimate reconstructions and tree ring data:

Several important caveats must be borne in mind when using tree-ring data for palaeoclimate reconstructions. Not least is the intrinsic sampling bias. Tree-ring information is available only in terrestrial regions, so is not available over substantial regions of the globe, and the climate signals contained in tree-ring density or width data reflect a complex biological response to climate forcing. Non-climatic growth trends must be removed from the tree-ring chronology, making it difficult to resolve time-scales longer than the lengths of the constituent chronologies (Briffa, 2000). Furthermore, the biological response to climate forcing may change over time. There is evidence, for example, that high latitude tree-ring density variations have changed in their response to temperature in recent decades, associated with possible non-climatic factors (Briffa et al., 1998a). By contrast, Vaganov et al. (1999) have presented evidence that such changes may actually be climatic and result from the effects of increasing winter precipitation on the starting date of the growing season (see Section 2.7.2.2). Carbon dioxide fertilization may also have an influence, particularly on high-elevation drought-sensitive tree species, although attempts have been made to correct for this effect where appropriate (Mann et al., 1999). Thus climate reconstructions based entirely on tree-ring data are susceptible to several sources of contamination or non-stationarity of response. For these reasons, investigators have increasingly found tree-ring data most useful when supplemented by other types of proxy information in “multi-proxy” estimates of past temperature change (Overpeck et al., 1997; Jones et al., 1998; Mann et al., 1998; 1999; 2000a; 2000b; Crowley and Lowery, 2000).

Holy cow, yanno, when you actually read the dadblamed document, you see how much uncertainty is expressed. They even talked about divergence! I thought it was a secret — hidden in the shadows.

Then we find the dratted hockey stick graphs… Here they are with the caption that goes along with the graphs.

Figure 2.21: Comparison of warm-season (Jones et al., 1998) and annual mean (Mann et al., 1998, 1999) multi-proxy-based and warm season tree-ring-based (Briffa, 2000) millennial Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstructions. The recent instrumental annual mean Northern Hemisphere temperature record to 1999 is shown for comparison. Also shown is an extra-tropical sampling of the Mann et al. (1999) temperature pattern reconstructions more directly comparable in its latitudinal sampling to the Jones et al. series. The self-consistently estimated two standard error limits (shaded region) for the smoothed Mann et al. (1999) series are shown. The horizontal zero line denotes the 1961 to 1990 reference period mean temperature. All series were smoothed with a 40-year Hamming-weights lowpass filter, with boundary constraints imposed by padding the series with its mean values during the first and last 25 years.

Look at those error bars! Given those error bars, it is possible to see that the MWP might actually be as warm as the CWP!

There’s an entire section just on the MWP and LIA. It states that there is not enough evidence to conclude that the MWP was global in extent or as warm or warmer than the CWP.

The conclusion?

Thus current evidence does not support globally synchronous periods of anomalous cold or warmth over this timeframe, and the conventional terms of “Little Ice Age” and “Medieval Warm Period” appear to have limited utility in describing trends in hemispheric or global mean temperature changes in past centuries. With the more widespread proxy data and multi-proxy reconstructions of temperature change now available, the spatial and temporal character of these putative climate epochs can be reassessed.

That represented the authors’ best understanding of the evidence at the time, regardless of what Briffa may have thought personally. Some areas appear warm compared with the CWP but others are warm during a different time period.

Here is the section from the AR4 WGI on paleoclimate temperature reconstructions:

The uncertainty associated with present palaeoclimate estimates of NH mean temperatures is significant, especially for the period prior to 1600 when data are scarce (Mann et al., 1999; Briffa and Osborn, 2002; Cook et al., 2004a). However, Figure 6.10shows that the warmest period prior to the 20th century very likely occurred between 950 and 1100, but temperatures were probably between 0.1°C and 0.2°C below the 1961 to 1990 mean and significantly below the level shown by instrumental data after 1980.

In order to reduce the uncertainty, further work is necessary to update existing records, many of which were assembled up to 20 years ago, and to produce many more, especially early, palaeoclimate series with much wider geographic coverage. There are far from sufficient data to make any meaningful estimates of global medieval warmth (Figure 6.11). There are very few long records with high temporal resolution data from the oceans, the tropics or the SH.

The evidence currently available indicates that NH mean temperatures during medieval times (950–1100) were indeed warm in a 2-kyr context and even warmer in relation to the less sparse but still limited evidence of widespread average cool conditions in the 17th century (Osborn and Briffa, 2006). However, the evidence is not sufficient to support a conclusion that hemispheric mean temperatures were as warm, or the extent of warm regions as expansive, as those in the 20th century as a whole, during any period in medieval times (Jones et al., 2001; Bradley et al., 2003a,b; Osborn and Briffa, 2006).

The AR4 even references the McIs:

McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) reported that they were unable to replicate the results of Mann et al. (1998). Wahl and Ammann (2007) showed that this was a consequence of differences in the way McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) had implemented the method of Mann et al. (1998) and that the original reconstruction could be closely duplicated using the original proxy data. McIntyre and McKitrick (2005a,b) raised further concerns about the details of the Mann et al. (1998) method, principally relating to the independent verification of the reconstruction against 19th-century instrumental temperature data and to the extraction of the dominant modes of variability present in a network of western North American tree ring chronologies, using Principal Components Analysis. The latter may have some theoretical foundation, but Wahl and Amman (2006) also show that the impact on the amplitude of the final reconstruction is very small (~0.05°C; for further discussion of these issues see also Huybers, 2005; McIntyre and McKitrick, 2005c,d; von Storch and Zorita, 2005).

Seems above board — lots of uncertainty expressed in both reports. I don’t see what the ‘skeptics’ and deniers are alleging — it appears that both the TAR and AR4 expressed clear uncertainties about the paleoclimate recons and proxy evidence, mentioning divergence and debate on whether the MPW was as warm as CWP, even mentioned McIs work.

Of course, you can go here to read the reviewer comments on various drafts of WG1.

I doubt Enron’s financial reports / annual reports and Arthur Andersen’s audits were as carefully reviewed by as many independent people or as honest about uncertainties in the product.

More later…

ETA: Corrected a few mistakes re the IPCC version being discussed.

More here:

The final reference in the PE submission to the Inquiry references Ed Cook’s “bristling email” about the MWP being likely as warm as current warming.

Lets examine that a bit, shall we?

This email was written to dispel the rumor that Cook et al was done to counter the “hockey stick” paper.

Here is Cook:

I especially want to avoid any suggestion that this work was being done to specifically counter or refute the “hockey stick”. However, it does suggest (as do other results from your EBM, Peck’s work, the borehole data, and Briffa and Jones large-scale proxy estimates) that there are unresolved (I think) inconsistencies in the low-frequency aspects of the hockey stick series compared to other results. So, any comparisons with the hockey stick were made with that spirit in mind.

So, at this stage I would argue that the Medieval Warm Period was probably a global extra-tropical event, at the very least, with warmth that was persistent and probably comparable to much of what we have experienced in the 20th century. However, I would not claim (and nor would Jan) that it exceeded the warmth of the late 20th century. We simply do not have the precision or the proxy replication to say that yet. This being said, I do find the dismissal of the Medieval Warm Period as a meaningful global event to be grossly premature and probably wrong. Kind of like Mark Twain’s commment that accounts of his death were greatly exaggerated. If, as some people believe, a degree of symmetry in climate exists between the hemispheres, which would appear to arise from the tropics, then the existence of a Medieval Warm Period in the extra-tropics of the NH and SH argues for its existence in the tropics as well. Only time and an enlarged suite of proxies that extend into the tropics will tell if this is true.

This is legitimate scientific debate about the evidence. Even Cook argues that only time and an enlarged suite of proxies that extend into the tropics will tell if his views on the MWP are true. So there was still debate and from the review of the TAR above, that was captured in the WG1 Ch 2 section on paleoclimate and the MWP.

Here is Ed Cook on the borehole data:

Re the boreholes. Actually, if Tom’s estimates are correct, and it is also correct that the boreholes have the low-frequency signal correct over the past few centuries, we are forced to also accept Tom’s result that the so-called “MWP”, at the hemispheric scale, is actually even COOLER relative to present than our result shows! That was clear in Tom’s presentation at the workshop. So lets be clear about that–Tom’s work and the boreholes in no way support Broecker’s conclusion that the MWP was warmer than we have it–it actually implies the MWP is colder than we have it! [my emphasis]

Tom, please speak up if I’m not correct in this regard!

So it seems clear that even Cook acknowledges that the evidence is not clear on the MWP since the borehole data shows a cooler MWP, which contradicts Broecker.

Here’s more from Cook:

My statement that the MWP appeared to be comparable to the 20th century does not imply, nor was it meant to imply, that somehow the 20th century temperature is not truly anomalous and being driven by greenhouse gases. To quote from my email, “I would not claim (and nor would Jan) that it exceeded the warmth of the late 20th century. We simply do not have the precision or the proxy replication to say that yet.” Note the use of the word “precision”. This clearly relates to the issue of error variance and confidence intervals, a point that you clearly emphasize in describing your series. Also note the emphasis on “late 20th century”. I think that most researchers in global change research would agree that the emergence of a clear greenhouse forcing signal has really only occurred since after 1970. I am not debating this point, although I do think that there still exists a signficant uncertainty as to the relative contributions of natural and greenhouse forcing to warming during the past 20-30 years at least. Note that I also tried to emphasize the extra-tropical nature of this series, and it may be that the tropics do not show the same strength of warming. But I do argue strongly that we do not have the high-resolution proxy data needed to test for a MWP in the tropics. Please correct me if I am wrong here. [my emphasis]

I think what this examination shows quite clearly is that there was vigorous debate about the data and evidence and that this debate and evidence was presented in the TAR, contrary to what PE and others have alleged. There was no hiding of contrary evidence — there was a clear mention of uncertainties and the inability to draw firm conclusions about the MWP’s extent and degree of warmth in comparison to the CWE. Cook and other’s show it was as warm, Mann et al show it wasn’t as warm, borehole data suggests it was cooler than the CWE — the TAR does in fact show this.

Again, I have to come back to this — the ‘skeptics’ are misrepresenting what the emails and evidence actually show. The emails show vigorous debate and discussion and some disagreement, but it appears that that debate and discussion and disagreement was attended to in the final documents. The concerns of Briffa and Cook were not dismissed or downplayed.


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28 Responses to “Inquiry Submission – Downplaying uncertainty?”

  1. Susann,
    CRU was not honest about the uncertainties as is clear when you look at the full record. Briffa admits in the emails he thinks the MWP was as warm as today, but the chapters he lead authors does not say that. Instead of telling the policymakers the tree-ring proxies are no good in the 20th century because of the Divergence Problem, they hide the decline either by truncating the data or by splicing on the surface temp record. Neither of these options is ethical. Both are blatant examples of academic misconduct.

    You allusion to Enron is interesting, because Enron cost investors billions of dollars but this kind of fictional pseudoscience can cost taxpayers trillions of dollars.

    • CRU was not honest about the uncertainties as is clear when you look at the full record. Briffa admits in the emails he thinks the MWP was as warm as today, but the chapters he lead authors does not say that.

      He ‘thinks’ it was as warm as today but he admits that the proxy evidence is not complete enough to make that assertion!

      Here are his words:

      I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple. We don’t have a lot of proxies that come right up to date and those that do (at least a significant number of tree proxies ) some unexpected changes in response that do not match the recent warming. I do not think it wise that this issue be ignored in the chapter. For the record, I do believe that the proxy data do show unusually warm conditions in recent decades.

      He says there are problems with proxies and that these shouldn’t be ignored in the chapter — and they aren’t! They are mentioned. His role as a lead author was to be unbiased — that means that if he thinks it was warmer but the evidence isn’t conclusive, he can’t push his view if the evidence is not there. As lead author, he doesn’t get the right to push his personal view — he has to take all the evidence into consideration. Even Ed Cook acknowledged that more proxy evidence was needed before they could conclude the MWP was as warm as CWP!

      Instead of telling the policymakers the tree-ring proxies are no good in the 20th century because of the Divergence Problem, they hide the decline either by truncating the data or by splicing on the surface temp record. Neither of these options is ethical. Both are blatant examples of academic misconduct.

      Ron, it’s simple. Briffa truncated the data, which was reported in his paper. It was also reported in the AR4 because it was not used in calibration since it did not reflect the instrumental record.

      I am getting exasperated with your inability or unwillingness to read what is written.

      Briffa thought the MWP was as warm as CWP but his is one line of evidence. There were others that showed it wasn’t as warm, including other proxy data. Cook, as I have shown, also claimed that his data showed MWP as warm as current era, but admitted that the borehole data showed it was cooler, and that more proxy data from the tropics would be required to settle the issue. Do you have any reading comprehension or is it so selective that you are incapable of reading what was written? The existence of undertainty about this period was captured in the TAR WG1 Ch 2 — read the quotes. Divergence was included in the TAR and AR4. The truncation was discussed in the AR4 WG1.

      I repeat this quote from the AR4:

      This ‘divergence’ is apparently restricted to some northern, high-latitude regions, but it is certainly not ubiquitous even there. In their large-scale reconstructions based on tree ring density data, Briffa et al. (2001) specifically excluded the post-1960 data in their calibration against instrumental records, to avoid biasing the estimation of the earlier reconstructions (hence they are not shown in Figure 6.10), implicitly assuming that the ‘divergence’ was a uniquely recent phenomenon, as has also been argued by Cook et al. (2004a).

      Here’s TAR WG1:

      Non-climatic growth trends must be removed from the tree-ring chronology, making it difficult to resolve time-scales longer than the lengths of the constituent chronologies (Briffa, 2000). Furthermore, the biological response to climate forcing may change over time. There is evidence, for example, that high latitude tree-ring density variations have changed in their response to temperature in recent decades, associated with possible non-climatic factors (Briffa et al., 1998a). By contrast, Vaganov et al. (1999) have presented evidence that such changes may actually be climatic and result from the effects of increasing winter precipitation on the starting date of the growing season (see Section 2.7.2.2). Carbon dioxide fertilization may also have an influence, particularly on high-elevation drought-sensitive tree species, although attempts have been made to correct for this effect where appropriate (Mann et al., 1999). Thus climate reconstructions based entirely on tree-ring data are susceptible to several sources of contamination or non-stationarity of response. For these reasons, investigators have increasingly found tree-ring data most useful when supplemented by other types of proxy information in “multi-proxy” estimates of past temperature change (Overpeck et al., 1997; Jones et al., 1998; Mann et al., 1998; 1999; 2000a; 2000b; Crowley and Lowery, 2000).

      You can repeat this false mantra as much as you like but it won’t make it valid.

  2. Anyone consider writing a book on the CRU hacking incident to counter the Mosher/Fuller stuff? If they and many others are going to selectively quote emails and provide their own “interpretation”, it might be nice to have a more objective analysis published, the above being an example.

    It’s also interesting to note that climate scientists are simultaneously criticized for ignoring uncertainties and expressing uncertainties.

    Lots of advances since these early IPCC TAR discussions.

    “Global Signatures and Dynamical
    Origins of the Little Ice Age and
    Medieval Climate Anomaly

    Michael E. Mann,1* Zhihua Zhang,1 Scott Rutherford,2 Raymond S. Bradley,3
    Malcolm K. Hughes,4 Drew Shindell,5 Caspar Ammann,6 Greg Faluvegi,5 Fenbiao Ni4”

    http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/shared/articles/MannetalScience09.pdf

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Was-there-a-Medieval-Warm-Period.html

  3. MarkB :
    Anyone consider writing a book on the CRU hacking incident to counter the Mosher/Fuller stuff?

    There’s no need to intentionally counter the Mosher/Fuller book, there’s only a need to write an objective and non-partisan book.

    If the emails are data, the “sceptics” are basing their conclusions on a truncated and cherry picked data set deliberately gathered to show a specifically biased trend. Furthermore, the analysts are additionally cherry picking a subset of that data to fit a preconceived result.

    It’s quite pathetic and utterly hypocritical.

  4. Susann, funny you should comment on the Peabody submission… it’s the one I skipped over at first reading knowing there wouldn’t be any surprises there 😦

    There are in the others. Try Richard Thomas.

    • GP, I read Mr. Thomas’ submission. I don’t know if this is what you mean, but it appears that there is an exemption for vexatious requests. 🙂 That word could be applied to describe the multiple emails and FOI request Brooks Hanson and others have received from McIntyre and his followers over the years.

      And to what end? Nothing that has made one whit of difference to the overall picture of AGW. Vexatious is a potential reason for refusal, especially when considering Ben Santer’s experience.

      Here is a quote from CA from McI when Santer directed him to the archive and indicated that McI should not to contact him again. As an aside, I think that was a bad move on Santer’s part — he should have used a better tone and should have just given McI the information on where to find the data and methods and left it at that. I know that scientists by that time were wary of McI and perhaps Santer was anticipating a fishing expedition for small errors of the kind everyone makes but are embarrassing nonetheless. Those kinds of errors, as we have seen in the various ‘IPCC gates” may be meaningless or inconsequential to the overall issue, but they do play well in the public realm among denialists and the less-than-professional media and are near impossible to recover from.

      Here’s McI:

      “But if Santer wants to try this kind of stunt, as I’ve said above, I’ve submitted FOI requests and we’ll see what they turn up. We’ll see what the journal policies require. I’ll also see what DOE and PCDMI administrators have to say. We’ll see if any of Santer’s buddies are obligated to produce the data. We’ll see if Santer ever sent any of the data to his buddies”

      The “we’ll see what they turn up” suggests to me a fishing expedition as I have described above and the paragraph has the definite stench of revenge.

      Rabble rousing involves dropping the crumbs that attract the extremists and gets them all wound up and then they go off and do the dirty work of intimidating scientists. This is war, after all.

      A serious skeptic who wanted to check the science and research and take part in the venerable institution of science and research would be doing all of this in a professional manner instead of on a public blog visited by hundreds of thousands.

      I keep thinking of what McI said about how he became interested in this whole issue – he has admitted publicly that he saw the hockey stick and IPCC in terms of the Bre-X scandal.

      Good faith you say?

  5. I am getting exasperated with your inability or unwillingness to read what is written.

    Susanne, Ron Cram’s been around for years. He’s simply dishonest. God could hit him over the head with stone tablets and he wouldn’t change his tune.

  6. shewonk :
    As an aside, I think that was a bad move on Santer’s part — he should have used a better tone

    After the experience with the Global Climate Coalition, and the effects it had, his marriage broke up.

    “The most unpleasant – and certainly for Santer most disturbing – language came from the Global Climate Coalition, a body representing the interests of the American oil and automobile industries. It accused Santer of “scientific cleansing” — a reference to the ethnic cleansing then going on in the Balkans. And for Santer, a Jew, it had another connotation. He told me in 2000: “My grandparents were subjected to ethnic cleansing. They died in a concentration camp in the second world war.”

    Santer spent months attempting to defend his reputation. He said later: “Nothing in your training prepares you for it. We are prepared for explaining our science, defending our science, and having scientists try to take your arguments apart. But we are not prepared for having our motives questioned and being accused of falsifying data. I think it is unproductive to engage with them directly. For many of them it is religious in a way. They are not rational. Don’t waste our time; they don’t have the same value system.” This experience has coloured Santer’s world ever since. It contributed to the break up of his marriage.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/09/ipcc-report-author-data-openness

  7. I agree, J, that climate scientists were threatened by thugs out to intimidate them. I accept that they felt frustrated by the harassment. I acknowledge that they were under attack. The problem is that responding that way did no one any good, even if it felt really good writing those words down in an email. I do really think scientists need training in dealing with attacks from a recalcitrant enemy, given the times we live in and the issue at hand.

    The drunk lout spoiling for a fight looks for the slightest reason to throw a punch. The best tactic is to just keep walking otherwise they drag you down to their level.

    The drunk lout gets what he wants and you end up with a black eye.

  8. You can’t back down to bullies, Susann. In fact what they need most, at times, is a black eye themselves. Otherwise, they just keep doing it again and again. Just look at what’s going on in the climate debate.

  9. J – there’s backing down and then there’s knowing your enemy and as Sun Tzu wrote:

    “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

    and also:

    “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”

    You have to choose your battles. You have to decide what is worth fighting over and what isn’t. Santer didn’t have to be nice, but if I had been his media advisor, I would have advised him to keep out the personal comments.

    It’s damn hard to ignore trolls, but without attention — and for some even negative attention is desirable — they die.

  10. An interview with Michael Mann on ‘How to Fight the Deniers’:

    (download mp3) http://www.pointofinquiry.org/michael_mann_unprecedented_attacks_on_climate_research/

    Around 30 minutes in, an interesting thing he says on where a number of the online anti-AGW blog comments come from. Not that we didn’t suspect anyway.

  11. I just listened to it — very good interview.

    I like it when he quoted the sage advice: “If you get into a fight with a pig, you get dirty and the pig enjoys it”.

    This expresses the dilemma that scientists face when engaging in battle with the denial machine. If you let lies stand, they fester. If you address them, you feed the trolls. Nothing will convince the denialists – you have to give up on them for they are not acting in good faith, as Mann notes.

    What you may do by addressing the lie and knocking it down with solid evidence is convince those who are on the fence.

  12. Light dazzles cave trolls; love overwhelms bullies.

    Old oriental warrior wisdom: Polish the twofold spirit heart and
    mind, and sharpen the twofold gaze perception and sight.

    Heart and mind. Love and light.

    • Nice words Willard but I have to say in this case, B.S.

      I’m not seeing Mike Morano seeing any light or feeling the love any time soon.

      It’s the bottom line that prevails in our era.

  13. Susann, Willard, wise words. Sadly the likes of Marc Morano thrive on the opposition playing fair, and I’m not too sure what future generations would think of it 😉

  14. And yes, I know I’m being cynical, sorry, but I have some idea of how big corporations work and they only have responsibility to one thing: profits for shareholders. It’s the law.

  15. Susann,

    I see no reason to think that the bottom line did not always prevailed. The bottom line does not reside inside Morano’s head anyway. The fact that Morano would never see any light is of no importance whatsoever for the bottom line.

    The bottom line, presuming it is commonly shared truth, lies nearer to light and love than to flame. That does not prevent heat to resurface; it might even be necessary, as shown by eyeballing the number of comments of blogs’ threads. But showing real class, not false restreint, real class, not unlike the gentle way by which you treated and dismissed Ron Cram, preserves energy and provides strength.

    That alone should convince you that love and light works best. Flame wars waste energy better kept to throw light and inspire readers. Flame does not take the form of invectives: oneuniverse’s last inquisition shows a nice example of senseless fact sniping, which worked, at least partially, because his respondents lost patience. As a reader, I get tired of chaotic exchanges.

    Musashi’s words were meant to help use a sword. They might be useless generalities, but as long as we don’t have an engineer-level explanation of war strategies, something akin to them will have to suffice. As they are only general wisdom from a samuraï that had no idea we could transpose his wisdom in blog wars, feel free to disagree.

    I personally like Love and Light as a motto, mostly because it’s easy to recall. And it kinda applies neatly to the two character archetypes of bullies and trolls. Again, feel free to express your favorite war plan to the metaphor of your taste.

    And that’s the memo.

    • Willard, you’re getting all Gandhi on me. 🙂

      I personally love ‘love and light’ even though I can get as snarky as the next person. Sometimes if you don’t laugh you cry and frankly laughing feels a lot better. I believe that most humans prefer to act on the basis of truth and love. A small minority don’t. They throw a spanner in the works for the rest. Love and light don’t work on them. The best that can be said of trying is that you are personally ennobled by it, although you might also get stabbed in the back.

      When it comes to the skeptic crowd, I think there are several versions:

      -There are outright shills for the denialist industry.
      -There are political opponents to government legislation — they are radical libertarians.
      -There are people who don’t understand the science and don’t trust scientists because it’s too alien to them and they trust their talk radio hosts and media celebrities. They feel overwhelmed by the prospect of global warming and changing our economy to carbon neutral or low carbon. They feel threatened by change and want to maintain the status quo. They may go along with the contrarian crowd and become dupes of the denialists.

      I have no love or light for the first two. The first are sociopaths and the second are liars because they hide behind claims of ‘uncertain science’ when they really object to action on climate change because they don’t accept the notion of government action on principle (except if it’s for war — then they seem OK — go figure). I’ve met a few of these type — they will never accept the science even when the flood water is up to their noses.

      For the third group, I have some sympathy. It’s truly unfortunate that most people are unable to deal with such big questions because of their lack of science education or even the fundamentals of logic. They’re hard to find though — usually they don’t spout the political slogans during weak moments like the second group. The first group are too polished for their spiels to be anything but talking points.

      Real skeptics – I haven’t met many people I would consider to be real skeptics. The ones who claim to be so have made up their minds and to me, they are more properly contrarians.

      A real skeptic layperson admits that they don’t know enough to decide on an issue — they do not assume that their own lack of knowledge reflects the state of the science itself. They are eager to learn and are respectful of people with expertise. A faux skeptic thinks they know better than the experts, that they have uncovered the secret truth that everyone else was too stupid to see or too deceitful to admit. This position requires a kind of mental gymnastics in which the vast majority of climate scientists are either stupid or charlatans and cheats, which is just too much beyond belief that only a crackpot will accept it — or someone who is acting in bad faith.

      This is why I hesitate to call most people over at CA and WU skeptics. They don’t merely want more information — they reject AGW and are seeking anything but AGW to explain current warming. Hence they hold up single papers that run counter to the consensus, or work that isn’t even scientific, as holding the real cause. They’re willing to convict people on the basis of emails. They claim that 40 years of instrumental record is not evidence of warming and yet when a cold day or week comes along, or when one of the charlatans claims there has been no global warming for a decade, they quickly accept that global warming has stopped. They are not skeptics.

      It’s ludicrous and seeing their pathetic attempts at argument and their paltry evidence and how they spread lies and misinformation uncritically. When I contrasted their behavior and evidence to that of the scientists involved in AGW research, I realized I could not be in the so-called skeptic camp. Do I think the scientists have always handled themselves well in this climate war — no. I don’t think they realized how nasty it would get and how they needed media advisors to advise them on how to respond to these attacks.

      Love and light won’t work on the real denialists who are impervious to both. It might work on the true skeptics and the true undecideds. I think you have to know your enemy, as Sun Tzu said, and try to anticipate their tactics and counter them. This means don’t give them any fodder, learn how to communicate effectively if you have any kind of public education role.

      That link to the advice on how to deal with media wars is useful – Grabbing the third rail.

  16. shewonk – good post … a very good post.

  17. SheWonk, only tonight I was musing with my wife about this mess, and I asked her if she thought if many of those in denial about AGW are sociopaths. She agreed, and so do you. Thanks for confirming my hypothesis 🙂

    You cannot hurt them by insulting them, harassing them or giving them “black eyes”. You can punish them by taking away the freedom that they cherish so much (criminal charges with jail time), and by taking away their money (suing for damages for libel, defamation, harassment; or by boycotting). It saddens me, but that is where we are at now.

    Scientists have absolutely no idea how to deal with the media, and that needs to change, big time. The IPCC needs a full-time PR team and spokesperson, including some experts who have both media skills, policy skills and are familiar with the science. Joe Romm comes to mind, although he may be a little too prickly. So SheWonk, how tied your job are you? 😉

    • MapleLeaf — The thing about sociopaths is this: even when they are caught and punished, they have no ability to understand how and why they were wrong. To them, there are merely ‘caught’. It’s all a game to them, a battle, and there is no moral element to it. In fact, a lack of morals characterizes the sociopath. Thats why unregulated markets and corrupt political systems are littered with them – they are amoral and solely about power and persuasion and so they quickly rise to the top because they are willing to do the things that the rest of us ordinary mortals balk at. Sociopaths truly think they are above the law and the petty morals most Homo sapiens operate by. If they are caught and punished, they do suffer but there is no redemption possible. Seriously, research on this (and this is a pet research area of mine) shows that they lack the ability of moral thinking, both structurally in the brain and emotionally.

      The IPCC needs a full-time PR team and spokesperson, including some experts who have both media skills, policy skills and are familiar with the science. Joe Romm comes to mind, although he may be a little too prickly. So SheWonk, how tied your job are you?

      😉

      The IPCC and scientists involved in this do need good advisors. With Inhofe’s declaration of war against climate science — and this is an outright declaration of war against climate science — the gloves are off. Inhofe’s other actions of his have amounted to the first actions in a cold war, the kind of black ops and covert ops that go one before a war is legally declared. This would be such a great case study for a policy course, ripe with all the elements of a policy war, and I would enjoy it immensely if it weren’t such a pressing and fundamental issue for humanity. As it is, it makes me ill.

  18. OK dhogaza, this is weird, we seem to follow each other around 🙂 Not that I am complaining, it is great to have you on our side. Have a good night, time for bed here.

  19. Well, I see I’ve been called dishonest on this thread as well. I suppose I should not be surprised. The commenters here do not need facts on their side before stating their opinion or making personal attacks.

    I just want it noted that I have not called names or launched any personal attacks on commenters here.

    It seems silly to me to attempt to defend the CRU perps by claiming they were the culmination of virtue and upheld the standards of science. They clearly did not. Someone above mentioned that Richard Thomas wrote an interesting submission to the UK Commission. I recommend you read it. I have a feeling Phil Jones asked his attorney to read it.
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc5302.htm

  20. Ron Cram :
    It seems silly to me to attempt to defend the CRU perps by claiming they were the culmination of virtue and upheld the standards of science. They clearly did not.

    Everyone knows research scientists tend to be a bit eccentric and engineers have a hard time with that. It’s no surprise that the biggest criticisms come from engineers.

    If no hockey stick had ever appeared most of the world’s population wouldn’t have even known climate scientists exist, and they’d still be doing what they were doing completely unmolested.

  21. Ron, please inform us why the following facts are not registering in your brain:
    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/people/briffa/yamal2009/

    Loads of handwaving from McIntyre after being caught redhanded, Ron Cram defending him with his life…

    Tom P also has a nice post here:
    https://shewonk.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/the-inquiry-submissions/#comment-1625
    If he’s correct, it would be a false statement from McIntyre to parliament. Tell us, Ron, would you consider a false statement to parliament a crime? If not, why not?

  22. Ron whines over being called dishonest. He’d do better to stop lying instead.

    Ron, this statement in another thread was a lie:

    if the NRC panel did not say that Mann’s claim was unwarranted, what exactly did they say? Something to the effect the data was not strong enough to make such a claim, which is why they proposed making the claim for the last 400 years rather than the last 1,000 years. It comes down to the same thing. Mann’s claim was not warranted by the available data.

    Since the NRC report clearly stated that Mann’s reconstruction was “plausible” going back 1,000 years, and North made clear that they meant the wording to mean “more likely than not”, rather than, as you claim, “not warranted”.

    If I had more time and thought you were worth the trouble I might build a searchable database of Ron Cram lies. I’d probably have to buy more disk storage.

  23. J Bowers #24 – leaving aside denialists and idiots, it seems clear there is a significant cultural gap between scientists and engineers. The engineers want precision and certainty, whilst the scientis is hedged about with doubt. Naturally, the engineers think they could make a better job of it, missing that science is about exploration adding to our knowledge of how the world works, and engineering is about applying that already fixed knowledge. Two different things. They can overlap, but it is disturbing how many people claim to be intelligent and educated but have no idea how science is done.

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