On Scandalous Emails

The big topic-of-the-moment is the hacked stash of emails from a major climate research group. The whole climate change discussion is one of those “no upside” topics that I try to stay out of, but I have some thoughts and comments about issues surrounding the email incident. These are largely based on reactions to yesterday’s posts by Derek Lowe and Coby Beck, so if you’re looking for something to read to understand what I’m talking about, those are the two.

The unifying thing in all of these is the intersection of science and politics. Most of what’s described is normal scientific behavior– not admirable behavior, but pretty typical. What blows this into a scandal is the fact that the scientific issues involved are politically contentious, with money and power at stake. The whole episode should serve as a cautionary tale for scientists in general, not just those working on currently contentious issues, showing that we need to take some lessons from professionals in the “real world” regarding how we conduct our business.

Derek spends a fair amount of time talking about issues around the peer review of climate science articles, citing emails about what journals papers should be sent to, and which ones avoided. The obvious immediate association for me was to the case of Einstein vs. the Physical Review, where he huffily withdrew a paper after his one encounter with modern-style peer review. Of course, there are plenty of other examples of chicanery associated with reviewing of papers– pretty much every working scientist has at least a couple of second-hand anecdotes about this sort of thing.

Anecdotes about people trying to get editorial boards of journals changed for political reasons, as may have happened here, are much rarer. This is probably due to the fact that very few working scientists have the clout to attempt such a thing, but I’m sure it does happen. I can understand the motivation, given that peer reviewed publications are used as a means of counting coup in the larger political arguments about climate change, but it’s still… let’s go with “unseemly.” I tend to mostly agree with Derek’s inclination to “err on the side of “Publish and be damned”, preferring to let the scientific literature sort itself out as ideas are evaluated and experiments are reproduced.” Back-channel maneuvering to scuttle papers from people you consider kooks is not a good thing, no matter how noble your cause.

Derek also brings up issues about the complex and un- to poorly-documented code used to work with climate data, which immediately brought to mind Greg Wilson’s talk at the Science21 workshop (mocro-live-blogging). Wilson at one point said that most scientists use such shoddy documentation procedures that he would wager most of them could not reproduce the analysis in their published papers. Depending on how many sig figs you want to count as “reproduced,” I tend to believe him. The folks at the CRU haven’t done anything particularly wrong by the normal standards of science, but it’s another area where scientists in general could stand to improve their behavior quite a bit.

(Says the guy who just spent a bunch of time riffling through the pages of books to find the receipts he needs for travel reimbursement…)

Of course, the biggest issue of the whole thing is the question of deleting emails. Derek cites this message in particular, which is fairly appalling. Not so much because of the request itself, but because the sender was so unbelievably stupid as to put it in an email in the first place. I’m only married to a lawyer, but even I know that there are things you do not put in writing, ever.

Coby Beck tries to wave it off as insignificant, but that one message is enough to justify the sender stepping down pending investigation of the matter. Not for any scientific reason, but because it’s astoundingly stupid to send an email requesting the deletion of emails that you think might be subject to a freedom of information request. If you’re dumb enough to put that in an email– in 2008, for God’s sake– you deserve to lose your job.

And that brings me around to the comment of Beck’s that I really want to respond to, which is near the end of his post, responding to George Monbiot’s comment that:

The handling of this crisis suggests that nothing has been learnt by climate scientists in this country from 20 years of assaults on their discipline. They appear to have no idea what they’re up against or how to confront it. Their opponents might be scumbags, but their media strategy is exemplary.

Beck replies:

Monbiot is probably quite right, these guys do have little to no idea what to do. But it is an entirely unreasonable expectation that they should. People do not generally choose to be PhD researchers because they are good at, or interested in, dealing with mass media and public perceptions.

That’s almost charmingly naive, but this is not an issue where we can afford naivete. And, as Monbiot notes, this has been a politically charged area of science for at least two decades. Anybody in the field has had more than ample warning that they need to pick up some people skills, because mass media and public perceptions are going to be hugely important. You can’t hide behind “I’m just a nerdy scientist” any more. If you really don’t have anybody in your lab with communications skills– which I highly doubt, by the way– then hire somebody who does.

This is why, as much as they piss people off, people like Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet are important. This whole sordid affair is a textbook example of why scientists need to start learning about how to deal with the mass media and public perceptions. This could’ve been avoided if the people involved had half a clue about what they were doing. The belief that science is somehow above (or at least apart from) petty issues of perception and communication leads directly to this sort of catastrophe.

Comments

  1. #1 Doug Natelson
    December 2, 2009

    One big lesson here is something my dad taught me years ago. Never put something in an email (or blog post or facebook status update) that you would be ashamed to see on the front page of the NY Times. A snarky email slamming some boneheaded move by a colleague may seem funny at the time, but it won’t seem amusing anymore if it gets subpoenaed.

  2. #2 Scott Belyea
    December 2, 2009

    One big lesson here is something my dad taught me years ago. Never put something in an email (or blog post or facebook status update) that you would be ashamed to see on the front page of the NY Times.

    Exactly. It’s stunning how many intelligent people haven’t learned this. And it’s not as though it’s new; it predates Facebook, Twitter, and even email. When I started with a large multinational in 1968, it was referred to as the “mom test” – if you would be embarrassed to have your mom read it on the front page of her newspaper, don’t write it.

    And perhaps 10 years ago, I heard it referred to as the “enemy test” – if your email could help your worst enemy cause you problems, don’t send it.

    The stupidity of some of these bozos is amazing. They’ve done real damage.

  3. #3 Sigmund
    December 2, 2009

    Funny, I took exactly the opposite lesson from this whole affair. I occasionally visit Chris Mooney’s Intersection blog and did so yesterday to find him desperately fending off a horde of climate change denialists who were armed with the smoking gun of these hacked emails. If you abandon science to spin a frame to the public then unfortunately this is exactly the problem you should expect to face.
    Contrast, for a second, the way evolutionary biology is treated by its practitioners compared to climate change. In the case of the former there is a constant accumulative stream of evidence that results (in the non religiously fundamentalistic parts of the world) in a situation where it becomes, frankly, irrational to deny it. For climate change it is more a case of the conclusions of the IPCC, a panel of supposed experts in the matter being publicised. Its a framing of the debate that relies on an argument from authority rather than argument from evidence and as such is particularly susceptible to that authority being undermined as is happening with these hacked emails.
    Practically anyone reading this post will probably be able to instantly think of ten clear and virtually indisputable evidences for evolution (Tiktaalik, Archaeopterix, Lucy, Genome similarities, Vitamin C pathway, human chromosome 2 fusion, Ida, biogeography, increasing complexity in fossils over time, viral and bacteriological mutation, etc).
    Now try to come up with two pieces of evidence that are as uncontroversial as any of these that argue in favor of AGW.
    I’m definitely on the AGW side of the question but even I will only say that AGW is true on the strong balance of probabilities rather than the case with the fact of evolution which is clearly 100% (or to be scientific, 99.9999999999%) true.
    This is the problem with framing. It provides an answer without a means of the individual reaching a conclusion on their own. The evidence is seen as something unnecessary for the debate (or rather something that the public need not worry itself over, leave that to the egghead scientists).

  4. #4 Ole
    December 2, 2009

    I’m not sure. I moved to the US corporate world 2 years ago after 10 years in academia in Canada and Europe. The level of documentation that goes on in academia with respect to computer code is, in my experience, far superior to the one in US businesses. Also, with respect to email and their content I disagree again: Scientists in general are much more careful about what they write in their emails than (US?) company executives. But again, I only have 2 years of US corporate experience.

  5. #5 Chris Granade
    December 2, 2009

    I agree about Mooney and Nisbet, but that’s precisely why they piss me off. There are real problems with communicating in the sciences, and some real improvements that need to be made, but they’re too busy blaming atheists (for example) to really improve things. They correctly point out that communicating science to the public is incredibly important, then demonstrate some magnificent examples of how not to fix the problems.

    By contrast, I look at what the Perimeter Institute did with the recent Q2C festival (admittedly, string theory is much less politicized than climate change) with inviting qualified scientists to speak along with journalists, science and science fiction writers, etc. It’s not obvious to me how exactly to do that kind of a thing in climate change, but still, I can’t abide by Mooney and Nisbet’s approaches to the problems.

  6. #6 TTT
    December 2, 2009

    Given that these were always supposed to be private emails, and remained such for, what, 14 years?, I’m not sure what impact Mooney and Nisbet could possibly have had on their content. They were already properly “framed” for their only intended / legal audience.

    As for the subsequent public fallout, the trouble is that all the most serious accusations revolve around the most arcane and complicated mechanisms: i.e. “using tricks to hide the decline” can only be explained away after a rather lengthy introduction to what paleoclimate proxies are, what happened to tree rings in particular, and how this was already publicly hashed out in 1998; irregularities in the modeling code, with an anonymous programmer basically saying he’s making it all up, can be explained (as Tim Lambert recently did) by a rather lengthy delving into the process of how coding comments are marked as unreliable and ignored.

    The denialists are clever that way: even by winning, the fact that such a long and technical explanation was necessary means you kinda lose. Their worst and cheapest weapon remains the fact that a lot of sci-jargon sounds misleadingly close to layman terms but has entirely different meanings, as well as the insidious power of uninformed “common sense.”

  7. #7 Eric Lund
    December 2, 2009

    I agree with some of Sigmund’s points, but the IPCC was a political necessity. It was clear 20 years ago that any action required to deal with global warming would need to have international cooperation. It’s the standard tragedy of the commons scenario: a single country voluntarily reducing its CO2 output would place itself at a disadvantage compared to other countries which did not do so. Also, his challenge to name two pieces of uncontroversial evidence for AGW is easy to meet: glacial ice cores show a correlation between temperature (constructed by proxy from oxygen isotope content) and CO2 concentration, CO2 is transparent to visible light but absorbs infrared, burning fuels that contain carbon tends to release CO2 into the atmosphere, CO2 concentrations are now at their highest level in the last X hundred millenia, and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising for at least as long as we have been directly measuring it. The tree ring data which are implicated in these e-mails is only a small part of the evidence. Where framing comes in is that the deniers are spinning the debate as being all about the tree ring data while climatologists have been less successful pointing out the other evidence for AGW.

    Ole’s point about what corporate executives put in e-mails is not relevant. There have been several cases of people who have been busted by the feds (or fired by their employers) based on what was in their e-mail. Henry Blodgett is the most famous example, and more recently there were the ratings agency people saying in e-mails that they knew the CDOs they were rating did not deserve their AAA ratings. As Agatha Christie said in some of the Miss Marple stories, often it’s not the brilliance of the investigator but the failure of the perp to take elementary precautions that leads to the solution of the crime. (And the reason I can’t stand the Hercule Poirot stories is because Poirot does not consider the possibility–he routinely eliminates suspects precisely because they don’t take the precautions he assumes the real killer would have taken.)

  8. #8 Chad Orzel
    December 2, 2009

    Sigmund: Funny, I took exactly the opposite lesson from this whole affair. I occasionally visit Chris Mooney’s Intersection blog and did so yesterday to find him desperately fending off a horde of climate change denialists who were armed with the smoking gun of these hacked emails. If you abandon science to spin a frame to the public then unfortunately this is exactly the problem you should expect to face.

    That’s all very nice, but here’s the thing: you don’t have a choice. When science intersects with public policy, your results will be framed whether you like it or not. The only question is who controls the message: either you can frame it the way you want, or you can go the “just the facts” route, and let your enemies do it for you.

    Practically anyone reading this post will probably be able to instantly think of ten clear and virtually indisputable evidences for evolution (Tiktaalik, Archaeopterix, Lucy, Genome similarities, Vitamin C pathway, human chromosome 2 fusion, Ida, biogeography, increasing complexity in fossils over time, viral and bacteriological mutation, etc).

    Now try to come up with two pieces of evidence that are as uncontroversial as any of these that argue in favor of AGW.

    That’s a terrible example, because the global warming data, and especially the human-caused portion of things, is by its very nature a fuzzy statistical sort of thing– you’re talking about averaging quantities that are subject to large natural fluctuations, and determining the past history from a variety of proxy measurements. The fossil record of evolution is vastly clearer than the records of climate.

    A better comparison would be to dark matter/ dark energy. The cumulative evidence for the existence of dark matter and dark energy is huge, but like the historical evidence for climate change, it’s pieced together from a vast number of proxy measurements of varying quality. Every individual observation is subject to the same sort of nitpicking and alternate explanations that you see with the climate models, and if you go read Ethan’s posts on the subject, you’ll find people engaged in the same sort of model-bashing that you see in climate science.

    It’s not as spectacular, because the stakes are so much lower, but the fuzzy nature of the science is the same, and so is the reaction to it. Somebody with a stronger stomach than mine could probably drag through kook blogs and construct a one-for-one correspondence between the wild claims made by people denying global warming and the people denying dark matter.

    Christopher Granade: I agree about Mooney and Nisbet, but that’s precisely why they piss me off. There are real problems with communicating in the sciences, and some real improvements that need to be made, but they’re too busy blaming atheists (for example) to really improve things. They correctly point out that communicating science to the public is incredibly important, then demonstrate some magnificent examples of how not to fix the problems.

    I don’t think that’s entirely their fault, though it should be noted that I tend to agree with them on the atheism stuff. If you actually read Mooney’s latest book, though, the chapters on atheism are only a small part of the overall argument. It’s vastly overrepresented on the blogs because there’s a large and loud community of people who get their knickers in a twist whenever anybody says anything conciliatory about religion.

    TTT: Given that these were always supposed to be private emails, and remained such for, what, 14 years?, I’m not sure what impact Mooney and Nisbet could possibly have had on their content. They were already properly “framed” for their only intended / legal audience.

    The “please delete these emails” message was sent just last year. The other “we’ll make sure to quash any other FOI requests” email linked by Derek Lowe was from 2007. Mooney’s been talking about this stuff since at least 2005, and probably before that.

    And, really, even in 1996, it should’ve been pretty obvious that anything in email was a document that you could eventually be forced to produce in court. But anybody still putting that sort of thing in an email in 2007 is an absolute idiot.

    The dates are a side issue, though. The citation of Mooney and Nisbet wasn’t for these specific emails, but rather for the general idea that scientists need to be aware of and take control of the way their ideas are presented to the public. There’s little that can be done about the past, but as a global matter, scientists need to stop thinking that they’re above dealing with the media, and learn something about communications.

  9. #9 Sigmund
    December 2, 2009

    Eric, I am a scientist so I don’t have a problem with the evidences you’ve suggested. The question is whether the average member of the public could come up with such evidences off the top of their head. I get the distinct feeling that the public knowledge of climate change evidence (rather than the evidence itself) is quite fuzzy. As for the IPCC, I can understand the need for it in a political setting but I think there is too much emphasis on its conclusions rather than publicising the evidence that led to these conclusions.

  10. #10 R Simmon
    December 2, 2009

    10 uncontroversial claims in support of Anthropogenic Global Warming:

    1. CO2 is an IR absorber
    2. Humans are emitting CO2 that’s staying in the atmosphere, along with other greenhouse gases.
    3. There are no other significant positive forcings (increased thermal radiation at the Earth’s surface) observed in recent times.
    4. Temperature increases in the lower atmosphere increase the water vapor in the atmosphere, causing a positive (warming) feedback.

    as a result:
    5. The troposphere is warming
    6. while the stratosphere is cooling
    7. glaciers are melting
    8. sea levels are rising
    9. Arctic sea ice extent and thickness are declining

    historically we see:
    10. positive feedbacks between warming and additional CO2 increases (i.e. warming increases CO2 which increases warming (observed in ice cores)). Ice cores also provide an independent check on climate sensitivity predictions from models.

    [BTW: climate scientists are not claiming 9.9999999999% certainty: "Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human) greenhouse gas concentrations."]

  11. #11 Scott Belyea
    December 2, 2009

    R Simmon:
    climate scientists are not claiming 9.9999999999% certainty

    Ha! See? I knew they didn’t know what they were talking about. Talk about a smoking gun!! :-)

  12. #12 vagueofgodalming
    December 2, 2009

    Its a framing of the debate that relies on an argument from authority rather than argument from evidence

    But for the vast majority of us, it’s always an argument from authority, buttressed by an assessment of the reliability and consistency of the people who claim to be authorities, plus the consistency of the argument with my own tiny sliver of experience (winters just aren’t as cold as they were when I was a child – I think).

    I have never seen the Tiktaalik fossil, and I don’t suppose I ever will; if I did I wouldn’t have a clue what it means, except from what alleged experts have told me.

    If I were to read a peer-reviewed climate science paper I’d probably understand the introduction and summary. If I saw something that looked like an inconsistency I’d just say that obviously I’m not qualified and that peer reviewers would have picked up any real inconsistencies.

    I have to go by the apparent integrity of the scientific process and its practitioners, because I’m not qualified to do anything else.

    What other approach is possible, for those of us who lack the time, money, training, intelligence or inclination to wade through the primary evidence and compare it with the official conclusions?

  13. #13 Josh S.
    December 2, 2009

    “Of course, the biggest issue of the whole thing is the question of deleting emails. Derek cites this message in particular, which is fairly appalling. Not so much because of the request itself, but because the sender was so unbelievably stupid as to put it in an email in the first place. I’m only married to a lawyer, but even I know that there are things you do not put in writing, ever.”

    So you’re more appalled by the lack of common sense displayed by putting something like that in writing than you are by the fact that it is ILLEGAL? Disagree with the FOIA request or not, disagree with the opponents or not, trying to destroy info relating to a FOIA request is a crime. I’d be more bothered if my team was engaging in illegal activity, even if I thought the cause was a noble one, than I would by their lack of e-mail savvy.

  14. #14 Chad Orzel
    December 2, 2009

    So you’re more appalled by the lack of common sense displayed by putting something like that in writing than you are by the fact that it is ILLEGAL? Disagree with the FOIA request or not, disagree with the opponents or not, trying to destroy info relating to a FOIA request is a crime.

    I am not in a position to evaluate the magnitude of the crime, if it was a crime. I’ve seen some people claiming that some of the information being requested was not legitimately subject to a FOIA request, in which case, this would only be stupid, and not illegal. I don’t know enough of the law or the context to be able to say anything definitive.

    It is unquestionably stupid, though. Appallingly stupid.

  15. #15 TTT
    December 2, 2009

    Is there even any evidence of emails being deleted? It just looks like some guy asking another to do it, with no proof of follow-up. Just like that one email where someone threatened to punch Pat Michaels, but the actual beating never happened.

  16. #16 Arrow
    December 4, 2009

    RSimmons your claims are far from uncontroversial:
    1. CO2 is an IR absorber
    Yes

    2. Humans are emitting CO2 that’s staying in the atmosphere, along with other greenhouse gases.
    Yes

    3. There are no other significant positive forcings (increased thermal radiation at the Earth’s surface) observed in recent times.
    Maybe

    4. Temperature increases in the lower atmosphere increase the water vapor in the atmosphere, causing a positive (warming) feedback.
    No, while water vapor is a greenhouse gas clouds reflect sunlight so there are two opposing effects and it’s impossible to be certain which one will dominate and under what conditions. In fact it’s very likely that the feedback is negative, if it wasn’t the Earth would look like Mars as positive feedback would have triggered runaway warming long ago when CO2 concentration was higher then today.

    5. The troposphere is warming
    Maybe, haven’t looked into it

    6. while the stratosphere is cooling
    Maybe, haven’t looked into it also

    7. glaciers are melting
    We are currently exiting from last glacial period and also from little ice age so this is to be expected and proves nothing about human impact.

    8. sea levels are rising
    Same as above – melting glaciers mean sea level rise, this proves nothing about human impact.

    9. Arctic sea ice extent and thickness are declining
    Same as above.

    10. positive feedbacks between warming and additional CO2 increases (i.e. warming increases CO2 which increases warming (observed in ice cores)). Ice cores also provide an independent check on climate sensitivity predictions from models.
    Ice cores only prove that there is correlation between temperature and CO2, correlation is not causation.

    So as you can see your claims are far from uncontroversial and prove nothing.

    There is only ONE way to conclusively prove anthropogenic global warming hypothesis using scientific method:
    1. First climatologists have to develop *successful* climate models
    2. Those models have to pass experimental verification, to prove that they have anything to do with reality, this is a crucial point as history teaches us that the vast majority of human models and theories have been wrong.
    3. Once climate models are proven to successfully predict climate on the timescale of decades meaning they can be trusted climatologists should then run them with and without man-made emissions
    4. By comparing results of those runs we will be able to tell what effects man made emissions have on climate.

    This is the *only* way AGW can be scientifically proven,
    unfortunately current models cannot even postdict past climate not to mention predicting anything, so for now AGW will remain nothing more then a plausible hypothesis.

  17. #17 Lab Lemming
    December 4, 2009

    “The whole episode should serve as a cautionary tale for scientists in general, not just those working on currently contentious issues, showing that we need to take some lessons from professionals in the “real world” regarding how we conduct our business.”

    Bullshit. It should serve as yet another datapoint that gotcha politics is irrational and destructive.

    The take home message is that a destructive smear campaign can be constructed against anyone, without any reasonable basis whatsoever. If people didn’t put anything potentially incriminating into emails, then papers would never be reviewed, hypotheses would never be discussed, and progress would never be made.

  18. #18 Eric Lund
    December 4, 2009

    Responding to Arrow’s critique of RSimmons’s points:

    You conceded 1 and 2.
    3. Other than greenhouse gases, the only forcing on scales of a century or less is solar irradiance. We are coming through the deepest solar minimum in a long time. Solar maxima were on an upward trend until the mid 1980s but have since reversed. So far that leaves anthropogenic CO2–this may change as thawing permafrost emits methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas (and therefore a positive feedback).
    4. This point would have been controversial a decade ago, but the evidence in its favor has been increasing. The increase in cloud cover isn’t enough to offset the higher temperatures. Note that water vapor is also a greenhouse gas–consistent with the fact that average daily lows are increasing faster than average daily highs.
    5 and 6. That’s what the measurements say.
    7 through 9. We came out of the last glacial maximum by about 8000 years ago, and the Little Ice Age some 250 years ago. There is still some isostatic rebound in places like Scandinavia (Uppsala, a seaport when it was founded in medieval times, is now well inland), but the post-Ice Age melting is long since over with. Remember also: even without any melting, average sea level rises with temperature due to thermal expansion. What’s more, glaciers for which we have records are showing accelerated melting just within the last decade. Melting ice is also a positive feedback: open sea and bare ground absorb a lot more sunlight than ice and snow.
    10. Points 1 and 2 provide a causal mechanism for the observed correlation.

    By your standards of scientific proof, evolution is not proven, because we do not know how to postdict the separate evolution of humans and chimpanzees from a common ancestor. But in the case of AGW, the stakes are higher–resource conflicts over things like water and food will become more common and increasingly severe. See, e.g., today’s BBC article on the shrinking (almost gone) glacier that supplies Bolivia’s capital La Paz with drinking water. I wish we could wait until the hypothesis were proven to your satisfaction, but we can’t. Climatologists will admit that so far their models have underestimated the effects of increasing CO2.

  19. #19 Arrow
    December 5, 2009

    Answers to Eric Lund:
    EL: “4. This point would have been controversial a decade ago, but the evidence in its favor has been increasing. The increase in cloud cover isn’t enough to offset the higher temperatures. ”

    Do you have any proof for that assertion?

    And how do you explain the fact that the Earth still has a moderate climate instead of a Martial like desert if CO2 does indeed cause runaway greenhouse warming as you claim? The concentration of CO2 has been much higher in the past.

    EL: “7 through 9. We came out of the last glacial maximum by about 8000 years ago, and the Little Ice Age some 250 years ago. There is still some isostatic rebound in places like Scandinavia (Uppsala, a seaport when it was founded in medieval times, is now well inland), but the post-Ice Age melting is long since over with.”

    Again you have to back your statement with some evidence for it to be convincing.

    EL: “Remember also: even without any melting, average sea level rises with temperature due to thermal expansion.”

    Yes but I don’t see why you mention it.

    EL: “What’s more, glaciers for which we have records are showing accelerated melting just within the last decade. Melting ice is also a positive feedback: open sea and bare ground absorb a lot more sunlight than ice and snow.”

    Yes, melting ice is a positive feedback – the smaller the glacier the faster it melts even without factoring absorption, but this in no way proves humans are behind GW.

    EL: “By your standards of scientific proof, evolution is not proven, because we do not know how to postdict the separate evolution of humans and chimpanzees from a common ancestor.”

    Huh? First, evolution has been confirmed in an experiment done in the lab.

    Second, your analogy is completely wrong. To make it right someone would have to claim to have built and evolution model which correctly predicts the future course of evolution.

    If someone made such a claim his model would have to meet the exact same scientific standard of proof as the one I described above, meaning he would first have to show that his model successfully postdicts past evolution.

    EL: “See, e.g., today’s BBC article on the shrinking (almost gone) glacier that supplies Bolivia’s capital La Paz with drinking water. I wish we could wait until the hypothesis were proven to your satisfaction, but we can’t.”

    That is completely beside the point which is that AGW is nothing but a plausible hypothesis. The fact that we don’t have the time or means to properly test this hypothesis doesn’t make it any more true.

  20. #20 IBY
    December 6, 2009

    @Arrow
    Concerning the Mars claim, firstly, Mars has less than 1% of Earth’s atmosphere. Secondly, there is barely any water vapor in Mars atmosphere, considering that they all either escaped the planet, or they are locked in ice. As you know, water vapor makes the largest part of Earth’s greenhouse gas, followed by CO2. Lastly, Mars, being around 1.5 AU away from the sun and the combination of the above factors make Mars very cold.

  21. #21 IBY
    December 6, 2009

    Oh, and one more thing. You can’t cause runaway CO2 release since without any forcing, all the CO2 will do is sublimate and precipitate in a certain equilibrium. If the north polar ice caps sublimate in the northern summer, you will notice that there are deposition occurring in the south pole and stuff.

  22. #22 Lab Lemming
    December 7, 2009

    Re #3:
    See the Annan and Hargraeves paper, and integrate their pdf from minus infinity to zero. That’s your probability that CO2 doesn’t cause warming.

  23. #23 dhogaza
    December 7, 2009

    Anecdotes about people trying to get editorial boards of journals changed for political reasons, as may have happened here, are much rarer

    No, that’s not “what may have happened here”. Read up on De Freitas, Soon and Baliunas, and the crap paper that got published in Climate Research.

    Ask yourself why half the editorial board, including the editor in chief, resigned in disgust over journal policy and over the fact that De Freitas had been able to game the peer-review process and publish that paper.

    You should know better than to make such accusations, even if presented speculatively, without first having dug into the circumstances to see if such an accusation can be supported by the facts.

  24. #24 dhogaza
    December 7, 2009

    Also ask yourself, why would they restrict themselves to Climate Research if they were acting politically? Note that the e-mails themselves say things like, “it’s reasonable to ask if Climate Research is really even peer-reviewed any more” (paraphrase), i.e. they’re discussing quality and process, no evidence of complaining due to political reasons.

    A similar thing happened in biology when a creationist in an editorial position at a minor, yet respected, journal let a “proof that evolution is impossible” paper get published just as he was stepping down. If biologists were to react by saying “we’ll publish elsewhere if that journal’s going to publish such well-debunked hooey as though it’s worthwhile science”, would you make similar accusations of biologists?

    Nor is their any evidence of such complaints when other journals have published skeptical work by people like Lindzen. That’s because such papers, which mainstream climate science believes don’t hold up to scrutiny, are sound enough to be treated seriously and deserve to make their way into the literature.

  25. #25 Douglas Watts
    December 7, 2009

    Please stay within your area of professional expertise or do some actual reporting, which means calling up the people in question (like Phil Jones and Mike Mann or Gavin Schmidt) and interviewing them, asking them questions, writing down their responses and presenting them herein.

    Is that too much to ask?

  26. #26 Adam.Mike.Selene
    December 8, 2009

    The most impressive thing to me, is how the global warming disinformation campaign jumped on this full bore.

    Of course, some people would say my comment reveals my lack of an open mind on the subject. I would disagree. Clearly, there is not much said about the scientific accuracy of the global warming hypothesis by this incident of an email leak. There is a LOT said about those who use it for their propaganda.

    YMMV, but it does say something about how you drive.

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