Monbiot is still rubbish

Hacked climate science emails: were requests for information vexatious? asks Monbiot, and then proceeds to get the wrong answer (though it isn’t as bad as his previous nonsense). “Framing” all this in terms of FOI is silly and wrong. Monbiot loves FOI ‘cos he is a journo and it is a one-way street for him: more info, formerly hidden, equals stories. Reality isn’t so important to him it would seem.

In terms of science, this is all just wrong. In my experience, and it seems to be true in this case too, the restrictions on revealing info are imposed by govts and their agencies. The UKMO was very bad in this regard. And why Monbiot thinks that Willis Essenbach was acting in good faith will remain a mystery. We all know that there were commercial-confidentiality agreements in place for the data… or do we? Because I can’t see the tiniest hint in Monbiot’s piece that he is aware of this. How could he possibly get so far into this story and yet not know that, or think it irrelevant?

Comments

  1. #1 pough
    2010/04/13

    Here is where I think Montbiot goes wrong:

    But there was a simple means of getting the hasslers off his back: release the sodding data.

    Apart from the fact that not all data was legally releasable by Jones (and also that it was all obtainable by anyone who wasn’t a cheap, lazy ass), it’s simply not true to say that the hasslers would have stopped with their hassling.

    McIntyre has been given data before. Did that stop him from hassling further? No. He has been told that he can get the data directly from the source. Did that stop him? No. He has even gotten the data from the source. Did that stop him? No.

    McIntyre is in a no-lose position. Whether or not he gets the data, he gets to bad-mouth Jones. Jones, however, is in a no-win situation. When you’re in a no-win situation, why bother putting effort into losing? (I vaguely recall reading something to that effect in the emails.)

    Jones may not have handled the situation gracefully, but it’s simply not true to say that (illegally) giving up the data would have solved the problem. In fact, it’s stupid to say that because it ignores all available evidence. It’s projection, really; projection of good intentions.

  2. #2 Nicolas Nierenberg
    2010/04/13

    William,

    Monbiot covers the intellectual property issue here.

    “If FoI Act does ever get used by anyone, there is also IPR to consider as well. Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them.”

    and here

    “Even if WMO [the World Meteorological Organisation] agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

    You may not agree with him but he addresses all the issues that you mention.

    [Err no. Monbiot isn't considering those issues - he is quoting cherry-picked emails in a side-swipe at them. Does he use his own words anywhere? No, he doesn't. Does he anywhere in his own words acknowledge the agreements, or suggest those might be valid reasons? No -W]

  3. #3 Carl C
    2010/04/13

    But you still have to wonder that if you’ve “lost” moonbat errr Monbiot, what what wrong, and how can it be handled better. Was Monbiot just swayed by the right-wing blogology & noise?

    [Well, that is a good point. I think the answer is that Monbiot isn't really "on our side" at all, because in the end he is oon his own side. I don't think that is unreasonable - it isn't indended as a criticism - but I do criticise the people who say "Monbiot is one of you and even he says X so X must be true". Monbiot has his own interests - writing stories, mostly - and as others have said, being a journo givees him a very different perspective on FOI. And of course he knows nothing about the doing of science -W]

  4. #4 bigcitylib
    2010/04/13

    Carl C,

    Yes, Jones said all that, but in the end (it seems) he (or more accurately, the University of East Anglia, because in the end the decision would not have been his to make)did release all the data available to him.

    “Ungraciousness” does seem to be the worst charge that can be lain against Jones, and given the pricks he was dealing with, I for one am willing to forgive him.

  5. #5 Donald
    2010/04/14

    I agree with pough that the hassle won’t stop even when everything is 100% available: the hassle is the point.

    How long before more people start noticing that the “sceptics” could’ve got the data from source, could’ve implemented the methodology and checked the results, and asking why didn’t they?

    How long before more people start noticing that the code is available now, so the “sceptics” don’t even need to do the work implementing the methodology- they can either show the code is bent, or run the data through it and show the result doesn’t come out as CRU said it does? And why haven’t the “sceptics” done this already?

    How long before more people start noticing that in the US, the data is 100% available from the meteorological organisations concerned, along with their methodologies and code, and asking why the “sceptics” haven’t done the analysis and proved manipulation?

    Assuming CRU get the authority to release all their data, how long before more people start focusing more on the “sceptics”, asking what they could be holding out for now, and expecting some proof of the manipulation of data they’ve been led to believe has happened?

    My bet is that when these things do happen, the “sceptics” will still be hassling scientists, but that the attention will become more and more uncomfortable for them. My bet is also that they got hold of the data long ago and implemented the methodology and came up with nothing and have kept quiet about it- and that the release of code and data is making them sweat a little, because in the end somebody is going to check the temperature record, show the same result CRU and GISS and NOAA got, and expose their empty hand.

  6. #6 Sam C
    2010/04/14

    George Monbiot is simply annoying. I’ve given up paying any attention to his articles as the underlying message is always “why are you all so wrong when you should be able to see that I’m right and here are my latest truly dismal insights?”

    There does seem to be a subgroup of the environmentally conscious (including Monbiot) whose attitude is always to be against everything; for example, being pro-wind power, but against any actual wind power developments or promotion of wind power (I don’t know if that is Mr Dismal’s view; I no longer pay any attention to him).

  7. #7 Willis Eschenbach
    2010/04/14

    I made the first FOI request to CRU. Monbiot thinks I was acting in good faith because I was. Why is that so hard to understand? I invite people to read my account of it here and make up your own minds, just as Monbiot did.

    The reason the original data wasn’t released was not because of confidentiality agreements. That’s a red herring. As Phil Jones finally got around to admitting, it was because the original data was lost. If Dr. Jones had simply admitted that in response to my FOI request, the rest of the requests wouldn’t have been necessary.

  8. #8 John McManus
    2010/04/14

    I read Eschenbach”s self-justification again and I can’t see anything about the data being lost.

    Sets were updated, but that is an improvement not a loss.

    Data is held elsewhere. That is not a loss. Willis should have someone read him the disclaimer on the Hadley site. Data is available to those who declare themselves to be working on an academic paper. They must agree not to share the data with anyone else. And the finger in WE’s eye: data must be erased from computer memory once the paper is published.

    Sounds like Phil Jones is a man of his word. At WUWT honesty seems to be regarded as a sign of weakness to be used in in character assasination.

  9. #9 Gavin's Pussycat
    2010/04/14
  10. #10 Bart Verheggen
    2010/04/14

    McIntyre was initially (2002) given data by Jones, as retold at both CA and lately at WUWT by Steven Mosher. So, Jones initially showed goodwill to McIntyre, and withdrew his goodwill when it became clear to him what McIntyre was all about. (e.g. my recounting of McIntyre’s role in the Yamal story shows what McI is about: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/mcintyres-role-in-the-latest-teapot-tempest/)

    McIntyre asks the rhetorical question: “What changes took place between 2002 and 2009 that are relevant to a refusal decision?”

  11. #11 dhogaza
    2010/04/14

    I made the first FOI request to CRU. Monbiot thinks I was acting in good faith because I was. Why is that so hard to understand? I invite people to read my account of it here and make up your own minds, just as Monbiot did.

    As though Willis’s track record is such that might lead me to trust him … not.

    Sorry, dude, you build yourself a reputation, you live with that reputation.

  12. #12 kkloor
    2010/04/14

    William,

    Your response to comment to # 3 is revealing not just of your own entrenched mindset, but of the role you believe journalists should have in this debate.

    You are free to take sides, so are advocates. Journalists shouldn’t. So long as you and Real Climate continue to view us through this lens, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/04/14/choosing-sides/

    [What am I revealing? The "sides" bit? You'll note I deliberately put that into quotes. Perhaps it wasn't obvious: that is shorthand for: "we all know that really there aren't sides in this, or at least that we're supposed to pretend not. But we also know that sides is a convenient shorthand. So I'll put it into quotes and hope you understand". I see mt has already effectively said this.

    It is clear that you dno't understand, because if you did you wouldn't have written "Connolley’s main problem with Monbiot is that he’s not “on our side"." you would have written "Connolley’s main problem with Monbiot is that he’s not “"on our side""." I hope you can see the difference now. You could even consider correcting your article :-).

    As for your post... I think you've got it wrong. RC has criticised Pearce for getting the science wrong. And backs that up with direct examples. If you think Romm has made similar errors, you haven't troubled to write them down.

    You appear to be trying to climate some status apart for journalists who are "not supposed to take sides". Indeed, but then neither are scientists. Or bloggers. I'd argue that RC (and I) are on the "science side" if you insist on dividing us into sides; ie those who care about getting the science correct, and having it correctly reported.

    demonstrates the “tribalist” atttitude described by Judith Curry, which at the end of the day, may well be the most damning thing one can say about climategate. Which isn’t saying much, obviously is quite fascinating, assuming I've read you right: you're admitting that the likes of RC and me were right all along - that this whole business was nowhere near as interesting as everyone thought and of very little importance.

    You also suggest that we suggest that any broader analysis of climategate is illegitimate because no crime was commited. You're wrong. I'm happy to have it analysed, but sensibly. That means not shouting out about half-formed conclusions, and getting the balance right.

    -W]

  13. #13 crf
    2010/04/14

    Journalists are the last people I’d want to do a “broader analysis” of anything. They have a very useful job: bringing facts to light, and providing a voice to people who would not otherwise be heard. But people generally, and journalists themselves, don’t seem to understand that their method of working is more often than not, not going to get at the truth of a matter, especially on difficult and complicated issues which require real expertise.

    Journalists get a bunch of ideas into their head which provides them a gestalt of the issue at hand, and to give them them courage to then go on and write about something about which they are inexpert. To summon that courage, many journos actually believe that their own understanding of a subject is reasonably complete and reasonably correct, and will defend their understanding in the manner of the best trial defence lawyers. It’s a special person who can do journalism. It takes courage. It is something that has to be done (generally, I applaud them, even the ones who are often wrong).

    So we get Climategate and its children, which is about “hiding declines”, “FOI denied”, “data retention”, “government restrictions”, “bad statistics”, “corruption of peer review”, “grey literature”. Little kernels of ideas which are easy for journalists to understand, and which are, often enough, fairly well argued by journalists. But these little kernels are everything but an explanation about what climate science is and how the issues involved in “climategate” affect it. Journalists convinced themselves that what they were able to understand was what was important. Some of them even wrote their stories and then dutifully hunted for quotes from real experts in the context of their framing of the issue. Andy Revkin is very good at this. If he were not a good journalist, he would make a good lawyer: even a judge.

    I really don’t understand why jounalists take it so personally when people criticise their work. It’s the nature of their work that they will be spectacularly wrong a lot of time. They need better coping mechanisms to do their job than actually believing that what they write is going to be a true explanation of a subject.

  14. #14 Willis Eschenbach
    2010/04/14

    For those who, like John McManus, doubt that Jones lost the data, see here, or simply do a google search on “phil jones data lost”.

  15. #15 Hank Roberts
    2010/04/14

    “Sets were updated, but that is an improvement not a loss.
    Data is held elsewhere. That is not a loss. Willis should have someone read him the disclaimer on the Hadley site.”

  16. #16 Deep Climate
    2010/04/15

    Here is an interesting exchange between Judith Curry and a ClimateAudit reader. Is she a mainstream climate scientist or a “lukewarmer”? You tell me.

    Judith Curry: The IPCC statement says that “most of the warming in the latter half of the 20th century is very likely caused by humans”. “most” implies greater than 50%, and “very likely” means > 90% as defined by IPCC. Do I agree with the combination of 50% and 90% in this statement? No. At least some of the warming is caused by anthropogenic CO2 (no one argues with that), exactly how much requires sorting out all the causes of natural variability. In the 90’s, the warm temperatures got a boost from warm phases of both AMO and PDO (the same thing that i think caused the bump ca 1940).

    geo: Yes, I think a lot of us sense that IPCC took “worst case” and passed it off as “middle of the road” and then tried to shout everybody else down. Re AMO and PDO. . . would you agree that we’re likely going to have a relatively firm grip in say, about 10 years, as to what the real future temperature trend line is liable to look like?

    Judith Curry: 10 more years of data (plus model improvements) will certainly help us sort all this out.

    http://climateaudit.org/2010/01/18/curry-reviews-lindzen-and-choi/#comment-216685

    No wonder Willis and Keith like her so much.

  17. #17 kkloor
    2010/04/15

    William,

    Per your response to how I’ve interpreted your “on our side” reference (#12): sorry, I’m not getting the shorthand you claim. Let’s go back and look at the entirety of what you wrote in response to commenter #3:

    [[Well, that is a good point. I think the answer is that Monbiot isn't really "on our side" at all, because in the end he is oon his own side. I don't think that is unreasonable - it isn't indended as a criticism - but I do criticise the people who say "Monbiot is one of you and even he says X so X must be true". Monbiot has his own interests - writing stories, mostly - and as others have said, being a journo givees him a very different perspective on FOI. And of course he knows nothing about the doing of science.]]

    The larger context is framed very much around who stands on what side. You say Monbiot is “on his own side.” Then you put quotes around the general statement from people who claim, “‘Monbiot is one of you…'” Then you say Monbiot has his own interests, which is writing stories.

    So I take all this to mean that Monbiot shouldnt be thought of as aligned with climate scientists, as some of his disillusioned readers had always assumed. What you are saying (and here’s the part I overlooked) is that he’s not on anyone’s side-except that identified with journalism (which you later refer to as “writing stories”), and you remark that this is is not “unreasonable.”

    So I stand by my initial reading: you view this issue through the two sides prism. But I was wrong to write in my post that you don’t understand the role of journalists. You obviously do. It appears you take a dim view of the profession, since we do more than simply write stories. But you seem to grasp that we’re not supposed to be aligned with any one side. Hence your anger at Monbiot is not fed by some sense of betrayal.

    Anyway, on a related note, do you recall that one CRU email from Michael Mann, who cautioned his peers that Andy Revkin was “not as predictable as we’d like.” The New York Times ombudsman approvingly took this to mean that Revkin was seen by scientists as being independent:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/opinion/06pubed.html?_r=1

    Now let’s go to Anthony Watts, remarking on Revkin’s departure from the Times:
    “He’s been a worthy opponent…”
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/14/andy-revkin-to-leave-dot-earth-and-nyt/

    There’s the two sides I’m referring to talking about a journalist who isn’t on their side. And if you’re Revkin or any journalist, that’s exactly where you want to be. Of course, some journalists who cover real war are mortally wounded by crossfire. Fortunately for Andy, who is quite good at what he does and who has been deliberately put in the crosshairs by both sides (when he’s not perceived to be serving one side’s interest), the crossfire is just rhetorical. Still, I;m sure the experience has not been pleasant.

    Oh well, as commenter #13 implied, this all goes with the territory.

  18. #18 Adam
    2010/04/15

    None of the FOI requests were needed, not the first, not the subsequent. Most of the data is freely available, the remainder is available from the NMS’s. Whether CRU lost their copy of the data or not is irrelevant. There was never any need to ask the CRU for any of it.

    It’s been said before, but to “audit” the HADCRUT would not need all the data anyway. The freely available stuff would suffice to get a good idea of whether it’s a fair representation. If problems showed up in the 90% then the remainder could be requested from the NMS’s.

  19. #19 Deep Climate
    2010/04/15

    I would like to think a science journalist would be on the “side” of science, and, well, the truth.

    Every time Revkin or Pearce gets the science wrong, or gives unwarranted respect to the inanities of the likes of McIntyre and Pat Michaels, they are doing a disservice to what should be their “side”.

    Among working science journalists, AP’s Seth Borenstein and the Guardian’s David Adams consistently get it right or damn close, as far as I can see. It’s too bad Pearce is doing the climategate book instead of Adams.

  20. #20 Deep Climate
    2010/04/15

    Correction – that’s David Adam (not Adams). (Sorry, DA, if you’re reading this).

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