Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two more scientists speak out.

There is positive fallout from the Climategate leak, what I consider a searching for a better way of handling the data used to project global warming. Some climatologists are very unhappy with what the leaked material portrays and they want changes.

Eduardo Zorita, an associate researcher at the GKSS Research Center as well as head of the Department of Paleoclimatology, has posted a message on his website about the matter. Zorita was a contributing author to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. Zorita says that he thinks Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Ramstorft “should be barred from the IPCC process” because of the revelations about how they have behaved.

Zorita says that some of his email correspondence with Keith Briffa and Timothy Osborn were among those leaked. Zorita is blunt: “The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.” Zorita makes it clear that he is not a warming skeptic but he says he is also aware “that in this thick atmosphere—and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now—editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations, even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the ‘politically correct picture.’ Some, of many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makes should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the ‘pleasure’ to experience all this in my area of research.”

Zorita specifically thanks Briffa and Osborn for their work on chapter one of the IPCC report because the leaked emails show “they withstood the evident pressure of other IPCC authors, not experts in this area of research, to convey a distorted picture of our knowledge of the hockey-stick graph.” Zorita also says he feels justified in reading the leaked emails because they show how “some researchers tried to influence reviewers to scupper the publication of our work on the 'hockey stick graph' or to read how some IPCC authors tried to exclude this work from the IPCC Report on very dubious reasons.” And, the says these email reveal some “very troubling professional behavior.”

The Climate Progress blog, which is firmly in the camp of the warmers, published a piece by Dr. Judith Curry on what the leaks reveal about climate science. They endorsed Curry as a “first rate scientist” and said “her views deserve to be read and debated widely.” Curry was writing to grad students and young scientists in the field of climatology, whom she says are probably “confused, troubled, or worried by what you have been reading about ClimateGate and the contents of the hacked CRU emails.”

Curry says she spent “considerable time reading the hacked emails and other posts” and has called for “greater transparency in climate data and other methods in climate research.” Curry is pretty scathing about what the leaked material shows. She writes:
What has been noticeably absent so far in the ClimateGate discussion is a public reaffirmation by climate researchers of our basic research values: the rigors of the scientific method (including reproducibility), research integrity and ethics, open minds, and critical thinking. Under no circumstances should we ever sacrifice any of these values; the CRU emails, however, appear to violate them
Curry says that there are really three ways that her fellow warmers can deal with the skeptics.
1. Retreat into the ivory tower

2.Circle the wagons/point guns outward: ad hominem/appeal to motive attacks; appeal to authority; isolate the enemy through lack of access to data; peer review process

3. Take the “high ground:” engage the skeptics on our own terms (conferences, blogosphere); make data/methods available/transparent; clarify the uncertainties; openly declare our values
Curry, as Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, says that she is trying to use the third tactic. She has even invited “skeptics” to lecture at the university as she thinks that is a more effective strategy for “dealing with skeptics” and for teaching “students to think critically.”

Curry says that the time has come to “make all your data, metadata, and code openly available. Doing this will minimize the time spent responding to skeptics; try it! If anyone identifies an actual error in your data or methodology, acknowledge it and fix the problem.” One would have hoped this was the case all along but, since Dr. Curry is asking people to adopt these strategies, it is clear she thinks that this was not how warming advocates were acting.

She urges her fellow climatologists to actually read what skeptics are saying and to try to grasp the “enormous policy implications of our field.” She says: “Publish your data as supplementary material or post on a public website. And keep your mind open and sharpen your critical thinking skills.”

Unfortunately, this call for actual pro-science, pro-reason values went over like a lead balloon with the readers of the site who pretty much said Curry doesn’t understand the situation or how utterly evil and monstrous skeptics have to be. Most responses use the typical warmer tactic of using the argument from intimidation.

Others merely argue that the world is coming to an end, disaster looms, and scientific debate is wasting time. Damn the science; let’s push policies. As one reader said: “Turning up the engine of scientific process is great and necessary, but public policy needs our attention the most.” One claims that skeptics are just “people who hate science,” which is at least better than people who allegedly want to destroy the planet.

Of course, the website itself, goes to great length to stifle debate. The editor of the site deleted one comment as “long-debunked,” said it was “laughable” and concluded: “Since you deny that which in “unequivocal,” you are a pure disinformer and not welcome here.” The editor of the blog, who Time magazine, says is the “most influential climate-change blogger,” goes so far as to say that skeptics on warming are “far more dangerous” than neo-Nazis who deny the Holocaust. Apparently this is because they are urging caution “on a problem that has not yet become catastrophic, but which will certainly do so if we listen to them and delay action much longer.” See, the skeptics want the world destroyed and want everyone to die, presumably including themselves.

Many of the readers of the blog are just rabid. One says that the skepticism of others is phony: “That they are liars and dupes [can you both at the same time?]. They are, objectively, enemies of humanity.” This reader wants young scientists to not bother with research but join him and his fellow warmers “at the front lines” “demonstrating for the shut down of coal-fired power plants, protesting at ExxonMobile board meetings, etc.” Others resort to attacking skeptics for their lack of published “peer-reviewed” articles, even though the scandal exposed how their own gurus manipulated the process to try and stop articles that had passed peer-review from getting published.

In spite of the rabid, unthinking, and often libelous, comments of the fanatical readers of the Climate Progress blog, I still consider it a good sign when a prominent scientist is willing to call for openness in this debate, something that has been clearly missing. It is also good that the tactics to stifle dissent have been exposed. In a matter like this, where tax money is used to fund research, and that research is then used to fuel political agendas, it is imperative that the process be as open as possible.

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