A Climate Scientist Replies to ClimateGate
Posted by Jeff Id on December 4, 2009
As the undeniability of the problems in climate science exposed in these emails is beginning to be grasped by the public, scientists in the field have begun to speak out. Today on a thread at Watts Up With That, a post from climate scientist who studied at Harvard was featured. Sean is very clear, pulls no punches, and is worth the time of anyone who’s interested in climategate to read.
Posted by Sean December 2, 09 11:26 PM
I am a climate scientist, and it is clear that the evidence that “human activity is prominent [sic] agent in global warming” is NOT overwhelming. The repeated statement that it is does not make it so. Further, even if we accepted the hypothesis, cap-and-trade legislation does not do anything about it.
Here are the facts. We have known for years that the Mann hockey stick model was wrong, and we know why it was wrong (Mann used only selected data to normalize the principal component analysis, not all of it). He retracted the model. We have known for years that the Medieval Warm period occurred, where the temperatures were higher than they are now (Chaucer spoke of vineyards in northern England).
Long before ClimateGate it was known that the IPCC people were trying to fudge the data to get rid of the MWP. And for good reason. If the MWP is “allowed” to exist, this means that temperatures higher than today did not then create a “runaway greenhouse” in the Middle Ages with methane released from the Arctic tundra, ice cap albedo lost, sea levels rising to flood London, etc. etc.), and means that Jim Hansen’s runaway greenhouse that posits only amplifying feedbacks (and no damping feedbacks) will not happen now. We now know that the models on which the IPCC alarms are based to not do clouds, they do not do the biosphere, they do not explain the Pliocene warming, and they have never predicted anything, ever, correctly.
As the believers know but, like religious faithful, every wrong prediction (IPCC underestimated some trends) is claimed to justify even greater alarm (not that the models are poor approximations for reality); the underpredictions (where are the storms? Why “hide the decline”?) are ignored or hidden.
As for CO2, we have known for years that CO2 increases have never in the past 300,000 years caused temperature rise (CO2 rise trails temperature increase). IPCC scientists know this too (see their “Copenhagen Diagnosis”); we know that their mathematical fudges that dismiss the fact that CO2 has not been historically causative of temperature rise are incorrect as well. We have also known for years that the alleged one degree temperature rise from 1880 vanishes if sites exposed to urban heat islands are not considered.
We have long known that Jones’s paper dismissing this explanation (Jones, et al. 1990. Assessment of urbanization effects in time series of surface air temperature over land, Nature 347 169- 172) is wrong and potentially fraudulent (see the same data used to confirm urban heat islands in Wang, W-C, Z. Zeng, T. R Karl, 1990. Urban Heat Islands in China. Geophys. Res. Lett. 17, 2377-2380). Everyone except Briffa knows that the Briffa conclusions are wrong, and why they are wrong; groups in Finland, Canada (lots of places actually) show cooling by this proxy, not warming; the IPCC even printed the Finn’s plot upside down to convert the fact (cooling) into the dogma (warming).
Prof. McCarthy is, of course, part of the IPCC that has suppressed dissenting viewpoints based on solid climate science. His claim to support by “peer review” is nonsense; he has helped corrupt the peer review process. We now have documentary evidence that Jones, Mann, and the other IPCC scientists have been gaming peer review and blackballing opponents. On this point, the entire IPCC staff, including Prof. McCarthy, neither have nor deserve our trust.
We have tolerated years of the refusal of Mann and Jones to release data. Now, we learn that much of these data were discarded (one of about 4 data sets that exist), something that would in any other field of science lead to disbarment. We have been annoyed by Al Gore, who declared this science “settled”, refused to debate, and demonized skeptics (this is anti-science: debate and skepticism are the core of real science, which is never settled). The very fact that Prof. McCarthy attempts to bluff Congress by asserting the existence of fictional “overwhelming evidence” continues this anti-science activity.
All of this was known before Climategate. What was not known until now was the extent to which Jones and Mann were simply deceiving themselves (which happens often in science) or fraudently attempting to deceive others. I am not willing to crucify Jones on the word “trick”. Nor, for that matter, on the loss of primary data, keeping only “value added” data (which is hopelessly bad science, but still conceivably not fraud).
But the computer code is transparently fraudulent. Here, one finds matrices that add unexplained numbers to recent temperatures and subtract them from older temperatures (these numbers are hard-programmed in), splining observational data to model data, and other smoking guns, all showing that they were doing what was necessary to get the answers that the IPCC wanted, not the answers that the data held. They knew what they were doing, and why they were doing it.
If, as Prof. McCarthy insists, “peer review” was functioning, and the IPCC reports are rigorously peer reviewed, why was this not caught? When placing it in context made it highly likely that this type of fraud was occurring?
The second question is: Will this revelation be enough to cause the “global warming believers” to abandon their crusade, and for people to return to sensible environmental science (water use, habitat destruction, land use, this kind of thing)? Perhaps it will.
Contrary to Prof. McCarthy’s assertion, we have not lost just one research project amid dozens of others that survive. A huge set of primary data are apparently gone. Satellite data are scarcely 40 years old. Everything is interconnected, and anchored on these few studies. Even without the corruption of the peer review process, this is as big a change as quantum mechanics was in physics a century ago.
But now we know that peer review was corrupted, and that no “consensus” exists. The “2500 scientists agree” number is fiction (God knows who they are counting, but to get to this number, they must be including referees, spouses, and pets).
The best argument now for AGW is to argue that CO2 is, after all, a greenhouse gas, its concentration is, after all, increasing, and feedbacks that regulated climate for millions of years might (we can hypothesize) be overwhelmed by human CO2 emissions. It is a hypothesis worthy of investigation, but it has little evidentiary support.
Thus, there is hope that Climategate will bring to an end the field of political climatology, and allow climatology to again become a science. That said, people intrinsically become committed to ideas. The Pope will not become a Protestant even if angel Gabriel taps him on the shoulder and asks him to. Likewise, Prof. McCarthy may claim until the day he retires that there remains “overwhelming support” for his position, even if every last piece of data supporting it is controverted. As a graduate student at Harvard, I was told that fields do not advance because people change their minds; rather, fields advance because people die.