Skepticism about science and medicine

In search of disinterested science

Climate-change science and cover-ups

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2013/05/14

My first post on this blog, “A politically liberal global-warming skeptic?”, pointed out why it is far from certain that man-made carbon dioxide is adding appreciably to the natural warming of the Earth’s climate.

In 2009, e-mails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (Britain) were made public. They appeared to demonstrate dishonesty on the part of the global-warming advocates. However — and unsurprisingly —  a number of enquiries by various official bodies claimed to find no wrong-doing. As Wikipedia — usually reliable when it comes to supporting mainstream views — put it:
“Eight committees investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.[15] However, the reports called on the scientists to avoid any such allegations in the future by taking steps to regain public confidence in their work, for example by opening up access to their supporting data, processing methods and software, and by promptly honouring freedom of information requests.[16] The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity remained unchanged throughout the investigations.[17]” [emphasis added].

Close reading of such statements often serves to reveal unintended admissions. Here, for instance, the phrases highlighted above acknowledge that climate scientists have indeed been failing to make available to others their raw data and their analytic methods including computer programs, and that they have stalled for years requests properly made under Freedom of Information laws.

Earlier this year, a hacker with the handle “Mr. FOIA” made available to a number of “climate skeptics” some 220,000 hacked e-mails in addition to the 5000 released in 2009 and 2011. A few tidbits from the newly released material have appeared on a number of blogs, for example “Climategate Leaker: Our Civilization is Being Destroyed by Lying ‘Science’ Elitists” (by Ron Arnold, 29 March 2013):
“The first and second email batches contained conversations among ‘scientists’ who appear to have dishonored a once respectable discipline, documenting that their claims of a ‘man-made global warming crisis’ look exactly like deliberate contrivances for academic career gain, research funding and positions of political power in ‘the cause.’”

A mainstream scientist, Tom Wigley of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), complained to Michael Mann (originator of the misleading “hockey stick” graph that has since been disowned by the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change”):
“Mike, the Figure you sent is very deceptive … there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC” —
which in itself is sufficient demonstration of dishonesty acknowledged among themselves by mainstream researchers.

Even more telling, from Peter Thorne (UK Meteorological Office) to Phil Jones, head of the CRU:
“Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere, unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. …. I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it, which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.”
The response is almost as damning:
“I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working on the IPCC 5th Assessment Report would be to delete all e-mails at the end of the process. Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get — and has to be well hidden. I’ve discussed this with the main funder [the U.S. Department of Energy] in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data”.

As one of my colleagues in anti-mainstream initiatives puts it, our shared paranoia is well earned. It takes considerable effort to read these exchanges and resist the interpretation that there is a willful conspiracy of researchers and governments at work. I think the truth is elsewhere:
— The “climate change scientists” have allowed themselves to become too infatuated with their computer models, something that is always a danger for researchers. Scientists need hypotheses to guide their studies. Thereby they behave as though those hypotheses were known to be true, and it takes enormously powerful contrary evidence to shake their view, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out half a century ago (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1970 [2nd ed., enlarged; 1st ed. 1962]).
— Governments have felt it appropriate and safe to accept as certain whatever official institutions of science state to be the best current understanding. “Science” has “enjoyed” this on-a-pedestal status since the Second World War and its successes with atom bombs, penicillin, radar, etc. etc.
There is no grand conspiracy, just abysmal ignorance of what science is, in particular that a mainstream consensus never translates into certain truth. There is, however, a limited tawdry conspiracy by leading “climate scientists” not to let observers know exactly what the “scientists” have been doing and are doing. These gurus feel quite sure that their estimates, roundings-up and roundings-down, exaggerations, omissions, curve-smoothings, etc. etc. are perfectly justified and don’t distort the “essential” truth. Their sins are hubris, scientism, cognitive dissonance, but they are not consciously and willfully conspiring to mislead. They mislead nevertheless.

The blog I’ve cited ends with an important quote from President Eisenhower that I’ve used myself:
“We ourselves can’t avoid blame for the science disaster uncovered by Mr. FOIA. As Peter Foster of London’s Financial Times noted, we didn’t heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning. ‘Most people are aware of Ike’s warning in 1961 about the military-industrial complex,’ Foster wrote. Our fatal error was to ignore what he said next: ‘In holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite’ [emphasis added].
That’s precisely what has happened with global warming (as well as with HIV/AIDS).

***************************************************************************

As to the actual evidence about climate, note that it has not become warmer for at least 15 years even though the levels of “greenhouse” carbon dioxide has continued to increase:
“London’s Mail on Sunday newspaper ran an outraged feature based on the British Meteorological Office’s recent admission that global surface temperatures haven’t risen in more than 15 years. . . . : ‘Official predictions of global climate warming have been catastrophically flawed. The graph on this page blows apart the ‘scientific basis’ for Britain reshaping its entire economy and spending billions in taxes and subsidies in order to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. The chart shows in incontrovertible detail how the speed of global warming has been massively overestimated. . . . The eco-debate was, in effect, hijacked by false data.’”

It would be funny if it weren’t so serious a matter, that mainstream human-caused global-warming enthusiasts grasp at straws to suggest, by hindsight, that they almost predicted this: “In retrospect, we ‘predicted’ global warming would slow”.

A convenient way to keep abreast of what “global-warming skeptics” and “climate-change denialists” are saying, and the continuing avalanche of evidence they cite, is to subscribe (free) to the Newsletter “The Week That Was” from the Science & Environmental Policy Project.  Also useful is the blog “Watts Up With That?

2 Responses to “Climate-change science and cover-ups”

  1. rogerknights said

    In your book on Dogmatism in Science, you wrote, “The analogy occasionally made between modern science and organized religion is quite apt ….”

    A formulation with more parallelism and punch would be, “The analogy occasionally made between organized science and organized religion …” If you like this phrase in this context, you may use it without crediting me..
    ————-

    Background. In response to the online comment (on WUWT) below:

    Jim Cripwell says:
    June 6, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I would suggest, Roy, that the culprits who have caused you the frustration, which IMHO is entirely justified, are the learned scientific societies. Just about all of these bodies, led by the Royal Society, the American Physical Society and the World Meteorological Organization, have deserted science in favor of advocacy.

    I posted:

    After the collapse of cli-fi, “organized science” will be in the same bag as “organized religion.”

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