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Climate center's server hacked, revealing documents and emails (examiner.com)
171 points by nice1 on Nov 20, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 199 comments

I've followed Steve McIntyre for awhile, and it is in fact shameful, damning, and unscientific how ardently climate scientists have fought to keep their data from him when he has requested it to check their models. The problem seems to be particularly acute among the old guard of the profession. Seeing the other side of the conversation doesn't add a whole lot, we already knew what bastards they are.

For those who haven't checked out Steve's work, look at http://www.climateaudit.org/ . But be warned, if you're looking for politics over numbers, he will put you to sleep. And the server is getting hammered at the moment. But please book mark it and go back later. His blog is an important piece of the internet, what we all thought the internet could be before lolcats disillusioned us.

It doesn't surprise me to see a lot of people here coming to the climate scientists' defense. They are, after all, a popular and respected group in society at the moment. But when you cherry-pick data, create unreproducible models, and then refuse to share your data with other people, you ought to lose a little bit of that respect. We will get precisely the quality of science we enforce, which at present is any quality of science the authoritative voices in the area chose to give us.

When Steve has been successful at obtaining the data he wants, he has been able to find flaws in various analyses. If you come from a scientific perspective, that ought to be great news! Independent confirmation or refutation of results increases the quality of our knowledge. But if you come from a political perspective then Steve is bad news indeed.

Why climate scientists are respected and treated as the high priests of truth while they hide data from the world and McIntyre is treated as a vaguely dangerous rogue, I don't understand it. I suspect it's politics. But in a perfect world there would be a thousand McIntyre's and they wouldn't have to fight for data. It would be available in public online databases, hosting paid for by tax dollars. That ought to be the least we ask of any science with the potential to route trillions of dollars in government spending policy over the next decade.

But sadly, when bad science comes to light, all we get instead is a circling of the wagons around the favored group. Why? Again, I suspect politics.

That's one of the worst things I noticed from the data, the overwhelming and negative responses to Steve Mcintyre. Mcintyre is not some demagogue. He's extremely dry and analytical. Why are they strategizing on how to give him dirty, annoying, and obfuscated data?

I don't care if climate scientists consider Mcintyre an adversary. Does everyone remember how the shuttle software is written? The testing team has an adversarial relationship with the developers. This is how quality work is forged. If these guys can't stand to have an adversary review their work, I submit that something is seriously awry.

Peer review isn't strong enough right now. If you read these docs, you find that they are asking that reviewers be hand-picked for "objectivity", and it's clear from the context that this means "not global warming skeptics". Peer review needs to be more adversarial. I don't think the scientific literature is much less important than the shuttle software.

If the scientific method is working, then the data and methods should be able to withstand ANYONE'S scrutiny. It should be completely open. Most people here are strong supporters of open source software. Don't tell me for one second that free and open scientific debate doesn't benefit exactly as much from being open.

I think it's easy to work against an adversary when you're being paid to spend your time doing exactly that.

Climate research funding is not paid so well as to give researchers time to deal with these specific issues. Maybe it should be. But it isn't.

Your response is a fantastic example of why this debate has become so horribly polarised. Has there ever been reliable evidence that Steve McIntyre or Anthony Watts are being paid by energy companies for the work they do? Both have made valuable contributions to the science surrounding this issue, McIntyre by spotting actual flaws within datasets and Watts by driving the effort to catalogue and categorise the quality of the all-important weather stations. They're not demagogues throwing around baseless accusations who should be ignored.

McIntyre is the main target of the Hadley Centre scientists' ire, which I suspect has more to do with the fact that he's actually competent and knows how to interpret the data they release, something they oddly seem to fear.

Lest we forget, scientists like those at the Hadley Centre have their own incentives, as their funding is directly correlated to the prevailing fear of global warming. Moreover, the debate has become so poisoned that few scientists would be brave enough to go far down a route which might dispute even a small part of the conventional wisdom for fear of being labelled a 'denier' (a term you used elsewhere in this discussion).

But this is not what scientific debate is supposed to be about. This is supposed to be a profession ruled by the Scientific Method and dedicated to the primacy of experiments and data. What your personal incentives are or who pays your salary should be secondary to the results you produce. Science should have no place for flippant ad hominem dismissals, nor for the talk of 'enemies' that pervades this thread and the emails of the Hadley scientists.

We should be thankful for the role played by men like McIntyre, because they act as an important quality check on data which will be used to make massively important political decisions which may have huge impacts on each of our lifestyles and finances. We should have more adversarial data analysts, not fewer.

My biggest concern with 'climate scientists' is that they're little more than statisticians, which certainly doesn't make them reputable, trustworthy and it especially doesn't make them scientists.

There is so little fact checking being performed and present day thermometer readings are all but useless as most are contained within urban heat traps. Global Warming isn't a question of whether CO2 or Methane contribute to higher absorption of infrared energy. It's a question of what its effects are, and what the environment's reaction will be (IE will heated oceans produce more clouds and produce a sharp reversal in the effect or will it produce no effect at all, etc.).

The other thing that concerns me is the political nature of 'climate science', not only are so many politicians embedded in being 'green', but the organisations themselves have a political agenda that makes them (at least appear as though they're) prone to bias. Most emphatically claim that our only alternative to fossil fuels is the mass development of alternative energy, which is flat out bullshit.

Firstly before we get into any discussion of carbon sequestration, these 'scientists' and the public in general (thankfully many politicians - never thought I'd have thankfully and politicians in the same sentence without 'they're all dead' inserted between the two - haven't ignored the green-glowing Elephant in the room) make no discussion of the one main, technologically available alternative we have: Nuclear.

A renewed Nuclear power project in virtually every western country, including widespread MOX usage would vastly reduce our need for fossil fuels, whilst barely effecting the amount of highly radioactive nuclear waste we produce.

It's likely just me, but when 'scientists' purposefully neglect to mention existing and well established technology as a solution to our energy crisis it makes me question their motives. Who are really paying for these studies if their only suggestion is alternative energy?

I don't know anything about McIntyre or Watts. I was responding to the parent who was comparing climate science to building a space shuttle. My point was that climate scientists are not funded like space shuttle developers, nothing more than that.

If I misread your comment, please accept my apology. I must admit that I responded in the way I did partially because of this statement that you made a couple of hours ago, and I assumed that the comment I replied to was making a similar case:


Sure, and if researchers are being forced to draw the line higher than usual due to external pressure from highly funded deniers, whose fault is that?

EDIT: Besides, if we define the adversary to be somebody making legitimate critical analyses of your data and models and showing up flaws in them, isn't dealing with that meant to be part of a scientists job? How different is it in practice to defending your work against criticism from other, supposedly more respectable, scientists?

It's ridiculous to claim that a lack of resources is a valid reason for intentionally hiding data from people with the skill to perform an adversarial analysis on it. If a scientist can't defend his results against Steve McIntyre, it means his results are indefensible. The person doesn't matter; the data, and its integrity, do.

You're asking me how is a massively organised campaign participated in by thousands of people not educated specifically in your field different from defending your work against a critical colleague who happens to have his own pet theory?

It doesn't matter who the adversary is. If a flaw is found, the work is incorrect.

> Has there ever been reliable evidence that Steve McIntyre or Anthony Watts are being paid by energy companies for the work they do?

EDIT: referring to McIntyre:

The guy is a semi-retired mineral consultant. He's been paid his whole life by energy companies. He is not a scientist and the so-called "valuable contributions" he made were determined to be of "little significance":


The Sourcewatch website you link to is run by the Center for Media and Democracy, a leftist advocacy group. I'm having trouble imagining a less reliable source on this subject.

In the specific article you provided, all of the relevant links were broken.

As a follow-up, I don't think it would be unreasonable for climate scientists operating on public funds to be required to take the following steps:

1) Archive a copy of all raw data series used in publications with a public database

2) Archive a copy of the final processed data series used in publications with the same database.

3) Archive a copy of the source code used to produce figures and tables with the same database.

The default stance for publicly-funded science should be openness, not secrecy.

Hell, these would be good steps for any serious journal to take, on any subject, regardless of federal funding.

edit: Example of the pathology we need to fight:

>>"We should be able to conduct our scientific research without constant fear of an "audit" by Steven McIntyre; without having to weigh every word we write in every email we send to our scientific colleagues. In my opinion, Steven McIntyre is the self-appointed Joe McCarthy of climate science. I am unwilling to submit to this McCarthy-style investigation of my scientific research. As you know, I have refused to send McIntyre the "derived" model data he requests, since all of the primary model data necessary to replicate our results are freely available to him. I will continue to refuse such data requests in the future. Nor will I provide McIntyre with computer programs, email correspondence, etc. I feel very strongly about these issues. We should not be coerced by the scientific equivalent of a playground bully. I will be consulting LLNL's Legal Affairs Office in order to determine how the DOE and LLNL should respond to any FOI requests that we receive from McIntyre."

I hope that this entire debate results in a new set of ethical standards for publicly-funded research. At the minimum I would support the open and free release of all unaltered data, a "Chinese wall" between researchers and activists (of whatever breed), and the requirement for all science based on "best guess" to say so in bold print, much like the language we have when investing with a prospectus. The standard of proof being used should be available in clear understandable language.

I fear that by the time the political debate ends, a lot of good research is going to become collateral damage, which would be an awful result.

Daniel, you say: "At the minimum I would support the open and free release of all unaltered data."

If i may extract quote from the message you replied to: As you know, I have refused to send McIntyre the "derived" model data he requests, since all of the primary model data necessary to replicate our results are freely available to him. I will continue to refuse such data requests in the future. Nor will I provide McIntyre with computer programs, email correspondence, etc. I feel very strongly about these issues. We should not be coerced by the scientific equivalent of a playground bully. I will be consulting LLNL's Legal Affairs Office in order to determine how the DOE and LLNL should respond to any FOI requests that we receive from McIntyre." (emphasis added by me)

I do agree with you that transparency is the litmus test of good science. At the same time, catering to that can lay you open to abuses from, well, trolls.

As an analogy, suppose I had a bee in my bonnet about Linux security and I kept demanding that Linus send me copies of his binaries every time he did a new commit. He would rightly tell me to get the sources and build it myself and leave him alone. and in turn I could post lonely rants along the lines of 'why won't Linus Torvalds come clean about Linux security'. It would be quite meaningless, but it would sucker in some people. If I was sufficiently clever I could probably get quoted by someone at Microsoft or in the BSD camp.

The parallel I am drawing here is to the public datasets and methods laid out in published, peer-reviewed papers. If McIntyre is so sure that either the methods or the datasets are flawed, why not follow the established practice of writing to the journal and challenging the paper, or even submitting his own analysis of the public data and explaining how it improves on existing analyses? Instead he posts in some minor journal which is not part of the scientific corpus, not a hard science journal, and has been widely accused of lax publication criteria.

One of the things that really bothers me about the skeptical crowd (as opposed to individual skeptics) is that they employ a lot of same kind of arguments as the proponents of 'intelligent design' do, claiming there's an ivory-tower conspiracy that silences all dissenting views and shuts them out of publication. Any time you have a bunch of people going 'OMG teh conspiracy', it's time to whip out the old bullshit detector...and all too often, comparing their claims with the published literature sends the BS detector way into the red.

Nor will I provide McIntyre with computer programs,

Sad fact: most journal articles do not include all the details necessary to reproduce their results. There are usually all sorts of heuristics and tricks used which are not interesting enough to include in the paper. Typically, the experts in the field all know each other and share source code/tricks in private conversation.

As for the "ivory-tower conspiracy", it apparently isn't bullshit. As these emails reveal, there is a conspiracy to make it difficult for Steve McIntyre to examine published scientific results. There is also a conspiracy (revealed in other emails) to oust climate skeptics from scientific societies. It isn't paranoia if they are really out to get you.

why not follow the established practice of writing to the journal and challenging the paper, or even submitting his own analysis of the public data and explaining how it improves on existing analyses?

It looks like, from the emails, (and I hate to prejudge) that "submitting his own analysis" is not going to be an option for him.

Which leads me to the discriminating factor -- if publicly available data and publicly available processes allow an independent to process the data and reach different conclusions and be published that's fine. But that's not what is happening here.

There is no mystery about what happens between Linus' source code and the compiled executable. It's imminently transparent and reproducible. Science should be exactly the same way.

I also agree with having alarm bells ring whenever you hear "OMG the conspiracy!". I would humbly add, however, that groupthink is a real and prevalent problem -- not just among academics but everybody. If your groupthink reaches a point where you view that it's "us against them" and that your job in academia is to defend a pre-established position? I'm thinking you should be fired and never work in that field again. It's critical among scientists more than anybody else to have an open mind and a large dose of humility. The entire idea of science is that what you're working on will be replaced or fine-tuned later on down the road. Everybody is going to be wrong to some degree. It's part of the job. Big egos are not such a great thing.

I don't have a lot of tolerance for taking public money and playing politics with it, even if you are proven correct in the long run. One man's troll is another man's skeptic, and it's your job as an honest scientist to deal with them. Good scientists should first and foremost always be open about data and methods. Good grief, it's 2009, publishing all of this on a wiki somewhere is trivial.

"Why not ... [submit] his own analysis of the public data ... explaining how it improves on existing analyses?"

This is the meat of the matter. Scientists write letters to journals all the time saying that they think an author overstretched. Those letters, in and of themselves, do not negate the previous research. Scientists also write original papers showing that a previous hypothesis is invalid. Those papers, if they are well written, are easy to publish, especially if they make the journal more interesting.

Actually, I what you describe would be a useful requirement for all journal publications, not just in climate.

This is useful not just for the purposes of auditing, but also for the purpose of scientific progress. I would be able to build on other people's work much faster if I could download and modify their code rather than just rebuilding it myself.

There is a saying in the scientific community..."if you want to make sure that your competitor doesn't get any work done for the next two years, give him your code!".

In all seriousness, though, a lot of labs view their in-house codes as a competitive advantage. You may not like it, but science has become commercialized, the labs/unis are all competing about the same grants, which creates a competitive enviroment.

Y'know, I hang out around smart people who like science, and I read a lot of science, and I do some science, so I get asked about science a lot.

And when I've said that I'm not convinced that there's human global warming happening, I've been called all sorts of nasty names. I didn't say it isn't happening; I just said the information I've seen doesn't convince me. I see a lot of strongly held beliefs that global warming is happening, but the actual data seemed murky at best to me. In short, I wasn't convinced either way.

But by casually interested people, I got called all sorts of terrible names. "Denier", things like that. Compared to a creationist as someone who obviously doesn't get it, who just has beliefs by faith.

Really? I say the data hasn't convince me, that makes me a denier and a creationist? This whole thing has seemed much more like a religion than science to me. There's some science happening, but a lot of people want and need this to be true as a part of their identity rather than science. It doesn't surprise me at all that you see corruption from scientists in a culture like that. It goes against everything science is supposed to be.

I think most honest people found themselves in the situation as you.

I'm starting to think it's a good thing that American society by and large is ignorant of science issues.

Any time you incentivize scientific research with fame and fortune in popular society, you end up with crap like this.

Let's keep popular acclaim to things which don't matter, such as sports.

You're certainly entitled to be unconvinced and shouldn't be berated for your skepticism. That said...

Honest question: do you have a background in climate science or something similar? I'm a science nut too, but I don't know how I could begin to look at the _data_ involved here and come up with any sort of conclusion at all.

So what I do is advocate for public policy decisions that are in line with the very strong scientific consensus: that human-caused climate change is real and a serious threat to life on the planet.

> I'm a science nut too, but I don't know how I could begin to look at the _data_ involved here and come up with any sort of conclusion at all.

> So what I do is advocate for public policy decisions that are in line with the very strong scientific consensus: that human-caused climate change is real and a serious threat to life on the planet.

You don't know yourself, so you advocate for spending billions of dollars than could be spent doing lots of other important things.

The very strong scientific consensus? I don't see it. I don't see reproducible, falsifiable experiments that can be made by disinterested parties to check climate change. That's what scares me.

Astronomy? I can, and have, checked it myself.

Physics? Friend of mine and girlfriend of mine are physicists; they've tested and re-checked many famous physics experiments for learning purposes as part of their studies.

Microeconomics? Can be tested. Has been tested. I trust it.

Macroeconomics? Skeptical of it, because of it's proneness to confirmation bias, politicization, inability to falsify it, and many historical errors that it's made in the past without even a serious mea culpa from the error-makers. Usually they just add a caveat, or say that whatever proved them wrong actually shows they're correct.

So climate change? I'm not convinced. Reproducible, falsifiable results. Show me - "Here are the average temperatures and temperature variances in 30 regions in the globe this year. We predict the average temperature will rise by X% and variance will rise by Y% in at least 25 of these regions over the next five years. We absolutely don't expect the temperatures or variances to fall in any of these 12 regions most affected; that happening would cast serious doubt on our model."

Something like that - they don't do it. But a bad hurricane season hits? Evidence of climate change. It's hotter than normal somewhere? Evidence of climate change. It's colder than normal? Evidence of climate change. No climate change? Well, hell, it's still evidence of climate change.

> Honest question: do you have a background in climate science or something similar?

Honest answer: A hell of a lot more than Al Gore, and 99.99% of people who strongly, passionately believe that "We need to do something!"

In the climate debate there doesn't seem to be a common "climate agnostic" position yet, perhaps we should put our flags in the ground and define one. After all, you don't need to be an atheist or a theist when it comes to religion, so there's no need to make a claim either way on this stuff either.

Global warming - not exactly sure; climate change, undeniable; human-induced climate change, undoubtedly IMO. We don't need a net global increase to produce catastrophic global climate problems.

British weather reports are becoming dominated by flooding - there are several causes including climate change, poor location of housing, deforestation.

Ignoring climate change based on fossil-fuel emissions we still are running out of fossil fuels and need to find other secondary energy sources. If those sources are renewable then this prevents us having the same problem again in a few years when, say, Uranium reserves are depleted. We should then have an extremely strong impetus to ween ourselves off our current high levels of power consumption and to exploit to the greatest extent we can clean renewable power sources. If we do this then we also are tackling part of the cause of the [potential] greenhouse effect anyway.

If you're in a building and you smell smoke, see it in the corridors, feel warmer; you can assume that the smoke is coming in through a window from another building, or you can pull the fire alarm - there may not be sufficient evidence for either position, but some people it seems want to wait until their clothes catch fire before making their move. It would be too late.

- http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2009/11/the-coming-ur... current supplies run dry in 2013 unless new fields are found and exploited.

Global warming - not exactly sure; climate change, undeniable; human-induced climate change, undoubtedly IMO

That's the issue. (I upvoted you btw) That the climate is going through a short period of less than stable behaviour is certainly evident. It's also evident that it's gone through such behavior in the past, with both more and less variance. There have been ice ages FFS, and that had nothing to do with man.

It seems like we are having an influence in our current whether patterns, but we simply have nowhere near the amount of data to know this beyond theory.

To say that we are - without doubt - causing the earth's climate to change when we can't predict the "change" accurately is scientifically irresponsible.

There's a lot of confirmation bias I think. Last year the winter around here was colder than usual, and you will not stop hearing people claim it's because of global warming. The next year people continue to use these anecdotes to justify the existence of global warming.

Actually, AFAIK, climate change is supposed to cause greater variability in temperatures, not just uniformly higher temperatures. This is what I've heard from scientists like James Hansen.

Therefore, one would expect more episodes of lower temperature (cold snaps), but also more periods of higher temps (heatwaves).

Fair point. And the thing about climate science is that while you may or may not disagree about global warming, the strategies we would employ to fight global warming are the same strategies we should be employing regardless.

Take the issue of renewable energy. It might prevent global warming, but it also promotes energy independence, reduces pollution generally, allays fears about peak-oil or peak-coal.

Peak-coal? Really? The last I checked there was enough coal in the ground to last several hundred years more, at least. As for oil, there's a pretty damned good chance that our extraction technology will improve (as has been the trend) and our ability to use new sources, like shale, will improve as well (as has been the trend).

Peddling the "fossil fuels will run out, we should find alternatives" line is a dangerous path. It risks a lot of very stubborn people saying "really? well, let's just find out, to the bitter end" and calling that bluff. And there is a very real possibility (even if you are skeptical and put that possibility at, say, 10% or less) that the world ends up using every last drop of coal, and far more oil than we ever thought possible, and ultimately burning 10x, 20x or more fossil fuels than have been burned so far.

There's an optimum amount to fund such research if you are viewing the issue dispassionately, and an amount that you will fund it if everybody is afraid the world will end next year if we don't. To me, it is obvious that the first amount is better. This is one of the few issues where hackers defend intellectual dishonesty as something that makes us do "what we should be doing anyway". I'm sorry, I don't buy it.

Sure, there's a nasty popular undercurrent of slating anyone who expresses doubt. I've experienced it myself. But that shouldn't have a bearing on the facts of a situation.

I'm not too surprised at this. I think this is a great case study on groupthink.

I've observed groupthink / "the outside is the enemy" behaviour in several groups that I've participated in. It can be caused by one person setting the tone of the group (e.g., by making jokes), and then everyone else follows along. In this case, I could imagine a joke about skeptics, or perhaps someone misguidedly suggesting it was the group's "mission" to convince people that climate change was a big problem to be fixed.

Setting that sort of tone, especially early in the group's formation, usually quickly blossoms into an us-vs.-them mentality. Sometimes that's ok, but if you are trying to claim that you are objective, it's highly counterproductive -- and the worst part is that it's hard to realize how harmful groupthink can be when you are genuinely trying to learn something.

Anyway, if you want to reduce this effect in groups you're in, you have to have a sharp groupthink detector and you have to be fearless about saying stuff that's counter to the group's tone. I've defused groupthink situations by visibly becoming offended when I recognize that groupthink is occurring: it's usually fairly easy to explain why you're offended, and (in most kinds of groups) people usually have social pressure to stay away from discussions which will offend others. The problem is that the groupthinky memes can be fun, so you may be seen as a captain buzzkill.

Yet people doing climate science have enemies, and not imagined ones. This is not just group-think conjuring an imaginary "them."

This is true regardless of whether you believe in their integrity or not, and as a result they can no longer behave objectively, even if it turns out that their conclusions were reached in a thoroughly objective manner.

If the scientists can no longer behave objectively then they've already lost everything.

That's an impractical statement.

The scientists' job is specifically to do science and be impartial to the results.

How can that possibly be a controversial statement?

No human can possibly behave objectively in all situations. We are constantly under the influence of bias (whether conscious or unconscious).

Is this true of evolutionary biologists? After all, they too have had to behave in a highly non-objective manner due to attacks from external enemies...

What behavior are you referring to?

I've never heard any allegations of cooking data or data hiding by any respected evolutionary biologist.

Evolution-related political activism, for example. Hardly "objective."

Edit to add another pertinent example: Choosing research subjects specifically to debunk their critics.

Just because they're really out to get you doesn't mean you're not paranoid.

I'm basically a skeptic on climate stuff, but I'd encourage people to wait a bit before jumping to conclusions. Some of the pull quotes in this article seem sort of damning, but I can easily come up with perfectly legitimate reasons for some of the others, and for all I know there are legitimate reasons for the ones that look damning out of context. The Golden Rule also dictates that I cut them the same slack that I would want given to me if my private emails got out; we all talk differently in private than we would if we were talking to the world, and there's nothing wrong with that.

If you take time to read the quotes, you'll see that most of the annotations plastered over the quotes are inaccurate. Far from scandalous, these are precisely the kind of communications I'd expect to see from a group of professionals who are constantly being harassed by wingnuts and cranks. The 'truth doesn't matter' quote is particularly ironic, as it obviously refers to the cranks and not the author's own viewpoint.


You can pull anything out of context and make it sound like anything.


At some point it becomes very difficult to say it's all a trap, however. If the size of the data is as large as indicated, it should be fairly trivial to determine this one way or the other.

If the discussions did proceed as indicated, this data might make a great study in how science is carried out behind closed doors, so aside from the political squawking, there could be something here of real long-term value to science. I bet you'd never get these guys to publicly admit what their internal discussions were like.

The 'data' was claimed as lost 2 months ago, by these same folks conversing in the emails. They only noticed they had 'lost' the data when a FOIA request was made - which they specifically claim as instructing their employees that it doesn't exist.

So, good luck with finding anything in that 'data' that confirms or denies anything, it's been lost so that the public doesn't get to see it.

Anything with this level of corruption in the scientific community deserves a serious amount of scepticism.

"If the size of the data is as large as indicated, it should be fairly trivial to determine this one way or the other."

That's why I said we should wait, rather than claiming this is meaningless. This data set, if legitimate as it seems to be, is large enough to draw conclusions from, and if there are issues clearly indicated, OK, conclude away, once the data is in. I'm just not willing to conclude anything from a handful of selected quotes from a clearly biased source. And if those are the best quotes, I'm generally unimpressed.

I'm more interested in the process of how science is conducted than this particular subject or this particular article. What we're seeing here, on both sides, is that folks have already decided on way or another. It's the solution looking for the problem. So I'm afraid the signal-to-noise ratio is going to be very low for this no matter what the entirety of the data shows.

Well, the whole text is apparently out there, if you are worried that the quotes are taken out of context.

Yeah, but while I can justify the occasional surf to HN and some blog posts during downtime at work, it's hard to justify groveling over 130-ish MB of emails. I'm also ambivalent on the ethics of that; if bad stuff really is there then I guess it could be whistleblowing (there is a lot of public money at stake here), but if it all turns out to be squeaky clean it's not ethical to go pawing through these, just because they've gone public. Obviously, there's some chicken-and-egg problem here in the "so how do we tell if bad stuff was happening?"

There's really no smoking gun in the linked post. They highlight quotes that look damning out of context, but even just taking the surrounding sentence as context they seem a lot more innocent.

To whomever hacked these emails, I thank you. I really think this was a valuable service to mankind that you've achieved.

You've lifted up the robes of the priesthood, and exposed them to be at best, flawed scientists, and at worst, social engineers. Whether this knowledge will have any effect on the truly brainwashed, we see that it doesn't, but it will have an effect on saner minds.

The marketing geniuses who turned 'global warming' into 'climate change','carbon dioxide' into 'carbon', and migrating polar bears into victims, will surely not be knocked out by this, but they're deleting emails this morning, you can be sure!

You're ranting like a loon about brainwashing, cheering on the hacking of private e-mail, and you're getting upvoted for it?

If my e-mail was hacked and out-of-context quotes were levied to take ignorant pot shots at my work, I would be beyond livid. This behavior is absolutely inappropriate and I hope the perpetrator is caught and jailed.

Thanks for sharing your valuable insights on this issue.

Of course, the email wasn't private, was it? It's a government funded (your money) institution. That actually, perversely, makes this crime even more illegal. Governments seem to have more rights than private citizens.

So, you're right, it was a crime. You're also right, I'm cheering it. But you're wrong about who is ranting. It's you who is ranting.

Of course, the email wasn't private, was it? It's a government funded (your money) institution.

This justifies breaking federal law and then excising context as to leverage out-of-context statements to dishonestly support your position?

It's no wonder that climate scientists are mildly paranoid about the behavior of "deniers".

But you're wrong about who is ranting. It's you who are ranting.

You've convinced me sir. I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

I think it's obvious from your constant "out of context" remarks, that you haven't actually read the emails. Instead of me starting a newsletter for you, why don't you download them and read those instead?

Well, as long as we see ALL the emails, they can't be taken out of context, eh? (What? Communications methods other than emails? Preposterous.)

Emotionally, I'm glad it happened. But that doesn't make it right. The hackers were stealing, there's no getting around that fact. The end doesn't justify the means.

    The end doesn't justify the means.
Sir, you appear to have a highly developed moral sense. I respectfully submit that you haven't really analyzed that sentence carefully, however.

Many means are justified by their ends. It's left to history to decide if the means really were justified. Some things, like Hiroshima, we still agonize over, 50 years later, whether the end justified the means. As for hacking some scientist's emails, and possibly saving hundreds of thousands or even millions of human lives by stopping a gross misallocation of resources? Yeah, I could sleep with a smile on my face on that one. No qualms about justification in my mind.

You are begging the question, assuming that climate change is a fraud and that any resources allocated to dealing with it will be detrimental to life. We might equally consider that if you're incorrect, many lives could be endangered through lack of necessary action...although given your characterization of this whole episode as a religious issue, I'm not sure you are aware of the fallacy in your argument.

When you're a skeptic looking for "evidence", you'll find plenty in there.

When you're a scientist looking for an informal discussion about thinking critically about the evidence and data interpretation, you'll also find plenty in there.

However, the way Al Gore has presented Climate Change has not at all been like scientific discussion, it has been portrait as a topic where the discussion and debate is over. That is my problem with individual such as Al Gore because statements like this,

"Land warming since 1980 has been twice the ocean warming — and skeptics might claim that this proves that urban warming is real and important."

show me there is still room to discuss and debate the evidence.

There may be room for debate, but is there time for debate?

Is there a plausible case that we cannot afford to wait?

This is a reasonable question to ask.

If global warming is "wrong" but the accepted answer, pollution heavy businesses go through some inefficiencies and there's a smaller amount of pollution production.

If global warming is "right", but not accepted as something that requires response, potential existential crises ensue.

It seems like betting on a Jack-high hand with your life on the line.

If global warming is "wrong" we needlessly reduce our economy and people today feel real hardships from lower wages, lost jobs, and higher prices.

If global warming is "right" we might have a problem 100 years from now with rising sea levels and different weather.

If you have the luxury to be worrying about rising sea levels 100 years from now, you haven't seen someone trying to scrape together a buck in change to buy a cheeseburger at McDonalds recently. Who do you think businesses will be cutting first when they have to make up for carbon credit costs? Hint - not from the top.

This is what people who are pro-climate change legislation sound like to me, a bunch of whiners completely over exaggerating the consequences of global warming (existential crisis? really?) while completely ignoring the real human suffering their ideas will cause in the short term.

Lets wait until we can really prove global warming is true before we jump to conclusions, because we could very well be inducing even more massive suffering on the lower class in our country who have already been squeezed very badly over the last 10+ years with stagnant wages, lost jobs, and rising healthcare costs. I haven't seen inconclusive proof in a scientific sense (we're programmers, we all know you can put garbage in and get garbage out from a computer "model" if you do it one way or another. and if they aren't showing the data they have (see the whole lost temperature data debacle) and in same cases the code for the models, what are they showing?)

I've never been convinced by the "it'll ruin our economy" arguments. Why? How could you possibly know this? Are you ignoring the potential jobs green legislation could create in the area of green technology?

Personally, I see plenty of reason to proceed with green initiatives regardless of the global climate change issue. Do I want cleaner air in cities? Yes. Legislation to reduce car emissions has already made a very noticeable impact in my own city in just a decade. Do we really want to have air like they have in China?

The same can be true of power generation. We need more power, and nuclear waste is dangerous * independently* of climate change. Coal and gas have negative impact on our air quality. Thus we are left again with green technologies for now.

I don't know if all the proposed changes intended to help climate change have other benefits like the ones I described. That would be an interesting question to have answered.

This is economics 101. If there were an alternative that were more profitable and green, don't you think somebody would already be doing it out of greed if not altruism?

No, the fact that those greedy capitalists must be forced to do it pretty much shows that it's losing money, relative whatever else they might do with that money.

And what might those alternatives be? Why, investing in new businesses to create jobs, improving infrastructure, etc.

Really, the idea that the government is so much wiser about business and economics than the corporations, so the laws will drag us kicking and screaming into prosperity, are just absurd. The government is incompetent at managing the entire system. And Friedrich Hayek's Nobel-Prize winning work proved that this is necessarily so -- it's absolutely impossible for any centralized authority to integrate all of the distributed data about needs, priorities, resource availability, etc. Only the distributed cloud of the market can do that.

Quite so.

Nobody needs to convince, or legislate for, steel mills to recycle scrap iron. They do it because it's practical and it makes economic sense.

Why? How could you possibly know this? Are you ignoring the potential jobs green legislation could create in the area of green technology?

Have you not noticed how dependent we are on fossil fuels at all?

Keep in mind that at current rates the world will be about 4x richer in 2050 compared to today. Per capita. Adjusted for inflation. Given the tight correlation between energy use and economic growth today it seems like a very questionable conclusion to say that money we spend today in drastically curbing carbon emissions will be so much more effective than anything future societies will be able to do with 4x as much money at their disposal (and all of the technological advances of the next 4 decades as well).

Especially when you consider that the greatest amount of effort needed will be in getting developing countries to avoid massively increasing their Carbon emissions as their economies grow. Personally I think that an affluent, say, Bangladesh capable of dealing with some of the potential negative consequences of global warming is all around a better solution than a Bangladesh which endures yet another century of poverty but avoids emitting much CO2 into the atmosphere. I imagine the Bandladeshis, and the Chinese and the Indians and the Indonesians, etc, etc, feel the same way, and it will be immensely difficult to get them to curb their growth in CO2 production, making anything the G8 does on its own to curb CO2 production completely irrelevant.

"If you have the luxury to be worrying about rising sea levels 100 years from now, you haven't seen someone trying to scrape together a buck in change to buy a cheeseburger at McDonalds recently."

OK, in a single sentence you've managed to:

-understate the extent of the climate risk

-play the "what about the poor working class?" card, which is the Rust Belt, recession-era sequel to "but what about the children?"

-intimate, without actually proving, that reducing climate emissions will hurt the poor

-systemically dismiss any and all long-term concerns, implying that there's no point tackling larger problems if someone, somewhere, has trouble affording a cheeseburger.

None of what you've said anywhere else in this thread seems to overcome the essential weaknesses of that argument.

Well I don't know about you, but personally I'm pretty scared of the damage that could be sustained to me and my country over the next 50 years when I'll still be alive, and the next 70 or 80 when I might be.

If we have to make sacrifices now to mitigate that risk I'm prepared to do so. I'm also prepared to pay more tax to help the less well off who lose their source of income. We've been doing it in my country for nearly a century.

Then you are out of touch with the realities of what is going to happen if we pass this bill.

We already pay more for labor, energy, environmental regulations compliance, and corporate tax in the USA than pretty much anywhere else. When you start making energy even more expensive, the economics are going to shift for the remaining factories and we're going to ship pretty much every one left in this country to somewhere they don't have cap and trade. That is going to cost a lot of blue collar jobs.

Then food will be significantly more expensive because of the increased energy costs - and not to mention they produce a lot of CO2. Who gets hit most by the cost of food? Those at the bottom or those at the top?

Everything about this is really really regressive. You are willing to "make sacrifices now", because frankly you don't have to make any sacrifices. "I'm willing to pay more tax". Wow, what a sacrifice. Might have to pass up on the next iPhone. Taxes take away discretionary income from the upper classes. Big deal. Regressionary laws that destroy blue collar jobs and make the cost of living higher for those at the bottom cause real, true, heartbreaking hardship. Get off Hacker News and go into an area like Detroit that has been hit by these problems and see what I mean. If you can't afford food and can't afford your rent and lost your job and are trying to raise kids, those are more than just little sacrifices. Honestly that is way worse than the alternative. What is going to happen if climate change comes? Sea levels will rise and some houses will be lost in most areas on the coast, and cities will have to have levies built. Is that better or worse than destroying the lives of millions of people today?

Not to mention, if you pass cap and trade you won't actually do a damn thing to help the climate. Every factory that moves offshore will be going somewhere they don't enforce these kind of laws. In fact a lot of countries you offshore to have incentives to reduce automation and increase job supply, so something that might take 1 guy here takes 4 there. Generally that is related to reduced automation and reduced technology. Which is also related to lower efficiency and higher emissions. The power plants in the US are a heck of a lot cleaner than the equivalent in a lot of the countries we are outsourcing to. And then you have the transportation emissions getting it here.

So you are talking about definitely hurting a lot of people today, and hoping that just maybe you might be able to make tomorrow better than it could turn out to be if these computer models are correct, or it might make tomorrow just as bad or worse if compliance isn't 100% globally - which it won't be.

If we apply cap and trade regulations to imports as well, there's no escape--all goods consumed in the US would have to be accounted for against the US carbon budget. You're right that it's pointless to tie cap and trade purely against production.

The rest of your argument rests on a lot of mistaken labor-leftist political ideology, but I'm not interested in arguing it right now.

Well considering I'm a libertarian, that is quite false.

But I am an industrial engineer, so I know a thing or two about factories.

I think you might have confused me with someone else. I'm not trying to pass a bill.

I'm expressing concern about my own future, and the future of others in the possible case the climate change is catastrophic.

The problems of offshoring jobs could be solved by Obama at Copenhagen if he gets China to sign up to a cap on its omissions.

> What is going to happen if climate change comes? Sea levels will rise and some houses will be lost in most areas on the coast, and cities will have to have levies built.

I think you seriously underestimate the change and damage that will occur with climate change. There will be large effects on the natural world, on other species; species we may not be able to live without. To blow it off like oh it's just a few houses isn't very smart.

If doom and gloomers would publish their data and code maybe I would start to believe their fantastic visions of the apocalypse.

The burden of proof is on you... and the only evidence we really get is a giant appeal to authority and a billion dollars spent on commercials.

You're view of the impact of climate change is surprisingly and disappointingly American centric. The result of doing nothing will be far worse for the world's poor in Africa and Asia than for the American working class if carbon emissions are restricted.

Also, if we're waiting for "proof" of the existence of global warming, I image we'll be waiting quite a while. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe it's possible to prove anything in the physical sciences. Newton's theory of gravity was believed to be correct for over two hundred years before scientists began to suspect that it was inaccurate in certain cases.

Rising sea levels and "different weather" could lead to the flooding of cities and death or displacement of billions (yes, with a B) of people.

Reducing carbon emissions would mean employing engineers and professionals to upgrade much of our industrial infrastructure. More employment, not less.

But there a lot of decisions like that. 1. If we don't invest in SETI aliens could come and wipe us out; seems like a bad bet to make we should fund set at 10000% 2. We need better protection from asteroids one could wipe us out; we need to tax every human being @ 80 % to build a giant defense network. 3. There could be a disease that wipes out the human race we need to increase the amount of spending on health care... etc etc

Looking at the extreme edges with out an idea of probabilities is an easy way to get confused.

I'd say you've gone wrong twice, here.

You have included problems (with unusual "solutions") with probabilities on hugely different magnitudes on the same list, and presumed that every problem is equally soluble.

Global warming has a reasonable probability distribution and a very feasible solution. Compare that to hostile aliens with the ability to travel from the far reaches of undetectability to Earth- the technology gulf would be impossible to overcome.

Pascal asked a similar question:

If the bible is wrong but the accepted answer, you lose a finite amount of hedonic pleasure in the near term and there are some short term benefits (smaller amount of killing/stealing/coveting).

If the bible is right, but not accepted, you will burn in hell for all eternity.

The flaw in Pascal's argument is that just because we can imagine something, doesn't make the probability of it occurring greater than 0. Since there is evidence for it, however, the probability of climate change is certainly greater than 0.

If I recall correctly, Pascal's argument was that if the Christian God is truly the one and only god, then if you follow him, you go to heaven and have infinite pleasure. Nothing else gives you guaranteed infinite pleasure, therefore the expectation value for being a follower of the Christian God is the highest.

Nothing else? What about the other gods that will damn you for not following them? I'd say it's an even split between all religions with a positive afterlife. Better heavens and nastier hells might skew the distribution...

The most devastating problem to Pascal's wager, in my opinion, is the many claimants problem - the idea being, "Which god?" The one whose favorite number is 1? 2? 3? etc... I think the same problem will ultimately be devastating to any attempt to apply it to global warming. Which solution? We only have finite resources. Do we build a giant solar shade or do we implement a cap-and-trade solution? There are perhaps an infinite number of possible solutions, each a claimant upon our wager.

Each solution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions pulls in more or less the same direction. Choosing a god to worship certainly does not!

Presumably the goal isn't reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but maintaining global temperatures, in which case possible solutions do pull in many different directions...

But anyway, that misses the point. The wager isn't cost-benefit analysis where probabilities and expected values are certain; it's decision making in the absence of compelling evidence. What you have essentially done is respond to the multiple claimants problem by saying, "But any form of belief in the Christian God pulls in more or less the same direction." In the uncertainty that the wager confronts, however, "reducing CO2 emissions" and "increasing CO2 emissions" have the same expected value - that is, they are equal claimants. Hence my point that the multiple claimants problem is equally devastating when the wager is applied to global warming.

Waiting to do something drastic until we're forty or fifty years richer and more technologically capable seems like an easy answer, assuming you're willing to agree that we're getting more capable of solving the problem faster than the problem is worsening. And assuming that the recent plateau doesn't signal the beginning of the end of the interglacial, which, I'm sure you'll agree, would be a far worse problem than global warming...

Sure, but that's rather over-exaggerating to make a cheap point.

Every business asks a similar question every day.

"If I decide to do A, I might make $B dollars or lose $C dollars. Is this a wise thing to do?"

We tend to think that Pascal's cost benefit analysis was flawed. That doesn't mean we should drop the principle altogether!

I'm not advocating against cost benefit analysis. If the original poster said "anthropogenic warming has a cost $X with probability P, the fix costs $Y < $P X, therefore do the fix" I wouldn't have said anything.

I'm all in favor of the rational cost benefit analysis you hint at. Most environmentalists are not - witness the reaction to Bjorn Lomborg.


I totally beat you to the punch on this one :D

You touch on a point that swings my view of the political response towards the "do something" end of the spectrum. Climate change, true or false, is tightly tied to pollution. By taking action against climate change (in the traditional ways, less coal, more wind & solar, less waste), we also take a big step towards reducing pollution, and nobody is a pollution denier....

This is a valid question I think. "An Inconvenient Truth" came out three years ago. In that time it may or may not have come to light whether or not we can afford to wait. I think it's likely that it in fact has. If you disagree please reply instead of downmodding.

I think if the earth has actually been cooling since 1980, that's pretty good evidence we can wait. It's actually evidence that it isn't human action causing the climate change, so we can forget about trying to change whatever behaviors it is of ours that are causing it and focus on the real problem: How do we adapt to a warmer planet?

That is the real problem with the whole debate. It is centered on "humans have cause climate change." If the reality is that the sun is causing climate change or, "Climate change happens in cycles," which it has since the earth formed, then the response and the path forward is very different from the ones currently proposed.

EDIT: You know, in a way, saying climate change is human responsibility is enabling us to avoid doing what we have to do now. For example, if sea levels will continue to rise for 100 years, we should stop all new coastal development. Saying humans can stop the warming and lower the sea levels allows us to keep building on the coasts. Essentially, saying, "In the future, we can stop climate change" allows us to do nothing in the present.

Imagine the difference if we knew it was not caused by humans or in fact, there is nothing we can do, the planet will continue to get hotter for 100 years, then we start building cities underground, moving civilization to the poles of the earth, inventing more heat tolerant crops, better local climate control, etc.

Your point in your EDIT about being unaware or unaccepting of (potential) real ways to mitigate climate is an excellent one, thanks!

How can the Earth have been cooling since 1980 if most of the 10 hottest years in recorded history were in the 2000s?

Is there a plausible case that we cannot afford to wait?

If it isn't caused by humans it's unlikely to be fixable by humans.

I'm not sure why you'd assume that. Humans can indeed make big changes to the environment. Typically these are negative, clearing of huge areas of forest, the air/smog in China. But perhaps there are positive examples too. And if not, well, we really wouldn't know unless we try.

Do we even know enough about climate to know what to try and do though? Its not something I've spent a huge amount of time researching.

OK. We get it: You don't like Al Gore. But he is completely, utterly irrelevant to this discussion. He's your bugaboo. Bringing him up is just trolling.

Also, the quote you've selected is quite obviously not the author saying, "These data can legitimately be used to prove urban warming." He's rather plainly saying that he thinks the data will be misinterpreted and so needs to be placed in its proper context. This is neither nefarious nor even the least bit notable.

There is plenty of room for debate if the skeptics stop polarizing and politicizing the debate.

Also, if anyone in this debate can be counted on to change their mind, it's the scientists: we do it all the time when shown evidence to the contrary of the current belief. I sincerely doubt that your average skeptic walking into this debate is actually willing to change their mind if shown evidence. Their mind is already made up and it won't change.

So yes, plenty of room for debate, but it needs the right mentality.

BTW, I once convinced a very creationist skeptic that evolution just might be correct in like 3 hours. How? He was willing to listen and see that there just might be an alternative explanation to the things he's seeing. He was willing to accept a different point of view and my job was to present my case. Luckily I did OK.

There is plenty of room for debate if the skeptics stop polarizing and politicizing the debate.

You're suggesting that the global warming folks would be willing to avoid politicizing? If it weren't for the policy prescriptions and other political fallout, the skeptics mostly wouldn't even care. I'm sure the vast majority of the skeptics would be willing, even eager, to drop all potential politics from the debate, but the whole reason it's important (from the viewpoint of such a skeptic!) is that it's now more about politics than science.

Absolutely it's more about politics than science. What I don't understand is that why politics got so injected so fiercely into the debate. Because of all the anti-climate change efforts, the climate change case actually got better as scientists did what they do best: they found more evidence to settle the points of contention raised by the skeptics.

Are the skeptics listening to this new evidence objectively? All I hear from them is "Ah yes, that may be so, but...".

It is extremely easy to see how politics got injected into the debate.

There was a move from "these are our findings" to "lets try and stop global warming". The second step requires government action. Hence, politics. If the climate change scientists had stayed in the "lets refine our findings" area then it would never be political. As soon as you say "lets get the government to do something about this", it is political.

There will always be people who question why you should expand government. And it is up to the people trying to expand the government to clearly show WHY we need to.

What are you expecting? Some people show up with their computer models and say LOOK, WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING, and no one would object? No one would look at it critically? If the science was so indisputable then the bill would be passed, just like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts were when they showed real science on pollutants.

You have a lot more faith than I do in the scientific literacy of our political system. Before climate change became such a current issue, there was serious controversy about whether or not we should teach schoolchildren about evolution.

Politics got injected because a lot of money is being spent on climate change research, clean energy, carbon credits, etc. Kyoto was all politics. A lot of money stands to be made or lost on climate change issues. You think Al Gore is doing what he is doing for free?

What I don't understand is that why politics got so injected so fiercely into the debate.

Because it was perceived as an unassailable reason for more lawmaking and regulation, which is what politicians do, even (hypothetically) politicians with the purest motives.

Are the skeptics listening to this new evidence objectively? All I hear from them is "Ah yes, that may be so, but...".

I think most skeptics have moved from "what global warming?" to the more defensible "there's been global warming, but less than at other times in the historical and (especially) geological past, and starting well before the 20th century CO2 output increases, so the cause is unlikely to be primarily human industry".

This is a position, however, which is hard to generate soundbites for, so they've taken a massive hit in the public perception department, as it's hard to argue their position at less than essay length, and book length is better.

I think you've made the mistake of only spending time with the intelligent skeptics. I regretfully inform you they are far from the majority.

I don't see how you can make the claim that the "climate change case actually got better". Are you familiar with the busting of the hockey stick, for example? A lot of AGW models are utterly dependent on that piece of fiction. Yet despite it being revealed to be a fabrication based on a tiny subset of cherry picked data, nobody in the AGW community seems to care, nor have they spent the time to reformulate their models that were dependent on that data.

I think you've cherry-picked that belief. The discussion I have seen has convinced me that the "hockey-stick busted" thing is a red herring.

You're right: science should restrict itself to saying things like "the continued release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is likely to cause an aggregate increase in global temperatures, which will cause a host of largely unpredictable consequences, probably including rising sea levels and changes in ocean currents. Reducing the release of greenhouse gases will reduce these consequences." And so forth.

Politics only come in when people don't want the climate to change. Which is another way of saying that science only gets politicized when it discovers something with the potential of requiring political action.

Wait you're accusing the skeptics of politicizing the debate? It's the climate change promoters (many of whom are scientists) who have been saying that the sky is falling and that we need to cut our emissions now through massive government intervention. I don't know how that isn't politicizing the debate.

This kind of strikes me as absurd:

A: It seems like releasing greenhouse gases has detrimental effects on the climate. We should find a way of releasing fewer greenhouse gases.

B: Nothing you say is true, and you're politicizing the debate. It will require massive government intervention to release fewer greenhouse gases!

A: Okay. But if we don't reduce greenhouse gases, these things are going to happen.

B: You're politicizing the debate!

You're missing the point and co-mingling different parts of the debate. There is a scientific debate about whether or not AGW is happening and the degree to which it may be happening. There are secondary debates about the degree to which the effects of AGW may be harmful to Earth's ecosystem and to human civilization and whether or not and to what degree we should take steps toward avoidance or remediation of those effects.

It is critically important that the 1st debate not be influenced by the others, yet today that's not the case at all.

Climatology is an incredibly young science. It is still struggling with problems of collecting data and its theories are still immature. There is no consensus in climate modelling, there is a cacophony of competing climate models, each with their own assumptions and fudge factors, none of which have proven reliable in predicting past climate with any degree of accuracy. But this is fine, this is how science works, theories and models are tested by data, reformulated, and retested until ultimately a theory that can make predictions which prove to be backed up by data wins the day.

And yet, despite this lack of consensus in climate modelling, there is remarkable consensus among the climatology community regarding AGW. Yet neither the quality of the data nor the models backs up such a consensus. And people who express skepticism about AGW (to any degree) are frequently compared to holocaust deniers or anti-evolutionists (those exact comparisons have been made in this very comment thread).

This is what is meant by "politicizing the debate". When one cannot engage in the legitimate scientific debate without being shouted down as an unbeliever who hates the Earth or the human race.

The reason people who express skepticism about AGW are compared to creationists is because they make the exact same kinds of arguments creationists make--unquantified claims about "there isn't enough evidence" mixed with misrepresenting whatever evidence does exist and loudly complaining that they're being shut out of the scientific discussion. Hell, they're even represented by the same political party in the United States.

There is currently no sound scientific argument against the theory of natural selection that is backed up by even a shred of data. However, there are sound scientific arguments against the theory of anthropogenic global warming, and there are many scientists in the field who have put forward alternate theories.

With evolution the "there isn't enough evidence" argument is a side-show by creationists to pretend that the mountain of really very good evidence is somehow less than perfect (hint, no amount of evidence would be enough). With climatology the "there isn't enough evidence" argument is really a very solid scientific critique. We have very little data on historical climate, especially at high CO2 levels. Even the best modern data we have (from satellites and weather stations) covers only a small time frame and still requires a lot of fiddly processing to ensure its accuracy (there are still legitimate debates on what the global average temperature of the Earth was in, say, 1995, for example). The remainder of the data comes via proxy sources and tends to be incomplete or spotty. And the climate models we have today are very immature, all of them contain one or several semi-arbitrary "fudge factors" that must be determined empirically in order for them to have any accuracy. Considering that the input and output data used to calibrate these models and determine these fudge factors is in an entirely different regime than the projected climate for the remainder of the 21st century, criticisms of these models is entirely justified.

When a creationist makes an argument against the validity of evolution (even if it's "there isn't enough evidence") the correct response is "no, there's enough evidence, here's the evidence we have, and here's how it fits the theory, and here's why we have extremely high confidence in this theory". When a "global warming skeptic" says "there isn't enough evidence" the correct response is "there's more than enough evidence, let me show you the evidence and why the evidence backs a particular climate model that predicts AGW".

It is NOT "you don't know what you're talking about, we don't need to show you anything, now shut up and go away" nor is it to compare them to a young-Earth creationist. Those are ways of shutting down honest debate and they are poisonous to science.

So when doctors say "we need to vaccinate all our kids through massive government intervention", that's OK?

Regarding politicizing the debate, riddle me this: which side usually asks to see more data and more transparency?

And which side accuses the others of being greedy corporate shills while comparing them to creationists and holocaust deniers?

Creationists and holocaust deniers, incidentally, usually hide behind "asking to see more data and more transparency". You're mischaracterizing. Skepticism is fine on its own, but the thing about the skeptic's game is that you can keep playing it forever no matter how much evidence is on the other side. At some point it's not about skepticism anymore, it's about obstruction and obfuscation.

Here's my concession to the skeptic: let's pin a 25% credence on the risk of severe changes in sea level. I'm willing to give the skeptic 3/4 odds that I'm wrong. Now let's look at a map of human population distribution by elevation and calculate the cost of displacing all of those people. And let's look at the other long term costs and benefits from leaving our energy usage unchanged, and build our policies from there.

Incidentally, while it's marginally true that climate researchers have certain incentives and motivations of their own, it's also very, very true that there is a lot of established money which has a lot to lose if we do anything about the climate.

I've never once heard a creationist demand that the human genome project release their data onto the internet, or that they release species taxonomic data. (I can't comment on holocaust deniers since I've never encountered any.)

If you read some of the hacked emails, you realize that's exactly what McIntyre (of climate audit) was doing, and that's what the people at the research center were fighting against.

Creationists are chronically unsatisfied with the evidence that exists, regularly demand to see evidence of more transitional species (even when transitional species are discovered), and take every mistaken conjecture about the specific shape of past evolution as damning evidence against the theory itself.

This is because creationists don't believe in evolution. So they try to get scientists to run around, and do a lot of work to come up with evidence that doesn't yet exist (though the existing evidence is more than adequate).

This is in stark contrast to the debate in climatology, where scientists would like data to be publicized so that they may verify the results. The first is Zeno's paradox in evolution ("here's a fossil of an intermediate species between the X and Y species", "that's nice, now show me a fossil intermediate between this one and Y", ad infinitum), the second is just plain science 101 ("we spotted a new supernova in Canopus last night", "oh really, can I see the data?").

Climate skeptics used to say, "there's no evidence global warming is happening." Then they said, "there's no evidence global warming is caused by anthropogenic CO2". Then they said, "there's no evidence global warming is going to be a bad thing." Continuing to move the goalposts and trying to get scientists to run around is a tactic in both arenas.

But aren't the goal posts already way over on the football field 40 miles away? I mean, it's not like any of these conditions are new or somehow they're being made up. There are a series of things -- each of which has to be necessary and sufficient -- in order for the argument to take drastic action to hold water. This has always been the case, and this will always be the case. This is the nature of convincing anybody that drastic action must be taken -- about anything.

We just choose to talk about one goalpost or the other. It's not like people are making up extra requirements of proof simply to make it harder on the other side. The only reason folks talk about each of these goalposts one at a time is just to make the conversation easier on everybody.

So yes, if you get through the "man can change the environment" hoop, which I believe, you have about a dozen other hoops to jump through, some of which I find much less plausible than others, before you get to the "we must do something now!" This is just the structure of the argument -- debating style or political trickery has little to do with it (in my mind)

Considering that taking drastic action in order to cut back CO2 production is only justified if all 3 things are true, each of those 3 goal posts are incredibly valid.

Where are the skeptics trying to get the government to pass a bill stopping climate change research? Skeptics have no goals politically other than to STOP the legislation put forward by people politicizing climate change research.

You're asking people to simultaneously:

-believe that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause rising sea levels, displacing hundreds of millions of people, as well as causing less predictable consequences we will be ill-prepared to respond to, but also

-not want to actually do anything to prevent it.

It's a self-contradictory argument. You're better off just convincing people that part 1 isn't true.

thinking critically about the evidence and data interpretation

NOT trying to start a flame war, but I think there's a parallel here between science and Biblical criticism. In both cases, if you start with the preconception that the data has one simple and obvious message, then you will project your own biases onto it. Real analysis starts when you acknowledge that it's very difficult to tease meaning out of data that has very complex and partly unknowable context, which speaks directly to only a small number of situations, and which must be extrapolated to cover situations that have no direct analog in the data.

Yet popular science, like popular religion, must engage people by offering meaning and understanding that is accessible with much less effort. Popular science is therefore (unavoidably) guilty of encouraging blithe and simplistic interpretations of data, because that's the only way you can encourage people to think.

"Dear Phil and Gabi, I’ve attached a cleaned-up and commented version of the matlab code that I wrote for doing the Mann and Jones (2003) composites. I did this knowing that Phil and I are likely to have to respond to more crap criticisms from the idiots in the near future, so best to clean up the code and provide to some of my close colleagues in case they want to test it, etc. Please feel free to use this code for your own internal purposes, but don’t pass it along where it may get into the hands of the wrong people." [emphasis theirs]

A lot of the excerpted emails look like this- fairly understandable examples of scorn directed to people who produce "crap criticism". You wouldn't want anyone trying to square the circle to email you to dispute your work, would you?

A quote from


    The science, reduced to its simplest terms, is that carbon dioxide
    is known to be effective at trapping solar heat. So are water
    vapor (the source of 90% of earth's natural greenhouse effect),
    methane, and other gases. The natural carbon dioxide content of the
    atmosphere has doubled in the last 200 years, climate is getting
    warmer, so the logical conclusion is that there is a connection
    between the two trends. If you feel uncomfortably warm at night and
    wake up to find someone has put another blanket over you, you don't
    need to look beyond that to identify the source of the warming.

    * Nobody - nobody - argues with the carbon dioxide trend. It's
    established beyond doubt.

    * The debate over whether climate is getting warmer is mostly over.

    * The debate now is over whether the connection between warming and
    human emission of carbon dioxide is real, or whether there are other
    causes of climate change at work.

    * The real issue is whether the benefits of taking action will
    outweigh the costs and regulatory burdens.

    * There are some who argue that warming will be beneficial by
    reducing energy demands for heating, lengthening growing seasons,
    and creating larger habitable and arable territory.

    The case for human-caused global warming is simultaneously a lot
    clearer than George W. Bush believes, and a whole lot less so than
    Al Gore does. There are legitimate questions about the data, past
    climate reconstructions, and the computer modeling still to be

The problem here has always been the nature of the debate, not the nature of the science.

You can make a good case that these are just scientists blowing off steam in informal e-mails -- or you could make the case that this is evidence that scientific integrity has gone in the crapper.

I take a third view: the problem here is that people do not want to have an honest debate. This is evident by the emotional content of the emails -- "idiots", etc. If you view yourself as the annointed and people who criticize you as stupid rabble, then it becomes very, very difficult to correct course when you screw up (as you inevitably will)

Getting emotionally attached to something and viewing yourself as an expert are potentially intellectually crippling things to do, whether it's climate science or database design.

I find it odd to say that the climatologists are the ones uninterested in an "honest debate". Not to mention that "honest debate" would involve acknowledging who has the, you know, expertise in the field.

The reason they use the word "idiots" is that it is a descriptive term. Some random schmoe with an opinion is not engaged in "debate" when he questions scientific fact, and the emotional charge here is entirely due to the fact that public opinion seems to think that such entitlement is perfectly legitimate, when in point of fact it is a waste of everyone's time.

Some random schmoe with an opinion is not engaged in "debate" when he questions scientific fact


I'll do this one time, and then I have to get back to work.

Here's the deal: science is not dependent on "smarts". I can take a 4-year-old kid and we can test Newton's Laws of Motion just fine without any knowledge of algebra. In fact, the whole point about science being based on reproducible experiments is that we take appeal to authority out of the mix. If we still keep appeal to authority as a legitimate scientific tool of investigation then we might as well be studying phrenology or Lysenksoism (look it up).

Now the appropriate response is: but this isn't about science, this is about prevailing scientific opinion -- the best guess we have at what might happen. If you're prepared to go there, that's awesome, because then we're in a spot where we're talking about how political decisions get made, both inside and outside of science. But in that case, both sides are more on equal ground because the topics are all about how different groups arrive at various forms of consensus, not science.

It's when you get the two mixed up that the discussion gets really out of whack (to my lights, at least)

Well, I certainly appreciate your taking valuable time out of your day to respond. I'm not sure whether you were responding to me, but don't let that stop you.

Here's the deal: I didn't say science is dependent on "smarts", and I rather resent the implication that I did. (I also kind of resent the implication that I would need to look up phrenology or Lysenkoism - really you pretty much come off here as a jerk.)

What I did imply, thinking that a casual reader would not need this to be spelled out explicitly, is that if I were to get to choose someone to ask about climate, I would rather ask a climatologist, who studies climate, and therefore can be expected to know something about climatology and the actual facts thereof. I personally find that a far better way to get to the facts of the matter than, say, a pundit, or a politician, or an oil baron. Perhaps you feel that pundits, politicians, and oil barons should get equal time when I want the established current models of climatology, but that's just not the way I roll.

In fact, you say exactly that, when you say that scientific opinion is a matter of political decision. Even if you're right in any one instance, you're really wrong when it comes to the ideal scientific process - and I'll still take prevailing scientific opinion over prevailing political opinion if I'm looking for something reality-based.

In fact, in the end, I'm wondering why you took your valuable time to write this comment at all.

Sorry this is disingenuous. Sure, science is not about appealing to a specific authority, but you do need some background and training in it to be able to pull off the necessary experiments and understand the theory.

How would you and your 4 year old go about deciding whether you believe in Quantum Electrodynamics? Would you do an experiment, or would you ask an expert?

I would ask an expert who could show me a reproducible experiment.

Not wanting to step into an argument here, but I'd like to tie it back to the climate thing.

I think it's cool that you'd go to an expert to see a reproducible experiment. I'm also going to assume that it goes without saying (could be putting words in your mouth but it seems to flow from your responses) that you'd ask a lot of questions if there was unfamiliar math or concepts and basically receive very narrowly focused training in the fields around the experiment.

It's interesting to consider the likelihood/prevalence of the casual commenters on climate change (ie the ones being referred to as idiots) reproducing the climate scientists experiments or coming up to speed on the maths/concepts behind the experiment to be able to critique the experiment in the way that an expert in the field with an opinion opposed to the prevailing thought could.

I know quite a few very vocal climate change skeptics and none of them have a science background or the willingness to attain one, and they seem very proud of that. Hopefully that's a local quirk of my small sample relative to the population.

As an aside, if you can find a set of experts with the time to spend (plus, you know, equipment and money) I'd bet a decent chunk of change that you could take the prevailing scientific opinion and ask for reproducible experiments - in this case a lot would involve analysis of data already given to explain why they want to test want they want to - then you'd end up if not agreeing with them then at seeing where they were coming from.

If these people are competent climatologists and all their critics are just incompetent lobbyists with a vested interest, then hiding data and sexing up interpretations makes very little sense. In fact it is very counter productive.

Hiding stuff only makes sense when your oponent is competent enough to find your mistakes and you have a vested interest in covering up your mistakes.

Science doesn't recognize authority. Science recognizes the data. And theories backed by the data. The wonderful thing about science is that "some random schmoe" can come along and upset all of the conventional wisdom in a field by proving a new theory with data.

Defensiveness of this sort is unheplful to the legitimate pursuit of science. You can disagree with people, you can tell them bluntly "your ideas are not backed in any way by the data" (indeed, the most crushing insult in science, far more potent than a term like "idiot"), but when you defend a position merely because it's the position of the experts and ignore the data then you have stopped doing science and have engaged in either politics, religion, or both.

And yet on the public stage, they are being treated as equivalent to politics, religion, or both. This is exactly the point I'm trying to make - the random schmoe to which I refer is not the guy trying to verify models. More power to that guy - but I don't think he's the one they're defending against.

The quotes used as examples in this article really don't do justice to the damage that will be done by this leak. If the documents turn out to be authentic, many of the participants will be spending years to come defending themselves from academic disciplinary committees and criminal prosecutions. Beyond the superficial 'blowing off steam', there's conspiracy to destroy evidence in advance of FOIA requests, tax evasion, and overtly political data manipulation.

It's ugly. It seems likely this will derail Copenhagen, and probably destroy the political momentum for Climate Change legislation for years to come.

The sad part is that this really isn't an outcome desired by anyone who actually cares about climate change as a scientific issue. This is a political win for Big Oil, rather than resolution of the issues. Rather than refocusing the issue on the science (as desired by the true skeptics) the issue becomes politicized even further. A different team takes the lead, but the science gets left even further behind.

This confuses me. FOI in the UK only applies to government agencies. How can a scientific body be required to release information?

I'm not familiar with their status under UK law, but there definitely have been recent FOI requests that went through regarding data and files pertaining to the IPCC report. Perhaps because report was government funded, perhaps because the the University hosting the data is government funded? The leaked emails show the back chatter regarding preparation for fulfilling the requests.

In any case, here's one of the emails in question:

  From: Phil Jones
  To: “Michael E. Mann”
  Subject: IPCC & FOI
  Date: Thu May 29 11:04:11 2008
  Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith
  re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment
  – minor family crisis.
  Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I
  don’t have his new email address. We will be getting
  Caspar to do likewise. 
  I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in 
  the Nature paper!!
  Prof. Phil Jones
  Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
  School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
  University of East Anglia
  Norwich Email p.jones@uea.ac.uk
  NR4 7TJ
I haven't read the original, only the out of context copy here: http://rankexploits.com/musings/2009/real-files-or-fake

The addressee is Michael Mann, the lead author of the IPCC chapter on Climate Change. Note that even the subject line makes reference to FOI.

Guessing, but it's quite possible they did work in the scope of government funding, exposing it to this kind of access.

Government funding = public is entitled to the data.

If that were true then the postcode database would be public, but it ain't: http://ernestmarples.com/blog/2009/10/ernest-marples-postcod...

Title as submitted here is pure flamebait. Most of the quoted statements aren't in fact problematic at all (many of them I would in fact describe as so obviously not-problematic as to call into question the integrity of the person offering them up as evidence of dishonesty, and I wouldn't be surprised if every one of them turned out to have an innocent explanation), but even if each of those quotations demonstrated that the person who sent it had no integrity whatever, that would not justify the scare-quotes around "scientists" (dishonest scientists are still scientists), nor the blanket condemnation of "the climate scientists", as if the ones whose emails have been pilfered are the only climate scientists in the world.

Better would be something like "Leaked email archive allegedly calls into question the integrity of a few climate scientists". Better still would be "62MB of climate science emails leaked; here are some alarming quotations" or something.

"Dishonest scientists are still scientists"

I disagree. If they are not following the scientific method, but fudging their data to agree with their pre-determined conclusions, they are not scientists.

1. Assuming, for the sake of argument, the most uncharitable interpretation possible for all the quotations on display at the Examiner, it seems to me that most of them do not involve any sort of data-fudging.

2. I appreciate the rhetorical point you're making, but I prefer to distinguish between "not a scientist", "bad scientist" and "evildoing scientist". (But I do agree that if someone's found to have been falsifying results, whatever scientific work they've done is of little use to anyone unless there's some reliable way to disentangle the fraudulent and non-fraudulent bits.)

I agree that the title is bad, but it is empirically effective.

I earlier submitted a parallel article with pretty much the title that you suggested, and it went nowhere:


  Leaked FOIA files 62 mb of gold
Even before me, 'ellyagg' submitted an even closer parallel with a non-sensational title. It also has not garnered any discussion:


  Climate News: Hadley CRU hacked with release of hundreds of docs and emails
So while I personally will continue to submit with the title of the original article rather than bait, one could argue that having a discussion is better than not having a discussion.

Considering the rather poor heat-to-light ratio in this discussion, I'm not sure that "get as much discussion as possible" is a terribly good goal. In any case, there's a "tragedy of the commons" risk here: every submitter, considered separately, wants to get their submission read and commented on, so every submitter wants to tweak their titles to be "empirically effective", and if that determines the actual titles then we end up with a front page full of sensationalist titles, all of them less informative than if everyone had refrained from attention-grabbing. And then everyone is worse off.

I agree. The only solution I see is not to use a title provided by the submitter. When I design my own system...

Most of these comments from the email don't seem to be that much of a problem really, unless you really believed that these people were not humans. And if people are offended that they had this idea of "bad hands" remember that their results existed for a long while and when opposition appeared it was financed by large corporations and interest groups withe the explicit goal of denying their findings.

Sadly that is what happens when you put people in a tough spot in terms of public relations, public relations concerns start to take over everything.

Just one thing I would like to point out: many quoted statements in the article are not in any way damning. At least not without further context.

To pick out just one quote: In what way is comment moderation on RealClimate problematic?

The only one that seemed pretty bad to me was: The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

They often claim to be able to explain, or even to have predicted, the recent cooler years by weather patterns etc., yet here they don't seem to believe their own explanations.

But some are blatantly:

"I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline."

Might be. If trick means what you think it means. If hide means what you think it means.

I have often seen people use "trick" meaning "useful change" and "hide" meaning "doesn't show incorrect results". Without context there is no way to tell. Such a statement is somewhat worrying, but not exactly blatant in any way.

Seriously? The level people will go to blindly defend these guys is astounding. I just had flash backs to "it depends what the meaning of is is".

From RealClimate (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=953454):

> Scientists often use the term "trick" to refer to a "a good way to deal with a problem", rather than something that is "secret", and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the ‘decline’, it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the "divergence problem" - see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

I’m not people. I’m one person. And this is me at my most normal. I generally hate jumping to conclusions. (I could be misjudging myself now, don’t want to exclude that possibility :)

I wouldn't call ugh's response either blind or a defense. I've used almost that exactly line (here I used a trick to hide the trend) for perfectly legitimate uses — what if you're trying to analyze the fast signal?

The volume of leaked correspondence does begin to form a context, but before the heavy and severe claim of scientific misconduct is really substantiated it's going to require scientific analysis of the fault. Cherrypicked quotes appearing on a news site is often known as researcher bias and it's just as big a flaw.

Try approaching the quote without trying to prove any pre-conceived notions. Similarly, I might say "I used John's useful hack in the logging module to hide errors (from the user)".

Try approaching the quote without any pre-conceived notions on the meaning of the English language. Similarly, I might say "I used John's hovercraft to hide the fact (from my date) that mine was full of eels."

"hide" meaning "doesn't show incorrect results".

I have no doubt that this is exactly what the author meant by "hide". That doesn't mean that it was a good idea.

If something is both Important and True, then the fact that the current data seems not to show the truth clearly might be thought a good reason to fix it. I mean, it's not like other people have to do this -- we can assume that everyone else's results are straight, so that means that there's something wrong with the data, and we can just fix that up so that it provides the correct correlation with what we already know is true...

Here's an explanation of the "trick". Warning, the site is getting hammered at the moment:


In this case I'd interpret "trick" to be more like a skateboard trick, i.e. a non-obvious, but probably skillful manipulation of the data. If Tony Hawk pulls off something cool, nobody thinks he's trying to pull a fast one on his spectators or sponsors. I'd want to look at the Nature paper in question to see whether that interpretation is correct, though.

I'd like to point out that "Nature" possibly refers to the high impact scientific journal. If this is the case, then "trick" can be understood as roughly equal to "hack" (clever manipulation) in programmer terms. This Mike person used, and documented, his hack in a peer reviewed publication and someone else found it useful. How is this damning? Please don't assume experts in other fields are dumb. They probably arn't.

This is the obvious interpretation. You'd have to be trying to libel someone if you were to interpret it any other way...

Could you explain to me exactly what that sentence means in its original context, because it's certainly not clear to me that it's "blatantly" anything.

Sure, it looks like it's pretty damning. But what is the context, and what did he actually do?

Because they say:

"RealClimate.org - A supposed neutral climate change website"

How is it neutral when these particular guys are running it? In addition, they're giving other people heads up that they can censor the material!

I understood the part in brackets as being an editor comment, not part of the actual email.

The quote is: "Anyway, I wanted you guys to know that you’re free to use RC [RealClimate.org - A supposed neutral climate change website] Rein any way you think would be helpful.".

However, the fact that the people in the email are moderating the comment queue at RC.org clearly shows that they ARE running that site, hence the editor's right to call into question the neutrality of the site.

"neutrality" is a charged word. To claim neutrality you would have to agree that there are legitimate claims on both sides of a controversy. I wouldn't blame RC for taking a stance if they believe their point of view to be correct. Did they ever claim to be 'neutral'?

[edit: to be clear, I never visited RC before, I don't know how they cover or are supposed to cover the debate over climate change]

This: [RealClimate.org - A supposed neutral climate change website] was most certainly added by the author of the above linked article to explain the abbreviation.

You don't think moderation of a neutral site by one side of a debate might be giving the appearance that "the debate is over"? Maybe the debate isn't over and its just about who has control of the appearance of the debate.


For example: As we all know, this isn't about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.

Well, whose fault is that it's not about truth but about perception. Of course it is the fault of those very well funded pressure groups who represent the vested interests of CO2 emission.

I think this is an excellent point. The issue is unavoidably political; scientists are being forced to respond to political arguments and pressure. Of course, when put in a political arena and forced to deal with political attacks, scientists start to talk like politicians. I'm a software engineer, and we talk this way at work sometimes. It's happens when we're dealing with sales or executive types who aren't amenable to technical arguments. Don't let these guys see that email, because then they'll replace all our Cisco routers with cheese wheels, ha ha ha except sadly not kidding!

The bottom line is that the real science happens in labs and in scientific journals, and the climate change debate is perforce dominated by people who have never been closer to the science than reading a book or article written by somebody with an agenda who talked to a few scientists who keep up with the climate change literature. (That's the only way the debate can be open and democratic.) That's the closest people get to the science, but scientists are forced to deal with their questions and complaints and flights of fantasy anyway. Of course scientists don't sound very scientific when they're forced to do this job, because it isn't science.

It sounded more of a conversation between marketers than scientists--or at least what we think scientists ought to do. In reality, even science does some PR and marketing, it's just where you draw the line.

Sure, and if researchers are being forced to draw the line higher than usual due to external pressure from highly funded deniers, whose fault is that?

> As we all know, this isn't about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.

It also fits if you read this as a take on the attacks the climate scientists are facing, not on their own case. There's just not enough context in the article to determine exactly what these correspondents mean by the snippets quoted from what they've written.

I'm agnostic on climate change - haven't scrutinized the data myself. That said...

Climate scientists that produce polarizing studies - either the world is freezing or boiling (mostly the latter) get fame, fortune, respect from colleagues and huge grants to further their groundbreaking research. They are more incentivised to create a wow factor than to be rigorous and subjective with the data.

The EXAMINER is an organization filled with political operatives, not anybody interested in telling any form of truth. They're about as bad as Fox news at choosing between facts and agenda.

Interesting from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Examiner.com

Examiners are paid based on page views, or the "Gawker-model," made famous by the blog Gawker.com. The more page views an Examiner generates, the more they are reportedly paid.[citation needed]

Examiner.com seems to be owned by Clarity Digital Group who are in turn owned by the Anschutz Company. The primary business of the Anschutz Company appears to be "Support Activities for Oil and Gas Operations".

http://dnb.powerprofiles.com/profile/874831126/ANSCHUTZ+COMP... http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/sn... http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/The-Anschut...

Huh, odd that Wikipedia had a "citation needed" note on there. This indeed is exactly their business model; we found the same while scouting the news publishing market.

It doesn't seem odd to me; just because you find something to be true doesn't mean it doesn't need a citation.

Oh, sorry! I agree, but that wasn't what I meant. What I meant was, we found the information on their site, and I was surprised that WP hadn't gotten around to it.

The relevant link is: http://www.examiner.com/assets/examinerfaq.html (under, "Will I be compensated?")

I attempted to update the Wikipedia page, but found that the examiner.com domain is blacklisted in WP -- page edits don't allow links to anything in examiner.com.

So! Mystery solved, and it'll stay uncited because I'm not about to set aside a bunch of paid projects to take on the bureaucracy that is Wikipedia.

See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cr... for the other side of the story.

The oft-made claim about the non-availability of the climate model data can be proven false by visiting:

http://www-pcmdi.llnl.gov/ipcc/about_ipcc.php - contains all the models used in the IPCC AR4

http://tamino.wordpress.com/climate-data-links/ - contains a huge amount of climate data.

Of course, all this data is extremely complex, but it cannot be claimed that it is unavailable.

Even if you are a climate change skeptic, apply typical journalistic investigation here. Perhaps the apparent damning statements are taken out of context. Science is not about certainty, and there is always debate about what the data really means. Also, those reporting the leak may not be politically neutral, and may have their own hidden agendas.

I'm reposting this comment by "by" that got lost in the comments below. While all this seems pretty damming, it could be misinformation.

Examiner.com seems to be owned by Clarity Digital Group who are in turn owned by the Anschutz Company. The primary business of the Anschutz Company appears to be "Support Activities for Oil and Gas Operations". http://dnb.powerprofiles.com/profile/874831126/ANSCHUTZ+COMP.... http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/sn.... http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/The-Anschut...

what, i'm being voted down? so sources don't matter? i don't know whether the emails are authentic or not, but certainly there is cause for concern, no?

if you look at the other articles of the author, tony hake, you will see they invariably fall into the "climate change skeptic" realm. maybe that's fine, maybe not. the warning is simply: wait for verification before jumping to any conclusions.

The Examiner was not the source for the documents and emails, it merely picked up on the story after it had appeared on some climate change skeptic sites first. It had no role in this other than reporting on a story that already had legs. Therefore the organisation's background and corporate structure is irrelevant to this issue and bringing it up offers nothing new or of value to the discussion.

In many scientific fields, having one's research methodology and professional communications publicized would not be considered a bad thing.

Perhaps that was a low blow.

That sounds like scientists talking shop in the understanding they are trying to extract structure out of intrinsically messy data, from a complex and imperfectly modeled real world that contains causes unaccounted-for, while not leaking the mess to a public and skeptics who really don't understand how the real world looks and who expect clean sharp lines in the visible work product.

The leaked files are available here at least: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=75J4XO4T

If there's a better place to get/post it, please advise.

Also, this is the blog where the files were first leaked to:


  If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics
  camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this,
  we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted.
Shameful. Going after your scientific opponents 'through official channels' and getting them fired?

This is a great thing to do to show the world the truth. But I must say, unlike politicians and celebrities, I admire the scientists' acceptance of everything and no attempt to fight this.

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