Klein: Gaming global warming

“Where the heck is global warming? 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.” Surely this must be a Glenn Beck rant or more debauchery from the corporate fat cats. A fringe, nutcase conspiracy-theorist, perhaps? Upon first reading these words, I thought much the same. But in fact (brace yourselves, polar bears) it’s an excerpt from recently leaked e-mails, exchanged between top scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit.

Although you might not have ever heard of them, the CRU represents some of the world’s most influential and trusted scientists — their much-respected and inconvenient-truthy findings have long stood at the heart of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

For decades, lawmakers and citizens alike have placed their firm confidence and panic in the CRU’s dire predictions. Remember Al Gore’s terrifying, slideshow-busting, upward-sloping “Hockey Stick” graph? Our hellish, sauna-like future? All were concocted by CRU-chum and climate-change-darling Michael Mann, and, recently, debunked by statisticians.

Adding insult to injury, cue the inadvertent indignity, courtesy of Mann’s friend and collaborator in East Anglia, CRU Director Phil Jones: “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 [sic] from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” The cherry-picking “trick” involved throwing out or manipulating climate data; the original sets have all been deleted.

Jones — who is rolling in $22.8 million in grants from the British government — just doesn’t learn. CRU e-mails reveal plans to circumvent legal requests, under the Freedom of Information Act, for their data; 58 have been made so far. As Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University put it, “The CRU is basically saying, ‘Trust us.’ So much for settling questions and resolving debates with science.”

And this, perhaps, is what shocks us most of all: the brazen, unabashed — proud, even — disrespect for science itself. Our top researchers have shown profound contempt for the scientific method, the academic review process and even a whisper of dissent. Dogmatic, partisan, deceptive, the eggheads have bamboozled us. It matters little whether man-made global warming is a legitimate theory, as most would contend; even if these scientists ends are noble, their means have been unethical at best and utterly malevolent at worst.

It is easy to let the CRU’s scientists — the U.N.’s main source for climate data — speak for themselves: “we have to stop considering ‘Climate Research’ as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal.” Referring to global-warming skeptical papers: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. K and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” CRU saw science as a mortal game, playing fast and loose with the public trust and dime.

Targeting Pat Michaels, the former Virginia State University climatologist who disputes that global warming has a man-made cause, one CRU scientist wrote, “Next time I see [him] at a scientific meeting, I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.” Nerds brawling at science conferences? What a thought.

Science should not be about scoring political points; it should be about asking questions, transparently and honestly, and hearing alternative answers. Here, with cherry-picked evidence and scientific trickery, we have been served up dirty hypotheses, upon which our lawmakers are poised to make big decisions, decisions that could cost us trillions.

But beyond dollars and cents, our scientific leaders have committed a graver sin: they have usurped the public trust of the layman, who — like me, lacks scientific expertise — can’t help but believe the professional gospel. This is where our journalists should be stepping in. The English press is going wild, as they are wont to do. But in the United States, the story has hardly been broken. I, for one, would rather not have important and perspective-shifting scandals brought to light by the radical blogosphere.

Our real journalists, through tacit omission, have let us down. When we need a light shined, a standard enforced, the mainstream media gives us not clarity, but timidity. Through Climategate, and its reprehensible lack of news coverage, we see two noble professions — science and journalism — at their weakest and most despoiled.

Alex Klein is a sophomore in Davenport College.

Comments

  • But seriously…
  • anonymous

    great article. the reason our media wasn’t all over this email leak is that they are clearly biased on this issue. the media doesn’t want to show that global warming could possibly be a hoax. they obviously know the email is clear, but they realize that adequately covering this would destroy a ton of credibility for the man-made argument. instead, they would rather talk about Tiger Woods affair, which is obviously a much more important issue

  • @#1

    Oh please… don’t tell me there’s no media bias. ABC, CBS, and NBC news didn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. Even Jon Stewart took a major stab at them on the Daily Show. Just look it up. If even he does that, you know it’s bad.

  • Tor

    Some of these emails are damning–of the scientists, not of the science. The hockey stick graph has been repeated many times, as has most of the science presented by this lab. The things Alex quotes have reasonable, scientific explanations. Every right-wing account of these emails I’ve seen relies on quoting the emails and immediately getting histrionic, without any attempt to put them in context. The “trick” is not deceptive at all. Again, these scientists express regrettable attitudes, but they do not affect the science, and especially not the many scientific studies they are not involved in. By resorting to conspiracy theories, the right has proven the strength of the claims of global warming. There have been hundreds of studies supporting the idea of global warming; very few have shown evidence against it, and fewer still have shown evidence of any strength at all.
    Here’s a good account of the issue:
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4338343.html
    And another good answer to many of the claims of deniers:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=seven-answers-to-climate-contrarian-nonsense

  • @#4

    The problem with citing other studies is that CRU is the clearinghouse for temperature data. Most of scientific models used to prove global warming use it.

    Well, let’s go back to the data and see if it’s really corrupted… Oh wait we can’t do that. The original has been “lost”. The only thing they have left is something called the “value-added” data. Anyone who works in science knows you don’t just “lose” original data… especially important ones that every other climate scientists base their models on.

  • Tor

    No, the data on which global warming is based has not been destroyed. CRU is not the only keeper of that data:
    http://mediamatters.org/research/200912010030

  • Tor

    Also, to clarify, “value-added” data just means data that has accounted for extraneous factors (they actually omit data from newly urban zones because it would artificially inflate the numbers). What they threw out, but which still exists, was data that was flawed, and which was not used in their modeling.
    Also, CRU is a major global warming tracker, but they are not the only source of data or research, and other sources have repeatedly done studies that accord with the work CRU has done.
    The hacks tell us nothing about the quality of the science. What they tell us is that some of the scientists can get pretty testy, and that, in a private forum among friends, they may say things that are inappropriate. More importantly, even if they are guilty of obfuscation, the science of global warming is not reliant on this one center.

  • Tor or Al Gore?

    This is a courageous column. The warming-fanatics aren’t going to give up their faith, but these emails show that the pro-warming case is far more politicized and money-driven than the anti-warming case (as advanced by Richard Lindzen, Atmospheric Sciences Dept. at MIT).

  • Tor

    Really, the anti-warming case isn’t money-driven? Klein mentions the monetary impact of global-warming initiatives right in the column. Aside from Lindzen (apparently the only real science is being done by this one individual), much of the anti-global warming science has been funded by oil and coal companies.
    You think there’s money in promoting global warming. Wouldn’t there be even more money in denying it? The Bush administration spent the past eight years fighting the scientists whose research supports global warming.
    The ones with a faith-based problem are those who believe in an invisible hand that will make sure everything works out for the best as long as nobody ever regulates anything.

  • Gub

    The paper the scientists were trying to shoot down was funded by the American Petroleum Institute and demonstrated to be completely bunk. The scientists were right to be outraged over its publication:
    http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/12/03/climategate-exxon-fascism/

  • Skeptical of this article

    How about the nobel prize winning IPCC report?

    http://www.ipcc.ch/

    The researchers at East Anglia clearly did some things that were out of line, but they aren’t the only climate scientists in the world who believe that we’re experiencing anthropogenic global climate change.

  • Charles Zhu

    This is a disgusting piece of drivel:

    First off, the opening quote “Where the heck is global warming? The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming, and it is a travesty that we can’t” is both taken out of context and was improperly quoted. If Klein had taken a minute to fact-check, he would have found that Dr. Trenberth, the source of that quote, was making a joke about Denver, where he lives. “The playoff game was canceled!” Dr. Trenberth says next, between the two sentences Klein links together. Dr. Trenberth then talks about a recent BBC report that shows that no global warming is currently occurring. Only after this paragraph does Trenberth says that it’s a “travesty” because the public doesn’t understand that a few cold years in a local area doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t occurring.

  • Charles Zhu

    There are several other quotes in the column that are similarly taken out of context. The statistics “trick” involved is a well-known case of the divergence of maximum latewood tree ring density proxy records with real temperatures after 1960. It has been discussed in the scientific literature since Briffa’s Nature article in 1998. I do not expect Klein to understand what this means, but at the very least, there should be an attempt to research.
    Secondly, the CRU’s data is not the “heart” of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It has played a part in past reports, but a quick look on the IPCC website will show no less than ten other data sets that have corroborated the results of CRU, including those at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Global Historic Climatology Network, and the International Research Institute for Climate Predicition at Columbia University. The “hockey stick” graph was a collaboration between hundreds of scientists. Finally, Klein says that scientists have predicted a “hellish sauna-like” future. In fact, these are a collection of completely made up words – I assure you it appears nowhere in the scientific literature.

  • John Scrudato

    Mr. Zhu, your description of the divergence problem is rich. You are correct the tree ring proxy diverges from the temperature records. What you fail to mention is that the solution of Briffa and the IPCC was to lop off the “wrong” data and take the rest of it as gospel truth. The IPCC even refused to discuss this in AR4. Why would you not question the accuracy of the entire methodology? Logic dictates that, trees didn’t suddently start behaving differently in 1960 from every other point in history. This same data (that understates warming now) has been accused of understating the Medieval Warm Period (an understatement that allowed Mann to create his travesty of a graph).

    How can you justify using a method whose results are so obviously fallible?

  • Tor and Charles Are Wrong

    They don’t appear in scientific literature, but they do appear in the fear-mongering propaganda that the pro-warming theory industry produces (Al Gore’s film, Leonardo DiCaprio’s film, the entirety of MSNBC, etc.). Also, the fact is that global temperatures have decreased in the past eleven years. The fact also remains that the CRU deleted, or somehow “lost,” every single scrap of the original temperature data.

  • No John

    I’ve gone directly into the literature to find this:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v391/n6668/full/391678a0.html

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=GatewayURL&_origin=inwardhub&_urlversion=4&_method=citationSearch&_piikey=S092181810300095X&_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D20%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D2000%26as_ylo%3D1998%26as_yhi%3D1998%26cites%3D10241520020224422071&_version=1&md5=16be14ccea9258976ad64bcdf2251c08

    Both Northern and Southern Tree ring proxies fit well through the Medieval Maximum until 1960 – that is, they correlate well with both other paleoclimatological data AND real temperature records.

    After 1960, Northern tree ring proxies started diverging sharply from both real climatological data AND climatological proxies. Not all of them either: primarily those along the Pacific rim…

    This divergence is man-made:

    http://www.wsl.ch/personal_homepages/cherubin/download/D_ArrigoetalGlobPlanCh2008.pdf

    Several reasons include unprecedented drought, unprecedented sulfur dioxide emissions, a drop in solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface (global dimming), and other micro-ecological effects.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that tree-ring proxies, as we are beginning to discover, do not react well to temperature changes – most likely the reaction is non-linear. They should be taken out of the data in favor of ice-core/deep-sea sediments. BUT THAT IN NO WAY DEBUNKS CLIMATE CHANGE!!!!!

    Scientists questioned the data: that’s why it was lopped off.

    The methodology works because it correlates and this is key – at least FIVE OTHER different proxies as well as what we have of real climate data extending…

  • @#16

    “Both Northern and Southern Tree ring proxies fit well through the Medieval Maximum until 1960 – that is, they correlate well with both other paleoclimatological data AND real temperature records.”

    I’m confused, but in the hockey stick graph the temperature during the Medieval Warm Period isn’t higher than current temperature data. You know… the pediod when the Vikings farmed on Greenland and parts of Canada that are frozen now? I would know, I visited those parts of Canada. If this data correlates with other climatological data, doesn’t it poke a major hole in all these data? Please enlighten me.

  • @17

    Sorry what? You not only went to Canada but you traveled back in time to see the Vikings farming there? Let me in on that, next time, cap’n!

    Anyways:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18925431.400-climate-the-great-hockey-stick-debate.html?page=2

    Yes, Michael Mann is a slick guy and defended certain parts of his hockey stick graph way more than he should have. The claim that its warmer today than in the last 6000 years is on grounds that have the potential to be shaken, but not shaky grounds.

    Still, even if you did have conclusive evidence none of this matters! Shouldn’t we be much more worried about warming in the future? Paleoclimatological data doesn’t debunk the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas!

  • Eoin

    While I don’t doubt the science, I wish there was more focus on the extreme environmental damage we’re doing right now. This piece in the LA Times, for instance, demonstrates that we’re doing lots of things to the world that are directly, immediately observable:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-oceans-series,0,7783938.special

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