What a Bore

My opinion of the latest leak of stolen emails from the Climate Research Unit in the U.K. is: yawn!

As usual, RealClimate tells the real story. And a talented blogger gives a rather precise commentary.

64 responses to “What a Bore

  1. Funny thing, I only became interested in the whole AGW ‘thang’ when Climategate first broke 2 years ago. Before that, I had little or no interest in the issue, but the sudden (manufactured, as I now well understand) controversy surrounding something I previously cared little about (but it had the science angle to it. A hook!) encouraged me to dig deeper. For I am a true skeptic, having been schooled by the James Randi… school of thought, for lack of a better way to put it. I’m an electrical engineer by education. Logic R Us.

    Taking advice from those I deemed sound, I read Spencer Weart’s page. Brilliant stuff. Then I stumbled upon Real Climate, and eventually discovered tamino’s page. He makes statistics accessible to the layperson who is willing to invest that little extra bit; to separate the signal from the noise. But now I am preaching to the converted, and I’ll stop there.

    Happy holidays to all.

  2. Scientists are mean to each other, and to non-scientists, too!

    Having once been nominated as having written the best flame ever seen on the internet (though it was a fairly small audience, and there’s no official committee to accept such nominations), well, crap … I’d hope so.

    The rough and tumble in science, or software engineering (my field), or “real” engineering (stuff that falls down, crashes, etc) is much rougher than most people realize.

    Yet they accept Romney running and ad quote-mining Obama insisting his words were his belief, while in actuality he was quoting the McCain campaign.

    Tch tch … double standard here. Scientists being mean = evil. Politician quote-mining and lying = God’s work. CRU’s e-mails being quote-mined in a lying fashion also equals God’s work. The Oil God, at least …

  3. Metzo’Magic:

    My experience mirrors yours.

    Besides Weart, RC and Tamino I read all the original emails. It didn’t take me long to figure Watt, McIntyre, Monton, Idso et al out.

    I check Grumbine’s link list first thing every morning.

    John McManus

  4. MetzO

    Nice post, and let us hope that this second round of faux Climategate will bring in more like you who become curious as to what it is all about. It is good to see that the smokescreen made by these dissemblers can be blown apart and become counter-productive from their point of view.

    I don’t often post here because I generally have little to add but I thank you for your perspective.

    Yes, the Matt Bush comment is spot on.

  5. Thank you for the link and the kind words! :)

  6. Over at RC, J Bowers wrote: [blockquote]Why do I get the impression that (aside from the dismembered bleatings on the internet of a bunch of tinfoilhatters who now look even more like such to the point that Watts has to try and convince everyone it’s spectacular by putting the word ‘spectacular’ in a headline) this story’s dead on its legs already, and everyone’s seen it for the attempt to derail an international summit that it is? I was thinking the same thing. I think that people were not caught unawares, and there have been more people than Gavin providing context and explanation. For example, Phil Jones already put his comments on the web.

    The results of the investigations have also helped – perhaps journalists were aware that their first impressions from 2009 did not withstand closer scrutiny. To use an analogy from my field, people were already infected once, and the response this time around was much more rapid and much more focused.

    • Deech, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Journos can’t turn back time, but they can be wary next time around, especially after nine independent vindications which they would need to explain without cooking up a conspiracy worthy of David Icke. Noticed how the sceptics/deniers barely mention the National Science Foundation’s investigation? Googling it comes up with no denier websites that I can see on the first few pages.

      H/T to Tamino for inspiring me to refer to it as Sloppysecondsgate, by the way.

  7. Is it just my lousy googling capabilities or is the internet just ignoring this reheated news (as it should)?

    This does not deserve anyone’s attention.

    • In France, only one newspaper was quickly mentioning it (with an awful “he said – she said”). I notice that, since 2009, “denier” comments are more quickly treated (I help a bit), and that the layman people this time seem more skeptical about this release.
      True, this time the BEST results kinda disrupted the denial narrative. Let’s hope that the reality of the various trends (temperature, sea ice) makes a huge awakening soon enough : it’s one thing to put aside denialist stupid claims about “corrupt process”, it’s another to personnaly realize we have a big problem.

      • Good to know that. Here in Brazil, I could not find any news at all mentioning this second batch, be it TV, newspapers or internet.

        I also tried some large international press companies, like BBC or CNN, and found nothing.

        Maybe they learned something from their mistakes?

  8. > yawn!
    I agree (except I agree with Bickmore’s “Contrarians File for Intellectual Bankruptcy” assessment more), but at the same time, IMO it’s important to do some token debunking – e.g. my local emeritus denier posted a long list, & I said I’d check the first 3. 2 are downright pathetic – it’s obvious from the full email -, but I’d be most grateful if someone could assess the remaining one, an email from Tom W. saying “I were on the greenhouse deniers’ side, I would be inclined to focus on the wide range of paleo results [prior to 1850] and the differences between them as an argument for dismissing them all” (though he makes it clear in the rest of the email, that they don’t have a scientific leg to stand on).
    (Yes, I could go dig through the IPCC report, but you guys are so much faster…)

    • I asked Wigley also, & he said the more relevant email excerpt would be:
      “The support for the hockey stick is not just the paleo reconstructions, but also the model results. If one takes the best estimates of past forcing off the shelf, then the model results show the hockey stick shape. No tuning or fudging here; this is a totally independent analysis, and critics of the paleo data, if they disbelieve these data, have to explain why models get the same result.”
      “With regard to the [excerpt’s having called out] differences between different paleo reconstructions, this obviously does not mean that they are all wrong. Some are better than others. …The Mann et al. reconstructions are (again in my view) pretty good….I note that these differences are well known and have not in any way been hidden. just look at fig. 6.10 in the Jansen et al. chapter in IPCC (2007).”
      (fig. 6.10 – http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/ipcc2007/ipcc2007.html )
      “The criticisms of the hockey stick by M&M, by the way, have been convincingly demolished in the literature.”

  9. It looks like Mann is being called to testify before Congress, and is asking for advice on what to do. Tom Wigley is telling him how to present his case, and to stress the inadequacies of the other side. He is also warning him not to over-complicate the argument by introducing other reconstructions that could support MBH ’98 and ’99, because it will be hard to explain to a lay audience why the pre-1850 studies don’t match up perfectly with MBH. Even though they in fact actually support MBH, it is more than likely such an argument will backfire with the people he needs to convince.
    From the email:
    “The support for the hockey stick is not just the paleo reconstructions, but also the model results. If one takes the best estimates of past forcing off the shelf, then the model results show the hockey stick shape. No tuning or fudging here; this is a totally independent analysis, and critics of the paleo data, if they disbelieve these data, have to explain why models get the same result.”
    Also, “This is a pain in the but, but it will all work out well in the end (unintentional pun–sorry). Good science will prevail.”

    It’s clear from reading it that Wigley does not think that the other reconstructions are a scientific problem for Mann; they are just could be unpersuasive to the scientific novice. If he sticks with basics, good science will prevail.

  10. Thanks for the kind words, folks [blushes]. Too bad you can’t get your typical AGW denier to read something like Weart or even Skeptical Science for comprehension. But we can all dream.

    BTW, I also thought the commentary by Matt Bush that tamino linked to was incisive. Word.

    The mainstream media seem to be, increasingly, dropping the ball with this puerile quote mining stuff (well, even more so with the he said/she said approach on ‘reporting’ anything related to AGW). But for them it’s all about pulling in readers, and sensationalism sells :-\

  11. Interview with Nathan Urban on his new paper “Climate Sensitivity Estimated from Temperature Reconstructions of the Last Glacial Maximum”

    Q: Any other thoughts on the skeptics’ reception of your paper?

    One blog did surprise me. World Climate Report doctored our paper’s main figure when reporting on our study. […]

    “Q: Does this study overturn the IPCC’s estimate of climate sensitivity?

    No, we haven’t disproven the IPCC or high climate sensitivities […]

    Q: Your paper got a lot of positive attention from climate skeptic blogs like “Watts Up With That?”. What’s your reaction to all that?

    I haven’t followed these blogs too closely, but I skimmed the comments on a few that were pointed out to me. The responses I saw were fairly predictable, veering from uncritical acceptance of our findings, to uncritical dismissal of any study that involves computer models or proxy data. But some comments did seem to find an appropriate middle ground of, well, skepticism.[…]

    • Imagine that! Michaels doctoring a figure used in his blog. Perish the thought.

    • Thank you for the link J. Bowers.

      Nathan Urban is incredibly polite and patient. Concerning the abuse of his graph that was selectively edited by the World Climate Report, (the doctored version was then used by Pat Michaels in a Forbs article without any hint that it had been modified from the original) he says:

      “Regardless of their intent, I find the result of their figure manipulation to be very misleading, especially since their blog post strongly implies that our study eliminates the “fat right tail” of the climate sensitivity distribution, and has proven the IPCC’s climate sensitivity range to be incorrect. Our land temperature curve, which they deleted, undermines their implication. They intentionally took our figure out of the context in which it was originally presented, a form of “selective quotation” which hides data that does not support their interpretation.

      In summary, I find World Climate Report’s behavior very disappointing and hardly compatible with true skeptical inquiry…”

    • Urban’s co-author, Andreas Schmittner, has just commented on the SkS article on their paper, here.

    • Probably the stupidest question that will be asked this week, but here goes:

      I don’t understand one aspect about the graphs in that article. The Y-axis is captioned “probability density *per degree Celsius*”.

      If we were to plot some function that had a constant probability density per degree we would get a horizontal line on that graph. But the actual probability density (not per degree) at 2 degrees would be twice that at 1 degree, at 3 degrees three times etc…wouldn’t it?

      Doesn’t this presentation rather understate the probability of higher CS? Reading off the graph we see that the probability density per degree is about the same at 1.4 degrees and 2.8 degrees. But doesn’t that mean that getting 2.8 has twice the probability of getting 1.4, not the same probability?

      Or am I just completely misunderstanding which is being shown on this graph?


    • (In short: RealClimate.)

      This would be have been good content for Tamino’s Open Thread, where Ray Ladbury raised some questions earlier.

      SkepSci’s comments tend toward the chaotic; so despite the moderation time lag, probably Tamino’s Open Thread is the best spot for discussing Urban until RealClimate posts about it – which they now have.

      • I’d like to revise my “SkS comments tend toward the chaotic” assessment above – it’s likely outdated, since when I visited just now, the comments’ content looked just fine.
        (Though they’re somehow difficult for me to read on the pink background. Also, threading would be nice; and a pony.)

        Thank you Daniel Bailey for the work you’ve been doing at SkepticalScience – which is without a doubt (from me, anyway) the most important climate education site on the web.

      • “. . . and a pony.”

        Don’t forget world peace!

      • Thank you, Anna. It’s my pleasure to help in any way I can.

    • The Planet3.0 Urban interview has attracted considerable discussion (link)

  12. FrankD,

    Probability density is defined so that its integral (or the area under the probability density curve) is probability. For example, if you integrate the density function from 1.5 to 2.5 degrees, you’ll find the probability that ECS lies between 1.5 and 2.5 degrees.

    If the probability density is equal for 1.4 and 2.8 degrees, this means that 1.4 and 2.8 degrees have the same relative probability.

    The thing you’re missing is calculus: probability density is an “infinitesimal” quantity. You don’t multiply probability density by ECS to get probability (which is what you’re trying to do if you multiply the curve by 1.4 or 2.8 degrees). Rather, you multiply probability density by an infinitesimal change in ECS to get the infinitesimal probability that ECS is near that value.

    If you add up the infinitesimal probabilities along the probability density curve, you get the finite probability that ECS will lie in whatever range you added (integrated) over.

    The reason why probability density is defined this way is because there is effectively zero probability that ECS will take on any specific value like 1.4000000000 degrees. It only makes sense to talk about what the probability is that ECS will lie in a particular range. Thus the concept of a probability “density”, which describes how much probability is concentrated into different ranges.

    (Mathematicians may cringe at my oversimplifications, but I’m not going to get into measure theory here!)

    • Thanks Nathan, makes a lot more sense now. You’ve also clarified a question I wondered about, but didn’t ask – your “effectively zero probability” remark. I should have twigged to the infinitesimal here, but my math is apparently even rustier than I’d realised!

      Much appreciated.

  13. I submitted the drought paper, totally revised, to Nature Climate Change.
    This is the 6th submission of some version of this paper.
    Wish me luck. I will probably give up after this if it fails.

    [Response: Good luck! And don’t give up — just take a break]

    • You’re at that darkest hour before the dawn Barton. And it can be pitch black and silent, I know. Hang in there.

    • Good luck, Barton–with all my heart!

    • Don’t let it get to you BPL,
      If anything the climategate 2.0 emails did actually console me in an odd sort of way…

      I saw phil jones get a rejection from IJOC that was worded very harshly and it made me realize that I shouldn’t feel bad about a recent IJOC rejection.

    • Barton, Remember, as the Pointy-Haired boss said, “It’s always darkest just before the zombies eat your brain.”

    • I will probably give up after this if it fails.

      Er… Giving up after getting rejected from a Nature-Something journal is not rational. The standard procedure is to downgrade and submit it to something a bit less Olympian.

  14. YAWN45


    Somehow this lecture is connected to the 742+ day old stolen CRU emails.

    Don’t even ask me how.

    Conspiracy theorizing straight from Alex Jones himself.

    Must have really busted their brains, to get that one on their never ending connect-the-dots-GOBSMACKING-BOMBSHELL-BREAKING-YAWNXX list.

  15. In the noise, I notice that the Chris de Freitas has been lauded as a martyr to “tribalistic corruption of peer review” (or something like that).

    By happy chance a I started a project last summer, and here it is: Skeptics Prefer Pal Review Over Peer Review: Chris de Freitas, Pat Michaels And Their Pals, 1997-2003, thanks to reading a Pat Michaels piece on “Pal review.”

  16. Hi Tamino, sorry this is OT. I haven’t looked in lately, being busy trying to take the fight against denialism right to, to my mind, some of it’s most irrational practitioners – nuclear energy proponent who insist nuclear is the best solution to a climate problem they don’t believe exists. Actually more like find a way to separate the sincere proponents of nuclear as a solution from their irrational allies and convince them that their excessive focus on the shortcomings of renewables is letting fossil fuels off the hook.
    I think I hit a real nerve. People could find the exchanges, prior to a perfect example of above who happened to be a moderator shutting me out of the thread and it’s aftermath which led to my eventual suspension, interesting and amusing. My contribution begins at #52.

  17. As I recall you pointed out elsewhere recently John (might have been in relation to Michaels), projection is the art of accusing your opponents of doing what you (and your pals) are doing.

    This has the advantage of placing whatever scattergun denier chum-of-the-week pops up at any given time into some sort of context to watch out for.

    • So chek, you are saying that the denialati think, “Hey, we never criticise our mates, no matter how nutty they sound, so lets accuse the climate scientists of doing the same”?

      What is also excessively funny is when they start to call out people for cherry picking.

    • It is incredible, every single Michaels Forbes post has a classic example of him doing what he accuses “the team” of doing. Literally every post! Calling Jon Stewart?

      • I’ve often noted that the psychological defense of “denial” is often accompanied in climate denialists, with the psychological defense of “projection,” in which one’s own shortcomings are attributed instead to one’s opponents.

        But I suspect that calling them “projectionists” would just confuse everybody concerned.

      • Maybe throwing it in as a middle name, something like Pat “Projection is My Profession” Michaels…

      • “Projection is My Profession”

        I like it.

  18. Let’s not forget JB that in deni-O-world until recently, ‘the team’ was essentially a single gestalt organism group-thinking as one to be ‘the consensus’.
    Then the email hack showed they weren’t actually like that at all which changed the narrative to ‘what consensus’? These things happen so fast even Winston Smith’s head would spin.
    Even so McIntyre will never tell Watt’s in the forseeable future that he’s posting arrant nonsense with garbage like this. After all, anything anti-IPCC is therefore still good and beyond internal criticism.