“We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.”
The recent thread where I tried to explain how the CRU email kerfuffle partakes of the paranoid style in American politics got a lot of interest, thanks in large measure to an effort by Morano to Godwin the hell out of it. As usual, the bulk of the commentary from people from that quarter was predictably shallow, nasty and juvenile. What would you expect from a site that has mockery of science as its stock in trade?
Among all that was something a little different, a contact from Kenneth Green, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (not to be confused with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, apparently, an error which I for one have been making). Ken, as he insists on being called, is taking a reasonably collegial approach to me and I will return the favor for now.
Nevertheless, he is responsible for some typical, um, naysayerist fantasies. Anyway, he has taken an interest in this humble blog and is so far being reasonably polite, so as an exercise let’s see if we can return the favor and maintain a collegial tone in conversations with Ken.
Ken is one of those people who think the CRU emails are a very big deal for climate science (and not worth mentioning as a matter for computer security all). Here is a recent article by him to that effect entitled “Who’s in denial now?”
Let’s enumerate his points:
- What’s catastrophic about Climategate is that it reveals a science as broken as Michael Mann’s hockey stick
- Mann’s Hockey stick erases the MWP and the LIA and is broken
- When you cherry-pick, discard, nip, tuck, and tape disparate bits of data into the most alarming portrayal you can in the name of a “cause,” you’re not engaged in science, but in the production of propaganda.
- this clique tried to subvert the peer-review process as well. They attempted to prevent others from getting into peer reviewed journals — thus letting them claim skeptic research wasn’t peer-reviewed — a convenient circular (and dishonest) way to discredit skeptics.
- Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was considered the top climate research community
- A Russian think-tank recently revealed the climate temperature record compiled by the Climatic Research Unit cherry-picked data from only 25 per cent of Russia’s climate monitoring sites
These points take about half the article. There follow several paragraphs about indignation, injury, threat to scientific integrity, etc. that have essentially nothing whatsoever to do with what might have been revealed in the emails. Let’s ignore them, because we are trying to determine what if anything the CRU hacking reveals.
Let me start with point 3, where there is at least a little meat to the story. It is apparent that the dendro guys have been plotting graphs in such a way as to distract the observer’s attention from the obvious recent weakness of their paleothermometer. While you have to choose what to emphasize and what to de-emphasize in public presentations, one could make a case that these graphs go too far. On the other hand, as I understand it, this is not news. Far too much attention has been given to the dendro people both by IPCC and opportunistically by the delayer camp. This issue was already known. All the emails reveal is that there was some internal disagreement about it.
Hardly a grand conspiracy even among dendrochronologists. And in any case old news.
As for the rest of it?
- Well, that’s a broad assertion. Let’s see what you have to support it.
- Old news and in no way revealed by the emails. Mann et al, in good faith but I belive erroneously, underrepresented multidecadal variability as elaborated by von Storch; this left the plot somewhat misleading in character, though in fact most later reconstructions, though more variable on a multidecadal time scale, remain within Mann’s confidence bounds. No scandal here, and nothing new.
- see above
- “Clique,” ” convenient circular (and dishonest) way to discredit skeptics”: see every crackpot pseudoscientific theory ever proposed for versions of this argument. This CAN describe the behavior of a dysfunctional science, but it ALSO describes the behavior of every science at its best. In fact, the same von Storch who shot Mann down in point 2 above was fiercely critical of one of the papers the Jones crowd complains most vociferously about. Perhaps it’s about quality, and not politics? Surely nothing new.
- The CRU does produce one of the main global observational time series. Is it the “leader of the pack” in any real sense? This is completely news to me. See, the observational time series is a relatively small part of the record. How else could the Charney report have gotten the future so right even before the observational record showed any warming at all? This is new, but it’s a wild assertion and has nothing to do with the emails.
- Deltoid and Climate Progress have something on this; a minor subplot of a minor subplot in any case. And nothing to do with the emails.
So what is going on? Perhaps nothing, perhaps almost nothing. Does this cast doubt on an entire science?
The answer is, for some people, yes. It’s little surprise if that is all people hear about climate science. But it shouldn’t be all they hear, and if this article is any indicator, it’s all innuendo and nothing much of substance.
The amazing part of this is, if you look at Ken’s “Climategate reveals” article, anything of even a little substance (and there really isn’t much there) was not revealed in the hacked information!
We need to start with what the outlines of that science are. No climate scientist would start telling the story with tree rings and millenial scale variability. The observational record itself is only important for public understanding. The whole core of the science lies elsewhere.
To support the naysayer camp’s fantasies, you have to
- A) throw away all theory
- B) throw away all paleoclimatology
- C) ignore all the past successes of model projections
- D) crown Jones king of the world
- E) make a very big deal out of a few comments of his, and finally
- F) dethrone Jones.
This is at least a well-trodden path for the What-Me-Worry crowd, the role of king having been played by Mann and Santer in the past. (Oddly enough, Hansen really does play a relatively large role in the science for an individual, but they haven’t had comparable success in going after him.) So far, the scapegoat-du-jour hasn’t done much if anything actually culpable, but you know if you repeat something often enough people will start to believe it. But how do the people repeating it convince themselves as well?
So, Ken, is this all you’ve got? Are you really drinking this kool-ade you’re peddling? Because so far you’ve mixed it mighty thin.
Update: Here’s some more detailed stuff from Ken. Part I and Part II.
I can’t say I’m happy with Wigley’s ’05 comment (see Part II), especially considering his use of the word “skeptic”. RP Jr is already running with this one and there’s useful followup at that link.
Ken also raises interesting questions about peer review.
That said, there’s a lot he seems to get wrong.
NOTE: I will moderate this thread fiercely for ad homs and intemperate language, especially from the realistic side. I would like to see if ANYBODY can come up with ANYTHING that justifies the CRU email hacking. Let’s try to be as congenial as possible to people who think there is something to this business, and see if they can explain to us what exactly we are supposed to be upset about. Be as sarcastic or argumentative as you want about people’s points, but lay off their motivations and character please.