Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Climategate: Why Those Emails Are Lethal


There’s an interesting article by Melanie Phillips at Spectator about why the emails from East Anglia, which sparked “Climategate,” really do change things. This is, of course, contrary to the assertion of folks like Al Gore who claim that the matter is settled and that these emails aren’t important to the whole situation. In reality these findings do change things, so one must wonder who is the denier now? Who is denying reality? It doesn’t seem to be the folks that deny Anthropic Global Warming, rather it is the scientists that steadfastly hold to AGW when it cannot be evidenced to be occurring. I would much rather deny AGW than deny reality and change reality to fit my notion of AGW, as these scientists have done. This is what comes to light in these emails. Changing reality.

In the Mail on Sunday, David Rose has dug into the email correspondence at the heart of the East Anglia CRU ‘Climate-gate’ scandal and found that, far from being a few carelessly written messages taken out of context, they are – surprise, surprise — a game-changer. He writes correctly that they strike at the very heart of anthropogenic global warming theory by showing that the ‘evidence’ that post-industrial revolution temperatures are unprecedented is a manufactured fiction – and that at least some of these scientists, themselves at the very heart of promulgating AGW theory, knew perfectly well that the evidence did not support their claims.

The now infamous email that states that there was a “trick” to “hide the decline” is now put into context by Mr. Rose:

However, the full context of that ‘trick’ email, as shown by a new and until now unreported analysis by the Canadian climate statistician Steve McIntyre, is extremely troubling. Derived from close examination of some of the thousands of other leaked emails, he says it suggests the ‘trick’ undermines not only the CRU but the IPCC.

There is a widespread misconception that the ‘decline’ Jones was referring to is the fall in global temperatures from their peak in 1998, which probably was the hottest year for a long time. In fact, its subject was more technical – and much more significant.

It is true that, in Watson’s phrase, in the autumn of 1999 Jones and his colleagues were trying to ‘tweak’ a diagram. But it wasn’t just any old diagram. It was the chart displayed on the first page of the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ of the 2001 IPCC report – the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph that has been endlessly reproduced in everything from newspapers to primary-school textbooks ever since, showing centuries of level or declining temperatures until a dizzying, almost vertical rise in the late 20th Century.

In September 1999, Jones’s IPCC colleague Michael Mann of Penn State University in America – who is now also the subject of an official investigation –was working with Jones on the hockey stick. As they debated which data to use, they discussed a long tree-ring analysis carried out by Keith Briffa.

Briffa knew exactly why they wanted it, writing in an email on September 22: ‘I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards “apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more”.’ But his conscience was troubled. ‘In reality the situation is not quite so simple – I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago.’

Another British scientist – Chris Folland of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre – wrote the same day that using Briffa’s data might be awkward, because it suggested the past was too warm. This, he lamented, ‘dilutes the message rather significantly’.

Over the next few days, Briffa, Jones, Folland and Mann emailed each other furiously. Mann was fearful that if Briffa’s trees made the IPCC diagram, ‘the sceptics [would] have a field day casting doubt on our ability to understand the factors that influence these estimates and, thus, can undermine faith [in them] – I don’t think that doubt is scientifically justified, and I’d hate to be the one to have to give it fodder!’

Finally, Briffa changed the way he computed his data and submitted a revised version. This brought his work into line for earlier centuries, and ‘cooled’ them significantly. But alas, it created another, potentially even more serious, problem.

According to his tree rings, the period since 1960 had not seen a steep rise in temperature, as actual temperature readings showed – but a large and steady decline, so calling into question the accuracy of the earlier data derived from tree rings.

This is the context in which, seven weeks later, Jones presented his ‘trick’ – as simple as it was deceptive. All he had to do was cut off Briffa’s inconvenient data at the point where the decline started, in 1961, and replace it with actual temperature readings, which showed an increase. On the hockey stick graph, his line is abruptly terminated – but the end of the line is obscured by the other lines.

‘Any scientist ought to know that you just can’t mix and match proxy and actual data,’ said Philip Stott, emeritus professor of biogeography at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. ‘They’re apples and oranges. Yet that’s exactly what he did.’

It seems that the practice by climatologists who need to evidence AGW is to keep in mind that if they’re not getting what they want to show from one set of data through time, just use it until it becomes troublesome and switch to another set of data, midstream, for the rest of the time, and don’t tell anyone that it’s a hodgepodge. Just cover the damage up with some paint, and make sure to say “buying as is, no refunds or returns.” This deception wouldn’t work for selling a hockey stick, much less for selling Anthropic Global Warming that has been painted to look like a hockey stick.

See these brave scientists: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/post.aspx?bid=354&bpid=24483 Enezio E. De Almeida Filho
Note the language used by Mann in one of his emails referenced above: "the sceptics [would] have a field day casting doubt on our ability to understand the factors that influence these estimates and, thus, can undermine faith [in them]" In other words, Heretics might undermine the Faith and we Inquisitors must silence them. Chesterton sure was right when he observed that as our culture secularizes, we don't so much stop believing in something, we start believing in anything. Environmentalism is a religion that fills a hole in its adherents’ hearts, and it's a particularly nasty puritanical and apocalyptic one at that. When some religious nut claims the end times near based on his reworking of the Bible, I just roll my eyes and am thankful we have a separation of church and state. But when the holy prophet Al Gore says the same thing based on bullsh*t “data”, I have to worry. There’s no separation of his church from the state that can establish a religion to control me. My primary opposition to the AGW cult is on First Amendment grounds. StuartHarris
Sorry if anyone thinks my prior comment should be censored. But I bet it probably reflects the sentiment of the majority that frequent this board. JGuy
Looking at Copenhagen and various media coverage.... I'm now convinced the majority of nations, including our own, are run by crooks & morons. And the mainstream media consists of spineless slugs. JGuy
This is the article being referenced I believe: http://climateaudit.org/2009/12/10/ipcc-and-the-trick/ tragic mishap
My error, but obviously I should have used the word "extrapolate" instead of "interpolate" in my post above (JDH #2) JDH
I was going to comment on the CRU Briffa code below, but someone else did a nice job of this over at wizbangblog.com. The only thing I'll add is that 1400 is used as a basis year. This conveniently avoids the medieval warm period which ended in about 1300.
From the CRU code file osborn-tree6/briffa_sep98_d.pro , used to prepare a graph purported to be of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and reconstructions. ; ; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!! ; yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904] valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,- 0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$ 2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,'Oooops!' ; yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,timey) This, people, is blatant data-cooking, with no pretense otherwise. It flattens a period of warm temperatures in the 1940s -- see those negative coefficients? Then, later on, it applies a positive multiplier so you get a nice dramatic hockey stick at the end of the century. All you apologists weakly protesting that this is research business as usual and there are plausible explanations for everything in the emails? Sackcloth and ashes time for you. This isn't just a smoking gun, it's a siege cannon with the barrel still hot.
My short understanding of what Briffa did: With any proxy data their must be a mapping of measured proxy data ( tree rings ) to raw data ( temperature measurements ) where the raw data exists ( i.e. 1850 - 199x). This mapping is then interpolated into areas where raw data is not present to estimate the raw data where only proxy data exists. It seems Briffa changed his mapping so his interpolated data data matched Michael Mann's interpolated data. However, this destroyed the match of the proxy data to the raw data past 1960. Someone ( even Briffa ) please show that this description is wrong. Because if it is not, this is not just sloppy science, but quite possibly deliberate fraud. JDH
I guess when someone gets around to writing Icons of Global Warming the "hockey stick" will feature as one of the first of those icons. Jadster

Leave a Reply