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Earth Science

The Limits To Skepticism 1093

Posted by kdawson
from the sometimes-you-just-gotta-say dept.
jamie found a long and painstaking piece up at The Economist asking and provisionally answering the question: "Does the spirit of scientific scepticism really require that I remain forever open-minded to denialist humbug until it's shown to be wrong?" The author, who is not named, spent several hours picking apart the arguments of one Willis Eschenbach, AGW denialist, who on Dec. 8 published what he called the "smoking gun" — it was supposed to prove that the adjustments climate scientists make to historical temperature records are arbitrary to the point of intentional manipulation. The conclusion: "[H]ere's my solution to this problem: this is why we have peer review. Average guys with websites can do a lot of amazing things. One thing they cannot do is reveal statistical manipulation in climate-change studies that require a PhD in a related field to understand. So for the time being, my response to any and all further 'smoking gun' claims begins with: show me the peer-reviewed journal article demonstrating the error here. Otherwise, you're a crank and this is not a story. And then I'll probably go ahead and try to investigate the claim and write a blog post about it, because that's my job. Oh, and by the way: October was the hottest month on record in Darwin, Australia."
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The Limits To Skepticism

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  • reply by Willis (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:35PM (#30419120)

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/08/sticky-for-smoking-gun-at-darwin-zero/

  • Rebuttal (Score:1, Informative)

    by zerosomething (1353609) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:38PM (#30419134) Homepage
    Posted at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/08/sticky-for-smoking-gun-at-darwin-zero/ [wattsupwiththat.com] Take a look. The real point is the need for openness and open critical review of the methods used.
  • by HebrewToYou (644998) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:38PM (#30419136)
    ...to link to Willis Eschenbach's response [wattsupwiththat.com] in the summary. It appears that The Economist didn't even bother to contact Eschenbach before publishing this article by an apparently unnamed author. That isn't exactly what I would consider high-quality journalism.
  • by highways (1382025) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:41PM (#30419156)

    A little history. Darwin was bombed and mostly flattened in 1941 by the Japanese during WWII. And, most likely, the weather station with it.

    Hence, it was probably re-built at a different site with different local effects.

    Next?

  • by Nutria (679911) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:44PM (#30419184)

    They've been keeping records for what, 150-200 years? That's a lot by our puny standards, but not in geological times.

    And when you say, "tree rings!", I ask, "How precise are they?" A cool but sunny summer, or hot but dusty/cloudy/smoky summer could produce anomalous results.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:56PM (#30419232)

    BTW, if anyone knows of a climate model that correctly predicts past, known weather, please post a link.

    At your service [sciencemag.org]

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['ish' in gap]> on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:57PM (#30419252)

    While labeled flamebait, this is something of a problem, even in less politicized fields of science. Most scientists are earnest truth-seekers, but a minority are not, and the peer-review system is not always robust to them. I work in an area of computer science that will never make Fox News, but even in this area things are sometimes suppressed for what's hard to describe as other than political reasons. At the very least, politically unpopular positions get all sorts of extra hoops to jump through that others don't--- e.g. if you're casting doubt on a position the journal editor or one of his friends staked his career on, better expect some random made-up requirements [scienceblogs.com]. If your paper scoops a large and well-funded group's work, there's a chance it'll be rejected by one of their friends, so they get to publication first--- and their publication might coincidentally borrow a few ideas or theorems from your rejected paper.

    It's not all bad, and in fact most is probably good. But there are some very rotten parts of the scientific-publishing apparatus. It doesn't help that most journals are run by for-profit companies that are a bit shady themselves (Kluwer, Springer, etc.) who have no real interest in the quality of the science they publish or how to improve it. And it doubly doesn't help that the academic rat-race has gotten increasingly cut-throat, so people feel they need to resort to dirty tricks to get/keep a job, get tenure, get grants, etc.

  • by icebraining (1313345) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:58PM (#30419264) Homepage

    No, we don't:

    Ice bubbles reveal biggest rise in CO2 for 800,000 years

    By Steve Connor, Science Editor
    Tuesday, 5 September 2006

    The rapid rise in greenhouse gases over the past century is unprecedented in at least 800,000 years, according to a study of the oldest Antarctic ice core which highlights the reality of climate change.

    Air bubbles trapped in ice for hundreds of thousands of years have revealed that humans are changing the composition of the atmosphere in a manner that has no known natural parallel.
    Related articles

            * Frances Cairncross: We must start adapting to climate change
            * Search the news archive for more stories

    Scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge have found there have been eight cycles of atmospheric change in the past 800,000 years when carbon dioxide and methane have risen to peak levels.

    Each time, the world also experienced the relatively high temperatures associated with warm, inter-glacial periods, which were almost certainly linked with levels of carbon dioxide and possibly methane in the atmosphere.

    However, existing levels of carbon dioxide and methane are far higher than anything seen during these earlier warm periods, said Eric Wolff of the BAS.

    "Ice cores reveal the Earth's natural climate rhythm over the last 800,000 years. When carbon dioxide changed there was always an accompanying climate change," Dr Wolff said. "Over the past 200 years, human activity has increased carbon dioxide to well outside the natural range and we have no analogue for what will happen next.

    "We have a no-analogue situation. We don't have anything in the past that we can measure directly," he added.

    The ice core was drilled from a thick area of ice on Antarctica known as Dome C. The core is nearly 3.2km long and reaches to a depth where air bubbles became trapped in ice that formed 800,000 years ago.

    "It's from those air bubbles that we know for sure that carbon dioxide has increased by about 35 per cent in the past 200 years. Before that 200 years, which is when man's been influencing the atmosphere, it was pretty steady to within 5 per cent," Dr Wolff said.

    The core shows that carbon dioxide was always between 180 parts per million (ppm) and 300 ppm during the 800,000 years. However, now it is 380 ppm. Methane was never higher than 750 parts per billion (ppb) in this timescale, but now it stands at 1,780 ppb.

    But the rate of change is even more dramatic, with increases in carbon dioxide never exceeding 30 ppm in 1,000 years -- and yet now carbon dioxide has risen by 30 ppm in the last 17 years.

    "The rate of change is probably the most scary thing because it means that the Earth systems can't cope with it," Dr Wolff told the British Association meeting at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

    "On such a crowded planet, we have little capacity to adapt to changes that are much faster than anything in human experience."

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/ice-bubbles-reveal-biggest-rise-in-co2-for-800000-years-414711.html

  • Re:reply by Willis (Score:5, Informative)

    by jasonwc (939262) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @11:02PM (#30419298)

    Why the hell did this guy get moderated down? He posted the author's response to the Economist article! It's directly relevant.

    Isn't this precisely the risk of overreliance on the peer review system? Unpopular opinions get silenced. I would mod up the parent but can't as I have posted in the thread. So, I'm going to repost the link:

    Willis Eschenbach's Response to the Economist Article:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/08/sticky-for-smoking-gun-at-darwin-zero/ [wattsupwiththat.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2009 @11:12PM (#30419360)

    I am very sceptical with regards to a "not named" author claims... ;-)

    Just happens to be The Economist policy not to name staff authors. Idea was to avert personal ad hominem attacks on ideas presented, and sidestep political attacks. There's some criticism noted in the wikipedia entry which i find both funny and, subjectively, true. Doesn't stop me enjoying reading it, nor fundamentally detract from the arguments presented, as you imply. Figure you know this, hence your ";-)" ;-)

  • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Saturday December 12, 2009 @11:14PM (#30419364) Journal

    Sure, and all biologists should spend time repeating the same arguments proving that earth is over 6000 years old instead of doing science.

    No matter what is said and done, denialists will deny, it's a genetic disorder, nothing can be done about it.

  • by pitchpipe (708843) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @11:23PM (#30419442)

    Particularly when we can't promise that the nations that compete with us on the global stage (*cough* China *cough*) will do the same.

    I work for a global mining giant, so I really can't be considered a tree hugger, but China is starting to kick our ass on green technology. Maybe it is inevitable, but I really believe that if we implement some of the policies sooner rather than later - and we know they're coming - that we will be at least as competitive if not the leader in these things. I really love this country (the US). Damn, the better it does the better me and my children do.!

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @11:27PM (#30419462) Journal
    It's probably worth mentioning the original author's response to that argument [wattsupwiththat.com]:

    This might make sense if there were any "dramatic change in 1941. But as I clearly stated in my article, there is no such dramatic change. The drop in temperature was gradual and lasted from 1936 to 1940. The change from 1940 to 1941 was quite average. So that claim of yours is nonsense as well. In any case, the change in screening did not coincide with the 1941 move. In my article I cited a reference to a picture of a Stevenson Screen in use in Darwin at the turn of the century. Perhaps you didn't bother to read that.

    Hard for me to know who is right without actually looking at the data, but honestly I would be surprised if there were any dataset as large as the global temperature dataset that didn't have some errors in it at least.

  • by GNT (319794) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @11:51PM (#30419650)

    But you do realize there clearly ISN'T proof of the hypothesis? Do you realize that there clearly was malfeasance? Several times in fact. IPCC released it's spreadsheet of the data only to be hosed by the fact that it deliberately tossed out the Medieval Warm period?

    Even so, simple historical knowledge should convince you AGW can't be true. Greenland used to be GREEN with vegetation. It is presently covered in ice. What does that tell you? England, during the Roman Empire, was a major exporter of WINE.

    Even so, KNOWN data from other fields, like ice cores, shows conclusively that CO2 is rising AFTER the temps.

    If like me, you did satellite stuff, you KNOW that CO2 represents a miniscule IR component. It's water vapor (and thus clouds) that are much more important.

    And last but not least, just a microscopic percentage change in the output of the sun will warm the Earth, as will precession and nutation of the Earth/Earth orbit will.

  • by jc42 (318812) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @11:58PM (#30419704) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps it's time to once again point out that "scientific proof" is a red herring. As any number of science's theoreticians have carefully explained over the years, scientific methods rarely if ever actually "prove" anything. Rather, science works mostly with a double-negative approach: An accepted theory is one that we have failed to disprove. Scientific testing and data collection is mostly aimed at showing that a hypothesis is wrong. Results that agree with a hypothesis are generally called "support", not "proof", because usually the tests can't provide proof. But a single (correctly done;-) test or observation is often sufficient to disprove a theory.

    This is why scientific theories are often called "tentative". Scientists are always trying to think of new ways to test a theory, and sometimes they succeed in finding situations where a theory fails. The poster child for this was the failure of Newton's mechanics to explain a number of anomalous observations about a century ago, which led to Einstein's theories explaining how the universe actually works. Of course, his theories have never been "proved", either. They have merely withstood hundreds of new experimental tests. Tomorrow some physicist (or high-school student) may produce a new test that demos an exception to Einstein's equations. But until then, they are accepted not because we've proved them, but rather because we have repeatedly failed to disprove them.

    Of course, fundamental physics is "easier" that climate in an obvious way. Weather is much more complex than things like particle physics or orbital mechanics, which can be reduced to some fairly simple equations (though not quite as simple as we thought back in Newton's day). Anything dealing with weather has to be treated statistically, since the complexity is far beyond the capacity of our most powerful super-computers. (Our computers can't even model a butterfly's wings in detail, much less the effect the butterfly has on weather halfway around the world.;-) Since the public is generally totally ignorant of statistics, it's not surprising that people would fail to understand what the AGW theorists are telling us. It's fairly obvious that even most of the posters here in this "nerd" community don't understand the difference between weather and climate. You don't have much of a chance of understanding the issue without a good grounding in statistical methods, in addition to all the kinds of chemistry that you have to understand.

    But the constant use of forms of the words "prove" and "proof" in regard to scientific theories should be treated with humor, since such words are an open statement that the author doesn't know much at all about scientific methods. Those are media and propaganda terms; they have very little use in scientific discussions. Proofs are what mathematicians do. Scientists do disproofs. (And it is interesting how well the radically different approaches of math and science complement each other. So far I haven't read much enlightening from either camp on this topic, just the observation that they play well together. But we all know that.)

  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @12:03AM (#30419738) Homepage
    Both are holding positions in face of overwhelming consensus by people who are experts in the subject as well as in face of physical evidence.

    You do realize, don't you, that current polls show that less than 90% of qualified climate scientists believe AGW has been proved? Doesn't sound like much of a consensus to me. And, unlike history, when it comes to science consensus means nothing, only the facts.

  • by Jeeeb (1141117) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @12:10AM (#30419772)
    As was pointed out previously in discussions the Economist has a policy of not publishing by lines. So to dish the originally author for being anonymous is wrong. As for Willis Eschenbach's response I imagine there would be many interested but it gives a 404 error at the moment.
  • Re:gone (Score:5, Informative)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @12:14AM (#30419798)

    I can't believe that your comment got modded insightful.

    NONE of the data has been erased. Here's a quote [eenews.net]:

    The research unit has deleted less than 5 percent of its original station data from its database because the stations had several discontinuities or were affected by urbanization trends, Jones said.

    "When you're looking at climate data, you don't want stations that are showing urban warming trends," Jones said, "so we've taken them out." Most of the stations for which data was removed are located in areas where there were already dense monitoring networks, he added. "We rarely removed a station in a data-sparse region of the world."

    Refuting CEI's claims of data-destruction, Jones said, "We haven't destroyed anything. The data is still there -- you can still get these stations from the [NOAA] National Climatic Data Center."

    In other words, the guys at CRU deleted the junk which they didn't think was worth keeping. But since their data came from external sources, all of the original data is STILL AVAILABLE. Of course, you won't hear about that at the usual denier blogs, since it's just so much easier to keep your flock bleeting in ignorance when you can say "OMFG, DEY DELETED DA DAT0RZ!!!!".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @12:15AM (#30419806)

    For those who do not wish to google it, the publisher is the "Association of American Physicians and Surgeons" http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Association_of_American_Physicians_and_Surgeons
    The 'Journal' is the Journal of the American Physicians and Surgeons (formally known as the Medical Sentinal).

    The have such fine articles such as:

    abortion causes preterm birth later in life, and thus birth defects such as cerebral palsy to future children born to women with a history of abortion

    the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are unconstitutional,

    that HIV does not cause AIDS

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @12:21AM (#30419856)

    Uh no it didn't. Greenland was named greenland to attract settlers. If you can't even factcheck the most simple of arguments how can I know that the rest of what you write isn't just made up shit?

  • by dbIII (701233) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @12:26AM (#30419898)

    Because you believe what White-Coated High Holy Scientists

    Once you start falling for the "science is a rival religeon to drag fools away from baby Jesus and condemn all it's worshippers to hell" crap then you are getting beyond the realms of rational debate.
    Science has nothing at all to do with religeon.
    Manipulative arseholes are just setting it up as a strawman to win arguments along the line of "they sacifice babies to Moloch - well Science is just like that". You have just been conned by such manipulative arseholes that see educated clergy and scientists as a threat to their political power and you are picking up their argument second hand.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @12:34AM (#30419972)

    You will find other interesting stuff on this website, that many if not most on Slashdot would disagree with.

    Yes like trying to cure cancer by a change in diet [oism.org] as an example of pseudoscience perpetuated by this website...

  • by dachshund (300733) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:01AM (#30420158)

    Keep the thermometers used, keep notes about what's being done, publish that as well. If we believe there's an outlier, we should test the thermometers and if those are defunct, then we can throw out the data without bias

    We're talking about measurements made over the past century. Most of the thermometers are gone, and absent a time machine you're not going to get them back. What you're essentially suggesting is that we should throw out most of the data recorded before 1990.

    Incidentally, most of the data and the rationale for their correction is described in published papers. It's unbelievably, mind-numbingly boring and detailed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:08AM (#30420198)

    The quotes cited below are taken from the "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report" (dated Nov. 2007).
    Needless to say, it's unclear what report the original poster was quoting.

    • It isn't entirely certain that the net effect of human pollution is warming, it could also be cooling (see chapter 2).

    "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. This is an advance since the TAR's conclusion that 'most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations' (Fig- ure 2.5). {WGI 9.4, SPM} ... It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica) (Figure 2.5). {WGI 3.2, 9.4, SPM}" (p. 39; emphasis in original).

    Nothing, ever, is entirely certain in science. Even "laws" are constantly tested and retested.

    • Despite some sensationalistic propaganda floating around, sea level rises are happening slower than geological processes (plate tectonics etc) on any given coast (see chapter 5).

    "Sea level rise under warming is inevitable. Thermal expansion would continue for many centuries after GHG concentrations have stabilised, for any of the stabilisation levels assessed, causing an eventual sea level rise much larger than projected for the 21st century (Table 5.1). If GHG and aerosol concentrations had been stabilised at year 2000 levels, thermal expansion alone would be expected to lead to further sea level rise of 0.3 to 0.8m. The eventual contributions from Greenland ice sheet loss could be several metres, and larger than from thermal expansion, should warming in excess of 1.9 to 4.6C above pre-industrial be sustained over many centuries" (p. 67).

    • There is no reliable knowledge of how much CO2 has affected the current warming trend. The report says 'most of it' based on the logic that they can't think of another explanation.(see chapter 9)
    • The writers of the IPCC report aren't very confident of their main conclusion, which is that it is very likely that most of the recent warming is human caused. In the report, they are very careful to qualify that statement; although they are not so careful in press conferences (see the synthesis report).

    Yes, not very confident:

    "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level. {WGI 3.9, SPM}
    Many natural systems, on all continents and in some oceans, are being affected by regional climate changes. Observed changes in many physical and biological systems are consistent with warming. As a result of the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 since 1750, the acidity of the surface ocean has increased. {WGI 5.4, WGII 1.3}
    Global total annual anthropogenic GHG emissions, weighted by their 100-year GWPs, have grown by 70% between 1970 and 2004. As a result of anthropogenic emissions, atmospheric concentrations of N2O now far exceed pre-industrial values spanning many thousands of years, and those of CH4 and CO2 now far exceed the natural range over the last 650,000 years. {WGI SPM; WGIII 1.3}
    Most of the global average warming over the past 50 years is very likely due to anthropogenic GHG increases and it is likely that there is a discernible human-induced warming averaged over each continent (except Antarctica). {WGI 9.4, SPM}
    Anthropogenic warming over the last three decades has likely had a discernible influence at the global scale on observed changes in many physical and biological systems. {WG

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:13AM (#30420228)

    Honestly, this absurd statement made by the author sums up what I felt reading the entire article. It's rife with the rantings of someone who doesn't really understand what's going on, clearly admits he doesn't understand the math, yet wants to chime in and put his $.02 in while discrediting someone else just as unaccredited as himself. This is sheer lunacy.

    Actually, the editor of the blog [wattsupwiththat.com] carrying post that the article is commenting on has some background [wattsupwiththat.com] in the subject matter.

    I’m a former television meteorologist who spent 25 years on the air and who also operates a weather technology and content business, as well as continues daily forecasting on radio, just for fun.

    Weather measurement and weather presentation technology is my specialty. I also provide weather stations and custom weather monitoring solutions via www.weathershop.com (if you like my work, please consider buying a weather gadget there, StormPredator for example) and www.tempelert.com, and turn key weather channels with advertising at www.viziframe.com

    The weather graphics you see in the lower right corner of the blog are produced by my company, IntelliWeather. As you can see most of my work is in weather technology such as weather stations, weather data processing systems, and weather graphics creation and display. While I’m not a degreed climate scientist, I’ll point out that neither is Al Gore, and his specialty is presentation also. And that’s part of what this blog is about: presentation of weather and climate data in a form the public can understand and discuss.

  • by srjh (1316705) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:30AM (#30420338)

    This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

    You bring out examples of supposed flaws in global warming as a "gotcha" argument, but ignore the fact that each [realclimate.org] and [arizona.edu] every [scholarsandrogues.com] one [skepticalscience.com] of these arguments has been repeatedly debunked.

    Again - you're ignoring rebuttals to denialist arguments, then pretending they don't exist. It's not that no-one's listening to your arguments, it's that they are scientific nonsense.

  • Manfred (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:41AM (#30420400)

    The mathematical skills of many of those scientists responsible for historic data records have already been assessed indepedently by a high profile team of statisticians (the Wegman commission) a few years ago:

    http://climateaudit.org/2007/11/06/the-wegman-and-north-reports-for-newbies/

    Referring to the criticism of McIntyre and McKitrick of hockey-stick reconstructions, those professional scientists "tended to dismiss their results as being developed by biased amateurs".

    The Wegman commission, however, concluded differently:

    "While the work of Michael Mann and colleagues presents what appears to be compelling evidence of global temperature change, the criticisms of McIntyre and McKitrick, as well as those of other authors mentioned are indeed valid."

    Their judgement about the quality of the professional scientist's work was quite revealing:

    "The papers of Mann et al. in themselves are written in a confusing manner, making it difficult for the reader to discern the actual methodology and what uncertainty is actually associated with these reconstructions.
    It is not clear that Dr. Mann and his associates even realized that their methodology was faulty at the time of writing the [Mann] paper."

    "I am baffled by the claim that the incorrect method doesn’t matter because the answer is correct anyway.
    Method Wrong + Answer Correct = Bad Science."

    "It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community."

    "A cardinal rule of statistical inference is that the method of analysis must be decided before looking at the data. The rules and strategy of analysis cannot be changed in order to obtain the desired result. Such a strategy carries no statistical integrity and cannot be used as a basis for drawing sound inferential conclusions."

    If you still think, that was just an "exception", but at least their algorithms to compute the global temperature data have somehow been elaborated and implemented much more skillful and careful, have a look at their computer code and particularly the inline commments:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/25/climategate-hide-the-decline-codified/

    "OH FUCK THIS. It's Sunday evening, I've worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done I'm
    hitting yet another problem that's based on the hopeless state of our databases. There is no uniform
    data integrity, it's just a catalogue of issues that continues to grow as they're found."

    "Here, the expected 1990-2003 period is MISSING - so the correlations aren't so hot! Yet
    the WMO codes and station names /locations are identical (or close). What the hell is
    supposed to happen here? Oh yeah - there is no 'supposed', I can make it up. So I have :-)"

    "getting seriously fed up with the state of the Australian data. so many new stations have been
    introduced, so many false references.. so many changes that aren't documented. Every time a
    cloud forms I'm presented with a bewildering selection of similar-sounding sites, some with
    references, some with WMO codes, and some with both. And if I look up the station metadata with
    one of the local references, chances are the WMO code will be wrong (another station will have
    it) and the lat/lon will be wrong too."

    "I am very sorry to report that the rest of the databases seem to be in nearly as poor a state as
    Australia was. There are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stations, one with no WMO
    and one with, usually overlapping and with the same station name and very similar coordinates. I
    know it could be old and new stations, but why such large overlaps if that's the case? Aarrggghhh!
    There truly is no end in sight."

    "Wrote 'makedtr.for' to tackle the thorny problem of the tmin and tmax databases not
    being kept in step. Sounds familiar, if worrying. am I the first person to attempt
    to get the CRU databases in working order?!!"

    and many more...

  • by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:44AM (#30420422) Journal

    That's Dr. Arthur B. Robinson, Dr. Noah E. Robinson, and Dr. Willie Soon to you. The first two are chemists and the last a physicist, all have PhDs and have published in a range of peer reviewed journals. You will need to come up with a better rationale than that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:51AM (#30420476)

    Here we have pro-vaccionists, on the payroll of big pharma getting the same weight as homeopaths with real, irrefutable data

    See how easy that was? Don't use the tactics as every other woowoo out there. You make real skepticism look bad.

  • Actually, the blogger replied to the response and addressed each point. He admitted to 2 minor mistakes that didn't affect his main point. Here's a link to his reply here [wattsupwiththat.com]. It's worth a read-through. He's a bit more than just a random blogger. He studies and focuses specifically on climate change. It's only unfortunate that so many folks seem to pick their side instead of reading both sides of the discussion. Depending on others to do your thinking for you is dangerous.
  • by bjorniac (836863) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @02:09AM (#30420590)

    Nature not allowing arXiv thing is a myth:

    "Our guidelines for authors and potential authors in such circumstances are clear-cut in principle: communicate with other researchers as much as you wish, whether on a recognised community preprint server, on Nature Precedings, by discussion at scientific meetings (publication of abstracts in conference proceedings is allowed), in an academic thesis, or by online collaborative sites such as wikis; but do not encourage premature publication by discussion with the press (beyond a formal presentation, if at a conference)."

    From :
    http://www.nature.com/authors/editorial_policies/embargo.html [nature.com]

  • by Magic5Ball (188725) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @02:58AM (#30420864)

    The statistical maths concerned are only slightly more difficult than is required of undergraduates in natural or social sciences programs. However, as a practicing natural and social scientist (but not in geophysics), I have next to no idea of what "inter-station separation measured in degrees" or "interstation correlation" mean in terms of what the instrumentation kit is doing in the field in response to whatever phenomena is claimed to be measured. Thus, without further study, I could not confidently state whether or not the formula referenced has anything to do with reality (just as any third-year computer science undergraduate could implement almost any adequately expressed contemporary economics or finance algorithm in isolation without understanding economics or finance at all).

  • by cetialphav (246516) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:05AM (#30420890)

    WTF The Economist's editorial staff doesn't understand math?

    Having looked at that paper and the text surrounding the formula, I wouldn't say that I understand it and I almost certainly have a better math background than the editors at The Economist. It isn't that the formula is incomprehensible; it isn't. The formula is pretty straightforward, but that doesn't mean it is easy to understand. There are not many people on the planet qualified to judge the suitability of the formula for calculating temperature trends. The Economist is making the claim that the climate-change sceptic Willis Eschenbach is not one of those people and that seems like a reasonable claim. Eschenbach is claiming, with no basis, that the formula is an arbitrary adjustment to force a desired trend. The Economist article is stating that until a peer-reviewed journal publishes a paper that backs Eschenbach's claim, it just isn't worth the time fighting over this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:22AM (#30421178)

    Since you apparently weren't aware of it - none of the authors of The Economist append their name to their articles.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:24AM (#30421188)

    They weren't preventing dissenting opinions from being accepting into peer reviewed journals - they expressed disappointment in the fact that the peer review process wasn't doing its job: weeding out bad science.

    I don't think you've captured the true flavor of their hijinks.

    Rigging a Climate 'Consensus' - About those emails and 'peer review.' [wsj.com]

    This September, Mr. Mann told a New York Times reporter in one of the leaked emails that: "Those such as [Stephen] McIntyre who operate almost entirely outside of this system are not to be trusted." Mr. McIntyre is a retired Canadian businessman who checks the findings of climate scientists and often publishes the mistakes he finds on his Web site, Climateaudit.org [climateaudit.org]. He holds the rare distinction of having forced Mr. Mann to publish a correction to one of his more famous papers.

    As anonymous reviewers of choice for certain journals, Mr. Mann & Co. had considerable power to enforce the consensus, but it was not absolute, as they discovered in 2003. Mr. Mann noted in a March 2003 email, after the journal "Climate Research" published a paper not to Mr. Mann's liking, that "This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature'. Obviously, they found a solution to that--take over a journal!"

    Mr. Mann went on to suggest that the journal itself be blackballed: "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board." In other words, keep dissent out of the respected journals. When that fails, redefine what constitutes a respected journal to exclude any that publish inconvenient views.

    Scientists actually are pretty skeptical people by nature,...... Most "skeptics" are nothing more than contrarians; skepticism to me implies a willingness to investigate the issue for one's self, but most of the denial movement shows such a poor grasp of the science that they clearly haven't done so.

    When it comes to climate, there seems to be two groups - skeptics, and believers. It is amazingly difficult to get believers to reevaluate new data (and perhaps endanger millions in grants?).

    Climate of Fear - Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence. [opinionjournal.com]
    Physics Group Splinters Over Global Warming Review [cbsnews.com]
    Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation [telegraph.co.uk]

    Can most scientists afford to be skeptics?

    To which Paul Vaughan responded as follows [wattsupwiththat.com]:

    Personal anecdote:
    Last spring when I was shopping around for a new source of funding, after having my funding slashed to zero 15 days after going public with a finding about natural climate variations, I kept running into funding application instructions of the following variety:

    Successful candidates will:
    1) Demonstrate AGW.
    2) Demonstrate the catastrophic consequences of AGW.
    3) Explore policy implications stemming from 1 & 2.

    Follow the money -- perhaps a conspiracy is unnecessary where a carrot will suffice.

    Opposing toxic pollution is not synonymous with supporting AGW.

    After all, there is huge money to be made and transferred due to "Climate change", even if it all turns out to b

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:47AM (#30421300)

    ok, they are cranks with PhDs (no one has said from where) working, among other things, with the Discovery Institute on "Intelligent Design". The unibomber has a PhD too, from one of the best schools in the country. It's largely besides the point.

    http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Oregon_Institute_of_Science_and_Medicine [sourcewatch.org]

  • by ArcherB (796902) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:58AM (#30421322) Journal

    You are so full of false assumptions you smell like manure.

    B.S., and no I'm not saying you've got a bachelor's of science. lol.

    Assumptions? How about THIS [epa.gov] assumption:

    EPA and nine other federal agencies this week officially awarded $5.5 million dollars in climate change study grants to 27 developing countries. These nations will use the money to develop greenhouse gas inventories and action plans for reducing global warming emissions.

    Hmmm... Maybe you would like to read my assumptions from the EPA [epa.gov]:

    On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The Recovery Act seeks in part to spur technological advances in science and health and to invest in environmental protection and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits. EPA manages over $7 billion in projects and programs that will help achieve these goals, offers resources to help other agencies “green” a much larger set of Recovery investments, and administers environmental laws that will govern Recovery activities.

    How much of this money do you think goes to AGW skeptics?

    Yeah, I smell manure too. Maybe you should provide some sources... Hell, even some opinions of your own instead of just hurling insults. You need something more than, "you're wrong" to make a point.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmai l . c om> on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:05AM (#30421338) Homepage

    I have actually. I realized one thing about IPCC reports. They're political not scientific, see here's the problem with groups like the IPCC. They're supposed to put on a diplomatic face on the science, presenting unbiased information to the public and government. In this case they're not even doing that, rather they've taken the road that: It's done, settled, and if you don't believe what we're telling you; You're the idiot.

    Remember when a government body that's supposed to exist for the open discussion of information rejects opposing theories you should be questioning that body. Even when that opposing theory(s) have valid peer reviewed research.

  • by Rei (128717) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:11AM (#30421358) Homepage

    Which climate skeptics are on the payroll of "big oil"

    You do realize that the American Petroleum Institute not only funds the AGW thinktanks, but Exxon-Mobil [guardian.co.uk] actually outright offered a prize for anyone who could get a paper published that defended their positions, right? If you want a specific example, Soon and Baluinas, 2003 [seattlepi.com]. Here's some of their background [huffingtonpost.com]. Half the board of Climate Research resigned in protest after Soon and Baliunas's publication, by the way. So when you see hacked emails showing scientists dissing people like them, or McIntyre, or any of that ilk, realize that the scientists *really do* think that these people are putting out garbage and have vested agendas. It's just that when speaking publicly, they usually have more tact.

  • by orzetto (545509) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:53AM (#30421486)

    The article is penned by authors of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine [wikipedia.org], an "institute" with just 6 faculty members, among which two sons of institute head Arthur Robinson [wikipedia.org], Noah and Zachary. A 50% incidence of nepotism? How can this be considered a serious research institution?

    To further discredit the paper's first author, who is also the head of the OISM, I will mention he has signed the Discovery Institute's Dissent from Darwin [dissentfromdarwin.org] petition.

    Now, in addition to the shaky credibility of the authors, you say this paper has not passed peer review. I'll stick with the judgement of serious scientists, thank you very much.

  • by rmushkatblat (1690080) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:55AM (#30421494)
    You can't link to the Huffington Post and expect us to take you seriously.
  • by Troed (102527) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @07:04AM (#30421718) Homepage Journal

    You seem to be well versed in how peer-review _should_ work. That is, unfortunately, not the same thing as how it actually works in reality.

    You might want to study "Climategate", especially Phil Jones (paper-selecting expert for the IPCC, at CRU) opinions on how to deal with peer-review when it doesn't suit his agenda.

    I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !

    http://businessandmedia.org/articles/2009/20091203151910.aspx [businessandmedia.org]

    Mind-opening.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @07:33AM (#30421788)

    One of the authors doesn't even believe that CFCs affect the ozone layer

    ... which is true. The ozone hole (discovered when we first looked) is affected by changes in the sun, and follows a natural cycle.

    1) we found it. AND IT'S GETTING BIGGER! must be our fault. Nature is static you know!!11
    2) let's do something!
    3) It's getting smaller! IT MUST BE THANKS TO US! (let's forget that it should've taken another 10-15 years for our changes to have any effect)
    4) uh-oh .. it's getting bigger again .. let's keep quiet about that.

    Yes, heard much about number 4 lately?

    http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20081809-18171-2.html [sciencealert.com.au]

  • by Troed (102527) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @08:33AM (#30421996) Homepage Journal

    You do realize that the AGW crowd were getting funding from Shell, Exxon, BP etc - and that they got their wishes into the so-called scientific process?

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/04/climategate-cru-looks-to-big-oil-for-support/ [wattsupwiththat.com]

  • by Troed (102527) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @08:38AM (#30422010) Homepage Journal

    Yes, and that's great. What you don't know about is whether, and how many times, Phil Jones managed to keep other papers out.

    The fact that he, as IPCC editor, had (and likely has) the opinion that papers trying to falsify his agenda should not be part of the IPCC work is in itself alone to cast doubt on all IPCC reports where he's had any control whatsoever on the selection process.

    Unfortunately, scientific rigor and AGW are seldom in agreement.

  • by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Sunday December 13, 2009 @10:21AM (#30422372) Homepage Journal

    No, it does not. The two smoking guns that the denialists bring up are not smoking, and not guns at all:

    1. There was a call for a boycott of a single journal, because it's editor insisted on publishing provably bad papers over the objections of the peer reviewers.
    2. There was a throwaway comment about two papers up for the IPCC AR4 report, given without context. That the comment was throwaway and not meant in earnest or not followed up upon is also proven, by the very fact that both papers were referenced in the AR4 report.

    Stop parroting the denialist blogs. It makes you look stupid.

    Mart

  • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @11:22AM (#30422740)

    Republicans always love to repeat like sheep that "government bad, companies not as bad and at least provide something of value".

    There .. fixed that for you.

    The major problem of your argument is that for the last 8 years the Bush government only wanted to hear that global warming did not take place, and the same government has shown no hesistance to lie and cheat to get it their way. So, not only can you not believe the global warmer deniers and other flat earthers from Exxon, but you cannot even believe the global warming deniers in the same periode with government grant (if you can find any of those?).

    Which is now completely balanced by Obama administration who accepts human caused global warming as their undeniable truth and bludgeons anyone that thinks differently.

    Seems like Obama is more like a mix of Bush and Carter than the lefties will admit.

  • by pkphilip (6861) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:00PM (#30423356)

    Oh ok, so the skeptics are all in it for the money while the climate "scientists" are in it only for the love of humanity.

    The Climategate emails reveal that Phil Jones and his bunch of crooks have been actively seeking funding from the same "Fossil Fuel" companies:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/04/climategate-cru-looks-to-big-oil-for-support/ [wattsupwiththat.com]

    Robert Socolow the President of the APS and a prominent supporter of the link between CO2 and global warming has received millions in funding from British Petroleum. Please read up on what the "scientists" think about this (since you are convinced that not a single scientist could possibly disagree with AGW).

    http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/12/10/taking_liberties/entry5964504.shtml [cbsnews.com]

    Also, since you are convinced that this is some sort of American right wing conspiracy, may I point you to this Open Letter sent by German Scientists to the German President Angela Merkel way before the Climategate controversy:

    http://www.eike-klima-energie.eu/news-anzeige/klimawandel-offener-brief-an-kanzlerin-merkel-temperaturmessungen-ab-1701-widerlegen-anthropogen-verursachte-temperaturschwankungen/ [eike-klima-energie.eu]

    If you want the English translation:

    http://www.climatedepot.com/a/2282/Consensus-Takes-Another-Hit-More-than-60-German-Scientists-Dissent-Over-Global-Warming-Claims-Call-Climate-Fears-Pseudo-Religion-Urge-Chancellor-to-reconsider-views [climatedepot.com]

    Japanese Climatologists and their disagreement over AGW:
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/japanese-scientists-cool-on-theories/story-e6frg6t6-1111119126656 [theaustralian.com.au]

  • by pkphilip (6861) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @01:07PM (#30423394)

    If a scientists makes a claim and isn't willing to substantiate that claim with data and methodology, he/she should rightfully expect to spend a lot of time answering questions.

    Or are we expected to take them at their word for it without any scrutiny? Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Michael Mann and the entire bunch of CRU scientists could have avoided a lot of problems by just providing their data and methods to others. They could have just put it up on a website for download and simply pointed people to that site.

    Instead what they did was to put bits and pieces of data in inscrutable formats on different websites with very little to no explanation. Also, they have refused data requests even from prominent magazines such as Science and Nature.. That strikes me as deeply suspicious - or are you claiming that Science and Nature were also making unneeded "idiotic" demands when they asked for the data?

  • by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:23PM (#30424266) Homepage

    What they did was publish thousands of peer reviewed paper, huge reports endorsed by thousands of scientists from around the world, revealed all the raw data, much of the "adjusted data", and all the reasons why the data is adjusted. IF this isn't enough, nothing will be enough to satisfy these skeptics.

  • by electroniceric (468976) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @03:43PM (#30424418)

    The question is largely irrelevant. The real problems with climate science are being highlighted by intelligent people, not by cretins.

    I'll make the reasonable assumption that you are pretty intelligent, and evidently you are of skeptical disposition. Have you ever read any papers on climate science? How about earth science? If not, as would be the case for most intelligent non-climate-scientists (not just not just non-scientists), I can say without insulting your intelligence that you have no direct basis for determining what the general thrust of the literature is, much less what the camps are, who populates them and how strong the relative arguments are within those camps.

    There are plenty of researchers out there, qualified, with careers, respected by their peers, who look at the IPCC stuff and say it is not working. These are researchers who know how to think about hard problems.

    Unless you've read the literature, this statement, too is presumptive. What it really means is that one or more intermediaries has told you this, and you believe that intermediary more than you believe another intermediary who thinks that most climate scientists are in agreement. So in this case, this entire argument comes down to trust in intermediaries. You don't know who the camps are and who really subscribes to what camp.

    I did a "terminal masters" in ocean physics, so I have some direct familiarity with the literature, though certainly not as deep as if I were practicing in this field. My experience is that the camps lean much more towards accepting general consensus about the nature of climate change (largely anthropogenic) and the magnitude of the expected effects than the perception you describe. From what I know directly and from the intermediaries I use when I don't know directly, just about everyone in the climate science community now believes that the arguments around concentrations of carbon and warming are solid. So when people say how much warming will happen in a hundred years, that considered very hard to dispute. Where people have more critiques is how we will get there, and the closer in you get the less agreement there is. However, it's also true that for most of the really wide open questions about climate change, people have been equally wrong guessing towards faster and slower warming. The rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet is a great example of this - nobody from the global climate modelers (like a friend of mine who's doing his postdoc in this now) to the ice physicists understood until a few years back that when the ice sheets began to melt that the meltwater would lubricate the rock upon which the sheets are sitting and cause them to slide more quickly into the ocean. So there's an example where change was called slower. On the other hand, if I understand correctly, there has been a greater uptake of heat by the oceans that was initially expected, which will delay warming on a scale of years to decades, but could result in acceleration once the oceans warm up and provide less capacity to capture heat. So that's a delay in warming.

    Just how many people do you know would go to a homeopath instead of a doctor? Sure there are some. But there are some green nuts too. Often they are one and the same. Funny that.

    This statement is also full of presumption. Look at the sales of vitamins, herbal supplements and other non-FDA-approved quasi-drugs. Those sales speak to a large body of people who do feel comfortable taking remedies that are not scientifically tested. Again I challenge you to show me your basis for concluding that they're "green nuts" - sure sounds like your impression more than any data to me.

    I don't think this a question of treating the public like imbeciles. There are a vast number of books out there for those that want to learn more about climate science. This is a question of trying to understand the state of a scientific disc

  • by emilper (826945) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:20PM (#30425666)

    would you enlighten me on how does CO2 cause smog ?

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jwhitener (198343) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @08:54PM (#30426652)

    You don't think there is some limit to what one should have to respond to?

    If someone adamantly believed that they had conclusive proof that the sky was red, should a scientist have to take the time pointing out why the person is wrong?

    In an ideal world, the "sky is red" believer wouldn't get any air time or attention. However, because controversy sells, and because there are many large cash sources paying to create controversy, news agencies cover it as if a real debate existed.

    This is EXACTLY the same as the tobacco "debates" when there was a scientific consensus that smoking was harmful. Counter "scientists" and counter views sprung out of the woodwork. Funding came from institutes, funded by other institutes, back several layers to business interests in the tobacco industry.

  • by Xest (935314) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:24AM (#30430608)

    "Any system that attempts to enforce the "equality" of people in general, such as socialism, is doomed to failure. The real world doesn't work that way. Those who excel, which generally benefits society, should be rewarded. Those who don't, not so much."

    I think you're confusing socialism and communism, but don't worry, I've noticed a lot of Americans do that as communism was demonised in the cold war as it was the politics of the enemy, and since then all right wing Republicans try and tie any attempt at something like socialised healthcare to communism in an attempt to demonise such ideas. Sometimes a few throwbacks to the Nazi's being billed as a socialist party (even though they were primarily fascist) are often thrown in for good measure too. As such, America has a general misunderstanding of what socialism is, as you kindly demonstrate.

    Socialism doesn't preclude the idea that people get compensated more for working harder, or compensated less for working less. What it does do is suggest that all people should have equal access to certain shared resources- these being things like the police, the fire brigade, health services, schooling and so on. In that respect, yes, and I know this will crush your vision of you fantastic nation almost violently, even America is partly socialist because you pay taxes which cover the costs of the police and fire services such that everyone can have equal access.

    But as with many things, things can be done in parts, a country that has some socialist aspects does not necessarily have to have entirely socialist aspects, America unlike say Britain or France does not have socialised healthcare for example but all 3 have socialised police, so it's fair to say Britain and France are more socialist than the US, but it's wrong to say the US isn't socialist at all.

    Now here's the real killer for your world view, the EU is more socialist than the US in general, and yet in pretty much all measures that relate to the good of the individual the EU scores higher than the US too- the EU has a stronger economy, it has higher levels of literacy, higher levels of personal happyness, higher access to healthcare, longer life expectancy and so on. All this despite being hit harder by World War II in terms of damage, and despite having taken on board many of the poorer ex-soviet nations. The idea then, that lower levels of socialism always offer a better deal, is quite clearly false.

    Socialism doesn't have to be an absolute, it doesn't have to be bad, personally, I'd actually rather than Britain was a little less socialist, because I think here we do give too much away for free to the lazy and inept, but again, it's a game of balance- I'd hate to lose the NHS and become too much less socialist also. Similarly though, I think absolute Capitalism is bad- a nation without a socialised military would almost certainly be a nation likely long ago invaded and taken over.

    You're right, the real world doesn't work in terms of absolute socialism if absolute socialism is what you meant simply by socialism. It also however doesn't work in absolutes at all really or at least very infrequently, it works in balance- as they say, all things in moderation.

    So now that the idea of socialism should be clear, and how it applies to different countries, including the US, let's get back to the all people are equal thing.

    I don't think anyone would suggest that all people are identical, I think when people say all people are equal they're referring to the idea that all people should be treated equally in terms of core rights, or socialised services. That is, if you have a socialised police forces or healthcare then all people should have equal access to that whatever their sex, religion, colour or sexual orientation. If you have the right to free speech in your constitution, again, it should go for everyone. That's not to say a man should necessarily be able to walk into the Ladies changing rooms just like a Lady can- I think anyone suggesting that level of equality would have

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