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Canada The Courts The Media United Kingdom News Science

Climate Researchers Fight Back 641

Posted by Soulskill
from the best-defense-is-a-good-offense dept.
tomduck writes "The Guardian reports that climate researcher Andrew Weaver is suing the National Post newspaper in Canada in a libel action for publishing 'grossly irresponsible falsehoods.' The Post claimed he cherrypicked data to support his climate research, and tried to blame the 'evil fossil fuel' industry for break-ins at his office in 2008 to divert attention from mistakes in the 2007 IPCC report. This comes fast on the heels of another Guardian article describing lessons learned from the exoneration of UEA scientists involved in the so-called Climategate affair. Are climate scientists finally fighting back against their critics, who they were previously more inclined to ignore?"
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Climate Researchers Fight Back

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  • by eagl (86459) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:09PM (#31959936) Journal

    Real climate scientists have been fighting for years... It is the climate evangelists that have been ignoring everyone else up until now.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:13PM (#31960002) Journal

      I don't give a crap about the "climate evangelists" (whatever exactly that is). But if the National Post is simply playing fast and loose with the facts surrounding a scientist, and basically libeling him in the process, I hope they pay, and pay dearly. If you want to debate the merits or faults of a scientific theory, you debate the merits or faults, you don't go around invoking conspiracy theories, and if you are going to stoop to that level, you probably shouldn't actually go accusing the scientists directly, but rather keep it all nebulous. The pseudo-skeptics need to take a page from the anti-evolution crowd. When talking about the evil conspiracy, don't name names, don't make specific accusations, keep it nice and general and that way nobody can go to a lawyer and drag your ass into court.

      • by oldspewey (1303305) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:25PM (#31960164)
        Bear in mind, the National Post is the closest thing Canada has to a Fox News network. I've seen numerous instances of the NP playing fast and loose with facts and using lightly-camouflaged op-ed to subtly (or not so subtly) discredit people.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ryantmer (1748734)
          Not sure why this is modded Troll... Unfortunately, it's quite true. While not blatantly stupid as FOX News, the National Post does use its fair share of twisted facts. In addition, it's well-known as the more right-wing national newspaper in Canada (the Globe and Mail being more left wing), and would therefore be more inclined to present facts in a right-wing-friendly way. Got to love the "free" press.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by megamerican (1073936)

        I am not defending what the National Post did in any way but their libel nor does the findings by the House of Commons completely exonerate the scientists of the UAE.

        While the House of Commons showed there was no proof of "tampering" of the data in the climategate sample it was because the UAE deleted [timesonline.co.uk] all of the raw data in question.

        SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

        It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years.

        There was no way to prove if the data had been tampered with because the data was deleted. The only thing that was left was their "value added" data.

        I don't know if what the UAE

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by chris mazuc (8017)

          There was no way to prove if the data had been tampered with because the data was deleted. The only thing that was left was their "value added" data.

          You don't know what you're talking about [nytimes.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TapeCutter (624760) *
          Here is the raw data [noaa.gov], now will you please stop linking tabloid hit pieces and repeating their propoganda?

          Note the raw data in the link has a few minor holes, this is due to the fact some national weather services (eg: France) will only release their data on condition you keep it private. If you intend to perform a reconstruction be aware the raw data is chock full of anaomolies such as undocumented station movements and typos. OTHOH Jones and his unit have spent the last couple of decades ferreting out a
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Obfuscant (592200)
        If you want to debate the merits or faults of a scientific theory, you debate the merits or faults, you don't go around invoking conspiracy theories, and if you are going to stoop to that level, you probably shouldn't actually go accusing the scientists directly, but rather keep it all nebulous.

        So you agree that all those AGW advocates who attack every opponent by questioning their objectivity and ethics ("he's paid by Big Oil, that's all you need to know") or calling them idiots or worse, are in the wron

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721)

          You think basically accusing the overwhelming majority of climatologists in the world of being part of a left-wing conspiracy to destroy the industrialized world is civil?

          And yeah, I think it's legitimate to question the motives of a scientist whose in the employ of big oil companies when he declares that there's nothing wrong with throwing lots and lots of CO2 into the atmosphere, when that would seem to benefit his employers and himself directly. It doesn't really do climatologists much financial good wh

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by h4rm0ny (722443)

            I'm not saying we shouldn't critique it. But, as with evolution, General Relativity and the like, it would be nice if the naysayers weren't either cranks or con artists.

            Nice parting shot - 'naysayers are cranks or con artists'. I'm afraid that supports what he's saying. If you read through and story about AGW on /., what you see are a lot of skeptics questioning facts and a lot of believers throwing around insults, accusations of corruption, idiocy or being supporters of the Republican party. The differenc

    • by VGR (467274) on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:28PM (#31961008)

      Real climate scientists have been fighting for years... It is the climate evangelists that have been ignoring everyone else up until now.

      I'm getting tired of reading this nonsense. As someone with a degree in environmental science, I feel the need to point out a few things:

      • No one goes into the field expecting to make a lot of money. There are no tales anywhere of environmental scientists who got famous enough to get a gig hosting Nova [wikipedia.org] or doing Nike endorsements. People choose environmental studies because they find it interesting. Anyone who went into it for the money would rapidly be bored to tears.
      • Even a meager application of Occam's razor [wikipedia.org] should make it immediately clear that the people accusing the climate science community of scaremongering/profiteering are themselves some of the most aggressive profiteers the world has ever known: the fossil fuel industry. (There's nothing wrong with making a profit, but there is something very wrong with stifling competition.)
      • Anyone who was alive during the 70s should see distinct similarities between this disinformation campaign and the once vehement claims that there was "no definitive link" between tobacco use and cancer.

      Which is more likely: that scientists got together and colluded to invent a crisis thinking it would make tons of money roll in, or that the wealthy are projecting their greed onto the less greedy? Occam's razor.

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:47PM (#31961300) Homepage

        No one goes into the field expecting to make a lot of money.

        Yeah, I always find it hilarious when people suggest money as the motivation for climatologists. Oh sure there's lots of politicking that goes on over acquiring grant money, but that's just the money you need to do your research. If there was nothing to research, why would you care about the grant money? It's not like you can use it to buy a Porsche. If you just wanted to do neat but useless stuff on someone else's dime, you'd study something DARPA cared about.

        Which is more likely: that scientists got together and colluded to invent a crisis thinking it would make tons of money roll in, or that the wealthy are projecting their greed onto the less greedy? Occam's razor.

        Well, Occam's Razor is about refraining from needlessly multiplying entities. Environmental scientists, being nerds, are much less likely to get laid than the MBAs running the fossil fuel industry. Ergo, the science conspiracy theory involves the least multiplying entities. The scientists did it, QED!

      • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Friday April 23, 2010 @05:16PM (#31961736)

        Anyone who was alive during the 1870s should see distinct similarities between this disinformation campaign and the once vehement claims that there was "no definitive link" between phrenology and personality.

        ... Flat Earth ... N rays ... Cold fusion

        Sometimes scientific theories turn out wrong. Just because many others think you are an idiot, doesn't mean you aren't an idiot. Scientific theories need to be evaluated under a bright light, not hidden away in a closet, especially when hundreds of billions of dollars are going to be taxed every year based on that theory.

        • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Friday April 23, 2010 @06:12PM (#31962348) Homepage

          Scientific theories need to be evaluated under a bright light, not hidden away in a closet

          Yes, they do. And climate theories have been evaluated under a bright light. And unlike N rays, or cold fusion, the consensus of knowledgeable experts has emerged that anthropogenic climate change is a real phenomenon.

          especially when hundreds of billions of dollars are going to be taxed every year based on that theory.

          No, the economic implications have nothing to do with the science. There is no "especially" here. In fact, your invocation of it illustrates the motivation behind much of the denial: for whatever reasons of political philosophy, many people find the prospect of carbon taxes disturbing, and so are psychologically motivated to deny the evidence.

          It's rather like a guy having a heart attack who keeps dismissing it as indigestion; it's not necessarily that he's ignorant of the symptoms, but nobody wants to think that a heart attack could happen to them.

        • "Sometimes scientific theories turn out wrong" is just as meaningless and empty a statement about global climate change as "sometimes scientific theories turn out to be right". I could say laypersons doubted heliocentrism, plate tectonics, and evolution too. Would that prove global warming is real?

          Certainly, your list of "scientific theories" is dubious at best. Flat earth and phrenology aren't scientific ideas by any standard and cold fusion and N-rays were discredited less than a year after they were p

      • by schon (31600) on Friday April 23, 2010 @05:35PM (#31961908)

        Anyone who was alive during the 70s should see distinct similarities between this disinformation campaign and the once vehement claims that there was "no definitive link" between tobacco use and cancer.

        This isn't that surprising - the reason the similarities are so striking is because the oil companies are hiring the exact [wikipedia.org] same [sourcewatch.org] people [wikipedia.org] the tobacco industry used.

        I have to wonder though - wouldn't the oil companies know that their propaganda artists are the same ones who failed the tobacco lobby?

  • Hmm. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:12PM (#31959998)

    So you could say that... the situation between climate scientists and the anti-climate-change crowd is heating up?

  • by ProdigyPuNk (614140) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:14PM (#31960010) Journal
    ...going the way of Scientologists ? http://www.xenu.net/ [xenu.net]

    IMHO, if the guy's data is on target, it should stand on it's own without needing backup via lawsuits.

    • by skids (119237) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:18PM (#31960066) Homepage

      It would stand on its own, were the media to actually report what the data says. Since they seem to pay no attention to facts, I don't see a problem to poking them with a sharp lawyer and seeing if they'll pay attention to that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rickb928 (945187)

        "It would stand on its own, were the media to actually report what the data says"

        The media is pretty much int he tank for global climate change, or global warming, or whatever you're calling it now. Virtually every mainstream media outlet has been pouring out stories about devastating climate change for nearly twenty years now, and probably a bit longer.

        When I say 'media', I mean NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Time

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Yet the media is not reporting on the raw data as the raw data was deleted. Instead the data that is being reported on has been altered to fit the model*. Without having the raw data to fall back on and reassess the model it throws doubt upon the entire theory, at least in those who are able to think for themselves. If the original raw data was still available then the theory could be proven or dis-proven. As it currently stands we merely have 2 sides yelling at one another calling the other group a bunch o

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995)

      So people can just say whatever they want about him, with him having no recourse whatsoever (lest he make you think that maybe he really does have something to hide, if he objects to a newspaper publishing that he is a fraud)?

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:21PM (#31960128) Journal

      The National Post is free to publish anything it likes critiquing climate change. What it can't do, any more than anyone can do, is libel someone in the process. If I attack child molesters, there's nothing with that. If I declare that you're a child molester, well, that my friend is actionable. They're declaring this guy a fraud, in the general community a pretty serious charge, but in the scientific community it's the most serious charge, and unless they have actual evidence to back up their claims, they very well could be forced to pay damages and publish an apology for their statements. Editorialists and columnists do not have unlimited privilege to libel people.

      • by skids (119237)

        "Forced to publish an apology"... now that is something I'd love to see, a judge/magistrate forcing an apology out of a media outlet as part of a punishment. Of course, the judge better be sharp enough to demand it's an above-the-fold apology. None of this "the sky is red" front page headline then "sorry the sky is blue" on page D-19 under the high school prom announcements.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Isn't this somewhat routine in libel cases?

    • by kf6auf (719514) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:38PM (#31960348)

      The newspaper, not surprisingly, has the ability to reach a lot wider audience with what it says that this guy does. The libel laws are there for cases like this when someone lies / misrepresents the truth. Even arguing that he can inform the public of his side easily on the internet, what about everyone who read it in print, or who won't read what he writes because it won't be picked up by newspapers they read?

      There needs to be an incentive to not lie about things in print. Saying that lies can be corrected doesn't necesarily fix the harm that was done.

  • For non-Canadians (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bullfish (858648) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:14PM (#31960012)
    The National Post is Canada's newspaper equivalent to the US Fox TV news... We don't have an equivalent right-wing TV news. The Post has been bashing the notion of climate change (and other liberal facts they don't like) here for quite a while. I suspect this case won't really go anywhere, but it is interesting.
    • by mevets (322601)

      I guess you don't get Global, it was faux before there was faux. Only in Toronto could a TV station with a 100km broadcast range call itself "global".

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:19PM (#31960086) Journal

      I've just got to ask, what's a "liberal fact"? Facts don't have political leanings. Facts aren't ideological. That's like saying gravity is right wing or red shift is centrist.

      This has been the most vile aspect of the Conservative war on science. Anything that disagrees with the corporatist-social conservative-fundamentalist Christian confederation that is modern conservatism is labeled as "leftist" or "liberal". I've debated guys who insist biological evolution and geology are "liberal" sciences. It's absurd.

      Whether or not anthropogenic climate change is actually true, it is a scientific theory. It is a-religious and a-political and just generally a-ideological. It's like trying to attach an ideology to hammers or torch wrenches.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:25PM (#31960162)

        "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." -- S. Colbert

  • Ultimately (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symes (835608) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:20PM (#31960102) Journal
    It is good peer reviewed journal articles and making the data available for public scrutiny that will determine right from wrong, in as far that there is a right from wrong in such matters - I doubt a court room would come close to what other scientists can do to each others work. Do they really think a lawyer could even get close to understanding the statistical models these guys use? The other issue is public perception and the potential damage false accusations can inflict. And I also doubt that a court room would appease public sentiment. I can understand why they might feel aggreaved and hope they win - I just don't think the excercise will cover the big issues.
    • Public scrutiny is an interesting concept. I wouldn't, for instance, have the vaguest idea what to do with the raw data coming out of CERN, would you? Meaningful scrutiny comes from people with the skills to scrutinize. While I'm all for public release of data, one of the fears of scientists in this case is that you'll get a whole bunch of people who don't really have the skills to interpret the data making wild declarations, or possibly worse, people who do know how to interpret the data overstating or

    • Re:Ultimately (Score:5, Informative)

      by skids (119237) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:33PM (#31960274) Homepage

      Good peer reviewed journal articles may determine the right from the wrong on the science.

      However, if you are an ordinary citizen, hack journalist, or politician, you don't read those. No, the headlines determine the "truth."

      Besides, there were allegations here that went beyond the meat of the science and into workplace ethics. If some rag says you sexually harassed your coworkers or embezzled money, and you didn't, you sue. That is what is happening here.

  • by mevets (322601) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:21PM (#31960116)

    Said Canada's environment minister John Baird in 2006. He then proceeded to eviscerate all government funding for climate research.

  • Exonerated? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 16K Ram Pack (690082)

    They had 1 day of testimony. And their results still aren't reproduceable.

    That doesn't mean that global warming isn't happening, but UEA can't prove it's happening.

  • What climagate ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058)

    there was no 'climagate' but private interests and right wing news organizations (ie fox news) picking and exaggerating on some piece of criticism in climate research. the kind of inside criticism in scientific community which is not only normal, but generally mandated to be there, in order for a research to be considered valid and scientific.

    the same kind of news organizations which easily went as far to say 'what global warming, it is snowing here' while doing serious news pieces.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      the same kind of news organizations which easily went as far to say 'what global warming, it is snowing here' while doing serious news pieces.

      That would be where they have people fooled. Fox "News" broadcasts very little news at all, even according to its own opinion. The vast majority of their programming is officially editorial, by their own statements.

      That's not to say they have any qualms at all about lying during actual news pieces either, since they went to court to defend their right to do precis

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by unity100 (970058)

        what kind of judicial system a country has to have, for some news channel to win the 'right' to lie while delivering news, one wonders ...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Because lying itself isn't against the law. Lying under certain circumstances, such as under oath in a court or fraudulently representing yourself in a business deal, is. The specific court case OP is referring to had to do with whistleblower status of two local Fox affiliate reporters who were fired for refusing to voluntarily redact claims made in an expose on rGBH hormones in cow milk. A replacement report was run that countered their claims.

          link [foxbghsuit.com]

          The court found that the reporters were not eligible to be

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)
      Quit focusing on "Fox News". The fact is, original data was destroyed, and the metadata has been manipulated. Questions about these things have yet to be adequately answered. This has nothing to do with Fox News. And it's a shame that Climate Scientists have not been more open, it generates distrust about a very real problem (Global Warming) and allows Global Warmings' detractors to gain footing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tgibbs (83782)

        Quit focusing on "Fox News". The fact is, original data was destroyed, and the metadata has been manipulated.

        The actual fact is that the original data is still in the possession of the meteorological services that acquired it and own it. CRU never even had the original raw data, so they were never in a position to destroy it even if they wanted to. So who told you that CRU destroyed the data? Fox News maybe? Perhaps you should start getting your news from a more trustworthy source.

  • That Old Tune? (Score:2, Informative)

    by e2d2 (115622)

    Anyone that's done a little research knows the scientists there really did some questionable stuff. They would also know that they've (CRU/IPCC) been taken to task by others in the scientific community for doing so. This suit is about bad journalism. But it does not change the facts about the shenanigans at the CRU.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chrb (1083577)

      Anyone that's done a little research knows the scientists there really did some questionable stuff. They would also know that they've (CRU/IPCC) been taken to task by others in the scientific community for doing so.

      There was a small amount of criticism from the scientific community regarding small details, but the consensus was that the leaked emails did reveal a conspiracy, and did not alter any of the science. See: Nature [nature.com], Scientific American [scientificamerican.com] New Scientist [newscientist.com], the Royal Society [physicsworld.com].

  • Any AGW scientist (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OrwellianLurker (1739950) on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:23PM (#31960954)
    Any AGW scientist who isn't completely transparent in their research gets no trust from me. When scientists play politician, people will lose trust. They should be researching, educating, and advising-- not politicizing science.
    • by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Friday April 23, 2010 @05:07PM (#31961602)

      The problem isn't scientists playing politician but politicians playing scientist. Of course, lack of transparency is despicable and needs to be dealt with. It sickens me that the publications resulting from research paid for with my tax dollars is often locked behind paywalls.

      That said, transparency is somewhat difficult. I have about 50 GB of test results from some research I should be working on at the moment. I can publish it online, but without the software that I use to read the file format it's useless. I wrote that too and could publish it, along with instructions on how to use it, but honestly it would still be very impenetrable to someone not an expert in the field. Now algorithms/ML research is a lot less controversial than AGW, but the point stands. Science is extremely difficult to do right, and to understand. I'd be hopelessly lost if I tried to interpret the CRU data, and I have a very good understanding of scientific and mathematical methods compared to the average person.

      People spend years of their life to wrest the tiniest piece of information out of the universe. It's extraordinarily presumptuous to assume that someone can in an hour go through all that information and come up with a logical conclusion. We're talking about a lifetime of work here. Think about your life: could someone with no related knowledge really sift through all you've done in the past ten years and judge it, in the amount of time we're talking about here?

      My point isn't that they did or didn't do anything wrong. My point is that neither I, nor Glen Beck, nor a court of law, is qualified to judge this question. To quote from TFA, I have no objection to climate skepticism, it's climate change denial that I oppose. It's very clear to someone with a scientific background to identify the common thread in science denial whether it's evolution, climate change, or the big bang: it's a refusal to even consider the possibility followed with spouting off some Aristotelian-style sophistry. A scientist says "maybe the climate isn't changing" and investigates by looking for arguments. A denier insists the climate can't possibly be changing and anyone who disagrees is part of a massive conspiracy and writes analogies and syllogisms and rhetoric. There are a few scientists who dispute AGW. They aren't the ones involved in fomenting this McScandal.

      If my research were as controversial as theirs and anyone who bothered to look at my work in the same detail would be able to manufacture a scandal too, at least if the general public cared about optimizing information gathering. Scientific programming by its very nature results in impenetrable codebases that don't build and extremely complex data sets.

      So I don't claim to be qualified to judge. But my sympathies are with the scientists involved because I have an in in science and I find the idea of an oil industry conspiracy far more plausible than a climate change conspiracy, if we really need conspiracy theories to explain ignorance.

  • by zill (1690130) on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:28PM (#31961006)
    From the story title I was expecting a group of scientists in lab coats karate kicking an iceberg back to the south pole.

    Boy, was I disappointed.
  • by Garwulf (708651) on Friday April 23, 2010 @08:35PM (#31963590) Homepage

    I posted this on the CBC news website:

    Okay, I'm going to try to do a bit of an analysis of Weaver's claim. Now, I am not a lawyer - I'm a writer, a researcher, a publisher, and I work part-time doing writing and editing for a faculty of law. So, any errors are my own.

    This is essentially a far-reaching libel claim. This means that two things have to be proven: first, that the National Post made a deliberate misrepresentation; second, that the Post did so with malice - they did it specifically to cause harm. If both can't be proven, the claim doesn't stand in court.

    So, Weaver is launching a two pronged attack here - the first is against the Post itself for certain articles. The second is against some of the posters commenting on those articles.

    First, the National Post itself: this will become a battle of sources. If the Post defends itself on that one, it will attempt to demonstrate that Weaver did say those things, and he's actively trying to rewrite history. So, the Post will have to bring out original rough notes for the articles to back-date Weaver's comments. So long as they can do that, even if the Post did say something wrong, then they can demonstrate that the errors were not deliberate, and the libel claim will fail.

    Second, the NP forum posts: this one strikes me as a boneheaded move, frankly. There is simply no way to prove that the forum posters made any deliberate misrepresentations. Even if some of the comments were vicious, there isn't any way to demonstrate that an anonymous voice on a forum was knowingly lying.

    Finally, malice: again, another very difficult thing to prove. This would require a paper trail or somebody able to testify that there was a targeted attack. Right now, the claim itself has innuendo, but not a trail to prove an attack.

    For those who want to take a close look of their own, the claim is at http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/andrew%20weaver%20statement%20of%20claim.pdf [desmogblog.com]

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