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Scientists Cleared of Misusing Global Warming Data 541

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-that-skeptics-care dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "The NY Times reports that an inquiry by the Commerce Department's inspector general has found no evidence that NOAA scientists manipulated climate data (reg. may be required) to buttress evidence in support of global warming after climate change skeptics contended that e-mail messages between climate scientists that were stolen and circulated on the Internet in late 2009 showed that scientists were manipulating or withholding information to advance the theory that the earth is warming as a result of human activity. 'None of the investigations have found any evidence to question the ethics of our scientists or raise doubts about NOAA's understanding of climate change science,' says Mary Glackin, the agency's deputy undersecretary for operations. The inquiry, requested last May by Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, who has challenged the science underlying human-induced climate change, comes at a critical moment for NOAA, as some newly empowered Republican House members seek to rein in the EPA's plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, often contending that the science underpinning global warming is flawed. Inhofe says the report (PDF) was far from a clean bill of health for the agency, and that contrary to its executive summary, showed that the scientists 'engaged in data manipulation.'"
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Scientists Cleared of Misusing Global Warming Data

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  • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:58AM (#35311420)
    No.

    But common sense can tell us dumping huge amounts of a gas into the atmosphere that's poisonous to humans is a bad thing.
  • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

    by jo_ham (604554) <joham999&gmail,com> on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:09AM (#35311500)

    Oxygen is also toxic to humans at high partial pressures.

  • Re:Middle East (Score:4, Informative)

    by CheeseTroll (696413) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:11AM (#35311528)

    Don't forget coal. Unless the citizens of Wyoming, Illinois, West Va, etc. rise up against their regimes, there's no shortage of that pollutant in the US for many years.

  • From the article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Crashmarik (635988) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:13AM (#35311556)
    “It also appears that one senior NOAA employee possibly thwarted the release of important federal scientific information for the public to assess and analyze,” he said, referring to an employee’s failure to provide material related to work for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a different body that compiles research, in response to a Freedom of Information request. " Mann's manipulation of data and failure to provide information about his research have been a long standing joke. http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/13830/ [technologyreview.com] It was really no surprise that he wouldn't want to provide the information. What is a giant surprise is that he is still in a position of any responsibility. Well maybe not so much if you want trillions of dollars to be spent on changing the country's energy economy.
  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:16AM (#35311600)

    To be clear, the "lie" in question is a discrepancy in one scientist's account of the origin of a piece of legal advice during an FOI request. It has nothing to do with the science itself.

  • Re:Political show (Score:4, Informative)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:21AM (#35311652) Homepage Journal

    How does the president have a vested interest in this climate change issue? He doesn't stand to profit financially. Politically it's a tough issue that draws some people in and pushes others away.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:3, Informative)

    by mbone (558574) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:30AM (#35311756)

    Yes, of course. To be blunt, the deniers at this stage are either tools or fools.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:3, Informative)

    by postbigbang (761081) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:32AM (#35311774)

    The man-made part has been well established, and indeed your "95% confidence level" makes you clearly no kind of gambler.

    We'll agree that correlation != causation. And we can also agree that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, craps like a duck, it's likely to be a duck.

    So while you're enwrapped in the conjecture of your own tribulations, others of us are trying to warn people, change habits, and save a planet for our great grandchildren. Yeah, it's real, and it's man-made, not the cause of members of Congress' hot fucking air.

  • Re:Political show (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:36AM (#35311816)

    Actually, the Commerce Inspector General was appointed by President Bush. They are independent of the agency they cover, and serve for terms that overlap administrations.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:1, Informative)

    by Mira One (1912328) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:44AM (#35311890)
    Are you aware that CO2 is required for photosynthesis in plants and without it they would die leaving us all without food?
  • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

    by clonan (64380) on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:56AM (#35312014)

    We really don't have a choice regardless. Oil IS running out. Wikileaks had some documents from Saudi Arabia showing that thier reserves are actually 40% smaller than publicly advertised. But even if they weren't, even if the oil reserves were infinite, Saudi Arabia is expected to become a net oil IMPORTER around 2040 or so.

    There are only so many place you can drill for oil there and so they have a hard time increasing production while at the same time they are consuming more and more as they grow.

    I read an article two days ago saying that if Algeria goes like Libya then oil will probably hit $220 a barrel by the end of the summer. Oil is no longer a stable energy source.

    Now as the price goes up it will become economical to harvest more difficult sources like oil shale. However with the easy reserves we have right bnow it takes 1 barrell of oil to produce 4-5 barrells of final products. Easy oil shale sources are something like 1:1.5. This may improve a little with development but not by much.

    We can recognize that climate change/global warming is a bad thing and that CO2 is a primary cause and gradually move to other sources OR we can not and be forced to move much more quickly causing much greater economic damage having had a extra 15-20 years of increasing prices.

    What do you think is better?

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:02AM (#35312078) Homepage

    Wow, that's quite a misrepresentation of Anthony Watts website [wattsupwiththat.com]. Pretty much the opposite of his conclusions, in fact.

    Articles on his blog (which sometimes reads more like a scientific journal) show that rural stations often show no warming at all - at least, until they have been appropriately "adjusted" (using methods that are generally not released). Meanwhile, the increasing temperatures of urban stations are not adjusted to eliminate the Urban Heat Island effect. Large parts of the arctic and antarctic are presumed to be warming, even though there are no weather stations within hundreds or thousands of miles.

    Is the climate warming? He would agree with you that the climate warmed through (plus or minus) the year 2000 so, but possibly has now entered a cooling phase. Articles on his blog also show that (a) over decades, there is a warming/cooling cycle that very closely follows solar cycles, (b) that the overall warming trend of the past 200 years predates any significant human contribution to CO2 in the atmosphere, (c) the planet has in the past been warmer than today - in that sense, the recent warming is not "unprecedented", and finally (d) millions of years ago CO2 levels were much, much higher than today, so a higher CO2 level is also not unprecedented.

    In short: the earth warms and cools. We do not understand all of the factors that influence these climate cycles, but CO2 is almost certainly not a precursor of increased temperatures. In any case, a warmer earth is in many ways preferable to a cooling earth. The entire panic about CO2 is politically driven, and many scientists have hooked their wagons to it, in order to get research funding.

    My take is that Anthony Watts wants to present the objective truth - whatever that may be - and to discredit bad science and politically driven science.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:5, Informative)

    by bunratty (545641) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:26AM (#35312312)
    Who is advocating "throttling back technological advancement"? Reducing carbon dioxide emissions will require lots of new technological advancement, such as clean nuclear power plants that burn their waste instead of leaving it emitting radiation for thousands of years, cheap solar power, advancements in energy efficiency, and carbon sequestration. It's the people who say we shouldn't be reducing carbon dioxide emissions that say we shouldn't be investing in these technologies.
  • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

    by Layzej (1976930) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:32AM (#35312388)

    There are certain fingerprints we can look for to determine whether the current warming is caused by increased carbon. For instance in 1896 Svante Arrhenius predicted that nights should warm faster than days if there is an increase in greenhouse gasses. If the warming was due to increased solar activity we should expect days to warm faster than nights.

    There are other indicators as well. With an increase in greenhouse gases we would expect the poles to warm faster than the equator, and winter to warm faster than summer. These are all fingerprints that we are able to detect. This gives us confidence that we are attributing the warming to the correct cause.

  • by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:35AM (#35312410) Journal

    I looked at his web site. He looks like a kinder, gentler climate denier, but still full of propaganda.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/24/inspector-general-finds-noaa-climategate-emails-warrant-further-investigation/#comment-607154 [wattsupwiththat.com]

    He made a big post quoting Senator Inhofe that there are still some emails that "warranted further investigation". That line was taken out of context, and one of his commenters added the next sentence to the quote, which totally changed the nature and tone.

    “In our own review of all 1,073 CRU emails, we found eight emails which, in our judgment, warranted further examination to clarify any possible issues involving the scientific integrity of particular NOAA scientists or NOAA’s data. As a result, we conducted interviews with the relevant NOAA scientists regarding these eight emails, and have summarized their responses and explanations in the enclosure.”

    That's taken so badly out of context that this guy should look into getting a job at Fox News. The very next sentence of the quote disproves the entire allegation made by the headline.

  • by microbox (704317) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:44AM (#35312520)
    Have you actually read the series of emails that "hid the decline" comes from? 13 years of stolen emails, and a classic case of cherry picking, and that is the best that denialists can come up with.

    You should really watch this [youtube.com] (hide the decline starts at 4:10) and this [youtube.com], and try to pay attention.

    Denial works by preventing your mind from processing information, and then making you forget about it afterwards. It is always felt as negativity in the body. You have to sit with that feeling if you really want to consider yourself "rational", whatever that means. See Goleman's Vital lies, simple truths [amazon.com] for more information on the mechanisms of denial.

    Consider this quote from Ronnie Laing's "Knows":

    "The range of what we think and do
    is limited by what we fail to notice.
    And because we fail to notice
    /that/ we fail to notice
    there is little we can do
    to change
    until we notice
    how failing to notice
    shapes our thoughts and deeds."
  • by rgbatduke (1231380) <rgb.phy@duke@edu> on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:46AM (#35312536) Homepage
    If you have actually followed the debate that arose over the infamous "hockey stick" graph that erased the medieval warm period and little ice age (McIntyre and McKittrick) and sundry additional papers since, you know that while they may or may not have done anything to the data per se, they've abused the hell out of statistical analysis, for example experimenting with untested and unstudied methodologies until they get one that shows warming, then publishing results obtained using it without giving any hint of the fact that what they are doing is most sketchy. I've been following this with great interest for just under a decade now, and IMO there is absolutely no question that this has been repeatedly done in the past (by MBH and nearly all the papers on which any of them have collaborated) and continues to be done today. And I won't even go into the bristlecone pine problem and the general problem of using tree-ring proxies for temperature when tree ring thickness is not a monotonic function of temperature only.

    For example, a recent paper was published in Science (Steig) that claimed that the Antarctic is warming at an alarming rate. I've read over the paper and the counterchallenge to the statistical methodology used (which basically coarse grained thermal sensors on the thin peninsula that sticks out into the ocean from continental Antarctica until their generally warming trend overwhelmed the generally and clearly trend of the mainland). This all involved infilling data on continental thermal sensors on the basis of temperatures basically on the other side of the continent, an effect clearly visible if one computes the (infilled) sensor-sensor correlation as a function of sensor separation. The actual real (not infilled) sensor-sensor correlation falls off with distance fairly rapidly, as one might expect (Chicago weather isn't like LA's weather). The infilled correlation function shows substantial station correlation out at two or three thousand kilometers. If one simply includes one more principle component in the PCA, this effect disappears, and so does most of the warming; cooling for the last 30 years appears instead.

    Is this lying with or manipulating data or simple lack of competence with statistics? You decide.

    A reliable statistical estimate of warming of the sort that somebody with no horse in the race might do (and the sort that is done in computing the actual global average temperature from satellite data) shows moderate warming from 1957 to 1980, and cooling from 1980 to 2010. The latter, of course, confounds the predictions that as CO_2 goes steadily up, everything gets warmer; the fact that the fifty year warming is completely negligible is anathema to the scientists who make a living from the AGW hysteria.

    Of course, anyone in the world who wants to can go read the climategate emails (or the comments in the actual hockey stick code), where it is made perfectly clear that the "hockey team" set out to erase the MWP and LIA and does anything and anything necessary to defend the AGW conclusion, right up to having journal editors fired if they dare to print a paper that concludes otherwise. Perhaps science is broad enough that they did all of this in good faith, although if they pulled these sorts of shenanigans in medical research e.g. verifying drug safety there would be immediate, permanent, negative sequellae. But it doesn't make it good science.

    Anybody who actually understands statistics and things like R^2 and principle component analysis can read over things and judge for themselves, of course. If I point out that R^2 for the infamous hockey stick graph in the extrapolated region was basically 0, you will understand exactly what that means...

    AGW may or may not be true, but so far it has been a poster child for confirmation bias, incredibly poor statistical analysis, cherrypicking of data (of course it has happened and continues
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:46AM (#35312542)
    This is another meaningless assertion made by a political organ absolutely unqualified to make any statement on the matter. Note the sentence "The report was not a review of the climate data itself." The Commerce Department can't clear someone of misusing scientific data, this is as stupid a congress declaring there was no data manipulation a day after the "climategate" leaks hit the news.
  • by Kludge (13653) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:50AM (#35312588)

    The entire panic about CO2 is politically driven, and many scientists have hooked their wagons to it, in order to get research funding.

    Yeah, I'm sure you're an atmospheric physicist. No? Well, I have news for you. As a scientist who has worked in multiple fields I can tell you that scientists do not take positions just to get research funding. Yes, there may be an occasional bad apple who does, but they are very few. The large number of scientists who have looked at the data and run computer simulations (not you), and have reached a common conclusion is insurmountable.
    Your statement is deluded and insulting.

  • by bunratty (545641) on Friday February 25, 2011 @11:52AM (#35312596)

    Look at the link I provided. NASA is saying the Antarctic ice is melting [nasa.gov]. Watts is looking at the area of ice, not the volume or mass. NASA is measuing the mass of ice.

    If you put a compacted snowball in a tub of water, and as it starts melting and covers the surface of the tub, do you conclude that the ice is increasing because the area of ice is increasing? Or do you need to measure the volume or mass of the ice to determine if it's melting? If you ask me, the area has increased because it's melting and breaking up.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

    by radtea (464814) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:07PM (#35313378)

    The man-made part has been well established

    My problem as a mere computational physicist who has looked at some climate modelling codes, which are nothing but computational physics (being done, for some reason, by climatologists) is that every one I've looked at has significant issues. My very favourite was one that did not conserve energy natively, but had energy conservation imposed upon it by adjusting cell temperatures after every time-step. Why they chose to adjust temperature rather than wettness was not clear, although I guess probably becasuse it was computationally easier as the latter would require an additional adjustment to transport terms lest non-conservation of mass creep in.

    Again, as a computational physicist who has modelled a considerable range of systems from the apparently simple to the obviously complex, GCMs look to me like a collection of ad hoc kludges and hopeful parameterizations. They are perfectly good science, but not even close to what is required for policy setting.

    And the real problem is that there is no argument for anthropogenic climate change that does not pass through climate models as a critical step.

    Ergo, the claim that the human role in climate change is anything like certain is to me just a statement of ignorance about the complex and delicate realities of computational physics, which as I said, is in this case for some reason not being done by computational physicists but by climatologists.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:5, Informative)

    by jfengel (409917) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:14PM (#35313500) Homepage Journal

    I see the global warming situation to be the same as the recession.

    There is one key difference: the recession is a datum observed and then explained after the fact. Global warming was predicted before there was the ability to measure it, as far back as the 19th century.

    It was based on a very simple, reasonably obvious model: CO2 absorbs infrared. Burning fossil fuels increases CO2. That the climate would warm up is a single step in reasoning.

    The details of it are governed by many, many more variables, and as such can be compared to the economy, but it's very important not to be misled by the comparison. This is not a model constructed after the fact, explaining only the data in the past. It is a model which was constructed over a century ago and for which a century of experiment corresponds well with the prediction.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rising Ape (1620461) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:45PM (#35313980)

    Global warming was predicted before there was the ability to measure it, as far back as the 19th century.

    There was even a short film made about it in 1958 [youtube.com].

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:2, Informative)

    by catchblue22 (1004569) on Friday February 25, 2011 @02:27PM (#35314652) Homepage

    Actually, the phrase was "denial-bot", implying that (a) you deny, and (b) your assertions are repeated robotically, without any seeming to desire to understand the arguments you challenge. Your post is a series of talking points, hitting hot button words such as "politically driven", "scam". I doubt you have ANY real understanding of science, and the scientific process. If you want to prove me wrong, please describe the basic physics of the greenhouse effect. Describe, without reference to wikipedia, why different particles absorb different wavelengths. Describe the carbon cycle. Describe the details of your assertion that CO2 is not the dominant greenhouse gas. Describe the many many many rebuttals to that particular assertion and explain why exactly you think they are wrong, in real scientific terms.

    However, I doubt you will reply to this in any satisfactory way. I suspect that you will respond with a series of canned slogans, focus group tested for their effects on the average person. I suspect your scientific knowledge is highly limited, and that you have robotically absorbed a series of base assertions and arguments without questioning them. Either that, or you are being paid to post.

  • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Informative)

    by IICV (652597) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:21PM (#35315538)

    Wow, you wrote all that and yet managed to miss the fact that for the last thirty years solar activity levels have been going down, while temperature has been going up?

    Seriously, just look at this [skepticalscience.com] graph.

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