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Earth Science

Climategate's Final Days 872

The Bad Astronomer writes "Climategate may be on its way out. An investigatory committee at Pennsylvania State University has formally cleared climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of any scientific misconduct. Mann was central in the so-called Climategate scandal, where illegally leaked emails were purported to indicate examples of scientists trying to cover up any lack of global warming in their data. This finding by the committee (PDF) is another in a series of independent investigations that have all concluded that no misconduct has occurred."
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Climategate's Final Days

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  • by ojintoad ( 1310811 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:02PM (#32774484)

    Nor will it stop the deniers at large. Expect the comments below to be filled with changing goalposts, poisoning of the well (something along the lines of "scientists shouldn’t be investigating scientists", even though what they were investigating was Dr. Mann’s scientific conduct), distractions, diversions, and just general noise — anything to bury the cold fact that the scientists involved with modeling global warming did not cheat, did not fake any data, and the bigger issue that climate change is real.

  • by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <jscott.farrow@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:06PM (#32774580)

    You article author says this about himself:

    "Since Day 1 of this I have been calling it a non-event, a manufactured controversy by global warming denialists trying to make enough noise to drown out any real talk on this topic. "

    Hardly an unbiased observer. I, for one, really hope that there isn't anything to 'ClimateGate' but if you've read anything about it at all, you know that the problem wasn't the emails, but in the leaked data sets and source code. The emails show typical petty human behaviour. The data and source code suggest the possibility of cherry picking of data, and mathematical modeling to reach a predetermined conclusion. That is what worries me, but I admit I don't have the expertise to make a determination on my own.

    Sunshine and openness is only way to ever end this debate over global warming. All research, results, and data sets should be publicly available. Is that really too much to ask?


  • Re:We All Wish (Score:1, Interesting)

    by ground.zero.612 ( 1563557 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:09PM (#32774630)

    Global warming denial is like creationism, it's based on blind faith and its supporters will never give up.

    No it's not, it's based on other research that says man's contribution to a natural process is mostly insignificant.

    I wouldn't call myself a "warmer", but I also don't know how encyclopedias can print as fact that 95% of CO2 in the atmosphere comes directly from volcanos, rain, and plant matter decay.

    If the entire remaining 5% is strictly from man, I just can't see that being a significant contributor to the speeding of this natural process.

    Finally, I always like to mention to the AGW folks that 10,000 years ago the place where I live was completely covered by a glacier. I'm very glad for global warming, because where I live is now a beautiful region inhabited by a multitude of species both migratory and permanent.

  • by 2muchcoffeeman ( 573484 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:09PM (#32774640) Journal

    The story in The Sunday Times of London that kicked all this off has been fully retracted [newsweek.com] with several uses of the phrase "We apologise." The German newspaper that reported that the IPCC erred in its assessment of climate impact in Africa also retracted that story [wissenslogs.de].
    Speaking as a journalist, the most damning phrase I see in The Times' retraction is this one (boldfaced emphasis mine):

    A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this.

    So what really happened there? It sounds suspiciously like somebody high up at The Times or News Corporation didn't like the point of view presented and changed it to fit his or her own worldview, facts be damned.

  • Re:It won't matter (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:23PM (#32774904)

    nonsense. Skeptics aren't birthers (or truthers). How about a little research before you start with the ad. hom. Sure, there's bozo's on every bus (like oh, Joe Romm on the CAGW side), but people like Dr Pielke Sr, Dr. Lindzen, Dr. Spencer et. al. aren't them -- and the science isn't even close to "settled".

  • by Scareduck ( 177470 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:23PM (#32774908) Homepage Journal
    On the Oxburgh "investigation": "The science was not the subject of our study." [climateaudit.org].
  • Re:We All Wish (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:25PM (#32774942) Homepage Journal

    this literal mountain of evidence

    Can we have a literal picnic on that mountain? Any literal mountain goats on it? Where is it physically located?

    P.S. Those were rhetorical questions mocking your misuse of the word "literal"when you clearly mean "metaphorical".

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:28PM (#32775006) Homepage Journal
    These 'debates' end basically when the people who are used to profiting off the old ways die, and new stakeholders have the opportunity to recast their position in a new light. For instance, cigarette smoking was known to cause cancer in the late 1800's. It was relatively well established by the 1950's. The only reason the debate went on another generation or two was to give the corporations time to restructure the business model. Now smoking is bad, and some people still choose to do it.

    Go further back to the way blood circulates in the heart. In 1533 Michael Servetus published a paper saying the heart pumped the blood, as opposed to previous western belief that blood flowed like the tides, which some religious people put mythical significance to, and made part of their superstitions. If blood was pumped, then it would in some way continue to assert the superiority of science in furthering the human quality of life. By the early to mid 1600's William Harvery showed that the heart pumped blood. Here is the interesting debate. In the very early years of the Common Era, many philosophers though that the heart had an active role in pumping blood, but if you read the history, it seems like there never any consensus prior to Harvey, and that the tide theory was a valid conjecture.

    The point is that as advance as we think we are, we are only a few hundred years out of the supertitious muck in which we tortured and drowned little girls to prove they were not witches. In which we would not wash our hands to save children. Some us may see it as 500 years since Galileo saved us from the myths, but in practical terms it has not been nearly that long.

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:1, Interesting)

    by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:31PM (#32775070)
    The earth has been getting warmer for thousands of years. Right now, where I am sitting, there used to be 2KM of ice. That ice is clearly gone now. That glacier has melted. Our current glaciers are just continuing to melt.

    If the global trend was a cooling one, and then after industralization it started warming, there might not be so much controversy, but that is not the case. The earth has been warming for quite some time now; way before humans had their fancy machines.

    While I am confident that humans are making a negitive impact on the earth, I am not confident that C02 is worthy of the focus that it is getting. I think that we should be more worried about heavy metals, radioactive coal dust, dioxins, and excess fertilizer usage than we should be worried about C02.
  • Re:We All Wish (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Renegade Iconoclast ( 1415775 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:39PM (#32775232)

    In all seriousness, can you at least post some reputable links refuting my statements

    Maybe because you didn't even attempt to make a refutable statement of fact. The closest you came was this:

    I'm all for taking better care of the planet, but the global warming nuts haven't really provided much evidence and they're the ones making the allegations.

    The way I see things, if you make a bunch of claims, the burden of proof is ON YOU... not the people you're speaking to.

    You don't make it clear what claims you are talking about, or what evidence we're supposed to provide. Should we link you to every climate study since the beginning of time? What exactly is it that you believe (erroneously) climate scientists claim without evidence? Do you think they just go around making claims with no science to back it up? What in the hell gave you that idea?

    Just making a blanket statement that there's no evidence for anything in climate science isn't an argument. It's a troll.

    Here's how actual argument works: you make a claim, and support it with evidence. Other people rebut your claim on the basis of your evidence, or other evidence.

    Why is it that the global warming deniers can't ever seem to get this right? You think the scientists are wrong? Then post something factual. It's not my job to defend and litigate all of climate science just because you lack education in the matter.

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:44PM (#32775364) Homepage

    It's not a conspiracy theory. It's an orthogonality problem. If you have a Medieval Warming Period (MWP) -- then temperatures *aren't* unprecedented and become mathematically decoupled from CO2. Mann's "Hockeystick" graph erased the MWP -- problem is, the approach is worthless, and while Mann may believe it (again not conspiracy theory), it isn't true. Thus we still have the MWP (and the RWP, the Minoan, and the Holocene optimum) -- all of which were warmer than today and none of which had AGW contributions.

    Also irrelevant, I'm afraid.

    Apparently somebody once used the word "unprecedented," and the deniers used that as a lever to say "Well, if we can just attack that one word, which we will do by defining the word "unprecedented" the way we choose to and then show that the current curve isn't unprecedented, then we have debunked all of global warming! If one single word used by a popularizer can be attacked, the whole of the science is wrong!"

    The anthropogenic global warming, basically, says that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse effect gas, and that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is exactly like any other greenhouse effect gas, and adding more of it to the atmosphere increases the greenhouse effect. The actual effect, by the way, is remarkably small-- all of the carbon dioxide humans have added to the atmosphere to date has increased the average temperature by 0.6 plus or minus 0.3 degrees K, which (since that average temperature of the Earth is around 300K) corresponds to a change of about two tenths of one percent. This is relatively simple physics, known for over a century, and which has been calculated in numerical detail since the mid 1970s. There really is no real scientific controversy here-- it has been addressed, in detail, by all that scientific work that the deniers want to ignore.

    In short, saying that there has been periods of climate warming that weren't caused by anthropogenic effects doesn't really disprove anything. Sure. Anthropogenic warming is an added effect, not the only effect.

    A challenge to the geeks at slashdot -- read "HARRY_README.txt". If you believe a single thing that comes out of CRU after that, I've got a bridge to sell.

    Well, first I do need to note that the climate scientists at CRU are not the only scientists who study climate, and not even the most important ones-- they just happen to be the ones who were unlucky enough to have computer accounts that were broken into by cybercriminals.

    If you are giving a challenge to "geeks at slashdot," then let me give a challenge to deniers: read the Working Group Report on the Physical Science Basis of Climate Science. Reading this will not actually stop you from being a denier-- denialisim is political in nature, and has nothing to do with scientific results. However, it will at least mean that you might start being a denialist that uses arguments which actually deal with the science, instead of the ignorance about science that I usually hear from deniers.

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:46PM (#32775404) Homepage

    Fictional? No, certainly not. Keep in mind that where I work is a place where people regularly hang pictures of Obama and Pelosi in their offices...and these people I mentioned in my other post are, for the most part, socially shunned due to their political beliefs.

    They're like the Glenn Beck of Democrats. Seriously creepy people.

  • by uncadonna ( 85026 ) <mtobis AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @12:56PM (#32775600) Homepage Journal
    The "leaked source code" was a one-off diagnostic hack [blogspot.com]. Try not to make a federal case out of that, OK? How would you feel if a quick diagnostic hack of yours was posted on the internet as evidence of the criminal intentions of your organization?

    (Of course, I am assuming that you DO write code and that your organization ISN'T criminal. Otherwise disregard this.)

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:02PM (#32775706) Homepage Journal

    I also don't know how encyclopedias can print as fact that 95% of CO2 in the atmosphere comes directly from volcanos, rain, and plant matter decay.

    If the entire remaining 5% is strictly from man, I just can't see that being a significant contributor to the speeding of this natural process.

    It's not about how big a percentage of the whole we add, but what effect that addition has.

    Imagine the climate as two rope pulling teams. If you add a mere 5% manpower on one side, it can shift the whole situation from an overall stalemate with occasional drifts back and forth to a clear win for one side.

    In a complex system, the effects are seldom proportional. But to deny the effects of human pollution is like denying that smoking is harmful because of a single study that was inconclusive, or because a single study showing ill effects was shown to be flawed. The evidence is still overwhelming, and you have to have extraordinarily tinted glasses not to see what it points to.

  • lol wut? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @02:06PM (#32776868)

    From the PDF...

    On and about November 22, 2009, The Pennsylvania State University began to receive
    numerous communications (emails, phone calls and letters) accusing Dr. Michael E,
    Mann of having engaged in acts, beginning in approximately 1998, that included
    manipulating data, destroying records and colluding to hamper the progress of scientific
    discourse around the issue of anthropogenic global warming, These accusations were
    based on perceptions of the content of the emails stolen from a server at the Climatic
    Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain as widely reported,

    Given the sheer volume of the communications to Penn State, the similarity of their
    content and the variety of sources, which included University alumni, federal and state
    politicians, and others, many of whom had had no relationship with Pel1l1 State, Dr. Eva J.
    Pell, then Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, was
    asked to examine the matter. The reason for having Dr. Pell examine the matter was that
    the accusations, when placed in an academic context, could be construed as allegations of
    research misconduct, which would constitute a violation of Penn State policy,

    Scientific hijinks!?!?! Somebody get me Penn State on the phone, NOW!!

    You'd think they might have mentioned that he worked there. But maybe that only amuses me...

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jimrthy ( 893116 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @02:08PM (#32776894) Homepage Journal

    Since the very first time I ever heard about global warming, the pro argument has been "The science is over. It's a fact. The sky's about to fall, and the only way we can hope to stop it is to roll back the industrial revolution. No, there's no time to debate...the experts all agree."

    As far as I've been able to find out, that's been the standard approach since the fear-mongerers were trying to terrify us about global cooling back in the '70s.

    I won't claim to have a clue about the "science" involved, which is why I don't pretend to have a right to an opinion about the value of the hypothesis either way.

    I do know just a smidge about human nature, though. People who try to make a hard-sell by scaring me into making a rush decision are usually pushing a faulty product.

    Don't get me wrong...I think it's absolutely stupid to be dumping poisons into our atmosphere and water supply. I'm just sick and tired of Chicken Little acting so aggressively to shout over anyone and everyone who suggests there just might be other possible explanations concerning why.

  • by ericfitz ( 59316 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @03:43PM (#32778490)

    Regardless of which side you fall on, read the pdf and then ask yourself if you feel the investigation methodology was satisfactory.

    The investigation into Mann was essentially "we read the emails and didn't find a statement like 'I committed fraud'", and then we interviewed the guy, and he said he didn't do it. Ergo, he must be innocent, right?

    Can you imagine if we ran criminal courts the same way?

    The investigations were a worthless waste of everyone's time. Because of the lack of diligence, not only fail to resolve the dispute, but tend to have the opposite effect. A non-thorough investigation always looks like a cover-up.

    I am not stating or even implying that there was any effort to cover up wrongdoing, and I am not saying that Mann did anything wrong. I am saying that you cannot reasonably conclude either point due to the methodology of the investigation.

    As I said, read it yourself and draw your own conclusion. I know I'm going to be modded down and ridiculed for even failing to accept the results of the investigation as gospel; draw your own conclusions about people who behave that way.

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Have Brain Will Rent ( 1031664 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:28PM (#32779090)

    Ummm I think you're missing my point.

    And btw "Scientific Consensus", if there is any such thing, has nothing to do with it - the average person has no way of determining what scientific consensus is on any issue. They're just exercising faith in the person who told them it's "this". And that person may be doing the same thing... and so on, and so on, and so on...

    And the "it's ok for our side to keep chanting the same thing because we know that we're right even if most of our chanters don't" folk need to give it a rest and consider the ramifications of such a position in general and not just with this one issue.

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:32PM (#32779164) Homepage Journal

    Gun safety rules my dad taught me:

    There's no such thing as an unloaded gun. More people die from "unloaded" guns than loaded ones (not sure if this is accyrate, but it's safer to believe it is).

    Never point a gun at anything you don't mind shooting.

    Never shoot anything you don't mind killing.

    At one time, his brother put a hole in his wall with an "unloaded" rifle.

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by khayman80 ( 824400 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:49PM (#32779396) Homepage Journal

    The heat capacity of the atmosphere and earth's surface is so low, that it varies drastically within a few hours every day. Bodies of water, on the other hand, hold about 100x as much heat per unit volume. I have been debating global warming for a damn long time, and NOBODY has ever had a damn thing to say about the real global heat content (including oceans), just debating bullshit air temperatures, which account for almost nothing compared to ocean temps. ... Anybody who knows about global warming knows that air temp doesn't matter in the big picture of the climate, and knows that the evidence is so overwhelming that somebody would have to disprove the info on ocean heating to make a valid argument. But again and again I just see the same shit come out of you people "air temps, air temps, air temps"

    Incidentally, I've discussed [dumbscientist.com] ocean heat content several times, and agree that it's a better diagnostic than air temperatures (subject to the caveats referenced in that post and those quoted at the very bottom of this post [dumbscientist.com].)

    ... the actually CO2 and methane levels, you don't have a clue how much society produces compared to natural causes, right now people make about 50x as much as nature puts out.

    Well, it's a little more complicated than that. I've previously said [dumbscientist.com] that human CO2 emissions are ~100x than those from volcanoes. This is the comparison that matters, so your summary is essentially correct. But the biosphere's yearly fluctuations [noaa.gov] are much larger than our yearly emissions, as you can see by the fact that the red line's annual amplitude is much smaller than its linear trend. The biosphere is a closed system, though, so it's not relevant to abrupt climate change.

  • Re:It won't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:15PM (#32779778) Homepage
    I actually laid out a fairly long chain of proof that would be needed, and why, in a previous thread that I'm too lazy to go search for. The response was basically, "We don't approve of the proof you require, and it will therefore not be forthcoming." So let's just stick with something very basic. I would like to see a climate model that correctly "predicts" the past, given real input data, and from current data correctly predicts the climate ten years out. We've been seeing these model predictions from some 15 years now, and none of them have ever proven close to accurate. If we can get a good model that predicts the past and the future in a reasonable way, I'll become interested in looking at the other evidence in more depth. Clearly, that will take some time to resolve, but considering the time that it took to resolve the existence of black holes or other novel theories, it seems like a very small time indeed to wait until we can predict 10 years in the future, before assuming we can predict a hundred.
  • Re:We All Wish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:13PM (#32782674)

    An interesting little factoid I learned is that the top 10 feet (3 meters) of the ocean contains as much heat energy as the entire atmosphere. The average depth of the oceans is over 10,000 feet. That gives some perspective on how much of a heat sink/buffer the oceans are for global warming.

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by khayman80 ( 824400 ) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @12:02PM (#32786240) Homepage Journal

    Neither of you are providing links to peer-reviewed articles, so I won't bother trying to guess what specific event either of you are talking about. But most climate variability pre-1970 can't be "significantly" blamed on anthropogenic CO2 (i.e. "soot") because our population was small and the power generated was miniscule by today's standards. The inefficiency of 1800s era technology merely multiplied the total fossil fuel use by a larger coefficient than today's more efficient tech, but that total fossil fuel use was tiny compared to the demands of the modern world. Various proxies [www.ipcc.ch] (middle graph) show variability over the last 1000 years, but most of this is explained by natural changes like the solar Maunder Minimum and occasional sustained "statistically significant" changes in volcanic activity (which normally adds aerosols to the atmosphere thus causing a brief "volcanic winter" but the CO2 emitted stays in the atmosphere longer so volcanic activity warms the long term climate). Also, notice that the top graph (the shorter instrumental record) shows no real change from 1800 to 1850, and both absolute temperatures are below the current temperature-- but this is from a period where they don't even bother to provide error bars because there are only a handful of recording stations. If you examine the middle graph (proxy reconstructions) again, you'll note that there's some disagreement about variability on ~30 year timescales, but even the increase around ~1000 CE is consistent among proxy reconstructions, and explained in terms of natural causes.

    Remember that climate scientists aren't saying that natural variability doesn't exist. We're just saying that previous and current climate changes have natural causes which are relatively well understood, but the current increase in global average temperature as averaged over ~20 years is at least largely due [dumbscientist.com] to anthropogenic causes. Personally, I say this is a good reason to go nuclear. Yesterday.

  • Re:We All Wish (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @01:21PM (#32786740) Homepage Journal

    ... the top 10 feet (3 meters) of the ocean contains as much heat energy as the entire atmosphere. The average depth of the oceans is over 10,000 feet. That gives some perspective on how much of a heat sink/buffer the oceans are ...

    True, and a more relevant number is probably the one mentioned by the article just before yours [dumbscientist.com]: the ocean's so-called "upper mixing layer" that is roughly 30 m thick on average. The article comments that the water below that generally mixes with the top layer on times scales that are long compared with a human lifetime. The article's estimate is that the 30 m mixing layer has roughly 10 times the heat capacity of the troposphere (which is over 80% of the atmosphere's mass), and these two layer are exchanging heat on a reasonably short ( 1 year) time scale.

    Measuring the temperature of the top 30 m of the oceans is easier than doing the same for the troposphere, and the water does a lot of averaging for us. As has been pointed out by others, the lower atmosphere has routine temperature changes in the 10-20 degrees C range on a daily time scale. You can see this by watching the thermometer out in your yard. The ocean surface changes much more slowly than this, adding to its value as a good temperature record. (Of course, it's not too handy if you live in Colorado or Bolivia or Chad or Kazakhstan.)

    In any case, the ocean depths (below 30 or 50 m) and the stratosphere are not very relevant to the question of climate change. One changes too slowly; the other changes too quickly. The oceans' mixing layer and the lower atmosphere are the best places to get a useful record of global temperatures. But it still requires a bit of math to make the mass of measurements meaningful. It's fairly clear that most people don't understand the math at all.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde