Not So Skeptical Skeptics

One of the best podcasts that you will find is The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.  I link to their podcast feed over on the right side of my blog page under GREAT PODCASTS and I highly recommend it.  I have learned a lot from their discussions of science-related current events and they are even funny while they do it.  Steve Novella, the main guy, is simply sharp as a tack.  Having said all of that, they really disappointed me with their response to the ongoing scandal that has been dubbed “ClimateGate”.

Additionally, I was absolutely stunned to discover that none of the Big Three networks have covered the scandal and the leaked information and ramifications at all on television.  Seriously – this is a blatant news blackout.  I simply cannot believe that they would be so obvious.  Someone on Twitter humorously suggested that we should accuse Tiger Woods of involvement to get some coverage, but I digress…

I will admit up front that I have always been a skeptic when it comes to anthropogenic climate change (what used to be called Global Warming before cold spells undercut that mantra).  My pre-ClimateGate reasons for this skepticism include things like the pre-industrial Medieval Warm Period, the outright silliness of trying to consider the Little Ice Age to be a baseline for normal temperatures, the discredited Hockey Stick graph, James Hanson’s deceitful attempt to use September temperatures to make October look inordinately hot, it goes on and on.  Additionally, part of my reluctance to get on board is the stink of a social/political agenda on the part of the high priests of the church of man-made climate change.  Additionally, though believers love to dismiss any non-believers who receive research money from energy concerns they do not use that same standard for these scientists who get massive grants for coming up with the “approved” results, nor do they talk much about Al Gore cashing in on it.  They simply [naively] assume altruism in those people.

Having said that, ClimateGate is a huge scandal, and while I can understand people like Michael Mann (the huckster who created the discredited hockey stick graph) and Phil Jones circling the wagons to protect themselves and their [well-funded] alarmist industry, I cannot understand why the SGU rogues and their friend-of-the-SGU Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer) seem to be willing to throw aside their alleged skepticism in order to stick to their story.  In doing so they embarrass themselves and have seriously undercut their well earned credibility, particularly with those of us in the sub-group that Steve once dubbed their “libertarian listeners”.

I listened to the SGU podcast #227 to see how they would respond to the damning information that has come to light from the leaked (or hacked) data pulled from the UK’s Climate Research Unit.  Did they mention the scientists conspiring to use tricks to hide the decline in recent global temperatures (“Mike’s trick”)?  Nope.  Did they mention the scientists discussing illegal schemes to hide their data from Freedom of Information (FOIA) Requests?  Nope.  Did they talk about the fact that these scientists claim that all of the raw, unadjusted data has been lost, with only the “corrected” (i.e. “tricked”) data left available?  No, they did not.  They simply circled the wagons and took the typical [shout-down fascism] tactic of calling us anthropogenic climate change skeptics “deniers”, a well-known reference equating us to holocaust deniers.

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait, who is president of the JREF and seems to be a very decent guy, even took the ridiculous position of dismissing it with this pathetic statement:

Bottom line? Yawn. Get back to me when you have equally overwhelming evidence that global warming is not happening, or if it is it’s not anthropogenic. Then we can talk.

One could argue that his statement is an example of the logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance, “in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false”.

When the data is called into question you cannot dismiss skeptics based upon your unwavering faith in that same questionable data.  Perhaps in such a situation one should check one’s premises.

These so-called scientists have been using tricks to arrive at their pre-determined conclusion, have talked of avoiding FOIA requests, and have “lost” the raw data, but the skeptics at SGU continue to declare that it is settled science… based upon the very people and data that have now been shown fairly convincingly to be lies, half-truths, manipulations, and obfuscations.  I am trying to find a good analogy here to describe what they are doing in defending the ClimateGate offenders.  Maybe the way football fans will let a player get away with egregious crimes because they feel like they are on the same team?  Perhaps a better analogy is the way that people who naively supported vacuous candidate Obama still refuse to admit that they were hoodwinked by his platitudes.  Those analogies are not exactly right but I am getting close.  I will have to put more thought into that.  Maybe they have simply gotten so used to defending against “deniers” that they are just doing the thoughtless knee-jerk reaction.

Perhaps most importantly, the computer models on which a lot of this theory is based did not predict our current cooling trend.  Why is that?  Because as analysis of the source code is now revealing, they coded the software with a conclusion in mind, fudging things to make them work.  Poor Harry, whoever that is, but I will get to that in a minute.

If you believe in anthropogenic global warming completely independent of their computer models then the rest of this post may not impress you.  But if those oft-mentioned models play a role in your acceptance of the theory then please keep reading.

I understand that Steve Novella probably knows as much about programming as I know about neurology and that Bob Novella probably knows about as much about software development as I know about nanotechnology.   I could likely make the same statement about Plait’s knowledge of programming compared to my knowledge of astronomy, but my understanding is that Jay Novella is a professional computer programmer like me.  Perhaps he should take a look at the criticisms of the software that I have read and share that data and his expertise with his fellow rogues on the SGU podcast team.

Writing over at the ChicagoBoyz blog, Shannon Love has some programmer insights on this aspect of the ClimateGate scandal:

No, the real shocking revelation lies in the computer code and data that were dumped along with the emails. Arguably, these are the most important computer programs in the world. These programs generate the data that is used to create the climate models which purport to show an inevitable catastrophic warming caused by human activity. It is on the basis of these programs that we are supposed to massively reengineer the entire planetary economy and technology base.

The dumped files revealed that those critical programs are complete and utter train wrecks.

It’s hard to explain to non-programmers just how bad the code is but I will try. Suppose the code was a motorcycle. Based on the repeated statements that Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming was “settled science” you would expect that the computer code that helped settle the science would look like this…

 

…when in reality it looks like this:

 

After a brief discussion of professional large-scale software management and development techniques, Love concludes:

Clearly, nothing like these established procedures was used at CRU. Indeed, the code seems to have been written overwhelmingly by just two people (one at a time) over the past 30 years. Neither of these individuals was a formally trained programmer and there appears to have been no project planning or even formal documentation. Indeed, the comments of the second programmer, the hapless “Harry”, as he struggled to understand the work of his predecessor are now being read as a kind of programmer’s Icelandic saga describing a death march through an inexplicable maze of ineptitude and boobytraps.

Describing one hack among many, Love draws a damning picture of the quality of this immensely important software:

A lot of the CRU code is clearly composed of hacks. Hacks are informal, off-the-cuff solutions that programmers think up on the spur of the moment to fix some little problem. Sometimes they are so elegant as to be awe inspiring and they enter programming lore. More often, however, they are crude, sloppy and dangerously unreliable. Programmers usually use hacks as a temporary quick solution to a bottleneck problem. The intention is always to come back later and replace the hack with a more well-thought-out and reliable solution, but with no formal project management and time constraints it’s easy to forget to do so. After a time, more code evolves that depends on the existence of the hack, so replacing it becomes a much bigger task than just replacing the initial hack would have been.

(One hack in the CRU software will no doubt become famous. The programmer needed to calculate the distance and overlapping effect between weather monitoring stations. The non-hack way to do so would be to break out the trigonometry and write a planned piece of code to calculate the spatial relationships. Instead, the CRU programmer noticed that that the visualization software that displayed the program’s results already plotted the station’s locations so he sampled individual pixels on the screen and used the color of the pixels between the stations to determine their location and overlap! This is a fragile hack because if the visualization changes the colors it uses, the components that depend on the hack will fail silently.)

Interestingly, Love makes a critical point in another post that is giving the True Believers a dose of their own medicine: No one peer reviews scientific software!

The practical inability of peer reviewers to verify scientific software doesn’t mean much in reality, because scientific institutions never even developed the standard that experimenters had to make the code for their software available to reviewers in the first place!

This raises a troubling question: When scientists tell the public that a scientific study that used a large, custom-written piece of software has been “peer reviewed” does that mean the study faced the same level of peer scrutiny as did a study that used more traditional hardware instruments and procedures?

Clearly not.

Scientists have let a massive flaw slowly creep into the scientific review system as they have ignored the gradually increasing significance and complexity of computer software. Standards created to deal with relatively simple and standardized scientific hardware no longer work to double-check much more complex and nonstandard scientific software.

From my perspective, the bottom line in this whole debate with respect to wagon-circlers like the SGU team is that they dismiss the ClimateGate scandal by referring to the irrefutability of the same science, software, and now quite arguably deceitful conclusions that have been exposed as flawed (at best) by the now-available data, email communications, and software analysis.

The SGU is displaying a circular dis-logic that is decidedly not skepticism.

I still highly recommend the podcast, and I will admit that calling these SGU rogues out on this is more than a little daunting given their intellect and large audience, but they have some splainin’ to do.

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29 responses to “Not So Skeptical Skeptics

  1. Interesting. I’d not even thought about the software coding, but obviously that would make a difference, huh? These people look like such total idiots right now, which I have to admit is fun as hell.

  2. people are capable of doing almost everything possible to gain benefits, hope that more people be aware of the issue and help stop the risk takers.

  3. Good post. I’ve been debating climategate with a few hard core alarmists who simply deside to ignore any problems seen in the code simply because they do not understand.

    I would agree the code is the foundation for the whole AGW argument. When you have such a poorly written mess evaluating “value-added” data your results should be considered invalid.

    I really think research using these models that was done by the CRU or based on their findings should have the same fate as their raw data did and just disappear. Let’s start from the beginning and have them attempt to prove that man’s contribution of C02 into the atmosphere has any effect at all on the climate.

  4. Pingback: The Scientists Who Cried Wolf « from the foothills

  5. I dunno. Skepticism must cut both ways . . . a good scientist is not only skeptical of the work of others so as not to accept someone else’s findings on faith alone but also skeptical of his or her own methodologies and results. Now I take it you’re not a scientist (neither am I), but it seems to me we can apply the same logical standards to our own opinions. Could it be that these scientific commentators for whom you have a measure of respect have not arrived at the same conclusions you have because it is YOU who have a skewed view on the subject? Because as I look through your post, I see a number of memes that have been readily answered elsewhere which you seem to accept as gospel. Take, for instance, your reference to the supposedly discredited “hockey stick” graph:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/06/national-academies-synthesis-report/

    Or Al Gore’s “cashing in” on his climate work (the origin of this meme is as dishonest as it comes):

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200905010049?f=h_top

    And the current scrutiny on the way climate data is coded can lead to an entirely different conclusion:

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/12/its-the-computer-code-silly-ctd.html

    From where I sit, you don’t seem to be taking into account that data which doesn’t fit your preconceived narrative.

    And for that matter, in your skepticism about the computer models as a source for prediction of future climate, you imply that inaccurate models are overstating the risks But the opposite is also true: bad data and/or poor methodology might be underestimating these risks.

    Take this story, which clearly shows how bad our computer models have been so far: “Even the gloomiest climate models back in the 1990s didn’t forecast results quite this bad so fast.”

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hjrkevVWHdM8rWorsC2E8mUvBPzgD9C4NKU80

    Look, the fundamental interaction between carbon dioxide molecules and infrared radiation in our atmosphere is well understood, but do we ignore basic physics because potential uncertainty in the modeling makes us unsure of the ramifications? Seems to me a true conservative includes worst-case scenarios in his calculus when thinking through the issues.

    Anyway, I have an honest question for you (it’s the subject of my latest blog post): What would it take to change your mind on the subject? Can you honestly articulate what would constitute firm evidence for AGW (that you, as a lay-person, would accept)?

  6. I’ve been a skeptic (and now a denier) ever since the whole debate started. It appeared to me that people observed an increase in temperature and then concluded that it must be C02 and nothing else. The end result is that we have things like Kyoto, carbon footprint and cap and trade for example. Now as we have cooling temperatures and a horrible economy we have to focus on green jobs and job killing cap and trade. Temperatures are now decreasing (as admitted by the CRU) while C02 is rising.

    In light of the new developments concerning the leaked emails I have to conclude the science is far from settled. In fact I suspect its inaccurate science based on poor fundamentals, poor computer models, lack of a sound peer review process and skewed in favor of the alarmists by a political agenda.

    I am still waiting for some proof of AGW and if it was ever demonstrated I believe it would be so miniscule that no one would seriously consider economy killing legislation.

    Yes, physics shows that C02 is a greenhouse gas. It sounds pretty alarming. We have something man can produce by burning fuel combined with “gas” and “greenhouse” therefore it must be bad.

    When you examine the actual physics involved and the effect that the level of C02 could have as a contributor to an increase in temperature you begin to see the effect is considerably low. In fact CO2 gets a lot more attention than it may deserve.

    Take this for example

    http://www.heliosat3.de/e-learning/radiative-transfer/rt1/AT622_section10.pdf

    Figure 10.1 shows us that the absorption characteristics of C02 show only two small spikes compared to water vapor which shows much higher absorption along almost the whole range.

    The standard atmosphere air can hold about say 12 millibar of water vapor pressure at 15C in a standard atmosphere of 1013 milibar at saturation or 12,000 ppm. Therefore it holds 6000 ppm at 50% relative humidity. That same air holds about 370 ppm of CO2.

    At 20,000 ft the atmospheric pressure is half and the temperature is -5 degrees this would decrease to 2mB relative to 506 mB or about 4000 ppm at 50% relative humidity, still 2000 ppm.

    If the IR absorption of CO2 and water vapor was equal in characteristics the level of C02 compared to water vapor (370 to 4000) means C02 contributes at most 10%. Now looking at figure 10.1 it appears H20 absorbs more than 10 times as much as C02 which would put the contribution of C02 at 1%. Even if we doubled the C02 we would have a temperature increase that could not be measured with the current scientific approach.

    The IPCC estimates that C02 contributes 25%.

    I did not propose the hypothesis that man’s contribution of C02 to the atmosphere changes the climate. As a denier it’s not up to me to prove anything. My knowledge of the science simply has me unconvinced that anyone has shown any correlation at all.

    Once it’s demonstrated that AGW is occuring I will agree to assess my position as a denier.

  7. But what would that proof look like to you?

    I don’t know enough about the science to really respond to your claims, but I’m pretty sure the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and the American Meteorological Society have taken these points into account before issuing their unequivocal position statements. Have you really looked to see if there are possible answers to these objections?

    But then again, you’ve basically said you’ll choose not to trust any of the science you don’t agree with, as it’s “based on poor fundamentals, poor computer models, lack of a sound peer review process and skewed in favor of the alarmists by a political agenda.”

    Given this position, what kind of demonstrated proof are you waiting for? Is there ANYTHING which would fit this description?

  8. Takes about two seconds of internet searching, Big Daddy, to come up with clear discussions about the relative roles of water vapor as compared to CO2 in terms of greenhouse gasses:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/04/water-vapour-feedback-or-forcing/

    To imply that a worldwide scientific community has somehow conveniently ignored this bit of basic physics is absolutely illogical.

  9. I would hazard a guess the people endorsing the global warming religion are possibly basing their endorsement on research done by such entities like the CRU. There is also a strong political motivation which influences various groups to endorse global warming.

    I said I did not trust the current scientific approach to attempting to prove AGW. I find it highly annoying to hear constantly that the science is settled. Now we’ve learned through the leaked emails that pretty much every aspect of it has major flaws.

    I have a strong education in computer science and mathematics. I can form what I feel is a sound opinion on the fundamentals of their approach to demonstrate AGW. We software developers have a saying “garbage in, garbage out”. What the CRU has shown me is that they were basically taking garbage, massaging the garbage until it stunk less, then massaging the garbage even more through their modeling to support their agenda. Therefore, as a very logical person and with my background I can do nothing but conclude that the foundation of their research is weak, very weak.

    What I would like to see is collaboration between scientists on both sides of the fence on AGW. I would like to see an unbiased peer review process. I would like to see possibly an open source community working on some of the models used instead of developers looking to write code to achieve the results their research unit says they should. I would like to see honest journalism done with respect to AGW. Maybe in this way we could actually try to determine if AGW is occurring in a true scientific fashion.

  10. You’re right clarkbeast it takes about 2 seconds find a site attempting to debunk any skeptical perspective on the subject. I have no doubt that many physicists would disagree with Gavin’s assessment of the effect of water vapor. Gavin likes to mention that H20’s effect really doesn’t matter since it’s lifetime in the atmosphere is 10 days. What he fails to mention is the lifetime of C02 in the atmosphere is 2 days (see the paper linked in my previous post). Btw, Gavin should really spell check those articles before posting them.

    I would comment on Gavin’s site but it’s a well known fact that pretty much any post denying his claims will get deleted.

    Since you seem to like fully biased sites on the subject you may want to check out Al Gore’s site on the subject or skepticalscience.com. Perhaps next you’ll link an article from Jones off the CRU site for me.

    Please don’t think I haven’t examined both sides of the argument. I read about this subject constantly. Maybe you should read more viewpoints on the subject from the skeptics to have a better perspective on the subject.

  11. You and I both know that the size and scope of the internet provides every possible opinion, all presented as fact. I will say up front that you do yourself a disservice by quoting Media Matters. They are one of the least legitimate sites on the internet. I doubt that there is a more biased load of tripe anywhere than that site, funded by mega-millionaire leftists including George Soros.

    The discredited hockey stick graph:

    Your reference to RealClimate.org shows that you are not taking the current controversies seriously, though since there has been a veritable news blackout on this perhaps you are not seeing as much of it as I am. These are the same people who have been shown to be using “tricks” to “hide the decline”, and though they are spinning like Clinton with the definition of “is”, it is patently dishonest to mix the data sources to hide the lower recent temperatures – the now infamous “Mike’s Trick”. That is not science. That is deceit. These are the same people who discussed hiding the raw numbers from FOIA requests, which is a criminal offense. But you are still willing to quote an article from 2006 from these very people who rely on this same data, back when they were still getting away with their “fixing” and “hiding”. If the recent scandal had instead erupted on the other side, with the climate change skeptics being seen to be obfuscating and hiding the data on which their conclusions are based, you would rightly consider them an illegitimate source. I respectfully submit that by quoting these same people you are showing your own bias despite the contrary, scandalous evidence that has recently come to light.

    I want to note that part of their inherent deceit involves dishonestly spinning down previous historical temperatures, like the Medieval Warm Period, to make them contrast nicely with more recent temperatures. These guys have a conclusion in mind and do whatever it takes to build a storyline to get there.

    From http://www.john-daly.com/hockey/hockey.htm
    —————————————
    Using tree rings as a basis for assessing past temperature changes back to the year 1,000 AD, supplemented by other proxies from more recent centuries, Mann completely redrew the history, turning the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age into non-events, consigned to a kind of Orwellian `memory hole’
    —————————————

    Indeed. Given that the hockey stick graph used two types of incompatible data in order to hide the more recent declines in temperature, I find it hard for anyone to defend it as legitimate. Like people who do not “believe” in evolution, you are doing the equivalent of going to the Discovery Institute for your flawed data and expecting me to accept it as a legitimate source. Responding to skeptics by referring to the same people who have now been severely discredited is like posting a link on marital advice from Tiger Woods’ web site, Clark.

    Al Gore cashing in on this scam:

    Media Matters is one of most biased sources on the internet and is run and funded by people with a serious hard-left, government-control agenda. They are simply not legitimate.

    Human Events had a good article on Gore’s cashing in on his climate change scam over two years ago (http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=22663). From that article:
    —————————————
    Al Gore is chairman and founder of a private equity firm called Generation Investment Management (GIM). According to Gore, the London-based firm invests money from institutions and wealthy investors in companies that are going green. “Generation Investment Management, purchases — but isn’t a provider of — carbon dioxide offsets,” said spokesman Richard Campbell in a March 7 report by CNSNews.

    GIM appears to have considerable influence over the major carbon-credit trading firms that currently exist: the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) in the U.S. and the Carbon Neutral Company (CNC) in Great Britain. CCX is the only firm in the U.S. that claims to trade carbon credits.

    […]
    Clearly, GIM is poised to cash in on carbon trading. The membership of CCX is currently voluntary. But if the day ever comes when federal government regulations require greenhouse-gas emitters — and that’s almost everyone — to participate in cap-and-trade, then those who have created a market for the exchange of carbon credits are in a position to control the outcomes. And that moves Al Gore front and center. As a politician, Gore is all for transparency. But as GIM chairman, Gore has not been forthcoming, according to Forbes magazine. Little is known about his firm’s finances, where it gets funding and what projects it supports.
    ———————————————-

    At the risk of being accused of an ad hominem attack: Andew Sullivan? Really? Do you read anything other than incredibly hard-left sites? I remember regularly reading him about five years ago, surprised that he was a supporter of the Iraq war, but then the gay marriage debate came up and he did a 180 on his support for that war. He is a political hack, Clark, and certainly not a legitimate source for this debate. He cherry picked comments about the software to make his point, not unlike how the climatologists cherry pick data to fit their agenda.

    As I think that both Big Daddy and I have pointed out, we are software developers and know that garbage in means garbage out. Did you read the articles to which I linked discussing the software used for the climate modeling? You accuse us of disregarding everything that does not fit our preconceived notions, but you and the so-called climate scientists in question do just that routinely, Clark.

    Your google link to a story written by Borenstein is just another example. Check out these refutations of his consistent scare-mongering: http://www.climatedepot.com/a/2546/Climate-Depot-Serving-as-the-Medias-Ombudsman-Long-sad-history-of-AP-reporter-Seth-Borensteins-woeful-global-warming-reporting

    To your final question asking me what it would take to accept anthropogenic climate change as believable, I offer this: It would simply have to involve real OPEN science.

    Real science puts forth a theory and then allows others to attempt to poke holes in it. Real science does not hide its data and conveniently “lose” the raw data on which the massaged data is based, and it does not mix different types of data in order to come up with good emotional graphs like the DISCREDITED hockey stick graph. Real science does not respond to criticism by equating skeptics to holocaust deniers, nor does it respond to negative peer reviews by working to get critics kicked off of publications. Real scientists do not conspire to illegally hide data from FOIA requests. Real science DARES people to poke holes in the theory. Perhaps most importantly, real science can make predictions that can subsequently be proven or disproven. The climate models did not predict the current lengthy cooling period, though now the spinning is that it was expected. Sure.

    For examples of real science, and how real scientists respond to skepticism and dissent, see the debate between evolutionary biologists and the Intelligent Design people. The prediction and subsequent discovery of transitional fossils like archaeopteryx are a perfect example contrasting real science to the “science” of anthropogenic climate change.

    Being the honest skeptic that I am, I have to accept that anthropogenic climate change is a possibility but its proponents have not produced anything that supports their claim. Furthermore, the idea that just in case they might be right we should make massive changes to industrial society is simply ridiculous. This is about money for scientists and the politics of controlling society.

    I would also submit that while you and I are both “lay persons” as you suggest, my scientific knowledge probably equals yours and my knowledge of software engineering certainly surpasses yours. Again, go read the two posts to which I linked that discuss the pathetic climate modeling software.

    I apologize for the tediously long response and I hope that you continue to challenge me, Clark. Simply preaching to the choir is a lot less fun!

  12. The mendacity you accuse Schmidt of is nothing short of breathtaking . . . how could he possibly advance such a claim in an open scientific forum and retain any credibility at all. If atmospheric CO2 only has a lifetime of 2 days, then I agree he should rightly be ignored.

    Except that maybe this figure isn’t correct?

    http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~archer/reprints/archer.2005.fate_co2.pdf

    Or is Dr. Archer biased as well? It’s possible, I suppose. I don’t trust any individual scientist. (For that matter, I don’t trust Gavin.) But I should perhaps ignore the peer reviewed Journal of Geophysical Research as a biased site? As well as the rest of the establishment (like the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and the American Meteorological Society, etc.) . . . they, too, are allowing science to be corrupted for political ends? The organizations don’t “endorse” conclusions, they subject them to rigorous scrutiny before weighing in with a position statement. At some point, you end up suggesting a conspiracy that would rival that of the 9-11 “truthers.” It just doesn’t make sense, B.D.

    Anyway, I welcome the scrutiny that the ClimateGate emails is bringing. I’m glad to see that the University East Anglia and Penn State and the IPCC are calling for thorough and independent investigations. If climate science is indeed a house of cards, we’ll find out soon enough. But if these investigations say that these emails do not warrant your broad-based refutation of scientific consensus, will you accept it, or is it you who have religion? (It goes without saying that Watt’sUpWithThat will find some problem with it.)

  13. Wow, while I’m composing, Rob weighs in with a long one. It’ll take me a good while to sort through it. But at a glance, let me deal with one point. I hesitated in linking to MediaMatters, as I agree with you that they are as biased on the left as, say, Sean Hannity is on the right. But what they show is irrefutable . . . a comparison of the footage from the Congressional testimony and the edited footage on Fox News is pretty damn breathtaking.

  14. Clark: I got through your first paragraph totally interested in what you were going to follow with, but then I saw the articles that you linked to and you totally lost me.

    I know this is an exaggeration, but using media matters or realclimate.com in particular as your source for legitimate rebuttal to skeptics is like going to O.J. Simpson for a report on his innocence and accepting it as good enough reason to let him off the hook.

    Mr. Watersons point about OPEN science is the answer, and scientists on both sides should be excited about that prospect, but one side has chosen to take the political route instead of the scientific route for the past 20 years.

  15. Ha! I’ll accept your ad-hominem attack on Sullivan if you accept mine on John Daly and Human Events. I find your characterization of him as far left kind of humorous, but whatever: I understand there are those who believe “If you’re not all right, you’re all wrong.” It doesn’t take long at all in looking at your blogs to see that you’re not an unbiased arbiter of the truth, either (nor do you pretend to be). And I have to smile at the irony of your suggesting that he is cherry-picking the correspondence.

    And again, on the MediaMatters link . . . did you look at it? This one really is impossible to spin. I understand your reservations about the source, but as my grandfather used to say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    I see you repeat the “current cooling period” meme. It doesn’t hold up either:

    http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/us_sci_global_cooling/2009/10/26/277103.html

    Again, how can you spin a blind test of independent statistical analysis?

    Got more to say, but there’s a class coming in.

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  17. @Clark: I have code to write and need to stick to it (it will be much better code than Harry wrote for the Church of Climate Change! heh), but I will respond to one thing:

    Clearly you are not saying that since Ingraham allegedly cut that video up and took it out of context it then undercuts the public-record stuff to which I linked about Gore? Someone can lie about something without impacting the veracity of the issue.

  18. Actually, Rob, I read the public record stuff that you linked and didn’t find anything in either of our two pieces that contradicted each other. I don’t dispute the facts as reported by Human Events. Nonetheless, this story does make the same “mistake” that Ingraham does: it makes a lot of noise about how Gore stands to make big profits but doesn’t mention where these profits go. Ingraham is just more dishonest about it when she, or more likely her staff of researchers and producers (and I know a bit about how these things work), selectively edits the Congressional testimony to get rid of this relevant bit of information.

    kdg, I’m sorry that I lost you by linking to MediaMatters. Please know that I am NOT a DailyKos liberal. I’m not a partisan warrior of any stripe. But while I take all overtly partisan sites with a grain of salt, I also know they can be right at times, and this is one of them. MediaMatters was right to call out the right on this story in the same way that biggovernment.com was right to expose the left on ACORN.

    As for RealClimate, I linked to it the first time only because I couldn’t give you a direct link to the National Academy’s Synthesis Report. If there is such a thing as a “Scientific Supreme Court,” they are it. I grant you that opinions voiced on RealClimate right now should have an asterisks attached, but I still point to the fact that–unless things change–its position basically mirrors that of position statements from the NAS , AGU, AAAS, AMS et. al.

    Rob, I appreciate your answer to “What would make you change your mind?” I’ll answer it on my blog . . . you say pretty much the same thing there, don’t you?

  19. Clark, all of the alphabet soup agencies you mentioned built their opinions on the same data that we are all discussing now.

    I would strongly argue that pointing out that they believed it does not change the questionable credibility of the underlying bad, politicized science. I think that you are getting caught up in a sort of circular argument there.

  20. Ooh, there I strenuously disagree. The East Anglia CRU data stream is but one rivulet in a flood. Peter Keleman at Columbia is pretty clear on the subject:

    “Outspoken critics often portray climate science as a house of cards, built on a shaky edifice of limited data and broad suppositions. However, it’s more realistic to think of the science as a deck of cards, spread out, face up. Some data and interpretations of those data are more certain than others, of course. But pulling out one or two interpretations, or the results of a few scientists, does not change the overall picture. Take away two or three cards, and there are still 49 or 50 cards facing you. :

    But on this point, I think you and can agree . . . if my alphabet soup agencies did indeed build their opinions on a single set of bad data, then they’ll be forced to retract their prior positions. In that case, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and gladly buy you a beer and go worry about something else.

    But if they don’t?

  21. Clark, I believe there are only 4 raw data sets that are used in temperature trend analysis. Since they mostly rely on temperatures recorded by ground stations or satellites the data sets are very close to each other.

    Now what if there are problems with the ground stations? We’ve all seen the pictures of ground stations at the end of runways, surrounded by a parking lot or maybe under a large air conditioner vent. This issue is handled in the software by making assumptions like the temperature will increase 1/10 of one degree per decade relative to development around ground stations. Sounds rather crude don’t you agree?

    Now what temperature measurement do they use from these ground stations? Do they use TMax, TMin or TMean? If you guessed TMean you would be correct in the case of the CRU. Now TMin will increase due to development near ground stations while TMax stays mostly the same. What happens to TMean? Well it’s going to increase. There was a recent study done that compared temperature trends over the past 100 years in Africa using TMean vs. TMax. The results using TMean showed warming while the results using TMax showed no change over the 100 years. Hmm, the same data sets looked at a bit differently can show different results.

    There’s a saying I like to use relative to statistical analysis when people keep throwing stats in my face. I say “well you know studies have shown that 30% of statistics are incorrect”. It’s a great statement to use because quite often many will miss you’re using a statistic to point out flaws in statistics. Try it sometime, you’ll be amazed at the responses you’ll get.

    Now many people will see the graph using TMean and say we’re all going to roast. I see a flawed graph. When attempting to prove something using statistical analysis if any other variable is incorrect besides the one you’re attempting to validate your whole analysis is worthless.

    I will try to find a link to the Africa study later. I have it at work and am home now.

  22. Okay, Fat Daddy . . . a couple of things. You are correct about there being 4 raw data sets on temperature. One out of four wouldn’t qualify as a “rivulet” in a “flood,” but it sure is a lot less than the entire flood. Already we can call into question Rob’s blanket dismissal of the “alphabet agencies” just because of questions about one tributary data stream.

    And that data stream starts looking more and more like a rivulet compared to the whole flood when you start to take into account all the proxy data from ice cores, tree ring studies, borehole analysis, ocean and lake sediments, corals, radiosondes, observations of glacial, sea ice and permafrost melt etc. , all of which correlates with the temperature data sets as confirmed by the National Research Council of the National Academies. Again, to claim that ALL of this research (and the scrutiny to which it has been subjected) is bogus absolutely strains credulity.

    As far as your contention about urban heat islands skewing the monitoring stations for temperature data, I believe you’re referring to a paper by McKitrick and Michaels? Their claims can also be easily explained by spatial autocorrelation . . . monitoring stations in northern hemisphere urban areas might also be showing greater temperature rises than what you find in non-urban equatorial Africa because it is the higher latitudes which exhibit greater warming (as predicted by all the models). In fact, as compelling as a photograph of a monitoring station next to an airport runway might be, the greatest increases in temperature have been recorded in circumpolar regions.

    At any rate, you don’t think for a minute that the scientific community hasn’t carefully considered land-use patterns and how they relate to temperature records?

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/population/article2abstract.pdf

    Listen, we can debate specific scientific points ad nauseum, but that doesn’t change the bottom line for me. I don’t find the flood of correlating studies and/or the position statements of the relevant professional organizations to be inconsequential. Even if there were a corresponding flood of dissenting opinion (which there isn’t) to the point where the scientific community was divided 50/50 (which it’s not), I’d still have to ask “What is the CONSERVATIVE course of action?” If my house turned out to be built on an old toxic waste site and I had 1000 scientists telling me that my family faced dire health consequences and another 1000telling me that I had nothing to worry about, I’d move!

  23. Rob, thought I’d toss this your way . . . it relates to the integrity of the blogosphere accusations about the CRU emails. You still going to rail about “Mike’s trick” like it is some sort of conspiratorial act?

  24. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been an avid listener of the SGU for years, and I’ve always thought their take on global warming felt strangely dismissive of skepticism. Whenever they discuss a topic where the “skeptics” are genuinely dishonest or illogical (the intelligent designers, etc), they tackle them point for point and discuss the science in a way that helps illeviate doubt on the matter. However, when it comes to climate skeptics, it’s always a curt “they’re denialists” and “on to other news.” Such a strange double-standard, methinks.

  25. You guys mention in passing (!) the surface stations collecting much of the raw data. I also note Clark’s citing of the ncdc.noaa abstract from 2002. Please consider using something a little more current, like 2009.

    http://www.surfacestations.org/

    Read the .pdf offered there. You may note that the author opines that data collection in the rest of the world is probably not better. May be wrong on that…may be right…don’t know. Anyway, ncdc, noaa don’t care anyway. And maybe you don’t either.

  26. Yes I too like SGU

    they encourage looking at the evidence and looking at the evidence
    but when it comes to Climate Catastrophe Theory they seem to have thrown logic out in favour of an attitude and name calling just to defend a position just like the woo opposition normally do.

  27. Wow, the code isn’t up to snuff to a computer scientist, and the code actually has some bugs. Gee, that never happens.
    I find it interesting that an Anthony Watts site is referenced. As a devout anti-climate change blogger, I think his opinion would be skewed.

    This code has been produced over decades by scientists, not software engineers, so if it doesn’t look “pretty”, so what? The bottom line is, does it match the measured data being collected around the world? I’ve understood for decades that the assumptions made will affect the results, but the fact that the bulk of the models match observations seems pretty good to me. Actually read the IPCC reports. The special section dealing with water is particularly interesting as some of their concerns seem to be happening now. I guess since that as scientists they couch their predictions with confidence levels, it makes it easy to say the results are inconclusive.

  28. Intentionally spinning down older temperatures to make today look warmer is not a bug. That is design.

    Also, they accept very old tree ring data even though more recent observations have shown that it does not correlate well to temperatures. Another intentional deceit.

    The wheels are coming off of the biggest scientific hoax/scam in world history. This is not about science, this has always been about politics.

  29. Pingback: Political Skepticism « The War on Socialism

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