The title above is meant to be sarcastic but in the course of getting my many papers published in the academic journals, I got a close-up look at peer review and what I saw was not pretty. I often wondered if the reviewer had in fact read my paper, for instance. So I actually agree that review via the many specialized blogs can be much more searching and valuable, whether or not it was in the case under discussion.
Rather amusingly, however, because peer review is so poor many papers published in my field were glaringly bad -- showing no knowledge of the prior literature on the subject, for instance. It was therefore a doddle for me to write a critique tearing the negligent paper to shreds. Journal editors hate publishing critiques but my critiques were often so devastating that they just had to be published. So I got an extra opportunity to put my message across because peer review was so incompetent -- JR
In January 2009, Nature splashed its front cover with the results of a new study titled 'Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year'. The article was accompanied by a glowing editorial from Nature and was widely reported on in the media.
A very short time after the paper was published, a number of factual errors were found in the paper, along with significant issues with the methodology used to obtain the surprising results. The errors and the methodological problems were reported and discussed by climate change blogs Watts Up With That, The Air Vent, Climate Audit and Real Climate.
Imagine if at this stage Nature's editor in chief looked at the reported blog commentary and decided the journal had published a paper, which while it had gone through the normal peer review processes, based on some of the blog commentary, was basically fundamentally flawed and should not have been published.
Furthermore, the original reviewers may have shared some of the climate alarm notions of the authors, bringing the veracity of the original review into question. Media coverage also sensationalised aspects of the results. The editor in chief is so embarrassed by the publication of the erroneous paper, he decides to resign.
Sounds farcical? In fact Nature's editor did not resign. Indeed there was no need to resign, there was no expectation on the part of the scientific community that a resignation was called for, regardless of the issues with the paper.
Subsequently Nature published a correction by the authors that dealt with some of the factual errors. And later, the blog commentary dealing with the methodological problems, ended up being published as a peer reviewed paper, by Ryan O'Donnell, Nicolas Lewis, Steve McIntyre and Jeff Condon, in the Journal of Climate.
Unlike the original paper however, this received very little media attention. Perhaps the long time the paper spent in peer review (10 months) and the less sensational results dulled the media's interest.
This is just one example of how the peer review system works. Papers are written, reviewed, rejected accepted, acclaimed, criticised, corrected, refuted and debunked. When they are significantly in error they may even be retracted. The process of science, and the reason why it works so well, is because it is one of continual correction and revision. Theory stands until a better theory comes along to replace it. Peer review acts as a general screening tool, but it is by no means perfect, and it is ridiculous to expect it to work perfectly every time.
A better system involving a combination of anonymous and online reviews is emerging to replace traditional review and is represented by journals such as The Cryosphere. Ideally we would see independent auditing of the results and conclusions of important papers, but as yet there is no funding for such a system, nor much enthusiasm for this among the scientific community. However, blogs such as Climate Audit are picking up the slack in this area with mixed reactions from the scientific community.
In terms of ground-breaking papers, the rate of misses is much greater than the hits. Indeed, for one branch of science, epidemiology, recent research suggests that most published findings are proven false within five years of publication. There is no reason to suggest that other disciplines have better score sheets. If an editor resigned every time a problem was found with a published paper, scientific publishing would quickly grind to a halt.
To some astonishment the scenario outlined above, in which a journal editor resigns over the publication of a controversial paper, has recently occurred. It involves a paper by Roy Spencer and William Braswell published just last month in the journal, Remote Sensing titled 'On the Misdiagnosis of Climate Feedbacks from Variations in Earth's Radiant Energy Balance'. Like the Antarctic paper in Nature, the paper by Spencer and Braswell went through the normal peer review process. It was promoted by the authors' university through a press release and received a few mentions in the media.
Like the Antarctic paper, some of the media coverage sensationalised the results. The paper also came in for favourable and harsh criticism on the internet, and it appears the paper is not free from error, or methodological issues.
However, rather than allow the peer reviewed system to take care of the issues in the normal manner, the journal's editor, Wolfgang Wagner, took the unprecedented step of resigning over it. In his editorial comment in Remote Sensing, Professor Wagner explains how he, remarkably, relied not on the peer reviewed literature to back his decision, but on comments on an internet blog. He states:
Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science. Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims. Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published. After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing.
In the process the editor has also broke the trust of the reviewers, deriding them in the process by stating in his editorial:
The editorial team unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors.
God forbid that a paper ever be reviewed by scientists who may have similar opinions to the author. On this basis will we now see "sceptical" reviewers invited to provide critical input into the next IPCC report?
Professor Wagner, who has no expertise in the relevant area of climate science and hence cannot judge the value of the paper on his own the merits (that's why expert reviewers are used), relied on the commentary of a non-peer reviewed climate blog in order to justify his resignation. The resignation was not expected, or required and is highly unusual. The paper by Spencer and Braswell has not been retracted, however a number of formal critiques of the paper have very rapidly appeared. One in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and one in Remote Sensing. Commentary about both has also been quick on the internet (eg, at Climate Audit - here and here), but no resignations are expected from the issues uncovered.
The commentary in Remote Sensing was received and accepted at warp speed, all in the space of 24 hours; and oddly, against convention, it does not appear with a reply by the original authors. It is anticipated that this will be published in the near future.
In comparison, criticism of Nature's Antarctic warming paper sat in peer review at the Journal of Climate for an amazing 10 months. It seems an expressway exists through the peer review system for papers and comments that support a particular view, while others are considered and reviewed at a snail's pace. Nevertheless ,the system works in slowly advancing knowledge, even if sometimes we go back a few steps in order to progress further in the future.
Wagner's resignation has unnecessarily prejudiced opinion about Spencer and Braswell's paper, regardless of whether, in the long run, the work gets refuted, or it ends up being confirmed. The peer review system, even when abused, is more than capable of dealing with the scientific debate and makes a mockery of Wagner's immature decision. Based on Wagner's actions, peer review is dead; long live blog review.
It's the Warmists who are the climate deniers
By slicing and dicing the data, the article below tries to persuade you that the last few winters weren't as cold as you know they were. The "researchers" pick out just a few days from each year to generate their conclusions. What happens if we look at ALL the data, however? At the end of the Warmist article below I reproduce a VERY interesting graph. But don't you love their totally self-serving summary of their findings: "The cold weather could be explained by the North Atlantic Oscillation, but the warm weather is part of a long-term warming trend" --JR
Snowstorms have grabbed all the headlines, but it's actually been getting hotter. Is it global warming?
There were actually more extra-warm days in the last two days than extra-cold winter days.
The cold weather could be explained by the North Atlantic Oscillation, but the warm weather is part of a long-term warming trend.
Just in time for winter, new analysis shows that even though headlines in the last two winters might make you think we had intensely cold seasons, the truth is just the opposite. In fact, there were actually more especially warm than especially cold winter days both seasons, new analysis shows.
"In the last couple of winters, there has been an inordinate amount of coverage of cold conditions in many places, and also questions about what these cold extremes mean for climate change," said Alexander Gershunov of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. His team wanted to look at whether the actual temperatures backed up all of these news reports.
"We focused on the last two winters that were notoriously cold in certain places, especially parts of Europe and Siberia and the eastern, especially southeastern, US," Gershunov said.
The team examined temperature records throughout the northern hemisphere going back to 1948 and compared the coldest and warmest five percent of days in each of the last two winters with the long-term trends.
"The strongest extremes of the last two winters were actually not cold, they were warm," he said. "The warm extremes in many places were unprecedented. They were much more widespread, and covered a lot more of the northern hemisphere than the cold extremes did."
While the cold extremes for the northern hemisphere for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 winters ranked 21st and 34th, respectively, the warm extremes ranked 12th and fourth, according to the findings, which will appear in Geophysical Research Letters. "The cold extremes were prominent, but they were not unprecedented," Gershunov said.
The researchers also found that the cold weather could be explained by the North Atlantic Oscillation, a natural climate cycle like El Ni¤o which produces cycles of warmer or colder weather in North America and Europe. Indeed, were it not for ongoing climate warming, the oscillation would have generated even colder temperatures, Gershunov said.
No. You weren't imagining it. If you look at ALL the data, it really HAS been getting colder:
Chomsky enthusiast praises Nazism and says Republican climate skeptics are insane
Just about what you would expect of a Chomsky admirer. Although Jewish himself, Chomsky gets on well with neo-Nazis
Leftist psychologists have been calling conservatives insane for over 60 years but have never been able to produce proof of it. It's just the usual Leftist abuse
Noam Chomsky stated recently in a Democracy Now! interview that what is currently happening—indeed, what has been happening for years—in the Republican party has “no analogue in American history” and is “just off the international spectrum of sane behavior.”
While I’ve been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama generally, as well as in his compromising with the extreme right of the Republican party, I do agree with Chomsky that Obama is grounded in reality, unlike most of the Republican field of candidates.
As Chomsky states in the interview, “I must say that politics in this country now is in a state that I think has no analogue in American history and maybe nowhere in any parliamentary system. It’s astonishing.” Chomsky continued, “I mean, I’m not a great enthusiast for Obama, as you know, from way back, but at least he’s somewhere in the real world. Perry, who’s very likely—very likely to get the—to win the primary and win the nomination, and maybe to win the election, he’s often in outer space. I mean, his views are unbelievable. Bachmann is the same.”
Chomsky noted that he’d just returned from Europe “where people just can’t believe what they’re seeing here, what people are saying.”
He pointed to environmental catastrophe and global warming denial as a prime example of this European disbelief and horror at what’s occurring in American politics.
“[T]ake one of the really crucial issues for the human species: doing something about environmental catastrophe. Well, you know, every single one of the Republican candidates—maybe not Huntsman, but every major one—is a climate change denier. It’s kind of ironic in the case of Perry. He says there’s no global warming, while Texas is burning up with the highest temperatures on record, fire all over the place, and so on.”
He gives Bachmann some credit for admitting that there might be such a thing as global warming, but was shocked that Bachmann would equate this with the Christian god’s punishment for homosexuality.
Chomsky, of course, shouldn’t be so shocked about Bachmann’s point of view—America, more than perhaps any other country on Earth, has a sizable percentage of the population that holds the exact same point of view, and will enthusiastically endorse such candidates; putting men and women like Perry, Bachmann and Palin front and center. These candidates could never have become demagogues if vast numbers of the American citizenry weren’t willing to follow them to such extremes of human thinking.
Democrats may be spineless, contradictory, hypocritical and not a little complicit in the strengthening of the coporocratic American reality; but, the Republicans are quite openly psychotic. And by psychotic, I mean, of course, that they are removed from the fabric of reality.
Walter Sobzchak in The Big Lebowski, said in response to nihilism, “Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, at least it’s an ethos.”
Indeed, Republican politics in the form of the current crop of candidates also has an ethos—the ethos of psychosis. As Chomsky notes, “it’s just off the international spectrum of sane behavior.”
Texas A&M's Dessler Confuses Weather & Climate
I found Dr. Andrew Dessler's comments regarding Governor Perry's position on climate change rather impressive. Not for the brilliance of his overall argument unfortunately, but for the speed with which he contradicted himself within a short op-ed.
He begins by suggesting that Governor Perry's remarks were particularly "disturbing" because they were delivered in the middle of a Texas heat wave/drought. Incredibly, a short time later in the same piece, he acknowledges that climate change does not cause specific weather events. If that's the case (and it is), Governor Perry's remarks should have been no more disturbing to Dessler than if they were delivered during a rather calm, unremarkable period of weather.
In Dessler's defense, he does go on to state — as possible justification for his criticism of Perry's position — that the Texas heat wave/drought was made "more extreme" because of global warming than it otherwise would have been.
But how much warming has been observed? Most supporters of AGW (anthropogenic (man-made) global warming) theory believe the Earth's temperature has risen approximately .74 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) because of a group of pesky, irresponsible, easily expendable, surface dwelling bipods collectively known as the human race. I don't know about other Texas residents, but every time my car thermometer hits 105, I say to myself "I sure wish it were only 103.7 degrees."
Dessler alarmingly exclaimed "July was the single hottest month in the observational record, and the 12 months that ended in July were drier than any corresponding period in the record."
In order to verify this, I contacted meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo who was the first Director of Meteorology at the Weather Channel and currently publishes the ICECAP website. D'Aleo was adamant that "the long term temperature trends for summer in Texas show no global warming or increased drought, no matter how many professors at how many universities in Texas opine otherwise."
To prove his point, D'Aleo posted NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) precipitation and temperature graphs dating back to 1895 on his ICECAP website. A review of both graphs would seem to indicate that precipitation and temperature have been rather flat for Texas since NOAA began keeping records.
D'Aleo emphasized that "Texas has seen serious droughts before, most notably in the 1950s." Also according to D'Aleo, who along with Pamela G. Grube co-authored The Oryx Resource Guide to El Nino and La Nina, the recent Texas drought and heat is due to an oceanic-atmospheric phenomenon known as La Nina, that was the strongest by atmospheric measures since 1954-1956 and 1917/18, which were also major drought years in Texas. The simplest, most obvious explanation is often the best, but there is apparently no room for Occam's Razor in a green necessities kit.
Dessler reminded readers that scientists at Texas A&M and other nearby universities agree with him on man-made global warming as if that is somehow important. For the record, there is nothing about the scientific method that would suggest debates are settled by a show of hands. One could have once easily secured a consensus that the Earth is flat or that the Sun revolves around the Earth.
A review of articles that have appeared in the New York Times over the last one hundred and fifty years indicates that the scientific community has flip- flopped on the cooling versus warming debate about a dozen times over the last century and a half. A great way to stop global warming might be to simply wait until scientists change their minds again.
Dessler is quick to imply that those who disagree with AGW theory are conspiracy theorists. Perhaps Dessler was too busy teaching class or writing his next paper to notice Climategate. For anyone who has been living under a rock, Climategate is the name given to the scientific scandal in which climate scientists who support AGW theory were caught "conspiring" to fudge data, bully fellow scientists and blackball scientific journals that dared to print a single opposing viewpoint. The same scientists also "conspired" to avoid complying with FOIA (freedom of information act) requests.
Of course, the House of Commons in Great Britain proclaimed the CRU (Climate Research Unit) at East Anglia University to be innocent of any wrongdoing and Penn State University ruled that Michael Mann did nothing wrong. Both exonerations are about as significant and credible as O.J. Simpson's mother giving Judge Ito a note stating that O.J. hadn't killed anybody.
I'm still waiting for Dr. Dessler or any other warmist for that matter to provide a context within which using "Mike's (Michael Mann's) nature trick ... to 'hide' the decline (in temperatures)" would amount to anything less than felonious, scientific fraud
Dessler speculates that scientists could increase climate research funding by claiming they didn't know what was causing climate change. It's hard to imagine the government wasting even more of our hard-earned tax dollars on resolving this non-issue. According to a paper written by Jo Nova in Australia, the United States Government has spent 79 Billion on climate change research since 1989.
So large is this boondoggle, we now see social scientists and military think tanks trying to get in on the action. As a result, we have to endure ridiculous claims about the impact of global warming on the divorce rate, the number of prostitutes, and national defense. Researchers figured out long ago that they can procure a lot more grant money by screaming the sky is falling than by suggesting a perceived problem might not be a problem at all. Write a grant proposal for a study on the reproductive rate of a particular frog and your odds of obtaining funding might not be so good. Change the study to a study on whether the same frog will soon face extinction due to global warming and the next sound you hear will be cha-ching.
The fact that economists have concluded "the costs of reducing emissions are less than the costs of unchecked climate change" is of absolutely no significance because the economists are relying solely on global warming proponents for predictions of what the long terms consequences of global warming will be. If they relied on AGW skeptics for this information, spending even a penny would be too much as skeptics do not believe there will be any long term consequences. To suggest that the economic models prove we should do something about climate change now is an example of a conclusion based on highly predictable, GIGO (garbage in garbage out) modeling.
The same can be said of computer climate models that can't even predict the past let alone the future of Earth's climate. If economists want to provide something of value to the climate debate, they should devote their time to explaining the connection between the ill-advised pursuit of bio fuels and the tortilla riots that took place in Mexico. If you've never heard of the tortilla riots or the food riots that took place in numerous other poor countries, don't blame yourself. The mainstream media ignored these stories as they have all stories that had the potential to derail any part of the climate change movement.
When they have covered negative stories, it has been from the angle of defending those involved. Examples of this bias can also be seen in the media's handling of a U.K. court's ruling that Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth contained numerous factual errors and in the way Climategate was covered.
The biggest insult of all came at the end of Dessler's piece when he accused Governor Perry of employing a "shoot the messenger" tactic. This is particularly offensive given how often AGW supporters employ this strategy themselves. Consider the following outrageous statements aimed at AGW skeptics.
In his June 23, 2008 testimony before the United States Congress, James Hansen of NASA called for the punishment of climate change skeptics for "crimes against humanity." Then there was Avatar director James Cameron who stated climate skeptics were "swine" and said " I want to call all those deniers out into the streets at high noon and shoot it out with those boneheads." Sydney Morning Herald columnist Richard Glover suggested in a recent column that “Surely it’s time for climate-change deniers to have their opinions forcibly tattooed on their bodies."
A gentleman in Tennessee who dared to publish Al Gore's monthly electric bill received six death threats for exposing Gore's hypocrisy. Al Gore himself has on more than one occasion compared climate change deniers to racists.
These are much better examples of a "shoot the messenger" mentality than anything Governor Perry has ever said. One can only wonder if Dr. Dessler approves of this type of rhetoric and if he's ever called out his own side for their "shoot the messenger" tactics?
It's heating or eating in winter for us, retirees warn London Mayor
British electricity bills are heavily laden with government charges used to support Warmist projects
Pensioners today urged Boris Johnson to tackle fuel poverty as it emerged that more vulnerable people than ever are struggling to pay their energy bills.
More than one in four people in the capital are currently unable to meet their energy bills as rising prices and welfare reforms threaten to send even more into fuel poverty.
A report by London Councils today warns that rising fuel prices means that fuel poverty could be a key issue this winter.
A group of pensioners submitted a petition to City Hall last week calling on the Mayor to do more to assist vulnerable people across the capital who are unable to pay their bills.
Fuel poverty in London is defined as when a household has to spend more than a tenth of its income to "maintain an adequate level of warmth" after housing costs. George Durack, 87, a retired post office worker who chairs the Islington Pensioners' Forum, today warned that elderly people could die if something is not done to combat the problem.
He said: "Something needs to be done about this. They are reducing the fuel poverty allowance and a lot of people are going to struggle. "There are pensioners dying because of fuel poverty. It's horrible. A lot of pensioners are really going to feel it this winter. The cost of living has already gone up so much and this just makes things much worse."
Mr Durack added: "It has got to the point where, for a lot of pensioners, you either heat or you eat. People are going without meals - it is that bad. Something needs to be done and that is why we are taking our petition to City Hall."
Between 2004 and 2009 domestic electricity prices increased by over 75 per cent and gas prices increased by over 122 per cent. A number of suppliers including British Gas and NPower, this year announced further price rises.
Catherine West, chairwoman of London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee, said: "Fuel poverty is a real and growing danger to low-income families in the capital. With rising living costs and fuel bills, more households face a miserable winter fighting off the cold.
"While boroughs will do what they can to support families with advice and through energy efficiency schemes like Re:New, we also need Ofgem to bear down more aggressively on energy companies who are benefiting from lower wholesale prices."
Australia: Racist Greenies
A coconut is brown on the outside but white on the inside. It is a classic slur on blacks who co-operate with whites. For similar reasons Chinese sometimes get called "bananas"
KIMBERLEY Aborigines who support Woodside's $30 billion gas hub are being racially abused as "money-hungry coconuts" in an intensifying campaign involving hateful newsletters and graffiti attacks.
And the Aboriginal leader who helped to secure a 30-year package of indigenous benefits in exchange for a gas hub on Western Australia's far north coast says green groups have betrayed the region's Aborigines.
There is angst and tension in the resort town of Broome, where some of Western Australia's poorest Aborigines live alongside residents who want the hub to go ahead at a different site, preferably 800km south in the industrialised Pilbara.
A newsletter widely distributed in Broome labels Kimberley Land Council chief executive Nolan Hunter as Woodside's "chief coconut" for his role in securing a $1.5bn deal that will bring education, employment and social benefits to the region's indigenous population in return for their support for the gas hub project.
In an exclusive interview with The Australian yesterday, Mr Hunter told how the hate mail came so thick and fast he now instructed staff at the KLC office not to open letters with their bare hands.
Mr Hunter said green groups promised in 2007 to support a single site for a gas hub in the region, but now were campaigning hard against the project. "For them, the environment can stay pristine and the people in it can live in poverty and destitution," he said. "People who oppose the gas have housing, they have income and their kids have good educational opportunities. They want somewhere pristine to come and spend their money on holidays."
The proposed project has been dogged by controversy since April 2009 when Kimberley traditional owners signed a heads of agreement with the state government and Woodside for a gas precinct at James Price Point. In May, the Goolarabooloo Jabbir Jabbir native title claim group voted to support the project. The KLC considers the deal "a landmark exercise in democratic decision making" that will lead directly to hundreds of jobs and guarantee a social justice package of health, education, housing and training.
Protesters have been near the site of survey work since July. "The threatening, offensive and intimidating behaviour that some of our staff, contractors and traditional owners have been subjected to over recent months is unacceptable," a Woodside spokesman said last night.
The region's indigenous Labor MP, Carol Martin, is named along with nine others in the most recent newsletter as "black on the outside, white on the inside and full of the milk of white man's money". She said opponents of the development showed disrespect for Aborigines' rights to make decisions about their land. "I'm shocked at the level of vitriol that's come out . . . this is the worst I've seen it," she said.
Australia: Greenie hypocrisy exposed
The unions have hit the nail on the head with this one. What is the point of destroying Australian jobs only to transfer the "polluting" to China?
UNIONS have gone on the warpath after learning that the new headquarters for the federal Climate Change Department will use cheap Chinese aluminium, which they say is dirtier to produce than the Australian product.
The national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, raised the matter with Julia Gillard yesterday during a meeting of the unions, industry, the Prime Minister and senior ministers to discuss ways of helping the struggling manufacturing sector.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union was not ruling out a green ban on the site if Australian aluminium was not used. The secretary, Dave Noonan, said it was hard to see how the environment was being served by aluminium being produced in a high-carbon environment".
The use of the imported product was a classic example of dumping goods to corner the market and force Australian suppliers out. The union was considering what action to take to draw the issue to public attention.
The department has signed a lease for the Nishi development being constructed in Canberra's central business district.
But a spokesman said neither the department nor the government could be blamed for using the cheap aluminium because it was only a tenant. "The department does not have any input into the awarding of contracts for the base building, which would be a matter for the developer," he said.
Mr Howes said the contract was for 80 tonnes of aluminium extrusions, valued at about $5 million. "Emissions for aluminium made in China are around 50 per cent higher than Australian aluminium," he said. "The irony of the Climate Change Department importing aluminium made from China would be laughable if it wasn't such a slap in the face to Australian manufacturing."
Mr Howes said $5 million might seem like "small fry" to the government "but it's a lot of money to local manufacturers struggling to survive". The manufacturing sector is suffering the pressures of the mining boom, high dollar and cheap imports.
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, the Industry Minister, Kim Carr, and the Australian Industry Group also attended Ms Gillard's meeting yesterday. Such meetings have become frequent since BlueScope Steel laid off 1000 workers a month ago.
Ms Gillard has put tax breaks for manufacturers on the agenda for the tax forum next month to help keep industries viable as they adapt to structural changes in the economy.
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