How will I sleep at night knowing that? Warmists sure have a talent for making buffoons of themselves
The Himalayan glaciers are melting after all, according to new research released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The research was released in an effort to draw a line under the embarrassing mistakes made about the effects of global warming on the region in the past.
The IPCC were forced to apologise for claiming that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035.
The 2009 scandal, known as ‘Himalayagate’ led to criticism of the IPCC, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to warn governments around the world about the effects of climate change.
In an effort to move on from the embarrassing episode, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, has now announced that the latest statistics show the glaciers are melting, according to the limited amount of science available.
The reports, presented at the UN climate change talks in Durban were brought together by the the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
One three year study, funded by Sweden, found that of 10 glaciers measured in the region all are shrinking, with a marked acceleration in loss of ice between 2002 and 2005. Another study found a reduction in snow cover over the region in the last decade.
However the studies also say more research needs to be done as only 10 of the 54,000 glaciers in the region have been studied regularly.
The melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas could have a devastating effect on both animals and people. Some 1.3 billion rely on water flowing from the mountains, which could dry up if the glaciers melt.
Dr Pachauri, who weathered much of the criticism over ‘Himalayagate’, said the reports show the impact climate change could have on mountainous regions.
“These reports provide a new baseline and location-specific information for understanding climate change in one of the most vulnerable ecosytems in the world,” he said. “They substantially deepen our understanding of this region – and of all mountain systems – while also pointing to the knowledge gaps yet to be filled and actions that must be taken to deal with the challenge of climate change globally and to minimise the risks from impacts locally.”
Alfred Wegener Institute Deputy Director, Veteran Polar Scientist: “We Have A Light Cooling Trend”
I really hate doing this, because I know that the poor scientist will probably be summoned to some office somewhere for an earful, or just suddenly disappear in some big ice crevice. We all know that in Germany terrible things happen to climate scientists (and journalists) who don’t say the right things.
Our friends at here at Science Skeptical bring us this clip, which is a snippet from a report that appeared on NDR German public TV last Friday evening.
In the clip Prof. Heinrich Miller is working down at the Antarctic Neumayer III station and is interviewed by NDR. Miller is deputy director of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven and has been researching the Arctic and Antarctic for decades. He’s a true old hat of polar research who really knows what he’s talking about. Science Skeptical writes: "There’s hardly any other climate scientist that knows the polar regions as well and as long as Miller does.”
In the above clip, NDR asks Miller about the trend in Antarctica and what climate-related changes have been noticed? Miller says (emphasis added):
"Here almost nothing has changed. At least not near the surface. The average annual temperatures have remained the same. There are of course large fluctuations from year to year. If anything over the last 30 years we have a slight cooling trend. And this flies in the face of what is always immediately claimed: ‘The climate is warming and the Antarctic is melting’.”
There it is, right from the horse’s mouth, from someone who really knows: Antarctica is cooling.
Where Windbags Dare To Outlaw Plastic Bags
On his official website, San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi starts his list of accomplishments with this item: "Plastic Bag Ban: First-in-the-Nation ban on plastic bags in chain grocery stores and drug stores, which sparked similar legislation around the world from Oakland to Canada to Paris to Beijing." In his final month as supervisor before he becomes sheriff, Mirkarimi wants to expand the ban so that it applies to all stores and requires retailers to charge customers for bags at the checkout counter.
"First in the nation" is rarely a good thing for a law. First, it means the measure is liberal. (Conservatives don't brag that their proposed laws are an experiment.) Second, its target is virgin territory probably because there's been no need for a law. Third, the measure may cost someone else his job and surely will be paid out of your pocket.
Exhibit A: San Francisco's groundbreaking Happy Meal law. McDonald's got around the ordinance that banned free toys with meals that don't meet City Hall's nutritional standards by announcing it will charge customers an extra 10 cents if they want a toy with the food.
Exhibit B: The Mirkarimi plan. Supervisors will vote on Plastic Bag 2.0 this month. It would come with a mandatory charge of at least 10 cents per bag starting July 1, possibly rising to 25 cents in 2014. Retailers would get to keep your dimes.
Mirkarimi told me that San Francisco no longer is in the lead when it comes to bag laws. Other governments -- Ireland, Beijing, Marin County -- that followed Ess Eff's lead are "now blowing by us. Their laws are much more vigorous."
Single-use bags don't just end up in landfills and wetlands; they litter streets and become a "nuisance" and "blight." Science is on his side, Mirkarimi told me; it takes 500 years for plastic bags to disintegrate. (How does anyone know it takes 500 years for a bag to disintegrate?)
Mayor Ed Lee told KCBS' Barbara Taylor that he supports the measure because it probably would "modify behavior." Spokeswoman Christine Falvey walked that position back with an email that said Lee supports "the goal of the legislation and incentivizing consumers to bring their own bags." He will weigh in later.
Mirkarimi argued, "You've got to deal with the hidden costs of pollution that were never factored in (to) the retail point of purchase."
This is how City Hall sees the bag bill playing out: Thanks to enlightened San Francisco politicians, shoppers begin to take reusable bags wherever they go. Bad consumers pay for their own bags. Good consumers no longer have to subsidize bad consumers.
Even the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is on board. "You're outlawing the plastic bags but also encouraging reusable," said Vice President Jim Lazarus.
"The chamber reflects the community we live in," Lazarus added. I ask how big department stores, which send off their merchandise in brightly colored bags, feel about the bill. "A number of retailers must prefer not to have this regulation," he answered, "but are resigned to the changing demands of communities of how bags are used."
That's the story of San Francisco. The left squawks when, say, the mayor suggests that Occupy SF activists decamp from their illegal digs in Justin Herman Plaza. The mayor backed off for weeks. But when City Hall tells law-abiding businesses and customers to change their behavior, it gets results.
But not always the desired result. A Safeway spokeswoman explained that Mirkarimi's 2007 plastic bag ban prompted customers not to bring their own reusable bags, but to ask for free paper bags. Given a choice, San Franciscans chose free bags. Bingo, a new law.
Of course Safeway supports the new Mirkarimi measure. It makes Safeway charge for bags it has been giving away.
The lonely job of opposing the measure falls to Stephen Joseph, who represents plastic bag manufacturers. Because most reusable bags are made overseas whereas most plastic bags are made in America, he claims, the new measure essentially would kill American jobs and replace them with Chinese jobs.
Joseph doesn't believe consumers will use reusable bags as often as expected. They get dirty, so you don't want to put food in them.
Also, San Francisco is a tourist mecca. Where's the hospitality in charging visitors to buy a bag to take their purchases home?
My objection: City documents report that single-use plastic bags represent 0.13 percent of California's total waste stream. If the supervisors want to address a "nuisance," as Mirkarimi calls plastic bags, they should work with the mayor to go after bigger nuisances that dramatically alter the quality of life in San Francisco. Read: aggressive panhandlers, hostile street people who use the city as a public toilet and substance abusers who drive up crime rates. But that would require city pols to moderate their politics.
So they go after people who have the cheek to buy things in San Francisco stores and expect a free new bag. They're the only group in San Francisco that won't protest.
The Lizard or Your Livelihood
For years the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been used to block development and economic growth. But on December 1, 2011, people and jobs were given a small victory.
Midday, Thursday, December 1, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a 6-month extension for the final determination for the proposed listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard (also known as the sand dune lizard). This may sound insignificant to those not impacted by previous ESA listing decisions or those not engaged in this fight, but it is surely something to cheer about in an era of bad economic news. (In this case, the proposed ESA listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard has the potential to “decimate” a large percentage of America’s oil and gas production.) Additionally, it represents a rare instance of bipartisan action and Congress doing the right thing.
One year ago, the FWS published its intention to consider the proposed listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard as an endangered species under the ESA. This set into place a year-long process of public hearings, data gathering, and citizen rallies.
The ESA only allows three options in response to a proposed listing. One of these actions must be taken within one year of the proposed listing date—which would have been December 14, 2011:
(1) Finalize the proposed listing;
(2) Withdraw the proposed listing; or
(3) Extend the final determination by not more than 6 months, if there is substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of the available data relevant to the determination, for the purposes of soliciting additional data.
The citizens who would be directly impacted if the lizard is listed have written comments and made phone calls, stepped out of their comfort zones to speak up at hearings, and waved signs at rallies—all in hopes of saving their communities’ economies. Though history told them it was unlikely, the desired outcome was option #2, the withdrawal of the proposed listing.
On December 1, they didn’t get an early Christmas present, but they did get a gift: option #3, as there is “substantial disagreement” about the “science” in the actual proposed listing. This gift buys time to draw more attention to the issue—and it puts the lizard and the listings’ job-killing potential smack dab in the middle of the campaign season in a swing state.
With the history of ESA listings, such as the spotted owl and delta smelt, which ultimately destroyed jobs, communities, and industries, the people of Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas were unwilling to simply let the listing proceed. In a scientific roundtable held August 15, 2011, and organized by New Mexico State Representative Dennis Kintigh, a panel of scientists from a variety of disciplines carefully reviewed the science behind the listing and found numerous contradictions and inconsistencies (which should have been found by the FWS) chronicled in the resulting report. Their work is referenced in the FWS release: “The Service has received new survey information for the lizard in New Mexico and Texas and an unsolicited peer-reviewed study on our proposed rule.”
In justifying its decision, the FWS said: “Public comments received since the publication of the proposed rule have expressed concerns regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the data related to the dune sagebrush lizard’s status and trends in New Mexico and Texas. Therefore, in consideration of the disagreements surrounding the lizard’s status, the Service is extending the final determination for 6 months in order to solicit scientific information that will help to clarify these issues.”
Perhaps the scrutiny of the proposed listing made the FWS realize that the listing would not hold up under the inevitable court battle that would come with a finalization of the proposed listing and that the agency would end up looking foolish.
The FWS has reopened the public comment period for an additional 45 days—from December 5-January 18. Concerned citizens who have not previously commented, those with survey information, and/or population estimates are invited to submit the information. All of the accumulated data will become the official record that will be part of a likely legal appeal.
On November 22, a letter, signed by 18 Congressmen from both parties, was sent to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar asking him to direct the FWS not to list the dunes sagebrush lizard—or at least delay the decision because “considerable new scientific research has been collected about this species, since the initial listing proposal, supporting the view that the lizard is not, in fact, endangered.”
New Mexico’s two Democratic Senators, Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, sent a similar letter to the FWS Director, Daniel Ashe, on November 10. They asked him to exercise his authority to delay the decision “if there is a dispute between the scientific data relating to the merits of a listing.”
Without the Congressmen’s action, the public involvement, and the scientists donating their time to go over the science with a fine-toothed comb, this listing would have likely sailed through as many before it have done. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the organization that first petitioned for the lizard’s listing in 2002, blames “mounting pressure” for the delay.
While the CBD accuses Congressman Steve Pearce of grossly overblowing the claims that the lizard’s protections will “decimate jobs,” CBD’s own press release regarding the FWS delay announcement states: “The lizard declines or disappears in the face of oil and gas development or herbicide spraying, both of which are rampant in the species’ habitat.” Clearly their intent in petitioning for the lizards’ protection involves stopping or blocking oil and gas development—which is the economic driver of the region. They call talk of lost jobs “hysterics.”
If the people of the Permian Basin (Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas) lose their jobs and their communities crumble because of the listing, is that hysterics? They don’t think so.
If the lizard is not listed, we know the outcome: people have jobs, certainty is restored to communities, inviting investment and growth. If the lizard is listed, we do not know the outcome—uncertainty prevails. Maybe it will not be as bad as Congressman Peace claims, but any jobs lost, any growth curtailed is not a good thing—especially when it is rushed through and based on bad science; especially when, for example, the spotted owl has continued to decline despite its ESA protection.
Upon hearing about the sand dune lizard delay decision, Dan Keppen, Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance said, ““Back in the late 1980’s, when two species of sucker fish were originally proposed for Endangered Species Act protection, the people of the Upper Klamath Basin were told, like the people of the Permian Basin are being told, ‘this will not impact your farms, your livelihood, or your communities.’ If people understood then, what they know now, they would have fought doubly hard against the listing. As the good citizens of Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas have done, all of the communities facing an endangered species listing need to fight them with truth as their very existence is what is really endangered. Congratulations on this little victory. May it embolden you and others who are watching.”
So, we have a small gift in this “delay” decision. But the battle continues. Not just over the dunes sagebrush lizard, but over the “spring-run” Upper Klamath Chinook salmon in Oregon, and the Santa Ana Sucker in Southern California. There are hundreds of critters, most you’ve never heard of, for which groups like CBD are petitioning FWS for protection. They can be listed without any consideration regarding the economic impact it may have on the people of the region or America. Good people will have to keep showing up, standing up, and speaking up to fight this misuse of the ESA—unless the ESA is repealed or amended.
The battle continues. Hopefully, the troops are emboldened by this small victory. America is in a war—an economic war. We need a government that is fighting for us, not against us. In a tough election year, can President Obama afford to tick off the people in a swing state by once again appeasing the environmentalists instead of encouraging jobs? Remember, public pressure works.
Greenie attack on asthmatics
This past week, I endured a very personal and distressing episode of government imposition by way of environmentalism. Let me explain...
Since about the age of twelve (44 years ago), I have experienced occasional bouts of asthma. The best description I can give to those who are fortunate enough to not have to deal with this malady is that it feels like your lungs are being stuffed with cotton.
After a day of helping to clear fallen trees on a friend’s property last Wednesday, my allergies decided to go respiratory on me. The allergic reaction was coming on strong and my epinephrine inhaler was empty. For the first time in probably 40 years, I found myself really in trouble with asthma.
My concerned wife drove hurriedly to the local Safeway while I sat in the passenger seat and focused on breathing. She was in and out of the store quickly, but returned incredulous and empty-handed. The Safeway pharmacist had explained to my wife that they were no longer carrying over-the-counter epinephrine inhalers in response to a new federal mandate and that she should get me to an emergency room.
Uncomfortable, but not quite in a panic, I opted to try the closest drug store, fifteen minutes away, rather than endure a an emergency room ordeal at the nearest hospital, 25 minutes away. Fortunately, the Walgreen’s had a supply of over-the-counter Primatene Mist, still legal for sale through the end of December.
Two days later, in the leisure of fully operating lung capacity, I investigated the matter, including a phone call to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Armstrong Pharmaceuticals explains in a statement on their website, “On December 31, 2011, the FDA ban on the sale of Primatene® Mist containing CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) as a propellant will become effective. ... The ban on the sale of Primatene® Mist is a result of the Montreal Protocol treaty, which prohibits the sale of certain products containing CFCs.”
The FDA’s website includes the explanation, “Primatene® Mist inhalers use CFCs, which decrease the earth's ozone layer.” The representative whom I reached by phone was not willing to argue the validity of the environmental claims. But she did give me her best shot at reasoning the FDA’s website statement that, “You can only buy albuterol HFA inhalers—or any inhaler after Dec. 31—with a prescription from your doctor.”
The Armstrong Pharmaceuticals website says that they are “actively finalizing its internal development of a new, CFC-Free Primatene® Mist that ... will use a more environmentally friendly propellant.” So, did the FDA first ensure approval of the replacement product before banning the current product? Nope. According to Armstrong, “There will likely be a period of time between December 31, 2011 and the date of FDA approval of the new HFA Primatene® Mist product.” The FDA representative confirmed this to me on the phone, criticizing Armstrong for having profit motivations.
Environmental activism, fortified by a willing and corrupt court system, is the liberals’ Rx of choice in controlling the people.
A sequel as ugly as the original
The conventional wisdom about blockbuster movie sequels is that the second acts are seldom as good as the originals. The exceptions, like The Godfather: Part II or The Empire Strikes Back, succeed because they build a bigger backstory and add dimensions to the original characters. The sudden release last week of another 5,000 emails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of East Anglia University—ground zero of “Climategate I” in 2009—immediately raised the question of whether this would be one of those rare exceptions or Revenge of the Nerds II.
Before anyone had time to get very far into this vast archive, the climate campaigners were ready with their critical review: Nothing worth seeing here. Out of context! Cherry picking! “This is just trivia, it’s a diversion,” climate researcher Joel Smith told Politico. On the other side, Anthony Watts, proprietor of the invaluable WattsUpWithThat.com skeptic website, had the kind of memorable line fit for a movie poster. With a hat tip to the famous Seinfeld episode, Watts wrote: “They’re real, and they’re spectacular!” An extended review of this massive new cache will take months and could easily require a book-length treatment. But reading even a few dozen of the newly leaked emails makes clear that Watts and other longtime critics of the climate cabal are going to be vindicated.
Climategate I, the release of a few thousand emails and documents from the CRU in November 2009, revealed that the united-front clubbiness of the leading climate scientists was just a display for public consumption. The science of climate change was not “settled.” There was no consensus about the extent and causes of global warming; in their private emails, the scientists expressed serious doubts and disagreements on some major issues. In particular, the email exchanges showed that they were far from agreement about a key part of the global warming narrative—the famous “hockey stick” graph that purported to demonstrate that the last 30 years were the warmest of the last millennium and which made the “medieval warm period,” an especially problematic phenomenon for the climate campaign, simply go away. (See my “Scientists Behaving Badly,” The Weekly Standard, December 14, 2009.) Leading scientists in the inner circle expressed significant doubts and uncertainty about the hockey stick and several other global warming claims about which we are repeatedly told there exists an ironclad consensus among scientists. (Many of the new emails make this point even more powerfully.) On the merits, the 2009 emails showed that the case for certainty about climate change was grossly overstated.
More damning than the substantive disagreement was the attitude the CRU circle displayed toward dissenters, skeptics, and science journals that did not strictly adhere to the party line. Dissenting articles were blocked from publication or review by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), requests for raw data were rebuffed, and Freedom of Information Act requests were stonewalled. National science panels were stacked, and qualified dissenters such as NASA prize-winner John Christy were tolerated as “token skeptics.” The CRU circle was in high dudgeon over the small handful of skeptics who insisted on looking over their shoulder, revealing the climate science community to be thin-skinned and in-secure about its enterprise—a sign that something is likely amiss. Even if there was no unequivocal “smoking gun” of fraud or wrongdoing, the glimpse deep inside the climate science community was devastating. As I wrote at the time (“In Denial,” March 15, 2010), Climategate did for the global warming controversy what the Pentagon Papers did for the Vietnam war 40 years ago: It changed the narrative decisively.
The new batch of emails, over 5,300 in all (compared with about 1,000 in the 2009 release), contains a number of fresh embarrassments and huge red flags for the same lovable bunch of insider scientists. It stars the same cast, starting with the Godfather of the CRU, Phil “hide the decline” Jones, and featuring Michael “hockey stick” Mann once again in his supporting role as the Fredo of climate science, blustering along despite the misgivings and doubts of many of his peers. Beyond the purely human element, the new cache offers ample confirmation of the rank politicization of climate science and rampant cronyism that ought to trouble even firm believers in catastrophic climate change.
In fact, the emails display candid glimpses of concern inside the CRU circle. Peter Thorne of NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), who earned his Ph.D. in climate science at East Anglia in 2001, wrote Phil Jones in a 2005 message, “I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.” An appeal to “context,” which the climate campaigners say is crucial to understanding why excerpts such as this one are unimportant, does quite the opposite, and only points to the problems the climate change campaigners have brought upon themselves by their tribalism.
This exchange between Thorne and Jones, along with numerous similar threads in the new cache, is concerned with what should and shouldn’t be included in a chapter of the IPCC’s 2007 fourth assessment report—a chapter for which Jones was the coordinating lead author along with another key Climategate figure, Kevin Trenberth. The complete chapter (if you’re keeping score at home, it’s Chapter 3 of Working Group I, “Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change”) lists 10 “lead authors” and 66 “contributing authors” in addition to Jones and Trenberth. One of Jones’s emails from 2004 displays how explicitly political the process of assembling the IPCC report is: “We have a very mixed bag of LAs [lead authors] in our chapter. Being the basic atmos obs. one, we’ve picked up number of people from developing countries so IPCC can claim good geographic representation. This has made our task harder as CLAs [contributing lead authors] as we are working with about 50% good people who can write reasonable assessments and 50% who probably can’t.”
The final chapter was amended along lines Thorne recommended, but several other objections and contrary observations (one in particular from Roger Pielke Jr. about extreme weather events that has been subsequently vindicated) were scornfully dismissed. And appeals to context avoid the question: Is this “science-by-committee” a sensible way to sort out contentious scientific issues that hold immense public policy implications? Perhaps a politicized, semi-chaotic process like the IPCC is unavoidable in a subject as wide-ranging and complex as climate change; future historians of science can debate the issue. But the high stakes involved ought to compel a maximum of open debate and transparency. Instead, the IPCC process places a premium on gatekeepers and arbiters who control what goes in and what doesn’t, and it is exactly in its exercise of the gatekeeping function that the CRU circle has shredded its credibility and trustworthiness.
One thing that emerges from the new emails is that, while a large number of scientists are working on separate, detailed nodes of climate-related issues (the reason for dozens of authors for every IPCC report chapter), the circle of scientists who control the syntheses that go into IPCC reports and the national climate reports that the U.S. and other governments occasionally produce is quite small and partial to particular outcomes of these periodic assessments. The way the process works in practice casts a shadow over one of the favorite claims of the climate campaign—namely, that there exists a firm “consensus” about catastrophic future warming among thousands of scientists. This so-called consensus reflects only the views of a much smaller subset of gatekeepers.
Beyond additional bad news for the hockey stick graph, is there anything new in these emails about scientific aspects of the issue? This will take time to sort out, but I suspect anyone with the patience to go through the weeds of all 5,300 messages and cross check them against published results may well discover troubling new aspects of how climate modeling is done, and how weak the models still are on crucial points (such as cloud behavior). Some of the new emails frankly acknowledge such problems. There are arcane discussions about how to interpolate gaps in the data, how to harmonize different data sets, and how to resolve the frequent and often inconvenient (because contradictory) anomalies in modeling results. Definite examples of political influence have emerged already from a first pass over a sample of the massive cache.
In the editing process before the IPCC’s 2001 third assessment report, Timothy Carter of the Finnish Environmental Institute wrote in 2000 to three chapter authors with the observation, “It seems that a few people have a very strong say, and no matter how much talking goes on beforehand, the big decisions are made at the eleventh hour by a select core group.” In this case, decisions at the highest levels of what specific figures and conclusions were to appear in the short “summary for policy makers”—usually the only part of the IPCC’s multivolume reports that the media and politicians read—required changing what appeared in individual chapters, a case of the conclusions driving the findings in the detailed chapters instead of the other way around. This has been a frequent complaint of scientists participating in the IPCC process since the beginning, and the new emails show that even scientists within the “consensus” recognize the problem. Comments such as one from Jonathan Overpeck, writing in 2004 about how to summarize some ocean data in a half-page, reinforce the impression that politics drives the process: “The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guid[e] what’s included and what is left out.”
No amount of context can possibly exonerate the CRU gang from some of the damning expressions and contrivances that appear repeatedly in the new emails. More so than the 2009 batch, these emails make clear the close collaboration between the leading IPCC scientists and environmental advocacy groups, government agencies, and partisan journalists. There are repeated instances of scientists tipping their hand that they’ve thrown in their lot with the climate ideologues. If there were only a handful of such dubious messages, they might be explained away through “context,” or as conciliatory habits of expression. But they are so numerous that it doesn’t require an advanced degree in pattern recognition to make out that these emails constitute not just a “smoking gun” of scientific bias, but a belching howitzer. Throughout the emails numerous participants refer to “the cause,” “our cause,” and other nonscientific, value-laden terms to describe the implications of one dispute or another, while demonizing scientists who express even partial dissent about the subject, such as Judith Curry of Georgia Tech.
Since the beginning of the climate change story more than 20 years ago, it has been hard to sort out whether the IPCC represents the “best” science, or merely the findings most compatible with the politically driven climate policy agenda. Both sets of emails have lifted the lid on the insides of the process, and it isn’t pretty.
A good example of how the political-scientific complex works hand-in-glove to tightly control the results comes from May 2009, when the IPCC authors were working on a “weather generator,” which they hoped would produce climate change scenarios tailored to localities, so as to promote favored adaptive measures (sea walls, flood control, drought readiness, etc.). This is a small but hugely controversial aspect of climate modeling, and one where politicians and advocacy groups (the World Wildlife Fund was especially keen to have this kind of work done) may well be asking scientists to do the impossible. But there’s research money in it, so scientists are only too happy to oblige.
Kathryn Humphrey, a science adviser in Britain’s DEFRA (Department of Environment, Forestry, and Rural Affairs—Britain’s EPA) wrote a worried note to Phil Jones and several other scientists involved in the project about criticisms of the cloistered working group behind the weather generator scheme, noting, “Ministers have also raised questions about this so we will need to go back to them with some further advice.” Jones tries to reassure Humphrey that he’s got the working group under control: “As I’ve said on numerous occasions, if the WG [working group] isn’t there, all the people that need [the weather generator] will go off and do their own thing. This will mean that individual sectors and single studies will do a whole range of different things. This will make the uncertainties even larger!” What Jones is referring to are numerous independent scientific efforts to “downscale” climate models to predict local impacts, and the fact that the results of these separate efforts have been chaotic, rather than demonstrating consensus. Hence the need for someone in authority to marginalize uncertainties and contradictory results. But this is properly called politics, not science.
Humphrey wrote back: “I know this is extremely frustrating for you and completely understand where you are coming from. This is a political reaction, not one based on any scientific analysis of the weather generator. We did the peer review to take care of that. I can’t overstate the HUGE amount of political interest in the project as a message that the Government can give on climate change to help them tell their story. They want the story to be a very strong one and don’t want to be made to look foolish.” (Emphasis added.) Even putting the most charitable possible construction on this exchange—namely that Humphrey really thought the criticisms of the weather generator lacked solid scientific foundation—other messages in the emails make clear that many scientists understand that their models really aren’t up to it, despite Jones’s attempts at reassurance.
In a 2008 email from Jagadish Shukla of George Mason University and the Institute of Global Environment and Society to a large circle of IPCC scientists, Shukla put his finger squarely on the problem: “I would like to submit that the current climate models have such large errors in simulating the statistics of regional [climate] that we are not ready to provide policymakers a robust scientific basis for ‘action’ at a regional scale. . . . It is inconceivable that policy-makers will be willing to make billion- and trillion-dollar decisions for adaptation to the projected regional climate change based on models that do not even describe and simulate the processes that are the building blocks of climate variability.” Despite this and other cautionary messages from scientists, Jones, DEFRA, and the IPCC charged ahead with the weather generator anyway.
Other problems with climate modeling are more -subtle and less easily discerned from the emails. In particular, there is much discussion about the political pressure to tune the climate models to isolate and emphasize the effect of carbon dioxide only, even though there are other important greenhouse gases and related factors highly relevant to a complete understanding of climate change. Carbon dioxide was emphasized because it is the variable that the policymakers made central to their monomaniacal mission to suppress fossil fuels to the exclusion of other policy strategies, such as “geoengineering,” that might be considered in the event of drastic climate change. Here and there Jones and his compatriots complain about this constraint, but go along with it anyway. But it’s another case of policy-driven science, and not science-driven policy, which we are constantly reassured is the mission of the IPCC.
These are only a few of the many problems with the climate models on which all of the predictions of doom decades hence depend. It will take months of careful review to sort the wheat from the chaff, but there is enough evidence already to support the conclusion that the climate science establishment has greatly exaggerated what it knows. One of the stranger aspects of all of these emails is how much they are concerned with statistical refinement of climate models, and how little work there seems to be on basic atmospheric physics. There are curious exchanges over the impact of changes in solar activity on global warming. The effect of fluctuations in the sun have been consistently downplayed in the climate models and IPCC reports, despite a steady stream of science journal articles—most of them peer reviewed—that argue for a more substantial weighting of solar factors. As with so many parts of climate science, the empirical basis of solar factors is controversial and incomplete.
For example, a 2003 email from Michael Mann of Penn State summarily dismisses one variation of the solar story: “I’m now more convinced than ever that there is not one single scientifically defensible element at all [in this]—the statistics, supposed climate reconstruction, and supposed ‘Cosmic Ray Flux’ estimates are all almost certainly w/out any legitimate underpinning.” And yet the basis for the idea he dismisses was largely vindicated a few months ago in a major study from CERN, the European lab that is behind the Large Hadron Collider, which found a significant role for cosmic ray flux in cloud formation. The imperatives of climate orthodoxy came immediately into view when Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director of the CERN lab, told a German news-paper, “I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them. That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.”
As all the new emails are dissected and analyzed, no doubt Jones and the CRU circle will be able to claim to have been misinterpreted or wrongly besmirched in many instances. But between their boorish behavior, attempts to conceal data and block FOIA requests, and dismissal of dissent, the climate science community has abdicated its credibility and done great damage to large-scale scientific inquiry.
It is worth revisiting one of the most infamous statements in the climate change saga, which came in 1989 from the late Stanford environmental scientist Stephen Schneider (who turns up in many of the emails in both Climategate features):
On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but—which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.
Schneider used to complain correctly that his critics omitted the last line in his statement—“I hope that means being both”—but the lesson of the Climategate saga is that scientists who become advocates, or allow themselves to become adjuncts to an advocacy campaign, damage science and policy-making alike. They end up being neither effective nor honest. One of the poignant revelations of the new emails is that some of the scientists seem to grasp this. Tommy Wils, a British climate researcher at the University of Swansea, wrote in a 2007 note to a large list of recipients: “Politicians like Al Gore are abusing the fear of global warming to get into power (while having a huge carbon footprint himself).” About Michael Grubb, a prominent climate campaigner in Britain, Tom Wigley (a prominent figure in U.S. climate research circles) wrote in 2000: “Grubb is good at impressing ignorant people. . . . Eileen Claussen [then-head of the Pew Climate Center] thinks he is a jerk. . . . Basically he is a ‘greenie’; and he bends his ‘science’ to suit his ideological agenda.” Did any of the leading climate scientists ever say this publicly, or call out environmental activist organizations for their reckless distortions of climate change? Had the climate scientists been more honest about their doubts, and more willing to discipline their allies, they might not be going through the present agony of having their dirty laundry exposed.
If Climategate II does poor box office, it won’t be because the various internal reviews exonerated the CRU from the narrow allegations of fraud in Climategate I, but because the whole show has become a crashing bore. The latest U.N. climate summit that opened last week in Durban, South Africa, is struggling to keep the diplomatic circus on life support. Yet there is one more tantalizing detail that has been largely overlooked in the commentary so far. According to “FOIA,” the online name of the hacker/leaker behind the release of these emails, there are another 220,000 emails still out there, blocked by a heavily encrypted password that “FOIA” vaguely threatens or promises to release at some future date. Stay tuned for -Climategate III.
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