The world’s best scientists, a gang of 17, gathered in Stockholm recently and issued a ‘memorandum‘. One representative of the world’s best climate scientists (a.k.a Realclimate), approvingly identified the memorandum’s objective—to demand global-scale “immediate emergency measures as well as long-term structural solutions”.
One often encounters in the climate change debate, those who carry on with what can be called the ‘ecologists’ mindset’. This is, perhaps a poor choice of words, to describe a certain phenomenon - of our repeated and fumbling efforts to do a so-called ‘systems thinking’. Why, after all, should I invoke a specific discipline’s name to criticize a oft-committed intellectual error to which we are susceptible, throughout ages?
Examine this record:
However, as it is now often practiced, one can make a good case
that computing is the last refuge of the scientific scoundrel.
Some backstory first
A very interesting editorial has appeared recently in Nature magazine. What is striking is that the editorial picks up the same strands of argument that were considered in this blog – of data availability in climate science and genomics. Continue reading
Finally, I will once again recall memories of my boyhood life in those Baraboo, Wisconsin glacially-formed bluffs, a time when a pal and I caught rattlesnakes for a local reptile farm. On one occasion when I was concentrating my attention on one particular timber rattler, I inadvertently stepped over another that very fortunately wasn’t paying attention. I learned from that experience that it’s much safer when they are all coiled tightly together in a den where you can keep your eyes on most all of them at one time. RealClimate is such a place, and affords the same benefit. Thank you for that service.
Last time, I examined the issue of data availability in climate science in the context of Phil Jones’ paper on the urban heat island in Nature. The case of the Jones paper is simple — data supporting conclusions of this important paper are not available and there are serious doubts whether such data was present at the time the paper was written. As first author, Jones has however categorically stated he does not intend to correct the situation or address it in any fashion.
Drawing on his forthcoming book on energy, Laughlin predicts that we will continue to use cars and planes and electricity long after coal and petroleum are exhausted and speculates as to how that might play out in the future.
Here is Freeman Dyson discussing what he thinks is important scientifically in the global warming and CO2 question. It starts at around 2 min 40 seconds into the video.
Check out the photo gallery on this page.
Strong proof that not everyone doing paleoclimate science is unhappy and complaining all the time.
(This article is available as a pdf file.)
Here are a few quick questions:
- Are a scientific journal’s instructions contained in its manuscript preparation and formatting guide, its policy on data availability?
- Are instructions for expeditious processing of a paper by a journal, conditions for publication?
- Can the author of a scientific paper say: “when I published my paper, the journal did not require data to be submitted as a pre-condition of publication so I don’t have to give it to you now”?
- Is raising questions about a journal requiring an author to provide raw data, demeaning to the author?
- Did journals at a time when not bound by formal policies, not subscribe to commonly accepted principles of scientific publication?
If you answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, you would be in the select company of a few who shield authors from making their data available, even much against the scientists’ own judgments.
In 2008, in a message titled “IPCC and FOI“, Phil Jones asked Michael Mann to delete emails he might have gotten from Kieth Briffa, assuring him that Briffa would delete such emails as well. He said ’they’ was going to get in touch with Caspar Ammann asking him to delete emails too. Responding to Jones, Michael Mann replied sphinx-like, that he would get in touch with Eugene Wahl about the matter.
“After all, most people spend their lives making decisions under uncertainty, and that’s what dealing effectively with climate change demands – the same kind of decisions you make when you decide to buckle your seatbelt…”
-Chris Field, IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair, speaking to reporters at Busan
Evidently, such advice does not apply to the IPCC itself.
Richard Black, BBC, thinks that ” Rajendra Pachauri will be here to usher” the AR5 in,” barring some major mishap”. In the rough-and-tumble world of climate change polity, the events of the last one year are not major mishaps then.
So when the IPCC decided to keep RK Pachauri along for the rest of his term, it was widely reported in the news and blogs. Examining the reaction, Tol apparently thinks that all skeptics are absolutely thrilled and overjoyed by what the IPCC has done.
The first thing if you are a self-respecting catastrophic anthropogenic global warming proponent — you have to make use of the summer. I mean, if you cannot capitalize on the hot part of the year, what good are you to the movement?
But you see, there is a chasm to be bridged over. You have to switch over from constantly beating the “weather is not climate” drum during the winter, loosen up on your inhibitions and sense of shame, and start saying: “A-ha! Now here’s weather we can actually call climate”.
Sometimes, a sudden unexpected event, knocks people off their comfortable ensconced orbits, offering a brief window of reflection.
One of Stephen Schneider’s main contribution to the global warming debate was his plea to “avoid endless dispute”. Schneider wrote about this in 2001 in Science magazine. He expressed similar sentiments in his interview to Stanford Alumni Magazine published in its July issue. His recent paper in PNAS was an effort in the same direction as well.
Stephen Schneider, although persuaded by the possibility of alarm in climate change, framed his policy advice in what he thought were practical terms. These ideas were reinforced and influenced, mutually, by the way he dealt with his illness. Continue reading
“Amazongate is only an error of improper referencing, the actual science behind the key claim is sound”. This is the message that has been hammered home repeatedly by experts involved in Amazon forest research. In their press releases, letters of complaint and blog posts, they have refused to concede something might be wrong with the report, and argued that journalists should have performed in-depth research before bringing any disrepute to the IPCC.
Even as we search high and low only to conclude that the exact claim does not appear to supported by the literature available to date, another argument has been advanced simultaneously in defence of the IPCC. It says that the scientific evidence, the crucial pieces that go to make up this claim, bizarre though it might be, lie in many different papers. The IPCC report just brings them together – it paints an integrated picture of the trouble the Amazon region is in. So the defense of the IPCC is bi-layered. The science behind the imminent catastrophic destruction of the Amazon forests is true, and the IPCC makes a synthetic judgement to this effect. The only flaw is therefore one of citations.
The IPCC makes available its first order and second order drafts and reviewer comments. The question is: do these drafts and comments carry any indications or clues to the scientific summation and thinking process that is alleged to have taken place?
By now, the tediously-iconic, but certainly-appealing ‘stranded-polar-bear’ image Science Magazine featured in its ‘letter’, is widely known and mocked at in the climate blogs and beyond. The letter itself, a breathtaking display of arrogance is available at the Guardian (link) for the interested to peruse.
What is at once interesting and disgusting, as many things in climate science are, is the reaction of the professional climate tops with their dizzying spinning and sales-pitching, even in this dire hour, when paroxysms of utter self-loathing should incapacitate them instead.
I hope this takes you back to the Shakespearean* ‘Ah! the irony, it burns’ because now is the right moment for it. The above proceedings have transpired, let me remind you, in the context of a letter whose subject is the ‘integrity of science’.
Nature recently published two letters responding to Roger Pielke Jr’s review of books (pdf) in its previous issue – the first letter from one of the authors of the books under review, Prof Stephen Schneider and the other from Gregor Betz, who is lecturer at the Institute of Philosophy, University of Stuttgart.
Presumably due to word count limitations, a much abridged version of Betz’s original letter was published. Dr. Betz kindly provided the whole letter when I contacted him. The Nature version is to be found here. What is of interest is that Gregor Betz passionately defends the right of scientists, especially climate scientists to advocate for specific policy measures. He has no doubt studied the matter in depth; he lists among his research interests the ‘philosophy of climatology’.
What has Michael Mann said? There are a series of interviews in 2005 mainly and then again in November-December period of 2009 during Climategate. It is generally true that people’s opinions are honest and straightforward and needing less interpretation during the initial phases of any event or controversy. What they say in private can be taken to be close to their true thoughts too.
As time passes, ideas and the people who hold them change. An initial open-mindedness is usually replaced by a defensive intransigence which is unwilling to concede any ground. What one feels are certain defining points one holds on to steadfastly. Having agreed with a few cosmetic points, one is armed with the rationalization that he or she has succumbed to bargaining enough and nothing further is needed. The expectation that opponents give up on arguing the aforesaid points rises. Which, as expected can never happen. And stances harden further.
That is why the initial phases of any exchange, any conversation are always important. That’s is why what Michael Mann wants to say, for himself, is important. So here it is, a sampling of Michael Mann has to say, 2005 onwards.