Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Global Warming takes a hit.

If you have missed it, check out the story here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100017393/climategate-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-anthropogenic-global-warming/

And you might very well have missed it if you just follow the regular media. The BBC and Reuters both have not run anything on this since the story broke. Neither has MSNBC, and the NY Times has refused to publish anything from the leaked data as its "illegally obtained" (funny, that didn't stop them during the Bush Years).

Short of it is that a hacker (or maybe an insider who is in hiding) put out a huge amount of papers, emails and data from a climate research unit in a college in East Anglica, Great Britain. While everything has not been gone through yet due to the amount, several trends have been noted: constant referals to actual data not conforming to Global Warming Models, data being tampered with to make it conform, emails dicussing how to lose data or delete dicsussions about tampering or reasons why the model was not matching the data, emails discussing how to marginalize opposing viewpoints and other scientists, emails discussing how to ensure that only one viewpoint was acceptable, and emails discussing how they actually got rid of data and stonewalled Freedom of Information Act Requests in both the US and UK.

So much for science being open to critical debate. This sounds more like something the Spanish Inquisition would pull (I'll leave off the obvious MP reference). And the media is tucked in nice and snug with the AGW crowd.

I am a biology major (environmental) from college. I haven't used the degree much, but I have a pretty good understanding about how things work in terms of environmental science. We really are still learning about how our planet works, and how its interacting with the sun and space. Real science, able to really start understanding what is going on has only been around for less than 100 years. Not a lot of time to start making grand pronouncements about how we are dooming the earth. And I also have issues with how they are pushing this. I actually am all for new types of energy and moving away from coal and oil, but we can't seem to make the jumps because these idiots keep getting in the way. Nuclear is clean, natural gas in clean, how about we move into these more? One more nuclear plant (as in brand new) could shut down a lot of coal power. Natural gas burns much cleaner, and we have loads of it in the US, so no more "blood for oil" and less greenhouse gas (if that is actually a real problem). Nope, we have to hold out for "alternative energy" becuase god forbid we actually move gradually, we need the miracle NOW. Or we need to shut down the US economy in order to save the world from itself.

But even if we do all of this, I honestly don't think it really is going to stop climate change. The climate is GOING to change because it always does. Its how the earth works, its NATURAL. So let's drop this stupid idea and work on clean and more efficent power because its the smart thing to do. Even if Greenhouse gas is bogus (and it is certainly an unproven theory) it stinks. That's enough reason in my book to switch to a cleaner fuel right there.


  1. Just checked the BBC over lunch. Not one mention of any of this, but they had a front page article on Global Warming, CO2 emissions and how the upcoming summit in Europe is going to address this.

    No bias?

  2. Actually Mike, BBC did report it first, but they didn't mention the spin on that other groups listed. Even I posted on it shortly after it happened (Blogger won't let me post it here).

    I think you're looking for something that may or may not be there but you're convinced it exists. I won't tell you that scientists aren't biased. ALL humans have bias so the real question about this sampling of data released is this: is it a truly random sampling or was it cherry picked to prove a point? If truly random then it's very enlightening. If it was cherry picked to prove an agenda then its bogus. Which it is I have no idea.

  3. You are dead on about the baises, I freely admit I have them. My biggest problem with this is that when this is combined with lots of other issues it makes nasty sense. These guys have not released the baseline data that has been requested through freedom of information act requests and that was going on before this hack. The fact that they were even discussing how to undercut the credability of dissenting opinions (cherry picked or not) really makes me start looking for the worst. If there were solid data then release it and let the facts speak. But it appears that this isn't happening.

    That and again I have issues with the fact that these guys are damn near making this a religion. I can't talk to some people about this anymore because they practically scream "Heathen" at me. The simple reasons for wanting cleaner energy don't seem to be good enough for people when this should be plenty enough.

  4. Science data is a funny thing. Just because you have it doesn't mean you should freely publish it. Sometimes you have to keep the data in a tight circle to really make sure its correct before you send it out so you're not basing your conclusion on an artifact or a faulty hypothesis. Of course you're right that it can get so insulated in that internal review that it becomes a group of like-minded individuals rather than a true open peer review process.

    The problem here is politics, which as I discovered put so well recently, is not about solving problems, but making problems go away. The big problem with the "there is no global warming" train of thought is that this conclusion is used as an excuse to do nothing. No need to develop new technology, new fuels, new power sources because the existing stuff is A OK, and is making plenty of money for us now thank you very much. If there is no good economic incentive to develop new technology, it won't happen - unless you have some other outside factor pushing the need to develop it. In this case the outside factor trying to push uphill against economics is global warming. For right or wrong, it is what used and the fear is (based on hundreds of years of human history) is that if you don't provide a really good reason, humanity won't bother to work on it.
    So if you agree that cleaner fuels and self-sufficient energy sources are the way to go, how do you prod the majority into pursuing this? They're not going to do it out of good will, so you have to provide a good reason from a trusted source. Hence scientific data, but now we have doubt that the data is correct so you're railing against bad science, but everyone else is using it as an excuse to be lazy and do nothing.
    I agree with you that parts of science can get as close minded as any politician, but that's because in more recent years we have an ever increasing scientifically illterate populace who think they can interpret the data as good as any 30 year expert in the field and their novice conclusion is just as right. And so they make the data fit their preconcieved notions and refuse to listen to the experts. Maybe they shouldn't, but maybe they should admit when they have no clue and consider that maybe someone else is right. You have a science background and can interpret the data, but the politicians....oh no, they can't and instead use this story as a way to make the problem go away.

    What's the real truth here? Probably a mix of things. Nothing is ever as simple as anyone makes it out to be. Mother nature very likely is doing things in her own way that we have yet to understand, but I'm pretty sure we're having our own effects on climate and the environment as well.

    Sorry for long response.

  5. Long responses are fine, I like talking with someone who talks instead of yells. I would say you have on point on the fear, maybe I am just dumb in thinking that folks will apply common sense and go with a smart idea because it is smart. Specifically, the idea that we should just upgrade our energy systems because it is cleaner. Not scary, just a good idea. But I guess sometimes fear needs to be injected. This is a big change over so maybe more than just "its a good idea" is needed. But this stuff seems like its evolving into religion, you are about the first person I have talked to that talked, not preached.

  6. Some people you can reason with, others you can't. And we humans get pretty damned passionate about things so I can see and understand why some people get into the environmental change issue as if it was a religious revelation. Indeed you could argue that some of the "converted" did indeed have a moment of enlightenment that put them forever on this path.

    I always prefer to talk rather than preach, so thanks for the compliment, but I do wish more and the world would talk to me rather than yell at me (or past me in some cases). It's harder and harder to have a "civil" discourse on things, but then I wonder if it was ever that easy as some people lament has now been lost.

    So in the end I guess we have to figure out what works for the majority. Words of reason or the preaching of fear? I'd love it to be reason but lately it seems to be fear and mass feeling is what makes the world go round.

  7. Alex, I have been reading more and more about all of this and I am wondering something. Rather than focusing on the email traffic, what exactly have you heard or read about the code for the programs that was leaked? Some of the science blogs I am reading are saying that is the big item and its being overlooked. If your data collection is screwed up, faulty or deliberately off that is a much bigger issue. Given that code is not something most folks really get (including a lot of scientists even) would that be a better indicator as to if this was deliberate, or just bad research? What do you think?

  8. I have not heard a enough details about the code used to build their weather models to give an opinion one way or another. However, I can say from personal experience that any model - whether it be for fire growth, DNA folding, or climate change is only as good as (A) the underlying assumptions/theory in the model (B) the data plugged into said model. If A is sound but B is an artifact of how the data was collected, then the model can be off from only a little bit to way off (order of magnitude wrong - say predicting the earth will supernova in 2012 or something really wierd). The way off results usually get caught when everyone goes "WTF!?!" when the see the results and then they go back and check everything. But if B is wrong then it may not matter if A is correct or way off - you won't know if the result is accurate or not if it looks reasonable. So I don't know which is going on here. It might be that A and B are messed up for this model. I would believe A could be messed up (I see this all the time, even I've missed things in data collection and was fooled by a reasonable result really being an instrument artifact), but B...that requires more thought.
    Going back to human nature, as much as I'm a pessimist and cynic about humanity in general, Scientists tend to be very very bad at lying and deliberately forcing a bad model down everyone's throats just to prove a point. They will lie to cover their ass when they make a mistake, but typically in the end the data will catch them out, so most scientists know that they have to be honest or they're doomed. So I could see scientists believing their results to be so correct that they don't bother to check the details of data collection or their underlying theories behind their models, but I am quite sure they would not deliberately decieve to make a point. Again, they know they'll get caught and at that point they'll never have a job. Certainly scientists on short funding leashes will stretch out their results to stay funded, but they don't go to grand extremes to keep a deception going unless they're at gunpoint.

    So I think there is certainly the possibility of bad research/mistaken assumptions, but really I'd have to look closer at everything to make sure. That being said, you hit it on the head that other scientists, unless they're experts in the field, may have difficulty interpreting the model and results to say with any certainty that there is a problem. I might look at it but not see anything wrong because it is so far removed from my area of expertise. So again, I'd have to look at it in detail, but I may not see anything wrong even if something was wrong.

    Hopefully I'm not talking in circles here but in the end I doubt these mistakes are deliberate.

  9. Thanks for the feedback. This makes sense and jives with my own understandings. I have been reading that much of the original "not messed with" raw data has been deleted so this may now be a moot arguement as without the Raw data, we can't get a good Point B anymore to ever start the debate fresh. I honestly think that they need to start from scratch and keep the data open and give it up when requested. That is really my biggest peeve on this. I would be more inclined to listen if they would provide the base info that started all of this so we can have others run their own tests.

    I really honestly think that climate science is still really in its infant stage and we need to get everyone looking at everything. Anyone holding back raw data is not doing anyone any favors.

  10. I fully agree on the infancy of climate science and the openness of the data. As for interpreting said data - that's a whole other thing. If the field in its infancy, who exactly is an expert to properly interpret the data? Certainly not politicians but even climatalogists will have to do some rethinking of theory and be willing to revisit old findings.

  11. And I'm going to take back some of my earlier comments. Looks like the system worked in that those who tried to get away with bad data got caught, but it's even more damning that these idiots thought that this much of a coverup for so long was this good of an idea. They've shot their credibility, and those of their colleagues, completely to hell so now we'll never know if they're right or not. They could be spot on and really warning of dangerous things to come and instead NO ONE will believe them.
    Utterly utterly stupid. So now I'm beginning to think that anytime anyone says the data is proprietary or only open through select channels to call shenanigans on them and beat the love of science into them until they relent.
    Dumb dumb dumb. Probably sent science as a voice of reason back 100 years.

  12. Probably, this was the thing I was PO'd off about. If the data had been there, and we could ping pong it around and eventually we would figure it out. Now we have to start from scratch. So like you said, this thing set everything back and if its correct we are looking at another 10 to 15 years before we can really get data we can believe.