Climategate 2.0

A few weeks ago, a new release of a large amount of e-mails from the same source (University of East Anglia) has surfaced in Russia again. It is most likely from the same original batch because the last of the new e-mails is from 2009. I must admit that it requires a lot of prudence and self-control to release only part of the e-mails, and then sit on the rest for two years. Indeed, the guy thought of how to maximize the damage (in fact, more thought than the original Guy Fawkes).

The most curious thing is the fact that in addition to the 5000 or so e-mails there is a single password protected file with more than an order of magnitude more e-mails. I wonder at which occasion will the password surface, and what treasure trove does this larger file hold. I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of those climatologists, knowing that there is another noose on the loose.

O.k., so what do I think about it?

I think that in general, the implications of the e-mails should be separated into two, their direct implications on the climate science and their implications to the sociology around it.

With respect to the science, I don't think the new batch of e-mails will have any particular effect. They don't contain any significantly new scientific discussions. The previous batch totally discredited the hockey stick. You cannot kill something twice and as far as I am aware, the new batch doesn't contain anything equivalent on some other scientific "result". In any case, as I previously wrote, the scientific truth does not depend on the particular behavior of individuals. Thus, the new e-mails, just like the previous batch will have no impact on the science of global warming.

Nevertheless, the e-mails do have interesting ramifications to other aspects of the debate. As I wrote in the previous climate gate, the e-mails reveal behavioral patterns which are not surprising at all, neither to myself nor to my colleagues. I have definitely seen how editors reject papers without even sending to reviewers, or how PR lynches are organized. The difference is that the e-mails simply portray a more vivid picture, one which should also be clear to laymen as well, and that is that climate "science" has more politics and unfair game to it, than it has real science. The new e-mails simply shed more light on this behavior. Nothing new in this respect.

Perhaps the lowest form of behavior in terms of moral and scientific conduct is to hush dissenters by any means possible, including mostly non-scientfic ones.

One "nice" example for this behavior is how the main alarmist characters dealt with Chris de Freitas, an editor of the Climate Research journal, who, god forbid, accepted an article written by Soon and Baliunas. The alarmists could not accept this. So they thought of different possible actions, including asking all the other editors to resign as a protest. One alarmist even suggested to exert pressure by approaching the Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland, where de Freitas works (more about it here).

Of course, if climate science and the people doing it were pure, the e-mails should have been used to remove a few bad apples. Decent climatologists should say that we don't accept coercing editors, we don't accept manipulating data, and anyone that does that should be shunned. This didn't happen with the first batch, so I am not optimistic it will happen following the second batch of e-mails. We have seen the whitewashers work overtime two years ago, and they would do so again. But frankly, I don't care. True, it takes me longer to publish each paper, but as Henrik Svensmark and I discussed a few months ago, the fact that the cosmic ray climate link is so viciously fought against has two advantages. First, it implies that all the discoveries in this exciting field are left for just a few of us to discover. The second advantage, is that vicious fights will only make the final victory sweater.

From my own perspective, the e-mails also supplied a voyeuristic peak into how a scientific lynch gets organized, specifically, one in which I was the subject of attack. Here's the first roundup e-mail.
[collapsed title="1981.txt"] cc: Raymond Bradley , Malcolm Hughes , Phil Jones , Kevin Trenberth , Tom Crowley , Tom Wigley , Scott Rutherford , Caspar Ammann , Keith Briffa , Tim Osborn , Michael Oppenheimer , Steve Schneider , Gabi Hegerl , Mike MacCracken , Ellen Mosley-Thompson , Eric Steig , e-mail removed, e-mail removed, e-mail removed, e-mail removed, Urs Neu , Juerg Beer date: Mon, 04 Aug 2003 16:02:36 +0200 from: Stefan Rahmstorf subject: Shaviv & Veizer in GSA Today to: "Michael E. Mann" Dear colleagues, the Soon&Baliunas paper has given political lobbyists a field day in their attempts to confuse the public and decision-makers about the state of global warming science. It is quite interesting how a lobby organisation like the Marshall Institute manages to get a paper like that into the peer-reviewed literature with the help of a sympathetic editor, against reviewer concerns, and then capitalise on that right away in Senate hearings and the media. There clearly is a wider and well-funded strategy behind such activities, which has something to do with why the US has backed out of the Kyoto protocol. These same US organisations are also active here in Europe trying to influence policy, albeit so far with less success. In the face of such sophisticated lobbying we scientists should not be too naive. Although simply doing good science remains our main job, I think at some points we need to intervene in the public debate and try to clarify what is science and what is just political lobbying. In particular, I feel that it is important to not let bad, politically motivated science stand unchallenged in the peer-reviewed literature - it is too easy to just shrug and ignore an obviously bad paper. Hence I greatly appreciate that Mike and his co-authors responded in Eos to the errors in the Soon&Baliunas paper. I feel another recent paper may require a similar scientific response, the one by Shaviv&Veizer (attached). It derives a supposed upper limit for the CO2-effect on climate (i.e., 0.5 C warming for CO2 doubling), based on paleoclimatic data on the multi-million-year time scale. This paper got big media coverage here in Germany and I guess it is set to become a climate skeptics classic: the spin is that GCMs show a large CO2 sensitivity, but climate history proves it is really very small. Talking to various colleagues, everyone seems to agree that most of this paper is wrong, starting from the data themselves down to the methodology of extracting the CO2 effect. I think it would be a good idea to get a group of people together to respond to this paper (in GSA today). My expertise is good for part of this and I'd be willing to contribute. My questions to you are: 1. Does anyone know of any other plans to respond to this paper? 2. Would anyone like to be part of writing a response? 3. Do you know people who may have the right expertise? Then please forward them this mail. Best regards, Stefan -- Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) For contact details, reprints, movies & general infos see: http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~stefan Attachment Converted: "c:\eudora\attach\shaviv-veizer-03.pdf" [/collapse] This eventually led to this "scientific" correspondence, as well as other non-scientific doings I'll probably write someday in a book.

Anyway, I have to return now and do some real science.

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Comments

The public relations image of climate change is that there is are large groups of the world’s top scientists, who all reach very similar conclusions via the highest scientific methods. Opposing them is a small number of disparate cranks, or people who are paid to exaggerate or lie. There is a huge gulf between the groups. There is no middle ground for those who doubt the evidence, or say the jury is out, or say there is some truth in the consensus, but the magnitude and likelihood of the predictions appears to be overstated. The Climategate 1 emails suggested that doubts existed amongst key scientists, and the consensus was a small group. Climategate 2 emails, like the one above, showed that the published science is not a result of objective peer review, conducted to the highest standards, but a highly partisan activity.
At a minimum, the emails suggest that the polarized opinions are a misrepresentation of the state of affairs. There is room for doubt and alternative opinions to be heard, as the CAGW case is far from being substantiated by the empirical evidence. It seems to me that purer science (with all its doubts and ambiguities) needs to assert itself, over the highly partisan views at present. Peer review needs to get back to checking that the thesis of a paper is substantiated by the argument or empirical results.

The threat of holding some 200,000 other emails I am not so keen on. It seems to be a threat that exposure (or imprisonment) will lead to further revelations. It is a dangerous game that FOIA is playing, but they have thought this through carefully. It is safer to stick to the science and the empirical evidence than to engage in such brinkmanship.