«Edited and Annotated by John Costella The Lavoisier Group March 2010 About the Author John Costella was born in East Melbourne in 1966. After being ...»
We don’t seem to have Jones’s reply, but the translation would be something like “useless idiot”. Note that Jones is immediately reporting the existence of this first British skeptic to climate scientists on the other side of the Atlantic, taking special note of the “air time” (exposure on television or radio) that the skeptic is apparently receiving. Already, we can start to appreciate that the politics and “spin doctoring” in
this field outweighs the scientific issues. Continuing from Jones’s email:
For his day job he teaches physics and astronomy at a University and he predicts the weather from solar phenomena.
Jones’s report is as efficient as that of an intelligence agent: the skeptic is dangerous because he is the British equivalent of a college professor—in the “hard sciences” of
physics and astronomy, no less. However, he softens his attitude to the skeptic slightly:
He’s not all bad as he doesn’t have much confidence in nuclear-power safety.
We here see clearly that Jones’s assessment of a scientist’s worth is influenced strongly by his assessment of his or her ideology—in scientific terms, nuclear power safety is completely unrelated to the science of climate change. This dangerous prejudice will prove to be one of the most persistent threads throughout the Climategate scandal.
September 17, 1996: email 0842992948 We now turn to Keith Briffa, one of the more curious University of East Anglia characters in the Climategate saga. Gary Funkhouser of the University of Arizona writes to Briffa about some data that were collected in the late 1980s. Briffa makes it clear that he is only interested in the data if they can be used to “sell” the climate
change message to the general public:
The data is of course interesting but I would have to see it and the board would want the larger implications of the statistics clearly phrased in general and widely understandable (by the ignorant masses) terms before they would consider it not too specialised.
September 19, 1996: email 0843161829 Two days after the previous exchange, Gary Funkhouser reports on his attempts to
obtain anything from the data that could be used to sell the message of climate change:
I really wish I could be more positive about the … material, but I swear I pulled every trick out of my sleeve trying to milk something out of that.… I don’t think it’d be productive to try and juggle the chronology statistics any more than I already have—they just are what they are … I think I’ll have to look for an option where I can let this little story go as it is.
His reluctance to report a “null result” (namely, that the data do not show anything significant) is extremely disturbing, as it flies in the face of standard scientific practice, which requires that all results be reported. The fundamental problem is that any censoring of results that do not lead to a predetermined conclusion will always—by design—bias the corpus of reported results towards that conclusion, in the same way that a gambler who always brags about his wins (but stays silent about his losses) will appear to be hugely successful, even if his losses have, in reality, far outweighed his winnings (as is generally the case, in the long run, except for the extremely skilful).
We will, sadly, see that this fundamental scientific flaw—which, in and of itself, is sufficient to render the evidence for climate change completely unreliable and scientifically worthless—is one that runs throughout the entire Climategate saga.
Note, also, the immense power wielded—albeit ever so subtly—by Briffa: he influenced the analysis that Funkhouser performed, simply by telling him that the results would need to be politically “saleable”. Scientists are not naive: they know that securing funding, publication of their papers, and interest from other institutions are the key factors determining their future.
November 22, 1996: email 0848679780 Geoff Jenkins was head of climate change prediction at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, part of the United Kingdom’s Met(eorological) Office (national weather service).
He writes to Phil Jones:
Remember all the fun we had last year over 1995 global temperatures, with the early release of information (via Australia), “inventing” the December monthly value, letters to Nature, etc., etc.?
I think we should have a cunning plan about what to do this year, simply to avoid a lot of wasted time.
Again, selling the public message—before the actual end of the calendar year—is of primary importance for these senior scientists.
Jenkins goes on to explain how this “invented” data should be leaked:
We feed this selectively to Nick Nuttall (of the United Nations Environment Program) (who has had this in the past and seems now to expect special treatment) so that he can write an article for the silly season. We could also give this to Neville Nicholls (climate scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia)?
Lest it be thought that this may be standard public relations procedure for the
Met(eorological) Office, Jenkins puts the issue beyond doubt:
I know it sound a bit cloak-and-dagger but it’s just meant to save time in the long run.
In other words, Jenkins was more interested in getting “headline” numbers out to the general public, than in ensuring an impartial release of information to all members of the press at the same time.
One can only speculate about the trouble in which Jenkins would have landed himself if he had written those words today, but given that we are here talking about 1996— before so many billions of dollars were expended on the climate change debate, and stock prices of “green” companies responded very quickly to such reports—we can put his actions down to mere expedience and naïveté.
October 9, 1997: email 0876437553 We now encounter one of the most insidious red herrings in the climate debate: how many thousands of scientists “endorsed” the views of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Just months before the UNFCCC’s Third Conference of Parties (COP III), the critical Kyoto meeting of December 1997 which resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, we find the germ of this idea fertilizing in an email from Joe Alcamo, Director of the Center for
Environmental Systems Research in Germany, to Mike Hulme and Rob Swart:
Sounds like you guys have been busy doing good things for the cause.
I would like to weigh in on two important questions— Distribution for Endorsements— I am very strongly in favor of as wide and rapid a distribution as possible for endorsements. I think the only thing that counts is numbers. The media is going to say “1000 scientists signed” or “1500 signed”. No one is going to check if it is 600 with PhDs versus 2000 without. They will mention the prominent ones, but that is a different story.
This statement alone shows how ridiculous the “endorsement” process was from the very beginning. Signing a petition in support of an opinion—regardless of whether the signatory has a PhD or not—is as scientifically meaningless as if these same people had voted Albert Einstein’s hairstyle as the most interesting in the history of science.
It is simply nonsense.
Timing—I feel strongly that the week of 24 November is too late.
1. We wanted to announce the Statement in the period when there was a sag in related news, but in the week before Kyoto we should expect that we will have to crowd out many other articles about climate.
2. If the Statement comes out just a few days before Kyoto I am afraid that the delegates who we want to influence will not have any time to pay attention to it. We should give them a few weeks to hear about it.
3. If Greenpeace is having an event the week before, we should have it a week before them so that they and other Non-Governmental Organizations can further spread the word about the Statement. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be so bad to release the Statement in the same week, but on a different day. The media might enjoy hearing the message from two very different directions.
Conclusion I suggest the week of 10 November, or the week of 17 November at the latest.
Alcamo demonstrates that this is a carefully crafted piece of political activism, not related to the scientific process at all. Indeed, the optimization of the timing—allowing just enough time for delegates to absorb the message, but not enough time for the scientists signing on to this petition to actually examine or criticize its contents—will return with a vengeance below.
November 12, 1997: email 0879365369
Richard Tol to Mike Hulme and Timothy Mitchell:
I am always worried about this sort of thing. Even if you have 1000 signatures, and appear to have a strong backup, how many of those asked did not sign?
Tol is absolutely correct: just as suppressing research results that do not support climate change inevitably biases the published record, so too does suppressing the number of scientists who declined to sign the petition.
Many similar lessons are related to undergraduate students of statistics every year the world over, which earn much laughter in the lecture theatre, but are less humorous in real life: estimating war-time damage to planes by examining only those that return;
completely wrong predictions of elections, because conservative voters are less likely to respond to pollsters; and so on. That any faith at all was placed on climate petitions of this sort is worrisome.
I think that the text of the Statement conveys the message that it is a scientific defense for the European Union’s position. There is not any.
Indeed, as we have seen in the intervening years, it was used to justify much more than that.
November 25, 1997: email 0880476729 Tom Wigley roundly criticises the eleven scientists seeking endorsement of their Statement.
Dear Eleven, I was very disturbed by your recent letter, and your attempt to get others to endorse it. Not only do I disagree with the content of this letter, but I also believe that you have severely distorted the IPCC “view” when you say that “the latest IPCC assessment makes a convincing economic case for immediate control of emissions.” … This is a complex issue, and your misrepresentation of it does you a disservice. To someone like me, who knows the science, it is apparent that you are presenting a personal view, not an informed, balanced scientific assessment. What is unfortunate is that this will not be apparent to the vast majority of scientists you have contacted. In issues like this, scientists have an added responsibility to keep their personal views separate from the science, and to make it clear to others when they diverge from the objectivity they (hopefully) adhere to in their scientific research. I think you have failed to do this.
Your approach of trying to gain scientific credibility for your personal views by asking people to endorse your letter is reprehensible. No scientist who wishes to maintain respect in the community should ever endorse any statement unless they have examined the issue fully themselves. You are asking people to prostitute themselves by doing just this! I fear that some will endorse your letter, in the mistaken belief that you are making a balanced and knowledgeable assessment of the science—when, in fact, you are presenting a flawed view that neither accords with the IPCC nor with the bulk of the scientific and economic literature on the subject.
… When scientists color the science with their own personal views or make categorical statements without presenting the evidence for such statements, they have a clear responsibility to state that that is what they are doing. You have failed to do so. Indeed, what you are doing is, in my view, a form of dishonesty more subtle but no less egregious than the statements made by the greenhouse skeptics …. I find this extremely disturbing.
I couldn’t express it any better myself.
May 6, 1999: email 0926026654 Phil Jones writes to Mike Mann, copying in Keith Briffa and Tim Osborn (United Kingdom), and Malcolm Hughes and Ray Bradley (United States), regarding a tiff
between the two continents: