«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 ...»
… you seem quite pissed off with us all in the Climatic Research Unit. I am somewhat at a loss to understand why. It is clear from the emails that this relates to the emphasis placed on a few words or phrases in Keith’s and Tim’s Science paper. These may not be fully resolved but the paper comes out tomorrow. I don’t want to open more wounds but I might by the end of the email.
As we shall see, Mike Mann does not tolerate any criticism—no matter how mild, even if it comes from his own colleagues; and he does everything within his power to prevent the publication of any such criticisms. In this case, it seems that he has failed.
In defence of his team, Jones raises an issue that recurs throughout the Climategate
You may think Keith or I have reviewed some of your papers but we haven’t.
I’ve reviewed Ray’s and Malcolm’s—constructively, I hope, where I thought something could have been done better. I also know you’ve reviewed my paper with Gabi Hegerl very constructively.
This is a remarkable discussion for two senior scientists to be having. The “peer review” process for papers submitted to academic journals is, in general, completely anonymous, for the same reason that voting at elections is anonymous: to prevent intimidation or bullying. For these scientists to be surreptitiously trying to determine who the reviewers of their papers are immediately tells us two things: that the practitioners have no respect for the principles of scientific integrity and objectivity;
and that this “discipline of science” has such a small and exclusive membership that they are able to guess at the names of their reviewers by a simple process of elimination.
Jones tries to heal over the rift, but then proceeds to back up the statements of his
There are two things I’m going to say though:
1) Keith didn’t mention in his Science piece but both of us think that you’re on very dodgy ground with this long-term decline in temperatures on the 1000 year timescale. …
2) The errors don’t include all the possible factors. … Scientific disagreement is absolutely normal and healthy; that is not the point of this exchange. Rather, it is Jones’s feeling the need to justify the criticisms being published by his staff—and to assert, unequivocally, that he agrees with and supports those criticisms—that is of real concern. Presumably, if Jones had not agreed with them, then Mann’s attempt to have the criticisms suppressed might well have been successful.
In other words, these two men—Mike Mann and Phil Jones—essentially controlled what could and could not be published in the scientific literature relating to their field.
This is an extremely dangerous concentration of power for any discipline, let alone a field possessing such enormous political and financial ramifications.
May 6, 1999: email 0926031061 We don’t have the intervening discussion, but it seems that Phil Jones and Mike Mann
have called a truce:
We’ll differ a bit on a few points, but let’s wipe the slate clean … I must admit to having little regard for the Web. Living over here makes that easier than in the United States—but I would ignore the so-called skeptics until they get to the peer-review arena. I know this is harder for you in the United States and it might become harder still at your new location. I guess it shows though that what we are doing is important. The skeptics are fighting a losing battle.
It might seem remarkable that a senior scientist in 1999 could be dismissive of the World Wide Web; but we must remember that this is not particle physics (where the web originated, in the early 1990s), but rather a small corner of science that enjoyed a surge of interest when the Ice Age scare took off in the early 1970s but enjoyed a massive increase in government funding when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the UK, and US Vice President Al Gore made global warming a major political issue.
As he dismisses the impact of the Web, Jones feels safe that he won’t be hassled by skeptics, as he knows that they have no chance of penetrating the closed club of peer review; recall that the field of his “peers” is so small that he can determine who is anonymously reviewing his papers by a process of elimination.
In 1999 the global warmists were riding a very big wave indeed. Al Gore was set to win the 2000 US presidential election; Tony Blair, the UK Prime Minister, was a true believer; and the entire EU apparatus in Brussels was pushing global warming as a basic EU policy. Phil Jones, in 1999, had every reason to feel invincible.
May 19, 1999: email 0927145311 Tom Wigley writes to Mike Hulme and Mike MacCracken, regarding a chain of emails
discussing climate models:
I’ve just read the emails of May 14 onwards regarding carbon dioxide. I must say that I am stunned by the confusion that surrounds this issue.
Basically, I and MacCracken are right and Felzer, Schimel and (to a lesser extent) Hulme are wrong. There is absolutely, categorically no doubt about this.
Mike Hulme responds:
I still have a problem … making sense of what the Met(eorological) Office Hadley Centre have published …
Tom Wigley replies:
Yes, I am aware of the confusion surrounding what the Met(eorological) Office Hadley Centre did and why. It is even messier than you realize. … The Hadley people have clearly screwed things up, but their “errors” don’t really matter given all of the uncertainties. I didn’t mention this because I thought that opening up that can of worms would confuse people even more.
… The climate model output is also uncertain.
The fact that scientists are disagreeing here is not remarkable; rather, it is the degree of confusion that is alarming—and a seeming complete lack of concern for the consequences of publishing data that is agreed to be wrong. Wigley’s argument is that the consequences of the mistake are insignificant compared to the uncertainties in the model itself; and so he deemed it better to “let sleeping dogs lie”.
As we shall see, this form of disregard for accuracy and honesty was widespread in this very small community of scientists, and sowed the seeds of their own destruction.
July 16, 1999: email 0932158667
In discussing a paper published in Science, Ed Cook asks Keith Briffa:
Also, there is no evidence for a decline or loss of temperature response in your data in the post-1950s (I assume that you didn’t apply a bodge here) … This caveat by Cook implies that “applying a bodge”—that is, a fudge, a fake-up; a manipulation of the data to obtain the property you wish to see in it—is something that he believes that Briffa may well have done; and he wants to first make sure that Briffa has not done so, before encouraging him to publish a response that may be critical of the published work.
That this comment is not made in an inflammatory or accusational tone—but merely as a friendly check—is of extreme concern. Briffa’s reply confirms that he took no offence; he doesn’t even answer the question.
“Applying a bodge” is scientific fraud, pure and simple; that it was accepted by this small coterie of scientists as “standard practice” is damning.
Briffa’s response, however, does continue a familiar theme:
I really have not had time to fully digest their message but I can’t see why either they or Nature did not ask my opinion of it. My instinctive first reaction is that I doubt it is the answer but we do get results that support … that may be consistent with their hypothesis … If you get any detailed thoughts on the Nature paper please let me know, as I don’t know how to respond, if at all.
Briffa implicitly assumes that any paper that touches on his own work would automatically be sent to him for review, and he cannot understand why this “gentlemen’s understanding” was not honoured in this case—even though he admits that the published paper may well be correct! Again, this highlights how tiny, cosy, and scientifically dysfunctional this discipline of science really was—at a time when the Western world was being assured by most major political leaders that the science had been extensively corroborated and was rock-solid against any criticism.
July 29, 1999: email 0933255789 Adam Markham from the WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) writes to University of East Anglia climate scientists Mike Hulme and Nicola Sheard, about a
paper that Hulme and Sheard had written about climate change in Australasia:
I’m sure you will get some comments direct from Mike Rae in WWF Australia, but I wanted to pass on the gist of what they’ve said to me so far.
They are worried that this may present a slightly more conservative approach to the risks than they are hearing from Australian scientists. In particular, they would like to see the section on variability and extreme events beefed up if possible. … I guess the bottom line is that if they are going to go with a big public splash on this they need something that will get good support from Australian scientists (who will certainly be asked to comment by the press).
Climategate takes on a new dimension with this revelation: political activists from an environmental lobby group are telling East Anglia climate scientists to rewrite sections of their paper, as it is less alarming than the message that Australian scientists have already presented for public consumption!
September 22, 1999: email 0938018124
In this next email, Keith Briffa raises one of the issues that is central to the infamous “hide the decline” email (which is the next email to be dealt with, below). It is therefore worth spending some time understanding what this is all about, at least in a simplified form. (Scientists interested in a more thorough account of all the methods used to “hide the decline” should refer to Steve McIntyre’s extensive discussion of these issues [see: http://climateaudit.org/2009/12/10/ipcc-and-the-trick/].) To measure the temperature of the planet, we obviously need some thermometers.
Now, it would be nice if someone were able to invent a time machine, so that we could go back over the past few thousand (or hundred thousand) years, and place accurate scientific thermometers all over the planet, to make these measurements for us. Of course, this isn’t possible, so scientists need to use other things as substitutes—or “proxies”—for these thermometers.
A key “temperature proxy” used by climate scientists is tree-ring data, namely, measurements of the patterns of the rings of trees that were growing hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
Now, even my sons (in elementary school at the time of writing) can tell me a handful of different factors that might influence the growth of a tree in a particular year: the amount of sun shining on it; the amount of rain it gets; how hot the weather is when it is growing; the conditions of the soil it is growing in; and particularly the amount of carbon dioxide available for it to breathe in. We should imagine that the growth of a tree should, at the very least, depend on these five things.
So is a tree really a good thermometer?
As a physicist, such a proposition seems fraught with danger from the outset. Let’s pretend, for the moment, that the growth of a tree depends only on these five factors, and no others. An elementary fact of mathematics, that I used to teach to my 15-yearold high school students, is that if you have five unknowns (these five factors at any given instant of time in a particular tree’s lifetime), then you need at least five pieces of independent information to disentangle them all—and you need to know these five quantities to a high accuracy.
So to make any use at all of tree ring data, climate scientists would need at least four other completely independent “proxies”. Is this what they do?
They do not.