Saturday, July 10, 2010

Why did they hide the decline?

Much good clean fun has been had over one phrase in particular out of that sad email dump known as "Climategate" (someday we'll all get over Watergate, but not yet) -- "... Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline." But Taranto continues to derive some well-deserved amusement from the clumsy and tortuous efforts to explain away an obvious attempt to make data fit conclusions:
Climate Skeptics With Leaves 
Ho hum, a panel hired by Britain's University of East Anglia has cleared scientists at the University of East Anglia of wrongdoing in their global-warming "research," the New York Times reports. We especially got a kick out of this description of their work:
The issue involved an effort to reconstruct the climate history of the past several thousand years using indirect indicators like the size of tree rings and the growth rate of corals. The C.R.U. researchers, leaders in that type of work, were trying in 1999 to produce a long-term temperature chart that could be used in a United Nations publication.
But they were dogged by a problem: Since around 1960, for mysterious reasons, trees have stopped responding to temperature increases in the same way they apparently did in previous centuries. If plotted on a chart, tree rings from 1960 forward appear to show declining temperatures, something that scientists know from thermometer readings is not accurate.
Most scientific papers have dealt with this problem by ending their charts in 1960 or by grafting modern thermometer measurements onto the historical reconstructions.
It seems to us there are two possibilities here: (1) In 1960, the trees suddenly changed the way they respond to temperature increases, or (2) There is a methodological problem with the thermometer readings. It looks to us as though the people who claim to love trees are actually making them scapegoats to hide their own error or deception. What a stab in the bark.
They hid the decline, in other words, first and most obviously because it didn't fit the established narrative on climate change, but second because it threatened to expose the shoddiness of the data they were relying on to claim that the recent temperature rise was unprecedented.

The apologists for the "people who claim to love trees", of course, have twisted themselves into pretzels in their various efforts to "explain" the errors and deceptions, but, as we've seen, serious damage has been done and comments like the ones above in a report that sets out to repair it don't do much to help. This is the problem with trying to enlist science in the political wars -- the temporary advantage you gain comes at the cost of eroding the long-term credibility of the scientists themselves.

UPDATE: Now a British labour MP and member of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology wants new hearings on Climategate, because (as reported by Lawrence Solomon):
... the Russell report failed to answer fundamental questions. Among these, Stringer told The Register: “Why did they delete emails? The key question was what reason they had for doing this, but this was never addressed; not getting to the central motivation was a major failing both of our report and Muir Russell.”
Although the Select Committee had stressed to East Anglia the importance of having open and independent inquiries, the hearings failed to oblige. The Russell inquiry, the last straw for Stringer, was held behind closed doors and heard only one side of the story. It failed to interview any scientist critical of the Climategate scientists; it failed to call witnesses who were the subjects of the emails, it failed to publish all the depositions, and its panellists could hardly be viewed as independent. One panellist, Geoffrey Boulton, was a climate change advisor to the UK and the EU; another, Richard Horton, had deemed global warming “the biggest threat to our future health.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

You can use some HTML tags, such as <b>, <i>, <a>