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Posts Tagged climategate

Heartland’s climategate — and Mann’s book Ken Perrott Feb 17

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The blogosphere has been humming over the last few days with revelations contained in document leaked from the US Heartland Institute. Documents outlining strategy for the promotion of climate denial – both through the media and through educations programmes.

Have a look at Gareth Renowden’s post The real Climategate: Heartland’s hypocrisy on display for a good summary and many links to other coverage and the documents themselves.

For me – there are no surprises in these leaked documents. I have just finished reading Michael Mann’s – The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines so was familiar with all the dirty tricks, misrepresentation, political manoeuvering and the roll of the fossil fuel industry in financing the climate denial movement.

No surprises – but some of the details in the leaked documents were interesting. The fact that heartland actually has some of the well-known climate science critics on their payroll. That they are helping to fund some of the deniers blogs. and publications. And that they a consciously investing in a campaign to “teach the controversy” – that is discredit climate science – in the schools.

Have a look at The real Climategate: Heartland’s hypocrisy on display for the details.

Clearly these revelations are only the tip of the iceberg. Much more is going on behind the scenes. And Michael Mann’s new book gives an excellent coverage of these denier campaigns.

He’s been in the tick of it. He is still being victimized with McCarthyist attacks. The book outlines the political side of the attacks on climate science. But it also delves into some of the relevant science – especially around the so-called “Hockey Stick.”

Mann is an excellent writer and anyone interest in this area, especially if they have followed some of the political aspects, will enjoy the book. It is really an actually a page turner.

And it is positive.

I will review it properly in the next few weeks.

Climategate 2.0 and ’toecurling’ journalism Ken Perrott Nov 25

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It’s the silly season again. Another climate change conference (Durban) – another climategate hoax. This cartoon from crikey (Bitter Climate Science Tryst Shock Scandal Rift Emails Exposed) sums it up.

Credit: Firstdog at crikey

Thanks to: Bitter Climate Science Tryst Shock Scandal Rift Emails Exposed.

“Festering syphilitic repellance!”

And this from one of the most extreme climate change deniers, Telegraph journalist James Delingpole in Climategate 2.0: the most damning email of them all. It’s attacking an email with a Christmas song celebrating the IPCC Nobel prize. We will leave such enthusiastic but naive song writing aside. But it certainly puts Delingpole’s nose out of joint. It’s a bit over the top to describe such attempts at composition as “toecurlingly, . . vile,  reprehensible, stomach-churningly dreadful, . . .festering syphilitic repellance. .” isn’t it!

“The worst, most toecurlingly awful, damning, vile, reprehensible, stomach-churningly dreadful email — the one that shows the Warmist junk-scientists in a light of such festering syphilitic repellance they can never possibly recover is this, the Christmas ditty specially written by Kevin Trenberth in celebration of the Nobel committee’s comedic decision to award the Peace Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC.”

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That hacking scandal Ken Perrott Jul 13

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The current phone hacking scandal in the UK brings back some memories. It’s taken several years for those hacking crimes to reach public consciousness and create a storm of disgust. I wonder how long it will be before we get to find out who was behind the “climategate” hacking scandal? It was obviously well organised and had  a big political effect, despite the tameness of the emails released.

But I bet the true story behind that hacking will be interesting.

Thanks to Treehugger for the timely reminder (see Cold Case: Who Hacked Climatic Research Unit Emails Back In 2009?)

I also have to thank treehugger for bringing this handy infographic to my attention. It’s from ReuseThisBag.com and compares the scientific consensus and the sceptics arguments over global warming. Click on the image for a larger version.

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The myth of the noble scientist Ken Perrott Aug 25

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David Goodstein used this term to describe:

the long-discredited Baconian view of the scientist as disinterested seeker of truth who gathers facts with mind cleansed of prejudices and preconceptions. The ideal scientist, in this view, would be more honest than ordinary mortals, certainly immune to such common human failings as pride or personal ambition. When people find out, as they invariably do, that scientists are not at all like that, they may react with understandable anger or disappointment.

I think it is a useful term. But I don’t agree with Goodstein’s belief that scientists are guilty of promoting it. Certainly not in my experience.

Before Fermi Lab visit

I think of a scientist as very dedicated to his work. He is kind of crazy, talking always quickly. He constantly is getting new ideas. He is always asking questions and can be annoying. He listens to others’ ideas and questions them.

After Fermi Lab visit

I know scientists are just normal people with a not so normal job. . . . Scientists lead a normal life outside of being a scientist. They are interested in dancing, pottery, jogging and even racquetball. Being a scientist is just another job which can be much more exciting.

These are drawings and comments made by Amy, one of a group of US 7th Graders before and after their visit to the Fermi lab

True, there is an ethos of honesty in science which we can be proud of and attempt to adhere to. But we know that scientists are just as human as anyone else. They certainly are as susceptible as others to human failings. And this includes not only pride and personal ambition but also subjectivity, blinkered views, bias and even superstition.

Maybe in the past there was this public picture of the noble scientist but we now live in a more more sensible age. Biographies of scientists are no longer hagiographies. Anyone who has read a recent biography will be aware of how unpleasant Newton was personally. Of Albert Einstein’s treatment of his first wife and their fist child. Of Madame Curies’ affair. No, these heroes of science were real people, not the idealised noble scientist.

Some biographies will even discuss the scientific mistakes of these great scientists. Although, I personally think more should be made of these as they would help us understand the real processes that go on in scientific discovery.

Media beat ups, like the “climategate” concentration on stolen scientist emails, have also revealed how human, and even petty, scientists can be. And the recent news of scientific misconduct by Marc D. Hauser has exposed another, unpleasant, side of human failings (see Hauser misconduct investigation — Full text of Dean’s statement and Marc Hauser replies — acknowledges mistakes).

Human scientists but noble science

But scientists do evoke the image of trust – if you believe advertisements for cleaning products and cosmetics. How often have we seen white lab coats used in such ads. But I think this reputation comes more from the nature of science itself, rather than the scientist. After all, we know from experience that science is capable of delivering. We all depend on this reliability of science in our everyday lives.

This reliability comes from the scientific method – not from the character of individual scientists. Taken in isolation humans rely on pattern recognition. They also rely on brain processes which create our own version of reality. Rather than “seeing is believing” we are often confronted more with “believing is seeing.” It is only human to unconsciously select the information which fits with our preconceived views. To seek confirmation for our own biases.

This may have been a result of our evolution and has probably served us well in our attempts to survive and reproduce. But this approach is not a good basis for truly investigating and understanding reality. They are not a good basis for doing science. And we can certainly see the influence of subjective attitudes, protection of pet ideas, cultural and religious influences, etc., when we look at the history of science.

Modern science has developed methodologies to minimise subjective influences. One is the importance we now place on interaction with reality. On collection of evidence and the testing of any resulting hypotheses and theories against reality. Scientific theories are validated both by testing against reality and by their use in subsequent investigations and technological appliances.

The social nature of science also helps. Ideas and theories must be open to sceptical consideration of peers in the process of collaborative research, funding applications, conference presentations and scientific publications.

Scientific knowledge is progressive – it generally improves with time. This means that mistakes, and scientific frauds, do not remain undiscovered.  Scientific knowledge is always provisional. Ambitious scientists are eager to expose such mistakes. Science really is self-correcting. Irrespective of the human failings of individual scientists.

The noble scientist as a straw man

Scientists themselves have no illusions. After all they experience the human side of their colleagues all the time. I don’t know about the perception of the person in the street but suspect that the image of noble scientist would not be common in these cynical times. Personally, the only time I come across this myth is when it is used as a straw man by those who are critcising science or denying certain scientific findings.

You know. When confronted with scientific features they wish to reject the climate change or evolution denier will sometimes justify their rejection by arguing that scientists are not objective. That scientific fraud is common. The “scientific establishment” controls peer review. Or that science can’t escape from its cultural prejudices. Some theological critics of science fall back on the bias of the so-called “materialistic” or “naturalistic” “paradigm” in science.

They will accuse those they are debating with of having an idealised, fictional concept of the objective, honest scientist. The noble scientist.

A debating ploy, but one that really avoids the issue. And that is probably why it is used. They should be dealing with, and possibly critiquing if they can, the actual scientific evidence and its interpretation. Not the all too human individual scientist.

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The changing face of science communication Ken Perrott Jul 12

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All the reports from the inquiries into the climategate issue are worth reading. It is the nature of thoughtful inquiries that not only are problems identified, claims checked and unjustified accusations refuted. There are also usually some suggestions for improvements.

I think the attention that has been paid to issues like peer review, importance of statistical analysis, making public data available and the handling of freedom of information requests has been worthwhile. Hopefully scientific  institutes, professional bodies and scientific journals will pay attention.

The Independent Climate Change email Review which reported last week  made interesting comments on the communication of science and the role of scientists in this. Mike at Watching the Deniers has written a thoughtful article on lessons we can draw from this report on this and other matters. It’s well worth a read – I recommend it (see The chief lesson of Climategate: the depths of our naivety).

Failure of news media

I think one thing we have learned is that the mainstream media failed in providing useful and objective information during the “climategate” fiasco. Clearly conservative media disgraced themselves with an obscene public feeding frenzy and are now looking rather silly. While they will maintain their influence with the tea party crowd and similar stongly conservative minded people their credibility with most people must now be at rock bottom.

But even the main stream media was influenced by the hysteria at the height of climategate and often felt the need to use some of the rhetoric, to accept some of the claims of suppression and distortion of data. And to go out of their way to give prominence to the claims of deniers – the usual “balance” problem.

Part of this is due to the fact that the main stream media is poorly staffed with science journalists and has been loosing many of them of late. The other aspect6 is that5 the whole Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process is aimed at informing governments and policy makers – not the public. Consequently there has been a lack of good material – even for journalists – aimed at informing the public on the issue/

Mike quotes a couple of very important sections from the report:

’The scientific literature is relatively opaque to non-specialists. Scientific understanding that is transmitted into the public domain must be comprehensible to non-specialists, make appropriate and not excessive claims, and include careful statements of the uncertainties surrounding that understanding…’ ICCER Report page 40

’Therefore, the Review would urge all scientists to learn to communicate their work in ways that the public can access and understand; and to be open in providing the information that will enable the debate, wherever it occurs, to be conducted objectively. That said, a key issue is how scientists should be supported to explain their position, and how a public space can be created where these debates can be conducted on appropriate terms….’ ICCER Report page 42

Given the failure of the mainstream media to communicate properly on this issue the second paragraph is important. It is encouraging scientists themselves to take more responsibility. To develop the skills and find the forums for communicating complex ideas to the public.

And it is suggesting that scientists should be supported in this task. I interpret this to mean institutional support. Recognition of public communication as a positive skill for career advancement. The provision of resources, time money and access to appropriate audiences.

This need for scientists to be involved in publicising there is science is woder than just the climate issue. Recent years have seen several issues, klike genetic engineering of crops and animals, which have promoted pblic concenr and discussion. There will no doubt be similar isses in the future – for example nano-technology whcih will concenr the public.

Recent discussion amongst science groups in the USA have raised the need for scientist involvement in this discussion at the earliest stages. Preemptively, as it were. This could do much to alleviate public concern based on ignorance or mistaken ideas.

Importance of internet and blogosphere

In a section of the report entitled The Changing Forum for Debate and the Blogosphere the report says:

“The development in recent years of the internet as a vehicle for easy, instantaneous transmission of news and opinion has changed the nature of the debate about scientific issues. Prior to these developments, scientific debate largely took place in journals and conferences that effectively excluded the public from active engagement. Experts tended to introduce their conclusions to the public in ways that were difficult to challenge.”

“The mode has now changed ….. the conventional mechanisms of peer reviewed publication of results,….. has been paralleled by a more vociferous, more polarised debate in the blogosphere and in popular books.” ICCER Report page 41/42

There is no doubt the debates on issues like climate change are more polarised. But it is also true that the internet and the blogosphere is where much of the public gets their scientific information on contentious issues.

I think this means that scientists must participate more often in those internet and blogsphere forums. They must actually build a space on those forums for their communication. The reports appeal that “all scientists to learn to communicate their work in ways that the public can access and understand” is relevant here. So is their request for scientists to be “supported to explain their position, and how a public space can be created where these debates can be conducted on appropriate terms.

Support required from science employers

This section of the report finishes with:

“The learned societies may have an expanded role to play here in encouraging debate. We would also commend the work of bodies such as the Science Media Centre at the Royal Institution for encouraging and helping scientists to take their work to lay audiences through the media, and advising them on how best to do this.” ICCER Report page 42

We can see a practical example of this in New Zealand with the formation of the NZ SciBlogs platform which currently hosts or syndicates about 30 local scientific bloggers.  Maybe there is scope for local learned scoeites to improve their internet presence and participate in the blogosphere.

But I see the local institutions, especially the Crown research Institutes,  as being able to do the most to promote scientific presence on the internet and blogosphere. But at the same time, I see them as doing the least – and actually dragging their feet with this responsibility.

Local scientific institutes have had problems of  a culture of secrecy and competition. This has been promoted by funding mechanisms and also by the commercialisation culture which promoted intellectual property issues. And through all this we have the problem of bureaucracies fearful of allowing staff to participate in public discussions or disputes, fearful of legal action and controversy.

Finally there is the personal attitude of scientists themselves. Many have and are taking to public participation and blogging enthusiastically – and proving very effective. However there still appears to be a residual attitude that communication to the public and popularisation of science is somehow unworthy. The attitude that caused many of Carl Sagan‘s colleagues to be critical of him.

I guess that is a cultural thing. As more and more scientists do be come active on the internet and blogosphere, and as such activity becomes recognised in personal assessment and career prospects, this will surely die out.

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’Climategate’ smears found false — Mann cleared Ken Perrott Jul 02

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The final investigation of Dr Michael Mann by the Pennsylvania State Unviersity has now reported. It has unanimously found that ’after careful review of all available evidence, there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.’ (You can download the full report here – Final_Investigation_Report).

No surprise to anyone who has followed this whole “climategate” beat up with an objective eye. In this video interview from Climate Science Watch Mann gives his reactions and thoughts on the “climategate” campaign (from Interview with Michael Mann on the Penn State Final Report and the war on climate scientists).

Interview with Michael Mann on the Penn State Final Report and the war on climate scientists.

Its worth quoting from dean of the Graduate school, Henry C. Folley’s, letter reporting the findings:

  • Dr. Mann had not seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for conducting research or other scholarly activities. The committee concluded that ’the manner in which Dr. Mann used and shared source codes has been well within the range of accepted practices in his field.’ They also state that the many prestigious awards and recognitions that Dr. Mann has won ’serve as evidence that his scientific work, especially the conduct of his research, has from the beginning of his career been judged to be outstanding by a broad spectrum of scientists.’ The committee noted that had his conduct been outside the range of accepted practices ’it would have been impossible for him to receive so many awards and recognitions, which typically involve intense scrutiny from scientists who may or may not agree with his scientific conclusions.’
  • Dr. Mann had not engaged in any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for reporting research or other scholarly activities. They considered his scholarly record and concluded that ’Clearly, Dr. Mann’s reporting of his research has been successful and judged to be outstanding by his peers. This would have been impossible had his activities in reporting his work been outside of accepted practices in his field.’
  • On the issue of whether Dr. Mann distributed privileged information to others to gain some advantage for his interpretation of climate change the committee considered ’Dr. Mann’s actions in sharing unpublished manuscripts with third parties, without first having received express consent from the authors of such manuscripts, to be careless and inappropriate.’
  • In sum, the Investigatory Committee found that ’after careful review of all available evidence, there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.’ They note in the report that the decision to find Dr. Mann not guilty of the allegation of research misconduct was reached unanimously.

Final UK inquiry reports next week

Meanwhile – the final scientific  inquiry into  “climategate” is expected to report next week.  This is the Independent Climate Change Email Review.

This has been looking at details of how freedom of information applications were handled. As such, I think this will be the only inquiry which will possible report finding any unethical behaviour. This is an area where scientific institutes have been finding their way on the vexed problem of making data and methodologies fully available. So I expect there will be some useful findings which will help clarify approaches to this problem.

But what about all those conservative newspaper and blogs which uncritically participated in the climategate beat up? Will they now apologise and factually report these findings?

And what about those New Zealand bloggers who participated in this little charade? Who viciously attacked people like Mann, and our own climate scientists?

Sadly, I don’t think they will apologise. I predict they will either ignore this or deliver a spin about “whitewashing.”

Here are some of the initial reports of the news of Mann’s complete and final exoneration.

Mann Cleared in Final Inquiry by Penn State – Dot Earth Blog – NYTimes.com
Climategate’s death rattle | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
Penn State Completely Exonerates Climate Scientist Michael Mann On Bogus Climategate Accusations
Penn State clears Mann in Climate-gate probe
Climate Scientist Michael Mann Fully Exonerated of Misconduct by University
Climategate Scientist Cleared in Inquiry, Again: Scientific American
Will media that advanced “Climategate” smear now report on investigation clearing scientist? | Media Matters for America
Penn State Completely Exonerates Climate Scientist Michael Mann On Bogus Climategate Accusations
Investigation of climate scientist at Penn State complete – Penn State University
Interview with Michael Mann on the Penn State Final Report and the war on climate scientists
Penn State Live – Investigation of climate scientist at Penn State complete
Climate Scientist Michael Mann Fully Exonerated of Misconduct by University
Mann exonerated by PSU inquiry: ’No substance to the allegation’ « Deep Climate
Much-vindicated Michael Mann and Hockey Stick get final exoneration from Penn State – time for some major media apologies and retractions
An End to Climategate? Penn State Clears Michael Mann
Climategate Continues to Crumble – Ecocentric – TIME.com
Climate Scientist Cleared of Altering Data – NYT
Panel Clears Dr. Michael Mann in ’Climategate’ – Onward State
Penn State clears Michael Mann of all charges… now, will Climategate please go away?

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Climate scientist sues newspaper for false reporting Ken Perrott Apr 23

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Here is a press release I picked up last night:

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwire – April 21, 2010) – University of Victoria Professor Andrew Weaver, the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis, launched a lawsuit today in BC Supreme Court against three writers at The National Post (and the newspaper as a whole), over a series of unjustified libels based on grossly irresponsible falsehoods that have gone viral on the Internet.

In a statement released at the same time the suit was filed, Dr. Weaver said, I asked The National Post to do the right thing — to retract a number of recent articles that attributed to me statements I never made, accused me of things I never did, and attacked me for views I never held. To my absolute astonishment, the newspaper refused.”

Dr. Weaver’s statement of claim not only asks for a Court injunction requiring The National Post to remove all of the false allegations from its Internet websites, but also seeks an unprecedented Court order requiring the newspaper to assist Dr. Weaver in removing the defamatory National Post articles from the many other Internet sites where they have been re-posted.

“If I sit back and do nothing to clear my name, these libels will stay on the Internet forever. They’ll poison the factual record, misleading people who are looking for reliable scientific information about global warming,” said Weaver.

The suit names Financial Post Editor Terence Corcoran, columnist Peter Foster, reporter Kevin Libin and National Post publisher Gordon Fisher, as well as several still-unidentified editors and copy editors. It seeks general, aggravated damages, special and exemplary damages and legal costs in relation to articles by Foster on December 9, 2009 (“Weaver’s Web”), Corcoran on December 10, 2009 (“Weaver’s Web II”) and January 27, 2010 (“Climate Agency going up in flames”), and Libin on February 2, 2010 (“So much for pure science”).

The Statement of Claim was filed April 20, 2010 at the BC Supreme Court Registry at the Vancouver Courthouse: Weaver v Corcoran and others, SCBC No.102698, Vancouver Registry.

via Climate Scientist Sues National Post for Libel.

The 48 page statment of claim is available to download (Weaver vs Corcoran.pdf).

Do I detect a trend? Could Ian Wishart and Richard Treadgold be legally forced to track down and remove defamatory reports internationally arising our of Treadgold’s discredited “paper” Are we getting warm yet? (see New Zealand’s denier-gate)?

See also:
News from the front: scientists directly challenge claims of fraud through defamation/libel laws
Climate change deniers wallets threatened

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Officially a fake scandal from science perspective Ken Perrott Apr 15

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Well, the latest report from inquiries into the “climategate” affair confirm that the scientific conclusions of climate scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), University of East Anglia stand on “solid ground.”

The report is clear – relatively short and well worth reading. (Download Report of the International Panel set up by the University of East Anglia to
examine the research of the Climatic Research Unit
).
Here are the conclusions:

  1. ” We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal.
  2. We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians. Indeed there would be mutual benefit if there were closer collaboration and interaction between CRU and a much wider scientific group outside the relatively small international circle of temperature specialists.
  3. It was not the immediate concern of the Panel, but we observed that there were important and unresolved questions that related to the availability of environmental data sets. It was pointed out that since UK government adopted a policy that resulted in charging for access to data sets collected by government agencies, other countries have followed suit impeding the flow of processed and raw data to and between researchers. This is  unfortunate and seems inconsistent with policies of open access to data promoted elsewhere in government.
  4. A host of important unresolved questions also arises from the application of Freedom of Information legislation in an academic context. We agree with the CRU view that the authority for releasing unpublished raw data to third parties should stay with those who collected it.”

On the CRU’s tree-ring work the report says:

“we are satisfied that the CRU tree-ring work has been carried out with integrity, and that allegations of deliberate misrepresentation and unjustified selection of data are not valid.”

And on the criticisms made of the CRU:

“From our perspective it seems that the CRU sins were of omission rather than commission. Although we deplore the tone of much of the criticism that has been directed at CRU, we believe that this questioning of the methods and data used in dendroclimatology will ultimately have a beneficial effect and improve working practices”

Points for action

Reviews like this can be very useful for science groups. After all, cases of scientific fraud are very rare but there are always procedures and habits that can be exposed and therefore corerected. After all, scientists are human, aren’t they.

In this case archival and record keeping procedures may have been understandably rather informal and this has probably been largely attended to. The comment on use of professional statisticians is, I think, worthwhile. In my career I was lucky to have statisticians on hand and always found their uinput valuable. But I often reviewed papers where authors handled statistical analyses themselves and sometimes the papers suffered for it.

The UEA, in their response to the panels criticisms, welcomed the report and undertook to consider how they could improve the use of professional statisticians. This could well involve some financial investment and should be welcomed by CRU staff.

Two other inquiries, by British members of parliament and Pennsylvania State University, have also cleared the scientists of misconduct. Two further inquiries, one led by former British civil servant Muir Russell and the other conducted by British police, are still under way.

The Russell inquiry (reports next month) is basically into issues around how the UEA carried out their responsibilities under freedom of information (FoI) legislation.  I suspect their report will be the most critical of  the CRU and UEA. It may even recommend, or result in, disciplinary actions. Hopefully though it’s recommendations will enable development of policies to improve compliance and even make a step towards demanding some responsibility on the part of those making FoI applications.

The police inquiry is ongoing. I really hope this one has a success. If they do this could be even more damning for denier organisaytions and could well lead to legal actions.

So – as any objective observer would have already concluded, the scientific integrity of climate scientists remains intact. There may yet be findings indicating inappropriate atitusded towards FoI requests. BGut there is still the criminal activity behind the hacking and release of the climategate emails.

I think that the real story lies there. And if it is finally exposed it could be big.

See also:
CRU cleared of scientific malpractice — so much for ’climategate’
Jones cleared of charges of scientific malpractice: there goes deniers claims of fraud
Scientists cleared of malpractice in UEA’s hacked emails inquiry | Environment | guardian.co.uk.
Lord Oxburgh panel clears CRU of malpractice but calls for better data practices
Climategate’ inquiry clears scientists of malpractice
Panel rules out malpractice by climate scientists
Lord Oxburgh Inquiry Clears UEA Scientists of Malpractice
Response by the University of East Anglia to the Report by Lord Oxburgh’s Science Assessment Panel
Climategate: Officially a Fake Scandal
Climategate scientists chastised over statistics
Experts respond: Climate researchers were ’dedicated if slightly disorganised’

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Climate scientist Phil Jones exonerated Ken Perrott Mar 31

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The UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee has released its report into “climategate” – some of the issues surrounding the release of stolen emails from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit.

It effectively exonerates Phil Jones from  charges of withholding data and questionable scientific ethics.

The text of the press release is below and the committee’s report [PDF] provides detailed responses on each of the issues raised in its investigation.


CLIMATE SCIENCE MUST BECOME MORE TRANSPARENT SAY MPs

The Science and Technology Committee today publishes its report on the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The Committee calls for the climate science community to become more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies.

Phil Willis MP, Committee Chair, said:

“Climate science is a matter of global importance. On the basis of the science, governments across the world will be spending trillions of pounds on climate change mitigation. The quality of the science therefore has to be irreproachable. What this inquiry revealed was that climate scientists need to take steps to make available all the data that support their work and full methodological workings, including their computer codes. Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided.”

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails–”trick” and “hiding the decline”–the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

On the mishandling of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, the Committee considers that much of the responsibility should lie with the University, not CRU. The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure, particularly to climate change sceptics. The failure of the University to grasp fully the potential damage this could do and did was regrettable. The University needs to re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in FoI requests is limited.

via UK Parliament – S&T PN32/100331.

Download the full report: ’The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.’

YouTube – ‘Climategate’ row scientist cleared of wrongdoing.

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See also:
The rickety bandwagon of climate change denial
Climategate inquiry: no proof of fraud, better disclosure called for

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The rickety bandwagon of climate change denial Ken Perrott Mar 30

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OK, this cartoon is lampooning extremest attitudes within the US Republican Party. But I think it is also very relevant to this whole “climategate” hysteria.

Relevant because some of the most extreme pronouncements from climate change deniers do smack of McCarthyism. To be honest they also remind me of the campaigns against scientists and intellectuals launched by Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot.

Have a brief look at some of the pronouncement in denier blogs and twitter tweets. The description of climate change science as a conspiracy. The accusations that honest scientists have lied, hidden and distorted data and interfered with scientific publication processes. And all on an international scale. The huge and authoritative IPCC reviews are being discarded unread as rubbish and lies.

The accusations that these honest scientists are criminals, that they should be prosecuted. Some of these bloggers and tweeters want immediate  punishment – they can’t wait for a trial, let alone an investigation.

And as for the official investigation of charges of violation of freedom of information laws, let alone scientific ethics, these critics scream “whitewash” beforehand. Justice and truth is the last thing they want.

Persecuting climate scientists

The label “McCarthyism” is so obvious, down to McCarthy’s tactics of persecution of victims and hearings. US Senator James Inhofe is actually demanding criminal investigation of climate scientists. He has even named 17 US and UK climate scientists he wants to prosecute.

Michael Mann, one of the US climate scientists Inhofe wishes to imprison or otherwise punish, has warned about the climate denier hysteria:

“I think the following quote characterises the situation best: ‘Continuous research by our best scientists … may be made impossible by the creation of an atmosphere in which no man feels safe against the public airing of unfounded rumours, gossip, and vilification.’ The quote wasn’t made during the last few months. It was made by US president Harry S Truman in 1948, in response to politically motivated attacks against scientists associated with the dark era of McCarthyism.”

Mann added:

“I fear that is precisely the sort of atmosphere that is being created, and sure, it impacts research. The more time scientists have to spend fending off these sorts of attacks and dealing with this sort of nonsense, the less time is available to them to actually do science, and to push the forefront of our knowledge forward. Perhaps that is the intent?”

He is right to warn us about the nature of the current anti-science hysteria.

But I think the cartoon also conveys an important point. These days McCarthyism (and Stalinism, Maoism and Pol Potism) is a sign of weakness. It is an extremely weak and rickety bandwagon to jump on to. These extremists sail so close to the wind that they will inevitably be exposed. Their whole edifice will collapse.

I suspect this collapse will become more and more obvious as we get the results from the current investigations into the “climategate” issue. It is likely that any real unethical or illegal activity found will be no greater than interference with freedom of information requests. And these may relate only to emails rather than data. After the dust is settle, after any real inappropriate behaviour has been dealt with, many people are going to look ridiculous.

Demand transparency from deniers

I only hope that we can spend some time investigating these people. What has been their attitude towards revealing their own sources of funding and treatment of data? How have they responding to information requests? How have they behaved ethically toward reporting scientific facts, let alone reporting the behavior of honest scientists?

Some of these people are journalists. Others bloggers. The there are the denier organisations and their websites. Should we place any trust in such people in the future?

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