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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 12/ 4/2009

Expert: E-mails show perils of 'activist' science

By Andrew Freedman

Interview series: Controversial climate e-mails

* How much Saturday snow? Full Forecast | Photo contest winners *

The controversy over the unauthorized release of years worth of private e-mail correspondence between a handful of top climate researchers, stolen or leaked from computers at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), has now attracted the attention of top government officials in the United States and abroad. On Wednesday, two of the Obama administration's key climate science advisers were grilled about the matter before a congressional committee, and yesterday the climate negotiator for the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made it clear to the BBC that he will raise the issue at the impending Copenhagen climate talks.

Critics of climate science have trumpeted the e-mails as evidence that climate data is not nearly as solid as some researchers and officials had portrayed, with some touting the messages as evidence of a conspiracy on the part of scientists to convince the public and policymakers that climate change is an urgent issue. Investigations have begun in Britain and the U.S. into how the emails were released, and whether any rules or research practices were violated in the conduct of specific climate science research studies. In addition, Phil Jones, the director of CRU, has temporarily stepped aside pending the results of his university's inquiry into the e-mails.

As part of my continuing series of interviews with climate experts, today I bring you an email conversation I had this week with University of Colorado environmental studies professor Roger Pielke Jr. Unlike the subjects of my previous interviews in this series, Pielke sees this controversy as a very significant one, if not for climate science itself then at least for the public perception of that science.


Roger Pielke Jr.

Pielke, not to be confused with his father, climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr., specializes in the intersection between science and policy, particularly concerning global climate change. He has conducted research studies on natural disaster trends, and is the author of "The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics."

Andrew Freedman: What is your general view of the seriousness of the e-mail controversy? Does this have major scientific significance, or does it have a greater impact on the public perception of climate science?

Roger Pielke Jr.: At this point there is no doubt that the email controversy is quite serious. Its scientific significance remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that credibility of climate science has taken a big hit (warranted or not) and this will have consequences for the practice of climate science.

AF: You have been sharply critical of the behavior of the researchers whose e-mails were hacked and published online, writing on your blog that "the emails show a consistent pattern of behavior among the activist scientists to redefine peer review in accordance with their own views of climate science. In doing so, they sought to turn the entire notion of peer review on its head." Do you think they succeeded in redefining peer review, thereby corrupting and distorting the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) process, or is it unrealistic to think that such a small number of scientists could have such a large influence, as many people are claiming?

RP:I have been critical of the behavior of activist climate scientists for many years. Their efforts to wage a battle with their political opponents (who they call "skeptics" in the emails) on the turf of science has contributed to the excessive politicization of climate science. The appropriate place to wage political battles is out in the open, and in full consideration of the many factors beyond science that shape our political agendas.
While it is clear that the "skeptics" were/are often hiding their political agendas behind science, that doesn't make it right for the activist scientists to do the same. In fact, there is much more at stake for the scientific community from the activist scientists than the "skeptics" because the activist scientists have claimed to be representing the scientific establishment and are in fact part of leading scientific institutions like the IPCC, and thus a loss of credibility is disproportionately more consequential.
"ʻIf it seems like the issue of politicized science falls in the favor of the skeptics, that is correct. They can politicize science with less consequences than can the activist scientists. That is just a fact. No one said that politics is fair."
If it seems like the issue of politicized science falls in the favor of the skeptics, that is correct. They can politicize science with less consequences than can the activist scientists. That is just a fact. No one said that politics is fair.
Despite the stated intentions in the emails, the reality is that no one controls peer review in all of academia or even in a field like climate science, and it is futile to try to do so, though apparently this did not stop some of these activist scientists from at least talking about trying to manage the peer review process in ways favorable to their work and unfavorable to their perceived opponents. No matter how well the succeeded in this effort, seeing their efforts described in the emails looks really bad to most observers.
The IPCC is different however, in that it is controlled by a much smaller group of people. I've had my own experiences with the IPCC that lead me to believe that a few individuals can indeed successfully serve as gatekeepers to keep certain peer-reviewed science out of the report. In areas where I have expertise -- disasters and climate change specifically -- the IPCC has failed miserably. [Note: Pielke laid out this argument in more detail in a June blog post.]

AF: An alternative view of the e-mails would be that they reflect the results of the assault that climate scientists have been under for years from climate skeptics and vested interests who seek to convince the public that climate change is not a major problem and risk management policies are unnecessary. Would you agree the e-mails show researchers on the defensive? Does that in any way mitigate their actions?

RP: Your question clearly presents these scientists as activists. How did we get into a situation where some believe that it is the responsibility of climate scientists to engage in a battle with "climate skeptics and vested interests who seek to convince the public that climate change is not a major problem and risk management policies are unnecessary"?
It is not the job of these scientists to try to influence vested interests or shape public opinion on climate policies through science or using scientific institutions. Or more precisely, if these scientists wish to engage in overt advocacy, they should do what NASA's Jim Hansen has done, quite admirably, and be open and up front with their agenda and politics. They cannot have it both ways - they cannot claim to be focused on truth and advancing knowledge while at the same time engaging in a political battle over climate policy. The public may not understand the technical details of climate science, but they know politics when they see it.
The IPCC has a formal directive to be "policy neutral" but this is routinely flouted. I understand that some of these scientists are under the illusion that they are simply pursuing truth. But the reality is that they have been engaged in a political battle that reflects badly upon them and their institutions. When political battles take place through science, it is science itself that usually loses out.

AF: What actions would you recommend for climate scientists, including the IPCC, to take regain the public confidence that may have been lost in this scandal, and improve the peer-review process? Is an 'open' peer-review system, using online communications, a viable option? Or is the current system not as broken as it might seem?

RP: More openness, more transparency, more diversity, and more attention to the social construction of expertise is needed. The IPCC was more or less "outsourced" by decision makers to the academic community. That was a mistake.
We don't run military or economic policies based on the work of independent academics working in campus-based research centers. Instead we create institutions that pay close attention to their legitimacy and credibility in the public eye as a matter of good practice. Why? Because such institutions move markets and shape wars -- serious stuff. If climate policy is to be equally serious stuff we have to take knowledge production equally as seriously. We have not to date.
From this perspective, the current situation is not the fault of the climate scientists, but those who allowed such conditions and incentives to develop that have fostered the unhealthy politicization of climate science.
Fixing it will take some work and some institution building, and will require a new generation of leaders to step up to the challenge. The climate science community can help by supporting the depoliticization of its leading institutions, but this could very well and understandably face some resistance from those who benefit from the status quo.

AF: You have stated repeatedly that you believe climate change is a serious public policy concern and that risk management measures are needed to mitigate and adapt to it. Does this controversy change your conclusions?

RP: Not in the slightest.

AF: What would you say to members of the public who had confidence in the underlying science of climate change but are now questioning it to a greater extent, and also what would you say to the many skeptics who are using this controversy to bolster their claims that the data has been manipulated, and the problem is not so bad after all?

RP: Over time, the public has been strongly in support of action on emissions reductions in the US and elsewhere. This support has been broad but not deep, as people consistently rank climate well down on the list of top priorities, behind issues like the economy, health, war, crime, etc. This is highly unlikely to change. At the same time, the public's views of a human influence on climate has also been high, with a few ups and downs over the years. I would bet that the public's views of climate scientists will take the biggest hit among these issues.
But it is important to remember that action to decarbonize the economy and better adapt to climate aren't simply a direct consequence of what climate scientists have said about a human influence on the climate system. An important part of depoliticizing climate science will be to recognize that there are many good reasons for decarbonizing the economy and better adapting to climate. In fact, I can make a compelling case for doing both, with climate science playing a complementary role in the justification and one where certainties are not required.
When skeptics argue that uncertainty means that no action is necessary, they are also laying a trap, one that many environmental advocates and activist scientists have fallen into. We do not need to settle very many scientific questions to justify policies that lead to reduced emissions or better adaptation. The best response to skeptics is to say, yes there are uncertainties, but there are other very good reasons for action. The questions we should be debating are thus not about science, but what action?

Stay tuned for the next interview in this series, which will likely be published early next week. Click here to read previous interviews in this series.

The views expressed here are the author's and interview subject's alone and do not represent any position of the Washington Post, its news staff or the Capital Weather Gang.

By Andrew Freedman  | December 4, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Freedman, Interview Series: Controversial Climate E-mails, News & Notes, Science  
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Comments

So much for global warming. At this moment, it is snowing in Houston Texas. For perspective- Houston is at roughly the same latitude as Cairo Egypt.

Really coming down too. Historically, Houston gets snow only every 4-5 years and then only in January-February.

But it snows here now more and sooner. Year before last, we even had snow on Christmas eve. Apparently, this was the first recorded case of a Houston "White Christmas". And now it snows here in the first week in December.

Anecdotal, I know and likely a product of El Nino, or whatever. But two episodes of uniquely early snowfalls down here in the tropics are certainly inconsistant with global warming.

Posted by: sesquiculus | December 4, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Neat trick how those awful global warming proponents are managing to shrink the Greenland ice sheet, calve off icebergs from Antarctica, reduce the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, cause species to migrate to more accommodating climates, etc.

Posted by: GWGOLDB | December 4, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

sesquiculus: individual weather events, whether a snowstorm or a severe weather outbreak, have little to no clear relation with global climate change, which is a longer term phenomenon. Also, for comparison with Houston's snow, yesterday I enjoyed 69 degree temperatures while in Boston, which busted the all-time record for the date. Portland, Maine was in the mid sixties as well!

Are you in Houston? If so, enjoy the snow!!!

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 4, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Andrew,

I am pretty much in Pielke Jr.'s moderate camp, e.g., there are other reasons to decarbonize the economy, so we do not have to resort to "Climate McCarthyism" to make a case. Although it did not come out in the interview much, Pielke Jr. is a long time critic of Mann's studies, and the tactics used by the groups of researchers listed in the e-mails. So the e-mails really would not be expected to change his views very much.

I still think it would be informative (and entertaining) to have a true skeptic, or at least a neutral "hard" scientist, actually dig into the content of the released e-mails, data, and programs (such as the HARRY_READ_ME file). (Note: Pielke is a self-proclaimed "social scientist")

Again, thanks for the columns.

RWW

Posted by: WestEndVoter | December 4, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, finally some sanity in the reporting. But there is much more digging that you should be doing. So far you are following, not leading the chase. Simple question to follow up: have democratic leaders in house and senate, as well as in the White House had a chance to hear a scientific debate between advocate scientists and "skeptical" scientists which just presented the facts from the two perspectives and be in a position to ask questions of both? Have we ever had the NAS hold a public meeting in a similar fashion? If not, why not? The interview above has made it very clear that even you conceded in the way you posed your question that the key scientists have been acting as advocates, the President's science advisor is an advocate scientist, as is the Secretary of Energy. I understand that General Jones has been a "skeptic", though he is not a scientist, Don't we need a discussion like that? Lots of people believe we invaded Iraq because we did not adequately listen to the intelligence "skeptics". The President just spent several weeks discussing what to do in Afghanistan and Pakistan, listening and debating the options with "skeptics". When have we done that with human impact on climate change and the quantitative aspects of that in terms of magnitude and timing? Andrew, such discussion would be a first as far as I know.

Posted by: 123andy | December 4, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

(breaking up my earlier post, which the blog administrator can now ignore)

Oh, come on. With all due respect to Prof. Pielke, this is a bit of a naivete fest. Scientists in every discipline routinely "manage" the peer review process of their peers. That is why - brace yourself! - it is called "peer review". When you receive a paper from an editor and you conclude that it is bunk - as was likely the case with something from an oil-industry-funded stooge like Sallie Balunias (whom if I'm not mistaken was the subject of that exasperated email at the CRU) you return it to the editor with a great big "no" stamped on it. When you keep getting stuff like that, you get a little strident and "activist" looking in your "no's". Is that "managing the peer review process"? Well, um, okay. Is it correct? Of course it is. Does it serve the public good? Absolutely - if the paper was indeed bunk. If your peers think your work is crap, and they can tell an editor why in valid terms, then it will be rejected. Peer review management. Sounds fine to me.

Balunias had already had a piece of "skeptic" garbage (and please, lets keep that term in quotes, as most of these paid wards of the oil industry know full well that the current consensus is a more accurate picture of reality) shoved into print by a journal that had been taken over by the small oil crowd, and it caused a huge walkout by the existing editorial board at the journal, who felt it was a travesty of science. Was that protest resignation "managing peer review"? Well, okay (arguably an unsuccesful one, but they made a principled stand that was probably an important statement). Was it right? Yes! Who else is going to "manage peer review" than, well, peers?

(continued)

Posted by: B2O2 | December 4, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

And let's not forget, as the interview seems to brush aside, that that comment in the email was probably a bit of hyperbolic blowing off of steam in frustration at the fact that this drivel keeps coming up at these journals, as the oil industry scratches and claws for marginal delays in the public debate. Every month that they can stave off action means literally BILLIONS OF DOLLARS to them. People, and the media especially, seem blissfully naive to this fact of the situation.

Climate scientists are in a damned if they do and damned if they don't position. If they just passively let this stuff get published, not wanting to look heavy-handed, then they know they are doing humanity a disservice. If they do the right thing and come down hard on industry's attempt to push this stuff into print, then they are "activists". Pielke asks how they got in that situation. It's called the downside of the capitalist system (which has its upsides too of course). There are huge monied interests at work, and despite the frequent paranoid claims from the skeptic crowd about the climate community "faking their work to please grant issuers", the potential monied incentives from the other side DWARF those study grants (which scientists are NOT faking their work to cater to - they have a little more pride and respect for their chosen line of work than that, believe me).

Society needs to "man up" and stand up to this threat. For the most part the scientists have not taken "activist" roles, but a few of them may have jumped into it in desperation after the media was so gullible for so many years at the hands of industry's big disinformation campaign. It's not ideal that they have had to do this, but a weak, understaffed and often frankly science-illiterate mainstream media made that necessary in the late 90s and early part of this decade.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 4, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

GWGOLDB wrote: "Neat trick how those awful global warming proponents are managing to shrink the Greenland ice sheet, calve off icebergs from Antarctica, reduce the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, cause species to migrate to more accommodating climates, etc."

Interesting. And it must have been a really neat trick when those exact same events occured during the last interglacial period, and the one before that....Still there was something missing. Oh yeah, the dolts wringing their hands for driving SUVs and using the word "unprecedented" ad naueseum.

Posted by: warmhoax | December 4, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

The person you interviewed seems to be most annoyed that the "appropriate place to wage political battles is out in the open." Does this mean that Dr. Pielke is going to release his own internal emails so that we can judge for ourselves his behavior?

It would be the most honest decision.

Posted by: thompar | December 4, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

B2O2 wrote....

"Climate scientists are in a damned if they do and damned if they don't position. If they just passively let this stuff get published, not wanting to look heavy-handed, then they know they are doing humanity a disservice. If they do the right thing and come down hard on industry's attempt to push this stuff into print, then they are "activists"."

If only you knew how absurd that statement is. Unbelievable. "They know they are doing humanity a disservice?" Clearly you are not in a scientific field and have no understanding of science. They are doing humanity and science a disservice when their personal ideology and core beliefs cloud their scientific work. You just don't get it. They are no longer scientists then. Peer review in this field has evolved into an incestuous brethren of like-minded ideologues. As for the skeptics in the Climate field, you imply that they are all shills for industry. That's a complete load of rubbish. There are too many skeptical Climate Scientists that are being pushed aside as heretics - and as Richard Lindzen of MIT said...if he wanted to get filthy rich, he'd switch sides. That's where the real money is...and he's correct.

Posted by: warmhoax | December 4, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

A year or two ago there was an unusual early-season thundersnow storm in Charleston, SC to start out a rather snow-free winter here in the East. Several years back, Brownsville and Corpus Christi had a white Christmas in an otherwise snow-free winter. Don't trust these early low-latitude snowstorms as indicative of either the coming winter or of global climate trends.

We snow lovers may find ourselves griping through the fifty-five degree mild spells of January and February, while the much-needed-rain crowd celebrates.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | December 4, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

warmhoax wrote:

"Clearly you are not in a scientific field and have no understanding of science."

LOL. Well, except for 21 peer-reviewed publications (7 of them first- or second-author papers), and fourteen years working in reviewed science, you're just spot on there, tiger.

Ultimately, a scientist's purpose is to study the natural world and report on it. Presumably for the benefit of humanity (not, that is, for the benefit of the Tralfamadorians or some race of beings on another plane of existence). A part of that is to review the work of other scientists. If you knowingly let misleading work into the body of literature, you are abdicating that responsiblity. That is called peer review.

This is routine in every field of investigation. Talk to a scientist when and if you get a chance, and ask them about this.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 4, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

@Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang

A longer term phenomenon? Yes, just like evolution... because the scientists said so... a long time ago, that is, since now they think evolution may often occur rapidly (in a geological sense).

A longer term phenomenon? Yes, just like the Younger Dryas or big Freeze... that took decades to plunge the planet into a mini ice age... or took "months, or a year or two at most."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091130112421.htm

A longer term phenomenon? According to? Sorry, Andrew, while the prevailing opinion today might be that "global climate change" is long term, tomorrow the prevailing opinion might be different. (Light is a particle... Light is a wave... Light is a string.) Ignoring an individual event for the trend is hardly scientific...

I understand your wanting to correct the notion that two samples don't make a distribution, but they are still samples of the distribution. That IS a clear relation. You can't dismiss or ignore data because it doesn't if the distribution you want... unless you work for IPCC I guess.

@sesquiculus, A better answer is this. If you set the temperature for your half of the car at 80, and your spouse sets it for his half at 60... that is an average temperature of 70. If you reset your side's temp to 75 and your spouse's side to 69, that is an average temperature of 72. The average temperature got hotter, yet your side got cooler. Translation: The phenomenon is not called "Houston warming"; it is (or was) called "global warming".

Posted by: prokaryote | December 4, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

"You can't dismiss or ignore data because it doesn't [FIT] the distribution you want"

Posted by: prokaryote | December 4, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I finally realized what I have been missing. The climate scientist advocates feel that they are the besieged minority underdogs who need to fight back to protects themselves from the majority "skeptics" and as an opressed minory they need to take the whatever steps are necessary to protect themselves? And of course to the skeptics it is just the other way. They think the power is in the hands of the advocates, who push them out from access to refereed journals, etc, etc. It does kind of explain the scene in a way I have not conceived. My impression has been that for the past decade, maybe even for the past two decades the humans cause climate change advocates have been in control. Yeh, Bush was in the White House and he did not play nice, but in fact the R&D dollars still flowed without much disruption and by and large they controlled the climate science game. Am I way off base here?

Posted by: 123andy | December 4, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

RE: Dr. Pielke's statement, "If it seems like the issue of politicized science falls in the favor of the skeptics, that is correct. They can politicize science with less consequences than can the activist scientists."

Dr. Pielke seems to be saying that there are no skeptical scientists or, if there are, it's more OK for them to be pushing a political agenda than it is for the activist scientists who are pushing the warmist agenda. In either case, I disagree.

Scientists are supposed to be unbiased truth seekers who are equally willing to have the data confirm the null hypothesis as the working hypothesis. An activist scientist who engages in political activity in favor of a cause related to his/her field of study is no longer an unbiased scientist, but rather a political activist, i.e., there should be no such thing as an activist scientist of whatever political stripe. One has to choose, because objectivity tends to wither in direct proportion to the commitment to the cause. James Hanson, who you praise so warmly, is the antithesis of a disinterested scientist seeking truth where ever it leads.

Posted by: FadingFast | December 4, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

B202 wrote:

Ultimately, a scientist's purpose is to study the natural world and report on it.

That is absolutely correct. The problem lies with some "scientists" in very high positions with a belief system so strong, it causes them to cherry pick data, remove data...basically do whatever it takes to arrive at the "right", desired outcome. The outcome they just know must be correct, with every fiber of their being. It also causes them to push those with opposing findings and views out of the circle and bring those "just like me" into the circle. This is precisely what has happened in Climate Science and is quite apparent in some of the emails from CRU. Skeptics are like Gallileo fighting the almighty church. I thought when Chris Landsea of NOAA quit the IPCC in '05 with his open letter regarding the politicization and misrepresentation that was occuring, people would take notice. It just didn't happen. Hopefully now the public will finally catch on to some of the nonsense.

Steve

"Science is not a democracy. The majority is often wrong"
- Joannne Simpson, First woman PHD in Meteorology

Posted by: warmhoax | December 4, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it is appropriate language to set up the conflict between "activist scientists" and "skeptics". Scientists who politicize their research can come on either side of a societal conflict. They are activists no matter what their point of view is. Mixing politics and science no doubt compromises science, but there is no way that the entire system is corrupt. There is too much to be gained from reporting that your colleagues were wrong.

And the problem is that we don't have enough scientifically literate non-scientists to push back against the special interest groups who want to fight scientific findings. Whether it is church-based groups undermining evolution or the big business/small minded folks trying to make a conspiracy out of the reality of human impacts on climate, lies have to be countered with evidence. Scientists shouldn't have the responsibility of making policy unless they switch careers!

Posted by: rightsaid | December 4, 2009 7:28 PM | Report abuse

warmhoax said:

"The problem lies with some "scientists" in very high positions with a belief system so strong, it causes them to cherry pick data, remove data...basically do whatever it takes to arrive at the "right", desired outcome."

I understand that this is your dearly-longed-for paranoid take on what is happening. You have no evidence for it, however. Only a few out-of-context but in reality harmless phrases in some emails - which you have apparently made no attempt to understand what is behind.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 4, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

123andy: you asked for open debates. Those have been occurring for the past 20 years at least, and continue to do so. As a reporter, I used to go to congressional hearings where two so-called skeptics would be up against two mainstream scientists. The first National Academy report on climate change was in 1979, which was the result of an open debate among scientists. The IPCC process is conducted with unprecedented openness and transparency, despite its flaws. The perspective that the science has been decided by a backroom deal, or by a secretive, manipulative cabal is grossly inaccurate. (You may not have that perception, but I know a lot of the folks who comment here and elsewhere in the blogosphere do, and your comment gave me a chance to address that).

Also, I think Dr. Pielke addresses a key point, which is that the folks who are raising a red flag about the hacked/leaked emails tend to be arguing political points, not scientific ones. The majority of the skeptics tend to be driven by ideological and political interests. Sure, there are legit researchers who don't see much of a case for man made climate change, such as Richard Lindzen and John Christy, but they are dwarfed by the number of politically motivated folks who are much more eager to attack individual scientists such as Michael Mann and Phil Jones than they are to come up with convincing evidence that the mainstream science is wrong. In my view, and again this is just my view, the emails showed what can happen when scientists feel that they are under a relentless, politically-motivated assault, and the only way they can see to fight back is by adopting tactics they would ordinarily decry. As Pielke notes, the scientists end up losing, and the public ends up doubting science even more than they did before.

That does not excuse the scientists', actions, but it might help people to understand them or at least the context in which they were taken.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 4, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

I want to clarify something in the previous comment I made. When I said "The majority of the skeptics tend to be driven by ideological and political interests," I was making a sweeping generalization based on the debates that I have seen online and in person during the past few years, and I should know better than to do that. I didn't even state it correctly (it's been a long week).

There are scientists who have serious questions about the conclusions of the IPCC and others, and they are not necessarily motivated by political or ideological biases. However, the many, perhaps a majority, of those people who are pushing the angle that these emails are the 'smoking gun' that disproves global warming, are political actors, not scientists. That is what I meant to say, because there are huge disconnects right now between discussions of climate science and climate politics. This interview series, I hope, has been doing a service by zeroing in on some of the scientific issues involved in the email matter. Perhaps a follow up one is needed that is focused more closely on the challenges for scientists of conducting research that in a field that is so heavily politicized.

My apologies to any scientists who felt maligned by my previous comment a few minutes ago.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 4, 2009 11:57 PM | Report abuse

It appears that the only other sources of climate date at NASA and NOAA also have been manipulated (look at the history of Hansen's changing temps to fit the idea of increased warming since 1930, well documented on internet history of NASA climate data. Read Dr. Theon's letter to the Senate Committee on Env & Publ Works, of Jan, 2009).

This issue isn't about pollution. It's about billions of dollars being transferred from current energy providers/users to other corporations and or from U.S. citizens to foreign countries. Before a democratic government transfers wealth from one person to another, there should be consensus that the reason is valid, and in this case, that some problem will be solved. Without valid science that is open and believable, such a transfer violates the person losing wealth.

Brainwashing hasn't worked because many people suspect the motives of any fearmonger, whether fear of a nuclear holocaust, or fear of global destruction caused by fossil fuel usage.

This issue will not disappear until a sound scientific basis is established for any tax schemes and until the government finds a more democratic method of solving the pollution problem.

Posted by: emmaliza | December 5, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

When politicians ask the people to pay $Billions to establish publicly funded institutions that are chartered to investigate and report on complex issues like climate science, the people expect the whole truth.

When there is any hint of social advocacy, any manipulation of data, bias in analytical method, or sleight of hand in reported results, the people will not accept the policy recommendations, and will feel betrayed by both the scientists and the science. Auch an impending disaster for science should be avoided at all costs.

While they don't know the science, most people are very experienced in the manipulation of numbers, a slick narrative, and a sales pitch that includes "trust me", "today only" and "press hard there are six copies". They've all bought used cars.

When politicians tell the people that a scientific concensus requires that they spend $Trillions and drastically change their lifestyles forever or face certain global catastrophe, they expect a full and open discussion, including the opinions of experts from all sides of the issue. They won't accept the used car salesman's devious, high pressure sales pitch.

The public face of global warming has included limited disclosure of what's inside the climate science black box, accompanied by increasingly shrill threats that if action isn't taken right now, the world will be overwhelmed by horrific natural disasters.

The Hadley Center CRU disclosures, including the highly suspicious code comments about underlying data manipulation, e-mails describing the use of Mike's trick to hide the decline, and suppressing dissenting views publicy appears worse than many used car dealers I've met.

So what are people to conclude about the quality of NOAA and the other climate centers work? And why does Huntington, Alabama come to different conclusions? And why does one of the most experienced climate scientists alive, MIT'S James Lindzen, disagree vigorously with the IPCC consensus and complain that it's seriously politicized.

This science needs to be vetted, in detail, by diverse qualified representatives in a full public forum. Special focus should be on the period from 1988 to 2010, where cooling is noted by many scientists as being outside the black box's 100 year projections from 1997. Only then we can talk $Trillions. Your investigation, I hope, will lead us to that full assessment.

Posted by: Multikultur | December 5, 2009 3:40 AM | Report abuse

Andrew, thanks for your thoughtful response. You examples of "open debate" are anything but that. If you had been to IPCC working sessions you would know that yes there is substantive discussion, but then someone writes up the story. Then it is reviewed, indeed often by a diversity of reviewers, but then the same folk who wrote the draft decide what of the reviewers input to include and exlude from the reviewers. Without disclosing their own biases they they are then in a position to shape the report. That choice is what we have seen a number of IPCC participants critique and now the climategate e-mails address in part, but for those involved in the process they know that the e-mails hit it on the head. (if you are in the out-group vs. in-group or tribes you have different perspectives) Similarly for the NAS/NRC reports. There is a lot of negotiation over language, nuance etc. It is not surprising that is the case since these reports have potental for political impact and those writing it are very cognizant of that. I am looking for a debate/discussion that is really open. You may want to read the most recent discussion in the physics community where there is a proposal under consideration for an independent study of climate science by unbiased members of the APS (or with the biases laid out in the open as the NRC ususally does) and follow that with an open discussion and input from APS members. Interestingly a member of the APS Council is quoted that he/she is not sure that is a good idea It would generate too much input. So, no I think the kind of open debate/discussion I am looking for has not taken place. I repeatedly see a besieged mindset from the "advocates" and from the "skeptics". But the "advocates" are the in-power group and have been for a while. I urge you to also talk to young scientists working in climate science, probably will have to be off-the-record" since in discussions with me they have expressed significant reservations about the "concensus" view, but are afraid to speak up since that they feel would be career ending. In their publications they often hide their conclusions by adding something to the effect that "of course this data/paper does not refute the danger of AGW" or something to that effect. They have learned that this is the requirement for their work to be able to enter the peer review process in the "prestige" journals. Andrew, we need a real exposure of the danger climate science, and as result science overall is.

Posted by: 123andy | December 5, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Andrew, would like to correct my last sentence in the above post
"Andrew, we need a real exposure of the danger climate science, and as result science overall is." should read
"Andrew, wee need real exposure of the danger climate science IS IN, and as a result science over IS IN."

Posted by: 123andy | December 5, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

123andy: The IPCC process is very different from the APS process, and even the NAS process. As Dr. Crowley explained, and I have previously covered for Greenwire (unfortunately behind a paywall), the IPCC process is extraordinarily open in the sense that every comment must be transparently reviewed and responded to. When scientific societies like the APS or AMS make their statements on climate change, on the other hand, they do not have the burden of following that process, and are more open to charges that a small group determined the outcome for a large organization.

When you say that you think climate science is in "danger," what exactly do you mean, and how would you address it as a journalist? Or as a scientist? Thanks.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 5, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Stop the clock: Two Weeks, Two days.

The Washington Post has finally caught up with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck in reporting the CRU (University of East Anglia) global warming hoax.

Very impressive gang. Nevertheless, let's continue to keep those journalism resumes fresh. This is no time to be resting upon your laurels.

Posted by: pgould1 | December 5, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Andrew, in my earlier note I had the folling:
"I urge you to also talk to young scientists working in climate science, probably will have to be off-the-record" since in discussions with me they have expressed significant reservations about the "concensus" view, but are afraid to speak up since that they feel would be career ending. In their publications they often hide their conclusions by adding something to the effect that "of course this data/paper does not refute the danger of AGW" or something to that effect. They have learned that this is the requirement for their work to be able to enter the peer review process in the "prestige" journals." That is an example of what I mean that climate science is in danger. If you interview the U of Georgia professor who wrote her open letter she talked a but about her contacts with young scientists in the field. That is what I mean. We do not want scientists to develop habits that are now going on. You want them to be bold and daring and to follow their science to wherever it takes them. And you want them to seek to speak to power, scientific power since those most likely to challenge main line thinking are the young, who have not yet done "it" and have not developed fear. Passion in pursuit of scientific truth is what it is all about.

Posted by: 123andy | December 5, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: rightsaid | December 5, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Congressional hearings may have equal numbers from both sides of an argument testifying, but how well were the points made by the skeptics brought to the public attention through the subsequent reporting?

One of the bases for the development of the temperature history of the last millennium has been through the use of tree ring data - which the e-mails have revealed as being problematic and recognized as such by those building the long-term temperature profiles. Perhaps it might be appropriate to interview a skeptic to discuss that issue, such as Craig Loehle?

The latest report from India on the glaciers of the Himalayas noted that some of the glacier retreat (and some are now advancing) was due, not to summer melting, but a reduced winter snow deposition. It was brushed under the rug as being unreliable until "peer reviewed." Perhaps it might now be possible to discuss the finding and other "inconvenient" aspects of the science asking some of the experts who wrote the report for their opinions?

Posted by: HeadingOut | December 5, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Andy Freedman, thank you for this series of articles. I appreciate the fact you seek out voices from different camps. If climate science is ever to regain any credibility, this kind of openness and inclusiveness is absolutely essential.

Let me suggest a couple of other people you should interview.

1. Steve McIntyre. McIntyre and his readers at ClimateAudit were the ones requesting information from CRU. It was their FOI requests Phil Jones and the others determined not to honor. It is ridiculous to neglect to interview the man who has been trying to get climate scientists to live up to the scientific standards of transparency, openness and data archiving.

2. Douglas Keenan. Keenan brought allegations of data forgery and academic misconduct against a researcher from State University of New York, a co-author with Phil Jones. The university swept it under the rug, but the investigation into Jones may cause the case to be reopened. Keenan has solid evidence and should be interviewed.

3. Chris Horner. Horner, from Competitive Enterprise Institute, filed three Notices of Intent to file suit against NASA and GISS for refusing to respond to FOIA requests. According to Horner, the suit is directly related to the CRU leaked emails.

No doubt all of these people would be of interest to your readers.

Posted by: RonInIrvine | December 5, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Pielke Jr claims "It is not the job of these scientists to try to influence vested interests or shape public opinion on climate policies through science or using scientific institutions."

While it may not be their job, it is certainly their responsibility to try and ensure their research results be used for what they believe is the proper public policy course. See Michael Egan’s excellent book on Barry Commoner’s life work for the responsibility of scientists.

Also, Pielke Jr suggests, "The climate science community can help by supporting the depoliticization of its leading institutions."

One cannot separate science and politics. Science institutions cannot be depoliticized, just as our military and economic institutions are not depoliticized. Institutions, including scientific institutions, involve power relations which are inherently political, & they are run by fallible humans. Pielke is correct, however, in saying that the best attempts at depoliticization involve being more open, and especially by including a diversity of opinions based on scientific facts. The facts with the most weight and the best-supported opinions should determine public policy/political judgments. But, we are kidding ourselves if even those weighed judgments can be free from political consideration.

Posted by: RwEP15 | December 5, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Thanks folks for the comments and suggestions so far!

123andy: Well said, thanks for clarifying what you meant.

RwEP15: Who should take on the role of encouraging more openness in scientific institutions? The institutions themselves? A government body? An NGO? Just curious if you have any ideas. Thx!

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | December 6, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Journals should require complete data archiving. The fact that journals like "Science" and "Nature" do not do so is completely irresponsible. The Mann and Jones team took advantage of these journal loopholes in order to propagate their models without anyone being able to cross-check their findings.

Posted by: Tom8 | December 6, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

B202 naively wrote:

"I understand that this is your dearly-longed-for paranoid take on what is happening. You have no evidence for it, however. Only a few out-of-context but in reality harmless phrases in some emails...."

Actually paranoia has nothing to do with it. And ff course, if I kept my head in the sand like B202, I'd be of the exact same opinion. I already sent Michael Mann the definition of "trick", especially when in his context of "hiding decline." It really wasn't a poor choice of words....it was an honest choice as trick is a technique to deceive, according to Websters. As for a few cherry picked phrases, this goes back to Landsea's resignation from the IPCC in 2005 (open your eyes and read his resignation letter for Pete's sake: Trenberth is the key player there as well as in the current debacle). What about the NASA "insignificant .15 degree error? Insignificant? What if the sign had been in the opposite direction? No, not insignificant. Heck, you could go all the way back to Ben Santer, who headed the IPCC. He was famous for publishing an incomplete range of data, which showed a steady rise in temp - unfortunately for him, he got caught too - with the complete data set, it showed that he started at the trough of a sine wave and finished at the peak. Gee, why didn't he use all available data? That was another completely ignored episode that goes back probably 15 years. It's the same players every time. The truth will eventually come forth.

Posted by: warmhoax | December 6, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I remember reading Chris Landsea's resignation. That was 2005. If you read it today, you see how true his charges were.

Andrew, I'm sure it was a total accident, but you forgot to tag this column "climate change". You tagged the other three columns with climate change, but not this one.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 8, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I am glad that you haven't fixed the tag on this article. It lets your readers see you for the man you really are.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | December 8, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

I would think if the "advocate" scientists were under such intense pressure and duress.. they would simply break down and publish all the data that makes their case obvious. If they have the data to back their claims, how can criticism produce any meaningful pressure? Just refute it with the data.

I think the duress comes from destroying inconvenient data.

Posted by: hardingalumni | December 10, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

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