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What about the oyster guy?


Susan Collins seems to be taking a sensible view of the leaked climate e-mails:

“There appears to be sufficient controversy and concern that I think it warrants the Environment and Public Works Committee taking a look at it,” said Collins, a swing vote in the looming Senate fight on cap-and-trade, in the Capitol on Sunday.

She told The Hill that the e-mails, hacked from a British research institute, led her to check in with two scientists at the University of Maine on the matter. “They are disappointed at what appears may have happened, but they tell me it does not change their own conclusions or their own research,” she said. Collins still believes humans are causing climate change.

It's fine to be disappointed by the circling of the wagons going on at East Anglia. But how do you explain the Maine guys? They're not James Hanson or Al Gore. They're never going to get a Nobel prize or their name in lights. But they just keep plodding along, building precipitation models and measuring ice evaporation. This post gets at it well:

Here's the thing I wonder. How do people who deny climate change reconcile that with guys like this, who are spending entire careers on teasing out really non-dramatic aspects of climate change? This guy is not measuring carbon concentrations in oyster shells for the glory. There are thousands of these people, dorkily and steadily piecing out the causes and predicting effects.

If it is all a conspiracy and nothing is happening, how do denialists conceive of these guys? Do they think these monotonous nerds who talk in jargon (don't take that the wrong way. I'm sexually attracted to every one of them.) are making it up to promote the conspiracy? Like, they spend the morning thinking up esoteric ways of measuring wave energy by sand lost at different gauges across the state and the afternoon faking their data so they can please Al Gore? They've done this now for 10 years and they plan to make an entire career out of making up the detailed groundwork for fake climate change? All of them? On nothing? Imagine the secret conferences they must hold to synchronize their stories and settle on an allowable variance between the made-up river data, the made-up precipitation data and the made-up ocean data. Besides the groupies, WHAT FOR?

And that's pretty much my question to committed global warming deniers. I get the case against Al Gore. But what about the oyster guy?

Photo credit: Patrick Semansky/AP.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 8, 2009; 3:04 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Are there more people who spend all their waking time investigating global warming or UFO's?

Posted by: spotatl | December 8, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Silly Ezra, global warming deniers are only in denial because it pisses off Liberals. Haven't you figured out their game yet? Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon has:

"There are a lot of ways to piss liberals off. You can be pointlessly racist or sexist. You can sniff around in people’s private lives and carry on about how vegetarians are stupid. But few things really can top the global warming denialism. The sheer magnitude of the damage that it does is so severe that it’s impossible for liberals not to get upset. And so you win!"

Posted by: lgraham1 | December 8, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

In fact, climate scientists I have spoken to at Yale have gone even further, pointing out that there would be real money in finding that CO2 does *not* cause global warming. As one said to me, "If I could prove that we weren't causing global warming, I'd be famous!" The preponderance of the incentives are in fact against the popular wisdom, yet we still see near-unanimity.

Posted by: dbroock | December 8, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The oyster guy professes to believe in evolution and therefore he is a godless follower of Satan. Of course he devotes his life to a conspiracy to bring one-world government control over the United States. He's an evil-doer and that's all you need to know - if you ask for more, you're showing that you're an evil-doer too.

Posted by: Bloix | December 8, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

dbroock, I don't think that logic plays out.

If one big scientist "disproves" global warming, then he/she would be famous, write a book, and do well financially.


You cannot disprove global warming (unless you are wiling to wait a few millenia) even if it doesn't exist. You can find inconsistent evidence (which the other side will then ignore) but that is about it. There is no fame in that.

Certainly, the absense of manmade global warming would be a great boon for planet earth, because billions of dollars in higher costs (and corresponding drop in standards of living) could be avoided.

But the global warming research industry (whether properly labelled alarmist or not), has a VERY vested interest in defending the existence of mad made global warming. If the alarm subsided, and governments didn't believe them anymore, their funding would go away. They would mostly be unemployed. Even oyster guy. Ezra seems to say "why would little nerdy oyster guy lie". The answer is "to have a job and feed his kids". The added costs to society are, from his point of view, more than outweighed by the continuation of his personal livelihood. Though of course it doesn't have to be so nefarious. Groupthink often results in seeing what you expect to see, and finding evidence that is really just a coincidence.

To refute the existence of this inherent conflict of interest is silly. Its also why respecting the peer review process is so important in any scientific endeavor. The peer review process has been accused of being a farce for years in the arena of GW ("disagree and we'll ruin you"), and those complaints have a lot more substance given the contents of the Climategate emails.

Posted by: WEW72 | December 8, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I believe that George Lakoff’s Dominant Father framing has a serious omission and has a corollary that Lakoff missed.

Lakoff talks of conservatives seeing only simple causality. He misses the strong role intention plays in their minds. His example is that a conservative doesn't see his Suburban as causing environmental damage because he doesn't see the complex causality. Partially true. He doesn't see it as causing harm because he didn't intend to cause harm. Bush was fighting terrorism because he said he intended to fight terrorism, irrespective of results. The Israeli military are OK because they only intended the rockets to kill the terrorist, they didn’t intend to kill the dozen innocent neighbors living in the same building, so it doesn’t count.

The unstated corollary is that father made things OK. Broke a glass? Father will spank you and then replace it. Spent your allowance? Father will give you more next week. Dented the car? Father has insurance. He’ll make things OK.

Pumping CO2 into the atmosphere? Don’t mean any harm, and in any case father, or God, or the Invisible Hand, or H.W.'s buddies, or something, will make it OK. Dominant Father conservatives are incapable of believing that they are harming the planet. It simply does not compute in their framing.

Posted by: gVOR08 | December 8, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

@WEW72, the problem with your comment is that it simply doesn't work like that for scientists. Take oyster guy. If his global warming-related research was gone, he wouldn't go straight to the unemployment/soup line, he'd just get funding for another oyster-related project. Or, if there's no oyster-research money, he'd find some other line of research to pursue. If he's anything like my dad, who was a research chemist in the field of polymer science, he actually has a whole rack of projects that *could* be funded, he just happens to be working on the one that currently *is* funded.

Also, again, if he's anything like my dad, Oyster Guy could be making a lot more money, and have a career that is vastly more secure, if he went to work for a large corporation (although I have to admit, I am not sure what corporations would be interested in oyster research). Most scientists that I know and have met (and I have met a lot) are perfectly happy going against what economists like to call their rational self-interest by taking less money, sometimes a very great deal less money, in the interest of retaining their scientific freedom, and in doing "basic" research. If they did work for a corporation, they would be asked/forced to do research that benefits their corporate bosses, and that simply isn't appealing to most scientists.

So, in short, you're simply wrong. If anything, the scientists who choose to do biased research for corporations in favor of the status quo, either directly or through their well-funded "think tanks", are the ones who are adding costs to society to benefit their own livelihoods.

Posted by: bucky_katt | December 8, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

"How do people who deny climate change reconcile that with guys like this..." Doesn't make sense. The East Anglia people were major contributors to a critical piece of information in the consensus picture: Whether the warming happening today is unprecedented and caused by human forcing, or whether there were similar cycles in the recent past like the Medieval Warming Period, in which case this may be No Big Deal. The rest of climate scientists and scientists at large were presumably trusting them on their piece.
No one (no one serious) is claiming that there's a big hoax going on. The claim is that what most of the scientists are doing is based on a foundation of sand.

Posted by: MikeR4 | December 8, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

When they were at school, Oyster Guy all that boring stuff teacher was droning on about, and was right when they were wrong.

Now they're grown up, Oyster Guy is happier than they are, even though he's paid less.

Of course they hate him with a passion.

Posted by: vagueofgodalming | December 9, 2009 4:52 AM | Report abuse

What I take from the stolen and leaked emails is how climate scientists must look at their colleagues in, say, the subatomic physics department with a certain amount of envy, given that there aren't well-paid astroturf operations casting doubt on the existence of leptons, and you don't have Sarah frakking Palin given op-ed space by the Washington Post to argue that the search for the Higgs Boson is part of a plot to destroy capitalism.

"If the alarm subsided, and governments didn't believe them anymore, their funding would go away. They would mostly be unemployed."

That's just silly, and it suggests that you know absolutely nothing about how research science works. I'd like to say that the people whose incomes are most vulnerable are the denialists, but since they're the kind of people who worked for the tobacco companies to deny the risk of lung cancer, they'll have no trouble finding work.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | December 9, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I really don't get this controversy. I've read the emails, there is nothing especially damning about them. It is mostly nerds making fun of one another (which is pretty funny in and of itself). There was a few instances of them discussing how to present the data, but nothing that even comes close to suggesting there was widespread and outright manipulation...and certainly nothing which could lead a reasonable person to believe they are making it all up

Posted by: maurban | December 9, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

My doubts are with human ability to model dynamic, multi-variable environments and make predictions based on it. I also doubt our ability to link correlation with causation. I don't believe that most of these people have an agenda. I do believe that in order to prove their case, some researchers will be tempted to falsify data. Emphasis on "some" researchers. I'm sure they do so because they believe that they are showing what they believe to be the "real" situation.

I feel the same way about macro economists predicting X number of jobs created or saved.

Posted by: richsindagmailcom | December 9, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Maurban, no one (no one serious) thinks they are making it all up. The emails (and programmer logs) are very damning. They show that what the climate deniers have been claiming all along is true: These people are not allowing science to do its job. They were fighting to make sure that no point of view but their own got published. Or got peer-reviewed. And knocking their opponents because they weren't peer-reviewed! And fighting to make sure that no one could criticize their work, by not making their data and algorithms available. And (as we see from harry readme) they no longer even can reproduce their adjusted data themselves.

Darn it, these has been the two narratives for a while now. The deniers say, The other side is fighting to block us out of the scientific discussion. And the believers say, Why in the world should anyone listen to these clowns? They aren't really scientists. They can't even publish peer-reviewed articles. They're just trying to make up trouble; of course we should ignore their requests for data and information.
Well, now we know that the deniers were the ones telling the truth. That's sad.

"The subatomic physics department with a certain amount of envy, given that there aren't well-paid astroturf operations casting doubt on the existence of leptons" I don't think you really believe in science. The whole reason we trust it is because it is good at sorting truth from falsehood. Bad theories will get left behind eventually. We managed to defeat the tobacco companies, and we'll get this one straight as well. Don't think you have to game the process by stamping out dissent.
We need more science, not less. Let the skeptics have all the data and all the algorithms to look at. Science will be better off.
And all this nonsense about "well-paid" deniers. You should be ashamed to push that stuff. The believers get paid too, maybe better, maybe not. Who cares? Both sides can do science. McIntyre has done some good work; his attack on the hockey stick remains an enormous controversy in the field
Whether you agree with his conclusions, or his opponents, or some of the intermediate positions, are you claiming that the science isn't richer for his having raised the topic? Or that his analysis of GISS data, causing them to issue a correction, wasn't helpful?

Posted by: MikeR4 | December 9, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Forgive me if I point out that you need to understand the difference between a global increasing temperature and the effects that may be caused by the GHG gases.

Bear in mind that there are literally hundreds of scientific papers that show that there was a global Little Ice Age between about 1350 and 1850 where temperatures got so low that the river Thames in London regularly froze over, thick enough to hold fairs on it.

From about 1850 the planet started warming its way out of that period and has (mainly) continued to warm since. The rate of warming from about 1910 to 1940 is about the same as that from about 1970 to 2000. Yet the GHG gases are not considered to have had an effect on global temperatures until the latter period.

Part of the evidence in the e-mails from UEA show that some of the correspondents believed that the climate before the Little Ice Age, The Medieval Warming Period, was warmer than today - and also knew that the data from recent studies of tree rings showed that an earlier analysis that showed it wasn't was flawed. Thus while noting the changing environmental conditions that occur with climate change (there are papers that describe previous ones in Europe that you can find by looking up ecotone migration) does not necessarily mean that the results are showing the effect of GHG. Sadly I think it is a distinction that is lost on both the general public and a large portion of the reporters that discuss the issue.

Posted by: HeadingOut | December 9, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Hah. Those guys are losers. We all know that the only real science is done by private industry, and only with the promise of patents worth billions. Anyone who sits around analyzing carbon in oyster shells on an assistant professor's salary is just a communist Muslim fascist dweeb slacker. He needs to get shot in the face by Dick Cheney.

Posted by: vinsons | December 9, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

@HeadingOut: strongly agree with your comments. The public is being purposely confused about the issue, such as the assumption that global warming is anthropogenic. For starters, I am not at all convinced that any warming trend is underway. Even if it were, you would have to prove that it is outside the normal fluctuations in temperatures of the earth going back thousands of years and based on factors like variations in sun activity and even if that were somehow proven, you would then need to prove that it is the result of a specific human activity or set of activities (emissions of GHG, construction, reductions in vegetation, etc.) What we get is some vague corollation between CO2 levels and temperatures, while no one has proven which of these two factors is cause and which is effect.

Posted by: johnwallace1 | December 9, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

maurban, I was going to point out that you're not reading these emails with the prior knowledge that they say what you want them to say. Before I could do so, MikeR4 made my point for me (presumably unintentionally). See, to the true ideologue, it really doesn't matter what the words are; it's only necessary to know what the words must be.

Posted by: jcrobin | December 9, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

@MikeR4: You obviously have not read the emails. They do not contain any of the information they say you do. Stop listening to talking points and investigate look the fool when you repeat obvious lies.

Thanks jcrobin

Posted by: maurban | December 9, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

HeadingOut, Mann's group held that the MWP was localized in Europe. They acknowledge that it was cold in Europe, but claim that the world as a whole was warmer. Which is possible, but needs to be demonstrated.

As I mentioned above, people who claim that essentially all climate scientists agree with the AGW theory are missing the point. "Essentially all" climate scientists don't study this stuff; figuring out global temperatures in the past is a very specialized sub-discipline, and it could be that a high percentage of the people doing in were in these emails.

Posted by: MikeR4 | December 9, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

jcrobin, don't know what to tell you. I read some of them, and read what others posted on others. I think that what I wrote is the overwhelming consensus on what was found there. Not just by skeptics; by a lot of believers as well.
Perhaps you just like one side a lot more than the other, so that you're all ready to fight the villains?

Posted by: MikeR4 | December 9, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

We know that that the earth has been warming since 1650, since we are in an interglacial period. So it's no surprise that things have gotten a bit warmer.

The question is: how much warmer. We now know from the fraud "The Team" has been pushing that they have hidden the fact that the current warming is in line with the Medieval Warm Period. That is, nothing to worry about.

What's more, we know that the sun is unusually quiet. Temps do not move on a dime, so the climb down from the peaks of th 1990s will take time. The TREND is what counts, not the LEVEL. And the trend is colder.

As one of the CRU fraudsters noted, he could not explain where the warming went. His conclusion is that the data was bad.

Don't buy the hoax; read the e-mails and especially the code comments (cut off data in 1960; will artifically put in later and the like)....

Posted by: Grabski | December 9, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Their survey is published:
Kind of what I expected - a strong consensus, and a lot more variation in the results than anyone is admitting. Many very fascinating questions.

Posted by: MikeR4 | December 9, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

@bucky_katt. Its a sliding scale.

If someone's work is peripherally about AGW, then yes, they can get other work.

But the more work you do in that area (or any area), the more invested you become in it. For someone investigating AGW for twenty years (see many of the people in Copenhagen), there is no career plan B. Or at least there is no plan B with the same salary and cache as their plan A.

Climate change science is a huge industry, both within the scientific community, and the community at large. For an example, see Al Gore, who has become filthy rich preaching the gospel of AGW.

I do not blankly trust any scientist performing research for big oil. That is a mammoth industry that has lots of incentive to ensure that results are to their liking.

To a lesser extent, I don't blankly trust scientists at CRU and other similar research facilities, who also have a vested interest in the outcome.

Both sides have to prove it, through rigorous application of the scientific method. I am not sure, with the limited data at hand, that its possible to prove it. I am not yet convinced by either side. If that makes me a "denier" (dirty word I know), so be it.

@richsindagmailcom. I couldn't agree more. Whether we are talking about ecomomics or long-term climate effects, I think we greatly overestimate our own modeling genius, and tend to equate correlation with causation. How can we isolate individual variables? How can we establish a control? We don't have multiple truly independent climates to experiment on.

Posted by: WEW72 | December 9, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Talk about building a lazy article around straw men. Any please point out to me any one - even a loony - who has ever claimed that there is no 'climate change'. Anyone - post just one link! What is this author even talking about?

Posted by: squarebird | December 10, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

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