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By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   3 comments
Message Blaine Kinsey
This article is not intended to dismiss Steven Leser's recent article in defense of Shirley Sherrod and ACORN (Sherrod's Racism a Fabrication just like Acorn Pimping, ClimateGate etc.). Mr. Leser's article deserves some consideration because Shirley Sherrod and ACORN were treated extremely unfairly by their accusers, by the media, by the politicians, and by the public. Mr. Leser is correct to emphasize the extent to which information was fabricated and manipulated by certain political operatives and by most of the mass media to slander Shirley Sherrod and ACORN, but Mr. Leser maladroitly confuses the issues by trying to equate those situations with the controversy surrounding the e-mails of some prominent climate scientists that were obtained (allegedly these e-mails were hacked, but no official determination of that has been made as of the date that I write this article) from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit.

Because it is sometimes difficult to criticize President Obama without being accused of being a Republican, I often include a disclaimer to emphasize that I do not defend the horrible policies of the Republicans. Similarly, it seems that one must be very careful about criticism of proponents of anthropogenic global warming because he/she is likely to be accused of denying that global warming is happening. For the record, although I accept the consensus of most scientists that global warming is a fact, there is much less agreement among climate scientists concerning whether specific proposed remedies will have a measurable effect in reducing climate change. Despite evidence that human activity has an adverse effect on global warming, I am very skeptical about the ability of climate scientists to predict the extent to which human activity will affect the rate of future global warming, and I am very skeptical about the ability of climate scientists to determine the extent to which human activity will affect the time frames for other predictions about the harmful effects of global warming. I am also very skeptical about the ability of climate scientists to predict the extent to which humans can reduce the rate of global warming using various half-measures (which are the only measures under consideration).

With regard to the allegedly-hacked e-mails of prominent climate scientists, Mr. Leser erroneously stated: "No less than five separate independent investigations have taken place and the investigations concluded that the statements were misinterpreted, taken out of context, the scientists did nothing wrong and there is no effect on the theories concerning anthropogenic global warming." However, these separate investigations were not independent investigations because four of the investigating entities were not impartial due to the fact that damage control was a significant factor among United Kingdom politicians and among the academic community. More importantly, Mr. Leser's statement about the results of these investigations is very misleading and is not supported by the conclusions reached by these separate investigations.

One particular aspect of Mr. Leser's comparison (i.e., that the controversy surrounding the allegedly-hacked e-mails of certain climate scientists was similar to the slander of Shirley Sherrod and of ACORN) is partially true because each of these news stories supports a determination that most of the people operating in our mass media are incredibly lazy. With respect to the most controversial e-mails that were revealed, the "Independent Climate Change E-mails Review" team gave great deference to the exculpatory explanations from the authors of these e-mails despite the fact that there is sufficient detail in many of these e-mails to establish that the language in some of these e-mails supports allegations of impropriety. The "Independent Climate Change E-mails Review" was the only investigation that made any serious attempt to address the information in the actual hijacked e-mails, and for logistical reasons, this inquiry was unable to present any objective evidence to establish whether the e-mails were quoted out of their proper context. Mr. Leser mistakenly asserts that the investigations determined that the offending e-mails of climate scientists were quoted out-of-context, but the report of the "Independent Climate Change E-mails Review" admitted that they were unable to review any unreleased e-mails that were contemporaneous with the e-mails that were made public, they admitted that they could not provide the proper context for the many e-mails that they reviewed, and they admitted that they could not determine whether more damaging e-mails did or did not exist.

Although Mr. Leser bemoans the failure of the media to report on the results of the investigations that reviewed the controversies caused by the e-mails that were revealed, most of the articles reporting the results of these investigations offered extremely shallow analyses stating that the accused climate scientists had been exonerated. However, the climate scientists who authored the most controversial e-mails were exonerated only in the same sense that Jay Bybee and John Yoo were exonerated, by the superficial review of the Department of Obstruction of Justice, for fabricating arguments to rationalize the use of torture.

Here are some of the lesser-known findings from the 160-page report issued by the "Independent Climate Change E-mails Review" in July 2010:

"The Review examines the honesty, rigour and openness with which the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU) scientists have acted. It is important to note that we offer no opinion on the validity of their scientific work. Such an outcome could only come through the normal processes of scientific debate and not from the examination of e-mails or from a series of interviews about conduct." (From page 10)

"But we do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the University of East Anglia, who failed to recognise not only the statutory requirements but also risk the reputation of the University and, indeed, to the credibility of UK climate science." (From pp. 11-12)

"On the allegation of withholding station identifiers, we find that CRU should have made available an unambiguous list of the stations used in each of the versions of the Climatic Research Unit Land Temperature record (CRUTEM) at the time of publication. We find that CRU's responses to reasonable requests for information were unhelpful and defensive." (From p. 12)

"On the allegation that the reference in a specific e-mail to a 'trick' and to 'hide the decline' in respect to a 1999 WMO report figure show evidence of intent to paint a misleading picture, we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the IPCC Third Assessment Report), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading. We do not find that it is misleading to curtail instructions at some point per se, or to splice data, but we believe that both of these procedures should have been made plain -- ideally in the figure but certainly clearly described in either the caption or the text." (From p. 13)

"On the allegation that CRU does not appear to have acted in a way consistent with the spirit and intent of the FoIA (Freedom of Information Act) or EIR (Environmental Information Regulations), we find that there was unhelpfulness in responding to requests and evidence that e-mails might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a subsequent request be made for them.
University senior management should have accepted more responsibility for implementing the required processes for FoIA and EIR compliance." (From p. 14)

"Handling uncertainty -- where policy meets science. Climate science is an area that exemplifies the importance of ensuring that policymakers -- particularly Governments and their advisers, Non-Governmental Organisations and other lobbyists understand the limits on what scientists can say and with what degree of confidence. Statistical and other techniques for explaining uncertainty have developed greatly in recent years, and it is essential that they are properly deployed. But equally important is the need for alternative viewpoints to be recognized in policy presentations, with a robust assessment of their validity, and for the challenges to be rooted in science rather than rhetoric." (From pp. 14-15)

"Peer review - what it can/cannot deliver. We believe that peer review is an essential part of the process of judging scientific work, but it should not be over-rated as a guarantee of the validity of individual pieces of research, and the significance of challenge to individual publication decisions should not be exaggerated." (From p. 15)

"The presumption is that e-mails were selected to support a particular viewpoint. Recognising that they were a tiny fraction of those archived, the Review Team sought to learn more about the full contents of the back-up server. This attempt, summarised in Appendix 6, was largely unsuccessful due to the sheer scale of the task and ongoing police investigation." (From p. 33)

The April 2010 report of the International Panel (The Oxburgh Scientific Assessment Panel), set up by the University of East Anglia to examine the research methods of the Climatic Research Unit, was also careful to emphasize that they did not evaluate the scientific merit of the conclusions reached by the Climatic Research Unit, and they did not even attempt to resolve the language in any of the allegedly-hacked e-mails of climate scientists. The Oxburgh Scientific Assessment Panel decided that the Climatic Research Unit did not violate scientific standards, but their report was critical of some sub-par statistical methodology at the Climatic Research Unit.

The March 2010 report of the United Kingdom House of Commons Science and Technology Committee was made after only one hearing. This report was generally sympathetic to the climate scientists whose e-mails were revealed, and this report did not attempt to review the scientific merit of the climate science produced by these climate scientists, but this report did find "a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted, to avoid disclosure." [E-mail on 2/2/2005 from Phil Jones (who directs the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit) to Michael Mann: "I presume congratulations are in order - so congrats etc! Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time! And don't leave stuff lying around on ftp sites - you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? - our (sic) does! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it - thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who'll say we must adhere to it! Are you planning a complete reworking of your paleo series? Like to be involved if you are. Had a quick look at Ch 6 on paleo of AR4. The MWP side bar references Briffa, Bradley, Mann, Jones, Crowley, Hughes, Diaz - oh and Lamb ! Looks OK, but I can't see it getting past all the stages in its present form. MM and SB get dismissed. All the right emphasis is there, but the wording on occasions will be crucial. I expect this to be the main contentious issue in AR4. I expect (hope) that the MSU one will fade away. It seems the more the CCSP (the thing Tom Karl is organizing) looks into Christy and Spencer's series, the more problems/issues they are finding. I might be on the NRC review panel, so will keep you informed. Rob van Dorland is an LA on the Radiative Forcing chapter, so he's a paleo expert by GRL statndards (sic). Cheers, Phil"] (E-mail on 05/29/2008 from Phil Jones to Michael Mann: "Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He's not in at the moment - minor family crisis. Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don't have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise. I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!! Cheers, Phil") In one of his purloined e-mails, Phil Jones admits on 12/03/2008 that he deleted many e-mails that could have become subject to "Freedom of Information" requests ["The inadvertent email I sent last month has led to a Data Protection Act request sent by a certain Canadian, saying that the email maligned his scientific credibility with his peers! If he pays 10 pounds (which he hasn't yet) I am supposed to go through my emails and he can get anything I've written about him. About 2 months ago I deleted loads of emails, so have very little - if anything at all. This legislation is different from the FOI "]. In 06/2010, Penn State University cleared their own employee, Earth System Science Center Director Michael Mann, of any wrongdoing regarding the various e-mails involving Michael Mann, but this investigation was limited to Michael Mann. It was not improper for Penn State University to treat Michael Mann with great respect concerning his explanations for any controversial language in his -emails, but this investigation cannot be considered an independent investigation.

The United Kingdom Information Commissioner's Office determined that the University of East Anglia had violated the Freedom of Information Act with respect to requests for information directed to the Climatic Research Unit, but they also concluded that the statute of limitations had expired for any violations. Although it does not prove any of the allegations against Phil Jones, there is an unwittingly amusing anecdote, in a 02/2010 interview with Olive Heffernan of "Nature" journal (see the article "Climategate scientist speaks out" dated 02/15/2010), in which Phil Jones essentially argues that a dog ate his homework for a research paper that he co-wrote in 1990 with Wei-Chyung Wang of Albany State University.

One of the controversies among climate scientists concerns the use of "proxy data" (such as tree rings and ice-core samples) to measure global temperatures for the years prior to 1961, and the use of actual temperature measurements for the years after 1960. Although the actual temperature measurements are obviously more reliable than "proxy data" for these same years, the tree-ring "proxy data" for years after 1960 do not correspond to the actual temperature measurements for the years after 1960. It does not take a climate scientist to understand that such results create doubt about the reliability of "proxy data" for the years before 1961. Michael Mann and Phil Jones insist that splicing data derived from disparate methodologies is not misleading because climate scientists have explained that they are doing so when they analyze and report the data. However, detailed explanations of complex methodology are likely to be ignored when scientific data and graphs are released for public consumption, and this was noted by the "Independent Climate Change E-mails Review" on page 40 of their report.

Some of the allegedly-hacked e-mails of climate scientists discussed some ways of preventing certain opposing views on climate science from appearing in peer-reviewed journals. Michael Mann has questioned the global extent of a phenomenon referred to as the Medieval Warm Period (roughly 900-1300 A.D.), and has relied on "proxy data" to support his theory. In 2003, after Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas (both of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) published a paper in the journal "Climate Research" that contradicted some of Michael Mann's research, the response in e-mails between Michael Mann and Phil Jones, was to discuss a way to discredit "Climate Research" as a peer-reviewed journal and to discuss a way to pressure "Climate Research" to reject opposing views on climate science. On 03/11/2003, Michael Mann sent an e-mail to Phil Jones:
"Thanks Phil, (Tom: Congrats again!) The Soon & Baliunas paper couldn't have cleared a 'legitimate' peer review process anywhere. That leaves only one possibility--that the peer-review process at Climate Research has been hijacked by a few skeptics on the editorial board. And it isn't just De Frietas, unfortunately I think this group also includes a member of my own department... The skeptics appear to have staged a 'coup' at "Climate Research" (it was a mediocre journal to begin with, but now its a mediocre journal with a definite 'purpose'). Folks might want to check out the editors and review editors: [1] http//
In fact, Mike McCracken first pointed out this article to me, and he and I have discussed this a bit. I've cc'd Mike in on this as well, and I've included Peck too. I told Mike that I believed our only choice was to ignore this paper. They've already achieved what they wanted--the claim of a peer-reviewed paper. There is nothing we can do about that now, but the last thing we want to do is bring attention to this paper, which will be ignored by the community on the whole... It is pretty clear that thee skeptics here have staged a bit of a coup, even in the presence of a number of reasonable folks on the editorial board (Whetton, Goodess, ...). My guess is that Von Storch is actually with them (frankly, he's an odd individual, and I'm not sure he isn't himself somewhat of a skeptic himself), and without Von Storch on their side, they would have a very forceful personality promoting their new vision. There have been several papers by Pat Michaels, as well as the Soon & Baliunas paper, that couldn't get published in a reputable journal. This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the "peer-reviewed literature". Obviously, they found a solution to that--take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering "Climate Research" as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board... What do others think? mike"

Also on 03/11/2003, Phil Jones sent an e-mail to Michael Mann, regarding the "Climate Research" journal:
"Dear All, Apologies for sending this again. I was expecting a stack of emails this morning in response, but I inadvertently left Mike off (mistake in pasting) and picked up Tom's old address. Tom is busy though with another offspring! I looked briefly at the paper last night and it is appalling - worst word I can think of today without the mood pepper appearing on the email ! I'll have time to read more at the weekend as I'm coming to the US for the DoE CCPP meeting at Charleston. Added Ed, Peck and Keith A. onto this list as well. I would like to have time to rise to the bait, but I have so much else on at the moment. As a few of us will be at the EGS/AGU meet in Nice, we should consider what to do there. The phrasing of the questions at the start of the paper determine the answer they get. They have no idea what multiproxy averaging does. By their logic, I could argue 1998 wasn't the warmest year globally, because it wasn't the warmest everywhere. With their LIA being 1300-1900 and their MWP 800-1300, there appears (at my quick first reading) no discussion of synchroneity of the cool/warm periods. Even with the instrumental record, the early and late 20th century warming periods are only significant locally at between 10-20% of grid boxes. Writing this I am becoming more convinced we should do something - even if this is just to state once and for all what we mean by the LIA and MWP. I think the skeptics will use this paper to their own ends and it will set paleo back a number of years if it goes unchallenged. I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor. A CRU person is on the editorial board, but papers get dealt with by the editor assigned by Hans von Storch. Cheers, Phil"

On 07/11/2003, Michael Mann wrote:
"Thanks Mike (Hulme) It seems to me that this "Kinne" character's words are disingenuous, and he probably supports what De Freitas is trying to do. It seems clear we have to go above him. I think that the community should, as Mike H has previously suggested in this eventuality, terminate its involvement with this journal at all levels--reviewing, editing, and submitting, and leave it to wither way into oblivion and disrepute, Thanks, mike"

The "troublesome editor" to whom Phil Jones referred in his e-mail on 03/11/2003 was Chris de Freitas of the University of Auckland. NZ, and Mr. de Freitas later resigned as an editor for the "Climate Research" journal. The "Kinne" character to whom Michael Mann referred in his e-mail is Otto Kinne, the publisher of the "Climate Research" journal. The research paper by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas was the subject of many intense rebuttals by climate scientists who share the predominant view that the evidence of global warming is overwhelming. A lowly human being might possibly think that scientists encourage free and open debate because that would reveal the deficiencies in flawed scientific research and flawed scientific opinions, but such is not the case. Rather, scientists who share predominantly-accepted scientific opinions are not shy about trying to suppress (often successfully) opposing views. With regard to this intellectual rough-and-tumble, the Penn State University review of Michael Mann, and the "Independent Climate Change E-mails Review" report, each concluded that such machinations are common among scientists with opposing views, and this was the method of exonerating Michael Mann and Phil Jones concerning their unsavory e-mails about subverting the integrity of the "peer-review" process.

In summary, it is extremely misleading to report that some prominent climate scientists were exonerated by five separate independent investigations of the e-mails extracted from the computer files of the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. With respect to the climate scientists who were caught with their e-mails down, the most damaging allegation is the one for which they have no easy answer, and that is the allegation that they unnecessarily undermined the credibility of their own science.


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I am retired after working 33 years as a Claims Representative for the Social Security Administration, and I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU.
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