Monthly Archives: July 2011

Was Climategate Conclusive in the AGW War?

By Steve Garcia (feet2thefire)

It has now been more than 20 months since the CRU emails were outed, by whatever or whomever. Some day we may actually know who did it, but for now we certainly do not. Depending on who it was, we can only speculate now as to what the immediate motives were. Was it an insider who had seen the nastiness and not wanted to let it go on any longer? Was it an insider who had a grudge against someone at CRU? Was the server hacked into, as is claimed publicly by all on The Team and their many AGW brothers in arms?

Though all that will be extremely interesting if and when it happens, the bigger picture will eventually be this: Who won? And how decisive was Climategate, anyway? Or is it too early to tell? At some point people will try to assess that question. Is now a viable time to do that assessing?

I assert that it may not be too early to tell. And I think our side won, big time. After all, the lay of the land is certainly different. Having been caught trying to rig the game and even lying and fudging the data – and do be aware that much of the public does see it that way – The Team and the IPCC are struggling to gain the ascendancy and monopoly they once had. And it truly does not look like they are winning the battle. But once a witness or ‘expert‘ is caught in a lie, can they ever get the people who witness it to believe them again?

See this article at Der Spiegel, The Climategate Chronicle – How the Science of Global Warming Was Compromised

It is noteworthy that the first line of text in the article is a caption in a GERMAN magazine that reads

To what extent is climate change actually occurring?

Before Climategate, that caption would most likely have read

To what extent is climate change occurring?

To the warmers, it wasn’t IF climate change was happening, but how bad it was going to be.  One word – actually – is revealing, about how even German news sources are doubting what 21 months ago would have been traitorous heresy to doubt.

The momentum certainly appears to have shifted.

But has it?

To answer that, we have to go back to the autumn of 2009 and ask what the balance of power was at that time, to establish a baseline to measure from…

The balance of Power in early November 2009

For all intents and purposes, at that time The Team and the IPCC had a monopoly on telling the story of global warming. The Copenhagen Conference was just coming up in a couple of weeks, and the media blitz was about to get started.

Outside of Steve McIntyre’s, WUWT, and a handful of other skeptical sites, little attention was paid to skeptical arguments. Almost no newspaper or news website – certainly no network news organizations – printed or broadcast any skeptical positions, except to denigrate them or worse, to ridicule them as ostriches, anti-science wackos and warming “deniers” – the last one harkening back to Holocaust deniers, almost certainly intentionally.

Though Steve had poked holes that those in the know could see cast doubt on Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick, which had gone over the head of most of the world.

The warmers had browbeaten Roy Spencer and John Christy at UAH into changing their satellite adjustments (which I thought ended up being too big an adjustment).

At that time, those FOI requests referred to in the emails had been long since submitted. The stonewalling evident in the emails was well entrenched. The skeptics were trying to find enough information to attempt replication of The Team’s work having difficulty getting that information. But, also, the public was almost entirely in the dark about there being any other possible side of the story, in spite of the work of Christy, Spencer, Richard Linzen, Willie Soon, and others, including many studies on the supposedly non-existent Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age that showed those two events were actually global, as opposed to Mann’s assertion that they were only regional.

Very little – almost none of – the research that argued against the AGW argument was getting out to the public. It also is shown in the emails, of course, that some of those studies were having trouble making it into the peer-reviewed literature – and that at least some of that was because The Team was blackballing authors they didn’t like and sandbagging certain papers when The Team was chosen to be the reviewers.

With the power to control what the public heard or read, there was a definite one-sided tilt to the playing field/battle ground. The consensus was being spread far and wide, almost totally monopolizing what the public heard. The skeptics were marginalized, often ridiculed – and most mendaciously – accused of being in the pockets of the big energy interests. (To this day, the AGW supporters assert that this latter is true, in spite of the fact that Anthony, a retired meteorologist, and Steve McIntyre, a retired auditor are by far the most effective skeptics and have never been shown to be on anyone’s payroll. That those two attend conferences sponsored by or attended by energy industry representatives does not mean anymore than that the U.S. and Libya are both in the U.N.)

These ad hoc allegations were parroted in article after article in the news media. Whenever it was necessary to give the skeptics any press at all, it was bad press, usually with this – almost as an adjective, typical being something like (paraphrased) “the industry shill Willie Soon.” Almost no entry about a skeptic was complete without such an inflammatory remark by science editors or writers. Yet no such attempt was made to ascertain the source of the funding for AGW proponents – who was paying their way to conferences to Switzerland or resorts in the mountains of Austria, for example. That would have been bad enough, except that Watts and McIntyre weren’t taking money at all. A double standard was in effect, that any money coming from a pro-AGW entity was seen as noble and pure, while funding from industry was evil. Time after time after time, this is what went out in our newspapers and on TV and radio news.

Solid Information and Unambiguous Claims (NOT)

When I first came to ClimateAudit, long before Climategate, I saw all the graphs and formulas and technical talk and I had two reactions. One was, “How am I ever going to learn about all this and keep up with these people? I’ve never seen a site with so much math.” (That is in spite of being fairly mathematically adept.) The other reaction was, “Gawd! At least there is something here to sink my teeth into.”

Finding any solid technical information about global warming from its supporters was difficult, if not impossible. Every post or article on the pro-AGW sites was filled with claims and summaries, but I didn’t want that. I wanted to go as straight to the source as possible. When I asked on Liberal sites for references, I was always directed to RealClimate, where there was claim after claim, assertion after assertion, paraphrasing after paraphrasing. But I wanted to see what the papers themselves said (not that most of it wouldn’t have been over my head in the beginning). And all the papers that were referenced were behind paywalls, so I couldn’t get into the nitty-gritty like I wanted to.

No one else could, either. Not unless they wanted to pay $30 per paper. So, in essence, their underlying story of CO2 was essentially being hidden from the public. And they knew it. The public was given summaries and assertions and headlines, mostly overstating and exaggerating the case against CO2. And the headlines were atop articles written by a small group of science editors around the country/world who, it turns out, were philosophically in bed with the AGW/IPCC folks. Article after article printed their assertions as fact – and more.

One thing that confused me was that even human activities other than CO2 were being ignored. I found out later on the reason for that Phil Jones’ co-authored study of UHI that turned out to be extremely erroneous).

One thing I saw so often it angered me was that a headline would make an assertion of something as if it was unambiguous, yet when I would read deep into articles for the exact words of the scientists, I almost always saw qualifiers like “we believe,” “most think that,” “up to,” and “it appears that.” Where the scientists themselves were equivocating, the headlines and opening words asserted certainty. Any reader scanning the article would not go deep enough to se the caveats. For allowing this misrepresentation, the scientists should not be let off the hook, though, because they let those headlines stand without pointing out to the editors their level of uncertainty.

Uncertainty About AGW

It took until Judith Curry’s blog, Climate Etc, in 2010, for the issue of uncertainty to be addressed seriously and publicly by anyone near the AGW center. That was more than 20 years on down the line. Climate science should be, at the least, embarrassed that it did not come from themselves. And sooner. Give Dr. Curry credit for addressing that long overdue issue.

But as I understand it, that blog would never have existed had she not read enough of the Climategate emails and files to begin to question the claims of AGW. Seeing “The Team’s” reaction to her move to a middle ground and give some credence to the arguments of the skeptical community, it is clear that it took some courage for her to do that. Again, give her credit, this time for her integrity.

So, one thing that came out of Climategate was Climate Etc., and the establishment of a serious middle ground. The terrain was shifted that much, at least. What had been accepted as “consensus” had shifted toward “non-settled science.”

What Constitutes a Win?

As a lone Liberal here at WUWT, it has been a lonely 11+ years for me. But I have been treated with as much respect as I need, and have only been ridiculed once – when someone pointed out that I had used too many All-Caps. I took it like a man. I have never apologized to any fellow Liberals, and have lost a girlfriend of five years, but have made small inroads into a few people’s minds about AGW. But most of them thought I was addled in the brain. That was before Climategate. While few of those I talked with read anything of substance about Climategate, with the main stream media’s shift to a small level of doubt, at least some people’s minds have opened up to the possibility that humans are not sizably to blame for whatever warming has existed.

My aim was never to prove that AGW didn’t exist, even though I was always in the small group that distrusted the adjustments and do not believe (till shown with solid, replicatable science) that there ever was warming beyond us coming out of the Little Ice Age. I think it is enough to show that the science is too unsettled.

In order for that to happen, I always believed that something had to happen to throw doubt on the science behind the CO2 claims. Yes, in fact, I DID hope for a Watergate-style Deep Throat to show up. But that hope seemed so far-fetched that I never voiced it out loud. (So any of you that laugh at my 20-20 hindsight, laugh away. I can’t prove it.) Early on after the release of the emails, though, I was out there talking about Deep Throat. Whoever did it, may the gods favor him or her for many a year.

Now, in a court of law, to show reasonable doubt is enough for an acquittal. An acquittal, for the defense, IS a win.

Is there enough reasonable doubt?

With the level of attention given to AGW these days, with the yawns that greet claims against CO2 anymore, with governments abandoning efforts at controlling CO2 emissions, with even Germans (the most green country in Europe, if not the world) asking “To what extent is climate change actually occurring?” it seems perfectly appropriate to wonder if we have gotten an acquittal for CO2, simply by continuing to cast doubt and keeping at it like bulldogs (thank you, Steve and Anthony, in particular).

  • If we got an acquittal for CO2, it is a win.  There always was a reasonable doubt.  The jury just had to wake up to it.  Anthony and Steve M presented the case long enough and true enough so that could happen.
  • If serious scientists are talking about the uncertainties in climate science, where they were not before, that is a win.
  • If the world now does not accept the claims without some skepticism, it is a win.
  • If previously stilled voices in the climate community now speak clearly and without being intimidated, it is a win.
  • If more and more skeptical or neutral research papers are seeing the light of day, it is a win.
  • If the news media has stopped calling us “deniers”, it is at least a partial win.
  • If they sometimes don’t mention the ad hoc assertions of “industry shill,” it is a partial win. It means some of the respect is coming this direction.
  • If the monopoly on climate change pronouncements is broken (and it is), then it is a win.

Perhaps at some point soon climate science will go back to being the sleepy ivory tower it always used to be. Before Hansen came along with his claims that we would be warming up (after the 1970s, ANY warming should have been seen as getting back to normal – and I assert that Hansen knew that – but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to scream, The Sky is Falling!”). Before Mann and his legendary fundraising started an avalanche of money that the other climate scientists had to jump on.

All in all, although we don’t want to jinx it, it might be just about the right time to wave the victory flag.  We are certainly in a far different world vis-a-vis global warming than 21 months ago.  The climatologists are, to a very large extent, being ignored.  Yes, there is an IPCC coming up, and perhaps we should wait until that is over.  But I will predict that no matter what hoohah comes out of it, it will not have 50% of the energy of the previous IPCCs, because governments just aren’t listening with baited breath anymore.  If there is any place where the mojo counted, it was with governments.  But it ain’t there, no more.

Our victory lap is just around the corner.  Yes, some people on the street will believe that the climate is changing, but – and this is the important part – then they think, “So what?  We have other, more important things to worry about.”

Chicken Little is dead.  Sprinkle the seasoning on and put it on the barbie.

Thank the gods for Climategate.