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March 01, 2010

Comments

All the worst parts hav been retracted? Really? Please quote the part you believe LJ's link retracted.

Was it the "the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements."?

The above is A) true, B) verified by the inquiry, and C) substantive.

And they didn't retract that part. And non-incidentally that is what we have been talking about. (The Guardian reporter seems to think this is a contradiction with their statement that they believe the science of AGW as a whole is sound. I don't see why that is a contradiction, but maybe he believes the tree data is more important than you do.)

Was it "Fundamentally, we consider it should be inappropriate for the verification of the integrity of the scientific process to depend on appeals to Freedom of Information legislation. Nevertheless, the right to such appeals has been shown to be necessary. The e-mails illustrate the possibility of networks of like-minded researchers effectively excluding newcomers."?

Because that is what happened.

"At worst, one or two (but, IIRC, not Mann, Brifa, or Jones) may have gotten angry enough to have said or done something particularly stupid regarding disclosure that was legally or ethically inappropriate."

You're recalling incorrectly, again. In a way that makes me strongly suspect that you haven't paid nealy as much attention to the background as you're pretending to.

A) The whole thing is largely about Jones and Mann. The British information commission strongly suggested that they would have criminally prosecuted Jones except for the fact that the proceedings have to start within 6 months of the violation. And they are seeking a change in that legislation to make the window longer. (I don't know enough about UK law to know if that means that Jones himself should be worried).

The emails themselves suggest that both Mann and Brifa knew they were being misleading with the tree data. In fact they show Brifa suggesting that they need disclosure and they have Mann arguing that they shouldn't with Brifa finally giving in.

Suggesting that some scientists may have been a bit out of control, but that it wasn't Mann and Jones and Brifa, is exactly wrong.

All the worst parts hav been retracted? Really? Please quote the part you believe LJ's link retracted.

I direct you to elm's comment earlier.

Also, if you read LJ's link, apparently no one at the Institute is actually wanting to take responsibility for writing the memo - suggesting that all the climate-change-deniers who jumped in and waved it about going "hey look, reputable scientists are agreeing with us!" will be left with rotten egg all over their faces.

Not that I think they'll notice or care, given the layers of rotten egg thickly plastered there already....

I read elm's comment, and I read the clarification itself.

The clarfication itself essentially says that the the initial statement shouldn't be read as the Institute saying that it doesn't support AGW as a whole, because it does support AGW as a whole.

Which doesn't contradict nor retract any part of the original statement, because the original statement never said that.

It doesn't retract any part of the statement that I quoted.

Which is why I asked jack to specifically quote the parts he think are retracted. Because so far as I can tell, none of it was.

Saying 'see elms comment' does not help that.

Jes, is there a part of the original statement that you believe is retracted? If so, I would like you to tell me which part, and why, so I can tell what you are talking about.

For reference, the statement is:

The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia


The Institute of Physics is a scientific charity devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics. It has a worldwide membership of over 36,000 and is a leading communicator of physics-related science to all audiences, from specialists through to government and the general public. Its publishing company, IOP Publishing, is a world leader in scientific publishing and the electronic dissemination of physics.

The Institute is pleased to submit its views to inform the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's inquiry, 'The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia'.

The submission details our response to the questions listed in the call for evidence, which was prepared with input from the Institute's Science Board, and its Energy Sub-group.

What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?

1. The Institute is concerned that, unless the disclosed e-mails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context.

2. The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself - most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change.

3. It is important to recognise that there are two completely different categories of data set that are involved in the CRU e-mail exchanges:

· those compiled from direct instrumental measurements of land and ocean surface temperatures such as the CRU, GISS and NOAA data sets; and

· historic temperature reconstructions from measurements of 'proxies', for example, tree-rings.

4. The second category relating to proxy reconstructions are the basis for the conclusion that 20th century warming is unprecedented. Published reconstructions may represent only a part of the raw data available and may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used. Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information.

5. The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented; for example, the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements.

6. There is also reason for concern at the intolerance to challenge displayed in the
e-mails. This impedes the process of scientific 'self correction', which is vital to the integrity of the scientific process as a whole, and not just to the research itself. In that context, those CRU e-mails relating to the peer-review process suggest a need for a review of its adequacy and objectivity as practised in this field and its potential vulnerability to bias or manipulation.

7. Fundamentally, we consider it should be inappropriate for the verification of the integrity of the scientific process to depend on appeals to Freedom of Information legislation. Nevertheless, the right to such appeals has been shown to be necessary. The e-mails illustrate the possibility of networks of like-minded researchers effectively excluding newcomers. Requiring data to be electronically accessible to all, at the time of publication, would remove this possibility.

8. As a step towards restoring confidence in the scientific process and to provide greater transparency in future, the editorial boards of scientific journals should work towards setting down requirements for open electronic data archiving by authors, to coincide with publication. Expert input (from journal boards) would be needed to determine the category of data that would be archived. Much 'raw' data requires calibration and processing through interpretive codes at various levels.

9. Where the nature of the study precludes direct replication by experiment, as in the case of time-dependent field measurements, it is important that the requirements include access to all the original raw data and its provenance, together with the criteria used for, and effects of, any subsequent selections, omissions or adjustments. The details of any statistical procedures, necessary for the independent testing and replication, should also be included. In parallel, consideration should be given to the requirements for minimum disclosure in relation to computer modelling.

Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate?

10. The scope of the UEA review is, not inappropriately, restricted to the allegations of scientific malpractice and evasion of the Freedom of Information Act at the CRU. However, most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other leading institutions involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change. In so far as those scientists were complicit in the alleged scientific malpractices, there is need for a wider inquiry into the integrity of the scientific process in this field.

11. The first of the review's terms of reference is limited to: "...manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice..." The term 'acceptable' is not defined and might better be replaced with 'objective'.

12. The second of the review's terms of reference should extend beyond reviewing the CRU's policies and practices to whether these have been breached by individuals, particularly in respect of other kinds of departure from objective scientific practice, for example, manipulation of the publication and peer review system or allowing pre-formed conclusions to override scientific objectivity.

How independent are the other two international data sets?

13. Published data sets are compiled from a range of sources and are subject to processing and adjustments of various kinds. Differences in judgements and methodologies used in such processing may result in different final data sets even if they are based on the same raw data. Apart from any communality of sources, account must be taken of differences in processing between the published data sets and any data sets on which they draw.

You could say something like: I believe that their statement effectively nullifies "The Institute of Physics is a scientific charity devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics. It has a worldwide membership of over 36,000 and is a leading communicator of physics-related science to all audiences, from specialists through to government and the general public." because it suggests that they only have 35,000 members.

Or whatever...

Was it the "the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements."?

This is not "true, verified by inquiry, and substantive".

1. At face value, this statement appears ignorant of the science. The nature of the divergence problem, the one we've been discussing all day, the one that is well reported in peer-reviewed literature and not exactly some deep secret, means that it would be inappropriate to include obviously valueless proxy data in IPCC graphs. The divergence 'problem' is that some trees are no longer indicating temperature. Just like thousands of other trees don't. Or like craters on the moon don't. So why would it be appropriate to include mis-interpreted data in an IPCC graph? If there was an instrument station that went offline in 1958, would you say we should graph "0" after that point?

Given the mysterious authorship of this memo, and it's hedging tone, it's entirely possible that whoever wrote that statement doesn't actually know what they're talking about.

2. As I pointed out, you haven't actually shown a link to any kind of scientific "inquiry". Just one vapid letter written in service of a political inquiry. A letter that nobody is even willing to take responsibility for.

3. By the same note, you haven't established either the truth value, or the substance of that claim. By "substance" I mean a link to the actual email(s) or papers, or detailed explanation of what exactly the claimed problem is here, not just a vague accusation.

Seb -- when Jack and others say that treegate has been dealt with and the underlying science is not in question I don't think they are advancing claims about Mann or Brifa in particular. The consensus is not based upon their data so much as it agrees with the conclusion that their work pointed toward, which is also borne out in the data and work of hundreds of scientists who have not been implicated in any shenanigans. So whether or not people are recalling details of the controversy wrong, those who keep pointing to the controversy as reason to be skeptical of AGW as a scientific proposition seem themselves to be unaware of the huge body of independent scientific work that supports these conclusions with no associated controversy.

All the worst parts hav been retracted? Really? Please quote the part you believe LJ's link retracted.

The statement appears to contradict sections of the original submission, which suggests the emails showed scientists had cherry-picked data to support conclusions and that some key reconstructions of past temperature cannot be relied upon.

...

The Guardian has been unable to find a member of the board that supports the submission. Two of the scientists listed as members said they had declined to comment on a draft submission prepared by the institute, because they were not climate experts and had not read the UEA emails. Others would not comment or did not respond to enquiries.

An institute spokesperson said the submission was "strongly supported" by three members of the board. "All members were invited to comment. Only a few did, all concerned approved [the submission] unanimously."

So what we have is a board anonymously dashing off on a well-hedged, if strongly worded, statement saying, basically, that they disapprove of misconduct (should any of it have occurred, as it "appears").

And then nobody actually willing to say they signed off on it. And no way to tell whether the three members that purportedly "strongly supported" it are even qualified to pass judgement (this was not a board of climate scientists specifically).

And the same board has issued a further bland statement saying they don't want the memo to be misinterpreted, and it should not be taken as an indication that they think any of the science is flawed.

Yeah. Arguably, "retracted" isn't exactly the right word, but you're reaaaaally going to have to come up with something else to support any damning points you claim to find in that memo.

saying that most reputable scientists agree the earth is warming just isn't saying much.

Actually it's saying quite a lot. It's just not saying anything controversial.

There are two basic issues:

1. Is the earth's climate getting warmer?
2. If so, to what degree are humans responsible?

There's much more of a consensus about (1) than there is about (2). Whether (2) is true or not, if (1) is true we really ought to be doing something about it.

And whether (2) is true or not, there are about 1,000 reasons why reducing greenhouse emissions is a good idea.

I understand that there are interesting questions about the science involved, but a lot of the discussion seems, to me, to be in "how many angels on the head of a pin" territory.

If the climate is warming, we're going to have to make changes in how we live. We need to get our heads around that now, before it happens, so that we can be prepared for it, because the effects are likely to be quite large.

A single, simple case: if snowfall in the Rockies declines significantly, there will be much less water in the Colorado River.

The Colorado is a, perhaps the, primary source of water for seven Western states. It's the primary water source for Las Vegas and Phoenix, and a significant water source for other large western cities.

It's the primary water source for much of the agriculture in the West.

There's nothing to replace it.

If the amount of water available in the Colorado declines by a quarter, or a third, or half, what happens? Where do folks in Phoenix and Las Vegas get water? Where do all of the people who now eat produce from the Imperial Valley get their food from?

Maybe the issue deserves a different kind of attention than arguments about the lifecycle of the bristlecone pine, and whether McIntyre is a crank.

it would be inappropriate to include obviously valueless proxy data in IPCC graphs

But the whole point of including the proxy data alongside the instrumental data within the brief period that instrumental data is available is to demonstrate a close correlation and therefore support the idea that the proxy record can be used to infer historic temperatures and therefore support the idea that the present warming is unprecedented in recent times.

Or to put it another way, if the last 50 years of data from this proxy is "obviously valueless" then how do we know that it isn't equally obviously valueless 500 years ago?

If a big chunk of a data series is worthless, it calls into question the value of the whole. What kind of scientist, when preparing a popular presentation, cherry picks the part of a series that supports their thesis and throws out the rest of it? Forget climate science: if this was a drug company study and they treated data this way I think everyone here would be livid.

What they said in the literature is one thing; what they chose to present to the public is another. I've said before that this isn't a major issue, but it's not in itself defensible.

And I have no idea why anyone would be so casual about government-funded scientists blowing off FOIA requests or attempting to delete data from them. That's perfectly okay now? What happened to freedom of information being a liberal value?

But it doesn't mean that he is likely to be right.

Wait, are you seriously arguing that his AGE makes it more or less likely he is correct? Wow.

Why do you want so much to believe that our oil-dependent civilisation is not the cause of global warming - that we may as well continue burning up the world's oil reserves?

Actually, I'm in favor of becoming less oil dependent if we can do it in a way that doesn't wreck the economy.

And now you seem to be saying it IS AGW. You just aren't arguing no reputable scientists is against AGW? Right?

Here is where I come from, Jes. I remember the 1970's articles about global cooling. I was a sci-fi buff as a kid and liked to read the apocalyptic novels as well, so I paid a lot of interest to those articles. My understanding is that we're due for natural cooling. We're currently in an interglacial. Based on history, that will end. I expect it to be warmer now than in the past. I get the claims that warming is happening faster than in history and that there may be a tipping point, but I am not convinced it will matter one iota when the cooling cycle begins again.

It's not that I "want" to believe any particular way. It's that I have a healthy dose skepticism. Especially when we're talking about trillions of dollars in regulation.

Wait, are you seriously arguing that his AGE makes it more or less likely he is correct? Wow.

Nope. I note he holds a minority view. I look at reasons why he might hold a minority view - scientists are human too. I note that he is 80 this year, and while doubtless full of wisdom, if you had ever hung out with aged academics, bc, you would find there was nothing like an aged academic for hanging on to the theory he's always known is right.

And as others have noted: it's perfectly possible to consider that there may be some other reason besides the mass quantities of CO2 being released into the atmosphere why the Earth is getting warmer. But only a fool (or a very old person without children or grandchildren) would be indifferent to the idea that we ought to do what we can do to try to slow down or stop climate change, especially as it's an obviously sensible thing to do...

I get the claims that warming is happening faster than in history and that there may be a tipping point, but I am not convinced it will matter one iota when the cooling cycle begins again.

Ah. You're basing your cheerful optimism on 1970s skiffy.

That did tend to be a cheerful period in cataclysmic novels, yes.

I went on reading science and science-fiction well after the 1970s: hence my lack of optimism that all will be well just because.

It's that I have a healthy dose skepticism. Especially when we're talking about trillions of dollars in regulation.

Just to push back on this:

What do you think our dependence on fossil fuels costs us?

The price tag for just our military involvement in Iraq since 2003 is a bit over $700B, and counting. And that's far, far, far from the whole of it.

I don't know the degree to which human activity is affecting the climate. Nobody "knows", in the sense of being able to demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Scientists extrapolate from what they do know and can demonstrate, to what they don't know. They create models of what would be likely to happen under certain conditions, and then see if predicted things happen, or not, and to what degree.

I think it's fair to say that human industrial culture, and in particular the emission of greenhouse gases, is a possible to likely contributor to what appears to be a warming climate.

Anyone want to dispute that?

The US, in particular, is one of the two nations that emits, by a great margin, the most of these. Of those two, we emit them at a per-capita rate 3 or 4 times greater than the other (China).

Our economy is based on the profligate use of fossil fuels.

This might have made some kind of economic sense when we were self-sufficient in those fuels, but we no longer are. And so, it costs us in a very wide range of types of coin to continue to use them at the rate that we do.

Here is an interesting paper from the EPA that provides an interesting analysis of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. We could get enormous savings from stuff like how we handle our trash and our patterns of land use.

We could get enormous savings in greenhouse gas emissions from not trucking every thing we eat hundreds or thousands of miles from farm to plate.

A lot of the stuff we generate just comes down to inertia. Also known as, being lazy.

Here is where I come from, Jes. I remember the 1970's articles about global cooling.

Debunking the "Global Cooling" Myth.

It's not that I "want" to believe any particular way. It's that I have a healthy dose [of] skepticism

Skepticism? I don't think that word means what you think it means. You're a Republican promoting Republican orthodoxy without questioning it, sure in a faith apparently justified by the sci-fi of thirty or forty years ago.

If you had healthy dose of skepticism, it would require you to ask why so much political effort - and coin - is being spent on continuing to be completely profligate with fossil fuels and that adding CO2 to the atmosphere cannot cause global warming. A healthy dose of skepticism would require you to look at who is funding the campaign against belief in global warming. A healthy dose of skepticism - or even the teeniest diluted homeopathic dose! - would require you to follow the money and ask yourself: who benefits by promoting the profligate use of fossile fuels, and denying that connection with a vast eco-catastrophe.

But evidently you have neither skepticism nor even curiosity in you.... or these questions would already have occurred to you.

1970s sci-fi reflected the mood of the times, though, and especially the mood of the environmental science of the time. Limits to Growth, 1972. The Population Bomb, 1968. So sure, Stand on Zanzibar, 1968; Soylent Green, 1973; Logan's Run, 1976, those were reflections of the fears of environmental scientists.

By the 80s population growth was no longer the big boogeyman, although I think there's a strong argument that the one society that truly followed a Malthusian path in the 20th century was China - that is, sharply increasing food supplies, without increasing household wealth, leading to population growth to the limits of what is supportable on the land supply - and we haven't seen the last act in that play yet, because at the limits of supportable exploitation there are major problems with pollution and land degradation. Anyway, it was only in the 70s that they actually started to take that problem seriously; prior to that, population growth was seen as a positive good. They may or may not have gotten a handle on it in time. So maybe the 70s population scare will prove to have had a positive effect after all.

would be indifferent to the idea that we ought to do what we can do to try to slow down or stop climate change, especially as it's an obviously sensible thing to do...

Where you lose me is "obviously sensible." Or maybe I should say on "obviously." And good luck stopping climate change.

I think it's fair to say that human industrial culture, and in particular the emission of greenhouse gases, is a possible to likely contributor to what appears to be a warming climate.

Anyone want to dispute that?

Russell: I don't disagree with you per se. And it's easy to say it's "possible." Let me put it another way. I had a case recently where the standard of proof was "clear and convincing evidence." Attorneys differ on whether that is higher or lower than beyond a reasonable doubt, but either way it's close. The issue was whether the other side could prove "harm" by "clear and convincing evidence" if the court issued a particular order. The other side proved there was a "risk" of "harm." My argument was basically that risk of harm wasn't the same thing as proving harm. It didn't even come close to meeting the burden of proof.

I see this comment and others as essentially arguing that there is a risk of harm. I'm not necessarily arguing that the risk isn't there. It's just that I think something more should be required before such drastic action is required. Either the risk has to be shown as really high, or evidence of actual harm as more likely than not. Or something like that.

On the other hand, I am open to efforts that have another benefit. As I said above, I'm not opposed to reducing our dependence on oil. Just don't wreck the economy.

Anyway, the fact that I think environmental scientists tend to overplay their scenarios of doom is based on a long history of environmental scientists overplaying their scenarios of doom, going back all the way to Malthus, and on watching the global warming scenarios become ever more doom-laden over the past couple of decades.

I've seen this movie before.

As I've said, I don't think indifference is the right approach. I think we can do a lot of things that would address CO2 emissions while also bringing a lot of other direct benefits in terms of pollution, waste, energy efficiency, long-term sustainability, and geopolitics.

Apparently that's not good enough, though, unless I also agree that it's a CRISIS!!!! and run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Well I'm not interested in that game. I think it ranks well below other environmental problems, although as it happens, addressing many of them will also help reduce CO2 emissions. The way that global warming has subsumed all other debate on environmental issues really, really annoys me.

The nature of the divergence problem, the one we've been discussing all day, the one that is well reported in peer-reviewed literature and not exactly some deep secret, means that it would be inappropriate to include obviously valueless proxy data in IPCC graphs. The divergence 'problem' is that some trees are no longer indicating temperature. Just like thousands of other trees don't. Or like craters on the moon don't. So why would it be appropriate to include mis-interpreted data in an IPCC graph?

Because you are relying on the very same tree data going back 700 years for your graph. Of that 700 years, only about 120-150 are verifiable by comparing them to thermometers. Of those verifiable years 50-60 of them show a 'divergence' between the tree data and the observable thermometer data. For almost all of that period, the divergence is so extreme, that if you didn't have thermometer data, you would say that the trees *showed* a cooling trend. But of course you don't say that, because your thermometers show the opposite.

But for 550 of the 700 years on the graph (78% of the graphed time period) you don't have any useful thermometer data. So you have to rely solely on the tree data. But the tree data actively contradicts the thermometer data for more than a third of the time that we can compare the two.

It isn't good science to act as if the tree data is fantastic pre-thermometer (most of the graph) and then just drop the trees which contradict the thermometer data once you can get the thermometer data while keeping in the trees that don't contradict the thermometer data. That is doubly true when you don't understand why the trees and thermometers aren't tracking. (Contrary to your assertion that it is easily explainable by rainfall and humidity, it turns out that when Mann tried to control for that, it was non-explanatory. Furthermore we can't control for rainfall and humidity in the first 550 years because they weren't observed then, so it would be unhelpful anyway). Picking the ones that support your graph while ommitting the ones that don't, without any good mechanism explaining why you omitted them other than the fact that they disagreed with the thermometer readings, *is the very essence of cherry picking*. It doesn't get much more cherry-picky than that.

You write "The divergence 'problem' is that some trees are no longer indicating temperature." What you seem to misunderstand is that "no longer" isn't the scientific way of answering a problem of an unexplained difference between how you think the trees should respond to temperature and how they are actually responding when they disagree for more than 1/3 of your sample--especially when it is the most recent (i.e. best documented) sample. When the last 50-60 years of data don't support your alleged correlation, you don't get to assume that you are ok for the unverifiable 550 years. At that point you have to at least entertain the idea that your proxy doesn't track well with the temperatures you are trying find.

Now, does this mean that 'warming' is not happening? No. Our temperature records suggest some warming. Does this mean we should do nothing? No. Over time the earth is going to change in temperature (and if history is any guide a much scarier ice age is due at some point). We certainly should be so stupid as to believe that the weather we are most used to is the 'norm'. But if we can, we'd probably like it to be the norm. And we may have to take steps for that to be reality.

That isn't a reason to protect and propagate bad science.

It also isn't a reason to protect and propagate the destruction of public data in response to a Freedom of Information request.

If the US government's response to an FOI request was to destroy the tapes of interrogations, would you be ok with that? Would you say: "Oh well, it is for a good cause". That isn't how we want government, or science, or govenmental science) to work. (Be warned, I'm not entirely sure this a hypothetical).

It's just that I think something more should be required before such drastic action is required.

What drastic action is being called for?

But the whole point of including the proxy data alongside the instrumental data within the brief period that instrumental data is available is to demonstrate a close correlation and therefore support the idea that the proxy record can be used to infer historic temperatures and therefore support the idea that the present warming is unprecedented in recent times.

You're confusing an IPCC report with background material.

It would be misleading for a scientist to claim to be producing a chart based on tree ring proxies, and then to substitute some data points with thermometer data.

But, while this type of chart might be found in papers by dendrochronologists or whoever, it's background science that's not likely to be a featured part of the IPCC report itself. Instead, the contentious part there are the composite reconstructions like Mann's, the ones that integrate a variety of proxies and instrument series.

And for those, if* there is established background science saying something like "this proxy is good from 1000AD to 1950AD, but not from 1950AD on" then it's perfectly accurate to only include the good part of the data in composite reconstruction.

It would in fact be misleading to include the "bad" data. Every bit as misleading as including a series of "0 degree" data points for a weather station that had been offline since 1950.

Or to put it another way, if the last 50 years of data from this proxy is "obviously valueless" then how do we know that it isn't equally obviously valueless 500 years ago?

This is not saying the same thing another way. It's a completely different thing. See the footnote.

-----

* This 'if' is a separate debate, one that we've been having elsewhere here. But read some of the papers I cited in response to Sebastian. There seem to be a variety of reasons to believe that data before the "divergence" is still perfectly useful.

But, while this type of chart might be found in papers by dendrochronologists or whoever,

Just to be clear: I mean a chart of the raw proxy data, not a chart with hypothetical falsified data.

Some thoughts:

1. It seems a little presumptuous to me that a couple of people (at least one of whom is a lawyer) blogging on this site can invalidate the entire field of dendrochronology. According to the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, at U. Az, "The Bibliography of Dendrochronology is an archive of printed documents relevant to tree-ring research worldwide, that you can search for free. It was compiled and is constantly updated by Henri D. Grissino-Mayer. It currently contains 11,761 references dating back to 1737." Looks to me like this is a pretty rich field that is actively addressing known problems. Both dark matter and dark energy are known problems in astrophysics, but very few people claim that these problems invalidate everything else in the field.

2. The oft-published claim of a finding by British authorities of a violation of FOIA by the University of East Anglia is A LIE. From its website: "Any assertion that the University has been found in breach of any part the Freedom of Information Act is incorrect. The ICO had not communicated with the University before issuing the statement and has still not completed any investigations into this matter. Media reports have been inaccurate."

3. With regard to every single environmental contaminant, to the best of my knowledge we've discovered it's a lot (make that A LOT) easier to keep it out of the environment than to try to recover it later. It simply doesn't matter if Mann and Jones are both liars and frauds. There is enough other science to establish (a) an increase of about 2 deg. C per doubling of CO2 and (b) substantial danger to our way of life (like San Diego's water supply) at an increase of 2 degrees.

And I have no idea why anyone would be so casual about government-funded scientists blowing off FOIA requests or attempting to delete data from them. That's perfectly okay now? What happened to freedom of information being a liberal value?

I'm not excusing it. But at the same time, it's a red herring. A sideshow battle between McIntyre and the scientists he lobs bombs at.

It's a matter for UK authorities and University discipline boards, not people concerned about global warming. The accuracy of the science hasn't been affected.

Apparently that's not good enough, though, unless I also agree that it's a CRISIS!!!! and run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Speaking only for myself, I couldn't care less whether you think it's a "CRISIS!!!" or not.

The issue for me is respect for science. You appear to have come to the right answer, and good for you. Except...if you're ignoring the science, or being "skeptical" in hypocritical ways, then you've arrived at that answer for the wrong reasons.

Next time you might not luck into the right answer.

But for 550 of the 700 years on the graph (78% of the graphed time period) you don't have any useful thermometer data. So you have to rely solely on the tree data. But the tree data actively contradicts the thermometer data for more than a third of the time that we can compare the two.

Have you even been reading this thread? Read the paper I posted earlier.

The older tree data can be (and has been) verified against the tree data itself, and against other proxy data, like stalactites, ice cores, isotopic data, etc.

All those lines of evidence interlock and, within the error bars, agree.

It's just that I think something more should be required before such drastic action is required.

I'll answer my own question:

As I understand it, the obligations the US would have incurred, had we ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, would have been to reduce our emission of six greenhouse gases by 7% from their 1990 levels by 2012.

7% in 15 years. One half of one percent, per year, for 15 years. Approximately.

That is the drastic action we refused to take.

Was it impossible to do that without wrecking the economy?

We could likely have achieved much of that by reducing our use of plastic packaging. Or by recycling more paper, glass, and metal products. Or a modest increase in the CAFE standards. Or some combination of other, similar, non-economy-threatening measures.

We could have done it in a walk.

We could likely have achieved much of that by reducing our use of plastic packaging. Or by recycling more paper, glass, and metal products. Or a modest increase in the CAFE standards. Or some combination of other, similar, non-economy-threatening measures.

Exactly. And I'd point out that cap-and-trade or carbon taxes are likely to be very cheap to comply with, because there is a LOT of really low hanging fruit, efficiency-wise, that a carbon price will encourage people to find.

For example, when you go to the store, you might have practically identical products A and B. You don't much care which one to buy, and maybe they're the same price right now.

But suppose B is shipped further by an inefficient mode, or manufactured with an antiquated, more carbon-intensive process. With a carbon price, you, as a consumer, will suddenly be able to see that. Suddenly A is going to be a nickel or three cheaper, and you buy A. Easy. If you really want B, you still can, you just pay a few cents more for the carbon it's using.

The estimates of the ultimate costs to consumers of a carbon price amount to peanuts. A little more for rich people, poor people actually come out ahead.

The notion that this is some risky, apocalyptic lifestyle change that crazy liberals are asking everyone to take on faith is just complete garbage.

"The older tree data can be (and has been) verified against the tree data itself, and against other proxy data, like stalactites, ice cores, isotopic data, etc."

But the newer data is *no different than the older data*.

The only problem with the newer data is that it doesn't track with the thermometers.

" Read the paper I posted earlier."

What is the time stamp of the one you posted earlier? I'm pretty sure that I've read everything you've liked, and none of it helped.

But the newer data is *no different than the older data*.

The only problem with the newer data is that it doesn't track with the thermometers.

That. Is. Wrong.

The divergence has a number of hallmarks--it's not the simplistic formulation that all trees, and all types of ring data, diverge from the thermometers equally--and we can check for those hallmarks in the past. Again, see, just for example, Cook (2004).

Francis, yes, that is what the school says to protect its own reputation.

See here

What the ICO says is: "The fact that the elements of a section 77 offence may have been found here, but cannot be acted on because of the elapsed time, is a very serious matter."

The ICO is now petitioning the government for the right to prosecute with a longer statute of limitations that the current 6 months.

Essentially the school wanted to testify to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that they had been cleared. The ICO wrote that they had not been cleared, but that they had found evidence of serious violations which they could not prosecute because the 6 month time from violation to prosecution had elapsed before it came to light.

The notion that this is some risky, apocalyptic lifestyle change that crazy liberals are asking everyone to take on faith is just complete garbage.

What jack said.

The US generates about 20 metric tons of CO2 per person per year.

The only countries with a higher per-capita rate are some oil-producing Arab states, a couple of Caribbean islands, and (oddly) Luxembourg.

Most of the EU nations are right around 10 metric tons per capita per annum.

China, our carboniferous nemesis, is about 4.6.

I appreciate that the science is not absolutely, irrefutably conclusive, but we could make really, really significant improvements with one hand tied behind our back.

And if it turns out that greenhouse gas emissions are not a factor in warming, we've cut down on waste, cut down on pollutants, cut down on ocean acidification, etc etc etc.

No harm done.

I really think we (the US) are just too freaking lazy to do it, too arrogant and with too great a sense of entitlement to think anyone else has any right to ask it of us, and the rest of the analysis just flows from there.

My two cents, offered with all due respect.

jack: The issue for me is respect for science.

The issue for me is respect for science.

Respect for science does not mean taking the claims of scientists at face value. Science is a process, not an authority, and that process involves transparency, repeatability, disclosure, questioning of your own certainty, and skepticism. You can't reject those core precepts and still say what you're doing should be granted the imprimatur of Science. And if you've read the CRU emails at all, refusal to share data, methods, and algorithms, refusal to answer to criticisms, attempts to evade FOIA, attempts to discredit research questioning their results, and dismissal of skepticism were rife.

Yeah, we're only talking about a few people; unfortunately they're the exact people responsible for the popular understanding of climate change, which tends to cast a bit of a shadow over the whole endeavor.

russell: China, our carboniferous nemesis, is about 4.6.

If you look at the income distribution in China as dividing the country into two sections, a rich country a bit bigger than the US and a poor country about twice the size of the US, then consider how much energy consumption in China goes to support each part of the whole, per-capita CO2 emissions in Wealthy China (still much poorer than the US) would be right up there with Europe, maybe even headed for US levels - largely because Chinese power generation and industry are so inefficient and coal-dependent - and per-capita CO2 emissions in Poor China would be down there with the poorest countries on the planet.

If you took Bangladesh and Nigeria and welded them to the United States, you might end up with similar overall per-capita CO2 emissions and similarly unequal distribution of emissions.

You can do the same exercise within the US, of course. Rich bastards with 10,000 sq ft mansions who fly around all the time emit massively more than 20 tons per-capita, and poor bastards who live in 500 sq ft apartments and don't own a car emit much less. But the difference is far more stark in China because so much of the population there still lives at subsistence peasant levels. Most people in America are middle-class or above, most of them live in decent-sized houses and own cars and fly around now and then. Considering that we generate $14 trillion in GDP from CO2 emissions somewhat less than those that China produces from $4 trillion in GDP, I'd say we weren't doing so badly.

SH: have you read the govt's letter? Primary sources are always better. Try here. If you want a quote out of context, try this language instead: "As stated above, no decision notice has yet been issued and no alleged breaches have yet been put to the University for comment."

Your summary, which relies on a secondary source, is just wrong.

It remains entirely possible that the govt could decide that the e-mail comment about destroying files to avoid the law was sarcasm and that any actual destruction was lawful.

Rich bastards with 10,000 sq ft mansions who fly around all the time emit massively more than 20 tons per-capita, and poor bastards who live in 500 sq ft apartments and don't own a car emit much less.

Relative to, basically, the entire rest of the world, we are, as a whole, those rich bastards.

I'm not here to defend China's industrial policy, but I also note that they're trying to pull a billion people out of a more or less subsistence agrarian way of life.

We could significantly reduce our emissions and nobody would miss a meal. Nobody would miss dessert.

I don't disagree with any of that, although I do question whether China is on a sustainable path to real poverty reduction for the ~800 million people living at subsistence levels. Just getting GDP/capita to $15,000 - which means a total GDP about the same as the US today - at current carbon intensity would require quadrupling CO2 emissions to about 24 billion tons per year, or emissions of about 18 tons per capita. And just imagine the air pollution from a quadrupling of coal consumption in China.

I think there's a real question of whether you can cloak yourself in the mantle of "poverty reduction for a billion people" when the path you're on doesn't go there; it dead-ends in environmental catastrophe long before a billion people are pulled out of poverty.

The difference between China and the developed world is that while all countries went through a phase where the pollution intensity of GDP was pretty high, they did so when their populations were much smaller, relative both to the world as a whole and to the land area available to them. It may be that "you can't get there from here", at least following the same industrialization path that the West did, not because the West is evil and trying to keep China down, but because at the scale China is operating at, there really are environmental & resource limits to growth.

Hopefully there will be other routes. There are some promising signs that China is taking renewables seriously, but the problem is that they're still building coal plants like crazy. They seem to recognize that the air pollution they already have is so bad that it can't be allowed to get much worse, but again, translating that into action is another matter.

Respect for science does not mean taking the claims of scientists at face value. Science is a process, not an authority, and that process involves transparency, repeatability, disclosure, questioning of your own certainty, and skepticism. You can't reject those core precepts and still say what you're doing should be granted the imprimatur of Science. And if you've read the CRU emails at all, refusal to share data, methods, and algorithms, refusal to answer to criticisms, attempts to evade FOIA, attempts to discredit research questioning their results, and dismissal of skepticism were rife.

This belies an excessively idealistic view of the way scientists must behave. Yes, it would certainly be nice if everything and everyone were perfect, but in practice scientists are fallible human beings like everyone else.

The great advantage of science is that it works regardless.

And the basic point here remains: it's one thing to criticize some objectionable behavior you believe you see in the emails.

It's quite another to use that as an excuse to give excessive credit to a dishonest crank like McIntyre, and/or as an excuse to be "skeptical" of the entire edifice of climate science.

That is not respecting science.

----
P.S.: "Sharing data" doesn't need to extend to going out of your way to accommodate any crank on the internet who asks you to hold their hand. It's perfectly acceptable to maintain some standards, and only share it with, for example, reasonably credentialed colleagues in your field.

Also, part of McIntyre's regular shtick is to claim people are hiding data or refusing his requests, when in fact he's had it all along.

As I understand it, the obligations the US would have incurred, had we ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, would have been to reduce our emission of six greenhouse gases by 7% from their 1990 levels by 2012.

7% in 15 years. One half of one percent, per year, for 15 years. Approximately.

Yes, but we didn't ratify. The Senate actually sent a message to Clinton that it would reject any attempt to ratify. Clinton signed it anyway, but:

President Clinton said, however, that he would not submit the protocol to the Senate for ratification until key developing countries agree to take significant steps to address climate change, a key Senate condition.

In other words, Clinton knew when Gore signed Kyoto that we weren't going to adhere to it until some other countries (I'm guessing China is probably prominent among them) cut back on their emissions.

Now, compliance would require that we cut back our CO2 emissions approximately 18% from their current level, to make that target of 93% of 1990 emissions. Not that we're, at this point, likely to ratify Kyoto anytime soon.

That's all good Jacob, but there's not much folks in the US can do about Chinese generation of greenhouse gases.

There's lots we can do about our own.

Not to beat this further into the ground, but basically my point here is:

1. Whether human activity is causing climate warming, or not, is impossible to know to a certainty
2. It's certainly one of the possible, or even likely, causes. Certainly, some of the climactic changes we think are happening are consistent with increased greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
3. There are a lot of things we can do to improve that situation without doing ourselves significant economic or other harm
4. Those things would be great things to do on their own merits, apart of climate issues

But, we don't really do them to any significant degree.

Instead we argue about what might have made annual rings bigger or smaller in bristlecone pines 1,000 years ago, or about whether the word "trick" in somebody's email means they're lying or just commenting on someone having been clever, or we argue about whether McIntyre is cranky.

These are all interesting topics, but IMVHO they're kind of a distraction from the basic issue.

Our activities may well be having profound and detrimental effects on the world we live in. We could make significant, useful changes to them at little real cost to ourselves or our general way of life or standard of living.

But, we don't.

We should.

The notion that pricing CO2 emmissions will "wreck the economy" has got to rest on the proposition that almost everything would become more expensive. Does that make a lick of sense?

We don't pay money to either the Earth or the atmosphere. We pay it to other people. In the macro picture, "we" and "other people" are the same population. If "we" spend more money, "we" get more money.

Our shorthand name for this frenetic passing of money back and forth is "the economy". If carbon pricing causes more money to pass back and forth among us, how does that "wreck the economy"?

--TP

jack: The great advantage of science is that it works regardless.

No, it actually doesn't work when you abandon the basic principles of science, and I'm really tired of hearing that line. Malfeasance leads to mistaken results. Scientists are human and make mistakes, certainly; those mistakes lead to mistaken outcomes, they don't magically fix themselves.

jack: It's perfectly acceptable to maintain some standards, and only share it with, for example, reasonably credentialed colleagues in your field.

No, no, it's actually not, not to me, nor to a lot of people, and you telling me it should be acceptable doesn't change my opinion. Science requires publication and transparency, period.

russell: there's not much folks in the US can do about Chinese generation of greenhouse gases. There's lots we can do about our own.

Right.

I'm just not that impressed with the "pulling a billion people out of poverty" line re: China. It's more like "pulling 300 million people out of poverty by generating just as much CO2 as the US, on a path that is physically impossible to follow for the next billion". Put that way, it doesn't sound so great to me.

those mistakes lead to mistaken outcomes, they don't magically fix themselves.

But they are fixed, if not "magically". Those mistakes are detected and fixed by OTHER SCIENTISTS.

NOT by we schmucks on the internet. And if you have pretensions of doing so, I would say you are exhibiting exactly the sort of hubris I criticized earlier.

And, in this case, the fact that after quite an extraordinary amount of scrutiny those "other scientists" are saying that they are satisfied that nothing is wrong, or at least that known minor mistakes or early false paths have been remedied, ought to tell you something.

No, it actually doesn't work when you abandon the basic principles of science, and I'm really tired of hearing that line. Malfeasance leads to mistaken results. Scientists are human and make mistakes, certainly; those mistakes lead to mistaken outcomes, they don't magically fix themselves.

And in case it's not clear, yes, science is robust against even deliberate malfeasance.* It's not an ideal result, obviously because time is certainly wasted detecting and revealing the fraud, but it works.

Now, I suppose it's not robust against universal malfeasance, but I didn't take you for one of the conspiracy mongers...

-----
* See, e.g.: the Piltdown Hoax, which is probably the most famous example. Although it took some time before it was fully exposed to the public, there was widespread skepticism from the very beginning by those most qualified to evaluate the 'find'.

And that was just one small fossil, not a global controversy.

Jack: Those mistakes are detected and fixed by OTHER SCIENTISTS. NOT by we schmucks on the internet. And if you have pretensions of doing so[...]

This ain't rocket science. Detecting basic errors in data-handling is not beyond the capacity of anyone but a specialist in the climatic science. The dude dropped 50 years of data off the end of a graph because it looked funny when it was left on. Do you need an advanced degree in paleodendroclimatological science to notice that?

As a matter of fact, those errors were not detected and fixed by other scientists. They made it all the way to the IPCC report and were detected only after someone dumped a bunch of private email to the internet. The "self-correcting" nature of science requires public disclosure of data and methods. Withhold them, and surprise surprise, mistakes don't get corrected.

You want to gloss over this whole thing and say everything went the way it should have gone. Well, there's a saying that goes, don't s--t in my hand and tell me it's chocolate. Yeah, I don't think it's all that important overall, but the behavior itself was indefensible, and the more it gets defended, the less credibility the defenders have. You really want to say that the standards of science in climatology are so low that blatant misconduct is acceptable?

This ain't rocket science. Detecting basic errors in data-handling is not beyond the capacity of anyone but a specialist in the climatic science. The dude dropped 50 years of data off the end of a graph because it looked funny when it was left on. Do you need an advanced degree in paleodendroclimatological science to notice that?

If you keep repeating this elementary falsehood, I'm going to stop taking you seriously.

jack: it's not robust against universal malfeasance, but I didn't take you for one of the conspiracy mongers

Believing that individual malfeasance can go undetected for periods of time long enough to make a difference is not the same as believing in universal malfeasance.

The technique used to reduce the period of time before individual malfeasance is detected and corrected is called disclosure.

You are the one arguing that disclosure is not necessary, even as you are talking about the self-correcting nature of science, even as you are talking about a case where non-disclosure led to misleading data being published. Why? Tribal affiliation with climate scientists? A personal dislike for schmucks on the internet? Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with "self-correcting science", because if it did, you'd be saying that more disclosure was necessary, not less.

You really want to say that the standards of science in climatology are so low that blatant misconduct is acceptable?

This is begging the question.

With the possible exception of the alleged 'FOIA' (what's it called in the UK?) request shenanigans (which is reprehensible, but also only affected the access of cranks, so I'm not especially broken up about it), I've yet to see you or anyone else present a single whit of solid evidence for "blatant misconduct".

this elementary falsehood, I'm going to stop taking you seriously

Oh for god's sake. You, in your comment at 12:31pm today, said that he dropped the data from the end of the series in the publication in the IPCC Third Assessment Report.

Here's the graph from the IPCC report.

The green line is the Briffa data.

Here's the original draft of that graph.

The yellow line is the Briffa data.

Emails from the period by the people who were involved in drafting the report plainly state that they debated dropping the last section of the Briffa data because it was "distracting".

We can argue about how significant this was and whether it, in itself, constituted malfeasance. However, it is in no way an "elementary falsehood" to say that they dropped the last period of the data. And if you insist on contradicting your own comments from earlier in the day and claiming that a plain statement of fact is an "elementary falsehood", exactly how seriously should I take you?

You are the one arguing that disclosure is not necessary, even as you are talking about the self-correcting nature of science, even as you are talking about a case where non-disclosure led to misleading data being published.

Disclosure good, but is also a self-correcting process.

If you don't disclose enough for other scientists to work with, you're eventually not going to be taken seriously. Others may simply ignore you, or try to replicate your results independently and find them lacking, which will leave you in the same place. Openness to those who actually need the information is built into the system.

Schmucks (and cranks) on the internet don't actually need the information.

(Note that in the information age, it's getting cheaper and easier to disclose reams of data and source code, and I think that's a healthy and useful trend, and like all information technology, will probably lead to more productivity and faster progress.

But it's not a necessity. In the old days, people published only papers, with summaries of their methods and results. If someone needed more, it required direct correspondence, cooperation, and maybe even expensive duplication and transfer of physical records. You really wouldn't want to comply with every request from a crank under those circumstances. Science still worked fine.)

Jacob: And I have no idea why anyone would be so casual about government-funded scientists blowing off FOIA requests or attempting to delete data from them. That's perfectly okay now? What happened to freedom of information being a liberal value?

This will give you some background that may help you understand:

Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at Nasa's Goddard Institute who is also on the list of 17, said he had seen an increase in freedom of information act requests. "In my previous six years I dealt with one FoIA request. In the last three months, we have had to deal with I think eight," he said. "These FoIAs are fishing expeditions for potentially embarrassing content but they are not FoIA requests for scientific information."

He said Inhofe's call for a criminal investigation created an atmosphere of intimidation. "The idea very clearly is to let it be known that should you be a scientist who speaks out in public then you will be intimidated, you will be harassed, and you will be threatened," he said. "The idea very clearly is to put a chilling effect on scientists speaking out in public and to tell others to keep their heads down. That kind of intimidation is very reminiscent of other periods in US history where people abused their position." James Inhofe calls for criminal investigation of climate scientists as senators prepare proposal that would ditch cap and trade


Opposition to scientific study of climate change and the causes thereof, is politically motivated, Jacob. You just need a healthy dose of skepticism. Perhaps bc could lend you his, since he's not using it...

However, it is in no way an "elementary falsehood" to say that they dropped the last period of the data.

The falsehood is the implication that there is something wrong with that omission. A "basic error in data handling" I believe you called it.

I believe I've established here that there's ISN'T anything wrong there.

If anything, there would have been something quite wrong with including it. It'd be like including data from a thermometer, even though you knew it had been broken in 1950.

Perhaps it isn't so elementary, but you are claiming that this is somehow easily detectable malfeasance. It may be easily detectable, but it is the malfeasance or scientific validity of the choice that is in question. You DO actually need expertise to evaluate that. It is indeed something that would require an advanced degree in paleodendroclimatological science to notice.

Here's the original draft of that graph.

The yellow line is the Briffa data.

That's not an original draft of the graph, it appears to be something off climateaudit, possibly some kind of "reconstruction" done by McIntyre to include the incorrect "missing" data.

Of course, it might well also be something copied out of a paper of Briffa's, which is a funny way to hide something, isn't it?

Wow, people have political motives for things they do? What a revelation! What an unprecedented situation! All the old rules are bunk! Circle the wagons! We never imagined that politically-motivated requests might be made under FOIA!

Most FOIA requests are probably "politically motivated". So what?

(Criminal investigations are another thing. Do you see me calling for those?)

He said Inhofe's call for a criminal investigation created an atmosphere of intimidation.

Inhofe's profile on Open Secrets.

For the record.

We never imagined that politically-motivated requests might be made under FOIA!

To give you yet more background information on what motivates Inhofe to call for a criminal investigation of climate scientists:

But Inhofe is hardly Galileo. In fact, his involvement in a lawsuit seeking to suppress a groundbreaking scientific report on possible effects of climate change in the United States -- such as biodiversity losses and threats to coastal areas due to higher sea levels -- arguably puts him more on the side of Galileo's oppressors.

If Inhofe is out of step with science, though, he's right in line with his conservative and pro-business constituency. Since 1999, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Inhofe has received almost $300,000 in campaign donations from oil and gas interests and nearly $180,000 from electric utilities. In the 2002 election cycle, he received more oil and gas contributions than any senator except Texas' John Cornyn. American Prospect, April 2004


Follow the money, Jacob. Be skeptical and curious. Don't just assume that because Senator Inhofe says it his motives must be pure...

"If anything, there would have been something quite wrong with including it. It'd be like including data from a thermometer, even though you knew it had been broken in 1950."

Ummm, the trees aren't broken. They are happily growing just the way they are supposed to. What is broken is our understanding of why they aren't behaving the way we thought they should with respect to temperature. And until that is fixed you can't just throw out the 'bad' data. The trees aren't bad data. They are data that don't fit with your hypothesis.

jack: The falsehood is the implication that there is something wrong with that omission.

A difference of opinion is not a "falsehood". The sky is blue; you say the sky being blue is good, I say the sky being blue is bad, the truth of those statements is subjective. In this case, the question of whether the omission of the data was justifiable may be certain in your mind, but it's not in mine; I am not stating a falsehood in saying that I disagree.

jack: That's not an original draft of the graph, it appears to be something off climateaudit

It's being served from climateaudit, it is described there as "IPCC Third Assessment Report Zero-Order Draft Figure 2.3.3a". Since I can't find an online copy of the Zero-Order Draft I can't verify that, but so far as I know the provenance of that particular graph is not in question, only the significance.

Senator Inhofe is a scumbag and a villain, Jes, you don't have to tell me that. What I am saying is that the FOIA system was not designed for a world where there are no scumbags and villains making bogus requests. It's designed for the real world, where virtually everyone has political motives, with the idea that openness is a good thing even if it's sometimes inconvenient to comply.

If it's okay to blow off FOIA requests because they're being made by your political opponents, we are in deep trouble.

Ummm, the trees aren't broken. They are happily growing just the way they are supposed to. What is broken is our understanding of why they aren't behaving the way we thought they should with respect to temperature. And until that is fixed you can't just throw out the 'bad' data. The trees aren't bad data. They are data that don't fit with your hypothesis.

The trees are broken as thermometers post 1950 or so. That much is crystal clear.

Plugging the raw ring width or density data from those periods into a formula that outputs temperature is going to lead to a known nonsense result. Period. Why would do you want people to put nonsense lines on graphs that are supposed to be plotting temperatures?

Now, the REAL complaint seems to be not that post-divergence data was NOT included, but rather that pre-divergence data WAS.

But if that's the complaint, say so.

I will happily point you back to the papers that explain why that data is still (with some caution) likely to be trustworthy.

What is broken is our understanding of why they aren't behaving the way we thought they should with respect to temperature.

In some parts of the world. In others, they're still behaving the way they always did.

Tree ring growth can be affected by a lot of factors. (Including, oh dear, increased carbon dioxide. It is entirely possible that humanity's pouring CO2 into the atmosphere is what has "broken the thermometer"... but THAT isn't something climate-change deniers want to hear about, oh dear no.)

At this point, however, non-scientists pointing at the data and going OH HAY I C WUT U DID THAR over ways in which the scientific experts in the field are interpreting the data, which other scientists have no issue with, are just making themselves look like lolcats.

The notion that an uninformed layperson googling on the Internet can come up with a fresh interpretation of complex data that will radically disturb the scientific understanding born of years of research, is one of those notions that belongs in John W. Campbell editorials for Amazing Stories.

Which is not to say that:

The enthusiast who devotes years of time and study to examining bristle-cone pines and recording the tree-ring data personally in order to figure out why the thermometer broke in the 1950s (I have no idea if such a person exists: it wouldn't surprise me, though) might not, eventually, contribute something great in the field;

But this isn't what Jacob's doing (I don't think so, anyway: Jacob?) when he claims that "Detecting basic errors in data-handling is not beyond the capacity of anyone but a specialist in the climatic science" - he's claiming that although all of the specialists have had this data available to them, and looked at it, none of them spotted "basic errors in data handling" - that was left to untrained schmucks on the Internet who never looked at the raw data and have no background in this field".

That's a classic of 1950s science-fiction. It's the Wesley Crusher moment on Star Trek. It's a plot that John W. Campbell would have just loved. But if you know anything about how scientific research works, you know that if you look at a peer-reviewed paper and see looks to you like "Basic errors in data handling" this is because you don't know enough about this field: not because the paper was so badly peer-reviewed that no one spotted some basic errors....

Jes: he's claiming that although all of the specialists have had this data available to them, and looked at it, none of them spotted "basic errors in data handling"

No, I'm saying, the specialists who were involved in making this basic error in data handling knew exactly what they were doing and didn't think it was an error, but that a reasonably-well-informed amateur can look at what they did and decide that it was an error.

You want to talk 1950s science fiction, it's the Infallible Scientist Serving Mankind With His Superior Mental Capacities that is the archetype in play here.

jack's claim that they took the 50 years of data off the IPCC report because they knew it was "a known nonsense result" contradicts the actual emails exchanged during the actual drafting of the IPCC report, in which the actual people who drafted it discussed their actual reasons for doing so, which were - actually - not that it was "known nonsense", but that it made the graph look funny, which undermined the point they were trying to make.

They decided to leave them off to make the graph look nicer, not because they were concerned with scientific integrity. That may or may not be a defensible decision, but that's why they said they did it.

Jack:
If anything, there would have been something quite wrong with including it. It'd be like including data from a thermometer, even though you knew it had been broken in 1950 . . .

Or including data you know is broken to make the MWP disappear . . .

Now, the REAL complaint seems to be not that post-divergence data was NOT included, but rather that pre-divergence data WAS.

But if that's the complaint, say so.

I thought the issue was that they were doing a 50-year smoothing on Briffa's data and had to use something after 1960 in order to "smooth" and so they added thermometer data, making it look like tree rings showed an upward rather than a downward trend. It wasn't so much the pre-divergence data as the use of other data and calling it tree-ring data. That was what I understood the "nature trick" to be.

In ADDITION, what Sebastian says comes into play. How do you justify the use of data pre-1960? Just because it seems to correlate with other sources? That seems really lame to me. What would have been lost to scientific dialogue if they had just put it all out there as they had it?

I had a case once where a psychologist was trying to show the jury how few people commit suicide. It was a pie chart showing a pencil thin line at 12:00. But his sample had nothing to do with our case. I argued he needed a chart showing people who had a) seen a PA; b) been diagnosed with this particular mental illness, etc. etc. With the relevant data, the slice of the pie would have been most of the pie. It was excluded and the jury never saw the exhibit. All the data on the exhibit was correct, however. Presentation is everything and Jones et al knew it.

And that the graph had been previously published correctly earlier doesn't change the fact it was published wrong later.

Just put all the data out on the graph even if you think it doesn't track and asterisk that line. Or don't use smoothed data. At least cut off the tree data in 1960 and say why you are doing that. Show an alternate graph and say why you think it isn't a fair representation.

No, I'm saying, the specialists who were involved in making this basic error in data handling knew exactly what they were doing and didn't think it was an error, but that a reasonably-well-informed amateur can look at what they did and decide that it was an error.

Sure, they can "decide it was an error", but only in the same way as any old schmuck can "decide quantum physics is hokum".

Back in the real world, the fact that this is a complicated question (as evidenced, if nothing else, by the length of this very comment thread), and all the specialists don't actually seem to think there is any error, basic or otherwise, involved, ought to tell you something.

The idea that it is simple to look at this and see that there is an error is the basic falsehood I was talking about. (As opposed to the idea that you could look at this and see something that, in your ignorance, seemed like an error to you. That's manifestly true.)

jack's claim that they took the 50 years of data off the IPCC report because they knew it was "a known nonsense result" contradicts the actual emails exchanged during the actual drafting of the IPCC report, in which the actual people who drafted it discussed their actual reasons for doing so, which were - actually - not that it was "known nonsense", but that it made the graph look funny, which undermined the point they were trying to make.

That's probably exactly how I'd discuss it among peers who all understood the results, though. It looks funny and it's distracting, and undermines the point I'm trying to make (because I'd have to note somewhere in the text or a footnote: ignore that yellow part after 1950). But I already KNOW what it means or doesn't mean -- that's a background to the discussion, and wouldn't be rehashed in every email.

but only in the same way as any old schmuck can "decide quantum physics is hokum"

No. No! Sorry, but ... no.

I read the discussion they had about why to omit it, and the discussion concerned the desirability of the appearance of uniformity of opinion and data on the subject. This is not quantum physics. This is basic statistical presentation. Dropping parts of a data series from a graph to improve the uniform appearance of the graph: in my opinion, not okay. The difference between "That's not a very honest graph" and "Quantum physics is bunk" is vast.

But I already KNOW what it means or doesn't mean -- that's a background to the discussion, and wouldn't be rehashed in every email.

This requires an extraordinarily generous reading of the emails in question, and completely ignoring their stated reasons for omitting that portion of the data, which were to improve the appearance of the graph. If we're going to make up reasons for why they did things that are different to the reasons that they actually said they did things, why not say they took that section of the data off to, uh, save kittens in Mongolia?

When someone says "I did X because Y", I don't think it requires me to come up with all the alternative reasons they might have done X and ascribe the most pleasing ones to them. I tend to assume that if they said they did X because Y, they actually did do X because Y. Y, in this case, concerned the appearance of the graph and the desire to show a non-confusing, uniform, consensus viewpoint in the IPCC report. That may be a perfectly desirable thing to do, but why do you keep insisting that's not what they were trying to do, and imagining other reasons for doing it, when that's exactly what they said they were trying to do?

It clearly had nothing to do with the data itself, because they included the data in the first draft of the graph.

This is petty, petty stuff, which is why I don't understand the fight-to-the-last-man defense of it that gets mounted. They fudged a graph to make it look nicer; BFD. Not the end of the world; why not just admit it?

In ADDITION, what Sebastian says comes into play. How do you justify the use of data pre-1960? Just because it seems to correlate with other sources? That seems really lame to me. What would have been lost to scientific dialogue if they had just put it all out there as they had it?

Not just because it correlates with other sources, although that's part of it. There are a lot of other proxy sources, and although some of them aren't as precise or high frequency as tree rings, they ALL show the same basic pattern.

But also other things. For example, as the Cook paper shows, the divergence effect is marked by certain odd patterns within the tree data: some trees diverge more than others, some hardly at all, so you can see when "divergence" is happening INDEPENDENTLY of thermometers. Now, without a thermometer, you wouldn't necessarily be able to tell which set of diverging trees was the closer to giving you a temperature, but you'd at least know you had a problem. And we don't.

Also, despite the claims that the experts are totally in the dark on the divergence effect, that their "hypothesis doesn't allow for this" or whatever Sebastian said, there are a variety of explanations for the divergence. Most of them give us little reason to believe that the same problem occurred earlier. Some of the effect might be warming itself, some might be man made problems, like air pollution reducing the light available. Things like that. (And it's likely the effect isn't from any one source, but a combination of factors, possibly with different weights in different locations.)

When someone says "I did X because Y", I don't think it requires me to come up with all the alternative reasons they might have done X and ascribe the most pleasing ones to them. I tend to assume that if they said they did X because Y, they actually did do X because Y.

No, you misunderstand me. It's not that that they said "X because of Y" and I say "well, they mean X because of Z".

It's: they said "X because of Y", which, because Z is common knowledge, means "X because of Y [because of Z]".

As in, "Lets drop the divergence data because it is making the chart unclear [because it's not really showing a temperature trend and we want to show a temperature trend here]".

It clearly had nothing to do with the data itself, because they included the data in the first draft of the graph.

Which is totally serious evidence of malfeasance, isn't it?

Don't you think it probably has something to do with the fact that it's also a line on a graph from an earlier paper, whose focus wasn't "the best survey of temperature reconstructions we can do" but instead "here, check out my new data set".

In the latter case, you want to show all the data, even where you explain that some of it is exhibiting divergence and doesn't track temperature. In the former case, you drop that because it's a distracting detail.

But you don't necessarily realize that in the first draft, especially when you've got the guy who put all the work into that neat data set in the first place working on it.

It's: they said "X because of Y", which, because Z is common knowledge, means "X because of Y [because of Z]".

As in, "Lets drop the divergence data because it is making the chart unclear [because it's not really showing a temperature trend and we want to show a temperature trend here]".

It's not like we have to guess about this either. Here's Mann on the matter:

As for the 'decline', it is well known that Keith Briffa's maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the "divergence problem"-see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while 'hiding' is probably a poor choice of words (since it is 'hidden' in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

Didn't that Mann comment come from last year? It's not what he said in the emails at the time.

I tend to trust the contemporaneous, private expression of the reasons for an action over what is said much later in public. To me it is pretty clear that the main concern was presenting a consensus viewpoint that wouldn't confuse someone looking at the graph. That is not, in itself, a problem, as long as there is no misrepresentation. Quite possibly he didn't think he was engaging in any misrepresentation, but you know, I beg to differ.

The problem is that the divergence in the Briffa data was important information that the viewer of that graph deserved to have. It may have happened for wacky reasons not especially relevant to the pre-instrumental period. But what it really signified was "This isn't a simple process; you can't just look at trees and read off the temperature in the past". That wasn't what the authors of the report saw in that graph, clearly; but it's what they ought to have seen. (Actually, Briffa seems to have expressed some concerns about the degree of simplification at the time.) And when they decided that instead of dropping the whole series, or putting it in a separate graph with an explanation, they would just chop off the divergence without comment, I think they stepped over a line in regards to the honest presentation of the state of the art in paleoclimate reconstructions. They were worried that skeptics would "have a field day", but that should not have been their concern at all. Their concern should have been presenting the data as best they knew. They knew there were problems with the Briffa series. They didn't explain the problems, or drop the rest of the series; they dropped a portion without comment, for reasons that were essentially ad hoc.

And so if schmucks on the internet were incompetent to assess the honesty of a graph, given that kind of information, why even bother showing them graphs? Why not just say, "Do this, because SCIENTISTS SAID SO"? The fact is, anyone with a basic statistical background - which means a large portion of people who went to college, and that's a lot of people in developed countries - is competent to have an opinion about this kind of decision. Do I seem like I don't really understand the issue? Do I seem like I have a picture of climate scientists as conniving monsters? Do you think I am espousing a conspiracy theory that the planet is actually cooling and climate scientists are covering it up? I am not, and yet, I still think that graph was deliberately misleading, and I think that the discussion of deleting or hiding data in response to FOIA requests was unconscionable.

I'm going to stop taking you seriously

Oh, whatever shall we do?

Sorry to interrupt this meeting of the Society of Amateur Dendrochronologists but I think it is quite telling how often you can determine someone’s political leanings by their opinion regarding AGW. And then there’s the overlap among those in the US who not believe in evolution and who think AGW (of course at first it was just GW) is a hoax. And finally there are those astute folks who can poke holes in complex climatological models and historical recreations but who could not see through Dick Cheney’s 1% solution for Iraq, those who thought there was a very good possibility that Iraq had WMD even though there were UN inspectors in Iraq that the US could direct and who had virtual free reign over the entire country. Now why the heck is that?

Carry on.

No, I'm saying, the specialists who were involved in making this basic error in data handling knew exactly what they were doing and didn't think it was an error, but that a reasonably-well-informed amateur can look at what they did and decide that it was an error.

Fine. Find and cite a reasonably well-informed amateur who can show that they were able to show with working how it was an error.

So far, all of the reasonably well-informed amateurs appear to be pointing out that it's just uninformed anti-AGWers on the Internet who are trying, lolcat-like, to poke holes in the evidence.

"But also other things. For example, as the Cook paper shows, the divergence effect is marked by certain odd patterns within the tree data: some trees diverge more than others, some hardly at all, so you can see when "divergence" is happening INDEPENDENTLY of thermometers."

No they can't. Mann has spent more than a freaking decade trying to come up with a reliable explanation of why the trees aren't agreeing with his theory on how they should correlate with temperature. And even he admits that he can't do it. As for the some more than others, some hardly at all bit, individuals have always had a wide variation in these samples. That is why you tend to use an average and track the average. What you can't do is drop all the trees from one side of the average and then still pretend you are using an average. And what super-precise trendline of comfirmation are you using for the 500 year old data?

The whole reason we were using the bristlecone pines in the first place is because they offered a more continuous series than almost anything else we had available (other than ice cores which have their own problems--even more sensitive to humidity and rainfall, and not particularly availalbe in most places that humans actually live.)

Sebastian: The whole reason we were using the bristlecone pines in the first place is because they offered a more continuous series than almost anything else we had available

"We"? Sebastian, I thought you were a lawyer with a background in pro-life activism. Now you're outing yourself as a dendrochronologist? When was this, and how long were you in the field?

Though really: what RogueDem said.

I think peer-review works mainly as a longterm corrective but not necessarily shortterm. In my experience it is in most cases a smell test, followed by in-depths analysis only, if it looks really fishy. Also peers tend to think alike and often know each other well. The anonymity in many areas is an illusion. I am also regularly surprised by the lack of knowledge of basic arithmetics or at least of lack in accuracy in its use. Data often literally does not add up but few check those fine details, unless they lead to strange solutions.
This kind of sloppiness is of course easy prey for the 'internet dudes' that often will deny the existence of the forest because the number of trees is off more than it should be. The question is, how significant is it for the results.
There is no general answer for that but we should at least always be aware of the limits of both the eggheads and the internet dudes. Hey, I do not now how many people checked my PhD thesis but nobody detected the spelling error in the title(!) (which I myself noticed only after the publication when I received my certificate).

Mann has spent more than a freaking decade trying to come up with a reliable explanation of why the trees aren't agreeing with his theory

Trees got a mind of their own.

Bristlecones especially, they are contrary SOBs.

""We"? Sebastian, I thought you were a lawyer with a background in pro-life activism. Now you're outing yourself as a dendrochronologist? When was this, and how long were you in the field?"

I meant "we" human beings. Which you know quite well. You're just being an ass.

Your response isn't to the point at all. You've just descended to attacking the speaker and appeals to authority.

I'm going to repeat the fact that you didn't want to respond to:

The whole reason we were using the bristlecone pines in the first place is because they offered a more continuous series than almost anything else we had available (other than ice cores which have their own problems--even more sensitive to humidity and rainfall, and not particularly availalbe in most places that humans actually live.)

It is still a fact.

Ooh, we're repeating facts that the other side of the debate doesn't want to acknowledge or respond to? I want to get in on that too.

The Institute's statement, which has been published both on the Institute's website and the Committee's, has been interpreted by some individuals to imply that it does not support the scientific evidence that the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is contributing to global warming.

That is not the case. The Institute's position on climate change is clear: the basic science is well enough understood to be sure that our climate is changing – and that we need to take action now to mitigate that change.

No they can't. Mann has spent more than a freaking decade trying to come up with a reliable explanation of why the trees aren't agreeing with his theory on how they should correlate with temperature. And even he admits that he can't do it. As for the some more than others, some hardly at all bit, individuals have always had a wide variation in these samples. That is why you tend to use an average and track the average. What you can't do is drop all the trees from one side of the average and then still pretend you are using an average. And what super-precise trendline of comfirmation are you using for the 500 year old data?

The whole reason we were using the bristlecone pines in the first place is because they offered a more continuous series than almost anything else we had available (other than ice cores which have their own problems--even more sensitive to humidity and rainfall, and not particularly availalbe in most places that humans actually live.)

Read the paper, Sebastian.

Also, this one for a nice survey of the research, and some of the explanations.

I meant "we" human beings.

Oh. Well, in that case, Sebastian, we're quite well aware that the "thermometer" in bristlecone pines in Northern countries got broken c.1950s, and we're puzzled why you keep bringing it up as if it proved something.

We're well aware that the Earth's climate is changing because of steadily increased global warming, and we wonder why someone who is constantly faking a concern for fetuses is somehow totally unconcerned with the overheated and under-oiled world those fetuses that survive birth and childhood will have to live in.

We think that the minority who argue that the world isn't getting hotter and that human intervention in the environment has nothing to do with it if it is, are taking their cue from the non-human oil corporations, who - not being human beings - have no reason to care if large numbers of humans die in a worldwide ecocatastrophe in two to six decades, so long as their quarterly profits for the next three years are projected to rise.

We wonder why you want to ignore facts instead of acknowledging and responding to them, just because they don't suit you: but we don't wonder long, because we remember that you're just like that.

And when they decided that instead of dropping the whole series, or putting it in a separate graph with an explanation, they would just chop off the divergence without comment, I think they stepped over a line in regards to the honest presentation of the state of the art in paleoclimate reconstructions.

Okay let's step back:

A) We appear to agree on the basic outline of what happened: The portions of Briffa's series that exhibited the "divergence" phenomenon were ultimately omitted from the combined graph.

B) I don't see you disputing it, so I'm guessing you also basically agree that those "divergent" data points do not track temperature as such.

C) As the Mann quote there illustrates, (B) is common knowledge within the field, and the recommendation and standard practice is to "hide" the non-temperature points and not represent them as temperature data points.

D) This is consistent with some graphs ("low level", raw-data oriented graphs) presenting the complete series, while other graphs ("high level", temperature graphs) omit the non-temperature points for the sake of not presenting an inaccurate picture of what the reconstructionists actually claim the proxies say about temperature.

E) Although Briffa's complete data series, including non-temperature points, was present on an early draft of the graph, the non-temperature points were later removed because, according to email conversations, Mann and others thought they were making the graph messy and confusing.

From there we go to:

You believe this steps over a crystal clear line that anyone with a basic education in statistics can see. The graph is deliberately misleading now because it misrepresents the full state of proxy-reconstruction knowledge, and makes it seems like proxy reconstruction is a simple, straightforward process.

One extra section of squiggly yellow line on the graph--one that everyone agrees doesn't actually represent the quantity labeled on the vertical axis--would have corrected that misimpression.

I'm not going to pretend that last part is a fair paraphrase exactly, but it's what I'm hearing. Maybe you can clarify?

Also, it might help if I understood why you think the emails, and what they might reveal about the authors' intentions, matter.

It seems to me that if the graph is so obviously misleading, all you should need to make that judgement is the graph itself, and then something with the "complete" line, e.g., Briffa (1998) or wherever that series was published.

That ought to be enough for your hypothetical modestly educated internet schmuck to see the problem.

But you seem to think the authors' motives matter, and further, that if something like "they did this because all know this data doesn't represent temperature" is true, then it's a mitigating factor.

How does that work?

OK, this is the last comment I'm going to make on the IPCC report (a grateful nation rejoices, etc) so this will have to do...

jack: You believe this steps over a crystal clear line that anyone with a basic education in statistics can see.

No, I believe that this steps over an extremely fuzzy line that everyone will place differently. I will say that this conversation has me more convinced that the authors themselves didn't think they were doing anything wrong.

But you want to make it all about whether they included 1/2" of squiggly line on a graph, but the point is really the discussion which surrounded the decision to omit it, which had little to do with the quality of the science (whatever Mann says now), and everything to do with presenting, as Briffa put it albeit in response to a slightly different point about the same graph, a "tidy picture".

The heart of the issue was a graph that was supposed to show that the present warming is unprecedented in recent human history. That's quite an important point, since there were plenty of people living in, say, Northern Europe or coastal China in 1000AD and it does not seem that they experienced a climate catastrophe; it also brings into question the confidence in whether all or most of the present warming comes from CO2, or whether the unknown mechanism for warming in previous periods could also be in effect now*.

What I am saying is that the desire to have a graph that demonstrated that there was a consensus in the data that this was unprecedented warming led them to make a dubious - minor, but dubious - decision about how to present a particular data series.

And that given other evidence of extreme hostility to dissenting viewpoints and paranoia about critics, as evidenced in this case in the fear that including the data would lead critics to "have a field day", I think there's something rotten in the very people responsible for assembling the IPCC reports. Which I think is: a problem.

Discussion of how to evade FOIA requests, behind-the-scenes collusion on peer review, evident desire to keep out dissenting viewpoints from IPCC reports... the picture that gets painted is not very good. I understand that it's stressful to be criticized, but you know, this is not campus politics. This is the UN IPCC report that will be used to influence economic and political policy for six billion people. You can't treat it like a personal feud.

* You have great confidence that any, er, Q-trons that might be causing warming would show up in instrumental data, I do not share that confidence, since a non-CO2 warming mechanism is likely to look very much like CO2 warming since the driver for both is sunlight, and in any case the measurements are fuzzy enough and the temperature rise both small and irregular enough that you can't just point to a blip on the graph and say "That's it!"

----------------------------------

Anyway.

Personally I am also curious what AGW skeptics think is so dangerous about shifting from coal to renewable energy given the relatively small cost of doing so and the clear harms from coal power (air pollution, radioactive fly ash, mountaintop-removal mining)?

If the answer is "more nukes", then I have a second question: if nukes prove to be more expensive than renewables, would you support renewables?

Third question: if strategic dependency on foreign oil can be reduced by renewables, electric vehicles, and substitution of natural gas, at a relatively low cost, why is that not worthwhile? The US currently spends a large fortune on military activities in the Middle East designed to ensure stability of oil supplies. What if unavoidable US strategic demand for oil (e.g. for aircraft) could be met by domestic producers - wouldn't that be a good thing and worth paying something for?

None of those arguments has anything to do with global warming and they all seem pretty compelling to me (not that I count myself exactly as a skeptic anyway).

(I would also like to say thanks to jack for sticking with a very interesting discussion that gave a good account of another view of the events and their significance, and took the questions about them as worthy of serious consideration. As far as I'm concerned the last couple of comments give a pretty good summary of the different views, and if I never hear another word about bristlecone pines, it will be too soon.)

And that given other evidence of extreme hostility to dissenting viewpoints and paranoia about critics, as evidenced in this case in the fear that including the data would lead critics to "have a field day", I think there's something rotten in the very people responsible for assembling the IPCC reports.

Good grief. You really don't pay much attention to current events, do you? Or even to the AGW-skeptics posting in this thread?

"If the answer is "more nukes", then I have a second question: if nukes prove to be more expensive than renewables, would you support renewables?"

JD,

The challenge is that nuclear is the only proven source of energy that has the proven capacity to reduce our dependence ofn oil or coal. There are no renewable sources that have been shown to be economically feasible to create any dent in the energy needs. And, before we start accusing me of protecting oil companies or the nuclear lobby, they haven't been proven to be economically viable at all, not just in comparison to anything else.

The challenge is that nuclear is the only proven source of energy that has the proven capacity to reduce our dependence ofn oil or coal.

Except for the tiny detail about how all nuclear power plants have to be expensively decommissioned thirty to forty years after they're built.

Marty, here's my argument about "economically feasible" for renewables.

Current US power production is about 50% coal amounting to about 2 trillion kWh annually.

Cost of new wind power right now is about $1,500 per kW. The capacity factor for wind is about 35% on average. After installation, the ongoing cost of power production from wind is about 1c/kWh, so pretty clearly the main impediment is the capital cost of replacing sunk-cost coal plants.

Obviously wind alone is not going to replace all of coal, but let's look at the cost of replacing half of coal - 25% of US power generation - with wind. That's 1 trillion kWh annually. With wind at a capacity factor of 35%, each installed kW of wind generation produces about 3,000 kWh annually.

So, producing 1 trillion kWh requires about 333 million kW of installed capacity. The current largest turbines are about 5MW, so you're talking maybe 100,000 really big turbines. On the other hand, the US is kind of gigantic. And at $1,500 per kW, the cost of that would be about $500 billion. That's assuming that costs of production are pretty constant.

That's not a small amount of money. Some of it will be paid back, though, because the day-to-day costs of wind generation are much lower than those of coal generation (wind turbines need oiling and the occasional coat of paint, coal needs you to continually bulldoze mountains into railcars). But certainly that would take a very long time, which to me is an argument for the government funding the investment, since the government operates over an effectively infinite time horizon whereas private corporations are much more focused on the immediate future. $500 billion over 5 or 10 years is still a lot of money, but it's less than (e.g.) the cost of the war in Iraq or the first Bush tax cuts or the stimulus bill.

And then my question is, can you really do the same with nukes for less? Nuclear plants also have low operating costs but they have enormous capital costs. Some figures here. The listed costs of construction are mostly over $3,000/kW, ranging up to $6,000 or more. Now the capacity factor of nukes is also much higher, 92% average in the US, so each installed kW gets you about 8,000 kWh annually, and so you only need about 125,000,000 kW of installed capacity to produce a trillion kWh annually. At $3,000/kW-installed that's $375 billion; at $5,000/kW-installed that $625 billion. We're certainly not talking about wholly incomparable numbers there. And those costs do not take into account somewhat higher running costs than wind, or the costs of waste disposal or decommissioning. Personally I think $5,000/kW is probably fair if you take those costs into account, and take into account the implicit cost of loan & liability guarantees from the federal government. Then you have to figure out where to site an additional 125GW of nuclear plants. Let's generously say that each plant is about 2GW - that's another 60 nuclear plants to be built.

I'm not saying they're incomparable. Rather, I'm saying that the I think it's a mistake to say that renewables are economically infeasible. (I also think you're going to have an easier time putting up 100,000 giant wind turbines than in siting 60 new nuclear plants, although building them at sites of existing coal plants could work out if you could persuade people just how bad coal is.)

Do those numbers not add up for you? I think you can make the argument that it isn't worth replacing half of US coal generation with clean generation for $500 billion, but I don't see how you can make the argument that it's worth doing as long as we build nuclear plant, but it's not worth doing if we have to build wind turbines. I don't get that.

(Those costs also do not take into account the fact that some percentage of coal plants need replacing every year - relative to replacing half of coal generation within a decade or so, it's not a major factor, and in any case it makes no difference whether it's wind or nuclear that replaces them.)

No, I believe that this steps over an extremely fuzzy line that everyone will place differently. I will say that this conversation has me more convinced that the authors themselves didn't think they were doing anything wrong.

OK, this is the last comment I'm going to make on the IPCC report (a grateful nation rejoices, etc) so this will have to do...

Heh. \Me sighs with relief.


Seriously, I appreciate the conversation. I think we'll probably have to agree to disagree on some of this stuff, but I think we understand each other better at least.

Just a couple last things (not trying to get the last word in, mostly these are completely separate debates we can probably save for another day...):

The heart of the issue was a graph that was supposed to show that the present warming is unprecedented in recent human history. That's quite an important point, since there were plenty of people living in, say, Northern Europe or coastal China in 1000AD and it does not seem that they experienced a climate catastrophe;

That's I think a very separate point from what we've been discussing. I believe the evidence so far is still that the medieval warm period was likely limited to the northern hemisphere, and mostly just Europe. That's something very different from the modern phenomenon of global warming. I think everyone would agree that a Copenhagen and a Shanghai that was a few degrees warmer would not be any kind of global catastrophe.

The problem , as I understand it, is the energy in the system. Global warming indicates that the total energy is increasing. More localized warming, as in the MWP, instead indicates a mere shift of the same moderate level energy from one place to another (via ocean currents, probably).

Discussion of how to evade FOIA requests, behind-the-scenes collusion on peer review, evident desire to keep out dissenting viewpoints from IPCC reports... the picture that gets painted is not very good.

I think you might want to re-read some of those and try to me more generous in your interpretation. As in the tree-ring graph discussion above, remember that there is a lot of exculpatory background context that is an assumed part of those discussion, and also that the email conversations themselves were cherry-picked to remove that context by whoever hacked and released them.

-- Specifically, any actual FOIA violations would be bad, but it's still unclear what exactly happened, as opposed to what people talked about. People merely grumping to each other about especially galling FOIA requests is NOT especially worrying or surprising.

-- I'm not sure what "collusion on peer review" refers to specifically. There's at least one incident I'm aware of in the emails that might fit the bill, but that was obviously not a bad thing at all. There was a break down in the peer review process where a particularly shoddy paper got through--not from the pro-GW side--and people were angry and trying to fix it. Sounds good to me.

-- And keeping out "dissenting viewpoints" from IPCC reports... Well, this really depends, doesn't it? You can imagine that in some cases it might be entirely appropriate to keep out viewpoints, that, in the editors' honest judgement, were either based on bad science, or that simply did not change the big picture in any meaningful way one way or the other, but might cloud it for lay readers.

But then, I don't think I share your view that the IPCC reports should be some kind of exhaustive survey of the available science. That is still available in the academic literature, it's not hidden, and I don't think it's the IPCC's job to cover all of it.

I think the IPCC reports should continue to be focused on (fairly) presenting the evidence for the consensus position. Especially considering the growing degree of politicization in the debate, which I think is absolutely a thing that needs to be taken into account in a report that is ultimately targeted at an audience of policy makers and laymen.

Jack, I read the paper, and I don't see how you think it helps you. They go through a vast number of possible causes of the divergence, and then they conclude that when tested, they don't apply to enough of the trees to make a convincing explanation. So they then say things like:

This review did not yield any consistent pattern that could shed light on whether one possible cause of divergence might be more likely than others. We conclude that a combination of reasons may be involved
that vary with location, species or other factors, and that clear identification of a sole cause for the divergence is probably unlikely.

This conclusion is a problem for your argument about the appropriateness of merely *assuming* that all the uncheckable data is ok. If there are so many variables that we can't figure out the proper annual temperature to ring correlation *while we are looking at it happen*, why should we assume that the theory describing the correlation is operating properly for the 700 years where we couldn't look at it happen?

Nothing in the paper you linked addresses that.

Seb -- there are an awful lot of other papers cited in D'Arrigo et al's summary. Have you read through the ones that seem most relevant to see if any of them either address your concerns or offer explanations for their conclusions? Academics generally do not go into a lot of depth supporting these sorts of analyses in overview papers because the purpose of the paper is to point other academics towards the papers that do the majority of the heavy lifting and not to reproduce that heavy lifting in a more accessible form.* One might have to dig through older papers establishing the correlation in the first place to see the reason why they believe that the results are temperature correlated rather than something else. The agnosticism of their conclusion itself works against your belief that the earlier correlation is an article of faith.

It seems to me that a reasonable inference here might be that more reading is in order rather than your own apparent assumption that no one in the field has ever bothered to consider that something besides temperature sensitivity might account for growth patterns or that the convergence was itself a short-term anomaly.

This conclusion is a problem for your argument about the appropriateness of merely *assuming* that all the uncheckable data is ok. If there are so many variables that we can't figure out the proper annual temperature to ring correlation *while we are looking at it happen*, why should we assume that the theory describing the correlation is operating properly for the 700 years where we couldn't look at it happen?

Nothing in the paper you linked addresses that.

Look at the differences between northern and southern latitudes, and the Cook paper.

You also need to understand the distinction between being able to tell when something wrong is happening--which we can--and being able to tell what is wrong exactly--which is more difficult.

I was also hoping you might be able to figure out from that paper that this is not "Mann's theory", but in fact a more or less well-developed branch of science with a large number of practitioners.

Sebastian: The paper jack linked to shows that the anomalies that you're concerned about are, in fact, matters of active scientific investigation in the field of dendrochronology. While ideally no field of science would have open questions that won't ever be the case for any active field.

The fact that it's under active investigation is relevant because to read your postings on it, a person would think that it's being ignored or covered up by the scientists who should study it.

It's inaccurate to accuse scientists of "assuming" that uncheckable past data is ok. Climate reconstructions incorporate several streams of data, there do exist tree-ring reconstructions that do not show the anomalies, work on evaluating and improving interpretation of tree-ring data is ongoing, and earlier citations in this discussion thread demonstrate that many reconstructions are robust (that they produce comparable results without strong dependence on the particular datasets used nor in reasonable variances in processing of that data).

I must ask whether you subject all scientific research to the skepticism you express here?

Do you, at least, acknowledge the consensus among climate researchers that (as phrased by the IPCC):

An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.

Note that I'm not asking if you agree with that, merely if you will acknowledge that this is the mainstream, consensus opinion of relevant knowledgeable experts?

"It's inaccurate to accuse scientists of "assuming" that uncheckable past data is ok. Climate reconstructions incorporate several streams of data, there do exist tree-ring reconstructions that do not show the anomalies, work on evaluating and improving interpretation of tree-ring data is ongoing, and earlier citations in this discussion thread demonstrate that many reconstructions are robust (that they produce comparable results without strong dependence on the particular datasets used nor in reasonable variances in processing of that data)."

The large weight of the long lived tree species do show the problems talked about in the paper. The whole problem is that it throws the averages way off, and they haven't found a legitimate reason to throw out the ones that don't agree with the temperature (legitimate being a method by which you could also exclude historical samples that exhibited the same problems). Therefore you either include the trees that don't fit with your theory until you can come up with a legitimate exclusionary technique, or you have to not use the tree data.

Either of those are legitimate responses. What Mann actually chose to do isn't. What he chose to do was omit the trees that had results he didn't like. That is cherry picking.

"The fact that it's under active investigation is relevant because to read your postings on it, a person would think that it's being ignored or covered up by the scientists who should study it."

No. They are investigating and reporting the problem areas. Fine. Mann was reporting in a summary article. His summary glossed over the problems, and in fact didn't even bother to footnote them. His graph is blatantly misleading because it either contains 500 years of data which is unverifiable, or it should contain 60 years of honest tree trending that is the 'wrong' way. Until you discover why the trees are trending the way they are, you can't exclude the possibility that they have done so in the past. Assuming that 500 unverifiable years are pristine while 60 out of the 120 verifiable years trend the wrong way isn't legitimate data analysis.

The linked paper doesn't draw a trend line from 500 unverifiable years. It confronts the 'problem'. Mann's graph not only fails to confront the problem, it actively obscures it by fudging the trendline.

"I must ask whether you subject all scientific research to the skepticism you express here?"

I think people put way to much trust in dodgy statistics. Yes.

Either of those are legitimate responses. What Mann actually chose to do isn't. What he chose to do was omit the trees that had results he didn't like. That is cherry picking.

Read the literature, Sebastian.

The limits and capabilities of this data are clearly understood a lot better than you seem to think they are. Mann's treatment of the data is the one recommended by the dendrochronologists who study both the trees and the "problem".

Saying the data is "unverifiable" is plain ignorance. I just don't know what else to call it.

"Mann's treatment of the data is the one recommended by the dendrochronologists who study both the trees and the "problem"."

Not by the study you linked.

What does the word unverifiable mean to you? Do you believe there were lots of thermometers available in the 1600s?

The trees still track the other proxies pretty well, so maybe you think the problem is with the thermometers?

What does the word unverifiable mean to you? Do you believe there were lots of thermometers available in the 1600s?

This is just really weird Sebastian. You seem like a basically smart guy. Not a troll anyway. And I keep pointing you to places where you can learn some of the nuances of this, or at least learn that such nuances exist. Yet you keep coming back with this same exact laughable talking-point version of what's going on.

Now, the linked papers come right out and say that they can't be absolutely certain (yet) that no such divergence has occurred. But they do say there are good indications that it hasn't, and the data can therefore be used with that understanding: i.e., with somewhat less confidence, but still used.

Not tossed out completely as you seem to believe it must be.

So why is it that you hold this cartoonish view that thermometers are the only way to verify something? On what scientific basis do you make that blanket assertion? And no, appeals to "common sense" or "basic statistics" don't count: much of what's done in science is quite clever and counterintuitive, and my faith that you're a world-class expert on all the intricate ins and outs of dendrochronology is very faint indeed.

So what is your response to the fact (attested in the Cook paper, for example) that the presence of a "divergence problem" in AD1600, say, can be checked for by looking for the hallmarks we see in the modern divergence? (Particularly, the marked divergence in very high northern latitude trees, but a lesser or non-divergence in other trees.)

Take a good hard look at Fig. 6. See if it soaks through.

Now consider that other kinds of data--tree ring density, isotopic data, stalagtite, ice core, etc.--all track the same, within their, admittedly sometimes wider, error margins. Is it your contention that ALL these data sources just decided to get their stories straight and start lying to us simultaneously?

And that's before we even get into all of the other things, like statistical or micro-site sorting techniques, some of which, as related in D'Arrigo et al, might eliminate the "divergence" effect altogether.

Not by the study you linked.

I didn't link to anything for that purpose, and I expect it's one of those things that doesn't need to be explained to experts in every single paper. But look at Mann's quote above.

Also, you might want to try to explain paragraphs like this [my emphasis], from the linked paper:

Temperature-sensitive chronologies have been developed from larch (Larix spp.) trees on the Taymir Peninsula, Siberia, the northernmost conifers on the globe (Jacoby et al., 2000). These trees exhibited a loss of thermal response of ring widths since ∼1970, and tree-ring/climate regression models were weakened if they included data from 1971–1989. Calibration and verification models were thus truncated in 1970 for the Jacoby et al. (2000) analysis. The Taymir trees were, however, found to be reliable recorders of temperature prior to 1970.

Or this:

The inability of many reconstruction models to verify in the recent period has compelled a number of researchers to eliminate recent decades from their calibration modeling, effectively shortening the available periods for direct calibration and verification testing between tree rings and climate (e.g., Briffa et al., 2001; Cook et al., 2004a; Rutherford et al., 2005; D'Arrigo et al., 2006). Another alternative is to use an empirical correction for the divergence effect (e.g., Briffa, 1992; Osborn et al., submitted for publication, Glob. Planet. Change).

I mean, is it your contention that all this "truncation" and "empirical correction" (related in a thoroughly matter-of-fact, unshocked tone by the survey's author) is malfeasance? Based on...your world-class expertise in dendrochronology?

Please.

The trees still track the other proxies pretty well, so maybe you think the problem is with the thermometers?

I don't know what "track the other proxies pretty well" means. They clearly don't. The trees don't even track each other well where the divergence is observed.

But I'll also note that in fact thermometers may be one of the problems. For the northern latitude trees where the divergence is most extreme, weather stations are sparse, and often at lower (warmer) altitudes or latitudes than the trees. You'd know that if you read D'Arrigo.

You don't seem to understand what empirical correction means in these studies. It means comparing the rings to the thermometer temperatures and then correcting to the thermometers.

If we knew why this was necessary that may or may not be appropriate depending on what was causing the divergence. If it is caused by drought sensitivity for example (one of the proposed explanations), we can't correct for that in the past because tree rings are one of the major ways we measure non-observable water access in historical forests. If it is solar radiation (another proposed explanation) we again can't correct for that in the past because there aren't good proxies for that available frm 1600. In fact almost all of proposed explanations are unfortunately not easy to check in the past record.

Correcting to the thermometers when you don't know what is causing the difference, isn't good though. Because you don't know for sure that you are correcting an error at all.

And you don't seem to be even willing to think about that problem. You are stuck in how perfectly ok these epicycles are because you are 'correcting' them against a real observation.

"They clearly don't. The trees don't even track each other well where the divergence is observed."

The trees don't track each other well *anywhere*. We have always had to use an average of the tree readings to get anything useful. The problem is when you start throwing out tree samples you don't like *without any good theoretical reason* just to make it look like the average tracks your theory.

The average doesn't track your theory. That is a problem with your theory not with the average, unless you can explain why it is happening.

Which, thus far, they cannot.

Now the paper you link is up front about that. In fact, in the middle of the paper they admit that if this continues without a good explanation, it calls into question the theory of using the tree samples as a proxy for temperature.

Mann is not up front about this. He still wants to use the historical tree data and present it as if there was no problem whatsoever.

You don't seem to understand what empirical correction means in these studies. It means comparing the rings to the thermometer temperatures and then correcting to the thermometers.

Something like that, yes. Which is exactly what I understood it to mean. I was pointing to the fact that this, along with "truncating", is an accepted practice, with well understood tradeoffs and regimes of acceptability. One performed by people who have studied this and similar problems for years. And who have collectively submitted hundreds of papers to peer review and critical professors. And face hundreds of hungry graduate students eager to take a piece out of them. And who in all ways understand the science, the data, the processing techniques and the problems far, far better than both of us put together.

To counter that, you're coming at them with...amateur, handwavy backseat scientizing. Clung to tenaciously.

I'm sorry, but that's not convincing, and that's not skepticism. It's treading dangerously close to crackpottery.

In fact almost all of proposed explanations are unfortunately not easy to check in the past record.

"Not easy" is science's middle name. Seriously, how is this anything but an argument from incredulity? There probably all kinds of clever ways to check these things, to the extent it is necessary at all. (And, for the purposes of addressing your concerns, that answer is 'not much'.)

And you don't seem to be even willing to think about that problem. You are stuck in how perfectly ok these epicycles are because you are 'correcting' them against a real observation.

Not willing to think about it? I've spent pages addressing this supposed problem you see. Meanwhile I've said absolutely nothing about any such "correcting" against a real observation. I have no idea where you got that, or even what you mean by it...

The trees don't track each other well *anywhere*. We have always had to use an average of the tree readings to get anything useful.

Feel free to clarify, but AFAICT, yes the trees DO track each other well, or did.

Although a temperature-limited tree in the Yukon and one in California obviously wouldn't be expected to indicate the same exact temperature, they do track the same rises and falls going back hundreds of years exactly as we'd expect. Until the "divergence", at which point some of the trees (maybe the one in California) continue to track thermometers reasonably well, while other (like the one in Alaska) don't. Different trees in different regions, sometimes trees right next to each other, start going in different directions. It's not simply that the trees are looking left when the thermometers are looking right, it's that these trees have gone crosseyed, when they never have in the recorded past.

Really weird coincidence that the trees somehow magically jibe all those hundreds of years, then suddenly start swinging wildly in opposite directions just 50 or so years ago isn't it? How do you explain that?

(I'll add another thing here, yet another illustration of the unexpected things you can use to verify things: volcanism. We have independent ways of dating major volcanic eruptions, and their severity, and we can check a proxy record for the expected dips.)

The problem is when you start throwing out tree samples you don't like *without any good theoretical reason* just to make it look like the average tracks your theory.

The fundamental problem is actually this: Who are you to judge who has a "good theoretical reason" for doing what they're doing? That's nothing but hubristic, amateur--literally ignorant--second guessing. And utterly unconvincing.

That goes double because characterizations like this make it clear to even me that you don't particularly understand the "theory" at all. Your characterizations read like a cartoon.

To start with, it might be helpful to know which samples we're talking about throwing out right now.

I mean, say we're talking about a set of samples collected from a particular mountain in Alaska. The samples exhibit the divergence problem starting in about 1970.

So, (A) we might want to calibrate that data set with a period ending before the divergence starts, i.e., "throwing out" data points (not samples) after 1970, and building a proxy that's good for, say, the period 1300-1970 rather than 1300-2010.

Or, (B) we might want to "throw out" that data set completely, and just limit ourselves to the large collection of data sets that don't exhibit divergence, like the Siberian pines from the Sol Dav site in Mongolia.

I don't see a problem with either, as circumstances suit, but it'd be helpful to know which one you're criticizing.

The average doesn't track your theory. That is a problem with your theory not with the average, unless you can explain why it is happening.

It's not a problem with either the theory OR the "average" (which is a bizarre characterization itself: what "average" do you mean?).

This is what you don't seem to understand. Tree's not being temperature sensitive is not a "problem" at all for the theory. Most trees aren't. The "theory" just says that trees require a number of conditions to be satisfied in order to add girth: water, light, soil nutrients, CO2, temperature. The exact details of the requirements obviously vary by tree and by region.

For good temperature proxy trees, you want ones that are "temperature sensitive": perhaps trees that grow at some kind of extreme altitude or latitude, where they do any growing they can during a few short weeks of warmth in summer or something. (Again, the exact details depend on the region and the tree).

So, in a very real sense you know exactly what is happening when trees stop tracking temperature: they've lost temperature sensitivity. They're limited by something else. This is not some gob-smacking challenge to the "theory". It's a pair of more minor puzzles we must use the theory to figure out: (1) what is the something else is?, and (2) have there have been any periods of similarly weakened temperature sensitivity in the past?

Although a good answer to (1) would certainly help with (2), and vice versa, they are also independent questions. Thus far the answer to (1) is that it's complicated, and the answer will be in different combinations for different trees, but probably something to do with a combination of processing anomalies (e.g., microsite or sorting effects) and anthropogenic factors (warming, pollution, etc.). The answer to (2) is, we can't say for certain (yet), but there don't appear to be. The combination of the two lends support to the idea that it's likely in large part a modern anthropogenic phenomenon that wouldn't have affected trees in AD1300.

Now the paper you link is up front about that. In fact, in the middle of the paper they admit that if this continues without a good explanation, it calls into question the theory of using the tree samples as a proxy for temperature.

Which one? D'Arrigo or Cook? Point me to the page number. The former says the "principal issue" for proxy reconstructions is just that you can't use recent decades to calibrate. The question of whether it's occurred in the past is merely in "other important issues" (and, again, they conclude that it doesn't look like it has, though we can't say so unequivocally without more research).

Although the calibration problem makes it "more difficult" to directly compare past temperatures to very recent ones, it's not impossibly by any means. They certainly don't claim that these trees are useless...

Mann is not up front about this. He still wants to use the historical tree data and present it as if there was no problem whatsoever.

Assuming for the sake of argument that you can establish he really isn't "up front" about it when he should be, how does this even pass the laugh test?

Is it your idea that Mann just kinda hoped nobody would notice the mile-long bibliography of literature on the divergence problem, some of which he himself has written about or contributed to? Seriously?

Isn't the more probable answer that he simply used the data in a manner consistent with it's published, understood limits, and thus didn't feel the need to explain extensively?

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