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February 17 2012

21:40

Climategate victims chide Heartland double standard

A group of top-tier climate scientists who were victimized in the email theft known as Climategate has written to the Heartland Institute, sympathizing that the Institute is reading its own confidential documents in the public press, but chiding the "think tank" for how irresponsibly it dealt with the stolen emails.

In a letter printed in The Guardian, the scientists say,

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

The signatories were Michael Mann, Kevin Trenberth, Ray Bradley, Jonathan Overpeck, Ben Santer, Gavin Schmidt and David Karoly, a relative who's who of climate science excellence.

They point out that when the Climategate emails were stolen, Heartland took bits and pieces out of context (and, we would add, advocated for punitive action against the scientists on the basis of these manipulations). At no time did the institute suggest that the hackers who breached the East Anglia University security system to steal the emails had been in the wrong to do so.

In the case at hand, (and as Heartland explains in its own press release) an anonymous "Heartland Insider" asked the Institute to mail the entire briefing package for its January board meeting - and Heartland complied. Having received that package, the DeSmogBlog checked the content against research we had in hand to confirm its authenticity. Then we published it - in its entirety, so there could be no doubt about the context - on our website on Valentines's Day.

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April 28 2011

13:48

"Listen to All The Facts"

I have great admiration for Ben Santer. Not only is he a top climate scientist, but the guy went through brutal and unfair political attacks concerning the IPCC report in 1995. (Some of that story is here.) I’m glad Santer is being honored this year by being elected as a fellow of the American Geophysical Union--a development that, predictably, Joe Romm hails and Anthony Watts mocks.

However, I must confess that I literally received a jolt reading the Lawrence Livermore National Lab press release about this. It goes like this:

Ben Santer is a man with a lot of accolades under his belt: A recipient of the MacArthur "genius" grant; an E.O.Lawrence Award; a Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Distinguished Scientist Fellowship; contributor to all four assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore; and now an American Geophysical Union fellowship. 

But he'd give all the awards up if it meant he could present his research on human-induced climate change to a patient audience -- an audience that would listen to all the facts before making judgments about reality of a "discernible human influence" on climate.

To which I'm afraid my first thought was: Like how the birthers sat back and carefully contemplated the new information when Obama released his birth certificate to them yesterday?<!--break-->

Now, I know that Santer (or whoever wrote this press release) have the best of goals in mind. But the fact is that, beyond perhaps an audience of their peers, climate scientists are never going to get to lecture about their research to a captive public audience with lots of patience and no preconceptions. Public communication is almost never like this.

And even if it was, it’s impossible even for scientists to lay out the facts without frames, judgments, narratives. Those narratives, in turn, evoke emotions, in both audiences and among those who choose to tell them. And emotions integrally shape how we reason, sometimes for the better, sometimes very much for the worse.

Recently, I did a podcast with George Lakoff, author of many influential books, including most recently The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain. Lakoff’s argument is that too many of us—liberals and scientists, especially—are strangely wedded to an outdated 18th century view of the mind, according to which reason is dispassionate, logical, disembodied, objective, and so forth. Lakoff calls this the “old Enlightenment” view.

The “New Enlightenment,” by contrast, uses science itself to understand how people reason. Its answers are a lot more frustrating and depressing, and often mindboggling, but they have the virtue of being accurate and based on the emerging science of the human mind.

The good news is this: In my experience, scientists are open to following the evidence about communication, and persuasion, wherever it leads. They just need some nudging--and, reasonably enough, they need to see the evidence. Well, it is compiling very rapidly now. Let's heed it!

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

November 27 2010

03:13

2010 In Review: Scientists and Journalists Take Stock and Share Lessons Learned

 

There's no doubt about it. It’s been a challenging year for climate science and climate scientists, for journalists, and for the public. A string of legislative and regulatory disappointments coupled with dizzying political spin have left many more confused than ever about the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate change. 

It's been a particularly grim year following the Citizens United decision that ushered in a new era of rampant electoral spending on climate change denial; the U.S. midterm elections produced a Senate filled with climate change skeptics and deniers; a failed climate bill or two, and after the Copenhagen talks failed to produce any real results.  In addition, many pundits and analysts are giving us good reason to believe the U.S. won't see a climate bill for two years, and little reason to believe that real climate progress will be made in Cancun next week. it seems there's a lot of reason to feel distressed.  

Last week marked a year since the so-called Climategate "scandal" sent climate change deniers into an echo chamber frenzy.  Bud Ward and John Wihbey aptly note that to even call it “climategate” lends it credence that is undeserved.  But, it is important that we try to learn lessons from it.   This certainly won't be the last difficult year for the climate change movement; an increasingly challenging political environment promises more interesting times ahead, both for the science and for the scientists who devote their lives to the subject.  In a nutshell, we've got our work cut out for us. <!--break-->

In this great two part series from the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, Ward and Wihbey explore what climate scientists have learned in the last year, and share what the reporters whose responsibility it is to share and help evaluate their findings have learned. 

Peter H. Gleik of the Pacific Institute writes,

...there is an improved realization of how impossible it is to keep the climate science questions and debates separate from the political and ideological debates. And I hope we’ve learned the importance of communicating accurately and constantly. Being passive in the face of political repression, ideological misuse of science, and policy ignorance moves us in the wrong direction. I would like to think the community has learned that depending on the “honesty” and “impartiality” of journalism is not enough … that without strong input from climate scientists, the wrong stories get reported, with bad information, and ideological bias.

Similarly, Andrew Revkin writes, 

If science media tried to sustain coverage of science (including climate science) as a process, including the ugly parts, the public might be less apt to be surprised by occasional revelations of conflict like those illuminated through the batch of hacked/liberated (pick your adjective depending on your worldview) e-mails and files.

Beware the lure of the front-page thought in gauging developments in complicated science pointing to a rising human influence on climate, lest you end up giving readers whiplash. Try rigorously to include context on the overall state of knowledge when framing stories on science around conflict, given that conflict is a constant in science.

Develop patience. The story of humanity’s entwined climate and energy challenges will outlive you. No single treaty, meeting, e-mail hack, IPCC report, or climate bill is a keystone.

Read on about climate scientists' and journalists inspiring and thoughtful lessons and ruminations on the 'climate' of climate change in the last year at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media (Part IPart II). 

 

May 18 2010

20:34

House Select Committee Hearing Thursday On Political Attacks Against Climate Scientists

The U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing on Thursday to examine the recent string of politically-motivated attacks against climate scientists.

Several prominent climate scientists will testify and field questions at the hearing, entitled “Climate Science in the Political Arena,” including some who have been targets of such political attacks themselves.

Look for plenty of questions from the GOP minority about the Climategate non-scandal that deniers remain obsessed with, despite the exoneration by the British House of Commons of the CRU scientists at the University of East Anglia targeted by the hackers.

<!--break-->Here is the full press announcement from the Committee:

Next Hearing 5/20: Climate Science in the Political Arena
Select Committee hearing to examine attacks against climate scientists

The scientists involved in the stolen climate emails from the University of East Anglia were exonerated by the British House of Commons and an international panel of climate experts, led by Lord Oxburgh. Even after these investigations found that nothing in the emails undercut the scientific evidence of climate change, attacks against scientists continue. Reports of harassment, death threats and legal challenges have created a hostile environment, making it challenging for actual data and scientific analyses to reach the public and policymakers.

On Thursday, May 20th, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing to examine the intersection between climate science and the political process.  This hearing, entitled “Climate Science in the Political Arena,” will feature prominent climate scientists, some of whom have been the target of these attacks. This hearing will explore scientists’ ability to present data and information that can guide global warming solutions in a sometimes fierce political landscape.

WHAT: Climate Science in the Political Arena

WHEN: Thursday May 20, 2010, 9:00 AM

WHERE: 1334 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC and online

WITNESS LIST:

Dr. Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences and Chair of the National Research Council
Dr. Mario Molina, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Professor, University of California at San Diego
Dr. Stephen Schneider, Professor, Stanford University
Dr. Ben Santer, Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Dr. William Happer, Professor, Princeton University

March 26 2010

17:01

Greenpeace Releases 20-Year History of Climate Denial Industry

Greenpeace released a terrific report today on the 20-year campaign by polluters to mislead the public by creating the climate denial industry. 

The new report succinctly explains how fossil fuel interests used the tobacco industry’s playbook and an extensive arsenal of lobbyists and “experts” for hire in order to manufacture disinformation designed to confuse the public and stifle action to address climate change.

In the report, titled "Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science," Greenpeace provides a brief history of the attacks waged by polluting industries against climate science, the IPCC and individual scientists.

ExxonMobil deservedly gets special attention for its role as the ringleader of the "campaign of denial."  As Greenpeace has documented meticulously over the years with its ExxonSecrets website, ExxonMobil is known to have invested over $23 million since 1998 to bankroll an entire movement of climate confusionists, including over 35 anti-science and right wing nonprofits, to divert attention away from the critical threat of climate disruption caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels.

The report, authored by Greenpeace climate campaigner Cindy Baxter, calls out by name a number of key climate skeptics and deniers who have worked with industry front groups to confuse the public, including S. Fred Singer, John Christy, Richard Lindzen, David Legates, Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon, Tim Ball, Pat Michaels and many other figures familiar to DeSmog Blog readers.
<!--break-->
A number of the key “think tanks” at the forefront of the attacks on climate science - including the Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute – are also examined for their climate denial work on behalf of oil and coal interests.

Greenpeace explains how the network of denial was created in the early 1990s to dissuade politicians from taking action to prevent climate change.  Chief among these early groups were the Global Climate Coalition, the Climate Council and the Information Council on the Environment (ICE). 

The report also provides a brief history of the attacks launched against each of the IPCC’s scientific assessment reports dating back to 1990, noting the key players involved in each successive attack leading up to the present day attempts to tarnish the IPCC’s reputation and to falsely suggest that a debate still exists among climate scientists.

Personal attacks endured by climate scientists, especially key contributors to the IPCC reports, are also discussed in some detail, including the virulent attacks by the climate denial industry against reputed scientists like Michael Mann, Ben Santer, and Kevin Trenberth.

Greenpeace also calls out Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and other members of Congress who are beholden to polluting industries through campaign contributions, and who regularly aid and abet the climate denial industry by promoting the false and misleading claims of deniers and skeptics on Capitol Hill.

Finally, “Dealing in Doubt” notes the escalation of the denial campaign during the administration of George W. Bush, when key White House and regulatory agency positions were filled with polluter lobbyists. 

The placement of Philip Cooney, a lawyer and lobbyist who spent 15 years at the American Petroleum Institute before he was picked as chief of staff in the Bush White House Council on Environmental Quality, serves as a key example.  Days after the New York Times broke the story that Cooney had made extensive edits on government scientific reports on global warming, Cooney resigned to go work for ExxonMobil.  

“Dealing in Doubt” is recommended reading for anyone looking for a brief primer on the history of the denial industry’s relentless campaign against science and reason.  It should be required reading for members of Congress, the mainstream media, and others who continue to be duped by the climate denial industry.

February 04 2010

16:24

Douglass and Christy: Bad science; disingenuous commentary

David Douglass and John Christy (inset) are lousy scientists who flee from structured, peer-reviewed debate and then generously misrepresent the facts in opinion pieces published by ideologically driven websites; at least, that’s the inevitable conclusion from an open letter (attached) from Lawrence Livermore National Lab scientist Ben Santer.

Santer is more measured in his language and criticism. He doesn't call Douglass et al "lousy scientists," but he points out with great care that their science is lousy. In particular, a paper that they had written in the International Journal of Climatology with B.D. Pearson and S. Fred Singer was flawed by a statistical error so egregious that it should never have seen the light of day.

After a writing team led by Santer ripped the article apart – carefully, methodically – Douglass and Christy howled about imagined censorship and manipulation in scientific publishing, but made no actual effort to respond in the journal in question, preferring to take their complaints to websites where no one would double-check their facts.

Now, they have used the theft of the East Anglia emails to revive their complaints, wondering aloud on the right-wingy website American Thinker about whether there is A Climatology Conspiracy?

<!--break-->The argument is pathetic. Subjected to criticism for poor quality work, Douglass, et al, fail to respond to the criticism and then claim a conspiracy to keep them silent. And the consistently unreliable Dr. S. Fred Singer, is now nowhere to be seen, regardless that he was only too happy to earn a publishing credit by lending his name to the original article, and who publicized it in a U.S. National Press Club conference announcing, “Nature rules the climate: Human-produced greenhouse gases are not responsible for global warming.”

 

This is yet one more example of how the denierguys have used, and will continue to use, the emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the East Anglia University in Norwich, UK. They will scramble out of their holes, take a couple of cheap shots, declare climate science mortally wounded and then, just at the point they might otherwise have adduced evidence, they will disappear. Would that those intervals were longer.   

AttachmentSize SanterOpenLetter3_v5.pdf545.94 KB

December 03 2009

02:08

Ben Santer Savages the CRU Email Thieves

Ben Santer, a climate researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has written a long, but very worthy lette, blasting the thieves who hacked into the East Anglia Univesity's Climatic Research Unit and defending its erstwhile director, Dr. Phil Jones.

Santer, who has made a global reputation by "mining" historical climate data to advance scientific understanding, says that in the wake of the email thefts, a different kind of mining is currently underway - a form that isn't interested in advancing science in the least.

"This form of mining seeks to find dirt - to skew true meaning, to distort, to misrepresent, to take out of context. It seeks to destroy the reputations of exceptional scientists - scientists like Professor Phil Jones."

The full letter is reproduced below:

<!--break--> Dear colleagues and friends,

I am sure that by now, all of you are aware of the hacking incident which recently took place at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU). This was a criminal act. Over 3,000 emails and documents were stolen. The identity of the hacker or hackers is still unknown.

The emails represented private correspondence between CRU scientists and scientists at climate research centers around the world. Dozens of the stolen emails are from over a decade of my own personal correspondence with Professor Phil Jones, the Director of CRU.

I obtained my Ph.D. at the Climatic Research Unit. I went to CRU in 1983 because it was - and remains - one of the world's premier institutions for studying the nature and causes of climate change. During the course of my Ph.D., I was privileged to work together with exceptional scientists - with people like Tom Wigley, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, and Sarah Raper.

After completing my Ph.D. at CRU in 1987, I devoted much of my scientific career to what is now called "climate fingerprinting", which seeks to understand the causes of recent climate change. At its core, fingerprinting is a form of what people now call "data mining" - an attempt to extract information and meaning from very large, complex climate datasets. The emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit are now being subjected to a very different form of "data mining". This mining is taking place in the
blogosphere, in the editorial pages of various newspapers, and in radio and television programs. This form of mining has little to do with extracting meaning from personal email correspondence on complex scientific issues. This form of mining seeks to find dirt - to skew true meaning, to distort, to misrepresent, to take out of context. It seeks to destroy the reputations of exceptional scientists - scientists like Professor Phil Jones.

I have known Phil for over 25 years. He is the antithesis of the secretive, "data destroying" character being portrayed to the outside world by the miners of dirt and disinformation. Phil Jones and Tom Wigley (the second Director of the Climatic Research Unit) devoted significant portions of their scientific careers to the construction of the land component of the so-called "HadCRUT" dataset of land and ocean surface temperatures. The U.K. Meteorological Office Hadley Centre (MOHC) took the lead in developing the ocean surface temperature component of HadCRUT.

The CRU and Hadley Centre efforts to construct the HadCRUT dataset have been open and transparent, and are documented in dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers. This work has been tremendously influential. In my personal opinion, it is some of the most important scientific research ever published. It has provided hard scientific evidence for the warming of our planet over the past 150 years.

Phil, Tom, and their CRU and MOHC colleagues conducted this research in a very open and transparent manner. Like good scientists, they examined the sensitivity of their results to many different subjective choices made during the construction of the HadCRUT dataset. These choices relate to such issues as how to account for changes over time in the type of thermometer used to make temperature measurements, the thermometer location, and the immediate physical surroundings of the thermometer. They found that, no
matter what choices they made in dataset construction, their bottom-line finding - that the surface of our planet is warming - was rock solid. This finding was supported by many other independent lines of evidence, such as the retreat of snow and sea-ice cover, the widespread melting and retreat of glaciers, the rise in sea-level, and the increase in the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. All of these independent observations are physically consistent with a warming planet.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. The claim that our Earth had warmed markedly during the 20th century was extraordinary, and was subjected to extraordinary scrutiny. Groups at the National Climatic Data Center in North Carolina (NCDC) and at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York (GISS) independently attempted to reproduce the results of the Climatic Research Unit and the U.K. Meteorological Office Hadley Centre. While the NCDC and GISS groups largely relied on the same primary temperature measurements that had been used in the development of the HadCRUT dataset, they made very different choices in the treatment of the raw measurements. Although there were differences in the details of the
three groups' results, the NCDC and GISS analyses broadly confirmed the "warming Earth" findings of the CRU and MOHC scientists.

Other extraordinary claims - such as a claim by scientists at the University of Alabama that Earth's lower atmosphere cooled since 1979, and that such cooling contradicts "warming Earth" findings - have not withstood rigorous scientific examination.

In summary, Phil Jones and his colleagues have done a tremendous service to the scientific community - and to the planet - by making surface temperature datasets publicly available for scientific research. These datasets have facilitated climate research around the world, and have led to the publication of literally hundreds of important scientific papers.

Phil Jones is one of the gentlemen of our field. He has given decades of his life not only to cutting-edge scientific research on the nature and causes of climate change, but also to a variety of difficult and time-consuming community service activities - such as his dedicated (and repeated) service as a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Since the theft of the CRU emails and their public dissemination, Phil has been subjected to the vilest personal attacks. These attacks are without justification. They are deeply disturbing. They should be of concern to all of you. We are now faced with powerful "forces of unreason" - forces that (at least to date) have been unsuccessful in challenging scientific findings of a warming Earth, and a "discernible human influence" on global climate. These forces of unreason are now shifting the focus of their attention to
the scientists themselves. They seek to discredit, to skew the truth, to misrepresent. They seek to destroy scientific careers rather than to improve our understanding of the nature and causes of climate change.

Yesterday, Phil temporarily stepped down as Director of the Climatic Research Unit. Yesterday was a very sad day for climate science. When the forces of unreason win, and force exceptional scientists like Professor Phil Jones to leave their positions, we all lose. Climate science loses. Our community loses. The world loses.

Now, more than at any other time in human history, we need sound scientific information on the nature and causes of climate change. Phil Jones and his colleagues at CRU have helped to provide such information.
I hope that all of you will join me in thanking Phil for everything he has done - and will do in the future - for our scientific community. He and his CRU colleagues deserve great credit.

With best regards,

Ben Santer

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