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« Gavin says the uncertainties are huge | Main | Bolt on Wigley »
Wednesday
Dec092009

Follow the money

This is stolen from the comments at WUWT:

A reader commented as follows:

... it is possible that this is just a big conspiracy by climate scientist around the world to boost their cause and make themselves more important. Though I find it hard to believe that thousands of scientists...all agreed to promote bogus science ...Pretty hard to do without being discovered.

To which another reader, a scientist named Paul Vaughan, responded as follows:

Actually not so hard.

Personal anecdote:
Last spring when I was shopping around for a new source of funding, after having my funding slashed to zero 15 days after going public with a finding about natural climate variations, I kept running into funding application instructions of the following variety:

Successful candidates will:
1) Demonstrate AGW.
2) Demonstrate the catastrophic consequences of AGW.
3) Explore policy implications stemming from 1 & 2.

Follow the money — perhaps a conspiracy is unnecessary where a carrot will suffice.

This confirms the stories that I've been hearing over the last few years.

 

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  • Response
    Response: Follow the Money
    This is hearsay but I would give it a good chance of being accurate. From Bishop Hill: Follow the moneyThis is stolen from the comments at WUWT:A reader commented as follows:… it is possible that this is just a big...

Reader Comments (51)

Some time ago (15 - 20 years ?) UK university departments stopped getting full government funding for pure blue sky research and thinking.

They have been encouraged to attract outside/industrial fuinding, in fact this has become a major part of running any sort of research these days.

Having the IPCC or UK government on side is a big incentive for climate researchers to get the 'right' results.

Wasn't it £13 million Jones received over a number of years?

Dec 9, 2009 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterNial

Isn't that the one great lesson of Economics: "incentives matter"?

Dec 9, 2009 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Further to my previous posts (Darwin thread) on "has any UK analysis been done on raw UK data, and how much as CET (Central England stats) been manipulated and why?"

Just seen an article on "Englishman Castle" dated December 8th entitled Willis Escenbach debates with Parker on CET adjustments! Looks interesting.

Regarding real UK ( esp. Scottish) raw data from the GHCN online series I can only access graph output not data behind the graphs. Is there another way?

Lastly thanks to Cumbrian Lad for his link to the work he's done on CET in the Darwin thread.

Dec 9, 2009 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark, Edinburgh

If Paul can produce the (one or several) funding application(s) so desribed, that would be rather meaningful. Until then, I'm afraid its hearsay.

Dec 9, 2009 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterkdk33

Mark, for the raw data go to the page you were on with the graph, now look carefully underneath and you will find a heading DOWNLOADS. You can download monthly data as text and then open say excel and open the file and excel will try to import it into cells. Save as xls and away you go. (I'm assuming you are going to review it in excel so ignore that bit if you are not).

Dec 9, 2009 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheSkyIsFalling

Would anyone even be offered a role in a "Climate Science" department or research project if their view did not accept the existing "groupthink". This seems to confirm it from another angle.

Dec 9, 2009 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy McMenemy

A similar anecdote:

A friend is a lecturer in a Higher Education establishment (an agricultural college in fact; I won't say more because there are not many and he won't want to be identified).

He showed me their prospectus for next year's courses. It is entirely stuffed with wibble about "green farming", "environmental" this that and the next thing, "low-carbon" so-and-so, and is suffused with the underlying assumption that the AGW hypothesis is completely true and unchallengeable.

I commented on this.

He agreed, and pointed out that "if you don't do this stuff, you won't get any funding".

Q.E.D.

Dec 9, 2009 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter MacFarlane

Slightly OT; a farming friend was advised that if he didn't go into a "Stewardship scheme" he would be targetted for an endless stream of inspections and petty prosecutions until he submitted.

Apologies for pseudonym (bishop, the email is real), but the number of bulls**t prosecutions the poor guy has received so far mean that he'd soon be looking at a stay in prison if he got more.

Dec 9, 2009 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of a peasant

I fear that this comment is only too true. HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) want to base 25% of research assessment on the economic value of research and it's societal impact. What do they mean by societal impact. They mean research that makes major changes to the way society responds to issues. It's all part of post-modern science.

As an interesting comment a few months back I reviewed a short technical paper on gas diffucion through butyl rubber septa that are used to seal sampling vials (vacutainers etc.) The opening sentence in the introduction was 'With the onset of global warming.....'

Dec 9, 2009 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterSplice

With all this discussion of CET, no one seems to have recommended the web site of Dr Wilson Flood who has made an extensive study: http://mclean.ch/climate/England_Scotland.htm

Dec 9, 2009 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterPartington

Or as others have noted, maybe the most damning email from the CRU circle is this July 2005 message from Phil Jones to climatologist John Christy of the University of Alabama: “As you know, I’m not political. If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn’t being political, it is being selfish.”

In other words, he — like a lot of other climate scientists around the world — has a vested interest in the issue.

The world needs more sober, dispassionate analyses of the data by experts outside the field — statisticians and economists especially.

Dec 9, 2009 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuke Lea

Here we go. The UK's Natural Environment Research Council has a Funding News page

This is where your taxes are going:

8 Dec: Climate Geo-engineering
4 Dec: Ocean Acidification
4 Dec: Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation
1 Dec: Postgrad skills needs
1 Dec: Technology Proof of Concept
27 Nov: Reducing uncertainty in models for environmental decision-making

And so on... (these are just the top ones)

It's a mixture of eco-babble and solipsism - some include both.

Dec 9, 2009 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

If someone could compile evidence of these funding incentives for AGW, that would be very helpful. It's not that I don't believe Mr. (Dr?) Vaughan, but proof is always stronger than belief. Scanned copies of applications, or screen shots of applications on webpages, would be strong evidence of this bias in funding.

Dec 9, 2009 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Arthur

How scientists arrive at a consensus:

From Email from the Climate Research Unit - 1254832684.txt - October 2009
Hi Phil,
...
(I'm in the process of trying to persuade Siemens Corp. (a company with half a million employees in 190 countries!) to donate me a little cash to do some CO2 measurments here in the UK - looking promising, so the last thing I need is news articles calling into question (again) observed temperature increases
...
Kind regards,
Andrew

Dec 9, 2009 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterHankHenry

I always reply to the "conspiracy" question that "It doesn't take a conspiracy to get the lemmings off the cliff, just a follow-the-leader mentality."

Dec 9, 2009 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterKenneth P. Green

Quite often many people bring up the Eisenhower quote about the military-industrial complex. What is quite often left out is another part of that same thought. He stated that it was not a good idea for the Federal Government to become heavily involved in research.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/12/the_scientific_technological_e.html

And that is where we are with this AGW nonsense.

Dec 9, 2009 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin_S

We are seeing the corruption of higher education and research by the Government to produce post-modern science.

Dec 9, 2009 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRCSz

in the uk, there have been several recent initiatives from the research councils on how to deal with and how to estimate the consequences of global warming.
by comparison, i think there is little on actually determining whether global warming is real.

Dec 9, 2009 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterper

Poor Paul! Unless he used a fake name, he's definately out of the funding loop now.

Dec 9, 2009 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

kdk33, on the same basis, until CRU (and others) shows the original data and their (intelligible) workings, their "value added data" are just anecdotes with no scientific value.

Dec 9, 2009 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterEd Snack

Well looking at the fringe benefits like the $300 million dollar Copenhagen junket, as well as various other lavish climate conferences as well as better funding, easier peer review, easier acceptance of publication of material - any career scientist would only have 1 choice - well that is if he/she has no conscience.

Dec 9, 2009 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered Commentertwawki

"He stated that it was not a good idea for the Federal Government to become heavily involved in research."

Power corrupts and the power of Government monies raining down from politically motivated elites corrupts absolutely.

http://www.epa.gov/region09/climatechange/grants.html
http://southwestfarmpress.com/energy/renewable-energy-research-1029/
http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/stim09c.htm
"The final bill provides $3.5 billion for energy R&D at the Department of Energy (DOE) and would fund climate change-related projects in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)"

$3.5 BILLION!

Dec 9, 2009 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatrick M.

Many years ago in the UK there were two presenters of "nature" programmes on TV. One was David Bellamy and the other was David Attenborough.

We do not see David Bellamy now and this has been the case for many years. Here is a link to his story http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/6598056/Eco-hero-David-Bellamy-botanist-and-campaigner.html.

David Attenborough has just been on BBC2 frightening the viewers about world population. I have had to stop watching because it is full of contradictions and misinformation. He is also on BBC1 in about an hour talking about global warming. I shall give it a go but I suspect that it will be the usual guff.

Dec 9, 2009 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrowned_Off

There may be conspiratorial elements, but overall it is a confederacy, not conspiracy. A "perfect storm" of separate interests, in increasing order-- universities and profs who want fundings, government bureaucracies addicted to special AGW funding, European neo-imperialists with passions to control humanity, politicians looking for tax revenues to bless on friends' programs, and most of all, the carbon instrument trading interest, private and governmental (the latter, UK, Norway, so on.)

Dec 9, 2009 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered Commentercgco2

Way OT, I know but... BBC1 showing "Hot Planet" at 10:45pm (9/12/09). I hope it doesn't suffer the same number of complaints to Ofcom, as "The Great Global Warming Swindel" did in 2007 according to Wikipedia (a fine example of peer reviewed work if ever there was one !)

Dec 9, 2009 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterhobble

Mr/Dr Vaughn wasn't an employee at the CRU was he ?

Dec 9, 2009 at 11:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAyrdale

@Ed Snack

I agree (100%).

Its not that I don't believe Paul, but a scanned posted copy of one of those funding applications would make a powerful statement. Until then, its hearsay,hence less powerful.

Didn't mean to be rude, just candid.

Dec 9, 2009 at 11:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterkdk33

This may seem off-topic, but bear with me please:
I'm currently reading a book called "Bad Science: The short life and wierd times of Cold Fusion" by Gary Taubes (1993).

Anyone remember Cold Fusion? Two chemists, Pons and Fleischmann, in 1989 announced that they had discovered a way to induce cold (room-temperature) nuclear fusion using relatively simple and cheap lab desktop equipment. Amid the furore surrounding this announcement it turned out that a guy called Steve Jones had also been working on something very similar, and he also made an announcement.

Physicists who knew about fusion were sceptical from the start, but many other people, including more generalist scientists were very interested, and many firms, state and national governments even more so, to the point of being prepared to throw millions of dollars into continuing the research.

Well, of course, it didn't come to anything, but for a while, it looked like it might. At the time I was working in a UK publicly-funded lab that had a very tangential role in trying to reproduce the the results (almost no-one could, although some fairly prominent labs thought they had for a while). Although I wasn't a physicist, I'd always been interested in Physics, and these were heady days indeed. Excitement was in the air.

Well, it seems to me that the case of MMGW and Cold Fusion have some things in common, although they also differ considerably.

In Common: A group of scientists were convinced of something although they were not able to realistically prove it, and they went on believing it long after the evidence for it stopped being convincing.
Large amounts of money were thrown at the idea, in spite of very little real evidence being presented.

Where they differ: In the case of Cold fusion, the scientific establishment, at least the physicists, were sceptical and mostly remained so. This was less true of the chemists who thought they'd got one over on the smartass physicists.

Well of course, in the case of Climate Change, the establishment was also initially sceptical, but at some point seems to have lost its scepticism. Some of the reason for this may have been financial; money was prepared to be thrown at any study, so long as it proved what had somehow become the received wisdom. That never quite happened with Cold Fusion, perhaps because people had been studying fusion in general for a long time at quite a detailed level, and although the problems of maintaining a continuous fusion reaction for a long time were difficult, the basic physics was pretty well understood. The science of climate change is still not really well understood, although some people try to tell us that it is.

One of the things that Taubes (who is essentially a journalist, although he is a science graduate and postgrad) tells us over and over in this book is that scepticism is essential to science. Pons, Fleischmann, and perhaps Jones allowed their optimism to overcome their scepticism and basically they fooled themselves.

When I've finished the book, I'll try to add some choice quotes from it where they seem appropriate.

Dec 9, 2009 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeE

Thought you might be interested in this.........

http://www.cefas.co.uk/data/sea-temperature-and-salinity-trends/presentation-of-results/station-18-dover.aspx

Because I enjoy swimming in the area last year I requested an update to see how temperatures had changed since 2004 which is when the final date on the graph. I was sent an xls file which took the data up to 2006. If you would like me to send this attachment to you don't hesitate to email me.
Keep up the good work.

Dec 10, 2009 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Helpus

I disagree on Cold Fusion, as I recall it. Fleischmann and Pons thought they had discovered an effect, and it was widely published. Others tried to reproduce it and couldn't, although some thought they had, at first. Most physicists thought it was probably nonsense, but thinking it's probably nonsense and dismissing it out of hand, and attempting to reproduce the work and failing, are different things. It's the way science should work.

Some money may have been spent looking into cold fusion, but nothing like the amount spent on AGW research. Don't forget the way that AGW has flowed over into and distorted other research areas. It's not as if we were spending billions on coldfusion power stations.

Science is littered with amazing discoveries which turned out to be self-delusion or mistakes. Look up the story of N rays. It was debunked by a reporter from Nature quietly removing an aluminium prism, key to the demonstration, from the apparatus and finding that the discoverer still detected N rays.

http://www.skepdic.com/blondlot.html

In those days, Nature was a critical scientific journal.

At about the same time as cold fusion, high temperature superconductivity was announced. This was reproduced and explained. When that was announced there were all sorts of speculations about how it was going to transform all our lives with faster computers and so on. I'm not sure that high temperature superconductivity has had any significant practical applications.

Where the comparison between cold fusion and AGW breaks down, is that the claims of AGW are much harder to pin down and haven't been subjected to proper scrutiny as they bloody well should have been.

Dec 10, 2009 at 12:30 AM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Was it follow the money and/ or Follow the flock?

There is a long history of bureaucracy after bureaucracy blindly following an idea which looks promising, but which turns into a disaster.

It happens in private and state sectors, Just look at the endless management fads

There is a self cleansing mechanism in the private sector - stupid behaviour leads to bankruptcy (unless the greater stupidity of a tax payer funded bail-out is used).

Unfortunately with the state sector controlling such a large proportion of the economy, and senior state sector employees being virtually fireproof... idiocy isn't cleaned out quite as quickly.

Following on from mikeE's cold fusion example:

The ABC Dragonfly (the aero engine the British establishment hoped would win WW1, it had been sold so well that all eggs were put in its basket, it turned out to have almost every fault possible in an engine, and left Britain without a suitable successor to the 130HP engines which were being out classed by German developments.

Canada, pre WW1 adopting then clinging to the Ross rifle (Wise Canadians picked up dropped SMLEs in the trenches)

The Saga of the British Army's SA80 rifle

Britain's (and the Commonwealth's) continuing (79 year old) idea of keeping the law-abiding citizens defenceless, while crimminals simply don't obey the laws and arm themselves, certain in the knowledge that their prey can't fight back.

Dec 10, 2009 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Meant to say;

I can't get two tunes from my childhood out of my brain, Danny Kaye singing "The King is in the altogether" and "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen"
Both from Hans Andersen's Fairy tales.

Dec 10, 2009 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Please publish that funding request document on-line. That document alone will completely change the tenor of the publich discussions.

Dec 10, 2009 at 1:42 AM | Unregistered Commenterjoe

The band wagon chasing the gravy train.

Dec 10, 2009 at 2:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterHankHenry

Cosmic: I don't really disagree with you. My main point was I suppose, about certain scientists losing objectivity, and self-scepticism. Fortunately the band-wagon stopped before millions became billions, which of course was not the case with MMGW. On a small point of detail, I think high-temperature superconductivity preceded cold fusion. Taubes cites this as an example of scientists being rightly sceptical, although in that case it turned out to be good science (even if it may have had few real-world applications at the end of the day).

BTW, I think Taubes could write a great book on MMGW/CC if he chose to, although I think he is pretty well occupied with other things; plus it's a rather crowded field these days.

Dec 10, 2009 at 2:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeE

Paul Vaughan presents some potentially lethal evidence against the science-funding establishment. However, he would be more effective if he provided details on the funding source making these damning demands on the research to be funded. This kind of stuff needs maximum public exposure complete with a list of those individuals behind the demands for potential researcher bias.

Dec 10, 2009 at 3:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMescalero

Heres some more sums the global warming alarmists are interested in;

www.twawki.com

Dec 10, 2009 at 4:23 AM | Unregistered Commentertwawki

"a conspiracy is unnecessary where a carrot will suffice." Beautiful !

Paul Vaughan - the insightful quote of our times.

Dec 10, 2009 at 4:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

" If someone could compile evidence of these funding incentives for AGW, that would be very helpful. It's not that I don't believe Mr. (Dr?) Vaughan, but proof is always stronger than belief. Scanned copies of applications, or screen shots of applications on webpages, would be strong evidence of this bias in funding.

December 9, 2009 | Robert Arthur"


Quite agree. I was just about to post something to the same effect. Yes, but this needs to be a concerted effort that will keep climategate in the spotlight and avoid it being swept under the carpet. - Very important, that.

I have also copied some of Paul Vaughan's other comments (mostly on WUWT) which I find particularly penetrating).

Dec 10, 2009 at 6:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Wright

Saw the Attenborough prog (Horizon?)

He slalommed from one fallacy to another. Does he really think in this medieval way himself?

Dec 10, 2009 at 7:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Conspiracy theories have bad connotations. On the other hand they also say (here in the states) that conspiracy law is the handmaiden of prosecutors. It doesn't take much to be in on a conspiracy if lawbreaking is happening.

Dec 10, 2009 at 7:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterHankHenry

Fits in with the rumours I've heard coming from some academic circles for several years now. No AGW, no funding.

Dec 10, 2009 at 7:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBill Sticker

"Successful candidates will:
1) Demonstrate AGW.
2) Demonstrate the catastrophic consequences of AGW."

You know in any other field of science you'd actually have to do the research before you could state what it will demonstrate.

Or is it saying that even that is unnecessary and you can demonstrate AGW just with your bid?

Ah, climatology....

Dec 10, 2009 at 8:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil A

I've just put a freedom of information request into NERC to get the relevant details of their funding programmes.

Dec 10, 2009 at 8:10 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

No need for a FOI request. Just check the website:

http://www.nerc.ac.uk/site/guides/researchers.asp

In my experience NERC does provide blue skies funding in response mode from scientists. They also have a lot of directed research programmes based around themes, many of these related to global climate and environmental change.

I think the real problem is not that awards are based on whether or not the grant application 'confrims' AGW etc. but on the perceptions of the applicants. i.e. they might think that drawing attention to the implications of their research for understanding the behaviour of a post AGW world is a way to push their science higher up the funding agenda.

I've written a lot of research grant proposals and been successful in a good few of these. I've also reviewed a lot of proposals and find, disturbingly, a trend in these (not my own I hasten to add) to make the assumption that the Earth will continue to warm, and the situation is going to be worse than we thought because of tipping points, and it's absolutely necessary to see how a system will respond in this apocalyptic state.

I see very few research grants and awards being made for studies designed to test the AGW theory, designed to understand energy flows in the system, designed to understand feedback etc.

Unfortunately the notion of post-modern' science is so developed in the psyche of the current generation it will be hard to move on from here.

Dec 10, 2009 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterSplice

I find it hard to believe that thousands of scientists...all agreed to promote bogus science

Along with saving the World, they were bought. If Big Oil can do it, so can Big Government, interest groups, and the ipcc itself - only better. At first I wasn't ready to believe it either. For example, here's what the ipcc TAR said concerning its way of determining the benefits and ill-effects of GW:

12.8.1 [Australia and NZ] However, it must be said that potential gains [benefits of Global Warming] have not been well documented, in part because of lack of stakeholder concern in such cases and consequent lack of special funding.

Somehow Google got me there on the question of "benefits of global warming". The ipcc's own TAR seach engine didn't get me anywhere.

Dec 10, 2009 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJ.Peden

re Jack Hughes comment.

As Attenborough confessed at the start of the programme, he is patron of Optimum Population Trust.

see this link http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6087833.ece

see this link http://www.optimumpopulation.org/

I do not know which period of history this notion of optimum population comes from but it is disturbing.

Follow the flock, toe the MMCGW line and you keep your job/get commissions.

Dec 10, 2009 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrowned-Off

Splice

I had a root around the NERC site and found some interesting stuff that needs further exploration.

In the meantime, if you're a paleoclimatologist, do you have any suggestions as to why there have been so few updates to the tree ring data in the last thirty years. Is this because nobody has asked for funding or because nobody has wanted to fund it?

Dec 10, 2009 at 1:09 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

It's a good question Bishop and I don't have any answers for you. I think the first thing to note is that, as far as I am aware, the CRU group at UEA don't actually go out into the field and collect tree ring data themselves so there analyses rely on the good will of other groups to provide the CRU with raw data. I think this might have happened with the Yamal series.

There are other groups in the UK working with tree rings, and isotopes in tree rings notably at the University of Swansea. See http://137.44.8.2/

This is a large, multi lab group funded under the European Union to the tune of several million euros and looking at climate variability over the last millenium using a number of proxies, but heavily slanted towards tree ring research.
They show a plot on http://137.44.8.2/overview/uncertainty.php that indicates they are going to improve the calibrations, refine the errors going back in time and, importantly update the proxies post 1990.

This project has received little publicity and frankly the web site is disappointing given the large sums of money awarded to the project. Members of the team include Danny McCaroll, Neil Loader, Rob Wilson, Jan Esper amongst others. There is an impressive list of publications arising from the project. Looking through these many are methodological though some clearl relate to tree ring records.

Personally I have very great reservations about the usefulness of tree rings as a temperature proxy. There is a comparatively long history of tree ring research and this includes tree ring isotopes. Sam Epstein, an early pioneer of isotope geochemistry and one of Harold Urey's PhD students in the post war years at Chicago was an early pioneer of isotope studies (oxygen, hydrogen and carbon) in tree rings starting as early as the 1960's and 70's. Despite this long gestation period it is still difficult to extract the climate signal from tree rings and their isotopes.

I think that one thing that has stopped many groups updating the tree ring record is a realization that there are many issues that need to be addressed. Hence we see groups looking at methodology, statistics etc in the hope that they can find the elusive climate signal. My view is that the signal is elusive and will remain so.

We should be looking for temperature proxies that have their basis in relatively simple systems with a known thermodynamic link to temperature. If, just by way of comparison, we look at the similar field of geothermometry. This is the estimation, using proxies, of mineral formation temperatures, igneous and metamorphic processes. Many of the proxies are based on free energy changes associated with isotope and element partitioning between, and within single phases. These can be studied in the laboratory, empirically calibrated and then applied to natural systems. In addition using anything from ab-initio calculations, molecular spectroscopy, statistical mechanics etc. it's possible to also calculate the energy changes and compare these with experiment.

In low temperature systems at or close to ambient this has either not been possible, or not been done to date. About the only system we have some knowledge of is the carbonate water system with data available for oxygen isotope, and element (Mg, Sr, Ba etc.) partitioning between water and carbonates. This, in theory, gives us a good thermometer but the trouble is most, if not all, natural low temperature carbonate systems may have grown out of isotopic equilibrium. Moreover, it is also necessary to know the water composition from which the carbonate grew. In most terrestrial systems this is not possible to know, or can be very difficult to determine (e.g. using fluid inclusions in speleothems). There is something of an impasse with only very slow progress being made. None the less the motion is forwards and I'm optimistic that the next 4 to 5 years will see some new developments that improve our chances of reliably recovering past temperatures.

Finally, and this is an important point. Palaeoclimate science has to overcome the 'magic tree' or 'magic speleothem' syndrome. It just isn't good science to posteriori select a climate proxy sample on the basis that it might match a temperature history, whilst rejecting many other samples from the same population. In doing this we resort to arguments that this tree or that tree is not responding to temperature; that speleothem grew in isotopic disequilibrium but the one next to it is in equilibrium etc. Common sense, and not any high scientific principle, should tell us that if a population of proxies shows variable behaviour then it is highly likely that a single sample will exhibit variable behaviour throughout it's life.

That endeth this homily.

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