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« Mann bashes Dellers | Main | Weekly Standard on CG2 »
Sunday
Dec042011

Cicerone on Climategate

Ralph Cicerone is best known to readers here as the man who diverted the NAS panel away from what they had been asked to look at onto areas that were more congenial. He has now shown up again in an article about the state of climate science at the Atlantic. He seems be presenting an, ahem, mistaken view of what the Climategate inquiries looked at.

“The science at East Anglia was fine,” Cicerone says. “But I think [the East Anglia scientists] were just angry. They were too poorly equipped, scruffy, and informal an outfit to show everyone all their data all the time. On the scientific consensus, there’s no impact at all—although on public opinion there was an impact.”

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Reader Comments (39)

Your posted comment was just right.

Dec 4, 2011 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

Cicerone continues the same old spin. Discussing The Team who have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, he changes focus to the quality of the jar and the cookies. Good for a belly laugh when one is in the right mood.

Dec 4, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

"On the scientific consensus, there’s no impact at all"

Oh well Bish, remember its Durban time and the whole 17,000 (including Huhne's 45 people!) have to pretend the consensus still exists!

Then again..... as far as we are concerned he may be right!

"On the scientific consensus, there’s no impact at all".......Hey! he is bang on! There is no difference because we never bought the consensus bit in the first place! Clever guy!

Dec 4, 2011 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

The reviews said themselves they 'did not consider the science' they therefore could not have validity it, Cicerone is merely in the land of wishful thinking .

Dec 4, 2011 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

"The science at East Anglia was fine", Cicerone says. "But I think [the East Anglia scientists] were just angry."

To judge from some of the non-angry comments in the emails, some of the East Anglia scientists were also concerned that their science may not be fine. So he's covered himself on that one at least!

Dec 4, 2011 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Speaking of belly laughs, the claim that the science is fine because The Team was just angry is a side splitter and a knee slapper. Does he mean that the scientist "qua" scientist was angry? I wonder if Cicerone would care to describe the feeding and management of such "angry scientists?"

Dec 4, 2011 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Dunno, but hopefully it involves a sharp stick.

Dec 4, 2011 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Can lying to the public be sued in the US ?

Dec 4, 2011 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

Cicerone clearly has no idea what he's writing about - has not done his homework. This isn't typical of pieces in the Atlantic. Maybe Climatology is different - reporting quality consistent with the subject.

Dec 4, 2011 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Philip: I think a cattle-prod and those boards that they use for moving pigs around would more approriate. But on a more serious note, if, as he says' They were too poorly equipped, scruffy, and informal an outfit to show everyone all their data all the time.' whereas “The science at East Anglia was fine,”.
Sorry, I spent three decades working in biomedical research, practice and regulation, that have been dominated by good laboratory practice, good manufacturing practice and good clinical practice, as a result of mistakes previously made by those who were too 'poorly equipped, scruffy, and informal (and I would add lazy, dishonest and unprofessional)'. The science is NOT fine, if it has been badly or poorly conducted and reported.
I personally think it is about time that somebody took responsibility for the whole climate science cabal and gave it a bloody good shake, as happened in pharmaceuticals post-thalidomide. (Sorry Bish if this sounds like a rant, but I felt it was worth saying).

Dec 4, 2011 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterSalopian

Salopian,
Spot on! The OECD developed standards of Good Laboratory Practice and Mutual Acceptance of Data in chemicals to provide quality assurance for science that has important public implications. Such is lacking with climate science.
Cicerone discredits himself with this shameless spin. That someone in his position would describe the practices revealed as sound science is deeply disturbing.

Dec 4, 2011 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Time's up for Cicerone and his ilk, as Aynsley implies, so much so I didn't bother to read that segment of the article. What I did notice was Newt Gingrich backing off climate change legislation:

Newt Gingrich, who in 2009 recorded an ad with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling on Congress to take action on climate change, recently called that ad “the dumbest single thing I’ve done in recent years.”

Newt's a mixed bag, from everything I read, but a combination of intellect, good communication and legislative experience - particularly his role in constraining spending to produce a budget surplus in the Clinton era (those were the days) - means he's an interesting possibility for the Republicans. The contribution of Climategates 1 & 2 to this volte face cannot have been zero.

Dec 4, 2011 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

OMG, Richard Drake, Do read more about Newt. This guy might be the single most dangerous candidate for AF 1 since Al Gore.

Beware the egomaniac whose programs you think you agree with.

Dec 4, 2011 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

[Snip - raise the tone please]

Dec 4, 2011 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Possibly many elements came together in the US in late 2009. The EPA 'endangerment' finding - 'the administration chose the first day of the United Nations global warming conference in Copenhagen as a way to signal that President Obama wants to convince global leaders that the U.S. will cut its greenhouse gas emissions either through legislation or regulation.' see

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/07/epa-set-issue-co2-endangerment-finding/

Even prior to the Climategate bombshell, there was an extraordinary period of spontaneous and intense lobbying of US parliamentary reps from an incensed public about this. The Tea Party was conceived and in pregnant gestation. Senators were all shook up. Moncktons lecture tour went viral on Fox News with his global governance warning. He fired a potent exocet, in my opinion. Scales fell from eyes all over the US like autumn leaves. From then on, the big global balloon was fatally punctured.

Dec 4, 2011 at 8:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

. If science were like an A-level maths examination then Cicerone would be correct. An A* grade is still the same whether a student is happy, angry, sober, or totally drunk. (though a greater achievement if you can get still do well despite a serious impediment). But climate science is about drawing out definite conclusions from sparse and chaotic data. Differences of opinion are possible. The emails shows that (to put it mildly) the quality of the scientific output was far below the public face, and that a small clique ensure that this output is more strident and less diverse than would otherwise be. However, relative to normal cut and thrust of party politics they must seem quite tame, so a seasoned politician is hardly in a position to judge.

Dec 4, 2011 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

"97 percent of climate-science researchers are in consensus that human activities have led to global warming..."

Cicerone twice raises - and totally misinterprets - the deeply flawed 2010 PNAS survey <u>Expert credibility in climate change</u> by Anderegg, Prall, Harold and Schneider. The "97 percent" is actually 76 out of 79 scientists who met certain criteria, out of 1,372 (self-selecting) climate scientists who chose to respond to a survey.

They responded to two questions: (1) When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant? (2) Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

Duh. Most AGW skeptics, including such climate science luminaries as Richard Lindzen and Roger Pielke, would answer (1) with "risen."

Question (2) is ambiguous; what exactly is a "significant contributing factor"? One percent? Ten percent? Certainly there is an immense difference between saying human activity is "a significant contributing factor" to climate change, and saying, as Cicerone claims, "human activities have led to global warming." 'Contributing' and 'leading' are two very different things.

The AGW camp has a talent for overstatement like Cicerone's - which helps explain their diminishing credibility in the public eye.

Dec 4, 2011 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

Oops!

In my 4th paragraph, I meant to say Lindzen and Pielke would say "risen", not "yes". Please correct my blunder. Thanks!

[Done]

Dec 4, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

Let's see if the science holds up after this admission from Briffa in 2006:

"we are having trouble to express the real message of the reconstructions – being scientifically sound in representing uncertainty , while still getting the crux of the information across clearly. It is not right to ignore uncertainty, but expressing this merely in an arbitrary way (and as a total range as before) allows the uncertainty to swamp the magnitude of the changes through time".

Briffa then performs another bodge (if I understand the term correctly) by hiding he true error bars so the mythical temperature comparisons over history are not lost in the noise. His goal:

"the comparison of past and recent temperature levels is not as influenced by the outlier estimates."

Mischief Managed!

Dec 4, 2011 at 11:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterAJStrata

Maloney,

Even if temps have risen and Man has contributed, some of us (I call us "Lomborgians") would not agree that the consequences are catastrophic.

Dec 5, 2011 at 12:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterPouncer

They were too poorly equipped, scruffy, and informal an outfit to show everyone all their data all the time.

Oh yeah, right, that makes everything OK then - nothing to see here Bish'.

Dec 5, 2011 at 1:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Can someone send Cicerone an easy to assimilate link to the Climategate 2.0 emails?

Given the fact the Jones can't use Excel, I suspect that one of the problems here is that the Cicerones of the world (like Nurse, Acton, etc.) have not had a look at the emails.

Here's a suitable compilation:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/50773158/Climategate2.0_portrait.pdf

(and if they can't use the interweb, perhaps they can have their secretaries sacrifice a few more trees and read through the resulting hardcopy on the plane to the next conference...)

Dec 5, 2011 at 3:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Let me make that link clickable....

the Climategate 2.0 emails as a single PDF

Dec 5, 2011 at 3:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

@Jack Maloney

The figures are 76 out of 79 for Q1 and 75 out of 77 for Q2 and it's the Doran et al paper not the Anderegg one that you are thinking about.

Doran, P. T., and M. Kendall Zimmerman (2009), Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change, Eos Trans. AGU, 90(3)

Anderegg, in my opinion, conducted an equally dubious survey.

Dec 5, 2011 at 3:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

So the crew at CRU were angry. Angry about what? About the fact that the planet is refusing to warm up according to their million-sterling computers and their beautiful climate-cat-walk models?

Dec 5, 2011 at 8:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex

This "angry scientist' theme has a lot of legs. The possibilities for excuses or misconduct are boundless. I lost my temper and accidentally twisted the data, or tried to ruin a skeptic's career. And if they can pretend to be angry because they are being prevented from 'saving the planet' that could fool some of the people some of the time. That plot works for Hollywood.

Dec 5, 2011 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

Being scruffy, informal and ill equipped - the new scientific excuse for not publishing one's data, says Mr Cicerone.
Funny, that. I've known some very scruffy and informal scientists who were decidedly far more ill equipped that that lot at CRU who nevertheless published all their data. Mind, those were environmental archaeologists, who know a thing or two about field observations, recording data, and the inability to go back and do replicates ...

Dec 5, 2011 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Yesterday there were some comments under the Atlantic article, including one from our host. Today they seem to have disappeared. Can anyone else see them?

Dec 5, 2011 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Paul Matthews -
I had no problem reading the 28 comments, following the link in the original post.

Dec 5, 2011 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Scruffy? Yep, intellectually, politically, morally. No doubt the bathrooms are clean.
=================

Dec 5, 2011 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

j ferguson: I've only just read your reply from this time yesterday. It seems rather immoderate and you give no details, either of what is terrible about Newt Gingrich or what I should read to discover it.

This is the first time I've expressed anything publicly in the lead-up to the US primaries and I thought I struck a suitably cautious, measured tone about a candidate who's currently ahead in the polls to get the nomination - for whatever that's worth. Unlike James Delingpole I haven't expressed hopes that some of the early stars of the Republican jostling for position would 'save America' - perhaps because I've watched the process a few times before. I was mainly drawing attention to Newt's strong disavowal of his support for action of climate as recently as 2009. I completely accept the point - if you're making it - that this latest declaration could be insincere. But even if it is, it's a vital signal that the wind has changed direction decisively on the subject in Republican circles. That's important, as is (from a policy sceptic point of view) a Republican with such an understanding or commitment beating Obama.

I've been helped by Thomas Sowell's reflections on the process, in which he reminds us again and again that it's not necessary to agree with any candidate on everything - that's almost never the case - just enough to make them the best option available. Sowell was particularly helpful in his critique of 'doctrinaire libertarians' on immigration last week I thought, where the Hoover Institution man has big concerns about Gingrich.

There, I've given an example of a specific policy concern. That would have been helpful from you, rather than bad-mouthing Newt without giving a single clue why. (All politicians have an egomaniac tendency in my view - it's what they do with that that makes the difference.)

Dec 5, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard,
I agree with many of Gingrich's ideas. He very frequently challenges the consensus and in what I think are thoughful ways. my cincern is with his self-discipline. more on tbhis when i get the boat anchored for the night.

john

Dec 5, 2011 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Richard,
Is Bishop's the best place for this dialogue? My concerns with Gingrich arise from my perception of his character and his reputed tendency to lose his balance in situations in which he finds himself "on top" or "in control." He knows he has this problem, which at least is a bit encouraging.

This is the apprehension which makes me imagine that a Gingrich presidency could be a disaster - not the ideas, but the "shoot from the hip" thoughtlessness he's exhibited so often in the past. Some things are better left unsaid, at least publicly and he seems to have no sense of which is which.

I find that our press seldom gives his ideas a thoughtful hearing so often because they fly in the face of "assumptions" with which the US has operated for generations. I thought there was a lot of merit in his attack on the assumptions underlying the child labor laws. One might have thought he'd gone over the hill from the treatment this idea received in the press.

I might add that I thought Al Gore an equally dangerous candidate for the presidency for what I took to be his conspicuous immaturity and lack of depth. I might add, that I've come to believe that John Kennedy was our most dangerous president in modern times and that perhaps the west (world?) was very lucky not to have suffered a real calamity through his choices made in office.

And to those who disagree with what I've written here: It's ok, I'm not confident that I haven't overdrawn my concerns.

And I do agree with Tom Sowell on a lot of things. In my case, I'd rather have a president that I'm sure is an adult than someone i agree with, who might not be. I suspect that 85% of what a president faces doesn't have a political bias, and I'd much rather take a chance on the 15% than have to worry about the 85%, or would it be 100%?.

If anyone thinks this discussion should go away, say so, and maybe Richard and I can continue it via Email.

Dec 5, 2011 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Nobody has said to go away and here's one reason I don't think they should: Bishop Hill began as a blog devoted to libertarian thought. The climate stuff is an afterthought - though one that the Bish has made his own through some excellent interventions, not least the book, which for me stands with The Delinquent Teenager as one of the two must-reads of the scene.

Thus I made a point of mentioning Delingpole, the UK's leading libertarian blogger (I don't think he'd mind me saying) plus the sage of Palo Alto, Thomas Sowell's critique of doctrinaire libertarians and by extension Gingrich on immigration. I believe the rise of the Tea Party makes this an interesting moment for such thinkers. But if one is roughly in that camp - allowing for those like Sowell who are not doctrinaire about it - one is going to be very lucky to get 85% from any candidate in power, of that I'm sure.

Culturally the New Year is going to be interesting for the small government ideals meet the deceitfulness of real power stuff. Meryl Streep has seen to that. That could have profound impact I feel, across the conventional political spectrum as well as across the sexes. Government is now going to get smaller or go fascist I feel, looking at Europe anyway. We sure need some inspiration from somewhere.

I don't think Newt is a saviour but he might just be able to perform a useful function at this crucial time.

Dec 6, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard,
Being another guy who sometimes finds himself the lone laugher at public events, i too place a very high value on people who go to the trouble of deconstructing political assumptions. Nothing should be beyond re-examination. With Newt, it may be that the synapses which link the components of belief come undone. He seems to revel in it, and it's a very worthy activity - for a columnist. But not for a president.

I was pleased to see you mention that you wouldn't be difficult to locate at a recent public event, being the guy who laughed at the wrong times. I share this condition, often seeing humor where it was unintended. I once was met outside a movie theatre in Chicago by friends I hadn't seen in 15 years wanting to know what was so funny in the section i had laughed (alone) at.

best regards, john

Dec 7, 2011 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Richard, In my continuing effort to provide myself the education that i might otherwise have gained had i not gone to trade school (architecture), I'm slogging my way through Hume's History of England. I was very much struck by what seemed an extraordinary similarity between the clamor and chaos leading to the curtailing of the reign of Charles I and the subsequent Protectorate which certainly looks like a dictatorship to me.

We in the US have plenty to wish otherwise, pervasiveness of regulation, government interest in what should remain private activities, overwrought protection from "terrorism" etc. On a more purely Libertarian front, i would certainly prefer a more incremental approach than the "revolution": which the tea partiers seek.. If they have their way, given their apparent lack of program for the problems presented in dismantling many of our present governmental functions, i fear we would find ourselves in an incompetent dictatorship which might take 20 years to go away. As a follow on, the English revolution of 1688 and subsequent changes to the way business was done over there seem to me much more significant than anything that happened during the Cromwell craziness.

It could be that there are other views of this period than Hume's and Macaulay's, the only sources I've read, so far.

Although I don't favor him myself, John Huntsman seems the most thoughtful and substantial of the present Repub candidates. Also the most conservative. It's a mystery to me why he hasn't polled better- maybe his weird sense of humor.

Dec 7, 2011 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Oops,
that was similarity between the quality of today's political contention in the US and that during
Charles I, reign.

Dec 7, 2011 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

From what I've seen of Newt in interviews (not all that much), he seems to be pushing the meme that he's outgrown (almost) all that stuff. It's a good meme, if only one could have confidence that it wasn't thought up by a handler.

Dec 13, 2011 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrian H

Huntsman was Obama's Ambassador to China, in Hillary Clinton's department. That's enough for many people to distrust him. We've come to learn that it doesn't matter what comes out of a politician's mouth, except to the credentialed morons we call pundits.
===============

Dec 13, 2011 at 3:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

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