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« Nelson on the Spectator debate | Main | Mann writes doggerel »

Global warming grubbiness

The LA Times interviews Richard Muller about BEST, his new project to measure the Earth's temperature. Santer and Trenberth pop up with a spectacular display of the kind of grubby behaviour normally associated with the worst kind of political spin doctor.

"I am highly skeptical of the hype and claims," said Kevin Trenberth, who heads the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a university consortium. "The team has some good people but not the expertise required in certain areas, and purely statistical approaches are naive. I suspect they have an agenda."

The Koch donation, to many, confirms those suspicions. "Why would a scientist accept funding from an organization with no interest in advancing the science?" asked Benjamin Santer, an atmospheric scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Reader Comments (42)

Well the Koch brothers famously fund the laughably reactionary and ignorant Tea-Party types. Doesn't torpedo the work, but it's certainly a mark against its neutrality.

Mar 31, 2011 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed


But tghe koch donation is balanced by one from gates and another from somke other organsisation that I cannot be bothered to look up. Why are you parroting the Romm paranoia?

If you had a brain, you would wonder where this is all going - the indications are that the results will not be out of line with the 3 consensus report - which is not surprising given that we are talking about a range of less than a degree celsius. So answer, why are you so worried that you have to smear the messenger?

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Same logic would mean that any Trade Union funding for anything was introducing bias, and ditto for any government funding. Their logic means that everyone would have to fully fund everything from their own direct funds, or else it's de facto compromised. We'd need to look very carefully at Ben Santers funding streams, in case there is any trace of oil money, funds from green groups, Grantham money, DECC money, Libyan Money, Chinese money, Vatican finance, RSPCA, Women's Institute, West Humberside Bowls Club, Auchtermuchty Caber Tossers etc. etc.

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Well, you can see here that Vincent Courtillot says the same thing that Richard Muller says - if the globe's 'average temperature' is so important, how come we have only three teams calculating it? And how come these are the same guys who are 'hiding the decline'?

Vincent Courtillot on climate change

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

The most telling paragraph in the LA Times report for me is:

"The project also will put its calculations on the Internet in a "transparent" way, Muller said. Other scientists, he said, "put homogenized data online. They don't put up the [software] tools that get you from the raw data to the homogenized data. How do they pick the [weather station] sites? That involves human judgment.""

It matters not a jot where funding comes from if it's easy to check what's been done, where the data came from, what's been done to it, and is published in such a way that anyone else can have a bash, and satisfy themselves that it's been done correctly. Amazing that it only takes a few hundred thousand quid to do it properly, as opposed to the millions spent keeping it hidden.

As Mother Theresa said (I paraphrase), It's not where it comes from, it's what you do with it that matters.

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad


Mar 31, 2011 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"Purely statistical approaches are naive. I suspect they have an agenda."

That's a bit rich coming from Trenberth - if his Team had applied anything like agenda-free and scientifically valid statistical techniques, this farce would have been still born.

Never mind his 'travesty', this is just hypocrisy.

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers



Although Trenberth is right to be concerned about the whereabouts of the 'missing' energy.

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"Why would a scientist accept funding from an organization with no interest in advancing the science?"

Scientists, in general, accept funding from whoever has the money.

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

The degree to which "Team" members project their own (private) methods and motives onto anyone who questions their veracity is completely and utterly beyond parody.

The deluded *are* overly prone to projection, though, it's just the scale of the problem that catches one's attention.

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterdread0


Let's not forgt that the globe isn't warming.

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

The Koch family funds much of the science programming on PBS in the US.
alleging that if the Koch interests put any money into somethin it is 'anti-science' is simply a cowardly ignorant dodge by someone who has no intellectual capacity or integrity to actually deal with issues honestly or accurately.
Ignorant twits like ZDB are extremely well practiced in mouthing slime and lies, but offer nothing to any conversation seeking truth.
As to Tea Party activists, the stats show attendees are better educated and have higher income than the average of the population. But facts have never gotten in the way of ZDB and other lefty hack synchophants, so why should they start to do so now?

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

this is a sensible forum - not as blinkered as WUWT or we have a lot of fuss about temperature datasets for the land mass that is not well measured. And now we have BEST. But it still does not really cover most of Africa, Asia, the Arctic or Antarctic - basically anywhere that is a desert without people. The WUWT folk raise a lot of clamour about UHI effects that are probably rounding errors given that we are talking about changes in a temperature index over a century of less than one degree. But 2/3 of our planet is not being measured. What is up with that? Apologies, I am not a scientist, just someone trying to make sense of this controversy. Show me the way to go home, please?

Mar 31, 2011 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

The Koch brothers must be increidlbly powerful to make the Hockey Team produce such rubbish

Mar 31, 2011 at 11:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley


Can't point you the way home, but in the short term suggest

"Don't Panic"

maybe the way to go

Mar 31, 2011 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

thx lets tell the politicians who want to destroy our way of life.

Mar 31, 2011 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Well the Koch brothers famously fund the laughably reactionary and ignorant Tea-Party types. Doesn't torpedo the work, but it's certainly a mark against its neutrality.

Mar 31, 2011 at 9:51 PM | ZedsDeadBed

Good to see you have given up defending Michael Mann and the Hoooockey Stick Team

Do you now have a point?

Mar 31, 2011 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

'Grubby' is indeed a polite word for this ongoing poisoning of climate science by people driven by ... well, driven by what? Not the data, since nothing untoward has been happening. Not the theories, since they are primitive and simplistic in the face of such a complex system. Surely not the computer models, a genre so disgraced by blunders such as those pioneered by the Club of Rome that it is scarcely ready to be taken seriously. So what? What on earth motivates these people? Is it just the money? Or the 'prestige' (I put it in quotes because they have even managed to be part of a further degradation of the Nobel Peace Prize and I fear they will be seen as an aberration in the fullness of time). Is there a political/ideoligical drive? Do they see this as a route to the overthrow of the capitalist West, and to the dawn of a new age of harmony and understanding? Beats me. I am inclined in my more cynical moments to put it down to a mix of arrested development of adult perspectives on risk and a contagion of scary stories picked up by the pyschologically vulnerable. I hope it will all be disentangled over the next few years.

Mar 31, 2011 at 11:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Diogenes @ 10:57pm

I understand your point, but it is hard to ignore the satellite data which show much the same warming trend. Look at HADCRUT3, UAH, RSS 1979 – present.

All datasets, imperfect thought they certainly are, show a warming trend, including ocean heat content.

How one interprets the warming is another matter. But it's there.

Mar 31, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


perhaps you misinterpret me.... I agree there is a warming trend. Do we know what is causing it? It is a veru slow trend. In actuality,the only trends that matter are localised ones....if temperature rises 4 degrees in Suingapore, do i care? But if it falls 4 degrees here in ,london,I will be bitching. It strikes me, that we do not know anything. maybe the global index might rise 4 degrees next year, but unless you can tell me where it will impact, that is useless information. And I go by the certainty that more people die from cold than from heat.

Apr 1, 2011 at 12:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes


You say

It strikes me, that we do not know anything.

No. We don't know enough.

For example, we know that:

- CO2 is a greenhouse gas

- We’ve increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere

- All records, however individually imperfect, show warming

- The exact contribution of CO2 to the warming is not clearly defined

- We don’t have a detailed understanding of the climate system

- We don’t know how it will respond to forcings from CO2, anthropogenic aerosols, black carbon forcing of ice melt and land use change

- We have an untested estimate for climate sensitivity to CO2 that may be too low, too high or about right

Apr 1, 2011 at 12:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

I can agree with that......but that is a lot more nuanced and precise than anythihng I have seen before.

yes - warming is happening
is it beyond the bounds of what we might expect?
should we be worried?
what can we do, if we should be worried?

Apr 1, 2011 at 12:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Trenberth should be welcoming funding for more research, or is he implying that funding should only come from and go to people of whom he approves? After all in his now famous email to Mann (Oct 12 2009) Trenberth wrote: .

"Well I have my own article on WHERE THE HECK IS GLOBAL WARMING?

"We are asking that in Boulder where WE HAVE BROKEN RECORDS FOR THE PAST TWO DAYS FOR THE COLDEST DAYS ON RECORD. We had 4 inches of snow.

"THE HIGH THE LAST 2 DAYS IS 30F AND THE NORMAL IS 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F.

THE LOW WAS 18F AND ALSO A RECORD LOW, well below the previous record low. This is January weather (see the Rockies baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last night in below freezing weather)...


"The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008
shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. OUR OBSERVING SYSTEM IS INADEQUATE." (My caps)

Trenberth should be delighted that Muller and other UC Berkely scientists have "an agenda", which is simply "to measure the Earth's temperature", submit the data to peer-reviewed journals and publish the calculations on the internet.

Surely Trenberth is not suggesting that 'agenda' means something other than this...

Apr 1, 2011 at 1:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterstu

Surely you would be wrong about Trenberth.
Remember: he is the one who now uses a non-falsifiable piece of used cow food for an hypothesis about AGW.

Apr 1, 2011 at 1:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

If the source of funding is the best the MMC (Mixed Martial Climate) Team can come up with then I doubt Muller has much to worry about. Then again, by the same logic we should be able to disregard anything funded by Soros, Gore or oil companies as tainted. That's CRU out of the way. Personally I'd rather wait and see the data and methodology before attempting to deny the results. Trenberth suspects they have an agenda, but as usual can't provide any evidence.

Apr 1, 2011 at 2:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Oh dear. Having just read of Muller's testimony to Congress it seems I was wrong to be so quick to support him against Trenberth's insinuations.

Muller has given testimony to Congress before explaning the results supporting his claims, which is contrary to what I understood would happen from the article in the Los Angeles Times.

Jacob Bronowski wrote in 1973: "We are a scientific civilisation: THAT MEANS A CIVILISATION IN WHICH KNOWLEDGE AND ITS INTEGRITY ARE CRUCIAL. If we (in the west) do not take the next step in the ascent of man, it will be taken by people elsewhere, China."

Apr 1, 2011 at 2:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterstu

I expect Santer and Trenberth will change their tune as soon as the Muller results confirm any sort of warming "trend"....a trend which hardly anyone "denies", if only because the entire concept of calculating a trend in "global temperature" in any meaningful way is still a young and uncertain science.
There will be nothing new in the Muller "results" for any of the positions on "global warming" but I think a lot of us hoped that this was going to be a shining example of how the science should be approached, done, presented and made transparent.
I am not at all sure that it is turning out that way.

Apr 1, 2011 at 8:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage


Sorry - had to call it a day @12:24am.

You ask

yes - warming is happening
is it beyond the bounds of what we might expect?
should we be worried?
what can we do, if we should be worried?

If anything, there is less warming than predicted, based on an estimated median climate sensitivity of +3C per doubling of CO2 over the pre-industrial level. Hence Trenberth's concerns about 'missing' energy. See the email reproduced by stu at 1:30am today.

The CERES data that he thinks should show 'even more warming' are attempts to measure the the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (TOA). If more energy is entering the atmosphere than leaving it, the climate system will heat up.

The problem is that CERES is not capable of measuring TOA radiative imbalance with the accuracy many claim. Hence T's remark that 'our observation system is inadequate'. Indeed it is, but that doesn't prevent all sorts of claims about the size of the TOA radiative imbalance and global warming. All I will say here is: more and better observations and less confirmation bias = better science.

We should be concerned, yes. Worried is a bit too loaded a word for my taste.

What can we do? Well not much, really. The energy realists here will know that we cannot displace enough fossil fuels to make a big difference to the rate of accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. With China industrialising and India getting ready to follow suit, the future for emissions abatement policy looks bleak.

So adaptation makes much more sense. Don't build on flood-plains. Do proper pessimistic hydrological surveys before building. Improve (or plan for improvements to) sea defences. Improve energy security - eg for the UK, we need more, not less coal-fired baseload burning UK coal while we carefully plan a new and much expanded nuclear capacity.

And all the while we need more and better observations. Particularly of OHC and TOA radiative imbalance. That way we can begin to isolate the effects of CO2 radiative forcing and get a better idea of the likely value for climate sensitivity to CO2.

We need to keep looking very carefully at the way the hydrological cycle may change to improve heat transport up and out of the atmosphere.

We need to know much more about clouds and their effects on climate.

There is a hell of a lot more uncertainty and room for different outcomes than generally allowed by the climate concerned. I'm not saying that they are all wrong, but they should not claim with such certainty that they are right.

Apr 1, 2011 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

thanks for that, should try to turn it into a slick presentation to be shown to all schoolkids in the UK as a counterweight to the propaganda that they are being fed.

Apr 1, 2011 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

BBD, you've said some kind things about some of my comments previously - so here we go: your 10:44 AM today, and 12:44 AM comments last night are excellent! Crisp and IMO spot on, on both science and policy.

Apr 1, 2011 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterj


Thank you very much. I know I've trodden on a few toes recently, so I appreciate your comment.

Apr 1, 2011 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


I appreciate the fact that you have been so patient with me and your summary clarifies a lot of what seems strange about this whole area. on Climate etc, i have been having similar debates with a guy who calls himself Manacker. What i get from both of you is that we really do not have a very deep understanding of what drives climate and to blame everything on CO2 is or could be delusional. What climate science should be doing is spending more time on understanding the "black box" of climate and less time exhorting us to build windmills.

Apr 1, 2011 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes


Happy to help.

Your last sentence brings you right up to date with the climate/energy conundrum.

So-called 'post-normal science' (Funtowicz & Ravetz, 1991) is what happens when urgency is perceived to over-ride uncertainty.

With climate and energy policy, political urgency is pitted against scientific uncertainty. Boundaries blur.

One of the results is the Michael Mann's hockey stick climate reconstruction, and the use to which it was put. Our host's book details all this extremely well.

Another is disastrously misguided energy policy in the UK (and elsewhere) predicated on unsupported optimism about the potential of renewables to displace fossil fuels. And provide enough energy to keep the lights on.

Apr 1, 2011 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

[Snip - stop trying to pick fights]

Apr 1, 2011 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

"[Snip - stop trying to pick fights]"
Apr 1, 2011 at 9:58 PM | ZedsDeadBed

Seriously Andrew?

You're quite happy to have that slew of abuse and nonsense from Hunter littering up your website, but if I actually pick up on any of it and point out how ridiculous it is, you remove my comment for spurious reasons?

Not too far back you had a freedom of speech type comment here, I was amazed at your hypocrisy. I noticed you've not mentioned how you've been doing things like barring whatever IP address I'm using at the time because you don't actually like freedom of speech very much at all, not if it doesn't agree with you.

Apr 1, 2011 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

If you 10 X what you actually know, you would still be considered 'special needs'.
If you knew 10% of what you think you know, you would be a genius.
Except what you regurgitate about the Koch family, you know nothing. And nothing you regurgitate is faintly connected to reality.
The ignorance level you operate at irt the Tea Party is indistinguishable from a flat-lining head trauma.
Whine away.

Apr 2, 2011 at 1:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

hunter --
Such comments are neither helpful nor productive. Insults are not arguments.

Now, in the words of our gracious host, "Can we all keep a lid on things here please."

I believe the topic of the post was on argumentum ad pecuniam and on the "only properly ordained priests can know the truth" approach of Trenberth & Santer.

Apr 2, 2011 at 4:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

You are right of course.
I shall confess, repent, do penance and plead with the Bishop for forgiveness.
ZDB, I am truly sorry for having such a go at your fine character and strong intellectual prowess.
As to Trenberth and his pals, I think they could have been excellent priests and doctors of the Church back in the day when that involved inquisitions and occasional stake burning.
Because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Apr 2, 2011 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

yeah zebe,
don't you have anything else to talk about, apart from the moral behaviour of commenters?

Apr 2, 2011 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub


OT, but your exchange with Zed and follow-up reminds me of a colleague who had been in the Navy. He was helping his captain compile reports on some of the officers and was taken aback to see the comment "I have seen this man drunk" on one of them. "You can't put that" he said, "he'll be finished!"
The captain crossed it out and wrote "I have seen this man sober"...

Apr 2, 2011 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

James P,
I have also seen true beleivers act with intelligence, honesty and integrity.
I just cannot recall the exact time or circumstance.

Apr 4, 2011 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

tiffany --One may fall in love with many people during the lifetime.-online replica Pierre Kunz

Sep 20, 2011 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered Commentertiffany1

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