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Response of the concerned scientists

The letter by concerned scientists to the Wall Street Journal the other day, together with the response from the Hockey Team, has been the source of a great deal of blogospheric back and forth. The sceptic group have just issued their latest salvo, which includes a rather good graph of temperatures against predictions for each of the IPCC reports.

See the letter here.

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Reader Comments (37)

Hmm, that chart seems a little different from the one the IPCC showed in 2007 (which at least has a go at including some error bars):

Feb 21, 2012 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterFlipFlop

There is a movie of a most unlikely bunch of old men who are asked to go and blow up a German boat.

In any other walk of life, with the kind of ammunition given us, the massive spin machine that backs so many other people would have every paper in the world printing this scandal.

But we are just an amateur bunch riding a worn out tug hoping against hope that our one and only chance to do something will have an effect.

Perhaps it will. Perhaps this incident will convince enough people to write to papers, MPs, the PM, their MEPs, etc. etc. and perhaps if we all do it now, the combined efforts will be enough to push this scandal into the sewer where it belongs.

Feb 21, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Bish, typos above as follows;

please move the "j" in blogospheric to the beginning of "ust"

and fit in a p in tem eratures.

tahnks (sic)

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Mike - I see your point - but I would also suggest that a lot of the young minds out there are reacting badly to the "agenda driven" consensus being rammed down their throats.

The Climategate emails were not likely stolen it seems - but leaked. By someone with a moral compass who saw what was happening? - quite likely I would suggest.

The Heartland emails were stolen and one faked - we have a confession for the former from a member of "the Team" and justifiable suspicion for the second. If they had a moral compass then the "consensus" acted as a magnet - skewing the morals away from what is normal and what is acceptable.

This is an incredibly sad day for science

The sooner we draw a line under this aberrant behaviour the better.

Science deserves better than the likes of "the Team"

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug

Doug, my point is that we must not all sit here grumbling to ourselves about the lack of any press coverage.

The press have professional organizations delivering them stories in press releases all day long.

In contrast, it would take a journalist most of the day to dig around this story and get something to print.

So, which do they print tomorrow? A dozen press releases of ready-made news, or one convoluted story told in a haphazard way between nerds who may understand what others are saying, but who never understand that the public/journalists need to be fed the story on a plate.

OK, we can't individually write press releases, but we can all write to the papers, to our MPs, MSPs, MEPs, even the PM.

We can complain to the PCC about the press coverage in the Guardian and Scotsman. We can complain to the BBC about Black's piece.

And, remember some like the BBC, only take complaints seriously if enough people complain, and whilst your complaint may look ineffective, the sum total means other's will be taken seriously.

Likewise letters to papers. The more people who write, the more the editor is compelled to print at least one. That one may not be yours but unless they see a number of letters they will judge it "a loan wolf crying in the wilderness".

Any way, editors like to see new contributors to letters pages.

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

"We can complain to the BBC about Black's piece." - Did so, this morning. Much good it has done.

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

These are three really big climate stories for me of late: the Bishop's brilliant finding of The Entrepreneur, this devastating reply from the No Need to Panic 17 in the Wall Street Journal and of course the Gleick affair. Early this morning I'm very glad to say I took them in in exactly that order. I had no idea of the hubbub over Gleick - I was alerted by a little comment by Ben Pile here and looked at the Huff Po confession first, then Revkin. So I came to all that fire and fury (fun though the sleuthing undoubtedly is) with my head already spinning about the revelation of the policy entrepreneur concept, in the EU and UN levels - with Indur Goklany's latest ideas on that very much worth exploring - and this brilliant rebuttal.

It does feel like one of those children's games where you set up the blocks of wood to form a tower and each player removes one piece. There are moments near the end where everyone is astounded that the structure is still standing. And then, as they say in the Negro spiritual, "just take one brick from Satan's wall ... Satan's wall is gonna tumble and fall." I'm not sure what brick that's going to be and that of course is a big part of the fun. But it sure looks shaky over there right now.

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

When are we going to start calling it Cliemate Psyence?

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

As has already been noted, in any other sphere, a letter like that would be game, set and match to the authors.

The measured and reasonable tone enhances its effectiveness, but we seem to be dealing with agents of the undead (or perhaps Monty Python’s Black Knight) who are now so committed to their cause that they cannot entertain any other point of view...

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Did anyone else note the use of "Mr. Trenberth" not "Dr. Trenberth" in the letter? I wonder if the editor of The Wall Street Journal will now be expected to resign and offer him a personal apology.

Feb 21, 2012 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Bish posts I will be offline for a couple of days and look who turns up, well all your posts will be deleted in 2 days time so why bother.

Feb 21, 2012 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

I tought the letter to be very measured, and inviting debate. Whats wrong with that?

Feb 21, 2012 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRB

Another story at the WSJ caught my eye:

The Not-So-Vast Conspiracy

"Stolen documents show the tiny budget of global warming skeptics."

When did it become received media wisdom that global warming skepticism was all the work of shadowy right-wing groups lavishly funded by oil companies? As best we can tell, it started with a 1995 Harper's magazine article claiming to expose this "high-powered engine of disinformation." Today anyone who raises a doubt about the causes of global warming is accused of fronting for, say, Exxon, whatever the facts.


In the pages of Rolling Stone last summer, Al Gore warned of the "Polluters and Ideologues [sic] . . . . spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media." He had the wrong spenders.

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Why do people mention Exxon when they attempt to slime Climate Realists? The Rockefellers are the original owners of Exxon. If you do not know the story then I suggest doing some digging, because David Rockefeller funds the Green movement!!

Feb 21, 2012 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMargaretO

Margaret, I'll give you opinion and that is that Exxon was chosen because of its vexed history - particularly, as Antony Sutton, Charles Higham and others have exposed in the last 35 years, its close links with IG Farben and Nazi economy, up to and including the top-level SS, during the run up and prosecution of WWII. It has some bad history - and this made it ideal as a mythical funder (because that's what the amounts really add up to) of the evil deniers.

The whole play may have been more opportunistic than that but that's been my hunch.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Excellent letter...Im looking forward to the reply from Kev already! :)

BTW, Im not so sure why you lot waste your time replying to the troll. Starve it of the oxygen of attention and it will go back to the dailymail article threads never to return.


Feb 21, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Richard Drake

Never heard that before. Googled Suttons bio and looks a bit Gleiky to me.

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Thank you very much for calling attention to both this letter and the original letter. Your Grace has been instrumental in my continuing education in climatology. Were it not for you, I'd not have known about bristlecone pinetree rings or "the most important tree in the world" or principal components analysis.

Long ago, I smelled a rat amongst the Pied Pipers of climate catastrophe; you've provided the flashlight ( "torch" in Britspeak ) that illuminated the rathole and a veritable rat infestation.

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDiogenes

Richard Black has a new story up today:

21 Feb: BBC: Richard Black: Airlines and tar sands proxy for bigger climate battles

from the first comments i've read; there are no doubt many more in the 124 so far saying similar:

"I'm amazed, although perhaps I shouldn't be. No mention of Peter Gleick?
After your article sneering at the Fakegate farrago and all the glee over the 'leaked documents', have you no interest in the fact that Gleick has now confessed?
At the very least some hearty condemnation would be appropriate although an apology on your part wouldn't go amiss either."

"Continually censoring comments about Fakegate when it is the lead environmental story does not put the BBC in a good light. If Richard Black saw fit to comment on the original release of these stolen and fake documents then the BBC has a duty to report the latest news about who was the source and to correct its original report. An apology would be wise as well."

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Feb 21, 2012 at 2:24 PM | FlipFlop

"which at least has a go at including some error bars"

Nice that the "error bars" encompass the natural trend from the LIA. With error bars that large, you could never disprove the hypothesis. Wish I could get away with that kind of manipulation in my work. When people got shredded by my haywire mechanisms, I could just say, "hey, performance was within the error bars".

Feb 21, 2012 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBart

It's odd that the Guardian, Black, et al have not backtracked when you consider that the UK is such a good venue for winning libel damages.

And it is probably too late now - history cannot be rewritten - the (the BBC etc.) pounced on the original story without checking facts and have subsequently failed to publish uncontested facts in a similarly timely manner (to the detriment of the Heartland Institute). The claims could be rather large...

I wonder if the Heartland Institute will seek to employ Dr. Pachauri's solicitors on a contingency basis?

Feb 21, 2012 at 11:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Going by the tweets, Black had lunch with Shukman. Did he go for the humble pie, or the brazen beef?

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Pharos: Sutton's painstaking scholarship on how the Soviet Union was aided throughout its life by western technology is relied upon by Thomas Sowell in Cultures and Conquests, to give one example. He was no lightweight but he ran into trouble when he tried to alert the politicians of his day to what he had discovered. It's a long story and this isn't the place for it, except to say that the combination of Big Money and deceptive, totalitarian programmes of extreme left and right would have been no surprise to him in today's world. Part of history that we need to face up to and learn from, I believe, to make sense of the CAGW story.

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Some commentators, prior to PG 'fessing up, noted that a certain dog had, surprisingly, not barked. Turned out that specific voiceless hound had good reason to lie low.
Now we're seeing the same reaction from a Black Basenjii Canine whose kennel fees are, predominantly, settled by TV-owning UK residents who have no powers to find out, far less control, what their licence fees are paying for.
Milliclegg, Camerband and LibJokeBloke; which one of you will elevate dear dickie-black to be Lord High Circumlocutioner, Misdirector of the BBC, Reith-Rider or just another pathetic symbol of a failed attempt to combine the numerical-suggestion of a Dec with the Perspicasity (sic) of an Ant.
FFS, you three Leaders and the rest of your colonies are "Pension-assured...( Warning other life-forms may get totally annoyed in the process) - OK over-use of parenthesis
Remind us about the Democratic process and how "Cream floats". I'd really thought that cream was much blonder (and less disgusting) than the ersatz product that you guys had been trickling down our throats!!!

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Please do not respond if Zed comments. Zed comments and follow-ups removed.

Feb 22, 2012 at 1:49 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

If you'll all excuse an on-topic comment this late in the thread. the letter is good, but not great, perspicacious, but not pithy. To be great and pithy, it should have been half as long.

Feb 22, 2012 at 6:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

As an addendum to the Bish's note, I'd like to say that the troll-removing Greasemonkey script is still around (see Disccussion thread about removing troublesome trolls). I note that it's been downloaded and installed 172 times, so you'll be in good company. Probably the most popular piece of software I've ever written :)

Feb 22, 2012 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


"Black Basenjii Canine"


Feb 22, 2012 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Well, if we follow the example set by the climate sciencific community, Black is acting ethically and with scientific integrity.

Feb 22, 2012 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered Commenteramabo

Richard Drake: "It's a long story and this isn't the place for it"

True, but note that you can read (or download) three of Sutton's books in HTML here.

Feb 22, 2012 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterJane Coles

The wsj has also embedded a video with the letter, which is an interview with Joe Bast of the Heartland Institute. This is worth watching as it sets out, very clearly, his view of events. I am not very knowledgable about who said what and when in the UK media about the Gleick affair. But based on Bast`s remarks about the conduct of Mr Gleik, I think it would be worth while for his organisation to consult with UK libel lawyers to obtain, at the very least, a retraction of and apology for inaccurate comments about the activities of the Heartland Institute..

Feb 22, 2012 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

"Why should we now believe exaggerating IPCC models that tell us of "missing heat" hiding in the one place where it cannot yet be reliably measured—the deep ocean?" A very telling point. Almost unbelievable that any serious scientist should support such models.

Let us hope that an independent Climate Science Study Group gets underway soon. But I fear it will never receive government funding.

Feb 22, 2012 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud


The error bars on the IPCC chart are indeed wide, but they do not include the potential for temperatures going down. So it clearly is a disprovable hypothesis, just a very cautious one!

I don't know who drew that chart in the WSJ response but wihout error bars it looks a bit GCSE. I'm just surprised the Bish liked it, with all his in depth knowledge of temperature series statistics ;-)

Feb 22, 2012 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterFlipFlop

What a wonderful video interview with Joe Bast ..... !!!

Feb 23, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterImranCan

The graph in the WSJ is quite a bit different. Very importantly it compares only the predictions to subsequent observation; each prediction is anchored in the year it was made. The WG1 graph includes hindcasting for all reports after FAR. The idea in the WSJ piece is obvious: compare prediction, and only prediction, to observation. And of course we have seven more years of flatline not included in the graph.

The 'error bar' issue is interesting and subtle but well worth understanding. The range of projections is mostly due to different physics in the various models. These differences yield a wide range of different climate sensitivities (change in global temp for 2 x CO2). Scientists would compare each model to observation and throw out the ones that have been falsified. This would result in keeping the low climate sensitivity models but discarding the high and medium climate sensitivity ones. What is done in IPCC and elsewhere is to gang all the models together into a statistical ensemble as if all the models were simply a selection from a hypothetical random distribution of models all trying to "measure" the same thing. This enables them to keep the 'likely projection' as stated in the Summary for Policy Makers which is what the sixteen plot in their graph. And as they state, this is what everyone sees and what is used to generate proposed policy.

Feb 23, 2012 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoblesse Oblige


Good point about the ensemble models - I never did understand the scientific logic behind treating different models as measuring the same thing.

I can accept that multiple runs of the same model, with slight modifications in either sensitivity to aerosols or start conditions, could be considered as being reasonably representative of the uncertainties within the individual model, and so an 'average' behaviour and a 'range' of outputs for the one model is feasible.

My understanding (I think from CA, but it might have been Lucia's) is that the range of responses for multiple runs of an individual model is quite narrow (say +/- 0.5 deg C per doubling), and that it is only by creating this ensemble of model outputs that the multi-degree range of uncertainties is derived.

Oh, and as an aside, surely the following facts suggest CO2 sensitivity must be lower than most IPCC estimates:
1 - The long-term correlation between CO2 and temperature is weak*
2 - The recent hiaitus in warming, being hand-waved away as the warming still being there but being overwhelmed by natural variations. If this is the case, natural variability must be the big player and CO2 warming the minor one.

* Atmospheric CO2 has been reliably measured only since the mid 50s, and has undergone a reasonably steady systematic increase over the past 55 years (from 307 to now around 390 ppm). During that time, temperatures flat-lined or marginally declined for the first 20 years of COs measurement, increased fairly rapidly for about 25 years, and have subsequently flat-lined for the last 10 years.

Feb 24, 2012 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan B

Yes, "an 'average' behaviour and a 'range' of outputs for the one model is feasible." Because models display chaotic fluctuations, there is uncertainty about the climate sensitivity (CS) as derived from any one model. So several runs may be needed, which can be a time consuming process. But once you have that, you should compare its CS and its uncertainty to the historical record with its uncertainty, properly taking into account autocorrelations. Then that model will either be falsified at some level of certainty -- or not.

If this were to be done, the models with the higher CS values will be falsified, and those with the lower ones will not, at least for now. IPCC would then need to tell us that the most likely value of CS is significantly lower than their central estimate of 3 deg for 2 x CO2. And you understand that that cannot be allowed to happen. So this is not what they do. They wrap all the models together, which enables them to keep the central value of 3 deg. Of course this becomes more and more untenable as the temperature flatline continues.

My point is that each model is a predictive world of its own, and they are quite different from each other, perhaps most signficantly in their treatments of the cloud-water vapor feedback. It is wrong -- emphasis, wrong -- to treat them the same way as if they all had the same physics. And we can assume that the reason it is done is to defend the dogma. It is not science.

Your point #2 is correct. By claiming that the current flatline is not long enough, it is tacitly admitted that natural variations can be important on the time scale of a decade or more. But you have probably already noted that those competing natural variations are never important when temperature was increasing.

Feb 24, 2012 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoblesse Oblige

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