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Climategate


John Costella
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Hi all,

It's definitely a controversial issue, and the conspiracy itself goes back at least ten years, so I hope that Climategate qualifies as 'History', even if the emails were only made public a couple of weeks ago.

As a scientist who formerly accepted the results of climate change science almost without question, these emails have devastated me. I have apologised to my wife, family and friends for previously dismissing climate sceptics almost out of hand, in discussions on the issue. It has been a distressing time.

I believe with every fibre of my being that this is no storm in a teacup; it is no beat-up; and -- despite Al Gore's pronunciations yesterday to the contrary -- these emails have not been quoted out of context. I absolutely believe that they are as explosive as Watergate or the Pentagon Papers.

I feel so strongly about the issue that I have been posting excerpts -- as well as links to the full text of each email; indeed, all of the leaked material -- to assassinationscience.com/climategate. I am about half-way through the 1000+ emails. The site also contains the op-ed piece that I released yesterday, explaining exactly why these revelations are so distressing to those scientists that have delved into them.

Comments welcome.

John Costella

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Dr Costella,

Can you post a summary of what (in your opinion) these e-mails mean?

I have heard a lot about pro and con, but I simply do not have the knowledge to properly evaluate what is being said. There is too much being bandied about that requires a scientific understanding of what is being claimed (or refuted); most often the layman cannot take an 'informed' position.

My current position is that it is better to be cautious, to accept the danger as real and combat it. If it is shown to be false then we can reverse decisions. As always, I remain open to a change of position if evidence can be shown warranting a change.

Thanks!

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Hi Evan (please call me John, everyone),

I'll give you three answers to that -- the first two probably not what you want, the third what you asked for. B)

The first is that, in the excerpts that I have posted on assassinationscience.com/climategate, I have tried to make sure that I have filtered out all the scientific mumbo-jumbo (but summarising it with what it really means, in everyday terms). This isn't misleading, because the full (unfiltered) text of each email can be read by clicking on the link.

I used to teach Maths to 13- to 18-year-olds, so I pretended I was teaching to the 13-year-olds when doing this filtering. My wife (not a scientist) has read what is there so far, and it makes sense to her. So I encourage you to read that summary: all you need is an understanding of human behaviour to understand what is happening, not a PhD in particle physics.

The second answer: the op-ed piece I posted there (also attached to this post) is likewise written for real people to understand, not science geeks. And it explains, in the most eloquent way I could construct at the time :), what it really means.

The third answer, in brief (look at the first two for the lengthier answers):

Climate change science is completely broken. Key scientists leading this field broke almost every principle of the scientific method. While there are many excellent and honest scientists working in the disciplines used to assess the climate change issue, those in the "meta-discipline" of stitching together these results acted dishonestly. Instead of assessing the evidence to determine the truth, only those steps that led to more alarming results were admitted. Scientists (even within their own ranks) who displayed honest and healthy scepticism were threatened, or worse.

I dubbed this the Church of Climatology at the end of my piece. That's the best analogy I have.

The net result is that I have no confidence at all -- none whatsoever -- in the IPCC statements. I now have no idea at all whether man is affecting global temperatures, nor whether doing things differently will change anything.

The mathematical techniques needed to extract the sorts of answers that these scientists sought are extremely subtle: one mistake, one slip -- even an apparently innocuous assumption -- can throw everything out the window. I know, because my colleagues and I deal with this every day. I could discuss the subtleties mathematically, but this is not the place.

Apart from the most obvious aspects of dishonesty and bias, what I also see in these emails is an absolutely inexcusable lack of professionalism, that wouldn't be tolerated in most fields for even 'unimportant' research -- yet here these scientists were dealing with perhaps the most momentous application of science in our lifetime. Sets of data were thrown around carelessly, loaded into spreadsheets, fiddled with, confused, and lost; computer programs were written without the proper documentation of what they were doing, and changed between different runs without keeping a proper history of what was done. As long as the results tended towards their preconceived conclusions, then this sloppiness was AOK.

Then other scientists started asking for the data, and the programs, to check that all was kosher. Well, of course, they couldn't have that! You can't let people see how sloppy the whole process was! So they made up excuses to not give them the data, or the computer programs. I have browsed -- but haven't read in detail -- the second half of the emails yet (from 2004 to 2009), but from what I have seen, they degenerated further from there, to outright destruction of the evidence.

Well, that's enough of a summary for now.

To your final comment, on being cautious. Up until a week ago, my position was exactly the same as yours. Sure, the costs were astronomically high, but so too were the predicted consequences of not acting; indeed, they were much worse.

But now we are in the position of having absolutely no idea where the truth lies. In a legal sense, the entire case for climate change has been thrown out of court: it is an absolute mistrial.

So now the equation is much more difficult. Do we undertake enormous pain, on the basis of no credible evidence at all?

I suggest that what will happen from here is the following. No government on the planet facing popular election will dare to enact any climate-change-limiting policies; all such policies will be "on indefinite hold". One or more governments will summon emergency teams of scientists, qualified in the mathematical and statistical fields needed to assess the climate data, but completely independent of the existing climate change community. These teams will be tasked with coming to an absolutely rigorous assessment of how likely it is that climate change policies are required. It would probably take a year to do this work, depending on the personnel and resources.

By the end of that year -- say, by 31 December 2010 -- decisions will need to be made. If things really are as alarming as the Church of Climatology told us, then there will be need for urgent action. Of course, this would only be useful if the honesty, integrity and ability of the scientists employed for this task is completely beyond reproach. On the other hand, if the results are more equivocal -- or if climate change is not proved at all -- then appropriate steps (including continuing to do nothing, if that is indicated) could be taken.

That's my view.

John

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Guest Stephen Turner

We omit BILLIONS of tons of CO2 into the air, and, lo and behold there is ever increasing CO2 in the air, surely its not that difficult to believe that CO rise is down to us, is it?

Its true that CO2 has gone up on its own in the past, most notably during the glacial-interglacial cycles, during this time CO2 rose and fell by over 100ppm, ranging from 180-300ppm, but these rises took 5 thousand- 20 thousand years, depending on the glacial cycle. By contrast we have seen an equivalent rise of 100ppm in just 150 years, namely since the Industrial revolution, now there's a surprise.

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The "global warming scare" is like all other scares of this type.

The first question to ask is WHO BENEFITS from the scare propaganda.

Then, if there IS a problem, check it out.

Likely, the scare is promoted by those who can line their pockets in some way.

Scientifically, carbon dioxide (CO2) is NECESSARY FOR LIFE. Vegetation

uses carbon dioxide to manufacture OXYGEN. I learned this in the seventh

grade. If we have too much carbon dioxide, then plant more vegetation.

As for "global warming", two nights ago our local temp was 21 degrees,

one of the coldest nights in several years. Weather fluctuates in cycles,

governed by sun, oceans, clouds, etc...far more powerful than any puny

human intervention.

Air POLLUTION is a far more serious threat than carbon dioxide.

Jack

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The central question is not the level of CO2, but what effects those levels are having on the planet.

Since CO2 is not poisonous, the key concern was its potential to warm the planet through the "greenhouse effect". We've been told about this for thirty years or more; and in theory it makes good scientific sense: by itself, CO2 would act like a "blanket".

But the real world is not just a billiard ball surrounded by at atmosphere; it's a complex system that is in a constant balance between equilibrium and change -- and highly nonlinear ones at that. No scientist can claim to know exactly how the planet would react to any given stimulus.

So the next step was to actually measure the temperature of the planet over time, to see if it really has warmed up due to the increased levels of CO2. But without a time machine, that's the difficult part.

It's this piece of the equation that has been revealed to be fraudulent: not in the fundamental sciences that measure the sorts of things that can indicate temperatures (like tree rings), but in the mathematical methods use to stitch together all this data in the hope of extracting a trend. There are so many variables -- an unbelievable amount of scientific difficulty -- that it would have been difficult enough to do this if the scientists had been doing it honestly and truthfully. But once you bias and skew the results to arrive at a preconceived conclusion, it goes completely out the window.

Let me make this plain here. The careers of Mike Mann and Phil Jones are over, beyond any doubt. The only question is whether they escape going to jail. That's the level of fraud that we're talking about here.

The remaining scientists in this small club -- the followers -- are not in the same league at all. The careers of some will suffer enormously through their involvement in this debacle; but others -- the ones who urged caution, who questioned the methods being used -- will rise to lead the remnants of "climate science" into the decades ahead.

John

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Hi Jack B)

As usual, mate, we agree on many things, but I have a different take than you on some. I don't disagree with your comments about the politics of this. But ...

As for "global warming", two nights ago our local temp was 21 degrees,

one of the coldest nights in several years. Weather fluctuates in cycles,

governed by sun, oceans, clouds, etc...far more powerful than any puny

human intervention.

The real problem is that what happens in any given place in any given time has no bearing on the question of whether we are driving the planet towards apocalypse. So (with greatest respect), the fact that it was 21 degrees in Fort Worth two nights ago is no more relevant than the fact that a particular year was the warmest one ever measured.

So it cuts both ways, my friend. :)

But you've hit the nail on the head with your mention of "cycles". Most of the mathematical tricks that the climate scientists had to (legitimately) use were done to try to strip away the effects of these cycles. What they wanted was what was left after all cycles are stripped away: the trend.

The problem is that this is extremely difficult to do, and requires extraordinary amounts of honesty, critical debate, and transparency. Instead, these idiots whacked together whatever mathematical programs they thought would do the job -- barely keeping track of what the mathematical tricks were that they used -- and then were amazed when other scientists asked for the data and computer programs to verify what they had done! What did they think: that the whole planet would accept a "Trust me"?

John

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Hi Jack B)

As usual, mate, we agree on many things, but I have a different take than you on some. I don't disagree with your comments about the politics of this. But ...

As for "global warming", two nights ago our local temp was 21 degrees,

one of the coldest nights in several years. Weather fluctuates in cycles,

governed by sun, oceans, clouds, etc...far more powerful than any puny

human intervention.

The real problem is that what happens in any given place in any given time has no bearing on the question of whether we are driving the planet towards apocalypse. So (with greatest respect), the fact that it was 21 degrees in Fort Worth two nights ago is no more relevant than the fact that a particular year was the warmest one ever measured.

So it cuts both ways, my friend. :)

But you've hit the nail on the head with your mention of "cycles". Most of the mathematical tricks that the climate scientists had to (legitimately) use were done to try to strip away the effects of these cycles. What they wanted was what was left after all cycles are stripped away: the trend.

The problem is that this is extremely difficult to do, and requires extraordinary amounts of honesty, critical debate, and transparency. Instead, these idiots whacked together whatever mathematical programs they thought would do the job -- barely keeping track of what the mathematical tricks were that they used -- and then were amazed when other scientists asked for the data and computer programs to verify what they had done! What did they think: that the whole planet would accept a "Trust me"?

John

I think we are in agreement. I stated that far more powerful forces are at work, that are unaffected in the long

run by human intervention. Weather is controlled by the sun, oceans, winds, and other forces far more powerful

than a minute rise in CO2. The local example I gave is irrelevant, as you say. But that is the point. The

temporary rise in global warming is a centuries long bump in the weather graph. Going way back in the known

history of weather there have been cycles of warm weather and cold weather. Most of North America was once

under water. Later it was under glaciers. At one time fossils prove that the tropics existed here. Any talk of

a fraction of a degree of warming over many years is a small spike in the graph of centuries. Everyone now

alive will be safely dead before any calamity occurs.

Jack

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Jack,

Again, you've hit the nail on the head. The 'blip in the graph' is the key issue that is central to the debate. Mann, Jones and colleagues had argued that the current 'blip' was not a blip at all, but way outside anything ever seen in recent history. But when you look at some of the techniques they were using to come to this conclusion, you realise that they were trying their damnedest to make sure that this is what came out -- not assessing honestly whether it was true or not.

One particular set of email discussions is most intriguing to me; it's something that I've been discussing with my colleagues (physicists), and I didn't think that I would be able to explain it in everyday terms. But your comment about 'blips' makes me think that maybe I can.

Here we go:

When trying to measure temperature back thousands of years, you can't rely on regular thermometer readings; they only go back a couple of centuries, and, except recently, were only made in certain geographic areas. So these guys need to use "proxy" measurements of temperatures: tree rings, ice tubes, etc.

Because of the many steps involved in inferring temperatures from the proxies, different proxies give different results. This is to be expected. The hard part is trying to figure out how inaccurate these estimates are. But these "error estimates" are of crucial importance: if they are larger than the "blips", then it means that you know nothing at all about the temperature history, and that no reliable conclusions at all could be drawn from any recent "blips".

In the curious Climategate email discussions I referred to above, it was pointed out (by one of the more honest scientists) that averaging the "blips", at a given date, for different proxies ("multi-proxy") can give misleading results -- because, as you go further back in time, inaccuracies in the dating can lead to blips from some proxies cancelling out blips from others.

There are ways to deal with this, but the emails show that some of these guys' understanding of statistics was woefully inadequate for the task. Add in their policy of hiding the data and computer programs from independent scrutiny, and you have one of the 'smoking guns' of climate fraud.

John

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Len,

The "10,000 scientists signed our petition" argument is past history -- for both sides of the debate. As just one pertinent example, here's one of the Climategate emails:

October 9, 1997: email 0876437553:

Joseph Alcamo to Mike Hulme and Rob Swart: "Sounds like you guys have been busy doing good things for the cause ... Distribution for Endorsements ... I am very strongly in favor of as wide and rapid a distribution as possible for endorsements. I think the only thing that counts is numbers. The media is going to say '1000 scientists signed' or '1500 signed'. No one is going to check if it is 600 with PhDs versus 2000 without. They will mention the prominent ones, but that is a different story. Conclusion—Forget the screening, forget asking them about their last publication (most will ignore you.) Get those names!"

I speak for myself. I'm not funded by anyone, and have nothing to do with any CO2-intensive industry. And if you think that I'm part of some right-wing agitation group, then you need to look into my background a little more carefully.

Read my op-ed piece to understand how this "private club" of "climate scientists" abused the peer-review process to exclude dissent. If you don't believe that, then read the emails themselves. They are all there on the site.

This is about the science, the mathematics, and the statistics. The days of quoting the number of people you convinced to sign the petition is over.

Many of us thought that this was a good cause -- possibly the most important cause in mankind's history. I never signed on to any petitions of support, but I can understand those who did: they trusted the scientific process, and by extension implicitly trusted that the climate science results were correct. That trust was abused.

John

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I speak for myself. I'm not funded by anyone, and have nothing to do with any CO2-intensive industry. And if you think that I'm part of some right-wing agitation group, then you need to look into my background a little more carefully.

Note that I asked you about climate scientists, your background is in particle physics, computer science, electrical engineering and math/science education. Do you really think this qualifies you understand the complex issues at hand? Do you think a climatologist is qualified to question the conclusions of quantum physicists?

What does this supposed private club have to gain from faking results? Why are there conclusions only questioned by minuscule numbers of QUALIFIED scientists NOT employed by industry?

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Do you really think this qualifies you understand the complex issues at hand?

Absolutely!

This small gang of corrupt cowboys has arrogated onto themselves the right to pick and choose which parts of mathematics and statistics they would use to analyse results of momentous importance to the whole planet, and have fraudulently blocked those who attempted to critically review their work.

These emails and files show that the level of knowledge in statistics and probability of these cowboys is on a par with -- or less than -- that of an undergraduate student. They are absolutely incompetent -- there is no other word for it.

Don't take my word for it: assemble for yourself a hundred competent experts in probability and statistics -- whether they work in particle physics or any other field, I don't care -- present them with the Climategate emails and publications, and ask the experts if the science is valid.

Or take a look at the work of the Particle Data Group, and you realise how difficult and subtle it is to get the mathematics and statistics right for such complex data sets. A similar number of experts in probability and statistics should have been employed to analyse and assess the results of climate science. Instead, it looks like there were none at all.

The whole furphy that "only climate scientists can judge climate science" is a joke. When you need to use mathematics, you need to check your results with expert mathematicians. When you need to use statistics, you need to check with expert statisticians. You don't go and ask guys that chop down trees and count the rings in them.

Unfortunately, this scandal will reinforce the view that scientists in the "soft" sciences are incompetent, and their results not to be trusted on issues of importance. That may have been true in the past, but by and large is not true today. That "climate science" has reverted to an ostrich "head-in-the-sand" mentality will damage confidence in all the "soft" sciences. It is for that stigma that the Church of Climatologists will bear the wrath of scientists across the globe for decades to come.

John

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A colleague has reminded me of a perfect example.

In my last job, when the Lieutenant-Colonel asked me to analyse failure data for all the ballistic vests worn by the Army, he didn't do so because I knew about ballistics and ammunition. Indeed, I had to ask my boss (a Major) which ammunition type went with the AK-47 rifle -- everyone else in my Section (all Army guys) just assumed that it was common knowledge.

They didn't laugh (OK, they did smile), because they didn't put me onto the analysis because I knew about Army stuff, but because I was (in their opinion) the best person to attack what was an almost-impossible statistical task.

In the whole Department of Defence, that is.

So if the Chief of Army was willing to trust my expertise when it came to the lives of all of his soldiers, do you think I'd be confident tackling the analysis of tree rings and tubes of ice?

You bet.

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