Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Times Gets It (Mostly) Right

After I and other evidence-based bloggers exposed the New York Times's hypocrisy in declining to print the leaked CRU files, science writer John Tierney publishes a reasonable column called "E-Mail Fracas Shows Peril of Trying to Spin Science," in Tuesday's NYT. The article moves beyond the emails to focus on leaked data stored under the file name "HARRY_READ_ME" (a possibly unintentional punning ironic reference to the current U.S. Senate Majority Leader). It's a huge text file documenting someone attempting to recreate years of lost temperature data, mis-programming a "squaring" function to produce negative numbers, pronouncing himself "fed up with the state of the Australian data. so many new stations have been introduced, so many false references," and containing this cri de coeur:
OH [explicative] THIS. It's Sunday evening, I've worked all weekend, and just when I thought it was done I'm hitting yet another problem that's based on the hopeless state of our databases. There is no uniform data integrity, it's just a catalogue of issues that continues to grow as they're found.
As Tierney concludes:
While Harry’s log shows him worrying about the integrity of the database, the climate scientists are e-mailing one another with strategies for blocking outsiders’ legal requests to see their data.

While Harry is puzzling over temperatures -- "I have that familiar Twilight Zone sensation" -- the scientists are confidently making proclamations to journalists, jetting to conferences and plotting revenge against those who question the dangers of global warming. When a journal publishes a skeptic’s paper, the scientists e-mail one another to ignore it. They focus instead on retaliation against the journal and the editor, a project that is breezily added to the agenda of their next meeting: "Another thing to discuss in Nice!"

As the scientists denigrate their critics in the e-mail messages, they seem oblivious to one of the greatest dangers in the climate-change debate: smug groupthink. These researchers, some of the most prominent climate experts in Britain and America, seem so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate their certitude -- and ultimately undermine their own cause.
Also on Tuesday, CRU's director, Phil Jones, announced he was "stepping down" pending an independent investigation. His leaked email re-works the numbers to "hide the decline" in temperature data. Jones is mocked in this parody music video--yet collected 13.7 million British pounds ($22.6 million at current exchange rates) in government grants since 1991. Still laughing?

Of course, Jones should be fired. But that's not enough. It seems that un-scientific secrecy has corrupted and constrained transparent peer-review. This isn't the fault of climate skeptics, as the left claims. Indeed, even Times columnist Tierney recognizes that the studies supporting climate change must be fact-checked. And, given the documented duplicity and long-standing fraud -- not just at the CRU -- I agree with Soylent Green commenter Glenn:
They fudged so much that NOTHING that came out of CRU can have ANY believability. If the word can be gotten out on this and understood it is the end of the global warming myth.
Or, more simply:

(via TimesWatch, EcoTretas, theblogprof, Don Surber)


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Bill McKibben was one of the environmentalists who got all this started two decades ago. I can't find where he has weighed in on this story. I can guess, but getting the actual data is important, right?

Anyone know what he's saying today? If you are near Middlebury College maybe you could drop over and ask innocent questions?

bobn said...

I started to read the HARRY_READ_ME.txt file the other night.

Even leaving out the concerns for the database, it reflects an honest (I think) attempt to deal with a prior stunning lack of documentation of which code was used on which data to produce what results. A baffling array of files and file formats are available (some of them wrong and/or unuseable).

The poor guy is reduced at one point to trying out different programs with different data files until he reproduces (mostly) the previously reported results for a grid - just to (maybe) know what programs and files to work on.

And I only made it through 1/8th or 1/6th of the file.

Carl said...

bobn: As I understand, it was more pernicious: Harry Harris was trying to recreate temperature data that had been lost and -- as you say -- he couldn't do it.