Climategate: An unscientific response to unscientific arguments…

Climategate is a term coined by my brilliantly louche former colleague at the Daily Telegraph, James Delingpole. Everyone, it seems, is talking about it. Guido thinks he has a local link at Queens, when he points to a mathematician who has been trying to get tree ring data from Queens but claims he has been consistently blocked in his FOI requests, of which more below the fold. On the general thrust of the argument I picked this link up from Veronica’s thread on IrishElection yesterday which seems to me to be a useful point of reference in the current storm:

…there’s no smoking gun, nor are there powder burns or any other evidence that a gun ever existed. What we see is that scientists can be jerks, can be parochial, can respond badly to criticism, can circle their wagons against outsiders (especially cranks and dilettantes desperate to prove that the entire enterprise of climate science should be tossed out the window).

I’ve worked with scientists in the past and found them to be as ill tempered, passionate and bloody-mindedly intolerant as the average Joe. More so perhaps since they can get pretty dogmatic about their own work. But two things strike me as worthy of note.

One, there is a legitimate set of tax based arguments that the money that the political elites currently want to spend combating anthropogenic climate change could be better spent on other things (like expansion of markets and general economic growth)… Yet that lobby lacks the courage of its own convictions and chooses instead to try to undermine the scientific consensus that man’s rapid development is having an indelible effect on the climate of the planet. Thus, try as hard as you might, it is almost impossible to find much in the way of peer reviewed scientific content in the anti Climate Change output.

Two, the scientific and political elites who have bought into ‘the consensus’ have failed to recognise the need to engage robustly with their critics. And as a result they now have a few scientists going feral and trying to cook or tweak data in the most transparently unscientific way in order to meet the claims of their unscientific critics.

It will be interesting to see what the Tree ring data tells us. And to understand more clearly why Queens is withholding the data (I’m awaiting a response just now…). In this information driven world, data cannot be withheld indefinately. In the vacuum that ensues people will rush in to construe all manner of conspiracy theories to suit their own (unscientific) purposes…

As luck would have it, Slugger hears that there is a Science Cafe in the basement of Queens Students Union this evening on this very subject…

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  • Garza

    So Mick? Scientists are deliberately lying to the public? Why?

    “Two, the scientific and political elites who have bought into ‘the consensus’ have failed to recognise the need to engage robustly with their critics.”

    Criticism is all well and good, but criticism from who? Journalists? Economists?
    Also in the science world you need data to back up your claims. Do the critics have the data to back it up?

    “In the vacuum that ensues people will rush in to construe all manner of conspiracy theories to suit their own (unscientific) purposes…”

    Too late it seems.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s never too late. The usefulness of such controversies is that it forces people to think again about what they do and how they do it.

    And *some* scientists Garza. *Some* politicians lie to the public too, but it is debilitating to assume they all do, or rather that they all do in precisely the same way.

  • Trust us we’re a “consensus”….

  • mnob

    Google (other search engines are available) harry_read_me.txt if you want to know more.

  • 6countyprod

    Given its propensity for mocking global warming sceptics, I was wondering if Slugger ever intended to lift its apparent embargo on Climategate. Better late than never, I suppose.

    Anyone going to ‘man up’ and apologise to our wee Sammy?

    As for the assertion that there is ‘scientific consensus’ in relation to AGW, this professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology doesn’t agree.

  • Garza


    “It’s never too late. The usefulness of such controversies is that it forces people to think again about what they do and how they do it.”

    I’m all for debate, but the opposition to man-made climate change has to come to the table with solid data. To date Ive not seen such, just alot of journalists, economists and the odd scientist getting their salary from a fossil fuel company.

    To say that the vast majority of the scientific community is witholding the evidence against man-made climate change for their own sinister motives is very definition of a conspiracy theory.

    Many people who oppose climate change just read what journalists and other non-qualified people such as Sammy Wilson without looking at the data themselves.

    “And *some* scientists Garza. *Some* politicians lie to the public too, but it is debilitating to assume they all do, or rather that they all do in precisely the same way.”

    If they lie then why would they lie? Its not like they would lose a job if man-made climate change was wrong, their are plenty other areas of climate research.
    There is alot more of a punishment if a scientist was caught lying – his/her career is over period.
    Some scientists making mistakes is of ocurse possible, but the vast majority of the scientific community lying? Maybe man DID fake the moon landing.

    If you can’t tell I’m a scientist – a biologist – not a climatologist, climate is not my expertise but like the rest of humanity you rely on the experts in the field to interprate the data according, like consulting a doctor etc etc.

  • Mick Fealty

    All good things come to those who wait Six! 😉

  • Garza

    “Anyone going to ‘man up’ and apologise to our wee Sammy?”

    Aye coz Sammy knows all and sees all. Bet he believes evolution is all a scientific lie as well.

  • Mick Fealty

    Can’t argue with any of that Garza…

  • jesus wept


  • Jud

    Glad to see this finally raised.
    The issue here is (and always has been) the lack of scientific method applied to the AGW argument.

    Climate change may or may not be human induced, but the valid point the skeptics have always made is that the evidence has never been produced.

    Scientific method demands that when a theory is declared as supportable data and methods should be released to all comers to see if it is verifiable and reproducible.

    In the case of AGW both data and methods have been jealously guarded (and in some cases destroyed).

    We now know the hiding of information was deliberate and orchestrated from the very top.

    For a look at the hiding of data look at the emails – its really unbelievable. Requests to delete emails related to an FOI request are a serious matter.

    Also, the raw data used to build the charts we are now so familiar with has apparently been ‘deleted’. Think about it – there is no way to reproduce these finding.

    For a look at the methods look at the code and comments in ‘harry_read_me’. The software heads among you will be astounded at the manipulation of data via unexplained magic numbers. And you will also likely have some sympathy for Harry with the mess he has apparently inherited.

    Another major point is that a small cabal have hijacked the peer review process. The calls for ‘peer reviewed’ versions of legitimate arguments now appears to be a tool for silencing debate as only a small number of journals and complicit peer reviewers were viewed as legitimate. Control of what went into these journals appears to have been complete – with boycotts of disobedient publications, and even the removal of questioning editors being part of the run of things.

    There are hundreds of peer reviewed articles in the skeptical camp – just not in the reading list this clique sold as the only ‘reputable’ reading material. Reading these emails makes it clear why this is the case.

    The case for AGW is truly a ‘trust us we know better’ situation right now. Until the data and methods are made available and proper scientific rigor is applied to the current conclusions, the case is very weak. There is no evidence.

  • The most widely quoted sections of the “Climategate” emails do not suggest that those concerned are lying to the public deliberately. They do however suggest that they are “true believers” in man made global warming to the extent that they will resort to dubious tactics to push the view. In my opinion this is a lot more dangerous than a liar.

    The most quoted “hide the decline” email appears to relate to climate reconstructions involving tree rings. Using the standard analysis of tree rings post 1960 apparently the data shows that the climate has cooled following that date. As this is directly contradictory to the observed rise in temperatures it would tend to suggest that there are big problems with using this data in support of their argument, but no problem, just remove the tree ring proxy data and put in the real temperatures instead and hey presto the problem has vanished. The email suggests that this practice or “trick” has been used a number of times.

    This would be the sort of approach to data that we would expect from an advertiser or a political party, but not from a scientific body.

  • Garza

    “There are hundreds of peer reviewed articles in the skeptical camp – just not in the reading list this clique sold as the only ‘reputable’ reading material. Reading these emails makes it clear why this is the case.”

    Any links to these articles? You didnt give any journals, volumes or pages.

  • Jud
  • Delta Omega

    Why should QUB give up the tree ring data? – This is a dataset that brings valuable research to a NI university. If they gave up this core data then anyone could do this work and local third level education would suffer.

  • Garza

    At the time that the theft of the data was revealed climate sceptics picked up on the word “trick” in one e-mail from 1999 and talk of “hiding the decline”.

    Professor Jones said the e-mail was genuine but taken “completely out of context”.

    He released a copy of the actual e-email which reads: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

    Professor Jones said: “The first thing to point out is that this refers to one diagram – not a scientific paper.

    “The word ‘trick’ was used here colloquially as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward.”

  • Delta Omega – according to the links in Mick Fealty’s post, Queens Climate Centre was closed due to lack of funds.

  • Does anyone from Queens know if this is true?

  • Garza do you believe this “trick” to be ethical? If so, why?

  • Garza

    Thanks Jud.

    I got down to the 3rd article on your list, an article by Dr. Robert Balling.

    You do know that Dr. Balling has had massive contributations to his research by oil company Exxon, dont you? Sadly this happens, scientists sell out for the $$$, its called in our profession “selling the soul”.

    I will read more of your list later.

  • Delta Omega

    Aldamir – That doesn’t prevent other research from continuing using this data.

  • Climate change may or may not be human induced, but the valid point the skeptics have always made is that the evidence has never been produced.

    Jud, I know it’s boring and all, but you might like to visit the IPCC website and read through their reports (which include vast amounts of data). So, no: the sceptics don’t have a valid point. The evidence is in plain view.

  • Garza

    Aldamir. Any scientist who manipulates data for his and her own gain or views should be fired and stripped of his/her science degree.
    Is this trick a manipulation? It could be just a misunderstanding of slang language.
    Like I said I’m not a climatologist so I don’t know what slang words they use amongst each other. However I should point out that each profession in science has its own set of “slang words” for meanings.

    Anyway an independent monitor is being called in, so im going to reseve judgement until that.

  • Jud

    Ah – ok Garza.
    I suppose that is not an Ad Homimem attack?

    I think you will find the funding for pro-AGW interest groups dwarfs that for the others – that is a strawman.

    Phil Jones received 13 millon UKP over the last 5 years I believe (another interesting item in the leaked emails).

    Anything in the papers you have a problem with other than the names of the authors?

  • Garza

    I also have stress people about being weary about mathematicians ability reaching over into biological elements.

    Mathematics is an exact science down to every equation and predictions. However biological systems are VERY complex – especially the climate.
    Ask a mathematican to predict with equations what the weather will be like next week. He would only have a certain % chance of being correct.

  • scientist (not a climate expert)

    Several commentators here ask those of us who do not find the AGW theory credible where our evidence is – but we’re not the one’s proposing a theory, you are, so where is the evidence FOR AGW theory? The truth seems to be that there isn’t any – climate has changed constantly throughout history so far as we can tell and it has been both warmer and colder than it is now. All we get are computer models wheeled out which show rising trends – and as any scientist who works with computer modelling of natural phenomenon (I do in biology) can tell you they are NOT evidence. Models are hypothesis-generating but cannot prove anything because they are only as good as (1)the model-builders assumptions, (2)the input data, (3)the data missing (much of which we won;t realise is missing because we don’t know it is relevant yet). Furthermore if we test the robustness of these various climate models by comparing them with actual observation data we have available since they first made predictions we find they keep getting it wrong, and consistently in a pro-AGW direction. Eg. the last decade has been one of global cooling, not predicted by the AGW theorists (for obvious reasons).

    Stepping back from the science it is obvious that scientists are humans and just as prone to faith in theories as the rest of us – what they should have is the ability to apply the scientific method rigourously and abandon their beliefs if they are shown to be in conflict with the evidence. What we see in the whole AGW saga is a refusal to apply the scientific method and instead a resort to attacks on those who calmly and rationally ask questions about the lack of evidence – a very human response but not a very scientific one. Oh yes the threat to research grant income will no doubt be a factor.

    One other major factor promoting the AGW theory is the fact that it has spawned a billion-dollar international industry and many people will lose a lot of money when the evidence is allowed to speak. That is what makes the AGW theory so much more dangerous than the equivalent global cooling theory of the 1970s – unsurprisingly promoted by several of the figures now prominent in the AGW movement. The truth will out, and hopefully before the (generally) scientifically-illiterate politicians have been led by the pied piper of AGW into wasting vast amounts of other peoples money on the sort of futile exercises favoured by King Canute.

  • Jud

    Hi Ciaran.
    Are you saying the evidence is in the IPCC reports?
    I’m afraid they are based heavily on the work I just talked about – the data and methods are not available for that.
    Hopefully that will be addressed soon.

    Some validation and replication of results and I am on-side. ‘Trust me’ is not enough.

  • scientist (not a climate expert)

    I see someone just mention IPCC and seemed to imply that it:

    (1)is a scientific body – it is not, it follows political methods in determining its reports, NOT scientific ones

    (2)it is an expert body – it is not, many of its chapter leads study in completely different fields to that which they are supposed to be writing about

    (3)it is a body composed of scientists – it is not, its authors are a mix containing some scientists, but also many lobbyists, campaigners, etc.

  • Garza

    OK, Jud tell me why would an oil company sponser a climatologist?

    I’m sure they would sponser many geologists, engineers, chemists. Why a climatologist? If what you say is correct Jud, and man-made climate change is incorrect then oil companies should have NO interest in the climate as it does not effect it in any way, shape or form.

    It’s like a oil company sponsering an astronomer, very odd.

    Like I said, I will read the articles later. Its just Dr. Balling’s name stook out, as I’ve hard of him.

  • Mick Fealty


    I see a lot of polemic there, and ad hominems that could be turned directly back at you (hidden interests etc).

    What impresses me about the pro AGW theory is the sheer amount and diversity of the evidence. What comes back in the other direction are effectively economic arguments.

    As for computer models, well, what else is there to analyse future risk? How else to work out how to build bridges and schedule maintenance checks? How do you evaluate the risk attached to the stress and volume tolerances of dams?

    And what happens when you do none of these? A: Cork and Malahide.

  • scientist (not a climate expert)


    I have no financial interest either way.

    As for future risk – models in engineering can be tested prospectively, in biology they can often be tested prospectively, same for certain other subjects. That way they can be proven to be accurate enough to be useful. For climate all you can do is test them on old observations and see if they work, or make a 10 year prediction and wait ten years – and in either case so far none of them do. So we get models which are not demonstrated to have any validity whatsoever being used to tell us that there will be catastrophic warming in 50-100 years – why should I have any more faith in those models than I do in a horoscope? And more disturbingly why should politicians use those models to spend £bns of other peoples money?

  • Mick Fealty

    I see what you mean. Certainly the examples I give are concrete and confined man made systems amenable to traditional scientific measures.

    But there are still idiots people who think you can run such systems on the cheap. Then when it fails, the same will run about like headless chickens looking for someone, anyone to blame.

    Climate is way more complex and the models that try to quantify them are much more uncertain. But the argument against is the equivalent of saying that any such risk analysis is a waste of money.

    My concern is twofold: that scientists are in danger of forgetting where their professional last is; and the sceptics are urging the rest of us to forgo our responsibilities to those who come after us.

  • scientist (not a climate expert)


    I think the models should continue to be funded and researched but they should cease to be touted all over the media as evidence when they are not. A very important element of modelling research that I would target if I controlled the purse strings is how error propagates through these very complex models – if you have a +/- 15% uncertainty on a given input how does that affect the output, and then scale that up to simultanouesly model the uncertainity propagation across all inputs. Not sure quite how the computers would cope doing all that 🙂 But it is a serious point – in science you always have a value AND an associate estimate of error (which can often be surprisingly high) and if you then manipulate that value, you must also consider how the estimate of error changes too. Anyway I digress somewhat.

  • OC

    Whilst I am suspicious of “elites” telling me what I should believe, photographs of Arctic and Anarctic ice sheets, and alpine glaciers retreating, if genuine, may point to a cause for alarm. AGW skeptics: what’s your take?

    And the fiddling with recent dendrochronology data to make it fit would seem to throw a spanner into more distant temperature analysis.

    What seems to also get lost in the global warming atmosphere approach is water pollution efforts.

    BTW I see that Australia has rejected carbon-trading legislation.

  • mnob

    OC see the link :

    Alpine glaciers are retreating as they have done from before “our” history started – just look at the Glens of Antrim – many carved out by glaciers. Man made global warming ? Or the effect of coming out of an ice age ?

  • Kensei


    Single year results are not relevant in systems such as this. Climate is chaotic. What you are saying is that the weatherman said it would rain today but it was sunny. But it still remains more likely to rain in winter.

  • OC – those of us who are sceptical of AGW would say that climate change has always been a natural part of the climate of the earth. In the last 1000 years we have had the Medieval Warm Period when there were grapes grown in Scotland and the Little Ice Age when the Thames froze in winter.

  • Kensei
  • mnob

    Kensei actually that is my argument. Pro man made climate change evidence hinges on a very tiny amount of known data over a very short period of the earth’s history, but when similar data goes the other way they are quick to dismiss it as insignificant. The original question was about ‘evidence’ of the ice caps melting, and the glaciers melting in Europe. I presented an alternative view.

  • Panic, These Ones Likes It Up Em.

    1st rule of life in capitalist system

    No trust people that want make money from ya.

    2nd rule

    Do not trust goverment

    much same first rule

    I saving words for enviro

  • Brian MacAodh

    I do not have a scientific background.

    That being said, can you blame me if I really don’t know who to believe in this debate? It seems as if honest experts on both sides are in disagreements about important aspects of the theory.

    I don’t think I am alone in being very wary of politicians who want to spend my money to combat something which may or may not be threatening this planet.

  • Jud


    Look at the chart in the link you sent.
    The names in the legend should be familiar.
    The ‘trick’ in one of the the CRU emails refers to the fact that the data referenced changes from tree ring data to actual readings around 1960 or so.

    We know (from the emails) that the tree ring data actually shows a drop after 1960 – the ‘trick’ is to ignore the tree ring data from the point -it keeps dropping – and use only the ‘actual’ reading.

    We need to know if the tree ring data should now be unreliable (which casts doubt on the earlier portions of the graph) or if they are reliable (in which case we need to explain the divergence from the recent spike in actuals).

    In addition the ‘actual’ readings have been adjusted (for things like location change etc) but no data has been provided on how the adjustment numbers were arrived at. Harry_read_me shows adjustments, but they are just ‘magic numbers’ which for example appear to adjust the actuals for the 1930s by a negative number and the actuals for more recent years with a positive number.

    Other temperature proxies (e.g. bristlecones) that do show a MWP have been excluded from the chart.

  • Kensei, the “trick” in the Climategate email was employed because the Tree Ring data did not match observed temperatures over the 1960-1998 period.

    The article you refer to wishes to use the same type of Tree Ring data to try to suggest that the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age are only regional.

  • Sorry Jud, I should have refreshed the page before replying.

  • joeCanuck

    It’s an insurance policy. If we get it wrong and don’t spend now and warming is happening, we (not me, I’m 61) may be in a deep hole in a few decades.
    Furthermore, getting out of carbon as an energy source is going to be needed no matter what. Oil won’t last forever and we can’t afford the farmland to produce biofuels.
    Much more investment is needed in nuclear energy. I have to declare an interest here; I was a nuclear engineer/manager for the latter half of my career.

  • OC

    Joe: The chicken littles that shut down new nuclear plants in the USA twenty/thirty years ago, aren’t they the same ones moaning about the need for more nuke plants now?

    Instead of global warming prophecies of doomsday, the issue should be pollution cleanup and control for the sake of clean air, water, and soil.

    More hydroelectric with more dams.

  • joeCanuck

    More hydroelectric with more dams

    Agree, OC, where there is the capability. Unfortunately I live in a very flat place and all run of river sites have been utilized. We do have Niagara Falls of course and that is currently being expanded.
    Odd thing is that people in Ontario, at least, called their electricity their “Hydro”.

  • There is more evidence showing that global warming is NOT man made. Why is the media suppressing this? WAKE UP people. This is all about extorting the hell out of the little guy like you and me with carbon taxes all based on flawed and fabricated science. If you look at paragraphs 36 and 38 of the treaty it mentions global government. The new EU president Van Rompoopoo or whatever he’s called talked about this in his first speech as president. Exactly what are the hidden agendas behind the fake climate change? I would urge everybody who reads this to watch Lord Moncktons speech on this subject on youtube.

  • 6countyprod

    Mick, I think you hit on something there with your allusion to ‘hidden interests’.

    A most interesting article that I read a few days ago entitled ‘Climategate: Follow the Money’ addresses this very subject.

    Your ‘brilliantly louche former colleague’ Mr Delingpole made a spot on comment the other day, he said: The vested interests behind AGW are going to make darned sure that the AGW bandwagon keeps roll roll rollin’ along.

  • John East Belfast

    Any sceptism I have had was always based around mankind’s ability to think they were more important than they actually are.

    We think everything revolves around us – the kind of Irish history we fight over here is only a blip in the history of time.

    Maybe its like that with climate change – considering the age and robustness of the planet do we really think anything we can do in a couple of generations has the power to upset the balance ?

  • Super

    Thus, try as hard as you might, it is almost impossible to find much in the way of peer reviewed scientific content in the anti Climate Change output.

    “Peer reviewed” is nowhere near being anything like a synonym for “factually true”.

    Also the appropriate spending of money is not a scientific question, but a political one, in which rationality and ethical values are supposed to converge. Science is not supposed to have anything to do with ethics (see JamesWatsonGate for a taboo busting example of confusion on that) other than it be ethically carried out, i.e. don’t torture animals needlessly or test bioweapons on thieving chavs.

    A report on “we shouldn’t spend what the UN wants us to on climate change because it would be better spent elsewhere” is not science but rather a political opinion, and therefore it should not be “peer reviewed”. We do not peer review the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto.

  • Super

    There is alot more of a punishment if a scientist was caught lying – his/her career is over period.

    Oh how naive. Scientists have had their careers ended for telling the truth. Not usually by sacking (but it has happened) by but withdrawing funding. Climate change is now a political issue.

    Where science and politics step on each other’s turf (e.g. Cannabis is or isn’t safer than alcohol) all kinds of shenanigans occur.

    Predicting the weather twenty years hence is about as scientifically solid as astrology (or economics). If a gaggle of politicians are looking for their new “wealthy are exploiters” ideology just as their last one (another Christianist schism) has gone down the toilet of history, we should well look at motives and funding.

    Anthropogenic global warming has no more been proved than has Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”. Ideologues retreating to a new sheep’s entrails but with even more numbers and equations this time than Das Kapital (though that book had plenty of both).

  • paralaxco Green-Handed Climategate Scandal.pdf
    Sorry cant do hyperlinks but lots of peer reviewed links on this pdf from Mr Monckton Super.

  • Congal Claen

    Anyone interested in tree ring data can get it from

    Click on the ArcIMS icon, zoom in and download. I did this years ago using the Shane’s Castle dataset. I also plotted graphs for other datasets from the same site. I found no warming from any of the datasets I used.

    It seems the only tipping point we’re approaching in terms of AGW is that of public opinion. Soon it’ll be fashionable to be a sceptic.

  • 6countyprod

    Daniel Hannan has an an interesting and surprisingly balanced piece about climate change in the Telegraph. In spite of the title, he doesn’t seem like much of a sceptic to me.

    He concludes: I take the train to Brussels and Strasbourg, and don’t fly if I can avoid it. I drive only when absolutely necessary: no more than a dozen times a year.

    Mrs H is meticulous about reusing and recycling and sourcing our food locally and all the rest. Our children were brought up with washable nappies.

    I’m as keen as the next fellow on clean air and water, on whales and rainforests, and I have always thought it a pity that free market solutions are not more widely applied to environmental problems. The natural world is too important to be left to the Left.

  • Garza

    Good little video about the e-mails, enjoy.

  • Jud

    I prefer this one (from CBC – Canada’s national broadcaster).

  • Garza

    Jud you have condemned the scientist and the e-mails BEFORE a independent review has taken place. What ever happened to innocent until guilty lol?

    Your video is by a journalist, boy HE KNOWS what he is talking about.

    I despair of the media’s take on the climate change whether it be pro or anti. The Media has an unbelieable knack for getting science completely and utterly wrong.
    Eg. The media keeps on using the term “the missing link” for stories about evolution, even though that term has been outdated in science for over a century.
    Likewise if the weather so much as farts, the media are quick to point to climate change as the problem same goes for ant-climate change journalists. DO NOT TRUST THE MEDIA FOR SCIENCE.

    At least the video I posted is a scientist.

    And he shows that the term “trick” is used in many fields of science and in many papers and DOES NOT mean fiddling with results.

    Good day, next conspiracy theory please?

  • Jud

    Garza – Relax.

    Let me ask you two questions.

    Should the raw data that has been used to produce the temperature profiles from the CRU be published?

    Should the methods the CRU used on the raw data to produce the numbers in the profiles be published?

  • 6countyprod

    Jud: Should the raw data that has been used to produce the temperature profiles from the CRU be published?

    Apparently the raw data has been destroyed.

    Very convenient, eh?