. From the article: “A team of four physicists was arrested this morning at the headquarters of the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, MD.
officers from the Department of Homeland Security entered the building around 8:30 a.m. and detained the suspects without
. The group is charged with breaking and entering a secure government facility, destruction of government property, stealing national secrets and parking illegally.”
The 2000s, the “aughts”—whatever you want to call the first decade of the 21st century, you can also call it the warmest 10 years on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released its annual “State of the Climate” report, and after sampling 37 climate indicators including the biggies like sea surface temperature, glacier cover, and sea level, they came to that conclusion.
The NOAA report—published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society—is different from other climate publications, because it’s based on observed data, not computer models, making it the “climate system’s annual scorecard,” the authors wrote… “It’s telling us what’s going on in the real world, rather than the imaginary world,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the Boulder, Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research [National Geographic].
While one climate group trumpets its mountain of climate data, the scientists at the University of East Anglia are just climbing out from the scandal that broke out over theirs. This month another investigation cleared the Climate Research Unit of scientific misconduct or dishonesty, without condoning the emails’ tone or the unit’s handling of the controversy.
To try to improve its bruised public image, and appease climate skeptics’ calls to see the data, the university is working on way to get the unit’s data online and openly accessible.
It will not be as simple as putting the numbers online, as the data sets are frequently updated, and the steps leading to updates will also be made clear [New Scientist].
But, in a Q&A with New Scientist, former CRU director Phil Jones and East Anglia’s Trevor Davies argue that they shouldn’t have to bend over backward to all the freedom of information requests made for their data or correspondences. Says Davies:
The FOI act is clearly laudable. But we also believe there is an argument for confidentiality. The trouble is, that is interpreted by some as being somehow sinister, when it clearly is not in the vast majority of cases.
US law accepts that emails between colleagues when they’re working on a paper and around peer review should not be disclosable. That came about because of what was described as a potentially chilling effect on research if every single email exchange was released [New Scientist].
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Months after the hack heard ’round the world, the independent review is finished. A panel of 11 led by the University of Oxford’s Lord Oxburgh investigated the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, whose researchers were accused of manipulating data based on information gleaned from thousands of stolen emails. The panel’s conclusion: The scientists did not intentionally distort the truth, though their statistical rigor leaves something to be desired.
“We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it,” says the Oxburgh report. “Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention” [Nature]. This conclusion came after interviewing people within the organization and combing through the data in 11 of the center’s peer-reviewed papers published over the span of 22 years.
Oxburgh found the researchers “squeaky clean” in terms of their intentions—and that’s what this was, an investigation of the scientist’s integrity, not their results. But, the panel found their methods to be somewhat lacking. Specifically, the report says, “We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians.” The university issued its own statement after the Oxburgh report’s release, including this response to the charge that they didn’t use the best statistical methods available:
Specialists in many areas of research acquire and develop the statistical skills pertinent to their own particular data analysis requirements. However, we do see the sense in engaging more fully with the wider statistics community to ensure that the most effective and up-to-date statistical techniques are adopted and will now consider further how best to achieve this.
Another area for suggested improvement is in the archiving of data and algorithms, and in recording exactly what was done. Although no-one predicted the import of this pioneering research when it started in the mid-1980’s, it is now clear that more effort needs to be put into this activity.
However, some of the panelists noted, even adjusting for newer statistical models didn’t alter the conclusions. David Hand, who is the president of Britain’s Royal Statistical Society and sat on the Oxburgh panel, dug into the infamous “hockey stick” chart of global temperatures by Penn State’s Michael Mann during his investigations. Hand agrees with Mann: he too says that the hockey stick – showing an above-average rise in temperatures during the 20th century – is there. The upward incline is just shorter than Mann’s original graphic suggests. “More like a field-hockey stick than an ice-hockey stick” [New Scientist], he says.
dwguenther writes “The first of several British investigations into the e-mails leaked from one of the world’s leading climate research centers has largely vindicated the scientists involved. The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee said Wednesday that they’d seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit … had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming.”
According to the article, the head of committee which produced the report “said the lawmakers had been in a rush to publish something before Britain’s next national election, which is widely expected in just over a month’s time”; two further inquiries are to examine the issue more closely. The “e-mails appeared to show scientists berating skeptics in sometimes intensely personal attacks, discussing ways to shield their data from public records laws, and discussing ways to keep skeptics’ research out of peer-reviewed journals,” but the committee concluded that East Anglia researcher Phil Jones was not part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that weakens the case for global warming.
eldavojohn writes “The real fallout of climategate may have nothing to do with the credibility of climate change. Daniel Henninger thinks it’s a bigger problem for the scientific community as a whole and he calls out the real problem as seen through the eyes of a lay person in an opinion piece for the WSJ. Henninger muses ‘I don’t think most scientists appreciate what has hit them,’ and carries on that vein in saying, ‘This has harsh implications for the credibility of science generally. Hard science, alongside medicine, was one of the few things left accorded automatic stature and respect by most untrained lay persons. But the average person reading accounts of the East Anglia emails will conclude that hard science has become just another faction, as politicized and “messy” as, say, gender studies.’ While nothing interesting was found by most scientific journals, he explains that the attacks against scientists in these leaked e-mails for proposing opposite views will recall the reader to the persecution of Galileo. And in doing so will make the lay person unsure of the credibility of ALL sciences without fully seeing proof of it but assuming that infighting exists in them all. Is this a serious risk? Will people even begin to doubt the most rigorous sciences like Mathematics and Physics?”
Source: The Science Credibility Bubble
After hacked e-mails, angry Copenhagen sex workers, and months of lead-up time with which to question whether the leaders of the world will actually do anything to slow down global warming, the big meeting is finally here. Today marks day one of the U.N. climate summit held in Denmark’s capital, in which diplomats from 192 nations, including more than 100 heads of state, will try to iron out some kind of agreement that would be the successor to the Kyoto protocols.
The conference opened with videos about the consequences of climate change; the big decisions won’t come for a few days. President Barack Obama’s decision to attend the end of the conference, not the middle, was taken as a signal that an agreement was getting closer…. The first week of the conference will focus on refining the complex text of a draft treaty. But major decisions will await the arrival next week of environment ministers and the heads of state in the final days of the conference, which ends Dec. 18 [AP].
In response to slow-moving governments and anthropogenic global warming skeptics howling with increased volume in the wake of the East Anglia hacked e-mail controversy, Copenhagen organizers emphasize that there’s no more time to lose in addressing climate change. However, the provisions in the draft agreement don’t have a lot of teeth. To have a chance of keeping warming under the dangerous 2C mark, cuts of 25%-40% relative to 1990 levels are needed, rising to 80%-95% by 2050. So far, the offers on the table are way below these targets [The Guardian].
While the G8 countries are looking at keeping warming under 2 Celsius, BBC News reports, China and developing countries are discussing more ambitious cuts to keep warming below 1.5 Celsius. And besides agreeing on a target for emissions reduction, a Copenhagen agreement would also have to sort which countries should make the most cuts, and how much wealthier nations should have to pay to help developing countries curb their emissions.
Despite all that diplomats must work out in less than two weeks, though, convention leader Yvo de Boer laid down the gauntlet for his meeting. “The time for formal statements is over. The time for re-stating well-known positions is past,” he told delegates. “Copenhagen will only be a success if it delivers significant and immediate action” [BBC News].
Image: flickr / adopt a negotiator