Climategate: some comments by Prof. S. Fred Singer

The Climategate disclosures over the past few days, consisting of some thousand of emails between a small group of British and US climate scientists, suggest that global warming may be man-made after all – created by a small group of zealous scientists!

It would seem they have used flawed data, phoney statistics, and various “tricks”. They appear to have covered up contrary evidence and refused to open their work to the scrutiny of independent scholars. It has also been suggested that by keeping out “intruders”, by reviewing their own papers, by capturing scientific journals and intimidating editors, they have tried to suppress dissent.

I do not wish to discuss any of the ethical or legal aspects, which may be self-evident.

I consider the whole matter a great tragedy not only for science but also for the institutions involved and for many of the scientists involved who have in fact spent many years and whole careers on their work. In particular, I have some personal sympathy for Philip Jones and feel he has been dealt a bad hand. Trying to correct temperature observations from weather stations around the world is extremely difficult work. It involves much detail; it is certainly not traditional science. However, I cannot endorse the actions of this group and hope that an impartial investigation will bring closure to this difficult matter.

Inevitably, the public’s view of science will be affected and this will hurt all of science.

 

S. Fred Singer is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia.

Keep up the good work! I was much impressed by your recent appearances on British TV.

Professor Singer’s appearance on The Daily Politics show can be viewed here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/the_daily_politics/8374523.stm

Extraordinary amount of media coverage and blog space given over to this subject, especially for a think tank, which has “economic” in its title.Did acid rain exist? Did it ever harm the environment, e.g. denuding foliage from conifer trees and soil erosion in Germany in the 1980’s? Was acid rain caused by natural changes in global chemical structures, or caused by mankind’s activity, like coal fired power stations. Empirical evidence: Once emissions from coal were controlled, acid rain stopped. QED.Failure to husband scarce natural resources; like oil, rain forests without renewing them will damage the economy; global warming or not. Excess demand over supply = galloping inflation

“The inadvertent email I sent last month has led to a Data Protection Act request sent by
a certain Canadian, saying that the email maligned his scientific credibility with his
peers! If he pays 10 pounds (which he hasn’t yet) I am supposed to go through my emails
and he can get anything I’ve written about him. About 2 months ago I deleted loads of
emails, so have very little – if anything at all.”Phil Jones Dec. 3, 2008[See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2009/11/hacked_climate_emails_and...

As a compliment to the earlier comment.It is clear that prices in commodities have shot up in 2009: Copper +87%, Sliver +80%, Platinum +70%, Gold +43%, Brent Crude Oil +40% this year on the London Exchange. This compares to an FTSE 100 share price recovery of about 50% from its lows in March 2009.Is a bubble forming in commodities, which threatens to cause inflation and damage the recovery from recession? Does this clearer relationship between the natural environment and economy stimulate greater interest to the IEA and significance to the world economy?Leave climate change to the environmentalists and pop journalists.

I agree with Jonathan – I think getting involved in the scientific debate is problematic for the IEA. I am a bit sceptical of the evidence and modelling of climate change – reminds me of macroeconomic forecasting (a complex system modelled with highly subious assumptions and imperfect data) – but I am completely distrusting of the policies which are currently being proposed to mitigate. Unbelievably costly, and unlikely to succeed even in their own terms. There are better approaches involving some use of carbon taxes and development of geoengineering techniques. People like Bjorn Lomborg (had a good piece in the New Statesman last week) and Steve Levitt in Superfreakonomics are good sources

Len and Jonathan are quite right that the focus should be on the economics of climate change rather than the scientific debate (although the two cannot be separated entirely). The Climategate scandal, however, is surely more about political economy than science. When government funds research there is always a danger that the incentives for objective enquiry will be undermined. I would love to see a public choice analysis of the problem.

In response to Len and Jonathan perhaps I could say that I have been very rigid on the issue of not getting involved in the scientific debate since I came to the IEA in 2002 except the issue of whether the science is distorted by the public choice economics relating to the funding. We quite deliberately had both scientific and economic speakers on Monday night (because policy action requires answers to both scientific and economic questions). Regarding the “extraordinary” amount of blog space, I think we have had maybe two posts on climate science out of 280. I don’t think that is extraordinary at all. But, I agree with Len’s other comments, of course.

The debate has been framed above by S. Fred Singer is on the scientific, not economic basis. Lord Lawson called for a public enquiry into the UAE Climate Research Unit alleging scientists misbehaved.Risks lurk for the sceptics, sometimes called called climate change deniers in discussing sources of funding for climate change research.There are scientific and economic problems. The Polar Ice Cap is melting, photographic evidence of this has been produced this year. Commodity prices are spiraling as highlighted from the FT data above.Historical data on temperatures from 100 plus years ago cannot be as accurate as modern data. What should we do? Plenty of sand to bury our heads soon!

My earlier remarks about Blog space did not refer to the IEA site excessively covering the matter.Have a look at the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph blogs and comments columns for the evidence of large volumes.I feel that there are great risks for sceptics in questioning the objectivity of research, based on funding sources; possibly with greater costs than those of the government funded research. The scientific argument is much stronger, hence the need to leave it with the scientists.

The researchers have done themselves a disservice by forcing the results to comply with their pre-conceived idea of what the results should be. There is a constant tension amongst the amails about how to make the data fit the desired results. More damning are the program code and associated comments.If the researchers had published what they wrote in email; about the lack of quality of raw data, the inconsistent delivery of data and the lack of the physical understanding necessary for a proper climate model, then that would have been a good investment.It certainly would have been a better investment of a lifetime than trying to keep an elephant swept under the carpet.

If we tackle the real problems: (1) Pollution of soil, water, and air. (2) Exploitation of non-renewable resources. (3) Extinction of fauna and flora. and (4) Growth of population (all connected), we won’t have to worry about man-made climate change – if there is such a thing.

I remember Simon Jenkins commenting several years ago about the vagueness of scientific projections and how this level of inaccuracy would not be acceptable in economic forecasts. Because of the general ignorance about how scientists interpret data we tend to be in awe of their pronouncements rather than treating them with the proper scepticism.

It is the job of academics to be ’sceptical’. Lord Salisbury said: ‘No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you never should trust experts.’ And Oliver Cromwell said: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.’ (Encouraging words from a dictator!)

Further thoughts on the economics of the scarcity of natural resources, this time about water, with the keen involvement of private companies. A report published by the McKinsey Global Institute. Interesting in the light of today’s OFWAT announcement about the UK Water companies’ new 5 year charging regime.http://www.mckinsey.com/App_Media/Reports/Water/Charting_Our_Water_Future_Exec%20Summary_001.pdf

Yes, it will hurt the reputation of science and the scientific method, but I can’t share sympathy for any who have so thoroughly abandoned their loyalty to discovering truth. They do not deserve to be called scientists, and to sympathize with their plight or good intentions or most especially the great difficulty of their work would be to share sympathy for anyone who sacrificed ethics for a “mess of pottage.”Further, they sought to suppress the truth in deliberate ignorance, and more than science will suffer. Any great reason to act cooperatively for the purpose of action that would be of mutual interest is hurt terribly. Real human lives, not just careers, are now endangered.

It isn’t a great tragedy for science. Its a chance for a good purge. Examples are needed. We need a full Official Inquiry into this scandal, under a judge not a scientist, and, if evidence of fraud if found, we need some very well publicised sackings to keep the others in line for a while. Criminal evasion of the Freedom of Information Act ought to lead to prison sentences. I doubt if we’ll get such an inquiry as too many politicians have nailed their colours to the climate-change mast.
The Peer Review process if obviously deeply flawed due to it being an honesty-based system and thus easily corrupted by the agenda-led.

Most of these so called scientists are taking a page out of Al Gore’s book; if you preach long enough and hard enough you will be rewarded with plenty of government grants. The idea of man caused global warming was theorized and debated by academics for decades but never went anywhere because there’s no scientific basis for its existence. It wasn’t until Gore made big money from the debate and helped others raise research money from the government that an academic debate turned into a politicians dream; a means of raising taxes and getting reelected under the guise of saving the world; Bernie Madoff you’ve been one upped!

Keep up the good work! I was much impressed by your recent appearances on British TV.

Professor Singer’s appearance on The Daily Politics show can be viewed here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/the_daily_politics/8374523.stm

Extraordinary amount of media coverage and blog space given over to this subject, especially for a think tank, which has “economic” in its title.Did acid rain exist? Did it ever harm the environment, e.g. denuding foliage from conifer trees and soil erosion in Germany in the 1980’s? Was acid rain caused by natural changes in global chemical structures, or caused by mankind’s activity, like coal fired power stations. Empirical evidence: Once emissions from coal were controlled, acid rain stopped. QED.Failure to husband scarce natural resources; like oil, rain forests without renewing them will damage the economy; global warming or not. Excess demand over supply = galloping inflation

“The inadvertent email I sent last month has led to a Data Protection Act request sent by
a certain Canadian, saying that the email maligned his scientific credibility with his
peers! If he pays 10 pounds (which he hasn’t yet) I am supposed to go through my emails
and he can get anything I’ve written about him. About 2 months ago I deleted loads of
emails, so have very little – if anything at all.”Phil Jones Dec. 3, 2008[See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2009/11/hacked_climate_emails_and...

As a compliment to the earlier comment.It is clear that prices in commodities have shot up in 2009: Copper +87%, Sliver +80%, Platinum +70%, Gold +43%, Brent Crude Oil +40% this year on the London Exchange. This compares to an FTSE 100 share price recovery of about 50% from its lows in March 2009.Is a bubble forming in commodities, which threatens to cause inflation and damage the recovery from recession? Does this clearer relationship between the natural environment and economy stimulate greater interest to the IEA and significance to the world economy?Leave climate change to the environmentalists and pop journalists.

I agree with Jonathan – I think getting involved in the scientific debate is problematic for the IEA. I am a bit sceptical of the evidence and modelling of climate change – reminds me of macroeconomic forecasting (a complex system modelled with highly subious assumptions and imperfect data) – but I am completely distrusting of the policies which are currently being proposed to mitigate. Unbelievably costly, and unlikely to succeed even in their own terms. There are better approaches involving some use of carbon taxes and development of geoengineering techniques. People like Bjorn Lomborg (had a good piece in the New Statesman last week) and Steve Levitt in Superfreakonomics are good sources

Len and Jonathan are quite right that the focus should be on the economics of climate change rather than the scientific debate (although the two cannot be separated entirely). The Climategate scandal, however, is surely more about political economy than science. When government funds research there is always a danger that the incentives for objective enquiry will be undermined. I would love to see a public choice analysis of the problem.

In response to Len and Jonathan perhaps I could say that I have been very rigid on the issue of not getting involved in the scientific debate since I came to the IEA in 2002 except the issue of whether the science is distorted by the public choice economics relating to the funding. We quite deliberately had both scientific and economic speakers on Monday night (because policy action requires answers to both scientific and economic questions). Regarding the “extraordinary” amount of blog space, I think we have had maybe two posts on climate science out of 280. I don’t think that is extraordinary at all. But, I agree with Len’s other comments, of course.

The debate has been framed above by S. Fred Singer is on the scientific, not economic basis. Lord Lawson called for a public enquiry into the UAE Climate Research Unit alleging scientists misbehaved.Risks lurk for the sceptics, sometimes called called climate change deniers in discussing sources of funding for climate change research.There are scientific and economic problems. The Polar Ice Cap is melting, photographic evidence of this has been produced this year. Commodity prices are spiraling as highlighted from the FT data above.Historical data on temperatures from 100 plus years ago cannot be as accurate as modern data. What should we do? Plenty of sand to bury our heads soon!

My earlier remarks about Blog space did not refer to the IEA site excessively covering the matter.Have a look at the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph blogs and comments columns for the evidence of large volumes.I feel that there are great risks for sceptics in questioning the objectivity of research, based on funding sources; possibly with greater costs than those of the government funded research. The scientific argument is much stronger, hence the need to leave it with the scientists.

The researchers have done themselves a disservice by forcing the results to comply with their pre-conceived idea of what the results should be. There is a constant tension amongst the amails about how to make the data fit the desired results. More damning are the program code and associated comments.If the researchers had published what they wrote in email; about the lack of quality of raw data, the inconsistent delivery of data and the lack of the physical understanding necessary for a proper climate model, then that would have been a good investment.It certainly would have been a better investment of a lifetime than trying to keep an elephant swept under the carpet.

If we tackle the real problems: (1) Pollution of soil, water, and air. (2) Exploitation of non-renewable resources. (3) Extinction of fauna and flora. and (4) Growth of population (all connected), we won’t have to worry about man-made climate change – if there is such a thing.

I remember Simon Jenkins commenting several years ago about the vagueness of scientific projections and how this level of inaccuracy would not be acceptable in economic forecasts. Because of the general ignorance about how scientists interpret data we tend to be in awe of their pronouncements rather than treating them with the proper scepticism.

It is the job of academics to be ’sceptical’. Lord Salisbury said: ‘No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you never should trust experts.’ And Oliver Cromwell said: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.’ (Encouraging words from a dictator!)

Further thoughts on the economics of the scarcity of natural resources, this time about water, with the keen involvement of private companies. A report published by the McKinsey Global Institute. Interesting in the light of today’s OFWAT announcement about the UK Water companies’ new 5 year charging regime.http://www.mckinsey.com/App_Media/Reports/Water/Charting_Our_Water_Future_Exec%20Summary_001.pdf

Yes, it will hurt the reputation of science and the scientific method, but I can’t share sympathy for any who have so thoroughly abandoned their loyalty to discovering truth. They do not deserve to be called scientists, and to sympathize with their plight or good intentions or most especially the great difficulty of their work would be to share sympathy for anyone who sacrificed ethics for a “mess of pottage.”Further, they sought to suppress the truth in deliberate ignorance, and more than science will suffer. Any great reason to act cooperatively for the purpose of action that would be of mutual interest is hurt terribly. Real human lives, not just careers, are now endangered.

It isn’t a great tragedy for science. Its a chance for a good purge. Examples are needed. We need a full Official Inquiry into this scandal, under a judge not a scientist, and, if evidence of fraud if found, we need some very well publicised sackings to keep the others in line for a while. Criminal evasion of the Freedom of Information Act ought to lead to prison sentences. I doubt if we’ll get such an inquiry as too many politicians have nailed their colours to the climate-change mast.
The Peer Review process if obviously deeply flawed due to it being an honesty-based system and thus easily corrupted by the agenda-led.

Most of these so called scientists are taking a page out of Al Gore’s book; if you preach long enough and hard enough you will be rewarded with plenty of government grants. The idea of man caused global warming was theorized and debated by academics for decades but never went anywhere because there’s no scientific basis for its existence. It wasn’t until Gore made big money from the debate and helped others raise research money from the government that an academic debate turned into a politicians dream; a means of raising taxes and getting reelected under the guise of saving the world; Bernie Madoff you’ve been one upped!

It has also been suggested that by keeping out “intruders”, by reviewing their own papers, by capturing scientific journals and intimidating editors, they have tried to suppress dissent.

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