Mark Steyn

Five Years Ago

Climate of Corruption

In the last week or so, we've been marking the fifth anniversary of Climategate's fascinating glimpse into how the science got settled. The subordination of the scientific method to ideological goals is well summed up by the headline of Matt Ridley's column - "Policy-based evidence making":

As somebody who has championed science all his career, carrying a lot of water for the profession against its critics on many issues, I am losing faith. Recent examples of bias and corruption in science are bad enough. What's worse is the reluctance of scientific leaders to criticise the bad apples. Science as a philosophy is in good health; science as an institution increasingly stinks.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics published a report last week that found evidence of scientists increasingly "employing less rigorous research methods" in response to funding pressures. A 2009 survey found that almost 2 per cent of scientists admitting that they have fabricated results; 14 per cent say that their colleagues have done so.

Lord Ridley gives three recent examples of "poor scientific practice". Here's the second:

Last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a supposedly scientific body, issued a press release stating that this is likely to be the warmest year in a century or more, based on surface temperatures. Yet this predicted record would be only one hundredth of a degree above 2010 and two hundredths of a degree above 2005 — with an error range of one tenth of a degree. True scientists would have said: this year is unlikely to be significantly warmer than 2010 or 2005 and left it at that.

In any case, the year is not over, so why the announcement now? Oh yes, there's a political climate summit in Lima this week. The scientists of WMO allowed themselves to be used politically. Not that they were reluctant.

Indeed. Michael E Mann, PhD (Doctor of Phraudology) was, inevitably, one of those talking up the WMO spin, even though in his recent court pleadings in his interminable suit against me he's been (dishonestly) distancing himself from the WMO. He responded to Ridley's criticism in characteristically thoughtful fashion:

Latest #climatescience smearer @mattwridley has a disturbing record of disinformation & denial.

Surely that should be #climatesciencesmearer? If only Dr Mann worked as hard on his science as on his hashtags. Judith Curry addresses the substance of the matter here. By the way, Matt Ridley does not name Mann in his column but does mention the latest blow to his "science":

When a similar scandal blew up in 2009 over the hiding of inconvenient data that appeared to discredit the validity of proxies for past global temperatures based on tree rings (part of "Climategate"), the scientific establishment closed ranks and tried to pretend it did not matter. Last week a further instalment of that story came to light, showing that yet more inconvenient data (which discredit bristlecone pine tree rings as temperature proxies) had emerged.

The overwhelming majority of scientists do excellent, objective work, following the evidence wherever it leads. Science remains (in my view) our most treasured cultural achievement, bar none. Most of its astonishing insights into life, the universe and everything are beyond reproach and beyond compare. All the more reason to be less tolerant of those who let their motivated reasoning distort data or the presentation of data. It's hard for champions of science like me to make our case against creationists, homeopaths and other merchants of mysticism if some of those within science also practise pseudo-science.

"Pseudo-science" is a good term. I'm not so sure about that first sentence of Matt Ridley's up above, about how "I am losing faith" in science. In the hands of Mann and the "hockey team", climate science has itself become a "faith", and one in which apostates are hunted down and no reformation is to be entertained. Five years ago, after the failure of the post-Climategate Copenhagen summit, I wrote the following in Maclean's. This is one of the pieces Mann has demanded in discovery. While I'm waiting for him to reciprocate for the next year or three, I may publish Dr Fraudpants' Discovery Requests as the next Steyn anthology:

As I always say, if you're 30 there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you're graduating high school after a lifetime of eco-brainwashing, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade. None. After the leaked data from East Anglia revealed that Dr. Phil Jones (privately) conceded this point, Tim Flannery, one of the A-list warm-mongers in Copenhagen, owned up to it on Aussie TV, too. Yet, when I reprised the line in this space a couple of weeks back, thinking it was now safe for polite society, I was besieged by the usual "YOU LIE!!!!!!!" emails angrily denouncing me for failing to explain that the cooling trend of the oughts is in fact merely a blip in the long-term warming trend of the nineties.

Well, maybe. Then again, perhaps the warming trend of the nineties is merely a blip in the long-term ice age trend of the early seventies. I doubt many of my caps-lock emailers are aware of the formerly imminent ice age. It was in Newsweek and the New York Times, and it produced the occasional bestseller. But, unlike today's carbon panic, it wasn't everywhere; it wasn't, in every sense, the air that we breathe. Unlike Al Gore's wretched movie, it wasn't taught in schools. TV networks did not broadcast during children's time apocalyptic public service announcements that in any other circumstance would constitute child abuse. Unlike today, where incoming mayors announce that as their first act in office they're banning bottled water from council meetings, ostentatious displays of piety were not ubiquitous. It was not a universal pretext for recoiling from progress: back in the seventies, upscale municipalities that now obsess about emissions standards of hot-air dryers were busy banning garden clotheslines on aesthetic grounds. There were no fortunes to be made from government grants for bogus "renewable energy" projects. Unlike Al Gore, carbon billionaire, nobody got rich peddling ice offsets. The man with the sandwich board announcing the end of the world on Jan. 7 is usually unfazed when he wakes up on the morning of Jan. 8. He realigns the runes, repaints the sign, and reschedules Armageddon for May 23. The rest of us, on the other hand, scoff.

But not with this crowd. First it was the new ice age. Then it became global warming. Now it's "climate change." If it's hot, that's climate change. If it's cold, that's climate change. If it's 54 and partly sunny with a 30 per cent chance of mild precipitation in the afternoon, you should probably pack emergency supplies and head for higher ground because global milding is rampaging out of control, and lack of climate change is, as every scientist knows, the defining proof of climate change.

Indeed, our response to climate change can itself cause climate change that manifests itself in lack of climate change. A couple of days back, the Guardian ran the following story: "The hole in the earth's ozone layer has shielded Antarctica from the worst effects of global warming until now."

Remember the ozone layer? It was all the rage back in the old days. It was caused by spray-on deodorants, apparently. So we packed 'em in, and switched over to roll-on deodorants. And, because we forswore the sinful spraying of armpits, the hole began to heal. Which is tough on the Antarctic ice cap. Because the only reason it isn't melting is because the ozone hole isn't fully closed up. Once it is, more hot air will remain trapped and melt the ice. It may be time to start spraying your armpit hair again.

Why did "climate change" remain the boutique scare-story of a few specialists last time round, and gain global traction this time round? In the Spectator, Maurizio Morabito puts it this way: "Is the problem with the general public, who cannot talk about climate except in doom-laden terms, and for whom the sky is the last animist god?"

That last part explains a lot. Forty years ago conventional religious belief was certainly in decline in what we once knew as Christendom, but the hole was not yet ozone-layer sized. Once the sea of faith had receded far from shore, the post-Christian West looked at what remained and found "Gaia." Not long ago, in Burlington, Vt., I got into a somewhat heated discussion about global warming with a lady who accused me of ignoring "science." She then drove away in a car with the bumper sticker "THE EARTH IS YOUR MOTHER." In Quebec City for the Summit of the Americas in 2001, I sought a breather from the heady scent of Sûreté du Québec tear gas and idled away half an hour among a display of brassieres promoting "sustainable development." One (a 54D, as I recall) read "THE EARTH IS MA MÈRE." In flagrant breach of Quebec's Bill 101, the francophone right cup was not twice the size of the anglophone left cup. If the earth is our mother, who are we to dictate to the goddess? As Lord Monckton pointed out to that Norwegian CO2-head, we've had climate change for four billion years. But now apparently there is an ideal state that Ma Mère has to be maintained in. A belief in a garden of Eden which man through sin has despoiled sounds familiar. But this time we get to pick. Not the Medieval Warm Period that causes the "scientific consensus" such problems, and not presumably the bucolic state the planet was in when Canada was 150 feet under ice, but some pristine condition somewhere in between.

When man was made in the image of God, he was fallen but redeemable. Gaia's psychologically unhealthy progeny are merely irredeemable. Anti-humanism is everywhere, not least in the barely concealed admiration for China's (demographically disastrous) "One Child" policy advanced by everyone from the National Post's Diane Francis to David Attenborough, the world's leading telly naturalist but also a BBC exec who once long ago commissioned the great series The Ascent of Man. If Sir David's any guide, the great thing about man's ascent is it gives him a higher cliff to nosedive off.

Very few sciences could survive being embraced as a religion. Imagine the kind of engineering or math you'd get if it also had to function as a "faith tradition."

Which is where we came in, with Matt Ridley's observations about pseudo-science. The latest blow to Mann's "hockey stick" is not terribly important in the scheme of things: The IPCC and most of the other climate alarmists who seized upon Mann's graph so eagerly at the turn of the century have spent the last decade backing away from it. But the ideological groupthink that led them to embrace Mann's "sh*tty" science (as Professor Wallace Broecker calls it) remains. Jo Nova:

I've always thought it spoke volumes that many tree ring proxies ended in 1980, as if we'd cut down the last tree to launch the satellites in 1979. We all know that if modern tree rings showed that 1998 was warmer than 1278, the papers would have sprung forth from Nature, been copied in double page full-fear features in New Scientist, and would feature in the IPCC logo too.

Ponder that the MBH98 study was so widely cited, repeated, and used ad nauseum. It was instrumental in shaping the views of many policy makers, journalists, and members of the public, most of whom probably still believe it. The real message here is about the slowness of the scientific community to correct the problems in this paper...

The obvious message is that these particular proxies don't work now and probably never did, and that this hockeystick shape depends on not using tree rings after 1980.

More important than the details of one proxy, is the message that the modern bureaucratized monopolistic version of "science" doesn't work. Real scientists, who were really interested in the climate, would have published updates years ago.

~What do you get the climate denialist who has everything? If you're shopping for the #climatesmearer in your family this Christmas, we hope you'll consider a SteynOnline gift certificate or our exclusive range of commemorative Mann vs Steyn trial merchandise. And for that special someone in your life don't forget our limited-time Christmas offer: the Steyn vs the Stick Winter Warmer. It's all available direct from the Steyn store, and proceeds go to support Mark's end of the upcoming trial of the century.

from Climategate Five Years On, December 11, 2014


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