November 29, 2009
Global Warming Fraud and the Future of ScienceBy J.R. Dunn
The East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) revelations come as no real surprise to anyone who has closely followed the global-warming saga. The Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) thesis, to give it its semi-official name, is no stranger to fraud. It is no real exaggeration to state that it was fertilized with fraud, marinated in fraud, stewed in fraud, and at last served up to the world as prime, grade-A fraud with nice side orders of fakery and disingenuousness. Damning as they may be, the CRU e-mails are merely the climactic element in an exhaustively long line.
A short tour of previous AGW highlights includes:
The Y2K Glitch. This episode involved the NASA/GISS team led by James Hansen, possibly the most fanatical and unrelenting of all warmists -- a man who makes Al Gore look like a skeptic. (Among other things, Hansen has demanded that warming "deniers" be tried for "crimes against humanity.") While examining a series of NASA temperature graphs, Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre, himself not so much a skeptic as an anti-warming Van Helsing, uncovered a discontinuity occurring in January 2000 that raised temperatures gathered over widespread areas by 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit. McIntyre had no easy time of it, since Hansen refused to reveal what algorithm he'd used to process the data, forcing McIntyre to perform some very abstruse calculations to figure it out.
Once notified, Hansen's team promised to correct the error, stating that it was an "oversight." When the corrected figures were at last released, they rocked the church of warming from bingo hall to steeple. Vanished was the claim that the past few years were "the warmest on record." Now 1934 took precedence. A full half of the top ten warmest years occurred before WWII, well prior to any massive CO2 buildup.
No explanation has ever been offered. We have a Y2K glitch that behaves like no other computer glitch ever encountered, uniformly affecting a large number of sources distributed almost nationwide. Although the incident trashed all recent data and raised uncomfortable questions about the warming thesis as a whole, NASA itself made no effort at an investigation or inquiry. All that we're ever going to hear is "oversight." I guess that's how they do things at NASA/GISS.
The Arctic Ice Melt. We've been informed for the better part of a decade that Arctic ice was melting at an unprecedented rate, and that the North Pole would be ice-free in twenty, thirty, or forty years, depending in the hysteria level of the media platform in question. In truth, ice thinning was due to a cyclical weather pattern in which winds blow ice floes south into warmer water. Everybody involved knew that this cycle occurred, everyone had seen it happen previously since time out of mind. But it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Worse yet, when the weather returned to its normal pattern two years ago, large numbers of scientists put in considerable effort to suggest that the "new" ice was thinner than usual and would vanish in a flash as soon as the temperatures went back up. The media went along with the joke. The Germans have a phrase to cover such eventualities: "this crew should be stripped of their trade." (Several expeditions setting out for the Pole to "call attention" to the coming Arctic catastrophe had to stop short due to icy conditions. In one case, both women involved suffered serious frostbite.)
The Poor Polar Bears. Closely related is the saga of the polar bears, staring extinction in the face due to warming, while somewhere beyond the aurora, Gaia weeps bitter tears. This was evidently inspired by a single photograph (you've seen it -- the entire world has at this point) of a woebegone polar bear crouched on a melting iceberg. That bear had to be sulking over allowing a nice, juicy seal to escape, because it was in no danger. Out of the twenty major polar bear populations, only two are known to be decreasing. Estimates of bear population (there are no exact figures) have increased over the past forty years, from 17,000 to 19,000 to the current number of 22,000 to 27,000. The bears are becoming pests in municipalities such as Churchill and Point Barrow (as clearly shown here). Despite all this, the bear was put on the U.S. "endangered" list just last year.
The Hockey Stick That Wasn't. The "hockey stick" is a nickname for a chart prepared by Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University professor and leading warmist. The chart purports to show temperature levels for the past millennium, and consists of a straight line until it reaches the late 20th century, when it suddenly shoots upward, creating the "hockey stick" profile. This chart was a major feature of International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports on global warming and is a commonly used media graphic.
This chart creates immediate doubt in anyone knowledgeable about the climate of the past millennium, which more resembles a roller coaster than a straight line. It developed -- in yet another impressive McIntyre takedown, this time with an assist from Ross McKitrick -- that Mann was utilizing an algorithm that would produce hockey sticks if you fed it telephone numbers. (Mann is the "Mike" mentioned in the CRU e-mails, and this is one of his "tricks.") Despite this disclosure, Mann has never withdrawn the chart, offered an explanation, or made a correction. The chart remains an accepted piece of evidence among warmists.
Tree-Ring Circus. Due to the fact that direct temperature measures for past epochs are lacking, climatologists utilize "proxy measures," such as tree rings, glacial moraines, and lake sediments. Tree rings have played an important part in the warming controversy as evidence backing the claim that temperatures have been consistently lower worldwide until recently. A crucial series of measurements utilized by Mann, among others, involves trees located on the Yamal peninsula in Siberia. How many trees were measured, you ask? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand?
The answer is twelve: a number perfectly adequate to trigger international panic, overthrow the capitalist system, establish Green totalitarianism, and completely turn Western culture on its head.
But it turns out that further measurements were in fact made in the area, involving at least thirty-four other trees. And when this data is added to the original twelve, then the warming evidence disappears into the same branch of the Twilight Zone as the grip of Mann's hockey stick. Another "oversight", you understand.
We could go on to mention the automated U.S. weather stations chronicled by the tireless Anthony Watts, which were conscientiously placed next to air-con vents, atop sewage plants, in parking lots, and in one case, in a swamp (as many as 90% may be giving spurious high readings). We could mention the glaciers that are vanishing worldwide...except where they aren't, or the endless papers demonstrating that the coral reefs -- along with various birds, animals, insects, and plants -- are facing extinction even though no warming whatsoever has occurred for twelve years. (And in the thirty years before that, the total rise was 1.25 degrees Fahrenheit, easily within normal variation.) Powerful stuff, this warming -- it maims and destroys even when it's not happening.
It's within this context that the East Anglia e-mails must be judged. The vanishingly small number of legacy media writers who are paying attention behave as if the messages comprise some kind of puzzling anomaly, with no relation to anything that came before. In truth, they stand as the internal memos from the East Anglia branch of the Nigerian National Bank, which can save us from the horrors of global warming after payment of a small up-front fee.
There is always a deeper level to the damage caused by fraud. It strains social relationships, generates cynicism, and debases standing institutions. What has suffered the most damage from AGW is faith in the scientific method, the basic set of procedures -- it could be called an algorithm -- governing scientific investigation. These procedures embody simplicity itself: you examine a phenomenon. You gather data. You construct a hypothesis to explain that phenomenon. And then...
Well, first, let's cover what you don't do.
What you do, if you are a serious scientist operating according to the established method, is attempt to thwart your hypothesis. Test it to destruction; carry out serious attacks on its weakest points to see if they hold up. If they do -- and the vast majority of hypotheses suffer the indignity embodied in a phrase attributed variously to Thomas Huxley and Lord Kelvin -- "a beautiful theory slain by an ugly fact" -- then you have a theory that can be published, and tested, and verified by other scientists. If you don't, you throw it out.
None of this, amidst all the chicanery, fabrications, and manipulations, appears to have been done by anyone active in global warming research, the CRU least of all. From this point, we are forced to conclude that AGW is not science, and that any "consensus" that can be drawn from it is a consensus of fraud.
(The late-breaking revelations of temperature manipulations at New Zealand's NiWA institute -- another one of Mike's tricks? -- merely underlines the lesson of CRU. Now that the dam has busted, we'll be hearing dozens of stories like this over the weeks and months to come.)
The West is a technological society. Science is as responsible for making us what we are as any other factor, including our democratic system of government. The two are in fact complementary, each supporting and encouraging the other across the decades since this country was established. (And yes, I am aware that Britain and Germany were both centers of scientific progress, both of them nations liberalized by the example of the United States. Even the utterly authoritarian Bismarck was forced to heed the voice of the people despite his inclination to do anything but.)
The technology developed from scientific research has created a world that would be unrecognizable to our forebears of even a century ago. Technology has transformed diet, health, communications, and transportation. It has doubled lifespans in advanced countries. Prior to the modern epoch, few ever caught a glimpse of the world past their own farming fields. India, China, and Africa were wild myths, the Pacific and Antarctica utterly unknown, the planets and stars merely pretty lights in the sky. Technology opened the world -- not just for everyday men and women, but for invalids, the disabled, and the subnormal, who once lived lives of almost incomprehensible deprivation. Technology was a crucial factor in the dissolution of ancient empires and the humbling of aristocracies.
As Paul Johnson has pointed out, a technological breakout appeared imminent at a number of points in the past millennium. Consider the anonymous Hussite engineer of the 15th century who left a notebook even more breathtaking than any of Leonardo da Vinci's, or the revolutionary English Levelers of the 17th century who dreamed of flying machines and factories. If a breakout had occurred at those times, the consequences would have been unimaginable. But the Hussites were destroyed by the German princes, the Levelers by the reestablishment of the English crown. It required the birth of a true democratic republic in the late 18th century to provide the setting for a serious scientific-technical takeoff, one that after two hundred years has brought us to where we stand today, gazing out at the galaxies beyond the galaxies, with the secret of life itself within reach.
It is this, and no less, that scientific fraud threatens. This is no trivial matter; it involves one of the basic elements of modern Western life. When scientific figures lie, they lie to all of us. If they foment serious distrust of the scientific endeavor -- as they are doing -- they are creating a schism in the heart of our culture, a wound that in the long run could prove even more deadly than the jihadi terrorists.
Such failings are not relegated only to climatology. The apparent success of the climate hustlers has infected all areas of research. Over the past decade, stem-cell studies have proven a hotbed of fraud. Recall Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, the South Korean biologist who claimed to have cloned various higher animals and isolated new stem cell lines to worldwide applause. Suk was discovered to have faked all his research, prompting the South Korean government to ban him from taking part in any further work. Nor was he alone. Researchers throughout the field have been caught fabricating and manipulating data, and at least one large biotech company has developed a habit of announcing grand breakthroughs to goose its stock prices.
A number of factors are responsible, among them the grant-making process, which rewards extravagant claims and demands matching results, and the superstar factor, in which media adulation creates a sense of intellectual arrogance -- as in the case of Dr. Suk -- unmatched since Galileo's heyday. But the major problem lies in politics, specifically as involves ideology.
In both major recent cases of fraud, science had become entwined and infected with ideology to a point where its very nature was transformed. It was no longer science in the classic mold, boldly asking basic questions without fear or favor. It had become an ideological tool, carrying out only such research as met with the approval of political elites. Stem-cell research became enmeshed with the abortion question. Embryonic stem cells, obtained by "processing" aborted babies, received the lion's share of funding and attention despite their showing no potential whatsoever. Adult stem cells, obtainable from bone marrow, skin cells, or virtually any other part of the body, were shunted aside despite extraordinarily promising research results. This bias permeated the entire field and distorted all perceptions of it -- one of the reasons Dr. Suk was so wildly overpraised was his willingness to attack Pres. George W. Bush for limiting embryonic stem-cell exploitation.
The climatology story is no different. Environmentalist Greens needed a threat -- one that menaced not only technological civilization, but life on earth itself. They have promoted an endless parade of such threats since the 1960s -- overpopulation, pollution, runaway nuclear power, and global cooling -- only to see them shrivel like old balloons. They required a menace that was overwhelming, long-term, and not easily disproven. With global warming, the climatologists gave them one. In exchange for sky-high funding, millennial scientists -- the heirs of Bacon, Copernicus, and Einstein, men who bled and suffered for the sake of their work -- continually inflated the nature and extent of the CO2 threat by using the sleaziest methods available, as we now know. The result has been complete intellectual degradation.
Scientists were once among the most trusted figures in Western public life -- similar to bankers, priests, and doctors, but in a real sense, standing above them all. Scientists were honored as truth-tellers, aware that their reputation for veracity and seriousness was their only real asset. And while exceptions existed (read the story of Blondlot and his N-rays, for one example), the public took them at their own valuation.
That has ended. The concept of unblemished scientific integrity is now one with the scholastic monasteries and the academy at Athens. Scientists today are well on their way to becoming an amalgam of the cheap politician and the three-card monte dealer. They are viewed by the less educated as a privileged class making alarming and impudent claims for their own benefit. The better-informed find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of being unable to defend something we once admired.
The next set of questions in physics cannot be answered without equipment costing billions at the very least, and possibly much more. Will a disbelieving public pay for that? We are facing serious dilemmas concerning breakthroughs in biology, not only in stem-cell technology, but also in neurology and synthetic biology -- breakthroughs that threaten to distort the very nature of humanity itself. Should we leave the solutions up to people who want us to pick a card, any card?
The collaboration between science and democracy is one of the great achievements of human history. It is now threatened by the behavior of people at the very heart of that collaboration. If it is destroyed, a treasure of unparalleled value will have vanished. This treasure will be nearly impossible to replace. If the Western world wishes to continue its magnificent upward journey, then we have to save science from itself. An errant and corrupt climatology is the place to start.