Monday, 8 March 2010

Dying the Death of a Thousand Qualifications

Healthy Circumspection

Lorne Gunter, writing in the National Post, reflects upon the change in tone and substance of the (formerly) gung ho scientists that had been actively championing the global warming cause.

He writes:
Why does Climategate matter? Who cares whether the climate data on a computer at some obscure English university has been deliberately corrupted?

In one form or another, I have had to answer these questions from dozens of readers in the three months since thousands of e-mails and computer files were leaked from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.

There are plenty of ways in which these disclosures have been crucial, but the principal change has been the uncertainty creeping into the remarks of former True Believers. Some of those who for years have insisted the science is “settled,” are now admitting we don’t know all we need to before making trillion-dollar policy decisions.
He reviews the recent carefully qualified statements by Prof Phil Jones in his recent BBC interview, and observes that six months ago, Jones and his colleagues would never have spoken in such carefully qualified and measured tones.
Consider the remarks Phil Jones, the former head of CRU, made last week to the BBC. Prof. Jones, who has stepped down from his directorship of the CRU pending official investigations into the leaks, told the Beeb there has been no “statistically significant” global warming since 1995 — that’s the past 15 years!

It’s true, as some climate alarmist sites have pointed out, that what Prof. Jones said in full was that the warming since 1995 is almost significant, but not quite. The “trend (+0.12 C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level.”

Admittedly, that is not the same as a complete about-face by Prof. Jones, but neither is it meaningless. When was the last time you recall an alarmist such as Phil Jones admitting there was any doubt at all about warming in the last decade and a half?

Haven’t we had it drummed into us ceaselessly that the past decade has been the warmest ever recorded? Prof. Jones’s admission to the BBC then is very significant.

If Jones and his fellow zealots had been so careful in the past responsibly to qualify and couch their pronouncements about global warming, the whole UN imbroglio would never have occurred. This is the real significance of Climategate and its wider fallout.
If, instead of bleating for the past 15 years that the sky was about to burst into flame, major climate scientists had been saying the Earth was warming, but not to a statistically significant level, would you have been as worried as you were? Would there have been a Kyoto accord? A Copenhagen summit? Carbon trading schemes? Green taxes? Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth? David Suzuki’s call to throw politicians into jail if they fail to try to stop climate change?
What has caused this substantial change in tone and reduction of the extremist rhetoric? Nothing has changed in the science particularly, apart from exposing the fraudulent nature of some of the more recent IPCC claims. But no new staggering scientific research has been completed.
Prof. Jones even admitted the science of climate change is far from settled. “There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties.”

Nothing scientific had changed since the Climategate leaks. No new data or discoveries have been added that would make the former CRU director change his tone so dramatically. So his new willingness to concede doubt must be solely the result of the embarrassing leaks last November.

That’s one of the ways in which Climategate matters: It has made the alarmists far more willing to admit the science isn’t settled.
The real significance of the Climategate e-mails is that it has forced (or shamed) Jones and his international climate clique into being far more scientific in their statements. Now, the irony is that a robust peer review process, had it existed, would have done the same--but as Climategate proves, corrupting the peer review process was intrinsic to the conspiracy itself.

But Climategate has also undermined global warming protagonists in far more damaging ways. Now, at last, scrutiny is starting to come on the base data on which the thesis rests. The very foundations are crumbling.
It also matters because CRU is not just some no-name English university with one of thousands of environmental studies programs in the world. The CRU is one of three main sources of UN climate data.

Think of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a three-legged stool supported by the CRU, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Kick out one leg and the stool topples, taking everyone standing on it with it.

Reliance on one of these Big Three climate records has been repeated in hundreds — thousands — of academic studies, on everything from the calving of icebergs in Antarctica to the behaviour of Alberta bark beetles, the prevalence of sub-Saharan droughts to disappearing snow on hip Euro ski slopes.

So Climategate also matters because if one of the most critical sources of climate data is suspect, then the conclusions in all the scores of studies based on that data are suspect, too.

The implications are huge and wide-ranging.
Hot on the heels is the presentation of the UK Met Office to yet another scientific talkfest on global warming. It has called for a transparent "do-over" of all global temperature series.
At a meeting on Monday of about 150 climate scientists in the quiet Turkish seaside resort of Antalya, representatives of the weather office (known in Britain as the Met Office) quietly proposed that the world's climate scientists start all over again on a "grand challenge" to produce a new, common trove of global temperature data that is open to public scrutiny and "rigorous" peer review.

In other words, conduct investigations into modern global warming in a way that may help to end the mammoth controversy over world temperature data that has been stirred up in the past few years.
If that proposal goes ahead, it will expose the hopeless state of historical temperature series as they now are. It is likely that the slaughter of sacred cows is going to continue for a long time to come.

No comments: