Sunday, December 13, 2009

WSJ Utters an Oath

The Wall Street Journal seems to be a bit confused about what a loyalty oath is. According to a December 11 post, scientists at the UK Met Office have been pressured to sign a "government loyalty oath."

Now, here's what the statement actually says:
We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities. The evidence and the science are deep and extensive. They come from decades of painstaking and meticulous research, by many thousands of scientists across the world who adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity. That research has been subject to peer review and publication, providing traceability of the evidence and support for the scientific method. The science of climate change draws on fundamental research from an increasing number of disciplines, many of which are represented here. As professional scientists, from students to senior professors, we uphold the findings of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which concludes that "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal" and that "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations".
So, I've read this several times, and I'm having a spot of trouble finding the part where the scientists pledge government loyalty. It was easier in this one:
I swear by God this sacred oath that I shall render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich, supreme commander of the armed forces, and that I shall at all times be prepared, as a brave soldier, to give my life for this oath.
The Times of London, an actual newspaper, is fooled by the loyalty oath and headlines it this way:

Suprisingly, the WSJ manages to get one thing right.
The concept of scientists--or journalists, or artists ... signing a petition is ludicrous. The idea is that they are lending their authority to whatever cause the petition represents--but in fact they are undermining that authority, which is based on the presumption that they think for themselves.
Oh. Interesting. Scientists signing petitions is "ludicrous." I'll have to remember this next time someone mentions the scam OISM petition signed by 31,000 "scientists."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Antipetition Project

I've gotten pretty tired of responding in various places to comments like this:
Over 31,000 scientists have signed a petition that completely debunks the global warming conspiracy!!!! So much for your manufactured "consensus"!!!!
Now, you know what "petition" they're talking about: the OISM's "Petition Project." I'm not going to bother debunking the petition here since this has been done over and over etc..

But here's what I'd love to see: The Antipetition Project. It works exactly like the OISM's Petition Project, only backwards. It's a don't-worry-we-won't-actually-check-your-credentials-and-anyway-you-don't-have-to-really-be-a-scientist-to-sign petition, just like OISM's. The only difference is that says, in essence, the opposite of what OISM's petition says: "I believe that the basic concepts of significant anthropogenic global warming are scientifically valid."

We'll follow the same "rules" they do:
  1. Pretty much anyone with at least B.S. in pretty much anything is considered to be a scientist.
  2. Don't even have a B.S.? Don't worry, we're not going to actually check any credentials anyway.
  3. Pretty much any field is considered to be a "relevant field" to climate science. Are you, say, a veterinary surgeon specializing in large animals? No worries, that's absolutely relevant to climate science! Who would even question that?
  4. Anyone can print out the form and mail it in.
  5. We won't show the institutional affiliations of anyone who signs. (Oh, and feel free to use an untraceable name, just as "Jerry Green" and "R. Payne" did for OISM.)
  6. Are you dead? Not a problem. You can still sign.
Now, wouldn't that be fun? I'd pay good money to watch the "skeptics" try to simultaneously trash our petition and tout OISM's.

I only wish I had the time and resources to do it myself.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Climategate and reality

There's a scene in the 1967 film "A Guide for the Married Man" that I remember well. Our protaganist, wolf Ed Stander (Robert Morse), counsels his friend, family man Paul Manning (Walter Matthau), on how to cheat on his wife without repercussions. In an imagined scene, Morse is surprised by his wife while in bed with another woman. He deals with the situation by just pretending that it didn't happen: He calmly gets out of bed, gets dressed, and ushers the mistress out of the house. To his wife's cries ("How could you?"), he simply replies, "How could I what? What are you talking about?" In the face of his persistent denials, his wife eventually becomes disoriented and thinks that perhaps she has imagined the whole thing. In Standers's words, the best strategy is "Deny, deny, deny."

Millions of words have now been written about "Climategate". There's not much I can add, and nothing I say is going to change anyone's mind. But the right's pounding on one of Phil Jones's emails reminds me very much of Ed Standers's strategy: If something's inconvenient, just ignore it. Many have explained what Jones is actually saying in this particular email, and they've done so accurately (see, for example, the seventh paragraph of this RealClimate post), but there's one thing I haven't seen mentioned anywhere: That pesky four-letter word, real.

In this email, Jones talks about a paper he's working on and says that
I've just completed Mike [Mann]'s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from 1961 for Keith [Briffa]'s to hide the decline.
Obviously Jones is manipulating the data, hiding an actual decline in temperatures. Right?

Well, there's an inconvenient word in there that the right is, Standers-like, simply ignoring. Pretending that it's not there ("How could I what?"). That word is real, as in "real temps". Jones clearly says that he has used the real temperatures to hide the decline.

Now, the "skeptics'" assumption is that the "decline" being hidden is a decline in global temperatures. A real decline. So, how do you hide a real decline using real temperatures?

Well, you can't. Obviously. It's not possible to hide a real decline in temperatures using real temperatures. That doesn't make any sense. The only thing you can possibly hide with real temperatures is a false decline in temperatures. So, what decline is Jones talking about? It can't be a real decline in global average temperatures, as the "skeptics" assume, since (a) not even "skeptics" argue that temperatures actually declined between 1961 and 1998, which is the time frame in question, and (b) even if there were such a decline, you couldn't hide it using real temperatures.

In fact, the decline he's referring to is a false decline in temperatures shown by some tree rings. The particular set of tree rings used in this paper suffers from what's known as the divergence problem: After about 1960, they no longer accurately reflect what we know the actual temperatures were. They show a decline in temperatures that we know did not actually occur. So, there's a word missing from Jones's email: What he actually "hid" was a false decline. (And, just to be clear on how bad Jones is at hiding things, he clearly disclosed exactly what he had done in the published paper.)

How does the "skeptical" camp deal with this little problem? They don't. They simply ignore it. They pretend the word real isn't there. They don't say anything about it at all.

"How could I what?"