When tribalism trumps truth:
Mark Steyn: Cooking the books on climate
The trouble with outsourcing your marbles to the peer-reviewed set is that, if you take away one single thing from the leaked documents, it’s that the global warm-mongers have wholly corrupted the “peer-review” process. When it comes to promoting the impending ecopalypse, the Climate Research Unit is the nerve-center of the operation. The “science” of the CRU dominates the “science” behind the United Nations IPCC, which dominates the “science” behind the Congressional cap-and-trade boondoggle, the upcoming Copenhagen shakindownen of the developed world, and the now-routine phenomenon of leaders of advanced, prosperous societies talking like gibbering madmen escaped from the padded cell, whether it’s President Barack Obama promising to end the rise of the oceans or the Prince of Wales saying we only have 96 months left to save the planet.
But don’t worry, it’s all “peer-reviewed.”
Here’s what Phil Jones of the CRU and his colleague Michael Mann of Penn State mean by “peer review”. When Climate Research published a paper dissenting from the Jones-Mann “consensus,” Jones demanded that the journal “rid itself of this troublesome editor,” and Mann advised that “we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers.”
So much for Climate Research. When Geophysical Research Letters also showed signs of wandering off the “consensus” reservation, Dr. Tom Wigley (“one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change”) suggested they get the goods on its editor, Jim Saiers, and go to his bosses at the American Geophysical Union to “get him ousted.” When another pair of troublesome dissenters emerge, Dr. Jones assured Dr. Mann, “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”
Which, in essence, is what they did. The more frantically they talked up “peer review” as the only legitimate basis for criticism, the more assiduously they turned the process into what James Lewis calls the Chicago machine politics of international science. The headline in the Wall Street Journal Europe is unimproveable: “How To Forge A Consensus.” Pressuring publishers, firing editors, blacklisting scientists: That’s “peer review,” climate-style. The more their echo chamber shriveled, the more Mann and Jones insisted that they and only they represent the “peer-reviewed” “consensus.” And gullible types like Ed Begley Jr. and Andrew Revkin of the New York Times fell for it hook, line and tree-ring.
The e-mails of “Andy” (as his CRU chums fondly know him) are especially pitiful. Confronted by serious questions from Stephen McIntyre, the dogged Ontario retiree whose “Climate Audit” Web site exposed the fraud of Dr. Mann’s global-warming “hockey stick” graph, “Andy” writes to Dr. Mann to say not to worry, he’s going to “cover” the story from a more oblique angle:
“I’m going to blog on this as it relates to the value of the peer review process and not on the merits of the mcintyre et al attacks.
“peer review, for all its imperfections, is where the herky-jerky process of knowledge building happens, would you agree?”
And, amazingly, Dr. Mann does!
“Re, your point at the end – you’ve taken the words out of my mouth.”
And that’s what Andrew Revkin did, week in, week out: He took the words out of Michael Mann’s mouth and served them up to impressionable readers of the New York Times and opportunist politicians around the world champing at the bit to inaugurate a vast global regulatory body to confiscate trillions of dollars of your hard-earned wealth in the cause of “saving the planet” from an imaginary crisis concocted by a few dozen thuggish ideologues. If you fall for this after the revelations of the past week, you’re as big a dupe as Begley or Revkin.
As Erik puts it, One is left to wonder why they felt the need to rig the game in the first place, if their science is as robust as they claim.
Why did this happen?
Scientific fraudsters are not, in general, people pushing theories they know to be false. Outright charlatanism is not actually common, because it’s relatively easy to detect. Humans are evolved for a social competitive environment and are rather good at spotting lies, except when they’re fooling themselves because they want to believe.
In general, scientific fraudsters are people who are overinvested in a theory that they believe. Because they know it must be true, they interpret predictive failures as “The data is surely wrong”. It is only a short step from “The data is surely wrong” to fixing the pesky data until it looks right
As it is, The Entire Climate Warming Movement Stands Discredited. The data was clearly cooked, but we’ll be paying for the poor policymaking:
If the historical temperature data were generally known to be garbage (which I was pretty sure was true even before the leak), it couldn’t be used to justify public policy that is both bad and expensive – like the U.S.’s “cap-and-trade” bill in progress, which has so many giveaways and exemptions that it subverts its own ostensible purposes.
Obama’s heading to the Climate Change conference next, and he’ll be dictating policy after the facts were made to fit the theory.
Hold on to your wallet.
A few thoughts on Climategate, via James Joyner, who’ll be on C-Span tomorrow at 7:30-8:30AM Eastern.