23 April 2010

Kloor Interviews Curry

Journalist Keith Kloor has posted up an interview with Judy Curry, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech. As usual Judy is a straight shooter and has some smart things to say about CRU, IPCC and climate science in general. Have a read here. Here is a bit to whet your interest, from her discussion of the Oxburgh report:
I recall reading this statement from one of the blogs, which seems especially apt: the fire department receives report of a fire in the kitchen; upon investigating the living room, they declare that there is no fire in the house.


Michael Tobis said...

It's more like, the police department is called in by accusations of arson, and finds some burgers on the grill.

Yes, there are plenty of flaws with contemporary science and science communication in general, and these do merit special attention in climate science. That said, wild accusations of malfeasance do not serve the purpose.

Oxburgh did not report on what's wrong with science communication. The task at hand was to investigate the "fraud" and cause the collapse of the "climate conspiracy" and so on. Faced with that remit, Oxburgh et al reported no such fraud. That is what they should have done and that is what they did.

Accordingly, there is less urgency in improving climate science, climate reporting, or IPCC than there is in identifying the root causes of the slander, and ensuring that false accusations and vexatious legal actions not plague science in the future.

While many of the issues you and Curry raise are real enough, this is not the time to address them.

It's urgent to defend what is good about science from excessive attack. To focus on the problems within science as opposed to those outside it, at this point, is dramatically misplaced. If what we do is flawed but useful, it doesn't make sense to make common cause with those who want to attack the whole edifice because of those impurities.

The point to make now is not that science is perfect or that scientists are perfect. The point is that there was no fraud, willful misrepresentation, or gross incompetence. The main issue is how the grossly incorrect contrary opinion became so widely held on the basis of a few marginal judgments on the part of a few scientists.

(Consistently erring on the side of understatement is not doing a service either. It's hard to see how to avoid judgments on the margin.)

There is also the larger social issue of whether we expect to decide debates by illicitly obtained information. If that works, it destabilizes the whole society. I remain amazed that this aspect of the fiasco has received so little attention.

Paul Biggs said...

I admired Judith Curry when she first started in post comments on Climate Audit. Now I think she is amazing. Whether she supports the climate consensus position or criticises it, her opinions sound reasoned and credible. She is showing climate science the way forward.

Malcolm said...

What really needs to be said is that the IPCC process is a political process based on a flawed ideology. That is why the many 'gates' have been so damaging to the credibility of the IPCC and its advocates.

What has become clear with these whitewash reviews is that the carefully constructed climate-change narrative of the past 20-30 years prefers the dark places to the full glare of public exposure.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-1-Michael Tobis

Your efforts to constrain or control what people talk about and when is not just misguided, but futile. People have been studying and discussing science in society for many decades and will continue to do so, best to get used to it as it is not going away.

Tom C said...

You are really becoming tedious, Tobis. Regarding the E-mails, it is untrue that "scientists always talk this way" in private. I have been in science for 28 years and have interacted with governement officials, regulators, academics, and persons at all levels of corporations and in the fields of environmental engineering, and medical device and aerospace mfg. I have never seen E-mails that even hint at the sort of mendacity that was on full display in the CRU correspondence.

It is also abundantly clear to anyone with even a slight bit of mathematical and scintific understanding, that "hide the decline" was a mendacious evasion of the logical consequences of the "divergence problem".

The sooner you and your co-conspirators admit that and quit hiding in the apron strings of "Science" the better off we all will be.

Banjoman0 said...

Regarding comment 1 (Tobis)
1. I'm not sure where these "wild accusations of malfeasance" come from. Limiting to the subject of this thread (the Curry interview), the phrase that seems to elicit the most consternation is "corruptions of the IPCC process." Many take offense at this, but I see it as a wholly appropriate use of the term, much like a "corrupted file." Perhaps they are considered corruptions because the IPCC process was promotedIn the face of IPCC process corruptions documented by Montford, this blog, and others, do you say "Yes, the process was supposed to work like that" or "Hmm, we should do a better job"?

2. The Oxburgh remit was crafted extremely narrowly. The terms of reference have not been revealed (to my knowledge) and the selection of the eleven papers remains shrouded in mystery. The conclusion of the Oxburgh report was not simply "there was no fraud," it also stated that "there was sloppy science," although they tried to downplay this. As Judith said, "Sloppy record keeping, cherry picking of data, and inadequate statistical methods do not constitute scientific misconduct, but neither do they inspire confidence in the research product."

3. I don't see how rooting out slander is more urgent than improving climate science, etc. I also don't see how FOI is vexatious, certainly not more than threatening suits over mocking YouTube videos. Maybe we should all grow up, shrug off the name calling, and get back to good science and good policy.

4. Oddly, there is never a good time to address any of these issues.

5. My belief has always been that if the science is really good, it will defend itself from attack, and we can get on to the business of using it and improving it. How useful is it really if it is flawed? If we could make it less flawed, would it not then be more useful?

6. Using illicitly obtained information is bad, but illicitly withholding relevant information is okay? If industrial trade secrets are revealed, the company can sue for big damages, but there is no serious belief that they will remain secret. Besides, whistleblower information is used all the time, and protected by law.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

It is nearly beyond belief that AGW promtoers like Tobis are still prattling on about how wicked it is for Dr. Curry to be pointing out the significant issues in the science behind catastrophic global warming.
Frankly it is a confession his part that he believes the ends are worth the means, no matter how much corruption or dubious information or misleading the promoters are engaged in.
Nothing spells 'scam' like this and the newest promoter tactic of suing to silence critics.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

And frankly your assetion that 'no fraud' took place as a settled point is misleading to the point of raising the question as to if you have followed the issue at all.
Nothing like a full review of the ethical issues of this has taken place. The question is very far from answered. To imply otherwise is simply false on your part.

keith said...

Michael (1), I'm with Roger (4) on this. And this is something I feel rather strongly about, perhaps because I am a journalist. I've said this before to you: there just isn't going to be a "right time." In my business, though, it's worth noting that the best time is when some related development or event hits.

Additionally, by your reasoning, Curry should wait for Climategate to completely blow over, when in fact, this is precisely when someone like her should be engaging and hopefully advancing the debate.

This line of argument that you make (that she's not being "helpful" with her timing) is also what inspired, in part, my Q & A headline: "An Inconvenient Provocateur."

jae said...

It's kinda comical how the denialists are no longer the skeptics. In order to respond to Climategate the alarmists can only resort to the application of a lot of whitewash and the construction of multiple strawmen and bumper sticker slogans, like "move on, nothing to see here." Any even half-objective person who reads those emails (as well as all the other IPCC-gates) will be shocked at the CORRUPTION that is revealed. The "investigations" just add to the corruption, and people who care are noticing. Too bad, MT, but it's true. I applaud Judith for refusing to stay behind the bunkers.

Tom said...

Michael, I agree with others that Ms. Curry should not be faulted on her timing, with the old 'if not now, when?' adage in mind.

As for the defense of science, if you think it needs defending you need to ask, 'if not me, then who?'

You've distanced yourself on several occasions from the muck and the dirty details of recent happenings in climate science. And yet you are probably as well-placed as anyone to comment knowledgeably on some of what is being disputed.

I would submit that rather than lamenting Dr. Curry's comments, you come up with some of your own.

Robert in Calgary said...

If the conversation is going to move forward, then people like Michael Tobis, Grant Foster and his sycophants, the Steve Blooms, all of them need to be told they're not part of the move forward.

Craig said...

There has been several comments now castigating Michael Tobis in one way or another. Perhaps if there is to be a "move forward," it will not be accomplished with the rhetorical lash and public scourging at the pillory. Bowing someone's back does not change their mind.

jae said...

"If the conversation is going to move forward, then people like Michael Tobis, Grant Foster and his sycophants, the Steve Blooms, all of them need to be told they're not part of the move forward."



Another study affected by bias. I wonder whether it will get into AR5?

eric144 said...

Michael Tobis.

The only thing James Lovelock missed was the bullying peer pressure in modern climate 'science'.

James Lovelock interview in the Guardian

Selected excerpts from James Lovelock's frank and cogent assessment of climate science and scientists in yesterday's Guardian.

on CRU scientists

I was utterly disgusted. My second thought was that it was inevitable. It was bound to happen. Science, not so very long ago, pre-1960s, was largely vocational. Back when I was young, I didn't want to do anything else other than be a scientist.

They're not like that nowadays. They don't give a damn. They go to these massive, mass-produced universities and churn them out. They say: "Science is a good career. You can get a job for life doing government work." That's no way to do science.

I have seen this happen before, of course. We should have been warned by the CFC/ozone affair because the corruption of science in that was so bad that something like 80% of the measurements being made during that time were either faked, or incompetently done

on computer models

I remember when the Americans sent up a satellite to measure ozone and it started saying that a hole was developing over the South Pole. But the damn fool scientists were so mad on the models that they said the satellite must have a fault. We tend to now get carried away by our giant computer models. But they're not complete models.

They're based more or less entirely on geophysics. They don't take into account the climate of the oceans to any great extent, or the responses of the living stuff on the planet. So I don't see how they can accurately predict the climate.

on predicting temperatures

If you look back on climate history it sometimes took anything up to 1,000 years before a change in one of the variables kicked in and had an effect. And during those 1,000 years the temperature could have gone in the other direction to what you thought it should have done. What right have the scientists with their models to say that in 2100 the temperature will have risen by 5C?

The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they're scared stiff of the fact that they don't really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show.

We haven't got the physics worked out yet. One of the chiefs once said to me that he agreed that they should include the biology in their models, but he said they hadn't got the physics right yet and it would be five years before they do. So why on earth are the politicians spending a fortune of our money when we can least afford it on doing things to prevent events 50 years from now? They've employed scientists to tell them what they want to hear.

on scientists

Sometimes their view might be quite right, but it might also be pure propaganda. This is wrong. They should ask the scientists, but the problem is scientists won't speak. If we had some really good scientists it wouldn't be a problem, but we've got so many dumbos who just can't say anything, or who are afraid to say anything. They're not free agents.


Harrywr2 said...

Michael Tobis said... 1

"That said, wild accusations of malfeasance do not serve the purpose. "

The fundamental problem is the group who is making the wildest accusations of malfeasance is the AGW true believers.

A simple analogy in the climate debate is the basis judges use to issue restraining orders on domestic violence complaints.

If an accusation of domestic abuse is made, then one of the two parties is guilty of abuse.
A) Someone is being physically abused
B) Someone is being falsely accused of abuse, which constitutes abuse.

Either way, abuse has occurred and a restraining order is warranted.

If Jim Hansen accuses Steve McIntyre of being a fraud, one of them is a fraud.

It was someone at Climate Audit who pointed out that the March 2010 Finnish Temperatures in the GISS data set had mysteriously lost their minus signs.

Who is the fraud? Someone pointing out an actual error?

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

So we simply accept the censorship and his version of the ends justify the means?
The AGW that is making wild claims and demands on public policy is a social movement, not a science-based movement of what many call 'popular delusion'.
Why should people who point this out be silenced?

jgdes said...

What Michael Tobis wants cuts both ways. We also need to see no more smearing of skeptics as tools of the fossil fuel industry. Possibly some are, but there is a heck of a lot of misleading PR from AGW proponents too. Most skeptics genuinely have little faith in work done by scientists who lie, bully, poison the peer review process and who have so little confidence in their data adjustments that they resist verification by breaking journal rules and even breaking the law. If the data had been available upfront - as is normal with other climate scientists - none of the FOI requests or subsequent email leaks would have happened. The long succession of stupid and contradictory lies that were told to avoid giving up the data just made everyone more suspicious. Now it may indeed be just be a product of stupidity, hubris and elitism, but it is also plausible that CRU know they've doctored data and they'll be found out and that this will affect policy and their own funding. At that point, then yes it would indeed be fraud. When the vested interests are cast out and somebody honest heads up an enquiry - or a 3rd party review then we'll be able to see.

But in any event, even if they are just innocent fools, the fact remains that unless it's verifiable it isn't science and certainly shouldn't be relied on for policy. I'm quite prepared to believe that much of scientific endeavour is just as chaotic, nasty and loaded with confirmation bias as CRU but whenever important policy is to be guided by the science then the science must be open to truly independent verification. None of these toytown whitewashes have done any verification whatsoever - in fact they can't because the original data is still unavailable. In ordinary circumstances this would make any other scientific paper that relied on CRU work completely null and void.

Craig said...

Frontiers of Faith and Science -18

My point is that dog piling will only bow his back further.

Instead of the continuing finger wag lecture, how about engaging Tobis about the science of the issues?

jae said...

20, Craig:

"Instead of the continuing finger wag lecture, how about engaging Tobis about the science of the issues?"

Yes, wouldn't it be great if folks would engage in the science for once? To do so, EVERYONE must drop words such as "denier," "skeptic," "flat-earther," "big oil," "consensus," etc. Any time one of those emotion-provoking words are used, it just ain't a scientific discourse.

eric144 said...

"Instead of the continuing finger wag lecture, how about engaging Tobis about the science of the issues?"

In my view, the science and scientists are a virtual irrelevance. A fact brought in sharper focus by the knowledge that the British contingent work for the Ministry of Defence and the Americans are gathered around Hansen and Schmidt who work for NASA, which is pretty much a military operation.

I'm referring to the climategate / hockey stick gang obviously. Lovelock called it right, I assume in a spirit of extreme annoyance that the dummies got caught.

When Phil Jones was interviewed by Roger Harribin of the BBC, he very deliberately gave the game away. Harribin is rabidly pro AGW and would never ask a difficult question in a million years. Jones' replies would lead any intelligent human being to be extremely sceptical about global warming 'science'. Jones had been hung out to dry by his 'colleagues' and the Guardian.

The world's most fervent promoters of global warming, the BBC and Royal Society are both under the financial control of the British government. The British financial sector will not only be the biggest beneficiary of carbon trading, it needs to be rescued from the global economic crash.

The problem with scientists is that they aren't very bright, as Lovelock said. Read Tobis' first comment on this thread, read anything by anyone connected to Realclimate and you see childish nonsense that no intelligent human being will see as anything else but moronic obfuscation.

Notwithstanding the terms of reference, the Oxburgh report was a complete fix and the British government doesn't care if you know that.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

How do you define 'engaging in the science'?
Does that include Tobis and pals actually dealing with the problems of evidence, process and results of what they claim is going on?
Does this mean a return to the standards of pre-normative science of courtesy, collegiality, openness of process and reproducibility of results?
Or is this another excuse for AGW true believers to censor critics.

Craig said...

Frontiers of Faith and Science -23

It means close your eyes, sit with crossed legs, touch your thumbs to your little fingers, and "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhm!" to simply transcend the BS.

We are only in control of our own behaviors and choices. To talk science, someone has to lead the discussion and avoid descending into the petty slap fights that grow with intensity with retaliatory remarks. Roger -4 was sufficient to make the point. That should have been the end of it.

I have mixed feelings about Dr. Curry given her previous "denialist" remarks. However, her standing up to sloppy science and even worse failure of the scientific establishment to investigate a fire in the kitchen by inspecting the living room is a powerful stand. We need more like her to show courage to call it like it is. Just my opinion.

Stan said...

"Who you gonna believe? Me or your lyin' eyes?"

Michael, you need to remember who your audience is. We've read a lot of the e-mails. We're familiar with the context of 'hide the decline', and 'destroy the e-mails', and "why should I share with you when you'll only try to find something wrong", and the bogus UHI Chinese data.

Even more fundamental, we know how an honest scientific inquiry should be structured and Oxburgh isn't close to it. In fact, one's decision as to whether to have any respect for this whitewash is a very good indicator on the question of good faith regarding climate science from the alarmist side. If a CAGW advocate wants to retain any credibility at all as an "honest broker", they simply cannot put any credence in a process such as this. To do so is to disqualify yourself.

Stan said...


You might want to have some fun with this http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE63P00K20100426

You have to read it to believe it. No mention of the calls to imprison skeptics. No mention of Hansen. Just lies, baseless allegations, and misinformation.

Who knew that pointing out Michael Mann's incompetence was an attack on science? "The attacks against climate science represent the most highly coordinated, heavily financed, attack against science that we have ever witnessed," said climate scientist Michael Mann, from Pennsylvania State University in the United States.

Serious question. Are these guys really this stupid? What are they thinking?! Are they nuts?

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