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Critiques and responses

There is still huge interest in the Remote Sensing affair and quite what this means for the climate debate is still unclear.

One aspect of the story that has attracted a great deal of comment is the fact that Remote Sensing has not retracted the paper. As Retraction Watch puts it:

We are not in a position to critique the claims. But we are curious: If Wagner feels he published the article in error, why not simply retract it? Was it really necessary to fall on his sword to make the point that he now feels he made a mistake in publishing the paper? It’s a noble gesture, and not unprecedented for editors of climate journals, but is it best for science?

Remote Sensing has now made it clear that they will not be retracting the paper.

It seems clear from Wagner's resignation letter that his understanding of the alleged flaws in Spencer's paper came from blog posts like the one at RC; there is, as yet, no formal critique of the paper in the literature. It therefore seems fairly clear that Wagner's resignation was prompted by blog posts and perhaps word of mouth from Spencer's rivals. If so, this is extraordinary and quite an indictment of climate science.

Apparently there is going to be a formal critique of the paper, which will be published in GRL in the near future. This will be interesting for sure, but one has to wonder why a critique of a paper in Remote Sensing would be published in GRL; of course the suspicion will be that the authors will expect an easy ride from the editors there. We know that prominent climatologists have expressed their satisfaction with the "plugging" of the "leaks" that had been seen at that journal in the past. Remote Sensing, on the other hand, is presumably much more of an unknown quantity to them.

And if GRL publishes a critique, what then? Will Spencer be allowed to respond? Let's hope that new editor-in-chief Eric Calais has a better grasp of the journal's rules than his predecessor, Jay Famiglietti.

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Reader Comments (205)

@GC 'Why have Nature editors not called Phil Jones to account?'

Good question.

In science when people get caught recycling their noisy graphs, colouring in their mice with a marking pen, claiming that they've cloned embryonic stem cells when they haven't, or can't reproduce their cold fusion results, they tend to lose a great deal of credibility.

In climatology making up data occasions, perhaps, an exonerating inquiry, followed by an increase in the stature of the miscreant. If anyone has the temerity to present an alternative explanation of experimental observations, heads roll.

(And a blizzard of obfuscating media and blog coverage follows).

Sep 4, 2011 at 2:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Wagner, on the basis of his letter, is what was once called "a self-advertising duffer".

The trolls on this thread fall into the same category.

Sep 4, 2011 at 2:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Deacon

I am a bit lost after about the first ten comments -- Could somebody please tell me if the toilet seat is up or down?

And if that is not decided, was the toothpaste squeezed at the top, middle or bottom?

Sep 4, 2011 at 3:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I think the thread is better off because I couldn't post at the time of the pile-in.

BTW is BH doing away with squarespace anytime (soon)?? I just can't post now.

Sep 4, 2011 at 3:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Just a thought really...A major paper from CERN has thrown the veracity of climate models into chaos....using experimental evidence. An editor of a journal in a very specialised area of space science resigns because of an error in a paper. The paper passed 3 independent reviews and will NOT be retracted

Which event did richard blackadder of the beeb comment on ? and why are you even discussing this resignation ?

News management is very insidious..

Sep 4, 2011 at 7:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

BBD: It's flattering that you should describe my contribution as "...hitting the nail on the head." but
I have to insert a disclaimer. I was simply regurgitating the known, and agreed, facts, that the editor had resigned and the journal was not retracting the paper. Your fevered imagination seems to have extrapolated that to the editor resigning because he'd discovered the managing editor was biased. Wagner hasn't said that, it could equally, given the information we have to hand, be that he's resigning because he's received death threats from warmists! We none of us know for sure what the cause of his resignation was.

I am also a little surprised that you could, in modern parlance, diss, SB11 on the basis of a blog post. Don't warmists pride themselves on using only peer reviewed literature to put their case? The haste with which the warmest activists are trying to discredit SB11 is also very interesting. Why the hurry? Is there something in the paper, which after all is based on observations, that does indeed blow a hole in the models and their ability to describe the ecosystems? One wonders at the haste, but SB11 remains the only authoritative peer reviewed paper on the subject, so, for the time being at least, we have to accept it's conclusions until refutations have been published and responded to. Isn't that how open minded people should react?

You don`t mean one dimensional model do you? Perhaps you mean linear?

Sep 4, 2011 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

In five, ten or fifty years time, it will probably be obvious which of Trenbarth et al or Spencer et al was more correct. Why get all fussed in the meantime?

Personally, I wonder about that 'clouds are not a forcing' objection. Seems to me that that one is definitely yet to be settled.

Sep 4, 2011 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Cruickshank

It is 0916 hrs as i commence to write this comment. There are 156 comments on this thread.

Of these, the Bishop commented on 2 occasions,

Hengist commented on 1 occasion

BBD commented on exactly 40 occasions, which as a percentage of all the comments is just under 40%. (39% in fact)

On at lease 3 occasions, BBD added 3 consecutive comments without interruption.

On most other occasions, BBD added 2 comments without interruption.

Did anyone learn anything from these comments I wonder?

Sep 4, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

geronimo I think BBD is wise to rely upon blog posts in his effort to dis SB11.

@ Sep 3, 2011 at 8:55 PM he summarises what Trenberth’s post at Real Climate says about SB11 and claims it as his own view of why SB11 is flawed:
SB11's deliberate use of a flawed 1D climate model and tweaking thereof to achieve desired results. Its cherry-picked selection of models referenced in AR4. Its comparison of a 10 year time-series to the 100-year time series derived from the models referenced in AR4 which should have been treated as sequences of discrete 10 year periods. Absence of error bars on model output or data presented. Omission of data from models referenced in AR4 that did not support the hypothesis advanced in SB11.

A few minutes reading SB11 would show that the issue is more complex than Trenberth’s critique, and most of the points Trenberth makes are moot. The problem for Trenberth is that SB11’s central point that “the presence of time varying radiative forcing in satellite radiative flux measurements corrupts the diagnosis of radiative feedback” remains (if still open to robust critique), and this point appears to be undisputed by Trenberth. His preoccupation is with the models.

Sep 4, 2011 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterHAS

Wow, was there nothing on tv overnight?

I can't believe that the letter by Wagner, who I would wager has never been heard of by most prior to this, has stirred up so much debate. It seems to have achieved its goal.

This letter is not his resignation letter it is an editorial expressing his personal beliefs, his letter of resignation, stating his reasons for departure, would have been directed to his employers.

The editorial is purely a hissy fit published because he can't get his own way with his employers. There is obviously an issue between himself and the journal management that he and his employers felt could not be negotiated and as this role is not his primary income he has walked.
Possibly due to his inexperience he has now written this editorial as an attempt to have the final word. A more experienced individual would realise that this sort of action would not be amenable to future career prospects within a journal.

This has nothing to do with the science in the Spencer paper as he correctly states, this is purely his opinion,. Any critism of the science will have to be written , reviewed and published.
That may or may not come about but it certainly will not be determined by comments in blog posts or articles in the news media.

The very fact that his resignation has been viewed as criticism of the Spencer paper in some media outlets and blogs is revealing in the fact that they are desperate for any thing to try and keep the AGW band waggon rolling as the scientific consensus is being overturned.

This is for all those following the topic. of whichever viewpoint, an indication of a crumbling edifice, the beginning of the end of an era in climate science. A part of the wall has been breached.

Sep 4, 2011 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

People appear to have forgotten different contexts of our disputants, Wagner, Spencer, Trenberth and others (mostly True Believers, from what I read) at RealClimate.

Namely, Wolfgang Wagner, at Vienna Technological University, in the deep South of the German speaking world which has been roiled (or stampeded) after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan only six months ago into rejecting all nuclear power generation by the Greens - the political High Priests of CAGW doom.

Furthermore, I doubt that Wagner, as editor of Remote Sensing, has been up to date on the AGW debate -- particularly since the politics have evolved after the climategate scandal of November, 2009.

Only days after climategate, climatologist Dr. Tim Ball suggested that the AGW movement was being thrust into Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ familiar “5 Stages of Grief” over the innocence of climate science. A seedy underbelly was now exposed by scientists behaving badly, conspiring to block dissent and access to data. The result of this exposure is namely, DENIAL, ANGER, DEPRESSION, and BARGAINING, before coming to a mature ACCEPTANCE of change.

Certainly, we see anger and denial in last year’s 10: 10 “No Pressure” UK ad campaign to blow up DENIERS. And in Al Gore’s tirade at the Aspen Institute, culminating since in the charge against global warming skeptics of being “racists.” Now, for those not conversant in American Leftist ad hominem, in the age of the US first Black president, “racism” has supplanted the charge of “Nazis,” marking the moment where the debater has totally depleted rational argument and then has to substitute pure invective. In other words, the first to fall to name-calling means “you lose” (even if you fail to admit it).

Similarly last week, climatologist James Hansen, of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies at Columbia University, got himself arrested again -- at the While House, no less -- protesting an evil hydro-carbon transit deal with Canada. Remember that over two decades ago launched the AGW alarm movement in a hot hearing room of the Capitol in May of 1988. And in 2007, Hansen condemed coal trains to power plants as “Death Trains,” evoking the Holocaust on our environment. Finally, there is Hansen’s ‘Bull Dog’ Gavin Schmidt, his GISS colleague who reigns supreme running the RealClimate blog, which every reporter at US newspapers takes as Gospel Scientific Truth about the climate crisis.

We see AGW-Beleivers engaging in bargaining in many ways. Before climategate, skeptics could rarely ever get a rise from warmers. But since then, there’s been a sea-change. The American Geophysical Union has designated a “Rapid Climate Response Team” to counter and shut-down deviationism from the Party Line of the IPCC. Blog activity has hugely shifted -- for example, many leading skeptic bloggers have semi-retired, climate-skeptic, Jeff Id, Steve McIntyre, and lately Anthony Watts -- while Believers like Mooney, Romm and RC are hyperactive and defensively reactive. Panic, anybody?

Skeptics seem to have momentum on their side and act like it, with scientists like Judith Curry (the “Uncertainty Monster”), and others like carrying out their agenda, such as transparency in data and methods.

But are scientists debating AGW? Colorado State University’s Scott Denning versus Roy Spencer at Heartland’s June/July conference in Washington, DC, for instance, YES. Denning defended debating deniers to Believers at one Yale University forum. (I also had a delicious example of DEPRESSION from a recent AGW blog. Sorry I cannot reproduce it here and now.) Monckton debated a former Green advisor in Sydney, recently. Thus, I would aver that the English speaking world has witnessed more debates on AGW over the past 20 months than it witnessed over the previous 8 months before climategate.

But what of Northern Europe? American Pierre Gosselin keeps us abreast of the German speaking world, Germany in particular. About AGW, he writes: “Germany is a country that has a powerful green movement. Environmentalism has become a religion for many. Environmentalism is pounded daily into the German psyche by the public-funded media, the state school system and other institutions. What you as a person does to ‘protect the climate’ is a measure of how good (politically correct) you are.” 

Not that American universities are much different. But our citizens are definitely more latitudinarian. But if you are a ‘Good German” -- a morally loaded and fraught standard of conduct, given the legacy of Hitler, World War II, and the Nazis unique place in history as executors of “The Final Solution.”

Gosselin gave us a look at a German pro- and con- debate among scientists on AGW,
Like in pre-climategate English speaking world, the AGW-alarmists lost yet left the field with no inkling for a rematch.

Germany is unlike the English speaking world, where Big climate Science has taken a drubbing in polls, concern has dropped by 20% among the public, and even 69% of Americans believe climate scientists fake their data. Certainly, the uber-diplomatic Inter-Academy Council Report on reforming the IPCC - called on by the UN to report after climategate, and released only one year ago - reflects this bubbling discontent about poor methods by AGW-leadership.

(Perhaps someone will alert Gosselin to share a report on my surmise to Andrew at Bishophill?)

In this greater and foreign context, the question “Did Wagner jump or was he pushed?” gets answered: “He jumped.” (I admit to emailing him last night with a snarky ‘he must have been pushed and rewarded’ message, ie: “I hope you enjoy your new Mercedes!” presumption.)

Meanwhile, no doubt, Wagner got an earful of panic from US federal lab climate scientists --already threatened by with cuts in federal funding from a Republican Congress, with a fiscal mess of debt mismanaged by US leaders, and soon-to-be Republican President and Senate by 2013 -- about the (‘anti-scientific?’) agenda that’s driven Spencer!

Has CYA become a wild, flailing push back?

Consider again Spencer. I attended his seminar on climate feedbacks at the University of Colorado at Boulder in July, 2008, before he gave testimony to Congress that the alarm is over because climate sensitivity to CO2 is low.
Prof. Roger Pielke, Sr., hosted, and around 60 people attended. Spencer asked “Is anyone here from NCAR”” -- the National Center for Atmospheric Research, one of the many federally funded labs in Boulder, Colorado. No one raised their hands.

My take away is that the climate modelers like Trenberth at NCAR have got cause-effect reversed (and that debate goes to the heart of the debate between BBD and Bad Andrew in this thread above). That the sensitivity of these models to changing CO2 levels has been overestimated.

Spencer: “...[T]hat the real climate system appears to be dominated by ‘negative feedbacks’ — instead of the ‘positive feedbacks’ which are displayed by all twenty computerized climate models utilized by the IPCC.”

“Based upon global oceanic climate variations measured by a variety of NASA and NOAA satellites during the period 2000 through 2005 we have found a signature of climate sensitivity so low that it would reduce future global warming projections to below 1 deg. C by the year 2100.” (Spencer, Congressional Testimony.)

Now, in this period, Spencer had decided that he couldn’t publish his scientific findings. At that point he had decided to go around the AGW-bodygaurd by publishing books instead. The end result was “The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World's Top Climate Scientists,” (April 2010).

Here is a brief review by an AGW defender:

He writes “If climate forcings are defined as inputs or constraints that are external to the system being studied, then I do not see how cloud processes in response to changes in the atmospheric and oceanic circulation can be considered forcing.” Obviously, he has not followed the parsing of different time-scales pursued by Spencer to uncover just what the sequence of events are in the satellite evidence by teasing out the data.

But a fall back argument might be this: “Spencer isn’t studying the effect of changed CO2 levels. His micro-level studies may tell us about weather, but not climate.”

A further reply might come from Pielke, Sr.: “The ‘climate isn’t weather’ argument is false. There is no ultimate Truth contained in any CO2 dives climate change mantra. Weather really is climate (ie, there is no ‘climate’ without weather) - only the timescales differ by convention.”

Somewhere along the way, Spencer decided that a scientific option for publishing his papers did emerge or re-emerge. Didn’t Remote Sensing begin in 2009? (Will someone helpfully post a list of these papers for us here?)

So there we are. Wagner felt blindsided Spencer’s “nefarious” aims, and furthermore one can imagine the embarrassment he feels at being outed as party to an AGW-Heretic talking point. His resignation is therefore a matter of saving face - while having nothing to conclude about the matter, scientifically. Face plant! -- since he lacks even the courage of full-filling his editorial responsibility to stand by what might have been a hard decision.

And thus, when these resignations and ‘outings’ of heretics keep happening, one has to wonder at the lack of seriousness in climate science. With these ritual persecutions among the tribes of a ‘climate scientists,’ the field is still floundering, struggling to even discover scientific moorings. The rising level of activity to STOP heretics from getting out and reaching the public is the result of climategate: namely, DENIAL, ANGER, DEPRESSION, and BARGAINING. (I’m glad it’s not my central scientific field.) Coming to a mature ACCEPTANCE of change is well into the future.

Sep 4, 2011 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

@ geronimo

"Hengist good joke, or at least I hope it's a joke, because everyone and his mate knows that M&M published there absolutely 100% correct criticism of MBH in E&E because they couldn't get the original publisher to publish their paper. So your either wilfully misinformed (lying) or holding forth on a subject of which you have no knowledge (foolish). Take your pick."

Since when has it been part of the scientific method that criticisms of an article in one journal should be published in the same journal? What if an author criticises two or three papers that were published in two or three different journals?

In any branch of science the literature of that subject will be spread over quite a few different journals. In the aftermath of publication of an article the editor may publish letters taking issue with specific points made in that article. However to expect that scientific debate should be restricted in the way Geronimo suggested would lead to the Balkanisation of the subject. There would be no cross-fertilisation of ideas at all.


Sep 4, 2011 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

I love your blog, but it's getting really difficult to read the comments.

Maybe its time to decapitate a couple of trolls.

Sep 4, 2011 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterGilbert

Interesting to hear, via Pielke Jr, that Trenberth has now recieved a personal apology from both the editor and publisher of Remote Sensing!

Pielke says:

Why in the world would Trenberth need to be apologized to? Simply bizarre.

Maybe the answer is in what Trenberth now proclaims, that the Spencer paper is


Get that? "now discredited"

Talk about redefining the peer review system? Discredited by bypassing a stage of publication by rather using an excersise in media management. And that is welcomed by "apologists" here ;)

Sep 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Re The Leopard

Get that? "now discredited"

It's the same trick they tried with Wegman. Expect more of the same co-ordinated attacks now that they think they've tasted success. It worked for the church in the past, it'll work for the new church if people let it.

Sep 4, 2011 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Roy: Where have I said that criticisms of one paper should only take place in the original journal? I was responding to Hengist's assertion that M&M had appeared in a different paper, but only because the original journal wouldn't publish their paper.

Sep 4, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Kevin Trenberth received a personal note of apology from both the editor-in-chief and the publisher of Remote Sensing.

what the ?????

And the Trenberth guy writes this in, with no trace of irony!

Do these clowns not realize how absurd they've made the whole episode look now? Don't they realize that scientists and people from other scientific and professional fields are looking on?

Wagner says (in his genuflection pamphlet) (emphasis mine):

The political views of the authors and the thematic goal of their study did, of course, alone not disqualify the paper from entering the review process in the journal Remote Sensing.
Interdisciplinary cooperation with modelers is required in order to develop a joint understanding of
where and why models deviate from satellite data.

Spencer is not punished because of his political views, alone, but because he was not nice to the modellers.

Sep 4, 2011 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Good points Shub as I have come to expect from you. The issue is purely political and has no scientific merit at all. What we witnessed here is something akin to the fights husbands and wives have all the time over toilet seats and toothpaste tubes -- in a word, mindless.

While this is common in governmental politics, as witnessed by the actions of Washington for the last 10 years and elsewhere as well, these actions are to be expected. I, however, object as you and many others who regularly post here to the usurpation of science in the name of saving the world from yet another imagined man-man catastrophe.

Now, this isn't to say that there isn't some scientific merit in these debates (aka food fights) because I have taken to examining the psychological processes being put on display. Although I am a physiological psychologist and mainly interested in the biologic aspects of behavior, part of me still clings to Freud, Adler and Jung and their various theories of ego and self.

I find this blog absolutely fascinating. I suspect that there are a few others who do as well, given some of their pity remarks and insights into my favorite Troll.

So, to each his own, I guess. But to be honest, I would prefer a scientific discussion of climate, something that should concern us.

Sep 4, 2011 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I have to put this comment from a poster called dagfinn here from the same recently linked Pielke thread

The climate science community is looking more and more like the kind of dysfunctional social system in which behaviors that seem perfectly reasonable on the inside look totally absurd from the outside. Religious cults are only the extreme example of this. It happens in families, businesses and other organizations too. What's so weird is the fact that it's out in the open. Usually, some attempt is made to hide it since there is some vague understanding that it's perceived differently by the rest of the world.

This evokes my feelings entirely without recourse to any expletives;) Belated apologies to BBD (and the Bish) I admit I became pretty rude and my excuse that it was because I was rankled by the "apologist" label when I stated am a layman with no dog in the fight, is not fully justified.

But I still think any laymen observations of science history from Liebnitz/Newton onwards shows the best of scientists as human and very prone to fractious underhand tactics that need weighing up against later historical fact, and I still maintain this recent example is a situation that should not be normalised or "apologised" for without good explanations and is obvious to laymen as a power game play no matter what the underlying scientific justifications.

Sep 4, 2011 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Don Pablo,
I am going to say lots of obvious things, but here goes... :)

One way of looking at this would be, the corrupting influence of the IPCC.

Most scientific fields don't have an IPCC. Good papers appear, bad papers appear. Ideas fight each other and die their natural (and unnatural) deaths. In an earlier world in the medical field for example, when mechanistic and speculatory explanations carried more weight, groups and authors would go in head-on matches and fight for their idea to be the dominant paradigm in the field. As the statistical worldview has taken more root, and with the rise of double-blind studies as the de facto gold standard, the confrontational nature of the science has receded.

Of course, during the initial indeterminate stages of evolution of a given hypothesis or during the framing of implications of a newly-discovered finding, one sees the same picture - authors and teams playing dirty tricks, racing against time to be the first one in the literature with the paper out, papers being held up etc. But eventually, and fairly quickly enough, the science gets sorted out - the sheer force of replicability of a finding speaks over above all the initial noise. Faulty trials get sorted out, within 3-5 years, faulty basic science sometimes even faster, sometimes slower, depending on how superficial the mistake is. The hypothesis-experiment-finding-revision feedback cycle keeps scientists' on their feet, and their heads on their shoulders.

Especially now, there are too many people working in the bio-medical sciences, and in many cases, pursuing research in closely related areas, or sometimes in the exact same area. No one cares, if a bad paper is published. Everyone knows that the 'literature' is full of bad papers and things will sort themselves out.

In other words, the science itself, (or reality if you prefer), takes the sting out of the 'politics' of professional science. As a consequence, the arena and the epicenter of the politics lies slightly off-center in the biomedical disciplines.

Contrast with the climate people. They have an IPCC where they voluntarily, and/or under duress, evaluate human influence on the climate. This may or may not be very interesting to hundreds of scientists but they are wedded to it, nonetheless.

In contrast to the open competition model, climate follows an archaic paternalist model - they get together and decide what is acceptable, and what is not, vis a vis, the seriousness of human influence on the climate. The wise IPCC will then proclaim the 'state-of the-union', by decree. The importance and validity of published evidence, is decided not by open evaluation, but by proclamation. This makes scientific coups and oligarchies easier - competition plays a lesser role. The politics of journal editors, authors and reviewers becomes the politics of the science itself. Get rid of the IPCC and the science will easily sort itself out.

Why on earth would you, as a leading scientist-modeller, openly display an 'apology note' from an editor of a journal, as proof for 'discrediting' of a paper? This is beyond bizarre.

Sep 4, 2011 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub


Apology accepted.

The reason I called you an apologist for Spencer was that you seemed unaware of what he is doing. Namely, serving twin motivations (Republicanism; his religious convictions) by generating misleading papers. These are used as ammunition in the political war over energy/emissions policy in the US, but as we know, Spencer is popular with sceptics everywhere.

My real problem with what has happened with SB11 is that the paper itself didn't really make any great claims. But from the off - from the UAH press release - it has been misrepresented as some sort of definitive refutation of AGW. Which it clearly is not.

It seems almost certain that Spencer selected Remote Sensing because he knew he could get what is essentially a seriously flawed paper published there. The exact mechanics of how this worked (the reviewer selection) is not yet clear, but it will come out in due course.

Once SB11 was published, all Spencer had to do was fail to correct the (US, right wing) media misrepresentations that followed Taylor's Forbes piece, and his PR campaign became self-propelling.

This has really irritated the likes of Trenberth et al. Which is no surprise. Wagner, who I still maintain screwed up through inattention and naivety, has paid the price.

Sep 4, 2011 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Shub, further good points, thank you.

Sep 4, 2011 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

I've come quite late to this party, but wow! Some great comments on this and the previous thread. I particularly like the recent one by The Leopard, citing dagfinn. In my field of science, this kind of incident is very hard to imagine. Bad papers get published (some of them by me ;-) ), good papers get rejected from the first journal they are sent to, referees miss the point, or quibble at minutiae, or wave things through without missing errors - and editors fail to correct them in some cases. All of this is normal. But editors don't resign just because a paper someone doesn't like gets published... I see no evidence, after having read it, that the paper is 'bad' - you could open most issues of most journals and find five papers with worse flaws than the Spencer and Braswell one - missing references, poor logic, poor presentation of data, poor design of the study, and so on.

BBD, who appears to have undergone a sensitivity-related damascene conversion, is right to say that we don't know for sure exactly what happened to make Wagner walk the plank. Maybe his resignation was born of solitary meditation and heartfelt remorse. But from the evidence of the climategate emails, it seems much more plausible to imagine that he was leant upon by right-thinking members of the climate community. You can almost guess the content of the emails Michael Mann and/or other of his ilk would have fired off to Wagner. For those of you who read French, I recommend the letter sent in the attempt to stop a sceptic conference in Brussels, see this page as another fine exemplar of power politics in climate science. It all looks incredibly dysfunctional.

Sep 4, 2011 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Harvey


From what I can tell by actually talking to a few, some 'climate scientists' are increasingly inclining towards the view that:

- we are in bloody serious trouble because rapid-enough decarbonisation is probably not going to happen

- political interference in getting on with this has already gone on for too long

- defending what they see as the 'good' science from sceptical undermining is a sort of moral duty rather than an overtly political act, so it's acceptable to 'fight back'

Of course this leads to aggressive - often excessively aggressive - behaviour in 'defending' the orthodoxy. The hardliners are in a pressure-cooker though. They know that unless emissions are substantially curbed there will be serious effects. And they know just how difficult getting anything done will be. So they react very badly to a successful PR campaign such as the one currently being played out by Spencer.

Yes, effectively they want to silence dissent. No, they aren't mad and bad. It just looks that way if you are a sceptic.

Sep 4, 2011 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Very thoughtful insight's Shub -- very thoughful indeed.

Now consider this. There is nothing new with the IPCC effect. In fact, it is very old -- as old as history. Socrates was forced to drink hemlock because he asked the wrong questions.

More recently, just look at the role the Roman Catholic Church played in science during the times of Galileo Galilei -- in particular with regard to heliocentrism.

In many ways, the IPCC is the Vatican City for the faithful.

Your point about how the IPCC has affected the course of Climate debate is quite correct, but I suggest you look behind the IPCC and think about Why the IPCC was formed. And for those of you who answer "To study climate change and the effects Man Kind had upon it!" are really missing the point.

Time to get back to my fairy tales.

Sep 4, 2011 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Jeremy Harvey

BBD, who appears to have undergone a sensitivity-related damascene conversion

Well, I went from lukewarmer to 'orthodox' recently. With great reluctance and sadness. So not quite the full damascene ;-)

Sep 4, 2011 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

davidmhoffer has a comment over at WUWT that is worth reading:

I was inspired to do a bit of research on my own:

To get an idea of the sort of pressure that might be applied, I urge readers to take a quick look at one of Dr. Wagner’s listed publications A New International Network for in Situ Soil Moisture Data (available here: , a two page article requiring seven co-authors. The article makes the observation:

The importance of soil moisture in the global climate system has recently been underlined by the Global Climate Observing System (a joint undertaking of the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations, and the International Council for Science), which in 2010 endorsed soil moisture as an “essential climate variable.”

It is basically announcing a new data management network for soil moisture observations and is based at Dr. Wagner’s university. It is funded by the European Space Agency and is responsible for the data management of space-platform devices that were conceived through the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX) of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). It sounds a bit like the arrangement and mandate Dr. Spencer and UAH has with NASA.

The GEWEX website is located here: You will note that the header describes GEWEX as: ”a core project of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), is an integrated program of research, observations, and science activities ultimately leading to the prediction of global and regional climate change.

The article concludes with “The success of these efforts will depend upon long-term financial commitment. Fortunately, the positive contributions from international organizations such as WCRP/ GEWEX, the support of space agencies, and voluntary contributions from numerous individual networks are widespread, raising confidence in the scientific community’s willingness to realize an integrated soil moisture observing system.”.

A quick skim of the web sites and publications suggests that SB11 is a direct threat to the organizations and projects Dr. Wagner is associated with.

Sep 4, 2011 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

Jeremy, wow indeed. I think this will backfire against the activist scientists when the full story comes out. As you say, it's not clear what if anything is wrong with the paper.

Sep 4, 2011 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered Commenteranymouse

Over at WUWT commenter Jeff Noris posted that Dr, Trenberth had received a note of apology from Dr. Wagner. The Comment is here:

and the announcement of the apology, penned by Dr, Trenberth himself, apparently, is available here:

This is looking ever more strange. What would think that there is something in the SB11 article that is very threatening to Dr. Trenberth.

Sep 4, 2011 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan


I am aware of Spencer has come out with creationist statements, whatever my purest claims of dispassionate objectivity, that does worry me and biases me against him. I pat myself on the back constantly for defending him. But not apologising for him ;)

What I would like to see is a greater variation of opinion from whatever its source. This episode is, to me, an attempt to narrow the source of opinions.

I want to see more opinions. I realise this is hard to achieve but seeing people say about Spencer

"his PR campaign"

seems ironic when you realise Spencers "campaign" is obviously pretty garden shed compared to this current resignation fest. Spencers PR campaign has not been shown as really cleverly existing beyond somehow succesfully getting published and thereafter answering interviewers in the usual publications. I think you are falling prey to an assumption that has not been shown as a true fact: i.e that Spencers has changed anybodies point of view that didn't want to be changed in the first place. The fact that so much publicity was attributed to Spencer probably has more to do with some natural undercurrent need of the "wisdom of crowds".

We get bombarded by disaster from the mainstream of climate science with very little result, other than we get acclimatised to an annoying hum of moral posturing, and therefore we have a pavlovian petering out of the signal. This must be very galling for all the "Wardian" PR bean counters who keep positioning these nudging signals in the media in order to achieve some tipping point of policy acceptance. "Why dont they care!" they must cry.

I think when Spencer came along it almost created a reaction like a permanent standing wave of revisionist attention that was a natural effect of some innate desire and a requirement from both the public and media.

Very frightening.

The reaction of Wagner et al is not to Spencers alleged PR campaign, but to the public and their desire to see balance. No matter how skewed.

As dagfinn said this "is looking more and more like the kind of dysfunctional social system" I could get rather pointed again and talk about moral and cognitive decay like say the family system of Fred and Rose West or the Roman system of sending families to the lions, but I bet you get my drift, I find there are very few sensible people to be impressed by here ;)

Sep 4, 2011 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

"Yes, effectively they want to silence dissent. No, they aren't mad and bad."

I'm having difficulty reconciling these two sentences.


Sep 4, 2011 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

shub writes and quotes:

"Wagner says (in his genuflection pamphlet) (emphasis mine):

'The political views of the authors and the thematic goal of their study did, of course, alone not disqualify the paper from entering the review process in the journal Remote Sensing.
Interdisciplinary cooperation with modelers is required in order to develop a joint understanding of
where and why models deviate from satellite data.'

Spencer is not punished because of his political views, alone, but because he was not nice to the modellers."

That is correct. Wolfgang's new editorial policy is that all data submitted for publication must first be checked by the modelers. The "Consensus" asserts itself with brazenness, arrogance, and aggression.

Sep 4, 2011 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Yesterday, Roy Spencer put up a new post on his blog entitled :-

A Primer on Our Claim that Clouds Cause Temperature Change
…and Why Dessler, Trenberth, and the IPCC are Wrong

For a non climate physcientist like me - this seems to be an excellent clear, honest and concise statement of the fundamental differences between Spencer and his critics couched in simple, layman friendly language.

Having read it yesterday evening and noted a few supportive comments, I waited for the onslaught to come when the "team" got wind of it and turned up to put their side of the story.

( Remembering that when Spencer made his original post, covering Wagner's resignation, on the previous day - he was immediately overrun by the massed ranks of Rabbet, Colose, Bickmore Connolley etc. etc. - resulting in a 286 post bloodbath of ad-homs and recriminations).

So far on the current post - nothing, nada, zilch from the "team".

Could it possibly be that constructing a simple comprehensible defence of their position, understandable by the non-specialist man in the street (rather than relying on obscure statistical references, arguments from authority, religious aspersions and ad-homs) doesn't appeal for some reason?

Sep 4, 2011 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Namely, serving twin motivations (Republicanism; his religious convictions) by generating misleading papers.

What nonsense. Prove his motivations. Your comments are nothing but argumentum ad-hominem because you simply don't have any legitimate evidence.

These are used as ammunition in the political war over energy/emissions policy in the US, but as we know, Spencer is popular with sceptics everywhere.

Yes, reality often is. As is fantasy, which is pretty much synonymous with the garbage modelers have been peddling as science for decades.

But from the off - from the UAH press release - it has been misrepresented as some sort of definitive refutation of AGW. Which it clearly is not.

Yet you claimed that Spencer was exaggerating the claims, but as it turns out, it wasn't him, but the press, so your complaint is really that Spencer didn't downplay exaggerations (in other words, you lied for effect in your original complaint.) In fact, Spencer did downplay the exaggerations, and even his paper noted that the effect he was showing had an unknown impact on the overall results.

It seems almost certain that Spencer selected Remote Sensing because he knew he could get what is essentially a seriously flawed paper published there.

Wow. You have evidence, or you simply think your assumptions are some sort of fact based on... what, your good looks? Spencer likely published there simply because the gatekeepers have made it clear he cannot publish in the journals they control. In fact, he's even said this, and the gatekeepers have said they would do exactly what they have been doing. That's actually the evidence, not your suppositions.

The exact mechanics of how this worked (the reviewer selection) is not yet clear, but it will come out in due course.


Once SB11 was published, all Spencer had to do was fail to correct the (US, right wing) media misrepresentations that followed Taylor's Forbes piece, and his PR campaign became self-propelling.

Wait a minute, all Spencer had to do was what none of your heroes in the dendrochronology realm have failed to do for the decade or more that Mann's lies have been out there? What?

This has really irritated the likes of Trenberth et al. Which is no surprise. Wagner, who I still maintain screwed up through inattention and naivety, has paid the price.

Awwww... there you have it, Twenbuh got his feewings huwt, poow Twenbuth. I've heard Trenberth's argument so far, mostly "I'm right and Spencer is wrong," which does not amount to your claim of "seriously flawed." You don't really have the technical background to understand the arguments, I guess, so you must simply rely on your pet authority.


Sep 4, 2011 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark T

BBD - "The reason I called you an apologist for Spencer was that you seemed unaware of what he is doing. Namely, serving twin motivations (Republicanism; his religious convictions) by generating misleading papers."

I'm sorry BBD, that's not worthy of you. Do we now have to know someone's political and faith affiliations before we can judge their technical competence? Do we automatically now associate merit and worthiness with our preconceptions of a particular non-technical attribute?. Is scientist 'A' dependable and respectable because they are a Democratic Jew, or beyond the pale because they are a Labour voting Catholic? Do we assume and pre-judge their motivations based on our incomplete understanding of their backgrounds and experiences?

Do Schmidt, Trenberth, etc.etc. not have even the slightest of self interests in their motivations? To say that Spencer has deliberately produced a misleading paper in order to fulfil political motivations goes well beyond what even his worst detractors have said. You've stated that the paper is badly flawed? Well we've all said that the technical proof of that particular pudding is in the hands of history, and you, no more than I, can have a view, but are not competent to pronounce definitively on that.

Pretty much every paper published by 'The Team' has been used for serving multiple motivations and as "ammunition in the political war over energy/emissions policy in the US,". You've not commented on Sir John Hortens faith connections and how that affects his motivations and ambitions.

Your comment is pure diatribe.

Sep 4, 2011 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Mark T and Cumbrian Lad

In the interests of full disclosure:

I was for years a believer that Spencer had something. I followed his blog, and commented favourably about Spencer here. Climate Confusion and TGGW Blunder are on my shelf.

As a sceptic, I am obliged to look at all the evidence, so I read the various critiques of Spencer's work, and looked into his political and religious affiliations. However unpalatable the latter may be for CL, I did so because they can be important to getting the big picture right.

Not as a cheap trick to delegitimise the man or his work.

Why am I so exercised about SB11 and Spencer generally? Because he took me for a ride. And I do not appreciate it.

I'm not daft enough to think I can convice you here of what I learned, so I won't try. It's up to you. Be a sceptic and look at all the evidence. Or not.

Sep 4, 2011 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD - his theological affiliations are totally irrelevant, as are yours and mine, if any. His may not be mainstream, but to argue that a theological position is incompatible with good science is clearly erroneous. Take Lemaitre as just one example.

I look at Spencer's work with interest because it suggests a paradigm shift in thinking. I do not believe it to be either right or wrong, I believe it is interesting and want to see it teased out to a technical conclusion.

The way I see what he proposes is rather like this (and this is obviously an analogy which fits where it touches, used for illustration rather than explication):

Remember those pictures where when you first look, you see a knarled old woman, but on close study you eventually see the beautiful princess? Same data, but very different perceptions. S&B are trying to say that there is another way of looking at the data that makes sense, and may well be closer to the reality . Is that not worth studying? Or should we just insist that only the old woman exists?

I guarantee that his work is imperfect. I can do the same for that of Schmidt, Mann, Dessler, etc,etc. I doubt a single paper has ever been published (that was worth publishing) that had no error or could not be improved.

Time will tell if Spencer is a beautiful princess, but Trenberth and the team are certainly behaving like a gaggle of old women, gnarled or otherwise. What motivates any of them matters not a jot: it's their work that matters.

Sep 4, 2011 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Cumbrian Lad

What you say is reasonable and fair, but does not exclude the possibility that Spencer is less than perfectly objective.

I look at Spencer's work with interest because it suggests a paradigm shift in thinking. I do not believe it to be either right or wrong, I believe it is interesting and want to see it teased out to a technical conclusion.

That's exactly what I used to think. Further reading turned up Bickmore's astringent critiques (eg this three-part review of TGGW Blunder) and much more besides.

Let's say I lost my faith after a while.

Sep 4, 2011 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Black is way out of line in his report. I have written the following letter of complaint to the BBC:

The article in question makes an inappropriate reference to Spencer as a "committed Christian". As far as I can see, there is absolutely no journalistic reason for the inclusion of this information. For comparison, articles written by Richard Black contain, as far as I can see, no reference to the Christian beliefs of Sir John Houghton (even though Houghton has often stated those beliefs, and linked them explicitly to his work on global warming). Further search of articles on BBC News (via Google) yielded no instances (as far as I could see) of explicit references to the religious belief of scientists whose work was under discussion. As the inclusion of this information appears to be unique (and was not adverted to in the resignation letter which prompted this article), the only possible conclusion is that it was added as innuendo, to the effect that Spencer's religion compromises his scientific work.

That religious belief is compatible with good scientific work was covered by the BBC in this article: My own experience confirms this.

For the record (although it should not be at all relevant), I am not religious.

Sep 4, 2011 at 11:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr Slop

My beliefs regarding Spencers work are immaterial to the comment i directed towards you, bbd. Whatever legitimacy you may have had in the past, you have clearly forfeited as evidenced by the few quotes i chose to directly cite. Appeals to authority, argumentum ad homknems, and outright baseless conjecture presented as fact are hallmarks of ideology, not skepticism, which you claim to hold as your virtue. Your postings in here and related threads amount to trolling.

And i have read much of what Trenberth has said and it lives uo to my belief that he got his feelings hurt.


Sep 4, 2011 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered Commentermark t

mark t

Have a look at Cumbrian Lad's recent comments. That's how it's done.

Sep 4, 2011 at 11:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


did Newton ever lose his Newtonian mechanics still work for you? Newton's religious beliefs were way more strange than juts about amkything you can think of....and yet........the science wins out. My reading says that Spencer gives data and suggests that theory is out of kilter.....the orthodox response is to say that the data is wrong. You are condoning it.

Sep 4, 2011 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

That's very gracious of you BBD, thanks. I would add that I don't think anyone can be regarded as perfectly objective (apart of course from any omnipotent deity that happens to be passing).

I shall keep taking the tablets, and wish you well in your long dark tea-time of the soul.

Sep 4, 2011 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

How what's done? Pointing out your nonsensical rants for the rubbish they are? Sorry to burst your cozy bubble but you clearly positioned yourself as a troll and i called you on it. I have no intention of being polite to an inconsistent bigot that thinks logical fallacy (even if only informal) passes as legitimate evidence of anything. You deserve to be treated as a troll, nothing better.

I note, too, that you must take it on faith in whom you believe... Tsk. Hypocrisy is far from virtuous though expected from ideology.


Sep 5, 2011 at 12:02 AM | Unregistered Commentermark t

Mark T

I think that comment is well out of order, and uncalled for.

Sep 5, 2011 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad


and yet........the science wins out.

Let's hope so.

Go on. You are a sceptic, you have to look at all the evidence.

Sep 5, 2011 at 12:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

time to lighten up & listen to profound pop

just replace "man with a gun" with "man with a climate model"

Sep 5, 2011 at 12:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

I remember in the Climategate emails a comment by Tom Wigley about going after journal editors:


This is truly awful. GRL has gone downhill rapidly in recent years. I think the decline began before Saiers. I have had some unhelpful dealings with him recently with regard to a paper Sarah and I have on glaciers — it was well received by the referees, and so is in the publication pipeline. However, I got the impression that Saiers was trying to keep it from being published.

Proving bad behavior here is very difficult. If you think that Saiers is in the greenhouse skeptics camp, then, if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through official AGU channels to get him ousted. Even this would be difficult...


This seems to be a tactic they like to use. I don't think Wagner fell on his sword, he was pushed!

Sep 5, 2011 at 4:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris

Roy Spencers post and comments re Trenberth are worth reading.

One comment from RS

"Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. says:
September 4, 2011 at 4:25 PM
The pressure by Trenberth, Phil Jones, and the other IPCC gatekeepers against journals that dare publish anything “skeptical” is now well known, for instance see here.

The fact that Trenberth actually received an apology from Remote Sensing that our paper was published shows he somehow intimidated them. Trenberth complained that we did not consider his paper from 2010, as if it had all the answers (it admitted up front it was addressing limitations if you only examine the tropics…but we dealt with the whole Earth).

Trenberth’s protestations are like the inventor of the X-Ray imager complaining that the new MRI scanner method can’t work because his X-ray results tell him so. Trenberth is still stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to feedback diagnosis, as are many of the other researchers in this field (and there aren’t very many of them). But since they have so many more papers on their “wonderful” X-ray imagers, they tend to win the PR battle."

Sep 5, 2011 at 8:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Robert Phelan at 6.10pm beat me to it. We think David Hoffer at WUWT has solved the Wagner enigma - but he didn't make it absolutely plain here: Wagner is a modeller so he had to resign from editorship of RS to preserve his future as a modeller.

Sep 5, 2011 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

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