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The deflation of the IPCC

I thought this was interesting - a blogger called DR Tucker describes his conversion from scepticism to alarmism:

I began reading the report with a skeptical eye, but by the time I concluded I could not find anything to justify my skepticism. The report presented an airtight case that the planet’s temperature has increased dramatically (“Eleven of the last twelve years [1995-2006] rank among the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature [since 1850]”)

If one recalls Doug Keenan's WSJ article, it is absolutely clear that we don't even know if the Earth's warming is statistically significant, let alone that it has "increased dramatically". Far from being airtight, the IPCC case looks like a sad old football, left outside over the winter, battered by ice and snow, and now rather deflated.



The latest in the captcha saga is that I've switched it on again following another tweak from Squarespace. Let me know if this causes grief again.


RS Publishing responds

In the wake of my posting about the changes in the Royal Society Publishing's policy on data openness, I wrote to the man in charge, Dr Stuart Taylor asking for his comments and specifically what prompted the change. I'm grateful to Dr Taylor for a full and thorough response, which I am posting here with permission.

There is certainly no intention on our part to "weaken our policy," nor have we received any representations from anyone asking us to modify it. What you read on our website simply provides more information that the earlier instruction and the intention was, in fact, to tighten the policy from the rather briefer earlier wording by asking our authors to state, at the time of submission any conditions of data sharing that might apply. The change was approved by our Publishing Board in October 2008 in the light of Briffa et al and Matthews et al.

The proof of any policy is in its implementation, as I am sure you will agree. The fact that there exist discipline-specific conventions does not mean that we are any less strict in obtaining data when requested. In fact, I notice that you qualified your initial post later:

"I've edited the main post shortly after posting it as I'd missed the fact that they were still saying that requests had to be complied with..."

I disagree that it is contradictory - as there has been no "watering down." Our policy on data sharing has been widely praised and is something that most of the commercial publishers do not have in their publishing policies. As the UK's national academy, I believe we should be setting an example in this area and I would not accept an article from authors who sought to keep their data private without a very strong case indeed. So your question about how we would flag such articles is somewhat hypothetical.

Please be assured that this policy "has teeth" and we take its implementation seriously. A good case in point was the Matthews article in 2008.

But if I have not managed to persuade you, please don't hesitate to contact me again by phone or email and I shall be happy to discuss the issue further.

I have replied to Dr Taylor that the policy still reads as though it has weakened, but that I am happy to take him at his word that I am mistaken and that the policy still has teeth.


Cloud parallels

An interesting article in which the author, Art Rangno, compares his experiences trying to replicate a cloud-seeding experiment to those of Steve McIntyre on the Hockey Stick. He draws unfavourable comparisons between paleoclimate and his own field regarding data availability, and says kind things about the Hockey Stick Illusion in the process.

Almost at every turn in this monumental exposé by A. W. Montford, I see parallels in the many cloud seeding reanalyses I did at the University of Washington with Peter Hobbs.  The two sentences quoted above from Montford’s book, so fundamental a step in checking results, literally leapt off the page since that is exactly where the most basic replication starts, and where we always began in our cloud seeding (CS) reanalyses.


Was Russell a public appointment?

We know that UEA have claimed that their agreement to take on the services of Sir Muir Russell was by way of a public appointment rather than a contract. We also know that Edinburgh University signed a contract with a body called the "Muir Russell Review Group". Under this contract they provided the services of Professor Peter Clarke for the duration of the review.

Putting these two facts together means that the Muir Russell Review Group (MRRG) should be a public body for the purposes of FOI legislation.

David Holland writes to say that he has sent an FOI request direct to Sir Muir Russell as head of MRRG. Should be interesting...


Another false prediction

Hot on the heels of Anthony Watts' discovery that the predictions of climate refugees have turned out to be nonsense, here's a story about a prediction made by ABC television about corals.

According to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, 10 per cent of the world's reefs were lost by 1992. 27 per cent were lost by the year 2000. And it's expected 40 per cent will be gone by 2010.

Guess what has happened to corals since...



Singh it again

The comments have been reinstated on Simon Singh's blog. Good-oh!

(H/T Matthu in unthreaded)


Desmog and facts

There's a very funny article by Emma Pullman at Desmog, looking at a GWPF article discussing the list of 900 sceptic papers that is currently doing the rounds. Ms Pullman is not impressed noting:

Sourcewatch's digging reveals [GWPF's] links to right-wing libertarian climate change deniers.

This is the organisation which includes a bunch of Labout peers on its board, right? I mean, if you look down their lists of board members Lords Barnett, Donoghue, and Baroness Nicholson are all of the left. Lawson is the only Tory on the board. I guess Ms Pullman forgot to mention left-wing climate change deniers.

Then there's this:

The GWPF's director is the Heartland Institute's Benny Peiser.

I wasn't aware that Benny worked for Heartland - I had always thought he worked for GWPF and a brief googling of the situation confirms that this is indeed the case. The source for Ms Pullman's contrary claim seems to be that Benny is on a list of global warming experts on the Heartland Institute website. His presence on the list seems to have been prompted by his appearance at the institute's 2009 conference. These details are apparently enough for Ms Pullman to describe him as the  "Heartland Institute's...". I find it simply astonishing that anyone can play so fast and loose with the facts. Do these people have no shame?

Then we come to the meat of the article. Ms Pullman has discovered that some of the people who wrote these 900 sceptical papers are, wait for it, sceptics. Ms Pullman describes this revelation as "pretty incriminating". At this point I lost the will to read on. Really - is this the best they can do?


The Royal Society and openness

Remember how we all cheered the Royal Society when Phil Trans Roy Soc B forced Keith Briffa to release the Yamal data? At last a journal with some integrity, some adherence to the principles of the scientific method, we all said.

This was why Briffa's hand was forced: a policy on openness that had no wriggle room for those who might think about cheating (my bold):

As a condition of acceptance authors agree to honour any reasonable request by other researchers for materials, methods, or data necessary to verify the conclusion of the article.

Interestingly the Royal Society now has a new policy on openness (my bold):

To allow others to verify and build on work published in Royal Society journals; authors must make all reasonable efforts to make materials, data, statistical tools and associated protocols available to readers. Authors must disclose upon submission of the manuscript any restrictions on the availability of materials or information. We recognize that discipline-specific conventions or special circumstances may occasionally apply, and we will consider these in negotiating compliance with requests.


After publication, all reasonable requests for data and/or materials must be fulfilled. Authors may charge reasonable costs for time and materials involved in any such transfer.

[Postscript: I was able to retreive the original policy via the Wayback Machine - a wonderful tool for finding lost pages from the web. Interestingly, Royal Society Publishing now appears to have blocked robots.txt, preventing the Wayback Machine from taking snapshots in future.]



Anthony Watts has a completely brilliant post about the UN's, umm, mistaken claims about climate refugees. What a shower!



Skeptical Science on the divergence problem

Richard Muller is taking flak from both sides, which I guess was inevitable when such a prominent figure enters the climate fray accompanied by a great deal of media attention. The latest set of potshots has come from Skeptical Science, which has posted a new article this morning looking at some of the things it says Muller got wrong in his widely reported lecture on "hide the decline".

A couple of things interested me about the Skeptical Science article or, more precisely, its companion piece published at the end of last month. In this piece, I'm going to discuss the article's consideration of the divergence problem:

...the decline in tree-ring density is not a hidden phenomena - it's been openly discussed in the peer-reviewed literature since 1995 (Jacoby 1995) and was also discussed in the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) and Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).


Click to read more ...


Voodoo correlations

I found this paper via David Colquohoun, who is part of the "official sceptic" world of Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre et al. Despite that, and the despite the fact that it focuses on neuroscience, it somehow seems very relevant to climate science, although I'm too tired to quite put a finger on it at the moment.

A recent set of articles in Perspectives on Psychological Science discussed inflated correlations between brain measures and behavioral criteria when measurement points (voxels) are deliberately selected to maximize criterion correlations (the target article was Vul, Harris, Winkielman, & Pashler, 2009). However, closer inspection reveals that this problem is only a special symptom of a broader methodological problem that characterizes all paradigmatic research, not just neuroscience. Researchers not only select voxels to
inflate effect size, they also select stimuli, task settings, favorable boundary conditions, dependent variables and independent variables, treatment levels, moderators, mediators, and multiple parameter settings in such a way that empirical phenomena become maximally visible and stable. In general, paradigms can be understood as conventional setups for producing idealized, inflated effects. Although the feasibility of representative designs is restricted, a viable remedy lies in a reorientation of paradigmatic research from the visibility of strong effect sizes to genuine validity and scientific scrutiny.


When is a contract not a contract?

This is a guest post by David Holland

At its simplest a contract is an agreement between two or more people that is enforceable at law. As I understand it there must be an offer, an acceptance, and what is called a “consideration”, usually money. Of course, what you do for a fee still has to be legal.

In 2010, I had requested the correspondence of Russell panel members Boulton and Clarke. Although Boulton was no longer an employee of the university he continued to use university facilities, including its email server. His correspondence should therefore have been disclosable under the Environmental Information Regulations. Clarke however, remained an employee and, as a subsequent FOI request revealed, his time was not contracted to UEA or to Russell, but to a separate legal person:

Sir Muir Russell Review Group, Box 18, 196 Rose Street, Edinburgh EH2 4AT

Click to read more ...


Josh 94


Shub on Singh

Shub wonders whether Simon Singh was on James Delingpole's side in his recent Press Complaints Commssion spat with UEA.

Simon Singh must be aware, by now that the ‘denier-numpty’ columnist and blogger, James Delingpole, belonging to the alternate non celebrity-infested world of climate scepticism, has been pursued vigourously by the University of East Anglia, in almost the exact same manner as Singh was by the British chiropractors. Just as Singh did with the chiropractors, Delingpole gave Professor Phil Jones of the University a few choice names — “FOI-breaching, email-deleting, scientific-method-abusing”. Delingpole cannot pronounce his hyphenated descriptors of Phil Jones or the Jones-run epicentre of climate controversy and data prison - the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), the University felt in turn. They lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Comission.

The analogy is, of course, not exact - a complaint to the PCC being a different beast to a libel suit. A better comparison would of course have been the pursuit of Tim Ball by various climatologists. Dr Singh will no doubt want to contribute to Prof Ball's legal defence fund here.