Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yet another e-mail to Yglesias

You are one of the better bloggers, and I admire you for your ability to question the orthodoxies of your friends. I'm all the more surprised that you apply really no skepticism to global warming. It would take only a modicum of skepticism to go from "the science is settled" to "the science is interesting, promising, and important, but unsettled."

There is lots of relevant material in the CRU e-mails. Here's one I just came across recently, in a report by John P. Costella:

September 3, 2003: email 1062592331
[Costella says] Ed Cook writes to Keith Briffa, describing his experiences with Ray Bradley at a conference in Norway:
After the meeting in Norway, … hearing Bradley’s follow-up talk on how everybody but him has fucked up in reconstructing past Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the past 1000 years (this is a bit of an overstatement on my part, I must admit, but his air of papal infallibility is really quite nauseating at times), I have come up with an idea that I want you to be involved in.
[Costella] Cook describes his idea of publishing a paper, with a large author list—possibly including Bradley, Phil Jones, and Mike Mann—but notes the problems with the idea:
I am afraid that Mike Mann and Phil Jones are too personally invested in things now (i.e. the 2003Geophysical Research Letters paper that is probably the worst paper Phil has ever been involved in—Bradley hates it as well), but I am willing to offer to include them if they can contribute without just defending their past work—this is the key to having anyone involved. Be honest. Lay it all out on the table and don’t start by assuming that any reconstruction is better than any other.
[Costella] This is testament to the parlous state of this field: that an established member of this group is reduced to suggesting that a paper be written in which past mistakes are no longer covered up.
[Costella] Cook’s suggestions end with comments that are only half-humorous:
7) Publish, retire, and don’t leave a forwarding address
Without trying to prejudice this work, but also because of what I almost think I know to be the case, the results of this study will show that we can probably say a fair bit about … temperature variability within a century (at least as far as we believe the temperature proxy estimates), but that we honestly know fuck-all about what the … variability was like on timescales greater than a century with any certainty (i.e. we know with certainty that we know fuck-all).
[Costella] Cook’s “calling a spade a spade” immediately endears him to my heart, and gives us confidence that he is expressing his genuine opinion. And while that opinion agrees completely with my own assessment of this field of science, it is astounding to hear it so explicitly (and colorfully), directly from the mouth of one intimately involved in this case:
temperature variations within a century can probably be reliably estimated, but we can conclude absolutely nothing about temperature variations over longer time-scales.

Why would Ed Cook (Senior Scholar, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) say this, in an e-mail to close colleagues, unless it were true?

I presume you regard Anthony Watts' site as an encampment of the ignorant enemy, but allowing for the hobby-horses, there is a lot of interesting and fun stuff there.

Here's a discussion of how even the twentieth-century temperature data, as usually presented, is highly questionable. This is the data that is supposed to be bedrock for the warming theory--necessarily more certain than the proxy data from before 1850, etc. Surely we have Ph.Ds who can at least get this right. Yet they have probably not gotten it right--they are determined to prove a pre-existing conclusion, instead of arriving at a conclusion by investigation.

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