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Posted by on Sep 2, 2011 in Guest Contributor, Science & Technology, Society | 18 comments

The Important Whoops, or Climategategate

One of the nicest things about living in a world of grays, where one can change one’s mind when presented with new facts, and when one doesn’t jump to extreme and absolute conclusions based on some article of belief is the one tends to make an ass of one’s self far less often. Case in point, the “peer-reviewed” science paper jumped on by the Usual Suspects just a couple of weeks past.

I wrote about it then, reserving any final judgment (although I admit that I had private qualms) because one writes based on what one knows, and not on what one believes must be true, or even imagines MIGHT be true. To Gateway Pundits everywhere, I offer my sincere condolences and a sympathetic “ouch!”  Cause this has gotta hurt:

From July 28th’s ““:

You can disagree with models and methodologies without disagreeing as to whether the fundamentals are correct. The sneaky sophistry of the blog swarmers and the Heartland Institute is that [they implicitly believe that] disagreement equals refutation.

Garbage. This is logical and scientific nonsense.

One paper does not necessarily alter all prior scientific observation, hypothesis and theory. Only an idiot would maintain that to be true.

Here’s the background (from the same blog post):

We begin at the periphery of the chain-reaction:

Dave Blount / Moonbattery: NASA Data Confirm Global Warming Is a Hoax

The atoms keep smashing — as with all chain-reactions, eventually damping down to zero, dependent on confinement and density as to the when but not the what. But when we trace the reaction back to its source, we find that the headline bears very little resemblance to reality. Here’s the beginning [Emphasis added]:

Abstract:The sensitivity of the climate system to an imposed radiative imbalance remains the largest source of uncertainty in projections of future anthropogenic climate change. Here we present further evidence that this uncertainty from an observational perspective is largely due to the masking of the radiative feedback signal by internal radiative forcing, probably due to natural cloud variations. That these internal radiative forcings exist and likely corrupt feedback diagnosis is demonstrated with lag regression analysis of satellite and coupled climate model data, interpreted with a simple forcing-feedback model. While the satellite-based metrics for the period 2000–2010 depart substantially in the direction of lower climate sensitivity from those similarly computed from coupled climate models, we find that, with traditional methods, it is not possible to accurately quantify this discrepancy in terms of the feedbacks which determine climate sensitivity. It is concluded that atmospheric feedback diagnosis of the climate system remains an unsolved problem, due primarily to the inability to distinguish between radiative forcing and radiative feedback in satellite radiative budget observations.

by Roy W. Spencer * and William D. Braswell

[* Remember that name.] In plainer English, essentially, we’re losing more heat by atmospheric radiation than was previously thought, and, therefore, predictive models of  atmospheric “feedback” (Greenhouse effect)  need to be recalculated, taking the new information from satellite observations into account.

Which produced THIS instantaneous chain-reaction (which OUGHT to be an important data-set in ANY theory of Global Smarming produced):

There’s Delingpole of the UK Telegraph, who launched the “climategate” meme in the international press, as you’ll recall. And Hoft, of course, and Weasel Zippers whose very name just drips with credibility. All “know” that now THIS IS SCIENCE, DAMMIT!

I pointedly did not dispute Dr. Roy Spencer’s paper (though I did read it) and noted that the nice thing about peer-reviewed papers is that other peer-reviewed papers inevitably appear to contradict or take issue with the findings. And so on and so forth: it is how science works. And, with something this allegedly this “revolutionary” there surely would be experts far enough above my pay grade to analyze the science. I pointedly did NOT dismiss what I had no way of confirming or denying. I withheld judgment on those things that I was not qualified to offer an informed opinion on.

This is not to say that there were not aspects of the paper that I COULD offer facts and informed opinion on.

I traced the biggest push of Spencer’s meme to the “Heartland Institute” (and its blogs and publications and press releases) run by old Koch machine crony Joseph Bast, which has devoted itself to Denialism in the past few years, and found that the “scientist” at the University of Alabama whose “peer-reviewed” paper it was in Remote Sensing Journal had been featured at this year’s Heartland Institute Global Warming Deniathon, Conference and Hoe-Down:

click to go to video page

Why, jeepers! It’s Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, who co-wrote that paper that launched the blogstorm.


The Heartland Institute’s 6th Annual Anti-Warming Wing-ding

And, I told you a couple days later that:

And, while we’re all chasing this one, Joseph Bast at the Heartland Institute (who ALSO gets Koch Summer Fellows to staff their offices) is in the midst of another phony attack on climate science using a “peer-reviewed” paper out of a “pay-to-play” set of scientific journals in Switzerland that costs you 500 Swiss Francs to submit your paper. Not exactly Science or  the Journal of Atmospheric Studies, is it?

That was in August 6th’s “Wisconsin Money Laundering?” in which there are several nice pictures of the various players in the World of Kochtopus (not to be confused with Magic Mountain) seated together, like, say, the Wisconsin Club for Growth’s Eric O’Keefe and Heartland Institute’s Joseph Bast (who serves on O’Keefe’s Sam Adams Alliance Board of Directors) in lovely, suitable-for-framing photographs. Nobody much noticed that the “peer-reviewed” paper in question is in one of the cheapest “pay-to-play” science journals on the planet, from a Swiss megapublisher of such journals. 500 Swiss (whatever they use for money) gets your paper “reviewed” for publication.

Joseph Bast and Eric O’Keefe as trustees

So, where is this all headed? Well, Climate Progress reports THIS:

Science Stunner: Editor of Journal that Published Flawed Denier Bunk Apologizes, Resigns, Slams Spencer for Exaggerations

By Joe Romm on Sep 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Wow.  Double wow.  Stop the Presses, Deniers!  Your effort to deny basic climate science based on bunkum has met its match.

Here’s an editorial by Dr. Wolfgang Wagner, Editor-in-Chief ofRemote Sensing, taking responsibility for the egregious blunder of publishing a “fundamentally flawed” paper by climate science denier Roy Spencer:

Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science.  Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims.  Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell [1] that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published.

After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing….

Funny. I don’t see those same blogs suddenly rushing to correct their scientific error about the scientific proof that knocks over current scientific consensus. Why, it’s almost like Ann Coulter’s column-length takedown of Darwin and Evolution and its Liberal Believers the other day — any disproof will be forgotten and flushed down the memory hole as that rag-tag army of intellectual anarchists marches to the next kerfluffing, eternally outraged, never wrong.

And yes, it happens on both sides of the aisle, but while it may be qualitatively equivalent, it is in no wise quantitatively (or grammatically) equivalent.

There is a point to taking a moderate intellectual view, not jumping to conclusions and basing your informed opinion on the best available facts:

You may (and often WILL) be wrong about things, but you’ll never look like the posturing imbeciles that swallowed Roy’s “science” paper do right now.

Sometimes a lack of self-awareness can be bliss, however. So don’t shed any crocodile tears for them.

The crocodiles will thank you for it (until they go extinct, that is).



A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.