Thursday, 26 November 2009

Yet another vignette showing climate scientists at play.

What a lovely bunch they are. After reading his work and his communications with others, one can but admire a man like Roger Pielke Snr. He is someone who has been contributing to the science of climate in the way that Darwin intended. On merit rather than on the extent and influence of his academic coterie. Even as a layman observer of the climate science community, his looks like a lonely position.

In a recent blog piece Roger retraces a distasteful (but increasingly familiar) looking episode of climate science in action. In that post by Roger is one email that made my jaw hit the ground. I reproduce it in part below with the bits that caused my mandibular dislocation:

Subject: Chapter 6: an alternative? [email not for the faint hearted?]
Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2005 13:22:32 +0100
From: Thorne, Peter


Dear all,

Health warning: This mail does not hold its punches as the youngest member of this panel I suppose that I have the most to lose through Chapter 6 in its current form in terms of future research career. I also suspect that I am the most likely to run around making a pain in the proverbial of myself. My apologies for that! I’ve tried over the past few weeks to help others in the Chapter 6 redrafting, but I really think that the structure we had just will not work. Therefore I took the liberty of spending 3 hours this morning developing an alternative, which I attach. I will caveat that David has looked at this, but the rationale and most of the text is my responsibility, not his (in other words the buck stops here).


What does this say to you? I know that it is not in context, blah blah blah. But let's just cut to the chase. A young and (by all indications) ambitious researcher felt that a scientific report might not be good for his career advancement and so personally redrafted it as a replacement for the combined work of the team.

Just as background, this was a CCSP report. CCSP stand for Climate Change Science Program. They provide the scientific basis for the US, a bit like the IPCC role at an international level. So this was a biggish deal and should have had an objective and inclusive approach to the broad base of scientific views, including those represented by (NB not held by) Roger Pielke. Could it really be true that some young buck thought such an approach might stimey his scaling of the greasy pole of success and so, with or without the support of others, arranged to hijack proceedings? Hard to believe and yet hard to rationalise otherwise the self stated conflict of interest and resulting actions detailed in that email.

And it is the Climate Change preachers who constantly parrot on about how sceptics are compromised.

"proving" Dangerous Anthropogenic Cimate Change

I entangled myself in "discussion" with Richard Tol over on I say discussion, but Richard seems quick to jump to use of epithets.

The issue I (quite politely) took Richard up on was a statement he made about the efficacy of the hypothesis of Anthropogenic Climate Change. Note I have remove the "Dangerous", because I don't believe that the issue had been extended to that (additionally hoary) question.

Richard's contention was that because, using the DACC hypothesis, we could mathematically model past temperature changes we had all the "proof" we need.

Here is where I introduce some terminology and two important concepts:

NECESSARY condition:
This is something that must be true (i.e. is necessary) in order to support a particular hypothesis. As in test of the statement "Serena Williams won the Ladies Singles title at Wimbledon in 1999". If I wanted to test the truth of that statement, I could start with a necessary test - is Serena Williams a woman? Answer: yes (cut the giggling up the back there Thompson!). What does that information prove? It proves that Serena William could have won the Ladies Singles title. Another NECESSARY condition would be was she entered that year? But again, this only proves that she could have won, not did.

So what do we need to move from a helpful could to more useful did. For that we need a SUFFICIENT condition. If this condition holds then that is all we need to prove the claim. So, did Serena Williams collect the All England Club Ladies Singles trophy in 1999? If she did, then we can say she did win.

So what use are NECESSARY and SUFFICIENT conditions? In mathematics, statistics or everyday logic a NECESSARY condition is something you can use to falsify an hypothesis. You can rule things out. A very useful tool and vital in science. A SUFFICIENT condition is used to move an hypothesis in the territory of a theory - not only can we not rule it out as an explanation, but we must rule it in. Exclusively.

Back to Richard and the hypothesis of DACC. Richard presented a claim that modelling past climate is SUFFICIENT to test the hypothesis. The problem is that this is only a NECESSARY condition. I have posted on this blog before about modelling hypotheses and the long and short is that only by making correct predictions (correctly modelling future and otherwise unknowable events) with our model can we meet NECESSARY conditions.

Don't believe me? Here is someone who isn't an "anonymous lizard" who agrees with me.

So there you have it and it deserves repeating, and repeating and repeating. DACC will not be "proven" until they start accurately modelling future climatic outcomes. And the track record on that isn't good to date.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

I'm just wild about Harrrryyy....

One of the hacked/leaked/lost files from the Climate Research Unit is one called HARRY_READ_ME.txt

It opens with this line:

READ ME for Harry's work on the CRU TS2.1/3.0 datasets, 2006-2009!

Note the exclamation mark (!).

Even for non programmers like me it provides some mild chuckle moments as you scan down the code and comments as the programmer codes their building exasperation into posterity via comment lines, like this:

As a glutton for punishment I then looked at the tmin/tmax db format. Looks like two extra fields (i6,i7) with mvcs of 999999 and 8888888 respectively. However *sigh* inspection reveals the following two possibilities:

It makes you wonder who Harry is, as I came to pity him so. Maybe this is him?

Monday, 23 November 2009

More on the IPCC

What a treasure trove of intrigue can be found in the leaked CRU emails. Here is another one that is an eye opener for anyone of a trusting nature. First the background. We all know the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change is an august body that is the authority on "the science". Here is how the IPCC describes itself:

The IPCC is a scientific body. It reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. Differing viewpoints existing within the scientific community are reflected in the IPCC reports.

My bold; I just wanted to draw your attention to the complete and objective nature of the work of the IPCC as well as its welcoming attitude to different views.

OK, that's enough of the bedtime stories (they all lived happily ever after). The R rated (X rated for any North American readers) can be gleaned from this email from Phil Jones of the CRU:


From: Phil Jones

To: "Michael E. Mann"


Date: Thu Jul 8 16:30:16 2004


Only have it in the pdf form. FYI ONLY - don't pass on. Relevant paras are the last2 in section 4 on p13. As I said it is worded carefully due to Adrian knowing Eugeniafor years. He knows the're wrong, but he succumbed to her almost pleading with himto tone it down as it might affect her proposals in the future !

I didn't say any of this, so be careful how you use it - if at all. Keep quiet alsothat you have the pdf. The attachment is a very good paper - I've been pushing Adrian over the last weeksto get it submitted to JGR or J. Climate. The main results are great for CRU and alsofor ERA-40. The basic message is clear - you have to put enough surface and sondeobs into a model to produce Reanalyses. The jumps when the data input change standout so clearly. NCEP does many odd things also around sea ice and over snow and ice.

The other paper by MM is just garbage - as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is alsolosing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well - frequently as I seeit. I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !




For your interest, there is an ECMWF ERA-40 Report coming out soon, whichshows that Kalnay and Cai are wrong. It isn't that strongly worded as the first authoris a personal friend of Eugenia. The result is rather hidden in the middle of the report.It isn't peer review, but a slimmed down version will go to a journal. KC are wrongbecausethe difference between NCEP and real surface temps (CRU) over eastern N. America doesn'thappen with ERA-40. ERA-40 assimilates surface temps (which NCEP didn't) and doingthis makes the agreement with CRU better. Also ERA-40's trends in the lower atmosphereare all physically consistent where NCEP's are not - over eastern US.I can send if you want, but it won't be out as a report for a couple of months.



Prof. Phil Jones Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090

School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784

University of East Anglia Norwich





Phil Jones and Kevin Trenberth?

That's right, the "Coordinating Lead Authors". The guys who "coordinate" the "complete and objective assessment of the different views from the scientific community"

Pardon my French, but what a load of bollocks.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Did someone say "conspiracy"?

Here is a nice little vignette of some of the dubious nonsense revealed in these email. All previous comments about the authenticity of this material still holds.


In the IPCC AR4 (Assessment Report 4) there was a desire to keep the famous "Hockey Stick" in place. If not the discreditted Mann stick, then a substitute that could be used to say something like "it's hotter than when Jesus played fullback for Jerusalem"

Now in order to do this, IPCC rules stated that any research to be included in AR4 would HAVE to be published no later than July 2006. As it turned out a paper by Wahl and Amman appeared to scape in by it teeth, phew.

But after a little time over which people could read all the publications, it appeared that there was something strange about this savious W&M paper. Hidden in the citation was an absolutely crucial one to a paper (also by W&M) with a publication date AFTER July 2006. In fact, the citation was even worse, it was to a paper "under review" after July 2006 (and was in fact subsequently rejected for publication!!).

  • How did they do that. Were W&M time travellers?
  • Had someone at the IPCC bent the rule for them because they wanted the specific "flavour" of findings (jolly Hockey Sticks) their paper had?
  • Had someone at the Journals in question bent rules to allow citations to unpublished papers?

It was all very murky. Even after a year, as shown in this post:

Well, up to now, it was not possible to do anything but look at the circumstantial evidence that there had been some manipulation of peer review processes and IPCC rules (supposed to be so stringent and credible).

Until now. Look at this email:

Alleged CRU Emails - Searchable

-----Original Message----- From: Phil Jones [] Sent: Wednesday, September 12, 2007 11:30 AM To: Wahl, Eugene R; Caspar Ammann Subject: Wahl/Ammann


Good to see these two out. Wahl/Ammann doesn't appear to be in CC's

online first, but comes up if you search.

You likely know that McIntyre will check this one to make sure it hasn't

changed since the IPCC close-off date July 2006!

Hard copies of the WG1 report from CUP have arrived here today.

Ammann/Wahl - try and change the Received date! Don't give those skeptics something

to amuse themselves with.


Do I have to spell out the conspiracy here?

The highlighted bit showed they knew they need to change the dates after the fact (don't forget, this email is dated 2007 talking about the final changes to a paper supposed to have been published in by July 12006.

Phil Jones was a Coordinating Lead Author for the relevant part of the IPCC report. He was helping this scam as this email clearly shows.

And everyone holds up the IPCC Report as some form of high science.

Friday, 20 November 2009

A note on scepticism

In the Blogosphere of climate debate a major earthquake has hit. Supposed data and email communication has been allegedly obtained by fair means or foul from the Climate Research Unit (attached to to University of East Anglia). The material was brought to the interwebbie via this blog:

Now, of course, given the nature of the contents, which variously paint a picture of a distinct cabal of "insiders" looking to promote their own research and conclusions of that research by any means at their disposal, this has been dynamite.

I am not going to comment on the contents, but rather about the blog response to date and what this rapidly evolving story says about scepticism in general and scepticism as it specifically relates to the hypothesis of Dangerous Anthropogenic Climate Change.

One of the pitfalls of human behaviour is "confirmation bias". It happens everywhere, especially in financial markets. It is the natural human tendency to put more weight on new information that supports your own views or prior conclusions.

This is one of my personal criticisms of the many proponents of the DCC hypothesis. Even some nominally well credentialled academics in the field appear to do it, hence creating an environment where these proponents and the resulting media and lobby organisations exaggerate their case.

This new information (the validity of which we can not yet establish and may never will), offers the potential for confirmation bias to reveal itself in those who have to date been sceptical of the main claims of the DCC lobby (including the IPCC). The email communications in particular appear to confirm what most sceptics have suspected and appeared to be indirectly implied by the belligerent behaviour of many notable academics in the field and the incestuous relationships between key academics, and government and policy organisations (including the UN's IPCC).

As someone who (possibly mistakenly) prides himself on being a genuine sceptic in the best sense, I have to try and recognise in myself that same instinctive reaction that "this proves exactly what I thought" and restrain it. Instead, the issues are; what more do I need to know before I can properly assimilate this new "information" into my thinking?

The first and primary requirement is the provenance and accuracy of any of this information I would use. If there is an email communication that clearly shows some form of academic bias, collusion or worse fraud, I need to be convinced first and foremost that it is genuine before I consider what it might mean.

I believe everyone else should do the same or further damage the case of true scepticism even more than I believe proponents of the DCC hypothesis have already done to date.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A mind map of Ireland's economic travels

I have been playing with mind maps as a way to convey the connections and interactions between ideas and event etc. Here is one that I have been working on to describe the last 15 years of Irish macroeconomic history.

Please be forgiving; this is an experimental work in progress.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Where now central banks

Funny how we often see commonalities across disciplines. A famously clever man once said about the field of physics:

"There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now, All that remains is more and more precise measurement."

Lord Kelvin

Similar sentiment was probably held with regards to monetary economics until very recently. We just seemed to know it all, more or less, and the fruits of that understanding appeared to be ripening on the vine with low and stable inflation and interest rates.

Prior to the recent difficulties economists were probably guilty of complacency. Central banks seemed to have found their ideal role as independent guardians of price stability, with sole discretion over the use of monetary policy. That is entirely understandable. It was and still is believed that (1) "money is neutral", that is it has no long term influence on real incomes and that (2) inflation creates net costs and (3) inflation is purely a monetary phenomenon. Those three beliefs led to the 1990s craze for independent central banks tasked with meeting specific inflation targets.

An associated development was the division of roles, traditionally both held by a single central bank, where responsibility for regulation of the financial system went to a new and separate organisation.

And things appeared to be moving swimmingly. Monetary policy from Britain to Australia, via the US and Euroland was tweaked up and down by the various independent price guardians as demands appeared to dictate. Inflation was subdued and relatively stable everywhere that this was practiced. Sure, there was debate about rapidly rising asset prices (asset price inflation) and the need for monetary policy to consider this in an inflation targeting remit. But that argument didn't gain traction and was really at the periphery while goods and services inflation remained low and apparently under control.

The rest of course is history as the financial world neared complete implosion and we entered into a deleveraging process that might lead to anemic growth in a number of countries for a few years yet. So what will come out of this in the form of debate and possible reform of regulation and monetary structures and policy approaches? Here is a a few things that I think will come to the fore:
  • Rethink on the separation of financial regulation and monetary policy roles. Many now better understand the potential for the two to be closely intertwined. A purist might say that things worked as they should; the world levered itself up on debt and tried to inflate itself via excess demand for goods and services (as well as assets), but central banks held tight on the money lever and inflation never took hold and eventually led to the end of the party before inflation could take hold. However, a more circumspect view might be that given the deflation that has now occurred in many countries policy wasn't optimal - was there a way to understand that non-monetary developments were a threat to price stability (i.e. a potential for a collapse and deflation) and that the regulatory environment might have had some role to play in mitigation? That is the debate to be had. Should financial regulation and monetary policy be closely considered in such a way that only a single organisation should be tasked with overseeing both in a coordinated fashion?
  • Appropriateness of monetary targets. Up until today, despite some differing views, it is accepted in the mainstream that monetary policy should be used as an instrument to meet an inflation target defined as goods and services price inflation. Some have questioned in the past whether asset price inflation should have some weight in monetary policy decisions directly (as opposed to indirectly), but that argument has not held sway. Maybe that question needs to be opened afresh and rethought.
  • International interdependence. With a floating exchange rate and an independent monetary authority (central bank) it is thought that an economy is insulated from monetary shocks from abroad. It doesn't matter if Ben Bernanke goes off on a bender and inflates the US economy because other countries can follow their own inflation targets and allow nominal exchange rates to adjust for changing relative prices. This adjustment occurs through money and foreign exchange markets. But have we seen, via highly integrated and increasingly large asset markets and importantly increasingly large balance sheets on financial intermediaries that straddle national regulatory boundaries, a potential short circuit to that independence? It is something that is worth understanding better.

It will be worth watching, but monetary economics should be one area of research that returns to focus over the immediate future, after suffering recently from being "pretty much solved".