Climate change deniers live in glass buildings

There seems to be a big mobilisation of climate change deniers at the moment. Someone on Twitter described selective use of stolen emails, “Climategate”, as pre-Copenhagen smears. They added a quote from Churchill which I think is very apt: “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth can get its pants on.”

Most of the local media seems to be taking a relatively balanced approach to the Climategate email issue (see for example A climate scandal, or is it just hot air?). However, we now have  a “controversy” manufactured by the local Climate Science Coalition an Climate Conversation Group. A group of climate change deniers, none of them climate scientists themselves, who attempt to cast doubt on the science produced by real climate scientists. This started with a press release (Are we feeling warmer yet?). picked up and promoted by Ian Wishart (a local conspiracy theorist and climate change denier) and some local conservative and religious apologist blogs (see for example I confess I now believe in manmade Global Warming, Climate scientists caught lying and New Zealand not warming?).

Basically, it was a manipulation of raw data from NZ weather stations to support their preconceived claim of no temperature change over time. Accompanied by a claim that NIWA has dishonestly adjusted the same data to produce a temperature change.

The issues, and the scientific facts, are well covered by Garth at Hot Topic (NZ sceptics lie about temp records, try to smear top scientist) and items at the NIWA web site. I recommend reading these.

Nature of the distortions

The scientific issues involved, and the distortions made by the deniers, are an interesting example of how scientific data can be manipulated dishonestly. The issues are well illustrated by these graphs from NIWA. The figure shows the raw temperature data from three stations in Wellington. The main Kelburn station data (green) shows what is most probably a significant increase of temperature over time. This data is consistent, taken from the same site since 1930.

However there was also data available from before 1930 from a separate station at Thorndon site (blue). This site was much closer to sea level and understandably gave higher readings.

In essence, what the climate change deniers did was combine the data from these two stations without any corrections. it produced the result they wanted because the combined raw data was skewed by the higher temperatures at the Thorndon site and hence removed the temperature trend. They simply attached the blue plot to the green one!

The figure illustrates how climate scientists deal with these sort of problems. Unfortunately there was no overlapping data for the two stations. But there were concurrent data (red) for the Airport station (at approximately the same elevation as the Thorndon station was) and the Kelburn station. This enable determination of an adjustment factor which could reasonably be applied to the raw Thorndon data.

The resulting graph after proper combination of the data from the three stations is shown in the next figure. (Here, the red and blue data have been adjusted by the factor determined fror the red and green data).

Now, of course,  the complete data made available by NIWA, and their graphical presentation of NZ temperature trends over time, are more complex than this. They contain information from more met stations. But, I think, the consideration of the Wellington station data clearly presents the issues involved.

It also clearly demonstrates the deception attempted by the NZ Climate Science Coalition.

(Sure, I am going to get deniers who wish to talk about the non-Wellington data – a tactic for prolonging the attack and divert attention away from the dishonesty of the Climate Science Coalition and the Climate Conversation Group).

Attack to divert attention

Some of the deniers have partly acknowledge their deception. Richard Treadgold, who collated the information in the press release has acknowledged that they purposely avoided proper adjustment for site differences. However, he still attempts to shift the criticism by claiming NIWA hadn’t provided details on adjustment method.  NIWA claims that they had made the Coalition aware of methodology several years ago.

But you can see the tactic. The best defense is attack – accusation of more cover ups! Similar to the way creationists react to discovery of fossils of transitional forms – by then claiming there are two “missing gaps” instead of one! Anything to prevent attention turning back to the deception of the Climate Change Coalition the Climate Conversation Group. And the climate change denial blogs have quickly taken up that chorus.

But the real question for those bloggers was asked by US blogger Deltoid: “I wonder how many of the folks accusing NIWA of cooking their data will correct their posts?” (See New Zealand Climate Science Coalition caught lying about temperature trends).

My concern about the attacks on reason, on science. While some people have been concerned about the implications of the “Climategate” emails others have resorted to extreme and emotional  attacks on integrity of scientists involved. Some are even attacking the very idea of science! Peter Griffin from the NZ Science Media Centre described it this way a few days ago: “The comment sections of some blogs have become particularly grubby places to congregate” (see Climategate brought out the worst in us).

Mind you – it would be interesting, wouldn’t it, if somebody hacked into the servers used by the Climate Change Coalition and the Climate Conversation Group. Just imagine the exchanges which probably took place over how this data should be massaged and presented. Over who could be used to release the “report.” And what blogs and newspapers could be trusted to carry their message uncritically.

Just imagine the “Deniergate” that could result!

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24 responses to “Climate change deniers live in glass buildings

  1. Pingback: Climate change deniers live in glass buildings [ Open Parachute ]

  2. They added a quote from Churchill which I think is very apt: “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth can get its pants on.”

    Apt, maybe. But it’s not Churchill. It’s more often attributed to Mark Twain. It may be first recorded by Charles Spurgeon in 1885, but he said it was an old aphorism.

    Do we correct for what we actually know, or let the incorrect projection continue?

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  3. The burden of proof lies with the alarmists. It does not matter what’s in the skeptics’ emails.

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  4. Ken, what’s your take on the HARRY_READ_ME file?

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  5. I like your supposition, that this was some hacker who found a backdoor into the East Anglian computer, and just picked what he could before someone discovered the breach.

    Because that would mean that most any 1000 emails picked at random will show what a den of crime the CRU is.
    I seriously doubt you’d get that sort of “lucky” hacking a Climate Conversation Group, mostly because this sort of group would be an open source message board that anyone could look at, and also because it doesn’t even exist.
    You made that up.
    Not only do you have to invent a make believe conspiracy, you have to invent a make believe group to carry it out!
    These are the sorts of contortions believers have to go through just to get to their default position for whenever a liberal scumbag is caught redhanded, ie “the conservatives do it tooooo!”

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  6. Eduardo Zorita is a “foot soldier” researching the climate of the past millennium. He believes in climate change but expects to be blackballed for writing this:

    http://coast.gkss.de/staff/zorita/

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  7. Thanks Ed – yes it does sound more like Twain than Churchill. Perhaps I should have checked it out.

    Anyway its very dated – lies get many times around the world these days before truth even opens its eyes.

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  8. Papertiger – go to Climate Conversation Group. I only heard of the group a few days ago – but I certainly didn’t invent it.

    I am sure there are interesting and revealing emails between members of this group, Ian Wishart and the NZ Climate Science Coalition. And yes, I would be interested in perusing their communications with NIWA

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  9. Gary – in this case the alarmist are the deniers of the NZ Climate Science Coalition, Ian Wishart and the Climate Conversation Group. And yes the burden of proof lies on them. So far they have made slanderous allegations that our scientists falsified data. No proof – only unfounded allegations.

    So “when are you going to stop beating your wife?”

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  10. I think the ‘hacker’ knew exactly what to look for. There is little doubt that the computer model’s global temperature data was fudged to achieve a specific preconceived goal… exactly what one does not want in reputable science. And this would also go a long way to explain why Mann & Co are so reticent to reveal their full data set.

    Because there is such reliance on computer models in climate studies, and as a Canuck I have a particular affinity for any graph that looks like a hockey stick and a strong desire to maintain its beautiful shape in spite of data to the contrary, this evidence of data tampering is particularly damaging.

    Remember, when the data from a model and physical data compete (keep in mind the tree ring evidence shut down so hard and fast that countered the data set), put your money on the computer model to be touted as far superior by global warming advocates. That’s where the big money is.

    These e-mails are not unfounded slanderous allegations: they reveal intentional – even if understandable – falsification of the data set. It’s a serious ethical blow to the scientific credibility to the people involved.

    Go here fora look at some of the evidence: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/25/climategate-hide-the-decline-codified/

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  11. Poking through the CONTENT of the emails, I wonder whether they were actually “hacked” or constitute the directory that was created in response to a “freedom of information act” request. If I was hacking a server, I would expect to get files of a single type: one person’s email archives, for example, or a bunch of data files. If somebody put together a response to a freedom of information act request, on the other hand, you’d get a lot of “high value files” that address the central area of concern.

    Speaking as a lawyer who used to be a computer programmer, I suspect that we’re looking at “leaked” FOIA files, not a classic “hack.”

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  12. Scott, have you anything to contribute to the subject of the post – the current attacks being made on NIWA scientists?

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  13. Not really, Ken. I was responding more to the title of the post than the subject. Are you planning to post anything on the broader issues that have been raised by the release of the CRU files?

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  14. Scott – re you comment on the possibility of the “climategate” emails being a collection for a freedom of information request. I heard one the journalists involved say more or less that this morning. The request itself was denied because of the involvement of institutes outside the UK. However, he wouldn’t confirm the mechanism of the release – hacking or leaking.

    My point though, is this is all irrelevant from a science viewpoint. There is now an investigation at the institute and if anybody has been found to violate rules on FOI, deletion of emails, etc., surely that will be dealt with appropriately.

    So far there is no indication that the integrity of the scientific process is faulty. If anything of this sort was found I expect the culprits will be dealt with.

    On the global level, whatever the outcome of that particular enquiry, there is no indication of the current understanding of climate change being faulty – scientifically.

    This is really a bit of a non-issue in NZ. We are currently more concerned with the manipulation of data by the local denier organisations and their unfounded attacks on the integrity of our NIWA scientists.

    Here’s something you could comment on though Scott, given you interests.

    In the NZ blogosphere most of the anti-science attacks are coming from christian apologists. They seem to feel they have the bit between their teeth and are digging themselves a big hole, credibility wise.

    Why should christian apologists come out against scientific findings so often?

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  15. Ken, a major meme in this field has been “climate change deniers are just like creationists.” I suspect that most “Christian apologists” are eager to prove that they are not “anti-science” after all.

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  16. The how do you explain the leading role they are playing here in denial?

    Alongside this there has been a current theme from them of denying the treatment of Galileo, Bruno, etc. Denying or downplaying any science-religion conflict. And also a rather chauvinistic attempt to claim that science originated out of Christianity.

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  17. I haven’t been keeping tabs on who is saying what on this topic here, Ken, but my guess is that the “Christian apologists” are so used to being labeled “anti-science” that they have nothing to lose by pouncing on the CRU email issue.

    I”m SURE that they people who were openly challenging anthropogenic global warming (AGW) BEFORE the CRU emails were released are all “playing a leading role” in pushing this issue now. Some of those “climate change deniers” were religiously-motivated, some probably had economic motivations, and a few (at least) were probably good old fashioned stubborn scientists who refused to back down just because the rest of the planet disagreed with them. (I like that kind of scientist, even though they tend to be VERY irritating.) From what I’ve been reading about “Climategate” around the net, all three groups seem to be saying “I told you so” with equal enthusiasm.

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  18. Bit of a contradiction, there Scott. You said that apologists are eager to prove they are not anti-science and then say they might feel they have nothing to lose.

    Surely they can think for themselves and will have inner (if undeclared) motives for the positions they take up.

    My experience is that they seem to automatically assume the worst when it comes to scientists and evidence-based thinking. This is why they automatically assume our scientists are guilty of fraud – and continue with these assertions despite evidence to the contrary. In the local situation the fraud is clearly coming from the deniers – yet I still get emotional apologists refusing to accept that, refusing to consider the information coming from the scientists, and continuing, often very emotionally, to assert the scientists are guilty.

    I know apologists are not known for their rational or evidence-based thinking. But you would have thought that they still had a spark of decency and would feel guilty about so easily slandering the integrity of others.

    It’s a strange position – because currently they are pushing a line criticising the conflict theory, claiming that there is no real conflict between science and religion. But at the same time they are doing all they can to attack science.

    Even their arguments for “no conflict” amount to misrepresentation and therefore attacks on science. Eg. over Galileo, Bruno, origins of science, etc.

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  19. . . . all three groups seem to be saying “I told you so” with equal enthusiasm.

    They told us that the hockey stick was wrong, that it predicted much less warming than we’ve seen?

    I think they claimed that the chart was wrong, but they claimed it was wrong on the high side.

    I think they probably haven’t read the e-mails and haven’t figured out they’ve been had, yet.

    They’re accusing scientists of “fixing” charts by substituting — wait for it — the actual temperature measurements in place of projections from tree rings where the projections were known to be off.

    And as a result of that substitution, the chart predicted temperatures seen in 1998 — to occur 20 years or so later.

    They warned us that the scientists were too skeptical? That doesn’t sound quite right.

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  20. I suspect that most “Christian apologists” are eager to prove that they are not “anti-science” after all.

    Nothing so complicated.
    It’s the same ol’ ,same ol’.

    Rant type A:
    There is a global conspiracy by scientists to prop up the hoax of “Darwinism”.
    Darwinism is not real science.
    It’s just all those filthy atheists and Commies.
    They’re lying to us.
    They want to destroy America.
    Piltdown man?
    HELLO!?!?!?
    Five years from now, people will shake their heads and say “How could people believe such nonsense”.

    Rant type 2:
    There is a global conspiracy by scientists to prop up the hoax of “Al Gorism”.
    Global warming is not real science.
    It’s just all those hippies and Commies.
    They want to destroy America.
    They’re lying to us.
    Hacked e-mails?
    HELLO!?!?!?!?
    Five years from now, people will shake their heads and say “How could people believe such nonsense”.

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  21. Pingback: Brad Heap » Blog » Climategate. Yeah Right.

  22. “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth can get its pants on.” — Certainly explains how AGW became the consensus.

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  23. “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth can get its pants on.” — Certainly explains how AGW became the consensus.

    Quite the contrary. It explains why false claims, like “it’s not warming,” or “these e-mails show a conspiracy,” can call into question 40 years of solid science.

    genezeien, for example, got suckered in by the lie . . .

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