Can’t see the forest for the trees…

One of the tenets of science is that it is demonstrable, verifiable and repeatable.  Science is not consensus — if science were consensus, our cosmology would not have a heliocentric Solar system, ala Copernicus and Galileo, but would still languish in a model where the Sun rotated around the Earth — that was the consensus.

One of the ways that science winnows out the weaker theories is through peer review (that whole “verifiable and repeatable” part of the equation) — by reviewing the data and seeing if the same results arise from the same inputs.

The one apparent exception to this process, apparently, is anthropogenic human warming.  (H/T Andrew Orlowski at the UK Register).”

“A scientific scandal is casting a shadow over a number of recent peer-reviewed climate papers.

At least eight papers purporting to reconstruct the historical temperature record times may need to be revisited, with significant implications for contemporary climate studies, the basis of the IPCC’s assessments. A number of these involve senior climatologists at the British climate research centre CRU at the University East Anglia. In every case, peer review failed to pick up the errors.

At issue is the use of tree rings as a temperature proxy, or dendrochronology. Using statistical techniques, researchers take the ring data to create a “reconstruction” of historical temperature anomalies. But trees are a highly controversial indicator of temperature, since the rings principally record Co2, and also record humidity, rainfall, nutrient intake and other local factors.”

Problem #1:  Tree rings are unreliable.

“In particular, since 2000, a large number of peer-reviewed climate papers have incorporated data from trees at the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. This dataset gained favour, curiously superseding a newer and larger data set from nearby. The older Yamal trees indicated pronounced and dramatic uptick in temperatures.

How could this be? Scientists have ensured much of the measurement data used in the reconstructions remains a secret – failing to fulfill procedures to archive the raw data. Without the raw data, other scientists could not reproduce the results. The most prestigious peer reviewed journals, including Nature and Science, were reluctant to demand the data from contributors.”

Problem #2:  The “scientists” pushing AGW, as a minimum, were not following procedure (that whole unfortunate “demonstrable, verifiable and repeatable” thing).

Now, these two failures, normally, would be enough to scotch just about any other scientific endeavor — think “cold fusion.”  But, for the sake of argument, what would be the one other thing that would make problems one and two look like small beer?

Problem #3.

“At the insistence of editors of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions B the data has leaked into the open – and Yamal’s mystery is no more.

From this we know that the Yamal data set uses just 12 trees from a larger set to produce its dramatic recent trend. Yet many more were cored, and a larger data set (of 34) from the vicinity shows no dramatic recent warming, and warmer temperatures in the middle ages.

In all there are 252 cores in the CRU Yamal data set, of which ten were alive 1990. All 12 cores selected show strong growth since the mid-19th century. The implication is clear: the dozen were cherry-picked.”

“Cherry-picked,” for those not initiated in the “lingo” of science and statistics, means that the hacks running the experiment, when presented 252 cores in the data set, excluded all but the twelve cores that supported the hypothesis they wanted to push.  Problem #3 means that the foundation of many of the more explosive claims of global warming fall to the way-side, such as Briffa’s theory that the medieval warm period was actually cold, in seeming defiance of the conventional archaeological  understanding and contemporaneous historical accounts.  (Note:  Briffa’s theory was based upon a mere three core samples.)

Did I mention that Briffa is one of the chapter editors on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?

Another of the IPCC chapter editors, Michael Mann — surely his science isn’t like Briffa’s, right?  Wrong.

“Mann too used dendrochronology to chill temperatures, and rebuffed attempts to publish his measurement data. Initially he said he had forgotten where he put it, then declined to disclosed it. (Some of Mann’s data was eventually discovered, by accident, on his ftp server in a directory entitled ‘BACKTO_1400-CENSORED‘.)”

Anyone think that name was pulled out of a hat?  Remember — demonstrable, verifiable and repeatable.  When a “scientist” tells you that his data set is secret and you can’t see it, there’s probably something very wrong, especially if that secret data-set led to dramatic results.

What is the up-shot of all this?  For starters, one of the foundation stones of the IPCC’s argument was just demonstrated to be about as real as polyester.

“As the panel states, its duty is “assessing the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change. It does not carry out new research nor does it monitor climate-related data.” But as lead author, Briffa was a key contributor in shaping (no pun intended) the assessment. A small group was able to rewrite history.

When the IPCC was alerted to peer-reviewed research that refuted the idea, it declined to include it. This leads to the more general, and more serious issue: what happens when peer-review fails – as it did here?”

What happens?  Politics trumps science and we get policy based on the growth out of twelve trees out of a data-set of 252… sort of a 5% solution.  If you exclude the 95% of the data-set that doesn’t support your argument, you can prove almost anything you’d like.

Demonstrable, verifiable and repeatable.  AGW is none of the above.

Posted in

Dave in EH


  1. Dimsdale on October 6, 2009 at 4:33 am

    As a scientist myself, I completely concur with your observations.

    1) "Consensus", really orthodoxy, is one of the worst enemies of scientific progress.   Your example of Galileo is particularly apropos, as it shows how Gore's Church of Planetary Warming has replaced the Vatican as the "overseer" of what is acceptable science and what is not.  The analogies to fundamentalist religions are striking and troubling.


    2) Peer review is no more objective than any other measure, as scientists on the reviewer's panels have their own beliefs and research goals, and if you go against them, your research doesn't get funding.


    3) Politics taints research when the government holds the pursestrings.   Politically correct science is bad science.


    4) Cherry picking data is the ultimate sin in science.  It is fraud, pure and simple.  Science is supposed to go where the data leads.  Those who practice this are not scientists, rather, they are scam artists.   The tiny data samples that these alleged researchers use for data is the scientific form of reductio ad absurdum.

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