Posts Tagged ‘Climategate’

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Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism

21 December 2010

The Skeptical Science team (which includes myself) have recently completed a 16-page booklet called The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism. (Actually it was completed a fortnight ago, but I forgot to link to it at the time. Anyway, better late than never.)

To quote John Cook’s blog post launching the Guide:

Scientific skepticism is healthy. In fact, science by its very nature is skeptical. Genuine skepticism means considering the full body of evidence before coming to a conclusion. However, when you take a close look at arguments expressing climate ‘skepticism’, what you often observe is cherry picking of pieces of evidence while rejecting any data that don’t fit the desired picture. This isn’t skepticism. It is ignoring facts and the science.

The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism looks at both the evidence that human activity is causing global warming and the ways that climate ‘skeptic’ arguments can mislead by presenting only small pieces of the puzzle rather than the full picture.

The Guide explains the science in brief, plain language without getting too technical. For those who wish to dig deeper into the science, more detailed treatments can be found at the following pages (often presented with varying levels of complexity from Basic to Advanced):

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The Fake Scandal of Climategate

23 November 2010

This post was written for Skeptical Science as the first part of a series on the fake scandal of Climategate.

It’s bad enough that global warming contrarians are successfully misleading the public by propagating misconceptions about climate science. But recently it has become popular to attack climate scientists themselves, to accuse them of fraud and conspiracy. Exhibit No. 1 of the climate conspiracy theory is a collection of emails stolen (or possibly leaked) from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UEA), which appeared on the internet in November 2009.

Founded in 1972, CRU is only a small research unit with around 16 staff. CRU is best known for its work, since 1978, on a global record of instrumental temperature measurements from 1850 to the present, or CRUTEM. CRU’s land surface temperatures are combined with the UK Met Office Hadley Centre’s sea surface temperatures to form the global land-ocean record HadCRUT. CRU has also published reconstructions of pre-1850 temperatures based on tree rings, and CRU scientists have been involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The 1,073 emails span 13 years of correspondence between colleagues at CRU. Much of it is mundane, but in this digital age it took only a matter of hours for contrarians to do some quote-mining. Contrarians alleged that the CRU scientists had manipulated data to support predetermined conclusions, that they had stonewalled Freedom of Information (FoI) requests for data, and that they had corrupted the peer review and IPCC processes.

The story was quickly dubbed “Climategate”, and it spread rapidly from arcane contrarian blogs through conservative columnists to the mainstream media. The hyperbole was turned up to eleven. Conspiracy theorists had a field day, claiming that anyone even mentioned in the emails, or remotely connected to CRU, must also be part of a conspiracy. In this way, the Climategate conspiracy theory snowballed to include the entire field of climate science. The Climategate emails were held up as “the final nail in the coffin of anthropogenic global warming”, and the media were only too happy to play up the controversy.

The CRU scientists have been cleared

In the months that followed, there were several inquiries into the allegations resulting from the emails. When a few of the more suggestive email quotes are reeled off by pundits without much context, they can sound pretty damning. But each and every one of these inquiries has found no fraud and no conspiracy. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Global Warming Contrarians Part 7: State of the Climate

4 August 2010

Claim: There’s no evidence that the global climate is warming. Why worry about a problem that’s invisible?

Fact: Just about any aspect of climate you care to look at does show signs of global warming.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have recently released their 20th annual State of the Climate report. The report is ostensibly about the climate in 2009, but because 2009 was the end of a decade the authors decided to take a longer-term view.

According to the press release, the report

draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Global Warming Contrarians Part 1.1: Amateur Temperature Records

9 July 2010

After a two-month hiatus, I’ve finally completed the next installment in my increasingly non-linear series of posts examining the (mostly bad) arguments against the reality of global warming. Originally I had planned out a sort of arc of subjects to cover, but as I learn more about climate science, I find I want to go back to what I’ve written previously and add new information, or explain things in a different way — that’s why I’m calling this post Part 1.1. So here’s a continued version of my argument in favor of the surface temperature record. I discuss one of the latest trends in the climate blogosphere: amateur temperature records.

Claim: The surface temperature record cannot be trusted.

Fact: Recent developments should make us even more confident that the record can indeed be trusted.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are three main surface temperature records, compiled by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), respectively. There is also at least one other that is lesser known: that of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). All of these analyses have been compiled by professional research organizations and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. All of them converge on a common result: the Earth’s surface has warmed about 0.7°C in the last 100 years, and about 0.18°C/decade in the last 25 years. So all the records taken together can be seen as a sort of “consensus temperature record”, in which the observed warming is well outside the error bars.

Unfortunately, some members of the public are inclined to believe that this convergence is all part of a huge conspiracy, that scientists are not allowed to get results that contradict the pre-determined conclusions of the so-called “establishment”. This view is entirely at odds with my understanding of how science works, but it’s a depressingly common one. It’s also a difficult view to argue with, because the more positive results you cite, the bigger the conspiracy must be in the eyes of the conspiracy theorists. But what if there was a global temperature analysis entirely independent of the scientific establishment? Read the rest of this entry ?