Climate alarmists feeling more heat
But discredited data-fudgers have too much at stake to give up now
Once again, columnist Lorne Gunter, Canada’s answer to George Will, has launched an outrageous, libelous attack on climate science and climate scientists. And, once again, his diatribe is remarkably free of any actual facts, and contains several clearly erroneous assertions and accusations. Gunter does manage to maintain balance in one way, however; he gets off a number of whoppers about each of the two most cited global temperature repositories, the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia (CRU), and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA.
The only surprise is that this tripe has appeared in the Edmonton Journal, rather than Gunter’s usual haven in the anti-science newspaper of record, the National Post.
Gunter’s list of those who have “too much at stake” in discredited climate science and thus refuse “to slink away in defeat” is apparently long, if exceedingly vague, and includes the usual suspects of researchers, environmental groups, and governments. A little less vague is his wholly unsubstantiated assertion that “key climate scientists and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have corrupted the scientific process in an obsessive drive to prove that climate change is real.”
Gunter goes on to present several falsehoods, while managing to avoid a single factual statement (that’s how you can tell the column is authentic).
First, he claims that CRU was “fudging data” to show “more warming in recent decades than had actually occurred”. It’s hard to know if Gunter is referring to the inoperative, commented out computer code in one CRU tree-ring graphing program, or Steve McIntyre’s fanciful “hide the decline” blather. Either way, the assertion is utterly baseless and at any rate does not involve the actual instrumental temperature record.
Gunter then claims that CRU scientists tried to “upend the peer-review process at major scientific journals so scientists who disagreed with them would be unable to get published”. But the evidence runs very much the other way – there has been gross subversion of the peer-review process by scientists allied to the fossil-fuel industry in order to get dubious papers published, an outrage that even resulted in mass resignation at the journal Climate Research.
Gunter goes on to mischaracterize Phil Jones’s position on global warming (yet another false interpretation of the BBC interview I discussed last week):
Jones, in fact, continues to insist the Earth is warming. But what he now admits is that it is not warming that rapidly (just 0.12 C per decade) and not “at the 95-per-cent significance level,” the level needed to assert statistical certainty.
Gunter does magnanimously concede that the Daily Mail went too far in characterizing this as a “U-Turn” or an assertion of “no warming since 1995″. However, he also conveniently omits the truth of the matter, namely that Jones went to great pains to emphasize that the long-term trend from 1975-2009 remained at 0.16 C per decade, virtually unchanged since 1998 (and higher than the 1975-1995 trend).
Jones also stated that the period from 1995-2009 was too short to make any inferences about climate trends.
Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.
In fact, despite the BBC’s leading questions based on contrarian talking points, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Phil Jones has changed his postion on any aspect of climate science. It’s telling that Gunter managed to avoid all the quotes that completely contradict the claim of “admission”, including this key statement:
I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.
Gunter then lets forth a volley of boners about NASA, to wit:
“… [T]hree years ago a significant error was found in its records… When it reconciled its old records to its new method, recent warm years ceased to be as remarkable. For instance, 1934 replaced 1998 as the warmest year.”
Wrong: The error concerned U.S. temperatures only (which are not officially published by NASA and cover 2% of the globe), and did not appreciably affect the global temperature record. Even the ranking of U.S. temperatures remained the same immediately before and after the change (obviously, because the error did not affect the U.S. temperature before 2000). And 2005 is the global temperature record in NASA’s data set, not 1998. That’s at least the third time around for Gunter for this particular falsehood, by the way.
Then Gunter is onto another incident he’s discussed before:
In 2008, NASA substituted September’s global temperatures for October’s (they claimed accidentally), thereby distorting upward the worldwide averages for the fall of that year — an otherwise rather cool year.
Wrong, again. Despite Gunter’s libelous accusation, the errors were introduced by NASA’s data provider the Global Climate History Network (GHCN), had nothing to do with NASA, and were quickly corrected to boot. Not only that, but Gunter’s original assertion greatly exaggerated the effect of the error:
October wasn’t the warmest October ever, it was only the 70th warmest in the past 114 years – in the bottom half of all Octobers, not at the top of the list.
Um, no, the corrected data left October 2008 as the fifth warmest on record, not seventieth.
Finally we have this gem:
… NASA has been shown to be cherry-picking the Earth stations it uses to calculate global average. It has been eliminating stations in colder locations (polar, rural, mountainous) and over-relying on warmer ones (mid-latitudes, urban).
Wrong, once more (sigh). This appears to be a reference to some nonsense published by Anthony Watts and Joe d’Aleo. It, too, has been widely debunked. For Gunter’s edification, here is a detailed discussion, by Zeke Hausfather of the Yale Climate Media Forum, that demonstrates the utter vacuity of the argument.
It turns out that the stations were not “removed” by NASA, but rather that the long-term records of these stations are – wait for it – retroactive and thus not up to date. The number of stations updated in near real time, is substantially smaller, leading to the false impression of a drop-off. And the effect of the differences in the number of stations included at different periods does not, and can not, have the effect claimed. As Hausfather notes:
There is no significant difference between the temperature from discontinuous and continuous stations, suggesting that there was no purposeful or selective “dropping” of stations to bias the data. If anything, discontinuous stations have a slightly higher trend over the century than continuous stations.
The most disheartening aspect of this sorry episode is the appearance of Gunter’s nonsense in the Edmonton Journal, which usually has higher standards than the National Post (both are part of the CanWest newspaper chain, Canada’s largest).
You’d think Journal editors would learn from their past experience with Gunter. Last year, the Journal was forced to print two major corrections following another Gunter error-fest. The original corrections do not appear with Gunter’s piece or anywhere else (an unfortunate lapse), but I did note them and cut and paste them in the comments on March 24 and 25.
At least the Journal has shown some willingness to admit mistakes, something the Post seems thoroughly incapable of doing. Let’s hope Journal editors do the right thing now – issue a forthright retraction of all the errors and false accusations, and bar Gunter from ever writing on this subject in their pages again.
It’s either that, or devote a full-time fact checker to his columns. On the other hand, you have to wonder: how long will aggrieved scientists sit back and do nothing about the ever-mounting pile of libelous accusations?
Gunter simply can’t be trusted to get anything right. Not now. Not ever. It’s time for responsible editors to do their job.