Climategate investigations, round 1: CRU exonerated

As most readers who have been following the “climategate” controversy will know by now, the U.K. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has released its report entitled, The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

The findings are crystal clear on the most crucial points: The committee found absolutely no evidence to support accusations of scientific dishonesty, even going so far as to state that there  “was no case to answer”. And it also rejected accusations that Phil Jones and other CRU scientists had attempted to pervert the peer review system.

Graham SpringerContrarians took comfort in maverick Labour MP Graham Stringer’s objections to some of the findings. But even here, there is little for the contrarians to cheer about, as Stringer appeared at pains to avoid any appearance of endorsing the plausibility of any of the specific accusations of dishonesty. That’s just as well, because it turns out that Stringer appears to be relying for his understanding of the issues, not on the submitted evidence, but rather – wait for it – the “quickie” book on Climategate written by  Steven Mosher and Thomas Fuller.

The whole report can be accessed at the S&T’s committee website, as a PDF or browsable HTML page. Here, I’ll extract and comment on the highlights. The accusations of dishonesty were summarized as follows:

6. Condemnation of alleged malpractices found within the leaked CRU e-mails was quickly disseminated on the internet. Contributors to climate change debate websites and written submissions to us claimed that these e-mails showed a deliberate and systematic attempt by leading climate scientists to manipulate climate data, arbitrarily adjusting and “cherry-picking” data that supported their global warming claims and deleting adverse data that questioned their theories.

Three submissions of evidence were cited, including that of Steve McIntyre. I recently dissected a key part of that submission, demonstrating that McIntyre’s accusations of inappropriate, undocumented adjustments to tree-ring based temperature reconstructions  were utterly without foundation and thoroughly rebutted by CRU and CRU scientist Tim Osborn.

Apparently the committee agreed with that assessment, issuing a blanket statement:

137. Conclusion 2 In addition, insofar as we have been able to consider accusations of dishonesty—for example, Professor Jones’s alleged attempt to “hide the decline”—we consider that there is no case to answer. [Emphasis added]

Specifically addressing the “hide the decline” controversy, the committee stated:

66. Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the words “hide the decline” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominantly caused by human activity. That he has published papers—including a paper in Nature—dealing with this aspect of the science clearly refutes this allegation. In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous. We expect that this is a matter the Scientific Appraisal Panel will address.

That leads us to the dissenter, Manchester Labour MP Graham Stringer. Stringer has a BSc in chemistry, worked in the plastics industry and thinks dyslexia is “a cruel fiction” invented by the “education establishment”. That c.v. was enough to lead the Register’s Andrew Orleski to annoint Stringer as “the only MP on the committee with a scientific background”. (In fact, Doug Naysmith, with a long and distinguished career in immunology research, is the committee’s actual bona fide scientist).

It’s true that Stringer objected to both of the above findings, leading to typical exaggerated McIntyre characterization of the report as a “split decision”.

However, Stringer’s proposed alternative to the first part of paragraph 66 read as follows:

We have not taken enough evidence on this matter to come to a final conclusion.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the contrarians, since it implicitly suggests that even Stringer recognizes that they have not presented anything close to compelling evidence for their assertions. And it should be noted that on other points, Stringer sided with the others, leading for example, to this unanimous finding on peer review.

73. The evidence that we have seen does not suggest that Professor Jones was trying to subvert the peer review process. Academics should not be criticised for making informal comments on academic papers. The Independent Climate Change Email Review should look in detail at all of these claims.

Nevertheless, Stringer’s dissent was widely noted:

The report found Prof Jones had no case to answer over allegations of dishonesty and his scientific reputation was intact – although one of the committee’s MPs, Graham Stringer, said the inquiry could have been more thorough on the issue.

So Stringer feels the inquiry was not “thorough” enough on this issue. Now whose fault was that?

A look at the oral testimony shows that when Phil Jones and Lord Acton appeared before the committee on March 1, Stringer peppered the pair with questions – fully half of the total of 80.

Yet Stringer studiously left questions about alleged dishonesty for others, and focused instead on well-trod ground concerning FOI requests, leading to time-wasting exchanges like this:

Q144 Graham Stringer: According to Mosher and Fuller when you were asked to name – and Professor Acton has named a number of other ones – countries that you had confidential agreements with now, you could only produce the names of three countries. Is that right, when you were asked?

Professor Jones: I think it was about five.

Q145 Graham Stringer: Since the data has been released has there been any legal action taken against you?

Professor Jones: No.

Q146 Graham Stringer: Did you try to get round the agreements you had made with these different countries in the interests of scientific objectivity?

Professor Jones: Not in that way. We did, with the help of the Met Office, approach all the countries of the world and asked them whether we could release their data. We have had 59 replies of which 52 have been positive, so that has led to the release of 80% of the data, but we have had these seven negative responses which we talked about earlier, including Canada.

This had already been covered in CRU’s submission; one wonders if Stringer had even bothered to read it.

Of course, this is not to suggest that Stringer was completely uninterested in possible “malpractice”, as this earlier exchange with Lord Lawson of the Global Warming Policy Foundation demonstrated:

Q28 Graham Stringer: What Mosher and Fuller say on that point is it is not just that they were using a strange procedure, but they did not explain it in footnotes or anywhere else in the literature. Do you agree with Mosher and Fuller?

Lord Lawson of Blaby: Yes, I do, and that is the significance of the word “hide”. Again, we are talking about openness, which is an essential element of integrity in science. If they had said openly that the proxy series does not fit - they say in their evidence here that it was only after 1950 or 1960 it did not fit, and that is actually not true, it is not a good fit in the latter half of the nineteenth century either, but, anyhow, if they had said it does not fit – so what we are going to do is have the proxy series for the period before the temperature readings were available and then, after that, splice on the temperature readings, and we admit that there has been a complete divergence of the two series since 1950 or 1960, if they had said that and been out in the open, it would be one thing, but they did not, they hid it.

Hmmm .. Mosher and Fuller, again.  Steven Mosher, who played a key role in disseminating the climategate emails to the general public, did submit evidence to the committee, but only touched on FOI issues. Fuller, the self-professed lukewarmer and champion of plagiarists like ex-EPA economist Alan Carlin, does not appear at all.

So this can only be a reference to the “quickie” book Climategate: The CRUTape Letters, a book highly recommended by contrarian scientists like Roger Pielke Sr.

The book promises a lot:

For those who have heard that the emails were taken out of context–we provide that context and show it is worse when context is provided.

For those who have heard that this is a tempest in a teacup–we show why it will swamp the conventional wisdom on climate change.

And yet, armed with the knowledge of the supposedly authoriative Mosher and Fuller, not to mention the submissions of McIntyre, Lawson and all the rest, Stringer could not think of a single question to ask Jones about the allegations of dishonesty. Not one.

All of which suggests that Graham Stringer knows in his heart of hearts that the accusations – “hide the decline” and all the rest – are utterly specious. It’s too bad he can’t bring himself to admit it.

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38 responses to “Climategate investigations, round 1: CRU exonerated

  1. Oh the irony. McI is a Canuck and one of the 7 countries which won’t release the data is Canada. But as a Canuck, McI can request the data. But why waste someone’s time? Here is a link that will help poor McI get the data himself:

    http://www.climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/climateData/canada_e.html

    And the data is free.

    Failing that, I’m sure that he could get the data which EC actually provides to the GHCN. If he asks nicely.

    So memo to McI, stop harassing scientists in the UK and USA. Anyone else find it odd how coy he is with Canadian scientists? Hmm, me thinks he is fearful of legal action, but know that he can get away with shenanigans by harassing scientists across the pond and the US border. Or am I wrong?

    The NP and FP in Canada have quite a bit of back peddling to do. They won’t of course, but they should.

  2. Stringer wasn’t the only research challenged participant. The written submission are full of the same old stuff pushed out by a couple of backroom boys and parroted through denier sites. They could have saved time by getting watts in and limiting the tedium.

    Having said that, a lot of the submissions were limp to the point of laughter. Who would not be herded to the Phil for King camp after reading such pap. The deniers self involvement hides the decline of their arguments.

  3. They could have saved time by getting watts in and limiting the tedium.

    Which would have provided an added bonus – comic relief ;-)

  4. PolyisTCOandbanned

    I think you go too far. I see this with my side…and now I see it with yours. I’ve done a lot more hard core science than you, DC. And creating false data from a model, because part of a series shows a trend diverging…is CRAP. And that they alluded to it somewhere else is just a CYA. The sexed a graph. If that were done in physics or medicine, they would be buttwhipped.

    And they even know they were in the wrong…hence the comments about “it was not in a science publication”. Well, I expect the same standards regardless of venue.

    Don’t be blinded by your political sympathies. Have the guts to stand up for right regardless of clan.

    [DC: If you are referring to the WMO report graph, I agree that graph, and that one alone, could be argued as problematic, as I've stated before. But does it amount to scientific fraud? I hardly think so. And it's much less misleading than the vast majority of McIntyre's blog posts.

    But the contrarians don't want to talk about a relatively minor graph; they want to demonstrate that all of climate science rests on dubious and even fraudulent bases. McIntyre argues, falsely, that the IPCC WG1 TAR Fig. 2-21 demonstrates the "deletion of inconvenient data" under pressure and that "bodging" to get "temperature reconstructions to look right" was an undocumented part of the "CRU toolkit". That's two outrageous and false accusations, among many. Are you really prepared to take McIntyre's side on those?

    And what about the much more compelling evidence of misconduct on the other side? For example, when is George Mason University going to investigate the clear and compelling evidence for plagiarism and worse on the part of Wegman et al? ]

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  6. Former Skeptic

    Fuller’s quite the work, isn’t he?

    He’s been showcasing his ignorance again at MT’s.

    I won’t be surprised if he shows up here to whine too. I mean, its pretty hard to admit you’re wrong after writing a book about it…

    [DC: I don't think he'll show up here, unless I write about the book (which I may yet do). I've looked at Mosher and Fuller's section on "hide the decline". Stringer was right not to go too far down that road. ]

  7. PolyisTCOandbanned

    I don’t need you to call it fraud, I just need you to acknowledge it as a problem. Which you did. Kudos. I’m cool with you.

    And yes, that does not mean anything else is wrong (I think the tendancy for either side to want to be perfect or to say that a single flaw completely invalidates a position is a huge problem). When that kind of thinking and talking comes forward it becomes impossible to actually have a discussion. It’s just all posturing.

    I find lots of faults with my side. My citing one issue with yours, does not mean I endorse wrong actions of mine. (See the preceding paragraph!)

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  10. The comment by hampyre at the very bottom talks about Stringer’s voting record and other details:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/simon-carr/simon-carr-scientist-may-find-himself-a-convenient-sacrificial-lamb-1914296.html

    Here is the entire post:

    “…hampyre wrote:

    Friday, 5 March 2010 at 09:37 pm (UTC)
    Simon Carr fails to recognise that Graham Stringer is an AGW skeptic/denier.

    Despite being a leftie MP (and to many that makes him an automatic ‘green’), Stringer has voted against just about all of Labours renewable energy and climate change related bills.
    He has made veiled references to alternative science explanations in his questions in Parliament, suggesting the Sun should be investigated more. He also has had connections with Manchester airport.

    Simon Carr would do well to research the people he is reporting in future.

    Taking a look at TheyWorkForYou.com and PublicWhip.org reveals why Stringer gave Phil Jones a hard time:

    http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?mpid=1704&dmp=1030
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/graham_stringer/manchester,_blackley
    …”

  11. As regards ‘hiding the decline’ there really isn’t much to say : the recent proxies undermined the AGW thesis, so they were removed and instrumental data that supported it stitched on in their place.


    [DC: In IPCC TAR Fig 2-13, the instrumental data was not "stitched on" in place of anything. The instrumental curve is separate and distinct and shown *underneath* all the others. ]

    • The whole objective being to conceal the divergence problem.

    • No – that is not the case. The instrumental curve is shown for comparison and as a more accurate record of recent temperatures. Also none of the proxies went past 1980 at that time, so the instrumental record is the only one that showed the last two decades of the 20th century.

    • The fact is IPCC readers were kept in the dark that proxy data was going down. And post-1960 proxy data was even removed from archives. This is what ‘hide the decline’ is all about.

    • From Climategate:

      From: Phil Jones
      To: ray bradley ,mann@xxxxx.xxx, mhughes@xxxx.xxx
      Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement
      Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:31:15 +0000
      Cc: k.briffa@xxx.xx.xx,t.osborn@xxxx.xxx

      Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
      …I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
      1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline….
      Cheers
      Phil

      [DC:Yes, that is the famous email that we have all seen many times before. It refers to the WMO report simplified chart, and as I've already stated I do consider that particular graph arguably problematic. But it was not a scientific publication and received very little use or attention.

      The point is the statement has nothing whatsoever to do with the IPCC TAR fig. 2-13 or any other scientific publication for that matter. You should review my previous post on the matter. ]

    • So it’s ok to be fraudulent as long as it’s not in a scientific publication, or one that receives little attention?

      [DC:
      (a) It wasn't fraudulent. And it was less misleading than the vast majority of McIntyre's posts.

      If you want to look at real misconduct, how about Wegman et al's dubious scholarship and the clear prima facie evidence of plagiarism and worse in his work? Why isn't anyone investigating that?

      (b) All the attacks concerning "hide the decline" focused on the IPCC, not the WMO chart. Those attacks are baseless. You'll just have to get over it.

      In the mean time, make sure you read the comment policy. You are starting to repeat yourself. Thanks!
      ]

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      Previously I had only looked at the frontispiece of the WMO report and thought that the lack of attribution of the use of instrumental temps in the graph problematic. Subsequently someone (a denialist, if I recall correctly) posted a link to the entire report. It turns out that the first page of the report, page (i) if you will, states that the graph was a combination of proxy and instrumental records. Upon seeing this I had to change my opinion, the graph is legit, even though it does not use the more common method used in scientific papers of presenting the instrumental record as a separate curve.

      Quite frankly, there is nothing to see here, move along.

  12. In a comment at the IOP thread Punksta states:

    “Even if that were true, the fact that he [McIntyre] was left out makes the whole thing sham.”

    McIntyre was not left out. His submission was cited twice in the committee report as noted above. Obviously, committee members found his “evidence” less than compelling. As they should.

    (Yes, this is my way of nudging discussion of McIntyre’s submission, or the S&T committee report in general, to this thread – the IOP thread should be for IOP only.

    Thanks!)

  13. McIntyre, the person at the centre of the whole affair, who doubtless knows more about the issue than anyone else, was himself was left out.

    This made it easier for the sham committee to conclude what it was pre-committed to conclude.

    • McIntyre submitted his evidence, as did several of his admirers. They even foisted Mosher and Fuller’s book, based largely on McIntyre’s interpretation of the climategate emails, onto the committee.

      The committee report cited McIntyre – twice. So obviously they read it and saw through it. Good for them.

      But I would like to see McIntyre and McKitrick appear in front of the Oxburgh scientific panel. A cross examination by actual scientists would help put an end to this nonsense. ]

    • I’d like to see those stooges as well as Jones et al, put in front of McIntyre and McKitrick.
      That would put an end to the nonsense. – which is of course Mann recently backed down from appearing with McIntyre on CNN (not the first time he’s chickened out of facing someone with the knowledge to undo him).

      [DC: McIntyre has made many false accusations against Mann. Mann was perfectly right not to appear with him. ]

    • Robert Murphy

      “McIntyre, the person at the centre of the whole affair, who doubtless knows more about the issue than anyone else, was himself was left out”

      McIntyre actually had very little to do with the investigation, unless he had some hand with the email hacking itself. I know he and his myrmidons have sent dozens of bogus FOI requests to various climate scientists, but the FOI request at the center of the CRU investigation wasn’t from him. He has nothing to do with the discussion of the divergence problem that took place in the 1999 email written by Jones. He has no special knowledge of the situation, and going by his statements and those of his followers, what he does *know* is wrong.

      He should be happy that despite the fact he’s blabbering about things he’s woefully ignorant of, his opinions were still entered into evidence for this investigation. Going by his background and his track record, that was far more than he deserved.

  14. DC, I like your suggestion of cross examining the Mc’s.

    This brings us to a real difficulty here: I would guess that the public even now is far more aware of “Climategate” than its subsequent debunking. How do we correct this media failure? Are there any TV networks willing to do an investigative piece on the whole sordid affair?

    Alternatively, someone should write an investigative print article about it, including references to the likely break in perpetrators. Rolling Stone would be the best outlet- the lefty mags here (The Nation etc) are just too sclerotic.

    [DC: CBC TV's Fifth Estate did a good job a couple of years ago on Friends of Science and phony climate science in Canada, and perhaps could be persuaded to take a second look at Climategate.

    I believe that it's only a question of time until scholarship and other problems in contrarian "literature" (e.g. Wegman report) is noticed by the mainstream media. It would be very helpful to get these on the record in the upcoming investigations. ]

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  17. After reading several websites such as this one, they all seem to be the same. They dismiss climategate, or defend the hockey stick chart, without providing scientific details. This article simply says that climategate was no big deal “because the IPCC says so…”.
    Meanwhile, in the skeptics camp, their websites breakdown the science, and give a detailed analysis of what is wrong with the report.
    Interesting huh??? The alarmist scientists seem more like politicians and the “deniers” seem more like…uh…scientists. 6 years ago it was the other way around.

    [DC: You haven't read very carefully. I have discussed and rebutted many of the specific points raised by the contrarian blogs, for example McIntyre's fanciful "hide the decline" interpretation and M&M's false accusations concerning supposed unjustified and undocumented manipulation of temperature reconstructions. Those were two points specifically raised in McIntyre's submission to CRU.

    Neither of us are scientists, though, and neither of us are doing science, although we are discussing it. The actual science is in the peer reviewed papers (of which McIntyre has published exactly one).

    By the way, your comments are somewhat generic and not particularly on topic. Please read the comment policy. Thanks!]

    BTW, since this article speaks of Phil Jones as if he is someone to trust, why doesnt this website do report of his last interview with the BBC? You know, the one where he says “there is much debate about the Medieval Warming Period [being global or not]…”?? Among other things. This is the same guy who has written in several IPCC reports that it is a FACT- the MWP was not global.

    [DC: I did write about the misleading contrarian interpretations of the Jones BBC interview here, specifically the issue of "significance" of recent warming. Also see here and here.

    As far as MWP goes, you have not represented the IPCC correctly, but I'm afraid that too is off topic. In general, though, there is no contradiction between Phil Jones's interview, taken as a whole, with any of his work of the last few years. If you want to comment on the specifics of Jones's interview, please go to the right thread. Thanks!]

    [edit]

    [DC: Unsupported allegations are not permitted. Again, please read the comment policy. ]

  18. After reading several websites such as this one, they all seem to be the same. They dismiss climategate, or defend the hockey stick chart, without providing scientific details. This article simply says that climategate was no big deal “because the IPCC says so…”.
    Meanwhile, in the skeptics camp, their websites breakdown the science, and give a detailed analysis of what is wrong with the report.
    Interesting huh???

    Dishonesty of this sort is alway interesting, but never enlightening.

    “defend the hockey stick chart, without providing scientific details” – simply dishonest.

  19. Terry Johansen

    It doesn’t appear that anyone has absorbed the emails. I mean people say they’ve read them. I find this hard to believe. But even if they’ve read them they haven’t absorbed them. The emails prove science fraud directly. Directly. There is no controversy here at all. Its a bust. Caught redhanded.


    [DC: I've read a lot of the stolen CRU emails, going beyond the passages that have been carefully selected by the likes of McIntyre. I see no evidence whatsoever of scientific fraud. If you wish to discuss this further, please comment on the threads that discuss the specific false allegations of scientific fraud, for example, here or here. Thanks! ]

    • “The emails prove science fraud directly. Directly. There is no controversy here at all. Its a bust. Caught redhanded.”

      Be more specific. Provide your evidence and all supporting contextually-relevant material.

    • I am going to repeat Derech064′s question:
      Be more specific. Provide your evidence and all supporting contextually-relevant material.
      If you are willing to make such grand claims, you should also be willing to provide actual arguments.

      Better yet, why don’t you submit a complaint to the organisations the supposed fraud-committing scientists belong? Again, you’d have to provide evidence, of course.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      I’ve read all the emails, and absorbed them. And I’m a working researcher in a related field.

      Stop lying.

  20. Isn’t it a shame that the exonerations of Dr. Jones and Dr. Mann are getting much less attention than the accusations against them?

    See: Climategate Coverage: Unfair & Unbalanced

    Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
    Selden, NY
    Global Warming: Man or Myth?
    My Global Warming Blog
    Twitter @AGW_Prof
    “Global Warming Fact of the Day” Facebook Group

  21. Graham Stringer has been saying some very odd things to the UK media in the wake of the Muir-Russell report. In the Daily Express he refers to ‘conspiracy’:

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/185585/Scientists-hid-doubts-over-global-warming

    In classic conspiracy theorist mode he refers to evidence that has not been seen that might prove a conspiracy:

    ‘MP Graham Stringer.. criticised Sir Muir’s report.

    He said it fell short because it was unable to access thousands of other emails to establish whether there was a conspiracy among climate scientists at the CRU.

    Mr Stringer said: “To make sense of whether there was a conspiracy, whether they really tried to subvert the peer review process, you would have had to look at these emails. It’s an inadequate report that doesn’t do the job.”‘

    In ‘The Register’ he says CRUs work is not replicable even though Muir-Russell did produce similar results:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/09/stringer_on_russell/

    • Why would you expect anything different from Stringer? He’s previously called dyslexia a conspiracy.

      I think he’s inhaled a bit too much organic solvent when he was still working in the plastics industry.

  22. lord_sidcup, I thought that the emails that had been seen had *proven* the malfeasance.

    Therefore, no more emails were needed than the ones that were available, if the allegations were correct.

    That they are now saying that the emails that they saw were not enough, how did the denialists know that the emails proved AGW falsified?

  23. Graham Stringer has published a quite outrageous article in the (admittedly obscure) Machester Confidential:

    http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/News/General/Climate-jiggery-pokery_17353.asp

    First, he tries to draw parallels between CRU and the Andrew Wakefield MMR scandal:

    “I was struck by enormous similarities with the investigation into the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in November 2009 – the so called Climategate scandal. ”

    Having drawn the parallel, Stringer does go on to say (presumably to cover himself from being sued for libel):

    “Let me be clear I am not accusing Professor Phil Jones and his colleagues at the Climatic Research Unit of the UEA of Wakefield-style fraud..”

    He then goes on:

    “We now know that the work done at Climatic Research Unit barely qualified as science; they kept it secret to stop other scientists checking it; thus breaching one of the foundations of the scientific method.”

    The man is completely beyond the pale.

  24. Pingback: Witch Hunts, Inquisitions and the Denialist Attack on Climate Science | The Policy Lass

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