So the blogosphere has been abuzz over a recent Q&A Keith Kloor did with Judy Curry, the lengthy comment thread is where most of the interesting stuff is. I actually wish to opine on the whole sorry mess but that will be in a later post. Her biggest beef is about what she sees as “tribalism”, but I only want to highlight with this post a comment on a follow up thread that really jumped out at me:
This is the fight that will define the twenty-first century as either a time when mankind advances due to honest enterprise, quality science, and technical achievement…or we are subjugated by government micro-regulation from manipulative control freaks based on false and slanted data from grant recipients with no scruples.
Not only are we dealing with different “tribes”, but we are fighting completely different battles! The answer immediately following is apropos, IMO.
Skip? A comment about naratives?
To respond to the events since Nov 19 by calling for regrouping and examining the contents of the WG I report, as Judith Curry recommends, is to me profoundly problematic.
I absolutely agree that it is a good thing that there is a burgeoning community of amateurs interested in WG I problems, and that an opportunity to improve the practice of science exists in their demand for openness. The amateurs are potential allies in moving science off a 19th century model based on tight social networks to a 21st century model based on openness and sharing of methods and data. On this I completely agree.
But it makes no sense to enforce this model retroactively and impose hoped-for future norms on past behaviors. Various groups of science insiders have concluded that both Jones and Mann have behaved according to the extant norms of pure science; these norms evolved in different technical and social circumstances. It’s possible to go on at length about expectations and it may be fruitful to do so, but I want to make a key point.
McIntyre, Hughes, Liljegren etc. may be perfectly sincere, and Mann, Jones, etc. may not be saints, but they are also sincere and well-intentioned. The implication that anything revealed by the emails rises to gross malfeasance is persistent in the comments in their blogs and often insinuated in the articles. This itself is an enormous problem in the amateur climatology blogs.
If we weren’t in such disatrous straits, it would be amusing to note how, as the work is slowly replicated in amateur circles, we find that station placement isn’t important, the observational record is more or less as reported, and presumably once someone gets a serious millenial reconstruction together it will fit right in the spaghetti diagram of AR4. In other words, the old fashioned and clubby version of science (of which, I want to say, I am far from a beneficiary) indeed comes up with the right results.
So, 1) normal behavior constrained by existing ethical principles and 2) broadly correct results.
Yet, we have this repulsive word “climategate”. We have press reports insinuating gross malpractive. We have lawsuits instigated at the gubernatorial level against EPA based on the purported malfeasance “revealed” by the CRU emails. And now we have retroactive investigations of some two bit grant (“almost half a million dollars” over seven years may sound like a lot to anyone who hasn’t put together science grant proposals; this might have been almost enough to support a grad student) by the Virginia state attorney general, egged on by the inexcusable Fred Singer.
And we have ” ‘Since it’s public money, there’s enough controversy to look in to the possible manipulation of data,’ says Dr. Charles Battig, president of the nonprofit Piedmont Chapter Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment, a group that doubts the underpinnings of climate change theory.”
Nothing in the actual record is used to support this repulsive witch hunt. There is merely “enough controversy”.
It is absolutely fine to try to reformulate the discussions of WG I matters in a less confrontational way. Zeke Hausfather is doing a good job of this over at Liljegren’s, for instance.
It is absolutely irresponsible to take this moment, the moment when the excesses of the critics of climate scientists are reaching their most extreme crescendo, to be bending over backwards to make peace with them, though. We cannot possibly ignore the completely disproportionate damage they have done and are continuing to do.
The key issue here is not scientific. That’s obvious. When things are done with increased formality and openness, they seem to regularly come to the same conclusions, albeit more slowly.
We should welcome the increased attention to science in detail, and not try to shut it down. But we shouldn’t allow that to distract us from the facts.
The facts are that the real issues here are 1) injustice to innocent individuals, 2) an attack on scientific practice, 3) the vulnerability of conventional science communication channels to deliberate distortion by political forces and 4) fodder for potent propaganda from those who would like to distract us from the real open questions.
It is urgent and crucial that we discuss policy, adaptation and mitigation, about the future of civilization and the sustainability of the planet. If people want to spend years of their lives arguing about two paragraphs in an obscure journal about bristlecone pines, that is a peculiar hobby, but if that sort of thing is used to displace discussion about the enormous systemic problems we actually face, that is a deep and fundamental problem.
These are the “issues and questions we should be talking about”.
To first order, the work of WG I is done. The Charney sensitivity is around 3 C, with a range of 1.5 – 6 C. Even on the low side that is worth worrying about. Risk weighted that range is more than enough to require action.
Going back to physical science is a perfect delaying tactic for those who are motivated by ideology or financial interest (often both) to want to delay, but the chances that S << 1.5 C are probably very low and in any case are not high enough to support such a delay. Those of us who are interested, myself included, should keep talking about it. But to take the uncertainty in WG I results as the key lesson of this fiasco is, (man, I'm casting about for an adequate adjective… um, is there a polite word for "toxic, perverse, hugely destructive and insane"?) no damn good.