Monday, April 19, 2010

Missing News: Climate Science: Giving the IPCC Curry

Climate Research: "
The charges of “groupthink,” “cargo cult science,” and “tribalism” have some validity in my opinion." -Prof. Judith Curry.

COMMENT: Nothing so far on the ABC about recent comments by prominent Climate Scientist Professor Judith Curry. Prof. Curry posted the following provocative comments regarding the recent investigation (or was that Whitewash) into the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia by Lord Oxburgh on Roger Pielke Jnr's blog and also on Real Climate.
Comments at ROGER PIELKE JNR BLOG post Squeaky Clean
The primary frustration with these investigations is that they are dancing around the principal issue that people care about: the IPCC and its implications for policy. Focusing only on CRU activities (which was the charge of the Oxbourgh panel) is of interest mainly to UEA and possibly the politics of UK research funding (it will be interesting to see if the U.S. DOE sends any more $$ to CRU). Given their selection of CRU research publications to investigate (see Bishop Hill), the Oxbourgh investigation has little credibility in my opinion. However, I still think it unlikely that actual scientific malfeasance is present in any of these papers: there is no malfeasance associated with sloppy record keeping, making shaky assumptions, and using inappropriate statistical methods in a published scientific journal article.
The corruptions of the IPCC process, and the question of corruption (or at least inappropriate torquing) of the actual science by the IPCC process, is the key issue. The assessment process should filter out erroneous papers and provide a broader assessment of uncertainty; instead, we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative. I don't see much hope for improving the IPCC process under its current leadership.
The historical temperature record and the paleoclimate record over the last millennium are important in many many aspects of climate research and in the communication of climate change to the public; both of these data sets are at the heart of the CRU email controversy. In my opinion, there needs to be a new independent effort to produce a global historical surface temperature dataset that is transparent and that includes expertise in statistics and computational science. Once "best" methods have been developed and assessed for assembling such a dataset including uncertainty estimates, a paleoclimate reconstruction should be attempted (regional, hemispheric, and possibly global) with the appropriate uncertainty estimates. The public has lost confidence in the data sets produced by CRU, NASA, Penn State, etc. While such an independent effort may confirm the previous analysies, it is very likely that improvements will be made and more credible uncertainty estimates can be determined. And the possibility remains that there are significant problems with these datasets; this simply needs to be sorted out. Unfortunately, the who and how of actually sorting all this out is not obvious. Some efforts are underway in the blogosphere to examine the historical land surface data (e.g. such as GHCN), but even the GHCN data base has numerous inadequacies. Addressing the issues associated with the historical and paleo temperature records shou
ld be paramount.

Comments by Prof Judith Curry at REAL CLIMATE

Several RC readers have emailed me, and after a quick perusal of the comments regarding my post at Bishop Hill, I have a few comments to make.

I haven’t come across any posts in the blogosphere with my name on that were not written by me. I haven’t posted anything on RC in several years, although I did invite RC (gavin) to post something on my “Part II: Towards rebuilding trust” essay. Gavin declined, although he did email comments to me on the essay. I have not made any public statement regarding my not posting at RC. I post mainly on sites where I feel there is an opportunity to provoke people to think and challenge their own prejudices on a particular topic. I have posted on blogs ranging from climateprogress to wuwt, and I have received a broad range of responses, with highly negative responses coming from across the spectrum. I don’t stay away from blogs that aren’t “friendly” to me, and I rarely spend time trying to preach to the converted.
So what am I up to? I am trying to provoke people to have open minds and think critically about climate research. The charges of “groupthink,” “cargo cult science,” and “tribalism” have some validity in my opinion. The field of climate research faces some unique challenges owing to the extremely high relevance of our science for policy, and the scientists and the institutions that support the science have not yet adapted to dealing effectively in this highly charged and politicized arena. We need to have a broad discussion on how to improve this situation.
As to whether I have gone over to the “dark side.” First, I’m not sure why we are talking about “sides” (that tribalism thing); we should be talking about science and how to improve the integrity of science. With regards to the “dark side,” there are people making politically motivated attacks against climate research (Marc Morano and Myron Ebell come immediately to mind). And then there are people questioning many aspects of climate research and the IPCC process and making arguments based upon evidence (e.g. Steve McIntyre, Andrew Montford). To dismiss all criticisms of the climate establishment (e.g. IPCC, RC, etc) as the “dark side” and to be dismissed is hampering scientific progress and diminishing the credibility of climate science. So yes, I talk to people that many RC readers would classify as the “dark side”: the skeptical bloggers, “mainstream” skeptical scientists, and even some people from the libertarian think tanks. Regarding my personal opinion on where I stand regarding climate science as presented by the IPCC. I place little confidence in the WG2 and WG3 reports; these fields are in their infancy. With regards to the WG1 report, I think that some of the confidence levels are too high. During the period Feb 2007 – Nov 2009, when I gave a presentation on climate change I would say “don’t believe what one scientist says, listen to what the IPCC has to say” and then went on to defend the IPCC process and recite the IPCC conclusions. I am no longer substituting the IPCC’s judgment for my own judgment on this matter. So if the readers here assess that this constitutes going over to the “dark side” then so be it; my conclusion will be that the minds seem to be more open on the “dark side”.
Gavin’s statement “-especially in the light of the tsunami of baseless accusations against scientists that have been hitting the internet in the last few months-“ makes the mistake of dismissing all accusations/criticisms. I agree, it is difficult to sort through all the crazy statements and identify the substantive arguments. So I will help you out. I have seen no mention on RC of Andrew Montford’s (Bishop Hill) book “The Hockey Stick Illusion.” If Montford’s arguments and evidence are baseless, then you should refute them. They deserve an answer, whether or not his arguments are valid. And stating that you have refuted these issues before isn’t adequate; the critical arguments have not hitherto been assembled into a complete narrative. And attacking Montford’s motives, past statements or actions, etc. won’t serve as a credible dismissal. Attack the arguments and the evidence that he presents. I for one would very much like to see what RC has to say about this book.

We have requested ABC provide some coverage.

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