Red Herrings in the Enquiry Fishbowl

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In the wake of “”Climategate”, a British House of Commons panel has held an enquiry into the CRU unit.  Right there before the eyes of the world, they heard what Dr Phil Jones had to say:

  • “I have obviously written some very awful e-mails.”
  • “I don’t think anything in those e-mails supports any view that I’m trying to, or CRU has been trying to, pervert the peer review process in any way.”
  • CRU’s practice, he said, was to release “gridded data” (raw information that had been processed for analysis).
  • CRU withheld raw data in part because “most scientists don’t want to deal with raw station data, they want to deal with the derived product.”

Jones is the man at the very centre of Climategate – the man whose emails caused the fuss.  The man who sent an email urging all other associated climate scientists to destroy their data.  The man who, in an email to McIntyre, asked why he should provide data, when McIntyre would try to find something wrong with it.  The man who withheld data from McIntyre on the grounds of confidentiality while at the same time supplying the requested data to a scientist who supports AGW.

After his refreshing honesty in the interview with the BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin, I felt some sympathy for Dr Jones, and said so, in an earlier blog entry.  But Jones has now lost that sympathy.  His answers at the parliamentary enquiry show that he has reverted to obfuscation.  Destroying data perverts the peer review process because it prevents other scientists from testing scientific conclusions. – Jones knows that.  Withholding raw data when it is requested by another scientists cannot be justified on the grounds that most others ask for the derived product –  Jones knows that.  All scientists, when reviewing the work of other scientists, try to find something wrong with it – that’s the scientific method, and Jones knows that, too.

But Jones was not the only witness at the enquiry to apply spin.

UK chief scientific adviser John Beddington said: “I think the general issue that global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activities is also correct.  I think this is unchallenged.”

Julia Slingo, head of the Met Office, said: “We know that (climate change) is unequivocal and that as the IPCC report said, over 90 percent, it’s very likely due to human activities.”  She said that the uncertainty is in projections of future warming, not in the cause.  She at least is right about the uncertainty of the projections.

The cause also is uncertain.  That climate change is caused by human activities is certainly challenged by scientists – by Lindzen, Watts, McIntyre, Woon, and others.  The data gathered so far do not show with any degree of certainty that human activities cause global warming, or that the warming is catastrophic.  We do not know that human activities cause global warming – that is no more than theory.

The parliamentary enquiry and more importantly, Joe Public the voter represented by parliament, deserve rather more than spin and red herrings.  Science itself demands more than that.

References:

NY Times Article on UK Enquiry: http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/03/02/02climatewire-climategate-scientist-admits-awful-e-mails-b-66224.html?pagewanted=1

BBC Interview with Phil Jones: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8511670.stm

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