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Three authoritative scientists with impeccable credentials - Stephen Schneider, Phil Jones, and Ben Santer -- are calling down the "free-market" global warming denialist group Competitive Enterprise Institute (and contrarian scientist Pat Michaels) for deliberately calling into question aspects of the climate record that have already been thoroughly vetted. We should be giving medals to climate scientists, even setting aside a whole day to express our appreciation for shedding light on our planet's intricate climate system. CEI doesn't see it that way. Instead, this group launches attacks on scientists, on an ideological warpath to stop or slow down legitimate efforts to regulate CO2 emissions and thus reduce serious risks associated with global climate disruption. The group's recent petition to have the US EPA reopen public comment on its "endangerment finding," a requisite step towards honoring the Supreme Court ruling that CO2 can now be regulated under the Clean Air Act, is an attempt to distract attention away from good policymaking, and lure scientists into arguing minutiae and red herring issues.  They're not falling for it, far from it.  Three prominent scientists shoot back -- see below the fold.


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There should indeed be a "Climate Scientist Appreciation Day" to honor the many professionals who have dedicated their careers and their lives to furthering of our understanding of Earth's intricate climate system, on which all of life depends.  But not everyone sees it that way, apparently.

Climate Science Watch has an eagle-eye trained on the Competitive Enterprise Institute and groups like it, knowing fully their denialist agenda and familiar with their bag of delaying tactics meant to stymie meaningful action to bring down greenhouse gas emissions, in the name of the so-called "free market." Rather than respecting and honoring these dedicated, highly educated and trained scientists, CEI likes to take pot shots at them.  

This post is a synopsis of several recent CSW posts and further commentary on CEI's antics.  

In our recent post, CEI global warming denialists try another gambit seeking to derail EPA endangerment finding, we call attention to CEI's ideological mission to derail efforts by Congress and the Obama administration to set national policy on reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide.  Viewing major climate bills in the House and Senate and the US Environmental Protection Agency's steps to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act (requiring an "endangerment finding") as serious threats to their political agenda, CEI -- with the aid of senior fellow and climate contrarian scientist Patrick Michaels --  has falsely accused the scientific community of "destroying data" thereby comprising the IPCC global temperature record.  The charge is a bunch of bologna.  

“When they use science, they use it tactically, and they will go to war with the mainstream science community," CSW Director Rick Piltz was quoted in the Oct. 7 edition of Environment & Energy Daily (subscription required). "You do not need to reopen the IPCC reports and the technical support document on the EPA endangerment finding because of something having to do with the raw data from the temperature record from East Anglia University in the 1980s.”  

Is CEI desperately grasping at straws?  

The cadre of scientists, engineers and other experts devoted to getting a better handle on the climate threat deserve medals for their meticulous handling of vast amounts of complex data collected over decades of painstaking measurements, not to be badgered and falsely accused of incompetence.   Enough already!   Both Congress and the Obama administration need to sidestep these unethical and objectionable histrionics and get on with the urgent business of joining the rest of the world in developing meaningful and effective approaches to deal with the real threat of a destabilized climate system worldwide.

This week CSW asked three prominent scientists to comment on CEI's bogus data-shredding charge.  It turns out, they have something to say.

CSW posted their comments here, and here.  The story was picked up by Robin Bravender in E&E Daily's Greenwire (subs.) reprinted in the New York Times online.

It's important to commend these leading IPCC scientists, Schneider, Jones, and Santer, for speaking out against the flotsam and jetsam spewed out by the deniers-and-delayers.  They could, perhaps, borrow that memorable line from the 1976 satirical film Network:   "We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore!"  

In their own words:  

Stephen Schneider, the Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Stanford University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.  (Read more about Steve and his work at climatechange.net and patientfromhell.org.):

Pat Michaels and the Competitive Enterprise Institute continue to obfuscate well-established scientific conclusions by counting on most non-specialists to be unaware of the vast preponderance of multiple lines of evidence for anthropogenic climate warming. Their technique is to raise minor objections that don’t remotely refute the preponderance, and use this scientific trivia to claim that until all points of debate are resolved the mainstream case isn’t “proven.”

This was the tried and true tactic of the tobacco industry for 35 years. Now that industry suffers losses of billions of dollars in lawsuits for hiding the truth and obscuring it with minutiae that most people are not technically trained enough to recognize for the deceptions embedded in what seems to be serious scientific debate.

Why should they not do it given their ideology? They support the ideology of few controls on entrepreneurial activity and thus want to weaken government regulation. In the case of climate change they do this by falsely claiming they have found a new “smoking gun” of refutation of well-established science. Science of complex systems is never finished.  That is why we have assessments like those of the IPCC—to assess where the preponderances are.

What Michaels and the CEI are selling comes from the north end of a south bound horse.

Benjamin D. Santer, Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  Santer has received several honors, awards and fellowships including the Department of Energy Distinguished Scientist Fellowship, the E.O. Lawrence Award, and the “Genius Award” by the MacArthur Foundation.
As I see it, there are two key issues here.

First, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Pat Michaels are arguing that Phil Jones and colleagues at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (CRU) willfully, intentionally, and suspiciously “destroyed” some of the raw surface temperature data used in the construction of the gridded surface temperature datasets.

Second, the CEI and Pat Michaels contend that the CRU surface temperature datasets provided the sole basis for IPCC “discernible human influence” conclusions.

Both of these arguments are incorrect. First, there was no intentional destruction of the primary source data. I am sure that, over 20 years ago, the CRU could not have foreseen that the raw station data might be the subject of legal proceedings by the CEI and Pat Michaels. Raw data were NOT secretly destroyed to avoid efforts by other scientists to replicate the CRU and Hadley Centre-based estimates of global-scale changes in near-surface temperature. In fact, a key point here is that other groups—primarily at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), but also in Russia—WERE able to replicate the major findings of the CRU and UK Hadley Centre groups. The NCDC and GISS groups performed this replication completely independently. They made different choices in the complex process of choosing input data, adjusting raw station data for known inhomogeneities (such as urbanization effects, changes in instrumentation, site location, and observation time), and gridding procedures. NCDC and GISS-based estimates of global surface temperature changes are in good accord with the HadCRUT data results.

The second argument—that “discernible human influence” findings are like a house of cards, resting solely on one observational dataset—is also invalid. The IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) considers MULTIPLE observational estimates of global-scale near-surface temperature changes. It does not rely on HadCRUT data alone—as is immediately obvious from Figure 2.1b of the TAR, which shows CRU, NCDC, and GISS global-mean temperature changes.

As pointed out in numerous scientific assessments (e.g., the IPCC TAR and Fourth Assessment Reports, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Report 1.1 (Temperature trends in the lower atmosphere: Steps for understanding and reconciling differences), and the state of knowledge report, Global Climate Change Impacts on the United States, rigorous statistical fingerprint studies have now been performed with a whole range of climate variables—and not with surface temperature only. Examples include variables like ocean heat content, atmospheric water vapor, surface specific humidity, continental river runoff, sea-level pressure patterns, stratospheric and tropospheric temperature, tropopause height, zonal-mean precipitation over land, and Arctic sea-ice extent. The bottom-line message from this body of work is that natural causes alone CANNOT plausibly explain the climate changes we have actually observed. The climate system is telling us an internally- and physically-consistent story. The integrity and reliability of this story does NOT rest on a single observational dataset, as Michaels and the CEI incorrectly claim.

I have known Phil for most of my scientific career. He is the antithesis of the secretive, “data destroying” character the CEI and Michaels are trying to portray to the outside world. Phil and Tom Wigley have devoted significant portions of their scientific careers to the construction of the land surface temperature component of the HadCRUT dataset. They have conducted this research in a very open and transparent manner—examining sensitivities to different gridding algorithms, different ways of adjusting for urbanization effects, use of various subsets of data, different ways of dealing with changes in spatial coverage over time, etc. They have thoroughly and comprehensively documented all of their dataset construction choices. They have done a tremendous service to the scientific community—and to the planet—by making gridded surface temperature datasets available for scientific research. They deserve medals—not the kind of deliberately misleading treatment they are receiving from Pat Michaels and the CEI.

Professor Phil Jones, Director, Climatic Research Unit (CRU), and Professor, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK:
No one, it seems, cares to read what we put up on the CRU web page. These people just make up motives for what we might or might not have done.

Almost all the data we have in the CRU archive is exactly the same as in the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) archive used by the NOAA National Climatic Data Center [see here and here].

The original raw data are not “lost.”  I could reconstruct what we had from U.S. Department of Energy reports we published in the mid-1980s. I would start with the GHCN data. I know that the effort would be a complete waste of time, though. I may get around to it some time. The documentation of what we’ve done is all in the literature.

If we have “lost” any data it is the following:

1) Station series for sites that in the 1980s we deemed then to be affected by either urban biases or by numerous site moves, that were either not correctable or not worth doing as there were other series in the region.

2) The original data for sites for which we made appropriate adjustments in the temperature data in the 1980s. We still have our adjusted data, of course, and these along with all other sites that didn’t need adjusting.

3) Since the 1980s as colleagues and National Meteorological Services (NMSs) have produced adjusted series for regions and or countries, then we replaced the data we had with the better series.

In the papers, I’ve always said that homogeneity adjustments are best produced by NMSs. A good example of this is the work by Lucie Vincent in Canada. Here we just replaced what data we had for the 200+ sites she sorted out.

The CRUTEM3 data for land look much like the GHCN and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies data for the same domains.

Apart from a figure in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) showing this, there is also this paper from Geophysical Research Letters in 2005 by Russ Vose et al.  Figure 2 is similar to the AR4 plot.

I think if it hadn’t been this issue, the Competitive Enterprise Institute would have dreamt up something else!

For all of the IPCC scientists, who proudly share the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, let's have some appreciation for the good work they do, and not let a few rotten apples spoil the bunch.  

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to climate science watch on Thu Oct 15, 2009 at 11:44 AM PDT.

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