The Heart of ClimateGate

Hockey_stick_chart_ipcc1.jpg
Michael Mann’s original “hockey stick” graph, “proof” of man-made global warming

Via Instapundit, here is an excellent WSJ op-ed that very effectively gets to the heart of the ClimateGate scandal: How To Forge A Consensus

… [T]he furor over these documents is not about tone, colloquialisms or even whether climatologists are nice people in private. The real issue is what the messages say about the way the much-ballyhooed scientific consensus on global warming was arrived at in the first place, and how even now a single view is being enforced. In short, the impression left by the correspondence among Messrs. Mann and Jones and others is that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.

According to this privileged group, only those whose work has been published in select scientific journals, after having gone through the “peer-review” process, can be relied on to critique the science. And sure enough, any challenges that critics have lobbed at climatologists from outside this clique are routinely dismissed and disparaged.

Exactly.

Bitter rivalries among leading scientists are as old as the disciplines of natural philosophy and science themselves. The fireworks that erupted between Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla, and the life-long battle between inventors Edwin Armstrong and Lee DeForest and RCA founder David Sarnoff, are all relatively well known.

But the scientific method and the verification process of peer review were developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries precisely to minimize, if not outright eliminate, the influence of politics, money, religious beliefs, and personality conflicts on the development of scientific discoveries. The process of peer review, whereby a scientist’s work is opened to a world-wide audience of experts for examination, was specifically designed to prevent scientists from forming “cliques” and deliberately excluding the work of others whose findings were in conflict with their own. The peer review method isn’t perfect of course, but it has done a credible job weeding out the majority of “new discoveries” that are in some way errant, while authenticating legitimate groundbreaking work.

And that is what makes ClimateGate so disturbing. The WSJ editorial continues:

As anonymous reviewers of choice for certain journals, Mr. Mann & Co. had considerable power to enforce the consensus, but it was not absolute, as they discovered in 2003. Mr. Mann noted to several colleagues in an email from March 2003, when the journal “Climate Research” published a paper not to Mr. Mann’s liking, that “This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the ‘peer-reviewed literature’. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal!”

The scare quotes around “peer-reviewed literature,” by the way, are Mr. Mann’s. He went on in the email to suggest that the journal itself be blackballed: “Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board.” In other words, keep dissent out of the respected journals. When that fails, re-define what constitutes a respected journal to exclude any that publish inconvenient views. It’s easy to manufacture a scientific consensus when you get to decide what counts as science.

The response to this among the defenders of Mr. Mann and his circle has been that even if they did disparage doubters and exclude contrary points of view, theirs is still the best climate science we’ve got. The proof for this is circular. It’s the best, we’re told, because it’s the most-published and most-cited–in that same peer-reviewed literature.

Bloggers and other interested parties have spent much time during the last week or so sifting through the East Anglia emails, marking up outrageous excerpts and studying computer code in order to discover the math used to fudge data. But more fundamental than even those things is the simple fact that Michael Mann and others have completely corrupted the peer review process, praising work that seems to concur with the “truth” of man-made global warming, while attempting to bury papers and smear scientists who are out of step with their thinking.

Yet this corruption doesn’t seem to be influenced by any external forces. In its initial response to the CRU email leak, RealClimate.org noted:

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data [this is not true, as Charlie Quidnunc earlier noted here – Ed], and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

It appears that Michael Mann and his acolytes were indeed “true believers” in what they were doing, and probably answered to no one outside their circle of colleagues. Perhaps in their minds this reinforced the notion that their work had never been corrupted. Still, when science becomes a propaganda campaign that is forced to rely on Gestapo tactics in order to perpetuate its version of the truth, it isn’t science any more. The only way that the East Anglia group can redeem itself in the eyes of the world at large, which curiously seems to understand the objective nature of peer review much better than they do, is to publicly release all of their raw data and computational methods so that they can be studied by unbiased atmospheric scientists and computer programmers. Until that occurs, we should consider their entire body of work to be highly suspect at best.

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