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The real “Climategate.”

by John Krehbiel on 19 February 2012

But I don’t suppose you’ll hear about this one on Fox, huh?

-- 2012-02-19  »  John Krehbiel

Talkback x 34

  1. admin Greg Krehbiel
    19 February 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    Maybe you won’t hear about it on Fox because they have fact checkers?

    See Notes on the faked Heartland document

    But what’s the big deal? They’re promoting a curriculum that would cast doubt on man-made global warming. Good.

  2. John Krehbiel John K
    19 February 2012 @ 2:19 pm

    That was mentioned in the article.

    Heartland did declare one two-page document to be a forgery, although its tone and content closely matched that of other documents that the group did not dispute.

    The “big deal” is that a politically and greed motivated group is undermining the teaching of basic science.

    The major misunderstanding of science that is near universal among denialists is this: Scientists are not shunned for disagreeing with the mainstream. In fact, when they can show that current understanding of some phenomenon is wrong, they have their careers made. They get Nobel prizes. Things get named after them.

    The reason the denialist poster-boys don’t get published has nothing to do with their disagreement with the mainstream, but with their complete inability to substantiate their wild ideas, and the fact that they ignore evidence to their beliefs.

  3. admin Greg Krehbiel
    19 February 2012 @ 2:37 pm

    The full extent of the fraud was not mentioned in the NYT story.

    And it’s true that challenging the consensus can be a great move and result in honors and awards and so forth. But only if you challenge the right things. Do you really believe that someone whose studies could be taken to support racist or sexist views wouldn’t be blackballed?

  4. DSM
    19 February 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    John, the only parts of the content which are anything other than bland are in the pretty-clearly faked document. I realize in your conspiracist world evil people sit around talking about how much fun it is to be evil, but do you really think that us anti-science climate types say things like

    His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain- two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

    Why would someone who thinks that global warming is unscientific nonsense describe it as science? This could really only be written by someone who thinks that sceptics act the way they do because they actually *know* it’s true but want to suppress it anyway. Even assuming that I’m actually motivated by my lust for oil and desire to burn the Earth for money, do you really think that’s what I tell myself I’m motivated by?

    To quote Megan McArdle: “Basically, it reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.”

    I kind of hope it is real, even though the Koch-related errors are a pretty big hint that it’s not: there aren’t enough of us fighting for the right side who are willing to embrace the supervillian style..

    And calling global warming “basic science” is an interesting use of the words. I try to avoid playing this card too often, because the number of letters after one’s name doesn’t make one right or wrong, but I don’t consider climate modelling basic science, and I have a doctorate in physics and have taught introductory atmospheric physics at univeristy. What makes you think it’s “basic science”?

    [BTW, I suppose your use of "denialist" is better than your earlier "deniers" or "teabaggers", with fewer distasteful Shoah and sexual references, but must you always come up with a cartoonish label for people you disagree with?]

  5. smitemouth
    19 February 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    Fox has fact checkers? Deep belly laugh here. It will get me through the week. Thanks.

  6. admin Greg Krehbiel
    19 February 2012 @ 3:30 pm

    SM, whether they do or don’t, it’s fairly clear the NYT does not.

  7. kdeb
    19 February 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    I thought these two points were interesting:
    “The documents raise questions about whether the group has undertaken partisan political activities, a potential violation of federal tax law governing nonprofit groups…
    Tax lawyers said Wednesday that tax-exempt groups were allowed to undertake some types of lobbying and political education, but that because they are subsidized by taxpayers, they are prohibited from direct involvement in political campaigns.”
    So they only cannot lobby or work politically because they get tax dollars. Curious. Where did they get the tax dollars? But still interesting…

    “It is in fact not a scientific controversy. The vast majority of climate scientists say that emissions generated by humans are changing the climate and putting the planet at long-term risk, although they are uncertain about the exact magnitude of that risk. Whether and how to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases has become a major political controversy in the United States, however.”
    So what is the range of the magnitude of the risk that the vast majority of scientists agree results from human activity? I mean, if you are going to teach, put some teeth in it. If you are going to tell someone’s kids that what they do at home or what their parents do for a living is ruining the world, you ought to have numbers. Are there numbers that the vast majority agrees on, or is this one of those squishy things that allows everyone to agree without really saying anything?

  8. admin Greg Krehbiel
    19 February 2012 @ 9:42 pm

    They are agreeing without saying anything.

    CO2 is a greenhouse gas, so an increase in CO2 will result in an increase in global temperature. That’s simply physics, and everyone can agree to that in the same sense that everyone can agree that if I add water to a swimming pool, it will raise the level of the water. But how much water have I added? Did I spit, or did I add 5000 gallons?

  9. RootCzar
    19 February 2012 @ 10:19 pm

  10. admin Greg Krehbiel
    19 February 2012 @ 10:22 pm

    So say two guys.

  11. RootCzar
    19 February 2012 @ 10:29 pm

    … and an overwhelming majority of the reputable scientific community. :-D That’s just a fact.

    i just fail to see the problem with taking the blame on this one. i think modern humanity is peeing in the pool, big time.

  12. admin Greg Krehbiel
    19 February 2012 @ 11:15 pm

    Here are the facts.

    The earth’s climate has changed dramatically, numerous times, and we don’t know all the reasons why. The climate is ridiculously complicated, we don’t know all the variables, and the idea that we can model it is absurd.

    CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and an increase in CO2 will definitely affect global temperature. But CO2 is a relatively minor component of the atmosphere, so the effect isn’t likely to be large. Water vapor is a far more significant factor.

    Most of what we hear about global warming is based on computer models, which have not been shown to be reliable. Rather, the reverse.

    The issue has become highly politicized, and lots of money is at stake on both sides of the issue. Lots of people feel pressure to conform to particular views on this issue.

    In that environment, do you really trust anybody to tell the truth? I don’t.

    Normally I would say that I’ll believe it when I see it, but in this case that doesn’t even apply, because earth’s climate is going to change — whether humans exist or not, whether we burn coal or not, whether we drive cars or not, no matter what we do, the climate is going to change — and we don’t know enough about the climate to know which way it’s going to change.

  13. John Krehbiel John KrehbiL
    20 February 2012 @ 6:51 am


    We do know an awful lot about past climate change, and it is clear that this time is very different from changes in the past.

    Only some of the information is from computer models. A lot of it comes from past climate records, including natural records like ice cores, sediment cores, tree rings, and may other kinds of information.

    Water vapor follows CO2, so an increase in CO2 increases the ability of the atmosphere it hold more amd more water vapor.

    There is certainly a lot of money at stake, but it is wrong to say that the Koch brothers’ financial interest is the same kind of monetary interest as a research scientist’s paycheck. The real money, and I fear we will foolishly bankrupt ourselves, is the expense of trying to save doomed cities from rising sea levels. It already would have been cheaper to move the displaced people in New Orleans than to rebuild that doomed city. (and New Orleans is doomed for reasons other than climate change– it still serves as a warning.)

    The natural forcings have been taken into account, and are insufficient to account for current change.

  14. kdeb
    20 February 2012 @ 7:12 am

    Okay, so didn’t Greenland used to have people farming on it where they are farming now because of climate change?

    So how are we so sure that it is human activity that does this?

    And isn’t the real proposed loss of climate change actually just an ethnocentric one? Won’t formerly arid or unproductive areas become places where people can raise their food? (according to predictions?) So isn’t it really just that we want to make sure none of Our Stuff gets messed up?

  15. admin Greg Krehbiel
    20 February 2012 @ 7:31 am

    John, I read that book.

    We do know more about climate, but not enough. All the models have to be adjusted and tinkered with to match reality, and there are still big anomalies — like the early part of the 20th century. Remember “hide the decline”? Yes, I know it’s not about hiding a decline in temperature, but what it is about is hiding a phenomenon (tree rings) that doesn’t match the model.

    Climate is very complicated, and we can’t even come up with models to explain what’s already happened, much less to say what will happen.

    There is money at stake for energy companies, and there is somewhat of a parallel to tobacco companies and studies on smoking. But there’s also money at stake for Al Gore. And the environmentalists have been hunting around for decades to try to find some way to blame humans for the end of the earth. It’s an obsession that rivals the 7th day adventists and their lectures on the book of revelation.

    And so far, the predictions haven’t come true.

    Climate changes. Cities built along shores might get flooded. Then again, sea level might fall and they’ll find themselves a mile away from the waterfront.

  16. RootCzar
    20 February 2012 @ 11:25 pm

    Ugh. This thread got entirely too Flat Earthy for me….

    Yes, everything is fine because remote parts of Greenland might be less arid. Nevermind the atrocious myriad of other predicted developments.

    Certainly likening climate change science to the spewings of 7th day adventists, or any other bible following throng with absolutely zero historical, paleontological or archeological support… Makes sense.

    Really? Stupid Copernicus. Silly Galileo. Mouthbreathing Einstein. Knucklewalking Darwin!

    Sorry, science wins historically. Physicists have even found demonstrative mathematical foundation for the big bang absent of need for a prime mover.

    Gravity an issue too? Jeepers!

  17. admin Greg Krehbiel
    21 February 2012 @ 7:39 am

    Root, how long have you been following the global warming story? Have you seen decades of stories of predictions that simply didn’t come true, always to be replaced with new, better forecasts?

    Global warming is like solar energy. It’s always in the future.

  18. admin Greg Krehbiel
    21 February 2012 @ 8:06 am

    Root. Are these guys flat earthers?

  19. DSM
    21 February 2012 @ 9:49 am

    Hey, RootCzar: “Sorry, science wins historically. Physicists have even found demonstrative mathematical foundation for the big bang absent of need for a prime mover.”

    What are you talking about? I’m an astrophysicist and I have no idea.

  20. admin Greg Krehbiel
    21 February 2012 @ 10:57 am

    Root and DMS, It’s not even conceptually possible to come up with a “mathematical foundation for the big bang absent the need for a prime mover.”

    The concept of a “prime mover” (I assume this is a reference to Aristotle’s “first cause”) is a search for the original cause in the sequence of causes that make the universe exist — not just at the Big Bang, but right now.

    Either the “mathematical foundation” would itself have to be the “prime mover,” or something else would have to cause the mathematical foundation.

  21. admin Greg Krehbiel
    21 February 2012 @ 11:01 am

    Also, here’s more about the leaked memo.

    Scientist admits he leaked internal documents from climate skeptic group

    He admits what he did was wrong, but claims he did not alter the documents.

  22. kdeb
    21 February 2012 @ 11:02 am

    Hi RootCzar. Glad to have another voice around here.
    Sorry if my general ignorance sounded too much like purposeful ignorance. I actually do ask questions because I would like answers, not to mock or make fun. At least, I do most of the time when I don’t add little cutesie faces to make it clear I am pulling someone’s leg. =]

    Seriously, I read an entire article on global warming in Nat Geo which was entirely doomsday about global warming but failed to explain how it was uncovering areas which were previously farmed by Vikings. I think, without mocking, that this is a reasonable piece of information to expect to be explained. Clearly the change that occured then didn’t kill us all, so what is the difference? I think that is a reasonable question.

    It is hard to be brief and sound terribly reasonable and balanced at the same time. I was actually summarizing the points of an article I read by a climate change scientist about the reshaping of the world’s arable lands. I mean, when you think about it, if we abused the climate to build our Industrial Revolution, and now we want other less developed countries to NOT abuse the climate for their own financial advantage so that we don’t lose our own bread belt, doesn’t this strike anyone as just a wee bit political?

    I am a round earth kind of girl, just for the record. I am also very leery of people who claim to be unbiased.

  23. John Krehbiel John Krehbiel
    21 February 2012 @ 11:34 am


    The Medieval Warm Period was a local phenomenon in the North Atlantic. No general sea level change, no change in the tropics or the Southern Hemisphere, and minimal change in North America except for the Canadian east coast. (of course it wasn’t called Canada then ;-)

    AFAIK, the explanation is some kind of temporary change in the ocean currents.

  24. DSM
    21 February 2012 @ 11:48 am

    @GK: I find that people use physics as if it were a kind of beat poetry. You pull out words that make interesting sounds when placed together but that don’t really mean anything.

    *puts on beret* ahem.

    are quanta relative?
    only Schroedinger knows
    singularity at the speed of light
    dancing on the event horizon
    does it whisper? Hawking can hear
    the sounds but
    I miss my cat
    give her back, Erwin

    None of this has anything to do with anything, but people will merrily quote something they heard once and try to draw Deep Conclusions from it.

  25. admin Greg Krehbiel
    21 February 2012 @ 1:38 pm

    The astrophysicist beat poet. :-)

  26. pentamom pentamom
    21 February 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    Do you still wear the beatnik glasses, DSM?

  27. RootCzar
    21 February 2012 @ 2:04 pm

    @DSM – Are you really? Too cool!

    That makes me feel WAAAAY out of my league … which I welcome.

    This may not be the most academic or pedantic resource … But I have enjoyed the works of Stephen Hawking. My reference was to his book ‘The Grand Design’ … with a rather nifty (dumbed-down) program produced recently for Discovery Channel called – ‘Curiosity.’

  28. RootCzar
    21 February 2012 @ 2:18 pm

    Apologies-all-around for my being ‘ranty.’

    … to kdeb, in particular.

  29. DSM
    21 February 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    @pentamom: My current frames are small and rectangular.. I think they’d need a bit of work to be zany enough to be beatnik, but some friends gave me a scarf as a gift a few weeks back so maybe that’ll help. I still present with my usual half-geek half-thug look, though, like someone just stole my BSG season two DVD and they better hope I don’t find them.

    @RootCzar: well, I have a paper just back from review at Icarus that I need to look at, so I guess I’m still an astronomer of sorts. But last year I made the decision that a lot of early thirty-something physicists make: I joined a numerical analysis firm. In this case it was with several other astronomer friends of mine — one I went to undergrad with, and one was my officemate in grad school — partly because I wanted the money, and partly because I missed my family (I’d been off the continent for five years as a post-doc.)

  30. pentamom pentamom
    21 February 2012 @ 10:17 pm

    If you had the scarf and the old glasses, you’d still be doing the Hogwarts thing. Does nothing endure?

  31. pentamom pentamom
    21 February 2012 @ 10:18 pm

    Hey, so you’re back from Asia, eh?

  32. RootCzar
    21 February 2012 @ 11:23 pm

    @Greg – I’ll have to go back and look over Hawking’s precise language, but MY reference to ‘prime mover’ was intended to evoke what is also and perhaps more commonly/formally known as the ‘Unmoved Mover’ … which Aristotle established in his works of Metaphysics, was self-contemplating/intelligent, eternal and immaterial or incorporeal. Many scholars have essentially taken that to mean, ‘god.’ That was the (no pun intended) spirit …. behind my reference.

  33. admin Greg Krehbiel
    22 February 2012 @ 8:42 am

    Aristotle’s “first cause” argument doesn’t refer to the Big Bang, or any possible beginning of the universe. It refers to “motion” (or change) here and now. “Something that moves other things without itself being moved by anything.”

  34. admin Greg Krehbiel
    26 February 2012 @ 9:32 am

    Re: this original story John mentioned, this is an interesting article.

    Why the Climate Skeptics Are Winning: Too many of their opponents are intellectual thugs.