nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

UK Physicists on Climategate

Intolerance, sub prime stats, wider enquiry needed

By Andrew Orlowski, 1 Mar 2010

The body representing 36,000 UK physicists has called for a wider enquiry into the Climategate affair, saying it raises issues of scientific corruption. The Institute of Physics doesn’t pull any punches in the submission, one of around 50 presented to the Commons Select Committee enquiry into the Climategate archive. The committee holds its only oral hearing later today.

The IOP says the enquiry should be broadened to examine possible "departure from objective scientific practice, for example, manipulation of the publication and peer review system or allowing pre-formed conclusions to override scientific objectivity."

It deplores the climate scientists’ "intolerance to challenge" and the "suppression of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements."

The physics institute observes that "unless the disclosed emails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context". More here.

The IoP’s submissions contrast with the establishment view. Quango Research Councils UK, which represents the seven Research Councils who channel much of the climate research cash, and fund East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. The quango simply reaffirms its belief in the man-made greenhouse theory, but says it’s inappropriate to comment on the affair.

The Royal Statistical Society (est. 1834) also ducks, although it does point out the limitations of peer review and calls for putting data and models in the public domain.

The Information Commissioner from 2002 to last year Richard Thomas calls for the law to be changed and writes: "The issues arising at the University of East Anglia suggest that this should now be addressed as a heading for proactive and routine disclosure."

The case for man-made warming

The establishment view is made in several submissions.

Occasional maverick Hans von Storch teams up with Myles Allen to emphasise that despite the appearance of malpractice, everything’s really alright:

"Unfortunately, this debate sometimes goes so far as to question a key result of climate science: that the climate system has unequivocally warmed over the past century and most of the recent warming is very likely caused by human activity," they write, in a surprisingly equivocal statement.

The government’s chief scientific advisor John Beddington makes a similar point, reeling off a list of examples that show a warmer climate. Critics have already picked up on one of these: Beddington's claim that "global sea level has increased by about 10 cm in the last 50 years". The GWPF points out that seal levels rose 10cm in the previous 50 years too. (The rate of sea level rise shows no acceleration at all, and even a slowing since 1910. See here).

Benny Piesar’s submission highlights bullying emails from the leaked archive, in which US academic Michael Mann (of Hockey Stick notoriety) expressed the hope that damages arising from any libel action would close a sceptical journal, and silence two academic critics. "Maybe the resulting settlement would shut down E&E and Benny [Piesar] and Sonja [Boehmer-Christiansen] all together! We can only hope, anyway," Mann wrote.

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen’s own contribution highlights how the global warming has relied heavily on institutional support.

She writes: “climate science was generously funded and required to support rather than to question these policy objectives." One paragraph might chime with academic researcher readers in a number of fields. She notes:

Some university research units have almost become wholly-owned subsidiaries of Government Departments. Their survival, and the livelihoods of their employees, depends on delivering what policy makers think they want. It becomes hazardous to speak truth to power.

(It isn't just related to environmental issues, but anything policy makers identify as a Big Campaign. Compliant research magically pops up to support the case. See the alcohol and health 'debate' for a good example.)

The full list can be found here. Hearings start at 3pm today. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing