Friday, February 26, 2010

Trust

Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire has a debate with an acquaintance about the latest retraction from the IPCC AR4 report, about sea level rise and how what the report originally said wasn't backed up by the science. In the comments discussion, TOTWTYTR points out that the many errors in the report cannot be random - after all, they all erred on the side of catastrophic warming. He has a debate with a fellow named Jimmy, who seems a decent bloke, but (like most people) doesn't have a ton of time to go wading through a whole mess of primary sources.

Jimmy also doesn't want to put too much faith in some J. Random Blogger (Ah, a touch! A touch, I do confess!). So what's a guy to do?

There is a fascinating public debate going on right now between the scientists themselves. Georgia Tech's Dr. Judith Curry reached out to the Skeptic community, by publishing a guest post on the high profile skeptic blogs. In it, she muses on why the scientific community has lost the public's trust:
Credibility is a combination of expertise and trust. While scientists persist in thinking that they should be trusted because of their expertise, climategate has made it clear that expertise itself is not a sufficient basis for public trust. The fallout from climategate is much broader than the allegations of misconduct by scientists at two universities. Of greatest importance is the reduced credibility of the IPCC assessment reports, which are providing the scientific basis for international policies on climate change. Recent disclosures about the IPCC have brought up a host of concerns about the IPCC that had been festering in the background: involvement of IPCC scientists in explicit climate policy advocacy; tribalism that excluded skeptics; hubris of scientists with regards to a noble (Nobel) cause; alarmism; and inadequate attention to the statistics of uncertainty and the complexity of alternative interpretations.
Let me point out that Dr. Curry isn't some jackass Denier like me; rather, she is fairly mainstream in supporting the theory that mankind is contributing to long term and possibly irreversible climate change. This is a voice from the "warmist" camp, expressing very serious concern about how the science behind Global Warming is being done. She deplores the poisonous debate, and reaches out to the skeptic side in a way that I haven't seen before:
So who are the climate auditors? They are technically educated people, mostly outside of academia. Several individuals have developed substantial expertise in aspects of climate science, although they mainly audit rather than produce original scientific research. They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”. They are independent of oil industry influence. They have found a collective voice in the blogosphere and their posts are often picked up by the mainstream media. They are demanding greater accountability and transparency of climate research and assessment reports.
This is, quite frankly, a refreshing change from "Hey you Deniers, get off my lawn!" It's a very long post, but is worth reading in its entirety.

It's also worth reading the comments. This is a skeptic web site, after all; the comments are a barometer to how effective Dr. Curry was in reaching out to the skeptic community.

But you also need to go read Willis Eschenbach's reply, Judith I love ya, but you're way wrong. Long time readers might remember Eschenbach as the fellow who showed how the raw temperature data at Darwin, Australia had been manipulated. Instead of showing a 0.6°C decline over the 20th Century (which is what the "raw" thermometer readings show), the data had been mysteriously "adjusted" to where it showed a 0.6°C increase.

In other words, he's a man who really, really goes to primary sources - and doesn't like what he sees there. And Darwin isn't by any means the only place we see this.

Eschenbach thinks that Curry misses the critical issue. Trust hasn't been lost because of a lack of collegiality or because the scientists haven't communicated effectively enough. It's been lost because the science stinks, and the scientists seem to be OK with that:

The lack of trust is not a problem of perception or communication. It is a problem of lack of substance. Results are routinely exaggerated. “Scientific papers” are larded with “may” and “might” and “could possibly”. Advocacy is a common thread in climate science papers. Codes are routinely concealed, data is not archived. A concerted effort is made to marginalize and censor opposing views.

And most disturbing, for years you and the other climate scientists have not said a word about this disgraceful situation. When Michael Mann had to be hauled in front of a congressional committee to force him to follow the simplest of scientific requirements, transparency, you guys were all wailing about how this was a huge insult to him.

Eschenbach has been at the center of the Climate debate - specifically the Freedom Of Information Act requests:
I made the request to CRU because I was disgusted with the response of mainstream climate scientists to Phil Jone’s reply to Warwick Hughes. When Warwick made a simple scientific request for data, Jones famously said:

Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

When I heard that, I was astounded. But in addition to being astounded, I was naive. Looking back, I was incredibly naive. I was so naive that I actually thought, “Well, Phil’s gonna get his hand slapped hard by real scientists for that kind of anti-scientific statements”. Foolish me, I thought you guys were honest scientists who would be outraged by that.

So I waited for some mainstream climate scientist to speak out against that kind of scientific malfeasance … and waited … and waited. In fact, I’m still waiting.
His conclusion is brutal:
Steve McIntyre doesn’t inspire trust because he is a good communicator. He inspires trust because he follows the age-old practices of science — transparency and openness and freewheeling scientific discussion and honest reporting of results.

And until mainstream climate science follows his lead, I’ll let you in on a very dark, ugly secret — I don’t want trust in climate science to be restored. I don’t want you learning better ways to propagandize for shoddy science. I don’t want you to figure out how to inspire trust by camouflaging your unethical practices in new and innovative ways. I don’t want scientists learning to use clever words and communication tricks to get people to think that the wound is healed until it actually is healed. I don’t want you to learn to use the blogosphere to spread your pernicious unsupported unscientific alarmism.

You think this is a problem of image, that climate science has a bad image. It is nothing of the sort. It is a problem of scientific malfeasance, and of complicity by silence with that malfeasance. The public, it turns out, has a much better bullsh*t detector than the mainstream climate scientists do … or at least we’re willing to say so in public, while y’all cower in your cubbyholes with your heads down and never, never, never say a bad word about some other climate scientist’s bogus claims and wrong actions.

In all fairness, the public doesn't jeopardize research grants by objecting to the consensus.

My excerpts from his post are particularly harsh, and Eschenbach also strives to return Curry's tone of civility while making his point. RTWT, and especially the comments. All 600 of them, where Dr. Curry comes to engage in the discussion.

Jimmy, this is the current state of the science, from the perspective of the scientists dealing with the primary sources. Neither side thinks that the science can be trusted. You shouldn't either.

1 comment:

NotClauswitz said...

Eschenbach is my hero.