Dangers of a Monoculture — Reactions to the CRU Emails

I am disappointed to see folks like Lord Monkton calling for scientists to go to jail over what has been discovered in the Hadley CRU emails.  No one is going to jail, at least based on what we know so far.  Laws were broken, but of the type that perhaps people lose their jobs but not their freedom.  And demanding that people go to jail just paints skeptics as opportunistic, over-the-top and vindictive.   We sound like the looniest of the alarmists when we say stuff like this.

This is not to say that the emails (as well as the source code, which Steve McIntyre and his readers are starting to dig into) don’t give us useful insights about the climate science process.  And what they really point to for me is the danger of a monoculture.

For years, with the media’s active participation, criticism of the mainstream scientific position on global warming has been painted as somehow outside the bounds of reasonable discourse.  Skeptics are called “deniers,” with the intent to equate them with those who deny the Holocaust.  At every turn, global warming activists with the help of the media, have tried to make it uncomfortable, even impossible, to criticize the science of catastrophic man-made global warming.  In the extreme, this has degenerated into outright threats.

NASA’s James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for “high crimes against humanity.” Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at skeptics of 2007 declaring “This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors” In 2009, RFK, Jr. also called coal companies “criminal enterprises” and declared CEO’s ‘should be in jail… for all of eternity.”

In June 2009, former Clinton Administration official Joe Romm defended a comment on his Climate Progress website warning skeptics would be strangled in their beds. “An entire generation will soon be ready to strangle you and your kind while you sleep in your beds,” stated the remarks, which Romm defended by calling them “not a threat, but a prediction.”

In 2006, the eco-magazine Grist called for Nuremberg-Style trials for skeptics. In 2008, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be thrown “into jail.” In 2007, The Weather Channel’s climate expert called for withholding certification of skeptical meteorologists.

The examples go on ad infinitum.  Several folks have emailed me and asked why I have not joined the feeding frenzy over the “climategate.”  In part, this is because I don’t think there is anything in the emails that is a whole lot worse than what many of the actors have been saying publicly.  The media has played along not only because many of its members were sympathetic to the message, but because the catastrophe played well into the “if it bleeds, it leads” culture.  Even when the media was not “picking a winner” in the science, it supported the catastrophist message in its editorial decisions, choosing to cover (for example) ad nauseum a 30-year low in Arctic sea ice but failing to even mention a 30-year high in Antarctic sea ice which occurred on nearly the same day (more here).  Ditto hurricanes, tornadoes, floods droughts, etc — only events and records in one particular tail of the normal distribution were covered.  Even when they worked to be fair,  the media were frequently criticized by alarmists for  allowing even a mention of the skeptic position in an article otherwise generally supporting the orthodoxy.  The term “false balance” was coined.

The result was a group who were effectively exempt from criticism — and knew it.

The most amazing thing to watch has been the absolute scorn and obstructionism piled on Steve McIntyre and his readers and partners.  I  have read Steve’s work for years, and find it to be incredibly fair and deeply analytical.  I took as one of my early roles at my climate site the explanation to laymen of exactly what McIntyre was talking about in his posts.  He often challenged the climate orthodoxy – which in most scientific disciplines is highly valued, but in climate science is a crime.  In the emails we even see scientists within the monoculture raising the exact same issues that they have blasted McIntyre for — apparently it is OK to raise such issues as long as 1) you are an insider and 2) such concerns are suppressed in any public document.

Perhaps the single most abusive part of the monoculture has been its misrepresentation of peer review.  Peer review was never meant as a sort of good housekeeping seal of approval on scientific work.  It is not a guarantee of correctness.  It is really an extension of the editorial process — bringing scientists from relevant fields to vet whether work is really new and different and worthy of publication, to make sure the actual article communicates the work and its findings clearly, and to probe for obvious errors or logical fallacies.

Climate scientists have tried to portray peer review as the end of the process–  ie, once one of their works shows up in a peer-reviewed journal, the question addressed is “settled.”  But his is never how science has worked.  Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is the beginning, not the end.  Once published, scientists attempt alternatively to tear it down or replicate its conclusions.  Only work that has survived years of such torture testing starts to become “settled.”

The emails help to shed light on some aspects of peer review that skeptics have suspected for years.  It is increasingly clear that climate scientists in the monoculture have been using peer review to enforce the orthodoxy.  Peer review panels are stacked with members of the club, and authors who challenge the orthodoxy are shut out of publication, while authors within the monoculture use peer review as a shield against future criticism.  We see in the emails members of the monoculture actually working to force editors who have the temerity to publish work critical of the orthodoxy out of their jobs.  We are now learning that when alarmist scientists claim that there is little peer-reviewed science on the skeptic’s side, this is like the Catholic Church enforcing a banned books list and then claiming that everything in print supports the Church’s position.

History teaches us that whenever we allow a monoculture – whether is be totalitarian one-party rule or enforcing a single state religion, corruption follows.  Without scrutiny of their actions, actors in such monocultures have few checks and little accountability.  Worse, those at the center of such monocultures can become convinced of their own righteousness, such that any action they take in support of the orthodoxy is by definition ethically justified.

This, I think, is exactly what we see at work in the Hadley CRU emails.

  • Several folks have emailed me and asked why I have not joined the feeding frenzy over the “climategate.”</blockquote.

    While the emails are being well covered elsewhere, I suspect your knowledge and analytic skill might be well applied to the “READ_ME” file and other information about the terrible state of the data and software at CRU – as revealed in the file dump.

  • mbabbitt

    You may be right about the rhetoric in the literal sense but I think where the “send them to jail” emotion comes from is the fact that these guys have received millions of dollars/pounds of taxpayer money under the guise of carrying out professional science, science that is then used to justify the wholesale bankrupting of industrial nations. And these guys never had the decency to lay out what they truly knew and didn’t know on the table(versus what they decided to portray to the public). This is on top of trying to bully dissenters out of the picture and on top of gaming the FOI system, and on top of likening dissenters to Nazi sympathizers. Perhaps a bit of over-the-top emotion is called for in the case of over-the-top deception and fraud.

  • David Boycott

    The emails may not have shocked those of us that have followed the debate. However, the coding ought to shock anyone. Some of it is complete rubbish. Given the lack of transparency at CRU, its not yet possible to say for sure whether this rubbish underpinned their published results. If it did, we may as well chuck their entire output.

  • Jeff

    I agree with your sentiments completely: peer-review when done properly should prevent the descent into monoculture. Furthermore, it should allow science to remain at the forefront of the matter rather than personality conflicts and politics.

    The lesson I glean from the emails more so than any other is that these guys can’t be trusted to produce robust, dependable scientific conclusions.

    If you compare their attitude with McIntyre’s objective (to gain access to the source data and put it to some scrutiny), there is no doubt in my mind who is being “scientific” and who is not.

    I would love to see scientists in all disciplines demand an ‘airing-out’ of all the secret codes, methodologies, and datasets used in climate science, for the sake of the planet. As bad as it would be to blindly deny catastrophic global warming, it would be as bad to stifle economic growth through radical legislation based on unvetted computer models.

  • Joe

    So your remarks about the Catholic Church here are identical in approach with those of your global Warming opponents. Lets smear and slam, make slighting comments, and forget reasoned discourse. And yes, we have heard about how the Church disciplined Galileo, over and over…But, weren’t Copernicus, Galileo, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Rafael, Brunelleschi, et.al., Catholic? And weren’t they supported by the Church? And wasn’t the High Renaissance, the greatest intellectual leap forward in the history of mankind, supported by the Church? And didn’t these individuals make their discoveries in the atmosphere of Catholic Universities and culture? …and let’s take a couple of other examples: Who discovered Genetics? A German Monk named Mendel. And who was it who first postulated the “Big Bang” theory….A Catholic named Lemaitre, and his theory was solidly based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Of course, Scientists hated this, and instead of following standard Scientific practice, and calling it “LeMaitre’s Theory”, it was all swept under the rug, and renamed, “Big Bang”, by a scientist who hated the thought of being proved wrong by a Catholic Priest….And let’s take a few more examples. How about the entire theory of Musical structure and nomenclature, which was formulated because of Liturgical Music? And how about those Gothic Cathedrals? You should visit Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, for example, and learn something, and leave your prejudice behind. Stop being fashonably Anti-Catholic, please.

  • John A

    “Worse, those at the center of such monocultures can become convinced of their own righteousness, such that any action they take in support of the orthodoxy is by definition ethically justified.”

    As in, to paraphrase one of the EMails, “the data does not agree with what we predicted, so the data [not our predictive methodology] must be wrong [and will be ignored/thrown away/altered].”

    I can sympathise with this as an initial impulsive reaction to “Oh-oh, something is wrong” but much less so to actually following through on face-saving alteration, as seems to have been done.

  • sierra

    I think what John Moore is referring to is the 15,000-line HARRY_READ_ME.txt file, described with some alarm here: http://bit.ly/7Hkzs4

  • dearieme

    HARRY_READ_ME.txt implies that CRU work doesn’t even rise to the dizzy eminence of being wrong; it is merely drivel, and probably mendacious drivel at that.

  • Rob

    Your dead wrong.

    If the fraud in question was merely of scientific nature (which is bad enough), then I think you might have a point about the calls for prison time seeming extreme.

    But in fact they intended (and still do), to completely ruin every economy on the globe if they have to in order to see their religion adopted everywhere. They do not give a dam how many people die, as long as we all truly believe that the catastrophe is upon us.

    If the filth they push were to actually be widely adopted (which is their ultimate goal), people in industrialized nations would actually have to use less power, drive less, fly less, eat less, not heat their houses, etc. They have in mind no less than the complete destruction of modern civilized society. And I don’t give a hoot about the argument that “we can do with a little less”. Our advancement on this planet, and ultimately our advancement to the universe and beyond (whatever that means), is ultimately dependant upon our utilizing our resources to our advantage. This is fundamentally what these A$$-Holes object to. This is not a religion about climate change, this is at its heart a religion about living “the simple, good life” as opposed to the resource pig life that we currently do. They are simply using the justification that we are ruining our planet (which it is clear now isn’t true and they don’t even truly believe it themselves) as the reason why we must repent and submit to their rule.

    This is criminal. Hitler was guilty of nothing more than getting away with this type of group think for longer. If you think these people are not capable of great violence in support of their religion, then you are kidding yourself. These are the early days, imaging them in another decade if the “group” were successful in suppressing decent and enacting great climate wide regulations for an entire generation of scientists. There would not longer be anyone left to object to their method of ruling, as all students would be indoctrinated to their way of thinking.

    My children get schooled every day about how the world is coming to an end (so do all of yours). When I explain to them that its not true and that these folks don’t really know as much as they say they do about the planet, they look at me like Im some kind of goof. The teachers take off points if the kids don’t “get” that the planet is about to burst into flames. The ridicule is subtle but persistent that Al Gores vision is the future and you must learn it.

    If you can’t see the greater scope of just how dangerous and criminal this behavior is, your a fool.

  • jst

    Fraud is fraud. Misappropriation of government funds is a crime and is punishable by imprisonment. Plenty of time to find out the details but there is no reason to hold off on investigating. Putting someone under oath is a wonderful way to focus one’s attention on being truthful given that professional oathes don’t always do the trick.

  • Another Guy named Dan

    Something else I find troubling from a scientific point of view. I have had some background in metrology (science of measurement) and it seems to me that the reason to include both the Hadley CRU and GISS data as input into climate models is that as independent measures of the same series, any systematic biases in one would tend to be dampened by the presence of the other.

    The evidence revealed her exposes that the two series are not independent, and that the people who are assembling them are collaborating or cooperating to drive them toward the same answer. This is troubling whether that answer shows warming, cooling or stasis.

    It looks to me as though the series are being calibrated against each other rather than any real world standard (perhaps difficult in this case). This will have the effect of greatly amplifying any biases the two series have in common rather than the supposed dampening effect.

    In short, when researchers report that the climate is getting warmer, there is still no good answer to the question “Warmer than what?”

  • MikeC

    I’m sorry Warren but you are misinformed. In federal FOI requests there are usually civil punishments and, yes, it goes on their job records.

    However, most states carry up to 6 months in jail for each offense. Given that there are numerous offenses by individuals who knew full well what they were doing and given that there was collusion between individuals and an effort to get others to do the same, is worhy of jail.

    The significance of the covered up research is endless, both in costs and human behavior. We have now caught the worlds leading climate scientists committing and conspiring to comitt enough counts to warrant jail time.

    PS: Mike, Phil, Gavin, Malcolm… don’t drop the soap!

  • rationaloptimist

    Excellent piece, but please cease referring to the `Hadley’ emails. The CRU is in Norwich at the University of East Anglia. The Hadley Centre is in Exeter, about 200 miles away and not part of any university. They work together to the make the HadCRUt series but they are not the same. This matters because I am hearing their defenders say `if x does not even know the difference between CRU and Hadley, then what else is he getting wrong?’

  • Peter Whale

    Good article, but I disagree with you on the perpetrators of this alleged fraud and circumvention of F.O.I. requests not facing the courts and possible jail sentences. If found guilty they should be struck off from their respective scientific bodies for not adhering to correct science peer review procedures and for fraudulent manipulating data. I am a taxpayer and have to abide by the rule of law or face the consequences why as a receiver of my tax money should they not be liable for their misdemeanour’s.

  • Wayne Richards

    I have to agree with mbabbitt, with this crucial addendum: if skeptics react to this astonishing turn of events with altogether too much dignity and restraint, we’ll lose. Remember three things. First, we’re on the wrong side of the political spectrum just at the moment; we are weak in numbers and appeal, and our opposition is immensely strong. Add to this the second thing: the MSM has sided with our opponents almost unanimously, and they will smooth over the affair unless we offer them the possibility of blood: the bleeds/leads attitude is real; we must offer some hope of legal action, or otherwise this will just go away. Third, it is crucially important that we win this thing, or at least fight it to a draw. We all know what’s at stake here, and we must keep those stakes uppermost in our minds and our actions. If we see an exposed carotid artery pulsing and obligingly exposed, then it’s fang-filing time! Copenhagen and all its baggage must be defeated.

  • sabril

    I think they should be prosecuted. Obstructing a FOI request (by destroying documents rather than turning them over) is apparently a crime. If there ever were a situation where such a law should be enforced, this is it. Let me put it another way: If this is not a suitable situation for enforcing the criminal law, then what is? (Assuming of course that further investigation confirms what appears to be true.)

  • Bob Sykes

    Using fraudulent data in research grant submissions to the feds is also a crime.

  • Roger Knights

    “Worse, those at the center of such monocultures can become convinced of their own righteousness, such that any action they take in support of the orthodoxy is by definition ethically justified. This, I think, is exactly what we see at work in the Hadley emails.”

    The caped (shrouded) CRUsaders.

  • Chris Schoneveld

    Warren, can you please correct your heading and text. It’s not Hadley, it is the University of East Anglia.
    Even though it was pointed out already by “rationaloptimist” optimist yesterday you still maintain the error. Are you reading the comments on your own blog?

  • Gregory Fegel

    I must add my voice to all those above who believe that the author of the blog is far, far too lenient with the law-breaking UEA/CRU scientists. Lord Monkton has it right: the UEA/CRU scientists who have committed these acts of fraud should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, which would be scarcely enough punishment for what they have done.

    This is no ordinary case of falsifying data by scientists. The fraudulent theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming has provided the basis for a national and international political movement which has the stated goal of completely restructuring the entire global economy based on that fraudulent theory. This is a con game perpetrated by both the dishonest scientists and the government and corporate leaders who provide them with opportunities for advancement.

    If we fail to stop the further politicization and institutionalization of the fraudulent theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming, we most certainly face a future of science controlled by government decree and of a world government that facilitates the operations of corporate industries while imposing severe restrictions and arbitary taxes on the general public.

    That is a future which would fully justify an armed rebellion among the international populations who will be the victims of this massive global fraud. If we fail to stop this fraudulent enterprise by legal means, we will certainly have a future of global repression based on fraud, with its attendent crimes, and whatever popular backlash might result.

    Gregory Fegel

  • Lawyer

    Fraud is fraud. Given the financial self-interest involved and the costs to the community severe sentences would be in order if fraud is indeed established.

  • Ryder

    When one defrauds a someone (especially a government) of large sums of money and to continue to extract those monies by way of deception, it is easy to see how jail time would result.

    “Invest in me. It is a sound investment.”

    Now, I don’t care if it is Michael Mann or Bernie Madoff making that statement… to the extent that the fraud is intentional, is the depth of the crime.

    All that is left, in this case, is to discover that depth.

    Perhaps they will be slapped on the wrist.
    Perhaps they will lose their positions.

    In some nations, they might have gotten the firing squad or be sent to Siberia.

    The punishments will have as much to do with us as with them and what they did.

  • Gregory Fegel

    ‘Ryder’ wrote: “The punishments will have as much to do with us as with them and what they did.”

    Usually white-collar and government criminals are given no punishments and few consequences for their crimes. That is one of many things that must change if we hope to reform our system. And our system badly needs reforming.

    If the Climategate scientists violated any laws, they (all of them, not just a few scapegoats) should be tried for their crimes and sentenced accordingly.

    Jail time would be very appropriate, if legally possible. They should also lose their jobs and possibly their degrees. They should pay fines if legally possible, and they should also be held liable to repay any grant monies and other compensation that they recieved while doing their fraudulent work.

    In no way should any of the Climategate criminals be allowed to escape with any of the profits from their conspiracy to defraud and exploit the taxpaying public. If they are not punished with grave consequences, society will continually be subject to abuses like the Global Warming fraud committed by the likes of the Climategate gangsters.

  • sheila

    My concern is that climate science has followed the “Big Lie” propaganda technique first outlined by Hitler in his book Mein Kampt (1925).

    By this was meant that one could propagate a “colossal” lie and have it generally believed, as no one could believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”.

    We all know how well this worked in the past, deja vu anyone?