William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Climate Paper Causes Chaos, Angst, Anger, Apoplexy! (Hacking?)

Last Wednesday, the Daily Mail told the world of the peer-reviwed paper Lord Monckton, Willie Soon, David Legates and I wrote entitled “Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model” (the post which highlighted this will be restored soon). The article was “Is climate change really that dangerous? Predictions are ‘very greatly exaggerated’, claims study“.

  • Researchers claim global warming predictions are ‘greatly exaggerated’
  • Large climate models typically require computers to perform calculations
  • They consider factors such as animal numbers and tectonic variations
  • By comparison, a team of researchers has created a ‘simple’ model
  • It looks at levels of solar energy absorbed and reflected by Earth
  • Using this simple model, they claim current predictions are wrong
  • Once errors are corrected, global warming in response to a doubling of CO2 is around 1oC or less – a third of the predicted 3.3oC

The scientific community reacted with clam, reasoned, logical argument.

Kidding! I’m kidding. People flipped out. Less than two days after our paper was generally known, I was hacked. The posts and comments from my old WordPress account were wiped out. Thank the Lord, I had backups for most things. Although I was off line for almost five days, I’m mostly back.

Here is one of the other asinine reactions. I’ll have more later because this makes for a fascinating case study of how outrageously political science has become.

Saul Alinksky

A meager-witted unctuous twit of a “reporter” rejoicing under the unfortunate name Sylvan Lane (cruel parents) from the far-left Boston Globe was assigned to attack the authors of “Why Models Run Hot”. Lord Monckton and I are independent and Legates’s position is solid. So Lane went after Soon. He emailed asking for “information.” I offered to provide it. Lane wrote back:

I apologize if I wasn’t clear before. The kind of questions I would like to ask Dr. Soon are the same ones Science Bulletin insisted you and your colleagues answer before it published your paper. Here’s a link to its conflict of interest policy, which outlines the same type of questions any writer is required to answer before being published in the journal.

I do agree with you that these questions are best left up to him, which I why I’ve cc’d him on this email. While Science Bulletin’s conflict of interest policy is comprehensive, it doesn’t specify whether it pertains to the specific submitted study or an author’s body of work. I’ve contacted them to clarify and contacted Dr. Soon and Harvard-Smithsonian to ask them about their interpretation of the policy. Those are my only intentions.

I replied:

Allow me to doubt that “clarifying” Dr Soon’s employment status and his employer’s understanding of a journal’s publication policies are your only intentions. But if on the wee small chance they are, is it your habit to investigate the employment status of every author of every science paper, or just those papers the content of which are disconsonant (in some way) with your employer’s or your views? What a dull job that would be.

But now I come to think of it, this might be a fun line of questioning. Let me try. How much money are you getting for this work? Do you feel that this money discredits the work you’re doing? Do you feel tainted by the money? Do you feel tempted, or will you, change what you write so that it more closely matches that of your employer? Have you had training as a scientist or in other ways feel competent to judge the content of science papers like ours? If not, why are you writing about this particular paper?

You’ll of course know the fallacy of the non sequitur. If not, here’s an example. A man makes a claim X. X might be true or again it might be false. A reporter says, “I don’t like that man, therefore X cannot be true. I shall write a story about this, to the cheer and admiration of my fellow journalists.” He does so, and is feted as predicted.

What a sad tale, eh?

Anyway, if you have relevant scientific, logical, climatological, meteorological, or statistical questions, I’d be glad to help. But I’ll trade answer for answer.

Not surprisingly, the dull-minded Lane did not respond. Instead, filled with notions of his own self importance and a nearly complete ignorance of how conflict-of-interest declarations work, the untutored Lane filed a report with his partisan political sheet: “Climate change skeptic accused of violating disclosure rules“.

I contacted Lane on Twitter (@SylvanLane: his visage reminds of a smugger version of Pajama Boy) to let him know what a foolish and stupid thing he had done. The coward did not respond.

Absolutely nowhere in this fictional “controversy” are any questions of science asked, addressed, or even hinted at. What is that Alinsky tactic? Teach the controversy and not the idea, or whatever? So blatant was Lane’s purpose that I hope his parents, if they haven’t been forced into hiding, are at least blushing for him.

Need I point out that it doesn’t matter if any or all of us authors were racist sexist homophobe slave trader twice-convicted con artists from Pluto, none of that, in any way, would be relevant to the points we made in “Why Models Run Hot”?

Any notion of responding to Lane’s preposterous “charges” would be giving him a victory, if you can call such callow acts “victorious.” Therefore I’ll insist that if you want to talk about the paper, talk about the paper.

25 Comments

  1. Dr Soon was gravely libeled by the Boston Glib. Not the slightest attempt at fairness was made. There will be a lot more of this bad behavior on the part of the extremist faction over the next nine months till the Paris climate conference.

  2. I enjoyed reading your research article and even understood parts of it. 🙂

    To quote the estimable John Brignell “It’s a mad world my masters”.

  3. I saw the attack on Soon. The first question that always comes to mind is “Where did Al Gore get his money”? Answer seems to be tobacco and oil. Yet somehow he has no conflict of interest because he opposses both while getting rich off of them. It’s not really a conflict of interest, I suppose. It’s insanity. Yet that never bothers the reporters and supposed news people. (And, yes, I have had the “who he is does not matter” argument repeatedly, sadly often on skeptic blogs. It’s a common attack against warmist trolls. People don’t seem to understand this applies to everyone, not just to the global warming advocates.)

    Glad your blog is back! I learned the importance of backup while a computer operator on the old-style reel to reel computer. Now I back everything up at least twice, on two different hard drives!

  4. Nice job of upside-the-head-smacking. Lane is the greenest of rookies on the beat according to his online information, so maybe it’s understandable he’s avoided your challenges. On the other hand, the yellow-snow quality of “journalism” at the Globe is well-known to New Englanders not living in the fever swamps. One case in point was a hit piece on the two most popular Boston sports radio hosts by their former disgruntled intern. His negative, supposed man-in-the-street interviews were quotes from his buddies, not strangers. Globe sewer-level ethics didn’t see fit to reveal any of the bias or conflict of interest. So it goes.

  5. Alternate reality or ‘advocacy’ journalism seems the norm these days. On the weekend I read in a major newspaper for my region, that the treasurer of the government was wrong and that tax paid on the average income (asserted by some group I’d never heard of), was 11%. Given the fact that there is a 10% consumption tax that applies to pretty much everything except healthcare, education and fresh food, that left about 1% for all other forms of taxation. By the way, the tax brackets just at or above ‘average’ income range from 32.5-37%. Consumers pay fairly hefty fuel taxes, and so on. So what was the point of claiming such nonsense when everyone reading the article immediately knew it was ridiculous? It still got published. What chance then, journalism on technical issues?

  6. Ad hominem attacks are known to be a reasoning fallacy for a very long time. Sylvan Lane should feel ashamed. He does not say anything about the actual content of the paper, but has much to say about the author. What a fool.

  7. Just checking to make sure I can leave a message. Wiping out your blog? What kind of idiot does that, just because he’s mad? BIZARRE.

  8. Steven Goddard had a similar thing happen, two years ago, complete with an annoucement of his “death”.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/21/real-science-announces-the-death-of-steve-goddard-2/

    Same thing with other skeptics: http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2012/8/16/gwpf-and-jo-nova-hacked.html

    I can’t say if it’s just people who are angry at the bloggers or what. In each case the sites were rebuilt. Goddard had to get a new domain name, as “real science” was taken in the incident. I suppose it’s the digital equivalent of throwing rocks through windows or using your identity to sell your house out from under you. Mean, nasty people. Just a new venue.

  9. I think the ‘Goddard’ situation was a little different. Someone if my memory is correct, gave him a web presence, kept the keys, and eventually decided what he was doing would be fun, and took away his identity.

  10. William Briggs,

    “The scientific community reacted with clam, reasoned, logical argument.

    Kidding! I’m kidding. People flipped out. Less than two days after our paper was generally known, I was hacked. The posts and comments from my old WordPress account were wiped out. Thank the Lord, I had backups for most things. Although I was off line for almost five days, I’m mostly back.”

    Now, after reading your post, I’m still waiting for you to show where the scientific community hasn’t reacted with calm, reasoned and logical argument to the Monckton et al. paper. Or are you claiming that it was “the scientific community” that was responsible for the hacking of your account? Based on what? Based on guilt by association?

    Anyway. Since you are talking about “calm, reasoned and logical argument”. What do you think about His Lordships response to what various scientists said was their opinion about the content of your paper? In case you haven’t heard anything about it yet, they say that the paper was filled with mistakes, false claims, misrepresentation, unphysical assumptions, flawed methodology, cherry picking. In short, the paper was really, really bad science. In response, Monckton demands that those critics who said these things and were named by him to be dismissed from the institutions where they work and to be criminally prosecuted.

  11. Will: Goddard’s was not related to anything he was doing climate-wise, you are correct.

    Jan P P: Interesting blog.

  12. Well, I guess you are not in the mood to answer my question what you think about His Lordships demands.

    As for the second link. That one is exactly the document to which I am referring where His Lordship articulates his demands for dismissal and criminal prosecution of the named critics. Monckton’s article can also be found here:
    http://www.climatedepot.com/2015/01/25/monckton-fires-back-point-by-point-rebuttal-at-warmist-critics-of-new-peer-reviewed-study-shoddy-rent-a-quote-scientists/

    It is noted that His Lordship doesn’t provide any link or reference in this text to any of the (alleged) statements by the various scientists, even though it belongs to the standards of a scientific discussion to provide a proof of source for any statement that is being referenced. Then again, this whole thing isn’t really about scientific discussion, is it? It is about politics and ideology, isn’t it?

    His Lordship apparently thinks that freedom of speech and freedom of science means that he has the freedom to speak without being contradicted, and the moment when he published a “peer-reviewed” paper the truth had been “definitively established” (Monckton) with it, and any criticism of it should be a punishable crime. Considering this, it actually makes some sense that you decided to publish your paper in a journal in the People’s Republic of China.

  13. Jan, I think you are projecting. A “proper” scientific rebuttal is normally presented as a comment on an existing paper or a new paper that attempts to rebut an already published paper. Scientists who criticize a new paper by media witch hunt espousing sound bits aren’t being particularly scientific. He has every right to criticism them as they are criticizing him. But, yes, none of it is particularly scientific. And I don’t have a problem with this sort of criticism anyway. You just got to take it all with a grain of salt.

    You also demonstrate abysmal reading comprehension skills as Monckton is arguing that scientists who intentionally misrepresent and mislead the public should be prosecuted. This is highly unusual but not unprecedented:

    http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/10/22/italian-court-convicts-7-scientists-for-failing-to-predict-earthquake/

    If you want to criticize at least criticism what he did, not make stuff up and then criticize something out of your imagination. Didn’t you think his actual position was serious enough to be criticized on its own merits?

  14. BTW, the scientists were not convicted for failing to predict an earthquake, but because they poo pooed the risks of an earth quake when in fact they had no reliable means of seeing into the future. (Based on our scientific understanding at this time.) So their dismissal of the risks, at least as seen by the jury, was caused by their inflated confidence in their own expertise.

    Although if you’re going to send scientists to jail because they have inflated egos, are over confident, and are actually not very competent to begin with, one would end up with a substantial prison over population problem.

  15. Will: They did reverse the decision on the Italian earthquake scientists. You certainly do have a point on overcrowded jails if we jail academics for ego inflation and overconfidence!
    Actually, perhaps we should have jailed those who took the forecast to heart, falling for an appeal to authority in place of good judgment. We would also have to check out the behaviour of New York and New Jersey in response to the “historic” blizzard that never was, of course. Putting all of one’s faith in authorities is a great way to say “Ain’t my fault” when things fail. Avoid personal responsibility.

  16. re Hacking of sites and Denial of Service
    I notice a posting by Krebs on this subject on his blog
    krebsonsecurity[dot]com/2015/01/the-internet-of-dangerous-things/
    Just in case you haven’t seen it.

  17. Sheri,

    It’s not clear to me why scientists are treated differently from all other professions, i.e., such as mine, which happens to be engineering. If I employ an engineer to tell me if I have a problem with the footings of my house, I want him to give me information that is actually grounded in ‘something.’ I don’t want him to tell me that he’s an especially clever engineer, and that his opinions possess special intuitive insights. I’ve found throughout life that those in the medical profession also suffer from the same ego issues. (Although mild in comparison with the more fanatical in the climate science research community.) What evidence exists for recommending treatment X? This, half the time, causes the doctor to be offended. You mean I don’t cede to his authority? Last time I went through this process and looked at the ‘evidence’, the ‘evidence’ consisted of a series of anecdotal stories written by someone with massive financial conflicts of interest (the author was also the partner in a new medical research start-up). These stories were presented at a medical conference and reprinted for my benefit. Climate sceptics always seem shocked when they see endless examples of bad behaviour in the climate science community. Have they looked around? Because the same bad behaviour is happening in lots of other fields. Of course this gullibility pales into insignificance when you compare it to your typical activist climate alarmist…

  18. Assume for the sake of argument that the “why models run hot” paper is a terrible piece of work. So what? If the newspapers investigated and wrote about every shoddy piece of science there would be no room for scandals or sports (but then, I repeat myself…). The attacks of course result solely from the fact that oxen are being gored, images cast down, and (gasp) doubts sown. We must not allow orthodoxies to be questioned.

  19. Will: I’m probably not the one to ask about doctors. My doctor asked me once why I needed him and I told him I didn’t have a prescription pad……I’ve also checked out AMA from a hospital and left a dentist’s office last week right after he put the novocaine in my mouth and before he did the procedure. I’m not good with authorities, it seems. (There were times when I needed more than that, but not most of the time.) I also have doctors with very small egos, needless to say.

    Maybe it has to do with scientism. Or that so few people have educations in science. Plus, unlike the engineer, there are not always immediate ramifications to bad science. I will say that unfortunately, as we dumb down the population and discourage them from independent thinking, it does not bode well for society.

  20. Sheri– Al GORE also made quite a nice haul from leases and perhaps royalties from zinc mining.

    Jan P P–“.. In case you haven’t heard anything about it yet, they say that the paper was filled with mistakes, false claims, misrepresentation, unphysical assumptions, flawed methodology, cherry picking. In short, the paper was really, really bad science. …”

    Hmmm. I found the paper quite a lot better than this description, but, then, I actually read it.

  21. It looks to me like Fig. 6 in the paper projects observed temperatures into the future. What am I missing? It probably is obvious but I don’t see it.

    Thanks

  22. I am not a climatologist, have never been to weather school, or whatever it is called, and only have a year of Geology under my belt. Yet I still knew “An Inconvenient Truth” was BS the first time I saw it. How can 250 years of industrial production offset four billions years of environmental development? I read and understood your paper down to a molecular level, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is nice to see someone with a voice challenging the “experts” and making a case.

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