There is a long article in Volkskrant dated Dec. 10, 2005, in which journalist Martin van Calmhout, among other things, expressed his consternation at seeing an English translation and discussion of a previous article on Mann on climateaudit within a half day of publication (see here). We’ll try to be equally prompt this time. Here’s a tentative translation together with Dutch pdf here. I’ll update the translation as some of our Dutch speakers chip in. There are a few missing paragraphs still as my attention to this wandered after a while. For reference, there is machine Dutch-English at http://www.altavista.com, which I used here together with a little editing (I know no Dutch, but am used to the word inversions from similar translations from German and that’s the basis of my editing.) Update: Andre has sent in a corrected version, which I altered slightly for English style.
If I’ve understood the article correctly, he damns us with faint praise as follows:
Nevertheless they are amateurs. But the people talking here appear to know every comma of Mann’s work and to have checked all his references. You could not deceive them with some vagaries about greenhouse gas effect.
Later, he falsely accuses us of being bought and paid for by ExxonMobil, which seems somewhat inconsistent with the previous suggestion of "amateur" status. At climateaudit, we do not wear kneepads.
Climate scientist should not hesitate to deal with sceptics as dissenters, thinks Martijn van Calmthout.
All stokers (should get) out of the greenhouse. [AB Note: Dutch pun “onrust-stoker” is riot maker]
I’m gazing bewilderedly at the computer screen. My climate story from the Volkskrant, now already translated into English on the American internet site, climateaudit.org? [SM: Canadian, if you please] Less than a mere half day after it was published? And straight away with more than thirty shattering responses.
On the other hand, the Amerikcan research journalist Chris Mooney, expert on political manipulation of science had warned me already never to underestimate the tenaciousness of sceptics, he said one week earlier by telephone. Not only because they think to be right but also because they always (seem to) succeed in creating havoc.
The last Saturday of October I wrote a large article in the section “Knowledge” of this paper about the ongoing controversy about the greenhouse gas discussion. The subject was a graph of the American researcher Michael Mann, made years ago, using tree rings to make reconstruction of the climate in earlier times. His conclusion is a simple graph: a long slightly declining temperature line, which at the end suddenly and abruptly bounces upwards. Because of this form and its author, it has been called Mann’s hockeystick. There has been controversy concerning that graph for years. Climate reconstruction is a difficult topic and, critics, both in and outside the science, wondered who could guarantee whether or not the described historical temperature increase was an artefact of Mann’s own statistical techniques.
Beginning this year it happened again. Two Canadian statisticians, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, published an article in the renowned American professional journal, Geophysical Review Letters, in which they put big question marks on Mann’s work. The researchers and their supporters took the publication as a victory. At last, scientific recognition.
In the Netherlands, the big news was reported by the popular science journal, NatuurWetenschap & Techniek of Veen Uitgevens. “Kyoto relies on quicksand” were the opening words of a press release. Simultaneously, the editor-in-chief of NatuurWetenschap&Techniek wrote a similar editorial in the Financial Daily [of the Netherlands]. And that newspaper opened that day’s edition with the big news: “Climate horror scenario is based on a mistake”.
Going back to the end of October again. After the publication of the criticism in Geophysical Review Letters, it appeared that new articles were written concerning the hockeystick question, some were even offered (for publication) at GRL, criticising the criticism this time. And in at least two cases, the conclusion was the critics were irrelevant. The temperature graph of the past thousand years would remain a hockeystick, even if the critical points of McIntyre and McKitrick were taken into account.
I telephoned Mann, to learn how he looked back on the affair. Thus relieved, it appeared after a long telephone conversation. The case had been resolved.
But not for long. Already on Sunday evening, the web swarmed with conceited responses to the article, which appeared to have been translated immediately. The sceptics were hardly impressed with the professional endorsement of Mann. The quoted studies were still not published at all and therefore worth nothing. The authors were of course friends of Mann. [SM: I don’t recall anyone arguing these points.]
Above all, researcher Michael Mann has to again endure the endless flow of posts on climateaudit.org. In fact, his critics showed a little compassion about how happy he appeared with the support for his –nonetheless- hopeless viewpoints.
I’m gazing bewilderedly at the computer screen. Such aggressiveness. What a utter contempt for Mann and his supporters. And most of all: such unity and such mutual reinforcement.
One thing is clear for casual visitors of climateaudit.org: At this place climate is being discussed with almost professional commitment and dedication. Nevertheless they are amateurs. But the people talking here appear to know every comma of Mann’s work and to have checked all his references. You could not deceive them with some vagaries about greenhouse gas effect.
Scepticism is their motto. Facts their dictum.
And apparently they also exist in the Netherlands. Some weeks later, retired TNO professor Arthur RàÆàsch sent me a long article that he had written about good scientific practice in the climate debate. According to RàÆàsch, climate scientists must observe the highest scientific standards, if only because their results can have so much social impact.
RàÆàsch has just published a book concerning greenhouse impact at Veen: Climate Change on a Water Planet. It contains flagrant climatological nonsense, according to all regular climate researchers. But the question is most of all, what prompts an intelligent man such as RàÆàsch to developing his very own greenhouse theory. For which, he admitted in an interview, he has no specific expertise.
At the presentation of his book at Nieuwspoort in The Hague, in the presence of former VVD (conservative party) leader Frits Bolkestein, RàÆàsch mentioned, when replying to questions of a KNMI (Dutch Met office) member in the room, that his undergraduate lecture notes on climate science were impossible to read. The room full of Dutch greenhouse sceptics nodded satisfied. Among them the economist Hans Labohm of the Clingendael Institute, who had just published a long litany in the newspaper “Trouw” concerning the rubbish of Kyoto, which in his eyes pumps enormous amounts of money into void measures. Convenient that RàÆàsch himself now also undermined climate science.
In our conversation in October, American research journalist Chris Mooney had already outlined the scenario without ever having heard of the Dutchman, Arthur RàÆàsch, and his collaborators. In his book, The Republican War on Science, he had already shown how American conservative think tanks pitch purposefully into adverse environmental legislation. Not just along legal issues, but by challenging the scientific paradigms. And how the Bush government, as a confirmed ally of the liberal (SM: ??) industry, has adapted the rules of the game in Washington, such that legislation is only implemented when it is based on confirmed scientific certainty. For environmental issues, this is impossible, by definition, since uncertainties are always existent in complex systems. Most often, it cannot be proved what will happen in the future
On the other hand, this would not exclude the rational handling of risks of course. These obstruction methods, Mooney said, were nothing new under the sun. In a similar way, the cigarette industry impeded legislation against smoking on public occasions for many years, by consistently casting doubt on scientific studies about the harmful impact of involuntary smoke inhalation of bystanders. Scientists with a contrary opinion can always be found.
The sceptics, said Mooney, who turn themselves against climate science, are not aiming at scientific purity at all, despite their proud claims. Their mission, consciously or subconsciously, is to sustain or promote the state of uncertainty, This is especially true for theirs leaders. McKitrick is a senior fellow at the Canadian think tank, the Fraser Institute, which is funded by ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the US. McIntyre and McKitrick are both on the remuneration list of the George C. Marshall Institute, an American think tank to which Exxon earlier contributed a half billion earlier. [SM – this should presumably be $500,000. Remember the scene in Austin Powers where Austin Powers goes into the future and asks for a ransom of a million dollars and #2 had to correct his numbers to a billion dollars.]
(But that is all American, firmly in the grasp of the Republicans. Are the Dutch sceptics likewise paid by the oil industry or coal giants?)
(There are no serious indications of this. But they seem to go along in the debates which are really boosted in the US from a small group of conservative American think tanks. Their declaration that they act in name of scientific purity, is simply probably where (?). As a bystander, regular science keeps on the straight path, which is the hero role which they see put aside for themselves. The rescuers of pure science. But eventually almost everything in the greenhouse is common policy. Significantly scepticism concerning greenhouse science seems to serve the established interests. The opposite is anyway rare.)
(There are never sceptics who think of showing that the greenhouse theory is improbably careful and suitable for a calamity. That’s how the toxicologists blur the toxicity of everyday substances. The ecologists in fact underestimate the importance of nature. Such ideas live of course, however, in the radical environmental movement. But never this way by systematically criticising scientific results (?). Activists in a traditional milieu tackle the machthebbers kindest directly (?), by means of social action and along political lines. )
Climate sceptics only need to prevent something, drastic measures to impede climate changes. That a small group of active purists continues to produce new scientific question marks is a bonus; however without even knowing, they have a hidden agenda, which makes it for the scientists under siege more difficult to deal with them that way.
The substantial question is how regular climate science must deal with all this. Scientific mores oblige researchers to take opponents seriously until the opposite has been shown. After all, a sceptic can happen to be right.
Despite the obvious erroneousness of the sceptics, they still keep the science in strangulation, if only because they take a lot of time. There is only one way to solve this: only take seriously what is submitted according to the rules of the science game. That the Canadian sceptics, McIntyre and McKitrick, could publish their attack on Mann in Geophysical Review Letters is no disgrace, as some scientists have claimed, but a good example of how it should be done. He who has criticism on environmental science must formulate that scientifically and publish in authoritative scientific journals. And accept it if it is shattered afterwards.
And the other (activities)? That is a false din and climate researchers should no longer worry about dealing with that. How hard can it be to make a declaration not to get into discussions with dissenters and just accept being thrashed in the dirt in their angry threads.
Admittedly, this is an unnatural task nowadays, when the content of the scientific message is secondary to the public relations. But it is the only way to ban the rebels (riot makers) and have real scientists produce facts and assessments as a foundation for sensible policy.