Oxburgh on Proxy Reconstructions

The Oxburgh “report” on proxy reconstructions is about 1.5 pages long and doesn’t take long to parse – which I’ll begin below. No one should construe the fact that I’m commenting on these nine paragraphs as endorsing the idea that nine paragraphs – especially these none paragraphs – constitute a thorough review of CRU proxy reconstructions. None of the issues raised in my submission to the Parliamentary Committee (see here) was considered.

1. Tree growth is sensitive to very many factors including climate. By piecing together growth records from different trees, living or dead, it is possible to determine the temporal variation of growth patterns going back many hundreds of years. The dendroclimatological work at CRU seeks to go beyond this and to extract from the dated growth patterns the local and regional history of temperature variations. The Unit does virtually no primary data acquisition but has used data from published archives and has collaborated with people who have collected data.

No particular objections to this paragraph. The Climategate letters also show that CRU directly funded the collection of some data (e.g. Yamal).

2. The main effort of the dendroclimalogists at CRU is in developing ways to extract climate information from networks of tree ring data. The data sets are large and are influenced by many factors of which temperature is only one. This means that the effects of long term temperature variations are masked by other more dominant short term influences and have to be extracted by statistical techniques. The Unit approaches this task with an independent mindset and awareness of the interplay of biological and physical processes underlying the signals that they are trying to detect.

Obviously I agree that the data sets are “large”, “influenced by many factors of which temperature is only one” and that the “effects of long term temperature variations are masked by other more dominant short term influences”. These sound like Climate Audit points – I question whether these caveats have been as clearly disclosed in IPCC reports as they have been here. They say that the “effects of long term temperature variations … have to be extracted by statistical techniques” – I’d phrase this a little differently and more conditionally. If the effects can be extracted, then they have to be extracted statistically. Surely the efficacy of the statistical techniques needs to be demonstrated. I’m not saying that they were unaware of this nuance.

3. Although inappropriate statistical tools with the potential for producing misleading results have been used by some other groups, presumably by accident rather than design, in the CRU papers that we examined we did not come across any inappropriate usage although the methods they used may not have been the best for the purpose. It is not clear, however, that better methods would have produced significantly different results. The published work also contains many cautions about the limitations of the data and their interpretation.

It’s nice that they concede that “inappropriate statistical tools with the potential for producing misleading results have been used.” Unfortunately, they don’t provide a citation, merely attributing the error to “some other groups”. Surely a panel of esteemed academics can provide citations rather than using Gavin-esque evasions like “some other groups”. Hand’s comments indicate that he’s referring to Mann – who, as everyone except Oxburgh seems to know, is one of the most attested correspondents in the Climategate letters.

They say that they didn’t “come across any inappropriate usage”. But then again they didn’t actually interview any CRU critics or targets. Obvious examples of “inappropriate” statistical usage include the use of calibration-period residuals to estimate confidence intervals, the “Briffa bodge” in adjusting Tornetrask data and of course the trick to hide the decline – both in its IPCC form (deletion of data past 1960), its WMO form (splicing instrumental and proxy data) and its Rutherford 2005-Mann 2008 form (substituting “infilled” data for divergent data.)

They say that “it is not clear that better methods would have produced significant;y different results”. They took no evidence on this. This has been contested in many blog posts and was specifically contested in my submissions to the Parliamentary Committee and Muir Russell Committee – a readily accessible submission that Oxburgh ignored.

4. Chronologies (transposed composites of raw tree data) are always work in progress. They are subject to change when additional trees are added; new ways of data cleaning may arise (e.g. homogeneity adjustments), new measurement methods are used (e.g. of measuring ring density), new statistical methods for treating the data may be developed (e.g. new ways of allowing for biological growth trends).

These caveats are hardly ones that would offend a CA reader. The question is whether these caveats are properly disclosed in IPCC reports.

5. This is illustrated by the way CRU check chronologies against each other; this has led to corrections in chronologies produced by others. CRU is to be commended for continuously updating and reinterpreting their earlier chronologies.

One of the most serious criticisms of CRU – made both at CA and in my two UK submissions – has been CRU’s failure to update the Polar Urals chronology of Briffa et al 1995 (not on the short review list.) The Polar Urals Update resulted in a ring width chronology with an elevated MWP. This was never reported in the literature and this failure sticks in my craw. CRU deserves no “commendation” for their non-reporting of the impact of additional Polar Urals data on the chronology. That Oxburgh would “commend” them on this shows ignorance. But of course, they didn’t take any evidence from critics.

6. With very noisy data sets a great deal of judgement has to be used. Decisions have to be made on whether to omit pieces of data that appear to be aberrant. These are all matters of experience and judgement. The potential for misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in this area. It is regrettable that so few professional statisticians have been involved in this work because it is fundamentally statistical. Under such circumstances there must be an obligation on researchers to document the judgemental decisions they have made so that the work can in principle be replicated by others.

Much of this paragraph reads like Climate Audit. “The potential for misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in this area”. Couldn’t agree more. The work is “fundamentally statistical” – something that I’ve said for several years. “There must be an obligation on researchers to document the judgemental decisions they have made” – yup.

7. CRU accepts with hindsight that they should have devoted more attention in the past to archiving data and algorithms and recording exactly what they did. At the time the work was done, they had no idea that these data would assume the importance they have today and that the Unit would have to answer detailed inquiries on earlier work. CRU and, we are told, the tree ring community generally, are now adopting a much more rigorous approach to the archiving of chronologies and computer code. The difficulty in releasing program code is that to be understood by anyone else it needs time-consuming work on documentation, and this has not been a top priority.

Surely Oxburgh is straying into Muir Russell territory here. Weren’t they asked to assess the science rather than the conduct? Most of this paragraph is an excuse for not doing things. What does this have to do with assessing bodging, cherry picking and their like?

8. After reading publications and interviewing the senior staff of CRU in depth, we are satisfied that the CRU tree-ring work has been carried out with integrity, and that allegations of deliberate misrepresentation and unjustified selection of data are not valid. In the event CRU scientists were able to give convincing answers to our detailed questions about data choice, data handling and statistical methodology. The Unit freely admits that many data analyses they made in the past are superseded and they would not do things that way today.

At CA, I’ve criticized CRU for “unjustified selection of data” while refraining from speculating on their motives. Blog policies require readers not to speculate on motives. “Unjustified selection of data” is a different issue than “deliberate misrepresentation”. CA readers and myself have generally been concerned about confirmation bias and unintentional or negligent misrepresentation than “deliberate misrepresentation”.

Oxburgh says that CRU gave “convincing answers to our detailed questions about data choice, data handling and statistical methodology.” Unfortunately, Oxburgh did not follow the advice of the Parliamentary Committee to do things in the light of day. As a result, none of us knows what the “detailed questions” were or what the CRU answers were.

“The Unit freely admits that many data analyses they made in the past are superseded and they would not do things that way today.” I am unaware of any such admissions on the public record. I, for one, would be interested in knowing which data analyses are involved and precisely which methods the Unit have abandoned.

9. We have not exhaustively reviewed the external criticism of the dendroclimatological work, but it seems that some of these criticisms show a rather selective and uncharitable approach to information made available by CRU. They seem also to reflect a lack of awareness of the ongoing and dynamic nature of chronologies, and of the difficult circumstances under which university research is sometimes conducted. Funding and labour pressures and the need to publish have meant that pressing ahead with new work has been at the expense of what was regarded as non-essential record keeping. From our perspective it seems that the CRU sins were of omission rather than commission. Although we deplore the tone of much of the criticism that has been directed at CRU, we believe that this questioning of the methods and data used in dendroclimatology will ultimately have a beneficial effect and improve working practices

Again Gavin-esque evasiveness – “some of these criticisms”. OK, cite two or three. Are they throwing spitballs at Climate Audit here? Or are they criticizing someone else? If they are criticizing Climate Audit, I’d like to know what they regard as “selective and uncharitable” criticism. If they aren’t criticizing Climate Audit, who are they criticizing? As to a supposed “unawareness of the difficult circumstances under which university research is sometimes conducted”, of their “funding and labour pressures” and the “need to publish”, well, boo hoo. These studies have been cited in documents being presented to the public to justify major public expenditures and policies.

They “deplore the tone of much of the criticism that has been directed at CRU” – again without providing any examples. Hypocritically, they ignore the “tone” of remarks within the Climategate letters, the language that has appalled the public. If they are going to complain about the mote in their brother’s eye, they should first remove the beam in their own.


66 Comments

  1. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 2:12 PM | Permalink

    These studies have been cited in documents being presented to the public to justify major public expenditures and policies.

    Hmmm. I don’t recall you using that argument much, Steve. But it’s certainly true and important.

    BTW, I don’t see your usual point that it takes little work at the time the paper is written to archive the data and save the procedures used, or better include them in the paper.

  2. Sven Hanssen
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 2:41 PM | Permalink

    From item 6: “Under such circumstances there must be an obligation on researchers to document the judgemental decisions they have made so that the work can in principle be replicated by others.”

    Why just “in principle” why not “fully”?

  3. TerryS
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

    Under the UK Data Protection Act you can request that they produce all data and records held by them about you. I dont know whether this would extend to submissions made to them, by the CRU, that mention either you or the blog by name but you never know.

  4. Brooks Hurd
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

    I am certin that it is possible to carry out a real investigation “in camera.” Sadly it is all to easy to do the sort of exoneration of CRU which Oxburgh seems to have conducted “in camera.”

  5. Dave L.
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 3:34 PM | Permalink

    Notice that one of the cornerstones of the Scientific Method was swept under the rug in the Oxburgh report: Independent Verification.

  6. Anoneumouse
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

    Well the Oxburgh “report” failed at this peer review.

    REJECTED

  7. R.S.Brown
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 4:27 PM | Permalink

    Come on… face it.

    If the material published by investigative bodies such as the Parlimentary Committee
    and the Oxburgh enclave contain the firmest conclusions and supporting statements with
    citations available for the East Anglia CRU unit’s overall behavior and the “science”
    they’ve produced, then both the Unit and the “science” will be in trouble should a full
    and detailed investigation be done to document how this British based cadre spent millons
    in U.S. taxpayer dollars.

    The primary goal for the current Lord-led panels has been to smooth over a row about a
    research group gone wild under one political party’s stewardship going into national
    elections. The voters may not care about CRU in particular. However, since everybody
    talks about the weather, the research unit’s foibles have become entangled with climate
    conversations and spawned questions about climate change legislation… politics.

    A secondary goal has been to make sure nothing official surfaces that can be truely useful
    in any “outside” investigations on down the road. Again, politics, but on an international
    scale.

    Boiling down the two reports:

    “These are good people. They had answers for our questions. They try hard. They’ll do
    better in the future.”

    They settled for warm and fuzzy when insightful and decisive was possible.

    The balance between short and longer term goals is meant to be vague
    and unsatisfying. It’s treading water without admitting it.

  8. Neville
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 5:01 PM | Permalink

    Anyone who saw the British television series “Yes, Minister” will recognize the well-oiled fog machine behind this report.

    In the UK, members of the governmental and academic establishment always unite promptly behind any effort to deflect even the idea that any of them might be held accountable for anything any one of them has done.

  9. Joe Veragio
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 5:34 PM | Permalink

    Damning the IPCC ?

    Our Science is fine. It’s the IPCC that misrepresented it.

    From Para. 7.

    CRU publications repeatedly emphasize the discrepancy between instrumental and tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature during the late 20th century, but presentations of this work by the IPCC and others have sometimes neglected to highlight this issue. While we find this regrettable, we could find no such fault with the peer-reviewed papers we examined

    … but who was it that prepared the IPCC’s (mis)-representation of their (very own) work ???

  10. Ted Swart
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 6:46 PM | Permalink

    It seems to me that this report is internally inconsistent. They say that with respect to the use of tree rings as proxies for past temperatures that:
    “These are all matters of experience and judgement. The potential for misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in this area”.
    Yet they are in no way willing to accept even the possibility that there have indeed been “misleading results arising from selective bias”.
    They have simply not does a thorough job and could not have done so without interviewing substantive critics such as Steve McIntyre. For them to say that: “We have not exhaustively reviewed the external criticism of the dendroclimatological work” is an incredibly revealing statement of their modus operandi. No body asked them to or expected them to do an exhaustive review. But where is the evidence that they did anything other than a cursory review. and how could it be anything other than cursory review without actually interviewing critics.

  11. Stephan
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 6:54 PM | Permalink

    Some official vindication of SM’s work

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/162b0c58-47f5-11df-b998-00144feab49a.html

  12. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 8:06 PM | Permalink

    Re # 8 “The Unit freely admits that many data analyses they made in the past are superseded”

    How is the researcher to know? Surely there is a periodic onus to housekeep and warn of outdated data/publications/methods.

    If I was newly entering the field, I would currently have a problem to discern which global temperature instrumented reconstructions are superseded. Then I would not know in general which derived papers were superseded because they were based on admitted, superseded data – which is unlisted as such.

  13. Bernie
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 8:33 PM | Permalink

    Revkin appears to have bought the report hook, line and sinker. He seems to have read the report without thinking about the actual substance of the CRU emails.

  14. intrepid_wanders
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 10:05 PM | Permalink

    Something that tweaks me about your observation on Andrew’s BH. It is starting to appear that the “Parliamentary Inquiry” was setup to ‘spin’ Jones, and with the number of Briffa articles in appendix B, the Oxburgh scientific inquiry is focused spin on the CRU. The reasoning is that with a section titled “Dendroclimatology”, none of the work that Briffa published in Dendrochronologia or The Halocene were examined. Most of the literature selection came from Wikipedia. Admittedly, a lot of these are subscription based, but I see this as a spin edge.

    Phase 1 (Parliamentary Inquiry) – Clear Jones (via Bureaucrats)
    Phase 2 (Oxburgh Inquiry) – Clear CRU (via reasonable scientific work, Briffa)
    Phase 3 (Russell Review) – Wrap up of a three phase spin (???)
    (finnaly)
    Phase 4 (Intra-University Review) – Clear IPCC with above supporting reviews (???)

    All of this should (by spin theory) fix all of the political issues. Fortunately, nature does not understand spin or politics.

  15. Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 10:08 PM | Permalink

    McIntyre
    None of the issues raised in my submission to the Parliamentary Committee (see here) was considered.

    Huh?!

    Why should they consider documents submitted elswhere?

    The didn’t consider my criticism of the IOP either! (but I didn’t expect them to!)

    Steve: They didn’t take any evidence from CRU critics or targets.

    • MrPete
      Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 4:33 AM | Permalink

      Re: thefordprefect (Apr 14 22:08),
      TFP, did you make a formal submission of your criticisms per the protocol? Apparently you didn’t consider the meaning of “(see here)“?

      • Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

        My gripe is that this paper I assume was not submitted to the Ox inquiry, therefore why should they consider it?
        Submitting a paper to the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal does not guarantee that it is read by a the required entity. Did McIntyre submit his paper to this – the Oxburgh – inquiry?

        Steve: Both Muir Russell and the Parliamentary COmmittee invited submissions. Oxburgh didn’t. They didn’t even announce their terms of reference.

        • Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

          Oxburgh didn’t [invite submissions]. They didn’t even announce their terms of reference.

          And the papers they looked at were selected by the Royal Society, on the climate science working group of which sits … Phil Jones. And we don’t know who selected the papers.

          The parliamentary committee got one thing right. These inquiries should all be held in the open. This one is so opposite to that it’s laughable. I never had any faith in Oxburgh or Russell. Graham Stringer and the day of open oral evidence was the one official shaft of light on this scene (despite Steve not being asked). The Open Climate Initiative (which I was discussing again last night after Open Source Show and Tell with Jordan Hatcher from Open Data Commons) is the right emphasis for this time. If we hit this one hard Oxburgh will soon be seen as the methodological dinosaur it is – and duly laughed out of court.

        • Posted Apr 16, 2010 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

          I’ve not done an ad like this before (so I don’t know how the moderators will view it) but I briefly mention this chat on Wednesday at the end of the latest post on my blog (also reachable through clicking on my name at any point on Climate Audit). There’s a neat coincidence concerning Stephen Fry, with whom I’m due to have lunch and a discussion of the Open Climate Initiative next month. Ideas welcome, in either place. There’ll be another post on the blog with more on the subject in the next few days. (And don’t worry about the tech talk prior to the last paragraph – I barely understand it either. I’m getting old.)

          As I imply above, the fact that Oxburgh broke almost every canon of openness is in fact a major opportunity. Time to tell the other story and tell it good. We’ll find we have allies I’m sure in surprising places.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Apr 16, 2010 at 6:02 PM | Permalink

          Re: Richard Drake (Apr 16 14:38),

          I’m not sure how they work, but might a “trackback” be what you’re looking for? I’ve used them some times when I know the back-tracker, or when the idea seems interesting and generally am happy with the results. A plain message like you’ve posted here is likely to be lost rather quickly.

        • Posted Apr 17, 2010 at 8:00 AM | Permalink

          Good point, David, I’ll do that with the next post.

          While you’re on the line, so to speak, I almost responded to your immediate reaction above but felt it would be largely OT early in the thread. It’s worth quoting Steve again in full:

          Again Gavin-esque evasiveness – “some of these criticisms”. OK, cite two or three. Are they throwing spitballs at Climate Audit here? Or are they criticizing someone else? If they are criticizing Climate Audit, I’d like to know what they regard as “selective and uncharitable” criticism. If they aren’t criticizing Climate Audit, who are they criticizing? As to a supposed “unawareness of the difficult circumstances under which university research is sometimes conducted”, of their “funding and labour pressures” and the “need to publish”, well, boo hoo. These studies have been cited in documents being presented to the public to justify major public expenditures and policies.

          I agree that Steve seldom makes the argument from the weight of policy decisions based on all this. But, of all people, he has earned the right to do that. Too many of us shoot our mouths off without having a grasp of the complex technical issues. And it’s important to be honest about one’s motivation. Mine is decidedly political. In other words, if it wasn’t for the drastic political implications of CAGW ‘mitigation’ I’m sure I’d feel I have much better things to do with my time than try to master the details of climate science, even if there was dodgy stuff in there. Having said that, I am always interested in the misuse of computer modelling (as well as its strengths in other situations) so there is some overlap with my existing interests. But Steve is the genuine article, interested in the subject for its own sake. The way’s he’s been treated – the way he’s been smeared, basically – is an utter disgrace. We are going to see the day that is put right, I feel sure. But there are some big names and egos in the way right now, including in the Royal Society, great courageous leaders who will not currently dare even mention his name. So it’s a priviledge to be here, every now and then, to do exactly the opposite.

  16. R. Craigen
    Posted Apr 14, 2010 at 10:37 PM | Permalink

    Well, I’m just speculating here, Steve, but I suspect you are, in their eyes, Voldemort — he who must not be named (or something bad will happen). Sorry to break it to you.

    In particular, if they name you and try to make any of these charges stick they surely must be aware how silly such charges will look to anyone knowing anything beyond Gavin’s short list of talking points. That they are so openly vague simply makes this point better than any of us could. In an official “report” of this stature, getting no more specific than “some of these criticisms” is code for “we’ve got nothing here, but hopefully you’ll accept our judgement in a factual vacuum, cause all we’ve got is the force of assertion”.

    I think the brevity of the document also suggests an inwillingness to get into detail. You’re quite right that this report is far too short to suffice for the purpose. But lengthening it can only lead in one direction, and I’m not sure they’d like to go there. I think all responses to this report should be based on one mantra: where is the specific response to numerous criticisms carefully laid out at CA?

  17. Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 12:30 AM | Permalink

    A one sentance summary of the report is “Honest but imcompetent”. Not so different from the line taken here.

  18. Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 12:36 AM | Permalink

    It is rather ironic that some are commenting at RealClimate that McIntyre and ClimateAudit contributors should be cross-examined and made to account for their criticism. The so-called “choice words” for the critics are being snatched upon as evidence of some sort of vindication or victory. Pity.

  19. Pete H
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 12:45 AM | Permalink

    It would be interesting to do an FIO on the emails from the Oxburgh report!

  20. Beth Cooper
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 4:00 AM | Permalink

    With apologies to Cole Porter:

    In former days
    Substantive evidence blocking,
    Was looked on
    As something shocking,
    Now heaven knows,
    Anything goes!

  21. Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 4:45 AM | Permalink

    CRU has a new project; The Dendroclimatic Divergence Phenomenon: reassessment of causes and implications for climate reconstruction.

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/research/

    And who is Principal Investigator? Yes, you guessed it, Briffa.

    Quote:
    “It suggests that the degree of warmth in certain periods in the past, particularly in medieval times, may be underestimated or at least subject to greater uncertainty than is currently accepted. The lack of a clear overview of this phenomenon and the lack of a generally accepted cause had led some to challenge the current scientific consensus, represented in the 2007 report of the IPCC on the likely unprecedented nature of late 20th century average hemispheric warmth when viewed in the context of proxy evidence (mostly from trees) for the last 1300 years. This project will seek to systematically reassess and quantify the evidence for divergence in many tree-ring data sets around the Northern Hemisphere.”

    “Based on recent published and unpublished work by the proposers, it has become apparent that foremost amongst the possible explanations is the need to account for systematic bias potentially inherent in the methods used to build many tree-ring chronologies…”

    The project start and end dates are 12/09 – 05/12. Look at the start date. Could this be coincidence?

    Who is funding this work?

  22. krazykiwi
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 5:32 AM | Permalink

    Lord Oxburgh is an investor in a number of renewable energy businesses, and is a director of GLOBE International, an high-roller environmental junket group. The University of East Anglia appointed Lord Oxburgh to GLOBE in 2008 – a glaring and double conflict of interest I should say.

  23. Martin A
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 7:22 AM | Permalink

    The report seems eager to play down the size of the CRU. It says “The Unit is a very small academic entity (…). It has three full time and one part time academic staff members and about a dozen research associates, PhD students and support staff”.

    Yst the CRU’s “CRU Staff” web page has a list of 52 individuals.

    It lists:
    – One director (Professor Liss)
    – One deputy director (Professor Briffa)
    – Three academic staff (Professor Jones, Dr Osborn, Dr Goulen).

    I always regarded professors as academic staff, too. That seems to make a total of five academic staff.

    Plus it has, according to its website:
    – One manager/research associate
    – Six “research staff”
    – Eleven “associate fellows”
    – Four support staff (admin assistant, research admin, librarian/map administrator, IT manager)
    – Eleven postgraduate students

    My arithmetic says this adds up to five academic staff and thirty-three research associates, PhD students, support staff and whatever.

    They can’t both be correct. Did Oxburgh understate the CRU’s size, or is the CRU overstating its size?

    • Shallow Climate
      Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

      Martin: My personal thanks for doing this “auditing” (I could probably leave out the quotes there). Fascinating, but not surprising, are your results. I have always had the impression from CRU comments that they are a “small, understaffed unit” (my made-up quotes): therefore, how could they ever be expected to run a tight ship with all these volumes of terribly important and CONFIDENTIAL data? We poor ignoramuses should have pity on them, beleaguered things that they are. I much like and appreciate how CA readers like you also do sleuthing (with not even a tip jar for your efforts). You outrank me. –S.C.

  24. freespeech
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    Ryan N. Maue wrote:
    “It is rather ironic that some are commenting at RealClimate that McIntyre and ClimateAudit contributors should be cross-examined and made to account for their criticism.”

    I tried to correct a number of exaggerations and untruths about this report at [un]realclimate and managed to get my posts either heavily modified, or deleted. I believe I am now banned. Their “moderators” claimed I made things up, so when I included direct quotes from their posts and direct quotes of my posts, they deleted those sections and quite childishly claimed I was hallucinating. As I’ve noted in the past, their behavior in their blog is likely a good indicator of their personal and professional integrity.

    • Brooks Hurd
      Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

      I hope that you kept copies of your posts on RC. Most of us do that.

  25. Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 9:09 AM | Permalink

    A lot of people think the recent CRU investigation report is a white wash, but as is typical it is a crude attempt to cover up the reality under a blanket of spin and misrepresentations. My take for anyone interested.

    http://strata-sphere.com/blog/index.php/archives/13233

    I think Steve M has actually forced them into a backhanded admission that he was right, especially since the report claims they wished they had more of him involved.

    AJStrata

  26. Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

    To be clear, I think the investigation found these were well meaning dolts who properly used the wrong statistical tools. I feel for Steve’s frustration that there is not more harsh and precise damning of these people, but that really reflects more on the reviewers and their lame attempt to spin this as just wonderful.

    My read is CRU is finished as a premier scientific organization. And my view that these niche scientists with their haphazard skills and quality processes are a prime example of amateurs being elevated to the big leagues on the shoulders of political zealots. They all deserve this mess. They will never admit how bad it truly is for them.

    Never

    • Bernie
      Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 10:53 AM | Permalink

      AJ:
      I tend to agree on the demise of CRU as a source of expertise. The report “damns with faint praise.” I also agree with Anthony Watts that some more direct contact with Hand is probably in order.

  27. PaulH
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

    Lawrence Salomon has a good write-up in today’s National Post:

    http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2010/04/15/lawrence-solomon-the-non-inquiry-of-climategate.aspx

    A nice cozy group, Oxburgh and friends.

    Paul

  28. Solomon Green
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

    “The data sets are large and are influenced by many factors of which temperature is only one. This means that the effects of long term temperature variations are masked by other more dominant short term influences and have to be extracted by statistical techniques.”

    Years ago when I managed a citrus farm, I was always puzzled that one tree in the row was nearly twice the size of the others that had been planted at the same time. It was explained to me that the donkey which had carried the small trees for planting had died and had been buried at that spot. The tree that outshone its neighbours was growing over the grave of the donkey. That was not a short term influence. If such a disparity in the fertility of the ground a in such a tiny area can affect growth by so much, how can any “statistical technique” (other than data mining) produce sufficiently reliable data with which to measure a single variable (temperature)? Particularly when there are so many other factors such as humidity (both ground and atmospheric), light even proximity to other vegetation which can affect growth.

  29. Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 12:51 PM | Permalink

    Ryan N. Maue
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 12:36 AM It is rather ironic that some are commenting at RealClimate that McIntyre and ClimateAudit contributors should be cross-examined and made to account for their criticism.

    Should (as seems likely) Jones be exonerated by 3 inquiries then the way is clear for Defamation writs to fly. Allowing defamatory posts to remain on a blog is inexcusable and implicates McIntyre, and Watts. Jones can show loss of health, position and possibly salary as proof of the defamatory effect of blogs. CRU could similary show loss of reputation and income.

    A writ costs only £1600 to raise. The UK defamatory laws currently assume the accused is guilty and they must prove innocence. Are those posters possibly defaming Jones, CRU, Mann and …etc prepared to spend vast sums on defending their accusations?

    The “guilty until proven innocent” status means that a defence MUST be presented or you default to guilty.

    Steve: Neither of the inquiries has demonstrated the incorrectness of any claim that I’ve ever made in respect to Jones or CRU.

    • Sleeper
      Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 1:49 PM | Permalink

      Re: thefordprefect (Apr 15 12:51),

      Congratulations FP. You have finally totally exhausted your credibility.

    • Sleeper
      Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 2:03 PM | Permalink

      Re: thefordprefect (Apr 15 12:51),

      Allowing defamatory posts to remain on a blog is inexcusable and implicates McIntyre, and Watts.

      Don’t worry Steve and Anthony. Apparently, all you’ll need to do is impanel a bunch of us to ‘investigate’ your wrongdoings, and then we’ll exonerate you. No problem.

    • Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

      Steve: Neither of the inquiries has demonstrated the incorrectness of any claim that I’ve ever made in respect to Jones or CRU.

      McIntyre
      You have been very careful to choose your words used in your posts. It is the replies that are the problem. You have allowed defamatory posts to remain on your blog. This is your responsibility.

      Early on you used to ban the “fraud” word. No so recently.

      Fraud is a criminal offence and you should not accuse someone of fraud publicly without adequate proof.

      As you may remember I contacted you privately a year ago* suggesting that you take care with what you allow to be posted. This was not a threat, as you know, it is just that I did not want you to suffer the hassle and costs of the UK courts.

      So far those accused of fraud have not struck. Hopefully they will not. Jones however has lost much – from most accounts and from his showing at the gov inquiry he has been mentally destroyed, and his life has been wrecked by personal attacks. In his position what would you do?

      *as email privacy seems not to matter I will quote one of your replies:
      05 January 2009 23:39:49
      Thanks for the note and the thought.

      I’ve had some experience with litigation and have little interest in becoming involved. I’m careful in what I say myself – something that annoys my critics. Any point that’s worth making can usually be made without the extra adjective. As you are aware, I’ve got blog policies prohibiting accusations of dishonesty/fraud and will delete or snip offending comments. Are there some presently online that I haven’t noticed?

      I’ll also ask readers to chill out on the editorializing one more time.

      Cheers, Steve

      PS I appreciate your comments, tho I often disagree.

      Steve: the blog policies stand. Readers have to help enforce blog policies. As I said to you last year in the email, if you know of some comments that break blog policies, I would appreciate it if you would draw them to my attention.

      • Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Permalink

        Wow good going McIntyre The whole blog sanitized of fraud claims.

        Just searched and found none – I though perhaps I had misjudged/misread this blog

        all the palinizations removed!

        but then..

        Google – fraud site:http://climateaudit.org/ gets 464 hits
        didnt check them all but most surprising link to no text found or sometimes inconsequential use of the word.

        However google cache tells a different story. Don’t know when you sanitised but it was not quick enough to miss google caching! I expect the wayback machine would reveal this.

        Steve: As I told you, I don’t make such allegations myself and blog policies ask commenters not to as well. I moderate after the fact and ask readers such as yourself to advise me if I’ve missed comments that breach blog polices.

        • Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 11:30 PM | Permalink

          This is Google’s cache of http://climateaudit.org/2010/02/14/the-boulton-hockey-stick/. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 7 Apr 2010 20:54:42 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime. Learn more
          9 references to fraud on 7th April
          0 ref to fraud on 16 April

          page posting date 14 February 2010

          For 2 months the post refered to fraud. It was used in response to your inline posts. I suppose you could have missed it!

          Steve: Your statement that there were allegations of fraud in my post are untrue. As I stated to you previously, I ask blog readers to draw attention to comments that breach blog rules; I’ve expressed appreciation to you in the past for drawing my attention to such comments, which assist me in maintaining blog policies.

    • bobdenton
      Posted Apr 16, 2010 at 7:14 AM | Permalink

      Ford,

      I’m sure your efforts to enforce the rule blogs are laudable.

      However, your allusions to legal consequences are wildly inaccurate, misleading and bring an unwelcome atmosphere to the blog.

      First, UK defamation law does not assume the Defendant is guilty. The burden of proof, as always, is on the Plaintiff, who must show that the defendant published and was legally responsible for the alleged defamation and that the words were in fact defamatory in the context in which they were published. That requires calling evidence and is no easy task. It isn’t assumed that because someone on a blog says X is a fraud that it has lowers him in the opinion of right thinking people. The Plaintiff has to prove this simply to bring the issue of truth into play.

      Second, whilst allegations of fraud may be actionable, in many cases they are not. Where the substance of the allegation is a crime, deception with an intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage, that would be actionable. But fraud can be committed without any such intent and without commission of crime. The history of scientific fraud includes many examples of this. In many professions artifice and deception are tools of the trade, such as advocacy, and allegations of deception and fraud, if made in good faith are fair comment and not actionable. In some professions the term is common currency, a critic may be referred to as a fraud or a frauditor or some other such expression. Again the use of the term fraud would not be actionable as it amounts to no more than common and vulgar abuse.

      Bringing an action for libel in these circumstances would be hazardous for the plaintiff, the judge may decide he is a fraud, or that it is a fair comment on his conduct or that it was an accepted term of vulgar abuse. It will also be financially ruinous for both parties.

      Robert Maxwell, one of the biggest frauds in the UK in recent decades, used the libel laws and inequality of means to suppress publications of the fact that he was absconding with his employees pension fund for many years. It is a notorious example of the law being abused to suppress free speech against the public interest. – snip

      • alex verlinden
        Posted Apr 16, 2010 at 10:46 AM | Permalink

        better not get into the habit of miscalculations … since also I used the F-word in my post, tally is now 475 …

        sorry …

        Steve: I don’t know what your point is. Those hits include comments discussing the term “fraudit”, various comments by Ford and others, discussions of Enron which use the word “fraud” but do not make specific allegations. If there are comments that breach blog policies against making such allegations, please draw them to my attention so that I can enforce blog policies. There are nearly 200,000 comments in the blog and it is possible that despite my efforts, some comments breach blog policies. Nonetheless, I try to enforce these policies and welcome the assistance of readers in doing so.

        • Posted Apr 16, 2010 at 9:36 PM | Permalink

          Steve, these are witch hunts to make you waste your time. You have no responsibility for the comments or opinions of others, regardless of where they are made.

        • Posted Apr 17, 2010 at 8:42 AM | Permalink

          On which legal authority Popthech bases himself to say that an owner of a blog is not responsible for the comments and opinions left on his blog?

        • bobdenton
          Posted Apr 17, 2010 at 9:08 AM | Permalink

          That’s an expensive question to answer.

          You have the poster, the blog host, host server provider, the ISP for the poster and the ISP for the viewer. Add to that the jurisdiction in which the host server is situated, the jurisdiction in which the blog host is situated, the jurisdiction in which the poster is situated – and so on. You must even consider contractual documents between the various parties which may specify applicable law.

          The world’s legal systems are still attempting to unravel a problem of almost unprecedented complexity: though it’s been done before the “law merchant” governing national and international commerce evolved from the middle ages onwards, but it took a long time to mature.

          The favoured solution at present is “notice and take down”. If a blog host or web server provider is notified of justiciable content being hosted by them they will only risk liability if they do not take it down. But what the law is in any particular one of many hundreds of jurisdictions – who knows?

        • Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 1:29 AM | Permalink

          Based on your logic if someone walks into a store and uses a payphone to threaten someone, the store owner and payphone owner are responsible for what is said.

          Steve only has responsibility for what he says and these silly politically correct witch hunts are all critics have. How pathetic is it that you have to try to go after someone based on comments someone else said. It just shows they have nothing on what he actually says and desperately want anything they can get to try and discredit him.

        • bobdenton
          Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 4:22 AM | Permalink

          I agree that that it may appear that someone has developed a strategy to intimidate opposing opinion based on their understanding or misunderstanding of the libel laws.

          However, If a store owner and payphone owner knowingly facilitate a crime by permitting the use of their phone they would be as guilty of the offence as the principal eg; off course gambling like you see in the 20s movies.

          If they don’t know the use the phone is put to, but refuse permission for it’s use when they find out, they’re guilty of nothing.

          This analogy does not apply where the telephone is used to express honestly held opinions, except in totalitarian states.

        • Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 7:17 AM | Permalink

          bobdenton
          Posted Apr 18, 2010

          I have posted some references above proving the burden of proof is with the alleged defamer (still in moderation – 1 link too many).

          Most people would NOT take a blog/owner/poster to court – blogs are little more than a chat down the pub.

          However, when someone has been invalidly attacked (according to 2 inquiries) and consequently has had his reputation called into question (important for a scientist) and has been hounded until he contemplated suicide (important for a human being) any action he decides to take to restore his life can be surely understood?

          By the way using a pseudonym on a blog does not hide your true identity – it can be prised out of the blog, the service provider etc. – Look up “norwich pharmacal”

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 8:52 AM | Permalink

          Re: thefordprefect (Apr 18 07:17),

          However, when someone has been invalidly attacked (according to 2 inquiries)

          There has been no invalid attack by Steve. There was no investigation of the actual attacks in either case. If there’s any invalid attack it’s by you on Steve. But unlike you, I’m not about to speculate on what legal or private consequences that might entail.

        • Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 9:11 AM | Permalink

          Were there actual attacks of someone in particular?

          Let’s not speculate on what kind of legal or private consequences that these attacks might entail.

  30. HankHenry
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 1:47 PM | Permalink

    Which of these inquiries is going to address the issue of possible FOI evasions?

  31. alex verlinden
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 2:31 PM | Permalink

    I particulary like no 7 … “CRU and, we are told, the tree ring community generally, are now adopting a much more rigorous approach to the archiving of chronologies and computer code.”

    Time to ask again Mann how he got to his hockey stick, and Jones how he got to his temperature … :-)

    The result of that request will be, of course, zilch …

    We cannot expect the scientists, the nobel price winners, the politicians involved, to readily come out with a press release that says something to the likes of “Steve, you are right, and we are wrong” … It simply doesn’t work that way …

    From the “scientists” involved, you cannot expect an acknowledgment that they have been cooking the books … 10/15 years ago, they were scraping to get things by, and now they are big swinging dicks, they are invited to exotic conferences, they are given nobel prices, they are interviewed in the media … every scientist not working for big industry is hoping for his own IPCC … and, to be honest, if you were in their shoes, how would You do this ? … well, exactly the same, give or take 1 or 2 honest exceptions …

    the main part is neither the “politicians” … the politicians just want to meddle is peoples lives … whatever excuse is good …

    the most important is http://www.gallup.com/poll/126716/Environmental-Issues-Year-Low-Concern.aspx or http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1386/cap-and-trade-global-warming-opinion or http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/0,1518,685946,00.html or the Dutch who believe less in Global Warming (and of which I don’t have a link but only a jpg) …

    Politicians will, in the end, call the shots …

    they will support the “scientists” as long as it supports their case …

    but they will be the first ones to make a complete U-turn if their clients (see all the links above) slowly change their mind …

  32. Bob
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if the purpose of these inquires was to get public opinion back? If so they haven’t succeeded as far as I can tell. I guess it was good not to expect much from any of them,

  33. Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

    I haven’t been following this as closely as I should. Where any of the papers that were re-reviewed any of the ones we have real problems with… i.e. did they choose “safe” papers to evaluate?

  34. Bob
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 5:34 PM | Permalink

    I guess I will never understand articles like this one http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-grandia/second-expert-panel-shows_b_539237.html

  35. PaulH
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 6:55 PM | Permalink

    Another National Post article “Peter Foster: Climategate whitewash”

    http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2010/04/15/peter-foster-climategate-whitewash.aspx

    Paul

  36. Answer up
    Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 7:42 PM | Permalink

    you’re right. No one can require you to write real pulications. but then, no one should be expected to read meandering, half-baked, “lab notebook doodling”, which you edit sometimes and which may go the way of Chefen’s blog for all we know…

    • krazykiwi
      Posted Apr 15, 2010 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

      It’s always interestIng to critique the writing of those who are DisparagIng of the writing Of oThers.

  37. Posted Apr 17, 2010 at 9:55 PM | Permalink

    Posted earlier but lost in moderation:
    thefordprefect
    Posted Apr 17, 2010 at 8:50 PM | Permalink | ReplyYour comment is awaiting moderation.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_defamation_law :
    However, the common law of libel reverses the traditional positions somewhat: a defamatory statement is presumed to be false, unless the defendant can prove its truth.

    I.e. If you make an accusation of defamation then the defendant HAS TO prove his statement is “valid”.

    A blog owner publishes posters comments and is therefore implicated. This especially true if any moderation by its owner is used.
    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/1999/244.html

    Things my be changing however:
    business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article7098157.ece
    A recent case in UK Justice Eady made this rather profound comment which could change the way blog ststements are treated:
    “[Such comments] are rather like contributions to a casual conversation (the analogy sometimes being drawn with people chatting in a bar) which people simply note before moving on; they are often uninhibited, casual and ill thought out. Those who participate know this and expect a certain amount of repartee or ‘give and take’.”
    bobtarantino.blogs.com/blog/2009/02/online-defamation-as-libel-or-slander.html

    McIntyre is entirely correct in deleting possibly defamatory posts.

    • bobdenton
      Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 4:05 AM | Permalink

      Your acknowledgement that McIntyre’s conduct is entirely correct is welcome. You could have made your position less ambiguous in the first place.

      Incidentally, the statement in your wiki reference is correct in substance but incorrectly stated. The burden of proof in all civil actions, including defamation actions, is the same: the party making a positive averment must prove it. There is no reversal of the burden of proof in defamation. If you say x is a murderer you must prove it just as if the Crown alleges X is a murderer the Crown must prove it.

      You will have noted that in Godfrey v Demon, back in the last century, notice and takedown was implicitly acknowledged by both parties.

      BCA v Singh (Court of Appeal) changes the name of the defence from “fair comment” to “honest opinion” to better express it’s nature, and adopts the US Federal Law rule that “Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation ……. More papers, more discussion, better data …” etc An allegation of knowingly promoting “Bogus” science was held not to be actionable as it was an honest opinion based on peer reviewed science even though the Plaintiff could point to studies in their favour as an answer to the allegation that the promotion was done “knowing it was bogus”. They knew of adverse science, but simply preferred that in favour of their beliefs and obviously did not disclose the adverse science to the public who put it’s trust in them.

      Think about it.

      The Plaintiffs have thrown the towel in but the Supreme Court has a case covering similar issues listed, so the law should not be regarded as settled.

  38. Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 6:14 AM | Permalink

    It appears that Climate Audit is hosted by WordPress:

    http://climateaudit.org/2009/12/08/climateaudit-wordpress-com/

    One can easily find WordPress’ Terms of Service.

  39. Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 6:17 AM | Permalink

    A useful quote from WordPress’ terms of service:

    If you operate a blog, comment on a blog, post material to the Website, post links on the Website, or otherwise make (or allow any third party to make) material available by means of the Website (any such material, “Content”), You are entirely responsible for the content of, and any harm resulting from, that Content.

  40. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Apr 18, 2010 at 10:02 AM | Permalink

    Enough pontificating about theoretical defamation situations. Apparently David Hand of the Oxburgh inquiry raised my work and even Oxburgh stated to the BBC that “some skeptic comment was justified”. The report agreed with some important Climate Audit positions and, as far as I can tell, didn’t reject or contradict anything that I’ve written here.

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