I don’t expect the Muir Russell report to be as much of an insult to the public as the Penn State report or the Oxburgh report – both of which set the bar pretty low. Or at least, as an insult, it will not be so contemptuous of the public as to contain
no documentation and negligible evidence that the authors had read even a few of the emails.
I’m 100% confident that they will make concessions on topics where the tide has already run against CRU – data archiving and availability, topics where the Commons Committee has already expressed its extreme impatience with climate scientists. These are easy issues for Muir Russell to concede and you can pretty much book them already. I’d pay attention to the report on these issues only if Muir Russell unexpectedly supports some forms of data petulance.
So what are possible findings of interest?
Violation of IPCC Rules and Procedures
This is not just a Climate Audit issue. Fred Pearce in The Climate Files spoke out strongly on this issue:
These back channel communications between the paper’s authors [Wahl] and IPCC authors [Briffa], including early versions of the paper, seemed a direct subversion of the spirit of openness intended when the IPCC decided to put its internal reviews online.
The most contentious violations arise out of Briffa’s communications with Eugene Wahl in summer 2006, including Briffa’s acquiescence in Wahl changing the IPCC assessment of the Hockey Stick dispute from the assessment sent to external reviewers to one that favored Mann, Wahl and Ammann. This is also the correspondence that is the subject of the later “delete all emails” request and the email saying that Briffa “should” deny the existence of the correspondence to FOI officer Palmer. So it comes up in two different contexts. (UEA recently denied my FOI request for the attachments to these emails – attachments that would show precisely how Wahl altered the IPCC text – so much for changed attitudes at UEA.)
Briffa denies that there was a violation of IPCC rules – see CA discussion here.
It’s not just CRU critics that would like a finding on this issue. Brian Angliss, a critic of Climate Audit, recently opined that he hoped that the Muir Russell inquiry would deliver an opinion on this issue.
If Muir Russell grasps this nettle – regardless of which side they come down on – it will mean that they are addressing real issues and not simply whitewashing. However, there are very strong indications that Boulton and Muir Russell have negligible interest in considering possible violations of IPCC rules by CRU scientists – even though IPCC is how climate scientists primarily speak to the public, IPCC conduct is a thread running through the entire Climategate dossier and IPCC conduct is what interests the public.
My guess is that they will pull a Sir Humphrey on this. They will say that IPCC conduct is outside their remit and point to the InterAcademy Review – knowing full well that the remit of the InterAcademy review is on IPCC policies, and not on possible past rule violations by CRU scientists. A Sir Humphrey manoeuvre will leave a sour taste for those people who had hoped against hope that some issues would be taken off the table. Given that IPCC activities were part of the employment activities of CRU employees, I think that such activities were squarely within the remit of Muir Russell and, if not, that Muir Russell had the right and obligation to expand his remit. In any event, this will be one of the first things that I’ll look for. (My supplemental submission on this topic is now online at the INquiry website.)
Yamal and Polar Urals
Yamal/Polar Urals was a big issue going into Climategate and one of the issues that I raised in my submission. This is a topic where there was a real possibility for Muir Russell to develop additional information that might actually put some questions to rest. Unfortunately, this is also an area where there has been so much disinformation from the Team that it’s going to be extremely difficult for Muir Russell to deal with the real issues, as opposed to caricatures, and where it would have been helpful for them to interview me. Since they chose not to interview me, I’ll be astonished If they’ve got the issues straight. I’d be interested in information on any of the following questions.
Did CRU, for example, ever update the Polar Urals ring width chronology (the site considered in Briffa et al 1995) using the data included in the Esper et al 2002 data set? If they did, why wasn’t this ever published, given the frequently expressed desire for long chronologies? If they didn’t, why didn’t they update it, again given the frequently expressed desire for long chronologies? Does Briffa agree that using the updated Polar Urals chronology as opposed to Yamal leads to different results in Briffa 2000? Why didn’t Briffa provide a proper technical publication of his Yamal reconstruction (simple information like core counts was unavailable until after AR4)? Why didn’t Briffa ever try to reconcile the conflicting results from Yamal and Polar Urals?
What happened to the combined Polar Urals-Yamal chronology described in Climategate email 1146252894.txt (April 28, 2006 ), which refers to a combined URALS chronology that included “the Yamal and Polar Urals long chronologies, plus other shorter ones”? What were these “shorter” chronologies? Did they include the Schweingruber Khadyta chronology, that I discussed in October 2009? Why was a short Schweingruber chronology added to the Briffa 2000 Taimyr chronology in Briffa et al 2008, but not for Yamal?
I don’t actually expect Muir Russell to deal with the issues that I actually raised. If he does, I will be pleasantly surprised, regardless of the outcome.
If he deals with Yamal-Polar Urals at all, I expect him to deal with whether Briffa had cherrypicked individual cores into the Yamal chronology – something that was never at issue at Climate Audit nor in my submission. If that’s what they do here, you can pretty well tell what the rest of the report will look like.
The Trick to Hide the Decline
Another obvious battleground issue. I don’t see how this field can rise above paleo-phrenology if they are not prepared to renounce such strategems as the “trick …to hide the decline” or adopt Gavin Schmidt’s view that deleting adverse data is a “good way” to deal with a problem. It isn’t.
Penn State took the position that deleting adverse data was “legitimate”, airily referring to non-existent authorities on the matter. However, the Oxburgh panel couldn’t abase themselves quite so low and did not agree that the trick was a good way to deal with the divergence problem, finding instead that it was “regrettable” that IPCC and others have “sometimes” “neglected to highlight” this issue (evading the obvious fact that the deletion of inconvenient data by CRU authors and their close Climategate correspondents was intentional).
Given the opposite findings of Oxburgh and Penn State on the legitimacy of the trick to hide the decline (one finding it “regrettable” and the other “legitimate”), it will be interesting to see how Muir Russell splits the difference. I wouldn’t be surprised if they find a way of avoiding the matter altogether, saying it falls into someone else’s remit.
None of the inquiries thus far have commented on CRU’s trailer-trash culture, where critics were reviled as “frauds”, ‘fraudits”, “morons”, “bozos”, etc. The attitudes represented by this private language are part and parcel of the strident public face of climate science in the blogosphere, exemplified by Hansen’s private bulldog, Gavin, and the various bulldog progeny.
While climate scientists complain about the public criticism that they are presently experiencing and are quick to blame climate blogs, the Climategate letters show a coarseness of thought and language among CRU correspondents that the public has rightly condemned.
The Oxburgh inquiry “deplored” the tone of criticism against CRU. Perhaps Muir Russell will suggest that climate scientists remove the beam from their own eye before they complain about the mote in their brother’s eye.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Michael Kelly, in notes for the Oxburgh panel that were obtained only through FOI asked the following question that Oxburgh didn’t address, but perhaps Muir Russell will:
Up to and throughout this exercise, I have remained puzzled how the real humility of the scientists in this area, as evident in their papers, including all these here, and the talks I have heard them give, is morphed into statements of confidence at the 95% level for public consumption through the IPCC process. This does not happen in other subjects of equal importance to humanity, e.g. energy futures or environmental degradation or resource depletion.
I’m puzzled too. Wouldn’t it be a pleasant surprise if Muir Russell surprised us with some insight into this. How does the mild-mannered Dr Jekyll of the technical tree ring articles with measured caveats become IPCC’s Mr Hyde of the “warmest year” and “warmest decade”?
Lots to look for tomorrow.