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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Congressional science rejectionist Lamar Smith tries to harass scientists for publishing a scientific study

The Texan politician Lamar Smith is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the current Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The Committee has oversight over the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Energy, the UnitedStates Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Lamar Smith is known for rejecting the scientific consensus (Carlton et al., 2015 and references herein), according to which humankind was facing an ongoing climate change (with global warming as one aspect of it) that was caused by human activity. One example of his rejectionist views that come with the usual talking points, combined with elements of conspiracy fantasy can be read here.

According to an article in the Washington Post yesterday, Lamar Smith has issued subpoenas to the Obama Administration for email communications and personal records of the NOAA scientists who published a peer-reviewed scientific study in the renowned journal Science (current impact factor: 33.61) earlier this year. The study, led by Thomas R. Karl and co-authored by eight other scientists, mostly scientists with NOAA, addressed "Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus". In short, the scientific study comes to the conclusion that after eliminating specific, non-climatic influences which had not been considered so far, from the raw data or their analysis (such influences can arise, for instance, from changes in the instruments with which measurements are taken), the resulting time series of the global average of the temperature anomalies does not show the "slowdown" or "hiatus" in the  global mean surface warming compared to the average trend since 1950 anymore, which was diagnosed in the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the period 1998-2012. The abstract of the study by Karl et al. states with respect to that:

"Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than reported by the IPCC, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature."

One has to note here, though, that, contrary to what is often claimed by science rejectionists, the IPCC report did not interpret the diagnosed "slowdown"/"hiatus" as a pause of the physical processes that lead to global warming, or as something that was in contradiction to the current understanding about climate change that has been presented by mainstream climate science, or the projections for future climate change, which have been based on this understanding. Instead, the report presented the "hiatus" as an example for the large interannual and decadal variability in the rate of warming, which can be observed, despite a robust multi-decadal warming:

"Despite the robust multi-decadal warming, there exists substantial interannual to decadal variability in the rate of warming, with several periods exhibiting weaker trends (including the warming hiatus since 1998) (Figure TS.1). The rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to +0.15] °C per decade) is smaller than the trend since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12[0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade). Trends for short periods are uncertain and very sensitive to the start and end years. For example, trends for 15-year periods starting in 1995, 1996, and 1997 are 0.13 [0.02 to 0.24] °C per decade, 0.14 [0.03 to 0.24] °C per decade and 0.07 [–0.02 to 0.18] °C per decade, respectively." (Page 37)

From IPCC (2013), Working Group 1, Page 38

Thus, scientists publish a study based on new or revised data, with results that, if generally acknowledged as valid, revise some results or conclusions that had been presented in previous scientific publications like the IPCC report or individual studies. The normal scientific process is that other scientists examine the data, assumption, and methodology, and they are trying to reproduce the results from the study, if so inclined. If they do not agree with some assumptions or the methodology in the new study, they are trying to do better in their own research. If those scientists obtain different results, they present these results in another scientific study, which then is open to the scrutiny by other scientists again. This is how the scientific process works. Results from previous studies are revised all the time.

However, what is supposed to be the justification for Lamar Smith to open an investigation of the climate scientists who authored the study? The implied suspicion is that the scientists have had committed unethical conduct in their scientific research, which would warrant an investigation. Apparently, no actual initial evidence that would justify such a suspicion has been presented. So it appears, the fact alone that Karl et al. published a study with results contradicting common rejectionists' talking points seems to be considered as sufficient to put the scientists under such a suspicion. This looks very much like a fishing expedition conducted by Lamar Smith, abusing his political power for just another witch hunt against climate scientists. I guess the general purpose of these kind of actions is to intimate scientists by putting them under a permanent threat of retribution for publishing results from their scientific research, which are in contradiction to political, ideological, or religious beliefs of the political right. If they produce such results they can become a target of an investigation by the ones in power at any time, for no real reason. It is another episode in the war on disliked science that has been waged by the U.S. political (far) right in and outside of Congress for years now. This goes very much against the freedom of science.


Carlton, J.S., , and The climate change consensus extends beyond climate scientists, Environ. Res. Lett, 10(9), 094025,  doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/9/094025.

IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T. F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S. K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P. M. Midgley (eds.)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, 1535 pp., doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324.

Karl, Thomas R., Anthony Arguez, Boyin Huang, Jay H. Lawrimore, James R. McMahon, Matthew J. Menne, Thomas C.Peterson, Russell S. Vose, and Huai-Min Zhang, 2015: Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus, Science, 348(6264), 1469-1472, doi:10.1126/science.aaa5632.

Smith, Lamar, 23 April 2015: The Climate-Change Religion, Wall Street Journal.

Warrick, Joby, 23 October 2015: Congressional skeptic on global warming demands records from U.S. climate scientists, Washington Post.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A comment on "The crucifixion of Dr. Willie Soon" at Breitbart

There is an article by Joseph L. Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, and the lawyer and alleged pro-freedom of speech fighter Joseph A. Morris at Breitbart with the title "The Crucifixion of Dr. Willie Soon". I am banned from commenting at this outlet of the defenders of free speech. Thus, I am going to put my comment here.

Since Bast and Morris link in their article to one of my comments. The assertion by them that I hadn't read or understood the paper by Monckton, Soon, Legates, and Briggs before I criticized it is false. The comment by me to which they link doesn't support their assertion. Although, there are some points in the paper that are difficult to understand on scientific grounds. For instance, how anything follows for the real climate system from the doing of process engineers who wanted to prevent oscillations in electronic circuits, i.e., positive feedbacks leading to instabilities (see also here). That such nonsense and other fatal flaws in the paper could pass the peer-review process is only explainable to me with a breakdown of the peer-review process at Science Bulletin, the Chinese journal where the paper was published.

Scientists have commented on the paper how scientists do. They have seen fatal flaws in it regarding the quality of the science and pointed it out (e.g., here, here, and here). They did not attack the authors, personally. Bast and Morris, in contrast, seem to think that a paper should be judged according to whether they like the economical, political, or ideological implications. This is not how science is supposed to work, though.

After linking to criticism by scientists on the Monckton et al.-paper, Bast and Morris write, "Having failed to refute the article, environmentalists turned to smearing the authors." By linking the criticism by the scientists with this alleged "smearing", they suggest that it was those scientists who turned to "smearing". Do Bast and Morris have any evidence for this? For my part, I reject any such suggestion by Bast and Morris and consider this as smearing coming from them. To make it clear, I do not support any petition for dismissal of Soon for what he has published in scientific journals, even if it is bad science. That would go against my understanding of freedom of science. Demands by the public for disclosure of funding sources and conflicts of interests are legitimate, though. In the case that Soon has committed any ethics violations it is up to his employer to investigate this and deal with this according to the institution's policies, if there is any initial evidence for it. I do not take any word by Soon, Monckton, Briggs, Bast, or Morris regarding this issue at face value.

Also, it is hilarious that Bast and Morris, these two defenders of Soon's free speech, link to the article by Monckton at Climate Depot (which, BTW, is just filled with more misrepresentation, strawman arguments, non-sequitur, and failure to understand the physics of the climate system), where Monckton demands the dismissal from their employment and the criminal prosecution of those scientists who dared to criticize the flawed science in the Monckton et al. paper. And they don't say any word about Monckton's demands.

Scientifically, the Monckton et al.-paper is trash, as Gavin Schmidt has been quoted to have pointedly summarized it. Monckton et al. also have exposed about themselves that they don't have a clue about how complex climate models work. They loudly declare that the climate models shouldn't use the Bode-system gain equation to calculate the feedbacks. An equation that isn't used in the climate models in the first hand.

So far for my comment. And to reconfirm that the state at Breitbart is still the same:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monckton, Soon, Legates, and Briggs falsely claim to have presented a new climate model

A press release (here or here) has been issued by Christopher Monckton, Willie Soon, David Legates, and William Briggs who authored a paper, which they could place in Science Bulletin (the former Chinese Science Bulletin) of the Chinese Academy of Science. IMHO, the paper is a mixture of a correct physical concept (the approach of using a simple energy balance model for conceptual understanding of the response of the climate system to external forcing) and misrepresentation of previous scientific publications, flawed methodology, scientifically unfounded assumptions, and plain errors. Those have been partially discussed at ATTP already.

There is a number of hyperbolic statements in the press release, regarding the originality of the content of the paper (bold face after headline by me, except bold face of “Lord Monckton”):

“NEW PAPER: Why Models Run Hot: Results From An Irreducible Simple Climate Model
The IPCC has long predicted that doubling the CO2 in the air might eventually warm the Earth by 3.3 C. However, the new, simple model presented in the Science Bulletin predicts no more than 1 C warming instead—and possibly much less. The model, developed over eight years, is so easy to use that a high-school math teacher or undergrad student can get credible results in minutes running it on a pocket scientific calculator.
The new, simple climate model helps to expose the errors in the complex models the IPCC and governments rely upon.
Lord Monckton, the paper’s lead author, created the new model on the basis of earlier reviewed research by him published in Physics and Society, in the UK Quarterly Economic Bulletin, in the Annual Proceedings of the World Federation of Scientists’ Seminars on Planetary Emergencies, and in Energy & Environment.”

So, according to the press release, Monckton had created a very new climate model by himself, which was presented in the paper by the authors, and the results from calculations with this climate model were in contradiction to results from simulations with several dozens of complex Earth system models, done by climate research groups all over the world. Now, the calculations Monckton et al. have done are certainly in contradiction to the results presented in the latest Report of the Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on The Physical Science Basis. Because of the false assumptions that were made by Monckton et al, which they tried to justify with two non-sequitur statements, one of which was a very false interpretation of data from paleo climate change and the other one was just absurd (or metaphysical, if there is some religious belief behind the assumption).

As for the assertion to have developed a "new model". This pompous claim is an untrue statement by Monckton et al. What do they do in the paper? They apply a Zero-dimensional energy balance model of the climate system that links an external radiative forcing with the temperature response to the radiative forcing. This is the allegedly new model:

This type of climate model, a Zero-dimensional energy balance model, has been used for decades for conceptual studies of the climate system. The original idea is generally attributed to the work by M. I. Budyko (1969), "The effect of solar radiation variations on the climate of the Earth", Tellus, 21, doi:10.1111/j.2153-3490.1969.tb00466.x, Feedback analysis based on a form of the equation as seen in the last line can be traced back to Hansen, Lacis, Rind, Russell, Stone, Fung, Ruedy, Lerner (1984), "Climate sensitivity: Analysis of feedback mechanism", Geographical Monographs 29, Or in a more recent review paper by G. Roe (2009), "Feedbacks, Timescales, and Seeing Red", Ann. Rev. Earth Plan. Sci, 37, 93-115, doi:10.1146/,, such a model was described in nearly identical form:

None of the existing literature where this type of models is discussed is referenced in the Introduction of the Monckton et al. paper. The Introduction is usually the part of a scientific paper where previous scientific research that builds the general context of the new study is referenced, and where the objectives of the new study with respect to this context are formulated. Nor are any of the previous studies referenced in Section 3 where Monckton et al. introduce their allegedly new model. However, all three of the studies mentioned above are referenced further down in a different context, e.g., to compare values of climate sensitivity (the lambda in the equations). Just not where the model is introduced. So it is not made clear by Monckton et al. that the model used by them is based on ideas, which already had been published by other researchers. However, the citing of these papers further down is proof that Monckton et al. knew the other studies, where this type of the model had been described already. Thus, they won't be able to excuse themselves by claiming to not have known these studies and to have newly invented the wheel independently and in good faith.

In summary, Monckton et al. present something, even more emphasized in their hyperbolic press release, as their own idea, although very similar content had already been published by other researchers before. They neglect to give proper credit to these other researchers where it would have been due. There is a name for such a praxis, not just in science, when someone takes credit in a publication for someone else's idea, which already had been published before somewhere else.

Update, 01/20/2015:  Mr. Monckton has personally appeared here to directly respond to my posting. I hadn't expected it, so I am positively surprised. He is welcome to defend his views here. I ask everyone to try to refrain from personal attacks, such as insults against each other or ad hominem arguments that are irrelevant for a discussed matter, regardless how big the disagreement is. Take a deep breath before posting something, you wouldn't have posted with a cool head, if emotions become too strong. Currently, my policy is to not moderate this blog. I can change this at my discretion at any time.

Update, 01/23/2015: More criticism of the Monckton et al. paper here at, including some additional comments by me on severe flaws in the paper.

Announcement 01/27/2015: The 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley has posted a response at CFACT's "Climate Depot" to opinions stated by a number of "soi-disant climate 'scientists'" on the Monckton et al. paper. His Lordship continuous to be "exemplary with his courteous replies to the scientific points that have been addressed to him" (James Rowlatt, Clerk of Mr. Monckton), as he already has demonstrated at Thought Fragments, one of the blogs of these "creatures" who have been "savagely, but anti-scientifically attacking". Consequently, Mr. Monckton demands the "dismissal" of the "named and shamed" culprits for their illicit statements. Further down he makes clear that "the climate fraud will not cease till someone is prosecuted". His Lordship's divine revelations were "definitively established" as irrefutable truth, by being published as a "peer-reviewed paper" in Science Bulletin in the People's Republic of China, one of the remaining places in the world where the true meaning of freedom of speech and freedom of science as the freedom of the leaders and lords to speak without being contradicted and criticized is still being honored, and science-serfs are not allowed to hide within "the ivy-covered walls of acadame". Science Bulletin is extremely prestigious with an impact factor of 1.365, which makes it "the Orient's equivalent of Nature" whose impact factor is only 30 times higher. "Perpetrators" of the "biggest fraud in history" who have "misbehaved" by trashing His Lordship's revelations, or, generally, by publishing results from so-called scientific research that undermine His Lordship's just struggle against the dark forces behind the "UN's gruesome plan" to "establish an unelected, unaccountable, all-powerful global climate tyranny", must be "severely dealt with". Everyone hail the Viscount!