Monday, November 30, 2009

Controlling the Science of Climate Change

One of the outcomes of the hacked emails and documents is that we know more now about how a small group of scientific gatekeepers have acted to ensure that there appears to be a “consensus” in science about both the nature of global warming and its causes.

Dr. Phil Jones, the director of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Britain has been funded at $22.6 million in research grants for the work of the unit since 1990. This is a considerable sum, coming mainly from Government agencies and companies with an interest in green technology, as well as from the United Nations. Just as the claim that money influences the voices of skeptics, so too does it influence the voices of scientists on the “warmist” side of the debate.

Jones is a close associate of Dr. Michael Mann, a professor at the University of Virginnia and the originator of the climate change “hockey stick” graph which appeared in an IPCC report but was later discredited on statistical grounds. Michael Mann is a central figure amongst the group of scientists who support the theory that CO2 is the primary cause of warming and warming is the primary dynamic of climate change. He is connected directly to forty three other scientists who take this view and with whom he has co-authored papers. A social network analysis of this group suggests more gatekeepers. Michael Mann, Phil Jones, and five other key scientists (Rutherford, Osborn, Briffa, Bradley and Hughes) form a clique, each interacting with all of the others in the circle of forty three. This clique dominated the peer review process and journal submission process for a prolonged period.

Which is why, when we read in one of the emails the reaction of this clique to the decision of one journal to publish a skeptical paper in March 2003, the process of peer review becomes an interesting issue. Dr. Mann noted in a March 2003 email, after the journal "Climate Research" published a paper not to Mr. Mann's liking, that "this was the danger of always criticizing the skeptics for not publishing in the 'peer-reviewed literature'. Obviously, they found a solution to that—take over a journal!" Dr. Mann went on to suggest that the journal itself be blackballed:
"Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board."

In other words, keep dissent out of the respected journals. When that fails, redefine what constitutes a respected journal to exclude any that publish inconvenient views.

It goes further, In 2005, Michael Mann said that there was a “fundamental problem w/ GRL now,” referring to the journal Geophysical Research Letters published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), because “they have published far too many deeply flawed contrarian papers in the past year or so” and “it is probably best to do an end run around GRL now where possible.” Another prominent scientist, Tom Wigley, responded that “we could go through official AGU channels to get him [the editor of GRL] ousted”. A few months later, the editor of GRL having left his post, Mann comments, “The GRL leak may have been plugged up now w/ new editorial leadership there”.

The most recent target of the cliques ire has been Weather, a journal of the Royal Meteorological Society (RMS). Dr. Phil Jones commented in March 2009, “I’m having a dispute with the new editor of Weather. I’ve complained about him to the RMS Chief Exec. If I don’t get him to back down, I won’t be sending any more papers to any RMS journals and I’ll be resigning from the RMS”. Threats from a prominent scientist so as to control what a scientific journal publishes.

Phil Jones, in a separate email to Michael Mann, also discusses skeptical or hesitant reports submitted to the IPCC as part of its fourth assessment – Jones was responsible for one of the chapters of the scientific documents. This is what he says:

“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next I.P.C.C. report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

Yet the Dr. Pachauri, head of the IPCC, has issued a statement which says:

“There is, no possibility of exclusion of any contrarian views, if they have been published in established journals or other publications which are peer reviewed.”

This means there is a catch-22 problem. A small group of scientists, using a clique and threats, seek to control the papers published in key journals. Having done so, this same clique plays a prominent role in authoring these papers. They then review them for the IPCC and claim that there is a consensus, despite a large volume of peer reviewed papers that take a very different view of the evidence and offer competing theories of climate change.

Climategate will certainly be a topic in Copenhagen, but the tramlines for policy were set before the hackers got to work. While the debate rages in the blogosphere over the implications of the hacked emails and documents, the politicians are so committed to a policy framework that they will not depart from the script, whatever the science reveals. Even revelations that the computer models on which so many of the policies about to discussed are based are riddled with problems will not dampen the ardour of politicians who have to be seen to lead the Copenhagen parade.

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