Climategate, or The Self-Destruction of Climate Science – From The Italian Translation Of The GWPF Report

Italian think-tank Istituto Bruno Leoni publishes today Jan 25, 2011 the Italian translation of Andrew Montford/Bishop Hill‘s report “The Climategate Inquiries” for the GWPF.

Yours truly is the translator and has been kindly asked to write the Introduction, hereby translated back into English.

Many thanks to Carlo (and David, and Benny) for helping making all of this possible.

The Self-Destruction of Climate Science
by Maurizio Morabito

The science of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is dying, reduced to its last breaths by ‘Climate Pasdarans’ who forced it to become an ideological fetish, going as far as to conspire behind the scenes to defend its dogmas at all cost. Some of the most important characters in the AGW story have committed the greatest sin: they got themselves caught out red-handed, when someone (one of them?) decided in November 2009 to publish on the internet a ‘treasure trove’ of documents and emails about the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Those are the documents and messages whose content is now known as ‘the scandal of Climategate’.

The outcome, rather than a direct undermining of the science of AGW, has been the crushing of the interface between science and policy, with consequences on the science itself, self-defeated and therefore now less relevant and more subordinate to policymaking. Whatever the unassailable evidence they might be able to collect, scientists will find it difficult in the future to persuade politicians to act in a concerted way on any global issue, unless the problem is imminent if not declined in the present tense, immediately relevant and more than certain. In other words, thanks to the ‘Climate Pasdarans’ much or maybe even all hopes of medium- and long-term global risk management have been eliminated before they were even born.

Yet everything seemed to go full speed from 2007 onwards, with Al Gore winning the Oscar in the Peace category, and the Nobel Documentary Prize (or vice-versa) together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); a relentless propaganda at all levels to convince everybody to lower CO2 emissions; and dozens of international meetings in often-pleasant locations, aimed at organising the largest ever UN Summit, in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. But that very Summit proved a disaster broadcasted on live TV, the greatest ever UN Anti-climax followed by just as vapourous an agreement in 2010 in Cancún, Mexico. In the meanwhile, silence has greeted the demise of CO2 exchange trading in Chicago, that had started not long ago also thanks also to some Barack Obama.

The IPCC itself has been at the received end of heavy criticism by a super-authority called InterAcademic Council (IAC), an organization that brings together the most prestigious Academies of Sciences in the world. However, the main pivot of the climate science disaster has been the ‘treasure trove’ called Climategate. Some call it a case of hacking, computer piracy, but after a year of investigation the only crime is the almost certain failure by the University of East Anglia to comply with UK freedom-of-information (FOI) legislation. For others, the published material is old stuff, easily manipulated. But some of the information is very recent, and Ralph Cicerone, President of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and well-known AGW supporter, had no hesitation at the beginning of November 2010 to declare of having no problems with the media coverage of Climategate, because it was’ news’, in other words not just a manufactured issue.

Some say, there were three Commissions of inquiry in Britain and they did not reveal anything untoward. And why they did not! Exactly those investigations proved to be incomplete almost to the point of reticence, for example focusing on the behavior of scientists, rather than on the consequences to science. Indeed, the Science Assessment Panel of Lord Oxburgh did not concern itself with reviewing the science, and later on the head of another Commission candidly revealed to the British Parliament that he had not probed certain aspects because in some ways they could have seen the emergence of allegations of criminal offences possibly committed by the scientists involved. And if he suspected as much …

It is precisely to understand what has happened with the UK Inquiry Commissions that the Global Warming Policy Foundation, founded by Lord Lawson, has appointed Andrew Montford, bloggers and author of a book on Climategate, ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ , to produce the report ‘The Climategate Inquiries’, published today in Italy in exclusive by Istituto Bruno Leoni. So what has Montfort reported? It is possible to identify four main areas: some problems recognized by all, some cunning plans and stonewalling on the part of the British Establishment, a bunch of still unanswered questions and accusations, and the crumbling of the science of climate change.

Climategate, as amply documented by Montford, has revealed errors and omissions about which everyone agrees, including the Inquiry Commissions. For example, the ‘disappointing’ lack of involvement of statistical experts in the CRU work (paragraph 131 of Report), and a kind of ‘authority’ temptation regarding the IPCC, that transformed scientists well aware of the limitations of their research (paragraph 140) in misleading advisers (167), too sure of themselves (140), and totally against making their raw data publicly available (74) to the point of negatively affecting the IPCC itself (135).

Then there is the ‘craftiness’ question, with countless examples of small interpretative changes and minor omissions here and there that always end up pushing the reader towards believing in the existence of absolutely grave dangers caused by global warming and its anthropogenic origin, and in the complete absence of anything unusual in the work at the CRU and in general of scientists that are also activist campaigners against global warming. A prime example is the ‘hide the decline’, where differences in tree ring growth data and measured temperatures after 1960 have been papered over: a so-called ‘trick’ that is to some extent legitimate when accompanied by an open justification in peer-reviewed scientific articles. But that transforms also into something of the night when that same justification does not appear in publications made available to the public and to policymakers. And how is this apparent inconsistency solved? Why, with the absurd notion that policymakers and the public should always go back and read the original articles (39, 41), thereby undermining the very idea that scientists could be any useful in helping design public policy.

Similar problems occur about the ‘data adjustments’ (aka ‘fudging’ and ‘bodging’), explained in some scientific articles, but not in others (48). The Commissions have also declared of not being able to ‘consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU’ (70), after refusing to deal with the documentation provided in that regard. And we could go on and on: the blatant composition of the Commissions (98, 99, 157, 160); the failure to invite the main critics of the CRU work to testify in person (90); the fake list of scientific papers to be examined, prepared not by the Royal Society as stated, but by the UEA, as if the accused were given the task of presenting the evidence against them in court (114-117); the lack of probing questions (181, 188, 197), as if one trusted the fox declaring itself innocent after the chickens have disappeared; demonstrated lies taken instead as confirmed truths (225, 226); the Commissions’ work conducted informally and non-professionally (127), with ignored experts’ advice (171, 176), and abrupt, very convenient misunderstandings of the way the IPCC works (185), etc etc.

It is against this ‘wall of stones’ that all the still-unanswered questions and accusations stand out, thus preventing any real closure of the Climategate scandal. On what basis did the CRU Director refuted in the IPCC report a scientific article (59)? Why did the same Director not distance himself from some dubious data (65)? What has led scientists to reject in principle the public sharing of CRU data (73)? Why isn’t there much clarity as yet around tree ring growth data (130)? It gets worse, though, and this is the very large wound left over by Climategate: the crumbling of the science of climate change itself.

Let’s ask ourselves what is is, that science … is it perhaps the balance of evidence and theories concerning the mechanisms of those climatic changes that have already happened? Then some ‘little question’ might be honestly asked, after Climategate, and woe to the ‘science’ that considers some ‘little questions’ too uncomfortable to ask. Or is it the attempt to understand how the climate will evolve in the future? In that regards, Climategate has changed many things: the ‘little questions’ are too many to mention. But in truth, the ‘science of climate change’ is something bigger, because it includes its presentation to policymakers in an updated, comprehensive and authoritative way: the task, that is, of the IPCC.

Regarding that, Climategate really has changed everything. The IPCC was created at the interface between science and policymaking and its output is a report, not an encyclopaedia, aimed at relevance for policy response to anthropogenic climate change. It therefore contains what scientists (and politicians…it’s an ‘intergovernmental’ panel, not ‘interacademic’ or ‘interdisciplinary’) consider essential to state regarding those policies. But Climategate has destroyed that interface, showing how the same scientists who wrote carefully-worded articles in professional journals (140) went instead for bombastic statements in the IPCC reports and other publications that were policy-relevant and/or for the general public (131, 167). The IPCC itself has been shown guilty of oversimplifications, even according to most gentle Inquiry Commissions, and of omitting uncertainties that were clearly spelled out in the scientific literature. After Climategate, policymaking can no longer trust a ‘science’ that finds itself enslaved, forever forced to be useful, usable, accurate, focused on CO2 emissions of human origin and never to be questioned. This kind of science ends up being subordinate, a mere tool instead of a partner in policymaking: and that’s exactly what happened at Copenhagen, and has been admitted by Mike Hulme in the pages of The Guardian on 16 November 2010.

Perhaps the clearest sign that Climategate is much more serious than what some people keep repeating, is the absence of defamation trials against the GWPF, Montford, McKitrick, McIntyre, Holland, Keenan, no shy of making serious allegations against some of the scientists involved in Climategate. English law in this area is particularly onerous in respect of the defendant. Yet, nobody has come forward. Possibly, those at the receiving end of the allegations are convinced that the backstage of climate science shouldn’t be scrutinised too much. And if they themselves do not trust climate science, what should we infer?