Time for a Reformation of science

I first published this May 12, 2010. It seems even more appropriate in the light of what Gleick has done.In a comment on my Montford review, Byron said this:

“while it is possible that sometimes an emperor needs to hear that he has no clothes from a child, in general, credentials matter. I would not presume to be able to judge between competing scientific professionals working on climate change. Instead, I will have a strong bias towards those who are actively publishing in recognised peer-review journals and whose work is accepted by reputable national and international scientific bodies.”

As a general point, I think this has some force as an argument. Philosophically speaking it is an appeal to authority, and whilst, as such, it has no logical force (literally none!) and is irrelevant to an argument, in human terms I see it as significant, and reasonable to take into account. The question is: is the child seeing something that everyone else can see when it is pointed out? Or is the child not seeing something because it requires education or maturity in order to see it?

When Luther nailed his theses to the church door, he was protesting against corruption in the church. The reason that his protest triggered the Reformation (rather than it happening at a different time, eg a hundred years earlier) was because of two principal things (IMHO!): a widespread understanding that the church was rotten, which undermined the support for the church from within, and the political situation in Germany which allowed Luther to gain practical support and shelter. I’ve always found it intriguing that the countries which ended up Roman Catholic were the countries where there was an existing realpolitik settlement with the Vatican in 1517.

The question at issue with regard to the Hockey Stick raises similar issues. When McIntyre started up his Climate Audit blog, it was the equivalent of the 95 theses. In just the same way as Luther believed himself to remain a faithful Christian, and not be inventing a new religion, (and, in fact, had the church responded with integrity, he would have remained a Catholic) so too do McIntyre’s criticisms not raise any questions about the theory of scientific investigation. Instead, the questions raised are about the current practice of that scientific investigation, most especially with regard to paleo-climatology and the weight given to certain alleged results in that field. More broadly – and Montford is good at bringing out these details – the questions raised by McIntyre cut very deeply into the rhetoric of science as it is presently employed. The issue is whether the current practice of peer-review is sufficient for establishing truth, or whether, in this particular case as an exemplar, the process of peer-review has been corrupted, allowing vested interests to control the flow of funding and research. In other words, in just the same way as the medieval church preserved the rhetoric of Christianity whilst collapsing into corruption and turning salvation into a cash-cow, is the scientific establishment now colluding in the covering up of malpractice in order to keep the lines of funding open?

Let’s return to the question of authority. In the medieval era the priests were the embodiment of authority, with the ability to excommunicate all rebels. In the contemporary era excommunication takes the form of withholding or withdrawing funding. Just as priests had the capacity to bully, eg through the confessional, so too do present scientific authorities have the capacity to distort processes in their own interests, eg through blackballing particular researchers or boycotting or belittling particular publications that do not toe the line. This was what “climategate” was about. As repeated by most of the participants, the actual truth of the Hockey Stick graph is in itself pretty marginal to the question of AGW. What it is not marginal to is the question of the legitimacy of the scientific establishment. A light has been shone into the inner workings, and just as the church tried to obscure the reasons for Luther’s protests (called the Catholic or Counter-Reformation) so too do the propagandists for the establishment say, either, ‘move along now, nothing to see, everything is fine’, or else, ‘just a few bad apples, the rest of science is healthy and fine’.

The truth of this depends on the truth about the Hockey Stick itself, which is why it has acquired totemic significance. Which brings me back to the question of the Emperor’s New Clothes and how we are to argue about the science. Byron’s comment at the top of this post is not, as such, an unreasonable position to hold. It does, however, assume good faith on the part of the scientific community. If that good faith is held in question then there is nothing else to be done except to begin to investigate the points at issue. To say that this can only be done by scientists is to accept the closed circle of authority – it is the equivalent of the church saying ‘trust us’ to Luther. That does not mean that everyone has equivalent authority (the Protestant error) – what it means is that the only way to establish truth is for all the arguments and assumptions to be brought out into the open.

It is this which has most persuaded me that McIntyre is on to something. The response of the establishment to McIntyre’s questioning has been to close ranks and stonewall. What an outsider can do most effectively is raise up settled assumptions to the light. A genuinely scientific community will be able to defend those assumptions, or, if they are indefensible, be able to creatively renew itself by revising those assumptions. Although I am not a trained scientist, I am a trained philosopher, and what that training has given me is the ability to judge a good argument. In other words, it is beyond my capacity to assess, eg, the impact of cloud cover in climate models (IMHO the modellers are still awaiting a Copernicus – the models seem like Ptolemaic systems about to collapse under the weight of their own complexity). It is not beyond my capacity to assess whether, eg, the RealClimate community is engaging with the arguments that McIntyre is raising. When I see evasion, equivocation, deception and the refusal to release information – in short, when I see science not treated as a holy endeavour – then red flags go up and I start to suspect that indulgences are being flogged to build a new St Peter’s.

If agw was a purely abstract argument then the scientific community could be left to get on with it, and the paradigm shifts can be allowed to happen on generational time-scales, which is normal. The difference is that the agw thesis is highly politicised, not just in the vast funding being put towards it, but in prospect. In the end, the best arguments will win – and the best arguments are those that expose themselves completely to the judgement of the community. They are the ones that allow little children to ask obvious questions, and run the risk of being found naked. They are not the ones that employ a vast retinue of retainers to suppress all dissent, and ostracise such small children from the conversation.

This is something that the better scientists have recognised, and are taking steps to address (I’m thinking here of someone like Judith Curry, who seems to me to be asking all the right questions). More broadly, I’m coming to see that the process of peer-review, which has not historically been a necessary part of science, could best be replaced by transparency. Information wants to be free. What the vernacular Bible was to Protestantism, the blogosphere will be to this new science – a sociological revolution triggered by a technological shift. Of course, I could be completely wrong, but in my view, just as Luther triggered the Reformation, and in due course the Protestant church, I suspect that what McIntyre has done is trigger a new and Reformed style of science – one in which openness and transparency are the hallmarks, and which is faster, more dynamic, more creative – and more accurate – than the existing magisterium.

Idolatry and Science – chapter 3 of my book

(Shorter – 4500 words – and easier to read than the transcript!)

Chapter three – idolatry

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6)

“Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 19)

Jesus repeats and amplifies this when he says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22.37)

If this is the first and greatest commandment – so that, if we fail to keep this commandment, we fail in our duty as Christians – what does it mean? How are we to keep it? Answering those questions is the burden of this chapter.

I would like to begin an explanation by talking about an obscure rail road foreman from the nineteenth century by the name of Phineas Gage1. Gage was working in the Vermont area clearing land for the building of a new rail road when he had a rather dramatic accident – a tamping rod (used in the controlled explosions) was propelled up through his head, entering at the eye and leaving through the top of his skull. Those who were with him thought that it must have been a fatal accident, but Gage survived. That is, the physical form of Gage survived, for following the accident his personality seemed to be completely different. Whereas previously he had been sober and responsible, now he could not hold down a job and was delinquent and uncouth. He ended up being part of PT Barnum’s travelling circus, where he was exhibited – with the tamping rod – as a modern miracle.

According to a modern neuroscientist’s reconstruction, what had happened to Gage was that his capacity to exercise judgement had been destroyed. Consider what happens in a game of chess. There are a vast number of moves that are possible at any one point in the game and a competent player will immediately discount some of those moves as being ones likely to cause a defeat. Unlike with a computer, this is very rarely done on the basis of a full analysis of all the permutations that might follow (our brains are not that efficient); rather it is done on the basis of a judgement about what constitutes good and bad moves.

In the same way, in order to function in our normal, daily human lives we have to exercise judgement regularly, from when we get up in the morning, through all our daily interactions and deciding when to go to bed. Without that capacity to judge and decide we relinquish something essential. Antonio Damasio describes dealing with one patient [suffering from anasognosia#] and trying to establish a time for a next appointment. The patient deliberated for over half an hour about the various different options and only concluded the analysis when Damasio himself expressed a clear preference for one date.

The particular area of the brain that was damaged in Gage, and with the patients suffering from anasognosia, related to the ability of the brain to process information from the body, especially the viscera – in other words, our emotional reactions. Damasio writes that ‘it makes no sense to exclude emotions from our conception of the mind’. What seems to be happening in some neuroscientific circles today is a return to the classical understanding of human understandings and cognition – that our emotions are an essential part of the process, that our emotions are the means by which we evaluate information and make decisions. This truth was obscured by the Enlightenment perspective that reason and emotion are necessarily opposed, and that the path to Enlightenment lay in repressing and controlling our emotions wherever possible. (In contrast to this the great spiritual traditions have always been concerned with educating our emotions – a very different thing.)

What I am describing here can be easily shown. Compare these two statements:
a) your spouse is a teacher;
b) your spouse is an adulterer.

Most normal people would react differently to these two statements, simply because one is more ‘value laden’ than the other. In other words, we care about some things more than other things. In terms of deciding what is most important in life, our reasoning can’t give us answers on its own. We have to involve our whole bodies, our whole souls – and hence, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul”.

Now two analogies, to bring out what I am trying to describe. First, imagine a map, imagine that it represents our understanding of the world, with different areas of the map corresponding to different areas of our lives, and some areas are given more space than others – so our immediate families get more space than distant relatives and acquaintances. That might be a normal map. Now imagine that someone who is really, really interested in castles is forming their map, and on their map there is a tremendous area given over to castles. If we were able to compare maps, this map would stick out because it had so much space given over to this one element, emphasised well beyond a true proportion. In other words, their map is distorted – this person actually understands reality differently, as if they were wearing lenses that blurred their vision.

The second analogy is of a spider’s web, whereby the spider’s web is the map of an area. There was a series of experiments where spiders were fed certain substances and they saw what difference it made to the web they spun. A normal good spider’s web is fairly uniform, regular and it covers the area where the spider is trying to catch food. So that’s that’s a true spider’s web, it’s a sensible, realistic spider’s web. However, spiders that had been fed different substances all had things wrong with them. The spider fed LSD spun a disconcertingly perfect web; the one fed marijuana did not complete the web; the one fed caffeine had the worst web of all. This is a good symbol for what can go wrong when our judgement is impaired.

The point is this: we can think of our reasoning ability, our logical processing ability, as being like a blanket spread over our emotional understandings. If the emotional understandings change, then the reasons follow it, the shape of the reason will follow it. Our emotional life is the bedrock and our reason simply flows over the top. There is a wonderful book by Martha Nussbaum, an American philosopher, called “Upheavals of Thought,” where she goes through great classical literature describing how this happens. It is something which is very much a current interest of contemporary philosophy and neuroscience. But it’s not a new insight.

The philosopher David Hume once said that “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” So reason is a tool; our logic, our reason is a tool, and it rests upon our emotional constitution – and our emotional constitution is concerned with values, with what is perceived as important. Some things are perceived as more important than others, and we react differently due to those emotional differences.

Now I can explain what idolatry is. Idolatry is making something more important than it really is. Simple as that. Contemporary theologians have a phrase about “making the penultimate, ultimate”. It comes from a mid twentieth century theologian called Paul Tillich, and this was the academic insight which I grasped when I was an atheist (I am sure it was one of the major reasons why I moved away from atheism because once you realise what idolatry is, then of course you don’t want to make things more important than they really are and logically, once you have accepted that you can’t get away from the reality of God). Making something which is penultimate, ultimate, making something which is important but not the most important, into the most important thing – this is what idolatry is. It is getting our priorities wrong.

For the faithful, God is the single most important thing in life. Moreover, if God is at the centre then everything else falls into its proper place. This is not an insight restricted to Christianity, or even restricted to Judaism and Islam as well. The beginning of the Tao Te Ching says “The tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao” If it can be named or described it is not the ultimate. Anything which we can specify in words, anything that we can point to is not the ultimate. We cannot capture God. God always eludes us. Our brains cannot capture Him.

One abstract rule for this is: “God is never the member of a class.” We can think of a class of objects, a class of things which are green, a class of things which are wonderful, a class of things which exist. God is never the member of a class. So in strict terms, God does not exist. We have got a very good idea of what it means to exist: we have myriad objects within the universe as examples. However, God is not an object within the universe. God’s existence underlies everything else, but to say strictly philosophically speaking that God exists is to go beyond what we can actually say. This is very important: God is always beyond us.

A different way of putting this is to say: only the holy can see truly, it is only the saints who can see the world clearly. In so far as our hearts are set on God then we see the truth. If we don’t have our hearts set on God and God alone then our vision of the world is more or less distorted. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

What are the ways in which this idolatry can form? Monolatry is when you worship one thing, that is, give highest value to it, and that one thing then becomes the most important thing in your world and everything else has to shift around it. You might be an absolutely dedicated football fan and you have to go to every match that your team plays. You might be obsessive about a television serial and insist on watching every episode no matter what else is happening. Once you have grasped what this is you can see it everywhere. The golden calf is a wonderful image for this. For most people, it’s not as clear and you have polytheism, many gods. It might be – oh, my family has this much importance, my work has this much importance, my friendships have this much importance, my pleasures in life, this has this much importance and there is nothing beyond them. This is where most people actually live, navigating between different competing interests, muddling along, but there is nothing which integrates them. There is nothing which puts them all in their proper place and actually allows them to flourish fully, to be fully human. Another option is simply chaos. Which is the position that Phineas Gage ends up in. They are driven by the momentary impulse, it becomes a biological thing. Rather like the dogs in ‘Up’ whenever a squirrel is mentioned, the dog will just pursue whatever the impulse is. Again, there are many people who function like that.

Everyone has a hierarchy of values – the truth is that everyone worships something. It’s impossible to be human and not have a sense of some things being more important that others, everyone builds their life around something. Now it could be that they build their life around various things, like polytheism, but everyone has a sense of what’s important. This is the sense in which it is true that everyone has a religion, and some religions are not as helpful, as holy as others. To quote Bob Dylan, “You’ve gotta serve somebody.”

Where the value system is severely distorted it is often described using the language of addiction – a clear example is an heroin addict – the process of being addicted to something where the life, the wider richness of life gets drained out and all that the junkie can do is think about their next fix. They gear their life around getting the money to get their next high. That is a very good image of what idolatry is. It doesn’t have to be a physical addiction, it can be a mental addiction as well.

An important truth about idols is that idols give what they promise. If an idol is worshipped, the idol will grant the worshippers’ requests. Heroin, to take that example, does give a tremendous high – it gives what it promises – but it takes away life in exchange. That is what an idol is. Mammon, for example, the god of money or wealth (an idol which Jesus talks about which is still very prevalent in our society) – if you worship Mammon, if you structure your life around Mammon, you will gain wealth. That is a spiritual, practical law, if you worship wealth, you will become wealthy. The kick is that you will lose your life in the process. Your life will be drained away. For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?

Jeremiah: “Everyone is senseless and without knowledge, every goldsmith is shamed by his idols, his images are flawed they have no breath in them, they are worthless, the objects of mockery and when their judgement comes, they will perish. But he who is the portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the maker of all things including Israel the tribe of his inheritance, the Lord Almighty is His name.”

In other words, if you worship the living God you gain life, life in all its fullness. This is what Jesus came to grant us. To reveal the living God and to give us that life, life in abundance, which is His intention for us. However, if you worship any other God, you will get what those gods can provide, and they will take your life in exchange; they will destroy life. It is only the living God who grants life, that is why the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.
Ludwig Wittgenstein once said: “We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered the problems of life remain completely untouched.”

How is it, then, that in a culture with such a long and profound Christian history, we have forgotten about idolatry? In a word: science. Science is the predominant idol of our age. There are two ways in which science can become a idol. One is to say that scientific truth is the only truth, and that’s called positivism. This approach took shape in the nineteenth century but it is implicit in much that goes on for a hundred years before then. Positivism argues that only things which can be established by reason or by empirical proof and investigation are valid knowledge. Anything else gets kicked out. Hume, who in other ways is quite sensible, says, “If we take take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.” That’s the attitude of positivism.

The other way of turning science into an idol is to say that scientific truth is the most important truth, to say that what we gain from these processes of scientific investigation, this is more important that anything else. This is actually the idolatry of fundamentalism, and it has had a pernicious effect upon Christian faith. It is not commonly understood that Biblical fundamentalism springs from the scientific revolution, because it interprets the Bible through a scientific lens. The Bible is put through a meat grinder because what you want out from the end is a scientific sausage. Particular forms of knowledge are seen as higher than others – science is seen as the most valuable – and so, in order to preserve the value of the Bible it has to be seen as the most authoritative scientific text. That is what fundamentalism is, that is how it functions.

Wittgenstein again: “People nowadays think that scientists exist to instruct them, poets, musicians etc., to give them pleasure. The idea that these have something to teach them, that doesn’t occur to them.” In other words, scientific knowledge and awareness, compared to the knowledge and awareness that can come through understanding poetry or art or great fables and stories, one form of knowing is considered vastly more important than the other. In fact narrative is the most important. Our way of telling stories to each other is the means by which our emotional bedrock is formed. This is why the Old Testament says to the people of Israel that they must tell their children this story about the Lord leading them out of Egypt, why Passover is important, “why is this night greater than any other night”, and they tell the story. This is why we have the Bible as it is, because the Bible is a story. It’s not because we can extract scientific facts from it, it is because this story governs our story. That is how and why the Bible is inspired by God. This is the story of God’s actions in the world, within which we fit and that is why the Bible is the supreme text.
Romans 12 v 32: “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This idolatry of science is something that our culture has recognised repeatedly, but the criticism has only been able to be voiced at the margins of society, amongst the poets and playwrights – those whose academic credibility is not strong. The mythology of Faust developed when the scientific revolution was taking off, and it captures the truth: Faust sells his soul to the devil in order to gain some scientific knowledge and only realises at the end that it was a bad bargain. Or the the legend of Frankenstein, or any of the myriad stories when you have got this white-coated mad scientist, “Aha, I’m going to discern the truth of the world”, and terrible consequences follow. They are all describing consequences of an idolatry, where science is given more value, more importance than it deserves, and life becomes damaged or destroyed in consequence.
In the film “The Matrix”, the heroes are kept within a machine world. They have electrodes implanted in their brain which give them the illusion of living in a real world and our hero, Neo, breaks out from this. In order to break out from it (because he realises that something is wrong) he goes to see Morpheus who is the terrorist, who the authorities are trying to correct and suppress. Neo has this conversation with Morpheus, and Morpheus says: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain but you feel it. You have felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

We know that there is something profoundly wrong with our world, but we have not been able to put our finger on it. What’s wrong with our world is that it is profoundly idolatrous, it is not built upon the love of the living God. Our society, the things which our society values and esteems and rewards, these are all idols. None of them in themselves are intrinsically wrong, Mammon, for example, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with material wealth, God promises the Israelites the Promised Land which is a land flowing with milk and honey – this is a vision of material wealth. But our society has elevated material wealth above God; it has been given too much importance. Now because our society has forgotten God, has turned it’s back on God, we are living in a profoundly distorted and dehumanising system, and in so far as we live and share in this society, we are sharing in that distorted life, and deep down we know that it’s wrong. Do you know what I’m talking about?

I am talking about the idolatry of science – that scientific knowledge is seen as either the only valid knowledge, or the most important knowledge. Both of those attitudes are idolatrous and destroy life. However, what we need to remember about idols is that they begin life as something good, they have simply been elevated beyond their proper importance. So what is the original goodness and holiness in science? I would say that the holiness in science rests upon setting the emotional desires of the investigator to one side. There is a Greek word apatheia – think of the word apathy, which is what that word has now come down to us as. It means being uncommitted or uninvolved emotionally – an emotional distancing. This happens in science because the scientist is pursuing the truth about the world. What they are after, what they are trying to attend to, is what the world is actually like – not what they want the world to be like. So a true scientist will put their own desires to one side, they will submit to the process of scientific method, in order to pursue the truth. This requires a discipline, a training. You have to be trained in the attitudes of science, you have to learn what I call the apathistic stance. In order to become a scientist you have to be trained in how to investigate. I remember my ‘O’ Level Physics and Chemistry, where the scientific method was spelt out: this is what you do in order to ensure that your own biases, your own emotional desires, are put to one side. There was a particular method, a process in order to investigate things.
Now this is a spiritual discipline, it is a form of holiness. It is one of the core spiritual disciplines about keeping our own emotions and desires in check. I talked earlier about ‘only the holy can see truly’, and that is the Christian expression of this spiritual truth, but there are parallels in other faiths. In Buddhism, for example, this teaching is much clearer than it is in most forms of Christianity – in Buddhism it is described as the elimination of desire, for they see desire as the root of all suffering. The Buddhist’s aim is ‘a perfect state of non-attachment’, to become completely unattached to the world and when you gain this state of being unattached to the world, you see the world clearly. (By way of a side track, Christianity is about the formation of desire, it is not about the elimination of desire.)

Let us return to the apathistic stance. Remember: emotions are cognitive. In other words we learn things about the world through our emotional reactions, and our emotional reactions can teach us. This process of apatheia, the apathistic stance, is a way of learning more about the world, of learning in particular more about the physical and natural world, because the physical and natural world doesn’t really depend upon our emotional reaction to it. Our emotional reactions do not govern the truth. As with all tools, however, we need to learn how to use them properly – and this has not happened with regard to science. This process of emotionally disengaging from what we are trying to discover in order to discern more truth, learning how to put our own desires to one side, this discipline is a tool, and we need to learn how to use the tool, how to put it into a broader framework, a broader vision. We are not here to worship the tool. That is what the idolatry of science is. When Positivism says that scientific knowledge is the only knowledge, this is worshipping the tool: it is the intellectual equivalent of walking around with a hammer chanting “this hammer’s going to save me, this hammer’s going to save me.” Once you understand it, it is obviously ridiculous behaviour. The use of a tool requires power over a tool and the ancient language which talks about how to gain power over a tool is the language of virtue (virtue simply means power). We need to change our desires, our will, and become virtuous again. We need to will towards the highest virtue: the love of God.
What the prophets teach is that God doesn’t allow idolatry to continue forever, that he will bring to an end such idolatry in wrath and fury. Our present way of life cannot continue, exponential growth within a finite environment cannot continue. This is good, for our present way of life is a terrible, terrible pestilence on creation. Our way of living – the western way of life, with its excess consumerism, all the things which it holds up to be of value – this way of life destroys life. The vision of Christian life, of full humanity, is that there is a way of life shown to us by Christ which allows us to be all that God wants us to be. However, in order to get to that Promised Land, we need to see and perceive the truth about the present way of the world, in order to reject it, in order to say this is false, this is idolatrous, this destroys life – and I choose life.

“I have set before you this day a choice, choose life that you and your descendants may live.” That is what God says through Moses to the Israelites in the desert. I think we have to hear those words today. The crisis which will break our civilisation down has begun.

Two statements agreed by the IPCC

“Here are two statements that are completely agreed on by the IPCC. It is crucial to be aware of these facts and of their implications.
1. A doubling of CO2, by itself, contributes only about 1C to greenhouse warming. All models project more warming, because, within models, there are positive feedbacks from water vapor and clouds, and these feedbacks are considered by the IPCC to be uncertain.
2. If one assumes all warming over the past century is due to anthropogenic greenhouse forcing, then the derived sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of CO2is less than 1C. The higher sensitivity of existing models is made consistent with observed warming by invoking unknown additional negative forcings from aerosols and solar variability as arbitrary adjustments.
Given the above, the notion that alarming warming is ‘settled science’ should be offensive to any sentient individual, though to be sure, the above is hardly emphasized by the IPCC.”
(Richard Lindzen, from here. H/T WattsUp)

The Hockey Stick Illusion (A.W. Montford)

The subtitle for this excellent book is ‘Climategate and the corruption of science’ which sums up the sad tale. Montford succeeds in making a technical statistical argument quite readable, which is surely a sign of divine assistance.

In brief, and cutting out much fascinating detail, the story is this:
– until the mid-1990’s the consensus on climate history was that there was a ‘Medieval Warm Period’ (with temperatures higher than today), followed by a ‘Little Ice Age’, and then, from about 1850, a rise in temperature through to today;
– in the late 1990’s a group led by Michael Mann devised a new history in which those highs and lows were flattened out, and the rise in temperature in the twentieth century was emphasised – this is the ‘hockey stick’;
– the scientific rationale for the hockey stick was progressively investigated, especially by Steven McIntyre, and has been comprehensively demolished;
– the scientific credibility of the IPCC in this regard is less than zero;
– the ‘hockey team’ – ie those around Mann and supporting his work – resorted to a great many dirty tricks and obfuscations to confuse this truth. “Climategate” was simply the airing of the dirty laundry (almost certainly a leak from somebody inside who was disgusted by the attempt at covering up the truth).

The funny thing is that the hockey stick as such is pretty marginal to the question of whether AGW is true or not. It can, however, serve as something of a litmus test – anyone who accepts it reveals that they are ill-informed. For me, this is the most significant chart re AGW:

Even if we do nothing (and we won’t, so this is worst case) the CO2 concentration is likely to peak at around 450ppm, roughly equal to a .7C rise in temperature.

The Hockey Stick Illusion (A.W. Montford)

The subtitle for this excellent book is ‘Climategate and the corruption of science’ which sums up the sad tale. Montford succeeds in making a technical statistical argument quite readable, which is surely a sign of divine assistance.

In brief, and cutting out much fascinating detail, the story is this:
– until the mid-1990’s the consensus on climate history was that there was a ‘Medieval Warm Period’ (with temperatures higher than today), followed by a ‘Little Ice Age’, and then, from about 1850, a rise in temperature through to today;
– in the late 1990’s a group led by Michael Mann devised a new history in which those highs and lows were flattened out, and the rise in temperature in the twentieth century was emphasised – this is the ‘hockey stick’;
– the scientific rationale for the hockey stick was progressively investigated, especially by Steven McIntyre, and has been comprehensively demolished;
– the scientific credibility of the IPCC in this regard is less than zero;
– the ‘hockey team’ – ie those around Mann and supporting his work – resorted to a great many dirty tricks and obfuscations to confuse this truth. “Climategate” was simply the airing of the dirty laundry (almost certainly a leak from somebody inside who was disgusted by the attempt at covering up the truth).

The funny thing is that the hockey stick as such is pretty marginal to the question of whether AGW is true or not. It can, however, serve as something of a litmus test – anyone who accepts it reveals that they are ill-informed. For me, this is the most significant chart re AGW:

Even if we do nothing (and we won’t, so this is worst case) the CO2 concentration is likely to peak at around 450ppm, roughly equal to a .7C rise in temperature.

On being a proper scientist

I wasn’t going to comment, but I think this is interesting irrespective of AGW:
“The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions … The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital.”

My thoughts on the substantive issue are fairly reflected in this post.

The People vs CRU

For me – as I was sceptical anyway – the most important thing about the #CRU fiasco is the way in which the data has been prevented from being assessed independently. If you click ‘full post’ you’ll get a lengthy story covering one angle.

The People Versus the Climate Research Unit (CRU)

by Willis Eschenbach

As far as I know, I am the person who made the original Freedom Of Information Act to CRU that started getting all this stirred up. I was trying to get access to the taxpayer funded raw data out of which they built the global temperature record. I was not representing anybody, or trying to prove a point. I am not funded by Mobil, I’m an amateur scientist with a lifelong interest in the weather and climate. I’m not “directed” by anyone, I’m not a member of a right-wing conspiracy. I’m just a guy trying to move science forwards.

People seem to be missing the real issue in the discussion of the hacked CRU climate emails. Gavin Schmidt over at RealClimate keeps distracting people by saying the issue is the scientists being nasty to each other, and what Trenberth said, and the Nature “trick”, and the like. Those are side trails that he would like people to follow. To me, the main issue is the frontal attack on the heart of science, which is transparency.

Science works by one person making a claim, and backing it up with the data and methods that they used to make the claim. Other scientists then attack the claim by (among other things) trying to replicate the first scientist’s work. If they can’t replicate it, it doesn’t stand. So blocking my Freedom of Information request for his data allowed Phil Jones to claim that his temperature record was valid science, even though it has never been scientifically examined.

This is not just trivial gamesmanship, this is central to the very idea of scientific inquiry. This is an attack on the heart of science, by keeping people who disagree with you from ever checking your work and seeing if your math is correct.

The recent release of the hacked emails from CRU has provided me with an amazing insight into the attempt by myself, Steve McIntyre, and others from CA and elsewhere to obtain the raw station data from Phil Jones at the CRU. We wanted the data that was used to make the global temperature record that is relied on to claim “unprecedented” global warming. This is a chronological account of my attempts to get that vital data released to public view.

A few housekeeping notes first. While we don’t know if all of these emails are valid, the comments of the researchers involved such as Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann clearly indicate that they think the emails are authentic. The emails certainly fit with my experience. I have only included the relevant parts of emails, and indicated where I have snipped text by an ellipsis (…). Numbers of the emails are in parentheses. “Codes” is shorthand for the computer programs used to analyze the data.

CRU is the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (UEA), arguably the top climate research unit in the world. Dr. Phil Jones is the Director of CRU. CA is ClimateAudit, a web site run by Steve McIntyre that audits scientific papers for errors of all types. MM is Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, who have authored papers together. Michael Mann is one of the three authors, with Bradley and Hughes, of the now discredited iconic “Hockeystick” paper that was heavily promoted by the UN IPCC. The Hockeystick paper claimed this is the warmest period in six hundred years. The Hockeystick paper was discredited largely through the efforts of Steve McIntyre, so Michael Mann and the others do not like Steve at all. Gavin Schmidt is a climate modeler that runs a web site called RealClimate. This purports to be a scientific blog, but the CRU emails confirm that it is a well-controlled mouthpiece for Michael Mann and others who believe in anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW). RealClimate ruthlessly censors comments and questions, in stark contrast to ClimateAudit, which allows free expression of any scientific questions and ideas. (Although in response to the intense scrutiny caused by the emails, RealClimate immediately started accepting a number of opposing comments for the first time. This is a smart move, as newcomers will be fooled into thinking there is no censorship … but the emails prove otherwise.)

The IPCC is the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. AR4 is the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007). WMO is the World Meteorological Organization, which collates and supplies weather information. FOI or FOIA is the UK Freedom of Information Act.

The story actually starts with Warwick Hughes, an Australian climate researcher who had previously been in cordial contact with Phil Jones. I find only one email in the archive (0969308954) where Phil emails Warwick, from 2000. This is in response to some inconsistencies that Warwick had found in Phil’s work:

Warwick Hughes to Phil Jones, September ’04:

Dear Phillip and Chris Folland (with your IPCC hat on),

Some days ago Chris I emailed to Tom Karl and you replied re the grid cells in north Siberia with no stations, yet carrying red circle grid point anomalies in the TAR Fig 2.9 global maps. I even sent a gif file map showing the grid cells barren of stations greyed out. You said this was due to interpolation and referred me to Phillip and procedures described in a submitted paper. In the last couple of days I have put up a page detailing shortcomings in your TAR Fig 2.9 maps in the north Siberian region, everything is specified there with diagrams and numbered grid points.

[1] One issue is that two of the interpolated grid cells have larger anomalies than the parent cells !!!!?????

This must be explained.

[2] Another serious issue is that obvious non-homogenous warming in Olenek and Verhojansk is being interpolated through to adjoining grid cells with no stations, like cancer.

[3] The third serious issue is that the urbanization affected trend from the Irkutsk grid cell neare Lake Baikal, looks to be interpolated into its western neighbour.

I am sure there are many other cases of this, 2 and 3 happening.

Best regards,

Warwick Hughes (I have sent this to CKF)

Phil to Warwick, same email:


I did not think I would get a chance today to look at the web page. I see what boxes you are referring to. The interpolation procedure cannot produce larger anomalies than neighbours (larger values in a single month). If you have found any of these I will investigate. If you are talking about larger trends then that is a different matter. Trends say in Fig 2.9 for the 1976-99 period require 16 years to have data and at least 10 months in each year. It is conceivable that at there are 24 years in this period that missing values in some boxes influence trend calculation. I would expect this to be random across the globe.


Been away. Just checked my program and the interpolation shouldn’t produce larger anomalies than the neighbouring cells. So can you send me the cells, months and year of the two cells you’ve found ? If I have this I can check to see what has happened and answer (1). As for (2) and (3) we compared all stations with neighbours and these two stations did not have problems when the work was done (around 1985/6). I am not around much for the next 3 weeks but will be here most of this week and will try to answer (1) if I get more details. If you have the names of stations that you’ve compared Olenek and Verhojansk with I would appreciate that.



OK, so far we have a couple of scientists discussing issues in a scientific work, usual tone, no problem. But as he found more inconsistencies, in order to understand what was going on, in 2005 Warwick asked Phil for the dataset that was used to create the CRU temperature record. Phil Jones famously replied:

Subject: Re: WMO non respondo

… Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it. …

Cheers Phil

Hmmm … not a good start. Or as they say in the novel “1984”, double-plus ungood. Science can only progress if there is a free exchange of scientific data. The scientific model works like this:

A scientist makes claims, and reveals the data and methods he used to come to his conclusions.

Other scientists who don’t agree attack the claim by (inter alia) seeing if they can replicate the result, using the first scientist’s data and methods.

If the claims cannot be replicated, the claim is adjudged to be false.

Obviously, if the data or the methods are kept secret, the claims cannot be verified. Attacking other scientist’s claims is what what scientists do, that’s their job description. This adversarial system is the heart of science. Phil Jones refusing scientific data because someone will attack it is an oxymoron, of course they will attack it. That’s science.

When I found out about Phil Jones saying this, I couldn’t believe it. I thought, a scientist can’t do that, can he? He can’t refuse to reveal his data. This is science, not hide and seek. I literally didn’t think Jones had been quoted correctly. So to find out, I wrote to the University of East Anglia (of which the CRU is a Department) on September 8, 2006, saying:

I would like to obtain a list of the meteorological stations used in the preparation of the HadCRUT3 global temperature average, and the raw data for those stations. I cannot find it anywhere on the web. The lead author for the temperature average is Dr. Phil Jones of the Climate Research Unit.

Many thanks, Willis Eschenbach

I got no response from Phil Jones or anyone at CRU or UEA. So I filed a Freedom of Information act request for the data.

Now at this point, let me diverge from my application to what was happening at CRU before and during this time. The first reference to Freedom of Information in their emails is from 2005, before they had received a single request. Immediately, they start to plan how to evade requests should some come in:

Tom Wigley, Former Director of CRU, to Phil Jones, 21/01/2005


I got a brochure on the FOI Act from UEA. Does this mean that, if someone asks for a computer program we have to give it out?? Can you check this for me (and Sarah). …



Phil replies to Tom:


On the FOI Act there is a little leaflet we have all been sent. It doesn’t really clarify what we might have to do re programs or data. Like all things in Britain we will only find out when the first person or organization asks. I wouldn’t tell anybody about the FOI Act in Britain. I don’t think UEA really knows what’s involved.

As you’re no longer an employee I would use this argument if anything comes along. I think it is supposed to mainly apply to issues of personal information – references for jobs etc.



So the coverup starts immediately, even before the first request. “I wouldn’t tell anyone about the FOI act in Britain”.

Tom to Phil


Thanks for the quick reply. The leaflet appeared so general, but it was prepared by UEA so they may have simplified things. From their wording, computer code would be covered by the FOIA. My concern was if Sarah is/was still employed by UEA. I guess she could claim that she had only written one tenth of the code and release every tenth line.


You can see how they plan to observe the spirit of the FOI Act. Claim a temporary employee isn’t really an employee so they are not covered.

Phil to Tom


As for FOIA Sarah isn’t technically employed by UEA and she will likely be paid by Manchester Metropolitan University. I wouldn’t worry about the code. If FOIA does ever get used by anyone, there is also IPR to consider as well. Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them. I’ll be passing any requests onto the person at UEA who has been given a post to deal with them.



Phil Jones has just gotten the news that FOI will apply, and immediately he starts to plan how he is going to hide from an FOI request. Cite technicalities, claim IPR (Intellectual Property Rights), those are good hiding places.

The next email (1109021312) is later in 2005:

At 09:41 AM 2/2/2005, Phil Jones wrote to Michael Mann:


Just sent loads of station data to Scott. Make sure he documents everything better this time ! And don’t leave stuff lying around on ftp sites – you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it.

We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who’ll say we must adhere to it !



So now we have two more ways for Phil to hide from the FOI Act … along with a threat to delete the data rather than release it. Astounding. And this is before they’ve even received a single FOI request.

Mann replies to Jones:

Thanks Phil,

Yes, we’ve learned out lesson about FTP. We’re going to be very careful in the future what gets put there. Scott really screwed up big time when he established that directory so that Tim could access the data.

Yeah, there is a freedom of information act in the U.S., and the contrarians are going to try to use it for all its worth. But there are also intellectual property rights issues, so it isn’t clear how these sorts of things will play out ultimately in the U.S….


Next, from February 05. Jones to Mann, cc to Hughes and Bradley, co-authors of the “hockeystick” study (1109021312)

From: Phil Jones:

To: mann

Subject: Fwd: CCNet: PRESSURE GROWING ON CONTROVERSIAL RESEARCHER TO DISCLOSE SECRET DATA [This was in reference to the pressure on Michael Mann to release the “Hockeystick” data]

Date: Mon Feb 21 16:28:32 2005

Cc: “raymond s. bradley”, “Malcolm Hughes”

Mike, Ray and Malcolm,

Leave it to you to delete as appropriate !



PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !

The first rule of the Freedom of Information act is … nobody talks about the Freedom of Information Act.

With that as a prologue, let me return to my FOI request. On February 10, 2007, I received my reply from Mr. Dave Palmer of CRU:

Dear Mr. Eschenbach


Your request for information received on 28 September now been considered and I can report that the information requested is available on non-UEA websites as detailed below.

The Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN-Monthly) page within US National Climate Data Centre website provides one of the two US versions of the global dataset and includes raw station data. This site is at: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/ghcn-monthly/index.php

This page is where you can get one of the two US versions of the global dataset, and it appears that the raw station data can be obtained from this site.

Datasets named ds564.0 and ds570.0 can be found at The Climate & Global Dynamics Division (CGD) page of the Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory (ESSL) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) site at: http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/tn404/

Between them, these two datasets have the data which the UEA Climate Research Unit (CRU) uses to derive the HadCRUT3 analysis. The latter, NCAR site holds the raw station data (including temperature, but other variables as well). The GHCN would give their set of station data (with adjustments for all the numerous problems).

They both have a lot more data than the CRU have (in simple station number counts), but the extra are almost entirely within the USA. We have sent all our data to GHCN, so they do, in fact, possess all our data.

In accordance with S. 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this letter acts as a Refusal Notice, and the reasons for exemption are as stated below

Exemption Reason

s. 21, Information accessible to applicant via other means Some information is publicly available on external websites

I was outraged. So the next day, I made a second request:

Dear Mr. Palmer:

Thank you for your reply (attached below). However, I fear that it is totally unresponsive. I had asked for a list of the sites actually used. While it may (or may not) be true that “it appears that the raw station data can be obtained from [GHCN]”, this is meaningless without an actual list of the sites that Dr. Jones and his team used.

The debate about changes in the climate is quite important. Dr. Jones’ work is one of the most frequently cited statistics in the field. Dr. Jones has refused to provide a list of the sites used for his work, and as such, it cannot be replicated. Replication is central to science. I find Dr. Jones attitude quite difficult to understand, and I find your refusal to provide the data requested quite baffling.

You are making the rather curious claim that because the data “appears” to be out on the web somewhere, there is no need for Dr. Jones to reveal which stations were actually used. The claim is even more baffling since you say that the original data used by CRU is available at the GHCN web site, and then follow that with the statement that some of the GHCN data originally came from CRU. Which is the case? Did CRU get the data from GHCN, or did GHCN get the data from CRU?

Rather than immediately appealing this ruling (with the consequent negative publicity that would inevitably accrue to CRU from such an action), I am again requesting that you provide:

1) A list of the actual sites used by Dr. Jones in the preparation of the HadCRUT3 dataset, and

2) A clear indication of where the data for each site is available. This is quite important, as there are significant differences between the versions of each site’s data at e.g. GHCN and NCAR.

I find it somewhat disquieting that an FOI request is necessary to force a scientist to reveal the data used in his publicly funded research … is this truly the standard that the CRU is promulgating?

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Willis Eschenbach

Hey, I was trying to be a nice guy, not make a public scene, but to no avail. On April 12, 2007, I got my second reply:

In regards the “gridded network” stations, I have been informed that the Climate Research Unit’s (CRU) monthly mean surface temperature dataset has been constructed principally from data available on the two websites identified in my letter of 12 March 2007. Our estimate is that more than 98% of the CRU data are on these sites.

The remaining 2% of data that is not in the websites consists of data CRU has collected from National Met Services (NMSs) in many countries of the world. In gaining access to these NMS data, we have signed agreements with many NMSs not to pass on the raw station data, but the NMSs concerned are happy for us to use the data in our gridding, and these station data are included in our gridded products, which are available from the CRU web site. These NMS-supplied data may only form a very small percentage of the database, but we have to respect their wishes and therefore this information would be exempt from disclosure under FOIA pursuant to s.41. The World Meteorological Organization has a list of all NMSs.

That didn’t help one bit. Without knowing which data was used, it was meaningless. They’ve tried s.21, they’ve tried s.41, neither exemption applies. So the next day, I replied:

While it is good to know that the data is available at those two web sites, that information is useless without a list of stations used by Jones et al. to prepare the HadCRUT3 dataset. As I said in my request, I am asking for:

1) A list of the actual sites used by Dr. Jones in the preparation of the HadCRUT3 dataset, and

2) A clear indication of where the data for each site is available. This is quite important, as there are significant differences between the versions of each site’s data at e.g. GHCN and NCAR.

Without knowing the name and WMO number of each site and the location of the source data (NCAR, GHCN, or National Met Service), it is not possible to access the information. Thus, Exemption 21 does not apply – I still cannot access the data.

I don’t understand why this is so hard. All I am asking for is a simple list of the sites and where each site’s data is located. Pointing at two huge piles of data and saying, in effect, “The data is in there somewhere” does not help at all.

To clarify what I am requesting, I am only asking for a list of the stations used in HadCRUT3, a list that would look like this:

WMO# Name Source

58457 HangZhou NCAR

58659 WenZhou NCAR

59316 ShanTou GHCN

57516 ChongQing NMS

etc. for all of the stations used to prepare the HadCRUT3 temperature data.

That is the information requested, and it is not available “on non-UEA websites”, or anywhere else that I have been able to find.

I appreciate all of your assistance in this matter, and I trust we can get it resolved satisfactorily.

Best regards,

I received another letter, saying that they could not identify the locations of the requested information. I wrote back again, saying:

Dear Mr. Palmer:

It appears we have gone full circle here, and ended up back where we started.

I had originally asked for the raw station data used to produce the HadCRUT3 dataset to be posted up on the UEA website, or made available in some other form.

You refused, saying that the information was available elsewhere on non-UEA websites, which is a valid reason for FOI refusals.

I can report that the information requested is not available on non-UEA websites as detailed below.

Your most recent letter (Further _information_ letter_final_ 070418_rev01. doc), however, says that you are unable to identify the locations of the requested information. Thus, the original reason for refusing to provide station data for HadCRUT3 was invalid.

Therefore, since the information requested is not available on non-UEA websites, I wish to re-instate my original request, that the information itself be made available on your website or in some other form. I understand that a small amount of this data (about 2%, according to your letter) is not available due to privacy requests from the countries involved. In that case, a listing of which stations this applies to will suffice.

The HadCRUT3 dataset is one of the fundamental datasets in the current climate discussion. As such, it is vitally important that it can be peer reviewed and examined to verify its accuracy. The only way this can be done is for the data to be made available to other researchers in the field.

Once again, thank you for your assistance in all of this. It is truly not a difficult request, and is fully in line with both standard scientific practice and your “CODE OF PRACTICE FOR RESPONDING TO REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000″. I am sure that we can bring this to a satisfactory resolution without involving appeals or unfavorable publicity.

My best regards to you,


Here is the response from 27 April:


Further to your email of 14 April 2007 in which you re-stated your request to see

“a list of stations used by Jones et al. to prepare the HadCRUT3 dataset” I am asking for: 1) A list of the actual sites used by Dr. Jones in the preparation of the HadCRUT3 dataset, and 2) A clear indication of where the data for each site is available. This is quite important, as there are significant differences between the versions of each site’s data at e.g. GHCN and NCAR.”

In your note you also requested “the name and WMO number of each site and the location of the source data (NCAR, GHCN, or National Met Service)”,

I have contacted Dr. Jones and can update you on our efforts to resolve this matter.

We cannot produce a simple list with this format and with the information you described in your note of 14 April. Firstly, we do not have a list consisting solely of the sites we currently use. Our list is larger, as it includes data not used due to incomplete reference periods, for example. Additionally, even if we were able to create such a list we would not be able to link the sites with sources of data. The station database has evolved over time and the Climate Research Unit was not able to keep multiple versions of it as stations were added, amended and deleted. This was a consequence of a lack of data storage in the 1980s and early 1990s compared to what we have at our disposal currently. It is also likely that quite a few stations consist of a mixture of sources.

I have also been informed that, as the GHCN and NCAR are merely databases, the ultimate source of all data is the respective NMS in the country where the station is located. Even GHCN and NCAR can’t say with precision where they got their data from as the data comes not only from each NMS, but also comes from scientists in each reporting country.

In short, we simply don’t have what you are requesting. The only true source would be the NMS for each reporting country. We can, however, send a list of all stations used, but without sources. This would include locations, names and lengths of record, although the latter are no guide as to the completeness of the series.

This is, in effect, our final attempt to resolve this matter informally. If this response is not to your satisfaction, I will initiate the second stage of our internal complaint process and will advise you of progress and outcome as appropriate. For your information, the complaint process is within our Code of Practice and can be found at: http://www1. uea.ac.uk/ polopoly_ fs/1.2750! uea_manual_ draft_04b. pdf

Yours sincerely David Palmer Information Policy Officer University of East Anglia

I loved the story line in this one “we do not have a list consisting solely of the sites we currently use”. Say what? How do they produce updates from time to time that change the reported temperature of the globe all the way back to 1870 if they don’t have the data or a list of the sites? But I digress …

So I advised him that I was appealing. His letter was passed to a Ms. Kitty Inglis, who replied

May 21, 2007, Decision of Information Commissoners’ Office


Dear Mr Eschenbach

Following David Palmer’s letter of 27th April 2007 to you regarding your dissatisfaction with our response to your FOI request of 25th January 2007, I have undertaken a thorough review of the contents of our file and have spoken with both Mr. Palmer and Professor Jones.

As a result of this investigation, I am satisfied that we have done all we can to fulfil [sic] your request and to provide you with the information you require where it is possible for us to do so.

I confirm that we are able to make available on the Climatic Research Unit website a list of stations, including name, latitude, longitude, elevation and WMO number (where available).

We are unable to provide a simple list of sources for these stations as we do not hold this information. Nor do we hold the raw (i.e. unadjusted) station data, as you describe it, at UEA. As stated in prior letters to you, raw station data are available on the NCAR and GHCN websites and gridded data are available on the Climatic Research Unit website. If these data are insufficient for your requirements, you will need to contact the NMS for the country in which the station is located to obtain the information you require.

I hope you are able to accept this response. We have contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office in relation to this matter and their advice is that if you are still dissatisfied with this response, you can, at this time, exercise your right of appeal to the Information Commissioner by contacting them at:

Information Commissioner’ s Office

Wycliffe House

At that point, I let it go, they weren’t going to budge. I’d had a small victory, we got a list of the stations. Of course, it took me a couple more letters to actually get them to post the list. But I got nothing else of what I had requested, and the list was full of all kinds of errors.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes at CRU, I now find out that they were circling the wagons … what follows are their internal discussions about a series of FOI requests from myself, Steve McIntyre, Doug Keenan and others to CRU for various data over the next few years. We start with Phil Jones to Tom Keenan and Wei-Chyung Wang (a Chinese climate researcher), 6/19/2007 (1182255717):

Wei-Chyung and Tom,

1. Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.

2. Had an email from David Jones of BMRC, Melbourne. [EMAIL NOT FOUND IN CRU EMAILS – Willis] He said they are ignoring anybody who has dealings with CA, as there are threads on it about Australian sites.

3. CA is in dispute with IPCC (Susan Solomon and Martin Manning) about the availability of the responses to reviewer’s at the various stages of the AR4 drafts. They are most interested here re Ch 6 on paleo.



Well, that explains a few things … they’ve managed to “persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.” Curiously, I hadn’t noticed that exemption in the FOI documentation I’d seen. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s in FOI Exemptions, I doubt if it’s legal, and it definitely isn’t ethical. I note that they were circling the wagons in Australia as well … this is followed by:

Phil Jones to Thomas Peterson, a top researcher at NOAA National Climate Data Center, 6/20/2007 AM (1182342470) :

Tom P.

Just for interest. Don’t pass on.

Might be a precedent for your paper to J. Climate when it comes out. There are a few interesting comments on the CA web site. One says it is up to me to prove the paper from 1990 was correct, not for Keenan to prove we’re wrong. Interesting logic.



Wei-Chyung, Tom,

I won’t be replying to either of the emails below [FROM STEVE MCINTYRE AND DOUG KEENAN], nor to any of the accusations on the Climate Audit website. I’ve sent them on to someone here at UEA to see if we should be discussing anything with our legal staff. The second letter seems an attempt to be nice to me, and somehow split up the original author team. I do now wish I’d never sent them the data after their FOIA




He obviously views sending data in response to an FOIA request as optional.

Thomas Peterson to Jones, same email:

Fascinating. Thanks for keeping me in the loop, Phil. I won’t pass it on but I will keep it in the back of my mind when/if Russ asks about appropriate responses to CA requests. Russ’ view is that you can never satisfy them so why bother to try?

Again, responding to an FOIA request is viewed as optional. Next, Phil Jones to Mann and Gavin Schmidt (1189515774)

Phil Jones :

PS to Gavin – been following (sporadically) the CA stuff about the GISS data and release of the code etc by Jim. May take some of the pressure off you soon, by releasing a list of the stations we use – just a list, no code and no data. Have agreed to under the FOIA here in the UK.

Oh Happy days!

So I see … that’s why I only got the station list and not the data, just to ” take some of the pressure off “.

Thanks, Phil. Onward to Jones to Ray Bradley and Caspar Amman, 5/9/08 (1210341221):

Mike, Ray, Caspar,

A couple of things – don’t pass on either.

2. You can delete this attachment if you want. Keep this quiet also, but this is the person [DAVID HOLLAND – Willis] who is putting in FOI requests for all emails Keith and Tim have written and received re Ch 6 of AR4. We think we’ve found a way around this.

Finding ways around FOI requests seems to be a popular sport at CRU. This is in reference to people trying to get the review comments to Chapter 6 of the UN IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

Next, here’s the brilliant way that they had found around the FOIA, a bombshell of an idea, Jones to Michael Mann, 29 May 2008 (1212063122). They were facing a FOI Request for the reviewers comments on Chapter 6 of the UN IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. This is the hotly debated Chapter on Paleoclimate, which claims that we are currently in a very unusual warm period. Evidently they didn’t want their true views on this question to see the light …


Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.

Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.

We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.



Again, call me crazy, but deleting evidence in the face of an FOI request must be illegal. Gene is Eugene Wahl, Caspar is Caspar Amman. A link to the story of how they cheated their way into getting their paper accepted into the IPCC is in the references. I suspect that’s what they didn’t want exposed. Of course, what these guys don’t realize is that there are multiple copies of most emails floating around. In some ways, I hope they deleted them, so that it can be proven. The story continues:

Tim Osborne to Jones, Briffa, and Mann, 23 Jun 2008 (1214229243) :

Subject: Re: CA

Hi Phil, Keith and “Confidential Agent Ammann”,

At 17:00 21/06/2008, P.Jones wrote:

This is a confidential email

So is this.

Have a look at Climate Audit. Holland has put all the responses and letters up. There are three threads – two beginning with Fortress and a third later one. Worth saving the comments on a Jim Edwards – can you do this Tim?

I’ve saved all three threads as they now stand. No time to read all the comments, but I did note in “Fortress Met Office” that someone has provided a link to a website that helps you to submit FOI requests to UK public institutions, and subsequently someone has made a further FOI request to Met Office and someone else made one to DEFRA. If it turns into an organised campaign designed more to inconvenience us than to obtain useful information, then we may be able to decline all related requests without spending ages on considering them. Worth looking out for evidence of such an organised campaign.


Another thing to hide behind, a possible claim of an “organised campaign” to “inconvenience” them. “Fortress Met Office” was the title of a ClimateAudit post on their shenanigans, it’s in the references. I loved the “Confidential Agent Amman” … next we have (1219239172):

Phil Jones:

To: Gavin Schmidt

Subject: Re: Revised version the Wengen paper

Date: Wed Aug 20 09:32:52 2008

Cc: Michael Mann


Keith/Tim still getting FOI requests as well as MOHC and Reading. All our FOI officers have been in discussions and are now using the same exceptions not to respond – advice they got from the Information Commissioner. As an aside and just between us, it seems that Brian Hoskins has withdrawn himself from the WG1 Lead nominations. It seems he doesn’t want to have to deal with this hassle.

The FOI line we’re all using is this. IPCC is exempt from any countries FOI – the skeptics have been told this. Even though we (MOHC, CRU/UEA) possibly hold relevant info the IPCC is not part our remit (mission statement, aims etc) therefore we don’t have an obligation to pass it on.



So now the Information Commissioner is in on the deal, s/he’s advising them to use the same exceptions not to respond. No need to think about it, all the FOI people are bought off with honeyed words, all of the wheels have been greased, FOI requests are automatically rejected.

Next, Ben Santer chimes in (1226451442):

Ben Santer to Thomas Karl, Karen Owen, Sharon Leduc , “Thorne, Peter”, Leopold Haimberger , Karl Taylor, Tom Wigley, John Lanzante, Susan Solomon, Melissa Free, peter gleckler , “‘Philip D. Jones’”, Thomas R Karl, Steve Klein, carl mears, Doug Nychka, Gavin Schmidt, Steven Sherwood, Frank Wentz, “David C. Bader”, Professor Glenn McGregor, “Bamzai, Anjuli”

Dear Tom,

My personal opinion is that both FOI requests (1) and (2) are intrusive and unreasonable. Steven McIntyre provides absolutely no scientific justification or explanation for such requests. I believe that McIntyre is pursuing a calculated strategy to divert my attention and focus away from research. As the recent experiences of Mike Mann and Phil Jones have shown, this request is the thin edge of wedge. It will be followed by further requests for computer programs, additional material and explanations, etc., etc.

Quite frankly, Tom, having spent nearly 10 months of my life addressing the serious scientific flaws in the Douglass et al. IJoC paper, I am unwilling to waste more of my time fulfilling the intrusive and frivolous requests of Steven McIntyre. The supreme irony is that Mr. McIntyre has focused his attention on our IJoC paper rather than the Douglass et al. IJoC paper which we criticized. As you know, Douglass et al. relied on a seriously flawed statistical test, and reached incorrect conclusions on the basis of that flawed test.

I believe that our community should no longer tolerate the behavior of Mr. McIntyre and his cronies. McIntyre has no interest in improving our scientific understanding of the nature and causes of climate change. He has no interest in rational scientific discourse. He deals in the currency of threats and intimidation. We should be able to conduct our scientific research without constant fear of an “audit” by Steven McIntyre; without having to weigh every word we write in every email we send to our scientific colleagues.

In my opinion, Steven McIntyre is the self-appointed Joe McCarthy of climate science. I am unwilling to submit to this McCarthy-style investigation of my scientific research. As you know, I have refused to send McIntyre the “derived” model data he requests, since all of the primary model data necessary to replicate our results are freely available to him. I will continue to refuse such data requests in the future. Nor will I provide McIntyre with computer programs, email correspondence, etc. I feel very strongly about these issues. We should not be coerced by the scientific equivalent of a playground bully.

I will be consulting LLNL’s Legal Affairs Office in order to determine how the DOE and LLNL should respond to any FOI requests that we receive from McIntyre. I assume that such requests will be forthcoming.

I am copying this email to all co-authors of our 2008 IJoC paper, to my immediate superior at PCMDI (Dave Bader), to Anjuli Bamzai at DOE headquarters, and to Professor Glenn McGregor (the editor who was in charge of our paper at IJoC).

I’d be very happy to discuss these issues with you tomorrow. I’m sorry that the tone of this letter is so formal, Tom. Unfortunately, after today’s events, I must assume that any email I write to you may be subject to FOI requests, and could ultimately appear on McIntyre’s “ClimateAudit” website.

With best personal wishes,


Well, he got the last paragraph right, at least. He also thinks that an FOIA request must serve some “scientific justification”, with the justification determined by … well … by the person receiving the request, of course. Another previously unknown part of the FOI Exemptions comes to light. Also, if you live in fear of an audit, by Steve McIntyre or anyone else, you are definitely doing something wrong.

Ben Santer to Tom Wigly, 12 Dec 07 (1228330629):

At 01:17 03/12/2008, Ben Santer wrote:

Dear Tom,

One of the problems is that I’m caught in a real Catch-22 situation. At present, I’m damned and publicly vilified because I refused to provide McIntyre with the data he requested. But had I acceded to McIntyre’s initial request for climate model data, I’m convinced (based on the past experiences of Mike Mann, Phil, and Gavin) that I would have spent years of my scientific career dealing with demands for further explanations, additional data, Fortran code, etc. (Phil has been complying with FOIA requests from McIntyre and his cronies for over two years). And if I ever denied a single request for further information, McIntyre would have rubbed his hands gleefully and written: “You see – he’s guilty as charged!” on his website.

You and I have spent over a decade of our scientific careers on the MSU issue, Tom. During much of that time, we’ve had to do science in “reactive mode”, responding to the latest outrageous claims and inept science by John Christy, David Douglass, or S. Fred Singer. For the remainder of my scientific career, I’d like to dictate my own research agenda. I don’t want that agenda driven by the constant need to respond to Christy, Douglass, and Singer. And I certainly don’t want to spend years of my life interacting

with the likes of Steven McIntyre.

I hope LLNL management will provide me with their full support. If they do not, I’m fully prepared to seek employment elsewhere.

With best regards,


Dr. Santer, here’s a novel idea for you. Put enough information out when you publish the work so that your work can be replicated. Put on the web whatever is necessary in the way of code, data, and methods to allow your work to be checked by someone else. If you do that, not only will you not be bothered, but you will be following the scientific method. None of us at ClimateAudit are doing this to harass anyone, as you claim. We’re doing this because we cannot replicate your work, and thus your work is purely anecdotal rather than scientific.

Phil responds (same email):

Cc: mann , Gavin Schmidt, Karl Taylor, peter gleckler


When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions – one at a screen, to convince them otherwise showing them what CA was all about. Once they became aware of the types of people we were dealing with, everyone at UEA (in the registry and in the Environmental Sciences school – the head of school and a few others) became very supportive. I’ve got to know the FOI person quite well and the Chief Librarian – who deals with appeals. The VC is also aware of what is going on – at least for one of the requests, but probably doesn’t know the number we’re dealing with. We are in double figures.

One issue is that these requests aren’t that widely known within the School. So I don’t know who else at UEA may be getting them. CRU is moving up the ladder of requests at UEA though – we’re way behind computing though. We’re away [aware?]of requests going to others in the UK – MOHC, Reading, DEFRA and Imperial College.

So spelling out all the detail to the LLNL management should be the first thing you do. I hope that Dave is being supportive at PCMDI. The inadvertent email I sent last month has led to a Data Protection Act request sent by a certain Canadian, saying that the email maligned his scientific credibility with his peers!

If he pays 10 pounds (which he hasn’t yet) I am supposed to go through my emails and he can get anything I’ve written about him. About 2 months ago I deleted loads of emails, so have very little – if anything at all. This legislation is different from the FOI – it is supposed to be used to find put why you might have a poor credit rating !

In response to FOI and EIR requests, we’ve put up some data – mainly paleo data. Each request generally leads to more – to explain what we’ve put up. Every time, so far, that hasn’t led to anything being added – instead just statements saying read what is in the papers and what is on the web site! Tim Osborn sent one such response (via the FOI person) earlier this week. We’ve never sent programs, any codes and manuals.

In the UK, the Research Assessment Exercise results will be out in 2 weeks time. These are expensive to produce and take too much time, so from next year we’ll be moving onto a metric based system. The metrics will be # and amounts of grants, papers and citations etc. I did flippantly suggest that the # of FOI requests you get should be another.

When you look at CA, they only look papers from a handful of people. They will start on another coming out in The Holocene early next year. Gavin and Mike are on this with loads of others. I’ve told both exactly what will appear on CA once they get access to it!



Well, that explains why David Palmer and Ms. Kitty Inglis, the Chief Librarian, were so unsupportive. It took a couple of half hour sessions, but at the end of that, rather than being a representative of the FOI process, they were functioning as the personal representatives of Phil Jones. We also have a new reason I hadn’t noticed in the FOI Exemptions for refusing a request — because the requester posts at CA.

Jones to Ben Santer again, 10 Dec 2008: (1228922050)


Haven’t got a reply from the FOI person here at UEA. So I’m not entirely confident the numbers are correct. One way of checking would be to look on CA, but I’m not doing that. I did get an email from the FOI person here early yesterday to tell me I shouldn’t be deleting emails – unless this was ‘normal’ deleting to keep emails manageable! McIntyre hasn’t paid his £10, so nothing looks likely to happen re his Data Protection Act email.

Anyway requests have been of three types – observational data, paleo data and who made IPCC changes and why. Keith has got all the latter – and there have been at least 4. We made Susan aware of these – all came from David Holland. According to the FOI Commissioner’ s Office, IPCC is an international organization, so is above any national FOI. Even if UEA holds anything about IPCC, we are not obliged to pass it on, unless it has anything to do with our core business – and it doesn’t! I’m sounding like Sir Humphrey here! McIntyre often gets others to do the requesting, but requests and responses all get posted up on CA regardless of who sends them.

On observational data, there have been at least 5 including a couple from McIntyre. Others here came from Eschenbach and also Douglas Keenan. The latter relate to Wei-Chyung Wang, and despite his being exonerated by SUNY, Keenan has not changed his web site since being told the result by SUNY!

The paleo data requests have all been to Keith, and here Tim and Keith reply. The recent couple have come from McIntyre but there have been at least two others from Holland. So since Feb 2007, CRU is in double figures. We never get any thanks for putting things up – only abuse and threats. The latest lot is up in the last 3-4 threads on CA.

I got this email over the weekend – see end of this email. This relates to what Tim sent back late last week. There was another one as well – a chatty one saying why didn’t I respond to keep these people on CA quiet. I’ve ignored both. Finally, I know that DEFRA receive Parliamentary Questions from MPs to answer. One of these 2 months ago was from a Tory MP asking how much money DEFRA has given to CRU over the last 5 years. DEFRA replied that they don’t give money – they award grants based on open competition. DEFRA’s system also told them there were no awards to CRU, as when we do get something it is down as UEA!

I’ve occasionally checked DEFRA responses to FOI requests – all from Holland.



Since he and Mann and the others have already deleted their emails, looks like David Palmer (the “FOI person”) was a bit too late with his excellent advice … however, my name did get a “Mentioned In Dispatches” from Phil, at least …

I also like the sly way he tells Ben how to illegally delete emails, just do it as part of “‘normal’ deleting to keep emails manageable!” Yeah, right, that’s the ticket, “Secret Agent Phil” at work.

One thing I can’t understand. Since they have the FOI person, and the FOI Appeals person, and the Information Commissioner in their pockets, and they have the standard terms of refusal figured out … I mean, under those situations, just how difficult can it be to deny an FOI Request? So what if they are in “double figures”, they aren’t responding to the requests. So their bitching about all the pressure the FOI requests are putting them under is nonsense, since all they do is say “REJECTED” and send them back.

Next, Phil Jones to Raymond Pierrehumbert (a climate researcher at the University of Chicago), 16 Jan 09 (1200493432):

Cc: Michael Mann , Gavin Schmidt


I have had a couple of exchanges with Courtillot. This is the last of them from March 26, 2007. I sent him a number of papers to read. He seems incapable of grasping the concept of spatial degrees of freedom, and how this number can change according to timescale. I also told him where he can get station data at NCDC and GISS (as I took a decision ages ago not to release our station data, mainly because of McIntyre). I told him all this as well when we met at a meeting of the French Academy in early March.

Cheers, Phil

This is a very clear statement of what Jones has done. He has refused to release the data, not because there is any logical reason to do so, not because it fits under some recognized exemption, but “because of McIntyre”. This is shameful, and the fact that the FOI people, Dave Peters and Kitty Inglis and the Information Commissioner, went along with this is dereliction of duty.

Finally, Stephen Schneider chimes in to write Ben from Stanford University, 6 Jan 09 (1231257056).

To: Ben Santer

Cc: “David C. Bader”, Bill Goldstein, Pat Berge, Cherry Murray, George Miller, Anjuli Bamzai, Tomas Diaz De La Rubia, Doug Rotman, Peter Thorne, Leopold Haimberger, Karl Taylor, Tom Wigley John Lanzante, Susan Solomon, Melissa Free, peter gleckler, “Philip D. Jones”, Thomas R Karl, Steve Klein, carl mears, Doug Nychka, Gavin Schmidt, Steven Sherwood, Frank Wentz

“Thanks” Ben for this, hi all and happy new year. I had a similar experience– but not FOIA since we at Climatic Change are a private institution- -with Stephen McIntyre demanding that I have the Mann et al cohort publish all their computer codes for papers published in Climatic Change. I put the question to the editorial board who debated it for weeks. The vast majority opinion was that scientists should give enough information on their data sources and methods so others who are scientifically capable can do their own brand of replication work, but that this does not extend to personal computer codes with all their undocumented sub routines etc. It would be odious requirement to have scientists document every line of code so outsiders could then just apply them instantly. Not only is this an intellectual property issue, but it would dramatically reduce our productivity since we are not in the business of producing software products for general consumption and have no resources to do so. The NSF, which funded the studies I published, concurred–so that ended that issue with Climatic Change at the time a few years ago.

This continuing pattern of harassment, as Ben rightly puts it in my opinion, in the name of due diligence is in my view an attempt to create a fishing expedition to find minor glitches or unexplained bits of code–which exist in nearly all our kinds of complex work–and then assert that the entire result is thus suspect. Our best way to deal with this issue of replication is to have multiple independent author teams, with their own codes and data sets, publishing independent work on the same topics–like has been done on the “hockey stick”. That is how credible scientific replication should proceed.

Let the lawyers figure this out, but be sure that, like Ben is doing now, you disclose the maximum reasonable amount of information so competent scientists can do replication work, but short of publishing undocumented personalized codes etc. The end of the email Ben attached shows their intent–to discredit papers so they have no “evidentiary value in public policy”–what you resort to when you can’t win the intellectual battle scientifically at IPCC or NAS.

Good luck with this, and expect more of it as we get closer to international climate policy actions, We are witnessing the “contrarian battle of the bulge” now, and expect that all weapons will be used.

Cheers, Steve

PS Please do not copy or forward this email.

Now, why would Dr. Schneider not want his email copied or forwarded … perhaps because he is telling people not to follow the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act, because he’s saying don’t release the code that shows the math and reveals how you got your results? He foolishly thinks that studies can be “replicated” by using different data and different codes … but that says absolutely nothing about the original study and whether it contains any mistakes. The only way to determine whether a study like a historical temperature reconstruction contains errors is to examine the scientists actual work. You can’t just pick another different bunch of proxies, analyze them, and say “I’ve found mathematical errors in your reconstruction”. You can only find those errors if you examine the actual math the researcher used, and to do that you need access to “their” codes.

I put “their” codes, in quotes because, under the policies of the University of East Anglia (and many other Universities) the codes do not belong to Phil Jones. They were developed as a part of his employment, and as such they belong to the University, and not to Phil. Details are in the references below.

The researchers complain in various places, including in response to my application, that they do not need to reveal their “primary data” because it is available on the web. While this is often true, as was demonstrated in the responses to my requests it is not necessarily sufficient. Just saying “I got the information from Website X” as CRU did is often totally inadequate to locate the data in question. Santer makes this charge, that anyone could go the CMIP website and get the data themselves … but unless he says exactly which data from which run of which model running which scenario, the website address is meaningless.

The main impression that I get from the emails is that the various scientists think that I and other requesters are simply doing this to harass them. Nothing could be further from the truth. I respect actual scientists, I’m short of time myself so I understand time pressures, so I have no desire to put any scientist to any extra effort beyond providing what science requires – a full accounting of the data, the methods, and in some cases the computer code used to do the research. Anything more is harassment … but anything less is scientific obstruction. And if they would provide those things when they publish their results, they’d never hear from me. And if Nature Magazine and Science Magazine and the National Science Foundation and all of the journals and funders would just enforce their own existing rules on archiving and transparency, the problem would be solved. But noooo, for the select, for the “Friends of Phil and Mike” these bothersome transparency regulations are ignored and overlooked by Nature and Science and the NSF.

In particular, we need both the data and the computer code to be released. I knew they would never release their code, so I didn’t bother to ask, but it is equally as important as the data, perhaps moreso. Part of the difficulty with climate science is that, unlike all other physical sciences, it does not study things — instead it studies averages.

This is because climate by definition is the average of weather over a suitably long period of time (typically taken as a minimum of 30 years). As a result, much of the study that goes on, and the papers that are written, deal almost exclusively with mathematics and statistics. This is the reason that access to the computer codes is so critical.

It’s simple in the physical sciences to describe a physical experiment, e.g. “I took three grams of carbon and subjected them to a pressure of 50,000KPa and a temperature of 500C for 23 hours. Unfortunately, the experiment did not succeed, so I could not secretly replace the diamond I had lost from my wife’s wedding ring.” Anyone can reproduce that experiment (and get the same results).

But when you say “I took the raw temperature data, variance-adjusted it, averaged it, gridded it, area-adjusted it, extrapolated results to data-free areas within 250 km, and made a global temperature record”, that’s far from enough information. In order to determine what was done, we need far more detailed information in climate science than in other physical sciences This is because in general we are describing intricate mathematical operations rather than physical experiments. These are often very hard to describe clearly in spoken or written language.

And even a crystal-clear description is not enough. Despite what he says he has done, if the scientist has inadvertently used an improper procedure (e.g. the uncentered principal components analysis used in Mann’s Hockeystick), we’ll never be able to determine that the answer is demonstrably wrong unless we have the actual code that he used. Otherwise, we could spend years trying to guess where he went wrong, but we would never be able to show that he went wrong as science demands.

This is why the insistence of scientists that their computer codes are sacrosanct private secret documents best kept under Hermetic seal in a clandestine vault is lethal to good science. Without the codes, we can’t tell if what has been done is correct and free from hidden mathematical error. Of course, this may be unconnected with the reason that Mann and Jones et. al are hiding their codes … or not.

The thing these scientists seem to be missing is that a scientist should give his data and methods to his worst enemy. Because if his worst enemy can’t punch holes in his theories, then he can bet that they are solid.

Finally, a scientist should never have to face an FOI as Jones and Mann and the rest have. Why not? Because making the data public is PART OF THE JOB DESCRIPTION. I did not want to file an FOI, it’s a hassle for everyone concerned. But I was forced to because Jones and the other scientists are afraid to make their data public, claiming that someone will want to poke holes in it.

Science is not some namby pamby game. It is a tough blood sport, where the participants are expected and required to throw their data and their methods and their claims and their reputation into the arena, to subject them to the merciless glare of public view, and to watch as other ravenous scientists try to rip their ideas to shreds. It’s ugly, I know, because I play the game from both sides. But that’s how science works.

Science stops working when some wimpy scientist goes “Oh, I don’t like what those bad boys and girls at CA are up to, they harass people, I’m not going to show my work to them, they just want to find holes in it, I’ll keep it secret.”

Damn right we want to find holes in it, that’s the whole point of science. The only way that science advances is by a scientist poking holes in someone’s favourite theory. Jones and Mann want to poke holes in other people’s work, but shield their own work from public examination. If you can’t stand it when it’s your turn, when it’s your theory that the bad scientist boys and girls want to find holes in, go become an accountant. Science doesn’t progress that way, when scientists hide the codes data.

Given that climate science is not the study of things but of the averages of things, and that as a result math and statistics are central to climate science, the findings of the Wegman Report are now seen to be even more insightful, trenchant, and valid. They said:

It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. Moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility. Overall, our committee believes that Mann’s assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis.

And presciently, that was written thee years ago, well before we got the CRU emails …

As I said, the issue is not Trenberth, or the Nature “trick”, or scientists talking smack about each other. It is the illegal and unethical evasion of legitimate scientific requests for data needed to replicate a scientific study. Without replication, science cannot move forwards. Free the data, free the methods, free the codes. Because when you only give codes and data to friends of yours, and not to people who actually might take a critical look at it, care to guess what you might end up with?

A “consensus” …

My best to everyone,

Willis Eschenbach



Climate Audit Climate Audit was started and is run by Steve McIntyre. Those of us who post regularly at the site specialize in auditing scientific papers for unsupported claims, logical and mathematical errors, improper proxy selection, and the like.

An example of my work at ClimateAudit:

A Collation of CRU Correspondence, Stephen McIntyre, May 30, 2008,

CRU Intellectual Property Regulations,

The Wegman Report The definitive word on Mann’s mathematical errors in the Hockeystick paper.

Exemptions under the UK FOI, . There is no exemption for “intellectual property” as the emails claim, only for “trade secrets” used in business.

Listing of Climate Audit posts on the Freedom of Information Act, Lots of interesting information on various requests and responses. Be patient, CA is loading slowly due to the number of people who are interested in the emails.

“Caspar and the Jesus Paper”, An example of what Amman and Wahl pulled off with the connivance of Phil Jones and the rest. This is likely the reason for deleting the emails.

Fortress Met Office: The ugly story of how the Met Office hid from David Holland’s requests.

Temperature Data Errors in New Zealand:

An earlier version of this email is posted at Watts Up With That,
The current version is on my web site at

Not just any old data set

Have been exploring the present fuss about the Yamal data which is used to show the extreme nature of present global warming.

It would seem that the Yamal data is debunked. That is, the reports of warming in the twentieth century have been greatly exaggerated.

A nice readable summary is here. A criticism is here, although it’s not very good.

I think the controversy shows up how essential it is that, for proper science to be done, full data has to be shared openly. That it has taken around a decade for the information to be shared (and that it has only now happened under duress) shows that one side of the argument had something to hide.