Monday, November 30, 2009
As I have said, the big question is how much of this scandal about the behavior of some scientists affects the underlying science of global warming. On that score, let me say a couple of things.
First, over the weekend, the University of East Anglia (UEA) announced:
Scientists at the University of East Anglia have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. . . . The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building.
Readers may remember that UEA previously refused to disclose this data on the ground that they had agreements with the weather stations that precluded this. So lets be clear. They have lied in response to legal inquiries to cover their behavior and to mislead the public.
This is not a little thing. Given the behavior of these scientists, that means that at least one data base of historic temperatures cannot be trusted. That means, that unless there other genuinely independent data bases, we have to start over. Very little can be said about global warming without temperature recordings.
Second, our friends at UEA have defended their science on the ground that other databases reveal the same information. This needs to be investigated in at least two ways. We need to determine whether those databases actually reveal the same information and whether the various shenanigans that afflicted the UEA database were applied to these other databases. We may not be able to trust the information from these sources either, if the suspicions about the New Zealand temperature collections are any indication of the truth.
Third, several people (like Jonathan Adler and Megan McCardle) who might be open to skeptical views nonetheless claim to accept AGW despite these revelations. And maybe they are right. But I would like to know why they continue to accept the arguments. Is it that there are independent databases of historical temperature readings that support AGW? Or are there other strong independent reasons to support it. Statements that there is a consensus don't do it for me.
Update: I see that I am not alone in raising these questions. Here are two critical comments to Jonathan Adler's post:
What weight of scientific evidence? Pretty much the vast majority of primary data came from these guys or from Hansen at NASA, who was also found to have been cooking some of his books. That incident was quickly swept under the rug and ignored at the time, but still. What this means is that every single goddamned experiment that used either data or conclusions published by either group, must be redone from scratch because it’s now tainted. There IS no existing evidence anymore. If I were a climate scientist not involved in this little car wreck the amount of incandescent rage I would be feeling would be astronomical.
And from Eric Rasmusen:
For global warming, we rely on world temperature data. There are two sources, as far as I know, for an “average world temperature” (as opposed to thousands of weather stations). One is East Anglia. The other is NASA. Both are now seen to be secretive and tainted.
That’s the biggest bombshell here. It’s not that the Mann hockey stick was bogus— that’s been known for years. It’s that we can’t trust the temperature data. Somebody with a good reputation has to start from scratch to reconstruct it. That would only take one year and ten million dollars and an honest boss, but it has to be done.