Ben Santer Savages the CRU Email Thieves

Wed, 2009-12-02 18:08Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Ben Santer Savages the CRU Email Thieves

Ben Santer, a climate researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has written a long, but very worthy letter, blasting the thieves who hacked into the East Anglia Univesity’s Climatic Research Unit and defending its erstwhile director, Dr. Phil Jones.

Santer, who has made a global reputation by “mining” historical climate data to advance scientific understanding, says that in the wake of the email thefts, a different kind of mining is currently underway - a form that isn’t interested in advancing science in the least.

“This form of mining seeks to find dirt - to skew true meaning, to distort, to misrepresent, to take out of context. It seeks to destroy the reputations of exceptional scientists - scientists like Professor Phil Jones.”

The full letter is reproduced below:

Dear colleagues and friends,

I am sure that by now, all of you are aware of the hacking incident which recently took place at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). This was a criminal act. Over 3,000 emails and documents were stolen. The identity of the hacker or hackers is still unknown.

The emails represented private correspondence between CRU scientists and scientists at climate research centers around the world. Dozens of the stolen emails are from over a decade of my own personal correspondence with Professor Phil Jones, the Director of CRU.

I obtained my Ph.D. at the Climatic Research Unit. I went to CRU in 1983 because it was - and remains - one of the world’s premier institutions for studying the nature and causes of climate change. During the course of my Ph.D., I was privileged to work together with exceptional scientists - with people like Tom Wigley, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, and Sarah Raper.

After completing my Ph.D. at CRU in 1987, I devoted much of my scientific career to what is now called “climate fingerprinting”, which seeks to understand the causes of recent climate change. At its core, fingerprinting is a form of what people now call “data mining” - an attempt to extract information and meaning from very large, complex climate datasets. The emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit are now being subjected to a very different form of “data mining”. This mining is taking place in the
blogosphere, in the editorial pages of various newspapers, and in radio and television programs. This form of mining has little to do with extracting meaning from personal email correspondence on complex scientific issues. This form of mining seeks to find dirt - to skew true meaning, to distort, to misrepresent, to take out of context. It seeks to destroy the reputations of exceptional scientists - scientists like Professor Phil Jones.

I have known Phil for over 25 years. He is the antithesis of the secretive, “data destroying” character being portrayed to the outside world by the miners of dirt and disinformation. Phil Jones and Tom Wigley (the second Director of the Climatic Research Unit) devoted significant portions of their scientific careers to the construction of the land component of the so-called “HadCRUT” dataset of land and ocean surface temperatures. The U.K. Meteorological Office Hadley Centre (MOHC) took the lead in developing the ocean surface temperature component of HadCRUT.

The CRU and Hadley Centre efforts to construct the HadCRUT dataset have been open and transparent, and are documented in dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers. This work has been tremendously influential. In my personal opinion, it is some of the most important scientific research ever published. It has provided hard scientific evidence for the warming of our planet over the past 150 years.

Phil, Tom, and their CRU and MOHC colleagues conducted this research in a very open and transparent manner. Like good scientists, they examined the sensitivity of their results to many different subjective choices made during the construction of the HadCRUT dataset. These choices relate to such issues as how to account for changes over time in the type of thermometer used to make temperature measurements, the thermometer location, and the immediate physical surroundings of the thermometer. They found that, no
matter what choices they made in dataset construction, their bottom-line finding - that the surface of our planet is warming - was rock solid. This finding was supported by many other independent lines of evidence, such as the retreat of snow and sea-ice cover, the widespread melting and retreat of glaciers, the rise in sea-level, and the increase in the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. All of these independent observations are physically consistent with a warming planet.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. The claim that our Earth had warmed markedly during the 20th century was extraordinary, and was subjected to extraordinary scrutiny. Groups at the National Climatic Data Center in North Carolina (NCDC) and at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York (GISS) independently attempted to reproduce the results of the Climatic Research Unit and the U.K. Meteorological Office Hadley Centre. While the NCDC and GISS groups largely relied on the same primary temperature measurements that had been used in the development of the HadCRUT dataset, they made very different choices in the treatment of the raw measurements. Although there were differences in the details of the
three groups’ results, the NCDC and GISS analyses broadly confirmed the “warming Earth” findings of the CRU and MOHC scientists.

Other extraordinary claims - such as a claim by scientists at the University of Alabama that Earth’s lower atmosphere cooled since 1979, and that such cooling contradicts “warming Earth” findings - have not withstood rigorous scientific examination.

In summary, Phil Jones and his colleagues have done a tremendous service to the scientific community - and to the planet - by making surface temperature datasets publicly available for scientific research. These datasets have facilitated climate research around the world, and have led to the publication of literally hundreds of important scientific papers.

Phil Jones is one of the gentlemen of our field. He has given decades of his life not only to cutting-edge scientific research on the nature and causes of climate change, but also to a variety of difficult and time-consuming community service activities - such as his dedicated (and repeated) service as a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Since the theft of the CRU emails and their public dissemination, Phil has been subjected to the vilest personal attacks. These attacks are without justification. They are deeply disturbing. They should be of concern to all of you. We are now faced with powerful “forces of unreason” - forces that (at least to date) have been unsuccessful in challenging scientific findings of a warming Earth, and a “discernible human influence” on global climate. These forces of unreason are now shifting the focus of their attention to
the scientists themselves. They seek to discredit, to skew the truth, to misrepresent. They seek to destroy scientific careers rather than to improve our understanding of the nature and causes of climate change.

Yesterday, Phil temporarily stepped down as Director of the Climatic Research Unit. Yesterday was a very sad day for climate science. When the forces of unreason win, and force exceptional scientists like Professor Phil Jones to leave their positions, we all lose. Climate science loses. Our community loses. The world loses.

Now, more than at any other time in human history, we need sound scientific information on the nature and causes of climate change. Phil Jones and his colleagues at CRU have helped to provide such information.
I hope that all of you will join me in thanking Phil for everything he has done - and will do in the future - for our scientific community. He and his CRU colleagues deserve great credit.

With best regards,

Ben Santer

Comments

This guy is obviously too close to the situation to look at it objectively. Kind of like asking Cheyney to evaluate the bush presidency. At the very least maybe ben can be called on as a character witness.

That’s a reasonable suggestion. Santer is too close to be objective, but he incredibly well-informed and perfectly placed to act as a character witness. That being the case, it is useful to go back and read what he says about Phil Jones.

Denialists will play this game with any forthcoming testimony as well. If the independent review of Jones et al. uncovers malfeasance they will dance around bonfires. If however it comes to the conclusion that there was nothing untoward here they will say it is a whitewash.

What seems to be a problem is not the “hide the decline” and “trick” quotations. Thats just a way of speaking. But what about the obvious misery, the uncertainty and confusion the scientists experience with the computer code.

Now - I know nothing about computer code, but the experts are looking at it and agreeing with these scientists that it’s a total mess.

If these guys are saving the world, how about not messing around for years with garbage programming? How is this supposed to instill confidence?

Just for your amusement, try and find the in-code comments on Linux. I can’t post it here, it is filled with expletives. The ‘experts’ agree the Linux code is a mess. That is, it is hard to follow for people *who would make different decisions when writing the code*.

Programmers have this eery way of chosing their own syntax and writing style, and being vehemently at odds with their fellow programmers on what constitutes good syntax…

Ultimately, it all depends on whether the code does what it is supposed to. Ask yourself why no one is willing to check that…

Marco, the trouble with the released code, and the reson why there appears to be a resounding consensus amongst programmers about it, isn’t about style at all, it’s about content. I don’t mean the headline grabbing comments (although some of those are worthy of a Mr Spock Eyebrow moment), I mean errors in the logic of the code itself. For the record, I am just completing a BSc in coputer science with a heavy emphasis on programming - not all “computer scientists” specialise in programming btw just as not all “climate scientists” specialise in surface temp series.

For example there’s one point, which programmers worldwide are smirking at, where the code calculates a series of squared numbers and adds them together. Now, schoolboy maths should tell you that a squared number can never be negative so a series of them added should always be positive. Yet this code, with the data they were using, produced a very large NEGATIVE result for at least one of these “sum of square” calculations.

That’s caused by what’s known as a “overflow error” which, briefly, works like this:

If we add 64 and 100 the answer is, obviously, 164. But the way computers work internally that may not be the result you get.

In 8-bit binary, decimal 64 is 01000000 and decimal 100 is 01100100

So, in 8 bit binary, 64 + 100 = 10100100

The problem is that, generally, computers store NEGATIVE numbers by having a 1 in the first column and using what’s called a twos-complement representation for the number itself. The reasoning is that a number added to it’s own negative must equal zero, so a number plus it’s twos complement must “clear all the bits” to give a zero result.

In this case, 10100100 + 01011100 = 00000000 so a computer treats 10100100 as negative (defined by the 1 in the left-most column)01011100 , giving the fairly random result that:

64 + 100 = -92

Overflows are a danger that anyone with an O level in computing should be aware of. Yet whoever coded this obviously wasn’t aware and, as a result, could have been putting lots of effectively random numbers into the datasets.

There are also points where errors that the computer could automatically spot (and warn about) are simply ignored and incorporated into the results without warning.

I’m currently going through all of the code for amusement value but it’s a long process trying to debug code as bad as this and I do have a real life to attend to in the meantime. But I’m sure, from what I’ve seen, that there will be more coding howlers to unearth along the way!

is nothing like what you are taught in school. It is accreted over time, never written by computer science majors, and is not well commented. At best. If it isnt pure vomit, gives results that test ok, isnt indecipherable spaghetti code, it is kept for a generation or two.

Of course the logic error you describe should not be kept. Possibly it is “dead code”.

Although coding standards have improved in recent years, most places give lip service to them, or simply claim they dont have time. Software deficiencies persist in most business software.

Sorry the real world is not like school.

Of course coding in this sort of area isn’t “like in school”. However, that’s no excuse for having school-boy errors in it. The overflow error I describe wasn’t actually highlighted by me - it was highlighted by CRU’s own programmer (“Harry”) as he was attempting to make some sort of sense of the code while “upgrading” things to CruTS 3.0.

Only, he didn’t actually correct the error in the code, he simply deleted the data values (at least, the ones he’d found) that were causing it to trigger. Because the most of the code doesn’t report run-time errors he may well have missed a lot of other data values that cause the same problem and have simply passed through the process as completely corrupted values. We’ll never know for sure.

Incidentally, I’m in no way critical of Harry for this - he was faced with a task that was pretty clearly impossible to complete with absolute reliability. But would YOU want to be the guy who went to your Director (a certain Phil Jones) and tell him that CruTS 3.0 was a non-starter because all the underlying data was useless? Regardless of any OTT headline allegations about those Email comments (which I don’t buy into) we have seen how Dr Jones at least TALKS about people who say things he doesn’t like. And that guy was Harry’s boss.

and scientists perform multiple checks of results of computation… so usually the code works, no matter how ugly the insides. Significant overflows produce weird results, not physically reasonable.

Wildly excessive overflows produce clearly impossible results. Less excessive ones just create unseen data corruption which can still be very significant.

This one that’s been highlighted to date doesn’t appear to be wildly excessive but it would undoubtedly introduce error in any resulting database. As would the discarding of “problem” data that occurs elsewhere in this code beause the person using the programs will not be notified of what data has been discarded or why.

I’m currently disecting the code from a purely programming perspective (ie: with no consideration at all of what it’s intended function is). It’s going to be a long (and, therefore, largely irrelevent) process because of the (understandable) lack of coherent commenting but it’s already looking like the final results will read like “The Dummies Guide on How (not) To Program”!

…do go through GISTEMP. It’s been openly available for a long time, gives essentially the same results as HADCRU (the one you suggest is flawed), and so far Gavin Schmidt has received exactly ZERO feedback on supposed flaws.

The “dummies guide on how not to program” is one I’ve heard from all programmer who had to look through somebody else’s programming. It seems they all know what is best, and most others are just crap.

Sure, most programmers make snide comments about other people’s work. But there’s a vast difference between “preferred styles” and code that is simply, and clearly, of very poor standard.

I have avoided at any time, here or elsewhere, commenting on the physics, chemistry or statistics involved in climate science because I’m not sufficiently competent or qualified in any of those disciplines.

When it comes to programming computers, however, I am both qualified and competent to assess whether or not a particular piece of (fairly simple) code is fit for (any) purpose or not.

From your comment ” I’ve heard from all programmer who had to look through somebody else’s programming. It seems they all know what is best…” that you have neither the qualifications nor experience to do so.

On that basis, I’ll try to explain in ordinary language:

In the context of computer code, the most basic requirement is that for any given input data the output should be predictable according to a design specification. If you know what data is going in, and what the program is designed to do with that data, then you should be able to work out what output to expect by doing the same calculations on paper and without knowing any details of the code itself.

The computer is ONLY a tool to carry out those calculations much faster than you could without it. Nothing more, nothing less. If a tool doesn’t do what it’s supposed to reliably then it’s a bad tool.

Many of the modules that I’ve looked at so far from CRU may be untidy and “stylistically challenged” but do seem to be fit for purpose according to the simple test above I’ve explained.

Others, though, fail that test abysmally. In the case of the overflow error I’ve mentioned, if you input a series of numbers then that piece of code should find their squares and add them together. Say you fed in 8 and 10. You can predict that the output should be (8x8) + (10x10) = 64 + 100 = 164. Only, because of the faulty programming, the actual output will be -92.

The fact that the code gets the answer right “most of the time” makes no difference - if legal input values sometimes lead to wrong output then that code fails the most basic test and is unfit for purpose because you can never predict what it might do.

It’s problems like that which make some of this code amateur beyond belief, yet it’s been used to collate probably one of the most important databases mankind has ever created.

You *claim* to have found errors. Yet, you *fail* to realise that ‘Harry’ was making a new program, and that any errors he ‘discusses’ would have been at worst in the *old* program. HADCRU3 is online and functional, the methodology described in the literature, and anyone can thus check its results for most of the grids (excluding those where NMSs do not publically want to release data).

Consider that a challenge.

But the datasets used in HADCru had already been processed by the old software. That’s what Harry was doing - updating and converting everything, NOT starting from scratch. Once a database has been corrupted you can’t magically un-corrupt it without going back to the original source, which they admit they don’t have.

Coming on here has been quite interesting in a sociological way. I am openly sceptical of the state of climate science which does NOT mean I’m some loony conspiracy theorist who won’t listen to reason. It simply means that I can see problems and questions that still need to be addressed.

I’ve highlighted one of those problems, in an area (computing) that I happen to be at least as qualified as any climate scientist to discuss. I’ve backed those problems up with reasoned, professionsal, and scientifically valid explanations which no-one has countered on a technical basis. Yet, my posts are consistently marked down by the community here and the “but science says” replies to me have been marked up.

That has to make anyone outside this little community wonder which side of the debate really is prepared to “listen to science” ;)

There is more than one reason for voting here. Think about it.

On either side of this debate, there are far to few people willing to listen to what’s actually said, in terms of supportable evidence, rather than simply rubbishing an opposing view out of hand.

I don’t believe I’ve suggested anywhere that reduction of emissions would be a bad idea, in fact it’s obviously sensible for a great many reasons. All I’ve done is suggest that there are demonstrable problems with the one aspect of the science that I’m qualified to comment on, which I’ve done (I hope) in a civilised and rational way. I AM qualified to comment on that, yet people who appear not to be don’t like to hear those comments.

It’s a funny old world ;)

If you see Marco’s post above, you might think about whether you do know enough to comment. Why no difference from GISTEMP?

And what I meant by another reason to vote is that it marks for me which posts I have read already. Colours are easier to see than the “new” mark sometimes.

Much like this blog thread, the credibility of climatology religion is shrinking fast. Fudged data, peer review corruption, money, fast cars Oh my.

Joe,

It isn’t a reasoned, professional and scientifically valid explanation to claim that the database has been compromised, without actually showing it is. HADCRU uses value-added data, meaning quality controlled and homogenized, and did not retain all raw data from which that data was calculated (nor data from sites that were obviously compromised). You will have to prove that the part of the software that you claim is wrong directly affects the value-added data, AND that it compromised the data. Not just say that it could.

Moreover, something you seem not willing to address, people haven’t found a single error in GISTEMP, which essentially gives the same values in those grids where HADCRU and GISTEMP use the same sites (differences are mostly in the Arctic and Antarctic, and some regions where GHCN has less coverage). If HADCRU code is so compromised, altering value-added data, GISTEMP should give clearly different values.

Marco, I agree that the errors in that code don’t prove that the data is corrupt. But they undoubtedly prove that it MIGHT be corrupt - in ways that can’t possibly be determined. Would you be happy to learn that your bank was using software that might suddenly turn your next deposit into a huge overdraft, without any way of tracing what happened? I certainly wouldn’t!

I’ve been trying very hard not to fall into either the “sceptic” or “AGW believer” camp over this - my comments have been intended ONLY as informed comment on the code itself and the problems that code like that can create.

Thankfully, it seems that the Met Centre has recognised that and is planning to re-examine the data for HadCRU starting from scratch. That will be a big undertaking (and for some reason the UK government is reported as trying to stop them!) but will be well worth it, whatever people believe about AGW.

As the possible importance of this research became clear, making sure the basic data was sound should have been a priority long before this, especially given that the people maintaining the data must have had some idea what sort of mess it had grown into. Even that is surprisingly common where huge datasets are concerned so I’m not even “blameing” them there - just suggesting that, if this data is as important as they claim, it needs to be put in order. And fast!

As for GISTEMP, it has very well documented problems of it’s own but that’s another thread altogether….. ;)

So, Cam, are you going to denounce the perpetrators of this crime or what?

I endorse this vote of thanks without any reservation.

I have benefited significantly from the work of Professor Jones and his colleagues in producing this data and making it freely available. I have obtained and read the publications describing how it is all done; I have obtained for myself the underlying data (GHCN) and independently replicated some of the analysis for historical anomalies in local regions, to compare with the published values and check the effects of station selection criteria, against the results made available from CRU and other groups that have replicated and confirmed the work.

I have been appalled at the incredible spin placed on these stolen conversations. The baying hounds betray a profound lack of understanding of the context of all the discussions, and a malicious determination to smear by any means possible this outstanding scientist.

I hope the inquiry now being proposed is able to get on with sorting out this matter. Given number of denialists shouting about this and the understandable public confusion, it is going to be very important that this inquiry is independent and open. I hope and trust that this will help bring to light the ignorant campaign of harassment and denial from a particularly vocal group centered around a rather notorious blog. Whether the harassment was a deliberate tactic or a simple consequence of their cummulative behaviour, the effects are clear within the emails and the anger and frustration of the scientists is completely justified. However, it is going to require an independent inquiry for this to be properly identified and exposed to light.

Thank you to all of you, Dr Santer, Professor Jones, and the many other scientists who have worked so hard on this. The information you have made available in your papers and data, and in the raw data you used from the GHCN and similar groups, has been so thorough that even an amateur like me can follow most of your work and even check for myself the results that you obtain more thoroughly.

Chris Ho-Stuart

PS. I tripped up with my mouse and reduced the rating of the post. Argh.

“This form of mining seeks to find dirt - to skew true meaning, to distort, to misrepresent, to take out of context. It seeks to destroy the reputations of exceptional scientists”. Is he talking about this site? Hmmmmmm.

… seems to see the science is still solid despite the e-mail hack.

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2295516

Reading through some of the comments on this story I think Jim may have to move to Ottawa soon. ;-)

I have had the honor of appearing with Doctor Ben Santer at a climate seminar for Meteorologists. He is one of the smartest people on the planet when it comes to climate science. His papers on fingerprinting the human signal of climate change are must reads on the subject.

Dan Satterfield
Chief Metr. WHNT TV

“If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn’t being political, it is being selfish.” p.jones
\

Celebrating a sceptic death
From: Phil Jones, Thu Jan 29 14:17:01 2004
In an odd way this is cheering news !

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. p. jones

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 ! p. jones

sounds like a real gentleman with nothing to hide

Well, the reaction of Phil Jones is very understandable, considering how harrassed he and many other colleagaes were by denialist sharks, who had nothing in mind but abuse and distort their data for mud slinging.

Bill Clinton, speaking at the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner of the New Hampshire Democratic party last night, asked his audience to “fight false statements”. He used as his example the theft of email from “East Anglia”. He savaged the deniers who stole emails and misquoted them. He said they took quotes “going back up to 16 years ago” out of context. He listed a variety of the present symptoms of global warming: Antarctic ice shelving, pine bark beetles in the American west, and horrible drought in Australia. He returned later in his speech to “East Anglia”.

Clinton emphasized the economic benefits of retrofitting buildings, recovering the heating/cooling expenses while creating green jobs in America. He emphasized that a significant percentage of emissions can be stopped through efficiency. His example is the Empire State Building, which is expecting to save 40 percent of the emissions and expense.

Energy and global warming consumed the largest share of his talk, which also covered Obama”s plan for Afghanistan, health care and the economic costs and savings, and more. (Audiences do not expect pithy talks from Clinton, and he is never boring.) You would not know this from the media reports, which emphasized other topics.

of information on the matter would be monica Lewinsky rather than bill.

Can this theft or hack (leak seems to be the preferred word of CBS) not be viewed as a necessary look over the shoulder of men who are urging drastic changes in society? This isn’t private business anymore. It belongs to everyone because we all have to pay. Our leaders and nations and the way we do everything is being affected. You don’t buy a used car without looking under the hood.

Ever read “Hitler’s Scientists” by John Cornwell? How about “Biohazard” by Ken Alibek? Those are some of the best characterizations of the scientific environments within the Soviet and Nazi systems. These eras were marked by ideological conformity to themes laid down by a handful of authoritarian leaders - Himmler, Lysenko and the like.

For example, Himmler believed in a theory of weather that went something like this:

“Drawn by the gravitational field of the sun, bits of cosmic ice vaporize and explode… Ice crystals descend on the planets, forming ice crusts and in the case of the Earth rain. When meteors explode on entering our atmosphere, they form hailstorms. Our weather, in other words, comes from outer space, and Himmler was keen to exploit the theory to make long-range weather forecasts.”

You might guess that ridiculing this notion would not have been a good career move for a young German scientist…

“The next month Himmler tracked down the culprit [Paul Guthnik] responsible for commissioning the memorandum on glacial cosmogony and relieved him of his job, uniform and Party badge.”

Oddly familiar, isn’t it? Godwin’s law, you say? OK - point taken - so let’s examine the Soviet science system - Lysenko being the lead figure there. The theme is no different - Lysenko viewed Mendelian genetic theory as a fascist theory, and anyone who disagreed was sent to the gulag - hence putting Soviet biological science back decades. It was only when the Soviets launched their truly massive biowarfare program that modern genetics was introduced - but the only ones who had access to the latest Western technology and equipment were the Biopreparat people.

Eventually, a Russian wrote a novel about the scientific life under the Soviet System: White Robes, or Robed in White by Vladimir Dudintsev.

His fundamental point rings very true today in American scientific circles - although it’s not considered polite to discuss it - that would be a betrayal of academic collegial rules. The following discussion was pulled off a Russian server; White Robes has never been translated into English in the West.

Quote:
“White Clothes” also contains the idea of “parachutists”, described by Dudintsev this way:

“People thrown from the destroyed world into the conditions of Soviet reality. Entrepreneurs and egoists in their souls, they looked around and saw that here, too, it was possible to live if they accepted the new “rules of the game”. And hiding their true nature they began to shout along with everyone else, “Long live the world revolution!” Masking their insincerity, they shouted louder and more expressively than others so that they quickly rose to the top, occupied leading posts and began to struggle for their own personal, comfortable lifestyle.”

“According to Dudintsev, this is why gray-haired academics supported Lysenko and gave the leadership the needed “scientific” conclusions; and this is why, says Dudintsev, “ministers built not what was needed by the people, but that which did not contradict their personal interests.” To Dudintsev it is obvious that the ecological disasters around the Aral Sea, the Volga, and Lake Ladoga are the work of the “parachutists”.

end quote

Are there similar themes in American science institutions? Well, let’s just say that “White Robes” should be required reading for anyone who works at Dr. Strangelove’s institute, aka Lawrence Livermore National Labs, I think. Edward Teller is indeed the closest thing the United States has had to Lysenko - a clever scientist, but also a clever politician with a serious ideological fixation. He was the one chiefly responsible for undermining Eisenhower’s efforts to ban nuclear weapons testing. He was loved and feted by the nuclear weapons industry, but largely despised by honest scientists everywhere.

Are there also fields in the U.S. in which research is seriously discouraged - research areas that lead to career termination within our heavily corporatized academic system?

Yes - if your institution is a corporate relationship based on patent licensing, and your research damages that corporate interest in any way - be it a drug study that shows their blockbuster is less effective than aspirin, or an analysis of PCB concentrations in the Hudson River downstream from GE - then you will have hit the third rails in American science politics. Mercury contamination from coal? Focusing on that will cause you to lose your funding and be forced to relocate, as will studying organochlorine distributions in marine mammals. The latest entry on the list appears to be climate science - hi guys! What, don’t like the company?

The biggest third rail? Renewable energy research - it doesn’t get shut down, because it is never is allowed. It’s been completely destroyed in the U.S. since the late 1970s - and what did climate scientists do about it? Did they lift a finger, did they lobby the NSF to start funding renewable research? Or did they just focus on their own little community, as energy scientist after energy scientist was let go due to “lack of funding”? It was a silent purge, wasn’t it? Look around - do you see renewable energy engineering departments at universities, as compared to say, biomedical pharmaceutical departments? Computer and microelectronics departments? Are we talking about scientific research, or just the desire to make a quick buck? Where is the “honor” in that?

I don’t mean support for the wildly fraudulent “clean energy coal carbon capture” nonsense, either - if you want parachutists, just look there. Or, look at the API and ACCCE “media scientists” - more parachutists. If you’re willing to swill nonsense about clean coal and emissions capture, you can get funded, get tenure, get published, and get paid. Tell everyone the truth - that it’s pure bull - and out into the cold you go - that’s the Department of Energy for you. They do give lip service to “clean energy” but if you follow the money to the $2 billion coal FutureGen project, what do you find?

Let’s be clear about what would happen if scientific institutions are completely taken over by the established corporate interests - those API and ACCCE “media scientists” would be appointed to academic positions and would fire all the dissenters. Phil Jones would just be the first. This has ALREADY happened in the world of energy research, by the way - and as a result, the U.S. is taking last place in the industrialized nation’s rush toward renewables - not that the press will talk that much about it.

Renewable energy scientists looking at the trials and tribulations of climate scientists are sympathetic but also a little annoyed at the naivete - we’ve had to put up with this B.S. for decades, and now the climate scientists are whining because it is happening to them - but where were you when it was happening to us? Is Ben Santer one of the people who was promoting the renewable energy initiative at LLNL, for example? Who has the LLNL management contract now - Bechtel & Battelle are involved, right? What do they do? Bechtel is involved in fossil fuels, and Battelle is the chief sponsor of bogus clean coal technology.

You see why some people might want to charge some scientists with hypocrisy for defending climate science, but not renewable energy science? Maybe you can understand why some of us have developed a contemptuous attitude towards the American scientific Establishment? The politics, the greed, the corporate Lysenkoism? Man up and face reality, already - serious reforms are needed across the board, starting with a repeal of that atrocious Bayh-Dole patent legislation. Cosmetic measures should be met with derision, not support - and scientists need to get out of their little foxholes and start talking to the public.

As John Cornwell points out in the conclusion to “Hitler’s Scientists”:

“Today the dissident does not risk imprisonment or death, but in the globalized domains of science and technology there are no oases of irresponsible purity into which a scientist can retreat. The best defense against the prostitution and abuse of science is for scientists to unite in small and large unofficial constituencies, to create communicating communities of scientists, who, in Joseph Rotblat’s words, are ‘human beings first and scientists second.”

“These constituencies could provide the pluralist checks and balances that alert the public to irresponsible exploitation of science that poses threats not just to the American “homeland” but to societies and peoples everywhere; to the environment, to peace, to human rights and to nature itself.”

I doubt that the climate scientists actually wanted to get involved in policy arguments in their own area of expertise; it seems unrealistic to expect them to have gotten involved in policy arguments in other areas in the past.

Maybe renewable energy scientists need to get better PR. They have the internet now, which makes a difference; and the opportunity to push better solutions which people in general are looking for now.

I had not realised how many precedents there are for bad science resulting from monolithic control. I used to think this kind of thing could never happen here even though Dwight Eisenhower warned us in his 1961 farewell address:

“The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

Off at a slight tangent. Do you see parallels between the sale of indulgences during the middle ages and trading carbon credits today?

James Hansen! or at least thats the speculation of a few among the evil “denier” crowd.

I won’t bother linking it but some points were:

Hansen probably had access

He wants Copenhagen to fail and this might help

He has endorsed the idea of criminal acts for the environment

None of the hacked material reflects badly on him

He’s just about crazy enough to do it.

So until someone names a more likely suspect, Hansen is the man of interest.

Denialists might be stupid enough to believe your libellous BS, but you’re not fooling the intelligent people here, Rick.

CRU was not the only climate science centre being attacked by hackers;

“..The office break-ins took place late last year, Mr. Weaver said, while the other alleged hacking attempts at his colleagues’ offices – all unsuccessful – took place within the past few months…”

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=2300282

Let’s hope the criminals are caught soon.

I have no ambition to fool intelligent people, but I think they need a reminder not to be looking down their nose at everyone all the time - it’s going to create a vision problem.

Why has the father of global warming science become the guy that no one ever talks about anymore?

Myself, I think it was one of the former computer programmers. They we’re the ones asked to program out decreasing temperature data and knew exactly what was going on. They also did not get to live the high life hob knobbing with celebrities and get huge grants so the motive is there and they would have the technical know how.
I’m wondering if the police investigation into the “hacking” will publically reveal the findings, that would be interesting.

Is this the same Ben Santer who wanted to assault Patrick Michaels? The one who wanted to resort to violence because he lost an argument?

According to Santer, the people who are asking for explanations from the Climategate team are engaging in “the vilest of personal attacks”.

Dr. Santer you are a Mimophant. Maybe not as great as Bobby Fischer but a Mimophant nonetheless.

“A mimophant is a hybrid species: a cross between a mimosa and an elephant. A member of this species is sensitive like a mimosa where his own feelings are concerned and thick-skinned like an elephant trampling over the feelings of others.”