Skeptics Prefer Pal Review Over Peer Review: Chris de Freitas, Pat Michaels And Their Pals, 1997-2003

anti-science pot calling science kettle black

Imagine for a moment that climate change skeptics actually submitted their anti-science arguments for publication in a credible peer-reviewed journal. Now imagine that, after thorough examination and debunking by their peers, these skeptics finally admitted their many false claims and assumptions, and perhaps some or all moved on to contribute meaningfully to the vast body of science confirming manmade climate change?

Ok, back to reality.

Instead, the skeptics' greatest and most-often cited (by them) “peer-reviewed studies” appeared in the journal Climate Research between 1997-2003. This journal has been considered credible at certain points in its history, and many fine papers have appeared there.

But according to my new analysis [PDF] of the papers published in Climate Research, there is a very clear gap in credibility during the years 1997-2003 when Chris de Freitas served as one of the journal's editors. During this time, de Freitas oversaw the publication of 14 papers from notorious skeptics - half of them authored by fossil fuel industry pal Pat Michaels - many of which would not have survived rigorous and honest peer review at any other credible journal. 

A few months ago, another journal's editor resigned over a paper that should not have been accepted due to a poor peer review process. It reminded many of us of the more drastic case of Climate Research (CR), where several editors resigned in 2003 in the wake of a colossally poor paper by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, accepted for publication by none other than Chris de Freitas.

It was certainly not the first de Freitas-endorsed paper to pass weak editorial processes at Climate Research, but when incoming Editor-in-Chief Hans von Storch suggested the paper should not have been published, he endeavored to fix editorial processes to prevent such problems.  The publisher did not agree, so von Storch and other editors resigned.

Did UK Police Quietly Sideline ‘Climategate’ Hacker Investigation?

The UK police force tasked with investigating the hacking of emails and documents from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (the debunked “Climategate”) seems to have quietly de-prioritized its investigation earlier this year, according to documents released under the UK Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Norfolk Constabulary police force’s responses to FOIA requests indicate that the amount spent on attempts to identify the hacker in the last year was just £5,649.09 - with all but £80.05 spent on invoices for work carried out previously by private companies, suggesting police work on the investigation has ground to a halt.

Earlier this week, the hackers (ironically calling themselves “FOIA”) illegally released a second set of hacked material consisting of 5,349 emails and 23 documents from UEA. The university and independent reviews suggest these are leftovers from the initial November 2009 theft – in the words of one climate scientist, “two-year old turkey.” 

While nine independent inquiries have cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing in the wake of the baseless ‘Climategate’ episode, the person (or persons) responsible for the hacking has gotten off scot-free to date. The FOIA documents seem to indicate that the police investigation was derailed and perhaps dropped earlier this year.

The grand total spent by Norfolk police on the UEA hacker investigation since the November 2009 theft is just £80,905.11.

Real 'Climategate' Scandal: UK Police Spent Measly $8,843 In Failed Attempt to Identify Criminal Hacker

Richard Black at the BBC points to the real 'Climategate' scandal that needs further investigation - why the UK police have done such an astonishly poor job investigating this criminal hacking, as evidenced by their tiny expenditures to date this year. From Climate Emails, Storm or Yawn?

I have it from a very good source that it absolutely was a hack, not a leak by a “concerned” UEA scientist, as has been claimed in some circles.
The Norfolk Police clearly see it as a criminal act too, a spokesman telling me that “the contents [of the new release] will be of interest to our investigation which is ongoing”.
Groups like UCS are, however, beginning to ask where that investigation has got to.
I have been passed information stemming from an FoI request to Norfolk Police showing that over the past 12 months, they have spent precisely £5,649.09 [US$8,843.64] on the investigation.
All of that was disbursed back in February; and all but £80.05 went on “invoices for work in the last six months”.
Of all the figures surrounding the current story, that is perhaps the one that most merits further interrogation.

Stay tuned for more information when Black writes further about his (real) investigation into the incompetent police effort to identify the thieves behind the East Anglia CRU hack.

Climategate Hackers Slither Again in the Night

Steal More; Reveal Less

The Climagegate hackers appear to be at it again, spraying the internet with dozens of out-of-context quotes from a new batch of stolen emails - in a transparent attempt to disrupt the climate talks starting next week in Durban, South Africa.

The emails, from a source that denierblogger Tallbloke identifies as “Our old friend 'FOIA',” appeared with the same serendipitous timing - and in the same devious way - as last year's more-devastating tranche: accordig to the Guardian, they were “leaked” on a Russian server and then sprinkled into the denieresphere through the usual suspects: Wattsupwiththat, ClimateAudit, AirVent and the already mentioned Tallbloke. We can undoubtedly expect a fresh round of breathless “mainstream media” coverage from the Murdoch empire.

These emails are even more ridiculous than the batch released in 2009. First, the hackers didn't have the decency to release the emails in context - rather they just pulled the quotes they thought would be effective in casting doubt. Second, the thieves, who have had two whole years to sift through what appears to be the same source material have mined only 5,000 of more than 220,000 emails, implying that there may be more “dirt” buried in the remainder. This strains credulity: if there was anything in the remaining emails that was even vaguely incriminating, you can bet they would have found and released it. Third, the “best stuff” that they actually released is worse than trivial:

Climate Change Spin A Growing Problem For Fox News

When it comes to climate change denial, a new study shows that the folks at Fox News are leading the pack. Through politically-charged news segments and commentary, Fox News personalities are helping spread misinformation about climate change while convincing their viewers that scientists are torn on the issue.

The International Journal of Press/Politics has published a new study titled “Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC,” [PDF] which details the ways in which the major American news outlets are reporting stories on climate change.

From the report:

National surveys reveal that many Americans do not believe that scientists are in agreement over this issue. More troubling, the number of Americans who believe that global warming is happening and that it is a result of human activities has declined in recent years: In April 2008, 71 percent of Americans perceived solid evidence for global warming, relative to only 57 percent in October 2009. And while President Obama has pledged that passing legis- lation to curb pollution that contributes to global warming is a priority of his admin- istration, in January 2009, Americans ranked global warming last in a list of twenty policy issues that they felt were important for the president and Congress to address. These surveys also point to stark partisan divides in global warming perceptions, with Democrats far more likely to accept the evidence for the human causes of global warming and to consider environmental protection a policy priority than Republicans.

The views that many Americans have towards climate change are clearly reflected in the cable news arena. Fox News, sadly, has the highest ratings of any other cable news organization, and the study shows that their viewers are for more likely to believe that manmade climate change isn’t happening. More from the study:

Of the three networks, Fox News was simultaneously the least likely to be accepting and the most likely to be dismissive of climate change. Nearly 60 percent of Fox News broadcasts were dismissive of climate change, whereas less than 20 percent were accepting of climate change. On the other hand, more than 70 percent of CNN and MSNBC broadcasts were accepting of climate change. Not a single MSNBC broadcast took a dismissive tone toward climate change and just 7 percent of CNN broadcasts did so.

Global Temperature Data Released by "Climategate" Researchers

Temperature anomaly from HadCRUT3

TEMPERATURE data from more than 5,000 weather stations used to compile a key global record of surface temperatures has been released to the public.

The raw data, sent from weather agencies across the world to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England, was released after an order from the UK’s Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.

CRU scientists were at the centre of the so-called “climategate” affair when hundreds of emails and some data were hacked and released on the internet.

The release follows a successful freedom-of-information challenge from academics Professor Jonathan Jones, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, and Dr Don Keiller, a biochemist at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. Professor Jones has decribed himself as a “climate agnostic”.

Could News Corp. Double Agent Neil Wallis Be Behind Climategate Hacking?

As if this week’s Rupert Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal wasn’t enough, it now appears that the University of East Anglia CRU email hacking scandal (a.k.a. Climategate) might actually be the work of the same News Corp henchman who helped to feed insider information from a Scotland Yard police investigation directly to Murdoch’s News Corp.

Neil Wallis, one of the key figures in the hacking of the phones, voicemails and electronic communications of anywhere from 4,000 to over 12,000 people, was essentially a double agent working by day as Executive Director of News of the World, and simultaneously as a public relations consultant during the police investigation into the scandal. Wallis conveniently reported back to News Corp on Scotland Yard’s investigation. 

While Murdoch’s henchmen were getting the skinny on the police investigation, the police were convincing other news organizations not to cover the story.

After the November 2009 hacking of the computer server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, the victimized climate science unit sought public relations guidance to help fight back against allegations of scientific misconduct.  

Guess who they hired - Neil Wallis and his PR firm Outside Organisation.

Rush Limbaugh Seizes--and Freezes?--on "ClimateGate"

For some time, it has been clear that “ClimateGate” has a dramatic meaning for the political right in the U.S. Somehow, “ClimateGate” gave those conservatives who had long been resistant to dealing with global warming a new license to dismiss the problem entirely. As a non-conservative, it’s hard to wrap your mind around how this could have occurred—after all, “ClimateGate” wasn’t a real scandal–but recently, I’ve come up with what may be a better understanding.

The inspiration came from checking in on Rush Limbaugh and noting, in more detail than I usually do, the particular flavor of his dismissiveness. Limbaugh took a call recently from one Michael Hillinger, a New Hampshire resident who had made news by asking GOP candidate Mitt Romney a question about whether he accepts the science of climate change (Romney said yes). Based on these statements, Limbaugh bade “Bye By Nomination” to Romney; he also had this “exchange” with Hillinger:

Don't Be Fooled: Fossil Fools Fund Latest Climate Skeptic Petition

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) recently published a flashy headline that reads, 900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of “Man-Made” Global Warming (AGW) Alarm’. The article links to a blog post on listing more than 900 papers which, according to the GWPF, refute “concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic.”

The “900+ papers” list is supposed to somehow prove that a score of scientists reject the scientific consensus on climate change. One might be persuaded by the big numbers. We’re not.

Paul Krugman's Must-Read NY Times Op-Ed On Immoral Climate Denial

New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman has a must-read piece today noting the “cynical careerism” of climate deniers who won’t even acknowledge the truth when one of “their own” discovers that climate science is sound.  Singling out Anthony Watts as an example of this head-in-the-sand approach, Krugman notes that Watts and other climate skeptics changed their tune about the Koch-funded Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project when its lead researcher testified in front of Congress last week that climate change is real and man-made.  It wasn’t what the skeptics - or the anti-science GOP - wanted to hear.

UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller - whose reputation as a climate skeptic and funding by a Koch foundation the Republicans likely assumed made him one of “theirs” - instead shocked the hearing by reporting that his group’s preliminary results find a global warming trend “very similar to that reported by the prior groups.”

Krugman notes that Anthony Watts had recently “praised the Berkeley project and piously declared himself ‘prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.’”

But then of course when Professor Muller announced the preliminary results of his study upholding the scientific basis of climate disruption, Watts ridiculed the hearing Muller attended as “post normal science political theater.”


Subscribe to Climategate