Mullering the data.
There is this new sort of creature who’s emerged in the climate debate in the last year or two. Unsurprisingly, they all seem to spring from the alarmist side, but they all have one of those comfortably recognisable patterns of behaviour that I quite like. I’ll freely admit I’ve a slight compulsion to look for patterns in the dazed confusion of reality. Once you make out the pattern, it’s easier to do the prediction thing but perhaps I’m kidding myself on this one; I’m probably just a compulsive taxonomist who doesn’t like nasty surprises.
The pattern tends to be that they break the consensus ranks, amid a sharp intake of breath from the rest of the serried rows of sheep, with a debut article or statement that, while it isn’t a complete renunciation of their faith in Mother Gaia, is a smidgen of a doubt being cast on one of the tenets of the Church of Climatology. It’s a bit like pinching a pretty woman’s bum in church. After the involuntary yelp, the usual reaction is a shocked silence from the alarmist congregation and the raising of hopes in the realist ranks. Perhaps a miracle is occurring and one of them has finally seen the light? Flutter. Flutter. Be still my foolish heart.
The next bit I always find a bit demeaning. Not for me personally, you understand, but watching the whole situation unfold. They announce they’re going to open an honest dialogue with us nasty deniers or even more daringly, going to do some totally unbiased piece of research on an area of “settled” but controversial science, to get to the bottom of it once and for all. There’s always a few realists who fall for it and innocently believe it’s for real, so they get sucked into the charade and become part of it. It’s as if they somehow still need an authority figure to endorse their indecent skepticism. Like I said, a bit demeaning, even if by proxy.
Usually the area of supposedly settled science is one we’ve totally torn the ass out of, but given how important it is, they get the funding to do a root and branch re-examination of it, to determine the real truth of the matter. This time it’s going to get sorted out. They disappear for a few months, hopes on both sides rise on the results of this honest broker and guess what? They come back and with a heavy heart and with great regret, announce that after reviewing all the data, the world is still going to end. At this point, the realists finally get to take their first look at how the new research has been done, realise it’s just a variation of the same old bollocks and they’ve been had yet again. Of course, by then, the honest broker has already pre-announced the results to their pals in the media and having bagged the desired propaganda headlines, the carnival has moved on.
It was all a game from the very start. Welcome to Schmucksville, schmucks.
Well, that’s the pattern, so let’s move onto an example of it. The Berkeley professor Richard Muller burst onto the climate world stage with an unequivical condemnation of the climategate scientists. Indeed, from now on, he wasn’t even going to read any papers they produced – so there! That was the pinch on the derrière moment. You can find a video of him delivering the pinch here. I’d encourage you to give it a play. At face value, he’s saying all the right things. However (don’t you just hate howevers?), I’d encourage you to play it again, but this time with the sound off. Watch the body language. The impression I get, is that if ever there was a little chappie getting high on his 15 minutes of fame, you’re looking at him. Not a good sign.
A little background research confirmed to my way of thinking that he was more of a believer than the objective scientist he was portraying himself as, especially as he’d already given testimony to a US House committee earlier the same year, saying in unequivocal terms, that the world was definitely warming up. Dependant on the company, he was even prone to using the denier word. Once a supposed scientist uses that word, irrespective of their particular justification of it, they lose every shred of credibility in my eyes. Although he quite accurately bills himself as a physicist in that clip, he’s been specialising in Earth Sciences for a number of years and so would be expected to know exactly what’s going on in it. We were actually expected to believe it took him two years after the climategate leak of emails, to realise the implications of them and then get around to the condemnation he’s doing in that clip of the climategate cowboys? Two years? Seriously? Gowon, you’re ‘aving a larf.
On a more subjective judgement, there was a distinct lack of that old-fashioned thing called gravitas about the man. Contrast that clip with this one of Prof. Richard Lindzen. You can play that clip any way you like, but the abiding impression you’ll get is of a man with gravitas, whose conclusions are driven by the data, even if that should put him into that very real danger zone outside the establishment of climate science. He has that certain strength of character. You can see it. If a person of that calibre ever said they’d changed their opinion and global warming represented a serious danger to humanity, I’d have to go away for a spell and do some serious rethinking of my position on the whole issue.
The long and the short of it was, I never trusted Muller.
He and his team then went on to conduct a complete reexamination of all the raw data, to determine if in fact the world temperature was rising significantly. Just before the much awaited results were published, he started giving interviews to a few selected journalists of the warmist variety. The ensuing headlines were along the very predictable lines of – global warming skeptic admits the world is actually getting dangerously warmer.
It was the usual wheeze of pre-announcing research results on data that was as yet unavailable, and sometimes never will be, to the realists for scrutiny. It was all a bit embarrassing for the other people, whose names were on the yet to be published paper, especially Judith Curry, who was busy doing her own honest broker let’s-talk-to-the-skeptics thingy. You really do have to be careful about what or to whom you lend your good name and credibility. After a short but no doubt violent interval of blood, snot and feathers flying around, Muller and his colleagues appeared to kiss and make up and he went back to tunneling through the data. The line seemed to be that it had all been some sort of unfortunate PR misunderstanding and he wouldn’t do it again. Yes, of course it was.
Needless to say, by the time the realists got their hands on the data and had a look at the analytical methods used, any such conclusion was far from warranted. But that actually didn’t matter, because by then the alarmist headlines were safely bagged and as we all know, the mainstream media never does corrections, never mind retractions, when it comes to a good climate alarm story.
By now, it’s all last year’s stuff, except for a recent article I came across, containing an interview with the good professor, of whom not much has been heard of in the last year or so. He’s still being billed as a former skeptic, which as far as I can find out, he never was, and as soft interviews go, it’s fairly standard stuff except for one bit, where the interviewer asks him if he thinks global warming is being caused by human activity. The guarded reply is that they’re still working on conclusions but they’re moving in that direction. It sounds like he’s already reached a conclusion to me, but he does goes on to say all will be revealed in a few weeks, when they publish their results. I can’t wait …
It seems that he’s gone back to briefing selected journalists, in advance of publication of the results. A little bit of PR never hurts, though I’m sure one or two uncharitable cynics in our midst might think he’s just craving the spotlight again. Who knows?
The one thing I do know, is the inevitable headlines we can expect – global warming skeptic admits global warming is caused by human activity. Perhaps they’ll add a “former” in front, as a cherry on top. Everyone loves a convert to their religion.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
For those of you who might not have come across the term before, Mullered is a relatively newish piece of slang, I’m quite partial to. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s mullered the data this time. No doubt, those terrible twins, the two M’s, are already sharpening their pencils …
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