Email management boffins, and more or less anybody that has ever fathomed the extremely-complex (or not) world of how to archive messages using MS Outlook or any other email package, are urgently sought at world-famous UEA’s CRU and at the Nature Publishing Group, following a plea for help by a computer-challenged climate modeler and a critical-thinking-challenged scientific journalist:
Climate researcher Tim Osborn is next door, struggling with a familiar problem. “My inbox is full and I need to delete some e-mails.” Then, with a thin smile: “But I’m not allowed to now, am I?“
It’s really heartwarming (without even having to surround one’s internal organs with greenhouse gases!!) to find that people that want to save the world by running complex computational models on supercomputers, are so (un)familiar with using common features of simple apps; and that people assigned by major international scientific publications to keep us informed about a problem that might engulf the planet, are (in)capable of showing much intelligent reasoning and to probe a situation with thoughtful questions and unprecedented insight.
ps On a more serious note, it’s telling that:
- after likely having broken the law on FOI, the CRU researchers are still trying to make up new excuses useful to… break the law in the future too
- Nature has celebrated one year of Climategate with a softy-softy smoochie-smoochie approach, accepting the most faint of excuses by Jones as if they were the final answers to any of the still-open questions about what has happened (just look at how much stuff is popping up in the Comments section of that article). I guess this is just the norm at the moment, with climate journalists indistinguishable from mindless bots, sheepish claques claiming to stand for strong democracy, and actively if unwittingly misleading their readers by providing half of the news.
Same old, same old?
Unless and until the “Nature” editors will find the courage the publish correspondence such as the below, outside of the usual echo-chambers of close-minded, mantra-repeating, conformist half-thinkers, the most we can expect from the somewhat prestigious journal is incomplete columns: because in order to complete them, they need to involve the world they don’t want to listen to…
Dear Sir or Madam
I was somewhat surprised at the abrupt ending of Colin Macilwain’s latest Nature column (“World view: Disaster, unmitigated”, published online 19 May 2010 | Nature 465, 287 (2010) | doi:10.1038/465287a).
As a way for the environmental movement to re-engage the public, Mr. Macilwain suggests “those researchers who do feel comfortable with advocacy need to spend more time on the ground, talking to real people about why their work matters”. Scientists doubling up as street preachers? Unlikely. And yet, there could be a hint of a way out of the “disaster”.
How to talk “to real people”? Scientists that build for themselves a name as scientists, often misunderstand it as a free pass to provide the world with the “Given Truth”. But very few manage to be an Einstein or a Feynman: with no reputation in a social and/or political context, the most solid scientific ideas become only somebody’s opinion in an ocean of opinions. With a long history of misguided scientific claims in the media (as recently highlighted in The Guardian), emission trading and the plight of Mexican lizards achieve the same status of dieting fads and miracle cancer cures, just a notch above Nostradamus.
The result is the wholescale political hijacking of the climate debate (mainly in the USA), very little progress, noise all over the place: the “disaster” mentioned by Mr. Macilwain.
The obvious first step out of such a situation involves building social and political reputation, by reducing the cacophony: acquiring allies instead of enemies; making do without grandstanding claims about impending dooms; relying less on a change in human nature and the reinvention of civilisation; opening up to the society-wide consequences of each particular solution. And telling “climate change” like it is, a matter of risk management instead of hubris, projections not predictions, stewardship not dictatorship.
There are many out there like me, politically active, environmentally conscious, scientifically trained, ferociously on the side of Reason in the tradition of Carl Sagan and James Randi and on this basis aware of the potential dangers of climate change, unconvinced about the reality of upcoming catastrophes and worried about the future of society and of civil liberties. But as long as the prevailing attitude among climate scientists and especially activists-researchers will involve lèse majesté and ad-hominems against “deniers”, really, there will be nobody, least of all “real people”, for them to talk to.
Horrified by Nature’s idiotic editorial trying to rally the troops for a street fight? Worry no more…the esteemed British scientific magazine is not new to egregious errors, such as showing no interest in the discovery of the Krebs Cycle (in 1937) and rejecting outright the evidence for pre Cambrian complex lifeforms (1946).
Perhaps the scientists of the XXII century will have learned that reputation means truly nothing, in the realms of proper science. Especially after the invention of marketing.
(this has been sent to Nature via e-mail earlier today)
Dear Nature Editors
Thank you very much for showing your true, climate-integralist colours in the cringe-inducing “Climate of fear” editorial (Nature 464, 141 (11 March 2010) | doi :10.1038/464141a; Published online 10 March 2010).
We can’t but take notice that at the time when some scientists have apparently managed for years to keep non-orthodox climate science papers away from printed and online peer-reviewed journals, one of those very journals has remarkably decided to join the “street fight”, as if that represented any change for the better from the previous routine.
Go ahead then, pick up your worthy opponents. Will there be any good coming out of Nature becoming the home of motivational speeches for climate hooligans? What an undignified spectacle that would be. Luckily, the planet will not take much notice, and hopefully neither will the general public, and those scientists and people interested like us all in learning the world as it is, rather than through the distorting lenses of misdirected, alarmist activisms.
“Scientists must not be so naive as to assume that the data speak for themselves”. Indeed. Neither should they fall for the hubris of drowning and disregarding those very same data in a sea of pre-packaged ideologies. In Canto XXVI of Inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy, the character of Ulysses is made to describe what the quest for knowledge should be about:
Ye were not form’d to live the life of brutes,
But virtue to pursue and knowledge high.
Too bad you have opted to “live the life of brutes” instead.
Teodoro Georgiadis – senior scientist – biometeorology
Luigi Mariani – professor – agrometeorology
Guido Guidi – meteorologist
Alessandra Nucci – journalist
Maurizio Morabito – blogger – Omniclimate
And so we learn that the issue of having major scientific publications rely way too much on the biased opinion of a restricted number of self-appointed “experts” apparently working together to promote their own good selves rather than to advance knowledge, is not confined to climate research alone:
Stem cell experts say they believe a small group of scientists is effectively vetoing high quality science from publication in journals.
[…] Professor Lovell-Badge [from the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR)] said: “It’s turning things into a clique where only papers that satisfy this select group of a few reviewers who think of themselves as very important people in the field is published.
“You can get a lot of hype over a paper published on stem cell research that’s actually a minimal advance in knowledge whereas the poor person that is doing beautiful research that is not catching the eye of the editor, you don’t get to hear about that, even though it could be the world changing piece of research.”
[…] These kinds of allegations are not new and not confined to stem cell research. But professors [Austin] Smith [of University of Cambridge] and Lovell-Badge believe that the problem has become particularly acute in their field of research recently for two reasons.
Firstly, research grants and career progression are now determined almost entirely by whether a scientist gets published in a major research journal. Secondly, in stem cell science, hundreds of millions of pounds are available for research – and so there is a greater temptation for those that want the money to behave unscrupulously.
[…] Even if research is not being deliberately stifled, high quality work is being overlooked as an “accidental consequence of journal editors relying too much on the word of a small number of individuals“, according to Professor Lovell-Badge.
[…] One of the main reasons for this, according to Professor Smith, is that journals are in competition. Editors have become dependent on favoured experts who both review other people’s stem cell research and submit their own papers to the journal. If the editor offends these experts, they may lose future papers to a rival. This is leading to the journals publishing mediocre science, according to Professor Lovell-Badge.[…]
Curiously, the above is getting plenty of air time on BBC’s Radio4’s flagship programme, “Today”. Of course there’s some attempt at mimimizing the issue…on my part, I strongly believe that one of the main issues is about Editors getting their personal biases in the way. They should become more “publishing executives” rather than “unquestionable super-reviewers”: otherwise, the future of science will be a load of hyped rubbish.
There’s an underlying feeling of desperation in Joe Romm (ClimateProgress)’s “What are the near-term climate Pearl Harbors?“, a list “of what might drive action strong enough to avoid the worst“.
The list includes the Arctic “ice-free before 2020“, “superstorms like Katrina“, “a heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003” , and the 2012 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (perish the thought it might be less catastrophiliac than the Fourth Assessment Report…).
Note that Romm’s blog has been echoed by Heliophage, on Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth, and in Nature’s Climate Feedback. An unwise move, if you ask me: one wonders what people would make if they knew that those claiming to work towards saving Planet Earth, are actively hoping disasters of all sorts befall upon us.
Talk about striving for unpopularity!!!
The desperation is evident in the fact that a person allegedly as well-informed on climate stuff as Romm, comes up with wholly inappropriate examples. Katrina was a big storm but not more superstorm than other hurricanes (Romm even acknowledges this point), and the destruction of New Orleans was evidently a matter of bad engineering and incompetent relief management. Didn’t he have anything better to put forward?
Likewise for the European heatwave of 2003. And even more importantly: neither Katrina, nor the European heatwave, can be linked to Climate Change and/or Global Warming. And so if, say, another heatwave will materialize, it will tell us absolutely nothing about Climate Change and Global Warming.
Actually, looking at the list of 9 items posted by Romm, the only ones that may provide ammunitions to the AGW cause may be the ice-free Arctic, and “accelerated mass loss in Greenland“.
Most likely, Romm is simply and perhaps unwittingly acknowledging the fact that for all the huffing and all the puffing, there is very little that AGWers can show to support their claims.
As I [Revkin] wrote in 2006 (”Yelling Fire on a Hot Planet“) problems that get people’s attention (and cause them to change) are “soon, salient and certain” and the dangerous aspects of human-forced climate disruption remain none of those things
And what has Romm got to reply to that? Very little. Actually, almost nothing: he spells out some kind of humanitarian deathwish, a desire for a big climate crisis; makes a critical point against journalists (who doesn’t); and decries how he understands things but most people don’t:
Multi-hundred-billion-dollar-sized government action happens only when there is a very, very big crisis […] labeled as such by very serious people who are perceived as essentially nonpartisan opinion leaders […] bad things must be happening to regular people right now […]
Better journalism would help. […] We simply don’t have a critical mass of credible nonpartisan opinion leaders who understand the nature of our energy and climate problem.
Revkin’s “soon, salient and certain“, by the way, is a quote originally from “Helen Ingram, a professor of planning, policy and design at the University of California, Irvine“.
Won’t Prof. Ingram be excited upon hearing that salience is not a problem, but persons not being bright enough is…
The supreme pinnacle of irony, in the Romm/Revkin exchange, lies in the former’s misunderstanding of the latter’s point about “certainty“. In 2006, Revkin noted that:
Projections of how patterns of drought, deluges, heat and cold might change are among the most difficult, and will remain laden with huge uncertainties for a long time to come […]
While scientists say they lack firm evidence to connect recent weather to the human influence on climate, environmental campaigners still push the notion […]
Romm’s reply? Another accusation, refusing to acknowledge Revkin’s first point (emphasis in the original):
You [Revkin] understand this but you don’t convey this to your readers: Doing nothing or doing little eliminates the uncertainty.
Romm’s near-term climate Pearl Harbors post, actually, does look suspiciously as a way of “pushing a notion” the non-scientific notion of connecting recent weather to (future?) climate change.
The above doesn’t look very promising for the AGW movement.
I am actually starting to think that the problem is in the fact that most AGWer haven’t grasped the nature of the issue they are concerned about. And so they use the tools learned to protect pandas or clean up the Hudson river. And for most intents and purposed, they fail: because, as Revkin has realized, Anthropogenic Global Warming, aka Climate Change, truly is a completely different beast.
A telling choice of words in the latest issue of Nature may reveal an important aspect behind the unrelenting fixation among scientists and journalists to see (global, anthropogenic) climate change everywhere and in everything:
Changing weather patterns, producing the wrong kind of snow, have transformed the population dynamics of lemmings in northern Scandinavia
“The wrong kind of snow“?
That’s a very familiar phrase with every British commuter, alongside “wrong kind of leaves on the line“, “wrong kind of rain” and whatever else is quite common and should be reasonably expected (until, that is, it can be used as a bizarre excuse to mask the shortcomings of public transport, such as delayed trains).
And in fact: here’s the publisher’s presentation of a book that came out exactly a year ago: “The Wrong Kind of Snow” by Antony Woodward and Rob Penn (£9.10 on Amazon in the UK):
It’s the great British obsession and not surprisingly: no other country in the world has such unpredictable weather, with such power to rule people’s lives as we have. The Wrong Kind of Snow is the complete daily companion to this British phenomenon. From the Spanish Armada to the invention of the windscreen wiper, each of the 365 entries beautifully illustrates a day in the weird and wonderful history of the British and their weather.
And in fact: where do the authors of the “Lemmings Doomed by Climate Change” (“Population biology: Case of the absent lemmings“) article work?
Tim Coulson and Aurelio Malo are in the Department of Life Sciences, Silwood Park Campus, Imperial College London, Ascot, Berkshire UK
And in fact: where is “Nature” managed from? Why,
The Macmillan Building, London, United Kingdom
And in fact: what major news organization immediately picked up the “Lemmings” story and published it without a comment in an unsigned article? Of course: the British Broadcasting Corporation, aka the “BBC”.
And so when in a few years’ time people will be scrambling to explain the absence of catastrophic climate change, expect the blame to be placed on this: the wrong kind of Anthropogenic Global Warming!