Blog Archive

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Currygate: Judith Curry has spread disinformation in Brazil. Interview from Época magazine, May 1, 2010

Arthur Smith's comment on Judith Curry's bizarre stances:
  1. Judith Curry’s appeal (in #467) to Peirce’s classification scheme on “fixation of belief” is an interesting approach – but I think its application to this particular discussion would be far more enlightening than her rather cavalier classification of various blogs by it. Are we to trust her authority on this classification, which she seems to cling to with a striking “tenacity” despite the protests of many of her peers here?

    Let’s look at the issue of belief in three points straight from the title of Montford’s book:
    * is the “Hockey stick” an illusion?
    * is “climategate” significant?
    * is [any part of] science corrupt?

    On the method of “tenacity”, Peirce explained his meaning:
    why should we not [...take] as answer to a question any we may fancy, and constantly reiterating it to ourselves, dwelling on all which may conduce to that belief, and learning to turn with contempt and hatred from anything that might disturb it?
    Once you have formed any opinion on a subject, it’s a perfectly natural human tendency to cling to that opinion, and “both sides” do it here. From the start most of us with some scientific background and trust in the methods of peer review would have tended to the “No” answer on each of the three questions, though many of us may have had doubts on each point. Clearly on the McIntyre/Montford side, the tendency was to answer “Yes”.

    The question regarding Peirce’s classification is to what degree those beliefs were *fixed* by this method of simply clinging to them, despite contrary evidence. Tamino’s review here and past discussions (Mann 2008 in particular, but even all the other reconstructions like Loehle’s) clearly show a certain “robustness” in the “hockey stick” form and the conclusion regarding recent warmth being highly anomalous. What is the evidence on the other side? There were clearly some mistakes made in the analyses (in Mann’s papers, and far worse in Loehle’s) but there doesn’t seem to be any modern reconstruction published in the peer reviewed literature that shows anything other than essentially the picture in MBH98.

    So the weight of the evidence on question 1 is very heavily in favor of those who fixed belief in the “No” side of the question, and heavily against those on the “Yes”. Have any of those on the “Yes” side changed their minds in regard to this evidence? If not, then they are clearly stuck in Peirce’s “tenacity” mindset.

    Similarly on climategate and corruption, we’ve now had 5 reviews that found at worst some poor communication and data sharing practices. The weight of the evidence is very strongly on the “No” side of these questions. Have any of the “Yes” folks changed their minds as a result? There are some examples: The Guardian’s George Monbiot, for instance, at first thought climategate was significant and called for Phil Jones to resign, but has now stepped back from that (his concern seemed to be chiefly from a deep faith in the importance of FOI-type laws).

    Peirce’s method of authority referred to imposition of belief by government or other institutional agents. On the above three questions and in the present discussion it doesn’t seem to me to apply at all. I don’t believe he was referring to “authority” in the sense of expertise; in some sense the role of the IPCC in fixing belief around climate science is similar to Peirce’s “authority”, but it has no enforcement power and to me it seems far more like a step in the process of fixation and communication of scientific information, part of the publishing process, than anything like what Peirce was talking about in method 2.
    Peirce’s last two methods of fixation are perhaps the most interesting for scientific discussion: that which is “agreeable to reason” vs that which “coincides with fact”. What is the source of “fact”? Observation of the world around us – raw data, collected and prepared according to scientific standards of care, self-doubt, and open honesty. On top of that data we have analysis and interpretation, which again require scientific care.

    As an example of the “a priori” “agreeable to reason” method, Peirce takes an interesting example – classical economics:
    Take, for example, the doctrine that man only acts selfishly — that is, from the consideration that acting in one way will afford him more pleasure than acting in another. This rests on no fact in the world, but it has had a wide acceptance as being the only reasonable theory.
    In this context, there are several groups that are practicing the scientific method in the sense of actually going out into the world and making observations. The people who study tree rings, those who study borehole temperatures, those who set up and monitor temperature stations, those who study glaciers, sometimes risking their lives, are gathering that basic factual data about the world. On top of that are folks like the CRU and Mike Mann, collecting that data together and analyzing it to see what it can tell us, what the larger-scale picture might be.

    That scientific method can have bearing on only the first question: is the “hockey stick” an illusion, an artefact, an accident of the way the work was done? And the only way to answer differently is to do your own reconstruction, go back to the raw data and see what difference it makes. As Tamino illustrates here, that seems to have been done repeatedly by others and they come back with the same answer. So the scientific method, as far as it seems to have been applied at all here, clearly shows a “No” answer to the first question.

    But the second and third questions are not matters where we can apply any observations of the non-human natural world to help fix our opinions. These are questions about what people said, what they meant, what in their hearts they honestly were feeling. Since the internal workings of another human being are fundamentally subjective and cannot be determined by any objective method, our only resort on this question, our best option, is to appeals to reason. The “facts” on scientific corruption may be eternally in dispute, but what conforms best to our understandings of the people involved, of reason in this matter? Conspiracy theories can certainly be logically self-consistent, but they are fundamentally destructive to human relationships and progress. The fundamental foundation of all of that has to return to the one question that can be answered by science here: “is the hockey stick an illusion”?

    If you want a scientific discussion, that is the only question of relevance. And Tamino addressed precisely that question in his review here. The answer is, No.

    Comment #512 by Arthur Smith — 30 July 2010 @ 10:12 AM

Judith Curry has spread her brand of disinformation in Brazil.  Interview from Época magazine, May 1, 2010
Dear Readers, I will try to translate as much as I can, but it will take a while, so please be patient.

Here it is -- head vise warning in effect!

Judith Curry: “I am not afraid of the climate”

American researcher says that there is still a lot of uncertainty about global warming

by Alexandre Mansur, Época, May 1, 2010

Hurricanes are a speciality of Judith Curry, director of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, U.S.A. Now she is in the eye of the storm. The confusion began at the end of last year, when Judith criticized the publications of researchers Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, and Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia, in the U.K., accused of distorting scientific data, via the released e-mails. Jones and Mann were cleared by investigations of the universities and by a British scientific committee. But Judith affirms that the problem of credibility is not over. She does not question that the Earth is warming. Nor that this is caused by human emissions. But she affirms that the catastrophic predictions emitted by the IPCC, a panel of scientists put together by the UN, are exaggerated.

She is the director of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in the U.S.
Has recently published articles in which she criticized climatologists, members of the IPCC, the UN panel
Was on the board of the Society of American Meteorologists. Edited the Journal of Applied Meteorology. Worked for NASA, the American space agency

ÉPOCA – Do you have any fear of the consequences of climate change?

Judith Curry – There exist significant risks associated with them. This whole question of how “dangerous” is climate change has not been adequately evaluated. But I am not personally afraid of this. 

ÉPOCA – Are scientists fulfilling their mission to inform the public?

Curry – The public’s perception that global warming is a planetary emergency probably had its peak between 2005 and 2007, with Hurricane Katrina and Al Gore’s film.  Since then, interest has been falling. The skepticism of climate change now questions if the impacts of warming are large or predominantly adverse. And if anything can be done to improve the situation. The public debate has deteriorated into attempts to discredit or censor scientists. And what we see is propaganda in order to influence the politics, and not to inform the public.

ÉPOCA – What is the risk of this?

Curry – Many researchers, genuinely worried about the risks of warming, including myself, are disappointed by the political decisions for confronting the climate challenge. To begin with, I believe it is necessary to make changes to the IPCC, in order to reestablish its credibility. The process needs to be more open. It is necessary to improve the selection of authors and reviewers. A team of inspectors should supervise the process and investigate complaints. Due to the release of the e-mails, we must change the manner in which we evaluate the uncertainties. Many times, in the IPCC reports, the mere judgment of a specialist replaces the degree of uncertainty of the data of a rigorous scientific analysis. We are talking about the imprecision in the time of adjusting the temperature data in order to compensate for the effects of urban heat (the growth of cities, with a concentration of cement and asphalt, artificially increases the temperature of the region). Or to fill in regions of the Earth where there are no data available.

ÉPOCA – What do we still not know about climate change? 

Curry – There are still many uncertainties. They are associated with the records of temperatures in the past. And also the climate models that researchers run on their computers to simulate the behavior of the atmosphere and to make estimates of the future.

ÉPOCA – It possible that science will be able to establish the degree of seriousness of the climate crisis?

Curry – They do not know with certainty how much of the warming that occurred in the 20th century can be attributed to human activity. And the projections for warming for this century are not exact.

ÉPOCA – Do we need to wait until these uncertainties are reduced or eliminated before we make decisions that avoid the worst consequences of climate change?

Curry – This is not what I am suggesting. The uncertainties cannot be eliminated. We make decisions all the time in uncertain situations. It is that the degree of imprecision should be taken into consideration in the decision process. The chances of tragic consequences due to warming are at a minimum at least as great as arms of mass destruction in Iraq would have been. In the end, they did not exist, but we went to war anyway. We have a history of deciding to act in order to avoid bad things even when the probability is low.

No one knows how much of the warming that occurred in the second half of the
twentieth century can be attributed to human action”

ÉPOCA – How can we tell the legitimate skeptics from the industry lobbyists who just want to increase confusion?

Curry – The fundamental question turns on the data and scientific models. A genuine skeptic puts forth arguments and will debate these in scientific journals or technical blogs.

ÉPOCA – Do you see a lobby campaign by the fossil-fuel industry to increase confusion?

Curry – This also exists. But I do not see it as an important factor in skepticism in general in relation to climate change. The majority of people who write against the control of emissions use political or economic arguments. They are not concerned with the science. You can’t even call them skeptics. There are other skeptics who have a background in science. But few of them receive any money from oil or coal companies.  Entities like the American Enterprise Institute or the Competitive Enterprise Institute are preoccupied with the politics that could affect the competitiveness of the U.S. and our economy. So, they spend time and money organizing conferences and demanding information from climate researchers.

ÉPOCA – How do you view the controversy generated by the e-mails that were taken from the University of East Anglia?

Curry – The e-mails fed the concern about the methods used to construct the chronology of temperatures on Earth’s surface over the last 1,000 years. It is call the “hockey stick” (that shows a long period of lower temperatures and a sharp increase in the most recent years, like the end of a hockey stick).  Also, the e-mails raised doubts about the behavior of the scientists in relation to the process of evaluation by colleagues of each study, before it is published in scientific journals. And maybe there were even violations of the Freedom of Information Act (or FOA, as it is abbreviated in English, a law that gives a citizen the right to ask for access to secret government documents).

ÉPOCA – Do the messages exchanged between Michael Mann and Phil Jones demonstrate any sign of improper conduct?

Curry – There exist various investigations for evaluating this. From what I know, the answer would be “yes.”

ÉPOCA – The investigations by the British scientific committee and the University of Pennsylvania exonerated Mann and Jones.

Curry – I agree with the conclusion of the investigations that there was no evidence of incorrect scientific conduct. I did not see a sign of plagiarism or falsification of data in the work of the scientists. Not using all the data, selecting data arbitrarily and using inappropriate statistical methods do not fall under incorrect conduct. But also it does not inspire confidence in the product of the research. The behavior of these scientists, such as disqualifying critics and showing little transparency, delaying the public availability of the temperature data they used. But I think it is time to stop focusing on individual behavior and to start a reevaluation of the entire process of the IPCC’s scientific evaluation.

ÉPOCA – What needs to change in the IPCC?

Curry – It needs to be more open to different opinions and to external verification. There is a rush to publish articles in scientific journals just before the IPCC closes. Clearly, scientists want their work to be included. There is the perception that the best way to get your work included is to support the basic narrative of the IPCC. And the scientists of the IPCC tried to disqualify researchers who published articles with contrarian opinions. Thus, in order to continue to be relevant, the IPCC can no longer limit itself to summarizing the scientific literature every five years. It needs to open the range of scientific views about warming and the political options for confronting it.  

Original article in Portuguese:

Judith Curry: “Não tenho medo do clima”
Pesquisadora americana diz que ainda há muita incerteza sobre o aquecimento global
by Alexandre Mansur, Época, May 1, 2010
Os furacões são a especialidade de Judith Curry, diretora da Escola de Ciências da Terra e da Atmosfera, do Instituto de Tecnologia da Geórgia, nos Estados Unidos. Agora ela está no olho da tempestade. A confusão começou no fim do ano passado, quando Judith fez críticas públicas aos pesquisadores Michael Mann, da Universidade Estadual da Pensilvânia, nos Estados Unidos, e Phil Jones, da Universidade de East Anglia, no Reino Unido, acusados de distorcer dados científicos, a partir de e-mails vazados. Jones e Mann foram inocentados por investigações das universidades e do comitê científico britânico. Mas Judith afirma que o problema de credibilidade não acabou. Ela não questiona que a Terra esteja esquentando. Nem que isso seja causado por emissões humanas. Mas afirma que são exageradas as previsões catastróficas emitidas pelo IPCC, o painel de cientistas reunido pela ONU.

  Divulgação QUEM É
É diretora da Escola de Ciências da Terra e da Atmosfera, do Instituto de Tecnologia da Geórgia, nos Estados Unidos
Publicou recentemente artigos em que critica cientistas do clima, integrantes do IPCC, o painel da ONU
Foi do conselho da Sociedade Americana de Meteorologia. Editou a revista Journal of Applied Meteorology. Já trabalhou para a Nasa, a agência espacial americana
ÉPOCA – A senhora tem medo das consequências das mudanças climáticas?
Judith Curry – Existem riscos significativos associados a elas. Toda essa questão de o que são as mudanças climáticas “perigosas” não foi adequadamente avaliada. Mas não estou pessoalmente amedrontada com isso.
ÉPOCA – Os cientistas estão cumprindo sua missão de informar o público?

Curry – A percepção pública de que o aquecimento global é uma emergência planetária provavelmente teve seu auge entre 2005 e 2007, com o Furacão Katrina e o filme de Al Gore. Desde então, o interesse vem caindo. O ceticismo com as mudanças climáticas agora questiona se os impactos do aquecimento são grandes ou predominantemente adversos. E se algo pode ser feito para melhorar a situação. O debate público se deteriorou para tentativas de desacreditar ou censurar os cientistas. E o que vemos são propagandas para influenciar a política, e não para informar o público.
ÉPOCA – Qual é o risco disso?

Curry – Muitos pesquisadores, genuinamente preocupados com os riscos do aquecimento, inclusive eu mesma, estão desapontados com as decisões políticas para enfrentar o desafio climático. Para começar, creio que é preciso fazer alterações no IPCC, para restabelecer sua credibilidade. O processo precisa ser mais aberto. É preciso selecionar melhor os autores e os revisores. Uma equipe de inspetores deve supervisionar o processo e investigar queixas. Diante do vazamento de e-mails, devemos mudar a maneira de avaliar as incertezas. Muitas vezes, nos relatórios do IPCC, um mero julgamento de um especialista substituiu a análise científica rigorosa do grau de incerteza dos dados. Estamos falando de imprecisões na hora de ajustar os dados de temperatura para compensar os efeitos de calor urbanos (o crescimento das cidades, com a concentração de cimento e asfalto, aumenta a temperatura artificialmente na região). Ou para preencher regiões da Terra para onde não há dados disponíveis.

ÉPOCA – O que ainda não sabemos sobre as mudanças climáticas?
Curry – Há muitas incertezas ainda. Elas estão associadas aos registros de temperatura no passado. E também aos modelos climáticos que os pesquisadores rodam no computador para simular os comportamentos da atmosfera e fazer estimativas para o futuro.

ÉPOCA – Será que a ciência já consegue estabelecer o grau de seriedade da crise climática?
Curry – Não se sabe ao certo quanto do aquecimento ocorrido na segunda metade do século XX pode ser atribuído à ação humana. E ainda não são exatas as projeções para o aquecimento previsto para este século.

ÉPOCA – Devemos esperar que essas incertezas sejam reduzidas ou eliminadas antes de tomarmos atitudes que evitem as piores consequências das mudanças climáticas?
Curry – Não é o que estou sugerindo. As incertezas não podem ser eliminadas. Nós tomamos decisões o tempo todo diante de situações incertas. Só que o grau de imprecisão nas previsões precisa ser levado em conta no processo decisório. As chances de consequências trágicas do aquecimento são no mínimo tão altas quanto as de que houvesse armas de destruição em massa no Iraque. No fim, elas não existiam, mas nós fomos à guerra assim mesmo. Temos um histórico de decidir agir para evitar coisas ruins mesmo quando a probabilidade é baixa.

“Não se sabe quanto do aquecimento ocorrido na segunda metade
do século XX pode ser atribuído à ação humana “

ÉPOCA – Como discernir os céticos legítimos dos lobistas da indústria que apenas desejam aumentar a confusão?
Curry – A questão fundamental gira em torno de dados e modelos científicos. O cético genuíno fará argumentos e debaterá a partir disso nas revistas científicas ou nos blogs técnicos.

ÉPOCA – A senhora vê alguma campanha de lobby da indústria dos combustíveis fósseis para aumentar a confusão?

Curry – Isso existe também. Mas não vejo como um fator importante no ceticismo geral em relação às mudanças climáticas. A maioria das pessoas que escrevem contra o controle de emissões usa argumentos políticos ou econômicos. Elas não se importam com a ciência. Nem se poderia chamá-las de céticas. Há outros céticos com formação científica. Mas poucos recebem algum dinheiro das empresas de petróleo ou carvão. Entidades como o Instituto de Empresas Americanas ou o Instituto para Empresas Competitivas estão preocupadas com políticas que possam afetar a competitividade dos Estados Unidos e de nossa economia. Por isso, gastam tempo e dinheiro organizando conferências e exigindo informações dos pesquisadores do clima.
ÉPOCA – Como a senhora vê a controvérsia gerada pelos e-mails que vazaram na Universidade de East Anglia?

Curry – Os e-mails alimentam preocupação sobre os métodos usados para construir a sequência histórica de temperaturas na superfície da Terra nos últimos 1.000 anos. É o chamado “taco de hóquei” (que mostra um longo período de temperaturas mais baixas e uma elevação brusca nos últimos anos, como a ponta do taco). Além disso, os e-mails levantam dúvidas sobre o comportamento dos cientistas em relação ao processo de avaliação por colegas de cada estudo, antes de ele ser publicado em revistas científicas. E talvez haja até violações à Lei de Liberdade de Informação (ou FOA, na sigla em inglês, lei que dá ao cidadão o direito de pleitear o acesso a dados oficiais sigilosos).

ÉPOCA – As mensagens trocadas por Michael Mann e Phil Jones mostram algum sinal de comportamento impróprio?
Curry – Existem várias investigações para avaliar isso. A partir do que eu sei, a resposta seria “sim”.

ÉPOCA – Os inquéritos do comitê científico britânico e da Universidade da Pensilvânia inocentaram Mann e Jones. 
Curry – Eu concordo com a conclusão dos inquéritos de que não há evidências de conduta científica errada. Não vi nenhum sinal de plágio ou falsificação de dados no trabalho dos cientistas. Não guardar todos os dados, selecioná-los arbitrariamente e usar métodos estatísticos inadequados não configura erro de conduta. Mas também não inspira confiança no produto da pesquisa. O comportamento desses cientistas, como desqualificar críticas e mostrar pouca transparência, atrasou o levantamento dos dados de temperatura que eles usaram. Mas eu acho que está na hora de parar de focar no comportamento individual e começar a reavaliar todo o processo de avaliação científica do IPCC.

ÉPOCA – O que precisa mudar no IPCC?
Curry – Ele precisa ser mais aberto a opiniões diferentes e à verificação externa. Há uma corrida para publicar artigos em revistas científicas logo antes do fechamento do IPCC. Claramente, os cientistas querem que seus trabalhos sejam incluídos. Há a percepção de que a melhor forma de incluir seu trabalho é apoiar a narrativa básica do IPCC. E os cientistas do IPCC tentam desqualificar pesquisadores que publicam artigos com opiniões contrárias. Além disso, para continuar relevante, o IPCC não pode mais se limitar a resumir a literatura científica a cada cinco anos. Ele precisa abrir o leque de visões científicas sobre o aquecimento e opções políticas para enfrentá-lo.



Gail said...

Oh please leave it without translation! It is so much more pleasant to read Judith Curry when I can't understand anything she is saying.

Tenney Naumer said...

Gail, you are too funny!

I just finished and sent it off to J. Romm.

I'll post it soon, and it will come with the usual head vise warning.

Anonymous said...

Excelente texto.