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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BEST (Get S.M.A.R.T.) climate joke: Hockey Stick fight at the you’re-not-OK Corral. Judith Curry repeats Richard Muller's smear that paleoclimate reconstructions were "dishonest," and NASA's Gavin Schmidt eviscerates her (again)

Curry repeats Muller's smear that paleoclimate reconstructions were "dishonest," and NASA's Schmidt eviscerates her (again)

by Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, February 23, 2011

BEST is now a joke, officially, thanks to Dr. Judith Curry.  Sure, B.E.S.T.  seemed laughable from the start — see “Richard Muller, Charles Koch, Judith Curry and the implosion of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST).”
How could an effort to restore  the supposedly lost credibility of the global temperature record be run by one climate confusionist (Muller),  have as its sole ‘climate expert’ perhaps the leading confusionist (see “Curry abandons science“), and be funded in part by the world’s  biggest funder of climate disinformation!  And  I haven’t even blogged on the head-exploding conflict of interest of having Muller, who runs a for-profit climate consulting business, installing his daughter as B.E.S.T. project manager when she is the CEO of that business!
But that’s not funny.  What’s funny is that Curry had been advertising herself as some sort of a peace-making, I’m-ok-you’re-ok, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along bridge builder among scientists — a reconciler, as it were (see “Fred Pearce jumps the shark“).
Now, however, she has devoted an entire post at her blog Climate etc. — — to defending Muller’s claim (in this youtube clip) that “hide the decline” means the paleoclimate re-constructors of the Hockey Stick were “dishonest.”  For the record, the House of Commons vindication of climate scientists involved in the stolen emails  explicitly stated:
… insofar as we have been able to consider accusations of dishonesty—for example, Professor Jones’s alleged attempt to “hide the decline”—we consider that there is no case to answer.
Similarly, Michael Mann has  been through multiple vindications that specifically looked at all of these e-mails.  See also RealClimate (here).
NASA’s Gavin Schmidt  showed up on Curry’s blog to make some incisive comments, and, with Curry’s help, demonstrated that, using her standard, her own work is “dishonest.”  Curry also made clear that her days of reconciliation are over.  She has gone native — or, rather, gone tribal — the full disinformer, as they say.
WattsUpWithThat has, typically, tried to make Schmidt look bad with one piece of not-terribly-damning quote mining, but  I will endeavor to pull out all of the relevant comments (including some by Curry and others).  The whole post and comment chain  is only worth reading if you like unintentional humor and ‘credibility seppuku’:

Gavin | February 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Reply
You have gone significantly over the line with this post. Accusations of dishonesty are way beyond a difference of opinion on how a graph should be displayed.
If you thought that a single, smoothed graph of estimates of paleo-temperature told the whole story of paleo-climate reconstructions is far more a failing at your end than it is the authors involved. How can a single graph say everything that can possibly be said?
Summary graphs are by their very nature, summaries. The graphs you pick out were summaries of various estimates of what paleo-temperature estimates from the literature were. It is therefore not surprising that they show only the reconstructions where the authors had confidence that the reconstructions were actually of the temperatures.
Problems with modern divergence – which only applies to the Briffa et al curve in any case – are issues to be dealt with in the technical literature, as they still are.
The quote from the emails on the ‘dilution of the message’ was related to a completely different issue – the fact that Briffa et al’s initial reconstruction did not have very much centennial variability at all (the version of the graph that was being discussed is here: ). You arebeing misled if you think that is related.
One can have a difference of opinion in how to present a graph, and that depends entirely on what point you want to make. If you want to make a point about multi-decadal temperature changes in the past, it makes sense to include estimates of those temperatures and the uncertainties. It doesn’t make much sense to include annual estimates, or seasonal estimates, or parts of the curve that the originators think doesn’t reflect actual temperatures (for whatever reason). The only issue is to ensure that the graph is sufficiently documented so that these choices are clear (which in the WMO report they were not sufficiently so, but were fine in the IPCC graphs).
But to ascribe a difference of opinion to dishonesty is to remove yourself from any sensible discussion on the topic. Perhaps if I was to find a graph in one of your papers which I thought didn’t show some aspect of the data I was interested in, and then accuse you of dishonesty? Would you react well to that? This is exactly the same.
How can you claim to be building bridges, when you are so busy burning them?
curryja | February 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Reply
Gavin, the field does not need any more summary graphs of this nature. They have done an enormous disservice to climate science and its credibility. Continuing to defend these kinds of graphs is beyond anything I can understand. Leaving out that data and putting a “likely” confidence level on conclusions from that data is bad science, anyway you slice it. If you don’t like dishonest, try misguided and pseudoscience. There is no way this is defensible scientific practice. I really hope we don’t see any more of these kinds of graphs, in the AR5 or elsewhere. I’ve tiptoed around this one long enough, I’m calling it like I see it.

Gavin | February 22, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Reply
“I’m calling it like I see it”
How brave of you.
My point is that by lowering yourself to insult, you block off all sensible discussion of specific technical points – if you are so certain in your thinking that no further discussion is required, then fine. No more discussion will occur. But it would have been far better for you to have had the character to allow for disagreements without being disagreeable (did you not pick up anything in Lisbon?).
For a useful analogy, let’s take a different figure, say, figure 4 from Webster et al (2005): content/ 309/ 5742/ 1844/ F4.large.jpg
This shows a big increase in cat 4+5 hurricanes from 1970 to 2000. But why is it cut off at 1970? Surely it can’t be because the data is poorer prior to that? No, it must be that the pre-1970 data doesn’t support the thesis of the authors, they must be hiding the decline! I insist that the ‘adverse data’ be shown on all graphs, and that anything else is highly misleading. And without any further thought, it must be dishonest – because how is it possible that anyone could have an opinion on how to display data that differs from mine without being dishonest? Pseudo-science!
You see how easy this kind of stupidity is? What is point?
curryja | February 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Reply
Good one Gavin, brilliant argument.
Gavin | February 22, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Reply
I’ll let others judge. But your method of argument in the top post and the conclusions you draw can be argued and drawn for any subjective decision about pretty much any presentation of complex data. Once you do it based on your prior prejudices against one set of researchers, the flood gates are open to apply it to anyone. We therefore end up with a situation where any difference of opinion is put down to dishonesty, and the process of objective scientific analysis has been tossed to the wolves.
You see your stance as brave, while in fact it is just lazy. I’m sure your students are proud.
curryja | February 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Reply
Brilliant defense. Anyways, I’ll take lazy and prejudiced over dishonest, if you insist.
Curry has no response to Gavin’s devastating evisceration of her entire position.  WUWT, of course, just quoted the opening of Gavin’s second (8:45 pm)  comment without the incisive analogy.  Note that technical explanations for Curry’s choices don’t count, since, of course, the paleoclimate folks have technical explanations for their choices, too.
This thread is also telling:
  • Bart | February 23, 2011 at 7:50 am | Reply

    I initially applauded Curry’s efforts (even though I wasn’t in full agreement): 2010/ 04/ 27/ judith-curry-on-climate-science-introspection-or-circling-the-wagons/
    But have since concluded that the way she goes about it is counterproductive to her stated goals: 2010/ 11/ 05/ judith-curry-building-bridges-burning-bridges/

    • curryja | February 23, 2011 at 8:50 am | Reply
      Bart, i’m trying to catch up on responding to comments, you’ve mentioned the “building bridges” issues several times. You seem to think it is primary importance for bridges to be build to scientists involved in the CRU emails. As a climate scientist concerned about the integrity of the climate science, I find it of primary importance to build bridges with the broader community of scientists (including skeptics), the public, and policy makers. I stopped bothering with the RC crowd in summer 2007, when i received an unpleasant email from Mike Mann chastising me over congratulating Steve McIntyre on winning the 2008 Science Webblog Award. It was at that point that I stopped having anything to do with RC (other than my driveby comments about Montford’s book last summer). So I have built a bridge in the form of a platform for dialogue, they can meet me half way or not (pretty much not, the prefer the circling wagons strategy). But that is not the bridge that I am particularly interested in.
      • Bart Verheggen | February 23, 2011 at 9:49 am | Reply
        For it to be a bridge to some outside world, the bridge should remain grounded at the original place as well.
        Your strong and broadbrush accusations towards your professional peers, and the lack of criticism towards empty talking points and conspiratorial thinking
        make you lose that grounding imho. You’re pushing herself away it seems. It’s your choice of course, but I can’t square it with your stated objective.
        I think the core of your argument as I see it (the need for scientists to be less defensive, less circling of the wagons, more introspection, more communication and collaboration with “outsiders”, taking criticism seriously, etc) is important and valid. But the way you go about airing it, with broadbrush accusations towards mainstream science/ists (RC en the IPCC process are squarely in the mainstream), give the impression of a one way bridge, where as you walk along you burn the bridge behind you.
        See as an example how different (e.g. constructive rather than destructive) John N-G voices his criticism. Granted, your criticisms may be stronger, but the way they come across, I tend to think that an increasing number of climate related scientists will be put off by it, at the same time as an increasing number of true skeptics, pseudo-skeptics and conspiracy theorists will cheer you on.
        In effect, your accusatory framing comes across as very tribalist.
        • curryja | February 23, 2011 at 9:58 am |
          Bart, if this stuff hadn’t already been going on for 15 months, with absolutely no efforts by the people who wrote the emails to correct the record and work towards addressing the underlying problems, I would be more sympathetic to your approach. In the meantime, the public credibility of climate science remains in tatters. To infer that my failing to be kind to Gavin et al. and give them the benefit of every doubt is associated with my joining the tribe of Sky Dragons or whatever they should be called, is way off the mark.
        • Bart Verheggen | February 23, 2011 at 11:20 am |
          Judith, you writing in response to my comment “If…, I would be more sympathetic to your approach.” sounds like you’ve given up on building bridges?
Curry is like a non-bridge over troubled waters.
And finally, here’s  Gavin (after Curry explains why she went over to WUWT to tell them Gavin had been commenting on her blog):
Gavin | February 23, 2011 at 10:11 am | Reply
I find it kind of interesting that you characterise my comments as ‘defending the team’. What I am ‘defending’ are the norms of scientific dialogue. The point is that scientific dialogue has evolved a number of standards to ensure that scientific disputes can get resolved as objectively as possible. One of those norms is that you assume good faith when discussing technical details. Another is that you stick to the science and avoid personalising issues. And yet another is that you stay away from attributing motive and malice to people who disagree with you.
While those norms certainly don’t exist in politics or more generally in the blogosphere, neither of those spheres are charged with actually finding out what is happening on the planet. For that, somewhat more self-discipline is required.
Your guns-a-blazing, caution-to-the-winds accusations of malfeasance and misconduct, like Steve McIntyre’s before you, are simply poison to grown-up discussions of real issues. You appear to be well aware of that, and yet continue to indulge in it – even to the point of touting for partisan comments. One can therefore safely conclude that you are not actually interested in grown-up discussions of real issues. So be it.
Hear!  Hear!
Anyway, I’ve got some talks to give.  Have at it.

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