I’ve been watching Climategate 2 slowly beginning to unfold. On day 3, the sceptics have gone big on it, while the alarmists are playing it all down.
University of East Anglia’s vice-chancellor Edward Acton, who flanked Jones as he addressed journalists, predicted less of a storm this time around.
“There’s is so much deja vu about it,” Acton said.
So, if it’s no big deal, why is the university’s vice-chancellor standing shoulder to shoulder with Prof Phil Jones as he faces the press? And did the vice-chancellor really say, “There’s is”? If this is deja vu all over again, why is Phil Jones bothering to talk to the press? Have they even read all the emails yet? I suppose they must have, since they sent them in the first place.
Perhaps the most damning email, as far as Phil Jones is concerned, is the one in which he admits he can’t use Excel:
I keep on seeing people saying this same stupid thing. I’m not adept enough (totally inept) with excel to do this now as no-one who knows how to is here.
What you have to do is to take the numbers in column C (the years) and then those in D (the anomalies for each year), plot them and then work out the linear trend. The slope is upwards. I had someone do this in early 2006, and the trend was upwards then. It will be now. Trend won’t be statistically significant, but the trend is up.
I never use Excel – I’d probably write the code in Java, or maybe R -, but it can’t be that difficult to do. It’s just a matter of plotting the temperature anomalies against the years, and finding if the regression line through these points goes upwards or downwards. It probably only takes a couple of minutes. It’s hardly rocket science.
The worst of it is that it seems like nobody else seemed to know how to do it either. It makes you wonder what they can do. And it makes it crystal clear how a mathematician like Steve McIntyre has been able to tear up so much of their work (e.g. the hockey stick).
I read a sympathetic comment somewhere (probably Climate Audit) that suggested that a lot of university Climate Science departments used to be Geography departments, and geographers usually aren’t required to have much in the way of mathematical skills. That would certainly explain it, but it wouldn’t explain why people who’re dealing every day with temperature records apparently haven’t taken the trouble to develop a few mathematical skills – particularly when they’re making some pretty extraordinary claims about what’s happening with climate.
And if, in the spirit of academic solidarity, the university is going to stand by their climate science department, you have to ask why the university hadn’t checked beforehand whether the guys there knew what they were doing.
In another put-down, somebody else wrote:
Opinion: Snippets of stolen emails cannot make the Earth flat
Here is what we know: The Earth is round, smoking is linked to lung cancer, and humans are changing the climate by emitting massive amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other gases. Like extra blankets at night, those emissions are warming the planet.
Why is it that being sceptical about global warming claims is regarded as just like doubting that smoking causes lung cancer, or that the earth is round?
Well, I’ve been getting pretty sceptical that smoking causes lung cancer. And these days I’m wondering whether growing scepticism about global warming might get a few people to take another look at all the various charges that are laid at the door of tobacco. Anthony Watts, the proprietor of Watts Up With That, lost both of his parents to lung cancer, and believes that smoking was the cause. But even he was derisive about making this link:
The phrase about smoking and lung cancer is right out of the slimer playbook championed by people like Romm and Gore, who have used such tactics before. The only purpose for it being there is to tar people you disagree with a broad brush.
In fact, I’m getting so sceptical about climate science and tobacco research (I wonder if Stanton Glantz knows how to use Excel?) and almost all other research that I even started to wonder today whether the earth actually was round. After all, how do we know for sure?
I mean, how do I know that the earth is round, apart from having read it in books and stuff? Maybe those books were written by the likes of Phil Jones and Stanton Glantz? Maybe the earth really is flat, and there’s an elephant holding up each corner, and standing on the back of a giant turtle (and below that it’s turtles all the way down).
It’s no good me pointing to my own (rather clunky) simulation model of the solar system, which has a spinning spherical earth in it: a computer model is a representation of reality, and not reality itself. It’s not evidence. Nor is it any good someone showing me a photo of the earth taken from outer space, showing it to be round: I’ve never been into space and seen it for myself.
I think that maybe the best evidence, that I’ve seen with my own two eyes, was back when I flew to Japan a few years back, and looking out of my cabin window over Russia the horizon was distinctly curved. If you get high enough, you can see the curvature of the earth a bit like astronauts can.
Another piece of evidence, that I’ve also seen with my own eyes, is when ships go hull down over the horizon, and all you can see is their superstructure. But you really need a telescope to see it clearly.
All the same, it seems like it was only two or three thousand years ago that humans somehow figured out that they were living on a spherical rather than a flat earth (which is what it certainly looks like at ground level). How did they do that, without having flown a few miles above the earth or looked through telescopes at distant ships? As best I understand it, they noticed that the further south they went (i.e. towards the terrestrial equator) the shorter was the shadow cast by the noon sun from a vertical pole. And so what they did was to measure the length of the shadow on the same day in different cities, the distance between which was known pretty accurately. And given all these measurements, they sat down to figure out what single explanation could account for the numbers they’d got. At first, they tried out a flat earth model, but they couldn’t explain it that way. The only explanation that fitted the data, they eventually found, was if the poles were sticking out of a spherical earth, and the sun was a hell of a long way away.
I bet that seemed like a really crazy idea in Athens or Miletus or wherever it was first set out. I bet it was a big talking point at dinner parties, with people sticking wooden pegs into lumps of dough, and holding candles near them, and saying, “Nah. It’s bollocks. If the earth was round, we’d all fall off it.” They’d question the data and the underlying assumptions. How do you know which way is north and south? Are you sure that sunlight travels in straight lines? How do you accurately know the distance from Thebes to Memphis? And that the poles casting the shadows were perfectly upright? And that the measurements were made on the exact same day?
I suspect that people were very divided over this, and that it took quite a long time for it to be accepted. Maybe one thing that helped convince people was when it was found that, just as the spherical model predicted (and the flat earth model did not), if you went far enough south, the shadows cast by the poles flipped from pointing north to pointing south. And that if you went far enough north, to Ultima Thule, sometimes the sun never set at all, but just went round and round the sky just above the horizon.
It’s not stupid for people to have believed that the earth was flat. In fact, it was the simplest explanation. It was just one that had to be abandoned when the evidence started piling up that it was wrong. It wasn’t stupid for people to have continued to be sceptical that the earth was round either. Just because some so-called philosopher or mathematician from Corinth or Delphi says it’s round, doesn’t make it so. Heck, a lot of these guys wouldn’t know how to bake a loaf of bread, never mind measure the earth.