To paraphrase the immortal words of Britney Spears, “Oops, climate scientists did it again!”
The award-winning scientist responsible for creating, collecting, and maintaining the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) data archive, John Bates, recently disclosed leading NOAA’s climate scientists violated the agency’s rules, rushing to publication data which had yet to be tested and confirmed in order to influence the outcome of the Paris climate negotiations in 2015.
In a second breach of agency protocol, the scientists involved, led by Tom Karl, failed to properly archive and store their datasets for testing and public disclosure.
Subsequently, some of the original datasets were lost when the computer used to process the data suffered a complete failure.
Karl, et al.’s 2015 “pause busting” research purported to show, contrary to every temperature dataset in existence at the time, Earth had not experienced an 18-year pause in rising temperatures, claiming instead everyone else’s data had been wrong and temperatures had continued to rise at an alarming rate right along with carbon-dioxide levels. As Bates put it, Karl’s team put their “thumb on the scale” to produce the results they wanted.
Much of the climate science community became suspicious of Karl’s claims over the months after the study was released, when it was discovered in the words of David Rose in the Daily Mail, “[Karl, et al.] took reliable readings from buoys but then ‘adjusted’ them upwards – using readings from seawater intakes on ships that act as weather stations … even though readings from the ships have long been known to be too hot.” As a result, the ocean temperature dataset used by Karl exaggerated the warming.
When you take good data and mix it with bad data and then average it, you no more produce reliable results than adding muddy river water to purified bottle water produces safe drinking water.
Karl’s actions show climate scientists wedded to the theory humans are causing catastrophic climate change learned nothing from the Climategate scandal of 2009. In Climategate, hacked e-mail exchanges between prominent climate scientists advising world leaders on climate policy exposed the scientists behaving badly.
The scientists involved used a “trick” to remove inconvenient data from their datasets to “hide the decline,” in a critical set of proxy temperatures. In addition, the e-mails showed they collaborated to persecute and have fired an editor of a prominent climate science journal who allowed articles questioning the extent of humanity’s role in global warming to be published.
The e-mails also showed the scientists actively sought to avoid releasing their taxpayer-funded data to other researchers and government bodies with oversight responsibility for testing and confirmation.
In the aftermath of the Climategate scandal, in order to ensure scientific integrity and regain the public’s trust, scientific bodies called on scientists to allow access to their raw data, assumptions, methodologies, and software and to promptly and completely respond to all Freedom of Information Act and government requests for information.
Karl and his team not only violated NOAA’s own protocols, they also ignored all the suggestions made by the scientific community to improve transparency and accountability for research. When the U.S. House of Representatives’ House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the committee with oversight over federally funded research, requested and eventually subpoenaed NOAA’s documentation for its pause-busting claims, NOAA refused to turn over all the materials requested, citing concerns about confidentiality and the integrity of the scientific process. New investigations are being launched into NOAA’s research in light of Bates’ disclosures.
Transparency is a paramount virtue in science since scientists can only produce discoveries that expand human knowledge and further human welfare when different teams of researchers collaborate by sharing data, assumptions, and methodologies; exchange theories and ideas; and review and test each other’s work. For NOAA, sound science took a backseat to scoring a political victory.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, yet world leaders ignored this fact when they pointed to NOAA’s claims the world was warming, despite other research showing no warming for 18 years. Disturbingly, this research of dubious merit provided impetus for producing the climate change treaty agreed to by leaders of more than 190 nations in Paris in December 2015.
These are dark times for climate science, and it has nothing to do with Donald Trump being in the White House. Let’s hope future climate charlatans are exposed to the light of day before they do further damage.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.