I've been on long-running projects, especially some years ago, where people start to lose track of which numbers came from where (and when), where the underlying raw data are stored, and the history of various assumptions and corrections that were made along the way. That much is normal human behavior. But this goes beyond that.
Those of us who work in the drug industry know that we have to keep track of such things, because we're making decisions that could eventually run into the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of our own money. And eventually we're going to be reviewed by regulatory agencies that are not staffed with our friends, and who are perfectly capable of telling us that they don't like our numbers and want us to go spend another couple of years (and another fifty or hundred million dollars) generating better ones for them. The regulatory-level lab and manufacturing protocols (GLP and GMP) generate a blizzard of paperwork for just these reasons.
But the stakes for climate research are even higher. The economic decisions involved make drug research programs look like roundoff errors. The data involved have to be very damned good and convincing, given the potential impact on the world economy, through both the possible effects of global warming itself and the effects of trying to ameliorate it. Looking inside the CRU does not make me confident that their data come anywhere close to that standard:
No matter what you think about climate change, if you respect the scientific endeavor, this is very bad news. Respect has to be earned. And it can be lost.
II - New York Times columnist Paul Krugman found “not a single smoking gun” in those e-mail messages. He also said that “there is tremendously more money in being a skeptic than there is in being a supporter.” Well, he must have missed this article in the Telegraph (titled “Al Gore could become world’s first carbon billionaire”):
Last year Mr Gore’s venture capital firm loaned a small California firm $75m to develop energy-saving technology.
The company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient.
The deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants, the New York Times reports. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts.
The move means that venture capital company Kleiner Perkins and its partners, including Mr Gore, could recoup their investment many times over in coming years.
And here are some more counter arguments.
UPDATE: Dec. 2, 2009, 4:45 pm
Yet another interesting piece, from the series “You don’t have to agree with the skeptics to be appalled…” (via Enzo Reale and The Boston Globe).
“By writing these lines I will just probably achieve that a few of my future studies will, again, not see the light of publication. […] The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas. These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere—and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now—editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations, even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed.” [Italics mine]