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Time for Another Climate Science Scandal

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley released a landmark report last week, purporting to discredit the unhinged ravings of climate change "deniers" once and for all:


It was hailed as the scientific study that ended the global warming debate once and for all – the research that, in the words of its director, ‘proved you should not be a sceptic, at least not any longer’.  Professor Richard Muller, of Berkeley University in California, and his colleagues from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project team (BEST) claimed to have shown that the planet has warmed by almost a degree centigrade since 1950 and is warming continually.

Published last week ahead of a major United Nations climate summit in Durban, South Africa, next month, their work was cited around the world as irrefutable evidence that only the most stringent measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can save civilisation as we know it. It was cited uncritically by, among others, reporters and commentators from the BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, The Economist and numerous media outlets in America.  The Washington Post said the BEST study had ‘settled the climate change debate’ and showed that anyone who remained a sceptic was committing a ‘cynical fraud’.

Indeed, the American and international media scurried to promote the study, as evidenced by this headline collage assembled by the UK's Daily Mail:

The clear message: In case any of you yahoos still harbor any doubts about the undeniable truth of catastrophic, anthropogenic global warming -- especially after that whole "hide the decline" Climategate debacle -- it's (once again) time to fall in line.  The science is (once again) settled.  But wait...

...Today The Mail can reveal that a leading member of Prof Muller’s team has accused him of  trying to mislead the public by hiding the fact that BEST’s research shows global warming has stopped. Prof Judith Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at America’s prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, said that Prof Muller’s claim that he has proven global warming sceptics wrong was also a ‘huge mistake,’ with no scientific basis. Prof Curry is a distinguished climate researcher with more than 30 years experience and the second named co-author of the BEST project’s four research papers. Her comments, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, seem certain to ignite a furious academic row. She said this affair had to be compared to the notorious ‘Climategate’ scandal two years ago.

Like the scientists exposed then by leaked emails from East Anglia University’s Climatic Research Unit, her colleagues from the BEST project seem to be trying to ‘hide the decline’ in rates of global warming. In fact, Prof Curry said, the project’s research data show there has been no increase in world temperatures since the end of the Nineties – a fact confirmed by a new analysis that The Mail on Sunday has obtained. ‘There is no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn’t stopped,’ she said. ‘To say that there is detracts from the credibility of the data, which is very unfortunate.’

After examining the BEST project's raw data, the Daily Mail staff produced an eyebrow-raising chart, which I've reproduced below.  The top data-set is the graphic Dr. Muller has circulated to support his claims.  The bottom graph picks up where Muller's expurgated data leaves off, plotting the data collected over the last decade:

As you can see, according to BEST's own information, global temperatures climbed steadily between 1950 and 2000.  But as the lower infographic makes clear, those temperatures more or less leveled off between 2001 and 2011.  One could argue that they've steadied at a heightened level, but they've steadied nonetheless.  The vaunted science says so.  Therefore, I ask: How can this be, since the world's CO2 emissions continued their inexorable climb over this period?  Curry, who is the second named co-author on four BEST research papers, is puzzled and dismayed by her colleague's conclusion:

Prof Muller also wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal. It was here, under the headline ‘The case against global warming scepticism’, that he proclaimed ‘there were good reasons for doubt until now’. This, too, went around the world, with The Economist, among many others, stating there was now ‘little room for doubt’.  Such claims left Prof Curry horrified.

‘Of course this isn’t the end of scepticism,’ she said. ‘To say that is the biggest mistake he [Prof Muller] has made. When I saw he was saying that I just thought, “Oh my God”.’  In fact, she added, in the wake of the unexpected global warming standstill, many climate scientists who had previously rejected sceptics’ arguments were now taking them much more seriously.

What does Dr. Muller have to say for himself?

Yesterday Prof Muller insisted that neither his claims that there has not been a standstill, nor the graph, were misleading because the project had made its raw data available on its website, enabling others to draw their own graphs.  However, he admitted it was true that the BEST data suggested that world temperatures have not risen for about 13 years. But in his view, this might not be ‘statistically significant’,  although, he added, it was equally  possible that it was – a statement which left other scientists mystified.  ‘I am baffled as to what he’s trying to do,’ Prof Curry said.  Prof Ross McKittrick, a climate statistics expert from Guelph University in Ontario, added: ‘You don’t look for statistically significant evidence of a standstill. You look for statistically significant evidence of change.’

Note well that BEST's data was drawn exclusively from land-based temperature readings, since AGW alarmists were concerned that the inclusion of cooler ocean-based readings might understate the severity of the warming "crisis."  And yet, the apparent warming trend still stalled, even within this cherry-picked data.  I freely confess that I often feel out of my depth when I write about climate change issues.  I'm not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination.  But based on the limited reading I've done on the subject, my general conclusion has been that long-term global warming is real, and that mankind has at least marginally contributed to the phenomenon.  I remain deeply skeptical about catastrophic AGW predictions, however, and flat-out reject the Left's statist policy prescriptions -- which would decimate the American economy while only microscopically mitigating the supposed "crisis."  Like most conservatives, I'm not "anti-science."  I am, however, anti-junk science -- and when I see scientists colluding to "hide" inconvenient data and issuing headline-grabbing pronouncements based on partial information, my skepticism deepens.  Feel free to label me a denier.  I'd prefer that moniker to "manipulator," which seems to apply to the esteemed Dr. Muller.


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