Monday, January 29, 2018

Introductory Post

"Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations." -- version of quote of unknown origin
I'm very interested in climate and energy issues and have been commenting on them for over half a decade in various forums using the handle, Canman. On climate, I have a lukewarmer view, and on energy I advocate for nuclear power and express skepticism of so called renewables. I have a couple of tiny blogs. One is called Canman Climatology, where I explore offbeat ideas. The other is Canman Canned Comments, where I write about some of my misadventures with comment moderation.

In this day and age there is a lot of talk about fake news and fake facts. This has got me to thinking about something similar. A lot of things that appear to be pertinent, verifiable facts are often ignored or omitted. This happens not only in blog posts and news stories but also in official reports and investigations. The reason that a fact is omitted is that it does not fit the narrative that is being conveyed. There can be many motivations behind this. It can be deliberate deception, perhaps a half truth. A fact can be thought to be insignificant, irrelevant or simply not believed. Confirmation bias is something that probably all individuals are subject to. It should be obvious that it can become institutionalized and effect official reports. On the issue of climate, I have found a lot of these ignored facts in two subtopics: Michael Mann's hockey stick graph and Climategate.

While reading through various comment threads in blogs, I would often run across very heated exchanges about the hockey stick. I never gave them that much thought. The main comeback to criticisms of the hockey stick was that there were now a whole bunch of other hockey sticks and it sounded reasonable to me. It also looked like a really boring subject to go into. When Climategate happened, I was just getting started commenting on blogs and the details looked really arcane, so I didn't pay that much attention to it. One thing I did notice was that it was being taken seriously by what I thought were a lot of very smart people. Two of them made a big impression on me.

The first was Matt Ridley with his Angus Miller Lecture. In it, he talks about the book, The Hockey Stick Illusion by Andrew Montford. He described it as "the moment somebody told me they had made the crop circle the night before". I made a mental note to read it sometime.

The other was this long comment by Willis Eschenbach  at Judith Curry's Climate Etc. Here's a few excerpts:
The problem with claiming the “framing and narrative of the overall scientific argument” is the “main problem” is that it missies the real main problem. The main problem is that far too many AGW supporting climate scientists have lied, cheated, concealed data, massaged data, “hid the decline”, used “Mikes Nature trick”, conspired to successfully subvert the IPCC process, worked to prevent opposing scientific views from being published, made foolish mathematical mistakes and then lied about them, hidden adverse results, claimed that they were the victims of “anti-science witch-hunts”, exaggerated their findings. Meanwhile, the rest of the AGW scientists are pretending to be deaf, dumb, and blind to the transgressions … and you think the “main problem” is how the evidence and arguments are presented? Really?
Incompetence? I would welcome incompetence on the part of climate scientists. Instead, we have malfeasance and illegal avoidance of FOI requests. The problem is not that climate is complex. Many of the systems studied by scientists are complex.

The problem is that far too many people on your side of the fence are outright crooks, and y’all refuse to disown them. ...
For example, it doesn’t matter how well you frame the IPCC assessment reports. An organization that allows Michael Mann to promote his knowingly fraudulent “Hockeystick” and allows the resurrection of the “Jesus Paper” is a corrupt, politicized organization, and people have noticed that.
 At the time, I wasn't all that well versed in climate jargon so I couldn't really follow the "Jesus Paper" post. Since then another event finally sparked me to follow up on all this. Michael Mann sued Mark Steyn for referring to his hockey stick as "fraudulent" in an editorial blog post for an opinion magazine! I found this to be disturbing. This was the first I had ever noticed of Steyn and he turned out to be a very good writer. This inspired me to learn more about these issues. Through books, blog posts, articles and even an occasional scientific paper, I've become fairly well versed in the issues of the hockey stick and Climategate, and I often argue about them in blog comments. Here's some links I consider to be classics:

Caspar and the Jesus paper -- The definitive summary of Climate Audit.

Caspar Ammann Texas Sharpshooter -- Exhibit number one of how bad climate science can get.

Judith Curry's Comment with Gavin's Inline Responses -- I picture Julianne Moore from the movie, Hannibal, and Joe Pantoliano  from just about any role he has ever played.

The Team Defends Paleo-Phrenology -- Just for the title.

Hello, Stan Palmer -- The reaction of Pharyngula, probably the most popular science blog at the time.

Ian Jolliffe Comments at Tamino -- Renowned expert on Mann's PCA.

Steve McIntyre's comment on R Squared -- The NAS Panel lets Mann skate on R squared.

The blogosphere is an amazing resource where people can discus facts that are ignored by the regular media and institutions. Past archives are at your fingertips. I think it is a precious thing that we shouldn't take for granted.

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