“Aliens cause global warming”: wise words from the late Michael Crichton

I strongly recommend reading this speech, given by the late Michael Crichton at the California Institute of Technology on 17 January 2003.  It is an insightful analysis of important trends in our society, revealing much about the dynamics of several important public policy controversies of our time.

Update:  the comments were so interesting that I wrote a new post, A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming.

“Aliens cause global warming” — Full copy here.  Here is the opening:

My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming. Charting this progression of belief will be my task today.

Let me say at once that I have no desire to discourage anyone from believing in either extraterrestrials or global warming. That would be quite impossible to do. Rather, I want to discuss the history of several widely-publicized beliefs and to point to what I consider an emerging crisis in the whole enterprise of science-namely the increasingly uneasy relationship between hard science and public policy.

I have a special interest in this because of my own upbringing. I was born in the midst of World War II, and passed my formative years at the height of the Cold War. In school drills, I dutifully crawled under my desk in preparation for a nuclear attack.

It was a time of widespread fear and uncertainty, but even as a child I believed that science represented the best and greatest hope for mankind. Even to a child, the contrast was clear between the world of politics-a world of hate and danger, of irrational beliefs and fears, of mass manipulation and disgraceful blots on human history. In contrast, science held different values-international in scope, forging friendships and working relationships across national boundaries and political systems, encouraging a dispassionate habit of thought, and ultimately leading to fresh knowledge and technology that would benefit all mankind. The world might not be a very good place, but science would make it better. And it did. In my lifetime, science has largely fulfilled its promise. Science has been the great intellectual adventure of our age, and a great hope for our troubled and restless world.

But I did not expect science merely to extend lifespan, feed the hungry, cure disease, and shrink the world with jets and cell phones. I also expected science to banish the evils of human thought—prejudice and superstition, irrational beliefs and false fears. I expected science to be, in Carl Sagan’s memorable phrase, “a candle in a demon haunted world.” And here, I am not so pleased with the impact of science. Rather than serving as a cleansing force, science has in some instances been seduced by the more ancient lures of politics and publicity. Some of the demons that haunt our world in recent years are invented by scientists. The world has not benefited from permitting these demons to escape free.

But let’s look at how it came to pass. …


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Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

Posts on the FM site about climate change:

  1. A look at the science and politics of global warming, 12 June 2008
  2. Global warming means more earthquakes!, 19 June 2008
  3. An article giving strong evidence of global warming, 30 June 2008
  4. Worrying about the Sun and climate change: cycle 24 is late, 10 July 2008
  5. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
  6. Update: is Solar Cycle 24 late (a cooling cycle, with famines, etc)?, 15 july 2008
  7. Two valuable perspectives on global warming, 4 August 2008
  8. President Kennedy speaks to us about global warming and Climate Science, 7 August 2008
  9. Solar Cycle 24 is still late, perhaps signalling cool weather ahead, 2 September 2008
  10. Update on solar cycle 24 – and a possible period of global cooling, 1 October 2008
  11. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008
  12. One of the most interesting sources of news about science and nature!, 27 October 2008

16 thoughts on ““Aliens cause global warming”: wise words from the late Michael Crichton

  1. Crichton may be right in that there may be insufficient evidence to support global temperature changes by measurement, and that the models may be wrong in their extrapolations. But it does seem to me that there is an Occam’s Razor for this one. What we do know for a fact is that since whenever, humans have started to dig out of the earth a lot of substances that were in it, and combust them by combining them with oxygen. And they have done that A LOT. Now, it would seem to be simple science to measure whether adding those gases to the atmosphere raises or lowers the specific heat of that mixture of gases. If it raises it, then there is manmade global warming and the next scientific question would be how bad it is and what if anything we can do about it. If it lowers the specific heat of the gas mix, then what we are doing is actually causing global cooling.

    I assume that while we can’t rely on any of the models and projections because they are unproven, it does seem objectively true that merely adding these gases increases the ability of the atmosphere to hold heat, so given we have stayed about the same distance from the sun, the earth must be getting somewhat warmer (it would also be true, would it not, that the combustion itself would add heat to the atmosphere?). How fast and how dangerously is an open question, however. Another open question would be, were we headed into another Little or other Ice Age at this point, we’d actually be improving conditions for ourselves. Which has a very appealing cosmic irony factor to it for those of a certain age with a slightly twisted sense of humor.

    Let us apply Crichton’s thesis to some other things we know… for example, that our democracy is better because you can’t guarantee the benevolence of a despot and have an orderly succession. But what if you can? Another thing we do not know is that the market is actually smarter than any centrally managed government system. But what if you have, for once, a competent central system? What if prior efforts to run a centrally managed economy had flaws not in concept, but in the people in charge being incompetent and/or the technology was simply not available to do it well until recently? You see where I’m going with this…
    Fabius Maximus replies: The cartoon approach to climate modeling! What about particulate emissions, the basis for the “global cooling” scare of the 1970’s (they block sunlight)? Does that, on this child’s logic basis, prove that we should prepare for cooling. Perhaps we should take this to the sophomoric level and consider feedbacks: greater temperature => more clouds => higher albedo => less sunlight reaching the surface. Let’s not forget other variables, such as the solar cycle. On the other hand, perhaps climate science is so complex, like most science, that we cannot draw conclusions by using child-level science.

    More importantly, this misses his point. The process of modern science has become defective. The models, calculation, and data “provoing” nuclear winter were concealed by Sagan et al. And for good reason, for when eventually dragged into the daylight they were found to provide an absurdly weak basis for such strong conclusions.

    The same pattern has held for global warming. Almost every aspect of the case has been hidden — and when dragged into view has proved to some degree defective. The “normal” mechanisms for review and repliation of scientific theories break down in these highly politicised issues — the very issues on which we most need reliable conclusions.

    I love your analogy to democracy! Please write it up and send it to the Food & Drug Administration. Why do they bother with those lengthy and expensive double-blind trials and outside review boards? In Climate Science data and methods are kept secret, and the scientists review their own and their associates work. Only lives are at stake, so let’s develop new drugs the Climate Science way!

  2. I believe that the international scientific almost overwhelmingingly stands behind the consensus that anthropogenic global warming {AGW} is occuring, and, if unchecked, could lead to disastrous results.

    Michael Crichton was not a scientist and he did not understand the extremely complex and still evolving fields of Earth and climate science. His point seems to be that it is always wrong for scientists to do anything other than plug away at the data and generate new theories, but this point is absurd. What if, for instance, astronomers discovered an asteroid on a collission course with Earth? They would start ringing alarm bells, and we would want them to. I contend that this is exactly what perfectly respectable, brilliant, and responsible scientists are doing today.

    If you don’t believe that global climate change is occuring, then you have a large burden to overcome. You must meet a great deal of peer-reviewed science head on and challenge its basic findings. Moreover, even is (as I grant) there is a chance that global warming is not going to be a problem for the planet, then what about the precautionary principle? We are better safe than sorry, and it is not as if taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a dangerous policy.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Note the post dealing with most of these comments going up tomorrow. By the numbers, a few replies.

    (1) If you say “If you don’t believe that global climate change is occuring” you have not read (or understood) the skepticism about AGW. Global climate change is a natural cyclical process, taking place over a wide range of time scales. The question concerns the trends in our time and the causes.

    (2) “international scientific almost overwhelmingingly stands behind the consensus that anthropogenic global warming”

    Since much of this lecture rebuts the use of “consensus science” to justify theories, I suspect you did not read it.

    (3) “His point seems to be that it is always wrong for scientists to do anything other than plug away at the data and generate new theories, but this point is absurd.”

    On what basis can you possibly say this? See #2 above.

    (4) “What if, for instance, astronomers discovered an asteroid on a collission course with Earth?”

    It is beyond absurd to compare climate science predictions — which have an almost zero record of successfully predictions on any timescale — with one of the best proven of the physical sciences.

  3. In my opinion global warming occurs as a result of the possibility of the end of (cheap) oil. Instead of finding new sources of energy out of necessity, people tell the story that ‘saving the environment’ constitutes out actual project – when in reality the prospect of running out of our chief energy source causes fear of not meeting that demand.

    In other words, the global warming hypothesis results from a psychological need.

    “Child-level science” – Since many scientists seem to agree on the global warming hypothesis, the theory appears as though tested/proven.

    The idea that “Global climate change is a natural cyclical process, taking place over a wide range of time scales” seems the most convincing rebuttal to the global warming hypothesis since astronomical events occur too slowly for humans to perceive them in ordinary circumstances (without, perhaps, the help of sophisticated science/human reasoning).

    What data might change the minds of global warming theorists?

  4. This is one of the best speeches ever written, and I’m glad to see it appear on this site. Crichton’s death is an unmeasurable loss to society–one of the truly few objective and reality-centered individuals that we had. May he rest in peace.

    I think one of the major problems of discussing issues like these is the tendency of people to categorize a particular exposition as being on one side or another. It is very important to note that Crichton neither believed nor disbelieved in the global warming hypothesis. In State of Fear he made it very clear that he believed that he thought that there was much evidence to support the man-made warming hypothesis. His discontent was rather with the state of the scientific process today, fueled mostly by grants and the self-interest of scientist. As a small, nonrepresenative, and completely biased example, take a scientist who gets $10,000 in grant money from Berkeley to study whether or not global warming exists. If he find evidence that there might be repercussions to man-made carbon emissions, voila–more grant money. If he discovers that global warming is a naturally occurring cycle, then he’s out of luck. You figure it out.

    As to the scientific consensus thing, the best example (taken from Crichton) is the varying fields of studies born after Spencer published his social darwinism hypothesis. You know, the ones that proved that Africans were essentially under-evolved Europeans. Child-like conceptualizations of science? Check. International scientific consensus? Check. Gogo Holocaust!

  5. C’mon folks. Environmental groups as villains? The IPCC scientists as hacks? Are you kidding me?

    And “a,” how can you compare advocates of figthing climate change (and the scientists who agree with them) to proponents of social darwinism and to racists? This is beyond parody.

    Consensus under the right conditions is our best guide to truth. Read Habermas, Rorty, Davidson, and Quine. If 99% of climate scientists believe that there is a problem, then, ceteris paribus, it would be best to take them seriously. I would like to ask any climate scientists who read this blog to weigh in on this question. And the only example you can cite of a contraint on scientific freedom is that some funding goes to people who support the warming hypothesis. Well, corporations with much deeper pockets have been spending money to fund scientists who believe that warming is either not occuring or is harmless. I don’t think that monetary issues vitiate the scientific conensus, and I don’t think that reputational concerns play a major role either.

    Still, I want to ask if you feel certain that global warming will not pose a problem for humanity? If so, how sure are you? The risk, being probabalistic, must be quanitified. The harm must also be estimated. William Nordhaus (a rather conservative economist) has carried out cost benefit analysis in just this way, and firmly believes that action needs to be taken to curb GHG emissions. Richard Posner did much the same thing in his book Catastrophe: Risk and Response–which I would highly recommend to you since it bears on exactly this question of responses to low probability catastrophic events (which abrupt climate change would be, but not gradual climate change).

    Final point: where do you get the idea that climate prediction based on advanced computer modelling is innacurate? Sure, we cannot predict daily weather patterns, but the computer models are extraordinarily accurate (see the chapter on computer modelling in The Earth System by Kump, Kasting & Crane). Moreover, the models operate under a range of assumptions and yield climate predictions in ranges as well. I don’t think that a single model shows a “no net warming” outcome.

    Finally, also in The Earth System, read about why it is necessary to use modelling for the purpose of climate prediction. There are too many variables, too many feedback loops, and, most importantly, there is too much data for a single equation to encompass. You have to run a model to predict changes in a system as complex as the earth’s climate.

    Once again, I welcome your responses. I am also happy to hear that some scientists don’t support the warming hypothesis! Even though I consider myself an environmentalist, I have no “vested interest” in global warming, pace Michael Crichton. A few studies, however, aren’t going to convince me that warming is nothing to worry about, unless, of course, they offer the results of computer models which are more accurate than those of the IPCC modellers.
    Fabius Maximus replies: These comments are so interesting that I am wrote a post in reply: A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming..

    One particular item in your comment I find esp interesting.

    “The harm must also be estimated. William Nordhaus (a rather conservative economist) has carried out cost benefit analysis in just this way, and firmly believes that action needs to be taken to curb GHG emissions.”

    This shows the highly political nature of the debate, with the validity of the calculation is attested to by the politics of the author. Absurd on two levels. First, that an economist is competent to do such a calcuation (possesion of an HP-12C does not one an omnicompetent expert, although many economists seem to believe this). It is a subject requiring a multi-discipinary team for anything but a cartoon analysis. Second, it ignores the many big-government advocates among conservatives (e.g., Gov. Schwarzenegger and John McCain).

  6. From comment #5, responding to #4:

    how can you compare advocates of figthing climate change (and the scientists who agree with them) to proponents of social darwinism and to racists? This is beyond parody.

    To answer this, I instead direct you to read about the history of eugenics and other areas of science typically associated with scientific racism. To answer your indirect attack, no; I am not calling the IPCC racist or otherwise maleficent in their research and conclusions. I was trying to demonstrate that there have been times in history when the impetus of scientific thought have been misdirected and have had unforseen consequences. I am not trying to Godwin this argument by associating climate change advocates with Nazis. You’re missing my point here, which is that scientific consensus does not objective truth make. This has been demonstrated at numerous times throughout history; the eugenics argument was simply illustrative of this fact.

    From comment #5, responding to #4:

    Still, I want to ask if you feel certain that global warming will not pose a problem for humanity? If so, how sure are you? The risk, being probabalistic, must be quanitified. The harm must also be estimated. William Nordhaus (a rather conservative economist) has carried out cost benefit analysis in just this way, and firmly believes that action needs to be taken to curb GHG emissions.

    Where in my post did I say that climate change wasn’t real? I never did and I think it is real. The problem, as Crichton pointed out and that I wholeheartedly agree with, is essentially what you just said; The risk must be quantified. The problem is that Crichton (and many others) feel that the risk is not being quantified objectively for many reasons. My example of the profit-minded scientist is faulty for a number of reasons, which is why I threw in that disclaimer. That’s not to say that the state of Science is bias-free, but there are different factors than profit motives and academic standing that play into how the academic community reaches its conclusions.

    The thing that Crichton, I, and (I believe) Fabius Maximus are addressing has nothing to do with the actual debate over climate change but rather a critical assessment of the state of scientific affairs. Whatever you think about global warming, the fact that Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize should make any intelligent observer cringe, and for good reason. The ending assessment is that we need accurate data and less “scientific” crackpotism that is muddling the research and polarizing individuals on both sides of the “debate.”

  7. Thanks yet again for a great link. Excellent speech. I have been very concerned with where we are going with science for some time and think MC nailed the issue. Unfortunately I doubt that his institutionalized double-blind paradigm will be coming on line soon.

    But maybe not. Maybe we are going to have some ‘change’ soon?!

    (Or maybe we will be a Chinese colony within ten years….)

  8. (1) The Future Has Always Been Crazier Than We Thought, video of a speech with Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    (2) “The 4P Approach to Dealing With Scientific Uncertainty“, Robert Costanza and Laura Cornwell, ENVIRONMENT, Volume 34, Number 9, November 1992 — Abstract:

    Suggests a new approach to environmental protection that requires users of environmental resources to post a bond adequate to cover uncertain future environmental damages. Summarized as the “precautionary polluter pays principle,” or the 4P approach, it shifts the burden of proof and the cost of uncertainty from the public to the resource user. Discusses implementation and political feasibility.

    Fascinating, especially Taleb. Any comments on these?
    Fabius Maximus replies: neither of these look very interesting. I’ll venture a few comments anyway.

    (1) Tabeb’s “black swan” concept is interesting, but largely irrelevant to our current crisis. He has done an excellent job of riding the crisis to promote himself (as I too would do in his place, perhaps). However this is the opposite situation: an high impact scenario widely predicted. Taleb has recanted: “Taleb’s `Black Swan’ Investors Post Gains as Markets Take Dive“, Bloomberg, 14 October 2008:

    Taleb said the current crisis is a ‘White Swan”, not a Black Swan, because it was something bound to happen. ‘I was expecting the crisis, I was worried about it,” Taleb said. ‘I put my neck and money on the line seeking protection from it.”

    As for #2, I think the “precautionary principle” is simialr to the Drake Equation, an interesting idea widely used as the worst kind of pseudo-science. I briefly discuss this here:

    Commission a group to collect as many shockwave scenarios {high impact, low probability} as possible, with a brief analysis of each. Fortunately there are thousands of interest groups willing to pitch in and help! Then apply a common analytical framework to rate them on both dimensions: probability and impact. The results would prove quite interesting, and allow more rational public policy discussion.

  9. Wouldn’t a truly CONSERVATIVE approach to ecology be “don’t mess with things that we don’t understand, like the atmosphere?”
    Fabius Maximus replies: The “if only I were King” viewpoint! Sire, might I write your coronation speech?

    People of the Third World, hear me. I, your Monarch, condemn you and your children to lives of hopeless poverty. You must scratch out lives in the dust as best you can until our scientists (living in comfortable suburbs) convince western elites (also living in fine communities) that it is safe for you to industrialize. That is the only conservative thing to do.

  10. I was quite sorry to see Michael Crichton go. He was both highly creative and highly rational–a rare combination. His strong work ethic and personal integrity prevented him from simply “going along with the crowd.” In Hollywood, that is quite a distinction.

  11. In terms of relatively basic physics, there are good reasons to expect that anthropogenic climate change will occur. Human contributions of CO2 into the atmosphere can be estimated from source inventories. CO2 from fossil fuel burning is also depleted in Carbon-14, creating a tracer that is consistent with measurements of isotopes. The estimate of 3.7 W/m2 of forcing (i.e. before any feedbacks) from doubling CO2 isn’t controversial. Quite simply, less heat is initially emitted by the planet to space and it has to come back into balance. A feedback has to involve some increase in temperature to drive other changes. Other changes include increased water vapor (also a greenhouse gas), increased cloudiness, and changes in surface reflectivity. High clouds trap more infrared radiation; low clouds reflect more sunlight back to space. The non-temperature changes imply changes in rainfall and in the geographic and seasonal distribution of rainfall. Balancing energy does not imply no anthropogenic change.

    Climate models are physics process models. They represent, to the best implementable approximation, the state of knowledge of the atmosphere. The validity of the various pieces and parts get tested against more exact representations and against data. The documentation and discussion is available, if strewn through decades of literature. Documentation of the physical basis of models is also available. Most research is blind in the sense that it focuses on improving the representation of physical processes. You don’t know the effects on climate model results until much later. Scientific consensus does not mean arbitrary agreement. It means that a lot of scientists in different areas of expertise have both cross-checked (and argued) with each other to the point that they view the treatment is reasonable and appropriate.

    Regional climate variations can occur as a result of transport of heat, without a change in the global heat balance. Global change occurs when some factor, anthropogenic or not, changes that balance.

    Given an energy forcing from human activities, the best bet is that it will create observable changes in temperature and precipitation — not just in averages but in regional patterns.

    The open question is how we limit and mitigate change and how we ensure that the costs are not separated from the benefits. So part of the question arises in how to do the accounting so that costs to the commons are include.

    Part of mitigation requires addressing limitations in how human social systems respond and in keeping a functional relationship between observation, including predictive ability, and action. Whereas nomads in the distance past may have responded to north or south migration of rainfall by changing location, people these days get excited by groups of people crossing borders. Climate change can further stress systems of sustenance already under stress. Darfur may be an example, as suggested in an article by Stephan Faris.

    A change in rainfall or growing season may mean that a hybrid crop is no longer appropriate in the region for which it was developed. Moving the growing area may involve both changes in terrain and soil-type.

    A change in sea-level may mean that some island states become uninhabitable and some current coast cities become to susceptible to weather extremes. The residents of the Maldives are currently shopping for new property.

    The bottom line is not that the sky is falling, but that not planning for anthropogenically induced climate change is as unwise as not observing economic and political feedbacks. Missing the opportunity to both plan and mitigate effectively, has its own economic costs and it’s own potential effects on global security. Everything has its indirect costs, including the burning of fossil fuels.
    Fabuis Maximus replies: This is a wonderful comment, perfectly illustrating the fallacies described in my new post A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming. I think you hit every one!

    The story about the Maldives was esp fascinating, noting that the population doubled in the past 20 years from 200 to 400 thousand. What was it during the previous warm spell, the Medieval Optimum, 800 – 1300 AD? Per the Population Statistics website, their population was 50 thousand in 1900 and 30 thousand in 1880. Probably a lot more room per person, even when sea levels were higher. Natural climate cycles can become painful when the population grows 13-fold on a small island.

  12. The Crichton speech blew me away with the depth of his understanding of the whole, sorry, recent history of the politicization of science. A fine piece of work from a fine man.

    Who can understand scientists who insist on orthodoxy? Science is all about shaking up the status quo with facts and reproducible results. Why in the world did they go into scientific fields in the first place?

    I can’t help but wonder if our current educational system is prone to producing “scientists” who can’t think for themselves…

  13. I am sure that the makers of the highly complex climate prediction models try to be as careful as … the ‘rocket scientists’ who were making the risk assessment computer models used by AIG / Lehman and others in managing their risks.

    I make models, and reports from models. I don’t fully believe them, because I know the data accuracy problems, and the data relationship problems.

    The increase in CO2 is more easily measurable, and most likely to be a factor in ‘climate change’ — whether it’s warming or not is a separate issue.

    I understand that Antarctic Ice has been increasing. This is shown in Antarctic cooling down, 2002 and May, 2005, and US Senate minority report :

    the media is promoting the ice loss of one tiny fraction of the giant ice-covered continent and completely ignoring the current record ice growth on Antarctica. Contrary to media hype, the vast majority of Antarctica has cooled over the past 50 years and ice coverage has grown to record levels since satellite monitoring began in the 1979, according to peer-reviewed studies and scientists who study the area.

    The NASA Earth Observatory is quite cool, but with both heating and cooling — LINK

    We do NOT know what CO2 will really do, over time. We do know the earth was warmer by about 2 degrees in the Medieval Warming Period, before the recent Little Ice Age. I haven’t heard of good explanations for that warming (with Danes in Greenland) or Ice Age.

    Higher gas taxes should be supported by those who fear global warming. I support higher gas taxes more on pollution and especially national security reasons, and explicitly with tax stabilization component (tax going up fast when oil prices drop, tax actually decreasing if prices go up too fast).
    Fabius Maximus replies: Also note that the increased melting of the arctic ice pack might have changed trend this years. For more on this see these posts from Anthony Watts’ site What’s Up with That?
    * “Arctic sea ice continues rebound“, 31 October 2008
    * “Sea ice area approaching the edge of normal standard deviation“, 22 October 2008

  14. Fabius Maximus replies: The “if only I were King” viewpoint! Sire, might I write your coronation speech?

    I completely agree with the “coronation speech”, if western countries are really worried about warming then they should share their wealth with the non-industrialised world.

    I read ‘Jurassic Park’ after seeing the film and it introduced me to Chaos Theory, which explains that dynamic systems, like climate, are always changing. The climate is supposed to change, all the time. Our ancestors adapted to changing climate by large-scale migration. If the climate is now warming then we should start adapting, I give some suggestions in my post: Good Times are Coming-The Permafrost is Melting

    I think the change is going in the direction of inland warming and cooling seashore, just the opposite of conditions that enabled the rise of Europe & US as maritime powers, no wonder they are worried about global warming!

  15. Fabius,

    I think a more fruitful discussion might happen by looking at what climate scientists argue about regarding these issues. One place I look at that has these sorts of discussions is Real Climate (I have no relations with the scientists involved on that website). I read it out of my own curiosity

    One problem I think you might be having is that most scientists are very reluctant to discuss areas out of their expertise. I am a physical scientist, but my work is far removed from studies of climate change, and so I would feel foolish discussing AGW without a large amount of study.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I think more revealing is Real Climate’s record of banning comments by respectable people in the debate, editing and deleting comments — all to keep a “clean” record. Must not confuse the true believers!

    I think a more fruitful discussion is found on Climate Audit, where both sides get their say — often on a highly technical level. Also Climate Audit has broken far more significant ground in the debate, several times forcing corrections from the various agencies involved.

    * See this and this for a current example, highlighting serious data quality issues in the surface temperature data.

    * Perhaps the best-known example was the “Hansen Y2K error”: here here, and here.

    * This post illustrates the difference between the two sites. As Will Richardson says in comment #4:

    The point is that substantial and material adjustments are being made to the temperature “record” relied on by climate scientists, the adjustments support the hypothesis of AGW, and the adjuster refuses to disclose the data and calculations which he assures the public justify his adjustments.

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