HISTORY REVISITED, ENDING WITH: KEITH BRIFFA REVIEWING DATA; SNAPPING BLADE FROM MANN’S HOCKEY STICK (YET AGAIN)
I have been in a melancholy mood ever since our President accused me of sticking my head in the sand to feel better, and ignoring an oncoming storm. You see, I’d thought it was the other way around. I thought his advisors created such a smoke screen of bad advise that his own lofty head might as well have been up in the clouds, but that if I alerted him to the Truth, he might avoid facing a storm of his own: A storm of anger among people who have been misinformed about Global Warming.
I have been at this search for the Truth about Global Warming for a long time. Because of my doubts concerning Global Warming, people I am fond of, including members of my own family, have called me things like “denier”. Often I have taken their criticism to heart, and have gone back to double-check, triple-check, and quadruple-check things that they never checked once. I feared that rather than a Paul Revere alerting the sleeping, I was a Chicken Little spreading hysteria. However over and over I arrive at the same conclusions, and therefore have doggedly stuck fast to what I see as the Truth, for I believe that if you stand by the Truth, then Truth will stand by you.
At first I discussed things in a primitive manner, using my voice and snail mail and a ballpoint pen. I never even owned a computer until 2000, (my younger sister’s discarded Apple 2c,) and did not discover the web until 2003. However even an old dog can learn a few things, provided they aren’t tricky, and I soon discovered the delights of early websites that talked about nice, non-political, non-religious topics, like the weather. That was where I learned Global Warming had made weather an unsafe topic. It was also where I learned people will supply you with links, to see support for their side of an issue, and often you can learn that an issue has more than two sides.
I had always been prone to withdrawing into a library when life got too hard to bear. Even in my roughing-it years, when I slept in my car even during the winter, I found libraries are public, warm, and a good place to forget your circumstances. I loved to study history and the newspapers of far away, warmer, more comfortable places. Once I discovered the Internet, I didn’t need to trudge all the way to the library any more. The library came to me.
Also I did not need to send writing off, and wait weeks and weeks, only to get the carefully worded non-response called, “a rejection slip.” Instead I could send my writing to the “comment sections” of various blog sites, and get an almost immediate and florid rejection. Even better, I could instantaneously write back and floridly reject the rejecter. (I couldn’t do that, as a sensitive young artist, when “The New Yorker” magazine rejected my poems.)
Soon I was a “regular contributor” at various sites. I had risen from complete obscurity to relative obscurity, however fame was not my aim. Learning the Truth was my aim, and fiery debate was a great way to learn, especially at sites where a lot of laughter was involved, as well.
The first time I had a post elevated to something other than a comment was when Eliot Abrams honored me at his site, by printing something called, “New England’s Amnesia, or, Changes In The Wind,” on June 29, 2006. It had next to nothing to do with Global Warming, except perhaps to counter McKibben’s alarmism in the National Geographic with my own alarmism, concerning the sixty-year-cycle, and the possible repeat of a Hurricane Carol.
Back in those days there was no “Watts Up With That” website, (which was not created until November 17, 2006,) and when I was in the mood to debate I visited the Accuweather Global Warming Website, which was a sort of barroom brawl back then, only lightly moderated by Brett Anderson, and mostly moderated by the posters themselves, who were helped by the temper-cooling time it took to see comments posted, (up to eight hours, in some cases.)
One form of brawling was to hit your opponent with links. I spent so much time getting hit and following links that my wife said my computer was turning into a mistress, (so I quite wisely took her out to dinner…but confess to thinking about Global Warming even as I looked at the menu.) For an old dog past age fifty, I was learning at an amazing rate.
Often links would wind me up at either “Climate Audit” or “Real Climate,” which I soon learned were at odds. I did not like “Real Climate” because they would not post my comments, or even admit “Climate Audit” existed, but I also had a hard time with “Climate Audit,” because the discussions were often too technical for me to grasp, (especially when they involved the nuances of computer code.) I tended to just skim these sites to see if I could grasp the gist of why I had been sent there, and then returned to Accuweather to continue the brawl. However I could not help but glean grains of the history concerning the duality of the two sites.
Apparently McIntyre originally had an obscure site called, “climate2003,” and in October of 2004 commented on what William Connolly was posting at other sites. This may have been what motivated Michael Mann and nine other scientists to launch Real Climate on December 1, 2004. Mann’s first postings argued against McIntyre’s papers, which McIntyre noted by December 10. Due to problems with his old website’s format, and problems getting heard at Real Climate, Climate Audit was created two months after Real Climate, on February 2, 2005.
Even back then Mann was defending his “hockey stick,” and McIntyre, if not attacking it, was ruthlessly exposing it to the light of day. By 2006 a reflection of their highly technical debate was seen during Accuweather brawling, as the Wegman report (debunking the “hockey stick”) came out in May, even as Al Gore’s movie “The Inconvenient Truth,” (which depended on the “hockey stick,”) appeared at the Sundance Film Festival.
Because Al Gore made the debate such a life-or-death issue, the Accuweather brawling increased in intensity, and every point of the movie was gone over in great detail, with Alarmists often supplying links to an earlier IPCC report, whereupon that too came under scrutiny.
Before 2006 was over it had been decided that “The Inconvenient Truth” should be part of the science curriculum at English schools, which caused a howl of protest from those who felt it was propaganda and not science, and resulted in Stewart Dimmock’s challenge to the use of the film for educational purposes. With help from Viscount Monkton the case came before the court in May of 2007, even as the IPCC was coming out with a new report supporting the “hockey stick,” which involved some new things, and a great deal of old stuff, being hurled about at the Accuweather brawl. There were links galore, and even a layman like myself was becoming quite knowledgeable, and harder to put off by using words like “albedo” or “dendrochronological.” Not that it was easy to sift through all the views. The Wegman Report was being blasted as not being reviewed by qualified Climate Scientists to such a degree that Wegman had to counter with a further report suggesting Climate Scientists lacked ability as statisticians. The brawl was spreading and intensifying.
My personal epiphany occurred on August 8, 2007, after hearing of an article in the Toronto Star proudly mentioning that a local boy, Steve McIntyre, got NASA to change its temperature records. This led me back to the Climate Audit website where, in terms even a layman like me could understand, the changes were made obvious.
Up until then it never sunk through my thick skull that temperatures could be “adjusted.” I assumed people looked at the thermometer, wrote the temperature down, and that was that. The idea that someone could come along a century later and blithely say the original reporter hadn’t seen what they saw, hadn’t written what they wrote, and then change the numbers, struck me as dishonest history. I was, to be frank, outraged.
Suddenly all the temperature records seemed suspect to me, and I was not interested in hearing all the lame excuses, some of which were put in nasty terms. For example, the reason I could not see the reason for changing the actual recorded temperature to an “adjusted” temperature was because I was a “flat-earther,” who lacked the wisdom of Climate Scientists. That was just another way of calling me stupid, and I had not spent hours following links and reading everything I could to in order to debate people who resorted to calling me names.
On August 9 Climate Audit went off the air. It was creepy, because one always has the fear the government will step in and shut down the internet, if it feels threatened. There was paranoid speculation at other sites, and a brief but desperate search for updates, and many were directed to Watts Up With That. There it was learned Rush Limbaugh had mentioned Climate Audit,. (among others who mentioned the site,) and the site was completely overwhelmed by a flood of people who were as interested as I was. It took a few days to get things back to normal, by which time I had noted Watts Up With That was a site I would return to.
Two months later, on October 16, 2007, ruling on the Dimmock Case in England, the judge stated that “An Inconvenient Truth” should not be shown to children without nine specific scientific errors which it contained being made clear to the children. This was a setback for Alarmists, who had argued that those nine errors were not errors, (some of whom continue to refuse to recognize the falsity involved to this day.) This was a second wake-up call for me, as it made me aware how stubborn some are, when it comes to admitting an error.
However this was still over two years before November 19, 2009, when Climategate made Alarmist stubbornness seem like something worse. Before that date, speaking only for myself, I had a hope that reasonable discussion might prevail, and that debate was worthwhile.
For a time patience did seem worthwhile. Point by point slow progress was made, and despite Alarmist’s insistence that that Freedom Of Information was “harassment,” item after item was examined, until at long last in 2009 things focused on a lone tree, YAD06. As incredible as it sounded, this lone tree had a disproportionate amount to do with the existence of the blade, on Mann’s “hockey stick.”
By this time I had shifted from the Accuweather site to Watts Up With That, as the Accuweather site, (perhaps due to the escalating nature of the brawling, or perhaps due to other reasons,) became increasingly heavy-handed with its moderation, until it solved the problem of brawling by becoming a mere echo-chamber of Alarmist views. However I left early, and missed the step-by-step details of the transition, attracted to Watts Up With That because comments appeared more swiftly, and also because my mistakes were pointed out in a less brawl-like manner, involving more specific details that taught me more deeply.
I did not pretend to be a math-whiz, or anything beyond a bumpkin, when it came to computers, but when it came to History, I could hold my own, (and if someone misquoted Robert Frost, they could expect a sound thrashing from me.) Because YAD06 was just a tree, and I had worked a lot in the woods since I was a boy, I put on my lumberjack hat and made a comment using my lumberjack accent, even though trees do not always fall in the direction I desire when I cut them down. To my delight, and also embarrassment, my comment was elevated to the level of a post at What’s Up With That.
After the chagrin of confessing I didn’t actually work as a lumberjack for a living, I found it a great joy to have my ideas subjected to WUWT peer review. There were 199 comments, and for a guy accustomed to a single, impersonal rejection slip, I was in seventh heaven. There was some flattery, which is always nice, but there were also a lot of pointers, directing my thought towards areas I’d never thought about, and likely wouldn’t think about, without direction.
At this point I realized, somewhat to my own astonishment, that I was no longer a sensitive young poet. When I was young any criticism stung me so badly that I had to flee, fearing I’d either fly into a rage or burst into tears. I fled attention, (which partially explains how I could write for forty years without being published,) however going all that time without attention made me think attention and even criticism might not be such a bad thing. So I gave it another try. The more I tried it the more I liked it.
This also explained something I never had understood, which was the fact Winston Churchill seemed to relish criticism, and even to thrive where others might have been crushed. Rather than surrounding himself with “Yes-men” he seemed to surround himself with people who could say things such as, “Winston has a hundred ideas a day, three of which are good ideas.” In other words, he surrounded himself with people who, ninety-seven times a day, would criticize his thought. He was therefore able to constantly innovate, and see the good innovations tested and the bad innovations weeded out.
As President Obama came into office he spoke of “hope and change,” which would involve some innovations. Nor has he changed his mind. Where Winston Churchill had a hundred ideas a day, our current president stubbornly persists with the same old idea he entered the Oval Office with, and hasn’t had a single new idea that he admits to. To hope for change apparently isn’t allowed in “Hope and Change,” and therefore he insists the “hockey stick” is valid. (It should be noted that one of Obama’s first acts, on entering the Oval Office, was to remove a bust of Churchill, a gift to our nation from Great Briton, and to have the gift sent back.)
When Climategate burst upon the scenes on November 19, 2009, I could not help but notice the immature attitude towards criticism revealed by the emails. Though the Climate Scientists involved relished attention when it flattered, they saw no benefit in the attention that focuses on mistakes. They did everything possible to avoid having mistakes pointed out, even attempting to harm critics, and to prevent critics from being heard, and to once even rejoice when a critic died. Rather than correcting ninety-seven out of a hundred ideas, they went to great lengths to foster the illusion they never made any mistakes, and consequently, rather than innovation, they chose stagnation.
For the life of me I couldn’t understand why anyone would chose such a stultifying existence and such a mental suffocation. Likely this was because, while I don’t have a hundred ideas a day and may be lucky to have a hundred ideas a year, on the Watts Up With That website I could share my ideas, and see ninety-seven go down in flames, and learn a lot of wonderful things in the process.
(Two ideas actually appeared as posts, and both included errors, which were swiftly pointed out.)
In an emotional sense, having a new idea which is shot down in flames is a two step process, when you are a sensitive young poet who can’t stand criticism. (In the old days the emotional swing was called “manic-depressive” and now is called “bipolar.”) The new idea is accompanied by the thrill of discovery, which gives way to the deep, dark depression of “back to the drawing board,” as the idea goes down in flames. However, as you get older, you understand discovery is also involved when you see an idea doesn’t fly, and therefore are less crushed when an idea goes down in flames. (Unless, of course, you get fired, or a test pilot loses his life.)
While failure is hard to bear for all humans, those who dwell in the world of thought should be less affected by it, for the thrill of discovery exists both in having a new idea, and also in seeing the new idea doesn’t work. However, once being hired-or-fired gets involved, and feeding-ones-family gets involved, one may not dwell so much in the world of thought, and the possibility of corruption enters in.
Speaking merely for myself, I was easier to corrupt when I was young and had a whole future to lose. For all the talk of how idealistic youths are, my idealism was tempered by fear. Now I am not so afraid, for I’m lucky to be alive, have already had more than my share, and have no future to lose. Perhaps that explains why old geezer conservatives walk in where angels, (and young liberals,) fear to tread.
Ever since Climategate it has been obvious that certain climate scientists resemble touchy young poets more than they resemble stable, mature men. The same can be said to their followers. The response to Climategate itself was an extraordinary example of the inability to admit mistakes. No one can read those emails and think people willing to have mistakes pointed out wrote the emails. The excuses given for those emails, in an attempt to whitewash, are downright pathetic. Those who accept such excuses are as sad as a husband who, catching his wife in bed with another man, accepts her excuse that the other man is a bed-sheet salesman.
It is human to resist seeing mistakes. It is human to ascribe ulterior motives to those who point out our mistakes. It is even regrettably human to lash out at those who point out our mistakes. However at some point we have to face a hard fact: Flattery may be sweet, but can contain cloying poison, whereas tough love, though harsh and hard to stomach, is actually loving. It is at this point one teeters at the brink of nasty fork in the road. One choice, admitting your mistake, makes you very human, but the other choice ventures you out into the frightening landscape of the inhumane, who deem Truth the enemy.
It is now fifteen long years since the “hockey stick” appeared and over a decade since Steve McIntyre formed “climate2003” to discuss the validity of the graph. We have been over and over the same territory again and again and again, and always the same answer reappears: The “hockey stick” is basically bogus. However, in all that time, Climate Scientists and their Alarmist supporters have refused to accept the tough love of valid criticism, with the exception of Keith Briffa, who was so intimately involved with the lone tree, “YAD06.”
Briffa alone shows the symptoms of a maturing scientist. The thrill of victory, of finding the “smoking gun” or “missing link” likely accompanied the finding of YAD06, followed by all the hand-shaking, back-slapping congratulations our egos relish, (and apparently money and fame followed as well,) but then all the typical pointers, directing Briffa to thoughts that questioned his initial premise, came skulking like a priest into a teenager’s party and withered the roses. Rather than resisting the depressing gloom of tough love, Briffa seems to have taken it to heart, eventually producing the graph which counters his original graph, and snaps the blade off Mann’s “hockey stick.”
I assume he revised his graph well aware of the risk he faced.
The president of the United States has stated, (and has advised the young of this nation during a graduation speech,) that to dare question Global Warming is to stick your head in the sand. Because Briffa’s new graph knocks another pin from under the “hockey stick,” and because the “hockey stick” is so important to the concept of Global Warming, and because Global Warming is so important as a foundation for the president’s policy, then Briffa must be sticking his head in the sand. He must be a “flat earther.”
In defense of Briffa, I have to state to the President that we flat-earthers stick together, and more are joining our ranks every day. We have, like Briffa, spent long hours toiling to understand the data and the Truth, and are among the most educated of educated voters. Speaking only for myself, I think it is high time the president stopped using Global Warming as an excuse to justify his policy, accepted the fact Global Warming is less likely than short-term cooling, and instead justified his policy using logic that justifies such policy even if Global Warming never happens. If the President cannot do that, then his policy is unjustifiable.
Unless the president abandons Global Warming, and is honest with the American people about more down-to-earth reasons for his policy, then he is at risk of appearing to have his head in the clouds. Is that so different from having your head in the sand?
This essay only describes the tip-of-an-iceberg, in terms of my efforts to become an informed voter, in terms of Global Warming. For the president to dismiss me, off hand, as a flat-earther, tempts me to be equally dismissive of his efforts.
My daughter advised me to shut my mouth, because if I spoke from my heart we might wind up on some “enemies list.” My miniscule taxes might get audited, the EPA might arrive to test the exhaust emissions of my goats, fees might get doubled, permits might get denied, college loans might get refused, and so on. However if Briffa could display the guts it takes to produce his most recent graph, I too can also have guts.
Therefore, unless the president backs down and professes reasons other than Global Warming for his policy, I will be forced to be as rude to him as he has been to me, and will publish the following unpublished suggestion.
“Mr. President, you call me a flat earther. I am tempted to respond in a manner that paraphrases a politician who stated, “I knew John Kennedy, and you are no John Kennedy,” however in this case the statement will be, “I have known fat-earthers, and you make them look well rounded.”