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December 07, 2006

Bias in Climate Change Research?

No, no, of course there isn't is there? Everyone involved is simply a scientist doing their absolute best to uncover the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Except, unfortunately, this appears not to be the case. Read James Annan.

To give you the background. Annan and his co-author were looking at climate sensitivity. This is, (forgive me if I make this too too simple as I'm not a scientist), essentially, how much should average temperature change if atmospheric CO2 doubles from pre-industrial levels. There have been any number of attempts to work this out for it is an extremely important number. Much of the work of the International Panel on Climate Change depends upon it, of course, as do things like the Stern Review and so on.

Think of it this way: we can extrapolate into the future the amount of CO2 (and other greenhouse gasses) that are being emitted, we can make some guesses about population change, technology change and all the rest, but these only tell us how much CO2 there will be in the atmosphere. The next crucial stage is, OK, well, but what effect will that have?

What Annan et al did was use a completely different method (from memory, using some Bayesian statistics) to revise earlier estimates of what that climate sensitivity was. The range was rather sharply reduced, and most certainly the higher of the previous estimates were ruled out.

That's pretty important news, right?

Just as a note, yes, I know I'm thought of as being something of a climate change denier (which I'm not but let's leave that aside) but this approach was praised by Tim Lambert. Someone a long long way away from being a climate change denier (and with a deep and abiding (ahem) love for people like myself and Iain Murray. Coff coff, again, just in case anyone didn't get that.)

So, we've got new information of importance to the whole climate change debate. Can they get it published? Err, no, there seems to be some resistance to getting this result into the literature. Yes, it's been peer reviewed and Annan's actually posted up the results of such review:

Couldn't he have made that judgment 10 weeks ago, rather than waiting for 3 broadly favourable reviews (even Ref 1 clearly thought it was important and publishable) and then cherry-picking the worst?

Now, something like this, that blogs have already made generally known (well, to that small number of people who read these sorts of blogs), not getting publication as a scientific paper, is that really all that important?

Well, yes:

Meanwhile, people like Stern and the IPCC can only go by what is in the literature, and the Convenient Untruth of high climate sensitivity is very useful for one wing of the political debate. So I'm sure the disinformation will march on apace...

Now remember, this is a climate scientist, telling us that some of the more vibrantly excited over-estimates of climate sensitivity (and thus how much warming for how much CO2) are in fact incorrect and he can't get published. As it's not published in a climate science journal those making policy and the IPCC and so on not only do not have to, they can't, take notice of his findings.

So, is there any bias in the research and science of climate change?

You choose.

Will of The Stoat with more.

December 7, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink


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Strangely warm for this time of year, isn't it...

Posted by: alabastercodify | Dec 7, 2006 2:05:38 PM

Isn't the "Airborne Plant food is poison" industry worth about 4 Billion a year?

Posted by: AntiCitizenOne | Dec 7, 2006 2:45:41 PM

is there any bias in the research and science of climate change

Amongst the scientists I suspect that there is no more bias than there is in any other scientific field. There's quite a bit in those.

Posted by: knirirr | Dec 7, 2006 4:12:31 PM

The guy has problems publishing a rather original piece. The first explanation I'd look for is that the editor simply does not undertand it. All science has bias for existing work, I see no reason to assume political motives here.

And Tim, any comments on the Monckton thrashing fest?

Tim adds: Not a lot on Monkton, no. I tend to think that the science of what will happen with x % CO2 is pretty settled: subject to revision like Annan's paper, but not so far as to assume that the Earth is a black body.

Posted by: teme | Dec 7, 2006 10:50:05 PM

Looks like exactly the sort of thing that Richard Black at the BBC is looking for


But for a good description of why this is pretty much a red herring read John Brignell here


Posted by: Ian Reid | Dec 8, 2006 10:58:35 AM

"Tim adds: Not a lot on Monkton, no. I tend to think that the science of what will happen with x % CO2 is pretty settled: subject to revision like Annan's paper, but not so far as to assume that the Earth is a black body."

Monkton never suggested that the Earth *is* a black body. May I suggest that you read what he really said... Carefully this time?

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 8, 2006 12:17:07 PM

The first explanation I'd look for is perhaps his paper just isn't that good? I find it odd that people are jumping on the bandwagon of a whingeing, unpublished scientist. The simpler excuse seems to be the most plausible; not the excuse there is some "grand conspiracy." Annan is so sure of his 3C increase in a 100 yr forecast? HAHA

Tim adds: No, Annan isn't saying anything as stupid as a 3oC in crease in a 100 year forecast. He's talking about the effect of a doubling of CO2 on temperatures.

Posted by: anon | Dec 8, 2006 3:10:01 PM

Annan IS behind a 3degC increase with a doubling in CO2 (sensitivity). He's whingeing that his paper got rejected because he likes to cutoff higher sensitivities (i.e. 5+ degree increases with a doubling of CO2). It's hardly the "suppression of truth" he makes it -- he's just a shrill crybaby.

Posted by: anon | Dec 10, 2006 12:59:04 PM