How can we trust global warm­ing sci­en­tists if they keep twist­ing the truth?

His rev­e­la­tion that world lead­ers were duped over vi­tal data sparked fury from the cli­mate change lobby. Here is our re­porter’s un­com­pro­mis­ing re­sponse...

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Comment - By DAVID ROSE

THEY were duped – and so were we. That was the con­clu­sion of last week’s damn­ing rev­e­la­tion that world lead­ers signed the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change un­der the sway of un­ver­i­fied and ques­tion­able data. A land­mark sci­en­tific pa­per – the one that caused a sen­sa­tion by claim­ing there has been NO slow­down in global warm­ing since 2000 – was crit­i­cally flawed. And thanks to the brav­ery of a whistle­blower, we now know that for a fact.

The re­sponse has been ex­tra­or­di­nary, with The Mail on Sun­day’s dis­clo­sures re­ver­ber­at­ing around the world. There have been nearly 150,000 Face­book ‘shares’ since last Sun­day, an as­ton­ish­ing num­ber for a tech­ni­cally de­tailed piece, and ex­ten­sive cov­er­age in me­dia at home and abroad.

It has even trig­gered an in­quiry by Congress. La­mar Smith, the Texas Repub­li­can who chairs the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ sci­ence com­mit­tee, is re­new­ing de­mands for doc­u­ments about the con­tro­ver­sial pa­per, which was pro­duced by Amer­ica’s Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NOAA), the world’s lead­ing source of cli­mate data.

In his view, the whistle­blower had shown that ‘NOAA cheated and got caught’. No won­der Smith and many oth­ers are con­cerned: the rev­e­la­tions go to the very heart of the cli­mate change in­dus­try and the sci­en­tific claims we are told we can trust.

RE­MEM­BER, the 2015 Paris Agree­ment im­poses gi­gan­tic bur­dens and its ef­fects are felt on every house­hold in the coun­try. Emis­sions pledges made by David Cameron will cost Bri­tish con­sumers a stag­ger­ing £319bil­lion by 2030 – al­most three times the an­nual bud­get for the NHS in Eng­land.

That is not the end of it. Tax­pay­ers also face an ad­di­tional hefty con­tri­bu­tion to an an­nual £80bil­lion in ‘cli­mate aid’ from ad­vanced coun­tries to the de­vel­op­ing world. That is on top of our al­ready gar­gan­tuan aid bud­get. Green levies and taxes al­ready cost the av­er­age house­hold more than £150 a year.

The con­tentious pa­per at the heart of this furore – with the less than ac­ces­si­ble ti­tle of Pos­si­ble Ar­ti­facts Of Data Bi­ases In The Re­cent Global Sur­face Warm­ing Hia­tus – was pub­lished just six months be­fore the Paris con­fer­ence by the in­flu­en­tial journal Sci­ence.

It made a sen­sa­tional claim: that con­trary to what sci­en­tists have been say­ing for years, there was no ‘pause’ or ‘slow­down’ in global warm­ing in the early 21st Cen­tury.

In­deed, this ‘Pause­buster’ pa­per as it has be­come known, claimed the rate of warm­ing was even higher than be­fore, mak­ing ‘ur­gent ac­tion’ im­per­a­tive.

There can be no doubt­ing the im­pact of this doc­u­ment. It sat promi­nently in the sci­en­tific brief­ings handed out to in­ter­na­tional ne­go­tia­tors, in­clud­ing EU and UK diplo­mats.

An of­fi­cial re­port from the Euro­pean Sci­ence Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil stated that the pa­per had ‘re­fined the cor­rec­tions in tem­per­a­ture records’ and shown the warm­ing rate af­ter 2000 was higher than for 1950-99.

So, flawed as it was, the Pause­buster pa­per un­ques­tion­ably helped per­suade world lead­ers to sign an agree­ment that im­poses mas­sive emis­sions cuts on de­vel­oped coun­tries.

No won­der, then, that our rev­e­la­tions were met with fury by green pro­pa­gan­dists. Some claimed the MoS had pub­lished ‘fake news’. One sci­en­tist ac­cused me of be­com­ing the ‘David Irv­ing of cli­mate change de­nial’ – a ref­er­ence to the in­fa­mous Holo­caust de­nier.

Yet per­haps more dam­ag­ing is the claim from some in the green lobby that our dis­clo­sures are small beer. In fact, their im­por­tance can­not be over­stated. They strike at the heart of cli­mate sci­ence be­cause they ques­tion the in­tegrity of the global cli­mate datasets on which pretty much ev­ery­thing else de­pends.

The whistle­blower is a man called Dr John Bates, who un­til last year was one of two NOAA ‘prin­ci­pal sci­en­tists’ work­ing on cli­mate is­sues. And as he ex­plained to the MoS, one key con­cern is the re­li­a­bil­ity of new data on sea tem­per­a­tures is­sued in 2015 at the same time as the Pause­buster pa­per.

It turns out that when NOAA com­piled what is known as the ‘ver­sion 4’ dataset, it took re­li­able read­ings from buoys but then ‘ad­justed’ them up­wards – us­ing read­ings from sea­wa­ter in­takes on ships that act as weather sta­tions.

They did this even though read­ings from the ships have long been known to be too hot.

No one, to be clear, has ‘tam­pered’ with the fig­ures. But ac­cord­ing to Bates, the way those fig­ures were cho­sen ex­ag­ger­ated global warm­ing.

AND with­out this new dataset there would have been no Pause­buster pa­per. If, as pre­vi­ous sea wa­ter ev­i­dence has shown, there re­ally has been a pause in global warm­ing, then it calls into ques­tion the re­ceived wis­dom about its true scale.

Then there is the mat­ter of tim­ing. Doc­u­ments ob­tained by this news­pa­per show that NOAA, ig­nor­ing protests by Dr Bates, held back pub­li­ca­tion of the ver­sion 4 sea dataset sev­eral months af­ter it was ready – to in­ten­sify the im­pact of the Pause­buster pa­per. It also meant more scep­ti­cal voices had no chance to ex­am­ine the fig­ures.

Our rev­e­la­tions showed there was an­other prob­lem with the Pause­buster pa­per – it used an untested ex­per­i­men­tal ver­sion of the dataset record­ing tem­per­a­tures on land, which had not been prop­erly archived and made ac­ces­si­ble to other sci­en­tists.

This was a fun­da­men­tal breach of manda­tory rules un­der NOAA’s Cli­mate Data Records pro­gramme, which Bates had de­vised. Is it sharp prac­tice? Cer­tainly it car­ries the stench of ‘Cli­mate­gate’ in 2009, when leaked emails showed sci­en­tists col­lud­ing to hide data and weak­nesses in their ar­gu­ments.

It is im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge the MoS did make one er­ror: the cap­tion on a graph, show­ing the dif­fer­ence between NOAA’s sea data records and the UK Met Of­fice’s, did not make clear that they used dif­fer­ent base­lines. We cor­rected this im­me­di­ately on our web­site.

The only ‘fake news’ in our rev­e­la­tions is the claim that they don’t mat­ter.

In truth, they are hugely dam­ag­ing, for they sug­gest an agree­ment made by fig­ures such as Barack Obama and David Cameron rested in part on re­search that had not been pub­lished with in­tegrity.

This is an age where many have come to ques­tion the role of ex­perts. Restor­ing trust de­mands trans­parency.

In cli­mate sci­ence, this means be­ing open about the fact there are still crit­i­cal un­cer­tain­ties: not about the ba­sic propo­si­tion that the world is warm­ing, thanks in part to hu­mans, but about the speed at which this is hap­pen­ing; and when it is likely, left unchecked, to be­come truly dan­ger­ous.

Al Gore fa­mously said: ‘The sci­ence is set­tled.’ It is not.

We can­not al­low such a vi­tal is­sue for our fu­ture to be mired in half truths and de­cep­tions.

This key is­sue must not be mired in de­cep­tions

HOT TOPIC: Our re­port on how read­ings from buoys were ad­justed

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