The Foibles of Climate Research

By Dr. Tim Ball – Re-Blogged From

Government Created Misuse of Climate Research; Even a Little More Government is Not the Solution.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to set up a Red and Blue team approach to climate research. It appears to be a commendable goal given the effective exclusion of one of the teams to date. The problem is it perpetuates another artificial division created by government involvement in climate science in the first place. David Middleton’s article comments on Pat Michaels’ proposed, “A Climate Roadmap for Pres. Trump” and identifies the legal problems of rescinding the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling on CO2 as a “harmful substance.” The EPA provided the ‘scientific’ definition used by SCOTUS, so the simple solution is for EPA to change it. Both stories miss the real issues. First, governments should not be involved in scientific research at all because, if nothing else, the freedom of the scientist bureaucrat is inherently compromised. Second, it doesn’t matter what process of analysis you establish, there is insufficient data to prove anything.

“Bureaucracy, the rule of no one has become the modern form of despotism.”

Government’s only function should be to ensure adequate data collection and make it available to all researchers. Most of the corruption of climate science that led to Pruitt’s actions occurred at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU. Ironically, that agency was set up to resolve the real limitation to understanding climate and climate change, the lack of data. Hubert Lamb wrote in his autobiography that he set up the CRU because

“…it was clear that the first and greatest need was to establish the facts of the past record of the natural climate in times before any side effects of human activities could well be important.”

That is still not done, indeed the problem is worse now because government employees have reduced and modified already inadequate data. Also, virtually no funding has gone to resolve the most serious limitation to understanding in data collection, not in analysis.

Deliberately Marginalizing People Because of Their Ideas

You know you are winning a debate when your opponent switches from debating the facts to personal attacks. One way this is done is by identifying you with a group, in a mixture of ad hominem and guilt by association; although I am not sure a collective ad hominem is possible. Some general examples include being labelled a “birther” if you question in any way the documentation of President Obama; or being called a conspiracy theorist if you challenge the prevailing wisdom on virtually anything. In the climate debate, those who questioned the prevailing wisdom were global warming skeptics even though we pointed out that all scientists must be skeptics. The isolating epithet changed because global warming became climate change, so, to intensify and further marginalize us we became climate change deniers. It didn’t matter that we all knew climate changes and most had careers trying to educate the public on the extent.

To add insult to injury, we were also called conspiracy theorists. A conspiracy occurs when people knowingly conspire to achieve political power and control by creating false information. The emails leaked from the CRU in 2009 and again 2010 showed that pivotal members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) knew exactly what they were doing as they conspired to deceive the world over the cause of global warming. In summary, we were legitimate skeptics, practicing edifiers of change and there really was a conspiracy.

Many disagreements devolve to both sides agreeing, something avoided by initially defining terms. Definitions direct and limit the entire debate, which means that those who define the terms control and limit the debate and determine the outcomes. This control is a favorite technique of politicians.

Political Inquiries Not What They Appear

I used to think, as most people do, that Commissions of Inquiry were ideal vehicles designed to take the politics out of a conflict. I learned after appointment to my first commission that they are ideal vehicles for politicians to avoid controversial issues and assure the outcome by defining the terms. Relief is immediate because they can deflect all questions pending the outcome of an inquiry. They then closet with the bureaucrats to write definitions and terms of reference that pre-determine the research and, more important, the results.

Such was the case with the United Nations (IPCC). Most people think it studies all climate change. It doesn’t because they were severely limited and thereby controlled by the definition of climate change given to them by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over considerable time periods.[1]


The problem is you cannot determine the human effect unless you know the amount and cause of natural climate change. In fact, even if you could determine the human effect it is within the variability and margin of error of every single variable.

Some Things Cannot Be Fixed: Don’t Repeat Error

In a bizarre inclusion, the IPCC acknowledged the limitation of the definition in the 2007 Report. Apparently, in response to criticisms, they included the definition they should have used from the start. However, it only appeared as a footnote in the Summary for Policymakers (SPM), the simplified and exaggerated Report produced for the politicians.

“Climate change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This usage differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”

That is simply not true because it is not possible. It couldn’t alter the 2007 or subsequent Reports because they are cumulative and exclude most variables and mechanisms. Starting over would draw unwanted attention to what they were doing.

Evidence that they did not apply this revised and more appropriate definition is in the failure to alter the “Forcings” diagram. Figure 1 shows the “Forcings” diagram used in the 2001 and 2013 IPCC Reports.



The only real change is the column labelled LOSU (Level of Scientific Understanding) to Level of Confidence. They are very different terms and extremely subjective, but the IPCC defined them. They rate solar irradiance understanding as (M) medium which, according to their table, is hardly a ringing endorsement and unjustified as the basis for any government policy.

Confidence Terminology Degree of confidence in being correct
Very high confidence At least 9 out of 10 chance
High confidence About 8 out of 10 chance
Medium confidence About 5 out of 10 chance
Low confidence About 2 out of 10 chance
Very low confidence Less than 1 out of 10 chance

Let The Experts Do It.

Pruitt and the Trump regime must remove most politics from the study of climate and climate change. They simply reduce government’s role to nothing but data collection, but the government cannot be trusted to do the job. The current stations are inadequate, and most don’t even meet standard scientific requirements and need dramatic improvement. Anthony Watts now classic Surface Stations study showed that only 7.9% of existing stations achieved accuracies less than 1°C.


People like Watts and many other climate specialists must be involved or even running the entire operation. Close the weather offices and use the money to set up and monitor a dense network of data collection stations. Once the Trump Administration has that underway, they can do what the Federal government is required to do and choose to work with other nations to set up a climate data collection system meeting the same criteria across the globe. Only then can any meaningful research occur as Lamb noted all those years ago.



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