Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Climate Audit: DOS (Denial Of Service) Men

It has become clear that the efforts of climate change denier Stephen McIntyre and his followers at Climate Audit to extract data from CRU in East Anglia through multiple FOI requests (dozens) amounted to a Denial Of Service attack against a scientific institution. Nor is it the first time McIntyre has been caught out at this sort of thing. Ben Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, once wrote:

"I'm damned and publicly vilified because I refused to provide McIntyre with the data he requested.... Had I acceded, I am convinced I would have spent years of my scientific career dealing with demands for further explanations, additional data, Fortran codes [a programming language] etc... For the remainder of my scientific career I'd like to dictate my own research agenda."

And of course, there was his 2007 attack on GISS (which was admittedly more a sign of lousy internet manners than ill-intent).

Some have suggested that the actions of McIntyre and his small army of tea-baggers with spread-sheets are undertaken in good faith. That the people around CA really just want to "set the information free", or some such nonsense. I find this difficult to believe. For one thing, as a strategy for political activism--sandbagging a gov. agency/researcher/institution you disapprove of with time wasting requests for information--is as old as the hills. Recently we have seen it here in Canada, with the Far Right's assault on the Canadian Human Rights Commission and corresponding provincial human rights bodies. Bloggers lodged frivolous human rights complaints to demonstrate that the system didn't work, bragged left and right that they were really out to hassle the agency, and then whined righteously when their frivolous complaints were dismissed. Right wing pressure groups launched pointless FOI requests, and then complained that their demands were not instantly met.

Nor are climatologists the only scientists to have suffered this kind of treatment. After Richard Lenski published his recent work on mutations in E. Coli, creationist Andy Schlafly (son of Phyllis) hounded him for his "raw data", all of which turned out to be available in the original paper. (And this, interestingly enough, highlights another occasional McIntyre demand data he's already been given.)

In any case, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, its likely a duck. Climate Audit is the center of a harassment campaigned being waged by anti-science activists against climate scientists. There's nothing more to it than that. It is not a science website.


Unknown said...

I think this article is missing the point. Without all the data, process sets and computer code it is not possible to verify that the results are correct. Not to make full disclosure on a topic as vital is this is a travesty.

If Jones/Mann et al had followed the correct scientific method, they wouldn't have found themselves 'under pressure' in the first place. However, we will never be able to check as he's either lost or destroyed the raw thermometer data. How convenient!

sharonapple88 said...

Boris, what about the point about McIntyre requesting data he already had? Was this really his attempt to "uncover the truth."

As for Jones/Mann following the correct scientific method... please note that using different models, the same conclusions are reached.

From the article:
The new reconstruction has been generated using two statistical methods, both different to that used in the original study. Like other temperature reconstructions done since 2001 (see graph), it shows greater variability than the original hockey stick. Yet again, though, the key conclusion is the same: it's hotter now than it has been for at least 1000 years.

In fact, independent evidence, from ice cores and sea sediments for instance, suggest the last time the planet approached this degree of warmth was during the interglacial period preceding the last ice age over 100,000 years ago. It might even be hotter now than it has been for at least a million years.

Further back in the past, though, it certainly has been hotter - and the world has been a very different place. The crucial point is that our modern civilisation has been built on the basis of the prevailing climate and sea levels. As these change, it will cause major problems.

Ti-Guy said...

An interesting factoid gleaned from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's posts (two of them) with regard to Jennifer Lynch's expense disclosure (found in the last paragraph of a post riven with dramatic flourishes and lurid language, such as 'commissar'):

"With the cooperation of some officials, the CTF was able to confirm that much of the inconsistencies in this reporting – at times over to $3,000 difference – were due to Lynch only posting the Canadian portion of what was paid for her tickets, omitting the total cost. The difference in total cost was largely made up of reimbursements from international organizations that Canadians taxpayers fund, thereby allowing Lynch to only post the direct cost to the Canadian taxpayer and fly under the radar. That is until the CTF began to snoop."

In what universe does the CTF believe it's normal to report expenses not incurred by the body reporting?

Depending on how the funds are disbursed, if some other organisation covers part of my expenses, there is quite often no way of reporting that portion.

There really is a VAST RIGHTWING CONSPIRACY (!!!) of vexacious douchebags, usually with the kind of face pubes l'il Derek Fildebrandt of the CTF is sporting.