Monthly Archives: September 2015

Hockey Stick exonerated. Again.

As you probably know, leading scientist Malcolm Hughes held a press conference today to announce what could be a game-changing result in paleoclimatology.

Flanked by coauthors Raymond Bradley and Michael Mann, Hughes said that thanks to new, better data, they’d finally succeeded in approximating a ‘hockey stick’ curve without the use of cheating—putting paid at last to denialist claims that the iconic temperature-reconstruction is somehow ‘fraudulent.’

Hughes et al. have written up their findings in HBM2015, due out next month. Here’s what the lesser outlets are saying about it.

masthead NYTThe instantly-recognizable “hockey stick” graph made its debut in MBH’98, a seminal article by scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes that has been plagued by suspicions of monkey business ever since its publication last century.

That accusation, according to the authors of a major new peer-reviewed study, “is irrelevant.”

It turns out jiggery-pokery isn’t even necessary to get “essentially” the correct, hoccobacilliform  curve for historic temperatures, Dr Malcolm Hughes explained at a media conference today. That’s the take-home conclusion of a paper Hughes authored with colleagues Raymond Bradley and Michael Mann, which goes to print next month under the title Millennial Climate Reconstructions are Robust to the Addition or Removal of Shenanigans.

After eliminating any disreputable or disingenuous steps involved in producing the original graph, said the authors, they found it was still possible to get “just about as good a hockey-stickish result as most recent studies”—all without straying an inch from accepted climatological practices.

The finding is just the latest in almost two decades of independent vindications of the work of Mann, Bradley and Hughes in 1998.

Lead author Hughes said he hopes the new facts will silence once and for all the ‘skeptics’ who allege—vocally if not outright vehemently—that the disturbing diagram presented in MBH’98 is necessarily the product of sleight of hand.

But one coauthor, Dr Mann, failed to share his optimism. He interrupted Dr Hughes to say that in his experience deniers, as they’re technically known, seldom learn from their mistakes. A roomful of journalists tittered in sympathy.

Today’s revelation won’t be official until it comes out in November’s issue of Sap (the journal widely considered the Bible of dendroclimatology). Because of the extraordinary public interest in the findings, however—a function of the sheer urgency of the climate issue in general—the researchers decided it was unethical to wait. This morning’s media event was their way of giving the world as much notice as possible, as far away as possible from the noisy scrutiny of self-appointed literary critics.

Science-by-press-release is frowned on in normal fields of inquiry, but such are the existential ramifications of global warming theory—and the toxic counterarguments of its doubters—that the practice has increasingly become a necessary evil for climate scientists.

Which doesn’t mean they have to like it. Hughes, Bradley and Mann weren’t entirely comfortable with today’s publicity, and it showed. Throughout their remarks they had the resentful, almost haughty bearing of pure intellectuals dragged into the political spotlight against their will. We’d rather be in the lab—said their petulant mien—enriching human knowledge by discovering the next killer argument against hockey-stick denial.

Dr Raymond

One of the two non-lead authors of HBM2015; probably Raymond S. “Ray” Bradley, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

masthead nature copyHockey sticks seem to be popping up everywhere!

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Frequently Feared Questions

Are you a climate academic?
Stefan Lewandowsky tells you all you ever wanted to know about the Scared Scientists but were afraid to ask because you didn’t want to know.

Q I worked briefly with [Scared Scientist’s name withheld] and the abduction of the octet has brought up certain… emotions. What if I talk to a trauma counselor at the University and they think I’m nuts? —Logic Bloke

Lew's views 08

Magic bullet: Lewandowsky owes his life to the designer stimulants that have kept him one step ahead of his pursuers—and with zero adverse effects. Could uppers be the the holy grail of pharmacology: a life-saving drug class with literally no downside?

A Mr Bloke,

Nobody is going to judge you! There’s no “right” way to respond to incidents like this, psychologically speaking.

Debilitating grief, constant white-knuckle panic, recurrent ideation about pain and death that crowds out everything else, an all-consuming dread, feelings of paralytic anxiety—these are all normal, healthy reactions.

But you don’t have to go through them alone. As someone who’s experienced them all since breakfast, I can assure you it helps to vent.

So don’t be shy. For once in your climate career, this is no time for scientific reticence!

—Steve.

Q Professor Lewandowski (sic), could you settle a faculty bet: as day 4 of the crisis dawns, is there any unhealthy or ‘incorrect’ way to feel? —ExCapitalistWoman, Sydney

Lew' Views Two 06

Nope: On further rumination, Lewandowsky still can’t think of a single ill effect from “half a lifetime” of amphetamine use.

A Ms Woman,

Panic is a deeply personal journey. Your amygdalae, adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system are different from the next person’s, so why should you drop your bundle exactly the same way?

We each have our own timetable for not getting through events like this.

What’s important is that you give in to terror on your own terms—nobody else’s.

When life gets traumatic the only ‘wrong‘ way to respond is denial. This week’s news is a case in point.

If you ever feel you’re coping well as the kidnapping crisis unfolds, that’s what we call a major red flag. Call your doctor or counselor as a matter of urgency. They can help you get back on track, or put you in contact with someone who can.

But there’s a limited time window, so act while the trauma is still acute.

—Stevan.

Q Dear Dr (sic) Lewandowsky, police here in Australia keep assuring us they have “no credible information” about an elevated threat [of further abductions] to us [climate scientists]. Why don’t I find this comforting? —Professor_Planet, Melbourne
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Doctor Patch: A Legacy of Laughs

From the CLIMATE NUREMBERG HUMOR SECTION

Fans of Rajendra Pachauri are hoping a laugh-a-minute monologue he delivered at a fundraiser yesterday stimulates interest in his earlier work.

The polymathic technocrat’s sense of humor tends to be eclipsed by his preëminence as ‘the top UN climate scientist,’ which is understandable enough; if there’s one thing nobler than winning the laughter of the masses it’s winning their tears.

But Pachauri’s wittier, more subversive moments have not gone unappreciated either. A Nuremberg reader and resident pachyologue lists a few highlights from a long life of laugh-jerking:

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The Appliance of Deniance: A Debunking

John Cook BSc (Hons)
Guest blogger

This week I received an intriguing tweet:

Translating climate science denial CN2

Figure 1 An intriguing tweet I received this week.

The message links to a rather strange video whose discursive function isn’t entirely clear at first. It appears to be an attempt to generalize skeptic thinking to everyday situations, as my friend @A_ suggests.

Science Nazi: Cook makes no secret that he's a fascist for facts.

Science Nazi! It’s no secret our guest author John Cook is a fascist for the facts. “My hobbies include orchestrating the mass murder of millions of myths,” he kids, adding: “I’m not kidding!”

The deniers who made the video are apparently aware that denial is no longer tenable in the climate change context, and are seeking to shift the focus of their denial to real-life topics (firefighting, contraceptives, engine maintenance, relationships, etc.).

Expect this tactic to become increasingly common as the science continues to firm.

On one hand we deserve a pat on the back—the science is evidently working!

On the other hand, we mustn’t rest on our laurels. Just because they’re not denying climate science any more, it doesn’t make their denial any more acceptable. Denial is wrong, by definition—whether it’s applied to the dangers of climate change or to the real world.

So let’s consider some of the video’s myths in their proper, debunked context before hitting the YouTube link.

(You’ll notice, as always, that the correction is stated before the fallacy it corrects. You should never risk exposure to misinformation without first girding your loins with the equal and opposite science.)

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Apparently the ‘Trouble With Girls’ Speech is Controversial

From the CLIMATE NUREMBERG HUMOR SECTION

Readers may recall our coverage of yesterday’s address by Rajendra Pachauri at the annual Women In The Laboratory fundraiser.

Pachauri glasses m2

Pro tip! You can tell when Dr Pachauri isn’t having an ironic laugh at the expense of the conventions of the genre: he always takes off his glasses if he’s speaking literally.

Given that Pachauri was speaking to a whole room full of women, you’d think it was fairly straightforward to find out exactly what he said. Strangely, though, there seems to be material disagreement on a whole range of quotes in Kay Fabe’s report. Just hours after the fact, we’ve already heard two irreconcilable descriptions of the speech from CN’s readership.

Rather than pick the competing rumors apart in some kind of quixotic quest for The Truth, we decided it was better journalism—or at least faster journalism—just to repeat them. As always, caveat lector and all that!

Our first informant writes,

Dear CN,

I happened to be one of Dr Pachauri’s rapt audients in Delhi yesterday. It’s a shame the normally dependable Kay Fabe has misheard, misremembered or misreported his funniest passage:

Let me tell you about my girl troubles. Four things happen when girls are in your research institute: they have heaving breasts; excited by their heaving breasts as they breathe in and out deeply, you’re overcome by a lust you have never known before; you fall in love with the girl behind those breasts, with sincerity and unfathomable depth; and you cry when she refuses to give you that textual healing.

Your spirit is destroyed, you continue to long for her, and your tears flow incessantly. Which not only puts you off your cricket game but has impacts downstream, on the lesser aspects of your life—your dharma, your religion, the quality of the science.

There you are, chairing an IPCC meeting and surreptitiously sending her messages; and she still refuses your fervent offers to keep and nurture her heart.

What the hell? That makes about as much sense as—say—not letting me touch you, even though I’ve always treated your body with reverence and as sacred!

Women. Amiright?

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‘Let me tell you a joke about my troubles with girls,’ jokes Pachauri jokingly

Pachauri, maestro 2 terracedStill got it: “All my life, women have wanted me to speak to them,” says Dr Pachauri [right]. He’d just celebrated his 59th birthday when he first addressed Women in the Laboratory [left]; his keynotes are now a drawcard at WITL’s annual ball. “When I deliver a speaking-to, I get the audience laughing—but also thinking. There’s something intimate, almost erotic about that, say scientists.”

Introducing the CLIMATE NUREMBERG HUMOR SECTION

Valued Berger,

Welcome to our new Humor section,‡ which highlights some of the wittiest, drollest remarks from climate’s razor-sharpest thinkers.

CN’s Asia correspondent Kay Fabe—desperate to be treated as more than just a pretty face in the newsroom, apparently—has just filed the perfect story to kick the genre off.

‘Science needs you,’
Pachauri tells world’s 29-year-old women

 KAY FABE DELHI, IN.

Thanks to social media, which is my way of saying Twitter, hilarious comments made by Dr Rajendra Pachauri yesterday went so virulent, so fast, that some are already calling him the fresh prince of stand-up science.

pachauri-champions-womens

A Life in Women: Pachauri has been a leading speaker on women’s issues for years. But yesterday this serious thinker took on a decidedly unserious topic—women in science—with very funny results!

The world has long admired Pachauri, not just for “ending the debate over whether climate change matters” as Foreign Policy put it in November 2009, but for his personal qualities: cleanliness, articulateness, a religious devotion to science and a healthy distrust of skepticism.

What we’ve never fully appreciated, though—even in hard-core pachyphile circles—is the climate guru’s wicked sense of humor. Now, in the wake of a virtuoso observational riff that literally had the audience a-twitter, will the Nobel laureate’s contribution to comedy finally get the attention it deserves?

Dr Pachauri was the main speaker at a gala fundraiser for Women In The Laboratory—a group representing millions of women in Asia’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] sector—held yesterday in Delhi.

The polymath earned widespread chuckling and applause with a facetiously self-effacing opener:

“It’s strange that a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women.

“Three things happen when girls are in the lab: they have generous breasts; you fall in love with them; and they cry when you can’t stop cupping them in the conference room.”

“You know the problem with letting girls work in a scientific environment? They burst into tears as soon as you even suggest you can’t take your hands off their breasts,” he joked, to an audience made up mainly of Indian women and Ivan Oransky. “Am I right?”

Frank, uninhibited feedback is the lifeblood of scientific research, he explained.

“But sometimes you wonder if it’s worth the drama. I’m often tempted to delete an SMS or WhatsApp message rather than incur the contempt and revulsion of a shapely young subordinate…

“Which couldn’t possibly be good for the science,” noted Pachauri, Nature‘s 2007 Newsmaker of the Year.

“There are days when you just want to let go [of her breasts], walk away [from her breasts] and treat her like the rest of her flat-chested coevals. You can’t, obviously—that wouldn’t be honest. It’s just denial.”

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We Are All Scared Scientists Now

For those left behind, trauma

Climate supporters everywhere have been in an emotional purgatory since news first broke of the disappearance of our scientists. Today, a planet’s vigil for eight very special, very scared people enters its critical third blog post—but investigators fear the agony has just begun.

“An early breakthrough is unlikely,” admitted Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin on talkback radio this morning.

Meanwhile, colleagues and grad students at the universities where the eight neurotics worked are being offered free hysteria counseling.

At a media conference today Senior Detective Donald Jenner of the AFP’s Missing Scientist Unit described the emotional and behavioral toll this crisis is taking on the climate-academic population.

Unexpected

Scared Psychologists: CN’s Stefan Lewandowsky believes it’s important to panic about one new thing a day. “The day nothing causes you to soil yourself is the day you truly become old.” His global network of clinics—Lewandowsky Living With Fear Technologies™—boasts thousands of “satisfied shitless” clients.

“Thousands of climate scientists, [climate] ethicists and [climate] psychologists will be wetting their beds again tonight—not only in Australia, but wherever there’s a large climate-hyphenated community. All their kids can do is give them an extra-big hug when they get home from work today.”

“At the risk of cliché, these [tragic] situations do bring the community closer,” Det. Jenner continued. “Friends and family of climatologists tell us they’re checking their loved ones’ blogs for the first time in years. Speaking as a parent myself—whilst I don’t have [a climate scientist] in the family—nothing could be worse than looking back and wishing you’d refreshed your browser sooner.”

A peer in fear speaks up

Before he fled to England, Stefan Lewandowsky was in close contact with a number of the desaparecidos, and considered it a “privilege” to call himself “a peer in fear.”

The psychology professor spoke to us in a wide-ranging interview, interrupted only by the continual need to look behind his back. He didn’t mean to be rude, he explained, but enemies could be closing in at any time from any compass direction.

(Lewandowsky admits his obsessive vigilance can make social life awkward, but is convinced it’s paid off. “I’ve never been raped,” he boasts, “by surprise.”)

Eternal vigilance

You can’t be too paranoid these days: The slightest noise from the rear could presage the approach of Lewandowsky’s nameless pursuers. “See, this is why I asked for a chair against the wall,” he whines for the umpteenth time.

“There was serious talk at one point of my becoming the ninth Scared Scientist,” he recalls.

“In the end we agreed cognitive scientists aren’t [actually scientists], thank Christ. Otherwise I’d probably be there right now, by [my frightened friends’] side… huddled in a gibbering mess in the corner of some godforsaken shipping container.”

Lewandowsky adds that he “get[s] seasick at the drop of a hat.”

The climate cognician—best known for overturning decades of rational risk analysis [RRA] with his discovery of Lewandowsky’s Uncertainty Principle—says he yearns for specific information, no matter how grisly, on the fate that’s befallen his phobic friends.

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