Here's an interesting little exercise in forensics showing how far climate denializers — in this case, one of the fearless leaders, Steve McIntyre — will go to confirm their biases: selectively edit out correspondence to make it look as though the correspondents are talking about one thing, when replacing the excised portions make it clear they're talking about something completely different.
McIntyre does deserve some criticism but not the criticism that Tom wants to make. Here's some background. In describing some of the offending e-mails (which apparently followed a meeting in Tanzania), McIntyre initially seemed to assume that what the climate scientists wanted to avoid showing was the late "decline" in the Biffra tree ring reconstruction.
That claim was criticized by, among others, an anonymous Canadian blogger at the site Deep Climate. Now, there were certainly e-mails in which hiding the late twentieth century decline was discussed (the Deep Climate blogger admits that) but, as McIntye now agrees, that isn't the case with all of them and was not with a number that he quoted in his post. Rather the problem being discussed was that the Biffra tree ring construction showed that earlier periods were warmer than did certain other reconstructions. In fact, in one e-mail, Biffra says he believes that temperatures were probably as warm 1000 years ago as they are today.
That's inconvenient. It presents a less tidy picture. It raises questions. It provides fodder for skeptics. Biffra initially wanted to include this inconvenient data, but that's not what happened.
Instead, he changed his reconstruction. The new reconstruction looks more like the others for earlier periods but has this problematic late twentieth century decline.
The one that was hidden.
McIntyre did intially edit the e-mails (although he showed deletions with ellipses) and the charge has been made that he was trying to hide the fact that they weren't trying to hide the decline. They were, in fact, contemplating hiding the entire Biffra reconstruction. That's not evident. The deleted portions are somewhat cryptic and it is possible that someone could mistake concern about the reconstruction generally with concern over the late twentieth century decline.
But, more fundamentally, were McIntyre trying to make the climate scientists look bad, he did not need to edit a thing and his case is just as strong - if not stronger - given that the e-mails first discussed whether to use the reconstruction at all and then, once it was made to be more consistent, attention shifted to hiding the decline.
What they seem to have done is contemplate excluding an entire reconstruction because it raised inconvenient questions. They decided to include it after it was hastily redone to eliminate the problem. (This is not to suggest that the reconstruction is fraudulent or a lie; simply that there was concern with presenting data that suggests the reconstructions are not as reliable as they are claimed to be.) Once it was restated, it showed this hard to explain decline, so they simply omitted the problematic years. The e-mails (which McIntyre now presents in full) read like advocacy and not science. A commenter on
the Deep Climate site summed it up:
You can spin this any way you want, but there is simply no innocent interpretation of what these guys did.
The failure of many tree ring series to respond to the warming of the second half of the 20th century — the fact that the rings widths go DOWN instead of up — calls into question the whole issue of whether or not tree rings make reliable thermometers.
This obviously casts down on the meaningfulness of the long, relatively flat handle of the “hockey stick” graphs — after all, if the trees failed to respond to the warming of the 20th century, how can we know they didn’t similarly fail to respond to something like the medieval warm period?
One cannot possibly make a reasonable case that the “science is settled” in the face of contradictory and inconsistent results like these. Hence, the need to hide the divergence, so as to make the tree ring record look reliable and beyond question.
Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate is trying to dismiss this on the grounds that the “divergence” was “well known”. Well, yes, it was well known among the climate scientists — but it is preposterous to assert that it is well known to the general public, at whom the hockey stick graph is aimed.
Indeed, if the divergence had been “well known” to the public, there’d have been no need to truncate the data and replace it with the instrument record — no need to “hide the decline”. Hence, the decision to replace some data and not divulge that fact to those who viewed the graph.
Gavin, of course, knows full well the public is not educated on this issue. He is simply engaging in his own deception in an attempt to whitewash Mann, Jones and Briffa’s deception.
“Settled science”? Hardly
But there is still more.