Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Obscure editor resigns from minor journal: why you should care

The Telegraph
James Dellingpole

If you read Watts Up With That or Bishop Hill – or indeed, if you’re mad enough to take RealClimate or Daily Climate or the BBC seriously – you’ll know that the biggest ‘climate change’ story of the last few days has been the one about Wolfgang Wagner.


Well, yeah, quite. That was my immediate response. In fact I was quite tempted to write up the story with the headline: Incredibly Obscure Editor Of Magazine You’ve Never Heard Of Resigns Over Immeasurably Trivial Issue For No Apparent Reason.

There were several reasons for my lofty indifference.

1. It’s too esoteric.

2. I sensed there was more yet to emerge and I wasn’t going to bother till it did.

3. – and most important – when you write up stories like this you’re playing the enemy’s game. As I argue in Watermelons: the Green Movement’s True Colors, this is not – and never has been – a debate about science but about politics. So when you read the more zealous Alarmists crowing that they’ve found a mistake in a paper which blows an almighty hole in the “Sceptics’” case, you learn to take it with a pinch of salt.

So anyway, this story. The least interesting part of it is pretty much summed in that headline. A man named Wolfgang Wagner, editor-in-chief of a science journal called Remote Sensing decided to resign because he’d read on the internet that one of the papers he’d published – by climate sceptic Roy Spencer, et al – possibly had some flaws in it.

Bizarre, eh? Journalists, as we know, make mistakes all the time. Why, only the other day, I outrageously suggested that Sir Reginald Sheffield, Bt, father-in-law of the Prime Minister, makes nearly £1000 a week from the taxpayer-funded wind towers on his rolling acres. The correct figure of course was nearly £1000 a day. Naturally, I felt compelled fulsomely to apologise to the good baronet.

But I didn’t consider it a resigning issue. Nor did my editor feel compelled to hand in his notice.

Generally when a magazine or newspaper or a journal prints an inaccurate story the accepted form is to print a correction or a retraction. And even that might be pushing it if it isn’t even certain that you’ve made a mistake, only that you might have made a mistake judging by some of the things one or two people are saying on extreme, parti-pris sites on the web.

Why then did Wolfgang Wagner do such a strange, strange thing?

This is a question that has been puzzling Climate Change trainspotters all week. Here, for example, is what physicist Professor Jonathan Jones had to say on the subject in the comments at Bishop Hill.
This is truly bizarre, and just shows how profoundly warped the climate science community has become. I make no judgement here on the correctness of the paper, but editors just don’t resign because of things like this.

Nobody resigned at Science when they published that utter drivel about bacteria replacing phosphorus with arsenic; they just published seven comments (IIRC) back to back with a rather desperate defence from the original authors.

Nobody resigned at Phys Rev Lett when I trashed a paper (on the evaluation of Gaussian sums) they had selected as one of the leading papers of the month: indeed nobody has formally ever accepted that I was right, but remarkably all the later papers on this subject follow my line.

I have been up to my neck for over a year in a huge row with Iannis Kominis about the underlying quantum mechanics of spin sensing chemical reactions, and either his papers or mine (or just possibly both) are complete nonsense: but nobody has resigned over Koniminis’s paper in Phys Rev B or mine in Chem Phys Lett.

Sure, my two controversies above never hit the popular press, but the arsenic stuff was discussed all over the place, far more than Spencer and Braswell.

What sort of weird warped world to climate scientists inhabit? How have they allowed themselves to move so far from common sense? What is wrong with these guys?
Now, thanks to some foraging from guest poster Les Johnson at Watts Up With That? it seems we may have our answer. Needless to say, it doesn’t reflect well on the mores of the Brotherhood of Climate Alarmists.

Johnson was particularly intrigued by the fact that on resigning Wagner wrote an especially fulsome apology for his error to Kevin Trenberth. That’s Kevin Trenberth as in the hardcore Alarmist scientist who starred in this infamous Climategate email:
I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPPC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow—even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!
That’s also Kevin Trenberth as in the Climate Torquemada so committed to his religion he believes that the “null hypothesis” should be reversed: ie that sceptics should be forced to prove that CAGW doesn’t exist, rather than alarmists being forced to prove it does. You can’t prove a thing doesn’t exist: ergo Trenberth wants the impossible.

Why would Wagner feel compelled to grovel to this particular man after his venial (or not as the case may be) slip?

Could it, wonders Johnson, be another case of that old story, wearisomely familiar throughout the global multi-trillion dollar Climate Change industry, titled “Follow The Money?
The connection on the other side? Trenberth and Wagner? Well, Wagner is apparently the director of a group that wants to start a Soil Moisture Network. For this, they have asked the help of the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX).
GEWEX in 2010 announced the appointment, by acclamation, of Kevin Trenberth, as its new Chairperson. (page 3 of this newsletter). On Page 4, is the announcement that the Soil Moisture Network (which is the department Wagner runs) is looking for help. Not, coincidentally, on Page 5 is an article on how cloud albedo is overestimated in models, thus it’s worse than we thought.
I’ve sketched the story lightly because it’s easy to get bogged down in detail. For the best summary, this Watts Up With That post is your badger. Why I think it matters is not for anything it says or doesn’t say about the accuracy of Roy Spencer’s theories on clouds, but for what it says about the mindset and tactics of the Alarmist establishment.

When the story first broke, the Alarmists made a huge meal of it, mainly using it as an excuse to try to discredit Roy Spencer:
Spencer, a University of Alabama, Huntsville, climatologist, and his colleagues have a history of making serious technical errors in their effort to cast doubt on the seriousness of climate change. Their errors date to the mid-1990s, when their satellite temperature record reportedly showed the lower atmosphere was cooling. As obvious and serious errors in that analysis were made public, Spencer and Christy were forced to revise their work several times and, not surprisingly, their findings agree better with those of other scientists around the world: the atmosphere is warming.
But surely, if you’re going to make a big thing of a story to support your propaganda campaign the sensible thing to do is first make sure that you’re on safe ground, that there aren’t details which will subsequently come back to bite you?

Surely it was obvious from the start that the unfathomable bizarreness of the Wagner resignation would prompt some hard questions from sceptics? Surely it was obvious – to Wagner himself, at the very least – that someone at some stage would  spot the Soil Moisture Network connection with Trenberth and draw unhelpful conclusions?

Why then, did they go ahead and do it anyway?

The answer, I fear – and the reason why I felt this obscure, involved story was worth writing up – is this: they simply don’t care. We have sadly reached that stage in the climate debate where the Alarmist establishment isn’t even going to bother trying to make its case through force of argument. And the scary part is that it senses – probably correctly – that it doesn’t need to. The junk-science establishment – from the UEA to the Royal Society to NASA GISS to the National Academy of Sciences – has done so well out of its whitewash enquiries, its FOI breaches, its appeals to authority, its craven, unquestioning support from the MSM and the political class, its silencing of critics, that it has lost all sense of shame. It is out of control, unaccountable, yet directly responsible for a large chunk of the costly regulation, taxation and environmentally disastrous schemes from biofuels to wind farms which are helping to destroy the global economy. The great global warming scam is the biggest scandal of our age. It is time someone took it seriously.

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