The Briffa Scandal - your letters

It's the End of the Peer Review

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Andrew's Mailbag While we put together more stories on The Briffa Scandal, here's some mail from the earlier piece. I received 60-odd pieces in the mailbag and with one exception, they were positive. The one that wasn't so nice was so bizarre, it deserves a Snotbag in its own right.

I'll spare you the praise - let's get stuck in.

I am myself a meteorologist with many years of practice in Canada's national service, although I am well retired now. The whole IPCC activity, something I personally viewed with skepticism from the start, has become to my mind completely discredited scientifically and I continue to be amazed that the political bandwagon based on their pronouncements continues to roll along and gain momentum.

My first sighting of the CO2 issue came in 1967 when I started as a meteorologist, and its grown in fits and starts ever since. Based on that, I suspect that no early end to it is likely.

I think the mainstream climate change scientific world has moved on from the issue of "is it significant" to the issue of "can anything be done about it". I recently talked to a person engaged in the energy issue (peak oil, etc) who pointed out that policy aimed at climate change related control of carbon emissions was a death sentence for billions of people, mainly because CO2 augmentation actually enhances agricultural productivity, and that the various control efforts will inevitably be disastrous for food production, resulting in widespread starvation. Such a development would probably have political impacts that would spell the death of the climate change policy initiatives, if the political level were able to recognize the reality of such a consequence and react to it.

Failing that, or some other global upheaval, I think that government greed for taxes and opportunistic profiteering by fossil fuel suppliers will pretty much keep the climate change momentum rolling along.

I lived through a few meteorological fads, such as the "Nuclear Winter" one of the late 1970s, and personally know professionals in the climate change field who report it as being a wonderful thing, with huge funding for making predictions that nobody will be alive to verify.

Keep up the good work of bringing up the facts. Unfortunately, there is so much tax money in climate change, I doubt that any facts will have much an impact on the current governmental juggernaut.

[name withheld]

Personally I think the debate over climate change is hopelessly muddled on both sides. The IPCC, and other green champions, seem willing to shape the science to suit their political goals, and then try very diligently to keep this under wraps. On the other side, Big Industry has a vested goal in not having to conform to carbon limits. Well, perhaps except for motor vehicle manufacturers (outside of the US of course) who are doing a thriving trade by convincing people that by buying a hybrid or other fuel efficient car of some sort, that they will be saving the world. Makes for excellent marketing material, I imagine. Global disasters = good for business?

While I'm sceptical about anthropogenic global warming, I do agree that the climate is changing. Just as it has in the past, and just as it will in the future. I find it distinctly arrogant for humans to assume that they and only they control the fate of the planet. The fact is, we are a smudge on the surface of a giant rock covered by an assortment of gasses, and if we were to kill ourselves through our own stupidity, in 1% of the planet's lifetime, nobody would be able to tell that we were ever here. Well, not easily anyway.

Regardless, I do like more efficient things, and so I am happy that things use less power in general, and that things are, in general, Better For the Environment (tm). But this is more to do with liking the rainforests and other natural habitats the way they are, and less to do with worrying about some imagined and possibly non existent lethal event in the future. I just wish the issue wasnt so politicized - if you aren't "green", you aren't fashionable, and this... mania has spread across the world. Go tell a group of strangers that you don't believe in the IPCC's version of global warming, you'll be lucky if you aren't castrated.

Jonathan Locke

Very nice job writing this article. You take an incredibly complicated issue and distill it nicely. Unfortunately, your competence and courage will probably doom you to anonymity. But I sincerely hope not!   Barclay E. MacDonald

Thanks Barclay, I can live with obscurity.

I am involved in writing peer-reviewed papers (put my name and 'MRI' into google if you care) and I work with those who are asked to review papers. I can tell you that the people who review papers are those who work in the same field and thus people doing similar research. Now, while papers are blinded it is often fairly easy, since the community researching your specific topic is quite small, for a referee to take a very good guess as to who the authors are.

Mix all that with the fact that the IPCC "scientists" actively suppress the raw data and reject papers that contradict their views and you have a trivial mechanism for these fraudulent papers to be peer-reviewed and not be rejected.

Science is objective. People are not. Pressures to win funding, subjective ideological motivations, unconscious bias or simple incompetence will distort research papers. Peer review is supposed to be only one defence against fraud and this incident has highlighted the importance of ensuring independent validation and reproduction of results by others. I sincerely hope, but seriously doubt, that this incident will finally drag down the edifice of false research and the ensuing economically disastrous policy the phantom of global warming has engendered.

I wonder what the new bogeyman to scare and control the populace with will turn out to be?

I'd prefer my name not to be used in the unlikely event you use any of this email. In science, reputation is everything. It's one of the motivations for suppressing anything that would destroy a reputation built up over a career and one I'm certain will be central to the IPCC's ignoring of papers that contradict their reason to exist on the gravy train.

[name withheld on request]

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