End personal attacks on scientists – regardless of their views

19 05 2014

The Met Office’s Chief Scientist, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, is appealing for an end to personal attacks on scientists – no matter what their viewpoint on the climate debate.

Her call follows recent articles in the media claiming that some scientists have felt pressured due to their views.

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading, featured in the articles after saying he was worried by a wider trend that science is being ‘gradually influenced by political views’. You can read a statement from him and other climate scientists in response to the articles on the Science Media Centre’s website.

In a letter, published in The Times today, Professor Dame Slingo says scientists should be free to review and debate their research without fear of personal attacks.

You can read the full letter below:

Sir

Your articles on the recent events surrounding Prof. Lennart Bengtsson are not a true reflection of the way the climate community conducts its research. My position, and my passion, is that all scientists – no matter what their viewpoint – must be free to review and debate their research unfettered and without personal attacks.

Science is about seeking the truth and acknowledging the uncertainties in what we currently know; it cannot be about subjective, unscientific beliefs and personal attacks of the kind that some of us have had to endure.

Just as we are very clear that climate models do not give us a definitive answer about the possible magnitude of future warming, neither do the estimates from observations as some in the climate sceptic community would claim.

I welcome scientific debate with those whose research challenges my understanding of climate change and scientists have a well established and robust peer review process for doing this. This process is there for good reason because it ensures the debate is rigorous but never personal.

Professor Dame Julia Slingo
Chief Scientist
Met Office


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31 responses

19 05 2014
Barry Woods

Perhaps Julia could have a quiet word with Dr Michael Mann, who has accused fellow scientist – Prof Judith Curry, of being a denier, anti-science, troll and worse. repeatably.

19 05 2014
johnrussell40

A very lopsided comment, Barry. The vague, “…and worse”, is telling. Before pointing the finger at Professor Mann, you should also mention Prof Curry’s attacks on him and his work.

Mann was originally attacked purely on the basis of his published scientific papers. His subsequent attacks on Curry are for her blog comments about his work and for stirring up those in denial who then proceed to make personal threats on Mann. No wonder his responses to those who seek to discredit him are robust: and they’ve been vindicated in the courts.

20 05 2014
jbenton2013

Immediately you used the words “those in denial” you lost all credibility. Furthermore, Mann’s history of using the courts has usually entailed raising an action but refusing to go to proof. Perhaps he knows only too well he would be exposed if he allowed the action to reach conclusion.

20 05 2014
jauntycyclist

Science has a prove predict standard. No science without the data. Let the hockey stickers release the data and emails [which Mann refuses to do]. Till then they just making ‘black box’ assertions ie a ponzi scheme that hasn’t made 1 correct prediction yet. No prediction = no truth.

In the Power of Nightmares’ we see how those with the darkest nightmares of dreadful dangers we are told only experts understand gain the most power [for a while] . The CO2 agenda is no different to the iraq dossier. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaLPFayD8FA

19 05 2014
John Russell (@JohnRussell40)

When Professor Lennart Bengtsson opted to join that notorious lobby group, ‘The Global Warming Policy Foundation’, he was indeed being “influenced by political views”, wittingly or not. His complaint appears to be a case of ‘projection’, as psychologists call it.

23 05 2014
Tony Duncan (@tonydunc)

John, I agree, but we do not know what the attacks Bengtsson received were. If they were indeed personal attacks or threats that is totally unconscionable.
so far the responses i have seen from climate scientists in public have not been personal attacks at all, and most I think were understandable and supportable views.

19 05 2014
Siv Thorkildsen

To all the scientists who have received personal attacks from certain journalists and bloggers, my greatest respect and goodwill.

19 05 2014
Peter Ward

“…we are very clear that climate models do not give us a definitive answer about the possible magnitude of future warming…”

Are you sure about that? What about the science being settled? Can it be settled while not being “definitive”? How about a “magnitude” of 0, since that’s what we’ve had for the past 17 years? Are you ok with that? Just what does this mean?!

23 05 2014
Tony Duncan (@tonydunc)

Peter,

you also are misunderstanding science. What Is settled is the radiative properties of CO2 in the atmosphere. There are numerous other aspects to ACC that are also settled. They lead most scientists to the reasonable belief that global warming is a serious threat. This in spite of the many areas of uncertainty. the crucial point is there is NO settled science showing that CO2 will have no serious impact on the climate. As I wrote below scientists are actively investigating ALL the areas of uncertainty, and as we learn more the likely effects will be narrowed down.
your 17 your argument is one isolated fact. So far there are numerous explanations that are quite reasonable, have empirical support and completely consistent with ACC theory. As yet there are no “failed” models, as models do not “predict” short term specific global temps. they forecast trends and cannot be expected to include accurate info about certain aspects of natural variability, such as ENSO, solar activity and aerosols, all of which have been negative of the last decade. Also heat content of the oceans, while still tentative appears to be increasing significantly. Are these the factors that have limited warming in the last 17 years? I don’t know but the make sense have the data to back them up, and are no post hoc explanations like epicycles.

26 05 2014
nuwurld

Tony,

“What Is settled is the radiative properties of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

No, that isn’t settled at all. Over 310,000 spectral lines of CO2 hinder transmission of the incoming solar flux to the surface. Only 95,000 lines hinder outgoing. Simultaneously increasing CO2 increases the atmospheric emissivity when the whole point of the ‘greenhouse effect’ is reduction of ‘system’ emissivity.

Tony, the full ‘greenhouse effect’ doesn’t cause the tropospheric thermal gradient to deviate from the gravitationally set lapse. The atmosphere is not in radiative balance. 60% of heat transfer from the surface is none radiative. The current atmosphere has killed radiation as the dominant player. The lapse does not require any single mode of heat transfer to achieve eqm.

26 05 2014
nuwurld

Tony,

On a slightly deeper level we have the original confusion of opacity with absorption. Only thermalised absorption leads to equilibrium. Many experimenters in spectroscopic measurements of CO2 transmission have indicated ‘some’ warming. But nothing like full thermalised absorption. As such we have to question the compatability of vibrational modes with other thermal modes requiring momentum to describe them. The simple determination of decay time within the collisional timeframe is inconclusive. Nor does it rule out spontaneously photon degradation out of CO2’s spectral band.

It is highly likely that that nature uses CO2, and water, as working fluids ensuring that the quantity of solar radiation thermalised is transmitted to space in long wave, without any net increase in surface temperature as a result.

19 05 2014
nuwurld

Good grief. Surely a mechanism as clearly defined as the science of climate change that is ‘set in stone’ and ‘settled’ is not a matter of debate.

Does this not make clear that Dame Julia does not trust her own understanding of this ‘simple physics’ of climate change when relying upon peer review to relay sensible content. Is it not therefore clearly evident that she does not hold conviction in her own understanding of the ‘simple physics’ of climate ‘forcing’ to express an opinion and hold fast to her conviction.

Climate science has failed at the most basic level of confusing, whether by method or ignorance, correlation with causation.

That period of time is coming to a close.

23 05 2014
Tony Duncan (@tonydunc)

nuwurld,
you are misunderstanding how science works. Uncertainty about specific factors does not mean that one can’t know important things about an issue of study. There can be many uncertainties – about the effect of clouds, about the actual climate sensitivity, about biological factors and ocean and wind currents and even about cosmic rays. but we can STILL make correlations and check them in myriad ways that increase confidence that the correlations are valid.
There is much to learn about such a complex system, but that does not mean we can make no conclusions about any of it. climate scientists are active yp[ursuing the areas with the most uncertainty. this is absolutely the OPPOSITE of any group that is trying to prevent the public or policy makers from knowing the real facts. bias in science often comes from ignoring areas of research. clearly this is not the case with climate scientists and this fact alone makes conspiracy theories untenable.

23 05 2014
nuwurld

Hi Tony.

Sorry, but I do understand how science works. Hence I can call out when the methodology fails.

Currently, even the IPCC is having to admit that natural variability has been underestimated. This is why the globally averaged temperature has not risen as PREDICTED by the consensus of 97% of climatologists.
Hence, a natural factor that can negate the total of man’s forcing when out of phase must significantly be responsible for at least 50% of the warming when in phase. By simple deduction.

As far as models are concerned, most can be ruled out scientifically as being seriously flawed as of this moment in time. 17.5 years without warming has nailed their coffins shut. This year could see a moderate El Niño, which will have all the warmists having a fit. However, it could fail. The circulation patterns are solar, not CO2 powered and the declining Sun if it causes another El Niño will vent ocean heat content to space via the atmosphere reducing potential subduction into the oceanic heat content. The next few years will bring negating La Niña conditions.

Nothing has happened recently that hasn’t happened before. This is number 343 of similar magnitude warming events according to BAS and the Vostok record.

By admitting that we do not know the climate ‘sensitivity’ you are admitting that climatology knows nothing about man’s forcing. It can only be concluded by subtracting the natural variability that is only studied by the 3% brave enough to stand up to the consensus.

Science, sir, does not progress by consensus or peer review.

I repeat that the failings of climatology of recent years is due to method or ignorance.

25 05 2014
jbenton2013

I see from your profile you claim to be a climate change activist who works as a comedy juggler. Much the same thing really in many ways. Your comments here are pure comedy anyway.

20 05 2014
jauntycyclist

shame meto doesn’t actually improve its forecasts with science rather than indulge in political grandstanding and christian imperatives to ‘save the world’ from the sin and moral challenge of co2. [See Houghton speeches]. If Meto are not watching Weather Action long range accuracy being documented on their blog then they should be and in humility ask themselves why they cannot do the same. Met even bear false witness that long range isn’t possible and repeat that mantra as often. Anyone dependent upon met is blind more than 18hrs out which is harmful for the nation and science. Meto is not fit for purpose and the £80m a year should be put out to tender to anyone who can prove skill in forecasting in open competition then we see where the truth really resides

20 05 2014
jbenton2013

How very true. It’s long past time when the Government should defund this organisation. A fraction of the money could buy in superior forecasting from numerous other organisations who provide more accurate forecast.

20 05 2014
johnrussell40

‘Weather Action’ is a fancy title for the predictions of a rather eccentric individual named Piers Corbyn. His predictions have been shown statistically to be roughly equivalent to guess work, though of course the trumpet is only blown retrospectively when he gets it right. Oh, and he (unsurprisingly) denies anthropogenic climate change. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piers_Corbyn. I don’t think the Met Office need fear the competition.

21 05 2014
Matt L

Check this analysis of Weatheraction’s forecasts – they are far from guesswork and show genuine statistic significance.

http://www.themaverickman.com/#/weatheraction-analysis/4574723723

His forecast for this month has been spot on so far.

Were he not a climate change sceptic he’d be a chief scientist for the Met Office, but their prejudice on this issue gets in the way.

20 05 2014
jbenton2013

This letter to the Times from Julia Slingo was a transparent self serving attempt to claim the high ground which is destined to fail. Several climate scientists have a long history of issuing denigrating statements about those unconvinced by their claims, often unsupported by any data.

In fact Julia Slingo herself, together with her colleague Peter Stott, have recently made numerous claims in newspaper articles claiming a link between recent floods in Somerset in January and mans emissions of CO2. Despite asking Peter Stott to publish the data which supports any link the Met Office has continued its refusal.

So, Ms Slingo, are we to believe you have evidence which you simply refuse to publish, or is it reasonable to believe that any statements you (and Peter Stott) make are to be filed in the ‘speculation’ category.

The fact that Ms Slingo describes the peer review process as “robust” lends further credibility to claims that perhaps it is time to look towards changes in personnel at the Met Office. If the deeply corrupt peer (pal) review process was “robust”, Michael Mann’s latest paper would not have been published, but Lennart Bengtssons would.

23 05 2014
Tony Duncan (@tonydunc)

Jbenton,

there seems to be no self serving element to this post by Sligo, the fact that oppnenenst of ACC have had their arguments attacked, is irrelevant to this pleas. I would be interested in what “unsupported” attacks you are referring to. most of the ones I am familiar with are supported by very strong data and analysis which usually undermines the assertions but the climate skeptic
There are unquestionably uncertainties, and there is rather vigorous debate about most of them, especially regarding climate sensitivity, Many of the arguments against ACC are often based on ridiculous totally unsupported assertions, or on serious distortions or misrepresentations of the applicable science, and are over an over again filled with vicious personal attacks. Dr. Mann being called every possible name one could imagine.
typical are your assertions about the Met office related to l;inks between floods and ACC. Your paranoid claims are standard fore for the ideological position that scientists have a nefarious political purpose and are willing to go to any lengths to hide their evil doings. It makes good drama, but has no relations to reality.

25 05 2014
jbenton2013

“no relations to reality”

I’m afraid that about sums up your understanding of science based on your comments here.

21 05 2014
jauntycyclist

“His predictions have been shown statistically to be roughly equivalent to guess work”

where is this study that shows that? or is it just envy?

i have been posting comparisons of actual versus predict on his blog for a while now.and considering meto says long range forecasting is impossible then read and weep.

if met does not fear then why do they not accept his challenges to open competition on forecasts? I tell you why. For my location yesterday meto predicted 12 hrs rain then 10 then 6 then moved it to a later time then changed it again and the shower we had in the morning wasn’t even among the predicted . Meto is just a one armed bandit of predictions.

as for wiki that is owned by the hockey stickers which is why they keep deleting his successful predictions.

21 05 2014
Elim (@ElimRosie)

If you look at Maverick Man’s (very subjective) analysis and data it is a) frequently inaccurate and b) doesn’t match up to his conclusion.
As for Piers Corbyn being a chief scientist – he hasn’t even got a PhD! His favourite words are #DERANGED #LIARS #FOOLS #CHARLATANS #SCUM #DELUSIONAL #STUPID #GOEBBELESQUE
Need I say more…

21 05 2014
craigm350

Reblogged this on CraigM350.

21 05 2014
martin456789

“I welcome scientific debate with those whose research challenges my understanding of climate change and scientists have a well established and robust peer review process for doing this.”

It is one of the distinguishing features of climate science that many of its practitioners seem to believe that if a viewpoint has not been “peer reviewed” and published, then it is unworthy of discussion.

Outside the climate science circle, the view is that by the time work has advanced to the stage where it can be submitted for publication in a refereed journal, the opportunity for exchange of ideas at the formative stage has passed. Respectful, courteous and lively person-to-person discussion is best way to exchange ideas at the formative stage.

I’d suggest that the Met Office invite Dr Murry Salby to present a seminar on his work in their seminar centre. His research is based firmly on analysis of observational data yet it would certainly challenge “the understanding of climate change” of Professor Dame Julia Slingo and her colleagues.

Martin A

23 05 2014
Tony Duncan (@tonydunc)

Martin,

I think you are misinterpreting the reaction to non peer reviewed studies. the explosion of climate denialism on the blogosphere has made it unfeasible to ignore non peer reviewed studies. Many people read and react to them. they are often not taken seriously because the reason the are not published in peer review is because they have serious flaws that are usually pointed out by relevant experts. Any research that was conducted that rely WAS valid would quickly be conformed by people expert enough to gauge the value of the research and it would HAVE to be accepted for peer reviw at a major publication if it had an impact on out understanding of the climate.
Murray Salby is not taken seriously by most climate scientists because his assertions are not borne out by other independent research. If it was valid it would survive peer review, since it is virtually impossible to invalidate accurate research. there are just too many people who would see through such obvious fraud and corruption.

21 05 2014
jbenton2013

How interesting to see that those moderating this blog have now started to censor comment critical of the Met Office.

22 05 2014
Met Office Press Office

We do follow moderation guidelines for this blog http://metofficenews.wordpress.com/moderation-guidelines/ and more widely across our social media channels http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/legal/social-media-policy but would not ‘censor’ comment critical of the Met Office. It appears that recently some comments have been automatically moved into spam without going through moderation. We are investigating why this is happening and will regularly check for comments which have been diverted there without moderation.
Helen

23 05 2014
Tom Harris

I discuss how the climate science debate has been ruined by aggressive activists and immature scientists here: http://www.providencejournal.com/opinion/commentary/20140521-tom-harris-get-real-about-climate-change.ece

23 05 2014
Tony Duncan (@tonydunc)

seeing the ridiculous assertions posted as comments for this post,
I am impressed with the tolerance of the moderators.
Her appeal is both reasonable and should elicit comments on the relative understanding of what is classified as a personal attack and what is valid criticism. the fact that the issue has become so politicized on both sides is cause for concern.
I agree with Barry Woods that some of Mann’s comments have been less than polite, but it is important to keep in mind that scientists are humans and he has been attacked in there most extreme ways for many many years. and of course Ms. Curry has no small amount of vindictive comments attributable to her.
What these comments show is the degree of contempt
that the anti climate change minority feels is justified, because many feel that the science has been perverted for ideologically nefarious purposes. The climate science community Is the enemy and as the enemy it is justifiable to attack in any way that will undermine their agenda. The depth of feeling makes rational interaction very difficult since facts are now considered contrivances.
in spite of that I think it is important to counter assertions based on limited or non existent evidence that is countered by a large amount of diverse sources from many fields of science.
I applaud both the Met office and Dr. Sligo for trying to sustain honest science and communication in an area filled with vitriol.

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