Anyone who takes a keen interest in the goings on of climate scepticism ‘Down Under’ will have heard of John McLean. He’s distinguished himself as a very erudite and balanced contributor to the debate about global warming. But like a lot of us climate commentators he faces constant personal attack from alarmist advocates- many of whom betray their hatred of any form of rational dissent from their idealogical orthodoxy.
I have just received a copy of a response McLean made to a vitriolic attack on his character by someone you’d think would know better – Stephan Lewandowsky, a left-leaning professor of psychology.
I present McLean’s response here in full as I feel it gives a superb insight into the how the battle for truth and transparency is being fought:
John McLean’s Response to Lewandowsky
Rarely have I seen such vitriol directed at an individual as the 1521 words directed at me by Stephan Lewandowsky here on the The Drum (Monday 29, March), so naturally it deserves a response.
Lewandowsky whose expertise is in psychology seems to be continuing the Australian tradition of people in fields with no direct relationship to climate analysis speaking about climate change. He joins biologists such as Tim Flannery, Barry Brook and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. I only mention these to level the playing field, because like me and trained professionals, they should know that a person’s area of expertise is immaterial in determining scientific truth.
Professor Lewandowsky went to considerable effort to investigate me and, while he pretends that it was only to show that science is not elitist, it’s very clear that he intended such detail as a slur. Yes I do work in IT and yes, I have been an occasional travel photographer, with my images appearing in Lonely Planet’s books and probably over 30 sold to various LP clients.
He failed to reveal or perhaps discover that I am also a PhD candidate conducting thesis research on a climate topic. I accepted an invitation from a university on the basis of my analyses of various climate-related issues such as the IPCC’s history, claims and processes (e.g. "Climate Science Corrupted", see http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/climate_science_corrupted.pdf). At least one of my documents has been cited in the US senate and my review of various CSIRO climate reports, the only one in existence for some time, was published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2006.
Unlike Lewandowsky, and the other people mentioned above, my area of expertise, Information Technology, is directly applicable to the analysis of climate data, and my background in logic is likewise useful. The co-authors of the paper in question, individuals that Lewandowsky was curiously silent about, are a professor of Geography with an emphasis on climate matters (and a former editor of journal about climate) and a professor of Geology, whose research fields include paleoclimatology and who has many years of experience writing scientific papers. Our skills complemented each other in the creation of our paper.
Professor Lewandowsky’s area of expertise appears to be in cognitive science, so I ponder why he has such a fundamental problem with our paper. Was his failure to understand of his own doing or was he simply too rash in believing the claims of others who themselves failed to properly read and understand the paper, or perhaps understood its implications very well?
The essence of the claimed rebuttal of our paper was that we used a derivative technique to filter the data and that our conclusions were based on this filtered data.
We did indeed use a derivative technique, in fact a modified Fourier transform, to establish that variations in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), a measure of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation system, occurred 7 months prior to corresponding changes in the average global temperature in the lower troposphere. Our use of derivative data ended when the time lag was established.
We subsequently applied that time lag to the original data and examined whether our hypothesis was supported by scientific evidence and previously published papers, which it clearly was.
Was that 7 month lag controversial? Not at all. Even the rebuttal of our paper said that one of its own authors had established a 6 month time lag in an earlier paper, and other published papers have estimated or referred to time lags varying between 1 and 7 months.
Our paper simply used a different technique to arrive at a similar time lag. It also used lower tropospheric temperatures rather than global near-surface or Pacific sea surface temperatures, and used the SOI calculated according to the Troup system. Other papers attempting similar analyses have used alternative methods, some ignoring the ad hoc cooling caused by volcanic eruptions and some attempting to estimate it and adjust the data accordingly, rather than simply exclude that period of data as we did.
A key aspect of our paper is Figure 7, particularly 7(b) and 7(c), in which we plot the time-shifted SOI with the lower tropospheric temperature and find a very reasonable match except when volcanic eruptions cause ad hoc cooling. If carbon dioxide caused significant warming the temperature graph line would be expected to rise away from the SOI graph line but graph shows no such thing, ergo we state that there is no detectable sign of any global warming driven by carbon dioxide.
Yes, Professor Lewandowsky, peer review has spoken, and what a sorry tale it tells about the duplicity of the authors and reviewers of the rebuttal, the reviewers of our response and the incompetence or worse of the journal editor.
Drawing on Climategate emails, our exchanges with the AGU editor and various documents on the Internet we found that:
In breach of AGU publishing regulations (see http://www.agu.org/pubs/authors/policies/index.shtml)
– the authors of the rebuttal posted a formatted version of the document on the Internet prior to publication,
– the authors of the rebuttal nominated potential reviewers specifically because of their anticipated bias,
– several of the supposed authors of the rebuttal appeared to have played no part in its creation.
In breach of publishing ethics
– an author of the rebuttal discussed it with a president of AGU, prior to its acceptance for publishing,
– one nominated reviewer was in direct contact with the authors just after they had received referee’s comments about their first draft.
In breach of statements from the AGU about its principles and procedures
– a rebuttal was accepted despite it not addressing whether our hypothesis was supported by scientific evidence, which is only documented grounds for a rebuttal (see http://www.agu.org/about/presidents_msg/) ,
– the editor rejected our response on the basis of three critical reviews that did not address the question of whether we responded evasively to the rebuttal, again the only documented criteria by which our defence should be assessed (see http://www.agu.org/pubs/authors/policies/comments_replies.shtml).
I find it intriguing, Professor Lewandowsky, that you wish to endorse these actions of our detractors, our referees and the journal editor.
Was the rebuttal of our paper in accordance with the ethics of scientific publishing? No.
Was the review of our response in accordance with the ethics of scientific publishing? No.
Did the journal editor act ethically? No.
Do you honestly regard this as "quality control", a term that you so readily flung about?
Professor, I am also troubled by your notion that the number of papers in support of a notion determines a scientific truth. Science has been taken up false paths before by a consensus – think phlogiston or even stomach ulcers – and a consensus, real or only imagined, is no guarantee of truth. That counts doubly so when not one of the plethora of papers that have resulted from the massive funds poured into global warming research has yet managed to identify direct, irrefutable evidence of man-made warming. The output of the IPCC’s vaunted climate models is not evidence, and especially so given that even the IPCC acknowledges that many climate forcings are poorly understood – which, of course, rules out their being modelled accurately.
We knew of no high quality evidence that would undermine our claim or else we would not have written the paper, but now our critics’ actions are confirming our thinking. First our detractors resorted to specious criticism and underhand dealings to stifle publication of our defence of our paper, and now, Professor Lewandowsky, you resort to a personal attack.
It’s not just peer review that has spoken but also the Climategate emails and individuals who unknowingly or knowingly preach from very partisan positions. Taken together these show the depth to which climate science has sunk.
A full public statement on this matter will be published this week by the Washington-based Science and Public Policy Institute (website http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/)
John McLean is an IT professional, an occasional travel photographer and PhD candidate with a strong interest in climate matters.