Of pomp and circumstances: did Santer seed Nature?

When I was perusing the Climategate emails, I found several that were very interesting and very revealing to say the least (and have commented on some of them in this blog). One of the emails I came across, though, struck me as being exceedingly pompous. The writer was Ben Santer, who had jumped on his high horse when advised by Thomas Karl of a Freedom of Information request Karl had received from Steve McIntyre:

Subject: Re: [Fwd: FOI Request]
Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2008 19:57:22 -0800

Thanks for your email regarding Steven McIntyre’s twin requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. Regarding McIntyre’s request (1), no “monthly time series of output from any of the 47 climate models” was
“sent by Santer and/or other coauthors of Santer et al 2008 to NOAA employees between 2006 and October 2008”.

[…] If Mr. McIntyre wishes to audit us, and determine whether the conclusions reached in our paper are sound, he has all the information necessary to conduct such an audit. Providing Mr. McIntyre with the quantities that I derived from the raw model data (spatially-averaged time series of surface temperatures and synthetic Microwave Sounding Unit [MSU] temperatures) would defeat the very purpose of an audit.


My personal opinion is that both FOI requests (1) and (2) are intrusive and unreasonable. Steven McIntyre provides absolutely no scientific justification or explanation for such requests. I believe that McIntyre is pursuing a calculated strategy to divert my attention and focus away from research. As the recent experiences of Mike Mann and Phil Jones have shown, this request is the thin edge of wedge. It will be followed by further requests for computer programs, additional material and explanations, etc., etc.

Quite frankly, Tom, […], I am unwilling to waste more of my time fulfilling the intrusive and frivolous requests of Steven McIntyre. [emphases added -hro]

Apart from the pompous tone, it’s quite clear that Santer does not seem to have any appreciation of the fact that had he provided sufficient data and methodology in the first place, so that his results could be replicated by others, the FOI requests would not have been necessary. [To see this E-mail in context of a wider rampant resistance within the circle of committed “climate scientists” to requests for data, take a look at Willis Eschenberg’s account at Climate Audit]

A few weeks after Climategate broke, Nature magazine jumped on the greenwash apologia bandwagon in an Editorial circa Dec. 3. The writer(s) contended that these poor beleaguered climatologists had done absolutely no wrong – and of course that their science was sound – but that they were “under pressure” and that they “could be better supported in the face of public scrutiny”. Nature claimed:

If there are benefits to the e-mail theft, one is to highlight yet again the harassment that denialists inflict on some climate-change researchers, often in the form of endless, time-consuming demands for information under the US and UK Freedom of Information Acts. Governments and institutions need to provide tangible assistance for researchers facing such a burden. [emphases added -hro]

No doubt it is purely circumstantial that Nature decided to adopt the same pompous tone (and message!) as Santer. OTOH, it wouldn’t be the first time that these noble “climate scientists” have wielded their influence in determining what gets published in a “scientific” journal, would it?

3 thoughts on “Of pomp and circumstances: did Santer seed Nature?

  1. Take a look at Schneider’s ‘Science as a Contact Sport,’ where he says Santer considered abandoning climate research because of McIntyre’s ‘abusive’ request.

    Among other things, this reaction knocks the complaint about multiple, time-consuming requests into a cocked hat, because it was (evidently) the first request Santer ever had.

    Schneider’s discussion — it’s only about a page — merits careful parsing.

    • Thanks! I wasn’t aware of that. Although I seem to recall an E-mail from Santer in which he said that if his boss didn’t back him up, he would resign!

      The title you mentioned above seems to be a book. Did he also write an article by the same name?

  2. It’s a book, published in November.

    I’ve fisked his comments here, but somebody familiar with the emails ought to try matching them up with Schneider.

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