Carefully chosen fudge – “gold standard” science explained

There are now a few dedicated sites via which the latest batch of Climategate emails can be searched. My preference of the day is here because it is a one-stop search spot where one can find both the original (2009 released) emails and the most recent (2011 released) – as well as various source files.

Haven’t had a chance yet to do any searching of my own (gotta work to keep my cat in the style to which she’s become accustomed!), but I have been perusing the findings of others. My mind boggled at one sentence in this August 2005 E-mail from Keith Briffa [h/t Robert Thomson via Bishop Hill]:

The use of “likely”, “very likely” and my additional fudge word “unusual” are all carefully chosen where used.

The one thing I have learned over the past two years is that there seems to be a marked tendency on the part of “climate scientists” (and/or those who are so-called) to re-define certain words and/or phrases in the English language in such a way that they can only be understood (and/or interpreted) by themselves. We have seen this with “trick”, “decline”, “peer review” – and more recently, thanks to the … hmmmm … inventiveness of Kevin Trenberth, the “null hypothesis”, “sham” and “shameful”.

If Briffa is to be believed – and he’s a climate scientist, so why shouldn’t he be?! – it would seem that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s “rigorously” defined (at least in the fine-print which they can count on few ever reading) “likely”, “very likely” etc. are nothing more than “fudge” words.

Maybe it’s time for a new terminology that would more accurately reflect the unassailable (because they said so) “underlying science” that no one seems to have looked at for several years, least of all any of the so-called “enquiries” pursuant to Climategate 1, which have all dutifully pronounced it to be “solid”, “sound” etc.

So, instead of forcing a poor reader to hunt for definitions of “likely”, “very likely” and (now it would seem) “unusual” (all of which are no doubt chosen “very carefully” and would never pass muster unless there was “consensus” amongst the “writing team” – so that responsibility falls to no one), the IPCC reports would simply be liberally peppered with variously-flavoured “fudge”. Think of the possibilities: “vanilla fudge”, “chocolate fudge”, “peanut-butter fudge” and – for foggier findings – how about “marbled ‘n garbled fudge”?!

The IPCC fudge factory

3 thoughts on “Carefully chosen fudge – “gold standard” science explained

  1. Hilary, it’s fascinating – the climatologists’ use of words is reminiscent of Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass:

    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything…

    I suspect that when the IPCC fudge factory produces its next confectionary masterpiece (AR5), the probability of unprecedented levels of interest and outside scrutiny will be – to use Keith’s word – “unusual”.

    • And it’s quite fascinating watching their linguistic gymnastics as they attempt to exculpate themselves (again!). The latest addition to their uniquely dynamic “dictionary” seems to be “context” [see thread over at BH]

      I suspect that when the IPCC fudge factory produces its next confectionary masterpiece (AR5), the probability of unprecedented levels of interest and outside scrutiny will be – to use Keith’s word – “unusual”.

      Indeed! And I further suspect that they will do everything in their power to delay as much outside scrutiny as much as they possibly can, for as long as they possibly can. But it will be interesting to see the excuses they will conjure up!

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