We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

While Nature had turned the paper down because so many others had already shown the existence of the problem, this referee recommended rejection because no evidence for the problem existed.

– Ross McKitrick, discussing the difficulties of getting sceptical papers on climate change published in climatology journals. Read the whole thing.

Three quick asides:

Firstly, McKitrick is Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph in Ontario, and the partner of Stephen McIntyre in many of the papers that have questioned Michael Mann’s hockey stick. Basically, McIntyre is someone of considerable quantitative expertise whose actual career is (shudder) in the private sector (in the mining industry) and who has done the heavy lifting, whereas McKitrick has provided oversight and experience of academia and the academic publishing process. At least, such is my impression. If I have undersold his contribution, my apologies. That said, this doesn’t seem to have helped greatly in getting papers published in climatology journals.

Secondly, this kind of thing seems to have happened a lot with respect to people attempting to take a sceptical line on climate change. Papers have been submitted to journals, relatively neutral referees have come out in favour of publication, but the papers have ultimately been rejected on the basis that they are unsuitable in some way with respect to the journal’s editorial policies. Really, this reveals weaknesses of the peer review process. Ultimately it is the editor of a journal who decides if a paper will be published. If an editor thinks yes, then he will find a way for peer review to support this belief, either by choosing tame additional referees or by overruling negative referees on technical points. If he thinks no, the tactic of changing the referees and/or the terms of reference under which the paper should be accepted is an old one, and one that has been used a lot in this field. McIntyre and McKitrick’s 2004 submission to Nature, which attempted to question the methodology of the Hockey Stick is a classic example. Initially both referees argued that the paper should be accepted, but somehow it was ultimately rejected.

Thirdly, the fact that neither McIntyre or McKitrick are climatologists is highly relevant. I suspect, though, that the argument is about how it is highly relevant. The Global Warming alarmist camp would say that it is relevant because they lack expertise on climatology and/or they are funded by the oil industry, I suspect. The sceptical camp would say that it is relevant because they are not part of a captive clique. The libertarian camp would probably say that it is relevant because they (or at least McIntyre) are not directly funded by the state, and are not being therefore funded to advance a pre-decided agenda. I will leave decisions about the appropriate level of cynicism to the reader.

Link via Bishop Hill

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15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • “The libertarian camp would probably say that it is relevant because they (or at least McIntyre) are not directly funded by the state, and are not being therefore funded to advance a pre-decided agenda.”

    Or at least, not that specific pre-decided agenda.

  • pollo

    Off topic but I thought some people here might enjoy this April Fool:

    http://www.locusmag.com/2010/April1st_AtlasSequel.html(Link)

  • pete

    You can’t blame a magazine for pandering to the prejudices of its readers.

    Buyer beware. You can’t believe everything you read in Nature any more than you can in Chat magazine or the Daily Sport.

  • Kate

    Depressing
    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/03/depressing.html

    ……….it seemed as if we had the warmists on the run.

    ……..a more realistic appraisal might suggest that we have not even dented the underlying agenda.

    Miliband is paving the way to get the Kyoto treaty protocols back on track for agreement in Mexico later this year, as part of an international treaty. And he wants to pull in developing countries into the treaty maw, with them offering some “commitments” of their own – more cosmetic than real – in order to cement in the developed (or “Annex 1”) countries into the deal.

    This move comes alongside a meeting between Gordon Brown and “billionaire financier” George Soros, Obama’s economic adviser Larry Summers, economist Lord Nicholas Stern and other finance ministers. In parallel, they were working on stitching up the financial package which is so central to the real agenda.

    Their headline goal is to raise $30bn (£20bn) a year immediately and $100bn a year by 2020, ostensibly “to enable developing countries to adapt to climate change.”

    Whatever mechanisms are eventually agreed, however, of one thing there can be absolute certainty. Very little of the money allocated to this cause will ever reach its stated destination. As with the current aid programme, most of it will be soaked up by banks, finance houses, investors and brokers, in fees and commissions. Huge amounts will line the pockets of governments in the recipient countries, and NGOs will grow fat and rich.

    Britain brandishes olive branch to restart global climate change talks
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/mar/31/ed-miliband-restart-climate-change-talks

  • Saul Jacka

    As a journal editor I find this sort of thing very depressing. My impression (at a distance) is that the publishers also exert pressure and some editors delight in setting their own agenda at variance with the referees.

    What I would stress is that this is not just about another strand in the debate, this is about one of the two fundamental scientific issues which are
    1)is (global) warming happening and
    2)if so, to what extent (if any) is it caused by man.

    I haven’t read the paper yet, but from McKitrick’s summary, it seems clear that his work calls the evidence for (1) into question.
    That is a potentially mortal blow so I can understand why the climate science journals might treat the paper as radioactive, particularly after referees have declared the basic stats sound.

  • Peer Review Is Not What You Think

    Shannon Love at ChicagoBoyz says this nicely [edited]

    “Peer Review” says nothing about conclusions. It is the fate of most scientific papers to be proven completely wrong.

    Peer review protects a journal’s reputation. The journal hires experts to check for basic errors in math or methodology, along with grammar and spelling. It offloads responsibility for publishing bad papers onto anonymous scientists. It is a form of blame-passing that everyone would like to use. It does not confirm or refute experimental or theoretical conclusions.

    Some people will say that a scientific result is true because it appears in a peer reviewed journal. That is the weakest defense possible. It means only that some editor and his reviewers found it to meet their minimum quality standards for publishing. It meets no standards if the editors and peer reviewers are corrupt.

    One reform would be to expect that journals list the papers that they reject for publication, as a matter of scientific integrity. This would hold the journals reponsible for their editorial opinion and their assumed gatekeeper role. They would be more careful and show less bias, with the journal’s reputation on the line.

    It would be fine to go further and give the reviewer’s opinions. This would encourage publishing pro and con views for rejected papers, and posibly for accepted ones also.

  • Chuckles

    I would agree with A_M_G above. This deification of the peer review process by the military wing of the climate studies clique can get very tiresome, very quickly. It has always been the repetition and replication of the reported work that has been the crucial step (or at least it has in my narrow little world).

    There is also a strong tendency to conflate ‘academic’ with ‘scientific’ in the whole discussion. The fact that a lot of the work happens to occur on academic campuses has no relevance to anything, and perhaps is something we need to change?
    These little rituals have no place in the discussion when it is our tax money paying for their little hissy fits and spats, and they should be very strongly reminded of this.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Thankyou for a very interesting and (for me) educational post and its comments – educational because a lot of this was new to me and I learned something. I followed and read all the links you provided, and I think that I understood the content of most of it and of the content of some further links from those links.
    What Saul Jacka says above looks to be spot-on:

    What I would stress is that this is not just about another strand in the debate, this is about one of the two fundamental scientific issues which are
    1)is (global) warming happening and
    2)if so, to what extent (if any) is it caused by man.
    I haven’t read the paper yet, but from McKitrick’s summary, it seems clear that his work calls the evidence for (1) into question.

    (I did read McKitrick’s paper.)
    Why then are governments seeming to proceed with political policies as though (1) is assumed to be true? Under what conditions would it make sense to proceed on the basis of such a fundamentally flawed piece of reasoning?
    I can only presume that it would make sense if the general vector of political policy direction was towards the construction of a new and stable world market trading in a new and potentially highly profitable financial instrument.
    Following the 2008 collapse of the financial sector and with it the major world economies, the financial sector has lost its previous great and artificial financial instrument – SPMs (Sub-Prime Mortgages). SPMs were shown to offer a completely false kind of financial security (being risk-laden) and cannot now be traded as credibly as they once were. Their useful life is over.
    The financial institutions are believed to make up the heart of an economy – which is why they were bailed out by governments following the SPM debacle. They move money around to where it can be made available and employed as working capital. How are they going to perform this pulmonary role and continue to realise potentially huge profits as a reward for their services?

    The answer would seem to be that they will only be able to do so if they have a new and relatively risk-free financial instrument, to be traded in a new, stable world market.

    CCT (Carbon Credit Trading) has been waiting in the wings since at least the mid-eighties – when I recall being asked to get involved in reviewing CCT proposals and providing preliminary advice on these proposals in a report to the banking sector in New Zealand. At that time, the concept of CCT was already being discussed quite a lot in mostly European financial/economics forums. I recall the reported conclusions including things such as, for example, that the market would need to have trust in the financial security of the financial instrument (CCs) being traded, and that depended on the viability of the market, which depended on the scientific basis and credibility of the financial instrument being traded. At the time, it was uncertain as to whether there was sufficient scientific basis and credibility, though the concept of CCT was being generally well-supported by the greenies. I formed the personal view at the time that CCT seemed to be a clever money-making scam that could make enormous profits for the financial intermediaries involved, and that this (potential profitability) was one of the most attractive potential benefits to the banking sector.

    The problem was that the CCT market would probably be something entirely new – a monopsony (a situation in which there is a sole or predominant consumer for a particular product). The monopsonist in each national economy would be the government, which would have to fund its purchases and swops of of CCs through taxation – so a changed taxation policy was indicated. CCs would thus be at least as safe (non-risky) – if not a great deal safer, in the market’s view – as any other financial instrument we might be able to dream up. Thus CCs could form the basis of a very stable – and potentially HUGE – market.

    Now, it follows that, if these are the sorts of stakes, and if the fundamental scientific issue (1) above is eroded by “climate denialists”, then those denialists are going to have to be ignored and (if possible) silenced/discredited. So, it is not so much a case of whether AGW proponents are mistaken (they clearly are, QED), as of whether the illusion of trust and credibility in a CCT market can be sustained. It MUST be sustained.

    It thus would not matter whether AGW was right or wrong, as long as we can get the CCT market in place as speedily as possible to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of that now discredited financial instrument, SPMs. There is need for a sense of urgency in this, and we are getting that from the deliberate exaggeration in AGW predictions of catastrophe.

    Our elected and unelected political leaders have the responsibility, amongst of things, for ensuring the nation’s economic stability. Though these people are all flawed/fallible, I would suggest that they are mostly just trying to do their jobs as best they can, and according to their ideologies and principles. Who is to say they are are necessarily wrong or “bad” people for this?

    Would it therefore be unreasonable to suggest that we could actually be of tremendous assistance to them and to our own nation, by going along with the irrational illusion (as the so-called “climate scientists” who are pro-AGW would seem to have already done), and by recognising the beauty of the Emperor’s new clothes?

    If we did not do this, then arguably we would be effectively blocking this radical change, and we could stagnate economically and expedite the further fall of the Western nations from global power and wealth. Isn’t that what it is all about in any case?

  • Illuminatus


    1)is (global) warming happening and
    2)if so, to what extent (if any) is it caused by man.

    To this I would add

    3) Assuming 1 is true, what should we do about it?

    The fact that it has been made extraordinarily hard to discuss this question is another reason that we should perhaps question the good faith of some of our opponents, I fear.

    I would suggest also that saying that you accept 1) and 3) but not 2) can at times be a good way of playing with the minds of certain global warming proponents.

  • Laird

    Slartibartfarst, I think you’re on the right general track but wrong in some of the particulars. The fundamental reason statists (of all stripes) are so intent on maintaining the fraud of AGW is simply power. They want to expand the power of government and, therefore, their own power, since they mean to control governments. They view AGW as the most effective tool available for gaining/expanding that power, and anyone who gets in their way is the enemy, to be neutralized at all costs and by any means necessary.

    Carbon Credits are merely one more tool for that purpose. Creating some sort of international market for them is necessary if they’re to serve their purpose, but their profitability to private traders is irrelevant (although not to the traders, which is why investment banks such as Goldman Sachs are salivating at the prospect). However, it’s not a monopsony; it’s a true monopoly, as the only source (not consumer) of CCs is government and all industries will be required to use them. A company can only sell CCs which it owns, and its only source of this completely fictitious asset is allocation from the government. Even if government initially just gives them away (to jump-start the market, as a sort of loss-leader), it won’t be long before it starts charging for them (either cash or, equally likely, political favors). So in the end CCs are merely another means of extracting value from the private sector. Just another tax, dressed up as a tradable asset. But no matter how much lipstick you put on it, it’s still a pig.

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Laird: Thanks, you may well be correct in everything you say there, but probably only time will tell for sure, though I suspect that, if it comes about (transition to a world state), then the people of the various nations will not see it coming and may have little choice in the matter anyway.

    I am slightly ashamed to admit that my perception shifted only in the last few years to the point where I could start to hold as credible the possibility that there may be a concerted effort (“conspiracy”) by “statists” to manipulate human affairs towards a global/world government – i.e., a government that would subsume all national sovereign states.
    I previously saw the idea as too far-fetched until (main points):
    (a) I looked at the map of the world and the countries coloured in as being formally aligned with the Kyoto protocol.
    (b) I started to realise the extreme lengths that the AGW camp seems to have gone to in propagandizing AGW’s message – even down to phony cartoons and other “teaching” devices to indoctrinate children (e.g., the Al Gore message in the UK).
    (c) I read somewhere that Al Gore had categorically stated he was all for global government – which then indicated that AGW could indeed be being used as a tool to speed up the transition – else why are he, the UN, the European and even the US governments persisting with the IPCC despite its complete loss of credibility, after the Climategate revelations?

    The evidence would seem to be there of the Big Lie technique:

    “…the principle–which is quite true within itself–that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie.” – from Chapter 10 of Mein Kampf (Adolf Hitler)

    Yes, it makes sense that CCs would seem to be another statist tool to move towards the statist objective, and the creation of a global market in CCs would be strongly supported by financial institutions purely because of the potential profits.

    The reason I called it a monopsony was because, though CCs could be freely traded within a nation state, bought from (as a tax) the monopoly supplier (the government), the global exchange and settlement for this financial instrument would be executed between governments. Thus the only buyers on the global market would be the governments, purchasing or selling their allocations of credits much like banks need to maintain a prudential asset/deposit ratio with a country’s reserve bank – this would be the monopsony, and it would be within a statist-controlled market. Pure socialism/collectivism really, with state-mandated economic production quotas (in the shape of “carbon targets”).

    Never mind that this CCT market – as it is already established – could well bankrupt the richer nations and enrich the developing ones. That would also, presumably be the statist/socialist objective.

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Laird: Thanks, you may well be correct in everything you say there, but probably only time will tell for sure, though I suspect that, if it comes about (transition to a world state), then the people of the various nations will not see it coming and may have little choice in the matter anyway.

    I am slightly ashamed to admit that my perception shifted only in the last few years to the point where I could start to hold as credible the possibility that there may be a concerted effort (“conspiracy”) by “statists” to manipulate human affairs towards a global/world government – i.e., a government that would subsume all national sovereign states.
    I previously saw the idea as too far-fetched until (main points):
    (a) I looked at the map of the world and the countries coloured in as being formally aligned with the Kyoto protocol.
    (b) I started to realise the extreme lengths that the AGW camp seems to have gone to in propagandizing AGW’s message – even down to phony cartoons and other “teaching” devices to indoctrinate children (e.g., the Al Gore message in the UK).
    (c) I read somewhere that Al Gore had categorically stated he was all for global government – which then indicated that AGW could indeed be being used as a tool to speed up the transition – else why are he, the UN, the European and even the US governments persisting with the IPCC despite its complete loss of credibility, after the Climategate revelations?

    The evidence would seem to be there of the Big Lie technique:

    “…the principle–which is quite true within itself–that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie.” – from Chapter 10 of Mein Kampf (Adolf Hitler)

    Yes, it makes sense that CCs would seem to be another statist tool to move towards the statist objective, and the creation of a global market in CCs would be strongly supported by financial institutions purely because of the potential profits.

    The reason I called it a monopsony was because, though CCs could be freely traded within a nation state, bought from (as a tax) the monopoly supplier (the government), the global exchange and settlement for this financial instrument would be executed between governments. Thus the only buyers on the global market would be the governments, purchasing or selling their allocations of credits much like banks need to maintain a prudential asset/deposit ratio with a country’s reserve bank – this would be the monopsony, and it would be within a statist-controlled market. Pure socialism/collectivism really, with state-mandated economic production quotas (in the shape of “carbon targets”).

    Never mind that this CCT market – as it is already established – could well bankrupt the richer nations and enrich the developing ones. That would also, presumably be the statist/socialist objective.

  • herndonite

    So, McKitrick’s paper was rejected by JASA for being a mundane time-series analysis? It would have been interesting to see the results of submitting the IPCC’s work to JASA. Could have proven to be humorous.

  • herndonite,

    It would be nice, but it’s unlikely to happen.

    Politically, that sort of thing is near impossible for a professional organisation promoting the interests of mainly government-funded academic members. The ASA more generally have already commented, and while the results were certainly “humorous”, it was not necessarily in the way one would wish.

    “We do not have the expertise to say which reconstruction is to be preferred,…”

    “Since the fit is excellent, we have two possible explanations: Either the CO2 levels are influencing the phase and thus changing the distribution of temperature (i.e., the climate) or there is a common underlying feature driving both the phase change and CO2 levels. No mechanism has been proposed that can do the latter.”

    And this was by authors who are not only supposed to be statisticians, but have been on the ASA’s climate change policy advisory committee for a couple of years. Remarkable.

  • Illuminatus

    There is a huge problem, which is that many scientists in other fields with relevant expertise are reluctant to get involved in arguments about Climate Change, because ultimately it has become extremely political, because taking on the various climatology cliques has itself become intensely political and quite unpleasant, and because taking an incorrect line means opposing the political agenda of the people who are ultimately providing their funding also. Most of the statisticians of the ASA would rather keep their heads down and spend their time thinking about advanced statistics than get involved in this bunfight. In some ways it is hard to blame them, but by backing off they are just becoming politicised themselves in a different way.

    Ultimately, a lot of science has been nationalised. The impact is ultimately the same as nationalising anything else – ie you ruin it.