18 November 2009

How Climate Scientists Talk to Each Other on Email

A very prominent climate scientist, who writes from a .gov address, sends this to my father after my father simply responded to a scientific query from another climate scientist who put the .gov guy (his colleague) on the distro list (along with a bunch of others, including me):

Please remove me from your email distribution list. I have no desire to communicate with you. Ever.

That message comes across a bit like sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming "I'M NOT LISTENING I'M NOT LISTENING". Climate science has a few remarkable human beings in it, that is for sure.

Of course, this would be just a bit of silliness, but the unnamed scientist above has a major role in international and national climate science assessments, and is undoubtedly an active peer reviewer. Do you think based on that email he is going to give my father's scientific work a fair shake? And to the extent he is representative of a broader set of individuals, climate science is a deeply troubled institution of science. Makes me glad to be a social scientist.


  1. Oh yeah -- please no guessing, that is not the point. If I had wanted to out this gentleman I would have.

  2. Never discuss politics or religion in polite society or the discussion is likely to become impolite. For many, climate science is more about politics and/or religion than it is science. Given the many examples we've seen, it appears that a large number of climate scientists are among those for whom the subject is politics and/or religion.

    Thus, the lack of manners.

  3. -1-Roger,

    Aw, you're no fun!

    Some climate scientists long ago lost any veneer of credibility or respectability. These days, they're only good for entertainment value.

    But, where's the fun in Reality TV when we're denied the names of the train wrecks we're watching?

    You're such a TEASE! ;-)

  4. A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Iman walked into a bar and all three started talking at the same time. Ok that’s not funny either but it is illustrative of the problem.

  5. Is this how social science is conducted then? You conclude that some category of people (climate scientists) behave in certain ways because of one email from a member of said category?

    And, then by insulting this whole class of people, more will behave in ways that you can find objectionable, thereby providing you with more evidence for your conclusion.

    I wish I was a social scientist too!

  6. If it turns out CO2's role in global warming has been overblown, people like that will look like idiots.

  7. "And to the extent he is representative of a broader set of individuals, climate science is a deeply troubled institution of science"

    Now you're seeing things my way. ;-)

  8. The professionalism of the "Governmnet Job for Life" guy is amazing.

    I'm sure he is fully entitled to his entitlements.

  9. Hmmmm... So your dad hit "reply all" instead of "reply"?

    • X sent out an email with a huge distribution list in the "to" list. (An aggravating habit. People sending to huge distrubtion lists should generally bcc the list.)
    • Y hit "reply all". ( This happens often with huge distribution lists and is the reason why 'X' should bcc the list.
    • Z who is on the distribution list sends a rude response to Y.

    If I were Z and saw that I had gotten a "reply all" response from anyone on the huge distribution list, I would complain to X the person who wrote the original email and sent it to a huge distribution list without carefully setting the distribution list to "bcc".

  10. -5-Boris

    Please re-read my post, your paraphrase is incorrect.


    Not exactly. It was cc'ed to about a dozen people and it asked some focused scientific questions that were relevant to X, and presumably his collaborators, which is why he cc'ed them. The response was also scientific in nature. All fine and the extent of the exchange.

    Z's response was not simply rude, which it might have been with just the first sentence. Had it been just rude it would be not worth commenting on;-)

  11. The person responding to your Dad in this way needs professional help and fast. It probably is not representative of climate scientists in general, but he or she is certainly not the only one who feels this way. Most, however, have sufficient activity inhibition to simply ignore their feelings.

  12. Lucia, you're assuming a fact not in evidence, ie that this was not meant as a general discussion, and Roger pere's response a reply to the discussion.

    Boris, considering Roger's dad is a climate scientist, I think one can fairly infer he didn't mean that all climate scientists behave that way.

    Roger, I think your father should consider outing this person, to the list at least, and also to the peer review committees and editors of art least the major journals. One has to question whether this person should be peer reviewing anything in the field.

  13. -9-Lucia,

    You overgeneralized.

    There are many cases where cc: is called for and "Reply All" also makes sense. It's the equivalent of a conference call.

    There are also cases where bcc: is the only sensible choice. And, yes, in such cases, bcc: will prevent the dummies from misusing "Reply All". We've all been there and seen that.

  14. I agree, the identity of such an individual should not be protected, and the individual should not be employed. We face a crisis that potentially threatens all of humanity, and then we have individuals tasked to understand the problem, and they behave like this?

  15. "Please re-read my post, your paraphrase is incorrect."

    Oh, I am aware of the weasel words at the end, thanks. I guess you would lose your skeptic-cred if you didn't throw a potshot at all of climate science in here and there, so it is at least understandable.

  16. -16-Boris

    Climate science is not a single thing but a large group of individuals. Most of the people in that community are sincere, hard-working scientists, and it is my pleasure to call many climate scientists friends and colleagues.

    The problem is that there are a few bad eggs, and they are disproportionately in visible and influential positions. So much that it negatively affects the institutions of climate science.

    You can of course "shoot the messenger," happens all the time.

  17. Funny how those "few bad eggs" are never rebuked by their "sincere, hard-working" colleagues. Until they do, the institutions of climate science - that is, ALL climate scientists - deserve any reproaches they get.

  18. I must confess, I find this very troubling. Not that the guy said what he said, that happens all the time in climate science. It's that climate science is not policing its own.

    I was naive enough, for example, that I thought when Michael Mann was hauled before a Senate Committee to explain why he had hidden his data in his CENSORED folder, that climate scientists would speak out against him and against that kind of actions. How foolish of me ... instead, climate scientists complained that people were attacking poor widdle Michael ...

    The ethics of the science are in a shambles. "Scientists" routinely hide their data, conceal their methods, and lie about it when caught. But that's not the problem. People will always try to game any system. I expect the bad guys to be assholes, crooks, and thieves.

    What I didn't expect is that the good, ethical, honest scientists would say absolutely nothing about what is going on. Instead they discuss it in hushed tones, and say absolutely nothing in publlic, and don't speak out for ethical science, and play silly schoolyard games about how "Ooooh, did you hear, Mr X said this, can't say his name but isn't it deliciously awful" ...

    So here's my appeal to climate scientists —man up. Get off of your high principles and take a stand for good science. Grow a spine and join the ranks of vertebrate scientists. Clean up your own backyard, call out the charlatans in your midst, insist on archived data and exposed methods.

    Because it's not the people who are hiding the data and methods that are the problem.

    It's the folks that have a chance to make a difference, and instead of doing that, they say "If I had wanted to out this gentleman I would have." ...

  19. "One email"?? C'mon comrad Boris, on what planet did you live lately? This is only one symptom of many. Surely you have a better defense than that or are your skills failing?

  20. Science is owned by governments and big business, both of whom have done an excellent job of convincing the world it is populated by valiant and independent truth seekers.

    Those of us with longer memories will remind ourselves that science tells us that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, GM food, nanotechnology, nerve agents, mobile phones, the pharmaceutical industry, vivisection, depleted uranium, space weapons and so forth are all above board and squeaky clean. Judging by the lack of critical analysis from those involved.

    An interesting description of a scientist is presented in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle. Felix Hoenikker, the father of the atomic bomb is dangerously amoral, self absorbed, puzzle driven, neurotic and profoundly gullible .

  21. If you take a look at the CRU leaked docs its obvious your respected parent is not a popular person in climatology circles.


    > Also I see Pielke Snr has submitted a comment on Sherwood's
    > work. He is a prat. He's just had a response to a comment
    > piece that David Parker, Tom Peterson and I wrote on a paper
    > they had in 2007. Pielke wouldn't understand independence if it
    > hit him in the face. Both papers in JGR online. Not worth you
    > reading them unless interested.

  22. Now, with the Hadley e-mail archive, we have a much better view of how climate scientists e-mail each other.
    It is not a pretty sight.

  23. Roger,

    It would appear that your father was fortunate that the e-mail was restrained. Judging by the way alarmist scientists express themselves in other e-mails discussing your father and anyone else who isn't a fully committed believer in the cause, this was pretty mild.

    BTW -- I suppose you will eventually have to address all the hubbub. My take -- there really isn't anything new. We already knew that science publications, the IPCC and other assessments had become corrupted and partisan. We already knew that they had no intention of complying with FOIA law. We already knew that the science had been corrupted. The worst were willing to manipulate or censor data in order to get desired results. The others were willing to pretend not to notice.

    Smoking guns may be necessary to meet a standard of proof like beyond all reasonable doubt, but anyone paying attention already had plenty of evidence with which to reach an accurate assessment of what was going on.

  24. Boris,

    You conclude that some category of people (climate scientists) behave in certain ways because of one email from a member of said category?

    Just ONE email??



  25. Boris,

    I just absolutely have to second (third?) the sentiment that your "just one e-mail" bit is clearly a bit off-base.

    Also, it is not very effective to accuse someone of using "weasel words" one sentence prior to suggesting that they are pursuing "skeptic-cred."