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Photo of James Hansen testifying and Gavin Schmidt juggling

Is Global Warming Really A Fraud?

August 3, 2017

I (Dr. Duane Thresher) was a climate scientist but over the last few years I have often seriously thought of becoming a lawyer. Say what you want about lawyers but they can often quickly cut through all the nonsense and get to the crux of the matter. I saw this up close when my wife, Dr. Claudia Kubatzki, also an accomplished climate scientist, tried to get a paper retracted that had been fraudulently published with her name on it. From Herzschuh et al. in her Selected Publications at About Us:

"After at least 4 rejections and deciding the paper had no scientific value worth publishing, and quitting working for Gerrit Lohmann at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) due to his abusive behavior, I was horrified to discover 3 years after I quit climate science that the paper had been published with my name on it. As determined by the publisher lawyer, during a standard sloppy peer review Lohmann fabricated my required submission signature, the required revisions on my part of the paper (of which he had no expertise, making the paper scientifically invalid), and my responses to the peer reviewers. After harassment by Lohmann, aided by the journal (particularly chief editor David Currie of the University of Ottowa), of me, my husband, my current and former bosses, and my husband's current boss, I was finally able to get the paper retracted. Fraudulently, Lohmann and John Birks (University of Bergen) continued to list this paper in their publications without the required 'Retraction' in the title."

With all the nonsense being spouted at us for months, when we were finally able to get the publisher lawyer involved (Sue Joshua of Wiley-Blackwell) she looked at the evidence and quickly made the above determination (which she would rather not have made since a retraction is a very serious matter in science). It probably took her less than a billable hour.

As the lawyer type then, I have shied away from the use of the term "fraud" with regards to global warming. Fraud is "criminal deception for personal gain", i.e., the perpetrator knows what he is saying is a lie. The term fraud was wildly bandied about during the Climategate/Hockey Stick controversy, which of course lead to lawsuits, particularly involving Michael Mann. All of this was completely unnecessary. As much as I think Michael Mann's Hockey Stick results are nonsense, they do not require him to have committed fraud to be nonsense.

Much and the most important of the (past) climate proxy data he used is from tree rings. Have you ever cut down a tree and seen an actual thermometer sticking out of every tree ring? Of course not. The step from a tree to temperature records is a giant leap (of faith really). I have practical expertise in tree rings (i.e., walking into the woods, choosing trees to core, coring, microscopic analysis of the rings, and developing transfer functions to change the tree ring widths or density into temperature) as well as an understanding of wood anatomy from modeling tree growth. There are numerous unknowable large possible errors along the way that could produce a hockey stick unrelated to global warming in the dendroclimatologist's derived temperature record. A non-dendroclimatologist using the records, and even the dendroclimatologist himself, would not know about these errors. More than one budding bright dendroclimatologist has switched fields when he realized how fraught with error it is (most people aren't going to devote their lives to something they think is questionable). This is a fatal weakness for tree ring data, and all climate proxy data. See #2 at our Principles, which I'll be expanding upon.

Michael Mann has degrees in math and physics (old physicist joke: "first start by modeling the tree as a sphere") and specializes in data analysis (actually he is a "cycle hunter", which is rather disreputable in science). Even he is like anyone else using the data (including many global warming skeptics) in being ignorant of these errors. They assume it is valid or say its validity is the dendroclimatologist's responsibility and blissfully go on using the data.

However, ignorance, incompetence or irresponsibility does not make Michael Mann fraudulent.

What about failing celebrities who become climate spokespeople (e.g., Gore, DiCaprio, Nye, ...)? Are they committing fraud when they rant about global warming? Of course not. No reasonably-intelligent person thinks these celebrities know anything about climate. They might be (poor) frauds in pretending to know about climate but they are not frauds in knowing global warming is not true and saying it is. These celebrities are merely opportunists (that might make them immoral, which they probably are for other reasons too).

What about all these young not-so-bright climate change warriors who have flooded (thus watered down) the climate programs at universities and are the new climate scientists? Are they committing fraud? No. They are the generation (25 years) that have been brainwashed about global warming from kindergarten on up. I have no doubt they have a firm belief -- closer to a religious conviction -- that global warming is true.

That leaves the old climate change warriors/scientists. Are they committing fraud? At the risk of being sued I would have to say yes. For example:

James Hansen is the father of global warming. He became the father of global warming through fraud. In June 1988 alarmist members of Congress looking for a cause decided on global warming and contacted an obscure wannabe-hero 47-year-old James Hansen from obscure NASA GISS. They then intentionally scheduled him to testify about global warming on what was historically the hottest day of the year in Washington D.C. Not only was it again the hottest day but they intentionally turned off the air conditioning in the room. The television image of Hansen sweating while testifying about the dangers of global warming was overwhelming -- global warming must be real. Hansen hasn't looked back since. He has made a notorious career out of global warming alarmism using similar deceptive tactics.

Hansen was old enough to know better and there was still a modicum of scientific integrity back then. When I started in climate modeling as a graduate student in the early 1990's it was understood that if you ever claimed that climate models could actually predict climate, as Hansen and others do, it would be the end of your career -- the same as if you proposed perpetual motion or cold fusion. Climate models were for studying the various processes of climate. You would research a climate process, parameterize (approximate) it in program code in a climate model and study its effect on the resulting climate output from the model.

Full disclosure: I was a Columbia University grad student for 7 years at NASA GISS while James Hansen was its head. I am co-author on several papers with him.

Gavin Schmidt is the current head of NASA GISS (anointed by Hansen) and the leading climate change warrior/spokesperson (a founder of RealClimate). He too is old enough to know better and I believe he does. I worked with him while I was at NASA GISS. He was on my PhD committee. I am co-author on several papers with him. I'd even say we were friends.

One of Schmidt's favorite sayings back then, especially when he was demanding more research, is "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof", which indeed are wise words. However, he doesn't seem to apply them to himself and global warming now.

It is a fundamental fact, although increasingly conveniently ignored, that no single climate event or location can be attributed to global warming. There is simply no valid way to prove a connection and correlation is not causation. If it were, the following would be true: As global warming has supposedly been occurring, the average human lifespan has significantly increased. Therefore, global warming causes increased human lifespans and is a good thing.

Back then Schmidt was careful not to make this kind of absurd global warming attribution. Recently though, he authored a book, "Climate Change: Picturing the Science", that does exactly that. It has lots of overdramatic photos of particular places that are supposedly being wracked by global warming. The photos are so overwhelming global warming must be real. Sound familiar? Like father (of global warming) like son.

So, global warming is not a complete fraud, like many who saw the title of this article were hoping to read about, but there can be said to be some fraud involved. However, you don't need to make accusations of fraud -- and risk lawsuits -- to refute global warming. It really is as easy as 1-2-3 if you follow our Principles.