Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Victory for openness as IPCC climate scientist opens up lab doors

Ben Santer had a change of heart about data transparency despite being hectored and abused by rabid climate sceptics
Despite or because of? Also I have never met a climate change sceptic that had Rabies.
Ben Santer was accused by sceptics of 'scientific cleansing'. Photograph: Marcia Johnson

One man who has battled against climate sceptics longer than most is the climate modeller Ben Santer, who completed his PhD in climate science at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the 1983 before going to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. He helped write the second IPCC assessment report, published in 1995. Most famously, this report claimed to find for the first time that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate" – essentially because the geographical pattern of warming across the globe matched that predicted by models. Santer was also lead author of some of the key research behind this claim and of the relevant IPCC chapter.
The main body of the report included lots of cavils about the claim to see the "discernible human influence". As another lead author on the critical chapter, Tim Barnett, then of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, part of the University of California, San Diego, told me in 1996: "We wrote a long list of caveats in that chapter. We got a lot of static from within IPCC, from people who wanted to water down and delete some of those caveats. We had to work very hard to keep them all in." But many did not make it to the summary for policy-makers, and the New York Times leaked the text with the headline: "Scientists finally confirm human role in global warming." Nothing about the balance of evidence there.
Santer's co-authors on the critical research included Phil Jones at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, Tom Wigley at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and others. But as the main author of the research highlighted in the summary, Santer found himself under instant attack. Remembering all this a decade later, he told me: "I was accused of politically motivated tampering with the IPCC assessment, and of irregularities in my own research. I had, they said, somehow forced Nature to publish [my research] under duress, and had falsified scientific documents. There were calls for my dismissal." Read more.

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