On 12 Oct 2009, climatologist and “hockey-team” member Kevin Trenberth wrote:
The fact is that we canâ€™t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we canâ€™t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong.
Eyebrows have quite rightly been raised over this quote. It is indeed a travesty that AGW theory cannot account for the lack of warming, and bears out what I and other AGW critics have been saying for years about the fallaciousness and lack of predictive power of AGW models.
But the second sentence is actually far more damning. “The data is surely wrong.” This is how and where most scientific fraud begins.
Scientific fraudsters are not, in general, people pushing theories they know to be false. Outright charlatanism is not actually common, because it’s relatively easy to detect. Humans are evolved for a social competitive environernt
and are rather good at spotting lies, except when they’re fooling themselves because they want to believe.
In general, scientific fraudsters are people who are overinvested in a theory that they believe. Because they know it must be true, they interpret predictive failures as “The data is surely wrong”. It is only a short step from “The data is surely wrong” to fixing the pesky data until it looks right — see my previous post for an immediate example.
It’s only slightly longer step after that to destroying the inconvenient data that fails to fit your theory — something one of the hockey-teamers actually called for and there is strong reason to suspect they actually did.
Sometimes, actually, the data is wrong. Occasionally, experimental error will appear to falsify a theory that is actually correct. But research groups are entitled to the benefit of that doubt only when they meet the most rigorous standards of full disclosure about the “wrong” data. Not when their reaction is to conceal and destroy it.