Into the Valley of Death rode the seven-hundred

If the furore surrounding the hacking of a webmail server at UEA’s Climate Research Unit has achieved anything at all it’s been to push the issue of scientific probity and integrity firmly into the spotlight. By far the most damning, but still unproven, allegation levelled at the CRU’s scientists is that they deliberated distorted and manipulated the evidence to shore up AGW theory and, on the basis that I’m entirely in agreement with the proposition that distortion and manipulation of evidence is a bad thing I think it only fair that we apply that same standard to some of the arguments put forward by some self-styled AGW ‘sceptics’.

Oh, screw it – we’re not talking about genuine sceptics here, we talking about Mad Mel, who’s used her blog at the Spectator to direct yet another signature rant at the BBC (as recommended by Iain Dale) because it neglected to put up a complete fruit-loop against Ed Miliband on the Today programme:

There was no informed scientist in this interview to put the zealot Miliband on the spot and expose his ignorant absurdity. At least though Today’s presenter John Humphrys did his best in trying to challenge him. But no balance at all was forthcoming in the subsequent item –billed as the first of three in-depth reports on the state of the scientific evidence of global warming – by Tom Fielden. This told us that global warming started with the industrial revolution, that it was proved that global warming was happening and humans were responsible and that the scientific debate was effectively settled.

Yeah, sure we’re picking on Mad Mel yet again, even though its common knowledge that she exhibits perhaps the worst case of the Dunning-Kruger effect to be found anywhere in British journalism, but on this occasion the reason for picking on her is both instructive and entirely relevant to the matter at hand because she goes on to state that:

This was just yet more anti-scientific ignorance and ideological propaganda. There is no such ‘overwhelming consensus’ of scientists; more than 700 of the most distinguished climate-related scientists are on record expressing deep scepticism of AGW. Is Miliband saying therefore that these eminent scientists are themselves ‘profoundly irresponsible’? Does Miliband even know they exist?

She’s referring here to a list of allegedly sceptical scientists compiled by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma/Exxon-Mobil) who, just from his biography on Wikipedia, looks to be a bigoted wackaloon after Mad Mel’s own heart. He loves God, Israel, torturing Iraqi prisoners and his campaign contributions from the oil, gas and energy industries – in 2002 he received more oil and gas contributions than anyone other than Texas senator John Cornyn –and he hates immigrants, gays and genuine climate scientists.

Inhofe was, until the Democrats took control of Congress, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and he remains the ranking minority member on that committee. Its from that position that he published an initial list of 400 scientists that he identified as AGW ‘sceptics’, a list that since expanded on twice, raising the number of alleged sceptics to, first, 650 and more recently to around 700.

It’s this list that Mad Mel is referring to as containing ‘more than 700 of the most distinguished climate-related scientists’ and, as you might well imagine, it’s mostly a complete crock of shit.

In July, this year, the Center for Inquiry, an independent US-based organisation that is committed to defending scientific integrity published a first-order analysis of the 687 people listed in the ‘Inhofe list’ as of January 2009. It found that:

–          Slightly under 10% of the individuals on the list could actually be identified as climate scientists.

–          Around 15% of those listed had actually published in the recognisable refereed [peer reviewed] literature on subjects related to climate science

–          Around 80% had no refereed publication record on climate science whatsoever – and

–          Around 4% were on record as favouring the current IPCC-2007 consensus and should not, therefore, have been included on the list.

It appears that the main method used by Inhofe to compile his list has been that of quote-mining articles from newspapers and blogs for anything that sounds vague sceptical so, as you might well imagine, there are several documented cases of bona fide climate scientists who’ve found themselves added to list on the strength of comments taken entire of context or because of published misrepresentations of the work, views and opinions. Only three of the individuals on the Inhofe list are among the 618 listed authors of the IPCC Working Group 1 report for AR4 (2007). Of these only one, John Christy, is actually a sceptic. The other two, Erich Roeckner and Oliver Fraunfeld make the list due to the quote-mining methods used in its creation.

Perhaps the prime example of deliberately misleading quote-mining on the list relates to Dr Joanne Simpson, a former NASA atmospheric scientist who is quoted by Inhofe as having said:

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organisation nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly … As a scientist I remain sceptical.”

Ellipsis alert! There’s something missing from that quotation, and that something turns out to be this:

What should we as a nation do? Decisions have to be made on incomplete information. In this case, we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become unsustainable. But as a scientist I remain skeptical.

Remember, manipulating the evidence is a bad thing.

The list also contains some fine examples of resume inflation and it fair share of creationists, including Chris Allen, a TV weatherman at a Fox affiliate in Kentucky who has no college-level qualifications and Prof, Edward Blick of the University of Oklahoma whose main argument against AGW appears to be this:

For thousands of years our earth has undergone cooling and warming under the control of God. Man cannot control the weather, but he can kill millions of people in his vain attempt to control it, by limiting or eliminating the fuel that we use. How does God control our warming and cooling? Scientists have discovered it is the Sun! Amazing, even grade school children know this. The Sun’s warming or cooling the earth varies with sunspot and Solar flairs[sic].

Well, there’s no need to worry then because god will fix things for us.

For more background information on the Inhofer list, there’s a good selection of links provided by Greenfyre, including a list of sceptical economists, many of whom appear to share Inhofe’s taste for petrodollars.

I have, however, saved the best until last.

While I was looking through the full list I came across a name that would mean little or nothing to the mostly American bloggers who’ve been investigating the Inhofe list but which will be so much more familiar to the Ministry’s largely British audience…

…because there, on Mad Mel’s list of ‘more than 700 of the most distinguished climate-related scientists are on record expressing deep scepticism of AGW’ I found the very well known horticulturalist, BBC TV gardener and occasional chat show host ALAN TITCHMARSH.

Seriously, I am not joking here… Alan Titchmarsh is genuinely on the Inhofe list of ‘scientists’ who are also, allegedly, AGW sceptics, the one that Mad Mel claims is made up of ‘distinguished climate-related scientists’.

You couldn’t make it up, and I’m not.