Friday, May 25, 2012


date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 09:54:02 +0100
from: Rob Wilson <rob.wilsonatXYZxyzAC.UK>
subject: Re: [ITRDBFOR] should we, as a discipline, respond to Climate Audit

Dear All,

I have read your replies to my post with interest and have also received quite a few e-mails privately.

Firstly, I do not think we need to get into any debate out how science affects policy and vise verse. This is simply a discussion about addressing issues raised on CA. Some of the comments are valid (e.g. data archiving) and we should take them to heart. Some are simply wrong. It is these latter set of comments that we need worry about.

The overall consensus view is that we should ignore CA. I can understand why people would choose this option but it could be dangerous to leave Steve McIntyre unchecked. After all, his auditing work had great influence in dragging Mann, Bradley and Hughes to the US Senate.

Other options proposed to me were:

1. A one off 'guest' thread to RealClimate, carefully describing the basics dendroclimatology (e.g. see Andy Baker's spiel on speleothems).

2. Create our own Dendro Blog similar to RealClimate.

3. A new dendro FAQ, but addressing issues raised in CA.

4. A wiki style webpage that is continually updated by individuals within the community.

Personally I think that a one off thread on RealClimate would not really gain us, as a discipline, anything. Such a posting would soon get lost and we would be back to the present status quo. Developing our own Blog would be a huge amount of work and would only open up yet another avenue for active criticism and may in fact undermine what we actually set out to do. I think it would be better to address comments directly on CA.

The Blog approach also seems to me to be a bit too proactive and I would rather spend my time doing science and ensuring that it is done as robustly as possible. Perhaps the answer is a more passive, but continually updated web presence. 10 years ago, Rob Argent and I edited the Tree-Ring FAQ which was superseded by Henri's far superior web pages. A new FAQ could address quite easily specific issues raised in CA.

However, I actually quite like the idea of the wiki style editing approach mentioned by Peter Brown. This could be continually updated and edited when specific issues are raised, but would really focus on the dendro basics - i.e. basic theory, sampling strategies, data processing methods and commonly used statistical methods used for reconstruction etc etc - with reference to specific papers for further reading.

So - the $1,000,000 question - what do we do now? We are all busy, and I do not think anyone wants to take on a huge burden of extra work which may be arguably a wasted effort. Whatever is decided - if anything - will only be successful if the work is spread out amongst many individuals.

Whatever we do, this should not be seen as a personal attack on Steve McIntyre. I met him last December at the AGU and we had a very civil chat over lunch. On the whole, I think he is well informed and his primary motivation is to see that palaeo science is done in an honest and open way. Many of the misinformed comments on CA are from participants, not from him.

So we need to think in terms of outreach and providing basic information to those who are generally interested in find out more about our discipline. We cannot hope to persuade those who have already 'decided' that tree-rings are worthless as a climate-proxy. Steve McIntyre is not in this latter category, but many of his followers are.

So - my 10 pence worth.

As I started this, I put my hand up as the first volunteer to whatever we end up doing.

Comments and volunteers welcome


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