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catallaxy in technical exile

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David Harsanyi corresponds with Kevin “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t” Trenberth.

When leaked e-mails recently exposed talk of manipulating scientific evidence on global warming, Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, argued that skeptics, and other evil-doers, had cherry-picked and presented his comments out of context.

To rectify this injustice, I sent Trenberth (and NCAR) a Freedom of Information request asking for his e-mail correspondences with other renowned climate scientists in an effort to help contextualize what they’ve been talking about.

Well, soon after the request was fired off, I was informed by NCAR’s counsel that the organization was, in fact, not a federal agency — since its budget is laundered through the National Science Foundation — thus it is under no obligation to provide information to the public.

Of course, that is a little rude as Harsanyi explains.

It’s every American citizen’s hallowed duty to mind his or her own freaking business — except in those rare instances when one of those citizens happens to be a taxpayer-funded eco-crusader, utilizing his appointed station in life to promote policy that sticks its nose into the lives of every American.

There is more to it than that.

It is Trenberth’s government-financed science that drives public policy across this country. Yet Trenberth has less accountability to the public than the local parks department.

It seems a bit strange, you’d think that Trenberth would be only too happy to explain how and why his contribution to climategate is taken out of context. There is just no helping some people.

Written by Sinclair Davidson

December 20, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. The “context” is the publicly available paper for which there’s a reference sitting at the bottom of the travesty e-mail.

    Just reading the referenced paper for the context could have saved us many hours of bureaucrats running around filling in FOI request forms for no good reason.

    Why not read the publicly available paper first, then waste the taxpayer dollars with frivolous FOI requests if you still have questions, rather than the other way around?


    December 20, 2009 at 10:27 pm

  2. Bureaucrats complying with FOI requests cannot be a waste of their time. Bureaucrat time is paid for by the taxpayer. Taxpayers are entitled to know what their government is doing.

    Sinclair Davidson

    December 21, 2009 at 10:27 am

  3. I’ve just read the referenced paper but fail to see how it adds further context to what was already in the subject email. The problems outlined in that paper are well-known to anyone that has followed the debate regarding the energy budget of the earth.

    The ‘travesty’ that Trenberth is alluding to is the failure of the climate science community to properly account for the, at best, stasis, or at worst, decline, in global avg temp. without arm-waving references to internal variability. If the “GHGs dominate the atmosphere” thesis is correct than the accumulation of energy caused by GHGs must be represented somewhere on the earth, and if it is not being represented at the surface (in temp), than it must be represented somewhere else (in part by increases in sea level rise, ocean heat content, etc.). Or as he says, an increase in global cloud cover in the order of 1% would cancel the effects of GHGs that year.

    In other words, he is saying we really don’t know what is going presently. And that is something politicians, bureaucrats, and policymakers don’t want to hear. But the public, no doubt, do.


    December 21, 2009 at 11:31 am

  4. That’s pretty freaking shocking…. A government funded unit escapes public accountability by hiding behind walls of silence.

    So the bullshit we’ve been fed that…. US data is all in the public domain….. is just that bullshit as this clown can’t be asked to account.

    it gets sicker each passing day.

    As i keep saying the entire upper echelons of this area need to be cleaned out.


    December 21, 2009 at 11:40 am

  5. I’ll heat up the tar pot JC,you bring the feathers


    December 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

  6. Here is the relevant section of e-mail:


    Kevin Trenberth wrote:

    Hi all

    Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here
    in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on
    record. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal
    is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about
    18F and also a record low, well below the previous record low. This is January weather
    (see the Rockies baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last
    night in below freezing weather).

    Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth’s
    global energy. /Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability/, *1*, 19-27,
    doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [PDF]

    (A PDF of the published version can be obtained from the author.)

    The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
    travesty that we can’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. Our
    observing system is inadequate.


    Given that we have a ten page paper discussing inadequacies of the observing system, in the context of an e-mail explicitly mentioning inadequacies of the observing system, could it be that the context is inadequacies of the observing system described in the paper?

    How precisely is hours of taxpayer-funded expenditure in running around in FOI requests going to tell us something other than this guy feels that the inadequacies in the observing system is a travesty?


    December 22, 2009 at 1:44 am

  7. Trenberth made the claim that people ‘had cherry-picked and presented his comments out of context’. Harsanyi offered, very kindly, I think to investigate that claim. Dover Beach has already investigated your claim that the ten page paper provides context.

    Sinclair Davidson

    December 22, 2009 at 7:05 am

  8. I’m now completely convinced by your argument, as it had not occurred to me that H was being kind by lobbing FOI demands to see private e-mails.

    I’d never seen how an FOI demand for a private e-mail is an act of kindness – but my eyes have now been opened.

    I’m resolved, I’m no longer sending money to charity, I’m sending FOI demands for private emails.


    December 22, 2009 at 8:08 pm

  9. Excellent – you see, you can learn something.

    Sinclair Davidson

    December 22, 2009 at 8:23 pm

  10. Bear in mind, the ‘private’ aspect of the emails has been culled. The emails I have read, and that is a lot, have all related to their work. Work that is the basis for public policy.

    Sinclair Davidson

    December 22, 2009 at 8:36 pm

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