A couple days ago Roy Spencer posted on his blog that, although he has “received many requests recently to respond to an extended blog critique by Barry Bickmore of my book,” he wouldn’t be responding to my 3-part review. Now, I don’t mind if Roy doesn’t have time to respond to my critique–everyone has to prioritize, after all. But I had to laugh at the way he went about announcing it. “I will not be wasting much time addressing blog criticisms of my work,” he says. Why? “The peer-reviewed literature is where I must focus my attention.” What’s more, he seems to view my critique as a “media attack.”
One of the downsides of going against the supposed “consensus of scientists” on global warming–other than great difficulty in getting your research funded and published–is that you get attacked in the media. In the modern blogging era, this is now easier to do than ever.
The reason I found the announcement a bit amusing was that, well, I had read his book! You see, Spencer explained in The Great Global Warming Blunder that one of the main reasons he decided to write his book was that he couldn’t get some of his work published in the peer-reviewed literature.
The climate modelers and their supporters in government are largely in control of the research funding, which means that most government contracts and grants go toward those investigators who support the party line on global warming. Sympathizers preside as editors overseeing what can and cannot be published in research journals. Now they even rule over several of our professional societies, organizations that should be promoting scientific curiosity no matter where it leads.
In light of these developments, I have decided to take my message to the people. (The Great Global Warming Blunder, pp. xi-xii.)
This expert’s comments revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of how temperature changes are caused, and as a result my paper was rejected. In fact, the editor was so annoyed he warned me not to bother changing and then resubmitting it. (The Great Global Warming Blunder, p. 112.)
Spencer went on to complain that the media have ignored even the work he has published in the peer-reviewed literature.
Taking my message to the people seemed like a necessary step, because I have found that even publishing peer-reviewed research is no guarantee that anyone will take notice. (The Great Global Warming Blunder, p. 150.)
This leads to another reason why I wrote this book: The usual news outlets have taken on the role of censors, refusing to report any new science that does not accord with their worldview. When it comes to global warming, they have made sure that only certain kinds of scientific results are reported to you, the citizen. (The Great Global Warming Blunder, pp. 159-160)
Thus, if one of Roy Spencer’s papers doesn’t pass peer review then, well, it’s because of the grand conspiracy to silence him, so he’s perfectly justified in taking his “message to the people.” That leaves scientists who would like to respond to Roy’s work in a bind, however, because what science journal would publish a rebuttal to a book printed by some ultra-right-wing political publishing house? (Seriously. Click the link and look around his publisher’s website.) But if anyone bothers to publish a rebuttal on, say, a blog, Roy can just ignore it because, after all, it wasn’t peer reviewed! Likewise, if “the media” ignores Roy’s work, it’s because they are “censoring” out things they don’t want people to hear. But if someone not only pays attention, but goes so far as to do an extensive critique, including programming Spencer’s simple climate model into a computer and exploring it, it’s just another media “attack” on poor Roy. It seems that Roy Spencer hasn’t left many options open for those who want to engage with his views.
The rest of Roy’s comments in the non-response were equally fascinating. If he is going to ignore the pleas of his readers to respond to my critique, where will he instead turn his attention? Well, he says he’s focusing on Andrew Dessler’s (2010) paper, which contradicted Spencer and Braswell’s (2008) claim that climatologists had been systematically overestimating how positive the cloud feedback is, at least in the short term. Roy says he has startling new evidence for his interpretation, and will be submitting it to Science magazine (although he allows that Science might reject his paper because they are biased.) Of course, I mentioned Dessler’s work in Part 1 of my review, but the interesting thing, from my perspective, is that even if Spencer and Braswell turn out to be right about this particular point, Spencer admits that it may not mean anything about whether climate models adequately represent the cloud feedback in the long term (see The Great Global Warming Blunder, p. 118.) Rather, the really meaty part of Spencer’s work is his claim to show that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has likely been driving global temperature changes over the last century. If that’s true, then the standard climate models really are out the window. Conversely, if this part of Spencer’s work doesn’t hold water, the rest may not amount to much in terms of a critique of mainstream climate science. In fact, in Part 3 of my critique, I took Spencer’s model apart and showed that his model is pseudo-statistical gibberish, and was rightfully rejected from the peer-reviewed literature. Arthur Smith went on to do the mathematical proof of why Spencer’s model is nonsense. By choosing to ignore critiques of his PDO-climate connection, which has not been published in the peer-reviewed literature, I believe Roy Spencer is essentially admitting that this key aspect of his work can’t hold up to scrutiny. And without that, the rest of his critique of mainstream climate science is a bit vanilla.