The Heartland Institute v Gleick: some of my comments

Dr James Gleick is the climate scientist who penetrated the Heartland Institute to swipe documents and confessed on 24 Feb to his wrongdoing. This brought my attention to THI, which claims to be a group of concerned “experts” but which is in actuality a front man for corporations and the wealthy. I started writing answers to the truly astonishing lies and half-truths I found at their Web site, and I need to assemble them here lest they be removed.



“ClimateGate” Memos

Here’s my comment on their claims about what internal “climate gate” memos reveal (note that they don’t have any compunction about revealing the other side’s secrets but are screaming bloody murder about Gleick’s stunts): 

The memos “reveal doubt” because any substantive, informative scientific proposition has probability 0<P<1, where 0 is “known with certainty to be false” and 1 is “known with certainty to be true”. CF. Karl Popper.

The memos “reveal doubt” because unlike lawyers, engineers who’ve long whored out their degrees in hydrology, and “communications” majors, scientists (like competent software developers in my experience) are cautious not to draw unwarranted conclusions and like Gleick on 24 Feb, admit when in the wrong.

But on South Wacker Drive, corporate thugs cannot by the nature of things admit they are wrong.

In the 17th century, Pierre de Fermat conjectured that “no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two”. In the 1990s, Andrew Wiles of Princeton published a proof of this conjecture. The proof contained an error when it was reviewed by Wiles’ referees on the Internet. 

Wiles repaired the proof.

If he’d been working, however, on Wack Wack Wacker drive, he would have been subject to childish mockery for “making a mistake” (even as Gleick received no credit for a voluntary confession).

This is because the sort of people who go to work for the Heartland Institute coast through college telling professors what they think the prof wants to hear, never speaking out, never risking being in the wrong. They then get these little corporate shill jobs where one can never admit error.

There inner weakness? They know they don’t “get it”. They know that they can’t do the math.

They assume nobody else can.

Bird calls to bird, and is answered with sweet: 
Turd calls to turd, and is answered alike:
Bird calls to turd and no reply doth meet:
Turd calls to bird, and bird taketh to flight.
Turd assumeth a generalized curse.
Seeks naught higher than the corporation:
Turd figures he could do a lot worse.
Than to sing the song of the copro-nation.
But take a warning from me, coprophage.
With heart grown brutal and terribly small:
The swift arrival of sickness and age.
Shall cause you to dust and silence fall.
In your brilliant career you’ve done nothing more.
Than trash knowledge to doubt, cruelty and a bore.


James M Taylor’s Tornado Graph Interpretation Found Incorrect

In James M Taylor’s Forbes Magazine reply to Gleick, he presented a graph of the numbers of tornados between 1950 and 2010 which he said showed a declining trend. Let’s look at that claim.
James M. Taylor, your statements in your Forbes article of 12 January are not only deeply unprofessional as regards your standing as a lawyer (because you appear to be trying to do science without credentials) they are also positively dishonest.

In that article you’ve cherry picked a chart from NOAA which in the article you claim shows “long-term trend in declining frequency of strong tornadoes” at This “chart”, however, is only a jpeg, and its parent Internet locale is private.

When I saw it, I could in fact discern no “trend”: the standard deviation is just too large, and, since the numbers only go back to the 1950s, there’s not enough data to show a geological trend: geological trends emerge in the hundreds of years and not over decades. 

Fortunately the interpretation of the chart appears at In that location, the data providers say “The bar chart below indicates there has been little trend in the frequency of the strongest tornadoes over the past 55 years.”. Not a “declining” trend.

Also, the chart indicates only the raw count of EF3-EF5 tornadoes. The possibility is that the number of EF3-EF5 tornadoes could be declining as (owing to higher heat energy due to GW), smaller “funnel cloud” tornadoes and potentially EF3 merge to create the mile-wide EF4/5 tornadoes that were unseen (or, to be fair to you, unrecorded) in the old days. I’d observe that the typical tornado on You Tube today is unlike the old “funnel clouds” photographed in the 1950s, and last year, especially, a number of tornadoes failed to display the narrow paths of destruction that were characteristic of tornadoes before 2000. Joplin looked like it had been bombed over an enormous area.

But I am prepared to admit, as the NOAA article warns, that the You Tube monsters (but not the scale of destruction seen in Joplin MO last year) are artifacts of You Tube itself and young dudes with cellphone cameras, a case of beer and time on their hands.

The problem I got with YOU, Counselor, is the fact that in the Forbes article, you want that cherry picked data point to be generalized into a moral claim: that all climate scientists are liars. It’s adversarial logic, Counselor, like that of the attorney for the rich guy that from one contradiction in the poor rape victim’s testimony, gets the rich guy off at the cost of her reputation.

The graph shows a stunning leap in 1974, before many people were born. That could be a pure anomaly, or, since tornados are a primarily North American phenomenon, it could be the result of a localized warming, where in the 1970s the effects of our postwar boom were emerging locally, especially as “acid rain”, and perhaps as heating of our air sheds. Just like gold prices, these leaps can be the storm before the calm…before the storm, where the longer term trend shows increasing spikes. In geological time, 1974 could repeat at twice the magnitude.

I would remind you of the calm before the storm, or of the Lisbon tsunami of 1755, a dual-phase tsunami that first emptied the bay of Lisbon, attracting idiots to the treasures revealed on the sea floor.

The public policy question is whether we take steps to protect people who shop at convenience stores in Kansas and get walloped every year by EF1-EF5 tornadoes, and Africans who suffer drought, or the interests of major stockholders in energy companies. Global warming’s bad effects, if they are real, affect the least well off. I conclude that it’s best to assume it’s real, Counselor.

In addition, when you published the Forbes article, the number of 2011 tornadoes was known. It was eighty four, second only to 1974, Counselor. Hope you don’t mind if I call you Counselor.



Sonnet 29 Feb 2012 Edward G. Nilges. Moral Rights asserted


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