we comprehensively and transparently show that…ocean acidification levels have negligible effects on important behaviours of coral reef fishes…we additionally show that …[results] that have been reported in several previous studies are highly improbable. [bold added]
Extending back to 2010, many of these studies were highly publicized at the time they appeared. Physicist Peter Ridd points out they were all produced by Australia’s James Cook University. Ridd, remember, was fired by James Cook after raising concerns about research quality.
Last week, Nature published a damning refutation of a significant body of climate change research. The title of that article is self-explanatory: Ocean acidification does not impair the behavior of coral reef fishes. The authors studied more than 900 fish from six different species over a period of three years, attempting to verify earlier findings by a team of researchers at Australia’s James Cook University. Their attempts failed.
The author in common is research leader Philip Munday. When eight of this man’s papers were double-checked, other scientists were unable to confirm his findings. They performed the same experiments but got different results. Every. Single. Time. The James Cook University website tells us Munday is “in the top 1% of cited researchers in the ISI fields of Plant and Animal Science” (bold added). He sits on the editorial board of three scientific journals. He also – ding, ding, ding – “has contributed to IPCC reports” on ocean acidification. In fact, Munday’s name appears 46 times in this 174-page document about a 2011 IPCC workshop on that topic. You heard it here first, folks. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s pronouncements about tropical fish relies on a man whose work falls to pieces whenever anyone tries to verify it.
At the center of the corruption of climate science discussed here a highly technical scenario of the future (called Representation Concentration Pathway 8.5 or RCP8.5). Over the past decade this particular scenario has moved from an extreme outlier to the center of climate policy discussions.
According to the New York Times, in November 2012, one month after stepping down from the hedge fund he led, Steyer gathered environmental leaders and Democratic party leaders around the kitchen table at his ranch in Pescadero, California. Among those in attendance were Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, and John Podesta, who had founded the Center for American Progress (CAP) in 2003 to promote progressive causes.
Each of Steyer, Bloomberg and Paulson contributed $500,000 to the initial project, which was focused on “making the climate threat feel real, immediate and potentially devastating to the business world.”
For instance, soon after the initial Risky Business report was released in 2014 the Steyer-Bloomberg-Paulson funded work was the basis for 11 talks at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, which is the largest annual gathering of climate researchers. The next step was to get the analyses of the project published in the scientific literature where they could influence subsequent research and serve as the basis for authoritative scientific reviews, such as the U.S. National Climate Assessment. For instance, a 2016 paper published in the prestigious journal Science from the Risky Business project introduced the erroneous notion of moving from one RCP scenario to another via policy, comparing “business as usual” (RCP 8.5) and “strongest emissions mitigation” (RCP 2.6). That paper has subsequently been cited 294 times in other academic studies, according to Google Scholar. Despite the obvious methodological flaw, the paper passed peer review and has received little or no criticism.
Let me be clear about what is going on here. There is no hidden conspiracy, all of this is taking place in plain sight and in public. In fact, what is going on here is absolutely genius. We have a well-funded effort to fundamentally change how climate science is characterized in the academic literature, how that science is reported in the media, and ultimately how political discussions and policy options are shaped.
The corruption of climate science has occurred because some of our most important institutions have let us down. The scientific peer-review process has failed to catch obvious methodological errors in research papers. Leading scientific assessments have ignored conflicts of interest and adopted flawed methods. The media has been selectively incurious as to the impact of big money on climate advocacy.
The Trump administration is reportedly considering issuing an executive order that would make it easier for everyone to access publicly funded research. According to E&E News, the White House is considering mandating, via executive order, that all federally funded research be immediately available to the public upon publication. Currently, a lot of federally funded research is kept behind a paywall for one year before it becomes public. The executive order would reportedly mandate eliminating that paywall period...
But if what’s reported is broadly true, this could be a big win for a movement known as Open Science, which has complained that for too long, taxpayer-funded research has been locked behind expensive paywalls, keeping it out of reach for the people who paid for it...
Publishers, however, are not pleased. On Wednesday, more than 125 scientific publishers of scientific journals (including the behemoth Elsevier, as well as Wiley) and large scientific organizations (like the Association for Psychological Science and the American Geophysical Union, which also publish journals) co-signed a letter condemning the potential executive order. Other notable signatories include the American Heart Association and the publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the letter, they write that the executive order would “would jeopardize the intellectual property of American organizations engaged in the creation of high-quality peer-reviewed journals” and that the move would “effectively nationalize the valuable American intellectual property that we produce and force us to give it away to the rest of the world for free.”