The co-author of an alarmist research paper that was seized upon and hyped by the mainstream media to inject further hysteria into the global warming debate has finally come clean and admitted the research team used flawed mathematics to reach their conclusions.
“We really muffed” the calculations, says Ralph Keeling, one of the scientists who is gamely fessing up to the error — and admitting that this effectively invalidates the paper.
According to the paper by Laure Resplandy et al, published this month in the prestigious journal Nature, a lot of the missing heat from global warming — 60 percent more than hitherto thought — has been absorbed by the oceans.
Naturally, this shocking discovery caused much excitement across mainstream media and was widely reported by environmental correspondents as proof that the global warming crisis was more serious than ever.
However, their exultant doom-mongering has been shortlived. An independent analyst, Nic Lewis, examined the paper and quickly spotted it was based on flawed math.
As the Global Warming Policy Forum reported:
Independent climate scientist Nicholas Lewis has uncovered a major error in a recent scientific paper that was given blanket coverage in the English-speaking media. The paper, written by a team led by Princeton oceanographer Laure Resplandy, claimed that the oceans have been warming faster than previously thought. It was announced, in news outlets including the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Scientific American that this meant that the Earth may warm even faster than currently estimated.
However Lewis, who has authored several peer-reviewed papers on the question of climate sensitivity and has worked with some of the world’s leading climate scientists, has found that the warming trend in the Resplandy paper differs from that calculated from the underlying data included with the paper.
“If you calculate the trend correctly, the warming rate is not worse than we thought – it’s very much in line with previous estimates,” says Lewis.
In fact, says Lewis, some of the other claims made in the paper and reported by the media, are wrong too.
“Their claims about the effect of faster ocean warming on estimates of climate sensitivity (and hence future global warming) and carbon budgets are just incorrect anyway, but that’s a moot point now we know that about their calculation error”.
Now, one of the paper’s co-authors, Ralph Keeling has gamely fessed up to the error — and hinted that this effectively invalidates the paper:
“Unfortunately, we made mistakes here,” said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. “I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them.”
The central problem, according to Keeling, came in how the researchers dealt with the uncertainty in their measurements. As a result, the findings suffer from too much doubt to definitively support the paper’s conclusion about just how much heat the oceans have absorbed over time.
The central conclusion of the study — that oceans are retaining ever more energy as more heat is being trapped within Earth’s climate system each year — is in line with other studies that have drawn similar conclusions. And it hasn’t changed much despite the errors. But Keeling said the authors’ miscalculations mean there is actually a much larger margin of error in the findings, which means researchers can weigh in with less certainty than they thought.
“I accept responsibility for what happened because it’s my role to make sure that those kind of details got conveyed,” Keeling said.
There are broader lessons here which — as so often before — are likely to be completely lost on the climate alarmist establishment.
One lesson is that climate skeptics are not scientific ignoramuses. They boast a huge range of independent experts like Nic Lewis who on many occasions have proved themselves more intellectually agile and better informed on climate science than the alarmist “consensus” gatekeepers in academe and at institutions like NASA and NOAA.
Another lesson is — as has been clear since Climategate — the peer-review system for scientific papers, especially if they have anything to do with climate change, is bust. Too often it is just a pal-review system in which chums on the climate change gravy train pass their colleagues’ work for publication nem con. Such is the appetite among alarmists for “evidence” that supports their doomsday thesis that the scarier it is, the more likely it is to get published.
Another lesson is that the mainstream media simply cannot be trusted to apply any kind of professional scrutiny to alarmist papers. No environmental correspondent, it’s true, would have had the advanced math skills that Nic Lewis used to find the paper false.
But the fact remains that there is not one science or environment correspondent attached to any mainstream media publication prepared to do their due diligence on global warming scare stories. They are all so wedded to the alarmist consensus that they scarcely even bother to alter the press release.
Finally, do not expect this humiliating retraction to be given anywhere near the prominence afforded the original story. This is how the climate scare machine works: the hysteria is only ever ratcheted upwards, never dialed down.