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Japan: Blogosphere Opinions on “Climategate”

This article is a little late to the fray, but “Climategate” was also a topic of interest in Japan. Although the controversy was not as strong say compared to the U.S. or U.K., many Japanese bloggers voiced their opinions.

“Climategate” in brief is the highly controversial issue where a thousand plus emails across 13 years, derived from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia were illegally stolen and posted on the interwebs. It was timed right before COP15 for subsequent use for strong allegations made to the climate scientists for cooking data, preventing disclosure of information and interfering with the peer review process towards the support of anthropogenic global warming.

Finalvent from Far East Blog (極東ブログ), who was named an Alpha blogger in 2004 [ja], focuses [ja] not on how the hacked emails influenced the climate change discussions, but on how it gives a peak into how scientists are occasionally vulnerable to subverting the scientific method.

重要なのは、これらのまとめが、なんら地球温暖化の知見には寄与してないことで、どうやらクライメイトゲート事件自体は、地球温暖化懐疑論とは独立していると見てよい。

What's of importance that's discussed here is that the whole “Climategate” scandal does not contribute to the knowledge of global warming and thus, should be kept independent from the arguments of the anthropogenic climate change skeptics.

Noted blogger/economist/reporter Nobuo Ikeda (池田信夫) brings up [ja] the famous hockey-stick model as an example of how scientists are prone to constructing models to fit their intuition.

このように「初めに結論ありき」で研究が進められることは珍しくない。特にIPCCのように一つの大学に数億ドルの補助金が出るような大プロジェクトでは 「結果を出す」ことが求められるので、なるべく温暖化が起きているようにデータを解釈するインセンティブが生じるが、このホッケースティックのように意図的に原データを改竄するのは、科学的な論争のルールを逸脱している。

Like the hockey-stick model, it is not uncommon to see research progress with a preferred conclusion on hand. There's a lot of pressure to get results for a research project like this one, where an inordinate amount of funding for one institution is involved. In this case, there was incentive to show that anthropogenic global warming was occurring. Biases due to incentives can occur anywhere but when raw data is altered like in this “Climategate” scandal, it goes beyond what is acceptable for scientific arguments.

Japanese climate scientist Shinji Ayanami (綾波シンジ) refutes [ja] Ikeda's argument that the hockey-stick model was found to be erroneous (or even unethical) and therefore, removed from the IPCC report. Ayanami lists the relevant conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences synthesis report on surface temperature reconstructions that mention subsequent studies that robustly vindicate Michael Mann's (creator of the hockey-stick) results with caveats of his admitted uncertainties and limitations of the original model.

He states that Ikeda is making an ironical leap of faith to conform to his own intuitions that the IPCC is biased by assuming the hockey-stick was unethical by taking two data points, the National Academy of Sciences study and the removal of the hockey-stick in the IPCC report.

…「雨が降り、洗濯物が濡れた。」と書いてあっても、実際には「雨が(外で)降り、(洗濯機で洗濯を始めたので)洗濯物が濡れた。」という話であって、因果関係は書 いていない…

Someone could write “it was raining and the laundry got wet” when in reality “it was raining (outside) while the laundry got wet (in the washing machine)”. There is no mention of a causal effect in the original sentence and the implication that the rain made the laundry wet can only come from intuitive interpolation.

Blogger himaginary sees similarities [ja] of the “Climategate” scandal with the Tsukuba University Plasma Research Center‘s data fabrication incident. Read this Japan Times article for more details on the Tsukuba University incident.

…筑波大プラズマ研究改竄事件となんか似ているな、と思ったので、以下に気が付いた共通点を思いつくままに挙げてみる。なお、あくまでも素人による感想レベルの比較であることはお断りしておく。また、だから何なんだ、と問い詰められても困るが、巨大科学のスキャンダルにおける構造をアネクドート的に探る手掛かりくらいにはなるかもしれない、とは考えている。

I've listed some similarities between the two incidents, although I must say that I am an amateur with respect to my impressions of either incident. I just thought this might be an important exercise that will give a clue on how structural corruption happens on large-scale science projects.

Emori Seita (江守正多) of the National Institute for Environmental Studies (国立環境研究所), possibly the most famous climate scientist in Japan, delves into some misunderstandings [ja] of temperature reconstructions. He subsequently argues [ja] that while academia (nor IPCC) isn't perfect, it is the best tool we have for understanding scientific issues and incidents “Climategate” stray away from this process.

…実は、IPCCの報告書の原稿自体も、世界中の専門家と政府担当者から、合計3回の査読を経て作成されます。そして、少なくとも温暖化の科学に関する部分(第1作業部会)に関しては、すべての査読コメントとその1つ1つに対する執筆者の応答が、インターネット上に公開されています。つ まり、これまでもIPCCは相当程度に自覚的に、評価の過程を透明にすることに努力しているということです。そのせいかどうかはわかりませんが、主流に対 して批判的な論文も、必要なものは引用されています。ここからもわかるように、一部の研究者が恣意的にIPCC報告書の内容を大きく変えることは不可能で しょう。

IPCC's reports and manuscripts go through three rounds of peer review by expert scientists from around the world. At least for the first working group, all of the peer review comments and its corresponding responses are available to the public online. That is, the IPCC is making a conscious effort to make the process as transparent as possible. Possibly due to this, papers that contradict IPCC's consensus are frequently cited. Therefore, it would be impossible for one group of researchers to arbitrarily change the consensus in a major way.

1 comment

  • Hi, Good to see the discussion is alive and well in Japan. At my weblink I have put together an article that goes into detail on climategate and covers how I think there has been a real problem of a lack of control over the ‘span of influence’ over certain scientists who are both able to collate, adjust and distribute climatic data to other scientists whilst being able to perform published research themselves – I think the temptation to ‘cook’ the data might have been too much in some cases.

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