Friday 2 September 2011

An Honourable Decision.

Wolfgang Wagner was editor of  the Journal 'Remote Sensing' when the journal published a paper by Roy Spencer and William Braswell entitled "On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance." link.

Spencer and Braswell was glowingly received at Watts Up With That (aka WTF), which is to be expected as WTF is heavy on the applause of anything that bolsters their increasingly bizarre stance, but light on the analysis. It was similarly received on Faux News and other wingnut media. Meanwhile more reputable commentators actually read the paper and pointed out the obvious flaws.

Now in an event reminiscent of the infamous Von Storch resignation (Wikipedia) Wolfgang Wagner has felt it necessary to resign his editorship, an event I take no pleasure in. When someone shows they have the honour to resign over such an issue it's clear they're the sort of person who is deserving of trust. It's the ones who don't actually resign that generally need to.

It is however worth taking the time to read Wagner's statement.

Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science. Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims. Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell [1] that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published.

After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing.

With this step I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements, e.g., in a press release of The University of Alabama in Huntsville from 27 July 2011 [2], the main author’s personal homepage [3], the story “New NASA data blow gaping hole in global warming alarmism” published by Forbes [4], and the story “Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?” published by Fox News [5], to name just a few. Unfortunately, their campaign apparently was very successful as witnessed by the over 56,000 downloads of the full paper within only one month after its publication. But trying to refute all scientific insights into the global warming phenomenon just based on the comparison of one particular observational satellite data set with model predictions is strictly impossible. Aside from ignoring all the other observational data sets (such as the rapidly shrinking sea ice extent and changes in the flora and fauna) and contrasting theoretical studies, such a simple conclusion simply cannot be drawn considering the complexity of the involved models and satellite measurements......

There's only one little thing in Wagner's letter that I take issue with:

They're not sceptics. They're denialists.


Anonymous said...


Lazarus said...

I remember debating about this paper on Paul Hudson blog where I did suggest that the journal it appeared in had no speciality in the subject of Surface Temperature Feedback - message 95;

I wonder how much coverage this will get in the skeptic press. I suspect it will still be quoted as sound science and I certain that there will be conspiracy theories about why this editor really resigned.

Chris Reynolds said...


I've been pondering how/whether to deal with the whacko/denialists. I'm concerned that by 'debating' with them we just feed the public perception that there is an active bona-fide debate.

One thing I do think now - the denialists are irrelevant. What matters are the undecided casual browsers. From that perspective it's actually a win when we argue a denialist into resorting to conspiracy theories.

Most normal people will, at that stage, see that they're whackos.

Lazarus said...

I hope you are right. I do like cornering a skeptic to a point where they are forced into a position where it becomes clear to anyone else that they believe something based on some unlikely series of events instead of sound science.

Good to see you give my MEP Helmer some grief. He is still touting that any move away form current energy policies will be the end of life in Britain as we know it.

Chris Reynolds said...

I think you may be confusing me with someone else, I've not had dealings with that MEP.

In fact I'm deciding whether to jump back into the fray and start dealing with denialists again. I gave up with the few at the science forums because careful and considered argument seemed to have won most people over, those in denial won't change their opinions with any amount of evidence.

What is the best policy?

To engage.

Or to ignore....

Lazarus said...

Yes Chris I just noticed that the poster was in fact a Chris M.

I think you should jump back into the fray. I'm sure you can find challenging sites and your rational, science based approach is difficult to dismiss without resorting to extremist views and conspiracy theories. You would certainly be an asset on the sites that I feel compelled to comment on from time to time.