BEST Science Is Not a Press Release; Surface-Temperature Study PR Meant to Taint Peer Review of Findings

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 31, 2011 | Go to article overview

BEST Science Is Not a Press Release; Surface-Temperature Study PR Meant to Taint Peer Review of Findings


Byline: Patrick J. Michaels, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Earlier this month, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) research team blitzed the world with a very well-planned and coordinated press release touting its findings on global warming. Its peer-reviewed citations? None.

BEST is a group of non-climatologist scientists who have received more than $600,000 to reinvent the climate wheel, i.e., to take the existing surface-temperature histories that pretty much all climate scientists use and determine if things are heating up. They have written up their findings in four manuscripts that have been sent to peer-reviewed American Geophysical Union journals. All are in the very early stages of review. None has been published.

Why the press release? Why not wait for the peer-review process to legitimize the work?

Was it designed to influence public opinion before the next United Nations climate conference in South Africa in a month? It certainly got coverage, landing BEST in the Economist, the online versions of the New York Times and the Washington Post and myriad other venues. The bottom line in most of the accounts: Climate change skeptics can all go away now; global warming is real.

I know most of the people who write these stories, and they are not stupid. They also know that this news - that the surface temperature is indeed higher than it was - is about as shocking as an astounded revelation that the sun likely will rise tomorrow.

In their paper on urban heat islands, the BEST scientists find that cities warm less than the countryside. In a world where science is not done by press release, such a finding - of a sort of urban cooling - would generate vigorous commentary opposing publication and requiring clarification. The chances of its publication in an honestly brokered review would be very small.

Instead, the authors chose to release their findings, confident that all, including the urban-cooling paper, will be published. The Oct. 20 release states that the four papers will form part of the literature for the next IPCC report on climate change. The IPCC, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is under extreme pressure to stop using non-peer-reviewed science, as it did in its last report, in 2007. The next one is being assembled. …

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