Wrapped up in books: Don Easterbrook drags Elsevier through the mud

by Gareth on October 30, 2011

Don Easterbrook, the retired geology professor with an unhealthy obsession about Greenland ice cores, is back. His latest book, the punchily titled Evidence-Based Climate Science – Data opposing CO2 emissions as the primary source of global warming, was published last month by Elsevier, “the world’s leading provider of science and health information” (they publish The Lancet, Grey’s Anatomy, and are part of the same group as the publishers of New Scientist). Don has penned an introduction, the opening chapter, and contributed to a couple of others, but he leaves the rest of the book to a hand-picked team of “leading climate scientists”. Here’s how the Elsevier blurb describes the book’s “key features”:

  • An unbiased, evidence-based analysis of the scientific data concerning climate change and global warming
  • Authored by 8 of the world’s leading climate scientists, each with more than 25 years of experience in the field
  • Extensive analysis of the physics of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and its role in global warming
  • Comprehensive citations, references, and bibliography
  • Adaptation strategies are presented as alternative reactions to greenhouse gas emission reductions

Regular readers will know that I have been following Don’s career as a climate expert with some interest, having caught him out stealing and altering other people’s work, misrepresenting the Greenland ice core evidence, and generally behaving in a manner unbecoming of a would-be distinguished academic. Imagine my surprise therefore when a little digging into the contents of Evidence-Based Climate Science (EBCS) showed that every one of the key features being trumpeted by Elsevier appears to be a gross misrepresentation of the content of the book. Let’s dig a little deeper…

This is how Elsevier — “the world’s leading provider of science information”, remember — describes the content:

Global warming and human-induced climate change are perhaps the most important scientific issues of our time. These issues continue to be debated in the scientific community and in the media without true consensus about the role of greenhouse gas emissions as a contributing factor.

Evidence-Based Climate Science: Data opposing CO2 emissions as the primary source of global warming objectively gathers and analyzes scientific data concerning patterns of past climate changes, influences of changes in ocean temperatures, the effect of solar variation on global climate, and the effect of CO2 on global climate to clearly and objectively present counter-global-warming evidence not embraced by proponents of CO2.

Unfortunately, reading those parts of the book that are available online1 shows that the book is far from being an objective analysis of anything to do with climate science.

But who are Don’s co-authors? The Elsevier page gives nothing away, and their free sample chapter, Evidence for Synchronous Global Climatic Events: Cosmogenic Exposure Ages of Glaciations is credited to Easterbrook and John Gosse, Cody Sherard, Ed Evenson and Robert Finkel. Fine scientists though these friends and former students of Don might be, they are not leading climate scientists. It took a while, but eventually I laid hands on a copy of the table of contents, and I nearly fell off my chair.

BunnyTOC

The world’s leading provider of science information is trying to persuade us that former µWatts blogger Steven Goddard2, potty peer Christopher Monckton, sea level rise crank Nils-Axel Mörner, meteorologist and µWatts regular Joe D’Aleo and Aussie David Archibald are somehow “leading climate scientists”. Even the chapter authors who are, or could be loosely described as working in climate science, are figures from well out of the mainstream — William Gray, Phil Klotzbach, and Nicola Scafetta.

As far as the contents are concerned, a cursory glance at Easterbrook’s offerings confirm that he’s still running the same old Greenland ice core misrepresentations: Figures 24 and 25, for instance, show that he’s still referring to 1855 temperatures at the top of the Greenland ice sheet as “present temperatures”3 He also repeats his egregious error about England and wine growing — he states “wine grapes were grown as far north as England where growing grapes is now not feasible”4, which will be news to the expanding English (and Welsh) wine business.

Editorial standards are no higher elsewhere in the book. Goddard is given a chapter on Arctic sea ice5 and one on 2010′s record temperatures. In the latter, he manages to libel NASA and the Goddard Institute of Space Studies by stating that Arctic temperatures are fabricated in the GISS global temperature series. Mörner’s chapters amount to little more than a restatement of his claim that sea levels at the Maldives are not rising — despite the fact that his original 2004 paper was so bad that it attracted no fewer than three rapid rebuttals in the literature.

If EBCS were just another in the long line of climate sceptic compilations of blog posts and self-published essays, cobbled together by a right wing press or well-funded US think tank, all of this would be par for the course. But EBCS is published under the Elsevier imprimatur — an addition to their atmospheric sciences list, priced at US$119.95. In academic publishing, Elsevier has a long and enviable record, and a fine list of titles. Yet somehow it has allowed Easterbrook to get away with a book replete with errors, misrepresentations and statements that border on libellous. Let’s review the “key features” of EBCS, as featured in their blurb.

  • An unbiased, evidence-based analysis of the scientific data concerning climate change and global warming

Unbiased? Let me quote Easterbrook’s introduction:

With no unequivocal, “smoking gun”, cause-and-effect evidence that CO2 caused the 1977 – 1998 global warming, and despite the media blitz over the 2007 IPCC report, no tangible physical evidence exists that CO2 is causing global warming. Computer climate models assume that CO2 is the cause and computer model simulations are all based on that assumption.

Easterbrook completely ignores the well-established physics of carbon dioxide. That doesn’t count as a lack of bias, it demonstrates aggressive ignorance and a complete lack of objectivity. That any academic publisher would allow him to so misrepresent the underlying science beggars belief.

  • Authored by 8 of the world’s leading climate scientists, each with more than 25 years of experience in the field

It’s not clear to me who these 8 paragons might be. Easterbrook himself doesn’t qualify as a “leading climate scientist”. Perhaps Elsevier believes that Steven Goddard fits that bill. If so, it is on its own.

  • Extensive analysis of the physics of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and its role in global warming

A chapter by Monckton! A fringe UK politician and puzzle designer is the best they can do?

  • Comprehensive citations, references, and bibliography

There is a long list of of references. A lot of them to blog posts by the usual suspects. Not what one might expect in a weighty academic tome.

  • Adaptation strategies are presented as alternative reactions to greenhouse gas emission reductions

It’s not obvious from the table of contents where that material can be found in the book.

We are left with a major and well-respected academic publisher giving free reign to Easterbrook’s fantastical view of climate reality. Did no critical eye read the material before it was published? Was there no-one at Elsevier who thought that fact-checking Easterbrook might be a good idea? Did a manager make the sordid calculation that letting a few lies through the net might be good for business? Or was the editor of the atmospheric sciences list simply clueless and naive? Whatever the truth, Evidence-Based Climate Science – Data opposing CO2 emissions as the primary source of global warming contains precious little evidence and less real science.

[Belle & Sebastian, perhaps a homage to Sir Clifford?]

  1. Amazon provides a “Look Inside” preview of most of Easterbrook’s introduction and opening chapter, and brief glimpses of other sections of the book. A pdf that appears to be more or less the same as his opening chapter is available at Scribd. Both of Mörner’s chapters have been scanned and made available at the NZ CSC website. Chapter Two is available as a sample chapter at the Elsevier site. []
  2. Goddard is chiefly memorable for his sequence of posts about Arctic sea ice at µWatts, culminating in a remarkable post in which he got a trend calculation spectacularly wrong. Shortly afterwards, Watts banned Goddard, making him that rare thing – a µWatts writer who failed to live up to AW’s standards. He has since set up his own blog, laughably titled Real Science. []
  3. They were figures 4 and 5 in his January µWatts essay which purported to show that most of the last 10,000 years had been warmer than today. See http://hot-topic.co.nz/easterbrooks-wrong-again/. []
  4. p26 []
  5. Not available on the web as far as can I see, though I shudder to think what it might contain. []

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas October 31, 2011 at 1:30 am

Oh dear! Perhaps this will cause some heads to roll at Elsevier when the dust has settled….

mspelto October 31, 2011 at 4:33 am

I am not interested in buying the book but I wonder if he has continued to use photographs of Mount Baker glaciers that I took and emailed to him many years ago, and that he has not attributed to me in other work of his. Figure 20c and 21c in this report for example Let me know if anyone has this book.

Gareth October 31, 2011 at 8:39 am

Have a look at the Amazon page (linked in the first footnote) and then “look inside” the book. There are three photographs of Mt Baker (p31,32, 33). If those are your photographs, then Don has broken Elsevier’s rules on copyright clearance… (You didn’t leave a working reference, so I can’t check for myself…)

Carol Stewart October 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

On the subject of things that should not have made it into print – there’s a silly story in the latest North and South along the same lines. By Graham Adams, IIRC. Presenting old, tired and discredited ideas as if they were something new.

cindy October 31, 2011 at 10:01 am

Elsevier also publishes “Ecological Complexity”, the journal that ran the Dyck/Soon/Baliunas/Legates piece of rubbish (funded by Kochs, Exxon and the API) on how the Arctic isn’t melting and polar bears more affected by tourism than melting ice.

mspelto October 31, 2011 at 11:14 am

Thanks Gareth yes Figure 37 and 40 are pictures I took, though he has added an arrow and changed the date on the Boulder Glacier advance line.
The Easton Glacier picture has been published a number of time including in Hyrdologic Processes.
Preprint here:
The Boulder Glacier has seen even more widespread use. Though I am not sure where I first published it. It has been in many books.

Gareth October 31, 2011 at 11:27 am

And you can confirm that he has used these pictures without your permission? Not only in this book but on other occasions…

Mr February October 31, 2011 at 8:13 pm

From your description, Easterbrook’s book reminds me of the plot of Umberto Eco’s novel “Fourcault’s Pendulum”, where the leading characters are slightly dodgy Italian publishers who make a living encouraging conspiracy theorists to ‘privately’ and very expensively publish their diabolical dialectical dirges! Perhaps Elsevier has a similar division?

bill November 1, 2011 at 11:29 am

Ah, Eco’s last readable book, to my mind. Well, of fiction, anyway.

Also contains a fine, earthy refutation of the absurdities of esoteric conspiracy by the protagonist’s girlfriend in the closing pages that many deniers would do well to read, and even ends with a virtual punchline on the whole subject – ‘Sir, you’re crazy’ (sorry if this is a spoiler for anyone!)

But, Dear God, how many pages of Crowleyite waffle have we had to wade through in order to get there?!

And, yeah, I looked at publishing very differently after reading that book. The contrasting of a real, crass, money-grubbing, conspiracy to all the alchemical nonsense is also a refreshing slap in the face for the ‘high brow’ credulous. A ‘Vanity Press’ indeed!

Gareth November 1, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Great book, Foucault’s Pendulum. Last Eco I read was The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana which was certainly very readable…

Perhaps what the deniers need is what Eco’s FP got: a Dan Brown to dumb it down. If that’s possible.

bill November 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Truly one of the great opening chapters (FP); it reminded me of the similar experience I had with Ulysses* – finish the first, blink a few times and wonder what the hell just happened, go back and reread s l o w l y…

I confess that I have not read Queen LoanaThe Island of the Day Before finished me, I’m afraid. This is probably extremely unreasonable of me.

The Name of the Rose remains one of my favourite books – and the film is one of that small contingent I think of as ‘decent films with Sean Connery in them’. (A bit like ‘films that are watchable despite Tom Hanks.’) Like Zardoz

*Joyce was an acknowledged influence, I note.

Gareth November 1, 2011 at 9:30 pm

The Island Of The Day Before finished me too – in the sense that it joined the small number of unfinished books on my shelves, Pynchon’s Against The Day among them…

Kiwiiano October 31, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Maybe there’s a chance Elsevier will make a retraction….*
See http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111005/full/478026a.html
(big increase in journal articles retracted of late)

* why is that little pink birdy up in the tree going “oink, oink”?

mspelto November 1, 2011 at 6:32 am

Gareth I can confirm. Since I do a fair amount of reviewing for Elsevier it is time to contact them. The pictures have been readily available if someone wishes to at the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project Don has used these for years and attributed them to someone else, but in a 2007 email from him it is clear he knows where they came from.
Mauri,

“If May is a bad time for you, one option might be for me to finish the abstract on Mt. Baker glaciers by adding material from your website to the data I already have, make you a co-author, and present the paper myself. I can finish updating my Mt. Baker database using the photos that I currently have, but from the looks of your website, you’ve already done what I would be doing (and I have no desire to ‘reinvent the wheel’).

Do you have vertical air photos of the Baker glaciers? I want to plot all my data on one set of photos, preferably as recent as possible. The newest ones I have are 1985, but I’l like to use some that are more recent.

Don

“Pelto, Mauri S” wrote:
Don: Good to hear from you. It was a treat visiting and teaching Joel about glaciers in visiting the Mount Baker glaciers in 1990. I have continued to measure the mass balance of two mount Baker glaciers, surface elevations on three and terminus positions on all of them. I have published the results in three key articles.

Pelto, M.S. 2006. The current disequilibrium of North Cascade Glaciers. Hydrologic Processes, 20, 769-779.

Pelto, M.S. and P.L.Hartzell, 2004: Change in longitudinal profile on three North Cascades glaciers during the last 100 years. Hydrologic Processes 18, 1139-1146.

Pelto, M.S. and C. Hedlund, 2001: The terminus behavior and response time of North Cascade glaciers. J. Glaciol. 47, 497-506

Gareth November 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Thanks Mauri. I’ll promote this exchange to its own post later…

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