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California wildfires. (Photo: fire.ca.gov)

Admission By Researcher Fuels the Fires of Climate Debate

Study on California wildfires purposefully left out the ‘full truth’

By Martin Marks, September 19, 2023 6:39 am

When called as a witness in a court of law, prior to testifying one must swear or affirm that the testimony about to be given is “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” There is good reason for this. Simply not lying falls short of what is necessary in the search for Truth. If not for this solemn and important oath, one could deliberately hold back facts or even tell half-truths and still be technically telling the truth. And this is why witnesses must pledge to this higher and more complete standard of truth-telling.

Perhaps it is time for scientists and researchers to swear or affirm that their research and conclusions are in fact the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth prior to having their work published. After all, it is this research that so often drives public policy and personal behavior. We rely on it heavily in our everyday lives.

Unfortunately, we have gotten to the point where the necessary trust we have placed in scientists and researchers is waning as all too often, research and its authors have been exposed as having an agenda for something other than reporting the whole truth. In fact, in a recent survey sponsored by the Associated Press, it was found that 39% of U.S. adults reported “a great deal of confidence” in the scientific community, down from 48% in 2018 and 2021. Additionally, 48% of adults in the latest survey reported “only some” confidence, while 13% reported “hardly any.” Looking at the time parameter of the survey, there can be little doubt that this fairly dramatic shift in public opinion is centered around the Covid 19 pandemic. Yet it is hard to dismiss other factors, including the ongoing debate on anthropogenic climate change as germane to the trend.

Just recently, a climate scientist out of Johns Hopkins University dropped a bomb on the scientific community that had reverberations beyond, calling into question the integrity of scientific researchers and more specifically the journals that publish their work. This climate scientist is Patrick T. Brown, Ph.D. He is Co-Director of the Climate and Energy Team at the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research organization located in Berkely, CA.

Dr. Brown had recently released a study entitled Climate Warming Increases Extreme Daily Wildfire Growth Risk in California which was ultimately published in Nature, one of the preeminent journals for worldwide scientific reporting. Among its conclusions, the paper posited that Global Warming boosts wildfire growth in California by 25%. This kind of research coming out of the Breakthrough Institute came as no surprise and of course received prominent attention in major California periodicals. 

The firestorms, if you will, came soon after when Dr. Brown published an essay at an online site The Free Press entitled, “I Left Out The Full Truth To Get My Climate Change Paper Published.”

Brown confesses that he knowingly withheld data and analysis from his Nature article knowing that in doing so it would increase the likelihood of his paper being published. He writes:

My paper “……focuses exclusively on how climate change has affected extreme wildfire behavior. I knew not to try to quantify key aspects other than climate change in my research because it would dilute the story that prestigious journals like Nature and its rival, Science, want to tell.”

He goes on to write:

“This matters because it is critically important for scientists to be published in high-profile journals; in many ways, they are the gatekeepers for career success in academia. And the editors of these journals have made it abundantly clear, both by what they publish and what they reject, that they want climate papers that support certain preapproved narratives—even when those narratives come at the expense of broader knowledge for society.”

While this is all a revealing mea culpa from one respected scientist, it is a more of stinging indictment of the scientific community as a whole and perhaps more importantly, the journals that publish their work.

We have come to expect this type of bias from the mainstream media as they have their narratives to promote and facts and alternative theories and opinions be damned if necessary. But, from the scientific community as well? Apparently so.

The reverberations from Brown’s follow up article were predictable. Those invested in the Climate Change narrative in essence ignored the professor’s assertion that there is something very wrong when heretofore independent scientific journals are accepting or denying publication of papers based upon their own biased orthodoxies. Instead, they, and Brown’s co-authors focused on the presentation of the data and conclusions put forth in the original article published in Nature as if they should simply stand alone on their own merit.

Others, like Neil Lareau, a professor of Atmospheric Studies at the University of Nevada-Reno said, “I don’t understand what his issue is with his own paper. I find the whole thing really bizarre.” He went on to say that he feared that this episode would fuel climate change denial conspiracies for decades.

To that end, several conservative-leaning media outlets such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America Network have been clamoring for interviews with Dr. Brown perhaps in an effort to promote that skepticism in the public at large or perhaps to simply shine a light on those that continually fall back on their Trust the Science mantra. To date, Dr. Brown has not agreed to be interviewed by these outlets.

Magdelena Skipper, the Editor in Chief of Nature Magazine offered a written statement on the matter that focused more on Dr. Brown’s motivations and actions while all but ignoring those of her publication or others like them. She said:

Nature “is carefully considering the implications of Dr. Brown’s stated actions which reflect poor research practices. The only thing in Patrick Brown’s statement about the editorial process in scholarly journals that we agree upon is that science should not work through the efforts by which he published this article.”

Aside from the biases alleged by Dr. Brown in the processes that lead to the publication of scientific articles, the professor does bring forth some rather cogent points on the topic of Climate Change itself. While he firmly believes the phenomenon is real and is having dramatic results on our lives and environment, he appears to feel that the left-leaning orthodoxy that promulgates the idea that moving away from the use of fossil fuels as the sole mitigation for the effects of Climate Change is unnecessarily narrow.

In an interview with the L.A. Times, Brown said:

“I just think that what comes out of that on the other end, in terms of what’s communicated to the public, is misleading in terms of how large the climate change impact is relative to everything else. I also think that it diverts attention away from direct solutions or adaptation strategies on the ground in the here and now. “

He expanded on that premise in his follow up article in The Free Press by writing:

“So, in my recent Nature paper, which I authored with seven others, I focused narrowly on the influence of climate change on extreme wildfire behavior. Make no mistake: that influence is very real. But there are also other factors that can be just as or more important, such as poor forest management and the increasing number of people who start wildfires either accidentally or purposely. (A startling fact: over 80 percent of wildfires in the US are ignited by humans.)” 

 He and his co-authors left any discussion of these other factors out of the paper fearing that to include them would muddy the waters and ultimately prevent their research from being published. The Left—and evidently we can now include celebrated scientific journals such as Nature in this group, simply don’t want to hear about “other factors.”

As a parting and most accurate shot at the scientific community and the editorial process that gets their research published, Dr. Brown writes:

“In theory, scientific research should prize curiosity, dispassionate objectivity, and a commitment to uncovering the truth. Surely those are the qualities that editors of scientific journals should value.”

In our hyper partisan world, it is clear that “dispassionate objectivity” has long since met its demise in the once honored profession of journalism. Now it is apparently meeting a similar ignominious end in the world of science.

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3 thoughts on “Admission By Researcher Fuels the Fires of Climate Debate

  1. Dear Martin,
    Dr Browns’ actions were very risky and may have cost him his career.
    I salute him for his courage because I know from 58 years (yes, fifty eight years) of trying to get my fellow scientists to recognise that they have been living with a scientific error at the heart of thermodynamics.
    The consequence of this error is that we the scientists are primarily to blame for anthropogenic global warming.
    I n the last seven years I have submitted two papers to NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE and a paper to NATURE making this claim, but on all occasions my papers has been rejected without even being submitted to peer reliview.
    I can send you details of my latest paper and evidence of rejection if you can supply me with an email address. Alternately, you can get a general idea about my struggles with the science establishment on my Cheshire Innovation website
    Go to the menu bar at the top of the home page and drop down the Latent Power Turbines menu.

  2. We were non renewed on our homeowners insurance in 2022 for our property in Napa CA. Many of the insurers are pulling out of the CA market. Everyone has no doubt heard of all the widefires in recent years in the state. Our insurer said they were caused by climate change.
    So looked at the CalFire incident history, below is the look at fire incident archive in CA for the last few years.

    2023 wildland fires 5122 acres burned 257,220
    2022 5556 192,391
    2021 7396 2,569,386
    2020 8648 4,304,379
    2019 7148 277,285
    2018 7948 1,975,086
    2017 9270 1,548,429
    2016 6954 669,534
    5-Year Average, wildland fires 5,812, acres burned 1,027,913
    So, on average each year .0872% of the State of California burns.
    To add some perspective, that is the last 3.13 inches of a 100 yard football field. The HO insurance rates are up 200% to 400%.

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