When the so-called e-mail ‘scandal’ broke out, a number of carefully selected statements from several scientists were chosen to give the false impression that they were engaging in covering up the facts about Global Warming. One of these statements was from Phil Jones, who was quoted as saying:
“I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick […] to hide the decline”.
The entire quote, however, is:
“I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (from 1981 onward) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline”.
Skeptics removed 19 words from mid-sentence (Not including the words in parenthesis).
With this context missing, particularly the phrase “add the real temps, it is falsely interpreted to mean that Jones was ‘tricking’ the public and ‘hiding’ something. But does it really mean that or is it a case of professional jargon that was opportunistically quoted out of context?
The word “trick” can be used in two different and opposing ways. One is to fool somebody or play a prank on them. The other more serious definition is to present a shortcut or different way of solving a problem. Every profession, scientific or otherwise, has their own system of solving problems and they adopt the phrase “Tricks of the trade” to show other members different ways of solving a problem or learning something.
Below are examples of how the phrase is used by scientists, doctors, and other professionals:
- Scientific research in general: Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about Your Research While You’re Doing It
- Heart surgery: Pacing Options in the Adult Patient with Congenital Heart Disease – Tricks of the trade
- Spinal surgery: Spine Surgery: Tricks of the Trade.
- Science education: Tricks of the Trade.
- Astronomy: Pulsar Searches – Tricks of the Trade (Chapter title).
- Writers: The English Journal – Tricks of the Trade
- Bicycling: Tricks of the Trade: Episode 1 (Video and text)
Also, scientists and other professionals use the word “trick” alone:
- Mathematics: Some tricks from the symmetry-toolbox for nonlinear equations: generalizations of the Camassa-Holm equation
- Economics: Big data: New tricks for econometrics
- Education: Teaching statistics: A bag of tricks
- Medicine – brain physiology: Cerebral venous thrombosis and multidetector CT angiography: tips and tricks
- Neurobiology: The basal ganglia: learning new tricks and loving it
- Astronautics – Aeronautics: Add fluorescent minitufts to the aerodynamicist’s bag of tricks
As for “hiding the decline” the misconception, regarding this email, is that “decline” refers to declining temperatures. It actually refers to a decline in the reliability of tree ring data to reflect temperatures after 1961.
The flaw was discovered when the tree-ring data was tested against other data and showed a decline in tree-ring growth. This was due to a number of possible contributing factors such as the effects of increased warming on the growth of trees as Silva et al. (2010) shows:
“Our results show an unexpected widespread tree growth decline in temperate and boreal forests due to warming induced stress but are also suggestive of additional stressors. Rising atmospheric CO2 levels during the past century resulted in consistent increases in water use efficiency, but this did not prevent growth decline.”
Context and special usage of words are critical to the understanding of any information, scientific or otherwise.