Another perversion of science: Confirmation bias in the name of global warming dogma is also scientific misconduct

A new paper has been published in Ecology Letters

Ran Nathan, Nir Horvitz, Yanping He, Anna Kuparinen, Frank M. Schurr, Gabriel G. Katul. Spread of North American wind-dispersed trees in future environmentsEcology Letters, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01573.

In this paper the authors have assumed that climate change will cause changes to CO2 concentration and wind speed. They have assumed also that increased CO2 will “increase fecundity and advance maturation”. They have then modelled the spread of 12 species as a function of wind speed.

So far so good – they have actually modelled only the effect of wind speed  which they assume will reduce due to climate change.

Their results basically showed no effect of wind speed:

“Future spread is predicted to be faster if atmospheric CO2 enrichment would increase fecundity and advance maturation, irrespective of the projected changes in mean surface windspeed”.

And now comes the perversion!

From their fundamental conclusion that wind speed has no effect and that therefore any CO2 increase resulting from climate change will enhance the spread of the trees, they invoke “expected” effects to deny what they have just shown:

“Yet, for only a few species, predicted wind-driven spread will match future climate changes, conditioned on seed abscission occurring only in strong winds and environmental conditions favouring high survival of the farthest-dispersed seeds. Because such conditions are unlikely, North American wind-dispersed trees are expected to lag behind the projected climate range shift.”

This final conclusion is based on absolutely nothing  and their modelling showed nothing and yet this paper was accepted for publication. I have no problem that a result showing “no effect of wind speed” be published but suspect that it needed the nonsense, speculative conclusion to comply with current dogma.

Science Daily then produces the headline: Climate Change Threatens Many Tree Species

when the reality is

This study Shows No Effect of Wind Speed But Yet We Believe that Climate Change Threatens Many Tree Species

“Our research indicates that the natural wind-driven spread of many species of trees will increase, but will occur at a significantly lower pace than that which will be required to cope with the changes in surface temperature,” said Prof. Nathan. “This will raise extinction risk of many tree populations because they will not be able to track the shift in their natural habitats which currently supply them with favorable conditions for establishment and reproduction. As a result, the composition of different tree species in future forests is expected to change and their areas might be reduced, the goods and services that these forests provide for man might be harmed, and wide-ranging steps will have to be taken to ensure seed dispersal in a controlled, directed manner.”

Whether the perversion is by the authors themselves anticipating what is needed to get a paper published or whether it is due to pressure from the Journal Ecology Letters or by their referees is unclear.

Abstract:

Despite ample research, understanding plant spread and predicting their ability to track projected climate changes remain a formidable challenge to be confronted. We modelled the spread of North American wind-dispersed trees in current and future (c. 2060) conditions, accounting for variation in 10 key dispersal, demographic and environmental factors affecting population spread. Predicted spread rates vary substantially among 12 study species, primarily due to inter-specific variation in maturation age, fecundity and seed terminal velocity. Future spread is predicted to be faster if atmospheric CO2 enrichment would increase fecundity and advance maturation, irrespective of the projected changes in mean surface windspeed. Yet, for only a few species, predicted wind-driven spread will match future climate changes, conditioned on seed abscission occurring only in strong winds and environmental conditions favouring high survival of the farthest-dispersed seeds. Because such conditions are unlikely, North American wind-dispersed trees are expected to lag behind the projected climate range shift.

In essence this paper is only based on belief and the results actually obtained are denied. It seems to me that denying or twisting or “moulding” results actually obtained to fit pre-conceived notions is not just a case of confirmation bias but comes very close to scientific misconduct.

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