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August 23 2012

19:09

Daily Kos Climate Change SOS Blogathon Features Wide Range of Climate Hawk Voices

Our friends over at Daily Kos are running an amazing Climate Change SOS Blogathon this week, featuring dozens of voices from the climate hawk community. Bill McKibben, Michael Mann, John Abraham, Rep. Ed Markey, A Siegel, Richard Heinberg, Heather Libby, Brad Johnson, Kelly Rigg and DeSmog's IT director Evan Leeson are just some of the many friends of DeSmog that are contributing posts throughout the week-long blogathon.

I jumped into the action as well, contributing a piece on Tuesday titled Breaking Up With Polluters To Save The Climate.

Greg Laden just posted a scary piece about the implications of sea level rise for future generations.

There is a lot of great content. I highly recommend heading over to Daily Kos to check it out. Here is a full run-down of the posts so far. Stay tuned to the Climate Change SOS Blogathon box at the bottom of most posts to keep up with the newer entries.

 

August 01 2012

20:47

Victory Declared For The Climate Science Denialists

A VICTORY has been declared in the field of climate change but the lap of honour is not being run by research scientists or renewable energy bosses, or by coral reefs, drought-stricken farmers or the citizens of low-lying countries.

Rather, if you accept as valid this declaration of victory from one of Australia’s leading thinkers, then those popping the champagne corks are the fossil fuel lobby.

Standing by the track cheering this triumph, are the conservative think tanks and the free market ideologues that believe the world should be run on their terms. To follow the analogy through to the bitter end, the losers are everyone else.

Professor Robert Manne, a political philosopher at La Trobe University, is making this declaration in a 7000-word essay published tomorrow in The Monthly magazine – its cover screaming “Victory of the Denialists: How Climate Science Was Vanquished”.

Manne’s essay charts the decades-long effort to spread doubt and confusion about the science of human-caused climate change, focusing on the think tanks and corporations that created and backed a “relentless” campaign in the United States which has infected other parts of the western world, including Australia.

Manne draws on already published books and research papers about the climate denial industry, and so in that respect close watchers won’t find anything new. But it is his declaration that climate science denialists have won which will stick in the throat of many climate change campaigners and science communicators.

I asked Professor Manne why he had come to that conclusion.

I find it difficult to see how a reasonably objective observer could deny that this is what has happened—gradually at first but also dramatically since the end of 2009 due largely to the combination of the failure of Copenhagen and the impact of 'Climategate'.

 

The victory I write about is limited to the United States, although denialism is an important and almost certainly growing movement in Canada, Australia and the UK.

If climate change denialists are pleased [by the conclusion] then they have chosen to ignore the explicit claim of the article that they are part of an irrationalist movement that is placing the future of the Earth at risk. The role of analysis is to be as faithful to the truth as one can be, not to boost morale or to support delusion.

For the denialists to be “victorious” they do not need to "prove" that global warming is a "hoax". All they have to do is to "manufacture doubt", that is to say to create a substantial level of public doubt about the solidity of the science.


According to Manne, President Barack Obama has been “nobbled” by the denialist campaign and the Republican Party almost “entirely converted” to denying the science.

Manne concludes in his essay that the success of the denialist campaign is one that subsequent generations will look upon “as perhaps the darkest in the history of humankind”.

But just as Manne makes his declaration, a project funded by two of America’s greatest supporters of the “denialist” campaign has backfired spectacularly.

Professor Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley, led a project that accepted a $150,000 donation from a foundation controlled by the Koch brothers to study global temperature records (the Kochs have pumped millions into the global climate denial campaign).

Muller had previously stated that claims by skeptics that temperature records were unreliable merited a major investigation. He has also previously criticised the work of Pennsylvania State University scientist Professor Michael Manne, whose research gave birth to the now famous hockey stick graph showing a sharp rise in recent global temperatures.

After going through 1.6 billion records from 36,000 temperature stations, Muller’s team says the world’s temperature has risen by 1.5C in the 250 years since the start of the industrial revolution. More than half of this increase has occurred in the last 50 years.

What’s more, Muller now says that human activity, mainly burning fossil fuels, is to blame for practically all of that warming.

Muller’s study, which has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, has been widely reported not because of a novel approach to climate science research, or because it tells us anything new, but rather because of his reported “conversion” from being skeptical to accepting the science.  He now describes himself as a “converted skeptic”.

Presumably, the oil rich Koch brothers were so convinced the world’s temperature gauges were lying, that they were happy to provide a no strings donation to Muller’s project, which stipulated its donors  “have no say over how we conduct the research or what we publish”.

But in a chronology, Muller’s work has come to essentially the same conclusion as the rest of the climate science community, except they got there a good decade or so earlier.

In The Monthly, Manne defines “denialists” as “orthodox members of a tightly knit group whose natural disposition is not to think for themselves”.

But on the same spectrum is a group of individuals, lobbyists and think-tankers who hide their skepticism behind a charade of pragmatism. Professor Clive Hamilton, recently appointed to board of the Australian Government’s Climate Change Authority, describes them as the “luke warmists”.

Luke warmists, Hamilton wrote recently, accept the science but relentlessly and unrealistically emphasise uncertainties, play down the dangers and advocate for only tokenistic, low-impact policy responses.

But what about those world leaders who have accepted the science of human caused climate change and have articulated the risks? Even these have hardly covered themselves in glory.

Because after Kyotos, Copenhagens, Durbans, Cancuns and revisits to Rio for new earth summits, the world’s emissions continue to boom reaching an all-time record last year.

Even though Australia has introduced a price on greenhouse gas emissions on the heaviest polluters, the scheme will allow these emitters to buy carbon credits from overseas to offset as much as half their liabilities.

This means that Australia’s domestically generated emissions will likely rise for the next 20 years, although not nearly as quickly as they would have risen without the scheme altogether.

Bizarrely, this situation is seen by some as major progress.

The carbon price is an important step forward and will help drive the roll-out of renewable energy in the same way that decades of subsidies have helped the fossil fuel industry to retain its market dominance.

But then there is Australia’s hypocritical position of claiming to be concerned about climate change while at the same time becoming a world leader in the export of coal and gas to be burned outside the jurisdiction of any carbon pricing mechanism (although plans to price carbon in China could change things).

Research just published by not-for-profit group Beyond Zero Emissions suggests when Australia’s domestic emissions are added to those from the coal and gas we export, Australia becomes a major global emitter, ranking sixth globally.

The BZE Laggard to Leader report finds that by 2030, the emissions locked-up in Australian coal and gas exports would combine with domestic emissions to give the country an annual carbon footprint in the region of 2.2 billion tonnes.

In terms of exports, these emissions from Australian coal and gas exports will be almost double those coming from Saudi Arabia’s exports of oil.

And this is the position currently being advocated by Australia, whose Prime Minister Julia Gillard says that inaction on climate change is “ultimately threatening for our planet”. She is certainly no “denialist”.

Robert Manne says the denialist triumph might not be stable “in the long term”.“Who can tell?” he said in an email to me. “As Maynard Keynes once famously observed: in the long-term we are all dead."

July 26 2012

18:52

Affidavits in Michael Mann Libel Suit Reveal Astonishing Facts About Tim Ball Associate John O'Sullivan

Affidavits filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court libel litigation brought by climate scientist Michael Mann against climate science denier Timothy Ball reveal that Ball's collaborator and self-styled "legal advisor" has misrepresented his credentials and endured some significant legal embarrassments of his own. 

The affidavits also reveal that Tim Ball was "aware of the charges against John O'Sullivan almost from the start" and has tried to distance himself from his erstwhile advisor and writing partner.

The affidavits [12] come from research of science and medical writer Andrew Skolnick, who documents O'Sullivan's misrepresentations, backtracking and questionable behavior.

Tim Ball and John O'Sullivan had a close working relationship, even before Mann sued Ball for libel in March 2011. For example, they co-authored the climate science denial book Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, which was published in 2010.

Skolnick's evidence shows that O'Sullivan made a series of false claims, including:

  • that he was an attorney with more than a decade of successful litigation in New York State and Federal courts;
  • that he was employed by a major Victoria, B.C.(Canada) law firm that is representing Ball in the libel action;
  • that he is a widely published writer, with credits in Forbes and the National Review;
  • that he had received his law degree from the University College, Cork, Ireland and/or from the University of Surrey (O'Sullivan's actual legal accreditation, apparently obtained after the Mann-Ball action commenced, comes from an online degree mill, Hill University, which promises delivery in two weeks);
  • that he is a member of the American Bar Association.

One affidavit includes an online comment in which O'Sullivan says, "For your information, I am a retired academic and I have litigated personally or assisted others in pro se litigation at every level of court there is in New York State as well as Federal level, for over a decade and never lost." 

Although O'Sullivan admits in this particular comment that he is not, in fact, licensed to practice law, in the U.S. or the U.K., he adds, "I'm just some Brit with a brain who can go live with his American wife in her country and kick ass big time around a courtroom."

Certainly, O'Sullivan was successful in winning an acquittal when he was personally charged in England as a high school teacher accused of sending lewd text messages and assaulting a 16-year-old female. Given the acquittal, it would not generally be appropriate to bring up this sordid and unproven bit of history, except that O'Sullivan himself went on to write an "erotic" "novel" with a startlingly similar storyline: Vanilla Girl: a Fact-Based Crime Story of a Teacher's Struggle to Control His Erotic Obsession with a Schoolgirl.

Although eager to present himself as a science researcher of accomplishment - certainly Tim Ball's equal - Skolnick's research found that O'Sullivan is highly prone to error, whether intentional or not.

For example, O'Sullivan provided bogus contact information when registering as a member* with the New York County Lawyers' Association, an organization that apparently does not vet its members' qualifications (and does not, in any case, bestow the right to practice law). While O'Sullivan claimed to be with a firm named "Principia Scientific International," he provided the address of a construction company called Second Nature Construction; the phone number and fax number didn't belong to O'Sullivan or anyone connected to "Principia," either.

Principia certainly exists in some form. According to its website, O'Sullivan is its CEO, and Tim Ball is Chairman. Other members include climate deniers Paul DriessenPaul Reiter and more. Principia notes that it operates as a "private association rather than a charitable foundation. This is because PSI chooses to operate with the relative freedom of any start up association that has yet to determine whether it may fulfil its long term purpose as either a business with the private profit motive or a charity."
 

This information emerged, and became relevant to this most recent libel action against Tim Ball, in part because Ball himself, in his Response to Civil Claim, stated that his communications with O'Sullivan were subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Mann then filed a reply, pointing out the facts documented in Skolnick's affidavits. As Mann's lawsuit proceeds, the court will inevitably rule on Ball's claim for "solicitor-client" privilege.

In the meantime, Ball has not submitted any affidavit from O'Sullivan attesting to his qualifications as Ball's legal advisor. If he did, O'Sullivan would be subject to cross-examination by Michael Mann's lawyer.
  

* The original post mistakenly said O'Sullivan was registering as an 'associate' member; in fact he registered as a member and was granted membership, despite not having a valid law degree or Bar certification in New York. We regret the error.

AttachmentSize 2012 04 19 - Affidavit 1 of Skolnick.pdf11.96 MB 2012 05 29 - Affidavit 2 of A Skolnick.pdf2.69 MB

March 30 2012

18:20

The Hockey Stick from the Source : Michael Mann’s Congressional Testimony


With all the talk, pontificating, and “controversy” surrounding the “hockey stick” climate graph that has made climate scientist Michael Mann famous, it’s now a good idea to go to the source. These videos are from  greenman3610′s “Climate Crock of the Week” channel.

February 17 2012

21:40

Climategate victims chide Heartland double standard

A group of top-tier climate scientists who were victimized in the email theft known as Climategate has written to the Heartland Institute, sympathizing that the Institute is reading its own confidential documents in the public press, but chiding the "think tank" for how irresponsibly it dealt with the stolen emails.

In a letter printed in The Guardian, the scientists say,

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

The signatories were Michael Mann, Kevin Trenberth, Ray Bradley, Jonathan Overpeck, Ben Santer, Gavin Schmidt and David Karoly, a relative who's who of climate science excellence.

They point out that when the Climategate emails were stolen, Heartland took bits and pieces out of context (and, we would add, advocated for punitive action against the scientists on the basis of these manipulations). At no time did the institute suggest that the hackers who breached the East Anglia University security system to steal the emails had been in the wrong to do so.

In the case at hand, (and as Heartland explains in its own press release) an anonymous "Heartland Insider" asked the Institute to mail the entire briefing package for its January board meeting - and Heartland complied. Having received that package, the DeSmogBlog checked the content against research we had in hand to confirm its authenticity. Then we published it - in its entirety, so there could be no doubt about the context - on our website on Valentines's Day.

read more

04:23

It’s a bird; it’s a hockey stick; it’s a faked document!

 

Heartland response would be a useful PR tactic

The Climate Strategy that was emailed to the DeSmogBlog with a package of material from the Heartland Institute’s Jan. 17 Board of Directors meeting is serving as an excellent distraction from the legitimate issues raised in the other documents and reinforced by the excellent research paper by DeSmogBlog contributor John Mashey.

The DeSmogBlog has no evidence supporting Heartland's claim that the Strategic document is fake. A close review of the content shows that it is overwhelmingly accurate (“almost too accurate” for one analyst), and while critics have said that it is “too short” or is distinguished by “an overuse of commas,” even the skeptics at weatherguy Anthony Watts’s WUWT say that a technical analysis of the metadata on the documents in question does not offer sufficient information to come to a firm conclusion either way.

But in the tradition of the famous, and famously controversial “hockey stick graph,” the challenge to the single document has afforded the DeSmogBlog’s critics – and Heartland’s supporters – something comfortable to obsess about while they avoid answering questions raised by the other documents.

In the case of the hockey stick, people such as Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit have led a chorus of criticism for years, alleging that a supposed statistical flaw in Michael Mann’s excellent and prescient work should be sufficient justification to dismiss not only Mann’s original graph, but all of climate science. This, notwithstanding the fact that dozens of other climate reconstructions have validated Mann’s conclusions and replicated the hockey stick shape of his graph. Thus, the hockey stick has been a convenient weapon for those (like Joe Bast, President of the Heartland Institute) who would like to take people’s attention from the legitimate science of climate change.

Now, we have a case where Bast admits that some dope on his staff emailed Heartland's whole board package to a stranger. Yet rather than praising the opportunity that this provides for independent observers to judge the performance of a taxpayer-subsidized body (Heartland is a registered charity), as Bast did when someone stole the so-called ClimateGate emails from leading scientists such as Mike Mann, the Heartland boss has attacked the veracity of the Climate Strategy and used that to attempt to dismiss the legitimacy of the other material (Heartland Institute Responds to Stolen and Fake Documents).

The deniergang echo chamber has since jumped on that chorus, with sites like Marc Morano’s Climate Depot, Steve Milloy’s Junkscience, and Anthony Watts at WUWT all sputtering in outrage, even as Watts confirmed that, well, the information in the document pertaining to him was, but for a rounding error, almost too accurate.

The DeSmogBlog is committed to accuracy. Joe Bast says the document is a fake, a statement we take with a grain of salt given the Heartland Institute’s previous dissembling on the subject of climate change and its discredited position on teh safety of second hand smoke.  In the circumstances, if the Heartland Institute can offer any specific criticism of the Climate Strategy or any evidence that it was faked and not, actually, written on Joe Bast’s laptop, printed out and scanned, we would be pleased to consider that evidence.

In the meantime, how about everybody take a moment to look away from the shiny penny in the magician's left hand and concentrate instead on the 100+ pages of damning evidence falling out of his right sleeve.

 

read more

February 03 2012

01:06

Coal-Powered PAC Runs Harassment Campaign Against Climate Scientist Michael Mann

by Brad Johnson, cross-posted with permission from ThinkProgress.

A coal-industry astroturf group is running a public campaign to harass Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann for his “radical agenda” of climate science. The Common Sense Movement/Secure Energy for America Political Action Committee (CSM/SEAPAC) has established a website asking people to criticize the Penn State Speakers Forum for allowing Michael Mann to speak about the climate change challenge. “Join us in calling on the administration to disinvite the disgraced academic,” the group says on its Facebook page.

On the webpage, CSM/SEAPAC accuses Mann of “manipulating scientific data to align with his extreme political views on global warming”:

On February 9th, the Penn State Forum Speaker’s Series is featuring Professor Michael Mann in a speech regarding global warming. This is the same professor who is at the center of the ‘Climategate’ controversy for allegedly manipulating scientific data to align with his extreme political views on global warming. Join us in calling on the administrators of Penn State to end its support of Michael Mann and his radical agenda.

The suggested text for the letter to editor says Mann is “conspiring with his left-wing cronies to intimidate and silence those who would dare to question his intentions,” tarring Mann with “questionable ethics” and “extreme political activism.”

read more

December 14 2011

21:02

DeSmogger "Caught" in Climategate Emails

The heretofore anonymous blogger Tom Nelson REVEALED today that even the DeSmogBlog has been caught in the talons of the DenierMobsters who are responsible for stealing the Climategate emails (two years ago) and retreading the bumptious "scandal" this year.

The (partial) quote now making the rounds (see also Mark Morano's fantasymill at Climate Depot), is from an email I sent to Michael Mann in 2007. It goes like this:

I'm a DeSmogBlog writer [Richard LIttlemore] (I got your email from Kevin Grandia) and I am trying to fend off the latest announcement that global warming has not actually occurred in the 20th century.

It looks to me like Gerd Burger is trying to deny climate change by "smoothing," "correcting" or otherwise rounding off the temperatures that we know for a flat fact have been recorded since the 1970s, but I am out of my depth (as I am sure you have noticed: we're all about PR here, not much about science) so I wonder if you guys have done anything or are going to do anything with Burger's intervention in Science.

I'd like to confirm that this quote is accurate - that Gerd Burger WAS playing fast and loose with his analysis, that I am NOT a scientist and that, accordingly, I check my facts with people who are reputable, knowledgeable and widely respected in the scientific community (thank you Mike).

I'd also like to say that getting so fleeting a mention in the Climategate emails ranks down there with the deepest-discount cheap thrills. I cherish the moment … seriously. (Okay, not.)

August 22 2011

20:05

National Science Foundation vindicates Michael Mann

Carbon steel "hockey stick" stronger than ever

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of the Inspector General, having conducted a thorough review and investigation into all allegations of impropriety or scientific misconduct against Penn State University Prof. Michael Mann, has dismissed all of those allegations for lack of evidence and closed the case (attached and/or here).

As reported by Joe Romm at Climate Progress, Mann has been the target of a host of allegations and attacks, many arising out of the iconic status of a graph (inset) that he created in a 1998 paper with Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes, and others sourced in the emails that hackers stole in 2009 from the the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

As the NSF now reports, none of Mann's critics ever showed the courage or conviction of actually laying a formal complaint before Penn State, where Mann is director of the Earth System Science Center. But the allegations were so prominent in the blogosphere and in mainstream media that the university took it upon itself to conduct an investigation. The NSF then reviewed Penn State's exculpatory findings, duplicating some parts of the investigation in greater detail.

The result? No shred of evidence exists to impugn Mann's work.

As Romm points out, the central conclusion drawn from the Hockey Stick - that temperatures, stable for a thousand years, have spiked dramatically since humans began using fossil fuels - is also being confirmed with each new study. It appears that, unless you are willfully blind or directly in the employ of the fossil fuel industry, the evidence - of climate change, as well as of Mann's scientific bona fides - is undeniable.

This is not likely to stop people like David Legates from continuing to misrepresent the contents of the East Anglia emails, nor would it be profitable to expect newpapers like the National Post or Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal to actually apologize to Mann and others or to make any other effort to correct the record. But for anyone who clicks past the imagined reality peddled by those papers, the conclusion is clear - and is now confirmed by one of the largest and most credible funders of scientific research in the world. The Hockey Stick is unbroken.

AttachmentSize NSF Mann vindiction.pdf288.62 KB

August 02 2011

21:26

NAS President Peter Wood: wrong, dishonest or hopelessly compromised?

New Mashey Report Disrobes Climate Disinformer

What would cause a senior anthropologist such as Peter Wood to stagger outside his field of expertise and launch a bitchy, personal and error-ridden attack on a climate scientist and his defender? Wrong-headedness? Ideological blindess? Great wads of Richard Mellon Scaife's cash? What?

Well, the question must be rhetorical, unless the President of the National Association of Scholars chooses to answer it himself. According to his fields of study, Wood is an "expert" in art, aesthetics, Catholocism and culture. He neither claims nor can demonstrate the tiniest academic mastery of atmospheric physics or any other aspect of climatology.

Yet he has used his launching pad as president of the NAS (suspiciously rendered with the same acronym as the National Academy of Sciences) and a podium at the Chronicle of Higher Education to try to dismiss both Michael Mann and John Mashey as huckster fellow travellers of P.T. Barnum.

As the attached report demonstrates, that was a mistake. Because Wood doesn't fare at all well when someone turns the investigatory camera on him. Wood has long had a tendency to question climate science or to laud whacky climate change deniers such as Christopher Monckton or Fred Singer, but his most recent outburst followed an excellent short feature of John Mashey by the journal Science. As Wood says, "Science reports that retired computer scientist Dr. John Mashey is attempting to patch the tattered reputation of 'hide the decline' Michael Mann, the climate scientist whose famous 'hockey stick' chart shows exponentially increasing global temperatures in the near term."

Beyond correctly identifying Mashey as a computer scientist, Wood appears to be wrong on all fronts. Far from being "tattered," Mike Mann's reputation has been hardened in the fires of hell. Despite a pitched attack on his character and scientific output going back nearly a decade, every inquiry appears to exonerate his personal behavior and reaffirm the quality of his science. I suspect Mann's work has been cited more in the last six months than Wood's has in his entire career.

Neither was it Mann who penned the famous (and famously misquoted) "hide the decline" line from the stolen East Anglia emails. And the important part of Mann's hockey-stick chart was not the exponential increase in global temperature: you can see that in any rendering of the actual instrumental record. The defining work in Mann's graph (and in every other climate reconstruction that has been done since) is the demonstration that, before humans started pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we had enjoyed at least a thousand years of remarkable climate stability (constituting the shaft of the hockey stick that came before the exponential blade).

So Wood either doesn't understand any of this or doesn't want us to. And Mashey, a ferociously energetic researcher, has created a 34-page report pondering Wood's own frailties and setting forth some possible explanations of why the (less credible) NAS president could be so far off the rails.

There is, of course, ideology. Although the NAS declines to identify itself as a bastion of "conservative" thought, it seems to spend a surprising amount of time digging its nose into issues that are more of interest to its well-healed conservative funders than those that are centrally reflected in the organization's own mission statement. (I dare you to find much "reasoned scholarship" or "civil debate" in Wood's original salvo or in any of the back-and-forth commentary that followed.)

Mashey also points to the coincidence that the big donors to the (less credible) NAS are also suspiciously generous to organizations such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the George C. Marshall Institute - two of the most prominent climate science denying think tanks in the country. Now, it could be purest chance that all these organizations share a passion for spreading climate confusion.  Just as it could be possible that the devastating weather events that have marred America so far this year are entirely unrelated to climate change ....

You also have to admit the possibility that Dr. Wood just isn't that smart - that he is doing all this work in purest good faith, but that he has the terrible misfortune to have consistently and repeatedly got all the details wrong.

Certainly, it was a case of misfortune that he attacked Mashey, or else the encyclopedic evidence of Wood's connections and previous protestations would not have been gathered in this handy reference.

Alas, when you look at the clownish Monckton, the discredited Singer or Steve Milloy and, now, the unfortunate Peter Wood, you have to wonder that the oily barons can't afford more impressive champions for their increasingly incredible cause.

AttachmentSize bottling nonsense.pdf1.53 MB

July 04 2011

16:47

Man-made climate change evidence 'hidden' by sulphur emissions

Cutting down on pollution from Chinese coal plants could actually make the earth become warmer, according to a new study.

June 09 2011

21:44

Science article recognizes John Mashey

Updated: With complete list of Mashey Papers

Computer scientist, entrepreneur, periodic DeSmogBlog contributor and "one of the good guys" John Mashey is the subject of an extremely favorable profile this week in Science

Science writer Eli Kintisch looks back over the last couple of years at the research and reports that Mashey has produced. Calling Mashey "an amateur" (which, on the question of climate science, he freely admits to being), Kintisch then looks for some journalistic "balance," interviewing one person who is defensive and critical in the face of Mashey's work (the confused and compromised physicist Will Happer) and one who is reassured and delighted ("hockey stick" co-author and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, Michael Mann).

"Both sides can agree on one thing, however: Mashey has become one of the most visible of a new generation of climate warriors."<!--break-->Kintisch canvases the reason that Mashey got involved in the first place - why he spends his retirement from designing computer systems by feverishly documenting "climate anti-science."

"Mashey became upset that they (friends in the climate science community) were being attacked by bloggers and lawmakers and subjected to anonymous threats. '(Science historian) Naomi (Oreskes) is a friend, and she gets death threats. Mike Mann’s a friend, and he gets death threats. It pisses me off,' Mashey says. 'They get harassed and discouraged for doing a good job for everybody’s grandchildren.'”

So, with a computer programer's zest for detail, Mashey wades through the flawed and contradictory material that constitutes the attack on climate science, producing voluminous and carefully credited reports that, in at least one recent case, result in the embarrassment of warriors on the other side of the argument and in a restoration of accuracy in the published record.

The Science article concludes:

"Mashey believes that vanquishing scientists’ foes will serve a higher purpose. 'It’s up to some of the rest of us to help get these guys off your backs so you can do the science,' he tells his scientist allies. He thinks discrediting their opponents also allows society to focus on the biggest problem: the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 'Goal number two is, try to help lessen the impact of climate antiscience on public policy before it commits the U.S. to be an increasingly bad place to live,' he says."


The Mashey Papers

1) Another Attack on Global Warming’s Scientific Consensus – A Case Study of Personal Harassment and Amplification of Nonsense by the Denialist PR Machine, DeSmogBlog, March 23, 2008, 40p.

2) Science Bypass – Anti-science Petition to APS from folks with SEPP, George C. Marshall Institute, Heartland, DeSmogBlog, Nov. 11, 2009, 128p.

3) Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony - Behind the 2006 Wegman Report and Two Decades of Climate Anti-Science, DeSmogBlog, March 15, 2010, 185p. (CCC)

4) Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report - A Façade for the Climate Anti-Science PR Campaign, DeepClimate, Sept. 26, 2010, 250p. (SSWR)

5) "Strange Inquiries at George Mason University …and even stranger comments, DeSmnogBlog, Jan. 04, 2011, 45p.  (SIGMU)

6) Strange Tales and Emails: Said, Wegman, Sharabati, Rigsby (2008), DeSmogBlog,  May 26, 2011, 17p.  STaE.

7) Strange Falsifications in the Wegman Report, DeSmogBlog, May 27, 2011, 12p.  SFWR


PRESENTATION AND VIDEO

The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science, April 7, 2011, University of Victoria, B.C., Canada.


June 05 2011

20:27

Wegman Report: Not just plagiarism, misrepresentation

New Mashey Report Drills into Academic Misconduct

The 2006 Wegman Report to Congress, already under investigation for extensive plagiarism, also appears to be guilty of falsifications, misrepresentation and frabrications that could give rise to a charge of academic misconduct, according to a new report by computer scientist and entrepreneur John Mashey (attached, below).

Mashey and the Canadian blogger Deep Climate have analysed Wegman extensively in the past, primarily for the plagiarism of which Wegman is so clearly guilty. But Mashey digs deeper in the current report, questioning whether the numerous errors, oversights and misrepresentations in the report can be explained by inadvertence or incompetence, or whether Wegman and his prinicpal co-author Yasmin Said were intentionally distorting the information they were plagiarizing and, in the process, pointedly misrepresenting science.<!--break-->

The Wegman Report was commissioned by Congress as an "investigation" into a controversial "hockey stick" graph that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had used prominently in an effort to illustrate the reality of climate change. Although Edward Wegman's report was highly critical of that graph, later analysis (mostly by Deep Climate) showed that he had extensively cribbed one of the graphs own authors, Raymond Bradley, in mounting his attack.

What Mashey now demonstrates is that, in addition to misrepresenting Bradley's words as his own, Wegman also twisted, misrepresented or completely changed the meaning of some of Bradley's work, without explanation or reference to any other source that might justify the manipulations.

As Mashey says - showing an extensive analysis of Wegman against the original: "Bradley is methodically weakened, silently contradicted or even directly inverted ...."

 

These errors could have been attributable to "mere serious incompetence and poor scholarship, including inability to understand a textbook well enough to summarize it correctly," Mashey says. But he later adds, "I think most of this is purposeful."

Mashey's analysis is compelling. He reveals minor, but annoying changes, such as when Bradley is talking about a "strong temperature signal" available from tree rings and Wegman, in the midst of a purloined paragraph, amends Bradley's text to add the word "relatively" - as in a "relatively strong temperature signal."

Indeed, having relied overwhelmingly on Bradley's text to present himself as something of an expert on the use of tree rings to create a reconstruction of historic temperatures, Wegman then changes the last section to arrive at a conclusion exactly opposite to Bradley's own. Bradley, explaining both the strengths and weaknesses of using tree rings, says this:

"If an equation can be developed that accurately describes instrumentally observed climatic variability in terms of tree growth over the same interval, then paleoclimatic reconstructions can be made using only the tree-ring data."

Wegman, who had added confusing or "confounding" references in the midst of several earlier paragraphs, removes Bradley's concluding sentence and adds instead this flatfooted statement, instead:

"Thus tree ring proxy data alone is not sufficient to determine past climate variables."

 

Finally, Mashey demonstrates that Wegman was also guilty of that most obvious of undergraduate cheats: bibliography padding - the inclusion of numerous references to give the impression of careful scholarship.

Mashey writes: "Bibliography-padding can also be a form of fabrication, and 40 of 80 references (in Wegman) are never cited, leading one to wonder if the (Wegman Report) authors had actually ever studied them. Many are clearly irrelevant or found in dubious sources inappropriate for such a report. A tabloid writer's 1987 ozone article in a fringe technology magazine is listed as an “Academic paper.” It cannot possibly be relevant."

As usual, Mashey's own report is painstakingly annotated and he generously credits the previous excellent scholarship by DeepClimate. Wegman, who must surely have been humiliated by having a related paper thrown out of a scholarly journal - also for plagiarism - must surely stand accountable soon, lest the reputation of George Mason University be permanently damaged by its tolerance of this poor and political performance.

 

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May 31 2011

14:06

The UVA Emails and Confirmation Bias: Seek and Ye Shall Find

You have to hand it to the American Tradition Institute. Unlike Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, they've found a way to get the University of Virginia to release at least some emails and other documents from climate researcher Michael Mann's time working there--by using freedom of information requests for "public" documents. (News here, scathing Washington Post editorial here.)

The University of Virginia is complying, although its president says they will take advantage of every exemption allowed by the law. Still, though, it sounds as though a lot of documents are going to be released. So what will happen next?

For an answer, we can look to an important new book, Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies, How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. In it, Shermer discusses the phenomenon of confirmation bias, invoking the biblical line "seek and ye shall find" to describe this pervasive cognitive flaw. 

The American Tradition Institute--and indeed, conservative climate skeptics across the board--have gone seeking scandal among the ranks of climate scientists. That's what Ken Cuccinelli did. That's what happened in "ClimateGate." That has been the strategy for some time.

So does anyone think that that, whatever these documents say, they are not going to be treated as a scandal by those who went searching for them?<!--break-->

Confirmation bias tells us what will happen. Those who went seeking went in with a theory--that wrongdoing has been done. They all believe "ClimateGate," shown by multiple investigations to be a fake scandal, was actually a real one. So that is their premise.

They will therefore read whatever emails they receive and find wrongdoing in them. They will find politics. They will find closed-mindedness and bias. And who knows what else they will find--but it will all be made to look bad.

Will any of the charges be valid? I don't know, although I seriously doubt it. One thing we can be sure of, though, is that things will be taken out of context and used selectively. That's what happened in "ClimateGate" and that's what will happen again.

Conservatives, in short, are targeting Mann and expecting to find another ClimateGate scandal. And I am watching conservatives and also predicting that they will find another ClimateGate "scandal." There's only the slightest difference between our views: The quotation marks.

Which one of us do you think is going to be right? 

April 28 2011

21:34

Hide the Decline – Unpacking the Climategate Emails


Repeated investigations have exonerated Phil Jones, Michael Mann, and the other scientists whose emails where hacked back in 2009, yet some cling to the notion of a massive, coordinated hoax among scientists. After all, wasn’t there talk of using “tricks” and “hiding the decline?”

Peter Sinclair a.k.a. YouTube’s Greenman3610, adds some common sense and context to the discussion.

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March 30 2011

00:22

Michael Mann suing Tim Ball for libel

Dr. Michael Mann, Director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn State University, is suing the climate change denier Dr. Tim Ball and the think tank/web site Frontier Centre for Public Policy for libel - and particularly for an interview in which, in answer to the question, "Do you think anyone will be prosecuted for fraud?" Ball responds, "Michael Mann at Penn State should be in the State Pen, not Penn State."

The Frontier Centre is a Canadian version of the Heartland Institute. The website was reportedly given an opportunity to apologize for the slight, which they declined - although they cleansed the interview of the quote featured above. (It originally appeared directly after the line: "There is a move amongst the Attorney Generals in the States to start prosecuting.")

The suits are also stacking up for Ball, who is already facing a similar action from the Canadian climate scientist Andrew Weaver.

Ball's last foray into the court ended badly. Ball attempted to sue another Canadian scientist, Dr. Dan Johnson, in 2006, complaining that a letter that Johnson had written to the Calgary Herald suggested that Ball had lied about his resume. When Johnson's Statement of Defence demonstrated that Ball HAD lied about his resume, Ball abandoned the suit.<!--break-->

March 23 2011

04:39

PolluterWatch Memo to Koch PR Team: Ever Consider Making Your Astroturf A Little Less Obvious?

PolluterWatch is serving up a great tongue-in-cheek "memo to the Koch PR team" tonight, noting the obvious blunders from Koch Industries' astroturfing and attack squad lately. The Kochtopus keeps revealing just how highly coordinated its media and blogger network is, mysteriously generating defensive and offensive pieces in quick succession at the drop of a billionaire's hat.

If it weren't so blatantly obvious in slinging the same mud and honey around the media Koch-o-sphere, perhaps Koch's ever-ready defender squad might be worthy of compensation? Oh wait, New Media Services does get paid by Koch to blatantly and disastrously attempt to edit the Koch profile on Wikipedia. 

And even if Koch's friends in media claim to rush to the company's defense out of pure ideological zealotry and not for compensation, there are a few instances where that argument fails to impress.  As PolluterWatch points out, Koch's PR team recently posted on the company's Facebook page about a piece written by Steven Hayward that seemed to support Koch's anti-science position on climate change and predictably tooted the old Climategate dud.<!--break-->

Head over to PolluterWatch and then ClimateProgress to read about why that didn't work out so well for the Koch team.

Among the reasons, as PolluterWatch points out:

If ever there was a Koch-funded climate denial mouthpiece, it’s Steven F Haywood.  He’s a fellow at four of the Kochtopus-funded think tanks.  They’ve all had quite a bit of funding from your clients
1986-2009:
Reason Foundation ($2,536,521),
Heritage Foundation ($4,110,571),

Pacific Research Foundation ($1,515,800) and
American Enterprise Institute (only $150,000 from Koch but Exxon gave them $2.8 million). 

So the total Koch money to Hayward’s groups is $8,312,892.  Add Exxon’s $4,341,000 and that adds up to a massive $12.65 million of denial punch. 


PolluterWatch then points out the Koch Facebook goofs:

And finally, while we’re discussing your Facebook page, another word of advice: if you’re going to promote stories that you’ve managed to place in blogs, perhaps drip them out slowly? 

During the Wisconsin protests, Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group led the tea party in support of Scott Walker and Koch became a lightning rod for protestors. (Bet that got you going).

Nice work lining up all the bloggers to support Koch - but posting them all in one day on Facebook?   Six posts in just a few hours? 4th March was a busy day for you.  But seriously, if you’re going to go on the offense, maybe make it a little less obvious? 

We know you must be paid an awful lot by this client – are they really getting their money’s worth?  Or did you leave your Facebook strategy up to New Media Services?

But wait, there's more.

March 12 2011

14:00

Hearing Is Set in Climate Fraud Case

A yearlong effort force the University of Virginia to turn over the documents of a prominent climatologist is headed to the state's Supreme Court.

February 23 2011

20:04

December 15 2010

16:22

What’s Hot in Climate Science Today? Communicating

San Francisco--Here at the 19,200 scientist American Geophysical Union fall meeting, you can sample any aspect of Earth and planetary science that you like. The proceedings provide, among other things, a dream roster for Hollywood disaster movies in the making. You’ve got volcano experts, earthquake experts, hurricane experts, and on and on.

But you also have a new and different focus: Scientists out here, especially climate scientists but also those who study natural hazards and many other fields, are increasingly dedicated to figuring out how to reach non-scientists with what they know. They’ve learned the hard way, through events like “ClimateGate,” that it doesn’t just happen automatically. If anything, it un-happens.<!--break-->

They’re growing convinced that if they don’t get themselves and their knowledge out there, someone else—like, say, Marc Morano—will be conveying the message about climate science instead.

Yesterday a session I participated in, called “Communicating Climate Science,” was packed with over 200 people. We literally had to move a wall at the Moscone Center to fit everyone in the room safely and ensure it wasn’t a fire hazard. The other panelists were climate science communications trainer and consultant Susan Joy Hassol and science communication practitioner (e.g., he’s a scientist who does it) Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

I started out with an overview that surveyed scientific illiteracy in general and the public’s strange views of climate science in particular. It's not just that only 49 % of the public thinks it's warming out there due to human activities (vs 84 % of U.S. scientists). Moreover, large majorities think “the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans contribute to global warming.” On basic climate literacy (what’s the greenhouse effect, ocean acidification, etc) 40 percent of Americans get a C or D, and 52 percent get an F.

But perhaps that's partly understandable when you consider how often scientists aren’t. Hassol gave a memorable overview of the many wonk words that climate scientists use that backfire in communication with the public—or just fail completely to convey what scientists actually mean. “Anthropogenic,” for instance. How many times, she noted, have you heard someone try to sound smart and say “anthropomorphic” instead? And those are the ones that are trying to get it right.

Other words that backfire or have different meanings than scientists think? "Radiation." "Errors." "Models." "Theory." Oh, and especially "aerosols." When people hear about aerosols, Hassol emphasized, they think of spray cans. What a perfect way of reinforcing the widespread misconception that climate change has something to do with the hole in the ozone layer.

Hassol also covered another pet peeve: The standard IPCC usage of terms like “likely,” “very likely,” etc, to attribute degrees of certainty to various findings. I know scientists like being able to quantify how sure they are while still employing the English language—but is the public really cognizant of the underlying percentages? Hassol argued that when average folks hear such language, they often get the impression that scientists are less certain than they really are.

Somerville, meanwhile, took on the challenge of communicating when there’s a “dark side” trying to thwart every effort. He gave a roster of bogus denialist arguments, including the claim that there’s a conspiracy to suppress legitimate scientific dissent with respect to climate change science. As Somerville noted, climate skeptics like to paint themselves as Galileos struggling against the establishment, but in reality, “Historians of science will tell you that the odds of Galileos are extremely small.” (That was a laugh line.)

The other panelists, and those in the room, seemed to concur with my suggestion that one of the problems here is what you might call asymmetric warfare. As Mike Mann has put it, debating climate skeptics is kind of like “a battle between a marine and a cub scout.” Scientists are constrained in communicating, in a way that many climate skeptics aren’t, by various professional and scholarly norms. So how can they be expected to respond in the media with one hand behind their backs, given the kinds of scurrilous claims often made against them?

It’s a difficult problem, but what’s clear is that there is going to be a new wave of attention paid to addressing it. That in itself will engender a trial and error process and, surely, some innovations. As I explained to the scientists assembled, communication isn’t rocket science—which is to say, it isn’t nearly so intellectually challenging as the work they already do. However, it is a bit like jujitsu—you need well honed instincts and fast reflexes. Those must be developed.

In the end, the new focus on science communication may not yield dramatic changes to the nature of the public debate overnight. Not on an issue as nastily contested as climate change. Misinformation, once unleashed, won’t simply vanish. Polarization, though it may decrease, won’t quickly go away either.

At the same time, though, scientists will be racking up small victories. They’ll be winning over audiences in public talks and local media interviews, even as they train their students to do likewise. They’ll be starting out blogs, like skepticalscience.com (which was much praised yesterday), and initiatives like the Climate Science Rapid Response team.

We don’t know precisely what it will all add up to, but will it be a net positive?

Very likely. 

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