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August 20 2012

10:00

See No Evil, Speak Little Truth, Break Rules, Blame Others

The "Wegman Report", led by Edward Wegman of George Mason University (GMU) got criticized in 2010's Experts claim 2006 climate report plagiarized.  Experts called it "obvious" even "shocking" plagiarism.  GMU's incompetent handling, mistreatment of complainants and flawed rulings were mostly documented in March, but recent FOIAs expose more untruths.

Is the harsh title fair?  Read on, then study the 69-page attachment.

GMU Provost Peter Stearns' February letter to GMU faculty made claims of non-plagiarism that contradicted not only experts, but themselves.  The process consumed almost two years to assess four (4) pages of text.  

Stearns' letter was even more untruthful than previously known.  It  fabricated an imaginary second investigation committee, seemingly to somehow excuse crucial contradictions.   This seemed an attempt to defend the Wegman Report at all costs, even with potential problems from Federal agencies who expect schools to handle misconduct properly.  They fund much of GMU's actual research, done by faculty that to the best of my knowledge are normal, credible researchers.

However, a few groups in GMU are closely, even uniquely enmeshed with people behind the machinery of anti-science, such as Charles Koch, Ken Cuccinelli, David Schnare, Fred Singer, and Pat Michaels, plus the Heartland Institute and key Washington think tanks.  GMU even has a long history of tobacco connections, oddly relevant.

Following are a few brief summaries to motivate the title's phrases:

See No Evil: Via FOIA, the only investigation committee took 200 days to produce a 9-page report.  It ruled on Ray Bradley's three complaints based on Canadian blogger Deep Climate's early discoveries:

  • 2.5 pages of text mostly from Ray Bradley's book: paraphrasing, not plagiarism although serious plagiarism experts said otherwise long ago.
  • 5.5 pages of near-verbatim plagiarism of social networks text: never mentioned.
  • 1.5 page subset re-used in later paper: plagiarism, likely unavoidable, since the publisher had forced retraction in May 2011. This is an obvious contradiction.

But there was more, found by Deep Climate and others:

  • Another 70 pages of formally-reported plagiarism, 27 in WR alone, in 6 more articles, half Federally-funded, and four PhD dissertations: never mentioned.
  • Alleged falsification in the Wegman Report: never mentioned.

Speak Little truth: GMU VP Roger Stough rarely told complainants much and when he did, he was often wrong or misleading, now seen more clearly by FOIA replies.  Stearns' letter   fabricated committee(s) and processes that never happened, casting doubt on the credibility of anything thereGMU never informed Ray Bradley of any result.  GMU acknowledged receipt of other complaints, which then seemed to vanish into limbo. Complainants got no status reports.

Break Rules: FOIA replies exposed large policy-breaking schedule slips, at best poorly explained, at worst misleading.  GMU ignored its policy of pursuing all significant issues -  Stearns said there were no more investigations.   GMU's seemed to maximize discouragement and stonewalling of external complaints, even from distinguished academics like Ray Bradley or Ohio State's Rob Coleman, an experienced misconduct expert.  One can imagine GMU's handling of internal complaints, especially from junior faculty of students.

Blame Others:   GMU violated its "retaliation" policies by making false or misleading claims about Bradley, impugning his reputation and helping incite vitriolic blog attacks against him.   Universities are supposed to guard complainants from retaliation, repair it if need be, not do it themselves.  GMU owes Bradley many apologies.

Why would they do this? FOIAs have revealed actions far outside GMU's own policies, the norms of academe and possibly Federal rules.  Big universities are expected to know how to follow misconduct policies, so mere incompetence seems an insufficient explanation, especially with experienced administrators who should know better.

We cannot know exactly what happened, but GMU has some unusual connections that might help explain this.  No explicit pressure need be assumed, but a few parts of GMU are deeply involved in climate anti-science activities, so it is no surprise that something like the Wegman Report was written almost entirely by GMU faculty and students.

Funding. Charles Koch is by far the largest single foundation funder for each of GMU Foundation, its Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies (IHS).   His donations to these usually exceeded the research grants of most government agencies. His lieutenant Richard Fink cofounded Mercatus and is a  Director of it and IHS. Koch is a Director of Mercatus and Chairman of IHS

Money comes from other Koch allies, such as Richard Mellon Scaife, Searle Freedom Trust, Earhart Foundation, L&H Bradley and  DONORS Trust+Capital, the second largest foundation giver, which anonymizes the real givers' identities.  The recently-discovered Knowledge and Progress Fund seems to send Koch money only to DONORS.  It is a real money maze.

Governance. Nancy Mitchell Pfotenhauer is the Vice-Rector of the GMU Board of Visitors. She was a Koch Industries lobbyist and an executive of Americans For Prosperity.  The Board also includes Kimberly Dennis (Searle Freedom Trust, DONORS) and Mark McGettrick, Executive VP at Dominion Resources, a large utility that has donated well to the campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, as has Koch Industries.

Lawyers. Ken Cuccinelli, his Deputy Wesley Russell and his ex-partner Milton Johns (Wegman's lawyer) all got their JD degrees at GMU in the 1990s.  So did David Schnare, of the American Tradition Institute (ATI), well-known for FOIA harassment of UVA, Michael Mann, James Hansen, Andrew Dessler and Katharine HayhoeFOIA has legitimate uses, but can also be employed for harassment.  The reader can decide which these are.

Schnare is also an Adjunct Professor who recently taught a GMU course on how to do FOIAs, use the Data Quality Act, using this outline.  it starts:

'This course is an introduction on how to sue the government when it does what it should not do. Citizens, advocates of small government and Tenth Amendment proponents engage in this kind of litigation practice to address the imbalance between federal authorities and state and individual sovereignties.'

He also offers "externships" to give students practice, via a new 501(c)(3) "public charity," originally (and legally still) the George Mason Environmental Law Clinic.  it is now called the Free Market ELC, consisting of him and Chris Horner, as at ATI.  He was looking for students to file FOIAs against some Virginia university, likely not GMU.

Conclusion. We cannot know whether the strange process and absurd rulings came from overt pressure or implicit GMU culture.  A few parts of GMU form a very large gear in the machinery of anti-science and they defended Wegman at all costs.

Public funding of research depends on credibility, of which little is found in GMU's handling of this case.  Maybe it is time for a first-ever institutional debarment from Federal funding until they rebuiild a track record of normal behavior.  Given the credibility problems of key people, this may require outside teams.

Finally, people might recall the potential felony issues raised here  and wonder if this process might add more obstruction of justice to the mix.  The old saying may apply: "It's not the crime - it's the cover-up."

Image Credit: andere andrea petrlik  / Shutterstock .

AttachmentSize see.no_.evil_.speak_.little.truth_.pdf3.05 MB

February 14 2012

23:08

October 26 2010

12:32

Money Talks: Big Oil & Special Interests Bankroll Anti-Clean Energy Efforts on the Campaign Trail

With just over a week to go before the U.S. midterm elections, the Center for American Progress Action Fund has released a great interactive map that shows who's been bankrolling efforts to halt clean energy efforts and back the anti-clean energy reform agenda.  After the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision permitted corporations to spend unlimited money influencing elections, the election terrain has become a dizzying display of corporate muscle and dollars.  Perhaps most dizzying is how easy it is for Big Oil and special interests to hide behind benevolent-sounding front groups, and how difficult it now is for us to know whose interests are shaping the elections.

In this midterm election, Democratic-aligned groups have been outspent by an astounding 7 to 1 margin, and Republican-aligned groups have flooded the nation's airwaves with a flurry of ads.  According to CorpWatch, they have spent over $300 million, five times as much as they did in 2006.

CAP's stats come from a Repower America report that shows the companies and organizations spreading misinformation about clean energy and climate change.  13 organizations have injected $68.5 million in 2010 alone into fictitious TV ads designed to spin clean energy legislation.  Since August alone, they've pumped over $17 million into their efforts. 

CAP's report offers a state-by-state breakdown of the top donors, and follows the money to the source. And it's not pretty.  The stakes for a clean energy future are high as oil and coal groups spend more and more helping climate-denying candidates run in tight races. <!--break-->

One such battleground is in California where out-of-state Koch Industries and Texas Oil companies Tesoro and Valero are funding a campaign to ensure that the domino 'effect' of the clean energy economy does not sweep across America.  To date, Big Oil and special interests have invested over $10 million into the campaign, $1 million alone on TV ads.  The vast majority is from out of state interests including Koch Industries who don't want to see similar laws passed in other states.  Speaking of the Kochs, Charles Koch should debate Cal State Los Angeles student Joel Francis on Prop 23 instead of hiding behind his multi-billion dollar oil and chemical fortune. 

The Yes on 23 and "California Jobs Initiative" aren't the only Orwellian-sounding organizations bankrolling anti-clean efforts on the campaign trail.  Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security, the Committee for Truth in Politics, National Taxpayers UnionClub for Growth Action, and American Crossroads GPS are also funding television ads to prevent progress on clean energy and climate legislation. 

In addition to Astroturf groups, a number of industry trade organizationss have donated handsomely including the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Manufacturers.  In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, claiming to speak for business, has funded $3.8 million in energy-related ads as part of its anti-climate legislation lobbying agenda.  ThinkProgress recently reported that much of their funding is from foreign corporations, including the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company and Bahrain Petroleum Company.  Why are they helping fund the U.S. midterm election? 

So, though the midterm elections are days away, CAP's report shows that the winners have in many way already been chosen.  Big Oil and special interests have scored a major victory over actual citizens since the Citizens United ruling, and now, instead of money talking, we need to be talking about the money. 

December 07 2009

19:36

Elizabeth May: A Response to Comments on East Anglia Emails

Last week, in response to the hacked emails at East Anglia, Elizabeth May took the time to read every single email.

Providing context and analysis, her report goes a long way, giving us more than just the cherry picked nuggets that skeptics have taken out of context and doggedly been holding on to.

Here, she follows up with a response to the comments on her original posting...

DeSmogBlog comments require response:

I am a neophyte in the blogosphere. The first time something I have written for the Green Party site has been widely picked up was my article on the East Anglia scientists and the stolen emails.  James Hoggan, Kevin Grandia, and Richard Littlemore do a powerful lot of good on “DeSmogBlog” and through James’ and Richard’s new book Climate Cover-Up

Posting my CRU email blog on the DeSmogBlog site got it some attention, including in the New York Times. Reading some of the posted comments led me to want to rebut and share that rebuttal with Greens. You may need these points to do your own sand-bagging against the rising tide of skeptic/contrarian propaganda. Here is a sample of the nonsense with my response…

Ms May, with all due respect this is pure nonsence.(sic)

<!--break-->If you read the entire set how come you missed the emails of threats to those at ClimateAudit? How come you missed the one where they cannot account for the current cooling? Or how about the MANY where they conspire to black ball journals that keep publishing skeptical papers, get certain editors removed, and changing the peer reviewed process?

Or how to change the data mixing unrelated data, that hides the decline the treering data showed after 1961? How come you did not comment on these? JR Wakefield

Thanks to JR Wakefield, (although the message “with all due respect” would ring more sincerely if your headline had not been, “Lizzy, you missed the juicy stuff.”)

My point is there is no “juicy stuff.”  There are intemperate messages from people writing in private about the levels of frustration created by years of harassment. None of us like to be besieged. Few of us have had to endure the levels of targeted harassment of the scientists in the CRU group at East Anglia.  

There is one message where a colleague expresses concern that the models do not seem to account for the where the heat forcing of the trapped solar energy is going. 

The discussion is started when Dr. Stephen Schneider, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, expresses concern that the BBC is mis-leading the public on current science:

Any of you want to explain decadal natural variability and signal to noise and
sampling errors to this new "IPCC Lead Author" from the BBC? As we enter an El Nino
year and as soon, as the sunspots get over their temporary--presumed--vacation worth a
few tenths of a Watt per meter squared reduced forcing, there will likely be another
dramatic upward spike like 1992-2000. I heard someone--Mike Schlesinger maybe??--was
willing to bet a lot of money on it happening in next 5 years?? Meanwhile the past 10
years of global mean temperature trend stasis still saw what, 9 of the warmest in
reconstructed 1000 year record and Greenland and the sea ice of the North in big
retreat?? Some of you observational folks probably do need to straighten this out as my
student suggests below.

Translation:  BBC has seized on one year “cooling” and ignores the issue of time lags in the global climate system.  As I tried to point out in the Munk Debates, climate modelling is not about a one year at a time climb in temperatures.  It is significant at the level of decades. 

You have to grasp time lags.  The GHG we release today will have an impact on the climate for the next 100 years. The system is nearly infinitely large and complex, with land heating faster than oceans.  As well, there can be confounding factors -- sunspots on 11 year cycles or El Nino (referred to in the East Anglia emails as “ENSO” El Nino Southern Oscillations) that heat things up, volcanoes (like Mount Pinatubo or sulphate and particulates from burning coal that ironically) can act to mask the warming trend.  These impacts are temporary and the climate models seek to screen them and see what anthropogenic forcing is doing to the climate.  All the models for decades have shown that it is impossible to produce the warming trends the planet has seen when you exclude anthropogenic forcing.   

Dr. Kevin Trenberth from the Boulder, Colorado National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) replied to Schneider.  He has been for some time interested in better methods to account for the physics of the issues:  where does the heat go when trapped at the earth’s surface by warming gases.

His work is described on the NARC website as “being used to validate coupled atmosphere-ocean climate models and understanding heat flows that are so important in climate change. He has continued to improve estimates of the global hydrological cycle. A particular focus is on changes in precipitation type, frequency, intensity and amount, and thus on how droughts and floods, and climate extremes change.”

In other words, in the following email, he is promoting is own area of research, not attacking the fundamentals of climate science.

The oft-quoted email sentence from his message of October 13, 2009 said:

The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.”

A discussion ensues.

Dr. Michael Mann, Director of the Earth Sciences Centre at Pennsylvania State, replied the next day,

Kevin, that's an interesting point. As the plot from Gavin I sent shows, we can easily
account for the observed surface cooling in terms of the natural variability seen in
the CMIP3 ensemble (i.e. the observed cold dip falls well within it). So in that sense,
we can "explain" it. But this raises the interesting question, is there something going
on here w/ the energy & radiation budget which is inconsistent with the modes of
internal variability that leads to similar temporary cooling periods within the models.
I'm not sure that this has been addressed--has it?
<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->Dr. Tom Wigley, a senior scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division, also at NCAR, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) wrote:

Dear all,

At the risk of overload, here are some notes of mine on the recent lack of warming. I look at this in two ways. The first is to look at the difference between the observed and expected anthropogenic trend relative to the pdf for unforced variability. The second is to remove ENSO, volcanoes and TSI variations from the observed data.

Both methods show that what we are seeing is not unusual. The second method leaves a significant warming over the past decade.

These sums complement Kevin's energy work.

Kevin says ... "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment
and it is a travesty that we can't".  

I do not agree with this.

Tom.

(Emphasis added)

 

Other scientists point out that we are still not clear on how many sulfates are being emitted, particularly in the rapidly industrializing developing world.  It is clear that sulfates (particulates) provide a cooling effect, even while carbon dioxide levels keep growing.  In another post, the scientists discuss why NASA results show higher global temperature than the Hadley results from the UK.  One conclusion is that the Hadley data does not have as many Arctic data points.  Warming in the Arctic is 2-3 times faster than the global average. 

By the next day, October 14, Trenberth writes that he is not challenging anyone, just making a point about the fact his area of research needs more attention.  

In an open letter defending the East Anglia scientists (December 3, 2009), he wrote:

 I am proud of what Phil and I did for Chapter 3 in AR4, and it is disappointing that the IPCC has not been more forthright in standing up for its procedures.

Dr. Trenberth’s private email is being distorted and touted globally as some sort of “smoking gun”, or to hear the industry-funded Pat Michaels “a mushroom cloud.”

There is no “smoking gun” here.  It reads, as do all the email threads on closer examination, as scientists exchanging candid, off-hand, messages. They know each other well and often speak in short-hand. Clearly Dr. Trenberth is NOT arguing that the models have been cooked up to avoid a climate cooling trend.  Nor is he denying that there is an urgent need to reduce GHG. He wants to see a clearer understanding of the energy dynamics on the planet.

Sadly, I see it has taken three pages of text to counter the one sentence “How come you missed the one where they cannot account for the current cooling?”

For JR’s other points, forgive me for just replying without copying and pasting in all the emails. There was no effort to “blackball journals.”  There WAS a sad realization that one journal, in particular, had ceased to exercise the appropriate level of scientific rigour. It was publishing papers that could not have passed peer review anywhere else.  The CRU emails did no object to the publication of the paper because the scientists disliked the authors or their conclusions, but because obvious and large mistakes had been made.  “Shoddy work” was an apt description. 

The journal, Energy and Environment, was discussed on a number of emails, especially after it published a terrible paper by Baliunas and Soon.  The group of scientists, whose emails make up most of what was stolen, decided to put a serious peer-reviewed effort into debunking that article.  The Energy and Environment Journal is not a top journal. It is not included in Journal Citation Reports which covers the top 6,000 journals.   The name of the editor rang a bell.  Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, who is mentioned by the scientists concerned about the sloppiness of the work, was the source of a key footnote in Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist.  Lomborg claimed that negotiations to arrest climate change were driven “not, as you may have thought, [by] the prospect of possibleglobal warming” but by windmill manufacturers, climate researchers and other “institutionalized interests.”   His source?  Solely her name. No published article. Nothing.  Just Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen.

The data problems plague people in many areas of science. Techy issues with computers and managing different platforms etc could drive a sane man mad.  If this were a serious problem at East Anglia, clearly other scientists would not have the same results using their own systems and intellectual property to put the raw data into computer friendly formats.

The key point here is that the raw data (at least 95% of it) is available in the public domain, and has been for years. Independent scientists all around the world, sliced and diced in a wide variety of ways, keep pointing out that the planet has never had as much carbon dioxide in one million years, nor has it been this warm in the last 1,000 years. 

Turning to another critic of my post: 

In this instance it appears that this case will certainly be changing from Hackergate back to Climategate.
As it turns out, the source of the information in the e-mails and the data files at CRU is an employee at CRU Hadley. This individual is now in contact with Steve McIntyre over at ClimateAudit. The mole has even shared a highly sensitive data file that McIntyre requested under British FOIA laws but was denied. The data file contains all of the station data from around the world (unaltered) that McIntyre tried to get for quite some time.
To show how quickly this issue is disintegrating in the UK, the Met (the UK’s equivalent to the U.S. National Weather Service) is opening up all of their data and investigating the last 160 years of world temps de novo. This will take until sometime in 2012. That’s quite a while. In the mean time I am watching the sea ice data in the Arctic blow right past the last few years. The sea ice returneth despite what you may have seen or heard on TV or radio.

DJ

“The ice returneth?”  That’s quite the claim.  Quiksat imagery has shown a continuing of the dramatic trend towards thinning ice. Much of the multi year ice is now gone in the Arctic. Areal extent was a little larger than 2007 in both 2008 and 2009. But,

volume was way down and both 2008 and 2009.  There was some hope, blown up by the ironically named “Friends of Science,” that a small recovery in annual ice would support some polar bears, but Dr. David Barber of University of Manitoba, made a voyage to check and found the whole area was like “swiss cheese,” or “rotten.”

The millions of square kilometres of disappearing Arctic ice are visible through satellite data.  Visible in photographs from outer space.  So would you have us believe that those wily scientists at East Anglia has intercepted satellite images and doctored with the photos?  Or maybe there are no satellites!  Maybe they just use a sound studio outside Norwich and have a planet earth look-alike that they can film as though they were in space!  

As for the idea that an “insider” stole the emails, I suppose anything is possible.  But the credibility of this claim is more than a bit undermined by alleging the “mole” to be “an employee at CRU Hadley.”   Fascinating that.  CRU is the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia located in Norwich.  No connection whatsoever to the Hadley Centre of the British Government in Exeter.  (Established by the wild-eyed radical, Margaret Thatcher.)

None of this means that we should be dismayed there is an investigation underway.  Failing to hold a full investigation will only allow the climate denier crowd and the Fossil Fuel Lobby to attack the science and use a few intemperate, overly human outbursts by good and honest men, to hurt the legitimacy of their work.  But we should be prepared. 

There will be more emails stolen.  More scientists attacked.  We cannot afford to sit back and wait for the investigation of the CRU emails to be completed.  Nor should we think for one moment that a full investigation of the CRU that exonerates the scientists will end the matter.  The climate denial-contrarian effort is well-funded and fuelled with rampant paranoia, fears of global government (how do we get them interested in the WTO instead?), conspiracy theories and a deeply held commitment to NOT accept the clear science.

There is no way to reach those people, but there are some legitimately confused members of the public.  They want someone to be clear about what it going on. That is our job as Greens.

Defend scientists who have done nothing wrong.  Work for an effective treaty at Copenhagen.  Ensure that we avoid runaway global warming by demanding cuts sufficient to, at least, stop the rise in global GHG by 2015-2016.

We have a lot of work to do.  Sadly, now, some of our time must be spent in rear-guard actions to protect the truth. .    

 

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