Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Wegman-gate: Alert Congress & the Media

with 16 comments

There are some that that wish to delay action on climate change and some that refuse to accept the scientific consensus that humans are causing significant global warming with possible devastating impacts.  These delayers and contrarians often hang their hats on the Wegman Report as proof that climate scientists are either corrupt or incompetent.  The Wegman report, commissioned by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), is central to the infamous Hockey Stick Controversy and was promoted as “independent, impartial, expert” work by a team of “eminent statisticians.”  It was none of those.   

As detailed in John Mashey on Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report, the Wegman report was “a facade for a PR campaign well-honed by Washington, DC ‘think tanks’ and allies, underway for years.” 

  

Most of my readers are likely aware of the Hockey Stick Controversy but I will briefly summarize here.  (Click the link for all the gory details.)  As described in Determining the Climate Record, historical temperatures (before the use of thermometers) can be determined using physical and biological fossil data called proxy data, such as ice cores, corals, trees, marine fossils, and boreholes.  Most temperature reconstructions end up appearing with a hockey stick shape: relatively flat temperatures between 1000 AD and 1900 (handle) followed by a very sharp rise since 1900 (blade).  

The hockey stick graph as shown in the 2001 IPCC report. This chart shows the data from Mann et al. 1999. The blue lines are temperatures estimated from proxy indicators, red lines are temperatures from thermometers, and the gray shaded region represents estimated error bars.

At the request of Congress in 2006, a panel of scientific experts was convened by the National Research Council to assess the validity of the hockey stick reconstructions of climate scientists Drs. Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes.  The panel chaired by Dr. Gerald North found that although there were some statistical problems with the reconstructions, these issues were minor and did not change the results.  Modern global temperatures were significantly warmer than in the past 1000 years.  

Around the same time, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) convened their own panel chaired by Edward Wegman.  The panel’s final report is known as the Wegman Report.  The Wegman Report came to quite a different conclusion.  The Wegman Report claimed that the hockey stick reconstruction could not be supported by the data and that there was a social network of scientists tied to Dr. Mann that may have made independent studies “not independent”.  

So why the disparity?  

Do you recall Joe Barton’s well-publicized apology to BP for what he called a “shake down” by the Obama Administration because the US government demanded that BP help those that were suffering?  Let me refresh your memory:  

  

According to Opensecrets.org, Rep. Barton gets much of his campaign finance money from the fossil fuel industry.  

Rep. Barton Major Campaign Contributors

Explains a lot, does it not?  The Wegman Panel was commissioned by Barton.  Barton’s donors stand to lose market share to alternative energy sources if carbon fuels are regulated.  Of course, to stop the threat that is global warming, all nations must immediately reduce their carbon fuel use, especially the biggest polluter: the United States.   

Is this guilt by association or is there really guilt regarding the Wegman Report?   

John Mashey answers that question in his 250 page dissection of the Wegman Report.  Please view the six page Executive Summary and the full report.  Arthur Smith has an excellent summary of Mashey’s Report on his blog:  

Among Mashey’s findings:  

  • Of 91 pages, 35 are largely plagiarized text, often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning. 3 pages are a mathematical appendix that seems to be the only contribution of the report’s 2nd author (David Scott). 7 pages are a padded bibliography (see below). That leaves barely half the report as actual original material from Wegman and Said.
  • A sketch of central England temperatures for the past 1000 years from the first (1990) IPCC report was highlighted in the Wegman report, but the report’s version was altered, at least by shifting the time axis and truncating the recent temperature rise (already truncated at 1975 in the original). An unaltered version of the same sketch can be found in the NAS report; until now nobody seems to have noticed that Wegman (or a source or associate) had distorted the graph.
  • Of 80 references in the bibliography, 40 are never cited in the report.
  • Many of the science papers in the remaining 40 are, while cited and sometimes summarized, otherwise ignored in the analysis
  • Wegman sent the report to a few statisticians; all known to him. Some were given only a few days to comment. Some gave strong advice that was simply ignored. This was claimed as peer review by Representative Whitfield
  • Some commenters were surprised to be listed as reviewers
  • Wegman and Said promised to publish their analysis in the peer-reviewed literature, but other than one paper in a journal where Said was associate editor (accepted 6 days after receipt), none have appeared
  • Incriminating documents associated with Said have disappeared from websites in recent weeks

One might ask why raise this ghost now?  Many reconstructions since 1999 show the hockey stick using various proxy data and various statistical techniques so we are quite confident that modern global climate is significantly warmer than in the past 2,000 years.  The IPCC (2007) concluded: “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.  Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.  Discernible human influences now extend to other aspects of climate, including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.”  Since 2007, there is not a single international scientific body that holds an opposing view.  

We need to highlight the Wegman Report and its many flaws because those that wish to delay action or to deny the science are waving the report like a flag of truth.  More disturbingly, as reported in Politico, House Republicans will kill Nancy Pelosi’s special global warming committee if they win back the House in November.  Worse,  Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) wants to keep the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming alive so it can investigate climate science and police President Barack Obama’s green policies.  Essentially a witch hunt against science much like Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s Misguided Investigation of Michael Mann.  Not to be outdone, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) wants to conduct inquiries into the Climategate emails.  Of course, several independent investigations found no wrong-doing and Climategate coverage was unfair and unbalanced.  Far more press coverage was given to the accusations than the exonerations.  

Here is where YOU can help:  

Write to your elected leaders and to news outlets and let them know that Barton’s Wegman Report is a sham and that the witch hunts must stop.  Science drives most policy issues and the United States and the world can ill afford the anti-science positions of these prominent politicians.  Tell your elected leaders and the press to investigate Wegman’s report with the same zeal as they did the stolen CRU emails.   

They investigated Climategate.  Now they need to investigate Wegman-gate.  

I created a page that lists contact information for US Congress and many US news outlets.  The page is titled: Media & Gov. Contacts and appears at the bottom of my Blogroll list.  Please use this link now and in the future to express your concerns.  Agreeing with each other on blogs isn’t going to stop the witch hunts.  You must get the general public and our elected officials to see that climate science and scientists are being attacked.

The public does not respect weakness.  Fight back!

Thank you to Joe Romm for reposting this over at Climate Progress.

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Written by Scott Mandia

September 28, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

16 Responses

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  1. [...] the article here: Wegman-gate: Alert Congress & the Media « Global Warming: Man or Myth? This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged climate-change, delay-action, drives-most, [...]

  2. Thanks for calling attention to my representative, Darrel Issa. I’m drafting a letter to my local paper. I’d like to say “there are a number of scientists I can refer Mr. Issa to”. May I include you as one? I don’t intend to publish your name, unless you’d like me to, rather, I just want a person in mind should someone actually accept the offer.

    thanks,
    John G

    Mandia: Yes. Thank you for writing the letter.

    jg

    September 29, 2010 at 12:49 pm

  3. [...] More on the Wegman scandal at Deep Climate, Not Spaghetti, and Scott Mandia’s Global Warming: Man or Myth? [...]

  4. Prof, great article. This country is at a crossroads for sure. Industry versus the people.

    Anyway, you may want to see if this site is using your post appropriately–their title–not your title–is way over the top:

    http://www.cwwa2009.com/climate-change/fight-back-now-rep-joe-barton-traitor-to-his-country-purposely-misled-congress-a-crime-with-the-completely-false-wegman-report-john-masheys-250-page-dissection-proves/

    Mike

    September 30, 2010 at 8:08 am

  5. Off-topic, as usual:

    What conditions would have to be met – long after 2100 – to produce a sea level rise of 10 meters (over and above our present level today)?

    Hunt Janin

    October 2, 2010 at 8:05 am

  6. Hunt

    According to this, collapse of the Greenland ice sheet alone would give a rise of 7 meters.

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/floods.htm
    As it’s impossible to imagine Antarctica remaining intact if warming was enough to demolish Greenland, then 10m is absolutely guaranteed.

    Remembering always that when it comes to icesheets, melting is not required. You only need enough melt to release the base and allow speedier movement. You’ll get the sea level rise just from displacement when the ice shifts from the land to the water. The icebergs and ice islands would then take as many or as few years as they liked to melt. The damage would already be done.

    adelady

    October 2, 2010 at 11:06 am

  7. Many thanks, Adelady, for your excellent comment and attachment.

    What do you think the political, economic, military, and social impacts of a 10 m rise would be?

    Hunt Janin

    October 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm

  8. Hunt. In a word. Unthinkable.

    First and foremost, for that level of rise, there would probably be a couple of quite sudden, largeish rises. The loss of infrastructure / value / investment in developed industrial countries would be huge. But that would be nothing compared to the impacts on the Mekong, Ganges and other major river deltas and estuaries.

    The effect on fisheries would be inestimable. The drowning of every mangrove and coral reef system in the world would destroy the breeding grounds of many important seafood species. (Whether we eat them directly or they’re part of the food chain for predator species that we do eat doesn’t matter. Either way we lose important foods.)

    Port cities, power plants, island nations. Too much for me to think about.

    http://geology.com/sea-level-rise/
    Try this map for various levels of sea level rise if you’re feeling a bit too cheerful and you want to blacken your mood a bit.

    adelady

    October 2, 2010 at 4:56 pm

  9. Two points, First:
    Edward J. Wegman is a renowned, math-head statistician who has no axe to grind either way in the Climate Change debate. He wasn’t bought off by anybody, and his opinion of MBH 98 is based solely on Mann’s unorthodox statistical methodology. Now, other math-head statisticians, McShane and Wyner, (who also don’t have axes to grind in the Climate Change debate), have looked at Mann’s data and methods, and basically concurred with Wegman. The “Hockey Stick” is an artifact of the data selection methods and processing algorithm(s) used by Mann.

    Second:
    Serious climatologists need to recognize that Mann’s statistical methods are not scientifically viable. No scientist (with the possible exception of Mann himself) will ever publish a paper using his data selection methods and processing algorithm(s). If there is a real climate crisis, climatologists need to focus on empirical evidence that illustrates the problem, and hammer it home. Defending Mann’s unorthodox work is a counterproductive waste of time.

    Louis Hooffstetter

    October 2, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    • You are wrong, Louis. McShane and Wyner DO have an axe to grind, in particular Abraham Wyner. He’s been making disparaging remarks about climate science for a while. And as Eduardo Zorito noted, and he’s really no fan of Mike Mann, McShane and Wyner made loads of mistakes in their criticism of MBH98/99, to the extent that they likely never READ the papers. If they did read the papers, they clearly did not understand them, or, and that would be even worse, deliberately misrepresented the methodology Mann used. Moreover, several others have shown the M&M’s criticism has a limited impact on the reconstruction. As one ‘reviewer’ to the Wegman report (chosen by Wegman himself) already recommended: “then do the reconstruction with the right PCA method”. Why didn’t Wegman do that? The answer can be found in Wahl & Ammann: it would have given the SAME answer! Of course the North NRC report already had concluded that, and they involved both statisticians and paleoclimatologists. Why did Barton ask Wegman to make a separate report, if they had the North report already? I see no other reason than the North report not giving the desired answer.

      Surely there is much to debate about the methodology Mann used, but the Wegman report, with its many, many methodological problems and outright bad science (their social network analysis is outright laughable) is laughable. It is of interest that Mann has been the subject of a congressional hearing, and loads of other investigations, while the commissioned bad science of Wegman should be left alone.

      Of course, no one is surprised to see Louis Hooffstetter coming to Wegman’s defence. Louis Hooffstetter already believes Mark Serreze is likely cooking the books…

      Marco

      October 3, 2010 at 3:17 am

  10. [...] my previous blog post, Wegman-gate: Alert Congress & the Media, I asked readers to alert the media and their elected officials about the Wegman Report.  [...]

  11. Monckton Testimony wasn’t about Science

    Published in Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI) local paper, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    By Ray Weymann, John Abraham, Barry Bickmore, Michael Mann And Winslow Briggs

    Scott Mandia

    October 9, 2010 at 6:35 pm

  12. [...] independent studies have delved into the pseudo-scandal and found nothing to warrant that name. Wegman-gate, on the other hand, might be a good fit for describing the horrible, politically-driven Wegman [...]

  13. [...] detailed in previous blog posts (Wegman-gate: Alert Congress & the Media and Science by Error and Trial), and by this recent Washington Post letter from Rep. Joe Barton [...]

  14. [...] the blog, “Global Warming. Man or Myth?” “As detailed in previous blog posts (Wegman-gate: Alert Congress & the Media and Science by Error and Trial), and by this recent Washington Post letter from Rep. Joe Barton [...]


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