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Wegman-gate: Alert Congress and the media

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"Wegman-gate: Alert Congress and the media"

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This repost is by Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences.

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 most 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!

This repost is by Professor Scott Mandia via his blog Global Warming: Man or Myth?  Mandia holds an M.S. Meteorology from Penn State University. Mandia has been teaching introductory meteorology and paleoclimatology courses for 23 years.

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30 Responses to Wegman-gate: Alert Congress and the media

  1. MapleLeaf says:

    Thanks for highlighting this Joe. Thanks to Prof. Mania too!

    I agree wholeheartedly with this:

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

    I do not reside in the USA, so I’m hoping that someone in the USA could file a complaint, not on my behalf, but knowing that at least one person has done so would be reassuring.

  2. I hope the paucity of comments here is not due to some kind of fatigue — Scott Mandia has done a terrific job of providing links to enable us to complain to our elected representatives.

    Sensenbrenner is ready to start a new Salem Witch Hunt, going after scientists.

    This is very serious and needs to be stopped before it gets started.

    And I’d like to know why Barton is not censured for misleading congress.

    The whole thing was a set up job with media coordination, and it continues today.

    [JR: It was just posted 15 minutes ago!]

  3. James says:

    “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. ”

    Interfering American conservatices distorting temperature graphs of my home region? Now it gets personal!

  4. mike roddy says:

    Anybody who knows what’s going on realizes that the “Wegman Report” is a joke, but it’s cited by all kinds of publications as if it had substance.

    It’s important that this issue be addressed as a challenge to our media. There is no excuse for allowing a fraudulent and corrupt document to influence crucial public policy. Are any widely circulated publications or TV networks willing to step up here, by investigating and publishing or broadcasting the results?

    Do these journalists even know how to spell “the public interest”? Let’s see if we can go forward here as a test of the strength of our public discourse, since the “broken hockey stick” meme is all over the place, along with other nonsense such as “Climategate”.

  5. Sean says:

    I cant believe there is no mention of voting in the “Here is where YOU can help” section. As has been shown very clearly this year and last: sound science, analysis demonstrating economic and national security necessity, and even public opinion on climate change has all failed to procure for the U.S. any action to reduce carbon emissions, or even set a national energy policy.
    This is because the votes are not there to pass legislation. And, if things go as planned Nov 2, there will be even less of them.

    VOTE for candidates who will fight for legislation to combat & address global climate change.

  6. Mark says:

    After reading this it is unclear to me what I’m being asked to communicate to my representatives.

    What are the simple talking points that should be conveyed?
    What action should I be requesting that they take?

    Who is John Mashey? I followed the link, but didn’t find a bio.

  7. Raleigh Latham says:

    I’ll write my Senators

  8. Arthur Smith says:

    I wrote my congressman the following, feel free to edit for your own use:

    “Dear Congressman xxxx

    I am very concerned that several members of congress have been involved in what seems a several-year effort to deliberately mislead congress on scientific information relating to global warming. Please review this account of the Wegman report:
    http://deepclimate.org/2010/09/26/strange-scholarship-wegman-report/

    - I urge you to push for an investigation of the actions of congressman Joe Barton and others involved in this travesty of science. Lies like this have stymied US action on climate change for years; those responsible should be held to account.”

  9. John Mashey says:

    Thanks JR.

    re: 6 Mark
    I didn’t include a Biography beyond the short note on the first page, noting I’m easy-to-Google [unique name, 25-years of network footprints], which immediately gets you a Wikipedia entry.

  10. MapleLeaf says:

    Mark @6,

    Yes, this can be a little overwhelming.

    I stand to be corrected, but Wegman et al. misled congress, that is, as far as I can tell, perjury. At the very least these revelations require the closer scrutiny of the Department of Justice.

    Large swaths in the Wegman report have been plagiarized. Worse yet, other scientists findings have been misrepresented.

    The report is very long, that speaks to not only the extent of the transgressions but also the thoroughness of John Mashey and DeepClimate, but a read of the 6 page executive summary should help you out.

    Unlike ClimateGate, where people misinterpreted content, reported it out of context– here we have an extremely thorough and detailed examination (a forensic examination) of the Wegman report which has uncovered plagiarism and a whole host of other nefarious goings on.

    So journalists are potentially sitting on a huge and very real and important story.

    John Mashey is a computer scientist, and as far as I can tell, a man of much integrity. More information is available at DeepClimate.org

  11. richard pauli says:

    A comment from another blog – DeSmogBlog:

    “If Wegman hopes to maintain a shred of academic credibility, he must either sue Mashey for libel (and win) or apologize and admit that the 2006 report was a political put-up job. Given the weight of Mashey’s evidence, a lawsuit seems laughably unlikely. A charge of misleading Congress, on the other hand, awaits only the interest of the DOJ.”

  12. Wes Rolley says:

    Sean (#5) has it right. In CA, that means to vote for anyone but Fiorina. In CA-11 is is to vote for McNerney (PhD in math) over Hamer, in CA-44 for Hedrick over Calvert… etc. All of the Republicans named above support Prop 23.

  13. Lore says:

    Thanks for reposting this, I bookmarked it!

  14. Mimikatz says:

    Are we reduced to hoping that the Defense Department, which does understand that climate collapse is a real threat and a threat to national security among other things, will weigh in with the Republicans? They have to realize this kind of head-in-the-tar-sands attitude is going to create serious instability in the future. Or maybe CEOs that appreciate how we are being left in the dust because of our benighted attitudes.

    It is really appalling that so many would put the planet in peril for personal gain.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    ScienceDaily (Sep. 29, 2010) — According to the NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring system, coral bleaching is likely in the Caribbean in 2010. With temperatures above-average all year, NOAA’s models show a strong potential for bleaching in the southern and southeastern Caribbean through October that could be as severe as in 2005 when over 80 percent of corals bleached and over 40 percent died at many sites across the Caribbean. Scientists are already reporting coral bleaching at several Caribbean sites and severe bleaching has been reported from other parts of the world.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100923104217.htm

  16. Ryan T says:

    I wonder how many of the scientists who’ve seen their work distorted and view this as misleading congress will be writing in. We need some of the experts themselves to speak up too, if they haven’t already.

  17. Mimikatz says:

    More concretely, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina is locked in a reelection battle with Elaine Marshall. North Carolina is currently experiencing record rainfall from tropical depression 16, and it is expected that some 20-25 inches of rain will fall on the coast in a period of 4 days.

    Tying extreme weather to climate change seems to be logical here. What will the denialist attitudes of Senator Burr cost North Carolina over the next 6 years? What about Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who some think is going to take over the Senate if the GOP wins?

    Letters to the Editor if you live in any of the affected areas.

    And I’d like to see Joe return to the topic he floated a week or so ago–what would it take in the next 5-10 years to get the attention of policy makers? Ice-free Arctic in the summer of 2015 looks more and more probable. What else?

  18. Chris Ho-Stuart says:

    I would think that Professor Wegman’s University, George Mason University, ought to check out the charges themselves; much as Professor Mann’s University conducted an inquirey into the charges against him. Michael Mann actively encouraged and supported his inquirey, which found no wrong doing.

  19. MapleLeaf says:

    Mimikatz,

    “it is expected that some 20-25 inches of rain will fall on the coast in a period of 4 days.”

    I’m not sure about that, numbers from the NWS are in the 4-8 inch range at most over Florida (from NHC) and 4-6 inches over portions of the Carolinas.

    http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/qpf/p120i12.gif

    There may, of course, by local amounts higher than those shown in the above figure, but probably not much more…..let us see what happens. Either way 6 inches is still a lot of water and there flooding is almost a certainty.

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    Extreme rainfall for eastern North Carolina
    In North Carolina, the arrival of TD 16 is shaping up to give coastal regions one of their top five rainiest weeks in history. Tropical moisture feeding into the region ahead of TD 16 has already brought 12.88″ of rain to Wilmington, NC Sunday through Tuesday, and an additional 2.37″ has already fallen there so far this morning. This gives Wilmington a 4-day total of 15.25″, which is the second highest 4-day total in history, behind the 19.06″ that fell in September 1999 during Hurricane Floyd. A non-tropical low pressure system is predicted to develop off the Florida East Coast this afternoon and move past North Carolina late tonight, giving North and South Carolina an additional helping of heavy rain before the main rains from TD 16 arrive Thursday morning and afternoon. By the time the rains from TD 16 finally clear the area Thursday night, an additional 5 – 10 inches will have fallen, and Wilmington will probably be looking at a 4-day rainfall total of 20 – 25 inches. Severe and damaging flooding is likely. Fortunately, eastern North Carolina was under moderate drought conditions prior to this week’s rainfall onslaught, so the flooding damage will not be as great as the billions of dollars of damage wrought by Hurricane Floyd.

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1638#commenttop

  21. John Mason says:

    I’ve linked to this & John’s reports over at UK Weatherworld (http://www.ukweatherworld.co.uk/forum)- which I help run. It’s primarily a weather forum, but has a climate section, in which a number of members (me included) joust over climate science on a regular basis. This you tend to see with UK weather forums – The Weather Outlook (http://theweatheroutlook.com/twocommunity/default.aspx?g=topics&f=7)is similar in that respect. Weather attracts a broad church of interests I think – including those who accept climate science like me, and fight hard for its corner, and those who do not, for a variety of mostly (it seems to me)personal and politically-based reasons. Feel free to come over and offer comments to both!

    Cheers – John

  22. John Mason says:

    Sorry. The correct links are:

    http://www.ukweatherworld.co.uk/forum

    and

    http://theweatheroutlook.com/ twocommunity/ default.aspx?g=topics&f=7

    Something went wrong in the formatting there.

    Cheers – John

  23. catman306 says:

    Gaia has a fever. Expect Gaia to rid itself of whatever is causing this climate chaos. Washing out a wound so to speak… Weather is how Gaia maintains control over its creations. We are not going to like the coming decade.

    If someone should bring up geo-engineering to solve our climate change crisis, here’s anecdotal evidence that demonstrates how very difficult it is to foresee every possible consequence when playing with complex systems. I shudder to think of the ecological damage.. Some part of some food chain is surely threatened.

    Transgenic crops’ built-in pesticide found to be contaminating waterways

    http://www.grist.org/article/food-2010-09-29-transgenic-crops-found-to-be-contaminating-waterways/

  24. Thank you, Joe, for the repost. Please feel free to post comments on this topic over at my blog so that my readers can enjoy the excellent commentary that is the norm at CP. And, of course, send those letters!

    http://profmandia.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/wegman-gate-alert-congress-the-media/

  25. MapleLeaf says:

    Scott @25,

    I’m going to pass your link onto a couple of journalists I know and see if they are interested. Might I suggest others here do the same– we cannot expect them to always have their ears to the ground.

    I wonder if a press release would help? I have also suggested that John Mashey and DC get in touch with Peter Sinclair.

  26. mike roddy says:

    Chris Ho Stewart:

    Wegman’s university, George Mason, is a branch of the oil and coal companies.

  27. Jeffrey Davis says:

    We’re not going to shame gangsters into changing their ways.

  28. John Mashey says:

    Re: 28 Jeffrey
    Yes, you are absolutely correct.
    The point if SSWR is that some of the things mentioned are *actionable*.

    You may have heard of a fellow named Al Capone.
    He may have been rather naughty, but income tax evasion was provable.

  29. John Mashey says:

    re: #27 Mike
    Well, if you read about GMU (Mercatus, Institute of Humane Studies, etc), funding from Kochs, etc in my previous CCC, one does wonder.

    Several trustworthy people have mentioned specific departments and people at GMU they know to be good, straightforward academics, which I believe.
    The interesting question is whether some of this at GMU is just an aberration of a few people on a real university, or whether the real departments are there as a facade for the real mission. [For example, the McShane/Wyner remake of the Wegman Report is surely an aberration on that fine school founded by Ben Franklin.]

    Of note is the large GMU funding from the Kochs, who of course prefer to have as little Federal government as possible. On the other hand, GMU gets a fair amount of money from government grants. [Don't think about any possible contradiction there.]

    This puts GMU in a slightly awkward position:

    1)If it is a real university and investigates carefully (say the way PSU did), it’s hard to believe they will not take clear public action.

    2) But if they try to sweep it under the rug … well, funding agencies, the NIH ORI and various others take a dim view of a university that cannot handle even the most obvious research misconduct, assuming such agencies happen to hear about this.

    In particular, the *reasonable* people at GMU will be pretty unhappy with 2), if they know about this. If you know someone reasonable at GMU, consider pointign them at this. I’m not into guilt-by-mere-association, and one of the lessons in this exercise is that there were a lot of good people who were mis-used.