Wegman-gate: Alert Congress and the media

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.

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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).

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.

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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.

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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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