Mann’s conclusions not to be believed

Lawrence Solomon

February 7, 2009

As proven by the fiery exchange below, the debate over climate change couldn’t be further from settled

Last week, Lawrence Solomon’s column described a study in Nature purporting to show that Antarctica was warming — an important finding for those who argue that urgent government action is required to counter man-made climate change. Solomon’s column cited several prominent scientists who cast doubt on the validity of the study. In response, Michael Mann, one of the authors of the Antarctica study, wrote a commentary that was published by Google News. Mann’s response, and Solomon’s reaction to Mann, appear below. Please note that Mann’s piece appears exactly as it was published by Google News.


Fossil fuel industry shill Solomon continues to lie to public

February 6, 2009

Comment by Michael E. Mann, Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State

In his latest piece in the tabloid the National Post, Mr. Lawrence Solomon, a widely recognized purveyor of fossil fuel-funded disinformation, continues to use the forum provided to him by the Post to spread lies about scientists and scientific research in the area of global climate change.

Doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry that financially supports his disinformation efforts, Mr. Lawrence  repeatedly lies about my work, the work of my colleagues, the findings of the scientific community, and even the judgments of the world’s leading scientific organizations and journals.Mr Lawrence full well knows, for example, that my own work on paleoclimate reconstructions from more than a decade ago has been reproduced by many groups, and vindicated in a report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and even more recently, in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (for a lay-person’s guide to this report, you might check out my recent book Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming published by DK/Pearson). Mr. Lawrence disingenuously implies otherwise by citing a partisan attack several years ago by Joe Barton, the leading recipient of fossil fuel industry money in the U.S. House of Representatives (and who is often referred to as “smokey Joe Barton” for his support of industry’s right to pollute our environment).

Barton’s attacks were decried by newspapers editorials around the world, which likened it to a modern-day McCarthyism, using word’s like “witch hunt” and “inquisition.” The discredited Barton attacks were dismissed by organizations like the American Association of the Advancement of Science, which dismissed the attacks as an attempt to intimidate scientists whose findings may prove troublesome to industry special interests.

The National Academy of Sciences responded by performing a legitimate scientific review of my findings and similar work by others in the scientific community, and the academy endorsed or key findings, noting that a host of additional studies since have confirmed them. The media reported the NAS findings as “Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate” (New York Times), “Backing for Hockey Stick Graph (BBC), and so on.

Mr Solomon of course knows about all of this, but still chooses to mislead and lie to his readers. His statements about our current study in ‘Nature’ (which from his article you’d think I was the sole author — in fact, I was only the 4th in a team of 6 co-authors) which studies the long-term warming of Antarctica and its causes, are unusually disingenuous and specious.

As described in detail elsewhere (e.g. the website “RealClimate.org” which I co-founded), our latest study is not contradicted by weather records at all, despite Mr. Solomon’s dishonest attempt to imply otherwise by misrepresenting and cherry-picking anecdotal observations.

Our study reproduces the well known cooling of the Antarctic interior which took place during the 1970s through 1990s (and is believed to be, as confirmed by our study, due to stratospheric ozone depletion which was greatest over that particular time interval). However, by combining the available temperature observations, we show that the longer-term pattern for Antarctica on the whole is one of warming, and this is consistent with the expected response to the long-term increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Finally, Mr Lawrence goes on to attack the journal Nature.

Gee, who should we trust here? The most dishonest industry advocate in the climate change debate, or the world’s most prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal. You be the judge.

How ironic that Mr Lawrence uses the word “shame” in his disinformation piece. For he is perhaps the most shameful and dishonest actors in the climate change disinformation machine. Some people indeed have no shame. Nonetheless, in Mr Solomon’s case, the judgment of history will be his condemnation.

Google News




Mann’s conclusions not to be believed


by Lawrence Solomon, National Post, February 7, 2009

Mann-made science does not support the hypothesis that global warming is man-made

A good scientist, like a good journalist, checks his facts, if for no other reason than to spare himself embarrassment and to immunize himself from charges that he’s casual with the truth, lazy or just plain dishonest. Michael Mann has not checked his facts.

Mann’s article has two main thrusts. First, he attempts to discredit me and others who have criticized his work. Then, he attempts to defend his reputation by claims that distinguished authorities, especially the National Academy of Sciences, have endorsed his hockey stick graph. His graph is an icon in the global warming debate: It convinced the press and the public that 1998 was the hottest year of the hottest decade of the hottest century of the last 1,000 years, creating the belief that Earth was changing dangerously for the worse.Let me deal in chronological order with Mann’s attempts to discredit those he perceives to be his critics.

Mann calls the National Post a tabloid, presumably because tabloids have a reputation for sensationalism. The Post is not a tabloid; it is a broadsheet, and a fine one at that, considered by many to be Canada’s best newspaper.

Mann claims I am funded by the fossil-fuel industry. I am not and neither is Energy Probe Research Foundation, the federally registered charitable organization that I helped found in 1980 and that I have represented continually since. There is a good reason the energy industry does not fund Energy Probe: Over the decades, Energy Probe has been Canada’s chief critic of the energy industry, more responsible than any other organization for stopping ill-advised energy pipelines, coal plants, tar sands projects, nuclear plants and large hydro dams.

Energy Probe is a leading promoter of conservation and alternate energy, and it prides itself on being non-partisan — parties of all stripes in Canada, from the leftist New Democratic Party to the centrist Liberal party to the right-leaning Conservative party, have invited Energy Probe to their gatherings, and adopted its positions.

Mann also attacks Joe Barton, in 2006 the head of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The “Barton attacks” he refers to concern hearings this committee held to discover whether Mann’s hockey stick graph was the product of sound science, as Mann claimed, or a statistical sham, as his critics claimed. The person commissioned to ascertain the truth was Edward Wegman, one of America’s finest scientists and, ironically, the past chairman of the Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics of the National Academy of Sciences, the very body that Mann cites as supporting his work.

Wegman assembled a panel of blue-chip statisticians, all of whom worked pro bono for the Barton committee, and for good measure the panel subjected its work to top level reviewers, such as the Board of the American Statistical Association. The Wegman panel’s findings? Mann’s critics were entirely in the right, Mann lacked the statistical knowledge to do the work he had taken on, and Mann’s work had not been subjected to a credible peer-review process.

When Mann cites the support of the National Academy of Sciences, he is not referring to Wegman’s findings but those of an NAS panel headed by another top scientist, Gerald North. The so-called “support” that the NAS panel provided to Mann would mortify many in Mann’s position.

The NAS did find some of Mann’s work “plausible” — that’s the closest that it comes to actually supporting Mann’s findings — but then it immediately states there are so many scientific uncertainties attached to Mann’s work that it doesn’t have great confidence in it. The committee then proceeds to further downgrade its view of Mann’s work: “Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that ‘the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium.’ ”

In short, Mann’s main conclusions are not to be believed.

Why not? Because “Mann et al. used a type of principal component analysis that tends to bias the shape of the reconstructions” and because he downplayed the “uncertainties of the published reconstructions.” And, the NAS added, because of what Mann did not do — he did not let others examine his data for accuracy and he did not reveal his analytic methods. For this, the NAS rightly chastised Mann: “Our view is that all research benefits from full and open access to published data-sets and that a clear explanation of analytical methods is mandatory. Peers should have access to the information needed to reproduce published results, so that increased confidence in the outcome of the study can be generated inside and outside the scientific community.”

Conclusion about the hockey stick graph: Mann-made science does not support the hypothesis that global warming is man-made.

Conclusion about the new study on Antarctica: The verdict is not yet in, although since the time of writing last week, the prospects for Mann et al. have gone from bad to worse. An embarrassing data error has come to light with the study, charges of unethical behaviour involving Mann’s supporters now appear all over the blogosphere, Mann’s Web site, RealClimate.org, has acknowledged behaviour that many scientists consider unethical, and terms such as “slander” and “abuse” are flying around, along with demands for an apology.

The global warming debate is heating up, even if Earth is not.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and author of The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud.

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