Guest post by John A
It’s always a difficult place for me to deal with interviews with Michael Mann, because on previous occasions Mann gets to say ridiculous things and get praised for them by fawning interviewers. One of the great mysteries of climate science is why Mann never gets interviewed by an informed and intelligent interviewer in command of the facts – or maybe it isn’t such a mystery after all.
Today’s journalistic pulpit was provided by “Faye Flam” and published on Philly.com
For openers, Mann hasn’t lost his touch for the paranoid conspiracy theory:
Though he has been accused of dodging the press, Mann, 44, agreed readily to an interview on a bitterly cold day last week. The campus was deserted, as almost everyone was away for winter break. Mann was affable and calm as he answered the assertions of his critics.
The hardest part for him, he said, is having his integrity questioned. Scientists, he said, are “not trained to deal with these kinds of attacks.”
“My suspicion is, this has been orchestrated at a high level,” he said of the hacking.
What? Where? This is Michael Mann, famous for questioning the integrity of others (especially if their surname begins with “Mc”) in the most lurid terms yet when he’s caught out orchestrating boycotts of scientific journals, journalists and scientists who dare peek at his data and methodology, undermining and subverting the whole scientific process, it’s all a big conspiracy.
Now I have to reach for the Mylanta:
Mann points out that the hockey stick is not widely seen as a smoking gun implicating human activity in global warming. And it was not the giant graph used in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. That was a graph of the carbon dioxide component of our atmosphere – which also is rising sharply.
Erm. The Hockey Stick was shown on AIT but misrepresented by Gore as “Dr Thompson’s Thermometer”.
All of this was worked out in November 2007 on Climate Audit but for some reason “Faye Flam” can’t get a clue. What do you expect from journalists? Background research? Basic checking?
Here’s Steve McIntyre’s replication of the AIT graph using the Hockey Stick, the CRU temperature record and some free software:
Look similar, Faye?
Another gulp of antacid, please:
The paper that contained the first hockey stick appeared in 1998, with a more complete reconstruction in 1999. Mann said he was surprised it got so much news coverage. After the first paper, he said, he was asked by the Clinton administration to advise the president on climate change for the 1999 State of the Union address.
He was just shocked, shocked when he phone started ringing off the hook. Yeah, right.
That’s when Mann said he realized the hockey stick had taken on a life of its own.
In 2006, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas), a global-warming skeptic, commissioned an investigation into the hockey stick papers, led by statistician Edward Wegman of George Mason University.
Woah! Woah Faye! Back off a little! In between 1999 and 2006 Mann was Lead Author of the key chapter on paleoclimate of the IPCC Third Assessment Report which featured the Hockey Stick no less than SIX TIMES. Why is he surprised at the reaction to the Hockey Stick, Faye? Helloooo?
Wegman said Mann made a mistake in the way he centered the data in the graph. He suggested that Mann and his colleagues were brash young researchers who should have gotten more help on their math.
Now here’s where I get most annoyed – the willingness of journalists to selectively misquote and misrepresent historical documents or allow their interviewees to misrepresent them. Nowhere did Wegman suggest that the Hockey Team were “brash young researchers who should have gotten more help with their math”. What he actually said and put into the Congressional record was this:
While the work of Michael Mann and colleagues presents what appears to be compelling evidence of global temperature change, the criticisms of McIntyre and McKitrick, as well as those of other authors mentioned are indeed valid.
“Where we have commonality, I believe our report and the [NAS] panel essentially agree. We believe that our discussion together with the discussion from the NRC report should take the ‘centering’ issue off the table. [Mann’s] decentred methodology is simply incorrect mathematics …. I am baffled by the claim that the incorrect method doesn’t matter because the answer is correct anyway.
Method Wrong + Answer Correct = Bad Science.
and furthermore Wegman’s Team did a stand-up job showing that the peer-review process was likely to have been short-circuited:
It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent.
Of course, now we know that such short-circuiting was entirely deliberate – it was subverted by Mann and his friends in Rocky Mountain High places. Did you read the emails, Faye? No.
Mann’s friends certainly like to rally to the cause, demonstrating that some people have no shame:
A different picture is painted by statistician Douglas Nychka, who examined Mann’s work as part of a similar panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, also in 2006. “There are some things that he could have done better, but there’s no fatal flaw,” said Nychka. “There’s nothing that would make you discount the whole analysis.”
Hey Doug! Did you read the Wegman Report? He said the Mann Analysis was “bad science” and “incorrect mathematics” so which part of that didn’t you understand?
Nychka, who works for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said the paper became so controversial because it was misinterpreted as proof that humans cause global warming.
Now, where did we get that idea? Who could have misinterpreted it and why didn’t Mann warn them? Think, think…
And Nychka manages to re-saddle several hobby-horses and send them stampeding:
Nychka said he would like to see Wegman and Mann’s other critics create their own graphs of past climates: “Why don’t they come back with a positive contribution, put some alternative forward?”
Of course, spotting that Mann misused statistics in a horrible way cannot be seen as positive – positive for the integrity of the scientific method, yes – but not positive by people surprised at the publicity of their own badly calculated statistical nonsense portrayed over and over.
I wonder if Hwang woo Suk tried that line with the bloggers who exposed his lies – did he ask them to produce their own stem cell lines before they could criticise him?
But I digress…
The data are all easily available at several sites, said Nychka. Mann, for example, has posted his data leading to the “hockey stick” online through the National Climatic Data Center.
Yes, NOW the data is online. But the methodology and the identification of that data certainly wasn’t because Mann claimed that as his personal property and it took a Congressional Committee to pry it from him. But then you didn’t do any of the background did you Faye?
Since 1998, other people have made their own “paleoclimate” reconstructions. Putting those together, the National Academy report in 2006 created what has been called the spaghetti plot – a chart that superimposes different researchers’ graphs of global temperatures over the last 1,000 years. The spaghetti strands curve up and down, but all rise dramatically in the 20th century. The overall pattern, notes Nychka, is the same.
I think we should let Wegman shoot this lame nag through the head:
Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on [Mann’s work]. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.
It is clear that many of the proxies are re-used in most of the papers. It is not surprising that the papers would obtain similar results and so cannot really claim to be independent verifications.
Different researchers, but all of them connected directly to Mann and used the same proxies over and over. It’s not independence as we know it, Doug.
And then to Climategate. Faye is obviously well out of her depth and sinking fast
Mann recalls a Friday night when a colleague alerted him that the hackers had tried to expose the e-mails on RealClimate, the blog he founded with another climatologist.
Over the ensuing weeks, pundits have shifted their focus from one set of e-mail exchanges to another, dubbing the issue “climategate.” First, the spotlight shone on an exchange between two other researchers referring to a “trick” Mann had used in plotting his data.
But not even Mann’s critics can cite any evidence of deception in the now doubly investigated hockey stick papers. The term trick, said Mann, described a technique he used to display his data.
Again this fascination with deception, but I’m willing to bet this is Mann misrepresenting what actually happened with a journalist too lazy to check facts.
Other pundits criticized Mann and colleagues for agreeing to shun the journal Climate Research after it published work by climate-change skeptics. Mann said the particular article was bad science and was “polluting” the journal.
Pundits, Faye? They were scientists including the editor of the journal.
The article finishes with a tear-jerker:
There is still much debate over how big a role human activity plays in the current warming trend, and how the future will be affected. Climate science – and earth science in general – is not expected to make the kinds of sharp predictions that chemists and physicists can make with repeated experiments. “It would be nice if we could do controlled experiments,” Mann said. “But we have only one Earth.”
Yes, and all of these nasty questions make baby Jesus cry.
I wonder why newspapers are sinking fast into the mud of history and then Faye Flam arrives to remove the wonder.