There has been renewed interest in the Wegman Report, which purported to critique the work of paleoclimatolgists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes and their controversial “hockey stick” millennial temperature reconstruction.
Today we’ll take a closer look at Wegman et al’s key passage on tree-ring proxies and do a detailed side-by-side comparison with its apparent main antecedent, chapter section 10.2 in Raymond Bradley’s classic Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary.
That comparison leaves no doubt that Wegman et al’s explication was substantially derived from that of Bradley, although the relevant attribution appears to be missing. There are, however, several divergences of note, also in the main unattributed, and some of Wegman’s paraphrasing introduces errors of analysis.
But the real shocker comes in two key passages in Wegman et al, which state unsubstantiated findings in flagrant contradiction with those of Bradley, apparently in order to denigrate the value of tree-ring derived temperature reconstructions.
[Update, Dec. 19: This post has been substantially revised to remove speculation about Donald Rapp’s possible role in the Wegman report. I apologize for any embarrassment caused to Donald Rapp or Edward Wegman by that speculation.
The post has also been updated to reflect new information about the provenance of Wegman et al’s section on tree ring proxies, as well as more background detail on some of the events leading up to the Wegman report. There are also more details about large swathes of unattributed material found in the Wegman report and in Donald Rapp’s book Assessing Climate Change.
It is clear that the circumstances and contents of both the Wegman report and Rapp’s text book deserve closer scrutiny.
Dec. 20: Comments are now open again.]
As Climategate devolves into a rerun of old battles about the “hockey stick” graph, I thought I would revisit the roots of that benighted controversy and take a look at the chaotic events of a few years back when the politicization of science (also known as the Republican war on science) really took hold.
I was planning to write another installment of the “In the beginning” series on Steve McIntyre. So I decided to take a look at the infamous Wegman report that Republican congressman Joe Barton relied on to ensure that the “numbers added up” (or not, as he was sure was more likely). The 2006 report was the work of a mysterious “ad hoc” committee led by George Mason University statistics professor Edward Wegman, along with David Scott and Yasmin Said. With its near-veneration for putative hockey-stick destroyers Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, and its scornful denunciation of Michael Mann and his “social network” of like-minded researchers, the report has been a touchstone for contrarians.
But then I started thinking about something that had always bothered me. How could a trio of statistical experts, all on their own, hope to write a report on a field, climate science, of which they had no previous knowledge or experience?
Part of the answer lies in the close examination of the Wegman report. Surprsingly, extensive passages from Wegman et al on proxies have turned up in a skeptic text book by contrarian author Donald Rapp. And at least one of these common passages on tree ring proxies closely follows a classic text by noted paleoclimatologist Raymond Bradley, but with a key alteration not found in the original. Moreover, Wegman’s section on social networks appears to contain some unattributed material from Wikipedia and from a classic sociology text.
[This post was updated on December 12 to provide additional context that strengthens the original analysis – see below for details.]
This so-called Climategate is really getting out of hand, isn’t it?
Steve McIntyre has published allegations – twice now – that an internal IPCC authors’ debate about the inclusion of Briffa’s tree-ring reconstruction in a key figure from the 2001 WG1 Third Assesement Report was driven by concern about the post-1960 “decline” in tree-ring widths, a decline that showed a marked divergence with the instrumental tempertaure record.
The Climategate Letters show clearly that the relevant context is the IPCC Lead Authors’ meeting in Tanzania in September 1999 at which the decline in the Briffa reconstruction was perceived by IPCC as “diluting the message”, as a “problem”, as a “potential distraction/detraction”. [Emphasis added]
McIntyre even claims that lead author Michael Mann worried that showing the series with this decline would give “fodder” to “skeptics”.
But even a cursory examination of the emails in question shows that the discussion was really about other aspects of the reconstruction, specifically obvious discrepancies between Briffa’s reconstruction and the other two under consideration over the major part of the reconstruction’s length. Thus, once again, McIntyre’s speculations are shown to be utterly without foundation.
Even worse, McIntyre left out intervening sentences within the actual proffered quotes in what appears to be an unsophisticated attempt to mislead.
It’s deja vu all over again.
The contrarian hysteria ratcheting ever upward as a key United Nations climate conference gets underway is depressingly familiar. A case in point is the Canadian National Post’s relentless drum beat of pseudo-scientific half-truths, outright falsehoods and ideological invective, all under the hyperbolic title of Countdown to Catastrophe Copenhagen.
The National Post’s coverage of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Chamge) Bali conference two years ago was not quite as elaborate, but did feature one particularly disturbing instance of contrarian boosterism, the infamous Bali open letter.
The full story, told here for the first time, shows how editor and skeptic cheerleader Terence Corcoran crossed the line from opinionated commentary to active participation in a shadowy public relations stunt aimed at scuttling the Bali negotiations. And complaisant editor-in-chief Douglas Kelly went along with the charade, not even bothering to force Corcoran to reveal the key involvement of longtime disinformation specialist Tom Harris and his “astroturf” Natural Resources Stewardship Project.
Those who follow various media battles about climate science and policy are undoubtedly familiar with the nonsensical and scurrilous commentary to be found in the Wall Street Journal, and even in major dailies like the Washington Post. But no other North American daily newspaper can come close to the Canadian contrarian newspaper of record for intellectual dishonesty, factual distortion and sheer volume of misinformation.
I’m speaking, of course, of the Toronto-based National Post, which provides a home to such climate “experts” as Lorne Gunter, Peter Foster and Terence Corcoran, as well as a platform for notable Canadian contrarians such as faux-environmentalist Lawrence Solomon (of “The Deniers” fame) and economist and climate gadfly Ross McKitrick.
As the Post spews forth ever-mounting volleys of falsehoods on its FP Comment page in its shrieking campaign against the “Copenhagen Catastrophe”, it is worth reviewing the history of the Post’s climate hysteria, whose roots go right back to the newspaper’s founding in 1998.
According to TimesOnline, investigators of the CRU email theft (dubbed SwiftHack or Climategate) have concluded that the release of the stolen material was held back for weeks in order to cause maximum damage to the upcoming Copenhagen conference.
This development, along with new reports of breakins and other attacks at the University of Victoria, should finally lay to rest the baseless rumour that the hacked email archive was assembled at CRU as part of a contingent FOI response and released by an inside whistleblower, a canard that was started by – wait for it – none other than Steve McIntyre himself!
Here is the first of an occasional series that will look back at the origins of various major players among Canada’s climate contrarians. And, quite appropriately, the honour of inauguration belongs to none other than our old, um, acquaintances, Friends of Science.
For the first time, we can confirm both financial and logistical support from an Albertan oil company, Talisman Energy, along with circumstantial evidence of the early involvement of a second, Imperial Oil (ExxonMobil’s Canadian subsidiary). We’ll also look at the key roles played by the de Freitas brothers, geologist Tim and climate skeptic Chris. And the story leads right to the heart of a key controversy reignited by the stolen CRU emails, namely the ongoing perversion of the scientific peer review system by “skeptic” scientists.