Wednesday, May 5, 2010

VA AG moves to chill warming research

Virginia's wingnut Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli II, who is apparently unsatisfied with quixotic suits against the federal government, has found a new target for his politically-motivated ire, climate researcher Michael Mann. The Washington Post reports
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II is demanding that the University of Virginia turn over a broad range of documents from a former professor to determine whether he defrauded taxpayers as he sought grants for global warming research.

The civil investigative demand asks for all data and materials presented by former professor Michael Mann when he applied for five research grants from the university. It also gives the school until May 27 to produce all correspondence or e-mails between Mann and 39 other scientists since 1999.
Cuccinelli's short tenure has included several politically-motivated suits and investigations, including suits against the Environmental Protection Agency over its consideration of greenhouse gas regulations and against the new federal health insurance reforms. These and other misguided stunts make him a darling of the radical right, though his quixotic efforts should earn him the scorn of Virginia taxpayers.

The investigation of Professor Mann is harrassment, pure and simple. Professor Mann is a respected and accomplished researcher. However, Mann's research a decade ago on the "hockey stick" contributed to the findings U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and put him in the crosshairs for climate change skeptics. Mann's methods and results have been disputed, but the general findings have ultimately been upheld.

Mann has previously been subject to right-wing political scrutiny.

The message from these inquisitions is clear. Researchers, who accept federal funds or work at state-funded institutions, publish politically inconvenient results at their own risk.

3 comments:

jon said...

"Mann's methods and results have been disputed, but the general findings have ultimately been upheld."

Dave,
That's a patently false statement. There have been very substantial innacuracies in Mann's selection and exclusion of data as well as his statistical analysis. Reliance on certain data sets and then improperly weighting them has been shown to have skewed the results to a desired outcome and not a let the data show what it will outcome.

Dave Ribar said...

Jon:

There have been some peer-reviewed studies that have questioned Mann's methods and faulted his findings. However, there have been many peer-reviewed studies that have been more supportive.

Because of the conflicting conclusions, the non-partisan, expert National Research Council was tasked with evaluating the evidence. The NRC concluded (p. 3)

The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years.

The NRC does (p. 4) express less confidence in some of Mann's other conclusions.

Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium. The substantial uncertainties currently present in the quantitative assessment of large-scale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 lower our confidence in this conclusion compared to the high level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. 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” because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales.

jon said...

Exactly Dave, little confidence can be given to Mann's data prior to 1600AD which is basically what Ross McKitrick and Stephen McIntyre said earlier in this decade. The significance of that is that by downplaying the "Medieval Warm Period", the famous "Hockey Stick Graph" was displayed prominently in the IPCC Technical summary of 2001 while the trophosheric temperature data was placed in a much less prominent graph. The obvious intent was to mislead and misrepresent the data to infer that the recent temperature increase were "Man Made", a notion scoffed at in a column in Nature Magazine by Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould and recemtly by many others. Coupled with the supression by the EPA of a internal analysis (The Carlin Report) last March that concluded that there was minimal statistical evidence that CO2 had any effect on so called "anthropogenic global warming" and that the highest level of correlation was not CO2 but Ocean Currents and Temperatures. Given the fact that "Carbon Credit" Trading in Europe has been rife with fraud, that an idiot like Al Gore has structured his investments to profit from this contrived scheme, his claim to have "invented the Internet" and his totally ridiculous claim that climate change science is "settled science", the only rational conclusion is that the books have been cooked for political reasons.
Carbon credits are as worthless as mortgage backed securities were in late 2008. The science is not settled, and anyone that posits that is a fool. The NRC is also coveniently sidestepping the "Medieval Warming Period" when it claims "unprecedented warming in the last 1,000 years.