Hwang Woo Suk, Blogs, and Mann

I’ll make it clear from the outset that the falsification of data by Hwang Woo Suk and flawed results of Mann Bradley and Hughes are completely different situations. There are some similarities though. One, seemed to open a door to therapeutic cloning that could benefit millions of people with debilitating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The others provided a breakthough view of millennial climate history that seemed to prove humans were altering climate in an unprecedented way. They both have thousands of supporters wanting to give them a chance to prove the findings correct. And the problems were both discovered by scrutiny outside the peer review process.

At the hearings
Questions Surrounding the ‘Hockey Stick’ Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments
the question not asked directly was how many other studies have been subjected to independent scrutiny? Certainly not by the IPCC that only conducts a literature review. To my knowledge no other climate studies have been audited as McIntyre and McKitrick did for the hockey stick. Yet this scrutiny is probably less than might be done in evaluation of major engineering projects, ore body reserves or any significant business venture. The hockey stick was one climate study among many subjected to auditing in depth and found wanting.

It raises reasonable doubts about how many others would stand up to scrutiny. It is because global warming could be significant that it should be exposed to scutiny. But this episode shows that scientists, and the IPCC, seem to be failing to provide a level of confidence one might expect of say, the financial records of a company.

True to form, the arguments from the left at the Barton hearings mainly drew on the breadth of studies supporting warming. Confidence in breadth of studies, is not the same as confidence in depth of study. Methodological criticism is difficult due to lack of archival of data, unavailability of code and poor documentation of methods.

Hans von Storch, climate scientist, believer in global warming and also critic of the hockey stick and exaggerated claims written testimony sums up this issue:

Scientists lapse into a zeal reminiscent of nothing so much as the McCarthy era. For them, methodological criticism is the spawn of “conservative think tanks and propagandists for the oil and coal lobby,” which they believe they must expose; dramatizing climate change, on the other hand, is defended as a sensible means of educating society.

You can see this in the arguments at the committee hearing. Wegner proves that especially when massive amounts of public monies and human lives are at stake, like global warming and stem cell research, that academic work should have a more intense level of scrutiny and review.

Before we commit massive amounts of money to changes in public policy, we must be sure that the facts are the facts. – Hon. Barton

However, the opponents at the committee hearing appeal to argument ad nauseam that breadth of evidence shows we should do something about global warming, and attempts at due diligence is due to a tobacco lobby-like conspiracy.

Classical science operates through definitive high confidence experiments. Climate scientists would have us believe that it operates by accumulating a weight of plausible evidence. Depth of evidence is like cross-examination of a witness at a trial. Breadth of evidence is like bringing in many witnesses. Both are used, but the value of every withness can only be determined by the depth of questioning of each of the witnesses, not just their number.

There is a lot more controversial science being used to justify anthropogenic global warming, like North’s spring analogy mentioned at the meeting. I have seen contradictory statements in the literature about the impact that greater variation in past climate has on attribution of current climate change to CO2. These are the speculations of ‘post-normal science’, and not facts.

Question to the Panel 2: Have any of the studies you refer to in been audited to the degree that M&M have done for the hockey stick? The honest answer is no.


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