A Simply Told Ptolemaic

The Washington Post has finally commented on the Wegman Report, and Whitfield hearings I and II on the so-called “hockey stick” graph — a trend line that purports to show little temperature variation throughout the Medieval Warm Period and a sudden and dramatic increase in global temperatures in the 1990s and therefore looks like a hockey stick. Their position:

The graph is hardly central to the modern debate over climate change. Yet the subcommittee has investigated the scientists who dared produce it and hounded them for information.

This despite the graph being in the summary for policy makers in the IPCC 2001, and used by dozens of major government agencies throughout the world to motivate global warming programs. And their spin on scientists being asked to justify their results — anyone would think we were back in the Medieval Warm Period and the hockey stick was the equivalent of the Ptolemaic system with the Earth the center of the universe.

So what is it all about? A good starting point is the statement here: Some Thoughts on Disclosure and Due Diligence in Climate Science. Subsequent to these efforts, the Wegman report uncovered a number of fictions in an area of climate science, and offered a number of constructive solutions to the pervasive problems they discovered.

So you can decide if this is important or not, below are compiled some historic statements by climate scientist Michael Mann and others regarding their science, together with relevant comments on the Mann et.al study from the Wegman Report, and others.

On the Medieval Warm Period

While warmth early in the millennium approaches mean 20th century levels, the late 20th century still appears anomalous:
the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the
warmest year, in at least a millennium.

Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past
Millennium: Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations

Michael E. Mann and Raymond S. Bradley
Malcolm K. Hughes AGU GRL galley style, v3.1, 14 Feb 94

Very little confidence can be placed in statements about average global surface temperatures prior to A.D. 900 because the proxy data for that time frame are sparse

Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years
National Academy of Sciences

On Scientific Review

“From an intellectual point of view, these contrarians are pathetic, because there’s no scientific validity to their arguments whatsoever,” Mann says.

Scientific American

In general, we found MBH98 and MBH99 (Mann et.al.) to be somewhat obscure and incomplete and
the criticisms of MM03/05a/05b (McIntyre and McKitrick) to be valid and compelling.

Wegman Report

On Sharing of Data and Methods

My colleagues and I follow the National Research Council’s
guidance with regards to the disclosure of research data, and all of our data and
methodologies have been fully disclosed and are available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

Response of M. Mann to Barton

Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results was haphazardly and grudgingly done.

Wegman Report

On Scientific Method

“With the publication of the article in Science [in 1995], I gained significant credibility in the community of scientists working on climate change. They thought I was one of them, someone who would pervert science in the service of social and political causes. So one of them let his guard down. A major person working in the area of climate change and global warming sent me an astonishing email that said “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.”

D. Deming, Science 1995

In this case we judge that there was too much
reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. Moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public
positions without losing credibility.

Wegman Report

On Science Informing Policy

“I’m very concerned that this is being used in a way to discredit the whole notion that our country and the rest of the industrialized and developing world ought to do anything about global warming. And that’s why I ask you that question, Dr. Wegman, if this does not make you somewhat uncomfortable. Can you see in any way how this is being used and does it bother you?”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.:

“As some of you may know, I have spent the last several years exploring various environmental issues, particularly global warming. I have been deeply disturbed by what I have found, largely because the so-called evidence for so many environmental issues is often shockingly flawed and unsubstantiated.

But more troubling, to me, is the degree to which the political process seems to have captured and often corrupted the integrity of the scientific research that is used to formulate policy, and inform policy decisions.

I am also troubled by the insensible and distracting contentiousness that seems to inform so much of current political debate – especially when environmental issues are involved. As a result of this political friction – which is all heat and no light – policy is often established by way of litigation, rather than negotiation and legislation.”

Michael Chriton Science Policy in the 21st Century, A speech to the Joint Session AEI-Brookings Institution Washington, DC, January 25, 2005.


The following comment by bender at climateaudit sums it up.

Whereas engineering science has evolved to cope with the hard reality that it can influence people’s lives (in good & bad ways), Big Science is not in the habit of meeting up with Big Policy in a way that it matters to anyone. The culture of ivory tower Big Science is to be content with peer review and to shun inspection from outside. Big Scientists need to be periodically reminded that if they want to inform Big Policy and get the Big Bucks Grants, they will likely face a Big Audit.

Comment by bender — 1 August 2006 @ 8:20 am


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