In this post, I compare two opinion pieces. The first is a recent editorial in the New York Times, which glosses over some recent "investigations" of "Climategate," and declares them to be perfectly legitimate. The second is a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Patrick Michaels that looks at the specifics of the "investigations" and their aftermath. Generally, people (including me) are going to be predisposed to a point of view, but as one who has read the NYT for many years, I do notice that the paper has a disturbing trend of ignoring the obvious whenever the paper's own points of view are being challenged.
I often use the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case as an example, because the NYT had such a dismal performance in that whole situation. This problem was not due to a lack of information that journalists could obtain. Indeed, the information was there and bloggers such as K.C. Johnson seized on it and had the story correct from the beginning.
The NYT, however, which probably had the most dismal record of any news publication in this case, twisting the facts in ways that made it obvious that the it was interested in only one result: trial and conviction of people who clearly were innocent. (The NYT's August 25, 2006, front-page article was so bad that even the paper itself was forced to distance itself from its own work after the North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed the charges and declared the accused to be "innocent.")
I bring this up because the leadership of the NYT long ago decided that party politics and leftist ideology trump the facts. Thus, I hardly am surprised to read this editorial in the NYT about the "Climategate" investigations. In part, the editorial declares:
Perhaps now we can put the manufactured controversy known as Climategate behind us and turn to the task of actually doing something about global warming. On Wednesday, a panel in Britain concluded that scientists whose e-mail had been hacked late last year had not, as critics alleged, distorted scientific evidence to prove that global warming was occurring and that human beings were primarily responsible.Compare those words to what Prof. Michaels has written:
It was the fifth such review of hundreds of e-mail exchanges among some of the world’s most prominent climatologists. Some of the e-mail messages, purloined last November, were mean-spirited, others were dismissive of contrarian views, and others revealed a timid reluctance to share data. Climate skeptics pounced on them as evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate research to support predetermined ideas about global warming.
The panel found no such conspiracy. It complained mildly about one poorly explained temperature chart discussed in the e-mail, but otherwise found no reason to dispute the scientists’ “rigor and honesty.” Two earlier panels convened by Britain’s Royal Society and the House of Commons reached essentially the same verdict. And this month, a second panel at Penn State University exonerated Michael Mann, a prominent climatologist and faculty member, of scientific wrongdoing.
Dr. Mann, who was part of the e-mail exchange, had been accused of misusing data to prove that the rise in temperatures over the last century was directly linked to steadily rising levels of carbon dioxide. His findings, confirmed many times by others, are central to the argument that fossil fuels must be taxed or regulated.
Now a supposedly independent review of the evidence says, in effect, "nothing to see here." Last week "The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review," commissioned and paid for by the University of East Anglia, exonerated the University of East Anglia. The review committee was chaired by Sir Muir Russell, former vice chancellor at the University of Glasgow.He further notes:
Mr. Russell took pains to present his committee, which consisted of four other academics, as independent. He told the Times of London that "Given the nature of the allegations it is right that someone who has no links to either the university or the climate science community looks at the evidence and makes recommendations based on what they find."
No links? One of the panel's four members, Prof. Geoffrey Boulton, was on the faculty of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences for 18 years. At the beginning of his tenure, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU)—the source of the Climategate emails—was established in Mr. Boulton's school at East Anglia. Last December, Mr. Boulton signed a petition declaring that the scientists who established the global climate records at East Anglia "adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity."
This purportedly independent review comes on the heels of two others—one by the University of East Anglia itself and the other by Penn State University, both completed in the spring, concerning its own employee, Prof. Michael Mann. Mr. Mann was one of the Climategate principals who proposed a plan, which was clearly laid out in emails whose veracity Mr. Mann has not challenged, to destroy a scientific journal that dared to publish three papers with which he and his East Anglia friends disagreed. These two reviews also saw no evil. For example, Penn State "determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community."
Readers of both earlier reports need to know that both institutions receive tens of millions in federal global warming research funding (which can be confirmed by perusing the grant histories of Messrs. Jones or Mann, compiled from public sources, that are available online at freerepublic.com). Any admission of substantial scientific misbehavior would likely result in a significant loss of funding.
Then there's the problem of interference with peer review in the scientific literature. Here too Mr. Russell could find no wrong: "On the allegations that there was subversion of the peer review or editorial process, we find no evidence to substantiate this."I can assure readers that had the situation been reversed, the NYT would have been all over it. Somehow, I am not surprised that Paul Krugman is employed by an outfit that believes that "truth" is whatever the NYT says it is.
Really? Mr. Mann claims that temperatures roughly 800 years ago, in what has been referred to as the Medieval Warm Period, were not as warm as those measured recently. This is important because if modern temperatures are not unusual, it casts doubt on the fear that global warming is a serious threat. In 2003, Willie Soon of the Smithsonian Institution and Sallie Baliunas of Harvard published a paper in the journal Climate Research that took exception to Mr. Mann's work, work which also was at variance with a large number of independent studies of paleoclimate. So it would seem the Soon-Baliunas paper was just part of the normal to-and-fro of science.
But Mr. Jones wrote Mr. Mann on March 11, 2003, that "I'll be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor," Chris de Freitas of the University of Auckland. Mr. Mann responded to Mr. Jones on the same day: "I think we should stop considering 'Climate Research' as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues . . . to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal. We would also need to consider what we tell or request our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board."
Mr. Mann ultimately wrote to Mr. Jones on July 11, 2003, that "I think the community should . . . terminate its involvement with this journal at all levels . . . and leave it to wither away into oblivion and disrepute."
Climate Research and several other journals have stopped accepting anything that substantially challenges the received wisdom on global warming perpetuated by the CRU. I have had four perfectly good manuscripts rejected out of hand since the CRU shenanigans, and I'm hardly the only one. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, has noted that it's becoming nearly impossible to publish anything on global warming that's nonalarmist in peer-reviewed journals.
Of course, Mr. Russell didn't look to see if the ugly pressure tactics discussed in the Climategate emails had any consequences. That's because they only interviewed CRU people, not the people whom they had trashed.