Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mann on a Mission

Climate science, now undergoing major scrutiny, is a complex and emerging science in which few things are finally “settled” . Disputes abound, not least between those who see the world as warming and at a “tipping point” for disruptive change unless man-made CO2 are massively reduced and those who take the view that, while the climate is changing, reducing man made CO2 emissions will have little or no impact.

What became an issue in climate science was whether or not a small clique of scientists – led by Professor Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) and Professor Michael Mann of Penn State University – falsified evidence, destroyed data, manipulated data inappropriately or used their status and influence as leading climate scientists to inhibit scientific debate and push one theory (anthropogenic global warming) in a way that disabled criticism. These accusations flowed from the “leaking” of emails between various climate scientists, now alleged to have been hacked by Russian spies. Climategate, as the leaked emails were known, became a cause celebre for climate skeptics.

Penn State University undertook to systematically review the allegations against Professor Mann and to report both the its own governing body and to the public. The internal team of distinguished scholars reported today.

Their conclusions are thorough and clear. Michael Mann did not falsify, inappropriately analyse or manipulate or destroy evidence. His published work here under scrutiny is “sound”. What remains in doubt, and now the subject of further study by a second panel of peers, is whether his conduct as a scientist was appropriate. The review committee are not saying that his behaviour was inappropriate, only that it requires further scrutiny. They have established a team of five scientists from within Penn State to do this and have asked them to report back in one hundred and twenty days.

At issue is the conduct of Mann, Jones and others with respect to the alleged attempts to manipulate peer review such as to favour their own theories at the expense of others. Also involved is the dismissive (and sometimes disreputable) comments made about those whose view differ from their own. The base question is one of integrity of conduct.

Mann is no stranger to controversy. He is the principle author of the famous “hockey stick” graph, used by Al Gore and the IPCC to make the clear and explicit case for the present warming period to be exceptional and beyond normal patterns for the climate. Now discredited, both through a congressional scientific review and through the work of statisticians who have offered a thoroughgoing critique of the methods used to create this graph, Mann continues to maintain that his results are what the graph shows. Mann knows how to be both resilient and defiant. He is a man on a mission.

Whether or not the new inquiry finds him to have issues with integrity or not, his position as one of the apostles of the new religion of global warming is now severely weakened. The fact that he was not exonerated on all “charges” by the Penn State team is in itself a cause for concern. His peers will likely support him in general, but suggest some cautions about how he conducts himself in the future. Whatever is said, Michael Mann is damaged goods.

No comments: