Cuccinelli Fishing Expedition Makes the Washington Post

By Chris Mooney | May 4, 2010 10:32 am

See here. I am glad this story is being covered and that people are starting to denounce the investigation in suitable terms:

Rachel Levinson, senior counsel with the American Association of University Professors, said Cuccinelli’s request had “echoes of McCarthyism.”

“It would be incredibly chilling to anyone else practicing in either the same area or in any politically sensitive area,” she said.

Cuccinelli’s “civil investigative demand” sent to the University of Virginia can be found here in PDF, so you can see just how extensive it is. In the space of a month, the idea seems to be that UVA must vomit up pretty much anything in any way related to Mann’s science, including all his emails with fellow scientists, his computer codes, data, “structured or unstructured information,” etc.

Cuccinelli’s defense of what he’s doing, to the Post, doesn’t remotely cut it:

“In light of the Climategate e-mails, there does seem to at least be an argument to be made that a course was undertaken by some of the individuals involved, including potentially Michael Mann, where they were steering a course to reach a conclusion,” he said. “Our act, frankly, just requires honesty.”

It doesn’t merely require honesty, it also requires massive stress, work, and legal advice. And in light of the Climategate emails, no such argument holds up.

Moreover, if we were going to have such an inquiry into everyone ever suspected or accused of “steering a course to reach a conclusion”….well, that would be the end of research, I would think.

P.S.: The Union of Concerned Scientists has more.

Comments (65)

  1. Peter Morgan

    Set up a counter-suit, demanding all e-mails related to Cuccinelli’s decision to ask for this information? Obviously this is lawyer’s territory, however.

  2. Guy

    I would like to see Cuccinelli disbarred for this wasteful misuse of tax payer dollars.

  3. John Kwok

    @ Peter –

    As a former scientist and as a registered Republican who calls himself a Conservative with very, very strong Libertarian biases, I strongly second your suggestion.

    Under no circumstances should Cuccinelli’s suit prevail, simply because it would open a veritable can of worms for anyone, whether that might include those who want “proof” claiming that childhood vaccination is harmful to children to of course those who regard “Evilution” as some kind of GODLESS ATHEISTIC LBERAL plot against the United States Constitution (Of course forgetting the inconvenient fact – for them anyway – that there quite a few fellow conservatives who recognize the fact of biological evolution, starting of course with former University of Virginia provost, biologist Paul R. Gross, the co-author, with philosopher Barbara Forrest, of “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design”.).

  4. Sean McCorkle

    Hope this story continues to draw widespread attention.

    It doesn’t merely require honesty, it also requires massive stress, work, and legal advice.

    Quite right. Reminds me of the excessive FoI denial-of-service attacks on Phil Jones.

  5. V.O.R.

    John Kwok: You seem to have a point about a course of undertaking that would persuade some, potentially Cuccinelli.

    And, given his own words, that should be good enough for him.

  6. moptop

    I don’t support this, but I don’t see it as an inquisition either. Mann has supported the outlay of trillions of dollars of other people’s money based partly on his research. I can’t imagine why he would not defend it on its merits, instead of through legal maneuvering.

    “I would like to see Cuccinelli disbarred” -Guy

    He will run for re-election. Vote him out. Why is it always with state powered punishment with you people? This is one of the things that scares thinking people about you liberals. Sunshine is what is needed here. That’s all, not pre-judging of the guilt of one side or the other, and crying out for punishment. Maybe both are innocent and acting properly.

  7. moptop

    “Reminds me of the excessive FoI denial-of-service attacks on Phil Jones.”

    Oh cripes, The UK said that if the six month statute of limitations had not run out, Jones was clearly guilty of violations of the law. Read the climategate emails. You won’t sound so stupid.

  8. moptop

    If Jones had spent a tenth the time lawfully responding to the FOI request that he spent conspiring to circumvent them, he would have had a lot more time for his “research.”

  9. Guy

    “He will run for re-election. Vote him out. Why is it always with state powered punishment with you people? This is one of the things that scares thinking people about you liberals. Sunshine is what is needed here. That’s all, not pre-judging of the guilt of one side or the other, and crying out for punishment. Maybe both are innocent and acting properly.”

    The guy is abusing the power entrusted to him by the voters to go on a misguided witch-hunt. Such irresponsible behavior should be dealt with the body the governs him; the bar association of his state. And I’m more of a populist than a liberal.

  10. LRU

    Apologies for saying things everyone else has been saying. I thought I’d just put in my two cents.

    Although I can’t speak on the merits of the science nor could I make a reasonable assumption on the investigation, I believe I can speak to Cuccinelli’s actions thus far. His actions seem very counter-intuitive. There are already governmental agencies and academic measures in place that would have investigated this issue and decided on its merits. And from the previous blog comments, it appears the academic review and relevant audit committees have generally decided the allegations are unfounded.

    So, it is not clear to me on a practical level why would he use the VA AG time and resources to investigate a claim against the state’s public university. It seems to me as if he would be using Virginia’s AG resources to investigate the publicly funded university, which would be using funds it receives from Virginia to defend itself. Virgina vs. Virgina. Erm. Something doesn’t sound right.

    Although it is within his purview to request the large amount of documents in the broad scope of his discovery, from a cost-benefit analysis the investigation and possible litigation does not seem worth pursing. It also comes at a cost to pursuing more economically and legally relevant cases for the State. It’s only half a million dollars in grant funds. It just doesn’t seem worth the time or effort for the AG. But he’s pursing it anyway.

    So, I’ve got to agree with a number of the others that it’s probably Cuccinelli’s naked ambition that’s pushing this investigation along. It’s just that it is so obvious that he’s currying favor and trying to set himself up into a future candidacy (for governorship?) at the cost of taxpayer funds. It just seems to be such a ham-fisted political manoeuvre. It’s a shame his intimidation tactics may work to give him a very powerful political position. Though I have to say, shouldn’t good politicians be smoother and better than this?

  11. Sean McCorkle

    If Jones had spent a tenth the time lawfully responding to the FOI request that he spent conspiring to circumvent them, he would have had a lot more time for his “research.”

    sorry: not the request: 25:00 into the CFI interview with Michael Mann Mann says:

    “Phil Jones received something like 40 FoIA demands over one weekend”

    Thats not a reasonable request or two. Thats an attack. Each one of those can tie up the recipients and their offices for weeks. Thats an abuse of a vehicle which was created to keep governments honest and open.

  12. Sean McCorkle

    argh I forgot to close off the sorry.

  13. moptop

    Sean, How many did he unlawfully ignore before that?

  14. moptop

    You guys keep pretending that the stakes are small and that loosey goosey research and archiving methods will fly. Jones admitted that his data archives were a mess, and that he couldn’t respond to a lot of them because data was lost. He told others that he would delete the data before honoring a lawful request which was a condition of his employment. Don’t portray him as a selfless researcher, meticulous in his methods, dedicated only to the pursuit of truth, wherever that search may lead. Because the side of him not filtered through an adoring press was revealed, and Phil Jones came up wanting.

  15. moptop

    test

    Doubt it will work.

  16. ChrisD

    @moptop #6:

    Mann has supported the outlay of trillions of dollars of other people’s money

    Your basis for this assertion, please?

  17. “He told others that he would delete the data before honoring a lawful request which was a condition of his employment. ”

    I think you’re misquoting, but go ahead and provide an actual quote and a link if you think otherwise.

    Some duplicate data CRU had that was created by other agencies was destroyed, but the data still exists.

    One UK official argued the FOI law had been violated but didn’t provide the reasoning. IIRC, the issue was with other countries’ weather data that those countries allowed CRU to use, and CRU believed they didn’t have the ownership right to release the data. Some people dispute that, but it’s all a jumble. Hardly a reason to make Jones the villain of the year.

  18. Nullius in Verba

    ““Phil Jones received something like 40 FoIA demands over one weekend” Thats not a reasonable request or two. Thats an attack.”

    Every one of which could have been answered in five minutes by sending the same answer to all – to look at the web page where they had just put the details up. Or they could have just put the details up – word would have got around.

    They had previously declared that they couldn’t provide any of the data because of unspecified agreements with unnamed countries. The FOI requests simply asked for the details of these agreements. I think, in the end, there were about three. (And some they thought they had, but had since lost.)

    Splitting it up into 50 requests was intended to annoy and to make a point, I’m sure, but it didn’t require any significant work to comply with in this particular case.

  19. Criz

    @7 moptop: “The UK said that if the six month statute of limitations had not run out, Jones was clearly guilty of violations of the law”

    This statement seems disingenuous to say the least. I am assuming when you say “The UK said…” you mean this:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/387/387i.pdf

    The conclusions say his (Prof. Jones’) actions are “..in line with common practice in the climate science community.”

    Regarding breaching the Freedom of Information Act (which I assume is what you refer to regarding “…guilty of violations of the law.”) – Prof. Jones is not mentioned – the CRU and the UEA are mentioned.

    So I ask you to retract your comment as it stands.

  20. Criz

    @7 moptop [additional comment]:

    Furthermore, nothing in the report says anything about “..clearly guilty of violations of the law.”

    See paragraphs 92 & 93:

    “The Deputy Information Commissioner’s letter of 29 January gives a clear indication that a breach of the FOIA *may* have occurred but that a prosecution was time-barred. As,
    however, UEA pointed out, no investigation has been carried out.

    It seems to us that both sides have a point. There is *prima facie* evidence that CRU has breached the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It would, however, be *premature*, without a thorough investigation affording each party the opportunity to make representations, to conclude that UEA was in breach of the Act.”

  21. moptop

    “Your basis for this assertion, please?”

    The case for Cap and Trade is supported in the popular mind by Mann’s scientifically discredited hockey stick.

    The Chicago Climate Exchange (Obama cronies, BTW, err, I mean Early Supporters of Obama) expect the trade in carbon credits to be worth ten trillions dollars by the end of the decade.

    Phil Jones on illegally avoiding FOI. Feel free to google any key phrases in these quotes if you don’t believe me, but linking to certain sites gets your post gobbled.

    “Phil Jones wrote:
    >
    >> Mike,
    > Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?
    > Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.
    >
    > Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t
    > have his new email address.
    >
    > We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.”

    and:

    “The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there
    is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.” Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days? – our does ! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it.

    We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA so he can hide behind that. IPR should be relevant here,
    but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who’ll say we must adhere to it !”

    I guess you can deny what it clearly says in plain English. I have to look at it in context, and come to a different conclusion.

  22. Dan

    Come on, what a waste of taxpayer money. What he’s going after is emails. Emails that we all send when we presume privacy that sometimes say outrageous things. Cuccinelli is not in a position to attack data, models, or computer code as not he or anyone on his staff is qualified to even rudimentary understand them. Interestingly, computer code and data where also hacked in the “climate gate” affair yet none of it aroused any interest because it was clean. All that was turned up were a few embittered emails taken out of context and that’s exactly what Cuccinelli is looking for now. The reason why this deserves disbarment consideration is that his justification is so clearly political. Even if he found something mildly embarrassing for Dr. Mann (and in ten years of emails I’m sure you could find something on me), none of it is prosecutable. So why is doing it? Good question, the only answer to which is cheap political self-advancement.

  23. Sean McCorkle

    moptop@13 and nullius in verba@18

    What (arguably little) I understand about FoIA requests is that they trigger legal machinery, collection and review procedures at the workplace and are not simply satisfied by posting documents on the web. And perhaps I’m wrong about this, but I believe the recipient of the request is under legal obligation to comply. A failure to comply should be handled through legal mechanisms and not FoIA spam attacks.

    If the request is comprehensive and asks for data -well, for example, I can easily see lots of 20-30 y ear old old raw data sitting in boxes of 2400 ft 9 track reels. Probably pretty hard to copy those on request these days, no?

  24. ChrisD

    @moptop 21

    The Chicago Climate Exchange (Obama cronies, BTW, err, I mean Early Supporters of Obama) expect the trade in carbon credits to be worth ten trillions dollars by the end of the decade.

    Uh huh.

    So the guy who founded and runs the CCX “estimates” that there may be a market that size. Well, I guess that settles that. It must be true, and it can be posted as an established fact.

    And we can also assume that the existence of a “market” in something is synonymous with an “outlay of other people’s money”.

    And, of course, none of this would exist if it weren’t for Mann’s hockey stick.

    Sorry for doubting you.

    Incidentally, I ‘d like to see that $10 trillion number sourced. All I’ve found is the same alleged quote, repeated on all the conspiracy sites. None of the ones I’ve seen provide a link to an original source. That’s not to say it’s made up, but it’d be nice if they sourced it, wouldn’t it?

    (And I do mean “conspiracy sites” literally. The tag line for one of them is “Alternative News & Conspiracy Analysis For Free Minds”. I mean, seriously. “Conspiracy Analysis”. And let’s all consider the phrase “Alternative News” for a moment.)

  25. Science

    Mann received almost $500 000 in grants, taxpayers have all the right to ensure their money were correctly spent.

    Pretty much everyone agrees that hockey stick produced by Mann and used to spread climate hysteria and win multiple grants is bogus (Even his friends admit it in emails). Then there are also climategate emails which prove some of his closest collaborators committed a crime by destroying evidence targeted by FOI requests, they also hint at many more questionable practices.

    So on one hand we have a scientist whos science is used to promote regulations which are going to affect millions of people worldwide, and we have half a million dollars of public grant money which were spent by him. On the other hand we have a very shady dealings bordering on crime disclosed in emails and controversial scientific papers.

    It’s hard to find a case more worthy of public investigation, the public absolutely deserves the right to know whether Mann is an honest scientist acting in good faith.

    The fact that Mann has been cleared by his colleagues means nothing since if he is acting in bad faith they are almost certainly at least partly responsible too.

  26. moptop

    “Incidentally, I ‘d like to see that $10 trillion number sourced.”

    “Sandor estimates that climate trading could be “a $10 trillion dollar market.” It could very well be, if cap-and-trade measures like Waxman-Markey and Kerry-Boxer are signed into law, making energy prices skyrocket, and as companies buy and sell permits to emit those six “greenhouse” gases.” – Investors Business Daily
    http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=531731

    If IBD is too right wing for you, how about Bloomberg?

    “While the total amount of CO2 permits traded doubled last year, the market remains tiny compared with worldwide oil futures, where as much money changes hands in less than two days. New Carbon Finance, a London-based investment adviser that tracks the market, predicts the CO2 market will reach $3 trillion by 2020.

    The Paris-based International Energy Agency says the world faces flooding, droughts and food shortages unless it spends at least an additional $4.2 trillion by 2030 to reduce power-plant emissions and boost energy efficiency.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=aLM4otYnvXHQ

    Next time, either call BS or don’t. This stuff wasn’t that hard to find if you turned off your confirmation bias for a minute.

    “And, of course, none of this would exist if it weren’t for Mann’s hockey stick.”

    Can you show me where I said that? If I did, which I doubt, I take it back. I think that the stick is just one more piece of shoddy evidence that the whole rotten edifice of catastrophic AGW is founded on.

    Everything is so black and white with you guys.

  27. moptop

    To give an idea of how large 10 trillion dollars is, it is nearly the whole economic output of the US for a year. But don’t let that give you pause about whether the data should be examined by skeptical people for flaws. Close your eyes, plug your ears, and march in lock step singing “We shall overcome.”

    Excuse me if I would like to see the evidence, in full, warts and all, before making a decision like this.

  28. Nullius in Verba

    “Interestingly, computer code and data where also hacked in the “climate gate” affair yet none of it aroused any interest because it was clean.”

    Actually, it has aroused a great deal of interest, and no it most definitely is not “clean”.

    But working through code, figuring out what it does, and getting it to work on modern architectures takes a lot of time. Especially when it’s undocumented and badly written. They’re still working on it.

    But if you want to get a reasonably clear idea of what the code was like, read the HARRY_READ_ME.TXT file that was in the release. You don’t need to be a computer programmer to be able to tell what it means in general terms. Give me some quotes from it to demonstrate how you came to the conclusion that the code is “clean”.

    There’s a tidied up version here if you don’t have the Climategate download yourself. (And why ever wouldn’t you?)

  29. Nullius in Verba

    “What (arguably little) I understand about FoIA requests is that they trigger legal machinery, collection and review procedures at the workplace and are not simply satisfied by posting documents on the web.”

    There is legal machinery to ensure that you have complied, but it takes no more than a CC of the notifying email to the relevant person.

    “And perhaps I’m wrong about this, but I believe the recipient of the request is under legal obligation to comply. A failure to comply should be handled through legal mechanisms and not FoIA spam attacks.”

    Yes, they’re under a legal obligation to comply. (Although they seem not to have understood that, writing “Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.”) But the problem is that they didn’t simply not comply, they gave spurious reasons for exemption. And then when the evidence to support those reasons was asked for, they changed to another reason, and then another.

    For one set of emails requested, they said they didn’t have them any more, they had been deleted long ago. What are you supposed to do about that? What legal action can you take? When several of the requested emails turned up several years later in the Climategate archive, they had to admit that no, they hadn’t all been deleted after all. But it’s too late for you to do anything about it, so bad luck, eh?

    “If the request is comprehensive and asks for data -well, for example, I can easily see lots of 20-30 y ear old old raw data sitting in boxes of 2400 ft 9 track reels. Probably pretty hard to copy those on request these days, no?”

    In this particular case, it turned out to be three emails, that they had just recently relied on to turn down a previous request and should therefore have had to hand.

    There are several cases where precisely the data being asked for was sent to other climate scientists, so long as they were friendly and disinclined to pick holes in it. If it was illegal to pass it on, then how come they sent the data to their friends on request?

    Here’s what Michael Mann appended to one such download of data:
    “p.s. I know I probably don’t need to mention this, but just to insure absolutely clarify on this, I’m providing these for your own personal use, since you’re a trusted colleague. So please don’t pass this along to others without checking w/ me first. This is the sort of “dirty laundry” one doesn’t want to fall into the hands of those who might potentially try to distort things…”

    Well, you don’t need to worry about those poor climate scientists copying racks of data tapes (rather than getting somebody from IT to do it) because it turns out they didn’t have room for all that data anyway and so they dumped it. The input data they used no longer exists. So they say, anyway.

    This was the statement:
    “Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e., quality controlled and homogenized) data.”

    So apparently even CRU can’t replicate how it was put together! Quality!

    In private, Jones was saying:
    “The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

    Hmmm. I wonder?

  30. ChrisD

    @moptop 26, 27:

    “Sandor estimates that climate trading could be ‘a $10 trillion dollar market.’”

    That’s the same Sandor quote I saw everywhere. Please read my comment. What I said is that I’d like to see this quote sourced.

    This stuff wasn’t that hard to find …

    Well, you apparently didn’t find it.

    To give an idea of how large 10 trillion dollars is, it is nearly the whole economic output of the US for a year.

    First, this is one guy’s estimate of the size of a market. (And that’s assuming that this actually is what he said.) Second, the size of a market isn’t the same as an out-of-pocket expense. Have you compared the size of the capital markets to the US economy?

    If you seriously believe that the costs would equal the entire current US economy, you’re just delusional. I really can’t think of another word.

    But don’t let that give you pause about whether the data should be examined by skeptical people for flaws.

    Stop it with the ridiculous hyperbole. Everything is so black and white with you guys.

    Excuse me if I would like to see the evidence, in full, warts and all, before making a decision like this.

    No amount of evidence short of Miami disappearing into the surf is ever going to convince you guys. Not ever.

  31. moptop

    NIV,
    What never ceases to amaze me about these warmies is the claims they feel free to make without any kind of backup. Like the idea that the code was “clean.”

    Chris tells them not to look at something. Like good little followers, they don’t. Then they make proclamations from ignorance based on faith that those things that they avoided looking at won’t contradict them. It’s weird.

    This is why they lose every public debate they agree to where the winner is determined at the time by the audience present. Gavin Schmidt said that they lost the debate to Michael Crichton because he was so tall.

  32. ChrisD

    Pretty much everyone agrees that hockey stick produced by Mann and used to spread climate hysteria and win multiple grants is bogus

    Uh, no. Pretty much everyone agrees that it wasn’t perfect. That’s a long, long way from “bogus”.

    You might want to look at the National Research Council’s investigation. It finds some issues with the analysis but concludes that these have little effect on the final result and especially on the key take-away point of MBH99:

    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.

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309102251

  33. moptop

    Oddly enough ChrisD I got this from your link:

    “It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies.
    Less confidence can be placed in large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the period from A.D. 900 to 1600. Presently available proxy evidence indicates that temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900. The uncertainties associated with reconstructing hemispheric mean or global mean temperatures from these data increase substantially backward in time through this period and are not yet fully quantified.
    Very little confidence can be assigned to statements concerning the hemispheric mean or global mean surface temperature prior to about A.D. 900″

    “plausible” is a very very low bar, just a notch above “possible.”

  34. ChrisD

    @moptop 31

    This is why they lose every public debate they agree to where the winner is determined at the time by the audience present.

    Oh, come on. Debates are won by the team with the greater debating skill. And, in this particular case, there’s also the fact that general audiences really, really want to believe that they’re not ruining the planet for little Timmy and Susie. Who’s right and who’s wrong has nothing to do with the result of such a debate.

    These are two of the many reasons why the whole idea of using Oxford-style debates to decide the “rightness” of AGW is so stupid. The actual result of the debate is meaningless.

  35. moptop

    I wonder why Dr. Phil Jones said in that interview that he did not know if it was warmer now than during the medieval warm period when he was a regular correspondent with Mann, shared data with him, was director of the Climate Research Institute and East Anglia University?

    You would think with his credentials and contacts, he would have a pretty solid understanding of Mann’s work. Yet, he doesn’t believe it either. Dr Briffa jokes about it, concisely summarizing the skeptical criticism of the hockey stick in his joke.

    I have a comment in moderation which shows that the NAS did not, in fact buy the Hockey Stick.

    How long do you want to go on defending this guy?

  36. TTT

    As always, Moptop applies the same standard of rigor to “Climategate” as X-Files devotees do to Bigfoot sightings.

    “He told others that he would delete the data before honoring a lawful request which was a condition of his employment.”

    Omg, he told somebody he’d delete some data before he didn’t delete it! That’s almost as bad as the time he said he wanted to punch one of his critics in the nose right before he didn’t punch his critic in the nose.

    For lack of any evidence whatsoever of actual scientific misconduct, the denialists can only shift the goalposts into persecuting people for thoughtcrime.

  37. Nullius in Verba

    TTT,

    How do you know he didn’t delete it? Because he says so?

  38. Prof Mike

    The McCarthyism accusations are erroneous. McCarthy was investigating people’s political affiliations. Cuccinelli is investigating the use of taxpayer money of science research. If you think that’s McCarthyism, then Scientism has become your political affiliation.

  39. Guy

    Phil Jones has been vindicated on the “Climategate” emails. Mike Mann has been cleared of any wrong doing associated with the emails. The hockey stick graph has been independently verified by other scientists working with their own data sets and code. There is nothing there for the AG to investigate. They are just looking for something that wasn’t there to begin with; evidence of a vast conspiracy by all the scientists of the world to impose some sort of totalitarian control over the rest of society.

  40. TTT

    Nullius: There is no evidence of a deletion, and for lack of such I consider the matter closed. It is neither Mann’s responsibility, nor my own, to attempt to disprove frivolous conjecture.

  41. moptop

    “The hockey stick graph has been independently verified by other scientists working with their own data sets and code. ” – Guy

    We have been down this road, and every time it leads to the same place. All of these “independent studies” rely on the same inputs from the same discredited study. ChrisD gave the example of Kaufman et al 2009, well that is not independent either. It is just a recycle of Mann’s hockey stick.

    Guy doesn’t like me anymore, but could any of you please point me to a study that shows a hockey stick that *doesn’t* use Mann’s data or the CRU as an input? Please don’t bring up Mann 2009 either, because he misused data by putting it upside down. Once it was righted, as he had to do in a correction to the journal, his conclusion came right back to a squishy soft maybe.

    Anybody have one? Anybody?

  42. Nullius in Verba

    41,

    Loehle’s reconstruction didn’t use Mann’s data, Bristlecones, or Yamal, and he restricted it to proxies calibrated to temperature by the original authors.

    The reconstruction also gave a MWP of equal magnitude (well within the confidence intervals) to today.

    Sorry to be unhelpful. :-)

  43. moptop

    “…we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e., quality controlled and homogenized) data.” — Phil Jones (before the climategate leak)

    Whether or not he did delete it, or you disbelieve his threats and believe his story, it is impossible to check whether his conclusions are correct without his input data. That is why the Met Office is undertaking a three year project to reconstruct the data set that he “lost.”

  44. Nullius in Verba

    Oh, sorry, you wanted one that didn’t show a hockeystick?

    Sorry, I don’t think I’ve got one of those.

  45. moptop

    Oh cripes, now I spilled the bold juice

    Sorry.

  46. moptop

    “Phil Jones has been vindicated on the “Climategate” emails.” – Guy

    That’s why he is back at the helm of the CRU…. oh, wait…

  47. Gaythia

    @Prof Mike, I disagree. The McCarthy era did have a negative effect on science and is a good analogy for what is happening here. Scientists need to be free to conduct investigations in politically sensitive areas and to express their opinions on those investigations.

    The state of Virginia has a legitimate interest in investigating potential fraud. In which case, I think it would be better if the Attorney General were evaluating how the state allocated funds for research and how well the University of Virginia monitored them with regard to whether or not they meet the criteria of state laws. In my opinion, it is not the job of an attorney general to attempt to evaluate the science.

    As stated by Francesca T. Grifo, Ph.D. Director and Senior Scientist of the Scientific Integrity Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists (Chris has a link to in his PS above):

    “As you may be aware, numerous investigations over multiple years have exonerated Dr. Mann’s data and research methods. After certain members of Congress raised concerns about Dr. Mann’s research in 2005, the National Research Council at the National Academies of Science was asked to look into his findings. A report issued on June 22, 20061 “found the Mann team’s conclusion that warming in the last few decades of the 20th century was unprecedented over the last thousand years to be plausible.” No scientific misconduct was found.”

    and: “To be sure, scientific misconduct does occasionally occur, but the responsibility for policing that misconduct should reside with other scientific experts, such as journal editors, university colleagues or the National Academies of Science. When it comes to sabotaging public faith in science with groundless charges, it is appropriate that the bar be set very high and that the evidence be assessed by qualified experts.”

    With regards to McCarthyism, see for example: http://www.springerlink.com/content/t542h2v5528ng033/ Think of Oppenheimer.

  48. Guy

    Here is the summary that details what the findings were that vindicated Phil Jones

  49. The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in November 2009 had the potential to damage the reputation of the climate science and the scientists involved.
    We believe that the focus on CRU and Professor Phil Jones, Director of CRU, in particular, has largely been misplaced. Whilst we are concerned that the disclosed e-mails suggest a blunt refusal to share scientific data and methodologies with others, we can sympathise with Professor Jones, who must have found it frustrating to handle requests for data that he knew—or perceived—were motivated by a desire simply to undermine his work.
    In the context of the sharing of data and methodologies, we consider that Professor Jones’s actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community. It is not standard practice in climate science to publish the raw data and the computer code in academic papers. However, climate science is a matter of great importance and the quality of the science should be irreproachable. We therefore consider that climate scientists should take steps to make available all the data that support their work (including raw data) and full methodological workings (including the computer codes). Had both been available, many of the problems at UEA could have been avoided.
    We are content that the phrases such as “trick” or “hiding the decline” were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead. Likewise the evidence that we have seen does not suggest that Professor Jones was trying to subvert the peer review process. Academics should not be criticised for making informal comments on academic papers.
    In the context of Freedom of Information (FOIA), much of the responsibility should lie with UEA. The disclosed e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted, to avoid disclosure. We found prima facie evidence to suggest that the UEA found ways to support the culture at CRU of resisting disclosure of information to climate change sceptics. The failure of UEA to grasp fully the potential damage to CRU and UEA by the non-disclosure of FOIA requests was regrettable. UEA needs to review its policy towards FOIA and re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in this area is limited.
    The Deputy Information Commissioner has given a clear indication that a breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 may have occurred but that a prosecution was time-barred; however no investigation has been carried out. In our view it is unsatisfactory to leave the matter unresolved. We conclude that the matter needs to be resolved conclusively—either by the Independent Climate Change Email Review or by the Information Commissioner.
    We accept the independence of the Climate Change E-mail Review and recommend that the Review be open and transparent, taking oral evidence and conducting interviews in public wherever possible.
    On 22 March UEA announced the Scientific Appraisal Panel to be chaired by Lord
    Oxburgh. This Panelshould determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built and it would be premature for us to pre-judge its work.
  50. http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/HC387-IUEAFinalEmbargoedv21.pdf

  • ChrisD

    @moptop 33

    Do you really want to go there? Here’s NAS’s overarching conclusion:

    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.

    Do you see a whole lot of ambiguity there about whether or not NAS thinks Mann was right?

    If you really believe that “NAS did not, in fact buy the Hockey Stick”, then all I can say is that you and reality have parted company.

  • ChrisD

    Wow, this page is now majorly messed up. Discover really needs to add some error checking before allowing stuff to post. There’s no way that mismatched or unterminated tags should be allowed to screw up the whole page.

    And while you’re at it, Preview would be nice.

  • Gaythia

    @Chris D. I agree. I’ve been pushing for preview for quite some time now.

  • Guy

    “Wow, this page is now majorly messed up. Discover really needs to add some error checking before allowing stuff to post.”

    It’s displaying fine in Firefox, but not in IE. I haven’t checked Safari.

    Yes, the post should be subject to regular expression validation at a minimum and a preview button (maybe even an edit button) would minimize the risk to the pages being corrupted.

  • Guy

    Safari looks OK. I guess IE doesn’t check/correct for mismatched tags.

  • moptop

    “The Deputy Information Commissioner has given a clear indication that a breach of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 may have occurred but that a prosecution was time-barred; however no investigation has been carried out. In our view it is unsatisfactory to leave the matter unresolved. We conclude that the matter needs to be resolved conclusively—either by the Independent Climate Change Email Review or by the Information Commissioner.”

    Statute of limitations = Vindication? OK, Guy

    ChrisD….

    Did you keep reading after your dowdlerized snippet?

    “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””

  • ChrisD

    I guess IE doesn’t check/correct for mismatched tags.

    It does, but how you deal with that is something of a black art. After all, the page is invalid, and it’s not always obvious what should be done to “correct” it. There are probably cases where IE would guess right but FF (or whatever) wouldn’t.

  • Nullius in Verba

    As part of their statistical methods, Mann et al. used a type of principal component analysis that tends to bias the shape of the reconstructions.

    For periods prior to the 16th century, the Mann et al. (1999) reconstruction that uses this particular principal component analysis technique is strongly dependent on data from the Great Basin region in the western United States.
    [i.e. Stripbark Bristlecones.]

    Regarding metrics used in the validation step in the reconstruction exercise, two issues have been raised (McIntyre and McKitrick 2003, 2005a,b). One is that the choice of “significance level” for the reduction of error (RE) validation statistic is not appropriate. The other is that different statistics, specifically the coefficient of efficiency (CE) and the squared correlation (r2), should have been used (the various validation statistics are discussed in Chapter 9). Some of these criticisms are more relevant than others, but taken together, they are an important aspect of a more general finding of this committee, which is that uncertainties of the published reconstructions have been underestimated.

    * The observed discrepancy between some tree ring variables that are thought to be sensitive to temperature and the temperature changes observed in the late 20th century (Jacoby and D’Arrigo 1995, Briffa et al. 1998) reduces confidence that the correlation between these proxies and temperature has been consistent over time. Future work is needed to understand the cause of this “divergence,” which for now is considered unique to the 20th century and to areas north of 55°N (Cook et al. 2004).
    * For tree ring chronologies, the process of removing biological trends from ring-width data potentially obscures information on long-term changes in climate.
    *Temperature reconstructions for periods before about A.D. 1600 are based on proxies from a limited number of geographic regions, and some reconstructions are not robust with respect to the removal of proxy records from individual regions (see, e.g., Wahl and Ammann in press). Because the data are so limited, different large-scale reconstructions are sometimes based on the same datasets and thus cannot be considered as completely independent.

    Large-scale surface temperature reconstructions demonstrate very limited statistical skill (e.g., using the CE statistic) for proxy sets before the 19th century (Rutherford et al. 2005, Wahl and Ammann in press).

    While “strip-bark” samples should be avoided for temperature reconstructions, attention should also be paid to the confounding effects of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition (Vitousek et al. 1997), since the nutrient conditions of the soil determine wood growth response to increased atmospheric CO2 (Kostiainen et al. 2004).


    And from the congressional committee:

    CHAIRMAN BARTON. I understand that. It looks like my time is expired, so I want to ask one more question. Dr. North, do you dispute the conclusions or the methodology of Dr. Wegman’s report?
    DR. NORTH. No, we don’t. We don’t disagree with their criticism. In fact, pretty much the same thing is said in our report. But again, just because the claims are made, doesn’t mean they are false.
    CHAIRMAN BARTON. I understand that you can have the right conclusion and that it not be–
    DR. NORTH. It happens all the time in science.
    CHAIRMAN BARTON. Yes, and not be substantiated by what you purport to be the facts but have we established–we know that Dr. Wegman has said that Dr. Mann’s methodology is incorrect. Do you agree with that? I mean, it doesn’t mean Dr. Mann’s conclusions are wrong, but we can stipulate now that we have–and if you want to ask your statistician expert from North Carolina that Dr. Mann’s methodology cannot be documented and cannot be verified by independent review.
    DR. NORTH. Do you mind if he speaks?
    CHAIRMAN BARTON. Yes, if he would like to come to the microphone.
    MR. BLOOMFIELD. Thank you. Yes, Peter Bloomfield. Our committee reviewed the methodology used by Dr. Mann and his coworkers and we felt that some of the choices they made were inappropriate. We had much the same misgivings about his work that was documented at much greater length by Dr. Wegman.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Oh, and here’s Eduardo Zorita (a pro-AGW climate scientist) commenting on why the NAS report was as mild as it was:

    “in my opinion the Panel adopted the most critical position to MBH nowadays possible. I agree with you that it is in many parts ambivalent and some parts are inconsistent with others. It would have been unrealistic to expect a report with a summary stating that MBH98 and MBH99 were wrong (and therefore the IPC TAR had serious problems) when the Fourth Report is in the making. I was indeed surprised by the extensive and deep criticism of the MBH methodology in Chapters 9 and 11.”

  • ChrisD

    You guys can dance around the NAS verbiage all you want. Yes, they had problems with some of his methodology. So did a lot of people. He made some mistakes. Hoo-ah.

    But here’s the money shot:

    [Mann’s basic] conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence….

    And there you have it. At the end of the day, that is the only thing that’s important. His graph isn’t. His methodology isn’t. His papers aren’t. Throw them all away if you want. Send Mann to jail if you want. It doesn’t matter.

    Only one thing matters: That there has been a sudden, severe, and, by all available evidence, very unusual warming since 1975 or so. That’s the critical fact, and you don’t need Mann for that. It’s supported by “an array of evidence” and research that he had nothing to do with. This is the essential fact that NAS grasps and that you guys seem unable to. You can nitpick about PCA all you want. It doesn’t change what’s happened.

    You’re obsessing about the shape of one blade of grass in a forest.

  • Nullius in Verba

    58.

    So does that mean you’re admitting to MBH98 and 99 being flawed? That we should throw them all away? Because it would be really nice to get that point out of the way, in black and white, before we move on to all the *other* reconstructions.

    The NAS report did indeed cite a number of other reconstructions that supported the conclusion. Unfortunately, they failed to note that most of them used the exact same methods they had just criticised, and said shouldn’t be used. In particular, the use of the strip-bark proxies.

    But if you was to throw out every reconstruction that used strip-bark Bristlecones/Foxtails, every reconstruction that used Yamal, or the outdated version of the Polar Urals series, and every reconstruction that incorporated series upside down, then I would agree that we were getting somewhere. I’d also like you to take out every series that either cuts off, or splices on instrumental data post-1960 to cover up the divergence problem – something the NAS panel didn’t address, because it doesn’t apply to MBH but does to a couple of the others. We’ll take a look at what’s left.

    Let me know when climate science has done that, will you?

  • ChrisD

    @NIV 59

    Wow, I can’t believe this is so hard to understand. You guys are trying to make the case that the NAS didn’t support Mann.

    Let me quote NAS’s fundamental finding one more time:

    [Mann’s basic] conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence….

    You can try to count the angels dancing on the head of a pin as long as you want, but that is their conclusion.

  • moptop

    Kind of funny how ChrisD has to cut his quotes so short to remove the context he doesn’t want anybody to notice. He may not even notice himself. His confirmation bias may be so strong that he can’t read the whole thing and understand its conclusions.

    Deny, deny, deny…

  • moptop

    Let’s see ChrisD’s quote with the rest of the text that went with it:

    “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. Not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented, although a larger fraction of geographically diverse sites experienced exceptional warmth during the late 20th century than during any other extended period from A.D. 900 onward.
    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”

  • ChrisD

    The rest of that sentence just describes the “array of evidence”, and you know it. The sentence is what it is, and it says what I quoted, and your claim that the NAS “does not, in fact, buy the hockey stick” is wrong. “[Mann’s basic] conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence….” It could not be any clearer than that.

    Deny, deny, deny.

  • TTT

    Moptop, that longer excerpt just goes into more detail to vindicate Mann. Chris was being generous by cutting it down to the first half-sentence, I don’t know what you think you are proving by putting all the rest of it back in. It’s just case after case about how this and that evidentiary source proves that the warming trend of the last few decades is unprecedented over at least the past millennium.

    Oh, and Nullus #56: your highlighted point about the weakness of tree ring proxies points to the wisdom of the CRU scientists disregarding the flubby data that they produce–as they announced publicly they would do in the peer-reviewed 1998 Nature article, later referred to shorthandedly as “the Nature trick to hide the decline”.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “your claim that the NAS “does not, in fact, buy the hockey stick” is wrong.”

    It depends on exactly what you mean by “the hockeystick”. The NAS conclusion was carefully worded to be ambiguous.

    The scientifically supportable position is that, to the extent that global temperature history can be determined from proxies, there was a warm period about 1000 years ago called the Medieval Warm Period in which temperatures appear to be the same or slightly higher than today, followed by a cold period popularly known as the Little Ice Age, followed by the modern warm period.

    It is perfectly true that the modern warm period is probably the warmest in 400 years, because that puts us back in the middle of the LIA. It is plausible that the modern period is slightly warmer than the MWP, because the error bars are so large on the reconstruction of the past that we can’t tell if the earlier warm period was as warm as it appears. The conclusion you seem so insistent on is one that, when parsed precisely, sceptics would very likely agree with: that we don’t know.

    We can’t reconstruct temperatures that accurately, so we don’t know that the MWP was warmer, so it is plausible that it is not. And there are indeed (flawed) studies in existence that support the idea that it wasn’t.

    It’s a classic politician’s answer, that doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.

    But with world views in such violent collision, I’m impressed that we’ve got as far as we have. I don’t think there’s any more to be gained from parsing the ambiguities of the NAS.

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    About Chris Mooney

    Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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