Ethics in climate science: How do we know what we know?

It’s almost an arcane fight, but it’s an important one — if you’re going to discuss climate science and the policies required to clean up pollution that causes destruction of our planet, can we at least agree to stick to the facts, the real facts?

John Mashey is a computer smart guy who jumped into the fray to point out that most opponents to doing anything to stop the destruction have a social or economic interest in stopping the action and continuing the destruction, something Mashey determined from looking at the networks linking the people involved.  There’s a lot of howling about Mashey’s pointing out that the emperor is a crook.  So far he’s been proved correct.

An academic group you probably never heard of, the National Association of Scholars, has an elected leader who decided to take after Mashey, rather than clean up the house.  Peter Wood writes a column for the  Chronicle of Higher Education, and sadly, their editorial mavens appear not to have fact checked it.  To their credit, they allowed Mashey’s response.

Comments are brutal.

Here’s how Tim Lambert described it at Deltoid:

John Mashey and Rob Coleman have a guest post at The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog replying to Peter Wood’s hit piece.

Wood’s article misused the platform of CHE. Its relevance to the concerns of CHE was minimal. It had little purpose but to damage the reputation of one of us, John Mashey, and the climate scientist Michael Mann, whom Wood has often denigrated elsewhere. The political false-association tactics were obvious. Climate scientists are under incessant attack, a fact strongly decried the day before Wood’s article by the AAAS Board. The muddy battlefield of blogs and media has now arrived on the CHE premises, easily seen in the comments.

If one tells the truth in climate science, one needs thick skin.  Go read Mashey’s piece before you read the comments.  More background from Lambert, here.

And the context you need:  Only one study on climate change has actually been retracted over the past couple of years — no, not any of those noting that warming occurs, not any of those that use the graph famously described as “a hockey stick,” but the piece that pulled together all the criticism of the science, at the behest of Republicans on the environment committees in the U.S. Congress, called the Wegman Report.  And it was John Mashey who assembled the extensive and sometimes elegant case that the Wegman Report was plagiarized and wrong.

This is, indeed, a case of trying to kill the messenger’s reputation.

Am I the only one suspicious that the National Association of Scholars may have been named to foster confusion about the authority of reports, say from the National Academy of Sciences, the long-time science advisory group to presidents whose reports urge action to stop climate change?  Notice their acronyms are the same.

5 Responses to Ethics in climate science: How do we know what we know?

  1. John Mashey says:

    A) So far there is zero evidence that Peter Ward is elected, or even has a Board that can get rid of him.

    “The Association’s officers are not answerable to its members, who are a fig leaf that’s brushed away in official docs: according to its 2008 and 2009 IRS Form 990s (Part VI Section A), the Association doesn’t have members (line 6), members don’t elect the officers (line 7a), and the decisions of the governing body are not subject to members’ approval (line 7b).”

    [Many nonprofits work this way … but not usually academic associations, which usually elect leadership on a rotating basis.]

    Scaife funding seems to be slowly decreasing, and the Teaching American History money, the big source, is drying up, and membership dues have been on a long decline. Maybe this is Peter Wood’s hope of revitalizing NAS. actually, the TAH funding flows may raise interesting questions for those who like FOIAs and are really, really intense on finding mis-use of government funds.

    B) Rob Coleman really ought to get more credit – he jumped in and really helped.
    The usuals have focused their ire on me (ho-hum) … good move, given that, as I posted in the comments yesterday in

    “USA Today:
    1) Took {me, DC, Bradley} seriously enough to engage 3 real experts, and they were absolutely clear: plagiarism.

    2) And one of them is my helpful coauthor, Rob Coleman:
    – a very well-published and award-winning Professor of Chemistry at OSU
    – but also has Chaired the OSU Academic Misconduct Committee for the last few years:
    OSU handles a lot of cases and documents them, because OSU takes academic integrity *seriously*.

    We are still waiting for George Mason University, 17 months after Bradley’s first complaint, and several months after retraction of paper thanking 3 separate Federal agencies for funding.


  2. Pangolin says:

    The oil industry has more than enough money to pay for boiler-rooms full of meat-puppets to spam denier garbage.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Watts’s claims are based on the imaginations of one neuron — and no one now claims it.

    Watts’s complaint about Mann’s hockey stick is that it is based on real temperatures after 1980, and not on guesses. So to claim now that it’s based on one tree is silly, quite dishonest, and inaccurate.


  4. DirkH says:

    Well, Michael Mann’s hockey stick is still based on one tree only, through an abuse of PCA.


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