Wegman Report’s “abysmal scholarship” revealed

A detailed investigation into the genesis of the 2006 Wegman Report — much beloved of climate sceptics because it was critical of the “hockey stick” paleoclimate reconstructions of Michael Mann (et al) — has shown it to be deeply flawed, stuffed with poorly-executed plagiarism, and very far from the “independent, impartial, expert” effort it was presented as to Congress. The new 250 page study, Strange scholarship in the Wegman Report (exec summary, full report) by John Mashey (with considerable assistance from Canadian blogger Deep Climate) finds that:

  • a third of the Wegman Report was plagiarised from other sources, without attribution
  • half of the references in the bibliography are not cited in the main text, and one reference is to “a fringe technology publication by a writer of pseudoscience”
  • a graph of central England temperatures from the first IPCC report was distorted and misrepresented
  • the supposedly impartial Wegman team were fed papers and references by a member of Republican Congressman Joe Barton’s staff
  • Wegman’s social network analysis of the authorship of “hockey team” papers was poor, and did not support the claims made of problems with peer-review in the field

Mashey points out that Wegman “claimed two missions: to evaluate statistical issues of the “hockey stick” temperature graph, and to assess potential peer review issues in climate science”. Instead, its real purpose was to:

#1 claim the hockey stick broken and #2 discredit climate science as a whole. All this was a facade for a PR campaign well-honed by Washington, DC “thinktanks” and allies, under way for years.

If you’ve ever attempted to follow the “hockey stick” controversy, Mashey’s study is an incredibly thorough and detailed dissection of the extent to which the whole effort has been underpinned by the usual suspects — the network of well-funded think tanks and their political allies. His conclusion is telling:

I think this was a well-organized effort, involving many people, to mislead the American public and Congress. The former happens often, but the latter can be a felony, as is conspiracy to do it, and not telling about it. […] The Wegman Report misleads by avoidance of good scholarship, good science and even good statistics.

More on the Wegman scandal at Deep Climate, Not Spaghetti, and Scott Mandia’s Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Talk in the town

Last night’s session with the Skeptics in the Pub in Christchurch was an interesting experience (some nice feedback too, thanks). It gave me a chance to develop a few of the thoughts that have been running through my mind recently — and it’s good to do that by presenting them to an audience willing to explore and challenge ideas. The question session at the end ran for about 40 minutes, and the best moment came when one sceptic (no “k”, he was clearly of the “not persuaded” variety) had been pushing me for a worst case. I said that it was conceivable that climate change could end our civilisation. The questioner turned to the rest of the audience and asked them if they really believed that, to receive a chorus of agreement and nods. That’s what happens in the real world: when sceptics leave the comfortable certainty of Wishart-world or Treadgold territory, µWatts or Morano’s depot, they find that the rational world is coming to terms with the real risks.

I promised the group I would make my slides available: they’re here [3.3MB pdf]. The first half of the talk dealt with some basics, and ended with a Katey Walter earth fart lighting session. I then moved on to explore some of the reasons why there is so much manufactured doubt about the reality or seriousness of climate change. The slides are reasonably self-explanatory, happy to discuss in comments.


Many thanks to John Cook at Skeptical Science for making so much of the necessary material so easy to find and use. And for the iPhone app…

[The (older) Pretenders]