Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” graph, which purported to show steady temperatures on Earth for around a millenium until the 20th century, is the source of much of the misguided hysteria that surrounds the global warming movement. Mann achieved the hockey stick through mathematical errors or mathematical tricks, take your pick. Recently Virginia’s Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, filed a Civil Investigative Demand for documents from the University of Virginia relating to the work done by Mann while he was at the University. Cuccinelli wants to know whether taxpayer funds were used to help Mann perpetrate a hoax.
Cuccinelli’s subpoena has been greeted with howls and protests from warmists and others who view inquiry into a scientist’s work as an infringement of academic freedom–the freedom, that is, to make stuff up, hide or falsify data, and thereby impose trillions of dollars of costs on consumers, all while being supported by taxpayers. (In other contexts, this is commonly known as “fraud.”) The Science and Environmental Policy Project puts the controversy into context:
Since those objecting raise issues such as academic freedom and scientific advancement, it is important to recap a bit of history.
By the 1970’s, HH Lamb, the pioneer of modern climate research, compiled extensive physical evidence showing that climate change is normal and that during the last 10,000 years there were periods colder than today and warmer than today. The first two assessment reports of the UN IPCC included charts showing temperature change for the last 1000 years that included the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. The Summary for Policymakers of the 2001 Third Assessment Report eliminated these temperature changes and substituted Mann’s now infamous “hockey stick” graph produced by statistical techniques that purport to show that temperatures were relatively stable for about 900 years then shot up in the 20th Century. The results of a computer model trumps physical evidence. The research was “peer reviewed” but not available for independent review.
In 2006, Professor Edward Wegman of George Mason University, chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, headed a team of statisticians testing the methods used by Mr. Mann. Professor Wegman testified before Congress that Mann’s faulty statistical techniques always produce the infamous hockey stick configuration, even from random data.
If Mr. Mann had been open with his research data and methods, and permitted their review by independent scientists, his errors may have been appropriately corrected in a scientific setting rather than in a political one. Instead, he chose to withhold the information. It is imperative to understand the full extent to which Mann’s now discredited study distorted the climate and energy policies of the US government – at great cost to the taxpayer and energy consumer.
Those who invoke “academic freedom” and “scientific freedom” would do well to ask themselves how are these noble goals served when research is kept secret? How is democracy served when government- funded research so critical to public policy is kept secret?
It is a remarkable fact that warmists claim the right to keep their data secret and avoid any critical assessment of their work, while at the same time demanding that every country in the world fashion its energy policies on the basis of their alleged findings. No doubt there is a precedent, somewhere, for such arrogance. But I am not sure there is any precedent, anywhere, for governments being stupid enough to accede to such unreasonable demands.