Jack Kelly: Fraud question looms in global warming research

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We're likely to learn much more about what may be the biggest scam in history because a blustering bully has had his bluff called.

Michael Mann, a professor at Penn State University, created the famous "hockey stick" graph, which claims to show global temperatures soared in the 20th century after 900 years of stability. According to it, the Medieval Warm Period (about A.D. 800 to 1300) and the Little Ice Age (about A.D. 1400 to 1850) never existed.

The methods Mr. Mann used to create his graph would generate a "hockey stick" no matter what data were fed into it, charged Canadians Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick in a 2005 paper. Two congressional committees asked scientists to look into the controversy.

"Mann's assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis," concluded the report of a committee headed by Edward Wegman, a statistics professor at George Mason University. A panel formed by the National Academy of Sciences also had little confidence in those assertions.

Actual measurements of global temperatures weren't made before about 1850, so scientists use proxies to estimate temperatures in earlier times. Mr. Mann used data from bristlecone pine trees in California.

His study of tree rings from the Yamal region in Siberia corroborated Mr. Mann's findings, said Keith Briffa of the University of East Anglia in Britain. Then a scandal forced him to disclose he'd used data from just 12 of the 252 trees in the Yamal data set. It was clear Mr. Briffa had cherry-picked the data to get the results he wanted.

Mr. Briffa's shenanigans -- and much more -- were exposed when in 2009 someone posted on the Web 1,079 emails exchanged by scientists who promote the anthropogenic global warming theory, or AGW. In one, Mr. Briffa's boss wrote: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd [sic] from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

"Mike" is Mr. Mann. "Keith" is Mr. Briffa. "Nature trick" refers to an article Mr. Mann wrote for Nature magazine in which he mixed real temperature data with proxy data to produce the hockey stick. Without this "trick," his graph would have shown temperatures declining.

"It was that attempt to 'hide the decline' through the manipulation of data that helped bring down the global warming house of cards," said Investor's Business Daily.

By the time the emails were published, it was clear computer models had greatly exaggerated warming. Global temperatures peaked in 1998, according to real world measurements.

Recent research has confirmed the Medieval Warm Period existed worldwide and that temperatures were warmer than today. It may have been even hotter during the Roman Warm Period (250 B.C. to A.D. 400).

"Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change 'hockey-stick' graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus," Mark Steyn wrote in National Review Online July 15.

If National Review doesn't apologize for describing the hockey stick graph as "fraudulent," he'd sue, Mr. Mann threatened. That's a tactic he's used often before to stifle criticism.

This time it didn't work. National Review would welcome a lawsuit, because through the process of discovery it could obtain information Mr. Mann has strived to keep secret, said editor Rich Lowry.

"He's going to go to great trouble and expense to embark on a losing cause that will expose more of his methods and maneuverings to the world," Mr. Lowry said.

Around five times the amount spent on the Manhattan Project ($22 billion in 2008 dollars) has been spent on man-made global warming, mostly by Western governments, British journalist James Delingpole said last year.

In an editorial, the editors of Investor's Business Daily praised Mr. Lowry for his defiance.

Global warming has been "the greatest fraud of all time, and Michael Mann has been at the heart of it," the IBD editors said.

jackkelly

Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1476.


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