I thought this was too good a report to be buried in a comment thread but deserves a wider audience:
An observer’s view of the NAS Panel presentations
Just got home from the NAS conference in Washington. I was there purely as an observer. The vast majority of people attending had some professional connection to climate science or environmental policy. I on the other hand view environmental policy as a hobby (odd but true) so please read the following, perhaps naàÆà⮶e, commentary in that light.
First of all, having followed the global warming controversy for the last five years, I was thrilled to meet many of the heavyweight skeptics: Fred Singer, Myron Ebell, Willie Soon, John Christy, Steve and Ross. I also enjoyed chatting with various staffers from the hill (Peter Spencer – House Energy & Commerce Committee; Paul Georgia – Senate Republican Policy Committee; John Shanahan – Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works) as well as David Douglas (Physics professor from U Rochester), the two BBC reporters mentioned in my previous post, and a post-doc from Lamont-Doherty who had studied under Henry Pollack (the first presenter — a borehole expert from U Michigan). In hind-sight I should have tried to talk to more people, especially the non-skeptics, but this being my first foray to such an event I was a bit shy.
I did spend some time talking with Doug Nychka, the statistics guy from NCAR who is on the panel. He seemed like a very fair analyst and quite open minded. In spite of his position at NCAR he did not seem to have a pre-determined point of view on the issues at hand, and in fact told me that much of his work at NCAR is related to issues outside of global warming.
I thought Ross and Steve did a good job of presenting their arguments and were well received. It was clear that they were non-climate scientists speaking into an audience consisting primarily of climate scientists. The dialogue between the panel and Steve and Ross was dynamic and I felt that the panel were at least listening to their viewpoint. Conversely, some of the presenters were clearly dismissive of Steve’s work in their presentations.
Some brief highlights of the presentations (I trust that Steve will have much more to say):
- Hans Von Storch was adamant that paleo-climate researchers must make their data available. He showed a chart suggesting that recent temperature trends were highly correlated to the level of unemployment in Germany (upstaging Steve who later showed a chart relating temperature trends to an index of dot.com stock prices)
- Roseanne D’Arrigo spoke about the necessity to “cherry-pick” trees used in tree-ring studies. Apparently this is taken for granted in the dendro community.
- Dan Schrag cited reductions in the Kilimanjaro glacier as justification for AGW theory!
- Mike Mann was not in attendance on Thursday when most of the event occurred. He gave his presentation Friday morning and then bolted during the open discussion. He was the only presenter to make himself scarce after his presentation. All the others were there for at least half of Thursday if not the whole day. Mann pointed out that the work done for MBH98 was actually done almost 10 years ago, and that the PC algorithm had been supplanted by his more recent RegEM methodology.
A few comments on the panel:
- Some of the most probing questions were asked by Kurt Cuffey of Berkeley, previously noted on this blog as having published the following:
"Mounting evidence has forced an end to any serious scientific debate on whether humans are causing global warming. This is an event of historical significance, but one obscured from public view by the arcane technical literature and the noise generated by perpetual partisans."
Cuffey also asked most of the presenters whether the science was such that we could determine the average century-scale temperature 1000 years ago within 0.5 degrees centigrade. Every presenter said “Åno’ — except for Mann who claimed we know the average century-scale temperature 1000 years ago within 0.2 degrees centigrade.
- John Christy asked Mann about the r2 statistic. Mann said it was an inappropriate measure for these types of analyses. I look forward to Steve’s comments in this regard.
At the end of the first day there was an open discussion where members of the audience were invited to speak. 2 comments I found interesting:
- The chief of staff of the House Science Committee (didn’t get his name) pointed out that the defined task taken on by the committee was different from the task actually requested of NAS by the House Science Committee. Apparently NAS management altered the task. Unfortunately I don’t know where to find a description of the request from the House. The task taken on by the panel can be found on the NAS website.
- A staff scientist from Pew said he was anxious to hear the viewpoint of the committee in order to better inform his client. He seemed open minded.
With regard to the above comment by the House Science Committee chief of staff, a prominent member of the audience with much experience in the on-going AGW debate suggested to me that NAS management altered the task in order to pre-determine the outcome of the committee’s report, so as not to upset the status quo in the scientific community.