Back from Washington. I think that I’ve had enough Washington for a while. It takes me a lot of time to prepare; I don’t begrudge it and it’s useful to try to put what you’re thinking about into short statements, but it still takes time and it’s tiring. It’s a nuisance that Mann couldn’t get a babysitter last week and this had to be done twice.
For this trip, the Committee paid my airfare (I had to pay my own airfare last time). However, they would not pay for travel from Canada as it is an "international" flight. So even though you clear U.S. customs in Toronto and there are planes to Washington every few hours, I had to drive to Buffalo on Wednesday, stay overnight and then fly to Washington. I thought about staying down to dinner in Washington, but headed home instead. Flight was delayed and I didn’t get in until after 11 pm and then had to drive to Toronto. I got home about 2 am.
After hearing stories about divisiveness in the House, I liked the teasing between the Dems and Repubs about the Energy and Commerce Committee baseball game and that at least Barton, Whitfield and Innslee seemed to be on pretty good personal terms. I hope that Barton and Innslee follow through and go to see Al Gore’s movie plus one another of Barton’s choice. BTW I was astonished when Rep Blackburn mentioned being in high school as long ago as 1960. She must have been a prom queen and then been lucky enough to keep her looks. Despite all the criticism that Barton’s received for holding these hearings, I thought he had a genuine interest in both sides of the quantitative significance of AGW, plus he’s smart. For someone like Cicerone, Barton is exactly the type of person that you want to be engaged in dialogue with. He’s smart enough to be persuaded. Innslee came over and thanked the panel individually. I wish that he were less strident, but I thought that his closing note of optimism was appropriate.
I introduced myself to Mann at the start of the panel; he seemed startled when I came up to shake hands. Although I’m pretty good about gritting my teeth and socializing in such circumstances, I didn’t end up chatting with Mann. I talked to Gulledge and Cicerone quite a bit. If I was a bit less tired, I probably would have made more of an effort to chat with Mann.
As I mentioned last week, I thought that the energy had gone out of the committee’s interest in temperature reconstructions, once they understood that there was some kind of problem with Mann’s hockey stick, but that this didn’t mean the end of global warming. Once again, I think that their foray into climate reconstructions was extremely constructive, as neither of the NAS or Wegman reports would have been written otherwise and both, in different ways, have helped clear the air in this rancorous debate.
If I were on the committee, I wouldn’t be very interested in anything that either Mann or I said about the hockey stick, however convincing either of us seemed. All either Mann or I could do was convey an impression of whether we seemed believable or not, or whether we knew what we were about. My guess is that both of us seemed competent enough that, if I were on the committee, I wouldn’t even attempt to draw a conclusion about who was right or wrong. That’s why you have Wegman and North – they were the only opinions that a committee member was interested in.
Last week, Mann got tossed overboard. I think that the only thing that would have got Mann completely back on the island would have been if Wegman had been discredited. I don’t think that they got close o shaking Wegman, who, if anything, got stronger as it went on. IMO, the question that scored the most was when Cicerone was asked to comment on Wegman’s qualifications. Cicerone agreed that Wegman was highly qualified – what else could he say about someone who was chairman of a NAS committee. Cicerone was there on the request of the Democrats, but that one answer made it impossible for Mann to get back on the island.
Since nothing in Wegman’s testimony was dislodged, the only conclusion that the Committee could reasonably leave with was the one that they came in with: there was some kind of schmozzle with Mann’s work, but global warming was still an issue whether or not Mann had "ever been born".
I don’t think that the Republicans had the faintest interest in taking Mann to the wall on verification statistics or bristlecones or anything like that. They seemed to intentionally stay away from confrontational questions and stayed on a pretty high road (as compared especially to Waxman going after Christy). I think that the Republicans had lost interest in Mann and, while a litigation lawyer approach would have been interesting theatre, I can see good reasons why experienced people wouldn’t bother. There was no need to.
Wegman himself could scarcely believe his ears when he heard Mann citing Rutherford et al 2005 (where Mann was a coauthor) and Wahl and Ammann as independent validation of his work. I’m used to it and you forget how inane this sort of thing is, but it was new to Wegman. I get tired of Mann and others citing von Storch and Zorita’s tests on "tame" networks as supposedly having any relevance to MBH, but no one cared. ( I wish that von Storch and Zorita would actually check the impact on MBH network rather than a pseudoproxy network.)
I thought that Waxman’s attack on Christy misfired. I couldn’t see the point. If he was trying to support Mann on not sharing source code, what was the point of arguing about Christy sharing code? In Christy’s shoes, I’d sure be mad at Wentz’ role in this, although it’s probably not worth his time pursuing it. In his first email response to Wentz’ request for code, Christy did indeed send the unresponsive email that was read into the record, but he then changed his mind and sent Wentz the relevant code – obviously. Wentz even sent him an acknowledgement thanking him for his cooperation. It’s hard to see what legitimate purpose Wentz had in sending Waxman Christy’s first email especially since just the one letter was entered into the record.
Gulledge was cross that Wegman did not deal with Wahl and Ammann, which impressed him as a study. He thinks that Wahl and Ammann have shown flaws in our work and that I’m just being stubborn in not admitting it. He criticized me for not studying the impact of the PC error on the NH reconstruction, but didn’t even cite our 2005 E&E article where we did so. Nor did the NAS panel. The carelessness is frustrating. I find it hard to take Wahl and Ammann seriously after it took an academic misconduct complaint to get them to put in the adverse verification statistics. I suppose that Wahl and Ammann needs a reply, but it’s a turgid piece of work and there’s other stuff that interests me more. But I guess I’ll need to wade through it. It would have been a lot more sensible if Ammann had accepted my offer at AGU rather than continuing with old controversises.
Speaking of both the NAS panel and Wegman report, it amazes me how little due diligence is actually done in these sorts of reports. The only due diligence that the NAS panel did was to check the tendency of the PC method to make hockey sticks. Everything else is just a literature review – by slightly less biased people than usual, but still just one more literature review. For example, as I point out, they reject bristlecones as a proxy, but do not assess the impact of this.
Wegman did more due diligence – they checked the biased PC method and also checked its impact on the North American network. It’s too bad that they didn’t also express opinions on the impact on reconstructions – I agree with Gulledge on that. However, Gulledge should then have been equally mad at the NAS panel who didn’t independently check this either. Wahl and Ammann and Rutherford et al cannot be used as evidence. It’s too bad that Wegman didn’t assess the von Storch and Zorita argument as well. I think that they would have endorsed our reply and it would have been helpful to have some validation.
At this point, it’s actually amazing how much due diligence has been done our work. Compare the energy spent on trying to prove us wrong compared the non-existence energy spent verifying MBH in the first place.
Another thought: it was crazy for Mann not to concede the biased PC argument in the first place, such as here.
Here, however, we choose to focus on some curious additional related assertions made by MM holding that (1) use of non-centered PCA (as by MBH98) is somehow not statistically valid, and (2) that "Hockey Stick" patterns arise naturally from application of non-centered PCA to purely random "red noise". Both claims, which are of course false, were made in a comment on MBH98 by MM that was rejected by Nature , and subsequently parroted by astronomer Richard Muller in a non peer-reviewed setting–see e.g. this nice discussion by science journalist David Appell of Muller’s uncritical repetition of these false claims. These claims were discredited in the response provided by Mann and coworkers to the Nature editor and reviewers, which presumably formed the primary basis for the rejection of the MM comment. Contrary to MM’s assertions, the use of non-centered PCA is well-established in the statistical literature, and in some cases is shown to give superior results to standard, centered PCA
In effect, he tried to argue two alternatives: "there isn’t anything wrong in the PC method, but, if there is (which I deny), then it doesn’t matter." Although his argumentation is notoriously confused – he’d sometimes use supposed evidence that the bias supposedly "didn’t matter" im his reconstruction (with his ad hoc Preisendorfer rationalizing the bristlecones) as an argument against the first leg of the alternative – to which the argument is irrelevant.
Mann obviously fought on both counts. realclimate is now implying that they conceded the bias already, but there’s no evidence of such a concession on any previous occasion; had they conceded the bias, they should have issued another corrigendum, in which they could have argued the alternative that it doesn’t matter. But Mann himself has never publicly conceded any bias in the PC method.
In litigation, people often argue alternatives, but there’s a risk in it. For example, it’s a risky strategy to argue: I didn’t kill him, but, in the alternative, if I did (which I deny), it was self-defence. If you want to argue self-defence, you have concede the act and argue the justification. Mann took a chance in arguing both legs of the alternative. Only one leg has been specifically verified by the panels and here Mann lost totally.
Another thing that I don’t get about the Team is their decision to go to battle on data and code. Any lawyer would advise them to not fight these issues. They are going to lose. And losses on irrelevant issues make it harder for them to persuade people on major issues. For people that profess to be concerned about global warming, it is irresponsible of Mann and Jones and Briffa to put their cause at risk by making a spectacle of themselves refusing data. It’s unwinnable.
After all is said in done in this, we get back to: does the Hockey Stick matter? Not any more to the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Two follow-on thoughts – I’m beginning to wonder: if the Hockey Stick doesn’t matter, then does the IPCC matter any more either? Think about it. Originally the IPCC had a function, but maybe its time is past. Right now the Fourth Assessment Report is a massive literature review and it’s important for individual climate scientists to get mentioned in it. So it ended up being a vast, unwieldy and self-indulgent document, that’s more concerned about citations than about policy.
For example, paleoclimate authors WANT to be mentioned in IPCC. But if the hockey stick doesn’t matter, why have a paleoclimate section? Why distract policy-makers with this irrelevancy? Shouldn’t the section be deleted in its entirety if the stick doesn’t matter? Even worse – IPCC 4AR has a history of climate science section – how self-indulgent is that?
I think that the most interesting outcome of the hearings was Barton’s interest in having the climate models looked at by a NAS panel from an engineering/applied statistics panel – a fresh and independent look, rather than climate modelers taking in one another’s laundry. If this happens – and I’m betting it will – and it’s done right, i.e. properly staffed with people commissioned to do independent due diligence with an actual and serious budget, and not just another literature review – I’m not so confident of this – then it might be more productive for climate policy than the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. Scientists worried about climate should welcome Barton’s initiative and encourage him in this enterprise. What’s the over/under on the number of climate scientists who will publicly welcome such a look? Probably in single digits.