Richard Kerr of Science has reported on the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings. Having lived through the hearings, it’s interesting to see how they get characterized. For example, Kerr says:
He [North] said he doesn’t disagree with Wegman’s main finding that a single year or a single decade cannot be shown to be the warmest of the millennium. But that’s only part of the story, he added. Finding flaws “doesn’t mean Mann et al.’s claims are wrong,” he told Barton. The recent warming may well be unprecedented, he noted, and therefore more likely to be human-induced. The claims “are just not convincing by themselves,” he said. “We bring in other evidence.” The additional data include a half-dozen other reconstructions of temperatures during the past millennium. None is convincing on its own, North testified, but “our reservations should not undermine the fact that the climate is warming and will continue to warm under human influence.”
One thing that I’ve noticed in climate science is how seldom people use the exact words of their opposite party, preferring to re-describe their "main finding" in alternative words. Nine times out of ten, they mis-describe the finding – or, if the describer is on the Team, 100% of the time. How can anyone say that Wegman’s "main finding is that a single year or a single decade cannot be shown to be the warmest decade of the millennium". Not only is this not Wegman’s "main finding", it’s not even a finding of his at all. He didn’t say that the enterprise is impossible; he did say that the Mannian methods that he studied (which were not all of Mannian methods) were flawed in the way that we described them to be flawed and that the flawed method had the properties that we described. He did not purport to say that conclusions about warmest year or warmest decade could not be reached by some other method, although he raised doubts about whether methodologies used by the Team in other reconstructions are likely to provide such a method.
I’ve said over and over how frustrated I am that the due diligence of the NAS panel was so negligible and slight and that they relied on mere literature review for so much of their study. It’s ludicrous for them to say that bristlecones should be "avoided" in temperature reconstructions and then to "bring in other evidence" – a "half-dozen other reconstructions" that use bristlecones – without testing for the impact of bristlecones on these reconstructions. I’ll do the testing of the impact of bristlecones on the other reconstructions, but the NAS panel should have done it themselves.
Their report is most usable on specifics, where they make many useful comments, so their poor performance in one area does not make the report unusable in total and, to date, I’ve tried to focus mainly on the positive aspects of the report.
But when I see how Science describes North’s testimony, one realizes that the failure to assess the impact of bristlecones is not just silly, it’s negligent. Let’s say that the NAS study had been done by an engineering firm – large or small, Bechtel or your local P.Eng. I don’t think that you could find an engineer who could say on the one hand that you can’t use bristlecones ("strip-bark") and then, on the other hand, produce drawings using bristlecones. They’re trained not to do stuff like that.
My guess is that, under the circumstances described here – that bristlecones should be "avoided" in temperature reconstructions, it would be professional misconduct for an engineer to produce drawings which used bristlecones. If an engineer said that certain materials should not be used in a bridge and then produced drawings for a bridge that used these low-quality materials, it would punishable if it were the subject of a professional misconduct complaint. Why should a NAS panel conduct itself with lower standards than engineers?