Tuesday, July 18, 2006
On Friday, House Energy Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) released an impressive-looking “report” attacking a 1998 study by Dr. Michael Mann which suggested that recent global warming is unprecedented over the last several centuries. The Energy Committee report was quickly seized on by the Wall Street Journal editorial page as proof that scientific consensus about global warming is “more like group-think.”
The House Energy Committee report isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Here’s why:
1. The report rehashes criticisms that have already been discredited. The House Energy Committee report, which it commissioned from Edward J. Wegman, is not original work. Rather, it seeks to “verify” the criticisms that Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (an energy consultant and an economist) made about the Mann study three years ago. These claims have been discredited in peer-reviewed journals. McIntyre and McKitrick’s criticisms were considered by a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences – the organization created by Congress to evaluate scientific research — which concluded that the Mann study is “supported by an array of evidence.”
2. The report did not involve any climate scientists. Wegman and his co-authors are statisticians with no apparent expertise in climate science.
3. The report was not peer-reviewed. In fact, Wegman attacks the concept of peer-review, claiming the Mann study had “too much reliance on peer review, which seemed not to be sufficiently independent.” Wegman has no basis to claim that the peer review of the Mann study was not independent because peer-reviewers are anonymous. Rigorous peer review is a core principle of legitimate scientific inquiry.
Even if the Energy Committee report were accurate, it wouldn’t impact our basic understanding about climate change. The National Academy of Sciences explained “large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the last 2,000 years are not the primary evidence for the widely accepted views that global warming is occurring, that human activities are contributing, at least in part, to this warming.”
House Energy Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow to discuss the wide-ranging implications of their report.
UPDATE: Chris Mooney has more.