Hats off to Prof. Roger Pileke Jr, who has followed Steve McIntyre’s lead in standing up for science in the face of continued lies and scientific fraud. Here are some highlights from the post linked above:
In 1991 the National Research Council proposed what has come to be a widely accepted definition of misconduct in science:
Misconduct in science is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, in proposing, performing, or reporting research. Misconduct in science does not include errors of judgment; errors in the recording, selection, or analysis of data; differences in opinions involving the interpretation of data; or misconduct unrelated to the research process.
Arguments over data and methods are the lifeblood of science, and are not instances of misconduct.
However, here I document the gross misrepresentation of the findings of a recent scientific paper via press release which appears to skirt awfully close to crossing the line into research misconduct, as defined by the NRC. I recommend steps to fix this mess, saving face for all involved, and a chance for this small part of the climate community to take a step back toward unambiguous scientific integrity.
The paper I refer to is by Marcott et al. 2013, published recently in Science. A press release issued by the National Science Foundation, which funded the research, explains the core methodology and key conclusion of the paper as follows (emphasis added):
Peter Clark, an OSU paleoclimatologist and co-author of the Science paper, says that many previous temperature reconstructions were regional and not placed in a global context.
“When you just look at one part of the world, temperature history can be affected by regional climate processes like El Niño or monsoon variations,” says Clark.
“But when you combine data from sites around the world, you can average out those regional anomalies and get a clear sense of the Earth’s global temperature history.”
What that history shows, the researchers say, is that during the last 5,000 years, the Earth on average cooled about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit–until the last 100 years, when it warmed about 1.3 degrees F.
The press release clearly explains that the paper (a) combines data from many sites around the world to create a “temperature reconstruction” which gives a “sense of the Earth’s temperature history,” and (b) “that history shows” a cooling over the past 5000 years, until the last 100 years when all of that cooling was reversed.
Here is Michael Lemonick at Climate Central:
The study… confirms the now famous “hockey stick” graph that Michael Mann published more than a decade ago. That study showed a sharp upward temperature trend over the past century after more than a thousand years of relatively flat temperatures. . .“What’s striking,” said lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University in an interview, “is that the records we use are completely independent, and produce the same result.”
In a belatedly-posted FAQ to the paper, which appeared on Real Climate earlier today, Marcott et al. make this startling admission:
Q: What do paleotemperature reconstructions show about the temperature of the last 100 years?A: Our global paleotemperature reconstruction includes a so-called “uptick” in temperatures during the 20th-century. However, in the paper we make the point that this particular feature is of shorter duration than the inherent smoothing in our statistical averaging procedure, and that it is based on only a few available paleo-reconstructions of the type we used. Thus, the 20th century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes, and therefore is not the basis of any of our conclusions.
Here are the steps that I recommend should be taken:
1) Science should issue a correction to the paper, and specially do the following:
(a) retract and replot all figures in the paper and SI eliminating from the graphs all data/results that fail to meet the paper’s criteria for “statistical robustness.”
(b) include in the correction the explicit and unambiguous statement offered in the FAQ released today that the analysis is not “statistically robust” post-1900.
2) NSF should issue a correction to its press release, clarifying and correcting the statements of Peter Clark (a co-author, found above) and Candace Major, NSF program manager, who says in the release:
“The last century stands out as the anomaly in this record of global temperature since the end of the last ice age,” says Candace Major, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences.
3) The New York Times (Gillis and Revkin, in particular), Nature and New Scientist as outlets that pride themselves in accurate reporting of science should update their stories with corrections. Grist and Climate Central should consider the same.
In comments, Professor Pielke says:
I interact with climate scientists just about every day (being in CIRES, a leading global institute). There are an awful lot of people doing very good work.
There are a few bad eggs, with the Real Climate mafia being among them, who are exploiting climate science for personal and political gain. Makes the whole effort look bad.
That said, virtually all of the climate science battles are teapot/tempest affairs — climate politics and policy has moved on to issues involving economics and energy.
I have to disagree with Prof. Pielke on that last point. It is the tacit assumption that the paleoclimatology of institutions such as the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and Penn State University is inimpeachable that underpins the whole notion of “It’s unprecedented – we must act”, that has been pushed into the political and economic arena by activist groups such as Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. These organisations have infiltrated the IPCC, the civil service, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the house of commons, and the house of lords.
As Steve McIntyre notes in the post linked in the intro, Marcott et al still haven’t ‘fessed up to the most egregious aspect of their paper, and are attempting to smoke screen the whole affair with a partial admission of the paper’s shortcomings.
The rot must be stopped, and chopped out before the disease spreads further.