Democracy Has Prevailed.

February 26, 2012

Jack Kelly Sunday

This week's column by P-G columnist Jack Kelly is an amazing piece of writing.  All the tools of any good media manipulation are there; incomplete information, distortion and unsupported implication.

AY-und it's about climate change.  What could be a better read for a chilly Sunday morning?

Of course he's completely wrong about climate change.

Jack begins by running the recently leaked Heartland Institute documents with the hacked East Anglia emails from a few years ago.  But before I get going, I want to debunk some of Jack's more obvious distortions.  And for that, we can only start with his beginning:
The leaked confidential documents from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago think tank skeptical about anthroman-made global warming, seemed to environmentalists to be the best Valentine's Day gift ever. The documents identified Heartland donors and outlined the foundation's fund-raising strategy for 2012. The smoking gun was one entitled: "2012 Heartland Climate Strategy," which included plans for "dissuading (K-12 teachers) from teaching science."

Global warming alarmists are still reeling from "Climategate," a leak in 2009 of thousands of emails which indicated prominent climate scientists were manipulating data and conspiring to keep dissenting views from being published in scientific literature. The Heartland documents were, they thought, the Climategate of the skeptics.
So did those "thousands of emails" actually indicate the scientists were manipulating data?

Um, no.  Take a look at this from Scientific American:
For some in the climate-skeptic community, the incident was proof that the science of anthropogenic climate change really was a hoax: nothing but a pile of falsified data and analyses trumped up by climate scientists united together in a huge conspiracy bent on either furthering some anti-American political and economic agenda or in a plot to trick government agencies to fund their research or both and maybe more.

In response to these concerns, relevant universities and organizations, including the IPCC itself, launched a host of investigations and reviews. All such studies have failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing, scientific fraud, or unethical behavior. (See this related post for more on the investigations and the media's role in climategate.)
Studies like this one from the Science Assessment Panel of the University of East Anglia, from April of 2010 that concluded:
We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it. Rather we found a small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers who were ill-prepared for being the focus of public attention. As with many small research groups their internal procedures were rather informal.
But that's on the other side of the Atlantic - in England. Where the beer is warm and they know how to queue. But what about here? Any inquiries about "Climategate" from the good old US of A?

How about from the Commerce Department?  From The Hill:
A Commerce Department inspector general investigation into the “Climategate” controversy finds that government scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did not manipulate climate change data.

It’s the latest investigation to clear scientists of manipulating climate data after thousands of e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit were leaked in 2009.

“Climategate” has become something of a rallying call for climate skeptics, who have pointed to the e-mails to suggest there is a conspiracy among the world’s scientists. But a slew of investigations into the e-mails have cleared scientists of any wrongdoing.
So, yet again, Jack Kelly is plainly lying when he says that the East Anglia emails "indicated prominent climate scientists were manipulating data."  Just.  Plain.  Lying.

I've asked this before and I'll ask it again:

Doesn't anyone fact-check Jack Kelly at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette?

It's a rhetorical question in the sense that I already know the answer, which is: No, they do not.  If they do, they don't fact-check him nearly enough.

But let's move on. Next, Jack attacks (yet again) Michael Mann:
"These documents ... reveal what many of us have long suspected: that there is a campaign afoot by groups directly funded by the fossil fuel industry and right-wing foundations such as Koch Industries to mislead the public about climate change," said Prof. Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Dr. Mann was the author of the infamous "hockey stick" graph which purported to show that the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 A.D.) never existed. Little confidence can be placed in Mr. Mann's data, and "even less confidence" can be placed in his conclusion the 1990s were the warmest decade in at least a millenium, (sic) said the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.
Another (though rather petty) point to be made here.  It's spelled "millennium" not "millenium" - so says the Oxford English Dictionary.

But that's not really important.  The big point here is that it's an even bigger lie (if that's possible) than Jack's first lie.  Now take a look at what Jack said about Mann: "Little confidence" can be placed in the "Hockey Stick" data and "even less confidence" can be placed in his conclusion that the 90s were the warmest in a millennium - so says the so says the NAS report of 2006.  Right?

Wrong.  Simply and plainly wrong.  Let's go see what the report said.  From page 3 of the Summary:
The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years. Not all individual proxy records indicate that the recent warmth is unprecedented, although a larger fraction of geographically diverse sites experienced exceptional warmth during the late 20th century than during any other extended period from A.D. 900 onward.

Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium. The substantial uncertainties currently present in the quantitative assessment of large-scale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 lower our confidence in this conclusion compared to the high level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that “the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium” because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales. [emphases added.]
See that?  They say Mann's conclusion is supported by an array of evidence (ie he's right) and that they find his conclusion "plausible" - though with reducing levels of confidence the further back in time they look.

And yet Jack used that passage to say that they'd said Mann was wrong.  More specifically that the NAS said Mann was wrong.

How did this crap even make it into the Post-Gazette?

Now (NOW!) we can move onto the Heartland Institute documents.  Jack says that:
The "2012 Heartland Climate Strategy" memo was a clumsy forgery. All the genuine documents revealed is that "a think tank which advocates the free market and is skeptical of global warming was raising money to, um, advocate the free market and promote skepticism of global warming," said Robert Tracinski, editor of the Intellectual Activist.
But that's not all that the (genuine) documents say.  But first let's take a look at the "Heartland Climate Strategy" memo.  You can see it here.  Let's assume that it IS a fake - even though that's only been asserted by Heartland and not confirmed.  But let's assume it anyway - if only to see how "clumsy" it is.

In it we find this passage:
Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.
But in a confirmed genuine document called the 2012 Fundraising Plan we find this:
Many people lament the absence of educational material suitable for K-12 students on global warming that isn’t alarmist or overtly political. Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers, but has had only limited success. Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. Moreover, material for classroom use must be carefully written to meet curriculum guidelines, and the amount of time teachers have for supplemental material is steadily shrinking due to the spread of standardized tests in K-12 education.

Dr. David Wojick has presented Heartland a proposal to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools that appears to have great potential for success. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. He has a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh and a B.S. in civil engineering from Carnegie Tech. He has been on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon and the staffs of the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Lab.

Dr. Wojick has conducted extensive research on environmental and science education for the Department of Energy. In the course of this research, he has identified what subjects and concepts teachers must teach, and in what order (year by year), in order to harmonize with national test requirements. He has contacts at virtually all the national organizations involved in producing, certifying, and promoting science curricula.

Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on “modules” for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”), climate models (“models are used to explore various hypotheses about how climate works. Their reliability is controversial”), and air pollution (“whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It is the global food supply and natural emissions are 20 times higher than human emissions”).

Wojick would produce modules for Grades 7-9 on environmental impact (“environmental impact is often difficult to determine. For example there is a major controversy over whether or not humans are changing the weather”), for Grade 6 on water resources and weather systems, and so on.

We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $5,000 per module, about $25,000 a quarter, starting in the second quarter of 2012, for this work. The Anonymous Donor has pledged the first $100,000 for this project, and we will circulate a proposal to match and then expand upon that investment.
WHAT A FORGERY! Turns out that EVERYTHING in the genuine document outlining how Heartland is looking to undermine actual real science in K-12 curricula IS ACTUALLY SUMMARIZED the purportedly forged document!!

But then there's this:
A prominent scientist and former environmental minister, Fritz Vahrenholt, was to Germany what James Hansen of NASA, the original global warming alarmist, is to the United States. But now he's an apostate because "it hasn't gotten any warmer on this planet in almost 14 years, despite continued increases in CO2 emissions.

"I want new scientific findings to be included in the climate debate," Dr. Vahrenholt told Der Spiegel. "It would then become clear that the simple equation that CO2 and other man-made greenhouse gases are almost exclusively responsible for climate change is unsustainable."
But a simple peek into Dr. Vahrenholt's bio reveals Jack's dishonesty here. In fact here's what Der Spiegel (the source that Jack uses for the quotation) says about Vahrenholt:
He is typical of someone who came of age during the student protest movement of the late 1960s, and who fought against the chemical industry's toxic manufacturing plants in the 1970s. His party, Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), chose him as environment senator in the city-state of Hamburg, where he incurred the wrath of the environmental lobby by building a waste incineration plant, earning him the nickname "Feuerfritze" (Fire Fritz). He worked in industry after that, first for oil multinational Shell and then for wind turbine maker RePower, which he helped develop. Now, as the outgoing CEO of the renewable energy group RWE Innogy, he is about to embark on his next major battle. "I'm going to make enemies in all camps," he says.
Did you catch that?  Worked for "oil multinational Shell" for a while. Elsewhere, he's described as an "energy utility executive."  THAT would be how Jack describes an "original global warming alarmist"?

But let's look further at the Spiegel interview.  Vahrenholt admits he doesn't do any climate science and that he's an "energy expert" and the piece itself says his book wasn't peer-reviewed by anything other than this:
He has only given the book to one climatologist, Jochem Marotzke, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, to read prior to its publication. Marotzke's assessment is clear: Vahrenholt represents the standpoints of climate skeptics. "A number of the hypotheses in the book were refuted long ago," Marotzke claims, but adds, on a self-critical note, that his profession has neglected to explain that global temperatures will not increase uniformly. Instead, says Marotzke, there could also be phases of stagnation and even minor declines in temperature. "This has exposed us to potential criticism," he says.
Huh. A number of hypotheses "refuted long ago."

Now why didn't Jack tell us this when he was saying that Vahrenholt was an "original global warming alarmist"?

I could go on, but this blog post's too long already.  The factual errors in Jack's column should have been corrected before whomever makes these decisions hit the "send" key to send this column to be published in the pages of the P-G.  But if they had, we would have been left with one big empty space where Jack's column would have been.

Hey, that would have been an improvement.

UPDATE: Go read Ed.


EdHeath said...

We reached pretty similar conclusions in our posts. And a similar length of post. By the way, Andrew Revkin (of the NYTimes) eventually came around to the notion that Peter Gleick apology is "enormously creditable".

What is the PG thinking of, giving Kelly a forum?

Winding down said...

. From the daily klos describing republicans..

mendacious, death-loving, frothing, lamprey-mouthed, inhuman, abominable, atrocious, verminous, rapacious, sadistic, bullying, invasive, grasping, psychopathic, twisted, warped, animalistic, belly-crawling, mouth-breathing, illiterate, innumerate, know-nothing, imbecilic, sheep-raping, horror movie extras masturbating into wads of money while fantasizing about war collateral damage. . . (inhale). . . puppy-torturing, vacuous, mindless, nihilistic, evil, diseased, soulless, morally bankrupt, greedy, insecure, envious, kleptomaniac charnel-house mascots stewing in universal hatred for all life. . . (inhale). . . toxic, ugly, bestial, humorless, loveless, compassionless, demonic human-shaped ruins forever slouching toward Bethlehem in search of some fresh nightmare to wreak on the defenseless via other people’s money and heroism. . . (inhale). . . Satanic monkey-shit-throwing, cowardly, chickenhawkish, parasitic, baby’s-candy-stealing, wife-beating, minority-purging, syphilitic Confederate poltergeists with erectile dysfunction. . .

. . . perverse, prurient, crocodile-eyed, necrophiliac mass-producers of human misery and gleeful destroyers of truth, justice, and the American way. . . sepulchre-hearted human deserts walking the Earth only to look for more victims. . . silly, stupid, ignorant bastards proud of every good thing they’ve never done, every person they’ve never been considerate toward, every fact they’ve never learned and will never acknowledge, and every virtue they will never possess or even attempt to comprehend. . . preternaturally drunken, bleary-eyed, zombie-like, empty vessels who wander aimlessly until given instruction by their masters. . . unthinking, unquestioning, unfeeling diabolus ex machina mockeries of the human condition, perpetually acting out a burlesque of the basest and least interesting psychological dysfunctions. . .

. . . face-chewing, self-devouring, medieval barbarian museum dioramas and depraved Nazi homunculi preserved in formaldehyde to frighten children. . . sick, ominous, loathsome, Nosferatu-impersonating Gollum-acolytes feasting on the flesh of our society while complaining about its taste. . . tax-evading, sommelier-abusing, election-buying, yacht-aficionado hemmorhoids flying flags of convenience and berating their six-year-old Chinese employees for requesting bathroom breaks. . .

Republicans, you vile, repulsive, scum. You’re not leading this country. You’re not contributing to this country. You’re not even part of this country. You are the maggot-ridden rot that arises in this country’s damaged flesh; you are the vultures constantly picking at us to see if we’re weak enough yet to become your next meal; you create problems where none would otherwise exist, just to further weaken America and quicken your own insatiable appetites; you are garbage, and you are traitors. And you are not welcome in this country anymore.

Winding down said...

Curious. Ed

If you did not have Kelly who would draw your attention?

Winding down said...

Hasta Luego

EdHeath said...

WD, not that it is on topic, but to answer your question, possibly local politics (particularly the Mayor), possibly national economic or foreign policy, possibly people like Paul Krugman or Glenn Greenwald, possibly James Inhofe.

Ol' Froth said...

Looks like Mr. Down has been doing a bit of what is commonly known as "quote mining"

Nine-El said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nine-El said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Winding down said...


Hey...let's have a totally original concept, thought, observation, analysis.. That has never seen the light of day in all of recorded history....I for one cannot produce one.but I can cite, quote, adopt, steal. If you got one I missed it on the blog.

Don't take it personal ..we are all similarly situated all has been hash out already...we just replow the same ground, trying to recast the eternal verities and human failings.

Have a great day!!

Ed tks for your response

rich10e said...

Jack pays David Brock for all his articles!!

Nine-El said...

It is a target rich environment across the political spectrum
Everyone gets the same 24 hour day....use it well.

Re Kelly- that's where Brock funded his blackmail payoff.