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Forbes’ Embarrassing Op-Ed on Climate Change

I wasn’t looking to pick a fight. A link on Facebook pointed out the very good Forbes article on how “US Scientists Are Leaving The Country And Taking The Innovation Economy With Them”. But there was an advertisement for an opinion/editorial (op-ed) by Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson titled “The Palpable Politicization Of Science By Global Warming Alarmists” that I just had to check out. It’s a shame Dr. Hendrickson or Forbes or someone didn’t fact-check the op-ed piece. Early in the opinion piece, there’s an egregious error of fact.

Dr. Hendrickson writes:

The so-called “Climategate” scandal of a few years ago cost the alarmists dearly in terms of lost credibility. The more than 1,000 emails that came to light showed a pattern of manipulation and dishonesty on the part of leading British and American scientists. In the words of E. Calvin Beisner, the emails provided shocking evidence of “serious scientific malfeasance–the fabrication, corruption, destruction, hiding, and cherry-picking of data … intimidation of dissenting scientists and journal editors … and efforts to evade disclosure under Freedom of Information Laws in the United Kingdom and the United States.” (1)

In November, 2009, hackers broke into the servers of the University of East Anglia’s Climactic Research Unit and published all the emails they could retrieve. The next month, E.Calvin Breisner made his comment about “serious scientific malfeasance–the fabrication, corruption, distruction, hiding and cherry-picking of data….” (2)

But after Breisner wrote his article, multiple investigations occurred, in addition to investigations of Michael Mann (the scientist credited with the “Hockey Stick” graph showing a dramatic and sudden increase in temperature. What happened in those investigations?

The scientists were cleared of any “fabrication, corruption, distruction, hiding and cherry-picking of data.” They were faulted for phrasing things that might give the impression of impropriety in the emails, usually due to the typical in-house snark. They were faulted for being informal (a polite way of saying disorganized). One graph was rightly called “misleading,” but anyone bothering to read the accompanying article would have read about the limitations of the graph. It was suggested that research involving such a heavy use of statistics should involve someone devoted to making sure the statistics are correct. Some changes in methods were recommended (and implemented) that improved the results but did not change the results significantly. They were faulted for a lack of openness with data, although it was also noted that those opposed to the concept of global warming were using data requests as a method of harassing researchers and wasting their research money.

But every single report cleared the researchers of any scientific wrongdoing. Repeatedly. Dr. Michael Mann was repeatedly cleared, especially by Pennsylvania State University where he worked.

Here’s a list of the investigations according to Wikipedia’s “Inquries and Reports of the Climactic Research Unit Email Controversy.” I don’t recommend Wikipedia as a definitive source, but it has links to the final reports of all of these investigations (which, in some masochistic urge toward journalism, I read and confirmed were authentic copies of the reports (3) ):

  • House of Commons Science and Technology Committee
  • Science Assessment Panel
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Independent Climate Change Email Review
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency report
  • Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce
  • National Science Foundation

Dr. Hendrickson is “…an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.” For those of you not familiar with Pennsylvania, Penn State (Where Dr. Michael Mann works) and Grove City are both in Pennsylvania and, by Western Pennsylvania standards, near each other. I’m rather puzzled that Dr. Hendrickson had not heard about the Pennsylvania State University investigation into Dr. Michael Mann–or any of the other investigations into Dr. Michael Mann. As an adjunct faculty member of a nearby educational institution, wouldn’t you at least read the headlines about the supposed scandals, investigations, and eventual clearing as a faculty member? If you’re a fellow for The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College, wouldn’t you pay attention to a real-world example of values affecting economic policy?

I don’t know why Dr. Hendrickson is quoting old data on Climategate and ignoring the results that occurred in the years following. I will not speculate, as I would be speculating without any data. That would be as unfair to Dr. Hendrickson as I believe Dr. Hendrickson is being unfair defaming the scientists involved with the Climatic Research Unit.

Dr. Hendrickson, if you would like to reply, I would be honored to publish your explanation.

Note: In editing the title for this post, I misspelled “embarrassing.” That’s embarrassing! I corrected it. Never try to edit from an iPhone.

  1. The Palpable Politicization Of Science By Global Warming Alarmists” in Forbes, 20 September, 2013 []
  2. Copenhagen, Climategate, and a Renewed Call to Truth“–by E. Calvin Beisner 14 December 2009. []
  3. Boring. []

Written by Rob Carr


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