Another Chink in Climate Skeptics’ Armor

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The “report” that House climate skeptics commissioned back in 2005 to debunk long-term warming patterns appears to be falling apart at the seams.

As I wrote here a few months ago, evidence has emerged that staffers for Rep. “Smokey” Joe Barton (R-Texas) worked closely with the “independent” statistician they asked to review the famed hockey stick graph that shows temperatures over the past millennium. The report sided with critics of the graph and accused climate scientists of uncritically reinforcing each other’s work, and has been touted by climate change deniers ever since. (It also makes an appearance in my feature on the “Climategate” affair.)

That statistician has also been under investigation for possibly plagiarizing portions of that report, and of making all kind of other off-base factual claims in the report. Now the journal that published it has retracted the piece, Dan Vergano at USA Today reports. After presenting the report to Congress, George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman published it in the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis. Now the journal is pulling it:

The journal publisher’s legal team “has decided to retract the study,” said CSDA journal editor Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California, following complaints of plagiarism. A November review by three plagiarism experts of the 2006 congressional report for USA TODAY also concluded that portions contained text from Wikipedia and textbooks. The journal study, co-authored by Wegman student Yasmin Said, detailed part of the congressional report’s analysis.

“Neither Dr. Wegman nor Dr. Said has ever engaged in plagiarism,” says their attorney, Milton Johns, by e-mail. In a March 16 e-mail to the journal, Wegman blamed a student who “had basically copied and pasted” from others’ work into the 2006 congressional report, and said the text was lifted without acknowledgment and used in the journal study. “We would never knowingly publish plagiarized material” wrote Wegman, a former CSDA journal editor.

In a follow-up post, Vergano also talks to experts on the report’s statistical claims and finds that it was wrong on that front, too.

So the report was wrong about global warming, plagiarized in part from Wikipedia and the work of others, and statistically flawed. But here’s the best part: It was funded by your tax dollars and given the seal of congressional approval!

The blogger Deep Climate, who has been behind a lot of the muckraking on the Wegman report, has more.

The Wegman report would be old news if climate deniers weren’t continually bringing it up in their attacks on climate science. Virginia’s crusading attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, has evoked it repeatedly in his attempts smear climate scientist Michael Mann. Will this latest news finally kill the Wegman report zombie once and for all?

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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