Friday, August 01, 2003

More bogus science

From Thursday's Wall Street Journal:

"A big flap at a little scientific journal is raising questions about a study that has been embraced by conservative politicians for its rejection of widely held globalwarming theories."

It seems that three editors of the journal Climate Research have resigned in protest over the way the review process was handled for a controversial study by a pair of astronomers published in the journal's January issue. The study claims that the 20th Century has not been unusually warm compared with earlier periods and contradicts evidence that man-made "greenhouse" gases are causing temperatures to rise. Using studies of tree rings, the paper concludes that there have been warmer periods during the past 1,000 years, particularly the "Medieval Warm Period" when the Norse settled Greenland.

The study has been harshly criticized by climatologists. The recently resigned editor in chief of Climate Reseach said the study is flawed and should not have been published. The tree ring paper contradicts another widely cited study by Dr. Michael E. Mann of the University of Virginia whose research on global temperatures shows a distinctive hockey stick pattern in recent years where temperatures had been level for centuries with a sudden upturn in recent decades. Dr. Mann and 13 other scientists have published a critique of the tree ring study saying that its research methods were flawed and that it is inconsistent with the preponderance of scientific evidence.

Despite this criticism heaped on the tree ring study, it has been embraced by the Bush administration and was recently added to an EPA report on environmental quality in place of a reference to Dr. Mann's study.

This should come as no surprise. As I have noted before, the Bush administration is filled with ideologues who are not interested in scientific accuracy unless it conforms with their predetermined beliefs. The tree ring study said what they wanted to hear and they have embraced it with a fervor while happily dismissing the more widely accepted studies that do not conform to their ideology.

The one thing I have not yet mentioned about the tree ring study is that it was partly funded by...... can you guess? .......... the American Petroleum Institute.

The questions left unanswered in the story include how the tree ring paper made it into publication in the first place. Who was pushing for its inclusion when so many editors were opposed. The WSJ story, unfortunately, is poorly edited. At the end of the article it references a Mr. Kinne who blocked a move by the dissenting editors to publish an editorial critical of the journal's publication of the tree ring study. But there is no first reference to Mr. Kinne - that part apparently having been inadvertently edited out of the story - and thus I do not know who he is.

I don't know exactly what to think about global warming, but it disturbs me a great deal to know that our president and his administration are trying to manipulate science to support their notions of the truth rather than letting science hash out these matters unimpeded.

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