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Climategate Consequences: The Mann Report

The investigations prompted by Climategate have just started, but scientists involved are already feeling the heat.

by
Charlie Martin

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February 3, 2010 - 2:44 pm
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When the Climategate story first broke, a lot of adherents of the skeptical view of anthropogenic climate change were mightily excited — proclaiming it the “end of the global warming hoax.” They have been disappointed because the breaking story wasn’t immediately followed by the resignation of everyone involved, the termination of all U.S. action on cap and trade, and tar and feathers for Al Gore.

This was a little unrealistic. There are a lot of vested interests involved, a lot of money that depends on the CO2-driven AGW narrative, a lot of people with wealth and reputations on the line. That’s a lot of inertia, and the narrative won’t change course quickly.

That doesn’t mean nothing is happening, however.

One of the people mentioned often in the Climategate emails is Dr. Michael Mann, a professor at Pennsylvania State University and the original first author of the famous “hockey stick” papers. When Climategate broke, there were a number of emails that seemed to show Mann was connected to the climate clique and some misconduct. This prompted what must have been a flood of emails. Penn State announced an inquiry into Mann’s conduct just a few days later.

Today’s breaking news is that the initial report on Mann’s conduct has been released. The report itself isn’t very exciting. If not a whitewash, it’s at least a bit of a graywash, as they very carefully restricted the topics and questions they considered. But it’s not a complete vindication for Mann, either (no matter what the Huffington Post says). The report concluded that Mann should be subject to further investigation, saying there was a real question whether Mann’s conduct “may be undermining confidence in his findings as a scientist,” or “may be undermining public trust in science in general and climate science specifically.” In effect, the committee says there is evidence that Mann violated the social contract of science.

The report announces the formation of a university committee to investigate this further, and frankly, Mann could be in some trouble on this.

Consider some of the things we’ve seen as a result of the Climategate story: Mann apparently didn’t actually delete emails when requested, but he also didn’t say anything against it until after the request was exposed. He may not have directly manipulated data, but he didn’t struggle when other people talked about it. He certainly participated in discussions of how to prevent skeptics like Steve McIntyre from getting access to data, and wasn’t very forthcoming with his own data, which on the face would seem to violate Penn State policy. And while being wrong isn’t scientific misconduct — and it’s a good damn thing — the fact is that Mann’s work has been seriously questioned on a number of occasions, as was documented in the Wegman report.

The Wegman report was, by the way, excluded from consideration by the initial committee at Penn State, which also didn’t even communicate with Steve McIntyre. What this report really tells us is that even though they clearly tried to limit exposure as much as possible, the Penn State committee recognized there was enough controversy, and enough public attention, that they couldn’t issue a simple whitewash.

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