Professionalism/Michael Mann, Ken Cuccinelli, and the Hockey Stick

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Global warming is a prevalent issue facing society today. The controversy surrounding aspects of global warming, such as the prediction models, have become more widespread throughout both the political and scientific communities. One prime example of this is the case of the hockey stick graph. The hockey stick graph, created by Michael Mann and other scientists, has been under a lot of scrutiny due to the climategate scandal. There have been investigations on whether the graph was doctored to have a higher temperature trend in recent years. Recently, Ken Cuccinelli accused Mann of defrauding data to receive money and sent a civil investigative demand to the University of Virginia for them to hand over Mann’s documents. Several issues, such as such as being swayed by personal preferences and politicization of science, arise when the opinions of politicians and scientists differ. This chapter will discuss aspects of global warming, the climategate scandal, and the issues associated with global warming.

Background: Recent Key Players[edit | edit source]

Michael Mann[edit | edit source]

Michael E. Mann received his undergraduate degrees in physics and applied math from University of California at Berkeley in 1989. He then attended Yale University where he received several advanced degrees in physics (MS and MPhil), geology and geophysics (MPhill and PhD).[1][2] As lead author of the Observed Climate Variability and Change chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC)Third Scientific Assessment Report in 2001, Mann is most well know for his "hockey stick graph".[1]

Ken Cuccinelli[edit | edit source]

Ken T. Cuccinelli received his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia. He later attended George Mason University where he received his Master of Arts degree in International Commerce and Policy and juris doctor from the George Mason University School of Law and Economics. Cuccinelli served in the State Senate from 2002 to 2010, working to improve Virginia's mental health system. In January 2010, Cuccinelli was sworn into the office of Attorney General (AG). AG Cuccinelli works to protect consumers from scams, fraud and save taxpayers millions each year by prosecuting Medicaid fraud in the Commonwealth.[3]

Global Warming[edit | edit source]

By definition, global warming is "average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns."[4] The causes of global warming are both naturally and human induced and vary in degrees of severity of the effects produced. Natural causes such as damaging storms, droughts, and other related weather phenomena cause not only economic problems but health problems. Increased temperatures provide the perfect breeding ground for infectious insects.[5] Human causes tend to be more prevalent when it comes to global warming. Specifically, the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by human activities are of greatest concern. More commonly, global warming is referred to as the warming that occurs as a result of these human emissions.[4] Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb outgoing terrestrial radiation[6] and include water vapour, methane, carbon dioxide, and ozone.

Effects of Global Warming[edit | edit source]

Changes in global temperature effect many aspects of the environment to include animals and habitats. Below is a list of some of the impacts from increasing temperatures that have already happened and are predicted to occur if temperatures continue. [7]

Already Happened[edit | edit source]

  • Ice melting especially near the poles
  • Adélie penguins have dropped in population from 32,000 to 11,000 (over 30 year period)
  • Sea level rise
  • Increase in precipitation
  • Spruce bark beetle boomed - chewed 4 million acres of spruce trees

Predicted to Occur[edit | edit source]

  • Stronger hurricanes are likely
  • Species that are dependent on each other could become out of sync
  • Floods and droughts will become more common
  • Availability for fresh water will decrease
  • Spread of diseases (ex. malaria from mosquitoes)
  • Ecosystems will change (some species will move north, become more successful, become unable to move or become extinct)

The Term "Global Warming"[edit | edit source]

Wallace Smith Broecker is a professor at Columbia University and a scientist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. In 1975, he inadvertantly coined the term "global warming" after he published a paper entitled "Climate Climate Change: Are we on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”[8] This was the first time the term global warming had ever been used in a scientific paper.

James E. Hansen is a climate scientist for NASA and head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). A few years after Broecker's paper was published, Hansen made the term global warming more famous after his testimony on climate change in front of the US Senate in 1988. At his testimony, Hansen showed a graph displaying the estimates of mean surface temperatures based on a variety of scenarios of emissions of greenhouse gasses for the period of 1960 to 2020.[9] This graph used data computed from the general circulation GISS model and was considered the first climate prediction model. His conclusion was that global greenhouse warming will soon rise above the level of natural climate variability.[10]

Machael E. Mann

Michael E. Mann is a member of the Penn State University faculty, holds joint positions in Departments of Meteorology and Geosciences, and is the Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center.[11] Mann produced a graph showing the average global temperature change over a 1,000 year period. This graph is called the "hockey stick graph" due to its hockey stick shape. For the first 900 years, there was little temperature variation (resembling the shaft of a hockey stick). In the 20th century there is a sharp rise in the temperature (resembling the blade of a hockey stick).[12] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published this graph in its 2001 assessment and since then this graph has been the subject of conflict between mainstream climate scientists and their critics.

The Hockey Stick[edit | edit source]

File:Hockey stick chart ipcc large.jpg
The "hockey stick" graph.

In 1998, Michael Mann and several other climate scientists published the famous "hockey stick" graph, and it was later featured in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report (TAR). The graph showed the results of a statistical analysis of climate proxy data as well as observed temperature data in the Northern Hemisphere for the last 1000 years. The graph showed a marked increase in hemispheric temperature in the years since 1900. The graph has been used to support the claim that global warming has largely been caused by humans.

The graph was generated using a variety of proxy data sources including ice cores, tree ring density, and other indicators. In recent years, actual observed temperatures are added to the data sets. The marriage of these two data sets as well as some of the other statistical methods that Mann utilized have been called into question by skeptics, and Mann has been accused of using the allegedly flawed graph to mislead the public about the certainty of human-caused global warming.[13] Further revelations from the Climategate emails have only fueled this controversy.

Climategate[edit | edit source]

The term "Climategate" refers to a large set of research documents and emails stolen from a University of East Anglia server belonging to the Climate Research Unit (CRU). Many of the emails seemed to suggest that the climate scientists of the CRU may have artificially doctored their findings in order to spin their conclusions in support of climate change. After the documents were released, skeptics of climate change quickly accused the scientists of allowing their own ideologies and biases to cloud their professional commitment to science.

One of the most controversial conversations of Climategate had to do with Michael Mann's Hockey Stick graph. In one of the emails, Phil Jones remarked:

"I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

in prgramming an especially teaching math topics for physics students the word trick is commonly to mean a shortcut. I took differential equations from a theoretical physicist. He gave us hand outs of tricks that we could use to solve different types of differential equations. I suspect that there was a language translation behind taking he word literally. The "trick" he refers to has to do with something called the Divergence Problem, exhibited in Mann's graph, where the proxies modeling temperatures in the distant past do not accurately predict modern temperatures. Data from the proxies actually showed a decline in temperatures in recent years, while the actual observed temperature increased. Mann's trick was a statistical method to push the proxy data upward to match the observed data. [14] Some other emails from the server seemed to suggest that several scientists within the CRU were concerned that political spin was being introduced into the research unit's publications. Another climate scientist, Keith Briffa, had this to say:

"I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards 'apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data', but in reality the situation is not quite so simple... For the record, I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago."

And Peter Thorne:

"I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run."

Still other climate scientists, seem to advocate selecting what data was relevant based on "the main message" they were trying to send. Climate researcher Jonathan Overpeck had this to say:

“The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guide what’s included and what is left out. For the IPCC, we need to know what is relevant and useful for assessing recent and future climate change.”

It's easy to see how many would take these statements to indicate an alarming breach of professional integrity, but multiple investigations found the scientists to be innocent of any wrongdoing, although the investigations did criticize them for being disorganized and having a bunker mentality.[15]

Civil Investigative Demand[edit | edit source]

Virginia’s General Attorney, Ken Cuccinelli, claimed Mann defrauded taxpayers by manipulating data to receive research grants. His allegations were based off of the climategate emails. Despite the eight prior investigations clearing Mann of any wrongdoing, Cuccinelli continued to investigate. Cuccinelli demanded the University of Virginia (UVa) turn over the documents Mann compiled during his time at UVa. A Virginia judge dismisses Cucinelli's investigation ruling that there is a lack of evidence to support Mann's supposed wrongdoings. This decision was supported by not only the public and scientific communities but other judges from subsequent investigation hearings came to the same conclusion.[16]

Supporters of Ken Cuccinelli’s actions believe that information should not be held from the public. Because the nature of the documents can lead to legislative actions, the public should have the right to know the accuracy of these documents.[17] Many critics of Cuccinelli say that the he is getting involved in a dispute only academics, scientists, and history should judge. Their logic: since Cuccinelli is not a scientist, he cannot fully assess the validity of Mann’s documents.[18]

Plum pudding model

Cuccinelli, a disbeliever of climate change and candidate for Governor, has been accused of using the hockey stick graph as a political stepping stool.[19] Another disbeliever in climate change John Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama, warns that Mr. Cuccinelli’s effort could open the door to politicization of science.[18] Politicization of science prevents academic freedom, which is where students and faculty will search for answers without harassment of the government. Researchers would have to consider whether they want to pursue a politically controversial topic or communicate with other scientists about it. Politicization of science would stunt the progress of controversial topics because scientists would not research the topic.

Atomic Model Example[edit | edit source]

An example of scientific theories being checked and changed by scientist and history is the atomic structure. In 1904, J. J. Thompson created the plum pudding model to describe the atom’s structure. Thompson's model was later disproved and Earnest Rutherford who created a new model in 1911. Rutherford’s model was then enhanced by Niels Bohr in 1913. The Bohr model is the model used today to teach students the atomic structure of an atom. While at the time the theories of J. J. Thompson's seemed to be correct, over time other scientist disproved his theories and created more accurate models.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Part of being a professional is not allowing your own personal bias or ideology to affect your work. Both parties in this case study have been accused of abdicating this professional responsibility. The climate scientists, including Michael Mann, were accused of doctoring scientific data to advance the political agenda of convincing the UN that something had to be done about climate change. Although the climate scientists were later cleared of this accusation, many are still disturbed by the attitude the scientists showed in the Climategate emails. Ken Cuccinelli has been accused of abusing his post as Virginia attorney general to target climate science because he personally does not believe in global warming, and to gain political points for his upcoming bid for the Virginia governorship. While it's not possible to know for certain the motivations of either party, it's important to realize the lesson for professionals embedded in this controversy. You cannot allow your own personal bias or agenda to corrupt your professional responsibility to conduct your work with integrity.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b Michael E. Mann, Penn State University
  2. Michael E. Mann, Wikipedia Article
  3. Ken T. Cuccinelli Biography, Attorney General Website
  4. a b Global Warming, Global Warming Definition
  5. Global Warming, Definition of Global Warming
  6. Greenhouse Gas, Oxford Dictionary of Geography
  7. Global Warming Effects, National Geographic
  8. [:w:Wallace_Smith_Broecker|Wallace S. Broecker]], Wikipedia Article
  9. James E. Hansen, Wikipedia Article
  10. Global Climate Changes as Forecast by GISS 3D Model, Journal of Geophysical Research
  11. Michael E. Mann, Department of Meteorology
  12. Hockey Stick Graph, The Guardian
  13. Hockey Stick Illusion, Wikipedia Article
  14. Mike's Nature Trick, Climate Audit
  15. Major Investigations, Wikipedia Article
  16. Timeline: Legal Harassment of Climate Scientist Michael Mann, Union of Concerned Scientists
  17. Hockey Sticks and Academic Freedom, The Daily Caller
  18. a b Ken Cuccinelli v. Climate Skeptics, The New York Times
  19. VA Court Rejects Sceptic's Bid for Climate Science Emails, The Guardian