NAS President Peter Wood: wrong, dishonest or hopelessly compromised?

Tue, 2011-08-02 14:26Richard Littlemore
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NAS President Peter Wood: wrong, dishonest or hopelessly compromised?

New Mashey Report Disrobes Climate Disinformer

What would cause a senior anthropologist such as Peter Wood to stagger outside his field of expertise and launch a bitchy, personal and error-ridden attack on a climate scientist and his defender? Wrong-headedness? Ideological blindess? Great wads of Richard Mellon Scaife’s cash? What?

Well, the question must be rhetorical, unless the President of the National Association of Scholars chooses to answer it himself. According to his fields of study, Wood is an “expert” in art, aesthetics, Catholocism and culture. He neither claims nor can demonstrate the tiniest academic mastery of atmospheric physics or any other aspect of climatology.

Yet he has used his launching pad as president of the NAS (suspiciously rendered with the same acronym as the National Academy of Sciences) and a podium at the Chronicle of Higher Education to try to dismiss both Michael Mann and John Mashey as huckster fellow travellers of P.T. Barnum.

As the attached report demonstrates, that was a mistake. Because Wood doesn’t fare at all well when someone turns the investigatory camera on him. Wood has long had a tendency to question climate science or to laud whacky climate change deniers such as Christopher Monckton or Fred Singer, but his most recent outburst followed an excellent short feature of John Mashey by the journal Science. As Wood says, “Science reports that retired computer scientist Dr. John Mashey is attempting to patch the tattered reputation of ‘hide the decline’ Michael Mann, the climate scientist whose famous ‘hockey stick’ chart shows exponentially increasing global temperatures in the near term.”

Beyond correctly identifying Mashey as a computer scientist, Wood appears to be wrong on all fronts. Far from being “tattered,” Mike Mann’s reputation has been hardened in the fires of hell. Despite a pitched attack on his character and scientific output going back nearly a decade, every inquiry appears to exonerate his personal behavior and reaffirm the quality of his science. I suspect Mann’s work has been cited more in the last six months than Wood’s has in his entire career.

Neither was it Mann who penned the famous (and famously misquoted) “hide the decline” line from the stolen East Anglia emails. And the important part of Mann’s hockey-stick chart was not the exponential increase in global temperature: you can see that in any rendering of the actual instrumental record. The defining work in Mann’s graph (and in every other climate reconstruction that has been done since) is the demonstration that, before humans started pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we had enjoyed at least a thousand years of remarkable climate stability (constituting the shaft of the hockey stick that came before the exponential blade).

So Wood either doesn’t understand any of this or doesn’t want us to. And Mashey, a ferociously energetic researcher, has created a 34-page report pondering Wood’s own frailties and setting forth some possible explanations of why the (less credible) NAS president could be so far off the rails.

There is, of course, ideology. Although the NAS declines to identify itself as a bastion of “conservative” thought, it seems to spend a surprising amount of time digging its nose into issues that are more of interest to its well-healed conservative funders than those that are centrally reflected in the organization’s own mission statement. (I dare you to find much “reasoned scholarship” or “civil debate” in Wood’s original salvo or in any of the back-and-forth commentary that followed.)

Mashey also points to the coincidence that the big donors to the (less credible) NAS are also suspiciously generous to organizations such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the George C. Marshall Institute - two of the most prominent climate science denying think tanks in the country. Now, it could be purest chance that all these organizations share a passion for spreading climate confusion.  Just as it could be possible that the devastating weather events that have marred America so far this year are entirely unrelated to climate change ….

You also have to admit the possibility that Dr. Wood just isn’t that smart - that he is doing all this work in purest good faith, but that he has the terrible misfortune to have consistently and repeatedly got all the details wrong.

Certainly, it was a case of misfortune that he attacked Mashey, or else the encyclopedic evidence of Wood’s connections and previous protestations would not have been gathered in this handy reference.

Alas, when you look at the clownish Monckton, the discredited Singer or Steve Milloy and, now, the unfortunate Peter Wood, you have to wonder that the oily barons can’t afford more impressive champions for their increasingly incredible cause.

bottling.nonsense.pdf1.53 MB

Previous Comments

(DeSmogBlog, something might be screwy with your stylesheet(s) - I can’t select text or comment or click on the Mashey link, from Firefox.)

The PDF is at:

Just curious, are you the Anna Haynes whom Peter Wood describes in his “Climate Thuggery” article as;
[Anna Haynes is]”one of Mashey and Mann’s supporters has made it her business to contact by telephone and e-mail NAS trustees, members, employees, and others with leading questions about my views on climate change and sustainability. Her questions have insinuated that two former employees of NAS who died in 1995 were murdered, perhaps at the behest of Richard Mellon Scaife! (As it happened both died of heart attacks; and both had suffered previous heart attacks.) This woman has similarly attacked other people and organizations that express views on climate change that she disagrees with.”
I can see why you and Chris Mooney are trying so hard to discredit anything he has to say. But I think you’ve made his point for him with your actions. You should be ashamed of yourself. H

It’s generally wise to take characterizations of emails with a grain of salt. FYI, I’ll ask questions in email that I’d never raise publicly (under the same level of likelihood), because to do so would be inappropriate, since it *would* be insinuating*. Expecting discretion from others isn’t turning out to be a good strategy, though.

*insinuating isn’t always wrong, but in general, it’s better to avoid raising the prospect of low-likelihood scenarios publicly, especially if doing so will smear a third party, as this one did. My apologies to the third party, for the second party’s having hauled out the megaphone.

Also in the grain-of-salt dept, you might want to see the “leading questions” from my email to NAS chapter heads, in this (badly-formatted, sorry) Deltoid comment:

Disclosure: I have no background in climate science that equips me to second-guess the findings of the field.

“Competitive Enterprise Institute and the George C. Marshall Institute.”

Most people donn’t know who they are and where their money comes from,…and that’s just the way they like it.
One of these days, maybe there will be some denialist puke in the media that does not wend it’s sneaky way back to those front organisations.
But it’s very doubtful.

For those interested in a much less biased discussion of the article by Peter Wood, please read Judith Curry’s thoughts on it here;
Her words, and those of her commentators, are a refreshing change from the totally biased attack made here. H

Cedric.. Why so upset?

Its just a failed movement.
Its not liek it was important in any way.

“Its just a failed movement.”

NASA didn’t lie to you about the moon landings.
NASA is not lying to you now about climate change.
There is no global scientific conspiracy.
Conspiracy theories are dumb.

NASA isn’t lying and I doubt many think such a thing. The failing movement is the grand idea of some kind of slowdown in human production of CO2.

We are 7 billion strong. We burn as much stuff as we possibly can. We know the recipe for fire and we like fire rather a lot. It is a failed movement and a lost cause to fight us.

NASA isn’t lying and I doubt many think such a thing.”

They have no choice.
Climate deniers don’t think throught the logical consequences of their denial.

A rejection of the science must automatically include NASA.
It’s impossible to avoid.
NASA is fully on board with the science of climate change. The same goes for every single scientific community on the planet. NASA does much of the heavy lifting on climate change. Their work goes back many decades covering different political administrations.
Climate deniers MUST invoke a global conspiracy of scientists including NASA and covering all the Earth Sciences to explain away their position. An ever expanding conspiracy.
Yet a global conspiracy is an oxymoron. It’s a contradiction in terms.
You can’t have a conspiracy…if it’s global.
(Two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead.)

“We know the recipe for fire and we like fire rather a lot.”

Liking something does not protect you from the consequences.
The first step to change is to clearly understand the consequences of an action. We must accept the conclusions of NASA and start thinking long-term.

“The defining work in Mann’s graph (and in every other climate reconstruction that has been done since) is the demonstration that, before humans started pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we had enjoyed at least a thousand years of remarkable climate stability (constituting the shaft of the hockey stick that came before the exponential blade).”

Did anybody in the climate science industry ever read a history book?
In the 14th century, the climate became very unstable, much worse than it is now. Maybe a coincidence, but the 100 years war started in Europe, basically between England & France, but which lead to instability and civil wars all over Europe, particularly in Italy.

Try Brian Fagan’s The Little Ice Age, chapters in Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, and Richard Muir’s Lost Villages of Britain.

palantir, what’s your evidence that the climate became very unstable in the 14th century, and what is the basis of your claim that it was worse than now? Not to mention that then gradual cooling was starting while now we are in a period of warming that is fast, not gradual.

A warming world sees different kinds of effects on the climate than a cooling, such as heat waves killing tens of thousands of people in Russia. We can expect to see more such heat waves such as Texas is enduring now.

You should read Brian Fagan’s book The Great Warming, about how the thing we now have to worry about most is widespread longlasting drought (as is happening in Texas, China, Australia, etc.) and thus crop failures.

You should also read Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly, about people, including politicians, refusing to face reality and ignoring the warnings of wiser people. Our politicians in Canada and the US are failing miserably to even face the growing climate crisis, much less deal with it.

1) The hockey stick was a Northern Hemisphere curve. This may be news to some people, but Europe (where the LIA was certainly obvious) != NH.
When CO2 jiggles, temperatures in some areas jiggle faster. “polar amplification” is well-known to hasten warming further North as CO2 rises.

2) If CO2 fell, we’d expect to see more rapid cooling in continental temperatures further North, and of course, continental temperatures jiggle more than oceanic.

3) That has actually happened, the most extreme example being the sharp CO2 drop into 1600AD:

4) A pretty plausible explanation for that has recently been published:
The Holocene:

Nevle, Bird, et al:

Basically, European diseases created the biggest die-off in history, leading to massive reforestration that drew down the CO2. Given that polar amplification works both ways (near snow line, more snow longer raises albedo and cools the area), one would expect places like Europe to cool faster than nearer the Equator.

This is a topic of current research by serious people.

5) Of course, the SH has a larger fraction of ocean, so one would expect that the average world temperature could easily look like the hockey stick, within error bars, while allowing for much wilder regional gyrations.

6) All this was discussed, with graphs in: ’
pp. 13-17 and 140-142.

This idea of epidemics leading to a drawdown of CO2 is also found in William Ruddiman’s 2005 book Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum. I see he’s a co-author of the Nevle paper, so probably he helped develop this more in the interim.

My review of the book:

I don’t think over-the-top writing is beneficial; I think Mashey’s tone is much better, and more conducive to keeping the discourse constructive.

Richard Littlemore accusing someone else of “dishonesty”?


Richard Littlemore accusing someone else of being “compromised”?

Who’s the one who gets his paycheque from James Hoggan & Associates Public Relations Inc. again?

Oh, yeah: Richard Littlemore.

For those interested in following this, see:

Recall that much of this started with Wood dismissing efforts on Wegman Report plagiarism as “flyspecking.”

My coauthor Rob Coleman is an oft-awarded researcher, also chairs Ohio State’s academic misconduct committee.

He was one of the 3 academic misconduct experts that Dan Vergano asked about the Wegman plagiarism and he is *very* familiar with all this.

This phrase originated from Phil Jones, head of CRU at the University of East Anglia and a close climate colleague of Michael Mann. Jones was referring to “Mike’s trick” of eliminating tree ring data from 1961 onwards from his database, which showed declining temperatures, and replacing these with the instrumental record, which were increasing during the time frame. So, the instrumental temperature record hid a 30-plus-year decline indicated by tree rings. Insofar as Mann’s and others’ paleoclimate models rely heavily on the assumption that tree rings act as proxies for past temperature, the removal of over 30 years of recent tree-ring data appears to cast huge doubt on the usefulness of tree rings in climate modeling. That Mann (and Jones) would resort to such a “trick” is reprehensible and corrupt.

Otherwise, Mann’s “hockey stick” model has been demolished as statistically unsound by Steve MacIntyre and Ross McItrick. Mann managed to eliminate both the Medieval Warn Period and the Little Ice Age, both well documented, distinct climate periods. Defending the “hockey stick” at this stage is baffling to me.

Furthermore, Mann was exonerated by Penn State for his sins because he was a scientist respected by his peers, had published many papers and had raised a large amount of funds for the university. Very in-depth analysis - no mention of “Mike’s trick” constituting scientific fraud!

Jan C, you have made a number of false statements here: interested people can read a more accurate account here:

I like the way you contradict yourself, too: you note that the instrumental temperature was rising, yet you claim that there is no hockey stick? Do you ever think about what you are writing? Or do you just repeat the same old lies, no matter how idiotic they are?


The big problem with Mann’s “hockey stick” is that it eliminates the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA). Temperatures in the MWP have been estimated to have been at least as warm as today and in the LIA to have been significantly colder. The Earth’s climate is rebounding from the LIA. I do not deny warming (on continents, for sure, where most weather stations exist) during the 20th century based on instrumental measurements. But, to say that recent temperatures are the highest in 1,000 years is false.

I have read a lot about the “hockey stick” and climate change in general. Try reading “The Hockey Stick Illusion”, an in-depth account of how difficult it was for Steve MacIntyre and Ross McItrick to obtain data and code from Michael Mann in order to verify the “hockey stick”. What was Mann afraid of?

Having followed the climate change ‘story’ from the early 1980s it became abundantly clear to me that there was an obvious strategy supported by large corporations and right-wing foundations (and their PR and lobby representatives aka conservative think tanks) to discredit the evidence of AGW and the scientists that amassed this evidence.

Initailly I would follow the links that claimed to have evidence of conspiracies, serious errors, fraud, incompetence etc etc and every single time I found that there was no evidence. I was shocked since I couldn;t understand why people would do this about such a serious topic. But I started to slowly understand the links to money and ideology that have been so brilliantly researched in Merchants of Doubt.

Now it seems to me that the next stage of the strategy has been entered. Climate scientists have finally realised they need to defend themselves and their science and the ‘sceptics’ cleverly come back with ‘Why are climate scientists threatening us with lawsuits?’ as if they, the ‘sceptics’, are the victims.

The ‘sceptic’ campaign has been enormously successful but everything must be done to defend climate science and the scientific process itself from political attack or we’ll drift into a new cultural period which could be termed the ‘Unenlightenment’.


If you really followed the development of the climate change story, you would realize who were playing games with the truth and corrupting the principles of science. Apparently, you haven’t heard of Climategate. Try reading “Climategate The Crutape Letters”. It might surprise you how far certain climate scientists were prepared to go to fudge data, refuse to share data and computer code and coerce scientific journals in terms of the papers they published.

Furthermore, defending climate science (or any scientific field)demands skepticism, not slavish adherence to the dictates from authority.

McIntyre and McKitrick are not as expert as they like to pretend. They could have produced their own code to handle the data like the real scientists do, but they were too lazy or too ignorant to do that.

You claim: “But, to say that recent temperatures are the highest in 1,000 years is false.” What scientific evidence do you have that GLOBAL temperatures were higher than now during the so-called Medieval Warm Period? And scientific evidence is what is published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, not posted on amateur blogs like McIntyre’s.