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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Putting on an old EPA hat, WUWT revisits peer review

Sou | 5:17 PM Go to the first of 10 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has another copy and paste (archived here), this time from some right wing crowd that calls itself the National Association of Scholars, not to be confused with the National Academy of Sciences.

In short, the article is just another denier diatribe, long on insinuation and short on substance.

I checked out the National Association of Scholars at SourceWatch and they don't sound like the sort of crowd that any self-respecting person would want to be associated with. I'm surprised that Anthony Watts would promote them. Publicly at any rate, he frowns upon racist bigotry (not so much sexism). I guess beggars can't be choosers. This is from SourceWatch:

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is a non-profit organization in the United States that opposes multiculturalism and affirmative action and seeks to counter what it considers a "liberal bias" in academia.[1]
In 2010 and 2011, its president was espousing climate contrarianism under the group's auspices, with no evident expertise in the climate science field.[2]

The rest of the SourceWatch article makes interesting reading. It looks as if National Association of Scholars has an extremely large (unwieldy) board that rarely if ever meets. Is it just another organisation providing plum posts for a small number of ideologues?

This is another long article, because the WUWT article is about another article which is in turn about yet another article. This HW article features the National Association of Scholars, the ITSSD, and the EPA and its Office of Inspector General as well as some WUWT comments.  I don't want to dissuade you, but I'll warn you that apart from introducing organisations new to HotWhopper, it's simply more of the same old hat denier nonsense - largely about peer review.  Still, if you're interested and you're on the home page, click here to read on...

The National Association of Scholars doesn't "officially" reject climate science, but...

The authors of this particular article claim that the National Association of Scholars holds no position on AGW:
NAS holds no position on anthropogenic global warming (AGW).  As an organization, we are neither supporters nor skeptics of the thesis.  Likewise we have no policy position on whether the EPA should regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

...the President, Peter Wood, is a climate science denier

That doesn't hold true for the authors, though. One of them, the association's president Peter Wood, wrote this in April this year under the title "Outside the 'Consensus'--Notes of a Climate Change 'Denier'" - how climate change enforces orthodoxy (archived):
...we have members who have diverse opinions about whether, how much, and where from climate change happens.
That diversity, of course, is nearly unheard of in the academy itself, where a hardened orthodoxy is enforced with increasing determination. The enforcement itself tells a story. No one has to enforce an orthodoxy on plate tectonics, quantum theory, or Andrew Wile's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. All of these were once controversial. Wile's original proof was shown to be defective. He fixed it. The theories advanced by the accumulation of hard evidence and the rigor of the analysis.

Which is pretty funny. He claims that climate science enforces orthodoxy and then proceeds to explain how orthodoxy prevails in plate tectonics, quantum theory and  Andrew Wile's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. At least I didn't see him write anything about the plate tectonics and quantum theory fake sceptics. Are there any? Is there any good reason for a hard-nosed extremist right wing ideologue to reject plate tectonics or modern physics?

You can read the rest of Peter's article archived here. It's doesn't get any better from a logic viewpoint. It's mainly one long argument based on personal incredulity with a dollop of ad hom for good measure. He added a pinch of appeal to authority by way of Richard Lindzen and a couple of others. (I wonder does he know that Richard accepts the greenhouse effect?) Basically Peter is complaining about the cheek of climate scientists professing to know something about climate science.

Coauthor, Rachel DeJong, is also a climate science denier

I looked up the other author, Rachel DeJong who is a research assistant at the association. I discovered that she, too, is a climate science denier. I found this passage in one of her National Association of Scholar articles:
The sustainability movement takes a similar tack: it pressures compliance by threatening catastrophic dangers and misappropriating the precautionary principle. In the absence of conclusive scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming, the chary sustainablers call for drastic action, hedging against the possibility that global warming might turn out to be true. And like the boycotts that operate on peer pressure, the movement depends on a “science by consensus”—that is, by democracy rather than by the scientific method. The dominant sustainability movement shames minority climate change skeptics as “deniers” and academic misfits.
Rachel has a more recent article here, in which she describes a conference session on climate, from the perspective of a "free speech" advocate and science denier.  In this case her language is tempered, using innuendo and claims of "dogma" to get her point across with more subtlety, while letting her target audience know her position on the subject - starting with her headline: "Climate activism: a march of true believers".

Claim: climate scientists shouldn't peer review climate science

So that sets the scene for this latest attempt to wipe out two centuries of climate science. This latest one is a bit farcical. The gist of their argument is that the EPA gets another agency to review its reports. Clearly, peer review is frowned upon by the National Association of Scholars.

National Association of Scholars questions AGW!

It turns out that the National Association of Scholars report that Anthony is waving about is not much more than another denier blurb.  For example:
But those three elements—self-reinforcing popularity, the glow of old-style environmentalism, and the cachet of progressive politics—wouldn’t go very far without the motor of belief in looming world-wide catastrophe as a result of manmade global warming. Very few of the students who subscribe to this thesis command the knowledge of physics, atmospheric science, chemistry, oceanography, and computer modeling to have well-founded opinions on whether AGW is real.  Rather, they have to rely on the authoritative-sounding claims coming from scientists and government officials.
So it indeed matters a great deal how credible those claims are. 

The National Association of Scholars hasn't even got to first base. It's still questioning whether humans are causing global warming!

To "scholars", peer review isn't peer review

Wait, there's more. Their report is ostensibly about another report, by an organisation called the ITSSD (see below):
The essence of ITSSD’s findings is that it appears that the EPA and some other federal agencies validate each other’s work, which is pretty much the same thing as validating their own work. 

No, organisations validating each other's work in this context is not at all the same as "validating their own work". The "some other organisations" is largely the extra large NOAA. Peer review processes can occur within an organisation and outside an organisation. The very fact that organisations that already have a huge repository of in-house expertise even go outside their own organisations for review shows that they take it very seriously. Not only that, but the ITSSD report says that university scientists are also asked to review the work.

But what do deniers care. They are happy for any excuse to question science they don't like, particularly when they think it might pose a threat to their view of how the world should be.

The ITSSD promotes sustainability provided it doesn't require environmental standards!

The "new research report" they promote is from another free-market organisation called the ITSSD or the "Institute for Trade, Standards and Sustainable Development". It pretends to be an organisation that promotes sustainable development but with some big caveats as described on their home page:
To achieve this positive paradigm we emphasize the importance of free trade, economic growth, free markets, the rule of law, strong tangible and intangible private property rights, scientific discovery, and technological innovation. 

And on their "about us" page - sustainable development is okay as long as it doesn't constrain the the ability of corporations to mercilessly exploit less developed nations. And as long as there is no concomittant hazard reduction, or any improvement in the environment, education, health or safety in less developed countries:
We question the sustainability of trade and development assistance programs extended to developing countries that call for adoption and implementation of costly and administratively burdensome hazard-based environment, health and safety standards and regulations, and/or for the recognition, use and enforcement of private property assets and rights conditioned upon 'public interest' concerns (e.g., universal access to healthcare, knowledge, etc.).  Such measures have the effect of stifling local research and development efforts, technology transfer and dissemination, and entrepreneurship in such countries, as well as, critical foreign direct investment.

Insinuation by acronym

The ITSSD report looks to be nothing but insinuation by acronym. The ITSSD got some documents from the EPA through a Freedom of Information request. Their lead-in shows that they were upset by the EPA's findings on greenhouse gases, back in 2009.  They don't say what the FOI request consisted of, or over what period.

What they found was that the EPA gets its science from - you guessed it, qualified scientists. This seriously upset the ITSSD who complained that it didn't meet peer review standards. I've archived their "report" here. Below are some excerpts:
ITSSD research reveals that the peer review science processes EPA had employed to validate these twenty-eight assessments, particularly, those that DOC-NOAA had developed, had arguably failed to satisfy the IQA and OMB guidelines scientific peer review process requirements. Significantly, the administrative record reflects that numerous DOC-NOAA scientists and university-affiliated scientists participating in DOC-NOAA-funded climate research grant programs had been instrumental in contributing not only to the development of these USGCRP/CCSP assessments, but also to the Working Group I portion of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (“AR4”). 

Amazing, eh? That climate scientists funded by the US government, at universities and NOAA, contributed their expertise to the US Global Change Research reports and/or IPCC reports. Who does the ITSSD think would be preparing these reports? Father Christmas?

The next bit is not at all clear. The report states:
ITSSD research also reveals that, on six separate occasions, university-affiliated scientists had also played a key role in NRC/NAS peer reviews of the same climate assessments that such DOC-NOAA-employed and -funded scientists had developed. 

Are they arguing that reviewers reviewed their own work or are they arguing that other scientists affiliated with universities that get funding from NOAA reviewed the work of other scientists employed by NOAA and universities? If the former then I'd agree, depending on what the "key role" may be. In large organisations the "key role" may be one of managing the process rather than conducting the review itself. The ITSSD doesn't explain what it means. It may well be the latter interpretation - in which case they are being silly again.

The next paragraph suggests there was in fact no impropriety and that it's merely ITSSD insinuation by obfuscation - the ITSSD report states:
It is true that the OMB guidelines interpreting the IQA presume that NRC/NAS’ scientific peer review processes usually fully satisfy IQA requirements. However, this presumption is rebuttable, as where the facts show such peer review science processes had likely been compromised on conflict-of-interest, independence/bias, peer review panel balance, and transparency grounds.

Looks as if they can't find fault with the process itself so they turn to arguing that scientists who agree with science shouldn't be reviewing science.

Old hat 

The other reason I think that the ITSSD hasn't got a leg to stand on relates to a report by the Office of the Inspector General, from way back in 2011.  Although there was disagreement between the Inspector General and the EPA on the importance of the technical support document that underpinned the Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding, there appears to have been only one item that was affected by that disagreement - that one member of a panel of 12 scientific experts was employed by the EPA itself.  I mean seriously? Look at the endangerment finding itself. It's not anything that could be questioned by any reasonable person:
Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) — in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.

Here is the opening paragraph of the Office of Inspector General's report:
EPA met statutory requirements for rulemaking and generally followed requirements and guidance related to ensuring the quality of the supporting technical information. Whether EPA’s review of its endangerment finding TSD met Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements for peer review depends on whether the TSD is considered a highly influential scientific assessment. In our opinion, the TSD was a highly influential scientific assessment because EPA weighed the strength of the available science by its choices of information, data, studies, and conclusions included in and excluded from the TSD. EPA officials told us they did not consider the TSD a highly influential scientific assessment. EPA noted that the TSD consisted only of science that was previously peer reviewed, and that these reviews were deemed adequate under the Agency’s policy. EPA had the TSD reviewed by a panel of 12 federal climate change scientists. This review did not meet all OMB requirements for peer review of a highly influential scientific assessment primarily because the review results and EPA’s response were not publicly reported, and because 1 of the 12 reviewers was an EPA employee.

Notice the key point in the opening sentence - it met statutory requirements for rulemaking. Here's the technical support document.  The second page lists the authors and reviewers. The document itself is very long because it covers not just the endangerment finding (a greenhouse gas is a greenhouse gas after all), but because it also covers the cause finding. It therefore covers a lot of scientific ground - what adding greenhouse gases will mean to the USA in particular. It's a very thorough document.

EPA promotes mainstream science

I've yet to see an EPA report that conflicts with mainstream climate science, which means that the ITSSD is simply waving about FOI documents as "proof" that "something must be wrong".  If a right wing organisation goes to the trouble of lodging an FOI request they seem to think they have to manufacture controversy to justify it. Remember, as the ITSSD states, it objects to "hazard-based environment, health and safety standards and regulations", particularly those in less developed nations, which might provide their backers with a source of ultra-cheap labour.

From the WUWT comments

Janice Moore for a change offers a contribution rather than a prayer, referring to the Office of the Inspector General's report and says (excerpt):
June 7, 2014 at 8:15 pm
Just some relevant FYI:
EPA’s own Inspector General, in a procedural review issued in September,
2011 [Procedural Review of EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Data Quality Processes, Report No. 11-P-0702, at 36 (Sept. 26, 2011) at: 02.pdf] faulted EPA for procedural deficiencies including the refusal to use the Scientific Advisory Board process.
Here again is the report to which Janice refers. There was a difference of opinion between the EPA and the Office of Inspector-General on the level of significance of one of their reports, hence the process that was applicable. Nothing major or dramatic. The science was sound.

Niff thinks that if Donors Trust shuts down, then denier hype will dissipate, or something - and says:
June 7, 2014 at 8:16 pm
Seems pretty straightforward. Stop funding faux research and the hype will deflate.

Michael D laps up WUWT not even bothering to fake scepticism and says:
June 7, 2014 at 8:28 pm
Watch for this to become front-page news in the Mainstream Media. or not

TImo Soren complains about the lack of evidence and says:
June 7, 2014 at 9:19 pm
If one checks the paper, it simply states the peer-reviewed is flawed and compromised but offers no references or info to back it up. Would be nice if they made such a strong statement they pointed out a clear reason why the peer-reviewed is flawed. Say, an example of a publication review only by another US agency.

SIGINT EX comes as close to a death threat as is usually permitted by Anthony Watts and says:
June 7, 2014 at 9:21 pm
Here’s hoping ‘Rigor Mortis’ [snark] visits the dead bodies of the Hansen, Mann, Schmidt circus of “Climate Science” fools.


  1. Sou: try this piece by me and Rob Coleman and the rerport I did on NAS, including finamcials.
    It is way worse than you think.

    Peter Wood wrote some fascinating opinion pieces at Chroncilde of Higher Education.

    A while after the ferfuffle abvove, CHE rearranged its blog setup, and Peter has not written so often @ CHE and not about climate.

    1. Richard Littlemore writes beautifully. And your own work is impeccable, John.

      Peter Wood is still writing his climate science rejection articles though. The climate denial article by Peter Wood that I referred to was written only in April this year. It wasn't published by the National Association of Scholars though. Instead it was on another blog - "Minding the Campus". I don't know anything much about it and the website isn't much help either.

    2. John, please don't use just plain NAS when you're referring to the "other NAS." Some of us of a certain age have to watch our heart rates.

  2. Thanks. I checked the blog, it's run by folks from the Manhattan Institute, an entity that shows up in my usual investigations.

    Peter used to write this stuff @ CHE, which is a widely-read and high-profile venue fir academe, and then post similar things at NAS blog.

    There's no evidence that he would stop pontificating in this turf: really, taking Monckton at all seriously is a hint.:-)

    But, as far as I know, he doesn't get to do this sort of thing at CHE any more.

  3. EPA is at it again circumventing the Information Quality Act. Not only does it not wish to follow the Information Quality Act with respect to its vetting of the science underlying the Administrator's 2009 Clean Air Act Endangerment Findings, but EPA also does not wish to follow the Information Quality Act with respect to its vetting the science underlying its proposed regulation (with US Army Corps) that expands the definition of 'US navigable waters' to 'US waters' under the Clean Water Act.

    This is called subjectively enforced postmodern science...

    1. I see no evidence for what you claim. However, if you think so and if you're affected, then complaining here won't do you much good. I'm not even in the USA much less employed by the EPA. You're better off setting out your concerns specifically and succinctly - here's a link to help:

    2. Link spam deleted. See comment policy.

    3. This is tendentious crap. Prove me wrong.

    4. Bill, Anonymous did provide some links, without comment, to some extremist right wing websites, which don't even pass the fairly generous standards of HotWhopper.

      I deduce that she or he doesn't understand anything about scientific review or the Information Quality Act and is just wanting to promote some nonsense or other from extremist websites.

    5. Anoymous also may not be able to read very well:

      'Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", could you please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. '


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