So the big climate news today is the release of a report by the National Academy of Sciences (coverage from: AP; NYT; WaPo; MSNBC; NPR; Boston Globe). It’s being spun every which way, but at its root it’s (yet another) confirmation of basic global warming science.
You’ve probably heard of the climate "hockey stick." It’s a graph from a study led by Penn State’s Michael Mann that shows global average temperatures sharply spiking in recent years. A couple of guys named Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick — a statistician and an economist, respectively — took issue with the study and claimed that Mann had cherry-picked his data and his statistical tools to produce the result he wanted.
In recent years, the hockey stick has become a cause célèbre among right-wing global warming denialists. It is mentioned with mind-numbing regularity by every crank given the keys to an op-ed page, and has become something of a white whale-style obsession for the Mayor of Cranktown, Sen. James Inhofe.
Mann and his fellow researchers, you may recall, were the guys that got a bullying letter from Rep. Joe Barton last year demanding a detailed accounting of their research. After Barton’s ham-handed intimidation, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert got fed up and commissioned the NAS to assess the study once and for all — so that, if nothing else, Inhofe and Barton would STFU.
The report from NAS today reaffirms the long-standing consensus of the climate science community: Mann’s analytical tools were flawed and there are lingering uncertainties about early temperature records, but the basic finding — that temperature has recently spiked, and the globe is warmer than any time in 1000 years — is likely sound and has gained support from numerous other scientists and studies.
So, I’m sure the denialist community will drop it now, right?
Ha ha. Here’s a press release from Inhofe:
"Today’s NAS report reaffirms what I have been saying all along, that Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ is broken," Senator Inhofe said.
And so it goes …