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

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

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