USA Today Defends Michael Mann on Front Page, Misrepresents ClimateGate

March 11th, 2010 12:14 PM

USA Today on Thursday devoted a front page story to defending one of the key scientists involved in November's ClimateGate scandal.

In a piece entitled "Questions about research slow climate change efforts," author Brian Winter -- oh the irony! -- omitted important information about Penn State University's controversial global warming alarmist Michael Mann while downplaying the seriousness of the e-mail messages at the heart of the matter.

The main article also dishonestly ignored how Mann is being investigated by his own university concerning his involvement in the scandal, and actually NEVER even mentioned the scientist's infamous "Hockey Stick" graph that has been widely discredited by climatologists and meteorologists around the world.

Instead of a fair and balanced treatment of Mann and issues related to his view of anthropogenic global warming, readers were unfortunately presented with a grossly one-sided and disingenuous report evident in the very first paragraphs:

The violent threats are not what bother Michael Mann the most. He's used to them.

Instead, it's the fact that his life's work — the effort to stop global warming — has been under siege since last fall. That's when Mann suddenly found himself in the middle of the so-called "climategate" scandal, in which more than 1,000 e-mails among top climate scientists — including Mann — were obtained illegally by hackers and published on the Internet.

With this beginning, Mann was depicted as the victim in this matter, someone the reader should sympathize with RATHER than question.

Is this journalism? Is this what should be on the front page of a major newspaper or somewhere in its opinion pages?

But Winter wasn't done acting as Mann's defense attorney, for these are paragraphs four and five:

In a rare extended interview, Mann acknowledges "minor" errors but says he has been bewildered by the criticism — including a deluge of correspondence sent to his Pennsylvania State University office that, he says, occasionally has turned ugly.

"I've developed a thick skin," Mann says. "Frankly, I'm more worried that these people are succeeding in creating doubt in the minds of the public, when there really shouldn't be any."

Minor errors? Really?

Well, if Winter was actually a journalist, and not a global warming sycophant, he might have informed readers what the former director of the British Climatic Research Unit at the heart of ClimateGate, Phil Jones, told the BBC about these "minor errors" last month, in particular the infamous "hide the decline" phrase in one of the e-mail messages in question:

This remark has nothing to do with any "decline" in observed instrumental temperatures. The remark referred to a well-known observation, in a particular set of tree-ring data, that I had used in a figure to represent large-scale summer temperature changes over the last 600 years.

The phrase 'hide the decline' was shorthand for providing a composite representation of long-term temperature changes made up of recent instrumental data and earlier tree-ring based evidence, where it was absolutely necessary to remove the incorrect impression given by the tree rings that temperatures between about 1960 and 1999 (when the email was written) were not rising, as our instrumental data clearly showed they were.

Unlike Winter, those that have studied these e-mail messages know that "hide the decline" was no "minor error." It was an intentional manipulation of climate data.

More importantly, it related directly to Mann, as his infamous "Hockey Stick" graph used data from these tree rings.

As Winter noted, "Mann's research, which used tree rings, coral and other historical indicators to estimate how temperatures have risen in recent centuries, has been used by the IPCC in its reports."

As such, this article -- whose third sentence talked about Mann's "life work" -- completely ignored that his most important contribution to this debate was seriously questioned not only by the e-mail messages themselves, but by the former head of the organization at the heart of the scandal who admitted to the BBC that temperature data from these tree rings has been found to be inaccurate.

How could Winter POSSIBLY ignore such an inconvenient truth in an article about Mann?

But it gets worse, for the piece also never actually referred to the name of Mann's work -- the infamous "Hockey Stick."

Yep. Nowhere in this almost 1700-word piece defending Mann's "life work" is "Hockey Stick" mentioned.

Is it possible this was intentionally omitted because someone at USA Today might have then insisted that Winter inform readers that this graph has been widely discredited by scientists around the world including indirectly Jones just last month?

No, facts like that were unimportant, as were others that might have made the reader wonder why Winter was going so far out of his way to defend Mann.

Although the article referred to a recent finding that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change improperly claimed -- using what can only be called junk science! -- Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035, Winter for some reason chose not to inform his readers of other errors recently discovered in IPCC reports.

All Winter needed to do was look at a Scientific American article published Wednesday to gain a little knowledge on the subject marvelously entitled "IPCC Errors Prompt Review by International Science Academies":

African crop yields wither, along with the Amazon rainforest; Himalayan glaciers disappear by 2035. These are the erroneous predictions ascribed to the most recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a document reviewed by some 2,500 scientists and other experts as well as vetted by more than 190 countries. So does the fact that a few errors crept into a more than 3,000 page report merit a revision of IPCC processes?

That is the question facing a new panel to be assembled by the InterAcademy Council (IAC) in Amsterdam, a composite board of many of the world's national scientific bodies, such as the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S. "This will be an independent review," says physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf, president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the IAC co-chairs, about the evaluation requested by the U.N. and the IPCC. [...]

"What it will do is see what are the procedures and how can they be improved. How can we avoid perhaps that certain types of errors are not made?"

Dijkgraaf should know. After all, one of the errors made by the IPCC came as a result of information provided directly by the Dutch government about the percentage of the Netherlands that would be vulnerable to flooding as a result of rising sea levels. The government corrected that percentage in a subsequent statement.

Although Winter touched on this development -- "The United Nations announced Wednesday that it would bring in an outside panel of scientists to help review an occasional study put together by a U.N. body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)" -- he chose not to inform his readers of these other errors in the IPCC reports or their seriousness.

Obviously, that would have interfered with the mission:

Despite the mistakes, Mann says the core argument — that the Earth is warming, humans are at least partly responsible, and disaster may wait unless action is taken — remains intact.

"I look at it like this: Let's say that you're in your car, you open up the owner's manual, and you discover a typo on page 225. Does that mean you stop driving the car? Of course not. Those are the kind of errors we're talking about here," Mann says. "Nothing has fundamentally changed."

Nothing has fundamentally changed? 

Well, using Mann's car example, and what's going on right now with Toyota, the answer might actually be that you DO stop driving the car.

After all, these errors aren't typos. These are serious mistakes in not only the science involved in various predictions key to the global warming argument, but also the science involved in determining what global temperatures were before the thermometer was invented.

As such, again using Mann's car example, if one found serious flaws in the engine and drive train of a car, would you keep driving it?

Unfortunately, Winter's readers might, for his goal was to downplay the seriousness not only of ClimateGate, but of all the recent errors found in crucial IPCC documents.

Instead of acting like a journalist looking to get to the heart of a very controversial issue, Winter took a side, and set out to convince readers that not only didn't Mann do anything wrong, but it's his accusers that are at fault.

This was also accomplished by citing only one scientist skeptical of manmade global warming with this meager reference that had nothing specifically to do with Mann or his work:

It has been a dramatic reversal of fortune for a movement that, just a few years ago, thought it was "invincible," says Leighton Steward, a geologist and global warming skeptic. "We've all been kind of giggling as we watch this thing fall apart," he says.

Imagine that.

The person at the heart of this scandal who is currently being investigated by his own school was given free rein to offer his side of the argument with almost no opposing viewpoints and not one scientific opinion cited to specifically address his involvement in ClimateGate or the veracity of his work. 

In fact, the only prominent skeptic referred to by Winter was Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), but he's not a scientist.

Making matters worse, Winter even gave Mann the last word:

Citing climate data, Mann says "there's a better than 50-50 chance" that 2010 will be the hottest year ever. That, more than any political statement, could refocus the debate, he says.

"If we don't act on this, it's not a failure of science," Mann says. "It's our failure as a civilization to deal with the problem."

How disgraceful. 

Aren't journalists supposed to question those caught making errors? 

If Mann worked for the oil or coal industry, and had been found to be in the middle of a scandal to misreport vital information to the public, would he have been treated so favorably in this front page story, or given such latitude to explain his side? Would there have been absolutely no scientists cited attacking his views?

Or would he have been torn to shreds much like the heads of Toyota were when they appeared on Capitol Hill? Or how the financial services industry's CEO's are continually lambasted by the press as being corrupt and greedy?

Unfortunately, because Winter and most American so-called journalists like the industry Nobel Laureate Al Gore is the de facto CEO of -- and let's be clear about this: the advancement of the manmade global warming theory IS an industry! -- all those involved get defended when they make mistakes, and their detractors are labeled as corrupt and possessing greed-filled motivations.

Must be nice for them to have advocates working for them in the press rather than scrutinizing their every word and move, wouldn't you say? 

Once again, this is by no means surprising. For years, NewsBusters has been informing readers about the disgraceful coverage of manmade global warming by America's press.

This front page piece by USA Today is a perfect example, and all those involved should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

Serious errors are now being uncovered in IPCC reports, and those involved in supplying scientific information to the United Nations have been shown to be manipulating data, withholding their methodologies, and preventing dissenting views from being incorporated in such reports.

Rather than exposing what's going on along with all those involved, America's press have taken it upon themselves to participate in the disinformation campaign while sheltering the guilty from blame or scrutiny.

Quite simply, almost forty years since the first scandal called "Gate" erupted, the press now have taken the side of the burglars, and are assisting "All The President's Men" rather than exposing them.

Talk about your inconvenient truths.