After extensive reporting on “Climategate,” Special Report ignores Penn State scientist's exoneration

After reporting extensively on the “Climategate” controversy, Fox News' Special Report has not mentioned that a Penn State scientist named as part of the “Climategate” “scandal” has been exonerated by an investigation into the matter. Further, Special Report offered a misleading report on a Dutch study that found that a U.N. panel's report on climate change contained “no significant errors” in its conclusions.

Special Report ignores report exonerating Penn State climate scientist

Special Report details investigation into PSU climate scientist's involvement in “Climategate.” In December 2009, Fox News host Bret Baier reported that the Penn State University administration would be investigating the involvement of one of its researchers -- Michael Mann -- in the “scandal” generated by emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Climate change skeptics distorted these emails to falsely claim that they undermined the scientific consensus that man-made global warming is occurring. Specifically, skeptics twisted CRU director Phil Jones' statement that he had used a “trick” invented by Mann to “hide the decline” in temperature data based on tree rings to claim that Jones and Mann had been “doctoring” or “fudging” data. From the December 1, 2009, edition of Special Report (accessed via the Nexis database):

BAIER: Director of a prestigious British climate research center is stepping down pending an investigation of his conduct. E-mails allegedly from Phil Jones indicate he and colleagues tried to downplay data contradicting the theory of manmade global warming.

Meantime, the administration at Penn State University here in the U.S. reportedly will investigate the alleged involvement of one of its researchers in the scandal.

Special Report doesn't mention that investigation has cleared Mann. Penn State assembled a committee of scientists and department heads to investigate whether Mann had engaged in “research misconduct.” In February, Penn State released the initial results of its inquiry. Among its conclusions was that there was “no credible evidence” that Mann had “ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data” and “no credible evidence” that Mann had “engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data.”

The results of a final investigation were obtained by The Washington Post on July 1. The committee stated that “there is no substance to the allegation against” Mann:

The Investigatory Committee, after careful review of all available evidence, determined that there is no substance to the allegation against Dr. Michael E. Mann, Professor, Department of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University.

More specifically, the Investigatory Committee determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scolarly activities.

The decision of the Investigatory Committee was unanimous.

A search of Nexis revealed no mention by Special Report of either the initial or final investigative reports by Penn State.

Special Report misleads on Dutch assessment of U.N. climate change report

Special Report highlighted errors in IPCC report as evidence against scientific consensus of global warming. Special Report has falsely suggested that errors discovered in the United Nations' 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cast doubt on the scientific consensus about global climate change. On the February 17 edition of Special Report (accessed via the Nexis database), Baier stated that there is “a very heated debate about whether man-made global warming is real.” Fox News correspondent Molly Hennenberg reported later that “the science that climatologists have been using certainly has come under fire. Recently the 2007 United Nations panel report on climate change was found to contain mistakes, including a claim that the Himalayan glaciers would melt away by the year 2035, later said to be incorrect.” During the February 22 edition of Special Report, Baier addressed the IPCC report's mistake regarding rising sea levels and called it “another chink in the armor of man-made global warming supporters” (accessed via Nexis):

BAIER: There appears to be another chink in the armor of manmade global warming supporters as a top science journal has withdrawn a study of sea level rise tied to global warming after finding mistakes that undermined the projections.

The study, published last year in “Nature Geo-science,” predicted sea levels would rise between seven and 82 centimeters by the end of the century. That backed up the U.N.'s climate change group.

Now “The Guardian” reports the scientists involved in that study say there are two separate technical mistakes in their research that led them to realize, quote, “We no longer have confidence in our projections.”

In recent weeks, the U.N. has been forced to acknowledge several other mistakes within its 2007 U.N. report.

Special Report misleadingly emphasized “errors” found by Dutch assessment of IPCC report. On July 5, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PLB) released an assessment of the conclusions of the IPCC report. Baier reported on the Dutch assessment, highlighting criticisms leveled by the agency. From the July 5 edition of Special Report (accessed via Nexis):

BAIER: A leading Dutch environmental agency says the United Nations report on climate change is too generalized and has even more errors than previously noted. Despite the newly discovered flaws, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency maintains the fundamental conclusion of the report is correct, that man-made global warming is happening.

The agency acknowledged it is responsible for incorrect statement that 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level when only 26 percent really is. They also found other mistakes in the 3,000-page report, mistakes that future studies should have better reviewed procedures.

In fact, the primary finding of the Dutch assessment was that the IPCC summary conclusions did not contain “any significant errors.” The Dutch report “investigated the scientific foundations for the IPCC summary conclusions” and found that "[o]verall the summary conclusions are considered well founded and none were found to contain any significant errors." The report further stated:

Our findings do not contradict the main conclusions of the IPCC on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability related to climate change. There is ample observational evidence of natural systems being influenced by climate change on regional levels. The negative impacts under unmitigated climate change in the future pose substantial risks to most parts of the world, with risks increasing at higher global average temperatures.

Dutch study determined that “newly discovered flaws,” which Baier emphasized, are “not significant.” The PLB assessment does note inaccuracies in the IPCC report but emphasizes that the errors range from “small errors in numbers to imprecise literature references” and “do not affect the investigated 32 summary conclusions.” For example, the assessment indicates a “minor inaccuracy” in an estimate of the number of people in Africa whose access to water may be affected by climate change, but concludes that there are “large uncertainties surrounding such projections” and that the difference between the reported and actual projection is “not significant.” From the report:

No significant errors found in summary conclusions

The foundations for thirty-two IPCC Fourth Assessment summary conclusions on the regional impacts of climate change have been investigated. These conclusions show examples of projections of climate-change impacts on food, water, ecosystems, coastal regions and health, for all the earth's continents. These conclusions have not been undermined by errors, although one of the conclusions contains a minor inaccuracy: in hindsight, not 75 to 250 million people, but 90 to 220 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change in Africa, by 2020. Given the large uncertainties surrounding such projections, this difference is not significant.

Additionally, the Dutch report stated that the errors it discovered in regional chapters of the IPCC report “do not affect the investigated 32 summary conclusions or other parts of the IPCC summaries.” From the Dutch report:

In the underlying regional chapters, in addition to the two already known errors about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers and about the Dutch land area below sea level, another significant error was found: a 50 to 60% decrease in productivity in anchovy fisheries on the African west coast was projected on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the literature references. It appeared to be about a 50 to 60% decrease in extreme wind and seawater turbulence, with some effects on the anchovy population that were not quantified. We found certain inaccuracies, ranging from (very) small errors in numbers to imprecise literature references. In addition, the PBL has some critical comments to make. One of these relates to the fact that the report does not specify how many of the additional heat related deaths projected for Australian cities are actually attributable to climate change -- a sizeable fraction is due to demographic changes alone. However, these shortcomings do not affect the investigated 32 summary conclusions or other parts of the IPCC summaries.

Dutch report did not find overall IPCC report to be “too generalized.” Contrary to Baier's assertion that the Dutch report found the overall IPCC report to be “too generalized,” the Dutch report stated: “In most cases, the generalisations contained in the regional chapters are well underpinned by the chapter material.” It continued:

In the text examined only two instances were found where the generalisation is questionable (both major comments). ... First, it is questionable whether freshwater availability will decrease in all parts of Asia as indicated (Central, South, East and South-East Asia) (see Section 6.1). Second, it is questionable, on the basis of evidence presented in the chapter, whether productivity will decrease also for livestock farming other than cattle, and, more generally in Latin America, because the evidence provided relates only to Bolivia and Argentina."

The report did not suggest that the above generalizations undermined the report as a whole. Rather, it merely recommended that in cases in which the impacts of findings were “generalised or extrapolated,” the authors of the study “ought to make clear why they think that the evidence in the references justifies such generalisation.”

PLB: In report “thousands of pages long,” errors are “unavoidable.” In a press release on the key findings of its investigation into the IPCC report, the PLB noted that “in a document that is thousands of pages long, representing the state of the art in science, errors seem in actual practice unavoidable.”