A 2006 report questioning the validity of climate change methodology has been touted by climate change skeptics as evidence that this whole "global warming" thing is a silly prank. Only: A third of the report was plagiarized.
In 2005, Rep. Joe Barton (Oil - Oil)—that's him in the picture; you may remember him as "the guy who apologized to BP"—asked George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman to examine the methodology of climate change scientist Michael Mann. He produced a highly-critical report, and since then, climate change deniers, who are the fourth- or fifth-most embarrassing thing about this country (right after "The Palin Family" and right before "The Double Down") have been citing his study on as evidence that, more or less, scientists—scientists, of all people!—are engaged in a nefarious conspiracy against the American Way of Life, which is To Make As Much Smoke As Possible, All The Time, And Fuck You If You Don't Like It, Buddy.
And, well, it was silly enough that they were citing that report, since the congressionally-chartered National Research Council found in 2006 that, while Wegman's criticisms of Mann's methodology were "reasonable," they weren't relevant, since several other studies had confirmed Mann's results—that the 20th century was the warmest in a long freaking time. But it just got even sillier: Turns out vast swaths of Wegman's report were plagiarized.
According to three plagiarism experts contacted by USA Today, Wegman appears to have lifted portions of his study from "textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report." The three experts—Cornell' Paul Ginsparg, Ohio State's Robert Coleman, and Virginia Tech' Skip Garner—variously describe the plagiarism as "actually fairly shocking," "inappropriate," and "fairly obvious." And they're not the only ones:
March, climate scientist Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts asked GMU, based in Fairfax, Va., to investigate "clear plagiarism" of one of his textbooks.
Bradley says he learned of the copying on the Deep Climate website and through a now year-long analysis of the Wegman report made by retired computer scientist John Mashey of Portola Valley, Calif. Mashey's analysis concludes that 35 of the report's 91 pages "are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning."
GMU is apparently investigating, and Wegman won't comment, though in the past he's said the accusations are "wild conclusions that have nothing to do with reality." Barton is sticking by the report, because, of course.
Now: The fact that the report was plagiarized doesn't invalidate its findings! (Which, as we discussed above, were beside the point anyway.) It just makes GMU statistician Edward Wegman look like even more of a stooge than he already did. We'd be thrilled, if only this would actually change any of the skeptics' minds. But it won't, and someday you will have the pleasure of describing to your robot grandchildren what "winter" was like.
[USAT; image via Getty]