Reality(?) in testimony and convincing coverage makers

From Dr. Judith Curry’s Local weather And many others.

Posted on June 27, 2019 by curryja |

by Judith Curry

Some reflections, stimulated by yesterday’s Congressional Listening to, on the completely different methods of presenting Congressional testimony.

Yesterday’s Listening to offered an ‘attention-grabbing’ distinction in approaches to presenting testimony, when evaluating my testimony with Michael Mann’s.

What are the needs of skilled testimony?

There’s an attention-grabbing doc entitled A Information to Skilled Testimony for Local weather Scientists, funded by the US Nationwide Science Basis.  Most of that is associated to courtroom room hearings, however some is related for Congressional Hearings.  Excerpts:

Consultants might do a number of of the next:

Present the decision-maker with factual data and background to offer the decision-maker with an sufficient context for the choice.
Apply skilled information to the info of a case and render an opinion concerning the info, reminiscent of whether or not sure situations really brought on an impact.
Clarify scientific ideas and theories to the decision-maker.
Extrapolate from the precise info or hypothetical info and rendering an opinion concerning the probability of an occasion or prevalence. Consultants might speculate on occasions or occurrences due to their particular information or coaching.
Present an opinion that contradicts or undermines the opinions or conclusions of an skilled who testified for the opposing celebration.

If you’re assigned to cross-examine an skilled, you must put together questions that check and problem the witness on the next topics :

Lack of thoroughness in investigating the info or knowledge;
Inadequate testing of the info or knowledge;
Lack of validity and reliability in testing of info or knowledge;
Existence of different causes or explanations for conclusions or outcomes;
Present variations of opinion amongst specialists

‘Opinion’ or  ‘proof’ for Hearings?

In my very own testimony, I referenced (and even quoted) the IPCC AR5 and the US Nationwide Evaluation report a couple of dozen occasions.  I additionally offered my (forthcoming) Report on Hurricanes and Local weather Change, which incorporates about 100 references (almost all are refereed journal publications) plus hyperlinks to different evaluation articles that gives additional references.

No matter occurred to local weather scientists utilizing the IPCC and Nationwide Evaluation Experiences of their analyses, both to help their arguments or in any other case refuting particular statements in these Experiences?  Evidently solely scientists of the non-alarmist persuasion are citing these Experiences any extra.

Congressional testimony shouldn’t be the place for scientists to current new, main analysis.  Somewhat, it is a chance for scientists to current analyses of relevance to the subject at hand, associated to their private experience.  This may increasingly take the type of an opinion piece (op-ed) or an evaluation supported by proof.

Mann took a distinct strategy from mine.  His testimony reads like an op-ed, and he even cites his op-eds as supporting proof.  Sure, it’s readable, however it isn’t properly documented.

Mann didn’t present a bibliography for his testimony or any footnotes; slightly he included hyperlinks.  I clicked on every of those, to see what sources he was utilizing.

His hyperlinks embrace three references to his personal journal publications, plus two hyperlinks to publications by different authors.  One hyperlink is offered to a NOAA assertion. A number of hyperlinks are made to the StonyBrook College weblog, describing unpublished analyses.  This choice was criticized by Andreas Schmittner on twitter:

The entire different hyperlinks (~20) are to information articles, a few of that are op-eds written by Michael Mann himself or articles that interviewed Michael Mann. The checklist of sources utilized by Mann in his written testimony:

Local weather Central, PBS, Time, Slate, LiveScience, PennLive, The Guardian,  Scientific American, New Observer, Washington Publish, NYTimes, ScienceNews, Nationwide Geographic, RollingStone, NewsWeek.

I perceive the issue that coverage makers have in wading by means of peer reviewed journal articles.  That is why Evaluation Experiences are helpful for coverage makers (though I’m not a fan of the oversimplified, cherry picked conclusions within the Abstract for Policymakers).  Information articles are far more simply learn by coverage makers, however a lot of them are deceptive at finest.  And it’s arduous for me to think about any of those articles being severely thought of as ‘proof.’

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Now a number of of those information organizations typically do a reputable job in reporting on science, though they invariably endure from single examine syndrome of their particular person articles.  However such articles are hardly an alternative choice to printed main journal articles or fastidiously thought of assessments — or higher but, nationwide or worldwide evaluation studies.

Though Mann’s testimony extensively referred to hurricanes, there was not a single reference in Mann’s testimony to the IPCC, the U.S. Nationwide Evaluation Experiences or the quite a few evaluation articles on hurricanes and local weather change which were written by groups of specialists.

Sure, the printed literature is sufficiently broad and numerous to help quite a few narratives about local weather change, and there are a lot of causes that rational scientists disagree:  inadequate knowledge and disagreements about its high quality; relative weighting of various kinds of proof; and completely different logics for linking the proof.

However once you open this as much as embrace in a dominant method information articles and op-eds, then something goes.

As summarized within the latest evaluation by Knutson et al. on the problems of hurricanes and world warming (mentioned within the Extremes weblog submit), there’s a very substantial vary of views amongst scientists who’ve main experience within the local weather dynamics of hurricanes.

Is it acceptable in Congressional testimony to current solely your individual perspective, with out acknowledging different views, disagreement, uncertainty?  Together with each myself and Mann within the Listening to supplies ‘dueling’ views, however this hardly represents the vary or distribution of views in the neighborhood. In contrast to a courtroom case, there may be inadequate time to probe all this.


So, which of the dueling specialists is the Congressional Committee to imagine?  Nicely that’s virtually definitely predisposed by their political celebration, to the extent that I’ve to marvel why we had been even invited to this Listening to.

Within the comply with as much as yesterdays Listening to, there was some dialogue on twitter associated to Mann’s intensive emphasis on his personal credentials in each his written and verbal testimony.

His verbal testimony spent virtually a  minute itemizing his personal credentials, out of an alotted 5 minutes (the Chair allowed Mann’s testimony to go over the time allotment).  Mann defended this by saying

I’m not excited about taking part in Mann’s little recreation re experience.  However it’s a robust argument to persuade anybody that he has better experience than I on hurricanes.

Other than somebody’s political bias, that leaves the substance of our written testimony as a foundation for being satisfied by one versus the opposite.

I proceed to have this naive, idealistic view that fastidiously crafted  and communicated analyses with credible documentation is what coverage makers need and wish.

So does Mann’s concentrate on his personal credentials and publications  trump my analyses, documentation and references to the US Nationwide Local weather Evaluation, and many others.?  At that Listening to and with that Committee, perhaps it did.

Reality(?) in testimony

When testifying earlier than Congress, every Witness indicators a Reality in Testimony assertion.  At yesterday’s Listening to, the witnesses had been requested to face and verbally conform to this (first time I recall doing this in a Congressional Listening to).

What does ‘Reality in Testimony’ really imply concerning a controversial subject in science?  Sure, there may be a lot disagreement about points of local weather science, that isn’t what I’m involved about right here.

In yesterday’s Listening to, Mann made a factually incorrect assertion in response to a query:

90:13 “I need to appropriate quite a few fallacies that we’ve heard right here immediately in terms of the connection between local weather change and excessive climate occasions.  To begin with, you generally hear this fantasy about there having been a supposed hurricane drought and there’s some sleight-of-hand going there as a result of what’s occurring Superstorm Sandy was a powerful class three after which weakened to a class 2 hurricane off the coast of the US east Coast now it did go as they are saying extra-tropical it was technically not a hurricane when it made landfall but it surely was spinning off the East Coast for a number of days as a powerful hurricane increase a really giant storm surge and as we all know it was this storm surge that was so devastating to the Jersey coast into New York Metropolis so its extraordinarily deceptive once you hear statements like that”

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Mann’s assertion misled the Committee along with his statements concerning the drought in main hurricanes, Hurricane Sandy, and about my testimony being fallacious.  There was no alternative for me to talk up within the Listening to.  I used to be shaking my head no, this was observed by a Republican member, who requested for a possibility for me to answer, however the Chair gave me no alternative to reply.  Beneath is my response to Mann’s assertion about my testimony.

My written testimony included the next assertion:

“Nonetheless, it was hardly ever talked about that 2017 broke a drought in U.S. main hurricane landfalls because the finish of 2005 — a significant hurricane drought that’s unprecedented within the historic file.”

This one is easy to truth verify.  Go to the NOAA web site and depend the variety of main hurricanes (Cat three+) between Hurricane Wilma (2005) and Hurricane Harvey (2017).  Zilch.  Here’s a graph of the info from the Nationwide Hurricane Heart that was included in my written testimony:

Close to Hurricane Sandy as an alleged ‘drought buster.’ Hurricane Sandy (2012) is included within the checklist of U.S. landfalling hurricanes with an * since technically it wasn’t a hurricane at landfall.  Sandy’s max wind velocity at landfall is listed at 65 knots (Cat 1 territory).  As acknowledged in my testimony, the  giant storm surge related to Sandy was attributable to her transition to a horizontally giant extra-tropical storm, not by her temporary resurgence to a Cat 2.

I bear in mind the small print of Hurricane Sandy in excruciating element, since my firm CFAN was forecasting hurricanes (our Sandy forecast was exceptionally correct relative to authorities offered forecasts).

In any occasion, even other than the classification of Sandy as a hurricane or not, the phrases ‘landfalling hurricane’ and ‘main hurricane’ (Cat three+) have very clear and particular meanings, and Hurricane Sandy wasn’t a significant hurricane at landfall, and solely briefly reached low-end Cat three standing close to Cuba.  See the NHC’s Abstract Report on Hurricane Sandy

There isn’t any query that Hurricane Sandy was catastrophic for New Jersey and New York Metropolis.  Sandy illustrates how unprepared these cities had been for even a Cat 1 hurricane with a major storm surge.  Sandy shouldn’t be a very good poster youngster for artifical world warming, however slightly helps the arguments made in my testimony about not being ready for present or historic hurricanes.

JC verdict on Mann’s assertion:  5 Pinocchios

Different rhetorically efficient however deceptive methods utilized by Mann’s testimony had been to cherry decide a single examine and to indicate that hypothesis a couple of linkage of some storm with world warming is definitely a properly accepted conclusion.  I’ll give one instance right here, that arose within the questioning, which is said to the high-profile difficulty of whether or not Class four/5 hurricanes have been growing:

“I really co-authored an article within the journal Nature about 10 years in the past the place we use geological data from sedimentary deposits left behind by historic hurricanes so we will really reconstruct the historical past of landfalling hurricanes alongside the U.S. East coast alongside the Caribbean and so we’ve got this wealthy archive of data that tells us in truth the rise in depth that we’re seeing immediately does look like with out precedent way back to we will go.”

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The paper that Mann refers to is [here].  Maybe Mann hasn’t saved up with the literature on paleotempestology, which I summarized right here.  Here’s a abstract paragraph from my Report on Hurricanes and Local weather Change:

“Abstract. There has not been a timeline or synthesis of the Atlantic hurricane paleotempestology outcomes for the previous 5 thousand years, both regionally or for the whole coastal area. Nonetheless, it’s clear from these analyses that vital variability of landfall chances happens on century to millennial time scales. There seems to have been a broad hyperactive interval from 3400 to 1000 years B.P. Excessive exercise continued within the Gulf of Mexico till 1400 AD, with a shift to extra frequent extreme hurricane strikes from the Bahamas to New England occurring between 1400 and 1675 AD. Since 1760, there was a gradual decline in exercise till the 1990’s.”

So, by cherry choosing one paper (his personal) that examines geologic knowledge at just one location, Mann misled the committee concerning whether or not or not the depth of Atlantic hurricanes has been growing relative to the geological file.

JC verdict: two pinocchios

In Mann’s Congressional testimony two years in the past [blog post], he made two statements within the questioning interval that contradicted what was in his written testimony and his c.v.; for documentation of this see the hyperlinks at  WUWT, Warmist Michael Mann tells whopper at Congressional Science listening to.

It was far more tough for Mann to get away with  factually incorrect statements in a Listening to chaired by the Republicans than in a Listening to chaired by the Democrats.

JC reflections

I’ve typically criticized the Congressional testimonies of different local weather scientists as being normative, within the sense of advocating for particular insurance policies associated to local weather change.

In hindsight, normative testimony appears fairly tame compared with ‘assertion from authority’ testimony from scientists.  This fashion of testimony extensively establishes the witness’ experience, after which makes a collection of assertions with little or no documentation.  In brief — interesting to their very own authority.  This technique is commonly accompanied by makes an attempt to tear down the credibility of opposing witnesses.

If such testimony by assertion was introduced in a authorized trial, it could obtain a extreme grilling on cross-examination.  In a Congressional Listening to the place the witness helps the bulk’s perspective, the witness just about will get a cross, even by the opposing celebration. The minority members are inclined to focus their restricted time on questioning  the witnesses invited by their very own celebration.

This Listening to is definitely making me rethink my participation in future Hearings. I very a lot benefit from the problem and alternative of getting ready written testimony and speaking my analyses of the difficulty at hand to coverage makers.  Nonetheless, I’m not lower out to be a politician. I’ve a foul behavior of answering any query as precisely and actually as I can, slightly than utilizing my 90 seconds to refute my opponent or to emphasise my very own level.

This makes me marvel what the Democrats are actually making an attempt to perform with these hearings on local weather change.  If they’re so satisfied the science is totally settled, why do they trouble with these Hearings?  Do they assume they’ll persuade the Republicans with a witness reminiscent of Michael Mann? The politics surrounding local weather change make little sense to me.

Acknowledgements.  I wish to thank Larry Kummer for offering a transcript of the Listening to and for offering feedback on earlier drafts of this submit.

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