Saturday, September 04, 2010

Harvard Code of Conduct Contrasts with Penn State and UVa

By Charles Battig, M.D., President, Piedmont Chapter of Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment, Charlottesville, VA

An insight into the apparent difference in how "scientific misconduct" at Harvard University is handled, and how it has been handled at Penn State and the University of Virginia in the matter of climatologist Michael Mann is now available.

Harvard professor of psychology Marc Hauser was found "solely responsible for eight instances of scientific misconduct" involving the "data acquisition, data analysis, data retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results" according to the August 20, 2010 statement by Harvard dean Michael D. Smith. This finding was issued based on a faculty investigating committee study. The report noted that it began with an "inquiry phase" in response to "allegations of scientific misconduct." It seems that there were allegations of "monkey business" in his research on monkey cognition. Three papers by Hauser, presumably peer reviewed, will need to be corrected or retracted according to Dean Smith. The academic fate of the professor is yet to be decided.

In contrast, the two reviews of the behavior of climatologist M. Mann at Penn State seemed primarily focused on his data housekeeping habits and openness to sharing his data and analysis methodology. He was found to have acted within the "accepted practices within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research." The issues of data acquisition and analysis validity were not pursued; the number of awards and publications Mann received was cited as evidence of the validity of his work.

At the University of Virginia an "inquiry phase", such as noted in the Harvard protocol, was initiated by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli into the possible misuse of public funds by Mann in his pursuit of employment by the University and his use of such funds in his research activities there. Virginia state law gives wide discretion to the AG in the initiation of investigations into suspected misuse of state funds. This request was met with claims of impingement on sacred academic freedom, and chilling the environment for academic research in general by the university and its various supporters. Rather than welcome the chance to dispel the suspicion of scientific misconduct and protect its academic reputation, the university enlisted a high powered D.C. legal team to fight the AG request in court.

While this legal process plays out, the court of public opinion must wonder why the openness and direct dealing with such allegations exhibited by Harvard is not the model for the University of Virginia. Harvard is shown to be a scientifically open and self policing university; UVa is hiding behind its self -righteous claims of academic freedom and legal barricades. Whose research will the public more likely trust?

Comment above received via email from the author:

An alphabet soup of agencies is quietly arranging to install "Green" building codes across the USA

Making housing even more difficult to afford

Green building codes are hitting the radar screens of U.S. commercial real estate professionals as a result of recent initiatives. Widespread consideration of national model green building codes for inclusion in local and state building regulations, as well as by federal government agencies, is now underway, and crucial decisions concerning those efforts must be made by those who will be impacted by the potential imposition of these new regulations.

Landmark Agreement Energizes Move for Green Regulation
ICC and ASHRAE, along with the USGBC, Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), American Institute of Architects (AIA), and ASTM International, recently announced an agreement to merge two national efforts to develop adoptable and enforceable green building codes. The announcement coincided with the launch of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) with the release of Version 1.0.

As this column mentioned a few months ago, the launch of the IGCC "establishes a previously unimaginable regulatory framework for the construction of high-performance commercial buildings that are safe and sustainable . through a delivery infrastructure [that can] reach all 50 states and more than 22,000 local jurisdictions."

In a critical development, the IGCC will include Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings as one compliance path jurisdictions may choose to follow. Standard 189.1 will also be included in its entirety in the distribution of the IGCC.

BOMA's Role

BOMA is pleased that this agreement has been reached between ICC, ASHRAE, and cooperating sponsors. It's consistent with BOMA's suggested solutions to the problems of redundant codes competing for adoption and implementation in municipal, state, and federal jurisdictions.

As reported in the March issue of BUILDINGS in this column, BOMA was part of the consensus committee and influenced the development of Standard 189.1 by securing more workable, cost-effective provisions and bringing considerations of project cost and the need to consider basic business investment principles to the process. BOMA will now participate in the ongoing development of the IGCC as it enters a comment period in 2010, and is subject to code change proposals and public hearings in 2011 in advance of the publication of the 2012 edition.

As green building codes are considered for adoption and enforcement by local and state jurisdictions, BOMA will work to preserve building owners' options in selecting designs, systems, or components that best meet their needs. BOMA will also work to ensure that the code is applicable only to buildings or projects specifically designated green, those participating in voluntary green building programs, or those where the building owners and managers have determined that compliance with green building codes is advantageous. BOMA doesn't support the adoption and implementation of green building codes intended to apply to all newly constructed buildings, or to all tenant improvement, additions, and major renovations to existing buildings.

The Challenge for Commercial Real Estate

There's widespread consensus that green codes are not intended to apply to every project, and they're not designed to replace current energy, building, mechanical, and other codes that set the baseline for all construction. Green codes are meant to reach beyond minimum requirements and specifically intended to achieve significant reductions in energy usage, address site development and land-use requirements, improve indoor environments, encourage water resource conservation, and support the use of renewable energy systems. Green codes also include measures to address post-occupancy building performance, as well as extensive owner and operator education to ensure that future efficiencies are realized.

Current voluntary green building programs reach only about 30 percent of the built environment. Would the initial application of green building regulations to that universe of buildings make the most sense? Should tenant improvement, remodeling, and renovation projects be included in green regulations? What about limiting green codes to government buildings or new building construction only? What are the likely impacts of a wider application of green codes, especially on at-risk U.S. commercial real estate markets? How can local priorities and conditions be included in green regulations?

The answers to these and other questions will be critical to the success of efforts to add regulations to voluntary, market-based programs to speed the introduction of more universal green and sustainable construction.


Climate Of Uncertainty

On Monday an independent review found that the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has downplayed uncertainties surrounding climate science. The review also found that the IPCC needs more robust safeguards against conflicts of interest, that it had committed "unnecessary errors" by failing to meet its own standards, that it had inadequately flagged its use of nonscientific sources, that it made claims with "high confidence" based on "weak evidentiary basis," and that it gave short shrift to dissenting scientists.

And for all that, the review added that the IPCC "has been successful overall and has served society well."

This week's report, in keeping with three earlier investigations into the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, limited its inquiry to the "processes and procedures" of the IPCC. While it found those wanting, it also saw no need to question their scientific result.

That's too bad, since the state of the science has moved on considerably since the IPCC concluded in its 2007 report that climate change was "unequivocal." A forthcoming paper in Annals of Applied Statistics details the uncertainties in trying to reconstruct historical temperatures using proxy data such as tree rings and ice cores. Statisticians Blakeley McShane and Abraham Wyner find that while proxy records may relate to temperatures, when it comes to forecasting the warming observed in the last 30 years, "the proxies do not predict temperature significantly better than random series generated independently of temperature."

Also, last month, New Phytologist published a series of papers examining the Amazon rain forest's vulnerability to drought, following years of increasingly dire predictions that anthropogenic carbon emissions and global warming will kill off Amazon trees. Climatologist Peter Cox, a co-author on four of those papers, told us, "One of the things that turns out to be important is the extent to which tropical forests respond positively to CO2 increases."

The specifics of that relationship remain "a key uncertainty," Mr. Cox said, and recent findings have raised more questions than they've answered. But the fact that higher CO2 levels can make plants more efficient at using water means that not only might rain forests survive CO2-induced drought better than previously thought, but that carbon emissions overall might even be good for rain forests, up to a point. That's news, even if it has been little reported.

And while you've probably heard (frequently) that this summer appears to be the warmest on record, you may not have been told that an unusually cold spell in the Antarctic brought a chill to southern South America and is responsible for the deaths of six million fish and thousands of alligators, turtles and river dolphins, according to Nature News.

None of this proves or disproves anything, except that our understanding of how our climate works is still evolving. Is it too much to ask the climate establishment to acknowledge as much?


Pachauri: IAC Got It Wrong - Next IPCC Report Will Be Even More Political

Excerpts from the Times of India Interview with IPCC Head Rajendra Pachauri

TOI: Anything in the UN probe report you completely or partly disagree with?

RP: They have talked about quantifying uncertainties. To some extent, we are doing that, though not perfectly. But the issue is that in some cases, you really don't have a quantitative base by which you can attach a probability or a level of uncertainty that defines things in quantitative terms. And there, let's not take away the importance of expert judgment. And that is something the report has missed or at least not pointed out.

TOI: Does this raise a larger issue of how science is used by society? And is there a political guidance to it?

RP: Sure...

TOI: Stifling politics out of science, does that make it devoid of its real social purpose?

RP: Let's face it, we are an intergovernmental body and our strength and acceptability of what we produce is largely because we are owned by governments. If that was not the case, then we would be like any other scientific body that maybe producing first-rate reports but don't see the light of the day because they don't matter in policy-making. Now clearly, if it's an inter-governmental body and we want governments' ownership of what we produce, obviously they will give us guidance of what direction to follow, what are the questions they want answered.

Unfortunately, people have completely missed the original resolution by which IPCC was set up. It clearly says that our assessment should include realistic response strategies. If that is not an assessment of policies, then what does it represent?

And I am afraid, we have been, in my view, defensive in coming out with a whole range of policies and I am not saying we prescribe policy A or B or C but on the basis of science, we are looking at realistic response strategies. But that is exactly what this committee has recommended that we get out of - policy prescriptions. It is for this reason that I brought out that this what is written in the IPCC mandate. This is a misperception on the part of some people in the scientific community. And I hope I can correct it.

TOI: What are the new elements in the next climate assessment report (due in 2014)?

RP: Some of things that are certainly going to be included this time are issues of equity. It's yet to be accepted by the panel, so I can't really say definitely. At the meeting, we dwelt at length on Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which says the central objective of the convention is to prevent the anthropogenic interference with the climate system which is in terms of ecosystem, ensuring food security and ensuring that development can take place. These are three central pillars. This is something that science can't answer. Because what is perceived as dangerous, depends on value judgements. But science can provide as much information as possible by which the negotiators and decision-makers can decide what is dangerous and we are trying very hard to get this together.

TOI: Aren't you treading on more dangerous territory with this, because this is the most contentious bit of the negotiations - the North South divide?

RP: It is but I also believe this is something the IPCC must do. And I must say I owe it to what has happened over the past few months that I have certainly shed any inhibitions or feelings of cowardice. I believe this is now my opportunity to go out and do what I think is right. In the second term I may be little more uncomfortable for the people than I was in the first. Maybe they realize it.

TOI: So the issue of equity is central to the next report?

RP: Certainly, but not only equity, we have also used the word 'ethics'. There are certain ethical dimensions, even of the scientific assessment of climate change which we are going to try and assess.


Greenhouse protection racket - an update

Last week, the Obama Administration filed a brief on behalf of industry petitioners urging the Supreme Court to vacate an appeals court decision (State of Connecticut et al. v. American Electric Power et al.) that would allow States and private parties to sue coal-burning electric utilities for their alleged contribution to global warming-related "injuries."

The brief clearly lays out the absurdities of attempting to regulate greenhouse gases via common-law public nuisance litigation. Because global warming is, well, global, practically anyone on Earth could claim to be a victim. And because companies emit carbon dioxide (CO2) only as a byproduct of providing goods and services (electricity, cars, food, medical care, bites of information, etc.) to people, practically everyone on the planet could be sued as a contributor to the alleged injuries. In the memorable words of South Park's hilarious global warming episode, Two Days Before The Day After Tomorrow, "We all broke the dam!"

In addition, the Obama brief points out that, "Establishing appropriate levels for the reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by a 'specified percentage each year for at least a decade' (as Plaintiffs request), would inevitably entail multifarious policy judgments, which should be made by decision-makers who are politically accountable, have expertise, and are able to pursue a coherent national or international strategy - either at a single stroke or incrementally."

Yet the brief stops short of reaching the obvious conclusion implied by its argument, namely, that climate policy is a "non-justiciable political question." Instead, it advises the Supreme Court to direct the court of appeals to reassess its decision on "prudential" grounds. Rather than seek a decision that would preempt all future CO2 litigation, the brief instead seeks to put one particular CO2 lawsuit on ice.

I smell a rat. The Administration, I suspect, does not want the Court to rule that the political question doctrine precludes public nuisance litigation against CO2-emitters, because it wants the only solid, durable shield against litigation chaos to be the EPA's "displacement" of common-law injury claims via the agency's endangerment rule and the ensuing regulatory cascade.

Just as the Administration used the endangerment rule to try and spook Congress and industry into supporting cap-and-trade, it is now using CO2 litigation to try and spook them into supporting - or at least not aggressively attacking - EPA regulation of greenhouse gases via the Clean Air Act.

In short, as I discuss in a column this week in Pajamas Media, the Administration needs to keep the prospect of CO2 litigation alive in order to sustain the "greenhouse protection racket" - the strategy of regulatory extortion - on which warmists increasingly rely to promote their agenda.


Redesigned Labels on New Cars Will Include Pollution Information

I guess that there may be a few chumps who take notice of such labels. Not many, though. Greenie policies need compulsion to do anything

The Obama administration is changing the fuel economy labels placed on the windows of new cars and light trucks so consumers can "make the best economic and environmental decisions when buying a new car."

The new labels will give consumers "simple, straightforward energy and environmental comparisons," including information about air pollutants emitted by the vehicle.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation proposed two new label designs for public comment.

One of the labels features a letter grade, ranging from A+ to D, to describe the vehicle's overall fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions performance. It also estimates how many grams of carbon dioxide the vehicle emits per mile.

The second proposed label shows how many miles the vehicle will get for each gallon of gas, and it lists the vehicle's annual fuel costs. This label uses a bar graph to show how the vehicle rates on a scale of carbon dioxide tailpipe emissions. A second bar graph shows how the vehicle's tailpipe emissions contribute to local and regional air pollution.

"We are asking the American people to tell us what they need to make the best economic and environmental decisions when buying a new car," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "New fuel economy labels will keep pace with the new generation of fuel efficient cars and trucks rolling off the line, and provide simple, straightforward updates to inform consumers about their choices in a rapidly changing market. We want to help buyers find vehicles that meet their needs, keep the air clean and save them money at the pump."

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 specifically directs the EPA and DOT to rate vehicles according to fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions and smog-forming pollutants.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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