News: CJ Exclusives

Peer Review Raises Serious Questions About Climate Claims

Review manager has direct ties to group push N.C. global warming policies

A group pushing North Carolina lawmakers to adopt costly climate-change policies has made a serious error while trying to justify its proposals, according to a John Locke Foundation analyst. The group chose a consultant with a major conflict of interest to manage a peer review of its work.

“Calling this a serious error is actually mild,” said Dr. Roy Cordato, JLF Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar. “This amounts to a clear decision to ignore one of the fundamental principles of scientific study. It exposes North Carolina’s state government-endorsed climate-change research for the sham that it really is.”

The problem lies with a new peer review associated with an Appalachian State University Energy Center study issued earlier this year, Cordato said. That ASU Energy Center report originally predicted that new climate-change policies would generate several hundred thousand new jobs in North Carolina. The John Locke Foundation has raised previous concerns about the study, including concerns that its analysis is based on unsound economic assumptions and faulty methodology.

“Since this study could have major impacts on the future of the state’s economy, North Carolina leaders need to be sure that it’s based on sound economic principles,” Cordato said. “That’s why it’s important to get an unbiased peer review from an outside expert unconnected to the research. This peer review fails that test. The peer review manager clearly has a vested interest in promoting the results of the ASU Energy Center report.”

Adam Rose, acting director of the Energy Institute at the University of Southern California, managed the peer review. The ASU Energy Center and the Center for Climate Strategies asked Rose to manage the peer review, according to a spokesman for the N.C. Division of Air Quality.

Rose is not connected directly to the ASU Energy Center, but he serves as a senior adviser and consultant to CCS, according to that group’s Web site. The Center for Climate Strategies devised the climate-change policy proposals under consideration for North Carolina and commissioned the Energy Center report.

“This is a huge conflict of interest,” Cordato said. “The ASU Energy Center information is incorporated within a larger report prepared by the Center for Climate Strategies for North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The Energy Center bases its claims regarding job creation and CCS proposals to fight global warming on CCS data that the Beacon Hill Institute refers to as ‘seriously flawed.’ Given Rose’s ties to CCS he is unlikely to choose reviewers who would be critical of either CCS’ data or the Energy Center’s decision to use that data.”

Rose’s affiliations with CCS run even deeper than those listed on CCS’ Web site, Cordato said. “Rose’s page on the University of Southern California Web site says CCS paid him $31,500 in the last year for a project on ‘energy and climate change,'” Cordato said. “The fact that CCS helps pay his bills makes him even less qualified to offer an unbiased assessment of work that’s destined to bolster a CCS report.”

In addition to Rose’s conflict of interest, Cordato has concerns about the rest of the peer review team. “During the writing of the peer review, the names of the authors were kept anonymous,” he said. “Now that the peer review is complete, they’re still anonymous. That makes no sense. In the interest of transparency, taxpayers deserve to know the peer reviewers’ credentials, along with any ties they have to the ASU Energy Center, CCS, or environmental advocacy groups.”

To date, only one legitimate peer review has assessed the claims in the ASU Energy Center report, Cordato said. “The John Locke Foundation commissioned a peer review from the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston,” he said. “No one at Beacon Hill is connected to the ASU Energy Center report or the Center for Climate Strategies.”

“Unlike the peer review managed by Rose, whose authors are anonymous, the authors of the Beacon Hill report are listed,” Cordato added. “Their credentials can be inspected. At the present time we have no idea who the ‘official’ reviewers are, only that they were chosen by someone who at the very least, appears to have a personal interest in the outcome of the reviewers’ conclusions.”

In addition to the peer review of the ASU Energy Center’s analysis, the Suffolk University economists conducted a cost-benefit analysis of CCS climate-change proposals. The analysis concludes those proposals would cost the state about 33,000 jobs and generate a $4.5 billion negative impact on the state’s economy.