Tag Archives: Michael Mann

In the front lines of the “climate wars”

Here’s another book to look out for – The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. It will be published at the beginning of March .

The author, Michael Mann,  has been a central figure in the “climate wars.” His research into paleoclimate has been a particular target for climate sceptics/contrarians/deniers. And despite their claims that his work was discredited it has in fact been supported and replicated by other climate scientists. It also received endorsement from the The National Research Council of the US National Academies. (See and download Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years (2006) )

Publisher’s description of book

This is how the publisher describes the book:

“In its 2001 report on global climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations prominently featured the “Hockey Stick,” a chart showing global temperature data over the past one thousand years. The Hockey Stick demonstrated that temperature had risen with the increase in industrialization and use of fossil fuels. The inescapable conclusion was that worldwide human activity since the industrial age had raised CO2 levels, trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and warming the planet.

“The Hockey Stick became a central icon in the “climate wars,” and well-funded science deniers immediately attacked the chart and the scientists responsible for it. Yet the controversy has had little to do with the depicted temperature rise and much more with the perceived threat the graph posed to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect our environment and planet. Michael E. Mann, lead author of the original paper in which the Hockey Stick first appeared, shares the real story of the science and politics behind this controversy. He introduces key figures in the oil and energy industries, and the media front groups who do their bidding in sometimes slick, bare-knuckled ways to cast doubt on the science. Mann concludes with an account of the “Climategate” scandal, the 2009 hacking of climate scientists’ emails. Throughout, Mann reveals the role of science deniers, abetted by an uninformed media, in once again diverting attention away from one of the central scientific and policy issues of our time.”

McCarthyist attacks on science

Henry Waxman, Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said this of Michael Mann:

“As one of the nation’s leading climate researchers, no one has felt the brunt of the attacks from politicians and the fossil fuel industry more than Michael Mann. This is his personal account from the center of the maelstrom, documenting the lies and distortions about his work and his heroic efforts to stand up for scientific truth.”

Mann has certainly been one of the most high profile victim of the current McCarthyist attacks on climate science and scientists. This still continues. But he is not the only target. This has become such a problem that A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists has been set up. You can find out more about the fund at its new web site and its recent press release –  Climate Science Legal Defense Fund Gets New Backing. As the press release says:

“The fund is designed to help scientists like Professor Michael Mann cope with the legal fees that stack up in fighting attempts by climate-skeptic groups to gain access to private emails and other correspondence through lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests at their public universities.”

The fund will also:

“Educate researchers about their legal rights and responsibilities on issues surrounding their work;

Serve as a clearinghouse for information related to legal actions taken against scientists; and

Recruit and assist lawyers representing these scientists.”

Another important  book to look forward to.

Empathy for colleagues

Science follows certain procedures, but does the media get the signal? Credit: CSIRO

The Australian astrophysicist Mathew Bailes recently got international recognition for his part in the discovery of an exoplanet which could be made of diamond. As he says: “Following the publication of our finding in the journal Science, our research received amazing attention from the world’s media.” (See Diamond planets, climate change and the scientific method)

It’s always nice when a scientific discovery, and the work of a scientist, receive public attention. Even though, as he says:

” in the overall scheme of things, it isn’t that important.

And yet the diamond planet has been hugely successful in igniting public curiosity about the universe in which we live.

In that sense, for myself and my co-authors, I suspect it will be among the greatest discoveries of our careers.

Our host institutions were thrilled with the publicity and most of us enjoyed our 15 minutes of fame.”

It could have been different

But here’s the lesson in this story:

“The attention we received was 100% positive, but how different that could have been.

How so? Well, we could have been climate scientists.”

And he asks you to consider a parallel scenario;

“Imagine for a minute that, instead of discovering a diamond planet, we’d made a breakthrough in global temperature projections.

Let’s say we studied computer models of the influence of excessive greenhouse gases, verified them through observations, then had them peer-reviewed and published in Science.

Instead of sitting back and basking in the glory, I suspect we’d find a lot of commentators, many with no scientific qualifications, pouring scorn on our findings.

People on the fringe of science would be quoted as opponents of our work, arguing that it was nothing more than a theory yet to be conclusively proven.

There would be doubt cast on the interpretation of our data and conjecture about whether we were “buddies” with the journal referees.

If our opponents dug really deep they might even find that I’d once written a paper on a similar topic that had to be retracted.

Before long our credibility and findings would be under serious question.”

And:

“Sadly, the same media commentators who celebrate diamond planets without question are all too quick to dismiss the latest peer-reviewed evidence that suggests man-made activities are responsible for changes in concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere.The scientific method is universal. If we selectively ignore it in certain disciplines, we do so at our peril.”

It’s worth those of us outside the climate science community reflecting on this. Scientists and non-scientists alike.

Consider the continuing harassment of Dr Michael Mann who is still be pursued by climate deniers and conservative politicians. What do they want. His emails from years back! (see Professor turns to law to protect climate-change work).

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Scientific misconduct and skepticgate

I have been interested in scientific misconduct recently – partly as a result of the Hauser scandal. Consequently I was reading about a recent conference on the subject. The documents included plagiarism right up there with the more commonly accepted forms of misconduct like falsification of evidence.

Plagiarism is the use of text from others’ writing without attribution. Now I realised that this was a big issue for student assessment at universities but apparently it is also an issue for scientific journals. Many journals now use a computer programme to check out submitted papers for plagiarized content.

Just imagine, though, there is a whole field of scientific publishing where such things would not be routinely checked. I am referring to popular science articles, newspaper articles – and reports to clients, including governments.

Well, the proverbial seems to be hitting the fan for one such report – the Wegman report. Gareth at Hot Topic briefly reports this in his article Wegman investigated for plagiarism, “skepticgate” looms.

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A lesson for NZ critics of climate science?

In September the NZ High Court is to consider a request by local critics of climate science to get NIWA to change its national temperature record. See A desperate plea to be noticed? and When asses go to law for details.

Michael Mann

Their legal action bears strong similarities with that taken by  Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli against the University of Virginia. He claims he was doing this to investigate fraud in US climate scientist Michael Mann’s research. The local critics had effectively charged NIWA scientists with misconduct or fraud – the manipulation of NZ temperature data by using adjustments which the critics claim were not required (see New Zealand’s denier-gate).

Cuccinelli’s case was effectively a “fishing expedition” as he had no evidence of fraud. The NZ critics similarly have no evidence of scientific misconduct (which of course hasn’t stopped them claiming this to the world).

A failed witch hunt

So perhaps the local plaintiffs should take some lessons from Cuccinelli’s case which the presiding judge has now set aside (see Judge quashes Cuccinelli subpoena of U-Va. records). He ruled that Cuccinelli had failed to state “reasons to believe” that Mann had committed fraud:

“The Court has read with care those pages and understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann’s work on the issue of global warming. However, it is not clear what he did was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Chances are a similar thing is going to happen in New Zealand.

Mann, of course, was pleased with the ruling in his case. He said:

“I’m very pleased that the judge has ruled in our favor. It is a victory not just for me and the university, but for all scientists who live in fear that they may be subject to a politically-motivated witch hunt when their research findings prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests.

“I’m looking forward now to trying to get back full time to the things I really care about: doing research and extending the forefront of our scientific understanding of the science of climate and climate change, teaching and advising students and postdoctoral scholars, and doing the best I can to communicate to the public important scientific findings.”

Climate desk has an audio of an interview with Michael Mann on this ruling.

Need to Know’s Alison Stewart spoke with Mann about the dangerous precedent the Cucinelli’s case could have set and about what he calls the climate change denial “industry.”

Download the file here.

Thanks to The Fire Judge Sets Aside Virginia Attorney General’s University of Virginia Document Demands

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Climate change deniers wallets threatened

Apparently climate scientist Michael Mann has threatened legal action* against Minnesotans for Global Warming (M4GW) over their  video “Hide the Decline.” This used the comment from the “climategate” emails to portray a dishonest and slanderous picture of Mann. The video has been heavily promoted by climate change deniers and conservative  groups, news outlets and blogs internationally. Several conservative NZ bloggers promoted the video.

So far I have only seen the M4GW press release which is somewhat cavalier. However, they have taken the video down from YouTube. When asked why he removed the video, M4GW’s Elmer Beauregard said “Right now, the last thing I need is a lawsuit. I can barely afford my electric bill.” The fact that they have replaced it with another revised one, “Hide the Decline 2,” suggests they had something to fear from Mann’s “cease and desist” order.

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Swiftboating science

“Swiftboating” is a new term for me – and for science, I guess. But it is part of US political jargon.

To quote Wikipedia:

“Swiftboating . .  is used as a strong pejorative description of some kind of attack that the speaker considers unfair or untrue—for example, an ad hominem attack or a smear campaign.

The term comes from the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth (formerly “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” or SBVT) and that group’s widely publicized campaign against 2004 US Presidential candidate John Kerry.

Originally, terms like “swiftboating”, “Swift Boating”, “Swift Boat tactics”, etc. were mostly used by people who disapproved of the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth. It is now in mainstream use. Some American conservatives have strongly objected (see below) to the criticism of SBVT implied by such negative usage.”

It appears, mainly, to be a tactic of political conservatives. So it’s not surprising they describe the process differently. This from Conservapedia:

Swift-boating is an idiomatic catchphrase generally taken to mean exposing hard truths about Democrats who have distorted the truth or lied about their own activities.

Here on Conservapedia, the term is used to mean exposing hard truths about liberal editors who censor, distort the truth, or engage in deceit.”

So – its a synonym for “character assassination” and “smear.” With particular connotations of calling into question one’s honourable status.

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Chris Mooney interviews Michael Mann on “climategate”

This is an interesting interview (download MP3). Michael Mann has been vilified by climate change deniers. His work on the so-called “hockey stick” graph  is still being misrepresented despite being validated by the US National research council and other researchers.

He’s a bit of a lone voice at the moment but really worth listening to. Point of Inquiry recently interviewed him and describe the interview this way:

“In response to growing public skepticism—and a wave of dramatic attacks on individual researchers—the scientific community is now bucking up to more strongly defend its knowledge. Leading the charge is one of the most frequently attacked researchers of them all—Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann.

In this interview with host Chris Mooney, Mann pulls no punches. He defends the fundamental scientific consensus on climate change, and explains why those who attack it consistently miss the target. He also answers critics of his “hockey stick” study, and explains why the charges that have arisen in “ClimateGate” seem much more smoke than fire.

Dr. Michael E. Mann is a member of the Pennsylvania State University faculty, and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. His research focuses on the application of statistical techniques to understanding climate variability and change, and he was a Lead Author on the “Observed Climate Variability and Change” chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Scientific Assessment Report. Among many other distinguished scientific activities, editorships, and awards, Mann is author of more than 120 peer-reviewed and edited publications. That includes, most famously, the 1998 study that introduced the so called “hockey stick,” a graph showing that modern temperatures appear to be much higher than anything seen in at least the last thousand years. With his colleague Lee Kump, Mann also recently authored the book Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming. Finally, he is one of the founders and contributors to the prominent global warming blog, RealClimate.org.”

via Michael Mann – Unprecedented Attacks on Climate Research | Point of Inquiry.

Download MP3

See also:
Spinning exoneration of Dr. Michael Mann Into “Whitewash”
Climate change deniers’ tawdry manipulation of “hockey sticks”
Freedom of information and responsibility

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Spinning exoneration of Dr. Michael Mann Into “Whitewash”

Dr Michael Mann, Penn State University

I have read the full report of this inquiry Concerning the Allegations of Research Misconduct Against Dr. Michael E. Mann and find the whole business interesting. Here are my reasons – quotes are from the report:

1: No specific charges for Mann to confront

Instead the University had received:

“numerous communications (emails, phone calls and letters) accusing Dr. Michael E. Mann of having engaged in acts that included manipulating data, destroying records and colluding to hamper the progress of scientific discourse around the issue of anthropogenic global warming from approximately 1998. These accusations were based on perceptions of the content of the widely reported theft of emails from a server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Great Britain.”

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