From the trenches: Michael Mann on Wegman and the climate wars

The latest video from Peter “Climate Crocks” Sinclair in his new series at The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media is an extended interview with Michael Mann about his new book (reviewed by Bryan here), and gives an excellent overview of the hockey stick issue — including the Mashey/Deep Climate discovery of plagiarism in the Wegman Report. Michael Mann, the Hockey Stick … and the Climate Wars is well worth watching, if only for the frankly incredible way that Wegman answers a question about carbon dioxide.

So many lies – and the liar who tells them

A headline caught my attention yesterday:
Shock News: Disgraced Climategate Scientist Made Top UN Weatherman. It popped up all over the crank web. Climate Realists seemed to get it first, then Morano’s Climate Depot, and soon it was at the gloriously titled “CO2 Insanity“, and many, many more. Here’s the intro and first sentence:

In a shock move a discredited global warming scientist implicated in climate fraud is appointed to a top job at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Jim Salinger, one of the scientists suspected of criminal misconduct in the Climategate scandal has been elected to the prestigious role of President of the Commission for Agricultural Meteorology of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Climate skeptics are aghast at the news.

The author? One John O’Sullivan. HT readers with long memories will remember him being wrong about everything before. In this case, amongst the untruths and libels in those few words is one simple mistake that makes the entire crank echo chamber look stupid for providing O’Sullivan with a platform. Jim Salinger’s election to the presidency of the WMO Commission for Agricultural Meteorology (CAgM) took place in 2006 — as O’Sullivan’s own reference demonstrates! Salinger remains a member of the CAgM, but the president is now
Dr Byong-Lyol Lee of Korea (full WMO membership list here). O’Sullivan’s “scoop” is a mere five years out of date! But wait, there’s more…

Continue reading “So many lies – and the liar who tells them”

IPCC’s Pachauri fights back

“We have a very apt saying in Hindi, which essentially translates as: ‘When a jackal is threatened, he starts moving toward the city.’ In other words, he becomes more visible. I think some of these guys are speaking out volubly because they read the writing on the wall.”

That was IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri in an interview nearly a year ago, speaking of the increase in the decibel level of contrarians.  Even so he was probably not prepared for the strength of the attack they mounted as the year proceeded.

But he is more than ready to defend the IPCC against the attacks it has been receiving.  The Guardian has just published a forthright article written by him.

“To dismiss the implications of climate change based on an error about the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are melting is an act of astonishing intellectual legerdemain. Yet this is what some doubters of climate change are claiming. But the reality is that our understanding of climate change is based on a vast and remarkably sound body of science – and is something we distort and trivialise at our peril.”

He reminds readers of the scale of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). The IPCC mobilised 450 scientists from all over the world to write it. An additional 800 contributing authors gave specialised inputs and about 2,500 expert reviewers provided 90,000 comments.

“In this mammoth task, which yielded a finished product of nearly 3,000 pages, there was a regrettable error indicating the Himalayan glaciers were likely to melt by the year 2035. This mistake has been acknowledged by the IPCC.”

He reaffirms that the major thrust of the report’s findings provides overwhelming evidence that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and draws attention to our responsibility to ensure that future generations do not suffer the consequences.

“We cannot ignore the fact that the impacts of climate change, which are based on actual observations, are leading to ‘increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global sea levels’…

“Altered frequencies and intensities of extreme weather, together with sea level rise, are expected to have mostly adverse effects on natural and human systems. Even more serious is the finding that human-induced warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible. For instance, partial loss of ice sheets on polar land could imply metres of sea level rise, major changes in coastlines and inundation of low-lying areas, with the greatest effects in river deltas and low-lying islands.”

He acknowledges that the choices for stakeholders and the economy are difficult, but they should not ignore the IPCC’s findings, which are the work of thousands of scientists from across the world who “have worked diligently and in an objective and transparent manner to provide scientific evidence for action to meet the growing challenge of climate change.” Ignoring those findings “would lead to impacts that impose larger costs than those required today to stabilise the Earth’s climate.”

Pachauri moves on and presumably refers to Senator James Inhofe when he speaks of

“… the effort of some in positions of power and responsibility to indict dedicated scientists as “climate criminals”. I sincerely hope the world is not witnessing a new form of persecution of those who defy conventional ignorance and pay a terrible price for their scientifically valid beliefs.”

Inhofe is a long-standing climate sceptic, who last month called for a criminal investigation of climate scientists. He published a minority report from the Senate committee on environment and public works that claimed climate scientists involved with the controversy over emails from the University of East Anglia “violated fundamental ethical principles governing taxpayer-funded research and, in some cases, may have violated federal laws”. He named the scientists, who included Phil Jones and Keith Briffa from the University of Esast Anglia and Peter Stott of the UK Met Office.  Michael Mann was, of course, among the US scientists named.

Mann, in response, as reported in the Guardian, has quoted President Harry Truman way back in 1948 in the dark age of McCarthyism:   ’Continuous research by our best scientists … may be made impossible by the creation of an atmosphere in which no man feels safe against the public airing of unfounded rumours, gossip, and vilification.’

Mann added:

“I fear that is precisely the sort of atmosphere that is being created, and sure, it impacts research. The more time scientists have to spend fending off these sorts of attacks and dealing with this sort of nonsense, the less time is available to them to actually do science, and to push the forefront of our knowledge forward. Perhaps that is the intent?”

But to return to Pachauri.  He has not had an easy time himself in the wake of the acknowledgement of the error in the report. I have no interest in the personal accusations made against him, but it’s worth setting the record straight about his “voodoo science” comment.  It was not made in relation to the discovery of the error in the IPCC report, but in relation to a discussion paper authored last year by a retired official of the Geological Survey of India which said it would be premature to state the glaciers were retreating as a result of periodic climate variation until many centuries of observation were available. It concluded by raising the possibility that the retreat of Himalayan glaciers today was a delayed reaction to the Medieval Warm Period rather than a response to current warming.

However almost anything that Pachauri has ever said or done will become grist to the denialist mill. It is good to see him seemingly not dismayed and steadily persisting in conveying the message that there is every reason to trust the IPCC reports and it would be a dereliction of responsibility not to heed their warning.

Michael Mann fights back

One sometimes wonders how the scientists most reviled by the denial industry are bearing up under the onslaught.  Michael Mann is one of them, so I was interested to listen to him being interviewed by Chris Mooney on a recent Point of Inquiry podcast. Here is a summary of some of Mann’s responses (not an accurate transcript, though mostly in his words):

On the science:

The bottom line is the basic physics and chemistry of the greenhouse effect. Observation that the globe is warming and that the warming is unusual in the long term context fits what the basic physics and chemistry says. After decades of work by thousands of scientists round the world pursuing every lead – thinking of all the possible different explanations of the phenomena they observe – there is literally no evidence that calls into question the basic radiative properties of greenhouse gases.  You increase greenhouse gas concentrations, you will warm the atmosphere. Questioning that basic reality is almost like questioning the spherical nature of the Earth.

What scientists actually spend time debating and pursuing are issues like feedbacks – the processes that might amplify or diminish that warming. There are open questions relating to such matters as clouds, El Ninos, hurricanes, and so on, which are being actively pursued. But on the basic issue – the scientific community moved on from that question decades ago.


On the strategy of attacks on the science:

The critiques almost never actually discredit a line of evidence or a basic conclusion. They take some small technical part of an analysis, try to manufacture a controversy about that to essentially discredit the work by finding some small potential flaw with one part of an analysis.

On the hockey stick:

There are more than a  dozen reconstructions; every one of them comes to the same conclusion as our decade-old work that the recent warming is anomalous in at least 1000 years.  Our attackers never want to look at the big picture, never want to look at whether they have any impact on the bottom-line conclusions, because they know that they don’t.

Even if they had been successful in taking down the hockey stick, which they haven’t been, it still wouldn’t amount to undermining the central case for the science.

On concealing data:

All of our data was available in the public domain and any claim to the contrary was dishonest.  The question of making codes public is different and is not considered required as general practice. However I and my collaborators have made a decision to put every scrap of code as well as every scrap of data in public domain at the time we publish a paper.  We’ve gone beyond what the standards of the community are.

On Phil Jones request to delete emails:

It was an email he wrote in the heat of the moment. He was under attack.  Keep in mind this guy  received something like 40 freedom of information demands over a weekend. He was being harassed intentionally and the freedom of information demands that were being made were for materials that CRU legally could not even distribute.  These were frivolous demands. Under that sort of harassment people sometimes say foolish things – we certainly didn’t delete any emails and I don’t think he did himself

On the “trick”:

This is a good example of how those working to make mischief can take a term that they probably fully know is perfectly innocent in scientific lingo, but exploiting the fact that it sounds very different to a non-technical person. It shows the disingenuousness of those leading the attack. They intentionally misrepresent words and phrases cherry-picked from thousands of emails in a cynical attempt to distort the scientists’ views and cast aspersions on a scientific discipline.

On fighting back:

The idea that scientists under siege should unilaterally disarm, give in to the sometimes criminal attacks of the anti-science forces looking to discredit them and their science, not stick up for their science and their colleagues, not fight back against these criminal efforts to misrepresent them and to impugn their integrity – it would be terribly misplaced if scientists were not to do all they can to fight back

On the difficulties:

Our detractors are extremely well funded, extremely well organised, they have had an attack infrastructure for decades. They developed it during the tobacco wars, they honed it further in other efforts to attack science that industry or other special interests find inconvenient. So they have a very well honed, well funded, organised machine that they are bringing to bear in their attack now against climate science.  It’s like a marine in a battle with a cub scout when it comes to the scientists defending themselves.  We don’t have the resources, the experience: we haven’t been trained, we’re not public relations experts, lawyers, lobbyists, we’re scientists. It’s a classic example of asymmetric warfare.

Many of us didn’t believe it would come to this – the scientific case for the reality of human-caused climate change has been clear now for several years, though there is much we have still to learn. Many of us thought, perhaps somewhat naively that in the end science would carry the day, that the strength of the scientific consensus would be enough. I wasn’t so sure. But what we all underestimated was the degree, the depth of dishonesty, the dirtiness, and cynicism to which the climate change denial movement would be willing to stoop to advance their agenda.


A stout defence from Michael Mann.  What he wasn’t asked and doesn’t say is how high the stakes are.  But anyone who has taken the trouble to understand the basic science knows they are very high indeed.  The attack on climate science is an attack on all humanity.  Not one for which the perpetrators are likely to be called to account, and perhaps it won’t really matter that they’re not.  What matters more is that they call off the campaign, though one suspects that even if they wanted to, the forces they have loosed have so committed themselves that they will not heed any call to come to heel. Meanwhile those of us who are not climate scientists but can see the danger we are in must offer strong support to the science and opposition to the insidious campaign of denial.