Skip to comments.The Most Hated Man in Climate Science Fights Back (M. Mann Barf Alert)
Posted on 03/16/2013 4:07:28 AM PDT by Third Person
Last summer, when Louis J. Freehs commission came out with a withering report on Penn States failure to protect children from Jerry Sandusky, most commentators wrote about the effects on the schools football program, or about child abuse. But a few drew a direct parallel between Sandusky and a Penn State meteorology and geosciences professor, Michael E. Mann 98PhD. Mann has never been accused of child abuse. He studies, among other things, the way the climate has behaved for the last 2,000 years.
Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, wrote Rand Simberg in a blog post for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.
The National Review Onlines Mark Steyn excerpted the post, weighed in approvingly, and took it to a bigger audience. Wrote Steyn, Not sure Id have extended that metaphor all the way into the locker-room showers with quite the zeal Mr. Simberg does, but he has a point.
A few days later, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a blog post by Peter W. Wood, president of the nonprofit advocacy group the National Association of Scholars, comparing Penn States handling of the Sandusky affair to the universitys finding that allegations of scientific wrongdoing by Mann were unfounded.
Given the inventively biting rhetoric of the political campaign against climate science, its not surprising that Mann was compared to Sandusky. Whats surprising is that invective at this level didnt show up sooner.
Michael Mann is the scientist whose research produced, in 1999, the iconic and alarming hockey stick graph of average annual temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the past thousand years. He is also the US scientist most affected by the 2009 E-mailgate, when climate contrarians hacked into a group of scientists e-mails, took them out of context, and made them a cause célèbre.
Mann recently wrote a book about his experiences, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. Over the last 15 years, as his research has gained prominence, he has been called a liar, a charlatan, and a scumbag. His critics have demanded his arrest. Blogger Marc Morano called for Mann and other scientists to be publicly flogged. Moranos former boss, Rush Limbaugh, said they should be drawn and quartered.
Mann has found his office girded with police tape as a crime scene. He has received threats to himself and his family. He has been the focus of lawsuits seeking the public release of his e-mails. Mann is, arguably, the nations most hated climate scientist.
Ive been at the center of these attacks more than most others, he says. I think the intention is to make an example of me.
Other climate scientists have faced attacks, too, including Benjamin Santer, a climate researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, whose research showed the human fingerprint on the changing climate. But climate contrarians have a particular interest in Mann, Santer believes, because they think if they can bring him down, they can claim they dismantled the entire theory of climate change. You go after the things that are important, that are iconic, that are visual, visceral, powerful, and easily interpretable, Santer says, referring to Manns work and the hockey stick graph in particular. And if you cant attack the underlying science, you go after the scientist.
State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State, is what Hollywood imagines in a college town. Tucked into a leafy valley in central Pennsylvania, the Penn State campus is a mix of neo-classical buildings and boxy, modern ones. On a Saturday morning, Mann and I make our way to a coffee house on the edge of State Colleges small, bustling downtown. Were here because of a phone call Id made to him two years earlier.
On the eve of the 2010 midterm elections, it was clear Republicans would retake the US House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. Climate scientists worried that this meant another spate of hearings, similar to others under the GOP, in which their research would be misinterpreted and their attempts to answer cut off. Congressional hearings, as anyone who has been can attest to, are not about gathering information but about building an argument.
I interviewed Mann for the first time, by phone. He was calm and careful in his responses, and at the end of the interview, I asked whether he ever got angry. Most people who talk regularly to the press dont admit to basic emotions and will deflect such a question. Mann waited a beat, but then he said: Yes, I get mad. Many of us do. Youll be seeing more scientists speaking out.
Shortly afterwards, Mann put me in touch with colleagues who had just formed the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, an online matchmaker for journalists and others seeking laymens explanations of climate phenomena and scientists specializing in the issues. At professional conferences and universities, panels and courses cropped uptheir audiences often filled to overflowingto teach scientists how to talk about their research in ways nonscientists would understand. Scientists and bloggers also formed a Climate Science Legal Defense Fund to help climatologists who face legal challenges from contrarian groups.
Fighting back has made Mann, who is not very good at hiding his feelings, even more of a target. He fights back hard, says Santer. For him, its not just retreating to your office and closing the door but trying to mobilize friends, colleagues, and fighting back legally. To draw a line in the sand and say, You are wrong and you claim these untrue things about me and my researchthat takes guts.
Mann himself began his career, 20 years ago, more skeptical than some of his colleagues about what the evidence showed regarding the human impact on the climate. Now 47, bald and with flecks of gray in his goatee, he has become, as he puts it, an accidental public figure.
Like most climatologists, Mann sought to let the science speak for itself. Anything else seemed like advocacy, which scientists largely eschew. I started out as a scientist who didnt really believe there was much of a role for a scientist to play in public policy, he says, over coffee. How my thinking has evolved has come through being a direct witness to these attacks. Its awakened me to the war being waged against science and climate scientists by those with an axe to grind. And if scientists dont push back, were ceding ground to those interests.
Pushing back, to Mann, would involve advocating for the proposition that policy should be informed by an objective assessment of the science. But to critics like Morano, Mann is a glaring example of someone whose politics have shaped his research and who is spearheading a massive effort to dupe the American people. The climate con to which I refer is a lavishly funded climate machine that is lobbying for laws and uses every bit of data or new study to proclaim its worse than we thought or we must act now, Morano wrote in an e-mail. Man-made global warming fears are a grand political narrative, not science. Morano, the communications director of the advocacy group CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow), has a BA in political science and has worked as a journalist and national television reporter and producer. He continued: Mann is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with climate science today. He is a hardcore political activist, very thin skinned, does not take criticism well at all, and he surrounds himself within his own little world of supportive warmist activists.
Mann doesnt like the word skeptic to describe Morano and others campaigning against him. He and other scientists point out that science encourages skepticism, asking pointed questions and looking for evidence again and again. So much of climate denial comes from ideology, Mann says, his voice hardening. If youre only voicing skepticism about science that goes against your ideology, then thats not true skepticism.
Mann came to his own views on climate, he says, through his research. The second of three sons of a math professor at the University of MassachusettsAmherst and a stay-at-home mom, Mann studied physics and applied math at the University of CaliforniaBerkeley before coming to Yale in 1989 to earn a PhD in physics.
From childhood, he had been interested in what he calls big picture science: questions related to the origins of the universe and fundamental theoretical physics questions. After finishing his coursework at Yale, he was on a track to study semiconductor devices. But they didnt seem to address those questions. So he opened Yales course catalog and found that Barry Saltzman, in the department of geology and geophysics, was applying physics to understand the Earths climate. After meeting with Saltzman, Mann began work in geology and geophysics, and by the early 1990s, he was deep into paleoclimate research, the study of the planets climate in the geologic past.
At the time, climate science was just coming of age, Mann has written. By the mid-1990s, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had determined through its review of the research that there was a discernible human influence on climate. The questions that climate scientists debated at the time were the scale of human influence and if it was indeed detectable. Saltzman was initially skeptical. Other eminent scientists, such as NASAs James Hansen, had concluded the evidence was already in.
I was cautious, Mann recalls. I felt that Hansen was too far out on a limb.
Mann thought that scientists had perhaps not given enough consideration to the naturally occurring variability of the Earths climate over timean argument that most climate contrarians now use. He began researching variability in the Northern Hemisphere over increasingly long periods of time: first a century, then from 1400 to the present, and finally, in the postdoctoral project that yielded the hockey stick, for the last millennium.
Recorded temperature using thermometers extends back about 140 years. To gather climate information deeper in the past, climatologists work to reconstruct past temperatures by using so-called proxy data. Among these are tree rings (their size indicates growth rates, and trees grow faster in warmer weather), and the proportions of different oxygen isotopes (which are affected by temperature) in corals and ice cores.
In 1999, Mann produced a paper with two other scientists; it relied on multiple kinds of proxy data to reconstruct climate in the past and to identify events that could have produced temperature anomalies, such as large volcanic eruptions. Published in Geophysical Research Letters and entitled Northern Hemisphere Temperatures during the Past Millennium: Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations, it came with many caveats. Still, the reconstruction of temperatures indicated an anomalous rise in temperature through the latter half of the twentieth century compared with previous centuries, and suggested that the 1990s were likely the warmest decade and 1998 likely the warmest year of the millennium, Mann writes.
Mann has written that it was a colleague who first noted the graphs resemblance to a hockey stick lying flat: the first 900 years of data form a squiggly but consistent line, akin to the sticks handle, before temperatures shoot up at the beginning of the twentieth century, like the blade. The graph became an icon, summing up a millennium of climate history in a simple, easily grasped image. The study was featured prominently in a 2001 UN report, and since then, the reaction to it has been widespread and unrelenting among climate contrarians.
Over the next decade, articles appeared periodically with the intention of pointing out fatal errors in Manns work, usually by scholars and organizations funded by fossil fuel companies. In the meantime, Mann says, more than a dozen other studies using different mixes and types of data, such as borehole temperatures in Antarctica, have validated his findings. The basic hockey stick pattern has been reproduced several times over, creating what Mann calls a veritable hockey league (see charts, above).
The hockey stick was the least interesting of the research we did, he adds, with a small laugh; originally, it was the role played by events like volanic eruptions that drove the research. You could take away the hockey stick, because so much research now points to the climate changing.
But climate contrarians in Congress began homing in on Mann during the Bush administration. In 2005, then-chair of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), sent a letter to Mann, his coauthors, and two other scientists, informing them that he was launching an investigation into the hockey stick study because of methodological flaws and data errors.
Despite an outcry from the scientific community, media, and Republicans such as Senator John McCain (R-AZ) that he was harassing scientists, Barton commissioned a report on Manns 1999 study. The report criticized the hockey stick paperonly to become mired later in allegations of plagiarism and misconduct.
The brushfire that keeps flaring for Mann and other climatologists, however, is the E-mailgate scandal.
On November 17, 2009, Mann awoke to find out that private correspondence he and other scientists had sent to the University of East Anglias Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom had been hacked and individual phrases disseminated in a way that implied they had falsified their findings. Climate contrarians focused on the words trick and hide the declinewhich some said indicated that Mann had erased data that had shown a decline in twentieth-century temperatures. This was the smoking gun proving climate change was a hoax, critics asserted. The media, for their part, lapped it up.
The reality is different. The e-mail with the words trick and hide the decline was sent by Phil Jones, head of East Anglias Climatic Research Unit. It read, Ive just completed Mikes Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keiths to hide the decline.
The trick Jones was referring to was Manns decision to show two kinds of data on the same chartdata from temperature proxies (like the tree rings) and actual temperature data (from thermometers). This was a trick in the sense of a clever move, not a deception: all the data were labeled, so readers could see where the proxy data end and the temperature records begin.
As for hide the decline, Jones wasnt referring to declines in temperature; he was referring to a drop seen in certain types of tree-ring data after 1960. And he wasnt referring to Manns workbut to that of another scientist, Keith Briffa of the University of East Anglia. Pre-1960, Briffas tree-ring density records track the temperature records. Post-1960, there is a decline in the response of certain trees to temperature (possibly due to pollution): the actual recorded temperatures are consistently higher than what the tree-ring data would predict. The temperature records are the more important and reliable data, so Briffa had to discard the tree-ring decline records. But the decline wasnt hidden. It was clearly discussed and labeled in Briffas paper. And Manns paper didnt rely on any of those data.
Since then, a half dozen independent inquiries in the United States and United Kingdom have cleared the climatologists involved of scientific wrongdoing.
As scientific consensus grew around the idea that climate change is happening and human activity is the main cause of it, the resistance to climate science turned sharper and marshaled millions of dollars behind it. Petrochemical interests have funded think tanks, politicians, and legal groups that seek to take apart the science and the scientists.
Over the last several years, a growing core of scientists has pushed back. In 2010, 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences issued a public letter that called for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them.
Mann was among the first to throw off the glovesat Congressional hearings, in the media, on the Internet, and in court. His book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars explains his research and maps in detail the network of political and economic interests fighting climate science. He has intervened in litigation that was aimed at disclosing still more of his e-mails, and the cases so far have been resolved in his favor. He has also sued the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Review for damages in connection with articles accusing him of fraud and comparing him to Jerry Sandusky. (The National Review responded with the headline Get Lost.) He takes to the airwaves, Twitter, and Facebook to weigh in on the latest important research published and the latest attack on science.
Some of Manns allies have suggested that perhaps he should tone it down. Its a suggestion he brushes off. I would say calmly to them, he says, that they havent walked a mile in my moccasins.
He adds: This isnt just an academic discussion were having. There are real implications about the kind of world we are leaving for our children. Its an ethical issue, and we ignore it at our peril.
In August 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sealed off Manns office after he got a letter with a mysterious white powder in it. The FBI lab found it was cornmeal. But it arrived amidst a regular flow of hate mail and death threats, including an e-mail that read, You and your colleagues who have promoted this scandal ought to be shot, quartered, and fed to the pigs along with your whole damn families.
The anonymity of the Internet lets such rage seep through. Face to face, Mann says he gets something else: people who come up to him in the supermarket, people he doesnt even know, who tell him they want to thank him for his work.
He takes even more hope from the next generation of scientists. I think the idea that the attacks would have a chilling effect is backfiring, he says. I cant count how many postdocs and students who have told me that they see public participation as part of their roles as scientists. And thats something our generation didnt have.
No, no, no.....Mister Mann (he is not a true Professor in the sense of the word). He is a lazy, lying cheating dissembling ideologue who used “fake science” and trickery to put forth an ideological lie.
Since we the people were denied the right to a fair, public trial for him where evidence and testimony from BOTH sides could be presented, he does not get an open venue to dissemble and misrepresent his actions and ‘scholarly’ work. Self serving lies.
In the age of Obama this delusion little turd gets the royal treatment instead of being fired for fraud
Mann’s own method for dealing with honest opponents to his questionable data sets is to initiate a campaign of personal destruction ~ a clear example of which was against Dr. Patrick j. Michaels.
But do appreciate the Irony of Michael Mann/East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit being housed in a building named after their founder who was at the time the climate studies started teaching global cooling............
Oddly enough, the writer chose not to include anyone in the scientific community who might be a global warming skeptic. That might be construed as real journalism.
Government funded, socialist driven political leach.
You’re wrong on this. The Watermelons went to the ME and told them to return to the Stone Age lifestyle to save the earth.
uh huh, never in hundreds of years of Medieval Warm Period was there a year as warm as 1998? No El Ninos back then stoking world wide warmth? No solar activity at century-scale highs just like the late 20th century?
The nice thing (for Mann) about his level of ignorance is that he truly doesn't know much about anything. That way he can honestly spew crap like that with a straight face.
The watermelon activists were the ones threatening scientists who came up with politically incorrect results on global warming, not the other way around. They were hiding data so it could not be reviewed by peers. As I recall, “science” activist mob said “deniers” should be arrested because they were as bad a Nazis. They shouted down politicans who would not obey their orders as “science haters.”
They interfered in scientific publication and free speech. They demonized anyone who did not go along with their oppressive global political “solutions” based on their unchallenged research results. They used and abused government power via red insiders.
As usual, leftists are the victims once their victims catch up to them. Just like they say Marxism did not fail as an economic and social model and murder a millions of innocent people (aka, deniers), rather running dog capitalists and Christians undermined it. So they have to do it over and over again.
I stopped reading at this point. I didn't feel the need to subject myself to more drivel.