Scientists And Law Suits

Here is an email sent by Professor Roger Pielke Jr to Professor Michael Mann:

Hi Mike-

I hope this finds you well. I see you quoted in the media characterizing my work, and in light of your ongoing lawsuit related to libel, I want to make sure that you have been quoted correctly.

*At Salon you characterized my work as “misinformation when it comes to the issue of human-caused climate change.”

*You also say there that my work: “completely ignores technological innovations (sturdier buildings, hurricane-resistant structures, etc)”

*At Climate Progress you say I am an “an individual who has displayed a pattern of sloppiness when it comes to the analysis of climate data”

Just to be clear, do you stand by the public claims as accurate representations of my scholarly work?

For the record I believe all three of these claims to be false and potentially libelous smears. Perhaps you were misquoted? I do request a response.

Many thanks,

Roger

Compared to academics, the Mafia is relatively benign. Why? Because the latter mainly kill their own. Or so it is said by the unquotable WA.

But most of the academic fighting happens within academia, which is, after all, set up as a fight club. And, the number one rule of Academic Fight Club is this: Never stop talking about Academic Fight Club. Or, it stops working. So, let’s talk.

If two sets of researchers disagree on something, there are mechanisms for them to work out their differences. Sometimes those mechanisms work, and sometimes they don’t.

The best mechanism is what I call, perhaps uninspiringly, the “honest conversation.” I’ve written about this before. I’ll give you an actual example of an honest conversation I had the pleasure of witnessing. A young scientist, an advanced level graduate student, had taken multiple core samples in fresh water bodies, and analyzed the samples using a range of techniques that each used a different high tech method. The results were confusing and contradictory. The lakes did not correlate with each other as expected, and within some of the lakes, the results from the different techniques did not correlated as expected either. So, for example, the amount of iron in the soil changed up and down in a certain pattern, indicating wetter vs. dryer periods, while the amount of sediment also varied, but in the opposite way (the more wet, the more sediment, usually). That sort of thing.

The young scientist had been invited to a major research center to discuss his previous project. This talk was being given at a federally funded center at a major land grant university. It was a good talk, and everyone learned, but during the talk he mentioned that he had this problem with these lake core data. So, the scientists who had invited him to give the talk suggested we meet the next day at the geology department and have a conversation.

The young man brought along his data, conveniently set up in slides (most of it) and showed us what he had. In the room was an expert on magnetics, a couple of isotope experts, an expert on sedimentation, an expert on pollen, a couple of climate change experts, and every one of these experts was an expert on fresh water lake coring and analysis. The person who invented the whole idea of fresh water lake coring was not present but most of the senior scientists in the room had been his students.

A conversation happened. The conversation had these goals:

1) Help the student understand what might have gone right or wrong with each of the multiple methods he was using.

2) Help the student understand how the lakes he was investigating may be working in a way different than expected.

3) Help the student understand how to improve his analysis of the existing data.

4) Help the student design, if appropriate, another phase of analyzing the existing cores, or if needed, getting some more cores, to address these questions.

Every one of those questions was advanced significantly, some of the open questions were just plain answered and put to rest, other questions were raised. The student’s work was advanced significantly, and several of the scientists in the room also advanced their own thinking, mainly about methods, by seeing an example of a set of problems and how they came about.

The conversation lacked these goals:

1) Proving that an idea some person had 23 years ago is correct regardless of what we have learned since then.

2) Making an ally or student look better than they deserved by denigrating someone else’s work.

3) Advancing a political agenda by playing fast and lose with the data.

4) Developing bogus evidence, or making a foundation-less accusation, that a scientist was acting dishonestly or in a fraudulent manner.

The first two of this second set of goals is what many academics do much of the time because they are assholes. There are a lot of assholes in the world of academia, mainly because there are few mechanisms to sort them out or re-focus them. But even the assholes know better than to do these things, so while List 2:1 and 2:2 happen often, depending on the sub-field and other factors, they can usually be controlled.

Items 3 and 4 on List 2 are more often done by marginal scientists who for some reason decide the mainstream is flowing in the wrong direction, or who are paid off or otherwise courted by an industry that is negatively affected by a growing scientific consensus (like, that smoking kills, etc.), or by non scientists who are working for politically motivated “think tanks” or “journalistic” outlets.

The term “honest” in “honest conversation” does not mean people are not telling lies, though that is certainly an expectation. Rather, it refers to intent. In an honest scientific conversation, everyone is honestly striving for the goal of advancing the understanding of a natural system. This means that other goals (self aggrandizement, political gain, etc.) are not part of the process.

So, let’s look at three examples of “conversations” that lack the characteristics of the so-called “Honest Conversation.” These are exemplified by: The circumstances leading to Mike Mann‘s law suit against various parties (it is complicated) including the National Review and Canadian shock-jock Mark Steyn; Roger Pielke, Jr’s threat against Mike Mann (see above); and the Jacobson-Clack action.

Mann vs. Steyn, National Review, etc.

In this case, various entities, mainly using the National Review, a politically motivated right wing outlet, including anti-environmental shock-jock Mark Steyn, attacked Mike Mann. That attack included clear statements that Mann had doctored his data and committed acts of fraud. As a result, Mann sued the parties for libel, and while this law suit is taking forever, Mann has won at each stage as the NR, Steyn, etc have tried to put the suit off, stop it, invalidate it, whatever. It really looks like Mann has a clear case and will win. He is not suing for financial gain, but rather, to make it less likely that politically motivated entities such as radio jocks and biased media outlets act in a nefarious manner in relation to important scientific issues in the future.

But, Mann’s suit is constantly misrepresented by the same forces that oppose the research, mainly climate change deniers. This misrepresentation happens mainly in two ways. One is to say that Mann did cook the data and won’t let anyone see the data on which is research is based. This accusation has probably been made 200 or more times just on my blog, in the comments sections of various posts. It is simply false. The data were not cooked and the data are available.

The second misrepresentation is that Mann is suing people who do not agree with his scientific conclusions. This is, however not what the suit is about. To know what the suit is about all you have to do is re-read the last few paragraphs because I already told you. But I’ll say it again because Dale Carnegie was right. The suit is about libel, about statements that Mann committed a fraudulent, illegal act.

Did I mention that Mann’s suit is about libel, that the suit is regarded as very likely winnable, and that every decision made so far along the long and complicated legal process has favored the suit — the libel suit — the suit that is not about the science, but rather, about incorrect and inappropriate, potentially damaging accusations of illegal activity? Oh, I did mention that? Great! Now you know!

Roger Pielke, Jr. Versus the World

Roger Pielke Jr. is a political scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Earlier in his career he carried out what could have been an interesting analysis of the effects of hurricanes in the Atlantic, not looking at the climatology, but rather, the economic impacts. One might ask how a political scientists is qualified to do research that combines climate change and economics, but the analysis was more of a statistical one than anything else, and we all know how to use spreadsheets.

However, one could argue that RPJr’s analysis was flawed, possibly in a couple of ways. Here is my opinion on what is potentially wrong with this work.

Say we are interested in understanding the negative effects of hurricanes and how they may change over time with change in other things, including but not limited to global warming. Hurricanes occur in all the tropical ocean basins around the world, but each basin is distinctively different from the others. For example, Eastern Pacific hurricanes almost never hit land, while western Pacific ones very often do. The Atlantic basin is very quirky owing to its small size, odd shape (getting smaller as one goes north), strange continental or quasi-continental features such as the Rocky Mountains (yes, that affects the basin), the Gulf of Mexico (big factor), and the islands, mainly the Greater Antilles (which is a thing I can never mention without thinking about my dear departed Great Aunt Tillie … but I digress).

Roger wanted to study the effects of hurricanes hitting land.

So, here’s the problem. Globally, we have all these hurricanes. The Atlantic is a quirky subset of hurricanes which, statistically speaking, are poorly behaved. Whether or not a hurricane makes landfall is itself a quirky thing, and whether or not even a landfalling hurricane actually hits something it can seriously damage is quirky. We have had a number of famous historic hurricanes that were much worse than average because they happen to hit a very vulnerable and densely populated area. A few miles one way or another, and that same hurricane would have joined the set of similar sized storms that we don’t remember as universally because they were not quite as disastrous.

So let me give you an analogy. Say I want to study the gambling behavior of people at a certain casino. I could just go to the casino, randomly chose gamblers, making sure to cover different days and times of day, etc., and interview them systematically.

Or, I could do this: Go to the parking lot, and watch the gamblers leaving. I want to have a reason to approach them, so I wait until I see gamblers who are clearly demonstrative of something related to winning. Like, walking along with their friends and giving each other fist bumps, and saying things like, “all right, that was great” and so on. I’ll approach them, and say, “you seem really happy, can I ask you a few questions, and for your time, I’ll give you this free casino poker chip?”

That would be a pretty bad methodology, because of the myriad known and unknown biases that such a sampling technique produces.

Now, with that analogy in mind, go back to Roger’s research. If you want to know if hurricane like storms are getting worse over time, study the hurricanes. All of them. We track all of them, and have plenty of data on them. But what Roger has done is to take a quirky subset of them (the Atlantic storms) and of those, took a quirky subset of them (those that made landfall) and, if I’m not mistaken, he has also excluded one major hurricane, Sandy, from the sample for very bad reasons (but I may be confusing that with a different researcher, not sure).

I say above that Roger’s research topic is interesting and the research could be interesting, but something went wrong. This seems to be, at least in my opinion but I think this is a widely held opinion, that he has taken his interpretation of the quirky data he deals with and broadened it to make general statements about hurricanes, claiming that a result of global warming is NOT to see in increase in hurricane damage over time. He attributes most of this to the fact that we are adapting to hurricanes, but he uses what many see as an inappropriate measure of that, which is percentage of GDP that a particular year’s worth of hurricane disasters represents. This has at least two problems. One is that major damage to natural areas or major damage to poor settled areas are under represented. The other is that a year with several major disasters will have an increase in GDP because, the way GDP is counted, our response to major disasters inflates that number. This means that the cost of disasters adjusted for GDP is an inappropriate measure because the magnitude of costs of disasters is correlated with GDP.

These considerations of Roger’s work are widely held in the climate science community. Roger has never, seemingly, changed his mind about this work. I would have expected him to engage in what could have been an honest conversation, and reorient his research questions and adapt his methodological approach to do some really interesting research at the intersection of climate science, global economics, and political policy. But instead, he’s mostly doubled down on his work, and has gotten terribly defensive. I can no longer follow his work using Twitter because my own comments to him, which weren’t particularly bad or anything, but showed a disagreement, caused him to block me. In fact, almost everybody I know is blocked by Roger. He doesn’t want to hear criticisms.

But, he does like to threaten. See the email above.

Professor Mann has a tweeted response to Roger’s missive:

Jacobson vs. Clack

I’m not going to say a lot about this particular issue but I want to make a point or two. I’ll try to give a fair summary of events thus far.

One team of researchers, led by Mark Jacobson, wrote a paper claiming that we could transition our economy to 100% renewables over a certain point of time if certain things happened. This research involved running a model that made certain assumptions.

A different team led by Christopher Clack wrote a paper saying that the Jacobson team was all wet, and making some specific claims about the model and assumptions.

This was all carried out in the peer reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Jacobson, as per normal, saw the Clack response and made comments on it, providing clarification and information. However, according to Jacobson, Clack ignored some of those data. Furthermore, PNAS, according to Jacobson, failed to act in a correct and professional manner in their handling of the matter.

When word of the suit broke, via a very biased and non-journalistic web site (apparently), almost everybody in the field responded by saying that this was a terrible idea, that academics should not settle things by law suit, that there are mechanisms to work out differences, etc. etc.

Amid these comments flying around the Internet, there was one comment that was different. I won’t say who made it because it was made in private, but it said, roughly, “don’t assume this law suit is bogus. Look at the details. There might be something here.”

Since the person who made the comment is a trusted friend who often sees the forest through the trees, and I had learned to pay attention to his contradictions, always made as part of the longer, on going, honest conversation, I got a copy of the law suit and read it. He was right.

There are two parts of this controversy. One is in the scientific interpretation of the problem, the use of methods, the outcome of those methods, and the interpretation thereof. The other is in the handling of the process and the ensuing meaning, which does in fact include a part that can be interpreted as one scientific team making the public accusation that another team acted fraudulently. Not just stupidly, not just wrongly as in getting it wrong, but feloniously, or something close to that.

And, the same can be said, potentially of the journal PNSAS, also named in the suit.

The following two things can be true at once: 1) When academics sue over reaction to their work, there will be all sorts of trouble, perhaps unrelated to the suit, and it really is generally not a good way of settling differences; and 2) after you try to settle all the differences the usual way, it may sometimes be appropriate to sue.

I have exactly two opinions about the Jacobson vs. Clack dust up. 1) Almost everyone who has expressed an opinion about it is embarrassingly full of it. The first round of opinions were clearly made by folks who never read the suit. The second round of comments is mostly being made by people chagrined into doing their homework, but are stuck in List 2:1 mode. They said things before they seem to want to defend even with new information that they might want to change their minds.

My second opinion about the suit is this: I have no idea if this suit is appropriate. It is not, to me, a clear case like the Mann vs. NR/Steyn suit is. that may be in part because it is between teams of researchers and a real journal, while the Mann suit is an entity within academics defending science generally from outside politically motivated nefarious forces funded by big petroleum. But even that may not be so simple if, for example, the Clack team had something going on along these lines (I do not know this to be the case but some have suggested it, that they are somewhat anti-energy-transition for some reason).

Science vs. the Barbarians at the Gate

And, of course, these things are all tied together.

It all comes down to Arminius and his duplicitous betrayal of Publius Quinctilius Varus. I’m sure you know what I mean, but I’ll expand just in case.

Arminius, also known these days as Herman the German, was a subaltern to Varus, the Roman general who controlled much of what is now known as Germany and environs. Arminius used his inside status and knowledge to turn the Germans successfully against Varus in one of the most stunningly unexpected and thorough defeats in known military history. The Romans were driven out of the region never to return.

It is easy to see the enemies of science, across the trenches, lobbing mortars, sniping, being a general nuisance but, since science is powerful, only making the occasional gain during their long slogging retreat.

The real danger is when one’s own betray. Not a scientific difference, or a difference in approach, or a difference, well meaning, in interpretation between researchers. Rather, someone or some group who could be regarded as part of the scientific community, using that credibility to advance an anti scientific agenda. Those are the people who get called to testify before Republican-run “science” committees in the US Congress, tossing their false pearls before real swine, giving credibility to manufactured dissent bought and paid for by a small number of wealthy individuals who’s hands rest firmly on the levers of economic power.

The the war on science is waged on these two fronts, the overt and the internal, and it is the latter that is the most dangerous. The Mann vs. NR/Steyn case is an example of the former. These other two situations could, but hopefully will not, develop into examples of the latter.

Those waging the open and conventional war are now using the Jacobson vs. Clack case as an example of a frivolous or improper action, and using that, in turn, to try to devalue the very appropriate Mann vs NR/Steyn suit. And, in an awful twist, Roger is piling on that bandwagon. Part of me wants to see Jacobson vs. Clack validated and developed and fully legitimized, or alternately, quickly settled so it goes away fast, not because of the merits of the suit one way or the other, but because we don’t need to give Steyn and his accolades, or the hapless Roger, this mound of mud to sling about, like they do.


Documents related to Jacobson vs. Clack:
Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes, by Jacobson et al

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar, by Clack et al.

Line-by-Line Response by M.Z. Jacobson, M.A. Delucchi to Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar

The law suit itself was formerly available as a PDF file but permission to access that file has been withdrawn. But that’s OK, I have a copy of it: LARGE FILE: Download Jacobson vs Clack Law Suit Here (32 MB PDF file)

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44 thoughts on “Scientists And Law Suits

  1. FWIW, the Romans came back in the next years and killed a large number of Germans as well as recapturing their Eagles. Ethon approves, one should always avenge one’s eagles. That always gets left out and spoils a lot of similes.

  2. There were several counter attacks over several years, but ultimately the Romans withdrew to south and west of the Rhine. In recent times there has been some revisionism, suggesting that the Romans really didn’t want their empire to go beyond that boundary after all, but they Germans still speak German without more than a hint of Romance language!

    Sure thing about the Eagles, though.

  3. Greg, Jacobson is transparently full of crap as a paper. Jacobson does bad work.

    I remain baffled how anyone can read the legal complaint and see it as litigation worthy or even the least bit disturbing insofar as Clack’s behaviour is concerned. I summarized the whole thing in an old-school 140-character tweet as follows:

    C: You’ve made a huge elementary error.
    J: but, but, I did it ON PURPOSE.
    C: OK here’s my rebuttal.
    J: I EXPLAINED that. Here’s my lawyer.
    The gist of the suit seems to be that Clack ignored Jacobson’s “explanation” that an egregious *error* was instead an egregiously invalid *assumption*.

    Jacobson’s paper should not have been published. Anywhere. Never mind PNAS.

    Jacobson’s arguments that renewables suffice are nonsensical. I told you this in a private conversation before the Clack thing blew up. I stand by it.

    This doesn’t mean that renewables do not suffice. Though I believe that to be the case and you don’t, that’s not directly relevant. What matters is that Jacobson’s arguments are demonstrably baseless, and have been so demonstrated.

    Given that Clack honestly believes this, in my opinion correctly, there is no impropriety to him withdrawing from conversation with Jacobson.

    Consider this. At some point, I stopped treating Judith Curry as someone to take seriously. And I have said so publicly. Fortunately, I think Curry has some shred of decency and will not sue me for saying so. Do I not have a right to say this? DO I not have a right, after backs and forths with Curry about some damn fool thing she has said, to disengage and take it to the literature?

    It is, ultimately, rude to tell a fool they are a fool. But at some point, it’s not unethical. Indeed, at some point, suffering fools is the unethical act, and in consequential matters like climate policy relevant research, that point can be reached rather quickly. We don’t have time to chase wild geese.

    Everyone giving Jacobson a second look in this matter is strongly in the anti-nuclear camp. I don’t know of a single exception. You’re entitled to be anti-nuclear (though I am now fully convinced that it is much too late in the game for that to be a good idea).

    But tribalism in science, though as you point out endemic, is always a bad idea in matters of consequence, and exporting it to the courts is worse.

    1. Tobis, almost everything you say in your comment may be correct, I’m not sure. But there is one implication that comes with it that I very much disagree with. The fact that you think Jacobson ‘s paper is crap is utterly irrelevant to the merits of a suit. It simply isn’t the case that if you write a crappy paper then are wronged in an actionable way, that your civil rights of redress are abrogated. It is especially not the case that if a subset of individuals (in this case, for example, you) doesn’t like a paper that others liked (and there are others who like it!), that one’s right of redress in a civil court are invalidated.

      I’m not saying in this post or in this comment that Jacobson’s law suit is legit. I do think there are parts I think are not legit, other parts that may or may not be, I’m not sure.

      I do think people need to read through it before deciding that, and as I do note in the post, many individuals for whom I otherwise have high regard did in fact react to this suit as a bad thing having not read it. That is a problem that is only slightly less worse than the likes of Mr. Roger using the repelling effect of this suit as repellent against Mann. They are really kind of the same thing, actually.

      I will add this: Even if a suit like this is in some part merited legally, that doesn’t make it a good idea.

      And to that I will add: I do not think we should be reducing right of redress in our legal system in most areas, in case anyone was thinking I meant that.

      Civil lawyers should be paid in fish, though, probably.

  4. WTF!

    I had read the Jacobson article when it first came out, and also the hit piece by Clack et al. and considered it to be a disingenuous hit piece when I first read it.

    It is outrageous that PNAS has committed misconduct by suppressing the pre-publication comments that Jacobson had on the Clack et al. article.

    I haven’t even finished reading the lawsuit, but this is simply outrageous.

  5. I predict this lawsuit will be settled, because if it goes to trial, the defendants will lose, and a jury could award even greater damages.

    1. If the case goes to trial, Jacobson will look even worse than before, and the jury might ask him to pay damages to Clack.

  6. “The fact that you think Jacobson ‘s paper is crap is utterly irrelevant to the merits of a suit. It simply isn’t the case that if you write a crappy paper then are wronged in an actionable way, that your civil rights of redress are abrogated.”

    Absolutely.

    But if you consider that Clack thought the paper was demonstrably crap, and thought that such demonstration urgently needed public airing, as far as I can tell his behaviour is entirely reasonable.

    So what was actionable?

    It was, of course, me who didn’t read the suit before complaining, at least among others. But I did read Jacobson’s press release and it was enough for me. The word is “bollocks”.

    Conflating this barratry with Mike Mann’s legitimate complaints about Steyn is utterly offensive to me. This suit is about competence.

    Mike is responding to complaints about propriety, intellectual honesty, and even some implications of sexual misconduct, complaints which I expect will prove utterly baseless.

    Jacobson is responding to accusations of incompetence. But when you publish in the scientific press, you open yourself to charges of incompetence. Otherwise the processes of science don’t work, and you get, well, economics or even worse. Questions of competence need to be decided by science, and accusations that a substantive argument are baseless cannot be allowed to constitute libel, or we are well and truly hosed.

    1. The case against Clack et al may be weak, depending on how much they knew and when they knew it. The case against NAS seems strong to me. I would think that Clack et al. also have a case against NAS editors for violating procedures and not forwarding them the comments or giving them time to modify their paper to deal with them.

    2. The Clack paper doesn’t mention incompetence. The abstract says about the Jacobson paper: “We find that their analysis involves errors, inappropriate methods, and implausible assumptions.”

      I don’t think Jacobson will win this case. None of these things are defamatory.

      All Clack is saying is Jacobson is wrong (for a bunch of reasons) and it is never defamatory to say someone is wrong. Even if it turns out they were right (which will not be the case here).

      Mann is going to lose on the ultimate question of defamation also (in my opinion) – but we are not even close to the trial on the merits yet – so we will have to wait for that case to be decided.

      At least Steyn called Mann’s graph fraudulent (which will probably be found to be opinion, which cannot be found to be defamation) – but Clack said nothing even close to that.

  7. I won’t venture an opinion on what courts will do. I have no idea. To some extent it’s a crap shoot. I don’t trust judges or juries to understand the issues, the more so the more scientific reasoning is involved.

    Based on what I confidently know, including my personal acquaintance with Mike, for whom I have great respect as a researcher and a mensch, I *hope* he wins. I certainly *hope* the courts don’t give Jacobson the time of day. But I have no idea what to expect. I’m just a nerd, you know.

    As for “incompetence”, right, the Clack paper doesn’t use such a strong word, and a good thing, because in the law competence is about whether you get to make your own decisions. But “We find that their analysis involves errors, inappropriate methods, and implausible assumptions,” is indeed pretty damning language for a formal publication. I should have found some other word, though, for erroneous and inappropriate and implausible.

    Let me add woefully. Anyone have a word for “woefully erroneous and inappropriate and implausible” that doesn’t have legal connotations? Otherwise maybe let’s go with WE&I&I?

  8. >can be interpreted as one scientific team making the public accusation that another team acted fraudulently.

    Which team is that?

    RickA, that itself is defamatory. A false statement that it is a modeling error, when it is an assumption. Also it causes damage because Jacobson’s reputation is harmed by the false statement. In addition, Jacobson had told them about his assumption in e-mail, yet Clack put in the paper, ‘We hope there is some explanation.’

    David Whitlock, Clack was forwarded the comments in May, and made some changes within a few days. He was not forwarded the comments in March when Jacobson requested, threatening a lawsuit at the same time. My guess is the editor found the comments ridiculous(To one of his list of false statements, Jacobson’s reply comment is This is true). Clack’s response to the assumption was not clear as there is no clear statement in the Jacobson paper about this assumption. The reader would be confused as to the source of how Jacobson’s results are dependent on non-feasible upgrades to hydro. Even more than a year after being notified by Clack, Jacobson made no effort to correct his paper to describe this assumption.
    As it stands, the paper is in error. It lists an installed capacity of 87 GW from hydropower in 2050, but Jacobson assumes at least 1370 GW for 12 hours at a time through changes to the installations. At the time of publication of Clack’s reply, about a year and a half after Jacobson’s paper, this was not clearly stated in the paper or any correction, only in e-mails to Clack. No correction of 87 GW installed capacity.

    1. MikeN:

      I disagree. I am a lawyer and I don’t think it is so cut and dried as you make it out to be. I predict Jacobson loses.

    2. I also don’t think he wins, but I am highlighting the strongest argument. Clack knew about Jacobson’s explanation for why 87 GW became 1300GW, yet Clack made it look like this is a modeling error, and said ‘we hope there is an explanation,’ all the time knowing what this explanation is.

    1. I don’t even officially have the item I posted. The exhibits disappeared along with the law suit document. There is probably a way to get all this stuff via normal means. I don’t know what the normal means are, though.

  9. MikeN: Yup. Repeating myself for emphasis, this is how I’d summarize what people seem to think is Jacobson’s strongest claim:

    C: You’ve made a huge elementary error.
    J: but, but, I did it ON PURPOSE.
    C: OK here’s my rebuttal.
    J: I EXPLAINED that. Here’s my lawyer.

    (Sorry that getting a point across in 140 characters is suddenly a Lost Art, but I’m pretty pleased with that one, actually…)

    Which I think is ludicrous.

    1. There are 88 items in the suit, so I doubt it can be summarized quite so succinctly, and that leaves off the PNAS part as well. Restating the 88 items as a ludicrous characterization is a nice trick but…

      Anyway, again, I’m not defending it, but items 70 and the next few items demonstrate that this is not just two people disagreeing with each other and one throwing a tantrum.

      I know it is a long slog to get to 70, and you kind of have to read all the other stuff leading up to it, but … it isn’t much worse of a slog than reading the original paper/rebuttal.

    2. Michael Tobis, you have to work in that Clack doesn’t believe Jacobson’s assumption and thinks he made it up after the fact.

  10. Are we looking at the same document? I clicked on your Law Suit Here link. There are 101 numbered paragraphs, not 88.

    To my third reading, they don’t seem to me to constitute much beyond an elaborate repetition of the material in my tweet.

    Jacobson says silly things, defends them in silly ways, and threatens to sue if anything contradictory to those silly things ends up published, on the ground that the silly defenses constitute explanations and failing to account for them constitutes misrepresentation. But the defenses are silly, and are therefore not explanations and cannot be taken into account in a formal rebuttal.

    People who are antinuclear and want to stop climate change don’t want to see these positions as being at odds. Jacobson tells them what they want to hear, and makes terrible arguments for it. The consequences of this are potentially immense.

    Capitulating to threats of litigation in this situation would be the easy way out but I think doing so would be antisocial. Look, I hate to be disagreeable, seriously, but if you ask me, Clack deserves a f*ing medal.

    Anyway, I think we agree that Roger Jr.’s take on the situation is beyond contemptible and that this has no bearing whatsoever on Mann vs Steyn.

    1. People who are antinuclear and want to stop climate change don’t want to see these positions as being at odds.

      The real heart of the matter, IMO.

  11. The 87 GW vs 1300GW is of trivial importance to the conclusions of the paper.

    The whole point was that electricity could be supplied with 100% renewables, with zero nuclear, zero fossil fuel, and without batteries.

    At no time in the next 50 years is the US electricity grid going to operate without nuclear, fossil fuels, or batteries. Adding even tiny amounts of nuclear, fossil fuels, or batteries greatly increase the degrees of freedom of the electric grid.

    The hydropower assumption was not an assumption about how much energy could be obtained from hydropower, it was an assumption as to the rate that hydropower could be extracted. The total energy was the same, it was simply extracted at rates with higher maximum rates by installing more generators in already existing facilities. The cost to install more turbines is small. Installing more turbines doesn’t give you more energy, it lets you extract the same amount of energy faster; so that hydroelectric power can be better used for load matching.

    Pumped storage is commonly used for peak shaving, where off-peak energy is used to pump water into a reservoir to generate peak energy later.

    If you have other means for load matching (gas turbines is what are mostly used now), or batteries (which are likely to be the method of the future), you don’t need increased extraction rate of hydroelectric power for load matching.

    You can’t use nuclear for load matching because the load of a nuclear plant can’t be changed up and down quickly (unless you simply dissipate the excess as heat which is wasteful). You can’t use coal fired plants for load matching either because it takes a long time to have them go up and down in load.

  12. > The total energy was the same, it was simply extracted at rates with higher maximum rates by installing more generators in already existing facilities.

    Agreed. Now, should this change the nameplate capacity of the facility?

    >The cost to install more turbines is small. Installing more turbines doesn’t give you more energy,

    But does it give you a higher nameplate capacity?
    If Jacobson had listed 1300 GW as the nameplate capacity and Clack ignored it, Clack would be defaming himself with his paper. Perhaps Clack should have said, Jacobson assumes an increase of the nameplate capacity to 1300GW. Wait he did say that. Perhaps instead of saying, I hope there is an explanation for this discrepancy, he should have said one explanation is that Jacobson assumes an increase in capacity in his model. Wait, they said that too.

  13. I agree with MT in this regard.

    The consequences of this are potentially immense.

    This is an important issue. Even as a PhD level physicist, I don’t really know which of the positions is correct, and which isn’t (okay, my sense is that the idea of 100% renewables cheaply is unrealistic, but I wouldn’t like to have to defend that view). Even I need to judge some of this on the basis of how people conduct themselves, the overall level of agreement, etc. Instead this debate seems even more polarised than the climate debate, and the implications of this could – as MT suggests – be quite severe.

    1. ATTP I’ve been pointing to the dangers of over-stating the speed and depth of decarbonisation possible via renewables alone for some time and frequently been given some serious grief for it. For once I find myself forced to agree with Steven M: some things just cannot be said. Which may well have very serious consequences down the line.

    2. BBD, are you referring to Mosher? What is the meaning of some things just cannot be said?

      ATTP, 87 GW hydropower has been upgraded with more turbines, so they are capable of producing 1300 GW for 12 hours at a time. Yet the paper says installed capacity will be 87 GW. Also had 2 consecutive months of over 200% nameplate each, as well as 9 consecutive months cumulatively over 87 GW.
      Is this what installed capacity means?

  14. In regard to Mann vs. Styne, if Mann wins it will disappoint a lot of free speech and media organizations who have filed amicus briefs. Mann has not found a single person to stand at his side. What hypothesis could explain that? Given the historically nasty and often libelous political discourse in the US, Mann has no case compared to virtually every other controversial public figure. Accusing someone of a crime is libel for private citizens. That is certainly not the case for public figures.

    1. Given that Mark Steyn is imho a vile individual, a view I am sure supported by many out there, its also clear that by omission that vast majority of scientists and people with a shred of humanity support Mike. Given his integrity in alerting the public to the dangers posed by climate change, I sure do.

    2. Jeff Harvey, why didn’t you file an amicus brief, and are you planning to do so in the future, given that scientists have not done so?

    1. If this is true, then our green house gas problem will be solved quickly and no policy changes are needed. I am a little skeptical however given the issues with intermittency.

    2. Yes, this is a big hole in arguments made by global warmers, with the exception of BBD here and a few others. If renewable energy is going to cheaper in the near to intermediate term, then emissions will drop on their own. Countries aren’t going to spend more money on fossil fuels just because some oil companies bribe them. We have already seen a large scale shift from coal to natural gas over price, causing global CO2 emissions to stay flat for a few years.
      If solar is cheaper, then emissions drops are coming on their own, and will accelerate.

    3. We have already seen a large scale shift from coal to natural gas over price, causing global CO2 emissions to stay flat for a few years.

      Prolly just a blip. Emissions are on the up again. And at some point, carbon cycle feedbacks will begin to kick in, if they haven’t already started to.

      But yes, as you know, I think the ‘cheap renewables’ meme is misleading. It is to take the cheapest element of the system (solar modules; turbines) and misrepresent it as the total system cost. But of course the total system cost will be vastly greater as it includes all the really expensive stuff like grid interconnections, major increases in long-distance transmission capacity within grids and significant utility-scale storage build-out. I’m pretty sure this will eventually come back and bite people in the arse.

      That said, given the effectively open-ended costs of unabated emissions, low-carbon energy is pretty much by definition ‘cheaper’ than FFs, albeit in the longer-term. But that’s the price argument about eg. W&S that I’d stick to: renewables vs. the true externalised costs of FFs.

    4. MikeN

      Earth heats up, oceans and surface CO2 sinks begin to become less efficient and even shift to sources (including emission of CH4). Permafrost melt, Amazon drought, wildfires, warming oceans etc. Google for details.

  15. Jacobson had over a year to post an update to his article explaining the hydro correction. Even after he first heard of Clack’s rebuttal paper, he issued no correction for another eight months.
    Is it reasonable for Clack to treat his paper as it is written and ignore e-mails that Jacobson has sent which he is refusing to put in the paper?

  16. In his 2014 book, Mark Lynas relates how he started as an anti-nuke. But then he attended an energy conference at Oxford University in 2005.

    “As I did so,” he relates, “I began to discover that most of what I had believed about atomic energy was inaccurate. I had thought that nuclear waste was an insoluble problem, that using civilian reactors raised the risks of nuclear war, and that radiation from accidents such as Chernobyl had killed tens of thousands or even millions of people. As I looked more closely at the scientific data, however, I found out that most, if not all, of the anti-nuclear ideas I had grown up with were either myths or misconceptions. In fact, here was a reliable power source with virtually unlimited fuel, which could power entire countries while producing no CO2 at all during its operation. I found myself in the difficult position of coming to believe that my children’s future was threatened not just by the big fossil-fuel companies but also by professional anti-nuclear Green groups, many of which were staffed by my friends.”

    Source:
    Nuclear 2.0: Why a Green Future Needs Nuclear Power
    Mark Lynas (Cambridge, UK: UIT Cambridge Ltd., April 2014)

    The gist of his argument is that there just isn’t time to deploy enough wind and solar, and other forms of renewable energy. This becomes less and less of a foregone conclusion, but I don’t think it can yet be discounted.

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