Here is an email sent by Professor Roger Pielke Jr to Professor Michael Mann: Continue reading Scientists And Law Suits
Mark Steyn is well known to readers of this blog as the intentionally obnoxious Canadian version of Rush Limbaugh who is being sued by our friend and colleague Michael Mann, author of the recent “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy,” for defamation. Steyn is also the author of a terrible book attacking all the climate scientists. Steyn has gone after a lot of pro-science people, including me, and I heard a rumor that he likes to crush kittens. OK, maybe he doesn’t crush kittens, but he is explicitly and intentionally (I assume), as part of his act, an unmitigated ass.
Recently, he started a show on CRTV, which is a right wing on line radio show of some kind. Then, they canned him. Then, he sued to keep the show on while a breach of contract suit was proposed, giving as the reason for the stay that he felt obligated to protect the show’s employees, who would be hurt but ending it.
Then, the show’s employees came out and said what they think about Steyn.
Of Steyn’s implied relationship to his employees, “It’s bullshit, frankly. They all hate him,” says one perso in the know.
These employees claim that Steyn ruined the show by being a jerk to everyone, verbally abusing them, calling them names, etc. He had them run personal errands, and misappropriated CRTV funds on personal purchases.
The Daily Beast has the story, well documented and clearly laid out, here.
Steyn has been the subject of discussion on this blog numerous times:
<li><strong><a href="http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2015/12/22/mark-steyn-the-dc-appeals-court-and-congress/">Mark Steyn, The DC Appeals Court, and Congress</a></strong></li> <li><strong><a href="http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2015/06/22/mark-steyns-newest-attack-on-michael-mann-and-the-hockey-stick/">Mark Steyn’s Newest Attack On Michael Mann And The Hockey Stick</a></strong></li> <li><strong><a href="http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2014/10/17/mark-steyn-and-judith-curry/">Mark Steyn and Judith Curry</a></strong></li>
UPSATE. The motion has been denied. Rather hilariously, bt the way.
Professor Michael Mann vs. Shock Jock Mark Steyn
You all know about the libel suit filed by Professor Michael Mann against Canadian right wing radio shock jock Mark Steyn. Steyn made apparently libelous comments linking Mann, who is widely regarded as the worlds top non-retired climate scientist, to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. (I don’t know what Steyn was implying but the only link is that both work(ed) at Penn State University!) There are other aspects of the libel suit as well, beyond the scope of this post.
The suit was filed in October 2012. I’m told this sort of law suit can drag on for years, and in this case, Steyn and the other defendants have taken action to delay what seems likely to be a decision against them, so this one might take a bit longer.
ADDED: It has come to my attention that some are arguing that Steyn has been trying to push this suit along while the other defendants are those responsible for the delay. You need to be aware of the fact that early on in the process, Steyn separated himself from the other defendants, and some observers have noted that he has been conducting his side of the process in such a way that has left legal scholars wondering if he has a competent lawyer. I have no personal comment on this. But it remains true that there is no way to separate the discovery part of this process among the parties. In other words, as the different parties in the defense take separate action, they are capable of playing something of a “good cop – bad cop” scenario, and that looks like what they are doing. In any event, Steyn has taken specific delaying action by filing a counter-suit.
Then, on June 1st, yesterday, Steyn’s lawyer requested that the DC Court of Appeals expedite the case.
Why is Steyn suddenly in a hurry to see this court case finished, when until now he has been more interested in delay?
I’m pretty sure the reason is a microcosm of how things are developing in the larger world of fossil fuel industry supported science denial, as well as the larger world of right wing vs. progressive politics.
Mann’s suit is not about arguing about science. He is perfectly capable of going head to head with anybody, even bought and paid for deniers, as he recounts in his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines.
The suit serves, rather, as a part of a larger effort to combat the ongoing systematic attacks on well meaning and hard working scientists who are just doing their jobs. These attacks, in large part funded by energy industry front groups or “think” tanks such as the Heartland Institute, threaten to cast a chilling pall over over the scientific endeavor itself. Young people going into science careers, especially in certain areas, potentially face future denigrating attacks on their personal lives and character, and potentially career ending frivolous investigations by science deniers in Congress or in other positions of power.
A few months ago we saw shock jock Steyn called by anti-science Senator, failed presidential candidate, and widely detested Ted Cruz, in what can only be described as a three-ring circus of climate science denial. Steyn used his time before congress to argue his case in the Mann law suit, and to blow a racist dog whistle or two denigrating two of the DC Appeals court judges, Judges Natalia Combs Greene and Vanessa Ruiz. I only mention this because it gives background on Steyn and the overall anti-science movement. See Mark Steyn, The DC Appeals Court, and Congress for a detailed discussion of that).
Ask not for whom the bell tolls, science denier.
A couple of years ago, in Minnesota, a Republican House and Senate passed a bill to create a constitutional amendment making same sex marriage illegal. Why an amendment and not a law? It was generally thought at the time that the Republicans assumed that if Democrats took power (which they did right after that), that the law would be toast. A constitutional change is harder to undo. But there was another strategic reason to go for the change to the State’s Constitution, a reason that is directly parallel to Mark Steyn’s current strategy vis-a-vis the Mann law suit.
The Republicans legislators voted close to 100% in favor of banning same sex marriage in Minnesota, the Democrats voted close to 100% against it. The amendment then became a ballot issue, which was fought over for months in the public forum, and then, resoundingly defeated by the people of Minnesota. That was one of the first and key moments in the Great Domino Knockover ending legislation and constitutional restriction against same sex marriage.
Here’s what. During the public fight over the ballot amendment, I went to a fund raiser hosted by a colleague. At that fund raiser, a member of the Minnesota House told a story.
Every year, pages are brought to the legislature to work the legislative session. These are high school seniors representing every single district in the state, so they are geographically evenly distributed across liberal and conservative enclaves and regions. Urban Minneapolis is very liberal. One of the Urban members of the US Congress, Keith Ellison, is an African American Muslim Bernie Sanders Supporter. One of the non-urban members of the US Congress, for several years, was Tea Party co-Founder Michele Bachmann. So, you get the picture.
When the pages are first brought in, there are orientation activities of various sorts. One of the orientation activities is to poll the pages on various political questions. The pages, from Michele Bachmann’s district, Keith Ellison’s district, and everywhere else, were polled that year on their position on the Same Sex Marriage Banning Amendment. How did that shake out?
Every single page was opposed to the amendment. Every. Single. One. They were all about 18 years old.
The Republican strategy to make same sex marriage unconstitutional, instead of merely illegal, was motivated by a correct reading of the state’s demography. The next generation of Minnesotans was not going to have this sort of discrimination. Every year the state’s population would be increasingly in favor of marriage freedom and opposed to repression of LGBT people. The conservatives in the State Legislature had to act quickly to codify their systematic hatred before everyone else grew up.
Grumpy Old Men
Grumpy Old Men isn’t just a movie set in Minnesota. It is a key part of the demographic base for science denial.
At about the same time that the marriage amendment was being proposed and eventually put down in Minnesota, John Cook, Dana Nuccitelli, Jim Powell and their colleagues were turning out the Climate Consensus Project. This project paralleled and replicated earlier research, but using a different approach. The upshot of that collective research was to show that nearly, but not exactly, 100% of climate scientists and the peer reviewed papers that address climate change, all agree: Climate change is real, and human caused.
The actual studies are more complex and nuanced than that, but for now there is one conclusion that I want you to focus on. Something less than three percent of the people who’s opinion matter in the scientific world, those who are verified experts in this area, continued to question the legitimacy of human caused climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence.
Who are these people?
We know from work by John Mashey, that science deniers with actual scientific credentials are like conservative Minnesota legislators.
Mashey examined the characteristics of individuals who opposed, from within, the American Physical Society’s position on the reality of human caused climate change. The opposition took the form of a petition signed by less than a half percent of the 47,000 member of the society. That subset of APS members tended to be in subfields that did not focus on climate science. But most interesting here is the demography of that group.
Mashey showed that the signers of the anti-science petition were, as a group, older and more likely to be retired than the APS members in general.
Of the 119 signers, 102 (86%) were born before 1950, compared to about 40% for overall APS. This is a strong effect, and cannot be due to “retired scientists are finally free to tell the real truth”, given that only one plausible climate scientist is a signer, and he is not retired.
In addition, there is evidence that as this non-representative sample of APS members was recruited to sign on, efforts were made by the petition organizers to find older or retired individuals, dust them off, and get them on board.
Like the situation with same sex marriage in Minnesota, the demographics are changing. That few percent that the Consensus Project and similar research identifies as not being on board with climate science probably represents the grumpy old men who are disappearing at the usual rate, like they do. The scientists who understand climate science and make up the bulk of the consensus are not only more involved in actual climate science, but also, are of the current generation of active scientists.
They are old. And, therefore, becoming less numerous with every passing day, with every tolling of the bell.
Who is Steyn’s dead guy?
A key reason given by Steyn and his lawyer for expediting the Mann lawsuit is that key witnesses that would support Steyn’s case may die off before the case comes to court.
According to the “request for expedited hearing” filed by Steyn’s lawyer,
Steyn’s expert witnesses are older than Mann’s; time affects them more. Many of Steyn’s expert witnesses are emeritus professors and comparatively advanced in years, being of an age and eminence that enables them to stand against the bullying and intimidation that prevails in climate science. Therefore, the passage of time is not an unimportant thing. Indeed, one of Steyn’s proposed witnesses has, in fact, died while this interlocutory appeal has been with the appellate court.
The brief does not mention which witness died. Any guesses?
Apparently, Steyn and his lawyer had a “holy crap” moment, realizing that if this law suit does not come to court sooner than later, there would be precious few individuals prepared to serve as witnesses in favor of an idea that about to get pulled off life support.
Time is running out for Steyn. Over time, those who question the validity of well established science are likely to change their minds once they get the proper information, realize that their position is laughable and walk away from denialism simply because it is embarrassing, or, apparently, die.
But it is more important that time is running out for the planet, and for the up and coming generation that is being handed a ruined environment.
Even as I write these words a news alert comes across my desk: “Europe floods: 10 dead amid fears of fresh heavy rainfall,” referring to flooding in France and Germany. Flooding in Texas over the last few days, and continuing, has taken at least a half dozen lives. To someone like Steyn, and his out of touch geriatric witnesses, this is small change. A half a dozen people here, a half a dozen people there. And that is exactly the problem and exactly why Mann’s lawsuit is important and valid. Climate denialism is, as a movement, effectively sociopathic. And, as individuals in that movement realize that, they tend to wander off.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season started yesterday and there are already two named storms. Major fires in the Canadian Rockies, the decline of iconic species such as the North American Moose, coral bleaching, the spread of very nasty diseases out of the tropics, record high temperatures, the Syrian refugee crisis, are all linked to climate change to some degree, often very directly, sometimes more tenuously. (See this for a current accounting of climate disasters ongoing.)
Extreme variability in precipitation patterns, including both short and long term droughts and major rain or snow fall events, has been linked pretty directly to anthropogenic global warming. Heat waves and sea level rise due to melting glaciers, and changes in ocean chemistry, are direct measures of increasing surface heat. Weather and climate are two faces of the same coin, different in scale with weather being in one spot and on one day, and climate being weather long term and everywhere. If we change climate, which we have, we change weather, and thus we affect day to day live, the food supply, the global economy, and global health.
I watched most of yesterday’s Senate hearings live (ironically titled Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate), and what I missed, I sampled via the magic of recorded video. I considered fisking the hearings, in particular, the closing statement by Senator Ted Cruz (and his next-day interview on NPR). But I was distracted by work on Ikonokast, a new podcast Mike Haubrich and I are starting up (our first guest, taped yesterday, is Shawn Otto). And, many others had responses out on the internet quickly enough that my contribution was clearly not necessary (I’ve got some links below pointing to some of those commentaries).
More on Ted Cruz here, at Ikonokast Episode One
But even after that I’m left with a few impressions worth noting.
Obviously this was a partisan hearing designed to insert a bunch of climate science denial into the Congressional Record. One part of the hearing, though, failed in that respect, because minority members are allowed to invite a witness or two. The minority wisely chose Admiral David Titley, a climate scientists and meteorologist and an excellent communicator. To give a flavor of Admiral Titley’s contribution, check out this segment in which he discusses satellite data collection and interpretation:
That video is embedded and discussed in this post by Peter Sinclair, which you should check out as it covers other important things.
Cruz’s closing statement and interview were astonishing to me, rather unexpected. Every point he tried to make was out of the denialist playbook. That might seem to make sense. But the key points in the denialist playbook are old, tired, discredited, debunked, so easily dismissed that they can’t possibly be taken seriously any more. One would have thought he would have come up with something more effective. But he didn’t. Possibly because there isn’t anything.
Which brings us to this not-to-miss segment of the hearing, a statement by Senator Ed Markey and the denier’s (Curry and Steyn) reactions to that statement. Senator Markey made the poignant and relevant point that the empaneled witnesses represent the last redoubt of climate denialism, a strong contrast with the fact that every country in the world was at the same time busy in Paris trying to address climate change on the assumption that the world’s scientists have made a clear and honest case that global warming is the existential issue of the day. Watch the clip. The whole clip. Interesting things happen. If by the end of it you don’t want to have Senator Markeys baby, you might be a climate science denialist.
Note the contemptuous last stand of Mark Steyn and Judith Curry (starting about 8:20). I didn’t know it was OK to talk to Senators that way during a hearing. I also didn’t know it was OK to lie to Congress.
I said several months ago that we were at or near Peak Denial. Peter Dykstra seems to feel the same way (Commentary: Will we reach peak denial soon?). That was a somewhat risky statement at the time. It no longer is.
Check out these reactions to the hearings:
This afternoon in Washington DC, Texas Republican Ted Cruz, who does not believe in global warming yet is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing called “Data or Dogma? Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate.” The purpose of the hearing appears to be to reify the false debate of the reality and importance of anthropogenic global warming, and is yet another step in the current McCarthyesque attack on legitimate climate scientists and their research.
This is an important moment in the history of bullshit.
Among the “experts” giving testimony will be the Canadian conservative shock jock Mark Steyn. Steyn’s relationship to global warming is similar to, say, Rush Limbaugh’s relationship to women’s rights. He is a bloviating ignoramus who treats the truth like so much dog poo on the bottom of his shoe. If he actually knows anything about climate science, he is doing a very good job of hiding it. His major contribution to the discussion is a continuous attack on climate scientists based mostly on cherry picked quotes. In fact, he recently self published a book made up, apparently, of cherry picked quotes and related material in an effort to discredit top climate scientists. For a flavor for what he has done, check out this analysis of the quotes he used of several established climate scientists.
I have a copy of Steyn’s testimony. Steyn is being sued for defamation by scientist Michael Mann. I won’t go into the details of that suit, but a very large part of Steyn’s testimony before the Senate is about that law suit or related issues. It appears that the Republicans on the Senate science subcommittee are allowing an anti-science Canadian citizen to use the Senate hearing room to argue his side of a civil law suit. (Part of his argument, by the way, is to say several insulting things about the judicial branch hearing this case, and the judge. Entering these comments into the congressional record.)
One of the interesting things Steyn does is to define a set of “experts” whom he claims make the case against global warming, and whose work has been either ignored or discredited by mainstream climate science. This set includes the recently turned Judith Curry; John Christy, one of the only climate scientists to believe that the Earth’s system is relatively insensitive to increases in greenhouse gas concentration; Meteorologist Lennart Bengtsson, famous for briefly joining the science denier organization “Global Warming Policy Foundation,” only to quit a short time later in what seemed to be a ploy to accuse mainstream science as being McCarthyistic (so yes, there will be irony in Washington DC today); Lord Nigel Lawson, a blue-blood non-scientist science denier which I’m pretty sure is a category (including Lord Christopher Monckton and coal baron Lord Viscount Matt Ridley); the economist Roger Pielke Junior, who is famous for being drummed out of the statistico-rationalist site FiveThirtyEight after he represented his research attempting to show that hurricanes aren’t really a problem, but accidentally let a bunch of actual statistics experts see what he was up to; and the recently discredited Harvard-Smithsonian not-a-professor soft money guy Willie “The Sun Did It” Soon.
Roger is a real life academic who has climate change impacts wrong, in my opinion (and I’m not alone) and has stepped into a fight he was regrettably unprepared for. But otherwise he’s just some guy with a faculty job. Until now. Now, according to Congressional Testimony, he is part of a set that includes a handful of crazy anti-science rantologists. John Cristy and Judith Curry are both testifying today, along with Steyn. Curry was a legit climate scientists who, much to the horror and chagrin of her colleagues, has slid farther and farther into the anti-science abyss, who rarely makes sense any more, and who is probably the last established academic anyone would want to give testimony about such an important issue. But she is apparently very excited about giving this testimony.
The point of these associations? Mark Steyn, who is a spiritual leader of the anti-science movement, has placed a couple of people who might not have wanted to be classified with discredited scientists and ranting yahoos into the same boat with said individuals. Maybe fairly, maybe not. I wonder how they feel about this.
Now, to be fair, Steyn’s testimony, which is mostly him pleading his side of the law suit, is not entirely inappropriate for this particular hearing. The hearing is about the meta-context in which the science is being done, and the law suit is about nefarious accusations made by a guy who looks a lot like a bought and paid for science denier against Michael Mann. Steyn isn’t so much the problem here, but rather, the hearing itself, and the subcommittee, is the problem. Steyn is merely the poster boy.
For those just tuning in, one of the things Steyn will yammer on about today (or at least, enter into the record) is this deal about Michael Mann and the Nobel Prize. According to Nobel, “The Nobel Peace Prize 2007 was awarded jointly to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” Mike Mann and others who were on that panel rightfully were credited, thusly, with winning the Nobel Prize. And they did. But technically, the Nobel Committee does not actually use that nomenclature. They say that the panel, not the people on it, won the prize. Once this semantic detail was made clear, the people on the IPCC appropriately adjusted their language to reflect the Nobel construction of things. But Steyn has been yammering about this since, claiming that his arch nemesis, the actual scientist Mann, claimed something that was not true. Apparently Steyn will continue this yammering this afternoon for the benefit of our Senate, and we the taxpayers will be paying for this.
The highlight, I say non-sardonically, of the hearings may be the testimony of Rear Admiral David Titley, a PhD in Meteorology who has made significant contributions to understanding and communicating about climate change. I assume he was invited by the minority party. If you haven’t seen Rear Admiral Ditley’s TEDx Talk, you should. He was a climate skeptic, then he looked into it, and realized that climate change is one of the most important issues of the day. He is a great communicator and an honest interlocutor. He’ll be swabbing the deck with the likes of Steyn and Curry.
Steyn’s testimony has the climate science wrong. I am pretty sure the minority members of the committee will be aware of this, and will address these issues in a well informed manner. But the truth is, with Republicans in control in the Senate, and with the current McCarthyesque attack on climate scientists well under way, this hearing will largely be a circus.
In my opinion, the following statement by Steyn, from his written testimony, should be first, because it is the most important thing he has to say:
In that respect, let me close by turning to my area of expertise. I am not a climate scientist, but I am an acknowledged expert in the field of musical theatre
In response, the chair of the subcommittee would appropriately say, “Oh, excuse me, then, Mr. Steyn, we obviously invited you by accident. You may now return to Canada. Thank you for your time.”
Photograph from here, “Protesters gather near the office of [Florida] Senator Marco Rubio to ask him to take action to address climate change. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images”
Two items related only because these two seem to like each other and there are coeval happenings.
Mark Steyn and Dr. Michael Mann’s book
Michael mann wrote a great book called The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. It really is a good book, I highly recommend it.
Mark Steyn is a right wing talking head and shock jocky guy whose behavior is that of a seventh grader. Since Mann’s book was published, numerous anti-science and anti-environment Internet trolls have posted bogus, harassing, one-star reviews on Amazon of Mann’s book. Often, these reviews come in groups and have had the appearance of a coordinated attack. In many cases, Amazon has recognized this and deleted those reviews.
Now we know that Mark Steyn is behind these attacks, or at least, he is behind an attack happening right now, not so subtly goading others to not only buy his own merchandise but to focus on Mann’s Amazon page. He has coordinated attacks on Mann before, such as his goading of his followers (and they really, truly are followers, which is probably not how they see themselves) to ruin a public Twitter discussion with Mann (hashtage #AskDrMann).
(I know how this works because it happened to me as well.)
If you’ve read “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” and you’ve not left a review on the Amazon page, and you are concerned about climate change and the practice and politics of science denialism, then you need to know the lack of your voice is meaningful. Go speak up. Only if you’ve read the book, of course (and I’m sure you liked it)
Judith Curry In Denial
Not long ago Judith Curry wrote a rather appalling editorial for the Wall Street Journal. Just now, Michael Mann has published a resonse, “Curry Advocates Against Action on Climate Change.”
She ties her argument to a new study she has co-authored, as well as the global warming speed bump (or faux pause). Neither offers a compelling reason to avoid reducing emissions. Her study looks at recent temperatures and uses them to try and determine how much the atmosphere will warm from our CO2 emissions.
The result is a figure low enough for contrarians to trumpet, but still not really that far from the official figures provided by the UN’s IPCC, the gold standard of climate science. This is why the new study (and the others very similar to it) have elicited only a collective yawn from serious academia.
So the piece repeats the same tired claims about lowered sensitivity, using the “pause” meme and her own study as justification for delaying action.
I’m not going to talk about Mark Steyn, other than to say that if you know who Rush Limbaugh is, Mark Steyn is a bit to the right and a tad more obnoxious, but not as smart.
I’m also not going to say much about Judith Curry except that, unlike Steyn, she was a regular scientist who did climate science. Over time the material she has written, both in peer reviewed journals and on her blog, has become increasingly aligned with those who are highly skeptical that global warming is real. She has a theory that global warming is an artifact of models (even though we can see it without the use of models), and I’m pretty sure she’s been wrong about almost everything she’s done recently. But, that’s how science works. Sometimes a scientist is wrong. Some are not wrong very often. Some are wrong almost all the time. It’s a thankless job, but somebody’s got to do it. Maybe someday she’ll start getting more useful results with her work.
Anyway, Mark Steyn has recently aligned himself with the Mens Rights Movements, and Slyme Pit (you know who they are), in other words, antifeminist, pro harassment, not-too-concerned-about-rape crowd, in their cottage industry of giving me a hard time on the Internet. That fits since he is, after all, to the right of, and not quite as smart as, Rush Limbaugh.
And now, Judith Curry, has aligned herself with Mark Steyn and his systematic harassment of climate scientist Michael Mann, and to a lesser extent, me.
This is a tweet favoriting a tweet by Mark Steyn pointing to his own blog post in which he carries out obnoxious attacks on Mann and me. For my part, he points to this post on my blog, which he takes to be an indication that I stalked a particular woman. Go read the post. Tell me if shutting down a crazed graduate student who was harassing other grad students, an undergrad, and a few others, using standard procedures (telling mom and dad, in this case) is stalking. It isn’t. Also, tell me if Judith Curry’s favoriting of this tweet indicates her approval of Steyn’s methods. Does it?
This “favoriting” of Steyn’s tweet of his post by Curry seems to align Curry with the worst of the worst. Did she also “like” Rush Limbaugh’s assertion that Sandra Fluke needs to keep an aspirin between her knees, and that the tax payers should not be paying her to have sex? Or Rush Limbaugh’s comments making fun of kids who need help getting a simple lunch at school? I’m hoping, though, that Judith Curry simply was unaware of how much of a misanthrope Steyn is, maybe she’s never heard of him before and doesn’t know that he is this incredibly offensive person, and just saw someone taking a jab at Mike and clicked on the little “favorite” button.
It was after all, just a “favoriting” of a tweet by Steyn. Which means Curry can step back from this with a simple apology to Michael Mann and me. Then, no big deal, I’d move on. Up to her.
Or, she could not do that. But I really didn’t think she was that kind of person. But maybe she is.
Who is Steve McIntyre?
Stephen McIntyre has been a long-time mining industry executive, mostly working on the “stock market side” of mining exploration deals. He published a blog called Climate Audit where he attempts to analyse in sometimes long and extensive detail the work of climate change scientists where he documents “statistical mistakes” in peer-reviewed scientific literature. …
McIntyre has been described as a “persistent amateur who had no credentials in applied science before stepping into the global warming debate in 2003” and has been a prominent critic of temperature records that suggest increasing global temperatures over the past 1000 years.
As of 2003, McIntyre had worked in the mineral business for 30 years and he has been an officer or director of small public mineral exploration companies for over 16 years…
In February, 2014, he put up four blog posts attacking Dr. Michael Mann in relation to Mann’s defamation suit against Mark Steyn et al, claiming in those posts that Mann had “misrepresented the findings of reports and inquiries into his work and the work of other climate scientists in relation to the so-called “climategate” affair, when the emails of scientists at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia were illegally hacked and then published.” (desmogblog.com)
Today, McIntyre’s blog posted a lengthy “fisking” (sort of) written by Jean S, of the climategate emails. The focus is on the famous “Hockey Stick” curve produced by Mann and others just prior to 2000. This graph is an assembly of carefully vetted climate records including proxies and the modern instrumental record. The different sources of information used to show dramatic 20th century warming are well documented in Mann’s publications and further documented in freely distributed supplementary information. Two objections seem to have been raised by climate science denialists such as McIntyre and others. One is that one of the proxies, certain tree ring data, show cooling or at least a lack of warming. The other is that the graphic representation of 20th century warming uncritically combined proxy data and instrumental data.
Denier Complaints About Climate Proxies Are Based On Ignorance Of The Science
A proxy, or proxyindicator, is a natural system that leaves a recoverable residue that varies in some measurable or observable way, such that the variation may correspond to a natural variation happening in the world at the time the proxy was being formed. For example, the ratio of Oxygen-16 and Oxygen-18, two stable isotopes of that element, in Oxygen incorporated in stable form (in biogenic tissues, for example) indicates the ratio of these isotopes in the ambient environment, which in turn, indicates the amount of each element available at the time, which in turn, indicates how much of each type of oxygen is trapped in glacial ice (which tends to have more Oxygen-16 because glaciers are ultimately made of vapor, which is isotopically light). Oxygen isotope ratios of materials recovered from deep sea cores indicate the march of glacial formation and melting over long periods of time.
The first of these two objections to Mann’s work, and other work, relies on naiveté among potential readers about proxyindicators. As is the case with all scientific data, all proxies are suspect, and all proxies have the potential of varying in sensitivity over time. Scientists must always evaluate the quality of the data they use, and not accept it uncritically.
For example, say you wanted to estimate the flow of a major river over time. You could measure how much silt is deposited on the river’s flood plain by taking Carbon-14 samples at numerous depths in the floodplain. A greater depth between samples separated by similar amounts of time might mean more flooding. But, as the flood plain matures and raises in elevation, the frequency of floods year to year may decrease, causing a decline in the rate of siltation, and thus, apparent water flow in relation to the actual water flow. Furthermore, at some point, the flood plain is essentially filled up, and flooding overbank happens elsewhere along the river, and no longer (or infrequently) at your sample site. This is a decline in the usefulness of the proxy to the point that you have to simply stop using it.
Another example. Say you want to use pollen counts form layers found in mud at the bottom of a lake, the layers having been recovered from cores sunk in the lake. Assume your lake is in a region that started out as grassland but slowly became more forested. Trees act as pollen filters. Pollen wafting across the landscape is caught in the trees. In the early part of the lake core data, pollen may be introduced from many kilometers away from wind blown plants (grasses, some trees) and from similar distances from plants that do not distribute pollen via wind, but in small quantities (such plants produce way less pollen than wind pollenated plants) via streams that enter the lake. Over time, however, trees will grow up first around the lake, then over a larger area of the landscape. Windblown pollen from grasses is less likely to get into the pond, and there may be less of that pollen because trees are replacing grassland. Meanwhile, the longer distance stream carried pollen may continue to represent the original catchment of pollen. But, if there are changes in rainfall patterns, that could change too. People looking at pollen in lake cores may use an independent measure, such as the amount of iron in the sediment, to indicate how much water comes in from longer distances via streams vs. how much comes in from groundwater and as direct rain. They will use studies of pollen taphonomy, which look at changes in “pollen rain” as forests develop, to calibrate the effects of trees on the wind blown grass pollen representation. At some point, near the top of the core, the tree pollen may be suddenly and dramatically reduced and the wind blown grass pollen may switch to mostly corn or wheat. This is farmers coming in and completely changing the environment. The core from that point on up may become useless. In sum, the entire core has to be analyzed as a dynamic, changing proxy where some of the changes are important information about the changing environment, while other changes are indicative of an increase or a decline in sensitivity of the proxy as an indicator of what is being studied.
Something similar is going on with the tree ring data Mann used. At around 1960 the ability of the tree ring data to represent regional temperature declines and the tree rings become useless. Prior to that time the data should be used. After that time the data should be discarded.
A proxy is not a pre-calibrated consistent source of information. It is a method that uses measurements of recovered material that allow the reconstruction of an ancient process. But that requires understanding the process well enough to develop a way of determining when the proxy is being helpful and when it is providing noise. A good amount of the research on ancient paleoclimate and paleoecology is about how the proxies work. With this research it is possible in many cases to evaluate the utility of a proxy at a given location, and furthermore, to assess which parts of the proxy can be used, which parts need to be further calibrated, and which parts need to be ignored because of a decline in their usefulness.
We see climate science deniers claiming, for example, that the tree ring proxy used by Mann needs to be used “all or nothing.” This is nothing more than ignorance of how paleoclimatology works.
Complaints About The Hockey Stick Graph Are Not Valid
McIntyre’s arguments (along with others) about the graph are middle-school level obfuscation of the point. The scientists who published the original Hockey Stick graph went through pains to be clear about what information was going into which part of the overall curve. Subsequent renditions of the same data, or similar sets of data with new information added, range across the board from highly complex constructs showing the different sources of the data, error ranges, etc. to those that simplify by drawing a simple curve of combined information. I wrote about this here, showing how this practice, of sometimes making a very complex thing simpler in a way that makes the point accurately, is done all the time.
The latest post on McIntyre’s site, completely misrepresented what happened with the Hockey Stick curve. Nowhere in the quoted emails is there any suggestion or approval or any indication by Michael Mann of seamlessly merging proxyindicator data and instrumental data. The original documents clearly show that this is not what happened at any stage.
Why Do McIntyre And Others Fabricate These Objections?
If you read JeanS’s post closely, s/he seems to be simultaneously implying that Mann created a falsified representation of how the data come together, while at the same time admitting he did not. This is an increasingly common tactic among climate science denialists. They can no longer totally make up what they are saying because they are too easily called on it, yet want to provide other denialists with fodder, and confuse anyone involved in policy, or who just wants to learn, with more confusion and less clarity.
The only way to accept or even seriously consider the arguments that climate scientists developing the Hockey Stick curve or similar research were involved in inappropriate shenanigans is to anchor oneself deeply in a mire of intentional ignorance. There seems to be only one reason to do that (other than simply being very, very ignorant): a commitment to anti-science activism, with the likely intention of damaging the translation of good science into useful policy.
This is something a mining industry executive might do out of self interest and to represent the interests of that industry. Is that the case here? There is a trick to help determine if that is the case. Follow the money.
The graphic depicted above is from here. It is a 2007 version o the often replicated and used “Hockey Stick.”
More on Steve McIntyre:
The National Review is a political magazine, and Mark Steyn, I think, writes for them (I really don’t keep track). A while back Steyn and/or the National Review made some seemingly very defamatory statements about Michael Mann, the climate scientist. Career-damaging really icky accusations of fraud and such. They were bogus accusations, but they were also not just trollish yammering of the type we see all the time from the science denialist gaggle. So, Mann sued them.
I prefer the Law and Order version of law. Something happens on Monday, on Tuesday everything is confusing, on Wednesday there is a car chase or something, on Thursday everyone is in court and on Friday the whole maneno is done with and everyone is back to eating donuts. Real legal stuff drags on forever. If you want to catch up, here are a few blog posts and other items that might help. (That was a search using the Climate Science Search Engine, which is on the right side bar of my blog!)
Anyway, there is a new development. National Review has filed a long and boring legal document that appears to be some kind of whinging about how the case against them should go away. Eli Rabbit has made two comments about it that I agree with. First, he notes that the document states that the prior yammering by National Review is not officially “malice” because they really believe the things they say. But, in the same document, they claim that “Read in context, Steyn’s commentary was protected rhetorical hyperbole, not a literal accusation of fraud or data falsification.” See meme.
The second point also stuck out as a sore thumb when I looked at it, and it is so obvious that I assumed I was reading the legal document incorrectly. But Eli confirms. From the legal document:
…critics have argued that the hockey stick is misleading because it splices together two different types of data without highlighting the change: For roughly the first nine centuries after the year 1000 A.D., the graph shows temperature levels that have been inferred solely from tree-ring samples and other “proxy” data. But from about 1900 onward, the graph relies on readings from modern instruments such as thermometers.
I’m pretty sure the technical legal term for this is taurus craps puris*. The hockey stick graph in its original form and most early incarnations has color coding or other appropriate line style differences to distinguish between the records. Some people have taken both the hockey stick graph and other similar graphics and merged the data into a single squiggle for presentation purposes, an acceptable if not always wise method. The National Review legal document also makes mention of shifting between proxies and instrumental data. They suggest that a broken instrumental record should have been used instead of simple temperature measurements with thermometers and stuff. This harks back to the time the climate science denialists stole a bunch of scientists’ email and made stuff up about it (a complicated story but one you can read about in detail in Mann’s book).
This filing by the National Review is a lame defense against a very well argued and appropriate law suit. I’m sure this won’t last until Wednesday in court. (Law and Order time.) Not only are their claims wrong, but they have been known to be long for a very long time.
*Translates roughly as Complete and Utter Bullshit.