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Mark Steyn’s new book on Michael Mann

A Disgrace to the Profession: The World’s Scientists – in their own words – on Michael E Mann, his Hockey Stick and their Damage to Science – Volume One

Review by Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | August 13, 2015

The backstory on Mann vs Steyn is described in previous posts [link] and links therein. The short story is this. Mann is suing Steyn (and others) for defamation regarding a statement about ‘the fraudulent hockeystick’. Steyn is countersuing. The lawsuits have been tied up in DC courts for years. The new book compiles what is presumably evidence obtained by Steyn’s lawyers regarding whether ‘fraudulent’ is defamatory here. And this is only Volume 1; apparently there is a Volume 2 in the works.

Mark Steyn has 3 blog posts (so far) on the book:

Two bloggers have already written about the book

Anthony Watts reminds me of this statement I made in a previous post: “Mark Steyn is formidable opponent. I suspect that this is not going to turn out well for you.” This book certainly supports my statement.

The book is organized around quotes from Ph.D. scientists (100+) that have made remarks about Mann, either publicly in interviews, on blogs, or in private emails that were revealed through FOIA or unauthorized releases (e.g. Climategate, SkS). This is not just a compilation of quotes from the ‘usual suspects’; I was unfamiliar with many of these individuals, and impressed by their credentials. Each chapter begins with an overview and context about the particular theme, then each subsection is devoted to a particular scientist, beginning with a brief biosketch of that scientist and including backstory and context.

There is much wit and plenty of zingers in Steyn’s narrative (not sure if anyone helped him with the technical aspects of this; seems pretty solid). However, for my post on this book, I decided to focus on snippets from climate scientists who generally support the consensus (explicitly, or lacking any evidence of the opposite), including Mann’s collaborators. It was not simple to cull this down to ~1200 words (so as not to steal thunder from potential buyers of the book), but the quotes below I think give a pretty good representation from the climate scientists that were quoted. Note, I focus particularly on the Hockey Stick (and subsequent incarnations), rather than broader issues about Mann that were raised in some of the quotes.

From climate scientists, all of whom support the general consensus on climate change:

Wallace Broecker: “The goddam guy is a slick talker and super-confident. He won’t listen to anyone else,” one of climate science’s most senior figures, Wally Broecker of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York, told me. “I don’t trust people like that. A lot of the data sets he uses are shitty, you know. They are just not up to what he is trying to do…. If anyone deserves to get hit it is goddam Mann.”

Eduardo Zorita: Why I Think That Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Stefan Rahmstorf2 Should be Barred from the IPCC Process. Short answer: because the scientific assessments in which they may take part are not credible anymore. These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations, even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed.

Atte Korhola: Another example is a study recently published in the prestigious journal Science. Proxies have been included selectively, they have been digested, manipulated, filtered, and combined – for example, data collected from Finland in the past by my own colleagues has even been turned upside down such that the warm periods become cold and vice versa. Normally, this would be considered as a scientific forgery, which has serious consequences.

Hans von Storch: A conclusion could be that the principle, according to which data must be made public, so that also adversaries may check the analysis, must be really enforced. Another conclusion could be that scientists like Mike Mann, Phil Jones and others should no longer participate in the peer-review process or in assessment activities like IPCC.

Bo Christiansen: The hockey-stick curve does not stand. It does not mean that we cancel the manmade greenhouse effect, but the causes have become more nuanced… Popularly, it can be said that the flat piece on the hockey stick is too flat. In addition, their method contains a large element of randomness. It is almost impossible to conclude from reconstruction studies that the present period is warmer than any period in the reconstructed period.

David Rind: Concerning the hockey stick: what Mike Mann continually fails to understand, and no amount of references will solve, is that there is practically no reliable tropical data for most of the time period, and without knowing the tropical sensitivity, we have no way of knowing how cold (or warm) the globe actually got. I’ve made the comment to Mike several times, but it doesn’t seem to get across.

Tom Wigley: I have just read the M&M stuff criticizing MBH. A lot of it seems valid to me. At the very least MBH is a very sloppy piece of work – an opinion I have held for some time. Can you give me a brief heads up? Mike is too deep into this to be helpful.

From Mann’s collaborators and coauthors:

Phil Jones: Keith [Briffa] didn’t mention in his Science piece but both of us think that you’re on very dodgy ground with this long-term decline in temperatures on the thousand-year timescale. It is better we put the caveats in ourselves than let others put them in for us.

Keith Briffa: I have just read this letter – and I think it is crap. I am sick to death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical area just because it contains a few tropical series. He is just as capable of regressing these data again any other “target” series, such as the increasing trend of self-opinionated verbiage he has produced over the last few years

Edward Cook: I will be sure not to bring this up to Mike. As you know, he thinks that CRU is out to get him in some sense. I am afraid that Mike is defending something that increasingly cannot be defended. He is investing too much personal stuff in this and not letting the science move ahead.

Raymond Bradley: I would like to disassociate myself from Mike Mann’s view. As for thinking that it is “Better that nothing appear, than something unnacceptable to us” …as though we are the gatekeepers of all that is acceptable in the world of paleoclimatology seems amazingly arrogant. Science moves forward whether we agree with individual articles or not.

Matti Saarnisto: In that article [Science], my group’s research material from Korttajärvi, near Jyväskylä, was used in such a way that the Medieval Warm Period was shown as a mirror image. The graph was flipped upside-down. In this email I received yesterday from one of the authors of the article, my good friend Professor Ray Bradley …says there was a large group of researchers who had been handling an extremely large amount of research material, and at some point it happened that this graph was turned upside-down. But then this happened yet another time in Science, and now I doubt if it can be a mistake anymore. But how it is possible that this type of material is repeatedly published in these top science journals? There is a small circle going round and around, relatively few people are reviewing each other’s papers, and that is in my opinion the worrying aspect.

Rob Wilson: I want to clarify that my 2 hour lecture was, I hope, a critical look at all of the northern hemispheric reconstructions of past temperature to date. It was not focused entirely on Michael Mann’s work. The “crock of xxxx” statement was focused entirely on recent work by Michael Mann w.r.t. hypothesized missing rings in tree-ring records. Although a rather flippant statement, I stand by it and Mann is well aware of my criticisms (privately and through the peer reviewed literature) of his recent work.

Some of the harshest criticisms come from physicists; I’ve selected this one from Jonathan Jones, who I had the pleasure of meeting with last June while in the UK:

Jonathan Jones: My whole involvement has always been driven by concerns about the corruption of science. Like many people I was dragged into this by the Hockey Stick. The Hockey Stick is an extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence, so I started reading round the subject. And it soon became clear that the first extraordinary thing about the evidence for the Hockey Stick was how extraordinarily weak it was, and the second extraordinary thing was how desperate its defenders were to hide this fact. The Hockey Stick is obviously wrong. Climategate 2011 shows that even many of its most outspoken public defenders know it is obviously wrong. And yet it goes on being published and defended year after year. Do I expect you to publicly denounce the Hockey Stick as obvious drivel? Well yes, that’s what you should do. It is the job of scientists of integrity to expose pathological science. It is a litmus test of whether climate scientists are prepared to stand up against the bullying defenders of pathology in their midst.

Two of the most surprising statements (to me) are from two young scientists associated with Skeptical Science:

Neal King: My impression is that Mann and buddies have sometimes gone out on a limb when that was unnecessary and ill-advised. Mann, for all his technical ability, is sometimes his own worst enemy. Similarly, with regard to “hiding the decline” in Climategate, I am left with the impression that the real question is, Why would you believe the tree-ring proxies at earlier times when you KNOW that they didn’t work properly in the 1990s? Mann et al spent too much time defending what was incorrect, and allowed the totality of the argument to become “infected” by the fight.

Robert Way: I don’t mean to be the pessimist of the group here but Mc2 brought up some very good points about the original hockey stick. I’ve personally seen work that is unpublished that challenges every single one of his reconstructions because they all either understate or overstate low-frequency variations. Mann et al stood by after their original HS and let others treat it with the confidence that they themselves couldn’t assign to it. The original hockey stick still used the wrong methods and these methods were defended over and over despite being wrong. He fought like a dog to discredit and argue with those on the other side that his method was not flawed. And in the end he never admitted that the entire method was a mistake. They then let this HS be used in every way possible despite knowing the stats behind it weren’t rock solid.

This selection of quotes does not include the strongest ‘zingers’, which come from scientists that are somewhat further afield or have made public statements that are critical of the AGW consensus.

JC reflections

So, back to the topic of the lawsuits. In light of these quotes by Ph.D scientists, does Mark Steyn have a strong defense against the charge of defamation for stating ‘fraudulent hockey stick’? This certainly looks to me like the basis of a strong defense. With regards to Steyn’s countersuit, if he makes a lot of money off this book, that would rather argue against large damages from his countersuit.

I have written many posts about Michael Mann – apart from my own concerns about the hockey stick (Hiding the Decline), I am greatly concerned about Mann’s bullying behavior inserting itself into the scientific process (collaboration, peer review, public communication). My concerns go beyond the general strategies of adversarial science, to what I regard as unethical behavior.

It is a sad state of affairs for climate science that this book had to be written (it was brought on by Michael Mann’s lawsuit – without the lawsuit, Steyn obviously wouldn’t have bothered).  At a time when the U.S. and the world’s nations are trying to put together an agreement to tackle climate change (for better or for worse), Steyn’s book reminds everyone of Climategate, why the public doesn’t trust climate scientists and aren’t buying their ‘consensus.

How will all this play out? Hard to predict, but I hope that everyone will learn that adversarial science as practiced in its pathological form by Michael Mann doesn’t ‘pay’ in the long run.

The book can be purchased at the SteynStore, or it will be available at (kindle edition available Sept 1).

August 14, 2015 - Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | ,

1 Comment »

  1. Like the weather, climate changes all of the time. The big difference between changing weather and changing climate is in the time scale experienced or measured, the persistence of the trend and the extent to which data point extremes differ from means.

    Our awareness of weather is based on personal experience of its seasonal variability. Our awareness of climate however is based on the historical and derived scientific record. A few years ago, a propaganda initiative was undertaken to conflate weather with climate and compel a uniform public belief supporting an apparent emergent consensus that we are now over the last year or two experiencing the beginning of a catastrophic departure of climate from what is predicted in our experience of weather variability.

    The propaganda initiative grossly simplified our experience of climate and weather and simplistically characterized the departure of bounded holocene climate in the vector of air temperature as a catastrophic graph aka the hockey stick curve.

    The public and our politicians know more about the physics and scales of space travel than about the statistical analysis and description of climatological trends.

    The best way to convince politicians is to sell them on urgency and profitable emergent opportunities to legitimize plunder dressed-up with sciency charts and statistics which are claimed by lab-coats to be derived from unquestionable sources discovered by scientific experts.

    The hockey stick graph was powerfully influential but so exaggerated in terms of its data confidence and consistency as to be a glaring falsehood into which anyone could inject a pernicious or otherwise exploitative and misinformed public policy.

    The article by Judith Curry provides an overview of why so many real scientists despair of half-baked, un-evaluated, distorted, unreproducible and poorly evidenced science being converted into public policy on which the expenditure of $trillions will based and critical voices will be silenced.



    Comment by Michael\\ | August 14, 2015 | Reply

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