An Open Letter to Dr. Michael Mann

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Dear Dr. Mann:

I just read your piece in the Washington Post.

First, let me say that I disagree entirely with Cuccinelli’s legalistic approach. It doesn’t seem like the right way to achieve the desired result, that of shining the merciless light of publicity on your actions.

Figure 1. The Merciless Light of Publicity

On the other hand, your opinion piece published in the Washington Post contains a number of omissions, misrepresentations, exaggerations, and misstatements of fact.

[As a digression, for those who don't know who Dr. Michael Mann is, he is the man who wrote the paper that established the "Hockey Stick" as the icon of misguided climate science. He then used his position on the IPCC to promote his own work, and suppressed contrary views. In one swipe he threw out all evidence that there were warmer periods in the past. No Medieval Warm Period. No Roman Warm Period. Here's that famous and most bogus of graphs, which has been reproduced hundreds of thousands of times ...

Figure 2. The "Hockeystick" graph.

Unfortunately, his math was wrong, and the method he used mines for "hockey stick" shapes and will pull them out of random data, so the graph turned out to be both meaningless and totally misleading. End of digression]

So without further ado, Dr. Mann, here are my comments on your opinion piece. I have put your entire article from the Washington Post, without deletions, in bold italic.

Get the anti-science bent out of politics

 

As a scientist, I shouldn’t have a stake in the upcoming midterm elections, but unfortunately, it seems that I — and indeed all my fellow climate scientists — do.

If this is a surprise to you, it should not be, and not just for climate scientists. Cast your mind back President Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1960, wherein he said (emphasis mine):

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

You are funded by the government, and are a salaried member of that scientific-technological elite that Eisenhower warned us about. Why on earth would you think that you would not have a stake in the election? The problem is the opposite – you have far too large a stake in the election, since climate science funding comes solely because the government is willing to back your ideas. As a result, a change in administrations might dry up your funding. You have a huge stake in the elections, and it is curious you want to claim otherwise. You are fighting like mad to keep the funding coming, so don’t pretend that you “shouldn’t have a stake” in the elections.

And regarding the elections, you have a huge political problem. Your science is so shabby and weak, and your claims are so apocalyptic, shrill, and far-fetched, that the people are no longer buying your line of patter. Climate change is at the very bottom of things that the electorate thinks are important … which seems to drive you guys nuts. Because of this, you and other climate scientists like Jim Hansen have become political activists, fighting like crazy to make sure the right people are elected to keep the money spigots turned wide open … just like Eisenhower warned.

So please, spare us the vapors about scientists having a stake in politics. You are in it up to your ears.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has threatened that, if he becomes chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he will launch what would be a hostile investigation of climate science. The focus would be on e-mails stolen from scientists at the University of East Anglia in Britain last fall that climate-change deniers have falsely claimed demonstrate wrongdoing by scientists, including me. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) may do the same if he takes over a committee on climate change and energy security.

Deniers? Anyone who is still using that emotion-laden, infantile term is deliberately being antagonistic. In any case, we have very real reasons to suspect you of wrongdoing. You don’t exactly show so well in things like the Climategate emails … see below.

My employer, Penn State University, exonerated me after a thorough investigation of my e-mails in the East Anglia archive. Five independent investigations in Britain and the United States, and a thorough recent review by the Environmental Protection Agency, also have cleared the scientists of accusations of impropriety.

Forgive my bluntness, but that is absolute hogwash. Hand-picked groups of your myopic friends have gotten together, consulted the auguries, studiously looked away, and declared you and Phil and Gene and the rest to be pure as the driven snow. But not one of the “thorough investigations” has spoken to one single person other than you and your friends and supporters. How thorough is a “thorough investigation” that only interviews your friends? “Exonerated”? Don’t make me laugh. You haven’t even been investigated, much less exonerated.

Nonetheless, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is investigating my previous employer, the University of Virginia, based on the stolen e-mails. A judge rejected his initial subpoena, finding that Cuccinelli had failed to provide objective evidence of wrongdoing. Undeterred, Cuccinelli appealed the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court and this week issued a new civil subpoena.

 

What could Issa, Sensenbrenner and Cuccinelli possibly think they might uncover now, a year after the e-mails were published?

Well, they might uncover the truth contained in the emails that haven’t been published. For example, you stand accused of conspiring to delete emails that showed you and your friends trying to prevent IPCC Review Comments from being made public.

Did you delete those emails? We may never know, since your good buddies in the “thorough investigation” DIDN’T EVEN LOOK TO SEE IF THE ACCUSATION WAS TRUE. They never looked through either your emails, or the CRU emails, to see if you had deleted emails as you were asked to do by Phil Jones. They never looked for your answer to Gene.

As you may not want to recall, in the Climategate emails, Phil wrote to you about the AR4 review emails, as follows:

Phil Jones wrote:

Mike,

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.

Can you also email Gene [Wahl] and get him to do the same?  I don’t have his new email address.

We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.

I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!

Cheers

Phil

Those emails, Dr. Mann, were the subject of a Freedom of Information Act request. You replied:

Hi Phil,

laughable that CA would claim to have discovered the problem. They would have run off to the Wall Street Journal for an exclusive were that to have been true.

I’ll contact Gene [Wahl] about this ASAP. His new email is: xxxx@yahoo.com

talk to you later,

mike

Now you may have a reasonable innocuous explanation for that interchange. I don’t see one. I see Phil advising you to break the law and delete emails that were the subject of an FOI request, and you saying “I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP”. When your friends were doing their “thorough investigation”, it is curious that they NEVER ASKED TO SEE the other emails in the chain. Like for example the email you said you would send to Gene to tell him to delete the emails. Did you send it?

And did you delete your emails? The “thorough investigation” never investigated that either, they didn’t even try to answer that important question.

So please don’t give us your sanctimonious posing as though you were shown to be innocent. The “thorough investigations” run by your friends have not determined your innocence, or the lack thereof – since they haven’t even tried to look at the evidence, how could they determine anything? So the jury is still out on the question.

But the facts we do have do not look good for you in the slightest.

If you had any actual evidence that you were innocent, I’m sure you would have given it to the investigators … funny how none of the five investigations have come up with a single fact or email or document to exonerate you in this question. As far as we know, you didn’t write back to Phil later and say something like “I can’t delete emails, that would be unethical and possibly illegal”. You wrote back to say that you would pass on the email deletion order to Gene … and you want us to believe that your hands are clean? Sorry, my friend, I’m like the Red Queen, I can believe six impossible things before breakfast, but that one is just too big to swallow.

The truth is that they don’t expect to uncover anything. Instead, they want to continue a 20-year assault on climate research, questioning basic science and promoting doubt where there is none.

The truth is, your objections have nothing to do with climate research. You are simply worried what an inquiry might find out, otherwise the idea of an investigation wouldn’t bother you a bit. But since all the indications are that you and others conspired to subvert the IPCC process , and then conspired (as shown in the Climategate emails) to cover it up, I can understand your all-pervading unease …

Cuccinelli, in fact, rests his case largely on discredited claims that Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) made during hearings in 2005 at which he attacked me and my fellow researchers. Then-Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) had the courage and character to challenge Barton’s attacks. We need more political leaders like him today.

Discredited claims? A bit more specificity would go a long way here, although I don’t expect it of you. What claims were “discredited”? As a close observer at the time, I did not see that a single claim against you was “discredited”. Quite the opposite, several of your claims were discredited, and McIntyre’s claims were totally upheld.

We have lived through the pseudo-science that questioned the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, and the false claims questioning the science of acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer. The same dynamics and many of the same players are still hard at work, questioning the reality of climate change.

I’m not sure what your point is here. You seem to be saying that there have been false claims made by shady scientists in the past, and so that makes you right. How does that work again?

The basic physics and chemistry of how carbon dioxide and other human-produced greenhouse gases trap heat in the lower atmosphere have been understood for nearly two centuries. Overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is heating the planet, shrinking the Arctic ice cap, melting glaciers and raising sea levels. It is leading to more widespread drought, more frequent heat waves and more powerful hurricanes. Even without my work, or that of the entire sub-field of studying past climates, scientists are in broad agreement on the reality of these changes and their near-certain link to human activity.

Scientists are in broad agreement that the earth has been slowly warming for about three centuries. We don’t know why, which should give us a clue about the depth of our understanding of the climate.

More to the point, there is no agreement about such basic, rudimentary, fundamental, all-important questions as the sign and size of the cloud feedbacks. A change of 2% in cloud cover would wipe out any CO2 effect. Since we don’t understand the clouds, that most basic and critically important part of climate science, the idea that we understand why the earth is currently warming, or the idea that we can forecast climate a hundred years in advance, is hubris of the first order. We don’t know why it warmed in Medieval times. We don’t know why it warmed in Roman times. We don’t know why it has warmed since the “Little Ice Age”. We don’t understand the climate, and you folks’ claims that you do understand it well enough to make century-long forecasts just makes rational, reasonable people point and laugh.

Burying our heads in the sand would leave future generations at the mercy of potentially dangerous changes in our climate. The only sure way to mitigate these threats is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions dramatically over the next few decades. But even if we don’t reduce emissions, the reality of adapting to climate change will require responses from government at all levels.

And you know this how? You guys have got some serious coconuts, to think that you can predict what kind of “potentially dangerous changes in our climate” will be the lot of people living a hundred years from now. Let me say it again. There is no agreement on the SIGN, much less the size, of cloud feedback. And if you don’t understand cloud feedback, you don’t understand the climate well enough to forecast it for a decade, much less for a century.

Next, you say “even if we don’t reduce emissions” as though there is a cost-effective way to reduce temperature through emission cuts. The Kyoto Protocol (if its adherents had been able to fulfill their targets, which they didn’t) was estimated by its proponents to have the potential to cool the earth by six hundredths of a degree by 2050. The EPA just estimated that their current plan of regulating CO2 as a “dangerous pollutant” will cool the earth by somewhere around three hundredths of a degree by 2030. Those are the estimates of the proponents of the plans, opponents say less.

So you are pushing us to spend billions and billions of dollars and radically reshaping the global economy, and all for a trivial, unmeasurably small reward of a few hundredths of a degree … and then you think people who are against your cockamamie ideas are “anti-science”??? Where is the science in spending billions and billions of dollars for a possible, not guaranteed but only possible, temperature reduction so small we can’t even detect it? That’s so dumb and so far from science that I can’t begin to characterize it.

Challenges to policy proposals for how to deal with this problem should be welcome — indeed, a good-faith debate is essential for wise public policymaking.

 

But the attacks against the science must stop. They are not good-faith questioning of scientific research. They are anti-science.

The questions that you have been asked from the beginning have been the most fundamental of good-faith questions. We simply asked you to show us your data and your work. We requested you to abide by the most bozo requirements of the scientific method. Show us your data, show us your work, the same thing my high school science teacher taught me.

But no, in February of ’05 you went to the Wall Street Journal to make the extraordinary claim:

Giving them [McIntyre and McKitrick] the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in

For you to claim that such basic scientific questions were not in good faith, for you to say that merely (and politely) asking you to show your work is “intimidation”, is the opposite of science. For you to refuse to respond to those requests stops science in its tracks. We just wanted to see how you had come up with such an unusual and unexpected result as your total eradication of the Medieval Warm Period from the landscape. (It turned out that when you were finally forced to reveal your methods, your novel result could be seen to came from a stupid mathematical error combined with using bristlecone pines, known to be an invalid temperature proxy. That made your work meaningless and misleading … but I digress.)

How can I assure young researchers in climate science that if they make a breakthrough in our understanding about how human activity is altering our climate that they, too, will not be dragged through a show trial at a congressional hearing?

How can you assure them? It’s very simple. Dr. Mann, do you think you were picked at random to testify at a Congressional hearing? If you want to assure young researchers that they will not be dragged in front of Congress, tell them not to do the things you have done.

Tell them not to hide adverse results in a folder marked “BACKTO_1400-CENSORED“. Tell them not to make stupid mathematical mistakes and then refuse to show their work. Tell them not to hang around with people who delete emails that are the subject of a Freedom of Information act. Tell them not to subvert the IPCC process to advance their point of view.

And above all, tell them to be open about their data and their work. Why is it so hard for you to understand and practice this most basic of scientific tenets, total transparency and openness? You got hauled before Congress, not because of your scientific views, but because you tried to con people with your bogus math and bad proxies. And when we didn’t buy it, when we asked how you got your results, you refused to explain your methods, claiming it was “intimidation” to even ask, so we should just take it on faith that you were right …

Tell your students that scientists who do those things may have to face either the consequences, or Congress, or both …

America has led the world in science for decades. It has benefited our culture, our economy and our understanding of the world.

 

My fellow scientists and I must be ready to stand up to blatant abuse from politicians who seek to mislead and distract the public. They are hurting American science. And their failure to accept the reality of climate change will hurt our children and grandchildren, too.

My friend, the problem is not blatant abuse from politicians. The problem is your blatant abuse of the scientific method. If you and other climate scientists stopped trying to scare us with your doomsday fantasies, if you and other climate scientists were honest and open and forthright about what we do understand and what we don’t understand, if you and other climate scientists fully disclosed your data and your methods, if you and other climate scientists stopped trying to subvert the IPCC into serving as your propaganda mouthpiece, we could have a rational discussion.

But you are like a junkie who jumps up and down and screams “Police abuse” every time the cops question him. Asking you scientific questions is not abuse, Dr. Mann, no matter how many times you try to claim it is. And your investigations are the just rewards of your own anti-scientific and unethical actions. As my momma used to say, “Scorch around, and you’ll get burnt.”

Now, if you’d care to disagree with any of the things that I have said above, I am certain that Anthony Watts would be more than happy to publish your reply. So the opportunity is yours to make your case about the math, and the bristlecones, and the IPCC AR4 review comments, and all the rest. Heck, publish your emails that show that you didn’t conspire with Wahl and Amman and Jones to delete emails regarding what you had done to subvert AR4 … I offer you the chance to set the record straight.

My conclusions? I strongly support the fullest further investigation of the Climategate scandals, and your own role in them. Not via the legal system like Cuccinelli, however. I want an independent, outside scientific/academic investigation that talks to both your friends and those who disagree with your actions and claims. I want to bring in full sunlight, and put this matter to rest. I would like to know if you did delete the emails, and if you asked your pal Gene to do the same … you know, the stuff your precious “thorough investigations” never investigated in the slightest.

And as a result, it is perfectly clear to me why you have gone to the Washington Post to complain about the possibility that people might find out exactly what you did and didn’t do. And I have to say, I sympathize with you in that regard.

Because from the looks of things, if I were you … I wouldn’t want someone bringing in the sunlight so folks could find out what went on, either.

Sincerely,

Willis Eschenbach

Independent Climate Researcher

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