Climate Scientists Pursued By Sceptics Through Courts Of Law And Public Opinion

THE climate science denial industry doesn’t like Penn State University’s Professor Michael Mann very much.

Mann is the scientist behind the famous “hockey stick” graph that first appeared in the journal Nature in 1998.

Mann and two other scientists Professor Raymond Bradley and Professor Malcolm Hughes had reconstructed temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere from the year 1400 to present day using data mainly from tree rings, ice cores and modern temperature readings.

The following year, the same three scientists extended their study to reconstruct 1000 years of temperatures and published this in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Each time the team plotted their data on graphs and each time the plots showed what is the now famous “hockey stick” shape with a sharp uptick in temperatures towards the end of the century.

What really got the ire of the climate science denial industry and its cheerleaders was that this second study showed that modern day temperatures were likely hotter than they had been in the so-called Mediaeval Warm Period.

This negated a key argument from sceptics – which they continue with today – that it’s been warmer in the recent past before the industrial revolution caused the westernised world to fall in love with fossil fuels.

Incidentally, it was never a very convincing argument anyway. Even if it was warmer in the past, it doesn’t challenge the multiple lines of evidence which point to burning fossil fuels and deforestation as the main cause of the rapid warming, ocean acidification and sea level rises we see now.

But anyway, enough of the climate science history lesson. Back to Michael Mann.

Soon after his work was published (it also appeared as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report) he started to come under attack. He was accused of being fraudulent and of carrying out dodgy science.

When a bunch of his emails were found among files hacked from the UK’s Climate Research Research Unit, his words like those of other scientists were cherry-picked and taken out of context in a further attempt to discredit.

In 2011, the US National Science Foundation conducted an inquiry into the many allegations against Mann and found no wrongdoing and praised him as one of the most respected scientists in his field. Several inquiries into the leaked “climategate” emails also cleared the scientists, including Mann, of wrongdoing.

Despite the exonerations, the attacks continued. For  many years, Mann – who recounts his experiences in a book “Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” – chose to defend himself in the court of public opinion but has now started to fight in the courts of law too.

In March 2011, Mann launched a defamation action against climate sceptic Dr Tim Ball, who had answered a question about whether  scientists had committed “fraud” by saying that Mann should be in a jail. The writ includes the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, which published the comments on its website.

Mann is also suing over a separate story which claimed he had committed scientific fraud and compared him to a child molester (read the full complaint here).

Mann has also been pursued himself through the courts.  In a case dragged out over two years, Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccineli tried to force the release of Mann’s emails from his time at the University of Virginia. Cuccineli is regarded by some as one of the United State’s highest profile climate science deniers. The case was thrown out.

The American Tradition Institute has also pursued Mann’s University of Virginia inbox and files through court action. An investigation into the roots of the ATI found it was “largely bankrolled” by individuals or businesses with an interest in fossil fuels.

This whole affair brings us to Australia and Lord Christopher Monckton, the British hereditary peer and climate science denier currently on a country-wide tour. Lord Monckton claimed on March 1 that Mann “gave up the case” against Ball, neglecting to check with Mann or his lawyer first.

Mann’s lawyer in the case is Roger McConchie, who it turns out was busy on March 1. Doing what, I wonder? He told me via email

I conducted an examination for discovery (deposition) of Tim Ball under oath before a Court Reporter in Victoria on Friday, March 1, 2013.  I will continue that deposition of Ball in late May, 2013. Michael Mann is scheduled to be examined for discovery in Vancouver by Ball’s lawyer on May 22, 2013. I anticipate conducting discoveries of Ball’s co-defendant Frontier Centre for Public Policy in the near future.

Christopher Monckton’s statement about the litigation has no basis in reality.

Joanne Codling (JoNova) has since corrected her story.

Lord Monckton has also been making threats of his own. He has written to the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and accused scientist Dr Tony Press of “serious professional and academic misconduct and scientific fraud”. Monckton claims there is now a “rigorous” investigation taking place.

What is in fact happening, is that UTAS has received a complaint and is obliged to consider it, no matter how ungrounded it might be. A UTAS spokesperson (possibly carrying the straightest cricket bat you’ll ever see) told me: “The University is assessing the matters under Part B of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.”

You would have to be concerned if UTAS was taking seriously threats made by a man who calls for climate scientists to be “locked up”, claims President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was most likely forged and launches an extremist political party fronted by an anti-Islamist creationist pastor. Not to mention his many misrepresentations of climate science.

And it’s worth reminding ourselves just what it is that UTAS is apparently “assessing” – namely, comments Dr Tony Press made to a newspaper reporter which outlined why Monckton’s argument that global warming has stopped was misleading.

If Lord Monckton really has taken umbrage with Dr Press, why not publish his concerns in a scientific journal and subject his ideas to established peer review – something which he has never been able to do?

Instead, Lord Monckton abuses scientists and calls for them to be sacked with the potential to intimidate academics, intimidate a Vice Chancellor and tie up university resources with an unfounded complaint.

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Author: Graham

Graham Readfearn is a Brisbane-based journalist. Go to the About page in the top navigation for more information.

19 thoughts on “Climate Scientists Pursued By Sceptics Through Courts Of Law And Public Opinion”

  1. It gets funnier. The good “Lord” has thrown down the challenge to our Green senators “to elect one of them defend the New Religion against my contention that it is pietistic, illogical and exaggerated;” at a school in Wagga Wagga. It’s hilarious. http://uknowispeaksense.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/clown-of-the-century-monckton/

    I have to thank the silly goose for teaching me a new word though.. pietistic. It’s the adjectival form of the word pietism which is “a reform movement in the German Lutheran Church during the 17th and 18th centuries, which strove to renew the devotional ideal in the Protestant religion.” What that has to do with climate science is beyond me.

  2. Mike, I dont find it funny that resources from a university are tied up investigating this rubbish from Monckton. i also dont that some people waste their money to hear Monckton’s misleading show. But it could be funny to formulate the response to the Lord’s complaint at the pub, after about the third beer the creative juices could help weave some wonderful comments into the document. Pietistic is piss funny though

  3. The Lord Monckton should ask his future King, The Prince of Wales, what he thinks about it. I think he will find himself on his own on this one.

  4. Good post. It explodes the myth that denialists support free speech.

    One small nit: “umbridge” should be “umbrage”, or is there an “umbridge” in the spelling checker? 🙂

  5. This is an excellent article, but I object to the use of “skeptic” when referring to conspiracy-mongering True Believers. I am a skeptic: I am a founding member of The Bay Area Skeptics, and also a member of The Skeptics Society for almost 30 years. Skeptics accept evidence; we do not disavow observed reality.

  6. @ #2 Podrick. Quite right. I should probably have used the word “absurd” to differentiate the good “lord” tying up UTAS from the hilariously OTT invitation to the Greens. I’m not far from Wagga and I’m thinking seriously of taking up your idea of a few beers in the pub before going to see him speak. I could quiz him abou tht word pietistic and take a dictionary along in case he utters any other obscure words in his effort to impress. I have a trusty Latin dictionary incase he starts speaking in dead languages too.

    Just on him tying up UTAS. This comesfrom Part B of the Code for the Resposible Conduct of Research.

    ‘Institutions must have a written policy on receiving complaints or allegations related to research. Approaches may range from tentative inquiries about whether breaches have occurred, through to documented allegations of apparent research misconduct.”

    I would suspect the University may take the tentative approach.

  7. On the contrary to “no wrong doing,” independent statisticians have shown that Mann’s methods were “somewhat obscure and incomplete” and the criticisms “to be valid and compelling.”

    In 2001 the hockey stick fraud quickly became the poster image for the warmists. By drastically skewing tree ring data, the hockey stick was used to deny that previous natural warming events occurred. The well documented Medieval warming period (MWP), when temperatures were warmer than those today, was conveniently obliterated from climate history (just who are the real denialists?). It effectively flattened climate history through “flat earth” statistically trickery. Warmists were then on the back foot, and claimed the Medieval Warming was just localised to Europe, but recently Vahrenholt has confirmed from Japanese tree ring data, that the medieval warming period extended all the way to Japan, demonstrating that it was not at all localised. The hockey stick is now broken in two places. The only hockey stick we can’t deny, is this one:

    http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/hockey-stick-finally-proven/

  8. What “Mediaeval Warming Period”, Robert?
    You need to be more sceptical of what you read on crank sites.
    There is no evidence of any such thing.
    It was fraudulently invented by people trying to distract from the current steep warming.

    The “Hockey Stick”, on the other hand, has been confirmed by numerous studies, and replicated by even more numerous other studies, using proxies other than tree rings that nevertheless agree with the studies that do use tree rings.
    Again, the criticisms of the “Hockey Stick” were fraudulently invented by non-scientists and liars.
    You need to be more sceptical of what you read on crank-blogs.

  9. “Fraud”? Robert, are you accusing Michael Mann of deliberately committing scientific fraud with an aim to mislead the public and scientific community, perhaps for personal enrichment? Are you not aware that he is currently engaged in two libel court cases over know-nothings making the same claim, one of which was mentioned in this very article? Or do you just leap to right-wing memes for comfort?

    The simple fact is, the deniers’ claims against Mann have never held up scientifically and his results have been reproduced in numerous independent studies, all of which are ignored while you lot obsess over a landmark paper published over a decade ago and which nobody has been able to disprove in the scientific literature. A blog post with comments from cheering nobodies is not peer-review.

    Let it go.

    Clearly no amount of evidence can convince you, as you’ve already convinced yourself that since he’s provided compelling evidence of something your ideology doesn’t allow you to believe exists, he must be committing some kind of “fraud”. There must be a large conspiracy of like-minded scientists plotting with authorities behind the scenes to whitewash any investigation of him.

    This is insane.

    You are insane.

    Let it go, sport.

    Let it go.

  10. The “Medieval Warming Period” is NOT some denialist fantasy, it and the “Little Ice Age” that followed it, were prominently titled on the graph (Figure 22) in the 1995 IPCC report.

    http://johnosullivan.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/ipcc-mwp-from-1995-report.jpg

    In the 2001 IPCC report the “Medieval Warming Period” mysteriously and suddenly disappeared and climate history was flattened by the Mann hockey stick. Scientific procedure was thrown out the window and evidence-based policy-making was replaced with policy-based evidence-making.

    The existence of the “Medieval Warming Period” and the “Little Ice Age” are supported by a wide variety of evidence including ice cores, tree rings, borehole temperatures, glacier length records and is notably historically verified.

    [clipped – defamatory] Mann then hid for years behind FOI requests to hide the raw data and details of the statistical methodology.

    In 2003 the Hockey stick was debunked by Professor Ross McKitrick (an IPCC reviewer) and the Mathematician Stephen McIntyre in the paper “Corrections to the Mann et. al. (1998) proxy data base and Northern Hemispheric average temperature series” in Energy & Environment 14 pp 751-771. And oh, if you must… Yes, it’s peer reviewed.

    [clipped- defamatory] there is none better than Michael Mann. Amongst his many false claims is also the claim that he was individually awarded a Nobel Peace Peace. But that’s not the case either.

    http://johnosullivan.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/michael-mann-retracts-false-nobel-prize-claims-in-humiliating-climbdown/

  11. A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years has just been published.

    It confirms Mann’s work which is not a surprise as there are many other studies also confirming it.

    The article is behind a pay wall, but here is a discussion of it at :
    http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/stunner-the-hockey-stick-just-got-scarier-a-new-temp-reconstruction-of-the-last-11k-years/

    The chart reproduced at the beginning of the article really says it all.

  12. There is a tautology in your title which makes it very misleading.

    You say that “Climate Scientists Pursued by Sceptics…….”, yet the last time I looked climate scientist were sceptics. How can they pursue themselves?

    What I think you meant to say was “Climate Scientists Pursued by Deniers…..”, because the people that you mentioned as doing the pursuing are not sceptics at all. They are people who have adopted a position based on ideology which is contradicted by the evidence. That is not scepticism.

  13. You mean…Robert read something on a crank site, believed it, reproduced it here, and it turns out he is wrong?

    Who would have thought such a thing possible?

  14. Oh, and Robert – you can wave your hands as much as you like, I remain sceptical of this supposed “mediaeval warm period”.
    Your “wide variety of evidence including ice cores, tree rings, borehole temperatures, glacier length records” sounds like a bunch of cherry-picked data, probably fraudulently-adjusted to boot, by “scientists” who are all driving around in Ferraris due to the huge amount of gravy-train funding they received for inventing this mythical “mediaeval warm period”.

  15. Robert linked to a graph by John O’Sullivan, who was at best totally incompetent to use that, since::
    1) That graph definitely did not appear antywhere in IPCC(1995).

    2) That image resemblesIPCC(1990) Fig. 7.1(c), but is not the same image, and of course, the real thing was surrounded by caveats that incompetents never bothered to read.
    See Adoration of the Lamb.

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