Mann Handled: A Decade Ago, Conservatives Attacked a Scientist—And Created a Leader

Mon, 2012-06-11 07:52Chris Mooney
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Mann Handled: A Decade Ago, Conservatives Attacked a Scientist—And Created a Leader

This is a review of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From the Front Lines, by Michael Mann.

I first became familiar with the name Michael Mann in the year 2003. I was working on what would become my book The Republican War on Science, and had learned of two related events: The controversy over the Soon and Baliunas paper in Climate Research, purporting to refute Mann and his colleagues’ famous 1998 “hockey stick” study; and a congressional hearing convened by Senator James Inhofe, at which Mann testified. Inhofe tried to wheel out the Soon and Baliunas work as if they’d dealt some sort of killer blow against climate science. In fact, just before the hearing, several editors of Climate Research had resigned over the paper.

I went on to stand up for Mann, and his work, in Republican War. Little did I know, at the time, that he himself would become the leading defender of his scientific field against political attacks.

Recently, Mann came out with a new book about his travails entitled The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From the Front Lines, detailing his decade long battle against political attacks and misrepresentations. The response has been all too predictable. For months, conservatives have been giving it one star reviews on Amazon.com, some of which suggest that they probably haven’t read it.

What is most fascinating to me is that the science the right is attacking Mann over—principally, the 1998 hockey stick study and its 1999 extension, as prominently exhibited in 2001 by the IPCC—is relatively old news. Indeed, and as Mann himself explains in the book, “attacks against the hockey stick…were not really about the work itself.” That work has been supported by other researchers—there is now a veritable “hockey team,” Mann notes—and anyways, the case for human caused global warming never depended on the validity of the hockey stick alone. It was always just one part of a far broader body of evidence.

Thus, conservatives who fixated on Mann, and continue to do so, tell us through their own actions that this is not really about scientific inquiry at all. If it was, then they’d be doing something quite different from giving Mann one star Amazon reviews.

But of course, climate researchers have been making observations like these for years. It hasn’t mattered nearly as much as it should, though, because they’ve often lacked the communication skills to get their point across. If anything, their scientific training has tended to hobble them in a brass knuckles fight such as this one. And that, to me, is where Mann’s new book matters the most: It shows that he has developed the communication skills to match his unquestionable scientific talent–and moreover, that he has done so because the right forced him to.

That’s why Mann is such an inspiring example for all who care about the climate issue—and why his book is required reading. From the early “hockey stick” battles all the way up through “ClimateGate” and the Ken Cuccinelli inquiry, Mann didn’t give an inch. He didn’t back down; to the contrary, he showed what toughness actually means. And in the process, from the founding of RealClimate.org in 2004 up through the publication of this book, he evolved into a passionate communicator and advocate. Having had him on my podcast Point of Inquiry and heard him lecture, I can assure you that many scientists should take a lesson from him.

Through all this, Mann emerged as a charismatic example of what we should all strive for in the face of ideological adversity and unfair attacks. Mann himself has a powerful analogy for all of this in the book, one that shows just how much he has developed as a communicator and an advocate. He calls it the “Serengeti Strategy,” based on what he saw on a vacation in Africa:

Among the most striking and curious scenes I saw that day were groups of zebras standing back to back, forming a continuous wall of vertical stripes. “Why do they do this?” an IPCC colleague asked the tour guide. “To confuse the lions,” he explained. Predators, in what I call the “Serengeti strategy,” look for the most vulnerable animals at the edge of a herd. But they have difficulty picking out an individual zebra to attack when it is seamlessly incorporated into the larger group, lost in this case in a continuous wall of stripes. Only later would I understand the profound lesson this scene from nature had to offer me and my fellow climate scientists in the years to come.          

To be sure, the book is not simply about how Mann was forced to fight back against misrepresentations, and even congressional and legal inquiries. It’s also his personal story. He started out as a math geek trying to program a computer to play tic-tac-toe, like in the movie War Games (ah, the Eighties!). He ended up pursuing paleoclimatology out of intellectual interest and fascination; he never imagined he would end up as much a political combatant as a researcher.

Despite my praise for Mann and his book—and I even gave it a cover blurb—I do have some differences with him. For instance, I think that here and in his public comments, Mann tends to focus too heavily on the idea that resistance to climate science, and his research, is corporate driven. Or as he puts it in the book: “well organized, well-funded, and orchestrated.” In contrast, I have increasingly come to think it is primarily ideological—driven by libertarian individualism, and those who embrace this view and its associated emotions—and the corporate connection is secondary (though often real). I thus think that focusing on it too much misleads us as to the nature of the opposition, which has grown so ideological at this point–and so driven by gut emotion–that it does the traditionally pragmatic business community no favors. If anything, it is out of synch with its own presumptive allies.

But this difference doesn’t matter when it comes to defending scientific reality. There, I stand with Mann, because he taught me through his own example how to do so. And you should as well.

How? Start by buying his book; and after you’ve read it, go refute the one-star Amazon commenters and add your own informed take. And throughout it all, remember the Serengeti analogy—although really, I must say that I think it doesn’t do Mann justice. This guy is no zebra. For climate researchers, and researchers anywhere who fall under political attack, he's something much more important: A leader.

Previous Comments

Likely its some sort of word jargon generator.

(You can tell because he’s not talking science. just random technical words.)

Let E be the energy flux per unit area coming fom space.

Since in equilibrium the amount of energy equals the amount leavin, for a body with no greenhouse effect

D = 0.7 σT4

The factor of 0.7 is 1 – the albedo of Earth.

Thus T = (E / (0.7σ))0.25

where T is the equilibrium temperature in the absence of a greenhouse effect.

Now if there is a greenhouse effect the a proportion p of the radiation emitted from the surface is a absorbed by the atmosphere and re-radiated half into space and half back to the surface.

Let EG be the radiation flux from a surface under an atmosphere that contains greenhouse gases.

Then E = EG – p/2 EG

= (1 – p/2) EG

Thus EG = (2 / (2 – p)) E

Let TG be the surface temperature unfer a greenhouse effect.

TG = (EG / 0.7σ)

= T (2 / (2-p))0.25

Since p is between 0 and 1 TG is greater than T.

So under an insulating blanket temperatures will be greater than without one. This is common experience and simple logic.

He’s Just just blabbing… throwing technical words around like confetti.

I’m indulging in an experiment. He asked for the maths. He gets the maths. Now does he shut up, admit he was mistaken or come up with some contrived way to torture the physics into supporting his desired conclusion?

Oh, and I had a little trouble with the editor when I pasted the document from Open Office  into my post. Still people should be able to see where the superscripts and subscripts were meant to go. I’ll do better next time.

Lloyd ,

At least you are repeating the ubiquitous computation based on the notion that the earth has a spectrum such that it has an albedo with respect to the sun of 0.3 while radiating as a black body producing a temperature of about 255k .

That computation is an asserted gross approximation to the lumped spectrum of the earth and atmosphere . My computations , as I’ve stated several times , simply calculate the energy density of a point in our orbit and the corresponding temperature , 279k which applies to any flat spectrum , ie , gray , object in our orbit . Since , now , spectral maps of both the earth’s surface , and the lumped earth and atmosphere as seen from outside are available , an equilibrium temperature temperature can be calculated directly from those . The extreme 255k calculation is irrelevant .

These other posters simply demonstrate their utter ignorance of any quantitative science . I will let my website http://CoSy.com speak for itself as to my competence .  I have spent my adult life working in the most mathematical of computer languages , and with computers , something is either correct , or doesn’t work . BS crashes .

The inability of posters here to even understand , and in deed rail against , what should be high school math and science is why this movement has been so destructive of the welfare of both humans and the CO2 based biosphere , but also why it is a dead end .

I do appreciate that Chris Mooney has not censored this discussion .

 

is an asserted gross approximation

Hey Bob.. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot… is that?

You’ve never read a journal paper have you?  Or a text book, have you?



(Oh and they don’t censor here.  You really have to be beligerant to get censored.  Your brand of Heartland ineptitute and stupidity is pretty common.)

The transparency of the atmosphere varies with the wavelength of the radiation passing through it. It is more transparent to the spectrum of the incoming radiation from the Sun than it is to the outgoing radiation from Earth. But in the equilibrium condition these fluxes have to balance. To get an outgoing flux equal to the incoming one You need a higher surface temperature with an atmosphere that includes greenhouse gases than with one which does not include them. That is because while both are equally transparent to incoming Solar radiation they are not equally transparent to the outgoing radiation from Earth. This is all basic radiative physics and spectral chemistry.

Yes, what I did was a gross simplification of the real situation but it illustrates the basic principle that greenhouse gases will warm the planet. If you disagree point to where I am in error. Exactly where and why.

I’m saying , we have the actual spectral maps .  I can write the algorithms to calculate equilibrium temperatures from them in a few lines of code .  There’s about 10 degrees to be explained by spectrum . Let’s do the computation with real data . My bet is we can quickly get the unexplained variance down to less than a degree .

It’s great to hear a competent voice here . The science trumps any political or religious biases .  I would be most interested in your review of my initial work on http://ClimateWiki.org and http://cosy.com/views/warm.htm .

 

Bob, where  is there an error in what I calculated? It simply depends on the atmosphere having a different transparency to the radiation emitted by Earth to that which it has to that emitted by the Sun. It all follows from that. And the physics and chemistry is well known.

Are you denying that Earth has an average albedo with respect to Solar radiation of about 0.3? Are You denying that it radiates approximately as a black body?

And look up the textbook that was recommened and read through the more detailed equations there.

In fact , that’s not possible if it has an absorptivity = emissivity of 0.7 over the whole solar spectrum .

Again , actual measurements exist . Let’s use those . Then calculate the delta that changes in the opacity of the CO2 lines produce .

But , I think much greater variations are due to latitudinal differences in spectra , eg , the ice caps .

An aspect of array programming language is that operating on entire tables of data , eg , spectral maps for the whole earth , takes little more , if any , code than computations for a single number .

 

Its like the X-Files…  Stay tuned next week and we’ll present the real answer to this consipracy!  Typical…

I think the point is to drag it out as long as possible so that if Joe Public came across this stuff, it would appear as though someone was really arguing something factual.  Then Joe Public would get tired of reading through the thread and assume that somehow there was a real discussion taking place.

I’ve noticed a distinctly concerted effort to drag out arguements as long as possible while never providing evidence.  Moving targets and vague assertions are the staple of this technique.

Bob, your assumption of a constant emissivity over the whole spectrum is false. What I was able to quickly get about how the albedo varies with wavelength  is in this NASA pdf.

http://www.ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19710023628_1971023628.pdf

Albedo in the part of the infra-red where Earth is doing most radiation is lower than it is in the part of the spectrum that we are recieving most energy from. I see no reason to doubt the usual calculations.

Absorptivity/emissivity of 2 spectra with respect to each other is given by their correlation .

Thanks for the link to the http://www.ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19710023628_1971023628.pdf paper . I will study it . I have wondered where the expertise on calculating heat budgets of space craft has been in this whole controversy . It is notable in Apollo 13 when they lost power , they didn’t plunge to near 0 , or even 255 . They plunged down to the 4 or 5 Celsius of a gray body in our orbit . I was quite surprised that Walt Cunningham , one of the number of astronauts youall call deniers , actually doesn’t understand this very well

The major flaw with the emissivity = 1.0 assumption I have seen is that the surface of the earth is obviously very far from a black body . It is blue and brown and green and white . ( Actually , this makes me think that the first full spectrum worth chasing down and calculating a temperature for is liquid water since that’s the dominant color of the earth’s surface . )

Again , the issue is to move forward to continually reduce the unexplained variance as statisticians would put it in our understanding of global temperature . The 255k calculation is simply irrelevant to that and in fact is 3 times as far from our measured temperature as simply the gray body calculation . If it ever had a use , with modern spectral maps available , it is long past .

Absorptivity/emissivity of 2 spectra with respect to each other is given by their correlation .

Thanks for the link to the http://www.ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19710023628_1971023628.pdf paper . I will study it . I have wondered where the expertise on calculating heat budgets of space craft has been in this whole controversy . It is notable in Apollo 13 when they lost power , they didn’t plunge to near 0 , or even 255 . They plunged down to the 4 or 5 Celsius of a gray body in our orbit . I was quite surprised that Walt Cunningham , one of the number of astronauts youall call deniers , actually doesn’t understand this very well

The major flaw with the emissivity = 1.0 assumption I have seen is that the surface of the earth is obviously very far from a black body . It is blue and brown and green and white . ( Actually , this makes me think that the first full spectrum worth chasing down and calculating a temperature for is liquid water since that’s the dominant color of the earth’s surface . )

Again , the issue is to move forward to continually reduce the unexplained variance as statisticians would put it in our understanding of global temperature . The 255k calculation is simply irrelevant to that and in fact is 3 times as far from our measured temperature as simply the gray body calculation . If it ever had a use , with modern spectral maps available , it is long past .

“These other posters simply demonstrate their utter ignorance of any quantitative science .”

Well, for a bright bloke Bob, you somehow missed that this is not a science site. Scroll to the top, you might see this:

“Clearing the PR Pollution that Clouds Climate Science”

Can’t say that I have seen you attempting to peddle your wares over at sites where the majority are actual scientists, like Skeptical Science, Tamino or Real Climate? Gee, now why would that be?

“I do appreciate that Chris Mooney has not censored this discussion .”

This isn’t WUWT or Depot. Some people find the lack of censorship like on those sites a little hard to get used to.

 

I tried to look at Bob Armstrong’s latest comments. When I clicked on them they appeared for a few secconds then the screen went back to the original post. I have noticed this happen on voted down comments before. What is happening?

I don’t think you’re missing much.

email Brendan.

Still annoying.

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