No, Really?

I've lost a lot of motivation for writing posts on this site as the climate blogosphere is basically a dead end of echo chambers and inactivity (and I've been spending much more time on game development projects), but today I heard Michael Mann released e-mails people have spent years trying to obtain via legal means. You can see his statement here as well as find instructions on how to access those e-mails. I wish they were bundled in a zip file so they could be easily downloaded and examined via a more normal method, but it's still good to have access to the information. Especially since it shows Michael Mann and the people he talked to were fully aware of many of the issues his critics would eventually raise.

For instance, a key issue raised by his critics is Mann's results were entirely dependent upon a small amount of tree ring data from one part of North America. Here is an e-mail from Mann in 2000 showing he knew that to be true for his results prior to 1400 AD:

A great deal of time was spent discussing this heavy dependence upon tree ring data from one region. Imagine how things would have played out if Mann had just been up front about this point, which he clearly knew to be true?

For the record, the same thing is also true for his results up to 1450 AD, save that Mann arbitrarily duplicated a series to use a second time and let himself claim he had two proxies that supported his results back to 1450 AD. And even then, he had to secretly extrapolate values for the duplicate series to do so.

5 comments

  1. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail sent by Malcolm Hughes, a co-author of the (in)famous hockey stick papers:

    Dear Ed and Mike and others,
    All of our attempts, so far, to estimate hemisphere-scale
    temperatures for the period around 1000 years ago are
    based on far fewer data than any of us would like. None
    of the datasets used so far has anything like the
    geographical distribution that experience with recent
    centuries indicates we need, and no-one has yet found a
    convincing way of validating the lower-frequency
    components of them against independent data. As Ed
    wrote, in the tree-ring records that form the backbone of
    most of the published estimates, the problem of poor
    replication near the beginnings of records is particularly
    acute, and ubiquitous. I would suggest that this problem
    probably cuts in closer to 1600 than 1400 in the several
    published series. Therefore, I accept that everything we
    are doing is preliminary, and should be treated with
    considerable caution.

    One can only wonder how things would have played out if Hughes had said things like that publicly. Instead, he said them in private and let the public think their results were far stronger than he believed them to be.

  2. So in reality he has 'released' a select subset of his heavily edited inbox with explanatory notations attached? Where are the sent emails? And since the emails in this 'release' have all been edited by the addition of an 'explanatory note' how can anyone be sure the content of the emails is unchanged?

    Certainly no forensic investigator would accept this.

  3. Peter, when documents are released because of legal processes, it is common for parts of documents or even entire documents to be redacted. There are a variety of legal exemptions which justify it. That said, a public posting like this would never qualify for *legal* purposes.

    But that's not the purpose of this. These e-mails were released in this fashion preemptively to influence the public. The lawyers will receive a different copy, one which will be sent to them directly (either in physical or digital form). That copy will not have the "added context" this release has for some e-mails.

  4. Oh, I agree. it certainly doesn't qualify for *legal* purposes, but I doubt it actually qualifies for anything other than publicity purposes.

    Maybe it's just semantics, but I don't accept that 'publishing a selected set of editorialised content' in any context equates to 'released'.

  5. I've lost a lot of motivation for writing posts on this site...

    It seems to be a trend.
    Just recently, I did a bit of a search on some of the old climate denial blogs I used to frequent, only to find that they've been defunct or have moved on to other topics.
    There's not exactly a brave, new movement of fresh bloggers setting up shop in their stead.
    But that's just me. Maybe you've seen something totally different.

    Trump seems to have been mentioned more than once in a couple of the defunct blogs.
    It's not something that makes for a good narrative. Much easier to play the role of the underdog when there's not a climate denier in power.

    ...s basically a dead end of echo chambers and inactivity...

    NASA is still very active. Of course, it's a bit more than just a blog.
    NASA and every single scientific community on the planet.

    ... Michael Mann released e-mails...

    Emails, eh? Again?
    If it didn't do much last time and the time before that then...why bother?
    Maybe focusing on the vast body of peer-reviewed research would be more productive?
    Just a bit?

    ...a key issue raised by his critics is Mann's results...

    Put forward all the key issues you like. Let's pretend that Mann's just terrible, terrible, terrible.
    So what?
    Flush everything he ever did down the toilet if you like.
    (shrug)
    Doesn't make a difference.
    It's not how science works. Mann is not the kingpin. He's not "the guy". The scientific consensus on climate change is not founded on any one person or one paper or one organization.
    Creationists obsess over Darwin too. It doesn't help them. The Theory of Evolution doesn't rest on his reputation or whatever work he did or did not do in the 19th Century.
    You could magically burn all the copies of "On the Origin of Species" tomorrow and it wouldn't matter at all.

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