This post was published while I am on an airplane headed back to California (isn’t technology wonderful?). I am very indebted to all of my good friends in the UK, and especially Nic Lewis, who arranged an extraordinary meeting while I was there. That one event will bear more fruit than any other part of the trip. The other meetings, such as the Mann and Cook meetings, were far less extraordinary, and mostly “heard it all before”. The Mann meeting was little more than an hour long dissertation on some out of date science plus a LOT of politics, complete with an “enemies list” of head-shot visuals, followed by what looked to be a prearranged Q&A sequence of 5 questions from the audience (with audience microphone privileges orchestrated from the stage by Stephan Lewandowsky who looked like a traffic cop pointing out who got to ask questions), followed by a book signing with a University police guard (I kid you not).
Readers in attendance are welcome to post their recollection and experiences here.
I’ve somehow lost my USB data cable for my phone, so I can’t get the photos off until I return home. It appears the Cabot Institute filmed the entire event, and when/if that video is available, I will advise. Again, my sincere thanks to the Cabot Institute for their assistance with my hearing impairment.
One thing that really stuck in my craw was that at the end of his lecture, Dr. Mann put up a photo of his daughter with a polar bear behind glass at a zoo, citing the usual “we must do this for the future and our children” meme and then commented that “this [photo] will probably be up on blogs within hours”.
No, Dr. Mann it won’t, at least not here, nor would it ever have been. While you may not have scruples about using that photo as a prop for public discourse in the first place, I most certainly do.
Josh was there and did a live-tooning of the event, and I expect he’ll have his new cartoon ready after colorization on Thursday. And, my sincere thanks to him for the lift from Bristol to Heathrow as well as for the “bangers and mash”, which was splendid. Richard Drake deserves my thanks for his tour assistance on my one day off, Monday, where I was able to stand on the prime meridian at Greenwich, something I wanted to do since primary school. Also thanks to Caroline K, for opening her home to a small horde of skeptics for a pre-Mann event meeting.
And last but not least, I thank the readers of WUWT, for enabling me to get there in the first place.
WUWT reader *Loudzoo* wrote in with these impressions, which I concur with.
Initial impressions of Mann’s lecture in Bristol on Tuesday 23rd September 2014
Having attended Professor Michael Mann’s lecture at Bristol University on Tuesday I thought I’d summarize some immediate views on the event.
On the slides presented:
I was astonished that Mann continues to use such old, inappropriate data. On his chart of climate model performance vs recorded temperature his data only went up to 2005 and he used land based thermometer readings – not the satellite record. Very weak given how widely available up-to-date data are. I suspect he did not want to highlight the current hiatus in positive annual mean temperature anomalies and divergence from climate models
He glossed merrily over the “established science” of the greenhouse effect. No comment on positive and negative feedbacks, transitory sensitivity, the role of evapotranspiration, water vapour, clouds, ozone etc. I guess that’s because nobody has good parameters for these variables . . . and they fatally undermine the paradigm of the “established science” being simple and uncontroversial.
He presented no proxy data before 1000 CE. Presumably the Roman Warm Period, let alone the Holocene Climatic Optimum would have undermined his argument.
He referenced all the normal claptrap on extreme weather, drought, heatwaves, flooding unprecedented sea level rise, arctic ice melt (no mention of the Antarctic – other than the west Antarctic ice shelf) but presented no data on this. He also inferred that climate change is loading the dice in favour of extreme weather but made no mention of land use, water management, agriculture etc. As a Geography graduate of Oxford University where I specialised in Climatology and Quaternary Environments I find this bizarre. On the basis of this presentation Prof Mann would not pass Geography degree finals examinations!
There was very little discussion on the hockey stick graph itself (what the proxies were, how there were selected, what statistical methods were used, how the proxies were calibrated etc.) The divergence problem in tree ring analysis was mentioned but was glossed over and used as an excuse for the “hide the decline” comment in the Climategate emails.
There was a huge emphasis on his battles with Republican politicians. This is all very well but not a contribution to the science of climate change. Quite frankly, as a Brit I didn’t pay much attention to this part of his presentation.
Where I did wake-up again was where he revealed his victim-complex when numerously subpoenaed for his email, and research notes. Having had a career in finance for the last 17 years I find it very strange that he thought this was unfair. The organisations (mostly governmental) funding research with huge socio-political implications should have access to emails and research notes. The regulators of the finance industry have access to the equivalent in the banking industry by law!
There were at least two slides involving pictures of polar bears floating on small icebergs. Whilst he did say that such appeals hadn’t helped the public realise how close to home the impacts of climate change might be – he still used them!
The Q&A session:
This was a joke! Unless I got confused Prof Stephan Lewandowsky was in charge of selecting which people could ask questions!! Surprisingly enough he managed to pick people who were entirely sympathetic: One regarding the inconsistency of the actions of Republican Christian Right vs their religious views as caretakers of God’s creation; one on how to deal with / debate climate sceptics and the final one was from a chap who works for Avaaz (who organised the ”peoples’” climate marches last weekend). As someone who has had to plant and harvest questions at presentations throughout my career – I can fairly say this was an amateur job. It was so obvious!
All of this was a shame if for no other reason that Rich Pancost (the Director of the Cabot Institute) who’d enthusiastically made the presentation introduction did seem genuinely keen for a discussion. Sadly that was never really on the agenda.
Some Concluding thoughts:
There was nothing new or controversial here – but alluding to Anthony’s report on the Cook Lecture it was very interesting to be in the room and see the Mann in the flesh. It has reinforced something I’ve had an emerging view on for some time. Whilst there may well be small pockets of collusion and conspiracy in the field of climatology this is not the reason why the “science” has been so abused. Furthermore, I’m sure the competition for research grants is fierce and that can play into the reinforcement of an incorrect scientific paradigm. But what I took away from this lecture more than anything else is that Mann genuinely believes he is right and that his work will save the world. It seems that this is far more powerful motive for him (and I suspect many of the front line academics, politicians and activists) to ignore the evidence against, the problems and the holes in his hypothesis / theory.
They genuinely believe the Earth needs saving and that they are the ones to do it irrespective of the cost. In human history this combination of beliefs has often been exceptionally dangerous to the public in general but in particular to the poorest and neediest.
As others may have said before the story of CAGW will one day be told in the same breath as the fables of The Emperor’s New Clothes, and of King Canute (even if the latter is commonly completely misrepresented!)
UPDATE: Bishop Hill has some thoughts http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/9/24/mann-at-the-cabot.html