My answer to the "why didn't Watts ask a question?" brouhaha

There’s been a fair amount of niggling in social media over my presence at the Mann talk at Bristol. I find it humorous that there seems to be almost as much interest in my presence there as the Mann talk itself. It all started with this tweet from Leo Hickman at the event:


You can see just how far separated the audience was from Dr. Mann, as I was seated in the front row in a seat reserved for me. You can also see the band of the hearing assistance headset I was wearing, graciously and at extra expense, provided by the Cabot Institute when I informed them of my disability. Kudos and my sincere thanks to them. Also, thanks to director Rich Pancost for his openness with me.

In a Tweet from Dr. Mann, taken from the balcony seating you can see just how isolated Dr. Mann was from the audience. The stage extended so far forward that you can’t even see the first row of people on the ground floor. You can also see the video production crewman and camera. Rich Pancost promises me the video of both the Cook and Mann talks will be made available.

Mann_Bristol_from_BalconyObviously from his tweet and photo of me from behind, Leo Hickman expected some “fireworks”. Perhaps though, he missed my tweet earlier on the day of the Mann talk:

The reason I sent that was that in my opinion, for climate skeptics, almost any public interaction with Dr. Mann would be a “no-win” situation. Given the track record of hostility that has been on display from Dr. Mann (and blowback from skeptics too), I felt that if tough questions were asked, we’d be vilified for “badgering” Dr. Mann or being “out of order” in a polite venue. Since Dr. Mann framed the venue as “Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” I thought that taking the advice of WOPR in the movie “War Games” was likely the only winning move:

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

One commenter, the pundit known as “Climate Nuremberg” had a response to my suggestion that would later prove to be prescient:

Indeed, and that’s what happened. Leo Hickman got a question in the thread he started from behind me from the known unknown known as “and then there’s physics”, who used to run a blog that had nothing but “Watt about…” in the titles. He changed to the new theme/name when he realized how stupid he looked.


Dr. Richard Betts (who I met for the first time at the extraordinary meeting prior to the Mann talk) also wondered why skeptics had been so quiet. I tried to locate that Tweet today, but it seems to have shuffled off the digital coil, perhaps one of the readers has saved it or can locate it. It said essentially:

Richard Betts provided it in comments, added for accuracy rather than my one from memory:

Dr. Mann himself responded to a question posed by GISS employee Chris Colose on Dr. Mann’s Facebook page, asking if there had been any “disruption” of his talk:


Note my response at the bottom, we’ll get back to that in a moment. First I want to address Dr. Mann’s “tinfoil hat” assertion.

My opinion is that the environment at the Mann talk contributed greatly to the lack of interaction from the other climate skeptics present. Though Barry Woods notes that he and “Katabasis” both had their hands up during the Q&A period. Even so, from my perspective, asking a question at the Mann talk was an exercise in futility, due to the choice of Q&A moderator, Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky. He is seen in these two photos below standing on the stage, watching for questions, and directing the microphone bearers:IMG_20140925_210744Here, Dr. Lewandowsky directs a microphone bearer to a person in the balcony:

IMG_20140925_210832Here is one of the microphone bearers from the Cabot Institute going to one of the Lewandowsky selected persons:


Note the empty seats, despite Dr. Mann’s assertion of a “full capacity crowd”, it clearly was not. There were empty seats directly behind me also. As one might expect in a packed lecture, there were no people standing along the walls or near the doors, other than the security guards.

The Q&A session was short, about 5 questions, all softballs, and much shorter than the Cook lecture, where the majority of questions were in fact from climate skeptics. After the short Q&A, Dr. Mann was immediately whisked away to his book signing table, complete with a policeman standing guard. The line was rather short as I walked by and snapped this photo:

IMG_20140925_212631The Mann talk seemed much more tense to me with the addition of police.

While I had stated clearly in a tweet earlier that I was there to “listen and observe” imagine if I had tried to ask a question.

These thoughts went through my mind.

1. Lewandowsky knows me and knows where I’m sitting, would he even call on me if I raised my hand? Doubtful. At the Cook talk, I did not see Dr. Lewandowsky directing microphone bearers, and the majority of questions were in fact from climate skeptics. The Mann talk had an entirely different vibe, and seemed much more tense than the Cook talk as I describe here. Director of the Cabot Institute, Richard Pancost said in a  tweet today that Lewandowsky was directing microphone bearers at the Cook talk too, but I sure didn’t see it.

2. If Lewandowsky did call on me, would he do so only for the purpose of spite, and do something like announce “here’s a question from Arch-denier Anthony Watts, whose ‘conspiracy ideation’ I’ve written about in my paper Recursive Fury.” I could only wonder, especially since I lodged a complaint that aided in getting that horrid, spiteful, and ethically irresponsible paper retracted.

3. Would Dr. Mann preface his response to my question with something similar, such as saying I’m funded by the ‘Koch machine’ to be there and harass him with questions, much like he did when I sent him a  free Christmas Calendar on my own dime? This sort of worry is evidenced by Dr. Mann’s response to the discussion today on Twitter:

Mann-Tweet-tinfoil4. If Dr. Mann responded to my question with a question of his own (a typical tactic when inconvenient questions are asked) would I even be able to hear him correctly and respond? If I misheard him, would I accidentally make a fool of myself due to my hearing issue? The crowd would not know of my difficulty, and I’d be laughed at. Despite the hearing assistance device being graciously provided by the Cabot Institute, it had issues and would only work correctly if held away from my body due to the loop circuit having a fairly weak signal. I had email discussions with Cabot about this after the Cook talk, but there wasn’t much they could do. They tried though, and I give them props for doing so.

So, in effect, asking a question was very likely a no-win situation for me. I knew this going in, but with a Q&A moderator documented to be hostile toward skeptics (Lewandowsky) directing the Q&A session, it was even more of a losing proposition. I don’t think the director of the Cabot Institute, Richard Pancost realized how intimidating it was to have a person who had named and shamed climate skeptics in peer reviewed paper, only to have it retracted by complaints from climate skeptics, and then to have the journal defend the rights of climate skeptics as unwilling “human test subjects”.

I can imagine the reticence of many other climate skeptics present, seeing Lewandowsky up there on stage pointing, wondering if asking a question was worth the risk. As I said, the advice from WOPR “The only winning move is not to play.” seemed best.

But, as indicated by the responses of Dr. Mann and company, they weren’t happy with that either. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

Now back to the other issue raised earlier. On Dr. Mann’s Facebook page, he lamented that I didn’t ask a question, so I asked permission to ask one of him then. However, it seems that Dr. Mann has BLOCKED my question from appearing to him and others, as I soon found out, nobody else could see it:


My Facebook question was also made known in a Twitter post, and it has been over 24 hours and no response from Dr. Mann. I know that some climate skeptics wanted to ask why Dr. Mann chose to cherry pick surface temperature data only to 2005, with the suggestion that it might be so he could “hide the pause”. It is a valid question, especially since Dr. Mann had been called out on the tactic two years ago by Steve McIntyre when he saw the same slides at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting. We also have a discussion about it at WUWT here.

Imagine if a climate skeptic did the same thing at a Cabot Institute lecture, they’d be vilified.

But clearly by his actions, Dr. Mann has shown that such questions are off the table.  Dr. Mann doesn’t want honest questions, he only wants to play at denigration, as evidenced by his use of labels like “deniers”, “tin foil hats”, and “Koch machine”.

My mind was made up going in that I wasn’t going to engage. The humorous fixation on social media over my not asking a question at the lecture seems to be little more than a brouhaha of their own making. Wikipedia says:

Typically, a brouhaha is marked by controversy and fuss that can seem, afterwards, to have been pointless or irrational.


But it seems, the tide is turning against Dr. Mann, and the support for these sorts of unprofessional actions is waning, as Andrew Montford summed up:

As we waited in our seats for Michael Mann’s lecture at the Cabot Institute to begin, I was struck by the sight of the great man alone at the side of the stage. He stood there for several minutes, ignored by everyone, as the last of the audience appeared and the Cabot Institute people, Lewandowsky among them, scurried about making final arrangements. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mark Steyn’s comments about climatologists’ stark failure to make any amici submissions to the DC court on Mann’s behalf. The other day I also heard a story about a room full of paleo people rolling their eyes and groaning at the mere mention of his name. Somehow the Cabot Institute’s abandonment of the honoured speaker at the side of the stage seemed to epitomise this growing isolation. Even the scientivists seemed to be abandoning him.

Probably the most valuable thing we can do, is simply to ignore Dr. Mann and his rants about climate skeptics being tinfoil hat wearers, Koch shills, or deniers. We are none of those.

But most important, and on full display now, is the fact that if Dr. Mann can’t even be bothered to update his slides with current global temperature data. In that failing, he has already become irrelevant to the climate debate.


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Why even attend at all? Seems like a total waste of time.


Similar to the ‘Guilty Remnant’ in the Leftovers novel and TV series, willing skeptics could bear silent witness at future alarmist events.
Perhaps that may unmann them a little.


It was important to attend and not do anything. Made more of an impression than not attending (nothing to talk about) and made more of an impression than making a scene (negative to our side). As it is, the attending and being quiet and courteous made the other side react negatively – so our side wins.

Mike Maguire

Great point. The reaction from the other side attacking Anthony, shows where their focus is.
Possibly the worst action would have been to ask a question in this environment. There are many good questions that could have been asked but if you think that any question Anthony asked would have been handled any differently than how these men have handled all the other good questions that surround their work in recent years, then what planet are you living on?
Using computer models, they have the answer to almost every question there is. They have a great theory and it works on paper and can explain everything……. answer all questions.
When the real world acts differently, new convincing sounding theories easily explain why the main theory is still correct but temporarily being suppressed by this new element.
They can never be wrong, when the evidence is based on a computer model programmed with mathematical equations to represent the theory, then, making adjustments(new damage control theories) to explain the difference between the theory and observations.
Even massive increases in plant growth and record crop yields/world food production from increasing CO2 the past few decades from the indisputable law of photosynthesis is negated……….by providing model projections that indicate our future climate will reduce crop yields.
You can NEVER be wrong on anything if it’s based on a model projection for a time frame in the future that has not arrived.
Again, the theory has not been wrong the past 15 years because any errors can be accounted for by new pet theories that explain conditions that are temporarily masking the effects of the main theory.


Ok, so Koch’s are allegedly backers of skeptics,in the minds of warmists. While the backers of warmists are Steyer, Rockefellers, Soros, Gates, Branson, and on and on. Which is obviously not a problem for warmists at all.
So what they want is 100% domination; every billionaire backing them; not one of them having a different opinion. Understood.
Warmists are totalitarian. They loudly proclaim it every day.

Cold in Wisconsin

What was your question? Can’t seem to find it in the above.

Don’t know the question until we open the envelope (Mighty Carnac style), but the answer is:
“Why should I answer the question of a tin-foil hat-wearing denier funded by the Koch brothers?”

John Catley

Hickman and Betts showing their true colours it appears.What a shame they appeared so pleasant a day or two earlier. No surprises there. Your behaviour and demeanour puts Mann and his followers to shame.

I don’t see what the problem is with my tweet. I just asked Josh and Barry why there were (I thought) no sceptic hands up*, and noted it seemed out of character (especially for those 2 guys, who I know fairly well now, at least online.) That’s a perfectly reasonably question, and I even put a smiley in to show it was good-humoured and not malicious.
This illustrates why the dinner on the Sunday evening was useful. Online it is very easy for written statements to be misinterpreted (or even misrepresented), especially when the tone is not clear. Much better to talk face-to-face. I think this is part of the reason the climate discussion has got so heated and polarised – much of it has been conducted online.
It was a shame that, for whatever reason, there was no involvement of sceptics in the Q&A after Mike Mann’s talk. Maybe all that has gone before would have made it a less than constructive exchange …. but I guess we’ll never know.
*It turns out Barry did put his hand up, but I couldn’t see him from where I was sitting. I didn’t know Katabasis by sight.

Gunga Din

(This is meant as more of a general response rather than a “reply”.)
If you see that the deck is stacked against you, why play the game?
From what has been said of Cook’s Q&A, he fell back on prepared answers that may or or may not have addressed the actual question that was asked. Politicians do that in press conferences and debates all the time. The question is used as a launching pad to say what they want rather than give an answer.
If whatever question Anthony might have asked would not be allowed a rebuttal (because the science is settled), why bother?
Mann is too cowardly to engage in any exchange that would approach anything resembling a debate…unless he got to choose who was on the other side. Even on facebook and twitter it seems.

Richard Betts says:
It was a shame that, for whatever reason, there was no involvement of sceptics in the Q&A after Mike Mann’s talk.
I am chomping at the bit to ask Mann, Lewandowski, and any other defender of ctastrophic AGW some serious questions. But the fact is that they all run and hide from questions or debates held in any neutral venue. As it was, Lewandowsky was clearly running interference for Mann, and the people asking questions were obvious plants.
It is hard to imagine anyone in the public eye worse than those two. Lewandowsky uses his academic position to vilify anyone with a different scientific opinion, using his debunked peer reviewed papers. Mann uses his tweets and carefully scripted public appearances to take potshots at all of his percevied ‘enemies’, who include anyone with a different scientific opinion than his.
Mann is avidly reading this, there is no doubt. So here is a challenge: instead of constantly tucking your tails between your quivering rear thighs and running yelping for the hills every time the prospect of a fair exchange comes up, offer to engage a scientific skeptic of Anthony’s choosing in a fair, moderated debate held in a neutral venue. No scripted questions, and no plants in the audience. Stand up for what you say you believe. If you do believe what you are always saying, you will come across looking good. You have knowledge of the subject, and plenty of experience in front of crowds.
But of course, tucking tail and running is your M.O. You will never agree to debate on those terms, as fair to both sides as they are. The reason is obvious: you have no credible science that would withstand simple scrutiny. You are a charlatan, Mr. Mann; the Elmer Gantry of climate science. You are terrified of a fair debate. You won’t answer questions unless you know what they are beforehand, and unless they come from one of your hand-picked cohorts. You know the truth about yourself, and you prepare for it like you did here.
Way back when, you banned me from commenting at your blog, realclimate, when I posted this chart without comment. I have never been back there since. There is an old saying in politics: Never unnecessarily expand your circle of enemies. Mann, you stuck it to me then, for simply expressing my honest opinion. I won’t forget that.


On Leo Hickman of the Guardian and banning – they wonder why no sceptical questions yet I have been banned from commenting at the Guardian over a dozen times for posting peer reviewed abstracts. These guys are jokers.


Brilliant take-down of the Mann previously known as a scientist.


His reputation as a scientist is greatly exaggerated. And defended repeatedly in court, if you’re wondering.

It seems to me that the questions to be asked were well known. And the answers (such as they are) are also well known. A number of people in the audience don’t know that of course, but they also don’t have the years of context behind both.
“The only winning move is not to play.”
That, and getting together with people that could only be done if you or all them went on a long journey. You won. Thanks and congratulations.


It’s unclear to me what “winning” means in this context.
But it is evident that there is no question that Mann is capable of answering in any manner that would be scientifically interesting.


A distance kept between the audience and Mann is not strange. Any closer and he would have difficult to avoid eye contact …

Kenneth Simmons

The distance of the audience from Dr. Mann reminds me of what the the NBC network did when demonstrating the first color television broadcast to the media. Before the media’s arrival NBC decided that the picture quality was not satisfactory so they decided to remove the first 2 rows of seats, decreasing the odds that the poor quality would be noticed. The same scenario could work for climate change demonstrations as well.

Brad Keyes

Good article, not that you owed anyone an explanation to begin with, Anthony. 🙂 I knew your hearing would be a factor—I have a family member with the same issues, who wouldn’t even think of trying to engage in an adversarial Q & A—I just wish I’d gone for double “pundit”* points by predicting the reason before you said so! 🙂
* That’s the nicest thing anyone’s called me!


Give a Mann enough rope and he will hang himself. The pretend Nobel Laureate’s ego will expose his “science” for what it is by hinself. Skeptics do not need to question him he does so well with his outbursts.
Even if you wanted to ask a question I am sure Dr. Lewandowsky would have “missed” seeing you.The choreography would have prohibited any embarrassing question. Michaell Mann never permits critical or searching questions.

Michael J. Dunn

I can’t resist: If Mann were to hang himself, would that be an example of “suspension of disbelief”?

Kobayashi Maru Anthony.

If you’re not going to be a player, why turn up for the game?

Perhaps I’m a grubby creature of a less noble God. At some point I believe we have to actually do something and that’s a decision I took long ago. We have different viewpoints and I respect that and hope it’s reciprocated but I’m on a clock and it’s always ticking.
“They’re just numbers, numbers, imaginary numbers. Dead imaginary numbers. The square roots of negative numbers we are obliged to invent a comfortable contrivance for, so we don’t have to think too much more deeply about them. But each one of them had a way about them that was uniquely theirs; their own smile, a way of walking, a certain look, a tilt of the head that was theirs alone, they loved and were loved by someone and now they’re dead and gone and will be forgotten.
They were somebody’s child or someone’s man or someone’s woman or someone’s lover or simply just a friend. They were your baby with that magic eye contact and their milky smile. It is needless, preventable, human waste on an industrial, genocidal and unimaginable scale. It shouldn’t ever be happening.”
Tickety tock, tickety tock.

“Say little but think much”

IMO, there is something to be said for attending lectures like these for the sole purpose of witnessing, with your own eyes and ears, what is said and how it is said.
You know, that “take no one’s word for it” thing that scientists are supposed to do.
You also get to witness the reaction of the crowd. All of this is important first-hand knowledge to have.

Paul Coppin

Showing up is being a player. Whether he decided to ask questions or not, point goes to the man in the front row who can stare at Mann all evening, and leave him wondering and worrying what was to come. Better even, that all of the sceptics were quiet. As you can see, the twitterverse is now trying to draw out what the sceptics were up to. They’re warmists are still nervous… Forensic Interview Skills 101.


In my branch of science, it’s considered poor form to give a lecture that fails to include new, unpublished data. Perhaps Anthony hoped to see something new from Professor Mann.
Alas, it was apparently all review of published work. Leads me to wonder: What is he working on lately?
[Very old work. Very, very old work. .mod]

Stephen Richards

One cannot listen and talk at the same time and of the two listening is the most productive. HOWEVER, I detest the lot of them, the Betts, Slingo, Colose, Mann, Hansen, Bradley — the whole lot. Two faces is not enough for them. Yuk
Incidently, I am also completely deaf in one ear and partially so in the other (after several in a pop band of the 60s) so I completely inderstand where Anthony is coming from in this case.


Steve, there is little point in detesting them all, many of “them” are as sincere in their beliefs as we are in ours, and, in my case at least, much nicer people. What division where you in in Martlesham, we may have come across each other?

Mike McMillan

That’s quite a lecture hall. Do they make telephoto lenses for cell phone cameras?

If one plans to hurl something at a speaker so far away, he should practice up first.

The fact that you would make the effort to see Cook, Mann, etc. live and watch their demeanor while they spoke about their “religion”, and do it in a respectful manner, is laudatory.
Glad to hear you found the trip to be fruitful even if Cook and Mann may not have.

F. Ross

So, in effect, asking a question was very likely a no-win situation for me.

Have to agree with you on that Anthony. You did the right thing.

Anthony, I think you were very wise, I would hazard a guess that the questions that were asked were from “plants” who had their questions pre-submitted to Mann. To be honest, I think Lewandosky would have ignored you, if not, Mann would have mumbled to take an unfair advantage of your hearing problem.
Like I have said elsewhere on WUWT, there was no science involved in his lecture.
The discourteous names like “d*niers” and “tin hat wearer” and calling James Delingpole a clown sum up Mann’s scientific credentials.


In Mannian math, by a process of interpolation between occupied seats, unoccupied seats also appear occupied.

The Mann is invaluable.
Keep stroking his ego, if you can.
The safer he feels the greater damage he inflicts upon this weird art of Climatology.
I agree you would have been wasting your time asking any questions at that presentation, just your presence has unnerved the faithful more than is reasonable.
However the Zealots of the C.C.C cannot restrain themselves, their self worth is totally dependant on believing themselves to be the smartest, most caring persons on the planet.
With such a fragile reality they get the vapours with each change of the wind.
The staged event is very revealing, segregated from the audience, no eye contact, data cut off 9 years ago, but that same absolutism.
Sand castles before the incoming tide comes to mind.
I think even the mann can feel the bus approaching.

Bloke down the pub

Michael E. Mann [just a note: If you have a habit of making false, inflammatory, and/or defamatory statements about climate scientists in public, then, no, you’re not welcome at this facebook page there are other outlets for you in that case. Thanks!]
Wednesday at 17.04
So by Mann’s own criteria, he should not be posting on his own facebook page.

The Other Phil

I noted that post was only the second post after Mann called Delingpole a clown. But note that Mann is only discouraging inflammatory statements about climate scientists; apparently, skeptics are fair game.

Mick J

That is apparently a result of Barry Woods attempting to ask a question, discussed here about halfway down.
Barry Woods provides two links to screenshots of the attempt at dialogue.

John Catley

I am puzzled.
Mann knows that he has in his audience some of the key people he has vilified as belonging to the conspiracy against him.
He has a superb opportunity to take on and humiliate those who speak against his work in a public forum where he is in full control.
And what does he do? He ignores them and effectively prevents them from asking any questions.
Ask yourselves one question.
Is that the behaviour of a man who is convinced he is right, or of a liar and a coward?
The answer speaks volumes.

The best result of these two events at the Cabot is probably that it acted as a catalyst to bring calmer and clearer people together in pubs and private houses, and to allow some of them to speak directly with climate campaigners. I say ‘probably’ because there is also the possibility that even more influential people attended the lectures and were appalled by them. I hope so, but I know that good is coming from the meetings of kindred spirits opposed to facile, self-serving, irresponsible, and destructive alarmism over our CO2. Well done Anthony for travelling across a continent and an ocean to be there.


Good day Mr. Watts,
Please read this with all the respect I have for you and your work. While some things you talk about do go over my head, as I am not a climate scientist, there is a lot I have learned here. I am and energy and environmental expert, which means I am an engineer that relies heavily on common sense, thus why the whole CAGW scam is one of my pet peeves. I have learned loads from you and a few other scientists.
I would just like to caution you on how personal you sometimes tend to take some of the clowns that make a very comfy living out of this scam. While they tend to attack you on a personal basis, which is most unprofessional, I encourage you not to heed to their base level and reply. It is similar to when a rig manager barks at you for doing your job better than he can understand (ok, personal ranting but rampant issue in the oilpatch). Just let it fly, they are not worth of your time.
While I understand how it feels when they attempt at being sarcastic and offend, remember that only someone that is above you can offend you and, when such a person talks to you, he/she will never even attempt to do so.
Exposing them, though, it is always good. Just goes to show what kind of people they are. Thus the reason the type of people that still show support (i.e. ).
Please receive my most kind regards.

Henry Galt

I was one of the first to stand and put my hand up. ‘Sir’ (didn’t know or care at that point, that it was the eedjit) saw me and pointed the mic guy my way then chose someone downstairs for the first q. When he came back to upstairs the mic guy had homed in on the Avaaz mouthpiece (who, admittedly, was on the same diagonal as myself vis-a-vis lewpaper’s viewpoint.). This twat asked two qs so soft you could see the caramel spurting out of his skull from where I was.
Mic guy never came my way when lewpaper started gesticulating and pointing downstairs.
I was going to be polite, along the lines of…
‘Ben Santer’s team said in 2011 “… that tropospheric temperature records must be at least 17 years long to discriminate between internal climate noise and the signal of human-caused changes …” and Phil Jones said in 2005 ” “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has, but it is only seven years of data …”.
In the light of Ross McKitrick’s recent paper claiming “…there is now a trendless interval of 19 years duration at the end of the HadCRUT4 surface temperature series, and of 16 – 26 years in the lower troposphere.” how can you claim that the science is settled and show us slides that only show data to 2005?
I actually wanted to shout out, several times, what I think of this arsehole and his lies but heeded AW’s request to remain polite.


Just as well you didn’t get an opportunity to ask the question. (1) It’s far too long; (2) It’s far too complex; (3) It would have been too easily flipped off thus: “You should take that question up with Ben Santer and Phil Jones. Next!”

Roger D, P. Geol

Henry, I think you put a lie to Mann’s faux surprise that there were no “skeptic” questioners as he knew bloody well that it was manipulated to appear that way and by your description they had to work pretty hard to do it! I would think anyone who attended would have seen the obvious sham.

Hi Anthony
My tweet is here

Anthony, I commend you for your decision not to play their game. It was truly a no-win situation.
I also did not ask a question when Mann spoke in Victoria last year.
But some of you might be interested in what can happen when the deck is not stacked like this – when asking a speaker a challenging question can make a difference.
I’ve just published, for the first time, my account of an incident that took place in 2009, when I asked a polar bear biologist a seemingly innocuous question at a scientific workshop called “Global Warming and Arctic Marine Mammals.”
See what you think – but note, I’m absolutely sure this strategy would not have worked at a Mann lecture and it would probably not work for me today (now that the polar bear crowd knows who I am).
Susan Crockford, PolarBearScience

Your experience provides a good illustration of Occam’s Broom at work. Where would climate alarmism be without it?

Thanks John, I had not heard that expression before! I’ll make note of it for the future.
My Google search revealed:
“Ockham’s broom is an implement conceived by Sydney Brenner as the device whereby inconvenient facts are swept under the carpet.
This is common practice in biological research where the facts often cannot be explained all at once; but in due course the edge of the carpet must be lifted and the untidy reality confronted.
… (Ockham’s broom should not be confused with the more familiar Ockham’s razor which inspired this less philosophically correct concept.)”

An example of Occam’s Broom.

Stephen Richards

I was really impressed with Lily Peacock’s response to my question: Question are far easier to answer when all you have to do is tell the truth.
But, Great question Susan. To have thought of that at that moment and to have formed it in that way was exceptional.

Thanks Stephen.
The point is, a really good question rarely comes to you in the heat of the moment – the ones you think of 20 minutes later, or in the middle of the following night (Oh, I’m good at those!), just don’t cut it.


Hmmm…. I sense disappointment on the CAGW side that Anthony didn’t ask a question. Spoiled their party, perhaps? 😉

[Snip. PNG. ~mod.]


Should have taken his own advice.

Man Bearpig

Right, if I was a low grade Psychologist this is what I would have tried …
I would have got Cook to come up to you and ‘make friends’ with you. Chat about this and that, then get Cook to take questions from Skeptics making you feel mode comfortable.
Then when Mann is asking for questions I would point at you, probably 2nd or 3rd in the line of questions then when you ask your question (whatever it is) the trap is sprung.
If the trap wasn’t sprung, then as a someone with a reasonable level of intelligence, I would definitely not whinge about it on twitter or anywhere else like that as it would blow the whole plan.

I would ask Mann the same question I ask all of these guys: given the large number of correlation findings indicating that some mechanism of solar amplification is probably at work (a solar effect on climate that is stronger than can be accounted for by TSI alone), what reason do you have for dismissing the possibility that high 20th century solar activity was the cause of most 20th century warming?
Consensoids usually have no qualms about giving the most unscientific answer imaginable. The standard line, from the IPCC and from numerous individual scientists, including many well known solar scientists, is that since solar activity peaked in the 1980s the solar effect on climate during the 1990’s should have been in the cooling direction, yet the planet continued to warm.
That’s like saying that the day should start cooling at noon, when solar insolation is at its maximum, just because it is past its peak. Of course the day continues to warm until mid-afternoon when insolation falls below radiative loss, yet all these supposed scientists actually assert this crazy claim that it is the trend in the forcing rather than the level of the forcing that determines whether the solar effect is in the warming or the cooling direction.
Here is a link to my collection of quotes from 19 scientists and 3 scientific bodies making this bogus claim:
Would love to add Mann’s name to that list, and I don’t doubt that he would be willing to join the “consensus” on this. There is no other answer available for a solar-denier to give. If he wants to be a solar denier, it is this or nothing, and it is surprising how many are willing to join the chorus of blatant scientific error.

Ulric Lyons

Solar plasma temperature/density/pressure increased through the 1980’s, and declined from the mid 1990’s. I propose that this decline is responsible for the increase in negative North Atlantic Oscillation episodes since 1995, and the transition to a warm AMO mode, through wind driven increased poleward ocean transport. Which would imply that a large proportion of the rise in global mean temperature since 1995, that due to the warm AMO mode and the warming of the Arctic, is an amplified negative feedback to declines in solar forcing, and not forced warming.

Thankyou for your clear and cogent explanation.
Whatever response you get to whatever is your question will be informative and I am sure many of us look forward to it.
I write to add two points. Firstly, I agree with those who say your decision to avoid questions was clearly correct. And, secondly, there was nothing worrying about the policeman being present to ‘guard’ the book signing. British police officers differ from US ones: the ‘guard’ would be a normal protection provided for a celebrity, he would not have possessed a firearm but would have had radio communication to obtain back-up if needed.


I would have thought it was a university security officer/guard rather than a policeman. We do not have university police in the US sense and I can’t imagine even a book signing by the odious Dr. Mann would attract real police to waste time cooling their heels or, for that matter, holding back rioting academics or sceptics. /sarc


My apologies Anthony, I was not calling into question your observational skills. It turns out he’s the ‘Community Beat Manager’ for the University, employed by the local police force (not the University) and working alongside the university’s security outfit. I am still baffled as to why he was overseeing a book signing. Perhaps Mann was afeared that he might be overwhelmed by the forces of reality.


the ‘guard’ would be a normal protection provided for a celebrity
So tell me again, why was the guard there? Where’s the celebrity?

You quote me and ask

So tell me again, why was the guard there? Where’s the celebrity?

It was a book signing by the author of a book. I think that if you try you can determine who was the celebrity yourself.
Any celebrity can be attacked by e.g. self-publicists and that is why “the ‘guard’ would be a normal protection provided for a celebrity”. The policeman describes his duties as University Police Officer here.

Mark T

I’m pretty sure he was being facetious. 😉

michael hart

Is that a lectern, or a pulpit, that he is standing behind?

A good lawyer already knows the answers to the question he asks. Besides, who ever heard of a “bully lectern”?

michael hart

Another thought: It might be an altar, even if a little small.

Jeff Alberts

I’d say it was a podium, without the “p”, and with an “ous” instead of the “um” at the end.


The venue was the venue. Nothing Mann could do about the separation between podium and audience. Seems to me that the sceptic community criticise the warmists for not being prepared to debate, yet on this occasion, when there was the opportunity to question, we sceptics passed up the chance. I would have been inclined to ask something like ‘ do you attach any significance to the fact that if one plots annual global temperature against year for the past 18 odd years, one gets a horizontal line? And if you don’t then why not?

Man Bearpig

A question/answer session with a biased questioner selector may be your idea of a debate but does not fit mine. At least Cook had the guts to answer questions without the selector! And if the purpose was true debate why did Lew’ not select any skeptics? It was not thay did not want debate, they were not given the opportunity. Why not arrange a full debate with Mann et al or is he too scared to venture into real debate?

“The venue was the venue. Nothing Mann could do about the separation between podium and audience.”
Perhaps. But that makes the assumption that the podium couldn’t have been moved closer to the edge of the stage. I’ve spoken to groups in a similar auditorium setting and I would have either asked for the podium to be moved closer or, at the very least, made an effort to explain to the audience why the venue was set up the way it was.
Being close to the folks to whom you are speaking offers a level of comfort and intimacy while being set apart in the manner shown here gives the impression of deliberate separation and aloofness. While sometimes that can not be helped, we can’t be sure in this case. However, having someone closer to the audience running interference while selecting questioners would make one wonder whether this was a deliberate situation.

Given the fact that Mann met with at least one investigative committee [which then voted to “exonerate” him] beforehand, to formulate the questions he would be asked, what makes you think that Mann and/or one of his people didn’t get with Cabot to set things up like this? And to have the odious Lewandowsky insert himself in a position like that was inexcusable. It reeks of game-playing.
Mann’s pattern has been to stack the deck in any way he can. That’s why he refuses to engage in any fair, moderated debates. If appearances are not 100% scripted by Mann, he will not attend.
If Mann is willing to answer public questions without any preconditions, I would certainly welcome that. But don’t hold your breath.

I don’t like the way you spell “skeptic” but otherwise I agree.

Ok, I’ll ask a question.

Michael 2

The very best line in “War Games” was, as you quoted, “A strange game. The only way to win is not to play” (speaking of tic-tac-toe but also global thermonuclear war).
A related converse idea exists, that in different circumstances the only way to lose is NOT to play (says the person whose handle is Willard at ATTP).
When a thing is scripted the correct winning move is to defeat the script. The “good book” has several clever examples of this. Render unto Mann that which is Mann’s.


Tinfoil hat wearers? That’s pretty rich coming from someone who has spent the past decade making constant allegations and coming up with ‘big oil’ conspiracy theories against all and sundry for daring to criticise his work on any level.
I guess his ability to understand irony is sitting right next to his missing level of humility, i’m sure both are probably hidden somewhere in the depths of the ocean next to the missing heat. Actually scratch that, one is a scientific hypothesis and the other is quite obviously a myth alongside Nessie, Bigfoot and a Jaguars offensive line.

Man Bearpig

Did Betts ask a question?

Michael Jennings

I think it was a wise and very important decision for Anthony to go to the “lecture”. It signifies he is not going away and will hold people’s feet to the fire in respect to the actual science behind Climate Change and man’s (no pun intended) role in it.

So, in effect, asking a question was very likely a no-win situation for me.
But it was big loss for Dr. Mann, to be deprived of the opportunity to engage (by far) the best known member of the audience, with a well rehearsed answer whatever the question might have been. Awarding even a bit of credibility to one who has none, would have been a mistake.

It’s funny to think of Mann’s disappointment at not being able to deliver his previously conceived retort. You know he had one.

I met up with Anthony Watts and around 15 sceptics in a private house before the Mann lecture. I did not want to go to the lecture itself as from experience of these events I did not feel I could have any influence at all on the course of the debate. At a climate conference of this sort questions will Likely be derived in one of two ways.
The first is that The presenter themselves will point to someone who has caught his eye. This is very much pot luck and any opportunity for good interaction is highly dependent on the quality of the venue, your position in it, the acoustics, and the willingness of the presenter to enage.
The second way is when written questions will be sought prior to the event. I submitted one to he Exeter climate conference and was told my question would be used so could I make myself known to the chair and sit in a place where the microphone could readily reach me. I duly put a question to Thomas stocker.
Having met Anthony in a quiet room with 15 other people it was evident that his hearing impediment was quite severe. Questions addressed to him directly were dealt with in depth and often with humour but any comments coming from elsewhere in the room he found difficult to hear. He asked that those attending the Mann meeting should treat all concerned with respect having been I think, much impressed by the spirit of the meeting he had in Bath with such as Richard Betts.
Having now seen the venue, the distance from the stage and with a hostile presenter, I think Anthony was wise not to engage in the circumstances that he found himself in.
Certainly at least two of those also at the private meeting had expressed their desire to ask a question at the Mann lecture . they were very determined and eloquent and that they did not do so would be because they were not asked. If you are not asked, despite having your hands up, it is Probably due to the whim of the person selecting the questioners. However, Whether the two concerned were known to be sceptics and weren’t asked because of it, or whether other people caught the eye of the person with the microphone I don’t know as I wasn’t there.

I have had the same type of reaction while talking with “on-air” radio talk shows here in the US. Each of 12 – 18 times, I have had points, comments, rejoinders, asides, and various facts ready to present as the conversation goes forward, but regularly see instead the host – most actually “conservative” or “republican-leaning” or “actively skeptical” cut the intended conversation off. Or divert it towards what they have intended to say.
True, they face a time limit. It is a matter of interest – and certainly, the speaker has spent years getting himself to a position where THEY are the ones who are paid to speak. And, of course, THEY are the ones who ARE paid to speak and present THEIR opinion (not our own) into the purchased/rented microphone and transmitter. When the speaker would rather hear their voice and their ideas, it is a very humble, and very rare speaker who will let the caller continue a discussion. And, in truth also, an experienced speaker does not know his caller, and few “trust” a caller (an open-microphone questioner in a lecture hall) to actually ask intelligent questions, and actually be able to continue a conversation in an entertaining and informing fashion.
But, still, it is irritating to NOT be able to speak to the public – or to politicians! – at length with the facts and arguments now available.

Jim Francisco

Wouldn’t it have been a hoot to hand Michael Mann a copy of Mark Steyn’s book for him to sign? The line was short so it wouldn’t have taken long.


Regarding your concern about Mann responding to a question of yours with a question of his own…I think it’s valid. A common evasive technique is to respond sneeringly with esoterica calculated to make the questioner look stupid. As in. “Can you tell us Mr. Watts if you’ve even taken into account (insert hifalutin technical sounding concepts here) in your assessment of X,Y,Z.. Because if you had, you’d understand the meaninglessness of your question.:”
All of which leaves you scratching your head and looking ignorant.. . It’s dishonest and cynical of course, and very effective. You made a wise choice.

Man Bearpig

Exactly, this is why a full and open debate is needed but Mann woud run and run and run from any true debate because he knows he would lose and be exposed for what he is.


There are books by sceptics, there are textbooks on atmospheric radiative transfer , there are books advancing extreme programs for combatting climate change , but I have not yet seen one on the history of the growth of sceptic forums and websites.
The seminar attended by AW demonstrated a surprising continuing antipathy to a very reasonable attitude of scepticism , given the evidence accumulated over the past 20 years. I therefore looked to see whether any of the History of Science depts. in US or UK are running research projects in this area of interaction between sceptics and the academic establishment . There is , after all , a wealth of information available in the archives of the various websites (I do not what the copyright situation would be for a PhD researcher ) which shows the changes in opinion and comment over the years against a backdrop of data on , say , global temperature or polar ice growth and retreat.- not forgetting the changes in political involvement .
The closest that I have found so far is a PhD study at U of Manchester (England) on the history of the formation of the IPCC panel on Climate Change.
Interestingly, I think that it is the Univ of Pennsylvania that has a Dept , not of History and Philosophy of Science as is more usual , but History and Sociology of Science .It might be a very appropriate place to do a PhD on the history of climate change sceptics and the growth of antipathy towards them ( in some quarters) , even as the evidence for extreme climate change becomes less convincing, or perhaps because of that trend.


Good idea. Great topic for a grad student–or anyone else– looking for a thesis idea. Somewhat analogously: Years ago, scientific and medical journals were filled with studies confined to reports and analysis of “primary data.” Then someone had the bright idea of studying the “meta-content” of these reports over a period of time–e.g., the relative number of women vs. men as first authors, or the gender differences as to how women were portrayed in medical advertising in the journals. I always thought this was a really creative research concept.


Mann’s tactics and rhetoric are so high school. How did we end up with a world run by cranky adolescents?

Pamela Gray

Get in touch with these folks:
[Are you sure this is the correct thread? ~mod.]

Pamela Gray

hmmmm didn’t post it here. Don’t know how it got here. It showed up under the comment I wanted it posted in.

Pamela Gray

Now I can’t find the commenters request. A commenter was lamenting a pending wind farm in Texas and wanted to know if anyone here could help. I provided a link to a resource that might be able to steer him in the right direction. Can’t find that comment on any of the threads.

Claude Harvey

Choose your battles wisely. Under the conditions arranged for the Mann lecture, I think your sticking with your “listen and observe” strategy was the proper course. Many a noble warrior has been cut to ribbons when his “fan club” with no skin in the game goaded him into an inappropriate fight he should have saved for another day.

Your biggest service concerning yhis talk was not asking or not asking a question. It was imaging Mann’s slides so that the Rutgers/ AGU trick was re-exposed after another two years has gone by, and in an internationally invited public talk, no less.
That has to be very damaging to his already tattered reputation. After the AGU takedown, there really cannot be any reason other than intentionally deceptive misrepresentation. Especially when Man himself acknowledges the 2012 criticism by saying he probably should have updated those slides. I have that response documented, but did not use it in the essay An Awkward Pause, which discusses the Rutgers/AGU episode of ‘pause denial’ amongst several other illustrations. Those Include WMO 2013, Paucheri 2010, and Paucheri 2014.


Having been at climate change presentations I know that asking questions is an exercise in futility and Mann could easily have planned a verbal ambush to anything Anthony said. Not asking anything would be the best psyche possible. Think of the time he had to spend planning something. LOL. Think how cross that would have made him. Teddy out of the pram cross.

HGW xx/7

While I love a good ruckus, I feel without a doubt that Anthony made the right play in this case. Let them know you are present, but simply observe. This isn’t a battle to be won in a moment, but rather years. Subtlety still has its place.
Remember: “It is better to be thought a fool and remain silent, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Let them make their own bed; they are doing oh-so-well thus far.

i now see it was “no-win” to not even try to ask a question Anthony – Mann now makes it appear that you were intimidated by his presence – so its a choice between 2 no-win situations that every conference goer will have to make himself

John West

Not really a smart move for Mann to play the skeptics we’re too scared to “debate” card. He’s painting himself into the corner of having to refuse a debate in a level playing field venue or lose such a debate. Lose – lose for him.
Bottom line: we’ll be happy to debate them in an objectively moderated debate, but engaging there where they had control of all the cards would have been foolish. Anthony absolutely made the right move. He’s playing chess not checkers.

We shouldn’t waste much effort on deprogramming a cult. Just as this cult can turn any observed phenomena into support for their “truth,” confronting the leader simply strengthens the leader among the worshipers (as does not confronting him, as recent days have shown).
In the meantime, RSS readings each month, and tree rings each year, are all (without regard to the existence or welfare of the cult) undermining their belief system.
That said, there is a moral commitment to this cult that will have members insisting they are right until the day they die. The key thing isn’t to deprogram them – the key thing is to demonstrate to policy makers that these people have no business influencing policy or getting the lion’s share of funding. Not because of good or evil, but because they are wasting time and resources, as observed data vs prediction has aptly demonstrated (and goes substantively undefended – “tin foil” hashtags is all the ammunition they now have.)
That’s where the focus should be (and largely is, BTW – kudos to Mr Watts for not being baited by Mann) – even responding to Mannisms (except when compelled to in a court) at this point only re-energizes the cult. That there were plenty of empty seats for this megalomaniac (which he can’t admit to) shows that the cult’s attractiveness has peaked. Ignoring them is the best way to contain them. Let the data that keeps showing up in the observational record bury them. Others will quietly distance themselves from the cultists without making public breaks – saves embarrassment of being wrong and also avoids their thuggish countermeasures – so don’t expect anything but quiet, slow abandonment.
Policy makers in India and China are already convinced (public statements attempting extortion from others will remain, but actions speak louder than words). Western policy makers will find new priorities and should be encouraged to.
Preaching to the choir here – but stating it nonetheless.


It is our moral duty to try to save victims of the cult as we encounter them. They might actually lose some of their anxiety if pointed to real information. Many of them do believe in a Global Warming apocalypse. Poor critters they are mostly.

Bill Jamison

My question would have been “Dr. Mann would you like some assistance updating your surface temperature plot with data past 2005?”.

John West

Mann’s reply: Sir, we’re talking about climate not weather. Climate can only be reasonably evaluated in terms of 30 year periods therefore the mere snippet of time since 2005 is irrelevant to this discussion. Would you like me to explain the greenhouse effect again?
I can’t think of a single question that couldn’t be twisted in that venue to make Anthony look either foolish, zealous, or corrupt.
Again, he made the right choice.

Better to just listen and be there. I agree. Mr. Watts’ thunderous silence amounted to rope for that spoiled brat to hang himself.


Easier to get a ‘full capacity crowd’ when half the seats have to be removed in order to accommodate your Texas-ranch-sized ‘stage’.

HGW xx/7

Keep in mind that a massive stage was necessary, as Dr. Mann had to squeeze his ego onto there along with his bulbous stature.