Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Michael Mann, inventor of the “hockey stick”, wants to reassure us that we still need his climate research, even though a few weeks ago he said climate “tools” are “increasingly unnecessary”.
How the Right Wing Denial Machine Distorts the Climate Change Discourse
Several weeks ago, on June 17, I provided testimony about the threat of human-caused climate change to the Democratic Party Platform drafting committee in Phoenix, Arizona. Fittingly, my testimony was just one day before record heat struck Phoenix.
I am a climate scientist and have spent much of my career with my head buried in climate model output and observational climate data, trying to tease out the signal of human-caused climate change.
What is disconcerting to me and so many of my colleagues is that these tools that we’ve spent years developing increasingly are unnecessary because we can see the impacts of climate change playing out in real time on our television screens in the 24 hour news cycle.
My point—that we don’t need sophisticated techniques to identify the human fingerprint present in e.g. the doubling of extreme heat or the tripling (in fact) of western wildfire that we have seen in the U.S. in recent decades, ought to be clear to any honest observer.
It would be absurd to conclude that I was arguing that climate models and climate data are no longer necessary in climate science, especially given that they continue to form the bread and butter of my own scientific research (I’ve published over a dozen scientific articles using climate models and climate data during the past year alone).
So you can imagine my shock—yes, shock—that climate change deniers and conservative media outlets that serve as mouthpieces for them, would seek to convince their readers of just that.
What is the take-home message here?
As we head into the 2016 presidential election, it is clear that polluting interests and other bad actors are mobilized. They are doing their best to continue the attacks on science and scientists whose findings threaten their bottom line, to distract the public, to promote climate change denial propaganda and to support politicians who will support their agenda of denial and inaction.
The best defense is to study the positions of the candidates and make sure that climate action is at the top of your agenda when you go to the voting booth this fall.
I cut out the boring part, the bulk of Mann’s article which details his theory that there is a vast right wing conspiracy which is trying to destroy him.
While it is true that right wing (and left wing) people have criticised Mann’s research, the reality is that some of Mann’s strongest critics were his fellow climate researchers, people on his own team.
The following comments from 2002 were written by CRU Professor Keith Briffa, who worked closely with Mann on his tree ring proxy climate reconstructions. The subject of the email appears to be the need to tiptoe around Mann’s ego when “setting the record straight”. The recipient of the email was Edward Cook of Columbia University.
Climategate email 2119.txt
… My overall opinion is that you are just about right in balancing firm response to get the record straight with a need to keep composure and preserving the probability of continuing constructive interaction with Mann (and his diminishing support). Perhaps the one point I would make though, is that you underplay the questionable nature of much of Mann’s verbiage ,in as much it is a response to imagined rather than real conflict between your Science paper and his reconstruction. Most of his comments I feel are addressing what he imagines (rightly or wrongly ) the greenhouse sceptics will say about recent warming after reading your paper , not what you actually say. … Mike could be a lot more open about the real uncertainty of his early temperature estimates (as we discussed in our first perspectives piece). …
Why would anyone need to mount a vast “right wing conspiracy” against Michael Mann, when there is public record that some of Mann’s closest colleagues seem to think much of what he says is questionable?