Michael Mann Responds to Misleading Filings in Climate Change Lawsuit

, , former science communication officer | September 3, 2014, 4:53 pm EDT
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Two years ago, a Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) analyst said something incredibly nasty about Penn State University climate researcher Michael Mann:

“Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.”

Mark Steyn at the National Review passed on those comments in a blog post and added that Dr. Mann is “behind the fraudulent climate-change ‘hockey-stick’ graph…”

Dr. Mann subsequently sued both institutions and court filings have been flying back and forth ever since. Dr. Mann’s lawyers have just filed a response to scientific and legal claims from the National Review and CEI. As their new brief makes clear, any claim that Dr. Mann’s research is “fraudulent” is pure bunk.

The Serengeti strategy at work

In his book chronicling the attacks he’s faced, Dr. Mann compares climate contrarians’ strategy to the one used by predator animals he saw in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Rather than trying to take on all the world’s climate scientists, they pick out someone from the herd who they think they can attack effectively. He’s faced many over-the-top criticisms of his research—and his character—from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and a whole host of front groups, political actors and online haters.

Why all the fuss? In the late 1990s, Dr. Mann and his colleagues found that much of world is warmer than it used to be. The key graph from their research looks like an upturned hockeystick, a nickname that stuck. At the time, it was groundbreaking work. It also blew a hole in a standard contrarian talking point: that it used to be warmer in the Middle Ages.

Fifteen years after Dr. Mann and colleagues published their initial research, climate contrarians are still attacking it as if it’s the keystone that holds up the entire edifice of climate science.

Climate science goes to court

The National Review’s last filing in this case devotes a section to rehashing whether or not research Dr. Mann’s original research is valid. They largely cite contrarian books, statements from Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), an article from the Telegraph newspaper and Congressional testimony from a contrarian climate scientist. Nothing in their brief substantiates an accusation of “fraud.”

CEI has done the same in some of its filings, though it takes a more sophisticated approach. CEI does more to dress up its accusations in the language of science, but their brief emphasizes typical scientific uncertainties and nitpicking while downplaying the fundamental soundness of the original hockeystick. Again, there’s no evidence of “fraud” in their brief.

What’s missing, of course, from all their briefs, are legitimate scientific citations rejecting or refuting Dr. Mann’s work. That’s because those don’t exist.

As Dr. Mann’s response brief notes, follow-up studies have “not only replicated Dr. Mann’s work using the same data and methods, but independently validated and extended his conclusions using other techniques, and using newer and more extensive datasets.”

Indeed, climate scientists have more hockeysticks than an NHL locker room:

That's a lot of hockeysticks!

That’s a lot of hockeysticks! From a 2008 Mann et al. paper. Graphic from Skeptical Science.


Pages 2k project

A 2013 study took a comprehensive look at so-called “paleoclimate reconstructions.” The result “looks like a twin” of the original hockeystick, according to researcher Stefan Rahmstorf. Graphic via ThinkProgress.

It’s fair to say that Dr. Mann’s original research is among the most scrutinized scientific papers of all time. If it were fraudulent – or even just wrong – we’d know by now.

Scientists take fraud and retractions very seriously. Look at the Andrew Wakefield case: The Lancet retracted his research on vaccines and autism and he was banned from practicing medicine. Or skim the great work over at Retraction Watch.

CEI and the National Review also pass on lame rehashings of emails that were stolen from climate scientists back in 2009. National Review’s brief largely ignores the investigations that cleared Dr. Mann and other scientists of the accusations climate contrarians lobbed at them. CEI’s brief cites these investigations, including one from the National Science Foundation (NSF), but tries to downplay them and question their credibility.

As Dr. Mann’s response brief notes, two universities and six government agencies examined the claims climate contrarians were making about the emails and rejected them. His brief cites the NSF’s conclusion that, “…no direct evidence has been presented that indicates [Dr. Mann] fabricated the raw data he used for his research or falsified the results.”

Again, no fraud.

Never the less, National Review’s Steyn has tripled-down on his initial accusations. In a recent post on the case, he called Mann “Doctor Fraudpants.” I suppose in some circles, that’s hilarious. But the humor of accusing a scientist of living a lie is lost on me.

Different worlds

I attended a hearing related to this case last June. It was disturbing to listen to lawyers for CEI and the National Review accuse Dr. Mann of conducting fraudulent research while he was sitting right there. I squirmed in my seat more than once and quietly shook my head at their presentations. It was clear that the lawyers didn’t understand the scientific research they were discussing. I felt like I had stepped way, way down a rabbit hole.

After the hearing concluded, one of the lawyers for the defendants walked up to Dr. Mann outside the court room and asked to shake his hand. He was aghast when Dr. Mann politely declined – as if the lawyer was the one who just had his honor and integrity insulted.

From the lawyers’ perspective, perhaps this was just another day at the office. But for Dr. Mann it was an affront to his character, ethics and work as a scientist.

Crossing the line with attacks on science

I’m not a libel lawyer or a First Amendment scholar. Unlike Dr. Mann’s detractors, I’m not so convinced of my own righteousness that I claim to have expertise on topics that are well outside my wheelhouse. I’m just a guy who loves science and appreciates everything scientists do to inform us about our world.

It’s worth noting that other judges have previously sided with Dr. Mann. Litigants in those cases, including Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, also did not have a leg to stand on when it came to accusing Dr. Mann of fraud.

Generally, courts and judges have shown respect for the weight of the evidence on a range of scientific issues, including climate, tobacco and asbestos. In this case, it’s abundantly clear to me that the attacks on Dr. Mann are the result of ideological thinking run amok, not any real dispute about the science. Steyn, National Review and CEI can argue against government policies all they want, but misrepresenting scientific research to make their case simply degrades public discourse.

Finally, comparing a scientist to a child molester and accusing him of fraud is ethically indefensible. Whether or not it is legally defensible remains to be seen, of course, but I’ll be watching this case closely.

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  • MikeN
  • MikeN

    Looks like the Serengeti strategy is working, as Mann did not get any amicus briefs filed on his behalf, while National Review and CEI got ACLU, Washington Post, LA Times.

  • MikeNov

    What’s missing, of course, from all their briefs, are legitimate
    scientific citations rejecting or refuting Dr. Mann’s work.
    That’s because those don’t exist.

    The first thing National Review mentions is McIntyre and McKitrick:

    “who publihed two peer eviewed articles in scientific journals arguing that the hockey stick is spurious in both its methods and its conclusions.”


    • “arguing that…” is a big long way from “demonstrated that…” or “proved that…” Again, criticisms of scientific work are common and Dr. Mann and his colleagues responded to those claims, many of which they found to be spurious. Such a back-and-forth in the literature does not constitute fraud. But contrarians jumped on those papers and said the papers had been rejected, refuted or disproven.

      • MikeN

        This doesn’t make any sense, when you consider what is needed to say ‘refuted’. NR chose to use ‘argued’, but ‘rejected’ or ‘refuted’ is not unreasonable. ‘Rebutted’ is also a good term that I would prefer.

  • MikeNov

    On the other hand,
    goes beyond a blog post about a fraudulent hockey stick.

  • ravingdog

    In regards to defendant Steyn and his reference to the fraudulent hockey stick graph, one need only read the following quote from the Muir Russell report:
    “In relation to “hide the decline”, we find that, given its subsequent iconic significance (not least the use of a similar figure in the TAR), the figure supplied for the WMO Report was misleading in not describing that one of the series was truncated post 1960 for the figure, and in not being clear on the fact that proxy and instrumental data were spliced together.”
    When discussing a public figure who had previously come under attack for alleged deception and who has presented himself as a public advocate for one side of a contentious issue, it is not a stretch for a writer to assume intent behind producing such a “misleading” graph. And intent to mislead is commonly associated with the term fraudulent. Hence Steyn’s phrasing is defensible at the level of everyday speech.
    Legally, things are even worse for Mann. Legally, he is required to prove malice on the part of the defendants, and this is a much higher hurdle to be cleared. Not only must the speech be unreasonable, but the defendants had to KNOW it was unreasonable when they wrote it.
    And that is clearly not the case. Especially when Muir Russell is on their side already.

    • aaronhuertas

      Dr. Mann didn’t produce that figure. That phrase was from an email another scientist wrote in relation to the cover graph he was producing for a then-obscure report. Here’s the cover: http://static.skepticalscience.com/pics/wmo_graph.jpg. Muir Russell said it should have been labeled better. Even if Dr. Mann had made this graph — and again, he didn’t — that’s a very far cry from “fraud.”

      • MikeNov

        Well Dr Mann lists this report on his CV at his Penn State website. In addition ClimateGate 2 emails reveals the back and forth that went behind this figure– He was aware of the data manipulation beforehand. It is his Nature trick that is being used after all, and ended up requesting a t-shirt that was prepared with this graph.

      • ravingdog

        As MikeNov points out, Mann takes credit in his CV for the WMO cover figure. So yes, he is responsible for both graphs (WMo and TAR) described by Muir Russell as “misleading”. Mann never even disputed his association with the TAR hockey stick graph.

        No worries, I know it difficult keeping track of Michael Mann’s conflicting claims.

      • aaronhuertas

        I’ll concede the point on the CV — thanks for that — but you guys are saying that a poorly labeled graph and out-of-context jargon from stolen emails is “fraud.” That strikes me as a very weak and invalid argument. As I noted above, real scientific fraud happens and this ain’t it. By the standard you’re proposing how many other scientists would be guilty of “fraud”?

      • ravingdog

        No, I am saying a reasonable commentator could infer that a “misleading” graph (Muir Russell’s word) produced by a public advocate for climate change action could have been produced with the intent to induce action. That is a standard definition of legal fraud.

      • aaronhuertas

        I think we’ll just have to disagree. I’m afraid that such a low standard for “fraud” would implicate thousands of scientists in and out of the climate field, not to mention a lot of economists, too.

      • MikeNov

        Well yes. I think that people are allowed to say that some work is fraudulent on a blog without getting dragged into a courtroom for damages.

      • ravingdog

        Only if they improperly describe what a graph actually shows. And then use it to advocate for policy action. That’s actually a very reasonable standard.

      • MikeNov

        You would have a point if this weren’t the subject of a lawsuit. The commenter has shown that even some of the supposedly ‘exonerating’ inquiries took some of Mann’s work to task. It is not National Review’s burden to prove that Mann’s work is fraudulent. They are allowed to declare it as part of legitimate debate.

      • Red Black

        The graph was deceptive because it dropped the portion of Briffa’s tree-ring analysis that didn’t correlate with the spike from the instrumented temperature record. It appears this was done intentionally so as to not cast doubt on the tree-ring proxies’ ability to detect temperature spikes in the past. A number of scientists are on record protesting this deception. It is too bad the Union of Concerned Scientists instead give cover to this deceitful behavior. Steyn’s description “Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change “hockey-stick” is apt and doesn’t need to be misconstrued to fit the other hockey sticks you’ve provided.

      • aaronhuertas

        I think you’re assuming intention on the part of the scientists and giving Steyn credit for a nuanced point he didn’t make. Happy to disagree though.

      • MikeNov

        Reviewing some of Steyn’s old writings on the subject, I am surprised as to the level of technical detail he has written with regards to climate science. I was definitely expecting it to be on the level of “CO2 is only .04%”.

      • Red Black

        So the irritation is Steyn’s comment is taken as an aspersion on all hockey stick graphs. Unfortunately the nuance I point out makes it difficult for the makers of all those other graphs from suing Steyn. Ironically, the guy suing Steyn is the one with the defective graph that has given climate science a black eye.

      • freddouglass2009


      • MikeNov

        Not just a matter of taking credit. He sent his own version out to the other ‘listed’ authors. The difference is primarily over the axes and how to rescale the charts.


        Hi Phil,

        Thanks for sending that along. The text looks good, and I agree w/

        everything that is said…

        Just for comparison to what Tim is producing, I’m attaching the plot you

        may remember that we (actually, the UK Met Office staff) prepared for the

        final version of the IPCC chapter 2 draft (in pdf format). To … I think this leads to a similar picture, but if you

        think there are any significant discrepancies w/ what Tim is preparing, we

        should discuss.

      • Carolina Chickadee

        Hmmmm…. Mann, on his CV, claims production of the figure. So, did he, as he claims? Or, did he not, as you claim?

      • aaronhuertas

        See below. Looks like I learned something today. Thanks.

      • MikeNov

        In addition, you say it is a then-obscure report. The WMO is actually the parent organization of IPCC and UNFCCC.

        While not as big as the IPCC Report with the hockey stick, which was of course also a then-obscure report, the WMO report was not insignificant.

        From the ClimateGate e-mails:
        > There will be a press release in Geneva on Dec16 – they need two weeks

        > to approve the text internally. The full text of the report is then printed

        > during Feb 2000 – last year’s was 12 pages long. It will be released on

        > March 15 in Geneva to coincide with WM (World Met) day and the 50th

        > anniversary celebrations of WMO as well. WMO are planning to print at least

        > twice as many copies as usual and were talking about 25,000 !

        > Copies go to all WMO members and are distributed at countless meetings

        > and sent to loads of address lists available.


      • aaronhuertas

        That makes sense. I guess I’m saying this particular report wasn’t a huge deal at the time and the stakes of what we’re talking about — again, a graph that could have been labeled better — aren’t as grand as Dr. Mann’s critics make them out to be.

      • MikeNov

        When you say it is a minor issue, I guess it depends on whether people think there is a difference between this chart and

      • MikeNov

        Yes, and indeed, these non explanations are what got Steve McIntyre started, not Michael Mann. They say the divergence is unprecedented, but there is no evidence of that presented, at least not at that site. Briffa’s explanation for the divergence also gave no reason for the assumption that it is a new phenomenon. Without that, the claim that it is anthropogenic is a wild guess. The significance is if the proxies are not valid in modern times, then they might not be valid in past times as well, in which case the entire hockey stick falls apart.

        Note there is another divergence problem, in which some proxies exhibit growth beyond the temperature effect, and the primary complaint about the hockey stick is that it is built priamrily on such divergent series, with the vast maority of proxies contributing nothing. The NAS Panel agreed that such proxies as strip bark/ bristlecone pines should not be used.

      • Paleoclimate isn’t the only line of evidence for human-induced climate change. Like I said before, there’s no such thing as a perfect paleoclimate study. We shouldn’t mistake disputes and discussions of uncertainties for bad work or fraud.

      • MikeNov

        So now even the whole hockey stick “doesn’t matter”. What the other evidence for climate change is is irrelevant to the evaluation of the hockey stick. You have declared in your other writings that these things are facts that should not be debated, at least in the media. Nevertheless, I don’t think the burden is on critics to either accept as fact, or to disprove the whole of climate science in order to declare one portion flawed.

      • I wrote: “Paleoclimate isn’t the only line of evidence for human-induced climate change,” so to restate that in the positive, I’m saying that it matters in the context of other lines of evidence for human-induced climate change. Looking back, perhaps you were making a point about divergence rather than a broader point about human-induced change in the climate.

      • MikeNov

        Well, yes and no. However, if I wish to convert someone who is engineering minded to the skeptic side, I frequently bring up Mann’s flaws, particularly upside-down usage of a chart and how he reacted when it was pointed out. Since Mann’s work is held up as solid, this then makes the weakness of his work apply to the rest of climate science. It used to be I could explain it to anyone, just by showing the spreadsheet for Kaufman’s hockey stick. However, Kaufman then issued a correction. This is what climate science needs more of.

      • Well, I’d disagree with a few links in that logical chain, obviously. Mann, Bradley and Hughes published corrections to their work, too, and the “upside-down” data / chart issue has been discussed extensively elsewhere. In any case, we close comments on our posts after two weeks, but if you ever want to correspond I’m at ahuertas[@]ucsusa.org. Thanks for keeping it civil and on point. Much appreciated.

  • MikeNov

    I don’t like the standard being presented by showing other hockey sticks. If the original scientific article is flawed to the point of being fraudulent, then having others produce something that shows the same results doesn’t validate the original paper. Suppose a company fabricated a drug trial, but then the drug actually worked. Is it then invalid to say the study was fraudulent?

    In this case it is not clear to me you have even presented independent validation of the hockey stick, as the papers themselves tend to not be independent in terms of the input series. In the chart with 16 hockey sticks, 4 are from Mann’s 2008 hockey stick paper which is heavily disputed. Indeed, a Mann defender Arthur Shumway Smith(not spaghetti blog) presented his own definition of fraud and started to evaluate the paper on this charge, and ended up abandoning the analysis rather than concede that Mann’s paper met those points.
    Another 3 of the 16 are boreholes starting at a later date, and not really disputing the critics point that older temperatures around AD1000 may have been as high as present temperatures. Another 2 are just instrumental temperature from recent times and not actually hockey sticks. That leaves 7 items, one of which is Mann’s followup hockey stick from 1999, another is Mann&Jones. One is Jones et al 1998 which is a comment on Mann’s 1998 hockey stick published the next day. The reply to it was written by Mann & Jones. Not exactly independent. Briffa 2001 is a major part of “hide-the-decline.” That leaves Esper, Moberg, and Crowley&Lowery. If you look closely, Esper & Moberg don’t look much like hockey sticks, though it is hard to tell because the big red line at the end obscures everything. Part of Mike’s Nature Trick
    Of course there are other hockey stick papers as well. Many of these reuse the same proxies and are not independent, though some are. However, even if all were independent and showed the same results, that would not be relevant if one of these original papers that produced the hockey stick placed as the symbol of global warming was based on flawed methods.

    • aaronhuertas

      Thanks. Good point about replicating results. The main point I was trying to make there was that climate contrarians don’t seem to recognize the existence of other “hockeysticks.” They often act like Mann and his colleagues found one in 1999 and nobody’s ever studied it since. I think that illustrates Dr. Mann’s “Serengeti strategy” quite well.

      On his papers, in particular, I’d also point to the National Research Council review of paleoclimate studies and the fact that Nature stands behind the work, even as it retracts other studies in unrelated fields when methods or results are proven to be wrong. (Nature also said the stolen emails didn’t contain enough evidence to warrant an investigation on their part, for what it’s worth.)

      Big picture, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a perfect paleoclimate study given the different methods, data sources and strengths and weaknesses they all have. So contrarians spend a lot of time trying to shoot single studies down that garner media attention, but tend to ignore the overall weight of the evidence.

      • MikeNov

        Apropos your comment above, it would be easier for climate contrarians to accept evidence of a hockey stick if climate scientists ever said, “I was wrong.” In his 2008 paper, Mann used a chart upside down to generate a hockey stick, and when it was pointed out in a comment in the same journal, instead of saying “I was wrong” doubled down and tried to make it look like the skeptics didn’t understand basic concepts. In fact, Mann has used the chart upside-down as could be seen by any engineering student. Instead of retracting this upside down usage or issuing a correction, the paper has been repeatedly cited by others including the latest IPCC report.

      • aaronhuertas

        I think you’re conflating disputes over minor points with “fraud” or the research being invalid. Dr. Mann and his colleagues engaged with their critics in the literature and were rewarded with continued attacks on their research, methods and character. Meanwhile, the folks trying to poke holes in their research haven’t — to my knowledge — ever tried to produce their own paleoclimate reconstructions, which would be subject to the same strengths, weaknesses and uncertainties on which they’ve been focusing their attention for 15 years now. Finally, if assessment reports didn’t cite his research, I’m sure climate contrarians would be spinning that to say that they have given up on him. This isn’t a real science debate — it’s a “proxy” debate over the credibility of climate science with contrarians trying to use one scientist as a stand in for all the others. I think Dr. Mann is quite right about the Serengeti strategy.

      • MikeNov

        Mann is probably right about the Serengeti strategy. But what it means is that he is the weakest of the group. He uses the explanation of the strategy as a way to prevent criticisms from being published. “Don’t want to give fodder to the skeptics.” So even scientists who disagree with his work are pressured to keep quiet because of the implications it would have for global warming research in general. This can also be seen in ClimateGate e-mails.

        Briffa’s words have been quite prescient.
        Many in the palaeo-community
        understand these issues , but perhaps there has been some reluctance to
        air them in sufficient depth … This carries the danger of a backlash
        as they undertake simple assessments of the palaeo-series and conclude
        that they are all of very little use. “

      • aaronhuertas

        Historically, Dr. Mann and his colleagues were surprised by the amount of public attention their original research received. When media outlets and pro-action politicians began citing the research, politicians and advocates who are against climate action attacked it, Dr. Mann and his colleagues. Same thing happened to a researcher named Shaun Marcott: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/03/response-by-marcott-et-al/. Happens in other fields, too. It’s no surprise that scientists discuss these things with one another, but it’s another thing entirely to assume they gave someone a free pass based on stolen email correspondence. If Dr. Mann and his colleagues were that dead wrong, they would have been proven wrong by now and their papers would have been retracted or significantly revised. We’re talking about some of the most scrutinized papers in modern science.

      • MikeNov

        That last part is near the heart of the dispute, at least from the ACLU’s point of view. Go back to original posts by Simberg and Steyn. They believe the papers have been proven wrong, should have been retracted or significantly revised, and they have not been properly scrutinized. Hence the comparison to Jerry Sandusky who was scrutinized by the same Penn State that scrutinized Michael Mann, and didn’t even bother asking the recipient of a request to delete e-mails despite evidence that Mann has forwarded such an e-mail.

        You say well the work can’t be flawed because Mann has been well scrutinized, and if it were flawed it would have been retracted. Yet no work is retracted, perhaps because Mann makes claims of a Serengeti strategy, “not want to give fodder to the skeptics”, etc. Now the bloggers think the inquiries are flawed, and you say no, and they are not allowed to say so.

        Indeed, the Penn State exoneration of Michael Mann says

        All of these awards and recognitions, as well as others not specifically cited here, serve as evidence that his scientific work, especially the conduct of
        his research,has from the beginning of his career been judged to be outstanding by a broad spectrum
        of scientists. Had Dr. Mann’s conduct of his research been outside the range of accepted
        practices, it would have been impossible for him to receive so many awards and recognitions,

      • I’m saying its valid because it’s been scrutinized by his scientific peers and has held up to scrutiny. Everything else is noise, speculation and politics.

      • MikeNov

        The ‘Produce their own reconstructions’ line is not valid. It amounts to ‘My answer is right unless you can provide the right answer.’ If a drug study is fraudulent, you wouldn’t respond to a consumer advocate group,’Well you haven’t made your own cancer drugs.’

        I also don’t agree with the idea that science is strongest when you don’t attack weak and inaccurate science because you don’t want the critics to win.

      • MikeNov

        See, there’s another conflict. You point to the National Research Council review of paleoclimate studies, right after you say “On his papers, in particular.” Because with regards to Mann’s work, the NRC report agreed with Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick on almost every technical point.

      • aaronhuertas

        Not really my point. Even if it did, criticisms don’t constitute fraud. I think we’re talking past each other a bit and I doubt we’ll settle this over the Internet, but I appreciate you weighing in.

      • MikeNov

        As you say criticisms don’t constitute fraud. And calling something ‘fraudulent’ on a blog post doesn’t constitute a formal allegation of academic fraud.

      • MikeNov

        So when says that McIntyre’s work is fraudulent(cited in NR’s brief), should McIntyre sue Mann for damages? McIntyre can also claim exoneration from the NRC report.

      • If I’m recalling this correctly, you’re citing an email Dr. Mann sent to a journalist which was subsequently stolen from UEA servers. Not sure that’d be treated the same as a public posting on a blog or what have you, but, hey, I’m not a lawyer.

    • MikeNov

      For that matter, we can see in ClimateGate e-mails that Mann&Jones 2003, one of the figures in that chart above, was criticized by other scientists, including one of Mann’s coauthors of the original hockey stick.

      the Mann/Jones GRL paper was truly
      pathetic and should never have been published. I don’t want to be
      associated with that 2000 year “reconstruction”. ”

  • Abu Nudnik

    A nip here, a tuck there and even an old crone (or even a man cleverly disguised as a woman) can inspire a hockey stick in some men or, to put it into political language, a shillelagh to use to extort taxes to keep bribing an electorate.

  • This is quite mind boggling. Thanks Aaron for sharing the details.

  • Hi folks–we’re glad that this post has sparked a lively conversation. Let’s please keep it on topic and free of name-calling and personal attacks. We recommend reading our comment policy at the bottom of the page before posting a comment. We’ll be deleting comments that violate that policy.

    Thanks, and carry on!

  • Bogs_Dollocks

    “Michael Mann’s special purpose Hockey Stick filter has been exposed.”


    Just another case of Mann-made GIGO.

  • maxdaddy

    You guys know a lot about science, probably way more than Mark Steyn does, but you don’t know squat about the First Amendment. Groups like the ACLU and several major newspapers aren’t opposing Mann’s suit because they think Steyn is a nice guy. They’re opposing it because Michael Mann has descended from the ivory tower into the climate wars, where he’s just another combatant trying to shut down his opponents through costly, time-consuming and distracting litigation. Is this really the ride the USC wants to be on–an enemy of the First Amendment?

    • Patrick Shoemaker

      Bollocks. The First Amendment does not convey the right to libel. That is the issue here: falsely accusing a scientist of fraud — something that could get him fired. And the malice is as clear as a festering boil on Mark Steyn’s ass.

      • Maxdaddy

        Read the amicus briefs. If Michael Mann is some kind of a “public person” within the meaning of the case law starting with New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), he has to meet an extraordinarily heavy burden to prevail against Steyn.

  • Duckworks

    It’s not just right wingers and energy lobbyists backing Steyn in this fight–enter the ACLU: http://www.steynonline.com/documents/6515.pdf Mann’s suit is a SLAPP suit, plain and simple. Regardless of data and ‘consensus’ among climatologists, there is as much big money behind carbon trading and non-fossil energy (wind, hydroelectric, and especially nukes) as there is with the fossil sector. People concerned with keeping discourse free–even if it’s not polite–should watch this case closely. And everyone opposed to things like the expansion of nuclear power, hydroelectric dams, and wind farms should keep an eye on the competing and also industry-funded push for these ‘carbon-free’ but problematic energy sources.

    • Ghonadz

      More deluded drivel from a stooge for the fossil fuel industry.

    • You’re lying, plain and simple. Mann’s suit is not a SLAPP suit and the ACLU didn’t say it is.

    • WHAT?

      People are entitled to freedom of speech, but not to their own facts. The defendant made claims that are factually incorrect, and did so with the intent of destroying a scientists reputation. If that is not a cause for a lawsuit, what is?

      • JBP

        And who gets to decide what the facts are? There have been many scientific revolutions that turned accepted science on it’s head. If we can suppress someone’s speech because it doesn’t comport with current scientific beliefs, then we’ll make these revolutions less likely:



        If you’re right, don’t suppress the speech of the other side, win the debate. That’s the scientific method.

      • aaronhuertas

        Those are great stories. Thanks. If this were a debate happening in the scientific literature, I’d absolutely agree with you. But in this case, it’s people who reject the science for political reasons falsely accusing a scientist of fraud. Dr. Mann’s critics aren’t trying to constructively improve our scientific understanding of climate change with new evidence, theories or data; they’re trying to attack a scientist because they don’t like his research results or the attention they’ve garnered. I’d also add that his critics generally don’t play by the real rules of debate. They ignore arguments, cherry-pick, and try to reframe the debate on their terms rather than engage substantively. It’s hard for me to recall any instance in which someone from CEI has uttered the words, ‘I was mistaken…’ when discussing climate science.

      • freddouglass2009

        There IS a debate in the scientific peer-reviewed world, not about
        measurements (such as the actual rise of CO2) but what its impact is on
        climate, and what future climate holds. The repeated denial of its
        existence (a denial that Aaron repeats here) by “concerned scientists”
        has done extraordinary damage to the reputation of science among the
        public, who are not as gullible and misleadable as Aaron seems to think
        they are.
        And the East Anglia “Climategate” email are far closer to
        proof of fraud that I would ever want to be associated in my scientific
        The public gets this, even if they do not experience the
        hazing and intimidation from the Mann crowd that we scientists do.
        Further, every scientist who has not been corrupted by the need for
        advocacy knows that the models that predicted disaster in the future
        (which, was 2014) were transparently wrong; anyone brave enough to face
        the Mann hazing admits this in public.
        Mann tried to win a
        scientific argument by using politics, by suing people who disagree with
        him, by falsely claiming “exonerations” (not to mention a Nobel prize)
        where there were none, by withholding data, and by his quite deceptive
        book (which Aaron seems to swallow, hook, line and sinker). Mann is not
        the first scientist to do this (Lysenko comes to mind), and he will not
        be the last. Fortunately, if belatedly, scientists are speaking out to
        note that criticism of Mann is NOT criticism of science, but the other
        way around.
        Mann’s hockey stick misrepresented the Medieval warm
        period, and allowed politicians with political agendas to claim that
        “today is the wamest ever” (not even close, if you consider the Minoan
        and Warm periods, and certainly not if you consider the Eocene). The
        subsequent temperature histories show that.
        And yet Aaron, needing to remain “politically correct”, continues to call these “hockey sticks”.

      • Dr. Mann’s work made it harder for politicians to say, “It was warmer in the recent past,” so they attacked his research. Regardless, the real issue is the rate of change. We’ve built all our infrastructure for the climate of the past 50 years, not for the climate of the Eocene. The arguments about when it was warmer in the geological past are minimally relevant to climate policy debates in my mind, but they make good talking points, I guess.

      • ravingdog

        Unless the plaintiff is a public figure, in which case the plaintiff has to prove actual malice on the part of the defendant in making the statement. Which is a much, much higher hurdle to overcome.

        And so far Michael Man has presented no evidence that would lead anyone to believe that the defendants made their allegedly defamatory statements while actually knowing that Michael Mann was completely innocent of such behavior.

        You need to read up on this case more before giving your legal opinion. This article certainly doesn’t do the case any justice.

  • where in the legal process will a meaningful remedy (including a huge fine hopefully) be awarded Dr Mann from the accused denialists? seems like all the jibber-jabber is irrelevant otherwise.

    • Rick Piltz at Climate Science Watch has some more details on the legal process aspects of the case: http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2014/09/03/michael-mann-dc-appeals-court-brief-sept3-2014/. Not sure how long it will ultimately take, but CEI and National Review have been taking steps to delay or toss out the case.

      • thanks.

      • ravingdog

        Michael Mann has also been taking steps to delay and drag out the case. One defendant, Steyn, asked for his case to be separated from the rest and be allowed to proceed to trial. No more delays. Michael Mann could have taken one of the defendants to court and received a verdict much sooner.
        However Mann (his lawyers) argued against proceeding to trial with Steyn. Much like his case against Tim Ball, Michael Mann seems to like to start lawsuits, but not actually finish them. Almost like he wants to drag defendants through a bunch of expensive procedural lawyering. Which sort of sounds like a SLAPP.

    • Duckworks

      The ‘jibber-jabber’ regards freedom of expression and discourse. This is why the ACLU is supporting Mark Steyn in this case. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/364032/my-new-friends-mark-steyn

      Free discourse is what makes a free society. This is what is relevant. I don’t agree with Mark Steyn on many issues (e.g., overpopulation), lean toward accepting the reality of anthropogenic climate change, do not like the energy industry…but am frightened at the precedent a win for the plaintiff would set in this case. Hopefully, the only payout will be for the defendant’s legal costs.

    • ravingdog

      Since Mann has to prove actual malice on the part of the defendants, he will likely never win the case. Or if he does win in DC it will be appealed to a higher level since a verdict in his favour would be a major encroachment on current civil liberties protected under the First Amendment. Which is why the ACLU is siding with the defendants.
      He will never see a dime from this and knows it. It seems like he is happy dragging the defendants through a very costly legal process with no hope of ever repairing any alleged damage to his reputation. Sort of like a SLAPP. Hmmm…
      The kicker is that by going after Mark Steyn, he has unwittingly caused himself much more damage to his reputation. Check out Steyn Online to see examples of this. Steyn has now counter-sued with the intent to ensure that even if Michael Mann decides to drop his lawsuit, he cannot walk away at this point.

  • A colleague helpfully suggested sharing some information about CEI’s funding sources. While it’s often difficult to know which institutions and individuals are funding organizations that attack established science, we do know that CEI and other groups like it have received funding from tobacco and fossil fuel interests over the years. I have no doubt that people who work at free market think tanks believe in their groups’ missions, but companies and foundations are also accountable for funding organizations that spread misinformation about science. Page 89 here has a rundown of CEI’s funding from 2003 to 2010. This is from the latest comprehensive study of funding for groups that oppose climate policies: http://link.springer.com/content/esm/art:10.1007/s10584-013-1018-7/file/MediaObjects/10584_2013_1018_MOESM1_ESM.pdf And Sourcewatch has more info and links here: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Competitive_Enterprise_Institute#Funding

    • Duckworks

      Let’s also admit that there is industry money behind the anti-fossil fuel lobby, including the nuclear industry: http://www.motherearthnews.com/renewable-energy/nuclear-power-lobbyist-influence.aspx#axzz3CSqDjBIs

      Up here, in Canada, there has been strenuous lobbying from wind turbine contractors, hydroelectric dam builders, and other interests. China’s Three Gorges Dam, an environmental disaster, was largely sold as a carbon-reducing project. And carbon trading is big business: http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/376819/carbon_trading_to_net_1bn_for_uks_richest_man.html

      Is anthropogenic climate change a reality? Probably. Is curbing fossil fuel use desirable? Yes, but not at the expense of using dangerous, environmentally destructive alternatives (nuclear, hydroelectric, wind). Nobody, from left to right, is also addressing the underlying anthropogenic environmental issue, i.e., overpopulation. ‘Solutions’ like the Kyoto Accord, which would have transferred, en masse, industry to a bulging third world, will not help. And a win for Michael Mann would set a very dangerous precedent for freedom of discourse. The U.S., Canada, Britain are not countries like SIngapore or Russia, where libel suits are used to shut down dissenting voices. Scientists, in particular, should fight this.

      • Ghonadz

        A load of myths and misinformation. Wind energy is not “dangerous” or “environmentally destructive”.

        When Dr. Mann wins his lawsuits, it will definitely not be “setting a very dangerous precedent for freedom of discourse”, as you foolishly claim. “Freedom of discourse” does not include slander and deliberate lies that do damage to someone’s professional reputation.

        There are rightful and legal limits on ‘free speech’, as in the example where shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater is legally not protected ‘free speech’ but an indictable criminal offense. The alternative and obvious example of what should be criminally prosecutable, unprotected non-‘free speech’ would be fraudulently assuring the people in an actually burning theater that there was no fire and they should keep their seats, because you have a financial interest in denying the truth of the fire and keeping them in the theater. Under that principle, those people who knowingly spread lies and misinformation about AGW/CC in order to protect the profits and stock prices of the fossil fuel industry could be prosecuted for their lies

      • Duvane

        Don’t use the “fire in a crowded theater” argument. It makes us all dumber: http://www.popehat.com/2012/09/19/three-generations-of-a-hackneyed-apologia-for-censorship-are-enough/
        Or if you need a more liberal-ly reference: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/11/its-time-to-stop-using-the-fire-in-a-crowded-theater-quote/264449/
        Or even just: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shouting_fire_in_a_crowded_theater

        At any rate, there is no issue of criminal prosecution here, only the civil issue of whether Dr. Mann can pursue damages over the speech used. And that question will come down to whether false statements of facts were uttered, and nothing else. Statements on matters that are pure opinion, including clear hyperbole, are protected by law in the US, as they should be.

        If false statements of fact were uttered that damaged Dr Mann’s reputation or career, then he should win. However, if he were to win because of other people’s expressions of their opinions, regardless of what effect they had or how mean or misguided they were, then yes, that would set an unfortunate precedent.

      • ravingdog

        Actually the case will not revolve around whether or not false statements of fact were made, but whether or not Michael Mann (as a public figure) can prove malice on the part of the defendants.
        Otherwise, good points. The potential precedent set by Mann’s lawsuit is worrisome enough that a bunch of free-speech loving types have filed briefs in support of the defendants.
        The question to people debating this lawsuit should be asking is do you support Michael Mann’s SLAPP approach to public discourse or do you support a strong First Amendment?

      • Let’s rather admit that you’re an intellectually dishonest ignoramus.

    • ravingdog

      What about Michael Mann’s funding for this lawsuit? Where does that money come from?

      • aaronhuertas

        I don’t know, but the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund helped him previously when groups were suing him for records: http://climatesciencedefensefund.org/

        To the point I made above, I think it’s safe to say Dr. Mann isn’t receiving funding from Big Wind or Big Solar, though.

        Thanks for sharing your opinions on the legal issues, by the way. I think there is room for respectful disagreement on those aspects of the case and we’re happy to host that discussion on our blog. Never the less, my primary concern is the way in which defendants in this case continue to misrepresent the science. When it comes to their legal actions, as well as their policy advocacy, I just don’t think they need to cross that line.

      • ravingdog

        I never suggested funding from industrial groups. I think it is a very critical question to know where Michael Mann is getting the money to pursue a very, very expensive legal process that will likely not succeed. This is not his own money he is spending to drag defendants through the expensive torture chamber of “US justice”.
        I am very interested to know who would fund a legal attack like this where the plaintiff is pretty much guaranteed to lose and his reputation has become much more tarnished than before the lawsuit. (No more claiming to be a Nobel laureate)
        If Mann’s intent was truly to “clear his name”, Steyn has offered to go immediately to trial on his statements in question. Steyn has also complied with Mann’s initial discovery request while Mann has not done so in return. The fact that Mann has refused to proceed towards clearing his name as quickly as possibly really makes it seem like the point of this lawsuit is to make the defendants suffer massive legal costs for attacking a public figure.
        If I were American, I would be extremely worried about such a precedent.

      • Maxdaddy

        The way to settle scientific disputes is in scientific journals. But if you want to get into the legal weeds, which is what Michael Mann did by suing, then you need to think about some larger issues than the purity of science, like freedom of speech as it involves public figures, among whom Michael Mann likely numbers. By any reasonable reading of UCS’s position here, it is as anti-First Amendment as it claims Steyn is anti-science. One would think a group of people who probably think themselves collectively and individually pretty damn clever could figure out how to walk and chew gum at the same time.

      • I feel like I addressed your point — or tried to — in the last section of the post.