Climate

Michael Mann updates the world on the latest climate science and responds to the illegally hacked emails

Michael Mann, one of the country’s leading climatologists, has coauthored a major new review and analysis of climate science since the 2007 IPCC report.  Mann, Director of Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center, is much attacked by the anti-scientific disinformers because of his work on the paleoclimate “hockey stick” reconstructions of temperature over the past couple of millennia.  Contrary to what the disinformers continue to say, however, the hockey stick was essentially vindicated by the National Academy of Sciences (see NAS Report and RealClimate.org).

[Photo is ©  www.tomcogill.com.]

Since some of his email exchanges were made public by the recent illegal hack of documents from the University of East Anglia, he has also distributed a response to various members of the media and bloggers, which I reprint in full below.

Misrepresentation of these emails is so common that the Washington Post issued one of the fastest retractions/corrections in its history.  I had blogged on their November 25 op-ed “Climate of Denial” here — The newspaper that publishes George Will (and Sarah Palin) editorializes: “Many “” including us “” find global warming deniers’ claims irresponsible.” Well, one day later, they “clarified” one of their assertions about Mann (see here).  So this should be a cautionary tale to the media to go to the primary source before simply repeating what others have said.

Before reprinting Mann’s comments on the key emails, let me focus on what is far more important — the science.  As the UK’s Met Office, NERC and the Royal Society recently wrote, “even since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened.” Now we have the detailed scientific basis for such statements.

Mann is a coauthor of “The Copenhagen Diagnosis,” in which the 26 leading climate researchers document “the key findings in climate change science since the publication of the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report in 2007.”  They “conclude that several important aspects of climate change are occurring at the high end or even beyond the expectations of only a few years ago”:

Without significant mitigation, the report says global mean warming could reach as high as 7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

And that plausible worst case scenario would cause unimaginable harm — including to this country (see UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon”).  And yes, that scenario is quite different from the simple analysis of what happens if the nation and the world just keep on our current emissions path.  We’ve known that end-of-century catastrophe for a while (see “M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F“).

None of this will be a surprise to those who follow the scientific literature or read CP.  Here are “the most significant recent climate change findings”:

Surging greenhouse gas emissions: Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 were nearly 40% higher than those in 1990. Even if global emission rates are stabilized at present -day levels, just 20 more years of emissions would give a 25% probability that warming exceeds 2oC. Even with zero emissions after 2030. Every year of delayed action increase the chances of exceeding 2oC warming.

Recent global temperatures demonstrate human-based warming: Over the past 25 years temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.190C per decade, in every good agreement with predictions based on greenhouse gas increases. Even over the past ten years, despite a decrease in solar forcing, the trend continues to be one of warming. Natural, short- term fluctuations are occurring as usual but there have been no significant changes in the underlying warming trend.

Acceleration of melting of ice-sheets, glaciers and ice-caps: A wide array of satellite and ice measurements now demonstrate beyond doubt that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass at an increasing rate. Melting of glaciers and ice-caps in other parts of the world has also accelerated since 1990.

Rapid Arctic sea-ice decline: Summer-time melting of Arctic sea-ice has accelerated far beyond the expectations of climate models. This area of sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40% greater than the average prediction from IPCC AR4 climate models.

Current sea-level rise underestimates: Satellites show great global average sea-level rise (3.4 mm/yr over the past 15 years) to be 80% above past IPCC predictions. This acceleration in sea-level rise is consistent with a doubling in contribution from melting of glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland and West-Antarctic ice-sheets.

Sea-level prediction revised: By 2100, global sea-level is likely to rise at least twice as much as projected by Working Group 1 of the IPCC AR4, for unmitigated emissions it may well exceed 1 meter. The upper limit has been estimated as – 2 meters sea-level rise by 2100. Sea-level will continue to rise for centuries after global temperature have been stabilized and several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries.

Delay in action risks irreversible damage: Several vulnerable elements in the climate system (e.g. continental ice-sheets. Amazon rainforest, West African monsoon and others) could be pushed towards abrupt or irreversible change if warming continues in a business-as-usual way throughout this century. The risk of transgressing critical thresholds (“tipping points”) increase strongly with ongoing climate change. Thus waiting for higher levels of scientific certainty could mean that some tipping points will be crossed before they are recognized.

The turning point must come soon: If global warming is to be limited to a maximum of 2oC above pre-industrial values, global emissions need to peak between 2015 and 2020 and then decline rapidly. To stabilize climate, a decarbonized global society – with near-zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases – need to be reached well within this century. More specifically, the average annual per-capita emissions will have to shrink to well under 1 metric ton CO2 by 2050. This is 80-90% below the per-capita emissions in developed nations in 2000.

The time to act is now if not sooner.

Now back to Mann and the emails.

As noted, Mann has been a primary target of the disinformers because of the hockey stick.  Yet even more important than the fact that the original analysis was defensibly correct, is that the conclusions were correct [which could be true even if the analysis had flaws in it].  Is the planet now as hot (or hotter) than it has been in a millenium?  Try two millennia (see “Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years“).  See also “Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, ‘seminal’ study finds.”  That’s why climatologist and one-time darling of the contrarians Ken Caldeira said last month, “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.”

Now Mann is being attacked again, again primarily by those misrepresenting his work and what he has written.  You can find excellent explanations of many of those emails and the issues they raise at RealClimate (here).  Here are Mann’s comments on the hacked emails:

1. “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i. e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” (from Phil Jones).

Phil Jones has publicly gone on record indicating that he was using the term “trick” in the sense often used by people, as in “bag of tricks”, or “a trick to solving this problem …”, or “trick of the trade”. In referring to our 1998 Nature article, he was pointing out simply the following: our proxy record ended in 1980 (when the proxy data set we were using terminates) so, it didn’t include the warming of the past two decades. In our Nature article we therefore also showed the post-1980 instrumental data that was then available through 1995, so that the reconstruction could be viewed in the context of recent instrumental temperatures. The separate curves for the reconstructed temperature series and for the instrumental data were clearly labeled.

The reference to “hide the decline” is referring to work that I am not directly associated with, but instead work by Keith Briffa and colleagues. The “decline” refers to a well-known decline in the response of only a certain type of tree-ring data (high-latitude tree-ring density measurements collected by Briffa and colleagues) to temperatures after about 1960. In their original article in Nature in 1998, Briffa and colleagues are very clear that the post-1960 data in their tree-ring dataset should not be used in reconstructing temperatures due to a problem known as the “divergence problem” where their tree-ring data decline in their response to warming temperatures after about 1960.  “Hide” was therefore a poor word choice, since the existence of this decline, and the reason not to use the post 1960 data because of it, was not only known, but was indeed the point emphasized in the original Briffa et al Nature article. There is a summary of that article available on this NOAA site:
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/briffa.html
There have been many articles since then trying to understand the reason for this problem, which applies largely to only one very specific type of proxy data (tree-ring wood density data from higher latitudes).

As for my research in this area more generally, there was a study commissioned by the National Academies of Science back in 2006 to assess the validity of paleoclimate reconstructions in general, and my own work in specific. A summary of that report, and link to it, is available here:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/06/national-academies-synthesis-report/

The New York Times (6/22/06), in an article about the report entitled  “Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate”  had the following things to say:

A controversial paper asserting that recent warming in the Northern Hemisphere was probably unrivaled for 1,000 years was endorsed today, with a few reservations, by a panel convened by the nation’s preeminent scientific body…At a news conference at the headquarters of the National Academies, several members of the panel reviewing the study said they saw no sign that its authors had intentionally chosen data sets or methods to get a desired result. “I saw nothing that spoke to me of any manipulation,” said one member, Peter Bloomfield, a statistics professor at North Carolina State University. He added that his impression was the study was “an honest attempt to construct a data analysis procedure.”

2. “Perhaps we’ll do a simple update to the Yamal post. As we all know, this isn’t about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.” (from me)

This refers to a particular tree-ring reconstruction of Keith Briffa’s. These tree-ring data are just one of numerous tree-ring records used to reconstruct past climate.  Briffa and collaborators were criticized (unfairly in the view of many of my colleagues and me) by a contrarian climate change website based on what we felt to be a misrepresentation of their work.  A further discussion can be found on the site “RealClimate.org” that I co-founded and help run. It is quite clear from the context of my comments that what I was saying was that the attacks against Briffa and colleagues were not about truth but instead about making plausibly deniable accusations against him and his colleagues.

We attempted to correct the misrepresentations of Keith’s work in the “RealClimate article mentioned above, and we invited him and his co-author Tim Osborn to participate actively in responding to any issues raised in the comment thread of the article which he did.

3. “Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment -minor family crisis. Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.” (from Phil Jones)

This was simply an email that was sent to me, and can in no way be taken to indicate approval of, let alone compliance with, the request. I did not delete any such email correspondences.

4. “I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal” (from me)

This comment was in response to a very specific incident regarding a paper by Soon and Baliunas published in the journal “Climate Research”. An editor of the journal, with rather contrarian views on climate change, appeared to several of us to be gaming the system to let through papers that clearly did not meet the standards of quality for the journal. The chief editor (Hans von Storch), and half of the editorial board, resigned in protest of the publication of the paper, after the publisher refused to allow von Storch the opportunity to write an editorial about how the peer review process had failed in this instance.

Please see e.g. this post at RealClimate:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack-context/
(3rd bullet item–see the various links, which lead to letters from chief editor Von Storch, and an article by the journalist Chris Mooney about the incident).

Scientists all choose journals in which we publish and we all recommend to each other and our students which journals they should publish in. People are free to publish wherever they can and are free to recommend some journals over others. For an example of this behavior in daily life, people make choices and recommendations all the time in their purchasing habits. It is highly unusual for a chief editor and half of an editorial board to resign and that indicates a journal in turmoil that should possibly be avoided. Similarly, authors are allowed to cite any papers they want, although usually the editor will note incorrect or insufficient citing.

I support the publication of “skeptical” papers that meet the basic standards of scientific quality and merit. I myself have published scientific work that has been considered by some as representing a skeptical point of view on matters relating to climate change  (for example, my work demonstrating the importance of natural oscillations of the climate on multidecadal timescales).  Skepticism in the truest scientific sense of the word is good and is indeed essential to science.  Skepticism should not be confused, however, with contrarianism that does not meet the basic standards of scientific inquiry.

5 “‘It would be nice to try to contain the putative “MWP” (from me)

In this email, I was discussing the importance of extending paleoclimate reconstructions far enough back in time that we could determine the onset and duration of the putative “Medieval Warm Period”. Since this describes an interval in time, it has to have both a beginning and end. But reconstructions that only go back 1000 years, as most reconstructions did at the time, didn’t reach far enough back to isolate the beginning of this period, i.e. they are not long enough to “contain” the interval in question. In more recent work, such as the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007, the paleoclimate reconstructions stretch nearly 2000 years back in time, which is indeed far enough back in time to “contain” or “isolate” this period in time.

I think it very useful and worthwhile for scientists to explain the science and to explain any misrepresentations of what they have said or written (see Let’s look at one of the illegally hacked emails in more detail “” the one by NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth on “where the heck is global warming?”).  I will continue to write about both.

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40 Responses to Michael Mann updates the world on the latest climate science and responds to the illegally hacked emails

  1. Warren Bonesteel says:

    http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/5171206

    searchable database located here:
    http://www.eastangliaemails.com/index.php

    Go. Read, Learn. Don’t take anyone’s word for granted, not even mine.
    Do your own research. Think for yourself.

  2. caerbannog says:

    Here is a link to the paper published in Climate Research that prompted Mann’s missive “I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal….”: http://www.int-res.com/articles/cr2003/23/c023p089.pdf

    If you have an undergraduate-level (even freshman-level) understanding of basic statistics, a couple of “total fail” blunders in the paper’s methodology should jump right out at you. A paper that would earn an undergraduate at any decent university an “F” (or maybe a gentleman’s “D”) has no business being published in a peer-reviewed journal.

    So go. Read. Learn. Don’t take anyone’s word for granted about this paper, not even mine. Do your own research. Think for yourself.

  3. David Harington says:

    Why would we want to listen to anything this guy has to say?

  4. Len Ornstein says:

    Michael Mann has ‘acquitted’ himself with style above.

    What is particularly striking, is his disavowal of compliance with Phil Jones’ ‘request’ for colleagues to delete emails with Keith Briffa re AR4. This reflects rather poorly on Jones.

    This all should be examined carefully with focus on 3 questions that should be separately assessed with respect to the hacked emails:

    1) The most important is: does the behavior of the scientists involved significantly weaken the collective AGW position that warming is real, that it will probably continue with business as usual, and that such warming will probably subject humanity (and ecosystems) to severe risks? The answer to this one should be a resounding, NO.

    2) Has the behavior of a few of these scientist revealed poor judgment about scientific and legal protocol? YES.

    3) Does this episode reveal (again) that the scientific peer review process is imperfect, and can stand improvement? YES.

    Academics and journalists must weigh their responsibilities to the public carefully, so that the weight that they give to discussion of questions like 2 and 3 will not easily be perceived as changing the answer to questions like 1.

  5. Arthur Smith says:

    On question 3 – sounds like folks are throwing Phil Jones under the bus – obviously Mann didn’t defend what Jones did here, he just defended his own actions. As far as I can tell this is the only real accusation being made that has any substance – but I’d like to know more of the context. Why was Jones concerned about emails regarding AR4? Pointers to existing discussions of the subject are welcome…

  6. Mario says:

    @ David,

    Don’t bother. It is not as if you would understand what MM has to say anyway.

  7. pete best says:

    Because he is a scientist at the top of his game. Th brilliant in science hold the top jobs. Science is more merit driven than other disciplines. James Hansen fought the Governments trying to stifle him but he was never made redundant. He is simply too good at his job.

    Cream rises to the top. Real climate has demonstrated that on so many levels.

  8. K. Nockels says:

    The desperation of Deniers never ceases to amaze me. With a little effort take the time to learn the basic science behind climate change and apply the ability to do a little research so that at the very least you understand the principles behind the findings of the peer-reviewed papers out there. Than come to your own conclutions BASED ON THE FACTS, not on the emotional response of not wanting it to be true, because you would have to take some of the responsablity for it and take steps (changing lifestyle) to help fix it. If most people tryed a life-style that cut carbon they would soon learn that it cost less in the long run and is less stressfull over-all. This gotcha mentality is really counter productive to the what the world needs to be doing to deal with this situation.

  9. David Harrington says:

    @Mario

    >> Don’t bother. It is not as if you would understand what MM has to say anyway.

    Beyond me is it? That’s a relief.

  10. Sable says:

    “Skepticism in the truest scientific sense of the word is good and is indeed essential to science. Skepticism should not be confused, however, with contrarianism that does not meet the basic standards of scientific inquiry.”

    Bears repeating.

  11. bi -- IJI says:

    So, Warren “do your own research” Bonesteel, when are you going to actually “do your own research” by cutting up a few trees and studying the tree rings yourself?

    Or is your “do your own research” line just a pretext to summarily ignore everything that’s said by people who’ve actually done the hard work?

    * * *

    By the way, I have studied the FOI2009.zip file, and I found some interesting things about the time zone information.

    bi

  12. MarkB says:

    Arthur (#5),

    I agree with your sentiment about #3 being the only accusation of possibly substance (although given how these emails are being used it’s quite understandable) out of more than a decade of exchanges and I also wonder how any legit FOI request could involve personal email exchanges to begin with. I disagree with the idea that Jones is being “thrown under the bus” simply because one doesn’t support a comment made. Dr. Gavin Schmidt doesn’t support the comment either, but he wrote on RC:

    “…I’ve known Phil Jones for a decade and I have no doubts as to his integrity despite some rather unfortunate comments in these emails. Neither he, nor his allies (whoever they might be), are deleting any data. Not now. Not ever. You don’t know him, but you have formed an impression based on these communications. Now I doubt I will convince you that your impression is wrong, but it is.”

    I really don’t think someone can be judged from an email (or a few) written over the years, although that’s certainly one of the intentions of the political crowd.

  13. Richard Brenne says:

    Michael’s list of the consensus forming since the conservative 2007 IPCC Report is the best I’ve seen – concise and consistent with what I’ve been hearing from many top climate scientists, as well as on this and other science-based websites.

    I’ve been saying that we’ve been measuring sea level rise in inches, will soon begin measuring it in feet, and if Americans ever come to understand the metric system, in meters.

    So three feet, three inches (for metric-impaired Americans) of sea level rise likely within 91 years with the possibility of six feet, six inches rise, and 13 feet within 300 years means much of what is now Southern Florida and Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts together with much of the Netherlands, Bangladesh, the Nile and all other big-river deltas, Venice, London, Shanghai, Beijing, New York, Washington, Boston and every other harbor and coastal city will be under water.

    Compared to that, splitting hairs about the meaning of a bunch of e-mails seems trivial in the extreme.

  14. David B. Benson says:

    I’m just checking to see whether or not this comment is also eaten by ClimateProgress.

  15. David B. Benson says:

    Why just on the Dr. Judith Curry thread, it seems?

  16. WAG says:

    Anyone remember the Simpsons episode where Homer goes on the show “Rock Bottom” and they splice together out-of-context quotes to make him look like a rapist? I thought this video was a great analogy for Hackergate (posted here):

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/11/what-do-climategate-and-simpsons-have.html

  17. Leland Palmer says:

    Joe, your site is eating comments again.

    Second try:

    We need to remind ourselves we are up against well funded, decades old networks of paid climate deniers, and sites that engage in “information laundering” set up by ExxonMobil.

    Consider this 2007 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

    Smoke, Mirrors and Hot Air

    How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science

    In an effort to deceive the public about the reality
    of global warming, ExxonMobil has underwritten
    the most sophisticated and most successful
    disinformation campaign since the tobacco industry
    misled the public about the scientific evidence
    linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease.
    As this report documents, the two disinformation
    campaigns are strikingly similar. ExxonMobil has
    drawn upon the tactics and even some of the
    organizations and actors involved in the callous
    disinformation campaign the tobacco industry
    waged for 40 years. Like the tobacco industry,
    ExxonMobil has:
    • Manufactured uncertainty by raising doubts
    about even the most indisputable scientific
    evidence.
    Adopted a strategy of information laundering
    by using seemingly independent front organizations
    to publicly further its desired message
    and thereby confuse the public.

    • Promoted scientific spokespeople who misrepresent
    peer-reviewed scientific findings or
    cherry-pick facts in their attempts to persuade
    the media and the public that there is still
    serious debate among scientists that burning
    fossil fuels has contributed to global warming
    and that human-caused warming will have
    serious consequences.
    • Attempted to shift the focus away from meaningful
    action on global warming with misleading
    charges about the need for “sound science.”
    • Used its extraordinary access to the Bush
    administration to block federal policies and
    shape government communications on global
    warming.

    We need to remind ourselves of the existence of this network, and start to understand, even more than we have in the past, the size and influence of this network. Notice in particular the “information laundering” quote above.

    The timing of this release, just before Copenhagen, is highly suspicious.

    The scientists who have been victimized by this leak should not only defend themselves, they should use whatever influence they have with their governments to find out if these leaks were not from private hackers, but were instead from the intelligence agencies like the NSA that routinely monitor such email traffic.

    Such possible collusion between the intelligence agencies and ExxonMobil, for example, would be highly illegal.

  18. Leland Palmer says:

    Let’s see if the site will take the link:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/global_warming/exxon_report.pdf

    [JR: Always does!]

  19. David B. Benson says:

    Joe Romm wrote [JR: Always does!] Alas, no. Yesterday CP started eating comments with a single link and today was, as Leland Palmer pointed out, eating comments even without links.

    Ate this one too. Third try now, this time without any html.

    [JR: Your stuff seems to be going into spam folder. Not sure why.]

  20. Leland Palmer says:

    Yeah, Joe, it ate it.

    I think it doesn’t like the formatting when copying and pasting from a pdf file. Sometimes it will take it, sometimes not.

    Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to post at all.

    A few glitches are annoying, but not that big of a deal. :)

  21. Steve H. says:

    Leland,

    Since you have the inside scoop on the deniers network, do you have any names of members and how do they deliver their misinformation and to whom?

  22. Walt says:

    Joe,

    You still don’t get it, do you? You, Phil, Michael, Gavin, Al, Andy, Keith et al are all toast. Not a peer reviewed comment, but true nonetheless.

  23. Andy says:

    Steve H. – try checking out the new book “Doubt Is Their Product” for a good history on the corporate denial machine. I haven’t read it yet, but Jeff Matthews reviews it at his weatherunderground web site.

  24. dhogaza says:

    You still don’t get it, do you? You, Phil, Michael, Gavin, Al, Andy, Keith et al are all toast.

    Yes, if you have your way, there will be a new Inquisition, and you’ll make martyrs of them all, just as was done to Galileo, won’t you?

  25. MarkB says:

    One of my posts must be in the spam folder as well – 2 URLs might explain it.

  26. Thomas says:

    Richard Brenne,

    I’m not sure it’s up yet, but in the thread under Dr. Judith Curry I stated if I saw something stated in the areas I know more about I might post. Your comment about Americans and the metric system is something I have some thoughts for you on. It is, in fact, an issue that an upper level class I took ended up working through for a few days as an aside to some other areas we were exploring.

    There is actually a reason you are not likely to ever see the general population in America adopt the metric system, even though for the sciences it is much more useful and “accurate”. In fact the scientist’s wise cracks about such in public do not help their desire to remain respected (and the public isn’t overtly kind to the idea that they are stupid because they see no reason to change their way of counting). I know, it’s something often joked about, it was even 25 years back. But here are some thoughts for you:

    The longest Mile.
    They fought for every inch.
    The football field – 100 yards
    They gave it every ounce of energy.
    A ten gallon hat.

    You can go on and on – but do you see a pattern? The measuring system in this country is far more than simply how we measure inanimate things. A substantial amount of our “cultural sense” is wrapped up in hundreds of such comments – which everyone in this country instantly identifies with. To change that system is far more involved than simply teaching a different way to count – you are entering into the realms of social consciousness, and is thus very likely to never fully take hold. Whenever you get the kind of mass refusal to change that you see in this type of example you would be better served to start looking at what might be involved. You will often find that underneath the refusal to change is a cultural sense. I think you can work out what happens when such is attacked.

  27. Jeffrey Davis says:

    Personalities, perception, and politics. That’s the basis and substance of the deniers.

    Identify a person who’s supposed to represent the science. Like Al Gore or Michael Mann.

    Raise the noise level so that it looks like something of substance is involved.

    Isolate sympathetic or sensitive politicians and hammer them with the “implications” of the event.

  28. Thomas says:

    Jeffery,

    I have another idea for you. I’ll try to keep it short, but hope those reading take the time to think through the thought (it matters greatly if you wish to have an effect in the greater realm of public perception). After reading endlessly for the past couple weeks on numerous sites and in numerous threads, an idea that keeps getting screamed, thumped & repeated over and over again is “it’s about the world!!!” “It’s about the benefit to all mankind!!!”

    You need to keep in mind the country you are dealing with before you go down that road. In the USA the idea of Utilitarianism – that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few is *never* going to fly very far. Remember what one of the most basic of all principles in our world view is – the rights of the individual are far more important than almost anything else (“better to let 100 guilty free then suffer one innocent wrongly convicted” – not always lived out, but very much part of the social lexicon).

    If you want to reach the populace in this society you need to frame your argument with that reality in mind. Look at the groundswell of pushback (on *any* side) when the public feels their rights are being messed with.

    If you, or anyone else, would like a more in depth look at the issues of Utilitarianism even without the above realization you may want to read “Morality: An Introduction to Ethics” by Bernard Williams. It’s a short book (all of which is worth reading) but the relevant part to this understanding is the last chapter.

  29. Jody says:

    I’m glad to read Dr. Mann’s comments on this whole ridiculous affair. I’m concerned, though, that UPenn is opening up an investigation into this matter — not because I think Dr. Mann did anything wrong, but because it’s yet more noise for the machine.

    While I know the science doesn’t live or die based on the results of one lab, or the snarky email between colleagues, I am still concerned that the meme that AGW is a sham will take hold. I recently argued with a conservative friend about AGW and I quickly got to the core of the debate.

    For every counter to a point he raised, with a link to the science and / or paper involved, the emotional truth that AGW is a sham was what he came back to. “I don’t have time to find all the papers that support my view,” was what I heard time and time again. Indeed, he’s now discussing how AGW and it’s proponents are “anti-Western” and “anti-Human” in their explanation. It’s maddening.

    If it rolls over and into the general population, with our notoriously short-sighted view of history and the world, I’m concerned that we won’t be able to pull ourselves out of this mess.

  30. Elizabeth Jansen van Vuuren says:

    Thomas

    Eish, this is so off-topic, but in South Africa (and I assume the UK) we do use all those inch/mile/pound expressions – AND we measure by the metric system. It can be done.

    BUT maybe it’s not off-topic after all. May there be a link between the mentality behind climate change denial, and that which holds on to an old way of measuring, seen as somehow better because it now seems to embody ‘Americanness’ in some way?

    Is there a desire to be an American, rather than one of ‘the rest of the world’ so strong that it is preferable to subscribe to a parallel reality/world view even if there’s no proof that it’s better? Or especially if the rest of the world tells you you’re wrong?

    That so reminds me of the mind-set of Afrikaners during Apartheid. We/they (I was a child) believed we had some special god-given status. And the more the rest of the world told us we were wrong, the clearer it was that they just had no idea of why Apartheid was the only way. Being told you’re wrong by the world also somehow gives you a ‘victim status’ which reinforces the sense of being special. Well, that’s how it was then.

  31. Thomas says:

    Elizabeth,

    I wasn’t making a reference to it being solely an American way to count – I was commenting on post # 13 and trying to point out that such comments are not going to make any brownie points amongst the Americans – which this Blog would seem to be mostly directed at. My point was in America it is not just something we use – it’s part of how we define ourselves (in a very short period of time you could sit down with almost any American family and literally end up with a list like that in the 100’s). The average “Joe” out there in the US world gets bent when he is made fun of because of the unit of measure he uses (I’ve run into it – it’s not pretty). We don’t use the system to count nearly as much as we do to reference cultural perceptions and history. My daughter is in the hard sciences. She uses the metric system all the time in her studies. In every day talking you’ll never hear her say anything using the metric system…

    And I’m not trying to be off topic. Just trying to point out ways and considerations that are easy to take and consider when commentating on threads that the public is invited to read. That would go quite far in toning down some of the rhetoric and anger. We are a prickly people, knowing how to avoid pissing us off right from the start might be helpful.

    I’m also trying to point out why some of the methods used seem to backfire here – you have to understand the audience you are trying to reach (and if you want their votes you’d better figure out how to reach them…).

    Hope that helps :)

  32. dhogaza says:

    Eish, this is so off-topic, but in South Africa (and I assume the UK) we do use all those inch/mile/pound expressions – AND we measure by the metric system. It can be done

    Since none of those expressions originated in the US, obviously it can be done.

    Unless the argument is that the United States is even more english than the English …

  33. Thomas says:

    dhogaza,

    I think the Texans would take issue with that in at least one of the above coming from somewhere else ;)
    And as I said, we actually do use both systems in education – but out in the everyday world it’s still very anti-metric. Even the way our streets are laid out in most major cities is square miles (for example in Phoenix each major cross road is a mile, with minor cross roads ever half mile…) Property deeds are all acres in the country and square feet in the cities – house size is always square feet. Rent is also square feet. On and on. To change that system is far more involved than originally thought, and they’ve been at it for over 30 years. So far they haven’t gotten very far – I’m pointing out a huge part of the reason why. If you are American those phrases I stated above are short hand for a whole understanding where invoking them means I need say no more.

    Elizabeth,

    I was a bit rushed in that response (supposed to have been watching a movie with my son) – but in regards your last question\point. Highly likely. One can never overemphasize the idea of “rugged individualism” present in our culture (Live Free or Die, The Show Me State, Don’t Tread on Me, Don’t Mess With Texas as examples – and those are real state slogans…). Remember, in our society it really is all about the individual – codified in our laws and embraced in our founding philosophies. The general American cares little about what the rest of the world thinks – that should have been clear over the past decade if you follow American politics at all.

    If you want to talk about it more, or have other questions you can e-mail me at tleps at juno dot com – that’s my junk mail e-mail, but I’ll keep an eye on it for a couple days. If it’s something that honestly interests you feel free to ask\write there. If it’s an honest discussion you’ll get my real e-mail (I’d rather not be “found” easily – has to do with my previous job with the courts. There are members of society I’d really rather never be able to find me…). Don’t want to take over any threads, and I’d honestly rather be reading more than commenting.

    As I said, just trying to help people understand how to be more productive when talking to the public. You can all take it or leave it – matters little to me either way (not my fight, just an interested bystander).

  34. Elizabeth Jansen van Vuuren says:

    Thanks, Thomas, will do.

  35. gary edstrom says:

    The earth has warmed for 15000 years,the oceans have risen over 300’feet ,they have a few more feet to go,maybe 20′ feet in this warming cycle before we head into the next ice age.CO2 is near the lowest level in the last 600 million years.The truth will be exposed in the end ,that is for sure.

  36. Leif says:

    gary edstrom: I wish you would show me the data stream for your assertions. In all my years of perusing information in this area I have seen nothing to substantiate your claims. Baring that I guess I will have to put you in the Anti-Science Sink Hole box. Best wishes…

  37. Cynthia says:

    Or Anti-Science Stink Hole box…

  38. Cynthia says:

    Yep, Gary Edstrom was right about his last statement: the truth will be exposed in the end– when he goes floating down the river, screaming for dear life, the truth will finally sink in!

  39. Leif says:

    Cynthia: If memory serves me correct you were the one that came up with the “Sink Hole” addition to Joe’s “Anti-Science”. I have used it a few times and love the acronym. Thank you for your efforts here about. Leif

  40. Davis Straub says:

    I don’t see the point in pointing out that the hacking was illegal. Wasn’t Daniel Ellsberg’s copying of the Pentagon Papers likewise illegal (at least until it wasn’t).

    http://www.answers.com/topic/pentagon-papers