Patrick Michaels and Cato keep repeating an egregious falsehood about Michael Mann and the stolen emails

UPDATE: Memo to Cato, Michaels — A quick change isn’t an apology. For the original, which also needs fixing, go here.

One of the leading anti-science disinformers, Patrick J. Michaels, can’t seem to stop spreading the most blatant disinformation. And the Cato Institute, where’s he’s Senior Fellow, actually seems to encourage this falsification, since they let “research fellow” Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar also repeat the easily fact-checked howler.

Cato needs to issue an apology and multiple retractions.

Cato has published on its website a piece titled, “Climate Scientists Subverted Peer Review.” While it rehashes many debunked falsehoods, one in particular is a blatant lie:

In one of the e-mails, Penn State’s Michael Mann, long a power player in the production of these reports, said this about some scientific articles he did not like: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow “” even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

This is pretty serious stuff, because it, and many similar e-mails, paint a picture of IPCC boffins committing science’s capital crime: Trying to game the peer-reviewed literature, which is akin to editing what goes in the Bible.

In this case, Mann is actually speculating about keeping contrary information out of the IPCC reports by blacklisting certain professional journals.

So many falsehoods, so little time. The inaccuracy of Michaels’ entire analysis is underscored by the simple fact that Mann never said any such thing. You can see the email in question here. It was written by CRU head Phil Jones. But Michaels and Cato can’t gain much mileage from attacking a UK scientist, so they fabricate this assault on Penn State’s Mann, who is the object of a coordinated attack by the right wing (see “Anti-science disinformers step up efforts to intimidate and harass climate scientists”).


And just so that you see this isn’t an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of misrepresentation and character assassination, Cato also repeated the lie on its website in the article “Censorship Threatens Truth on Climate,” by research fellow Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar:

Regretably, the IPCC itself is now getting tainted by this attempt to capture academic journals and censor dissenting views. Objecting to some dissenting papers, Mann is reported to have said, “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow “” even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

“Reported to have said” — what a clever trick to hide a falsehood. The problem is that these emails are all over the friggin’ web and so it would take about 30 seconds to get the facts right, if that were actually Cato’s goal (see”Cato’s Stephen Moore says climate change is “climate improvement” and “the truth is the 1930s was a warmer decade than the last decade”).

Anyway, Michael’s basic accussation, that the IPCC comitted some “crime,” has of course been widely debunked. Here’s Science magazine:

A second message relates to a chapter in the 2007 IPCC report that Jones edited. In 2004, he suggested that two recent papers on temperature trends didn’t deserve to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report,” he wrote Mann. “Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is.” But Trenberth, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says the papers were indeed considered. Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, an official reviewer for the chapter, says the IPCC’s peerreview procedures “were sacrosanct.” Both papers wound up being cited.

As Real Climate put it:

“Redefine the peer-reviewed literature!” . Nobody actually gets to do that, and both papers discussed in that comment — McKitrick and Michaels (2004) and Kalnay and Cai (2003) were both cited and discussed in Chapter 3 the IPCC AR4 report. As an aside, neither has stood the test of time.

As an amusing digression, I would note that Michaels’ biblical analogy unintentionally undercuts his argument. Scholars and religious experts have spent a huge amount of time and effort “editing” out a lot of stuff — the Apocrypha — that some people want to put in the Bible.


Science, of course, has a rigorous process — the scientific method — for finding out the truth, which is why we were able to put men on the moon, eradicate small pox, and Google almost any piece of information to check its accuracy. Peer review is part of the overall process, but sometimes bad articles do slip through. They typically can’t do lasting damage because bad science quickly gets debunked in the literature itself. Of course, now we have the anti-science crowd, the unscientific quacks, who keep repeating disinformation no matter how thoroughly it has been debunked. So that’s why many have worked to keep the bad science out of the literature in the first place.

As for the general claim of subversion of the peer review process by climate scientists as Cato charges, the other key paper in question, by Soon and Baliunas, was actually an egregious case of the anti-science crowd trying (successfully) to subvert the peer review process. That’s why “one poor paper in a scientific journal … caused the resignation of half the members of its editorial board (including the newly-appointed editor-in-chief),” as one of the editors explained here. See the editor-in-chief’s discussion here. More from Real Climate on that here.

But the point of this post is not to rehash all of the disinformation that the disinformers push about the stolen emails. I’m just trying to set the record straight on this one point. Let’s see if Cato will issue the appropriate apology and retractions.

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