from: Mike MacCracken <mmaccracatXYZxyzcast.net>
subject: Re: My turn
to: "Michael E. Mann" <mannatXYZxyzginia.edu>, Tom Wigley <wigleyatXYZxyzr.edu>, Tom Wigley <wigleyatXYZxyzr.edu>, Phil Jones <p.jonesatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Mike Hulme <m.hulmeatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Keith Briffa <k.briffaatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, James Hansen <jhansenatXYZxyzs.nasa.gov>, Danny Harvey <harveyatXYZxyzque.geog.utoronto.ca>, Ben Santer <santer1atXYZxyzl.gov>, Kevin Trenberth <trenbertatXYZxyzr.edu>, Robert wilby <rob.wilbyatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Tom Karl <Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov>, Steve Schneider <shsatXYZxyznford.edu>, Tom Crowley <tcrowleyatXYZxyze.edu>, jto <jtoatXYZxyzrizona.edu>, "simon.shackley" <simon.shackleyatXYZxyzst.ac.uk>, "tim.carter" <tim.carteratXYZxyz.fi>, "p.martens" <p.martensatXYZxyzs.unimaas.nl>, "peter.whetton" <peter.whettonatXYZxyz.csiro.au>, "c.goodess" <c.goodessatXYZxyz.ucar.edu>, "a.minns" <a.minnsatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Wolfgang Cramer <Wolfgang.CrameratXYZxyz-potsdam.de>, "j.salinger" <j.salingeratXYZxyza.co.nz>, "simon.torok" <simon.torokatXYZxyzro.au>, Mark Eakin <mark.eakinatXYZxyza.gov>, Scott Rutherford <srutherfordatXYZxyzchutes.geo.uri.edu>, Neville Nicholls <n.nichollsatXYZxyz.gov.au>, Ray Bradley <rbradleyatXYZxyz.umass.edu>, Barrie Pittock <Barrie.PittockatXYZxyzro.au>, Ellen Mosley-Thompson <email@example.com>, "pachauriatXYZxyzi.res.in" <pachauriatXYZxyzi.res.in>, "Greg.Ayers" <Greg.AyersatXYZxyzro.au>
Tom, Michael, Neville, Jim, et al.--
I think there has been some quite insightful discussion and clarification of points in the
last few emails. I echo Mike's concerns with the things being said behind closed doors in
Washington--and sometimes it is expressed more in terms of threatened lawsuits, etc. The
"Skeptics"--and I put the term in quotes and capitalize it as it is a name a few have
absconded with when all good scientists are taught and practice a degree of
skepticism--tend to have quite thin skins and at present seem to have ready access to legal
help on many fronts. As Neville suggests, we do need to keep our heads about us as we
consider how to respond.
In this regard, I do want to add a few thoughts for consideration:
a. I think we need to be very careful not to be implying that everything in the
peer-reviewed literature is correct--even if the processes are followed meticulously. While
we strive for this, we must realize it can never be fully accomplished. In additon, Bob
Cess used to take pride in indicating he had disproven something that he had published a
decade or so earlier--understanding changes over time. What the peer review process can
strive to accomplish is that there is a well-argued and as complete an exposition as
possible, that criticisms of the explanation are addressed, that alternative explanations
are considered, etc. This does not always occur, and sometimes is subverted, but the
process is supposed to make sure the presentation is not in "Hyde Park speak" (if I may say
so), where virtually anything goes--as is pretty much the case in op-eds, various
newsletters, etc. "The Skeptics" typically rely on--and is instead thoughtful and measured,
and argued as an issue and not focused on personalities, etc. Where the process seems to be
being subverted, one would hope that the subscription base will lapse, the set of
submissions from leading authors will diminish, or the responsible party will learn about
the problems and concerns through letters and even surveys of scientists' views about the
journal and fix the situation.
b. In all of this, what we need to indicate is the strength of our efforts is the process.
As one example of where a problem can develop, we must be careful not to say that the
strength of the IPCC assessments is that they have involved 2500 people or something. A
number of us tried to discourage use of that measure as all it did was get "The Skeptics"
to put out a petition with 17,000 names and lead them to claim they had more on their side.
Science is not about voting--it is about having strong and clear explanations and
descriptions. What gives the IPCC its stature is the process that it uses to get to where
it gets--with a brodaly based set of authors and very wide-ranging and careful reviews
involving experts from the scientific community around the world. And the IPCC then also
works to make sure that its results are clearly expressed by getting comments from
governmental and NGO/industrial experts/policy analysts so it is clear things are both
scientifically justified and effectively conveyed. However, for IPCC to clima its process
leads to the most authoritative presenation of the issue, it is essential it consider not
only the peer-reviewed literature, but also the various claims and perspectives of "The
Skeptics"--basically, the IPCC has to be careful not to be seen as ignoring or hiding
disagreements, but actually facing and explaining them. There have been a number of times
where review comments I have been associated with have had to urge consideration of various
views even when I did not agree with them--ignoring the issue just is not effective. I know
the page limits sometimes make this seem a waste of space, but it is essential.
c. What I think has been a bit unfortunate is that we (the scientific community) do not
seem to really have an effective forum where all the various viewpoints can be published
together on an ongoing basis and a really active (but civil) exchange of views can take
place. While I may not think Lindzen's iris hypothesis is right, that it got published (and
he himself called it speculative) has allowed a good active exchange of views on this.
While this gave the idea a spurt of publicity and "The Skeptics" community gave him some DC
forums to try and add to its exposure, ultimately it will stand or fall based on its
ability to withstand the ongoing series of papers analyzing its suggestions. But this is
pretty unique (Singer's analysis did get presented in EOS, and there was a nice response,
and there are some other examples). However, as a number of us are trying to write an
article responding to various of the criticisms of the National Assessment that have been
going around, it has actually been a bit frustrating that these viewpoints have not been
put out in forums where we can actually have a discussion about and cite them (the op-ed
page of the Washington Times and the World Climate Report Pat Michaels puts out don't
really provide a place for this, and the Congressional hearing involved took sworn
testimony so does not allow other viewpoints to be submitted and published with it). I
really think we need to find a place where these discussions can occur--where "The
Skeptics" have to actually put their arguments forward and can expect focused responses to
be published (it might be best if the publication of the article and first response
occurred at the same time, of course, and then further rounds can take place). And where
"The Skeptics" can put their comments on the works of the scientific community and get a
response--so where each can take on the other side. By trying to keep the scientific
literature too pure, we can really contribute to "The Skeptics" going to the back rooms
where they can argue that there is not some forum where we will interact with them. Because
I believe this has been a problem, I have, even against the recommendations of some,
accepted invitations to present the IPCC case in a debate format with various of "The
Skeptics". I have done this even though I feel I am presenting the central consensus that
has already accounted for their views and that the actual debate should be between those
who are demanding certainty and those who are very concerned about the risk of what is
happening (so, about the meaning of the science and not just the explanation of the
science). It may not be much fun doing this (and I even got picketed by costumed picketers
one time), and it does distract from doing one's research (not a problem for me at this
point), but not being willing to respond or debate or provide a place for the debate seems
to me to lead to the backroom expounding and one-sided Web sites (like John Daly's) that
have been so unfortunate. So let's not try to stamp it out--but to redirect the discussion
to somewhere where the exchanges can be documented.
d. If one is going to find some forum for a real exchange of views, it seems to me one
challenge will be to come up with a sponsoring entity, moderator and rules that might
attract both sides to it (and I realize I am likely overly naive in this as there are
also--maybe even dominantly--outside influences at work here--like some of those industries
that fund the contrarians, or as the contrarians might say, our agencies and their
political views). But, just because it might be difficult and not fully work is not, it
seems to me, reason to discard the notion of finding a forum where all can go at it on all
the various ideas and where the interested media can evaluate and compare explanations.
e. Meanwhile, rather than think about suing someone about seeming insults, I have taken the
suggestion of several people whom have been criticized before me, and have simply added to
my resume, for example, that ExxonMobil sent a letter to the Bush Admin in early 2001
urging my dismissal (along with getting rid of Bob Watson from IPCC, Rosina Bierbaum from
OSTP, and Jeff Miotke, who was the honorable and blameless career foreign service officer
leading the US Govt delegations based on instructions from above), and to hold a prominent
spot on my wall hoping that someday Pat Michaels will actually send me the "2002 Lump of
Coal Award" he honored me with (earlier recipients were VP Gore and Eileen Claussen--I'll
be happy to be in their company). Apparently, however, rather than letting me sequester the
carbon on my wall, Pat used it to generate some hot air--should I be surprised? Plus,
having survived the longest of the ExxonMobil Four before departing govt service, I have
had the reward of having gotten through the USG review process and into the UNFCCC chapter
6 in the US 2002 Climate Action Report that later led to some biting editorial cartoons on
the issue and caused Rush Limbaugh to refer to the president as "George W. Al Gore." What
more can one ask as a going-away present?
f. That those of you being attacked are being attacked should be seen as a recognition of
the importance of your work--were it not important they would be ignoring it. And if your
papers are sound (as you all argue they are--and seems the case to me), the misdirected and
false claims of "The Skeptics" will ultimately have no lasting effect, even if in the short
term some politicians pay them too much attention and induce some short-term harm and
delay. Near as i can tell, the public, including in the US, is not being fooled by the
misleading arguments, even if they are not yet responding as vigorously as would seem
justified from our perspectives. So, I would say, respond with clear statements rather than
think about suing.
Best to all--Mike
From: "Michael E. Mann" <mannatXYZxyzginia.edu>
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 09:23:22 -0400
To: Tom Wigley <wigleyatXYZxyzr.edu>, Tom Wigley <wigleyatXYZxyzr.edu>, Phil Jones
<p.jonesatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Mike Hulme <m.hulmeatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Keith Briffa <k.briffaatXYZxyz.ac.uk>,
James Hansen <jhansenatXYZxyzs.nasa.gov>, Danny Harvey <harveyatXYZxyzque.geog.utoronto.ca>, Ben
Santer <santer1atXYZxyzl.gov>, Kevin Trenberth <trenbertatXYZxyzr.edu>, Robert wilby
<rob.wilbyatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Tom Karl <Thomas.R.KarlatXYZxyza.gov>, Steve Schneider
<shsatXYZxyznford.edu>, Tom Crowley <tcrowleyatXYZxyze.edu>, jto <jtoatXYZxyzrizona.edu>,
"simon.shackley" <simon.shackleyatXYZxyzst.ac.uk>, "tim.carter" <tim.carteratXYZxyz.fi>,
"p.martens" <p.martensatXYZxyzs.unimaas.nl>, "peter.whetton" <peter.whettonatXYZxyz.csiro.au>,
"c.goodess" <c.goodessatXYZxyz.ucar.edu>, "a.minns" <a.minnsatXYZxyz.ac.uk>, Wolfgang Cramer
<Wolfgang.CrameratXYZxyz-potsdam.de>, "j.salinger" <j.salingeratXYZxyza.co.nz>, "simon.torok"
<simon.torokatXYZxyzro.au>, Mark Eakin <mark.eakinatXYZxyza.gov>, Scott Rutherford
<srutherfordatXYZxyzchutes.geo.uri.edu>, Neville Nicholls <n.nichollsatXYZxyz.gov.au>, Ray
Bradley <rbradleyatXYZxyz.umass.edu>, Mike MacCracken <mmaccracatXYZxyzcast.net>, Barrie Pittock
<Barrie.PittockatXYZxyzro.au>, Ellen Mosley-Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
"pachauriatXYZxyzi.res.in" <pachauriatXYZxyzi.res.in>, "Greg.Ayers" <Greg.AyersatXYZxyzro.au>,
Subject: Re: My turn
Dear Tom et al,
Thanks for comments--I see we've built up an impressive distribution list here!
This seemed like an appropriate point for me to chime in here. By in large, I agree w/
Tom's comments (and those of Barrie's as well). A number of us have written reviews and
overviews of this topic during the past couple years. There has been a lot of
significant scientific process in this area (both with regard to empirical "climate
reconstruction" and in the area of model/data comparison), including, in fact, detection
studies along the lines of what Barrie Pittock asked about in a previous email (see.
e.g. Tom Crowley's Science article from 2000). Phil Jones and I are in the process of
writing a review article for Reviews of Geophysics which will, among other things,
dispel the most severe of the myths that some of these folks are perpetuating regarding
past climate change in past centuries. My understanding is that Ray Bradley, Malcolm
Hughes, and Henry Diaz are working, independently, on a solicited piece for Science on
the "Medieval Warm Period".
Many have simply dismissed the Baliunas et al pieces because, from a scientific point of
view, they are awful--that is certainly true. For example, Neville has pointed out in a
previous email, that the standard they applied for finding "a Medieval Warm Period" was
that a particular proxy record exhibit a 50 year interval during the period AD 800-1300
that was anomalously *warm*, *wet*, or *dry* relative to the "20th century" (many of the
proxy records don't really even resolve the late 20th century!) could be used to define
an "MWP" anywhere one might like to find one. This was the basis for their press
release arguing for a "MWP" that was "warmer than the 20th century" (a non-sequitur even
from their awful paper!) and for their bashing of IPCC and scientists who contributed
to IPCC (which, I understand, has been particularly viscious and ad hominem inside
closed rooms in Washington DC where their words don't make it into the public record).
This might all seem laughable, it weren't the case that they've gotten the (Bush) White
House Office of Science & Technology taking it as a serious matter (fortunately, Dave
Halpern is in charge of this project, and he is likely to handle this appropriately, but
without some external pressure).
So while our careful efforts to debunk the myths perpetuated by these folks may be
useful in the FAR, they will be of limited use in fighting the disinformation campaign
that is already underway in Washington DC. Here, I tend to concur at least in sprit w/
Jim Salinger, that other approaches may be necessary. I would emphasize that there are
indeed, as Tom notes, some unique aspects of this latest assault by the skeptics which
are cause for special concern. This latest assault uses a compromised peer-review
process as a vehicle for launching a scientific disinformation campaign (often viscious
and ad hominem) under the guise of apparently legitimately reviewed science, allowing
them to make use of the "Harvard" moniker in the process. Fortunately, the mainstream
media never touched the story (mostly it has appeared in papers owned by Murdoch and his
crowd, and dubious fringe on-line outlets). Much like a server which has been
compromised as a launching point for computer viruses, I fear that "Climate Research"
has become a hopelessly compromised vehicle in the skeptics' (can we find a better
word?) disinformation campaign, and some of the discussion that I've seen (e.g. a
potential threat of mass resignation among the legitimate members of the CR editorial
board) seems, in my opinion, to have some potential merit.
This should be justified not on the basis of the publication of science we may not like
of course, but based on the evidence (e.g. as provided by Tom and Danny Harvey and I'm
sure there is much more) that a legitimate peer-review process has not been followed by
at least one particular editor. Incidentally, the problems alluded to at GRL are of a
different nature--there are simply too many papers, and too few editors w/ appropriate
disciplinary expertise, to get many of the papers submitted there properly reviewed. Its
simply hit or miss with respect to whom the chosen editor is. While it was easy to make
sure that the worst papers, perhaps including certain ones Tom refers to, didn't see the
light of the day at J. Climate, it was inevitable that such papers might slip through
the cracks at e.g. GRL--there is probably little that can be done here, other than
making sure that some qualified and responsible climate scientists step up to the plate
and take on editorial positions at GRL.
At 11:53 PM 4/23/2003 -0600, Tom Wigley wrote:
[Apologies to those I have missed who have been part of this email
exchange -- although they may be glad to have been missed]
I think Barrie Pittock has the right idea -- although there are some
unique things about this situation. Barrie says ....
(1) There are lots of bad papers out there
(2) The best response is probably to write a 'rebuttal'
to which I add ....
(3) A published rebuttal will help IPCC authors in the 4AR.
Let me give you an example. There was a paper a few years ago by Legates
and Davis in GRL (vol. 24, pp. 2319-1222, 1997) that was nothing more
than a direct
and pointed criticism of some work by Santer and me -- yet neither of us
was asked to review the paper. We complained, and GRL admitted it was
poor judgment on the part of the editor. Eventually (> 2 years later)
we wrote a response (GRL 27, 2973-2976, 2000). However, our response was
more that just a rebuttal, it was an attempt to clarify some issues on
detection. In doing things this way we tried to make it clear that the
original Legates/Davis paper was an example of bad science (more
bluntly, either sophomoric ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation).
Any rebuttal must point out very clearly the flaws in the original
paper. If some new science (or explanations) can be added -- as we did
in the above example -- then this is an advantage.
There is some personal judgment involved in deciding whether to rebut.
Correcting bad science is the first concern. Responding to unfair
personal criticisms is next. Third is the possible misrepresentation of
the results by persons with ideological or political agendas. On the
basis of these I think the Baliunas paper should be rebutted by persons
with appropriate expertise. Names like Mann, Crowley, Briffa, Bradley,
Jones, Hughes come to mind. Are these people willing to spend time on
There are two other examples that I know of where I will probably be
involved in writing a response.
The first is a paper by Douglass and Clader in GRL (vol. 29, no. 16,
10.1029/2002GL015345, 2002). I refereed a virtually identical paper for
J. Climate, recommending rejection. All the other referees recommended
rejection too. The paper is truly appalling -- but somehow it must have
been poorly reviewed by GRL and slipped through the net. I have no
reason to believe that this was anything more than chance. Nevertheless,
my judgment is that the science is so bad that a response is necessary.
The second is the paper by Michaels et al. that was in Climate Research
(vol. 23, pp. 19, 2002). Danny Harvey and I refereed this and said it
should be rejected. We questioned the editor (deFreitas again!) and he
responded saying .....
The MS was reviewed initially by five referees. ... The other three
referees, all reputable atmospheric scientists, agreed it should be
published subject to minor revision. Even then I used a sixth person
to help me decide. I took his advice and that of the three other
referees and sent the MS back for revision. It was later accepted for
publication. The refereeing process was more rigorous than usual.
On the surface this looks to be above board -- although, as referees who
advised rejection it is clear that Danny and I should have been kept in
the loop and seen how our criticisms were responded to.
It is possible that Danny and I might write a response to this paper --
deFreitas has offered us this possibility.
This second case gets to the crux of the matter. I suspect that
deFreitas deliberately chose other referees who are members of the
skeptics camp. I also suspect that he has done this on other occasions.
How to deal with this is unclear, since there are a number of
individuals with bona fide scientific credentials who could be used by
an unscrupulous editor to ensure that 'anti-greenhouse' science can get
through the peer review process (Legates, Balling, Lindzen, Baliunas,
Soon, and so on).
The peer review process is being abused, but proving this would be
The best response is, I strongly believe, to rebut the bad science that
does get through.
Jim Salinger raises the more personal issue of deFreitas. He is clearly
giving good science a bad name, but I do not think a barrage of ad
hominem attacks or letters is the best way to counter this.
If Jim wishes to write a letter with multiple authors, I may be willing
to sign it, but I would not write such a letter myself.
In this case, deFreitas is such a poor scientist that he may simply
disappear. I saw some work from his PhD, and it was awful (Pat Michaels'
PhD is at the same level).
Best wishes to all,
Professor Michael E. Mann
Department of Environmental Sciences, Clark Hall
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22903
e-mail: mannatXYZxyzginia.edu Phone: (434) 924-7770 FAX: (434) 982-2137