A Response to Michael Mann
by -Paul C. Knappenberger
December 29, 2009
Back of December 18, 2009, the Washington Post ran an editorial (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/17/AR2009121703682.html) by Penn State’s Dr. Michael Mann, who attempted to explain why the recent release of the Climategate emails “doesn’t alter evidence for climate change.” But Dr. Mann—a central figure in the released emails—is speaking only from one side of the issue—his side. While the contents of the Climategate emails may not alter the evidence of climate change published in the scientific “peer-reviewed” literature, it is an entirely different matter when it comes to evidence of climate change that may have been kept out of the peer-reviewed literature. And the Climategate emails illuminate continual efforts from Dr. Mann and colleagues to limit the contents of the peer-reviewed scientific literature to only those types of results and conclusions that they liked. As such, the extant scientific literature of the past 5 to 10 years cannot be considered to be a fair representation of what it would have been had it not been manipulated. Thus, it is impossible to judge whether or not the evidence for climate change has been altered by the Climategate emails, contrary to Dr. Mann’s claims.
Below is a letter-to-the editor of the Washington Post that I submitted is response to Dr. Mann’s December 18th op-ed. Since it has been more than 10 days since I submitted it, I’ll assume that the Post has decided not to run it (they did not run any letter-to-the-editor on this topic, despite having received 651 comments on-line, the majority of them quite negative). My letter is reproduced here:
In his December 18, 2009 op-ed, Dr. Michael Mann largely misses to point about the most important aspect of the contents of the climate emails. It is not so much what has appeared in the scientific literature after “decades of work by thousands of scientists around the world” regarding human-caused climate change, but what has not appeared in the literature. The emails reveal signs of manipulation of the peer-review process, and what’s worse, intimidation of individual researchers, from a group of prominent scientists who seek to closely guard their view of the evidence and who are largely intolerant of countervailing hypothesis or interpretations. The degree to which the extant scientific literature can be judged a fair representation of what our scientific understanding may have been like absent these tactics is impossible to ascertain. The unfortunate, but undeniable side effect, is that the foundation of state, national, and international assessments of the potential impacts of climate change and considerations of what actions may be necessary to mitigate them has been shaken—not by what our knowledge is, but by what it should be. The latter of which, through the actions revealed in the emails, has been rendered largely unknowable.
Dr. Patrick Michaels, a close colleague of mine, expresses a similar sentiment (including some specific details) his recent op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal titled, “How to Manufacture a Climate Consensus (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704398304574598230426037244.html)