on 28 April 2012
There are a lot of extreme people who don't like Mann. People like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Senator James Inhofe have all made intemperate and personal attacks on him for his opinions on Climate Change. Much of what they say is merely ad-hominem and not a reasoned and logical argument against his scientific conclusions. So it is interesting to see how Mann defends himself and science from this assault.
In short he defends himself in the same unreasonable way they attack him. I was with him on page 81 when he argues the following: "Legitimate scientific skepticism bears a certain hallmark. It does not, for example, focus on the character of the scientist or the policy implications of his or her findings. Instead, it follows a logical line of questioning. Do the results make sense? Do they contradict previous findings? Are the lines of evidence plausible? Do the data appear sound?" Just one page later he starts his attack on one critic (Ross McKitrick) by questioning his character and arguing his judgement is biased because of links with the fossil fuel lobby.
For most of the rest of the book Mann lumps all criticism into one group totally failing to make any distinction between legitimate criticism of his science and ad-hominem attacks on his character. Many of his critics talk nonsense and use abuse instead of argument. But many make legitimate scientific and skeptical arguments without engaging in character assignation. Mann lumps both groups together and assumes they are all motivated by undeclared links to the evil energy industry. This is both unconvincing (unless you never have read any of the criticism) and not a reasonable scientific response according to his own definition.
In defending himself from the Climategate affair he seems to believe that distraction is the best policy. The content of the leaked emails shows a certain habit of trying to bury criticism and strong-arm the peer review process to make sure as little criticism as possible gets published. Mann thinks that it is more important to focus on the fact that the email leak was a criminal act perpetrated by anti-climate change activists (he doesn't explain how he knows this when nobody else does).
I was prepared to give Mann a chance when i started the book. But his "I'm right, you're wrong" and one size fits all approach to critics has lowered his credibility. The slightest hint of humility about his work (he seems to think all his errors were minor and well intentioned) or any ability to assume that some of his critics might have had some legitimate scientific grounds for their criticism (where they are experts, their motivation is suspect; where they are not, they aren't qualified to engage in the debate) might have garnered some sympathy. The style and character of his arguments leave me trusting him less and thinking he wants to distract me from the substance of the debate.
I'm giving him three stars for the book as it is readable if stylistically uneven and it is an important if very one-sided account of a significant debate. But readers really need to read some of his critics before accepting his side of the story (its somewhat biased the other way, but The Hockey Stick Illusion;Climategate and the Corruption of Science (Independent Minds) is a good start and a good skeptic would buy both at the same time and see who make a better scientific case).
on 1 March 2014
Michael Mann is the greatest exponent of 21-st century right-on politically correct science that there is! Forget the silly old Higgs. Michael Mann's brain is the true God Particle!
Michael Mann's opinions should not be regarded as true with a small 't'. That's outmoded capitalist oppressor science thinking. What Michael Mann says is True because it is Correct. In fact, Dr Mann himself shows just how Correct it is by showing how much he cares. He cares so much that he and his enforcers do all they can, every day, to make sure that the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change is one that we can all depend on as Correct. and ever-more Correct. Michael went to great lengths to run some numbers and the results were Correct. He's run some more numbers since then and the results were even more Correct. Those who still don't agree with the Message of Dr Mann's work, even though there's a picture and all, such people require an explanation. That's okay. Science has always been about explanation. The explanation is:"Shut Up".
Read This Book! This is how someone writes when he has done Science all Correct! Roll over Bert Einstein, give Dick Feynman the news! Read it and weep! All young boys and girls who might wonder if they might have a future in science, Dr Mann is showing you how Correct Science is gonna be. You'll do Correct Science too, if you know what's good for you.
('"Shut up," he explained' is a quote from Ring Lardner's story 'The Young Immigrants')
on 23 August 2013
I bought my copy second-hand since I could not stomach the thought of a penny of mine going to the author. Since the details of this appalling book have been criticised to good effect here and over at amazon.com, I will merely note that the book serves as an indicator of low intellectual quality and of a shockingly weak grasp of the importance and value of academic integrity. The author has helped degrade the fledgling subject of 'climate science', and it is for that that he will be noted when histories of these sorry decades are written once the dust has settled on the panic he and those not much better than him helped raise over climate.
on 17 October 2014
This is a must read for anyone interested in Climate Change and the attacks on the science. It explains clearly how Dr Mann found himself in the middle of a political maelstrom by doing nothing more than basic scientific research and reporting his findings. It cites attacks on his finding and , more worryingly, personal attacks on his competence, his honesty and his integrity from a variety of sources such as fossil-fuel interests, right-wing politicians, dubiously-biased journalists and any number of astro-turf organisations.
If like most sentient beings, you follow the science and accept the principle of AGW, this will be a good eye-opener about those who are anti-science - or at least anti-inconvenient science. It brings back memories of the lobbying by the tobacco industry many of us will recall from a different time. If you are a sceptic/denier about AGW etc, this should provide plenty of good talking points for your next comments to your favourite blogs.
I'm glad that Dr Mann has come out of all this with good humour and his spirit and integrity intact. His book is a triumph. And a damn good read.
on 1 February 2012
After years of enduring politically inspired attacks on his integrity and physical threats toward himself and his family, Michael Mann, one of the worlds leading climate scientists, finally tells his own side of the story.
As one of the scientists behind the iconic "Hockey Stick" graph of historical temperature that was popularised in the docu-movie "An Inconvenient Truth", he became a target for those wishing to maintain business as usual for the fossil fuel industry. This culminated in a blatant smear campaign waged against him and his colleagues by a motley band of (and I'm not making this up) chartered accountants, mining executives, IT consultants, economists, astroturfers, lobbyists, fossil fuel company shills, and Internet wingnuts.
The story details Mann's career from student to physicist and his journey to becoming the wunderkind of palaeoclimatology through applying the mathematical techniques from his early physics career to the analysis of tree-rings, ice-cores and ocean sediments to uncover clues to Earth's past history. The remarkable tale continues to National Academy of Sciences investigations, congressional inquiries, theft of computer data, witch hunts by politicians in the pocket of oil companies, and the occassional death threat thrown in for good measure.
Mann writes with an engaging style that is sprinkled with dry humour and eases the reader through this complex and sordid saga. This is a rare talent for a scientist and I hope that Mann continues writing for a lay audience to communicate some of the fascinating topics from the workings of our planet.
Mike Mann will surely earn his place in history as one of science's great heroes; not just for his pioneering work in the Earth sciences, but for withstanding the unrelenting personal attacks in a dignified manner and being a defender of the scientific process in the face of ignorance.
His detractors will not be treated by history so kindly.
on 10 February 2012
Although I was familar with many of the issues discussed such as the political witch hunt, I hadn't realised the tentacles had spread so wide nor started quite so long ago, the theft of the CRU e-mails being a more recent activity. I downloaded this to my kindle and read the whole thing in one evening/night, totally gripped by the nightmare that science and scientists face. Politicians funded by vested interests must not be allowed to distort science in the way that this book clearly shows that they have tried. The parallels to McCarthyism in the USA are readily apparent.
on 5 March 2014
This is a good read for those interested in the war on science, specifically climate science, in the USA, Australia and UK. Mann is a veteran, his discoveries having threatened powerful vested interests as the flood of denailist reviews on here shows. An excellent work laying bare the desperate and obnoxious tactics of the fossil fuel lobby.
on 27 December 2012
For the past 15 years, a largely invisible struggle, critical to the future of the planet, is being fought between the global community of climate scientists on one hand and fossil fuel companies-funded think-tanks and politicians on the other. During this time, climate scientists have reached an overwhelming scientific consensus that the carbon dioxide emissions caused by our reliance on coal, oil and gas have already caused significant global warming, and will ultimately endanger our planet unless all fossil fuel usage is rapidly phased out. Simultaneously, the fossil fuel industry has run a huge misinformation campaign to keep the public in the dark about climate change. Ground-breaking scientist Michael Mann writes about in this struggle in his new book.
The critical study which solidified scientific opinion about the truth of global warming was the "hockey stick graph" discovered by author Michael Mann himself in 1998, and highlighted in Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" documentary on global warming. Mann's graph showed global average temperatures slowly decreasing towards a distant new ice age for most of the past 1000 years, only to spike sharply upwards in the last one, like the end of a hockey stick. The hockey stick graph was strong evidence that man-made global warming was real, and was already happening. The hockey stick graph was confirmed by many subsequent scientific studies; the handful of studies, which contradicted it, were found to have critical errors. Among climate scientists, there is no longer any doubt about the reality and seriousness of global warming.
The fossil-fuel industry, composed of multinational coal and oil companies, sought to protect their business interests by sowing public doubt in global warming, and was quick to strike back at climate scientists. They funded think-tanks and websites propagating reports by their own "experts" who cast doubts on the hockey stick. These experts were usually economists and meteorologists/TV weathermen who knew little of climate science, as well as an ever-shrinking minority of climate scientists. The misinformation campaign took advantage of a public and media largely ignorant of science, and unable to appreciate that the real scientific debate on climate change was over.
US congressmen in the thrall of oil and coal lobbyists undertook an official witch-hunt of climate scientists in 2005. Congress was unable to find any problems with the climate scientists' views; but the damage was done. Widespread media coverage of politicians like Senator James Inhofe saying that climate change was "the single greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American public" ensured that doubts about global warming continued in the public mind.
The anti-climate science campaign ultimately descended to criminal acts of hacking and baseless accusations of fraud directed at Mann and his fellow scientists. In the "Climate-gate" incident in 2009, unknown hackers stole thousands of e-mail messages from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the UK. One particular e-mail from another climate scientist to Mann was repeatedly used as evidence to claim that Mann had used a "trick" to falsify his hockey stick data and was thus able to "hide the decline" in global temperature.
Climate change deniers had a field day. In fact, the word "trick" is commonly used among mathematicians and scientists to describe a clever means of solving a difficult problem, seemingly by magic; it did not imply any wrongdoing. Likewise, the "decline" in that was being hidden was a series of temperature measurements from one particular study acknowledged by the original author to be doubtful due to pollution. A number of subsequent inquiries were conducted, and none found any wrongdoing on the part of climate scientists. Again, the damage was already done; public belief in global warming and political will to tackle it both fell dramatically.
The fog of public doubt created over global warming had long-term consequences; firstly, Barack Obama's attempts at regulating carbon emissions were rejected by the Congress. Secondly, the Climate-gate hacking had been timed to occur just before the Copenhagen summit on global warming in December 2009. Due to doubts raised by Climate-gate as well as Obama's failure to pass any carbon dioxide emissions legislation in the US, Copenhagen failed to produce any meaningful international agreement to prevent global warming.
This failure has left the planet in continued peril of global warming and consequent sea level rise, cyclones and drought. Hurricane Sandy, US/Russian crop failures and high food prices in 2012 are the beginnings of what is in store for us unless the public and politicians start taking real action to replace fossil fuels with nuclear, solar and wind power.
on 17 March 2012
It's a little depressing that Michael Mann felt that he had to write this book, more than a decade after his landmark studies were published, however a cursory Google finds that the same zombie arguments still alive and well and stalking the interweb. No, people, you cannot actually generate hockey sticks by feeding red noise into the MBH algorithm, the HS was not an artifact of bad statistics, and the PCA centering is moot to the conclusions of the papers.
But this is much more than a rebunking of denier myths. Here Mann describes in detail the various attacks on himself, other prominent figures in the debate and on the science itself, culminating in the manufactured climategate controversy and Cucinelli fishing expeditions. As a bit of a climate geek I was familiar with a lot of this material, and Mann's tone is calm and factual - however to see it all laid out in one place and in sequence is frankly shocking. The asymmetry between the blog scientists and the genuine article is made plain and the sheer intellectual bankruptcy of some of the denier tactics laid bare.
This is not a technical book on climate change, as others have said, however if you want your opinion on the AGW debate to be an informed one or are interested in the political forces even now shaping the future global climate, this is essential reading.
on 16 March 2012
I am writing this review with some trepidation. I want to write it because I believe it is important to hear of Mann's experiences. Yet, at the same time, I'm reluctant as I'm expecting flaming rebuffs.
So, first, let this review not be about consensus (see my Notes following the review proper). His is not a book about the science of climate change; it isn't advertised as such. If you want that purchase something else. This is a "story of the science and politics". There are a very few technical passages; but most will not struggle with those (honest!) On the science it will not sway the converted. If you supported the consensus on climate change before hand this will not dissuade you. If you disagreed with the consensus it probably won't persuade you to change your beliefs.
But wait, both, wait, park the debate. Wait. This is a book that describes systematic attacks on Mann and his colleagues; very much playing the man not the ball.
The key point is that academic freedom is under attack. 60 Freedom of Information requests over a weekend is a "denial of service attack" upon researchers. Vexatious lawsuits, such as Cuccinelligate in VA, are such an attack (and an insult to the hardworking taxpayer). Regardless of your political persuasion, be it of the left or the right, we are damaging the academic freedom that has been painstakingly built up over centuries. Science is not established in a court of law - or a blog - or a newspaper. Pi is not 3, sorry Indiana. Mann has been subjected to concerted, organised and vituperative personal and professional attacks. Science is a contact sport - vigorous debate amongst practitioners is good, very very good. I want the best science, even when I don't like its results. We all should. But we should treat his book as a warning that we risk pushing people away from the hard subjects due to the abuse they'd encounter; that would not be a good result. I commend his book - it should concern us that we allow this to happen - whether you're a screaming alarmist or the darkest denier.
I repeat, this is not a good result - and I commend his book for bringing this to light. Five full stars.
(Be warned, there are a lot of notes - tons, heaps, absurd amounts. Oh, and there are notes.)
Notes on the topic of climate science and consensus and really nothing to do with Mann's book, but:
* As an introduction to the science of climate change Wikipedia isn't bad, try looking at "Climate change". I'd also recommend a few institutions: NASA, NOAA, the UK Met Office, etc. As I say, Mann's is not a science text. Look at journals such as Nature and Science - or SciAm and New Scientist. There are a large number of reputable introductions.
* Is there a consensus? Have your own read on Wikipedia of "Scientific opinion on climate change". If you don't like that answer, have a look on the interweb or Amazon. You can find any confirmation bias response you require. And, remember, blogs are not peer-reviewed science.
* Are there those who disagree with the consensus? Yes, as in the Wikipedia article "List of scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming".
If (ok, when) I am flamed there may be responses including: assertions that there is no consensus; references to Galileo (a scientist upsetting a church) and Lysenko (a scientist who did not back the consensus view but whose political masters viewed the consensus suspiciously); climate practitioners are in a global conspiracy to get rich; peer-review is broken (sigh); that I am a shill or even a shape-shifting seven foot tall lizard (true, hence no photo); that CO2 is plant food (as are water and manure); that McIntyre has "proved" Mann is wrong (I won't put a spoiler in here, buy and read the book and then comment); CO2 is caused by warming; the second law of thermodynamics is being violated; models can't work; MWP; "hide the decline" (another spoiler alert); Al Gore; climategate; deniergate; wind power; etc. etc - hundreds. You get the picture. My point is that all this is not the point, not at all the point. Academic freedom is at stake.