The surprisingly reticent Michael Mann

One of the more curious remarks (well, curious to me, at least) found in the Reviewer Comments on the Second Order Draft of the IPCC’s AR4, came from no less a luminary than Dr. Michael Mann:

Reviewer Comment ID 156-55

The authors of this chapter should request an explanation from the lead authors of the SPM of why there is not a single graphic from the chapter shown in the SPM. Every other major section of the SPM has at least one supporting graphic. The lack of a supporting graphic in the A Paleoclimate Perspective section is effectively a slap in the face to chapter 6 authors. It also sends a disturbing message that AR4 is somehow backing away from paleoclimate-based claims made in the TAR where the results from paleoclimate studies were highlighted. […]

Difficult to imagine what kind of “graphic” Mann might have had in mind, isn’t it? Particularly in light of his recent post-exoneration observation to the BBC:

“I always thought it was somewhat misplaced to make it (i.e. the “hockey-stick” -hro) a central icon of the climate change debate,” [Mann] said.

We have heard many whines of late that these poor beleaguered “climate scientists” just don’t know how to communicate to the general public. Yet, when presented with a golden opportunity to communicate with the public by The Daily Caller‘s Scott Ott, Mann declined to do so.

Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann hides atop the climate change ivory tower

Ott describes how Mann initially ignored his requests for an interview and provides Mann’s eventual response. Yet, for some strange reason, Mann declined to respond to Ott’s follow-up questions:

But Mann’s interview raised more questions than it answered. So, I wrote back.


I just listened to your CSW interview, and read the excerpt you included in your note. A couple of questions…

1) As someone who has kept up only with reporting in the popular press (not scientific journals), I was not aware that global climate change detractors rested their critique solely on the “hockey stick graph”. I’ve heard several “lines of attack”, including calling into question methodology (ice core samples, the accuracy of surface temperature measurements, and computer climate models, the scarcity of tree data), and more recently, doubts about glacier melt rates and whether politics has crept into science to the detriment of both. (I’m recalling these from memory, so forgive me if I’m leaving anything out, or not stating it in proper scientific terminology.) In any case, I would agree that the hockey stick graph has become iconic, but not the sole issue. So the question (finally!) is: I wonder if this could be seen as a case of a sword cutting both ways…Vice President Gore found the hockey stick a powerful tool in his hands, and made it famous, thus advancing public awareness of the theory. So, if one wishes to question the theory before a popular audience, attacking this compelling avatar makes sense, doesn’t it? (Why or why not?)

2) What would be an appropriate way for reasonable people to question climate science methods and findings without being branded as “disingenuous”, “deniers” or tools of the fossil fuel industry?

3) What do you think of people who believe that global climate change may be occurring, but that man is not primarily to blame? Or that it is part of a regular cycle over which man has little influence?

4) Assuming climate change is anthropogenic, and hazardous to our health and the environment, and that there’s something we can do about it: What kinds of options do we have for dealing with it, other than taxation and government regulation? (The solutions thus far proposed.)

Thank You,

Scott Ott

Very reasonable questions from where I’m sitting. But Mann, evidently, was too busy to answer; however, Ott decided to give him one more chance:

I appreciate how busy you are, and I’d like to let your comments “stand on their merit”, but you don’t actually answer the question from that friendly interviewer. As a Penn Stater, I expect a bit more intellectual rigor, and scientific merit from you.

Instead of answering directly, you denigrate your academic rivals and the UK Telegraph (‘predictable’, ‘denial machine’, ‘out of context’, ‘fringe media’, ’sloppiest’, ’slanted’, ‘very misleading’, ‘deniers’, ‘disingenuous’, ‘twisted’, ‘contorted’, ’sad’).

You now have another chance to put your remarks in context, by answering my questions. I hope you take it.

Here’s the closest you got to answering the question: “…it was somewhat misplaced for the hockey stick to be made the central icon of the climate change debate, for the obvious reasons.”

Those reasons might be obvious to you, but not to most people.

Oddly enough, you then go on to refute your own point. If, as you say, more than an [sic] dozen studies come to the same conclusion [that] the hockey stick graph purports to represent, then I would think the graph SHOULD be the central icon of the debate. It captures, at a glance, what all of the studies show.

You then appear to denigrate your own methodology (“paleoclimatic reconstructions are really just one line of evidence”) in favor of merely restating the thesis — the earth’s getting warmer, and humans are to blame.

Mike, giving frank, scientifically-valid answers to honest questions can do nothing but buttress the reputation of a great university, and of a competent scholar. I do hope you’ll reconsider. People deserve a better understanding of the reasons behind the coming legislation that will ask them to sacrifice for the cause.

Mann’s “answer”:

The autoresponder: “Your email has been received. While every effort is made to read emails received, I cannot provide individual responses to all emails.”

YMMV, but I find it difficult to disagree with Ott’s conclusion:

Who can blame the average curious person for harboring suspicions about a purported scientist unwilling to stand behind his data or conclusions — unwilling even to explain why his findings should receive less attention than they have?

Clearly Mann has provided yet another example of the unbearable arrogance of activist-advocates.

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