Letters to the Editor: Mann’s world

February 11, 2009

In recent weeks, a swell of Blogosphere interest has followed Michael Mann’s response to Lawrence Solomon’s National Post column, “Climate change’s Antarctic ruffle,” which critiques a study Mr. Mann had helped to author. In print form, a round-up of letters sparked by the Solomon-Mann commentaries was printed by the National Post on February 11:

Ad hominem attacks, faulty science and a state of denial

Re: Climate Change’s Antarctic Ruffle, Lawrence Solomon, Jan.31;
Tabloid Fossil-Fuel Shill, Michael E. Mann, Feb. 7; and Mann’s
Conclusions Not To Be Believed, Lawrence Solomon, Feb 7.

As
a member of the scientific community, Dr. Mann should realize that
scientific hypotheses — and his global climate-change model is just
that, a hypothesis — are evaluated based on the scientific method:
critical evaluation of the available evidence to determine whether it
supports the hypothesis or not. Using an ad hominem attack
as a response to critical evaluation, as he does in this article, does
not contribute to the factual debate. Rather, it only serves to weaken
his argument. An apt analogy from poker is that Dr. Mann has become so
heavily invested in this pot (hypothesis) that he has gone “all in” —
and been called.

Michael Weber, Biology lab co-ordinator, Carleton University, Ottawa.

—————-

Lawrence Solomon’s Jan. 31 column notes that a recent article in Nature magazine
presents the results of a study that, contrary to earlier general
acceptance, has now deduced that Antarctica’s average temperatures have
actually risen since 1957. In line with the approach of his columns and
his book, The Deniers, Mr. Solomon does not dispute this
personally, but rather relates that the initial response of many top
scientists, including even some in the “doomsayer camp,” has been one
of concern and reservation about the validity of this study’s
methodology and hence its conclusions.

He also notes that one
of the authors was Michael Mann, well known as the author of the global
warming hockey stick temperature graph that a highly-qualified review
panel reporting to the U.S. House of Representatives found to be based
on faulty statistical methodology, and to demonstrate a less certain
and exaggerated historical global temperature trend.

Mann’s Feb.
7 response to Solomon is a ranting cacophony of comments that Mr.
Solomon has simply based this and past efforts in this field on lies
and disinformation, and was influenced and funded by the fossil-fuel
industry. Mann fails to substantiate these accusations, and glosses
over the ignominious demise of the hockey stick graph, seemingly
indicating his state of complete denial. Ironically, this makes him
another Denier, albeit quite a different one from those Mr. Solomon has
written about.

Considering the general tone of Mann’s
response, perhaps it would be fitting to interpret his description of
Mr. Solomon as the “most dishonest industry advocate in the climate
change debate” as actually meaning the “most effective advocate of
open, objective discussion in the debate.”

Gordon Stockman, West Kelowna, B.C.

—————-

The comment from Michael E. Mann, entitled “Tabloid Fossil-Fuel
Shill,” reminds me of an article by Dr. Ralph M. Rotty titled, “The
Nature of the CO2 Problem: Certainties and Uncertainties” published in
1984 in Environmental Progress.

Dr. Rotty suggested then
that; “If the theory is correct, within the next two decades the signal
of the CO2 effect on climate should become quite clear.” He was
referring to the small size of a CO2 induced warming “signal” relative
to the “noise” of natural climate variability.

It seems that
2½ decades later, the warming signal is not clear at all. In addition,
we are now regaled incessantly with other kinds of “noise” from Dr.
Mann and many others who make identification of signal vs. noise very
difficult. His assertion, copped from an army of global warming
dogmatists, that those who question aspects of CO2 induced global
warming are “purveyors of fossil fuel-funded disinformation” is
particularly odious and unhelpful.

Actually, Dr. Rotty’s
article still seems very current and thoughtful. Fast forward from 1984
to 2009 and, if he were still with us, he might again indicate we have
a couple of decades to evaluate the signal and “gain time to better
understand all of the aspects of the problem.” Is it time for another
time out?

Duane Pendergast, Lethbridge, Alta.

—————-

As a former statistical software manager who has dabbled in
portfolio management simulations, I was struck by the similarity in
approach in estimating Antarctic climate change as described in
Lawrence Solomon’s column, “Climate Change Antarctic ruffle.” It’s as
if climate change were being estimated by hedge fund managers and
financial derivative speculators, perhaps with similar results.
Leverage always increases volatility. It’s risky to allot some
individuals too much leverage.

William R Watt, Ottawa.

—————-

While
it is certainly true that the Mann hockey stick temperature plot of the
last millennium “became slapstick as it became an object of ridicule
[once] Mann’s statistical techniques were shown to be entirely
invalid,” Environment Canada continues to at least pretend that it
doesn’t know about this rather old piece of news.

Over five
years after the graph was totally debunked by Canadian experts, the
department still highlights the graph in the climate science section of
its Web site as being indicative of real temperatures over the past
1,000 years. Scientists inside the department know perfectly well that
the graph is wrong, but it appears that politically motivated
communications staff and other political strategists trump real
scientists when it comes to deciding what goes on Environment Canada’s
Web site.

Tom Harris, executive director, International Climate Science Coalition, Ottawa.

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