Climategate 2.0: junk science 101 with Michael Mann

At last, I’ve arrived.

Michael Mann: isn’t he pretty?

Michael Mann, inventor of the Hockey Stick, has written to the Wall Street Journal branding me a “denier” and a “contrarian” and “silly.” These are badges of honour I shall wear with pride.

The letter is interesting for lots of reasons, not least its grotesque hypocrisy. “In recent years”, he writes, “attacks on climate science have become personal” – as if somehow the real victims of all this are not the innocent taxpayers being screwed to pay for the great green boondoggle, but ordinary decent climate scientists like Mann and his Hockey Team just trying to get on and do their job.

Every snowflake is unique, but attacks on climate science all seem the same. I should know. I’ve been one of the climate contrarians’ preferred targets for years.

Has Mann actually read any of the Climategate and Climategate 2.0 emails, I wonder? A lot of them have his name on them, so he must have done at one time or another. But perhaps with all that data-fudging and decline-hiding his brain has been overtaxed of late. So let us gently jog his memory with some examples.

Here’s one from New Zealand. (H/T WUWT) It’s 2003 and a Kiwi scientist called Chris de Freitas has published in a journal called Climate Research a meta-analysis by some Harvard astronomers Soon & Baliunas of all the papers that have been written on the Medieval Warming Period (MWP). The conclusion of Soon & Baliunas? That the vast majority of published, peer-reviewed papers on the MWP conclude that it was both geographically widespread (not, as Warmists and their amen corner in Wikipedia like to pretend, a little local anomaly confined to Northern Europe) and significantly warmer than now.

This irritates Michael Mann and his Hockey Team no end, for it contradicts their view that late 20th century warming is both unprecedented and catastrophic. So how do they respond? Do they counter it with new, learned papers demonstrating in closely illustrated detail just where Soon & Baliunas have got it wrong?

Of course they don’t!

Instead, what they do is gang up to shoot the messenger. They conspire to have Climate Research closed down; to have Chris de Freitas sacked; then, they write to the head of his university in Auckland to see if they can’t get de Freitas deprived of his living too. Nice!

Dr Pat Michaels has another good example of this delightful behaviour by members of Mann’s “Team.”

In Forbes magazine, he writes an open letter to the director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, describing how one of his “most prestigious employees” Dr Tom Wigley sought to have Michaels deprived of his PhD.

Dr Wigley’s evidence for this potentially libellous claim, widely circulated to a large number of his fellow climate “scientists”? None whatsoever.

But hey, as Mann has taught us many times over the years, who needs evidence or facts when you can go straight in for good old character assassination instead.

This, though, is wearisomely familiar stuff to anyone who has been following the Climategate story. What’s perhaps more interesting about Mann’s WSJ letter is his citation of the lead-in-petrol example from a few years back to try to bolster the credibility of his own brand of climate junk science. As we’ll see, he may have cause to regret this.

Here’s what he says in the letter:

Climate scientists can also find kinship with Dr. Herbert Needleman, who identified a link between lead contamination and impaired childhood brain development in the 1970s. The lead industry accused him of misconduct. Later, the National Institutes of Health exonerated him.

Hmm. The Needleman affair is covered very thoroughly in Christopher Booker’s and Richard North’s Scared To Death (Continuum). It does not reflect at all well on the junk science scare industry.

Dr Herbert Needleman was a US child psychologist who generated headlines in 1979 with his research paper showing that lead poisoning was dramatically affecting children’s IQs. This “evidence” became a vital plank in the case of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations from 1986 onwards to have almost all lead removed from petrol. Just one problem: Needleman’s study was about as reliable as Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick.

In the Needleman affair, the McIntyre/McKitrick role was played by another academic child psychologist Dr Claire Ernhart, who worked in the same field as Needleman. She noted that Needleman’s research was based on serious methodological flaws. In particular, she claimed that he had not sufficiently allowed for “confounding variables” that might have explained the difference in IQ scores such as poor schools or parental neglect.

When an expert panel from the EPA tried looking into this, however, Needleman proved as reluctant to reveal the basis of his research as Mann did with raw data underpinning his Hockey Stick.

According to Booker/North:

“When in 1983 the panel visited Needleman’s laboratory to look at his data, he handed over six books of computer printouts, but said that only two panel members could examine them, and only for two hours.”

“Even during this cursory study, the panel found enough evidence to arouse profound doubts about Needleman’s research. Although starting with 3,329 children, he had winnowed out so many, often for apparently arbitrary reasons, that he had ended up basing his conclusions first on 270 subjects, then on just 158. ‘Exclusion of large numbers of eligible participants’ the panel concluded, ‘could have resulted in systematic bias’. In other words, it looked to the panel as though he might have selected his evidence to give the results he wanted.”

Lone bristlecone pines, anyone?

The expert panel concluded that Needleman’s studies “neither support nor refute the hypothesis that low or moderate levels of Pb (lead) exposure lead to cognitive or other behavioural impairments in children.” In other words, that his researches were valueless.

But hey, guess what happened then. Pressure was applied. The expert panel – for reasons which were never satisfactorily explained – completely reversed its decision. And the head of the EPA William Ruckelshaus (the same man responsible for the DDT ban which effectively condemned millions in the third world to die of malaria) was able to use Needleman’s study as the basis for doing what the EPA and environmental campaigners had been wanting to do anyway: ban lead from petrol.

Unsurprisingly, the EU soon eagerly followed suit. As even the Eu Commission admitted, the new rules would cost consumers an additional £4.8 billion a year, raise the average cost of a car by up to £600 a year and force oil companies into £70 billion-worth of new investment. Oh, and also, EU studies estimated, the switch to unleaded (it being less efficient than leaded) would also result in the creation of 15-17 million tonnes a year more greenhouse gas emissions.

But hey, as Michael Mann and his Team could surely tell us, when you’re trying to save the world from non-existent threat no price is too great to pay.

Related posts:

  1. Climategate: sack ‘no longer credible’ Michael Mann from IPCC urges climatologist
  2. Michael Mann as innocent as OJ – possibly more so – finds internal Penn State investigation
  3. Inventor of Mann-made global warming feels the heat
  4. Climategate: how the MSM reported the greatest scandal in modern science


How Many Drowning Polar Bears Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

Classic Saul Alinsky

Knut: the polite dyslexic's worst nightmare

Knut: the polite dyslexic’s worst nightmare

Cancun is coming and as my Indian pal Rajan has rightly noted belief in the great myth of “Man Made Global Warming” has reached such a low ebb that even greenie NGOs such as Greenpeace and the WWF are dropping the topic like a hot potato.

But that doesn’t mean we believers in freedom, truth and functioning free markets have won the day, no sirree! All it means, I’m sorry to say, is that the green movement is going to become more fanatical, more devious, more mendacious as it tries frantically to spin some kind of victory from its abject and squalid defeat.

Let me give you an example of this process in action, inspired – if that’s the mot juste – by George Monbiot’s recent rantathon on DDT. You probably won’t have read it because poor George is about as relevant these days as a set of spare valves for a bakelite wireless set. But here’s the gist of his gripe:

Last week I gave Stewart Brand a simple challenge. In his book Whole Earth Discipline he claimed that the pesticide DDT “was banned worldwide” as a result of campaigning by environmentalists, killing millions. Complaints meant the explicit claim was cut at the last minute from the film he fronted for Channel 4, What the Green Movement Got Wrong, but the impression remained. I challenged Brand either to provide evidence to support his claim or to admit that he got it wrong.

Now as the mighty Steve McIntyre so often likes to say of Warmist trickery, you’ve got to watch the pea under the thimble here.

For chapter and verse as to why Stewart Brand was 100 per cent right to criticise the global green movement’s role in banning DDT, I recommend this 2005 testimony to the US Senate Committee by retired Professor of Tropical Public Health Donald R Roberts. (And also this summary at

In a nutshell, here’s what happened. In 1962 Rachel “more blood on her hands than Stalin” Carson published her junk science bestseller Silent Spring, predicting dire consequences (a cancer “epidemic”, no more birdies, etc) if man carried on spraying evil chemicals especially DDT. Despite none of this being true, environmental campaigners successfully demonised DDT as the new killer menace, leading to a drastic reduction in the use of this insecticide by the World Health Organisation (the UN body responsible for financing and co-ordinating the global strategy for fighting malaria), leading in turn – inevitably – in a massive world wide increase in malaria rates, and therefore in the number of third world deaths.

But like the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monbiot just refuses to admit when he’s beat. Rather than argue against Brand on the fundamentals – which obviously he can’t because it’s all basically true – he instead has to engage in a navel-gazing disputation over semantics.

DDT was never actually technically “banned”, he claims.

“Nor has Greenpeace demanded that the use of DDT for disease control should be banned,” he adds with his characteristically tubthumping righteous rage.

Hence the title of this post: How many drowning polar bears can dance on the head of a pin?

It’s a technique worth noting because I see it being used an awful lot by green propagandists these days, almost as if they’ve been taking advice from Futerra or Fenton Communications on how best to continue the struggle after the war has been lost.

It’s classic Saul Alinsky: the leftist propagandist’s equivalent of filibustering or “work to rule” or industrial sabotage. OK so the basic facts are all against you, as any reasonable and sufficiently informed person can see. So what do you do instead? Why you try to grind down the opposition with tedious, wearing and essentially irrelevant detail.

Monbiot on DDT is a classic. As far as the fundamental truth is concerned, it simply doesn’t matter a rat’s bum the degree to which Greenpeace did or didn’t contribute to the ban on DDT, nor indeed whether the term “ban” is entirely correct because it wasn’t really a “ban” only a “semi-ban”. None of this semantic onanism alters one whit the most important details of the story, viz: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring led greenies to campaign against DDT which in turn caused numerous deaths from malaria.

If Monbiot had been able to prove, say, that the real reason for the DDT ban had been evil right wing chemical manufacturers who suddenly decided after a crazy, cocaine-fuelled night on the tiles that just for fun they’d put themselves out of business, well, that would be an interesting new angle. As it would, say, if his piece had proved that, far from campaigning against DDT, the green movement had actually pleaded with the WHO to keep it because of their enduring love and respect for the people of the third world. But Monbiot didn’t. The only defence he could come up with against an essentially true story was: “Well you got that tiny detail ever so slightly wrong and because of that I’m going to tell all my readers that not a word you say is to be trusted.”

This doesn’t apply just to Monbiot but to green propagandists generally and I’ll be offering plenty more examples over the next few days, including one from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia: seriously guys, if this is the best you can do, I’d be inclined to reach for the whiskey and your grandad’s old service pistol.

Related posts:

  1. When Lego lost its head – and how this toy story got its’ happy ending
  2. ‘ManBearPig is real!’ declare top climate scientists. ‘And to prove it here’s a photo-shopped image we found on the internet of a polar bear on a melting ice floe.’
  3. Greenpeace and the IPCC: time, surely, for a Climate Masada?
  4. Greenpeace goes postal

11 thoughts on “How many drowning polar bears can dance on the head of a pin?”

  1. Kingsley Smith says:25th November 2010 at 5:19 amIf you can access it on line, please take look at a story in theNov 25 South China Morning Post, titled “Are wind farms changing the weather?”.A couple of quotes:

    “I have a strong feeling that wind turbines are playing a disruptive, if not destructive, role in (unprecedented drought)” – Li Quinghai, engineer at the Water Resources Bureau.

    “A very large amount of wind power can produce a non-negligible climate change at continental scales.” Professor Keith, University of Calgary.

    Then there is the opposing point of view, the inevitable “It could never happen.” brigade.

    Worth a look.

  2. Velocity says:25th November 2010 at 9:06 pmJames,It’s not a largely right story on DDT but wholly scientifically provenly right story. Something that flies obviously right over air-headed dreamer Monbiots peanut brained housing.

    Birds fed daily with 2,000 times the dose they could pick up in the wild from mans DDT spraying showed no signs of ill-health. Fact.

    And why did any organisation on the planet put the health of birds ABOVE the health/lives of tens of millions of humans???

    The answer to that question is not possible without inditeing yourself in the murderous genocide environmentalists have, as a matter of patent fact, caused.

    It’s eery how many of your themes (liberty, Big Gov’t, greens, energy, DDT) i agree with. I brought up DDT on your Blog many moons ago, in my previous life as ‘Spanner’.

  3. Groper says:25th November 2010 at 10:30 pmYou know delingpole, it would be good if for once you did some objective journalism. The pros and cons of DDT instead filling your articles with watermelons, eco-fascsist and mass murderers. The point is, the Rachel Carson book was weighing up the benefits/adverse effects of indiscriminate use of DDT. At the end of the day, there’s no evidence of DDT received a world-wide ban as a disease control tool. The US continued to export it and was so widely used in some countries that DDT resistant mosquitoes started appearing. Aside from that, there’s also the toxic buildup that works its way into the environment. You’d think responsible journalism would consider that too?
  4. Velocity says:26th November 2010 at 7:28 pmGrouperSilent Spring was not, “weighing up the benefits/adverse effects of indiscriminate use of DDT” you bloody idiot.

    There is NO mal-effects of DDT spraying pinhead.

    Carson like all shrill green empties was pig ignorant of the scientific facts while spending an antire book fabricating false claims against DDT, none of which were true, even remotely.

    She was like 6 decades of environmentalism, a total retard. Got it peanut brains???

  5. Carl says:27th November 2010 at 7:42 pm“How many drowning polar bears can dance on the head of a pin?”Don’t do it James, you’ll give yourself a headache!
  6. Groper says:27th November 2010 at 7:46 pmMy, what a vicious reply from Velocity! Did you ingest too much DDT to cause you to foam in the mouth?
  7. Tom Forrester-Paton says:28th November 2010 at 5:24 amJames, I just read your latest post over at the Telly, and since they won’t allow me to post there, I’m doing so here. You are, of course, right to say that there is a lot of dishonesty in warmism. But I suspect there’s also the result of a quarter of a century of pedagogic neglect, characterised by a pervasive retreat from rigour, and that many Believers honestly believe their beliefs (shome mishtake?) are scientifically sound.A few days ago I posted this regarding the forensic naivete that characterises so much warmist argument:

    “Stan, and Dr Bratby – time and again we see Believers engaging in strategies which reveal a fundamental want of forensic insight. “Why”, we ask, “would any sane person think such-and-such would advance his cause”? It is presumably this same shortcoming which may allow them, honestly, to confuse opinion with science. From their point of view, it means the difference between being a fool or a charlatan, but from ours, it means that we cannot treat these people as if they were simply being dishonest, but must accept that they genuinely believe in the CO2 fairy. We have to accept that these people really have learned a different scientific method from the one we learned. Over at Curry, I have been treated to Michael Tobis defending neglect of the null hypothesis on the grounds that it was “not likely to increase the citation count” of the guy who reports it, and I’ve had Bart Verheggen claim that as the “scientific consensus”, of which he remains so fond, emerges, it becomes “the new null hypothesis” – all with apparently straight faces. These gentlemen, I learn, are significant professional climate “scientists”, so their aberrant beliefs may reasonably be thought typical of the field.

    With grotesque intellectual disabilities such as these, the best we can hope for is to eventually marginalise them and remove their influence over policy (and preferably their funding, to boot). They are probably incapable, literally incapable, of understanding their error.”

  8. Tom Forrester-Paton says:28th November 2010 at 5:35 amAnd while we’re on DDT, let’s not forget the contribution of serial catastrophist, carbon-trading, Nobel-winning, Prize Pillock – yes, it’s big Al himself!

    Does this mean Al gets to keep some of Rachel’s dead African children, and if so, does that reduce the old bat’s own body-count below that of Stalin? Or do they each have to carry the can for the lot? And if not, why not? And if not, who’s Al’s nearest rival? The Turks in 1915? Clearly further research is needed into how many people Al Gore has murdered.

  9. Velocity says:28th November 2010 at 8:26 amGrouperYou’re an idiot. Now you’re trying to be a smart arse too?!!…

    …this is a world for adults that know what they’re talking about. A fat gob running on empty won’t get you anywhere. Go away and grow up leftie

  10. Velocity says:28th November 2010 at 8:32 amTom F-PThanks for the link, very interesting. We need to bring the enviromentialists-Gov’t-UN DDT genocide to the publics attention and humble bed bugs could help the cause
  11. A Barbour says:28th November 2010 at 10:26 am“How many drowning polar bears can dance on the head of a pin?”Don’t do it James, you’ll get a massive headache…

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