Michael Mann threatens legal action over Steyn comment

From Australian Climate Madness – h/t Val Majkus. This is a savage attack on Professor Michael Mann, author of the deceptive “hockey stick” graph published in the Third Assessment Report by the IPCC in 2001. It was the second graph in the report and much used in the publicity material until strong opposition appeared and the graph vanished for a while. Mann has hit back with a lawyer’s letter. It could get interesting for what for the first time would come under the judicial microscope.


WEDNESDAY, 25 JULY 2012 9:28 AM

If this goes the distance, it will certainly be worth following very closely.

Mark Steyn, writing at the National Review (backup WebCite link here), made a number of comments about Michael Mann regarding the Hockey Stick, and Mann has responded with a three-page lawyers’ letter threatening defamation proceedings (see here: page 1, page 2, page 3 – originally published on Mann’s Facebook page, reproduced here for ease of reference).

The interesting point here is that much of the letter focusses on the various investigations into Climategate as evidence that there was no wrongdoing, which inevitably means that if this matter were ever to reach court, not only would the investigations come under close scrutiny, but also the Climategate emails themselves. This would therefore be the first opportunity for an examination of the materials in a proper judicial environment.

Andrew Montford’s report (at the UK GWPF – PDF) into four of those investigations found that to a greater or lesser degree, they were “rushed, cursory and largely unpersuasive”.

In respect of the University of East Anglia investigations, Mann’s letter states that the Oxburgh enquiry (the Scientific Assessment Panel) found:

“No evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit”

and in respect of the second UEA investigation (the Independent Climate Change Email Review), that

“the scientists’ rigour and honesty are not in doubt.”

Montford, on the other hand, claims in respect of the UEA reports that they:

“avoided key questions and failed to probe some of the most serious allegations. Terms of reference were either vague or non-existent. Insufficient consideration in the choice of panel members led to a failure to ensure balance and independence.”

In respect of the UK Parliamentary Inquiry, Mann claims:

“criticisms of the Climatic Research Unit were misplaced and that its actions ‘were in line with common practice in the climate science community’.”

Montford, on the other hand, states:

“The half-day hearing by the Science and Technology Select Committee was curtailed by the impending election. Key allegations were not examined and CRU staff were cleared of some allegations without evidence. The main CRU critics were not invited to give oral evidence and much of their written evidence was not taken into consideration.”

In respect of the Penn State inquiry, Mann states that it found:

“there is no substance to the allegations against Dr Michael E Mann.”

Montford, on the other hand, quotes from an article in The Atlantic (worth reading in full) which looked in detail at the investigation:

“The [Penn State] report…says, in effect, that Mann is a distinguished scholar, a successful raiser of research funding, a man admired by his peers – so any allegation of academic impropriety must be false…

Mann is asked if the allegations (well, one them) are true, and says no. His record is swooned over. Verdict: case dismissed with apologies that Mann has been put to such trouble.”

The other three inquiries cited (by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce and National Science Foundation) all reached similar conclusions. How rigorously were those inquiries carried out? At this stage, we don’t know.

But it’s hardly confidence inspiring. Perhaps the only way we will ever see allegations properly tested will be in front of a court of law, which may, thanks to Mann’s threat, actually happen.

I wonder if this has been fully thought through? Commentators are raising the point that a requirement to produce documents arising from legal proceedings would be far harder to avoid than simple FOI requests, and the disclosure obligations would mean that many more documents may become public as a result. It may also confirm some of the suspicions raised in Montford’s report, namely that the inquiries were superficial at best.

It looks like opening a can of worms…

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28 Thoughts on “Michael Mann threatens legal action over Steyn comment

  1. Clarence Kay on 26/07/2012 at 2:15 am said:

    What an opportunity! All Steyn has to do is plead justification, “every word was true”, and leave it to the jury.

    Imagine a procession of witnesses to confirm that Mann got it wrong – Steve McIntyre, Edward Wegener, Keith Briffa, etc. And at last, we find oit why it was necessary to ‘hide the decline’ of the bristlecone rings during this century.

  2. Andy on 26/07/2012 at 8:05 am said:

    Mark Steyn knows how to wind them up, that’s for sure.

    By the way, Mann has now taken to referring to Trolls on his Facebook page as Beetle Larvae.

  3. Andy on 26/07/2012 at 8:45 am said:

    Mann’s Facebook page is here


    See if you can find any science amongst the paranoia

  4. val majkus on 26/07/2012 at 5:41 pm said:

    and check out John O’Sullivan in his usual informative style
    ‘Media war of words erupts in anticipation of another global warming courtroom battle. We take time to see how latest events connected to Climategate’s controversial scientist Michael Mann stack up alongside Mann’s legal shoot out versus Dr. Tim Ball.


  5. “I wonder if this has been fully thought through?” Answer: It is Mann’s standard response – sabre rattle like a major thunderstorm. But the real question is, will the storm ever make landfall. That is worth watching for, but I predict he will now legally back off and not allow any court proceedings. Too much at stake. Mann is hiding behind any and every legal skirt he can find. When the skirt blows (think Marilyn Monroe), Mann is apt to be absent.

    This is gonna take time. But every little arrow wears down their armour and eventually the truth will out.

  6. Andy on 27/07/2012 at 2:32 pm said:

    Skeptical Science have weighed in with a well-balanced article that only uses the term “denialist” 9 times


    • Outstanding. I left Mr Cook the following:

      At first I shared your opinion that the comparison of Mann with a child abuser was in bad taste. But then I was shocked to read:

      “This sort of behavior must stop, especially if these climate denialists wish to be taken seriously as real ‘skeptics’.”

      And became annoyed with you. For that’s like saying “… if ignorant blacks want to be taken seriously as people.”

      There’s little chance when you persist both in using a vicious, dismissive name and in conflating all sceptics; you cleverly imply that all sceptics must stop this sort of behaviour, when obviously not all sceptics engaged in it.

      But it’s not sceptics who need you to take them seriously. Who cares what you do? You would reveal a firm devotion to truth if you would only listen to the common sense in their repeated questions.

      For example: how does the ocean get heated by anything in the atmosphere? Why can’t you heat the bath by blowing warm air at it – it insists on cooling? Why has there been no global warming (not warmth, but warming) this century? What really is the climate sensitivity to increased CO2? Why is our ignorance of the net effect of clouds ignored in the GCMs? Why can IPCC lead authors cite their own papers and participate in writing the SPM, which draws conclusions from their papers? Why is the SPM always published months before the reports themselves? Why haven’t there been properly rigorous, as compared with ineffectual, investigations into Mann’s statistical manipulations, use of Bristlecone pines and dependence upon a single sub-arctic tree?

    • Andy on 27/07/2012 at 4:47 pm said:

      No comments being shown yet; it’ll be interesting to see if your comment gets published RT.

      I can guarantee that if you left this comment on Mann’s Facebook page, it would be deleted almost immediately.

    • My comment appeared straight away (I’m a registered user there) but was quickly taken down. One Rob Honeycutt emailed me saying:

      Sorry Richard, no accusations of deception on SkS. You’re going to have to play by the rules. Please familiarize yourself with policy before continuing to comment.

      But there’s no reference to deception so I’ve asked him to point it out to me.

      It feels funny corresponding with a member of M.A.S.H.

    • Andy on 27/07/2012 at 8:55 pm said:

      You might enjoy Michael Mann’s education classes on Facebook

      This was an interesting enough exchange in the comment thread that I decided it was worth giving it stand-alone status:

      I am a reasonably well educated man with sufficient science and math in my background to follow the climate controversy. Having studied a vast amount of material from both sides, I remain unconvinced that humans are the cause of any atmospheric danger to this planet. Does that make me a bad person?

      My Response:
      No, that doesn’t make you a bad person at all, but arguably it does perhaps make you a somewhat confused person. If you have the sufficient science and math to follow the issue, then you surely *should* be aware that (a) the greenhouse effect is basic physics & math that has been understood for nearly two centuries w/ folks like Joseph Fourier having been aware of it, (b) the irrefutable fact that we have increased the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 40% already, and (c) that a+b imply the surface of the Earth must have warmed in response to our carbon emissions and that a variety of independent measurements confirm that this warming has occurred. If you are well versed in science then you must know that the highest scientific authority in the land, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (established by Abraham Lincoln) has, along w/ all of the major scientific societies in the U.S., found that human-caused climate change is real and represents a potential threat if we don’t take actions to adapt & mitigate. The Scientific Academies of all of the major industrial nations have signed on to the same conclusion. I discuss all of this, and much more, in my book “The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars”. Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy’ said this of the book: “If you don’t believe our climate is changing, read this book. Dr. Mann will change your mind.”. I would encourage you to consider reading the book 🙂

      Much admiration from the adoring followers. Those that haven’t been “deleted” that is

  7. val majkus on 27/07/2012 at 10:58 pm said:

    Warwick Hughes has an interesting post arising from comments he received from Dr Douglas Hoyt
    In addition to the greenhouse effect, there is an anti-greenhouse effect.
    Dr Hoyt commented
    The greenhouse effect works by having an additional CO2 molecule absorb radiation and re-emit it back to the surface resulting in a net warming of the system.
    The anti-greenhouse effect works by having an additional CO2 molecule being struck by an oxygen or nitrogen molecule which –
    1) excites the CO2 molecule which then, in turn, emits radiation, some of it to
    space, resulting in a net cooling of the system.
    2) The oxygen or nitrogen molecule has lost energy in the process, so is now slower, which is how the cooling is manifested.
    check out the post and some very interesting comments

    • Richard C (NZ) on 28/07/2012 at 2:20 pm said:

      The IPCC’s GWP concept neglects the fact that CO2 (and other atm gases) is a transfer medium and a coolant, the most spectacular demonstration being during CME’s as in this recent account:-

      The solar eruptions began on March 6, and on March 8 a coronal mass ejection — a wave of charged particles — smashed into Earth’s magnetic field.

      For the next three days, the upper atmosphere, known as the thermosphere, absorbed 26 billion kilowatt-hours of energy. Infrared radiation from carbon dioxide and nitric oxide, the two most efficient coolants in the thermosphere, radiated 95 percent of that total back into space.

      “The thermosphere lit up like a Christmas tree,” said James Russell of Virginia’s Hampton University.



      Then there’s clear night cooling (absence of WV or clouds), from ‘Frost Damage and Management in New Zealand Vineyards©’
      Trought, Howell and Cherry: Lincoln University:-

      2.1 Radiation frost condition in the vineyard

      All surfaces radiate according to their surface temperature and a characteristic of the surface,called the emissivity (Geiger et al. 1995). The Stefan-Bolzmann Law gives the intensity ofthe emission:

      (1) I= ε σ T4 [W m2]
      and the wavelength (λ max) of the peak of the radiant spectrum is given by Wien’s Law:

      (2) λ max = 2897 / T [μm]
      where ε is the emissivity and is close to 1.0 for most natural surfaces

      σ is Stefan’s Constant and is 5.67 x 10-8 W m2 – oC4;
      T is the absolute temperature (K), T(K) = T(oC) + 273.2
      W is watts
      and m2 is square metres

      Terrestrial surfaces at around 10 0C (283.2 K) radiate in the infrared, λ max = 10.2 μm, I = 354.7 W m2, and the sky about -15 0C (258.2 K), λ max = 11.2 μm, I = 252.0 W m2.

      On clear nights, the earth’s surface radiates upwards and receives infrared radiation from the sky. Since the sky is generally colder than the ground, the ground radiates more than the sky, with a net loss of radiation that results in cooling. With the figures used above the net infrared loss is 364.7 – 252.0 = 112.7 W m2. Equilibrium would eventually be reached when the ground cools to the sky’s temperature. Usually the sun rises before this happens and provides a welcome heat input. On cloudy nights the net infrared loss is about 10 W m2. Hence the cooling rate is very small, and the equilibrium temperature is almost always above zero (Geiger et al. 1995).

      Practical Considerations for Reducing Frost Damage in
      Vineyards, Report to New Zealand Winegrowers: 1999


      If CO2 was indeed able to “trap heat” (it actually just reaches saturation) and re-emit to earth (as it does but also in every other direction too) and warm the surface (which it does only negligibly) there would never be a radiation frost.

      So we have 2 instances demonstrating that CO2 is an ineffective heating agent and that H2O is the heat atm modulator:-

      Radiation frost,

      Dry Sahara vs humid Singapore

      And 1 instance demonstrating that CO2 is an efficient coolant:-

      Thermospheric IR re-emission (transfer) to space.

      Disappointing that Trought, Howell and Cherry from Lincoln University understand the thermodynamic mechanisms in detail but we don’t hear boo from them in the public arena in respect to “heat trapping” GHGs. I guess tenure, promotion, mortgages and future research funding take precedence.

  8. Simon on 28/07/2012 at 8:53 pm said:

    Richard Treadgold says:
    “How does the ocean get heated by anything in the atmosphere? Why can’t you heat the bath by blowing warm air at it – it insists on cooling?”
    – Of course there is heat interchange at the boundary layer.
    Richard C (NZ) says:
    “If CO2 was indeed able to “trap heat” (it actually just reaches saturation) and re-emit to earth (as it does but also in every other direction too) and warm the surface (which it does only negligibly) there would never be a radiation frost.”
    – Are you saying that the existence of radiation frosts proves that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 29/07/2012 at 9:26 am said:

      “Of course there is heat interchange at the boundary layer”

      Yes but on average the ocean is about 3 C warmer than the adjacent atm so conductive heat flow is predominantly ocean => atm. Also radiative energy is a net loss to the ocean at the surface as is latent heat of evaporation. Ocean heating is by solar and to a much lessor extent geo energy.

      “Are you saying that the existence of radiation frosts proves that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas?”

      No, just that it’s completely ineffectual as it’s unable to prevent radiation frosts in the absence of clouds and WV – the major and by far the most effective GHG.

  9. Skeptical Science UPDATE:

    My second response (below) lasted only a short time before being taken down without explanation so far. Shame – I tried very hard to keep it factual. You can be the judge.

    I agree with you that the comparison of Mann with a child abuser was in bad taste. But I am disturbed by the hypocrisy of your assertion:

    “This sort of behavior must stop, especially if these climate denialists wish to be taken seriously as real ‘skeptics’.”

    Yes, ad hominem attacks should stop, but on both sides equally! Referring to sceptics by the vicious, dismissive term “denialists” means you’re refusing to take them seriously.

    Your comments policy includes: “No ad hominem attacks… Comments using labels like ‘alarmist’ and ‘denier’ as derogatory terms [and when are they not?] are usually skating on thin ice.”

    So this post itself breaks your site’s rules with clear hypocrisy. Nuccitelli’s concern for Mann’s treatment does not mitigate that.

    Sceptical arguments are unaffected whether or not you take them seriously. In listening to the common sense in their questions we reveal our concern for truth. It’s hard to understand why we don’t hear clear answers, as most of the questions are simple.

    For example: the ocean can apparently be heated by radiation from the atmosphere, so why can’t you heat the bath by blowing warm air at it? Why has global warming reduced this century, when the decadal growth rate in atmospheric CO2 from 2000-2009 was the greatest ever?

    There is already every reason to take those sceptical questions seriously.

    • Andy on 28/07/2012 at 9:36 pm said:

      At least they didn’t refer to you as Beetle Larvae, which is Michael Mann’s phrase of the day to describe his detractors.

    • Yes, and I am grateful. Perhaps it’s a strange attempt to worm his way into people’s affections…

  10. Andy on 23/08/2012 at 11:53 am said:

    It gets better.

    “Stick It Where the Global Warming Don’t Shine

    by Mark Steyn • Aug 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm”

    Actually, I’ll bet Michael Mann had never heard of me when he blew his gasket, and I’ll wager his high-priced counsel never bothered doing two minutes of Googling. If they had, they’d have known that once they start this thing they’d better be prepared to go the distance.

    For my part, although I’ve been dismissive of Mann’s “hockey stick” for over a decade, I’d never paid much attention to him personally. All I’d say is he seems strangely insecure for a person of such eminence. I wonder what he’ll be like on the witness stand. And I’ll be interested to see whether his page links to our lawyer’s letter the way my page linked to his lawyer’s.

    Hockey sticks akimbo, baby!


  11. Andy on 23/02/2014 at 9:35 am said:

    This case has become somewhat more complicated with Mark Steyn taking a $10 million counter suit against Mann, and moreover some fabricated quotes from the Muir Russel enquiry seeping into Mann’s legal defence.

    See here.


    And the SKS link in this is described by Shub here


    • Richard C (NZ) on 23/02/2014 at 3:58 pm said:

      [Shub] “Doctored quotes? Guess where my first reaction was to look.”

      That’s something I’ve run into a lot too but not just at SkS. There’s a tendency among the abstracted minds of zealot warmistas to paraphrase to their liking or even just make up something, project something, stick quote marks around it, and pass it off as an actual quote. Similar is done with the scientific literature too, it very often isn’t what the warmist interpretation of it says it is when you fact-check a statement by deference to the actual literature.

      But now SkS enters the legal arena where statements are fact checked element-by-element and their MO is found to be shonky. Something we already knew but good to see them entangling themselves in a legal wrangle because of it.

      I suspect there will now be some very bad blood between the Mann team and the SkS team.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 24/02/2014 at 8:08 am said:
  12. Andy on 26/02/2014 at 1:04 pm said:

    More updates from Steyn

    The invisible Mann


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