Dear Professor Mann,
I saw your performance on ABC Q&A last week.
Unfortunately, you may not have been aware that this is one of Australia’s worst media platforms for balanced debate or reasoned argument. The show has been raked over the coals (excuse the pun) countless times for its shockingly poor standards whether it be inviting radical feminists hurling profanity while openly calling for the murder of men, giving platforms to convicted terrorists or allowing tweets that suggested the then sitting prime minister enjoys anal sex. Without knowing its dismal editorial history, you can be forgiven for heaping praise on the show. Don’t worry, the program has made countless promises that it will do better in the future. We’re still waiting. Forewarned is forearmed.
You said you enjoy “taking climate deniers to task” but I believe it is this type of attitude that creates the very problems that get in the way of convincing them.
While you might have found it necessary to appropriate the aphorism that “you should keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out,” why didn’t you just educate Senator Molan with a list of specific hard data points instead of resorting to the one size fits all ‘consensus’ line? As much as his gaffe will be replayed on a loop, I sincerely doubt those words came out as he intended.
On the subject of consensus over the science being settled, why do we still have such poor governance practices in the scientific community?
Let’s face it. There have been many controversies that have come from climatologists based on fraudulent data or lax governance in the peer-review process. Unfortunately with next to no risk of repercussions for falsifying/homogenizing data or ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours‘ endorsements, scientists can make outlandish claims at will with no lasting consequences.
Take this example.
A major scientific paper, which claimed to have found rapid warming in the oceans as a result of manmade global warming, was withdrawn after an amateur climate scientist found major errors in its statistical methodology.
The authors sheepishly said,
“Shortly after publication, arising from comments from Nicholas Lewis, we realized that our reported uncertainties were underestimated owing to our treatment of certain systematic errors as random errors. In addition, we became aware of several smaller issues in our analysis of uncertainty. Although correcting these issues did not substantially change the central estimate of ocean warming, it led to a roughly fourfold increase in uncertainties, significantly weakening implications for an upward revision of ocean warming and climate sensitivity. Because of these weaker implications, the Nature editors asked for a Retraction, which we accept.”
It was pulled only because it was caught. Peer-reviewed? Have the people responsible for giving their blessing been struck off the list as gurus for future papers given the lazy approach to miss such basic errors? Surely to have the same names appear on future academic work risks diminishing potentially important content as sub-standard. There do not appear to be consistently high enough standards to ensure the studies are always top drawer, which they need to be if debt-ridden governments are to deploy more of our taxes effectively.
Nicholas Lewis said after the retraction that,
“This is just the latest example of climate scientists letting themselves down by using incorrect statistics. The climate field needs to get professional statisticians involved upfront if it is going to avoid this kind of embarrassment in future”.
At the very least, Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Forum, said
“Climatology is littered with examples of bad statistics, going back to the infamous Hockey Stick graph and beyond. Peer review is failing and it is falling to amateurs to find the errors. Scientists in the field should be embarrassed”.
It would be much better if people who possess high profiles in the scientific community such as yourself to become much more active in criticizing these shortcomings.
Put it this way. I, like many others, would like to get to the truth in climate science but because of the actions of a few bad apples, the rest of the value-added that might come from the majority of the scientific community gets diluted in the process. Fraudulent behaviour is reprehensible on any level in any industry. Yet the public have little scope to make these determinations of which science passes muster until it is exposed for failing to be up to standard. Yet they won’t roll over and accept ‘settled science’ given the levels of crony capitalism in the system.
If the climate activist movement wants to win over climate sceptics (not deniers) without shutting down the debate, start by cleaning house first. Advocate for scientific bodies to come down hard on cheaters amongst your own flock. They need to be exposed so that such works are discredited which has the added effect of improving the pool of best-in-class data and research. It would be helpful if the media helped spread the message that such bad behaviour will no longer be tolerated.
Countless people who have been non-compliant in the financial industry have faced harsh punishment in terms of fines and jail sentences. Companies have lost trading licenses and faced fines in the billions of dollars. I have yet to see any scientists face such risks when caught out for highly unethical behaviour.
Perhaps we could get far more sensible outcomes in convincing sceptics were the bad apples prosecuted. Furthermore, whistleblower protections would accelerate a cleanout of the dodgy scientists that game the system and ruin it for the rest. It has worked very successfully in your homeland with financial sector prosecutions up 16x since whistleblower laws were introduced in 2011. Better still, honest scientists have nothing to fear because such legislation acts as an insurance policy which protects their hard work.
That is how you’ll bring trust to the table.
I would be highly surprised if most scientists haven’t seen or heard of unethical practices conducted in the field of climate science.
You also mentioned that, “My view is the view of the world scientific community, every scientific institution in the world that’s weighed in on this matter – climate change is real, it’s human-caused, it’s already leading to disastrous impacts here in Australia and around the rest of the world. And it will get much worse if we don’t act.”
Every institution? Even if we were to take this as gospel, it is highly likely that the majority have distinctly different takes on the ‘extent’ of human impacts made more disperse by varying timelines. Some no doubt say there are very minuscule impacts to others that paint more extreme scenarios. Therefore to imply there is one united view seems a bit far fetched. Despite the position of more conservative scientists, the only view that is pedalled appears to be the alarmist one.
We constantly hear noise from the media, egged on by alarmists, that extreme weather events are becoming more widespread. However, the UNIPCC’s March 2018 report on weather extremes (with respect to anthropogenic induced global warming) notes:
“…There is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale phenomena such as tornadoes and hail because of data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems…in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia. There is limited to medium evidence available to assess climate-driven observed changes in the magnitude and frequency of floods…low confidence for the attribution of any detectable changes in tropical cyclone activity to anthropogenic influences..low confidence in projections of changes in extreme winds.. low confidence in projections of changes in monsoons…low confidence in wave height projections…overall low confidence because of inconsistent projections of drought changes…low confidence in projected future changes in dust storms…low confidence in projections of an anthropogenic effect on phenomena such as shallow landslides.”
Where is the scientific community’s transparency in pointing out that the probabilities and confidence levels about such ‘extreme weather’ claims remaining very low? Coming from a background in statistics, such low confidence levels smack more of ‘unsettled’ science. Yet the alarmists preach it as though the evidence is irrefutable when it statistically can not be. It gets worse.
Although the media never covered it, can you please explain why so many scientists trashed the IPCC for its governance practices? The public is constantly told that the UN IPCC climate bible is the gold standard which cannot be denied.
Did you see the UN Interacademy Council committee posted a questionnaire on its website and invited interested parties to respond to the processes at the IPCC? This is what they said;
“some of the lead authors…are clearly not qualified to be lead authors.” (p.16)
“There are far too many politically correct appointments, so that developing country scientists are appointed who have insufficient scientific competence to do anything useful. This is reasonable if it is regarded as a learning experience, but in my chapter…we had half of the [lead authors] who were not competent.” (p. 138)
“The whole process…[is] flawed by an excessive concern for geographical balance. All decisions are political before being scientific.” (p. 554)
“half of the authors are there for simply representing different parts of the world.” (p. 296)
Lest anyone think that people from less affluent countries were being unjustly stereotyped,
“The team members from the developing countries (including myself) were made to feel welcome and accepted as part of the team. In reality, we were out of our intellectual depth as meaningful contributors to the process.” (p.330)
Are climate deniers, as you label them, justified in questioning the validity of the processes which are relied upon to allocate $100s of billions in taxpayer money if the scientists themselves see deep flaws? This survey wasn’t conducted by a fossil-fuel lobby group but the UN itself. This is the home team exposing its own inadequacy but the media is deathly silent.
The above survey is an utter embarrassment and I would be interested to hear your response to those claims. It is alarming to know that government policy is being based on such sub-standard procedures. It would be nice for scientific bodies to come out in unison to call out these problems to ensure that properly vetted governance practices are introduced and enforced. We all win if this happens.
You said on the Q&A program that, “If we act, if we bring our carbon emissions down by a factor of two within the next 10 years, which we can do if all partners work together, then we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Do you honestly believe if Australia brings emissions from 1.3% to 0.65% that will have the slightest impact when we know that China has openly stated that its emissions (now at c.30%) won’t stop growing till at least 2030? Furthermore, Australia’s population grew by 10% since 2013. Reducing emissions in half with a growing population will mean that even more drastic measures would be required.
China will be growing an Australia every week by 2030 from every two weeks today. If we hit your target, China will still be steaming ahead at two Australia’s per week. Unfortunately, the economic pain inflicted to reach such targets is simply too steep in reality. Renewables have a very poor record in Australia despite our world-leading commitment per capita in introducing green energy.
You make the criticism about the stance taken by the Murdoch media on climate change. By that measure, The Guardian is conspicuous for its constant alarmism where it openly admits to sensationalising language.
I sincerely hope you join me in ways to close the gap between alarmists and sceptics. We live in a cancel culture society. The more this is accepted, the harder both sides dig in their heels. The only way to effectively find common ground is to tidy up the procedures, governance and practices whereby poor behaviour is summarily punished and outed so that people on all sides can have trust that investment decisions made reflect fact, not fiction.
With a heavy heart, the EU’s recent declaration of a ‘Climate Emergency’ rejected revisions to the legislation which requested, “Recalls that climate change is one of the many challenges facing humanity and that all states and stakeholders worldwide must do their utmost to measure it scientifically so that policy, and especially spending, is based on observable facts and not on apocalyptic fearmongering or unreliable models; emphasises that there is no scientific consensus on what percentage of climate change is anthropogenic and what percentage is natural.”
Surely if we are to build a sensible united front, this is a shockingly poor start. Instead of taking sceptics to task, work to put their concerns to bed via cleaning up those that muddy the waters of those with a genuine message. Questioning bad behaviour doesn’t require an open mind. Ignoring it risks one’s brains falling out.