Climatologist and former University of Virginia researcher Dr. Michael Mann has returned to Virginia, and he has a message for the commonwealth’s residents: vote for Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, he just looovess science. And Mann should know, after all he’s a scientist!
Whatever Mr. McAuliffe’s love for the pursuit of discovery that lies at the foundation of scientific exploration, Dr. Mann may not be the best authority. His partisanship, indignation toward critics, and apparent refusal to alter his hypothesis despite contrary evidence hardly speaks to high-minded scientific ideals.
Science is the pursuit of knowledge through logic, reason, and experimentation. We derive knowledge from testing and retesting falsifiable hypotheses. When new evidence proves, disproves, or casts serious doubt on a theory, science mandates the flexibility to adapt to changed circumstances.
But Dr. Mann leads a cabal of scientists who refuse to accept these basic premises. They defend old theories and promote accompanying policy prescriptions with a strident rigidity and dogmatism that would make the most fundamentalist religious zealot blush.
Heretofore, facts have proven Dr. Mann and his cohorts wrong. The earth’s temperature has remained mostly flat for a decade and a half despite the addition of over 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere. No one knows precisely why this is, but what is becoming clear is the global ecosystem’s interaction with these gasses is much more complex, less sensitive, and less understood than anyone — particularly climate scientists — previously thought. In fact, should the current temperature “pause” persist for a few more years it will completely discredit the models consistently touted by “consensus” scientists.
For true scientists this is not a big deal. New, contrary, evidence simply means returning to the drawing board. Indeed climate scientists are already rethinking the effect of clouds and oceans and everything in between on global temperatures.
But the situation is more delicate for those who gained their notoriety, made their reputations, and received their government funding on the old “sky is falling” model. For them acknowledging new facts means admitting the major possibility they were wrong. This includes conceding policy prescriptions based on their work may be draconian, counterproductive, and in the end vastly harmful to poorest of the world’s population. The ethanol disaster is but one example of “consensus” science taking food off the table for no discernible reason. These admissions would be a tough pill to swallow but ones a true scientist would embrace.
Mann first rose to prominence in the late 1990s with publication of his “hockey stick” graph, which purported to show a spike in world temperatures due to anthropogenic global warming. He reached the pinnacle of his profession when the United Nations featured his graph in its 2001 climate report.
Mann vigorously defends his graph despite its questionable methodologies and numerous scholarly criticisms. His favorite tack is to describe his detractors as handmaidens of “fossil fuel interests.” His prickliness even extended to a book he authored last year. In it he spared no one who dared question him, and whose title The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines projects more Saul Alinsky than Louis Pasteur.
He has particular animosity toward Ken Cuccinelli, who as Virginia’s Attorney General had the temerity to seek documents associated with Mann’s time at the University of Virginia after the “Climategate” scandal. The unauthorized release of those presumed-private communications showed Dr. Mann engaged in questionable dialogue with colleagues, including at the CRU, where he denigrated those he deemed insufficiently committed to the “cause.”
Indeed, Mr. Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial candidacy is what brings Dr. Mann back to the commonwealth. He has appeared with Mr. McAuliffe and delighted partisans with bromides against the Republican nominee’s supposed antipathy to science.
And of course, this is all fine. Dr. Mann has every right under the First Amendment to be an apparatchik for the McAuliffe campaign. But it is not his right to shield his partisanship under the guise of his authority as a scientist. Particularly in light of his own conduct that habitually fails to live up to those ideals.
Paul H. Jossey is a lawyer living in Alexandria, Virginia. His interests include First Amendment law and environmental policy. Follow him on Twitter.