My name is Tony Heller (aka Steven Goddard). I’m a professional climate change denier and I use this blog to blow the whistle on myself and sometimes others, too.
In my blog post yesterday, I introduced a new character into the climate change debate soap opera, Judith Curry. As I mentioned in the post, Curry, on her blog, gave a glowing review of the latest round of swiftboating against climatologist Michael Mann, a book titled “A Disgrace to the Profession.” Today, we are going to begin our exploration into Curry’s review of this masterwork of non-scientific rubbish she insists on injecting into the climate debate in order to uncover just how desperate and petty Curry has become in her attempt to undermine the reputation of her self-appointed nemesis, Michael Mann.
First, we need to introduce another antagonist into our drama: conservative pundit, Mark Steyn. Like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, he’s proof that developing the persona of a right-wing, bullshit-slinging asshole can be an excellent strategy for building a mob of angry conservative lemmings as a base for a lucrative cottage industry. Steyn is the author of “A Disgrace to the Profession,” the self-published, hit piece on Mann that Curry promotes on her blog. As Curry points out in her review, Steyn wrote the book as retribution for the 2012 defamation lawsuit Michael Mann brought against Steyn over a blog post calling Mann’s work “fraudulent” and quoted an analyst’s gutter comments comparing Mann, a Penn State professor, to Penn State football coach and child molester, Jerry Sandusky.
Steyn is important to our story because he demonstrates how Curry uses others as proxies for her ongoing war with Mann because apparently she doesn’t have the scientific chops to challenge Mann’s body of scientific work directly. Instead, Curry calls attention to others attacking Mann in order to try to sully his reputation. And this is precisely the same tactic she used in her blog post by highlighting sixteen quotes from Steyn’s book that he used to make the case that Mann was a disreputable scientist.
Unfortunately for Curry, when you start rolling around with gutter pigs like Steyn, their shit is impossible to clean off. And that’s exactly what Steyn’s work is: unadulterated shit.
So let us now, finally, illustrate Steyn’s smutty tactics through a close inspection of the quotes Curry chose to repeat and republish on her own blog. Today, at the request of a loyal follower here on Heller Exposed, we will begin with an anti-Mann quote that Curry highlighted and that Steyn attributed to a well-known climatologist, Wallace Broecker.
Who is Wallace Broecker and what has he got against Mann? Is he some kind climate denying crackpot? Actually not at all. In 1996 he won the National Medal of Science and he’s quoted as saying “One of the main drivers of ice ages was the CO2 content in the air. When the CO2 was lower it got plenty colder. So, as we add CO2 it’s going to get a lot warmer. There can be a question about how big the warming will be, but there’s no doubt in my mind.” In fact, Broecker was one of the first modern scientists to warn of the dangers of CO2 pollution and is credited with helping to coin the phrase “global warming.” Like Mann, Broecker has been the subject of attacks by climate deniers and stated, “they call me a ‘junk scientist’ to my face.”
So it turns out Mann and his colleagues had approached Broecker sometime in 2000 with their relatively new work, the now famous hockey stick graph. Although it had already been published by then, it was undergoing refinement and improvement by Mann’s team. The hockey stick graph, for those who are unfamiliar, is the graphical representation of the data that Mann and his colleagues collected that shows a very sharp increase in global temperatures over the course of the last 150 years or so.
As evidenced in private email exchanges with his colleagues, Mann was very reluctant to engage with Broecker over the hockey stick graph. In an extraordinarily prescient sentence in an email from February 2001, Mann wrote:
“I think its very unfortunate [Broecker]’s chosen to disinform the community rather than engage in a constructive dialogue (we tried the latter w/ him in a series of emails last year, but clearly to no avail). On the other hand, [I] think that a war of words w/ Broecker would be exploited by the skeptics, and perhaps we should just try to let this thing die…”
And, course, exploiting Broecker’s words is exactly what the deniers like Steyn/Curry are doing now as we shall soon see.
So why was Mann so reluctant to engage further with Broecker? Was it because Mann thought Broecker could prove the hockey stick graph was wrong? No that wasn’t it at all. It turns out the senior scientist had a reputation for being ornery and territorial about his own scientific theories. If we continue to dig through Mann’s private email exchange, we see Mann’s camp viewed Broecker as stubborn and “cling[ing] to some of his flawed beliefs which aren’t supported from either our best current understanding of the observations or of the results of careful modeling experiments.” They also speculated that Broecker might be digging in his heels because he was worried that his own “pet theory, that climate variability is a simple millennial oscillation, [was] finally being challenged with hard data and hard facts” from Mann’s team. They also bemoaned the “combative approach Broecker relishes.” For more on the early disputes between Mann, et al and Broecker, I encourage you read through the emails.
Let’s be clear that my point here is not that Broecker was wrong and Mann’s hockey stick graph was right. That’s immaterial. What I’m illustrating is that Broecker had a reputation for gunning after researchers that disagreed with him and Mann’s team was well aware of it. They understood Broecker needed to be handled like a stick of dynamite lest he explode in their face because, as we pointed out, Broecker enjoyed a very good reputation in the scientific community. They knew that if their disagreement with Broecker blew up into a public feud, it would be a setback, even though they felt the evidence they had was rock solid.
So with that background in place, we can start getting to the meat of the matter and talk about Broecker’s quote against Mann that was used by Curry and Steyn. In his 2007 book, “With Speed and Violence,” author Fred Pearce wrote this passage to introduce Broecker and his rather prickly reputation:
Broecker is a maverick—a prodigious and fearless generator of ideas, and one of the most influential figures in climate science for half a century. Sometimes he can be more. Amid the admiration for his science, you hear some harsh words about him in the science community. A bully, some say, especially to young scientists; a man who will use his influence to suppress ideas with which he disagrees. For a man in his seventies, he certainly comes on strong and relishes conflict. Here are his unprompted, on-the-record remarks to me about one of the U.S.’s leading climate modelers, who incurred the wrath of some Republican senators: “I think the senators were well out of line, but if anyone deserves to get hit, it was him. The goddamn guy is a slick talker and superconfident. He won’t listen to anyone else. I don’t trust people like that. A lot of the data sets he uses are shitty, you know. They are just not up to what he is trying to do.”
Broecker is not a man to cross lightly. And to be honest, I thought a bit before writing the above. Much as I like his vigor, I’d hate to be caught in his crosshairs. Some believe he has earned the right to sound off about young colleagues he thinks don’t pass muster. Some worry that Broecker seems to save his invective for people who resemble him in his younger years.
Now allow me to tie it all together for you. In the passage above, Pearce makes passing reference to an unnamed leading climate modeler Broecker disparages. Who, exactly, is the “leading climate modeler” that Broecker calls a “slick talker” whose data sets are “shitty?” Care to guess? Well, you don’t have to guess because Pearce reveals who it is, either by mistake or purposefully, on page 264 of his book, writing:
When I finally met Mann, he had moved from Virginia to Penn State University, where he is now director of the Earth Science Systems Center. But the flak had followed. Some was fair; some was unfair; some was deployed as political hand grenades; some was just a part of the normal adversarial flow of scientific debate; and some was just plain personal —like Wally Broecker’s bad-mouthing of Mann, quoted at the start of Chapter 23.
So there you have it, Mann is the man that Broecker attacked, an attack Pearce characterized as “personal.” In other words, Pearce is telling us there was no real evidence to back it up.
And so we return now to our partners in slime, Steyn and Curry. If you haven’t guessed by now, the quote from Broecker disparaging Mann that Curry highlighted on her blog post and cited in Steyn’s book was the one from Pearce’s 2007 book. It has taken eight years for the deniers to seize upon Broecker’s statement, but Mann had perfectly anticipated that a loose cannon like Broecker might start bad mouthing the hockey stick without justification a full six years beforehand.
I’m sure there’s a lot more to the story than I have uncovered with a few Google searches. I’d love to know what happened between 2001 and 2007 that pissed Broecker off enough to come out to make an on-the-record attack on Mann. Did Broecker have real evidence to show Mann’s data was “shitty?” Pearce doesn’t say but does say that the attack on Mann was personal. A better question might be: just how qualified, exactly, is Broecker to make this claim against Mann? Broecker made a name for himself in the 70s and 80s; has he kept up with the latest literature and findings? Broecker himself gives us a strong indication: “In global warming, I’m an educated amateur,” he says.
So now you, dear reader, now have a much fuller context of Broecker’s quote. You now have details and context that Steyn/Curry left out. Why did they leave these details out? Why didn’t Curry carefully research to get a fuller picture before posting the scurrilous quote? Nothing was stopping her from uncovering the backstory to this quote with a few Google searches.
Of course, we all know the reason. Neither Curry or Steyn bothered to investigate the quote because they don’t care about truth, integrity or accuracy. They care only about destroying the reputation of Michael Mann. That is their sole aim and purpose. Nuance and details are Steyn and Curry’s natural enemies because they undermine their arguments and they don’t sell well in the blogosphere anyway. And Steyn/Curry are so desperate to bring Mann down that they’re willing to throw anything at Mann, no matter how flimsy or poorly researched. Because when you’re so fixated on torpedoing your enemies, you tend to throw caution to the wind.
I’ll close out our first episode with one small footnote. I’d like to point out that Steyn is so sloppy he even gets his own sources for his quote wrong. In a comment on Curry’s blog post about his book, he pins the date of Broecker’s quote as 2009, which was when the quote appeared in an article by Pearce in the Guardian. But as I demonstrated, Broecker’s quote actually came from Fred Pearce’s book, written in 2007. Or maybe Steyn did know about the origin of the quote and just wanted to hide it because the book provides much more context for Broecker’s statement. Either way, Steyn’s dung heap of a hit piece is just more pollution poisoning the debate over climate change. Unfortunately, Curry is eager and willing to roll around in it and help him shovel it out. In my opinion, she’s a total fucking disgrace to the entire scientific community and grossly disrespectful to all those who care deeply about exploring the science behind one of the greatest challenges facing human kind.
Well, thanks for reading and stay tuned find out what happens next time in our next episode of “As the World Burns.”