The modern non-debate over climate, or anything

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Last week there was a much bally-hooed public event where several very well known scientists from both sides of the global-warming debate were given an opportunity to make their case before the public. Though they were not the only speakers, the two names that were of the most interest were Michael Mann (global warming advocate) and Judith Curry (global warming skeptic).

Mann’s appearance was especially intriguing, because he has very carefully insulated himself from any unpredictable public questioning in the decade since the climategate emails were released (revealing that his objectivity and rigor as a scientist could be considered very questionable). With Curry as an opposing panelist it seemed to me that this event could produce some interesting fireworks.

The event was in West Virginia, too far away for me to attend. However, one of my caving buddies from back when I lived in DC and caved monthly in West Virginia, John Harman, lives in West Virginia and as the owner of a company that builds space-related equipment I knew he’d be interested. I let him know about the event, and he decided to make the two and a half hour drive to watch.

Below is John’s detailed report on the event. You can see Judith Curry’s full presentation and script here.

I only have one comment, indicated by my headline above. The way this event was staged was specifically designed to prevent a real debate. There was no vibrant give and take between participants. Instead, the speakers were each given time to make their presentation, and then were faced with what appeared to be preplanned questions. Very staged. When Curry was given a question she didn’t expect, she said so, and was surprised.

This is not how real science is done. Michael Mann strongly pushes the theory that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, caused by human-activity, is warming the climate. His work has been strongly challenged by qualified scientists like Judith Curry. For science, and the truth, to prosper, Mann has to be willing to face those challenges directly, and address them. Instead, this event as well as every other public forum that Mann has participated in for the past decade have all been designed to protect him from those challenges. Nor has Mann been the only global warming enthusiast protected in this way.

The result is a decline in intellectual rigor and the rise of politics and propaganda within the climate science community, as noted by Curry in her last slide. She calls this “The Madhouse effect”:

The madhouse is characterized by

  • Rampant overconfidence in an overly simplistic theory of climate change
  • Enforcement of a politically-motivated, manufactured ‘consensus’
  • Attempts to stifle scientific and policy debates
  • Activism and advocacy for their preferred politics and policy
  • Self-promotion and ‘cashing in’
  • Public attacks on other scientists that do not support the ‘consensus’

Curry notes that she was forced out of academia expressly because of these factors, merely because she expressed skepticism concerning the hypothesis of human-caused global warming.

The worst part of this lack of debate is that it now permeates our society. In every area of importance to our nation’s future, debate is now impossible. The left, to which global warming activists like Michael Mann routinely belong, will not tolerate it, and will do anything to avoid it, even so far as to destroy the careers of anyone who dares challenge them. This is what Mann advocated in the climategate emails, and this is exactly what happened to Judith Curry.

Anyway, take a look at John’s very fair-minded report of the event. You will find it quite edifying.

Event Overview

Held at University of Charleston Geary Auditorium which was a very nice venue. The event was put on by Spillman and Battle, a local WV law firm specializing in energy law and regulatory compliance. The event started promptly at 6PM. Dr. Mann and Admiral Titley to audience left, Dr. Curry and Dr. Moore to audience right with the moderator in the middle. The event was not structured as a debate. Each participant was given 15 minutes to give a power point presentation outlining their position after which the moderator gave them pre-selected questions. One final common question was given to the participants and each had 2 minutes to answer – more on that later. After the question and answer session each participant was given a couple more minutes to make closing statements.

15 Min Presentations

Dr. Mann
Dr. Mann was the first in the lineup, I assume this was not random, but rather he’d conditioned his participation on being allowed to speak first. His presentation was very polished with highly cultivated graphics. However, the scientific content in the presentation was what you would expect for a middle school presentation, it was very basic, showing his famous hockey stick graph, but not much other supporting evidence. He made the claim that CO2 and its impact on global temperature had been theorized as far back as the 1800s by several notable scientists. He stopped short of making the claim that the current models were developed in the 1800s, but it’s possible that a layperson would easily jump to that conclusion. He discussed the consensus of AGW / climate change. Overall, it was by far the best presentation of the evening but unfortunately, was highly devoid of any real scientific content which was highly disappointing.

Dr. Curry
Dr. Currys 15 minutes were spent reading from a script while flipping through about 20 power point slides. Her presentation was not forceful and at times she seemed timid and nervous. Her presentation was not flashy and would have been boring had it not been for the content. Early in the presentation she clearly made her point – that she does not believe that CO2 is the only, and potentially not the most important variable that determines global temperature tends. She stated that she resigned her tenured faculty position last year because of backlash received from her viewpoint.

Admiral Titley
Admiral Titley (who has an honorary doctorate) gave a presentation with little scientific content, but instead focused on the human repercussions of sea level rise. He stressed the national security concerns associated with displacement of large numbers of people from costal regions. His presentation appeared to largely build on the underpinnings outlined in Manns presentation. He was an effective speaker with an impassioned delivery. One very interesting graph that Dr. Titley presented was a prediction by Dr. James Hansen published sometime in the early 1980s. The Hansen prediction had been supplemented with empirical temperature data since the prediction was made. The observational data appeared to match the Hansen predictions.

Dr. Moore
Dr. Patrick Moore gave the final presentation wherein he put forth the view that carbon dioxide is not correlated with temperature over geologic time. One of his graphs showed CO2 levels on the order of 1000PPM in the past and he pointed out times where temperature was anticorrelated with CO2 level. He claimed that in the past all the carbon in fossil fuels and in limestone rocks was actually present in the atmosphere, and that biological processes over eons scrubbed this CO2 from the atmosphere. He claimed that in the last two ice ages CO2 levels dropped to around 180PPM, dangerously close to the threshold of 150PPM where plants cant survive. He said that human release of CO2 has likely saved the earth from catastrophe by increasing CO2 to levels where plants can thrive.

Panel Questions
Next, the panel was given pre-selected questions to respond to. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all the questions. However, I do remember Dr. Curry was asked a question regarding CO2 equilibrium temperature. The moderator stumbled through the question and Dr. Curry asked him to repeat the question and said something along the lines of “I wasn’t given this question in advance”. This comment made me wonder if the panelists were given the questions in advance. Was this one added at the last minute? Regardless, Dr. Curry went on to explain what was meant by equilibrium CO2 temperature, stating that it was the time required for global temperature to stabilize after a doubling of atmospheric CO2. Finally, all the panelists were asked to respond to the same question – how much CO2 should be in the atmosphere? Dr. Mann took some umbrage to the question saying that it was a common contrarian question. He finally settled that 350PPM was likely a safe level of CO2. Admiral Titley came to the same conclusion as Dr. Mann. Dr. Curry indicated that she didn’t know while Dr. Moore took the position of more is better.

Closing Statements
Each panelist was given a couple minutes for closing statements. Naturally, they aligned with their primary viewpoint. Dr. Mann and Dr. Moore used the closing statements to exchange jabs. Dr. Moore’s closing statement was incredibly impassioned and he made the point that “consensus” is not a word that has any place in science and instead is a political word.

Reading the Crowd
There were roughly 100-150 people at the event and 90% seemed to be above the age of 50. The crowd was very respectful save one gentleman in the front row wearing a “save the grandkids” shirt who interrupted Dr. Moore and had to be reprimanded by the moderator. I did note that some of the people seated behind us refused to applaud for Dr. Curry or Dr. Moore.

Further Reading
A straightforward analysis from WV News is available here.

After the event I asked the moderator if a video would be published. He assured me it would be, but would take some time. He said the web registered attendees would be notified via e-mail.



  • Diane Wilson

    Interesting to see Dr. Moore take the position on CO2 levels that “more is better.” My preferred question to see where someone stands on climate is “what are the benefits of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?” If their head doesn’t explode, then you can have a conversation.

    I seem to remember, shortly after climategate, someone (I thought it was Dr. Curry, maybe not) got a copy of Mann’s algorithm, and ran trials with it, feeding it white noise for data. And got a hockey stick curve, more often than not.

    Someone also got his raw data, identifying the trees that were sampled. There were two huge problems, one being a small sample set, and the other being that one tree was such an outlier as to throw off the results for the entire analysis. Bad data! Bad data! All of this covered in Watts Up With That, many years ago.

    Queue up the videos from Minnesotans for Global Warming.

  • mivenho

    What caught my eye was John’s observation that some of the audience refused to applaud Judith Curry or Patrick Moore following their respective presentations. I was taught to at least lightly applause those with whom I disagree as a common courtesy.

  • Diane Wilson: Both analyses of Mann’s data were done by Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit. See in particular Hockey Stick Studies and Proxy Data

    You can also do a search here on BtB for McIntyre and come up with a lot of neat stuff showing the fraud that he has exposed in the climate field.

  • wodun

    Refraining from applauding shows incredible restraint from the AGW apocalypse believers. They didn’t blow anything up, engage in vandalism, assault the speakers, block the entrances, shut down the talk through cult like chanting, fight with police, assault attendees waiting in line to get in, get speakers kicked off twitter, get speakers fired, or any of the other tactics they like to use to prevent people they hate from participating in society.

    OK, some of those tactics were already used but for the event, they showed restraint. They actually deserve a pat on the back for not engaging in their usual behavior.

  • Andrew_W

    Diane Wilson, I have no problems recognizing the benefits of higher CO2
    My way of identifying whether you can have a reasonable discussion of AGW with a person is whether or not they’ve moved on from the “Mann’s algorithm” issue or not, because while McIntyre and later Wegman were at great pains to point out that the algorithm did create a hockey stick up-tick in the graph, they were also very careful to not actually apply alternative algorithms on Mann’s data sets because that would have revealled that the up-tick is a product of the data and not the algorithm. Since those days there have been dozens of studies using a range of algorithms and also a range of proxies such as sediments and stalagmites that have vindicated Mann’s conclusions, so to be still wedded to the belief that the hockey stick has been debunked demonstrates the person has read very selectively on AGW for the last 20 years.

  • Edward

    You wrote: “McIntyre and later Wegman were at great pains to point out that the algorithm did create a hockey stick up-tick in the graph, they were also very careful to not actually apply alternative algorithms on Mann’s data sets because that would have revealled that the up-tick is a product of the data and not the algorithm.

    Can you link to a study with an alternative algorithm that does this to Mann’s data?

    McIntyre’s point was not that there is no climate change, nor was he denying that we have been coming out of the Little Ice Age for the past two or three centuries. He was pointing out that Mann’s algorithm had a flaw. The last I heard, Mann’s version of the hockey stick graph is unsupported by his data and misrepresents reality, especially since it shows no medieval warm period or Little Ice Age.

  • Localfluff

    Election coming up in Sweden and the environmentalist party is threatened by elimination because of huge voter losses. So they go all in with full panic about the climate doomsday myth. Their party leader said in a debate that there is not a single green straw in her lawn because of the heat wave caused by CO2 emissions. Since the weather is completely normal, someone took a look at her back yard. The lawn is untidy but green and… she keeps a skeleton there! (Maybe because all her closets are full of them?)

    Their main new policy decided by their yearly party congress recently is to forbid plastic soda straws, very important given the current crises with immigration, war like violent crime escalating out of control, falling housing prices, EU collapse, our conflict with Russia about nothing and on and on). Despite being in a government coalition for the first time since 4 years, very little have been done by them (which is a good thing! But voters leave them because they are disappointed, not because they have come to their senses about the climate doomsday myth) Except for a tax reduction for households hiring professional bicycle repairmen. But only if the repair is done in your home. I haven’t played with bicycles since I was a child, but I’ve asked some who do still as grown ups, and none of them has ever hired anyone to repair their bicycle. Sweden btw has no fossil fueled power plants at all, so there’s not much they can do to regulate CO2 emissions other than to try help bicycling compete with cars. They suggested a few years ago that the highways would be rebuilt into high speed railways. One doesn’t need to be an engineer to understand that they cannot have the same geographical layout at all in our hilly landscape. Swedish highways are also built curvy in order to keep drivers awake and to prevent the Soviets from landing aircrafts on them.

    The environmentalists never know anything about what they are talking about. Sure, one could value things different and have different opinions about them. But they are plain wrong and so stupid and weird and they fail with everything they try on.

  • Cotour

    I listened to an interview with Dr. Tim Ball the other night.

    A very comprehensive interpretation of the subject and its history by someone who is well trained in the field. Control and mitigate pollution, without doubt, human caused global warming?

  • Gene

    My take on Mann is near Mark Steyn’s at

    With most of what leftists promote. If the opposite were to happen we would all be better off.

    Bigger American armed forces. Our enemies need to fear us. It’s good for us.
    Lower taxes. Because the government doesn’t do anything to create value.
    I could spend another hour here.

  • Mitch S.

    It’s encouraging to see Mann willing to appear in the same room as Curry and Moore.
    I suspect Mann may be feeling some pressure because despite years of preaching by politicians, entertainers, reporters, and “science guys”, there is still a large population that is skeptical of “accepted” global warming predictions.
    Why is this? How come people who have neither the time or training to dig into the climate data and reach their own conclusions have doubt about something they’ve been told by establishment authorities is scientific fact?
    Perhaps the key word is “predictions”.

    My personal situation is the one I described above.
    I don’t have the time or education to dive into the data and sort out whose theory best fits the data.
    Since I can’t absolutely know what the correct theory is why would I have doubts about some?
    The answer is the predictions.

    I don’t know enough physics/cosmology to understand Einstein’s theories or the Big Bang theory but when those theories were proposed they came with some predictions.
    If theory X is correct, then there should be experimental result Y.
    Perhaps the most famous is the discovery of the cosmic background radiation that had been predicted years earlier by the Big Bang theory.
    An even after Einstein’s theories were generally accepted, experiments were being performed to check that it’s predictions were correct (I don’t recall those experimental scientists being derided as “Relativity deniers”).
    And when experimental results don’t fit what a theory predicted, the theory is put on the hot seat (of course the theoretician can question the validity of the experiment).
    We’ve seen this in cosmology with the experimental data showing the universe expanding at an unpredicted rate.

    AGW theory has been pushed for over 20 years now.
    We were told that that the “tipping point” was right around the corner, that within 5, surely within 10 years the effects of AGW would be so obvious that nobody would have doubts. Cities would be flooded, the world ravaged with storms and drought, crop failures etc.
    You might correctly point out that most of those predictions were spread by non-scientists such as Al Gore – but scientists such as Mann and Hanson were applauding on the sidelines, or often from the stage.
    People aren’t trained to understand climate science but they do learn to spot fakes and frauds and the behavior of the AGW preachers makes them as credible as that of those popups that “warn” “Your computer has been infected by a virus,click here…”

  • Edward

    Thank you for the links. The first one describes itself as “a ‘dummies guide’ which tries to describe what the actual issues are in the latest controversy“, so I ignored it as it does not study an alternate algorithm.

    The second one is what I was looking for. It declares that Mann’s Hockey Stick algorithm is robust.

    Now that we can agree that the medieval warm period and the Little Ice Age no longer count, we are free to ignore reality and focus on our own favorite belief systems, unsupported by science or observation. You have chosen the Mann Hockey Stick, which denies the medieval warm period and the Little Ice Age, but I am choosing the version taught to me as a child: the imminent Ice Age.

    One advantage of choosing the legacy Ice Age belief system is that I can regain my trust in my school teachers, who until today had been wrong about global cooling being the beginning of new polar ice caps stretching all the way to Minneapolis (Sorry St. Paul, you miss out on the environmental catastrophe scenario), so were they right about anything? (Especially since 2+2 now can equal 5, under the new Common Core math system.)

    In my legacy belief system, hundreds of millions of people will be migrating south to get away from the freezing temperatures. One destination may be Arizona, meaning that property values will soon sky rocket there; good choice of location, Robert, as your property will soon be worth millions. Unless you rent.

    Localfluff wrote: “They suggested a few years ago that the highways would be rebuilt into high speed railways. One doesn’t need to be an engineer to understand that they cannot have the same geographical layout at all in our hilly landscape. Swedish highways are also built curvy in order to keep drivers awake and to prevent the Soviets from landing aircrafts on them.

    I do not think that the high speed rail idea was supposed to be practical. I think it was just to get rid of cars, except for the elite few.

    Mitch S. wrote: “People aren’t trained to understand climate science but they do learn to spot fakes and frauds

    Piltdown man showed us that it can take a while to accept that we have been fooled by a fraudster.

    Maybe that is why I am so susceptible to the imminent-Ice-Age hypothesis of my youth.

    Is it getting cold in here?

  • Andrew_W

    “You have chosen the Mann Hockey Stick, which denies the medieval warm period and the Little Ice Age,”

    No, as the IPCC TAR said: “Thus current evidence does not support globally synchronous periods of anomalous cold or warmth over this timeframe, and the conventional terms of “Little Ice Age” and “Medieval Warm Period” appear to have limited utility in describing trends in hemispheric or global mean temperature changes in past centuries.”

    Not a denial of the existence of the MWP or LIA, anymore than a global average wind speed graph is a denial of the existence of cyclones and hurricanes.

    In other words the MWP and LIA were more localized than hemispheric or global. The blog CO2 science once tried to prove a global LIA, they put up lots of graphs with little arrows pointing to the LIA on those graphs, the problem they had was that their graphs showed the LIA happened at different times around the globe, average those various LIA’s and you get a much longer and less severe at its worst LIA, which is what NH and global temperature graphs show though that period.

  • Edward: I don’t rent, so I have already decided to spend the money I am sure to make when those ice-age refugees coming pouring down from Minnesota.

  • Edward

    Andrew_W wrote: “average those various LIA’s and you get a much longer and less severe at its worst LIA

    Except that the Mann Hockey Stick shows that it was non-existent, not less severe (whatever that means). The Hockey Stick is meant to demonstrate that Earth’s climate was steady until man came along with his fossil fuel use.

  • Andrew_W

    “The Hockey Stick is meant to demonstrate that Earth’s climate was steady until man came along with his fossil fuel use.”

    The Hockey Stick does not show that “Earth’s climate was steady”, it shows a decline in temperature through to about 1900 (the end of the LIA) followed by a strong up-tick in temperatures, your claim about what you think it was “meant” to show simply demonstrates your disconnect from the reality of whats there in front of you.

  • Edward

    I recommend that you reread the study that you linked, above, as its Figure 1 shows clearly that the Hockey stick graph is fairly steady, +/- 0.3 C, and often even less variation. Since the Little Ice Age was supposed to be a cooling of around 3 C or more, this means that the Hockey Stick graph eliminates the LIA and shows a steady climate. That is what is in front of both of us.

    Meanwhile, since you’re sticking to your Hockey Stick story, I’m sticking to mine. The Icebergs are coming, the Icebergs are coming!

  • Andrew_W

    “Since the Little Ice Age was supposed to be a cooling of around 3 C or more,”

    No one disputes that the LIA was severe in Europe, your 3C might well be right – in some places, but who’s claiming that the Northern Hemisphere was “supposed” to have cooled by 3C, where’re the papers that make that claim? (And I don’t mean newspapers).

  • Edward

    Nice attempt to distract away from the point that your Hockey Stick story denies the LIA and MWP and shows a steady climate.

    LIA was severe in the Arctic, where the Northwest Passage became covered in ice, and it Africa, where several glaciers grew.

    But maybe it was not severe in the Pacific, where any atmospheric cooling would have made little noticeable effect. So let’s agree that the LIA was noticed only in locations where it was noticeable. You may deny the LIA in other locations, I’ll allow it, but that makes you an LIA and MWP denier. In fact, that makes you a climate change denier.

    Unless human activity is involved. Then you are all in, where anthropogenic global warming is concerned.

    Meanwhile, I still believe in natural climate change. Unless you believe in the Hockey Stick graph (and you do), there is just too much evidence to deny it.

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