Attempts to discredit Prof. Mann and confuse the facts about his defamation lawsuits keep popping up and circulating in the blogosphere. Here we comment on issues pertaining to the conclusions of the Muir Russell investigation, Mark Steyn's response and counterclaims, and the status of the case in Canada against Tim Ball.
The first allegation is that Dr. Mann made false statements in a brief submitted to the District of Columbia Superior Court regarding Sir Muir Russell’s review of the UK Climatic Research Unit (CRU) emails (i.e., as part of the so-called Climategate investigation). Specifically, the allegations purport to show that Mann intentionally altered a quote from the Russell report in order to support the contention that Russell’s inquiry exonerated Mann.
The Muir Russell report focused on the conduct of scientists at the CRU, which is based at the University of East Anglia. The investigation addressed several issues, including issues on which CRU scientists collaborated with Mann and other non-CRU members of the climate science community. Sir Muir Russell reviewed 140 e-mails authored by Mann, plus numerous other e-mails authored by other scientists. The issues examined by Russell included whether scientists had ignored potential problems in tree-ring data that may undermine the hockey-stick graph and whether CRU, in consultation with Mann, attempted to diminish the significance of the Medieval Warm Period. Russell’s report was unequivocal in its conclusion that the rigor and honesty of the collaborating scientists was not in doubt.
While the Muir Russell report's conclusions specifically referred to the CRU scientists, it seems reasonable to us to say that it found nothing dishonest or fraudulent in their collaboration with Mann and other scientists. That's the bottom line. The allegation against Mann appears to be something of a tempest in a teapot -- or, to mix metaphors, a grasping at straws. The report isn't a comprehensive investigation of Mann's work, and no one purports that it is -- but then it is only one of numerous investigations, from various angles, that all reached similar conclusions.
Looking at the bigger picture: The obsession among contrarians and denialists with trying to overthrow climate science by discrediting seminal early paleoclimate research by Mann and his colleagues in the 1990s is about politics, not science. Paleoclimate research has continued to advance during the past 15 years. Mann and numerous other researchers have continued to add to the peer-reviewed scientific literature, and here's where things stand as of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, issued last year:
For average annual [Northern Hemisphere] temperatures, the period 1983–2012 was very likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 800 years (high confidence) and likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years (medium confidence). This is supported by comparison of instrumental temperatures with multiple reconstructions from a variety of proxy data and statistical methods, and is consistent with AR4.
--IPCC AR5, Working Group I, Paleoclimate chapter, p. 386
The critics of the original 'hockey stick graph' might want to spend some time looking at the actual advance of scientific understanding in this area of research -- which is just one piece of the complex mountain of research on human-caused climate change.
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The second distortion is that a response and counterclaims filed by Mark Steyn, a defendant in Mann's defamation lawsuit against National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, adds something new of value to the case. Basically, Steyn contends that his freedom of speech is being stifled and that therefore he is suffering damages that should be compensated.
But his response to Mann's complaint appears to us to amount to essentially a rehashing of the same arguments that have already been rejected by two different DC Superior Court judges. The judges denied the defendants' motions to dismiss and ruled that Mann’s claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress are “likely to succeed on the merits.” Thus, the case should move forward to discovery and trial. Steyn's response begs the question that remains to be adjudicated, i.e., was his published statement about Mann libelous?
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Another claim alleges that Dr. Mann lost a lawsuit against Dr. Tim Ball in Canada. This case is still ongoing, and Mann's side says any claims of its conclusion, let alone outcome, are spurious. The following statement by Mann’s attorney, Roger McConchie, was issued in response to what he refers to as "preposterous statements" and "nonsense" about the status of the case:
“The review of Tim Ball’s new book by Hans Schreuder and John O’Sullivan makes preposterous statements concerning Dr. Michael Mann’s lawsuit in the British Columbia Supreme Court against Tim Ball and other defendants. The Mann lawsuit is currently in the discovery phase, with further examinations for discovery (depositions) of the defendants to be scheduled shortly, following which I will either set the action for trial by jury in the usual manner, or bring a summary trial application on behalf of Dr. Mann for damages and injunctive relief.
"Dr. Ball has not set the matter for trial and there is no motion by Ball currently before the Court. The allegation by Schreuder and O’Sullivan that Dr. Mann has refused to show his metadata and calculations in open court is not true.
"Their assertion that Dr. Mann faces possible bankruptcy is nonsense. Dr. Mann’s lawsuit against Dr. Ball and other defendants is proceeding through the normal stages prescribed by the BC Supreme Court Civil Rules and Dr. Mann looks forward to judicial vindication at the conclusion of this process.”
Some earlier posts:
"The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars" -- Now in paperback, highly recommended (November 22, 2013)