It’s like the children’s game “scissors cut paper wraps stone”, or an image from a medieval bestiary showing a circle of mythical beasts, each one chomping at the private parts of the next. But these aren’t mythical beasts, they’re climate scientists.
Let’s start with that paper by Karl et al. which, as you probably know, ironed out the kink in the temperature anomaly graph and thereby eliminated the Pause.
[Our Favourite Astrophysicist will be along in a minute to point out that the Karl paper makes no difference at all to things in the real world, any more than untying a knot in a piece of string alters the dimensions of the string. Just as a number 40 Lothian bus takes you from Musselburgh to Penicuik whether or not there’s a deviation due to roadworks at Bonnyrigg, so the temperature goes from A to B whether or not there’s a Kraken lurking in the depths of the Pacific jealously hoarding a pile of Joules he stole from the dwarves of the NOAA.]
Where was I?
But Karl et al 2015 was not the only effort to untie the knot and get the traffic flowing again at Bonnyrigg-the-data. There have been over thirty I believe, including three papers by Stephan Lewandowsky, James S. Risbey & Naomi Oreskes, the latest of which: “On the definition and identifiability of the alleged “hiatus” in global warming” was discussed by Lewandowsky in an article at the Conversation in which it was demonstrated that a pause is neither a pause, nor is it a hiatus, but a “routine fluctuation.”
Professor Richard Betts (Betts of the Met) commented – politely, as is his wont:
“It’s not true that the “pause” meme started as a sceptic thing then got taken up by the scientific community, as Steve Lewandowsky et al have claimed. In the mid-2000’s, climate scientists working on the new topic of decadal forecasting found that a slowdown then return of warming was forecast by their models […] ..a perfectly respectable scientist got labelled a “denier” for his pains.
This is all just symptomatic of political correctness amongst “climate communicators”. In reality, we do not expect the global mean surface temperature to follow a linear trend. The suggested new phrase of “routine fluctuation” is pretty dismissive of climate research IMO – it suggests “nothing to see here, move along….” – whereas in fact there have been some interesting and (importantly) unpredicted things happening. So, sorry Steve, but we (climate scientists) still reject your conspiracy theory that we cowed to the sceptics…”
I intervened too, to point out that the graph used in the Conversation article was not the one used by Lewandowsky et al. in their paper. Their paper used a GISTEMP graph which clearly showed the “pause” (which they then demonstrated to their own satisfaction was not a pause, but a routine fluctuation) while the Conversation article used the graph from the Karl et al. paper which used new data (missing heat due to Kraken farts in the deep ocean) from which the routine fluctuation was clearly absent.
Needless to say, my argument – that illustrating an article about a paper which said one thing with a graph from a different paper saying something quite different was a little – unorthodox – was dismissed by the Conversation’s resident band of climate scientists, who emerged from under their rocks beating their chests, making priapic gestures and howling “Look! No Pause!”
Enter Michael Mann, who is co-author of a new paper which takes issue with Karl et al. The abstract states: “It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.”
There has been some speculation as to why Mann (and a lot of other big climate names) should deny Karl’s pausebusting paper. Climate scientists usually show an admirable solidarity. Could it be anything to do with the possibility of Karl being hauled before the Science Committee of the US Congress? Surely not.
Mann is only one of eleven authors after all, but it’s interesting that he should put his name to an article which proposes a thesis which, according to Lewandowsky, has been deliberately fabricated by climate contrarians in order to subvert science by a process of “seepage”.
And it’s doubly interesting in that Mann and Lewandowsky (together with three other authors) collaborated last year on an opinion piece in Nature listing the different ways that science was under attack. Mann mentioned having received an envelope containing white powder; third author Linda Bauld described the machinations of Big Tobacco; and Lewandowsky described one anonymous email which called him a Nazi zionist kike and a number of other emails which bullied his editor into retracting an article of his. (In a separate article he linked to blog posts which named the bullies: Steve McIntyre, Anthony Watts and me.) This joint work, entitled “How Antisemitic Climate Contrarians are spreading Anthrax and Hurting my Feelings” or words to that effect, can be found here.
With Mann and Lewandowsky now in opposite camps on the question of the Pause, it will be interesting to see if they air their differences in public, for instance at the Conversation, where Lewandowsky is a frequent contributor, with 39 articles, just like the Church of England.
Mann, on the other hand, has only one, written in tandem with philosophy professor Lawrence Torcello, entitled “Limiting Global Warming to 2°C: the Philosophy and the Science,” which describes a “phony, immoral, and dangerous attack on settled science,” which phrase links to the Mann & Lewandowsky article on anthrax attacks and anti-semitic emails and to an article by Mann’s co-author professor Torcello, the abstract of which stated that:
“It is morally condemnable for public officials to put forward assertions contrary to scientific consensus when such consensus is decisive for public policy and legislation. It is imperative upon educators, journalists, politicians and all those with greater access to the public forum to condemn, factually and ethically, pseudoskeptical assertions made in the public realm without equivocation.”
So is Mann’s own co-author telling him it is a moral imperative that he should condemn publicly Lewandowsky? Lewandowsky has already insulted Betts in a retracted (but republished) peer reviewed paper. But should he also condemn Mann? It all depends whether Mann and his ten co-authors, or Karl and his eight co-authors (and hence Lewandowsky, Risbey and Oreskes) are right about the pause (and by “right” I mean of course “part of the consensus”.)
And that, no doubt, depends on whether the head of the Congressional Science Committee orders Karl et al to cough up their emails and their backs of envelopes.