UPDATE Our inbox is overflowing—readers who would like to wish Dr Michael E. Mann well in his life beyond science are invited to Tweet him directly. Thank you!
UPDATE 2 Further analysis of this game-changing news can be found here.
Love him or hate him, Michael Mann will leave an irreparable hole in science. The NY Times—reliable as ever—has the definitive coverage of today’s shock reveal that Prof. Mann intends to recuse himself from the climate debate:
Washington, D.C.—Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, has used an appearance in the nation’s capital today to announce his retirement from science, which he called “the highest and noblest human vocation.”
Explaining his painful decision, Mann told reporters that “a campaign of ad hominem attacks on my data, findings, data hygiene, math, sample size, proxy selection criteria, proxy exclusion criteria, methodological candor, algorithms, verification scores, disclosure thereof, Fortran code and varve orientation” had made it “impossible to get any real science done for ten or 20 years now.”
So far climate skeptics have failed to deny responsibility for the assaults, though they dispute that they’ve had a negative impact on the scientist’s science.
“Mann’s work has never been better,” to quote a statement issued this afternoon by Stephen McIntyre, a leader within the denial community.
Mann, a groundbreaking researcher, cited “the ordeal of being dragged through the courts by deniers on both sides of the [US-Canadian] border” as another stressor distracting him from his true love: groundbreaking research.
“The growing trend towards litigating science in the courtroom instead of the literature is something that should be deplored by all scientists,” said Mann today, choking back tears. “We never signed up for this!”
Dr Mann, who has directed PSU’s Earth System Science Center since 2013, knows even better than the average climatologist about suffering for one’s science. In 2014 he was hospitalized for a week after two men approached him on the Washington Metro and assaulted his arguments without provocation. The culprits were never caught.
“But this is nothing new. The climate has been hostile to scientists for decades,” said Mann.
“And the climate hasn’t changed one bit since 1998 or so, unfortunately. Not only has there been zero change in the climate, it’s actually gotten worse, I think.
“They can’t attack the science, so they attack the statistics, thermometer placement, logic, sample selection, software, disclosure practices, data retention, data sharing, choice of hypothesis, experimental setup, reproducibility… even the validity of the temperature proxies!
“Anything but the science—which is sound, as anti-scientists know perfectly well.”
Dr Mann said he’d lost the will to do science sometime in the late nineties.
“My wife suggested I sleep on it, and if I still felt the same way in twenty years I should give in my notice.”
Dr Mann also revealed today how close he’d come to quitting several years ago. Ironically, it was only the release in 2011 of the second tranche of illegally-stolen emails from the University of East Anglia—a crime dubbed Climategate 2.0—that convinced him to stay.
“Those emails were a wake-up call. For the first time, we saw just how deeply denialism had seeped into supposedly-legitimate scientific circles.
“How could I walk away [from the climate wars] then, when people I’d assumed were my friends were saying things behind my back like, ‘Mann’s graph is very shoddy work,’ Stephen McIntyre ‘may have a good point’ and ‘Mike is defending the indefensible?’”
To give up then would have been to cede climatology’s upper echelons to the forces of denial and debate, he said.
Only in the last couple of years, continued Dr Mann, has he felt comfortable about the prospect of abandoning the profession.
“Now that the evidence has grown so much stronger, I thought, yeah: the field is ready to stand on its own two feet. Science can probably survive without me now.”
Following his prepared remarks, Mann threw the floor open to questions. The first came from the Times’ own cadet Kay Phabe. Blushing and starstruck, Ms Phabe managed to stammer: “Distinguished Professor Mann, could you give us an example of the ‘new evidence’ that’s made ‘the science’ so much ‘stronger’ in recent years?”
Dr Mann was about to answer in depth and to the satisfaction of even the most skeptical person in the room when he abruptly cut the conference short. Handlers for the former scientist apologized, explaining that he was late for court.