…The Second Time as Farce

The key learning from Climategate was that a group of scientists who collaborated closely together, co-authoring papers and reviewing each others’ work created a toxic environment for science.

They agreed on the principal points of the theory they were advancing–that temperatures hadn’t been as warm as today for a thousand years, that the signature of human emissions of CO2 was clear and compelling, and that the foreseeable outcome was a real danger for humanity.

So they began to cut corners. Proxies were flipped, inconvenient analyses were buried. They began to fudge–the Medeieval Warming Period was belittled as something that only happened on a few street corners.

They began to be ever more ruthless in defense of their theory, getting troublesome editors fired, boycotting journals, sabotaging the efforts of their opponents to publish in peer-reviewed literature, which one of the cabal threatened to redefine.

And then one broke the law, advising peers to delete emails instead of exposing them to the public via the UK’s Freedom of Information Act.

It ended in tears.

It changed the approach of consensus communicators about climate change, resulting in over the top messaging ranging from exploding children to polar bears falling from the sky.

It also changed what climate science was brought before the public, with Xtreme Weather causing everything but a sunny spring day to be blamed on human emissions of greenhouse gases, from comically inept attempts to create a consensus of 97% of climate scientists.

From those attempts by communicators and a few scientists, a new grouping of like minded souls willing to bend the rules, cut corners, fudge, exaggerate and sometimes flat out lie has emerged.

Michael Mann is the lone member of both groups, part of the original Hockey Team, as they called themselves, and also most recently a contributing author to a hatchet job disguised as social network analysis.

He’s joined by people like Stefan Lewandowsky, a charlatan masquerading as a psychologist and whose signature paper had to be retracted due to general ineptness and Jeff Harvey, a bearded, guitar-playing Canadian zoologist who will never… let… you…forget… he is a doctor. He’s a big fan of Paul Ehrlich, perhaps not realizing the effect that has on his credibility.

There are other members–the cartoonist John Cook, the historian Naomi Oreskes, computer support professional Jim Prall.

They have convinced themselves that with the earth at stake there is no need for following rules. And they don’t.

Their work product is incredibly shoddy–it’s hard to decide which is worse, Cook’s flamboyantly rigged literature review that magically came up with a 97% consensus or Jim Prall’s McCarthyist attempt to blacklist opposing scientists.

But they stick together. They look to each other, not the outside world. The truth is neither master nor servant. It is irrelevant.

However, this group is playing for much smaller stakes and on a much smaller stage. It’s like watching children trying to act a Samuel Beckett play. It is unintentionally funny, except when peoples’ lives are affected.

They learned nothing from Climategate. They’re determined to repeat it–actually to loop it into a continuous display of ineptness and malice.

We frequently refer to Orwell when we describe the antics of the Konsensus. But with this childish replay of the behavior that caused Climategate, perhaps a different work is more appropriate.

Lord of the flies


  1. When one looks at the cast of characters and their previous performances, one is left with the overwhelming urge to know “what were they thinking?”


  2. Dr. Mann will be receiving an award this month in SF-

    “The seventh annual Stephen Schneider Award will be awarded to Michael Mann. According to Schneider Award juror Ben Santer, “Professor Mike Mann has been a world leader in scientific efforts to understand the natural variability of the climate system and to reconstruct global temperature variations over the past two millennia.”…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is the best short summary of where we are that I’ve ever read. Except for your comment after Act I: “It ended in tears.”

    Because, as Kakatoa’s comment above makes clear, it hasn’t ended yet, and the only tears so far are ours – tears of rage. Just this morning on French TV the editor of Libération – the French equivalent of the Guardian – was quoting the 97% and the letter from a thousand scientists. If we were a bit more visible we could claim that anyone quoting the 97% or the seven independent investigations that vindicated the climategate team were outright liars. As it is they may be simply ignorant, and that may be worse.

    Your comparison with Lord of the Flies is sobering. How can the world of climate science be like being marooned on a desert island, without the normal constraints of civilisation? Justifying the comparison means taking a mean look at the workings of academia. Maybe you’re too pessimistic. Maybe it’s more like the incompetent wizards of the Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.


  4. Tom. Was it your deliberate intention to send me into post Chistmas/New Year blues.

    One additional point, I don’t believe the actors/charlatans involved were acting out of malice or (in most cases) out of malice. I believe (and I was close to many of them) they convinced themselves they were doing the right thing. They thought the stakes were high enough to justify the means. This does not mean I excuse them, but without some empathy you never will understand them or what they did.


  5. Should have been: “I don’t believe the actors/charlatans involved were acting out of malice or (in most cases) out of IGNORANCE.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Look at how the climate bs artists get away with their post hoc arm waving about how heavy winters are the new warming.
    The record was clear:
    These climate hustlers told us in plain language that “snow was a thing of the past”, that winter was over.
    ….when there was a few years of light winters.
    Now we get heavy winters, and they arm wave a “warming Arctic” (it is not warm this winter in the Arctic) as an excuse to explain that this winter’s weather is “exactly” what we shoukd expect in a warming world.
    And now the great leap in con artist power:
    The climate enlightened can discern mere weather events from “climate change” and we had better not question them if we know what is good for us.
    Tom, great essay, but we are far past farce.
    It is long time past the time to effectively and aggressively show this theater of the absurd for what it is.


  7. kakatoa,
    That is possibly the most hilarious example of self inflicted irony regarding the climate hustle yet.
    Thanks for the laugh.


  8. Thank you for this post.

    Fawlty Towers episodes would start with Basil getting something wrong, and then everyone else responding logically, trying to make sense out of the mess.

    The longer the Harvey et al 2017 fiasco goes on (Bart has a new comment at his blog) the worse/funnier it gets.

    Climate Science has been doing this for 20 + years, and getting away with it. If those involved had something better to do, they would have by now.

    It will only diminish as the financial rewards do. Is this what caused the panic response known as Harvey et al 2017? It is fitting that Mann’s name featured at the end as well.


  9. Alan Kendall & ThomasFuller2
    I do agree that modern Climate Science has resulted from genuine concerns, and the work of many honest scientists.

    Unfortunately, honest scientists rarely grab the headlines and money.


  10. GC, that’s a key point. It’s the charlatans and exaggerators who hit the headlines. This just creates division, since the alarmed become even more terrified, and the sceptical become more contemptuous.


  11. GolfCharlie. My comment ( 05 Jan 18 at 11:51 am) was about the bad-asses of climate science who did grab the headlines (not those behind the scenes). I repeat I don’t believe that this crowd, at least initially (and sometimes never) acted out of malice or for self aggrandizement. Some, however, later in their careers (like Jones and Mann) deliberately sought out honours. If you want to criticize them for how they acted go ahead (I’ll hold the other pole of your banner). But if you want to understand why they did what they did (particularly in the early stages = long before Climategate), you need some empathy, some understanding of what they believed and feared. I could be biased in that I had one good friend amongst them.


  12. Eugenics developed out of sincere concerns a well.
    That is no excuse for the laws and policies that the sincere eugenics believers supported and imposed.


  13. Alan.. I have a very good friend amongst the IPCC crowd, whose emails were also part of climategate.. (6 months after, thought it had totally blown over) and I would add most climate scientists are totally oblivious to most climate blogs, politics, policies,controversies,etc. They just do their day to day job, and assume others in other areas of research are as competent as they are, and never looked closely at say the Mann, Briffa sticks, etc. Just bought the ‘oil funded denier’ attacks, motivated reasoning stuff and never looked closely. Which is why a number of people I know signed that ‘notorious’ round robin statement supporting the UEA climate scientists, whilst being utterly oblivious to the issues raised by climategate emails.. they were keen to ‘defend’ science from attack.. that narrative of science under attsck. We must defend other scientists, by good scientists, has unwittingly given Mann, Oreskes, etc,etc to hangers on Cook, Lew cover for years. With good effect to deflect, and now they attempt to restrict data from those outside of academia.. as they have nefarious’ intent.. at some point science needs to look at how science is policed, not just for outright ‘fraud’, but worse incompetance, stupidity, p-hacking and the replication Crisis being just a small part of the problems in science across multiple fields.


  14. IE when the charlatans and alarmists have hit the headlines, if other scientists are even aware, they perhaps have felt they’ve had to grit their teeth and go along with it. Because. Science. ‘as a whole’ Is. Under. Attack..
    Such is how the ‘climate wars’ have been framed by the media hogs/politicians..

    Those that have criticised, have found either very quickly told, stop giving sceptics fodder, and if they persist, are you done sort of denier. And then they duck for cover, lessoned learned(only a few persist, IE Pielke jnr, Curry and end up drummed out)pariahs) . Science. Is Under. Attack. Do not give sceptics fodder is the narrative. All of science risks a massive blowback in the future

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hunter Agree 100% but I’m not seeking to excuse, just to understand. If you want to characterize the main players in the climategate saga as bad-asses through and through then be my guest. I just don’t believe that.


  16. Alan Kendall 4:14pm
    My earlier post did mention “genuine concerns”.

    Any office or grouping is vulnerable to creeping corruption, bias etc, especially if leaders present their methodology as being the route to success.

    I do think Climate Science is now “institutionally corrupt”, it does not mean everyone in it is corrupt. As Judith Curry and others have experienced, corrupt institutions do not like whistleblowers from within.

    But most are unable to speak out.


  17. I disagree with Thomas’s comment

    They learned nothing from Climategate. They’re determined to repeat it–actually to loop it into a continuous display of ineptness and malice.

    First, I partly agree with Alan Kendall @ 11.55am that

    I don’t believe the actors/charlatans involved were acting out of malice or (in most cases) out of IGNORANCE.

    But I also follow Paul Matthews @ 2.43pm

    It’s the charlatans and exaggerators who hit the headlines. This just creates division, since the alarmed become even more terrified, and the sceptical become more contemptuous.

    Further, despite the notorious Yamal temperature proxy, which underpinned a number of hockey stick graphs, I can also appreciate Thomas Fuller’s out of context comment about the late Prof Keith Briffa at 6:27 pm.

    By all accounts, Keith Briffa was a good guy–I’m sorry he passed away last year.

    Back in the first half of 2015, I spent a lot of time looking at Paul Homewood’s claims that temperature data set was wrong. It started with Puerto Casado in Paraguay, and then widened to other temperature data sets. Some suggested a deliberate conspiracy to defraud the data, but looking at the data sets from a number of areas confirmed a bias that is shown in one of the most significant quotes in the Climategate emails.

    Kevin Trenberth to Micheal Mann on Mon, 12 Oct 2009 and copied to most of the leading academics.

    The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate

    The academics included Thomas Karl (NOAA), Gavin Schmidt (NASA Gistemp) and Phil Jones (UEA CRU & HADCRUT). Trenberth was basically saying the opposite of what I believe to be a mark of true science. When dealing with vague estimates, based on flawed data, if the data disagrees with a hypothesis, then the hypothesis is either wrong or is not supported by the available data. Viewing the data as wrong because it differs from the beliefs/conjectures/hypotheses/assumptions can lead to adjusting the data to one’s beliefs, undermining the data integrity. It is a natural human bias that might seem perverse to challenge. But estimating a global average temperature anomaly is based on an assumption that temperature trends in a region are approximately the same, so major differences must be due to some sort of bias, whether in the instruments or in the local environment. I found that the actual unhomogenized data in many places contradicts this assumption. A key to this understanding of belief-bias is from a description of temperature homogenization with a dogmatic blogger with whom I have had a few frank exchanges with.

    What if there isn’t a full record, or you can’t find any reason why the data may have been influenced by something non-climatic? Do you just leave it as is? Well, no, that would be silly. We don’t know of any climatic influence that can suddenly cause typical temperatures at a given location to suddenly increase or decrease. It’s much more likely that something non-climatic has influenced the data and, hence, the sensible thing to do is to adjust it to make the data continuous.

    The assumptions about how the data ought to appear overrides the integrity of the data. With a number of homogenizations of the same data by people with strong beliefs about how the data “ought” to appear, and without systematic checking of the output with the original data input, it is easy to appreciate how well-meaning and intelligent people with preset beliefs can have gradually moved the temperature dataset towards increasing coherence with the rise in CO2 levels.

    But when anyone who criticizes the mainstream is denounced and smeared by the activists, the only way for academics to progress in the field is to make ever wilder and more exaggerated claims. The presence of charlatans and ideologues ensures that pointing out discrepancies between claims and actual data, logic or alternative & broader moral perspectives cannot be voiced. The only way to progress to move the mainstream to evermore exaggerated claims. A major lesson learned from Climategate is that playing on a level playing field with opponents will not work. Alarmists will be the losers. The way to maintain climate alarmism is to rely on false implied claims of expertise, whilst never allowing rigorous comparison of core hypotheses with actual objective data.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. There’s some great stuff in the comments, and a lack of vindictiveness that does credit to the commenters. But as this site’s resident Cassandra, I’d like to say that, however farcical their behaviour, and however shoddy their work, I don’t see any sign that the Team is on the Decline.

    In a discussion on French TV yesterday, the editor of Libération, the French equivalent of the Guardian, solemnly intoned the 97%. Our colleague Benoît Rittaud, the token sceptic, asked if he knew the basis for the 97% claim. He didn’t. He didn’t care. Why should he? He is free to spread the message every day to millions of readers. Benoît is invited on to a discussion programme once every three months, and politely ignored.

    The Guardian used to have guest articles by Lomborg; its climate coverage used to be in the hands of environment correspondents with some knowledge of science. Now it’s run by Cook’s sidekick Nuccitelli. Mann’s hockeystick may be history, but as the Grand Old Mann of Climate Science, he doesn’t need it. He doesn’t ever need to utter a scientific idea for the rest of his life. The idea that the Climategate Team were cleared of wrongdoing by seven independent enquiries is a shocking lie which it is impossible to correct in the media. And so on.

    By any objective standard, they’ve won and we’ve lost. We survive on the Internet, like Japanese soldiers in the Philippine jungle. Marx’s remark about “the second time as farce” referred to the coup d’état by Napoleon’s nephew in 1852. Farcical it may have been, but he stayed in power for twenty years, and was only toppled by a Prussian invasion, which resulted in the loss of Alsace Lorraine, which resulted in the 1914-18 war, which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles, which..

    As I tried to express in my article on Varoufakis, some ideas, like the European Union, like Climate Change, are too big to fail. One might argue that the British Empire or the Vietnam war were considered too big to fail, but they did, eventually. But at what cost?

    Liked by 2 people

  19. It was Engels’ remark first, in a letter to Marx. Or so they say. That’s what friends are for.

    And it’s what climate blogs have done for me. I’ve become a nitpicker.

    I felt the same way about this discussion as Geoff. I’m reminded of Scott Peck’s point about the difficulty many people have in facing the fact that their parents were evil. We are I think sometimes like that with our beloved Science and its takeover by the Big Konsensus. It’s too horrible a thing so the soft soap is preferred.

    The Varoufakis Too Big to Fail thread was and is a really important one. We can and should come back to it.


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