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Scientists respond to Barton

Filed under: — group @ 18 July 2005

by Gavin Schmidt and Stefan Rahmstorf

Many readers will be aware that three scientists (two of which are contributors to this site, Michael Mann and Ray Bradley) have received letters from Representative Joe Barton (Texas), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee specifically requesting information about their work on the ‘hockey stick’ papers (Mann et al (1998) and Mann et al (1999)) as well as an enormous amount of irrelevant material not connected to these studies.

Many in the scientific community would welcome any genuine interest in climate change from the committee, but the tone and content of these letters have alarmed many scientists and their professional organisations. In the words of Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Barton letters “give the impression of a search for some basis on which to discredit these particular scientists and findings, rather than a search for understanding.” Other organisations and individual scientists have also expressed strong concerns:

The individual responses have now been delivered (and you can read them here):

These responses emphasise two main points that we have explained in great detail in earlier postings on this site:

  1. There is no case for casting doubt on the scientific value and integrity of the studies by Mann et al. – they have been replicated by other scientists, the data and the computer code are available in the public domain (including the actual fortran program used to implement the MBH98 procedure), and many other studies with different data and methods have confirmed the prime conclusion: that it is likely that the late 20th Century is the warmest period of at least the past one thousand years.
  2. The above studies are just one small piece of evidence in a very solid scientific case that humans are now altering the climate – and with or without this piece of evidence, this case is firm (see our post “What if the Hockey Stick were wrong?” or the commentary on Prometheus).

The real question we are faced with is not whether humans are changing climate. The science on this is clear, and decades of research have culminated in a scientific consensus on this point. The real question now is what we need to do about it. A Congressional committee concerned with energy could be – and indeed should be – a key player in exploring policy options to deal with the global warming threat. We hope that after studying the responses by the scientists, they will make a start.

147 Responses to “Scientists respond to Barton”

  1. 1
    Tim Jones says:

    This is a minor comment on this good work, but I can’t open certain documents because of what this Mac and Abobe construe as encoding errors.
    It’s the “ftp” prefix on three .pdf url links, I think.

    Thanks for doing this. Perhaps now the information on climate change these folks have succeeded in downplaying so long can reach the light of day in the halls of power.
    I have a feeling Barton has bitten off more than he can chew.

  2. 2
    Michael Jankowski says:

    I thought only scientific discussions/posts were permitted on this website?

    [Response: This is a special case, but we are still focusing on the scientific points being raised. -gavin]

  3. 3
    Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    The text of the letter from Rep. Boehlert to Rep. Barton can be found here:

  4. 4
    Jack says:

    Such a clear and complete response is likely to be wasted on those looking to undermine our knowledge of the actual “state” of Earth’s climate, but thanks for a remarkable effort to preach to the tone-deaf.

    By the way, it’s Malcolm with an “l”. I’d be a malcomtent if this happened to me, but the respondents were quite measured in their response.

    [Response: fixed. thanks – gavin]

  5. 5
    Gregory Lewis says:

    Today’s New York Times (Monday, July 18, 2005, page 14) has a short, very incomplete and misleading article on this entitled “Two G.O.P. Lawmakers Spar over Climate Study”:

    (Free login required for a couple of days, thereafter payment required)

  6. 6
    Dano says:

    1. Thank you for making these responses available. I can’t read them all right now, but just scanning them is reassuring. Certainly one can tell this sort of thing was anticipated and I’m glad you got counsel.

    2. Re #2 (Jankowski):

    Perhaps the good folk at ClimateAudit would agree that this post IS a scientific discussion: the scientific work is being questioned, and this is a response to that questioning. Certainly permitted. And the creators of this website can bend their own rules.



  7. 7
    Michael Jankowski says:


    Spin it however you want, but even Gavin admitted “this is a special case.” And I simply posed the question, not criticized its presence. It is a more than worthwhile topic to discuss.

  8. 8
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #2 & 7, This whole thing is under the purview of science. ANTHROPOGENIC GW is a multidisciplinary topic, certainly a topic of many natural & physical sciences, but let’s face it the primary FORCING is us humans, so GW ultimately falls under social & behavioral sciences. We need to understand why people are emitting GHGs at such high levels, and why they do not cease & desist (or at least reduce) in the face of scientific evidence that GW may harm them and/or their progeny & others on planet earth. Earlier research showed that many simply didn’t understand the problem – many confused it with the “ozone hole,” and thought buying a pump hair spray rather than the CFC spray would solve the problem.

    Now research is going into the psychological, cultural (incl. ideological), and social (incl. political) factors or “forcings” that make contrarians so resistant to GW science. You yourself have been a valuable source of insights. If you could just explain from your own point of view why you think you are so resistant to GW science, that would help me with the research I’m doing, and the paper I’m presenting in the fall at the American Anthropological Association conference. This is the participant-observation method of research – a favorite in anthropology.

  9. 9
    Jon Kirwan says:

    The link to MBH 1999 is broken, at least in my browser. The reason is that the file actually uses a lower case “pdf” as the file extension and the link on this page specifies all capitals. So the correct link is:

    Or, at least, that works for me.


    [Response: fixed. thanks. -gavin]

  10. 10
    Jack says:

    From the Washington Post’s perspective:

    Dr. Cicerone’s offer is a good idea (since he already did it at the behest of the President). Maybe Dr. Cicerone should offer Rep. Barton a copy of that report?

  11. 11
    fFreddy says:

    Is #8 a joke ?

  12. 12
    Mark Lynas says:

    Readers who feel they’d like to give moral support to the work of Mann, Bradley, Hughes etc can sign a petition here against the politicisation of science. I should emphasise that this petition was set up independently of the scientists in question. Comments are encouraged, and will be delivered by Joe Barton in due course!

  13. 13
    Klaus Flemloese, Denmark says:

    Freedom of science/KGB harassment of dissidents ?

    This is unbelievable, what I have been reading on this page.

    It is a matter of harrassment of scientists from members of the Congress.

    This is similar to what KGB/STASI did to dissidents in the glory days of the Soviet Union.

    Scientists should spent their time on science and not on defending themselves against attacks from politicians associated to the oil industry.

    I have in general a great respect and admiration for the Congress and their members, but the actions taken by one member of the Congress are not in line with my expectations and must be condemned.

    It is a matter of freedom of science.

    [Response: While this issue is clearly of some concern (as outlined clearly in the various letters), it’s not clear to me that associating this with the much worse behaviour of past East European authorities is particularly helpful. Please keep the rest of the thread focused on the issues here, rather than on comparisons with other, much more serious, cases. -gavin]

  14. 14
    Stephen Berg says:

    Re: #11,

    fFreddy, I’m afraid post #8 was no joke at all. Millions of people continue to consume resources at unsustainable rates with no consideration of future consequences.

    I agree with Lynn, as well, in that people confused the whole ozone layer problem with GW. In fact, those who do not read up on environmental issues still do. Many people I’ve spoken to about GW bring up the ozone layer, thinking the two issues were entirely related.

    No, fFreddy. Lynn’s post is, unfortunately, no late April Fool’s Day prank whatsoever.

  15. 15
    Hugh says:

    The BBC’s take.

    Why is it that in the interests of journalistic balance they always finish off with a sceptic quote?

  16. 16

    It is unfortunate that politicians like Congressman Joe Barton and some of the more histrionic members of the media have politicized science. We have also seen a proliferation of “Think Tanks” that are operating with a political and economic agenda that have nothing to do with science.

    One of the tragic results of this is that we now have a significant portion of the population that is un-informed and ill-informed on the critical issue of climate change. Scientists are having their reputations and credibility trashed by unscrupulous individuals and organizations. Their goal is not scientific debate to discover truth, it is blatantly political.

    Those scientists who are doing real research and writing peer reviewed articles are facing a shrewd propaganda machine bent on clouding the issues. To large a portion of the American public is woefully uneducated about scientific methodology. The essence of what science is against scientists when facing these opponents. Scientists are now drawn into a world of spin, marketing and distorted meaning that they never have had to face before.

    Professor George Lakoff of UC Berkeley has written extensively on how reactionairies are using language to manipulate and control. Scientists caught in this battle would be well advised to start reading Professor Lakoff, so that they can better defend themselves in this new arena. He has analyzed the effective and distorting rhetoric of the extreme right and has interesting ideas on how to counter it.

    I am aware the phrase “Global Climate Warming” has confused a lot of the public. It semantically implies something that sounds rather nice to the public. Global Climate Disruption begins to describe something that gets the public attention. The coming climate changes may not be nice is the message. Without compromising science and the search for a clearer understanding of the universe we live in, scientists will be forced to become frontline fighters in political wars and learn a whole new vocabulary and style to defend themselves and the important ideas and knowledge they are attempting to communicate.

    Larry Saltzman Fellow, For The Future

  17. 17
    John S says:

    Re #8: “We need to understand why people are emitting GHGs at such high levels, and why they do not cease & desist (or at least reduce) in the face of scientific evidence that GW may harm them and/or their progeny & others on planet earth.”

    Consider, if you will, smoking. People continue to inhale cancer causing compounds directly into their lungs despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that smoking may harm then and/or their progeny & others on planet earth.

    It is not so hard to understand people’s actions in the case of GHG and GW because the links are so much less direct. Indeed the costs are obvious – how much do you want to pay for a litre of petrol/gallon of gas? – and the benefits are not. Just some idle speculation and ironic juxtaposition – I wonder how many climate scientists smoke.

  18. 18
    fFreddy says:

    Re #14 : Stephen Berg
    I’m sorry, are those the only two bits that strike you as a joke ?

  19. 19
    Stephen Berg says:

    Re: #18,

    I cannot see any joke in #8. Please let me know what you find so funny about Lynn’s post.

    Frankly, fFreddy, I cannot understand what you are saying.

  20. 20
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #8, I did write it in a bit of a humorous vein, but the content is serious – anthropogenic environmental problems are within the purview of social & behavioral sciences – they are an indirect way in which people relate to each other as perpetrators & victims. Even the natural environment is a factor to be considered in soc/beh sci studies, as it impacts us, though we tend to hold it constant in our studies.

    As for cigarette smoking, well that tells us a lot about human nature (psychological-cultural-social factors). This is not a scientific study, but I’ve noticed that gamblers tend to smoke more than non-gamblers (just go to Las Vegas or Bingo night at church). I would hate to believe that human nature & cultural & social factors are so perverse that we are doomed to experience the worse-case GW scenario. I’ve been interested in revitalization (social) movement theory, and hope we humans will form one soon, & rally in time to stem the worst of GW.

    RE others that bring up the costs of addressing GW, as I’ve mentioned before, we have lowered our GHGs by more than 1/2 since 1990 cost effectively (while increasing our living standard) & are laughing all the way to the bank. In economic terms our U.S. economy is well inside the Production Possibilities Frontier (it’s very inefficient, given the cost-effective, off-the-shelf technology available). It’s really too bad if others want to persist in inefficiency and wastefulness & lose their money & destroy our world. Why don’t we put our energies into implementing & finding cost-effective solutions, rather than persisting in stubborn harmfulness. Where is American ingenuity & the spirit of challenge when we need it???

  21. 21
    David C says:

    The high road exists and is being traveled by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes (and by the organizations). I applaud Dr. Mann for using this opportunity to explain the science in terms anyone can understand.

    The inclusion of the responses by RealClimate is a public service and is vital as the scientific aspects interface with the political aspects of climate change. Scientific freedom is essential for those who are working in fields that have an impact on public policy, and it is also essential that scientists be able to follow the data without fear that their conclusions will upset the wrong people.

  22. 22

    re #5:

    I don’t see why the New York Times article should be called misleading. The article seems a good summary of the situation. I would be pleased and relieved if most other newspapers and news magazines would do as good a job reporting on climate issues as does the Times.

  23. 23
    Steve Latham says:

    Wow, I’ve just now read the letter to Mann (made me angry) and Mann’s response. The latter was excellent. Not only was science defended in a dignified manner (with a couple of gentlemanly barbs deservedly thrown in), but I learned something, too. I will have to read up on the RE statistic after the summer (we still use r^2 or root mean square error in my field).


  24. 24
    Luke Silburn says:

    Re #20. Lynn I’m only a casual browser of this site so I’ve missed a bunch of your earlier posts – can you elaborate on who the ‘we’ is that has reduced GHGs by 50+% since 1990 please and give an indication of which changes were most effective?


  25. 25
    Christopher Laprise says:

    RE #16: I think this recommendation will be of limited use. Lakoff seems to assume that the final filter placed before the public’s eyes, the mass media, is neutral and that presented content simply reflects progressives’ own inability to properly frame issues.

    But the familiar brands that still broadcast news and opinion are not the same entities that existed even 15 years ago, and they are increasingly acting as communications organs for corporate PR and the politicos that serve them. They typically ignore (or reject through punditry) points of view that might threaten the profit models of the Fortune 500 and the specific conglomerates of which they are a part. So do not expect the overall portrayal of your activities and testimony to be fair or in the spirit of public service.

    Say hello to more ‘egdy’ coverage of a politically-manufactured controversy interspersed with soothing, idyllic ads from the likes of Exxon.

  26. 26
    Alan. Mortimer. says:

    RE: #15 & #25(below).
    Thanks for the BBC link, however I think Myron Ebell in the quote at the end, (“put science on trial”), portrayed himself as an “Inquisitor” of science. I get the feeling the editor had his tounge firmly planted in his cheek when he selected the traditional last word for the “skeptic”.

    RE: #25 and RealClimate Editors:
    Love the site, it’s often posted on (“Say hello to more ‘egdy’ coverage”), as a “THE” refrence site for everthing climate. Post a link to this story over at slashdot and you may get a formidable army of nerds on your side.

  27. 27
    John Finn says:

    I though I posted this earlier. I apologise if you have already received it.

    I have some questions on the MBH reconstruction.

    [Response: Many such posts are filtered out, as was yours originally, because the questions raised have already been addressed numerous times on this site, or are addressed elsewhere in material that we link to offsite. That having been said, its useful every once and a while to use one such post to make some general points. See responses below. -mike]

    1. What is the reason for the sudden sharp upwards inflection just after 1900. This is not something which can be seen in any of the various, measured surface temperature records?

    [Response: Your assertion is peculiar, and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The increase in the early 20th century is well known from the instrumental record of global and hemispheric mean temperatures (which extends back into the mid 19th century). See for example the University of East Anglia/CRU global temperature record. – mike]

    2. Is it a coincidence that this inflection occurs roughly around 1902 -i.e. just at the start of the period (1902-1980) that MBH use to ‘centre’ the data series?

    [Response: See above, and note in particular that the Mann et al reconstruction was, of course, shown to match the instrumental record well during both the calibration interval (1902-1980) and the pre-calibration “verification” interval (1856-1901). For a readily-available graphic indication of this point, see this publication (which is available online here (along with links to the data):

    Mann, M.E., Gille, E., Bradley, R.S., Hughes, M.K., Overpeck, J.T., Keimig, F.T., Gross, W., Global Temperature Patterns in Past Centuries: An interactive presentation, Earth Interactions, 4-4, 1-29, 2000.

    See in particular Figure 7 and associated data here -mike]

    3. As it’s unlikely that the sudden rise is anything to do with an increase in GHG emissions (CO2 is only 295 ppm in 1900 as quoted by Prof Mann on this site) it would seem to be caused by an increase in solar radiation. If so, this increase would appear to be unprecedented (according to MBH) in the last 1000 years. Is this actually the case – or is it that the reconstruction does not replicate the true amount of variability for the 900 years between 1000 and 1900.

    [Response: There are numerous detailed discussions already available on this site comparing modeled and reconstructed hemispheric temperature variations over the past 1000 years. The model results (which are based on driving various climate models with estimated solar, volcanic, and anthropogenic radiative forcing changes over this timeframe) are, by in large, remarkably consistent with the reconstructions, taking into account the statistical uncertainties. – mike]

    Thanks for your help

  28. 28
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #24, the “we” is my husband & myself. The biggest GHGs reducer was our SunFrost frig (see ) in 1990, which uses 1/12 the electricity of our old clonker. Along with greatly reduced food spoilage it gave us a “payback in savings” time of less than 15 years, & is going on to save us $$. We changed the kitchen fixture from in an amber chimney chandelier with 5 60 w bulbs (300 w) to a more attractive fixture & 15 watt CF globe that gave us more light, & later installed CFs nearly everywhere. I bought a used bicycle (also great for health) & offset a bit of driving with that & walking; we were already close to work & stores, being conscientious of the 70s energy crisis & entropy (other benefits of close location are less stress & road pollution & more time with family). We installed low-flow toilets & showerheads, reducing the energy to pump & heat water by 1/2 (I figure the $6 showerhead will save us $2000 in its 20 year lifetime). We turn off water while brushing teeth/shaving, off lights not in use, & engine in drive-thrus. We let grass go brown in summer (itâ??s drought-resistant, and only once had to reseed a few small patches) – except the summer we sold our house. Jacket for water heater, caulking, added insulation. I close vents in rooms not being used; line-dry some clothes (requires less ironing, folding). Use reusables, avoid throwaways. Recycle (esp aluminum) & buy recycled. Became vegetarian (great for health), but backslid to fish; organics; local produce when available; vegetable garden & composting (we were already doing that); reduced lawn with drought-resistant plants, mainly by thinning & spreading existing plants (improves prop value). We use power strips to turn off appliances that have unnecessary clocks, etc. (we already know we’re running out of time!). We buycott: Switched to a large Chicago area grocery chain that got onto EPA’s GreenLights program, installed single tubes with reflectors & electronic ballasts, saving 3/4 over previous double-tube fixtures, while emitting same lumens, saving them over $1 million/year, paying for the fixtures/installation in savings within 2 years.

    I called our waste treatment facility to suggest capture & use of CH4 & they were already doing it, lowering our bill to boot. Tried but failed to get our church & workplace to become energy/resource efficient/conservative.

    I guesstimate we had reduced our GHGs by at least 1/3 over our 1990 emissions, when we moved to Texas and got on Green Mountain 100% wind energy and are now saving $1/month over conventional. So now we are emitting less than 1/2 what we emitted in 1990. I wonder if Joe Barton is on wind, or even knows it’s available here & cheaper??

    When hybrids come with a plug-in feature & a 10+ mile range (available in Europe, Japan & for fleet vehicles here), I want to buy one. Since we usually drive less than 3,000 miles per year, this will not save us money but I’ll be happy to drive on wind and avoid gasoline for 90%+ of our driving. If I had time & lived close to an electric vehicle association (see, I’d do a conversion to an electric car (save big in energy & maintenance).

    Our flying (mainly work-related) has not been reduced much. However, airlines have become more efficient over the decades. Hope they come out with hydrogen fuel-cell planes.

    I know there is much more we could do, if we really put our mind to it, and weren’t so lazy and busy.

  29. 29
    Hank Roberts says:

    By the way, who came up with the term “hockey stick”?
    Was it the Canadians?

    I would have suggested a better tool shape:
    “scythe” — I use European scythes for weed-cutting on remote restoration locations; the straight shaft and curved blade match the temperature chart better.

    Speaking of political charting reminds me of

    a similiar chart for US personal income.
    The author there notes:
    “You will not be outraged by outrageous statistics
    if you don’t comprehend the numbers.
    Unfortunately most people don’t know how to visualize large numbers.”

    [Response: Actually it was Jerry Mahlman, then head of GFDL in Princeton.- gavin]

  30. 30
    Tech Policy says:

    Scientists respond to intimidation from Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)
    RealClimate has the complete scoop on how scientists have responded to efforts to intimidate scientists by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) over a particular detail (the now famous hockey stick) in the climate science. I think that Thomas Crowley summes it up in…

  31. 31
    dave says:

    Re #12 Sign the petition!

    Here’s what I said:

    Michael Mann and the others who were sent letters are among the best climate scientists in the world. Their work is subject to the peer-reviewed “scientific court of inquiry” only, not some committee of the House of Representatives. This politically motivated attack is tantamount to a kind of scientific “McCarthyism” reflecting the paranoia, megalomania and assault on civil liberties of that era. You can not and will not alter the reality of climate change by ad hominem attacks on those who bear the bad news.

    Re #13 This is unbelievable, what I have been reading on this page. It is a matter of harrassment of scientists from members of the Congress.

    Yes, that’s right. I did not allude to “McCarthyism” lightly.

  32. 32
    Max says:

    I think it was a good choice of you to take this on this page (despite your rule). However, I am not seeing why this should be an inapropriate question? Scientists too often spend time amongst themselves as to the point that they lose the possibility of positive criticism and objective research (see BBC and “Memory of Water” – hoax).

    I am also inclined to dismiss some of the comments here, because of politicing views (not every critical person is a “puppet” of the oil industry, nor is the oil industry “bad”).

    So, all in all, the questions by a concerned Texan statesman were only right, because he has to decide what to do in politics and he needs a sound background in science to do so. (Which is doing nothing at best- my own opinion)

    However, I have one big questions ( I can see that intellectual right’s issues may be invovled here), why don’t you just give those critics all the so-called unreleased code to vanquish their position once and for all?

    [Response: You should carefully re-read the first of the two “main points” (in particular, the hyperlink therein) of our posting!]

  33. 33
    Brian Mapes says:

    Good responses by the 3 scientists! Is it too naive to think that some meaningful education of the congressman and his staff may occur, regarding the scientific process and the status that confers on scientific statements (as compared to political hot air)? Between the tartness of Dr. Bradley, the thoroughness of Dr. Mann, and the earnestness (including hospitable invitation) of Dr. Hughes, something will surely hit a soft spot. Surely it would be un-Christian to suggest that no correspondence could have any impact on the souls of our fellow citizens from Texas?

  34. 34
    dave says:

    Re: #33

    Is it too naive to think that some meaningful education of the congressman and his staff may occur, regarding the scientific process and the status that confers on scientific statements (as compared to political hot air)?

    And the answer to your question is “Yes”, it is too naive to think…. The seriousness of this attack on science can not be overstated and must be nipped in the bud. C’mon people, consider who you’re dealing with.

    I read Mann’s response and view it as entirely unnecessary. In my view [not the view of RC, of course], “Screw you” would have been a more appropriate answer. Nonetheless, Mann convincingly argues the science in his letter, as if this whole process had some legitimacy.

  35. 35
    Magnus says:

    First of all, really good responses!

    Second, how do I learn more about the economic side of Kyoto? As an environmental scientist thatâ??s the hardest part for me to argue abut. If the money where limited where does it make best use?

    Any links would do fine!

  36. 36
    Roger Pielke, Jr. says:


    Here is a good introductory primer:

    A diverse collection of economics research on Kyoto can be found here:

  37. 37
    Magnus says:

    Thanx for that!

    I have earlier seen some calculations on the benefits contra de losses in the long run with or without Kyoto. These links don’t seam to cover that?

    What I mostly is interested in is, how can I show that it is economically sound to implement Kyoto?

    Or can I?

  38. 38
    Roger Pielke, Jr. says:


    You won’t find much support from economists is your quest. Bill Nordhaus, perhaps the dean of economists studying climate change, has written the following (pretty much representative of the center of gravity of economists views on this) in the special issue that I referenced:

    “The major conclusions are: (a) the net global cost of the Kyoto Protocol is $716 billion in present value, (b) the United States bears almost two-thirds of the global cost; and (c) the benefit-cost ratio of the Kyoto Protocol is 1/7. Additionally, the emissions strategy is highly costineffective, with the global temperature reduction achieved at a cost almost 8 times the cost of a strategy which is cost-effective in terms of “where” and “when” efficiency. These conclusions assume that trading in carbon permits is allowed among Annex I countries.”

    If you want to advocate for Kyoto then, rather than economics, you are probably on more solid ground referring to intangibles like international cooperation and environmental symbolism. But you may be on even stronger ground yet by expanding your solution space beyond just considering Kyoto. There might be better options out there.

  39. 39

    “We must burn down the observatory so this will never happen again!”
    One hundred years ago, Teddy Roosevelt used the special powers of the legislative branch to tackle corruption and graft. Now, the his heirs in the GOP shamefully use the same powers to obliterate progress and reason. House Energy Committee Chairman…

  40. 40
    Magnus says:

    -Roger Pieklke,Jr

    Hmm, but as I understand it this is in the short term, what about the long run… say 2100?

    If i remember it correctly didn’t “Blomberg?” get criticised for his assumptions that money was better spent elsewhere? (i.e. 3-world)

    [Response: Lomborg’s so-called “Copenhagen Consensus” is a textbook example of “framing” (see comment #16). It basically frames the issue thus: given limited funds, should we rather help the poor in Africa or do something about global warming? Ever since, I regularly meet industry representatives at panel discussions who in great moral earnesty tell me that we cannot spend money on the global warming problem because it is better spent to help the poor in Africa.
    Of course, this is just a clever framing trick. In the real world, nobody has suggested that the costs of reducing our emissions should come out of development aid budgets. In contrast, reducing emissions involves things like perhaps driving a fuel efficient car rather than a wasteful SUV. It involves having energy efficient appliances at home (much of which can be done at zero cost or even a net financial gain). And it involves investments in renewable energy, which will probably lead to higher electricity prices. The question is not whether we want to take money away from the poor in Africa, it is more like: are we willing to accept an electricity bill that is $15 higher per month per household, in exchange for a stable climate? When asked in this way, an overwhelming majority of Americans is in favor of limiting emissions. -Stefan]

  41. 41
    Roger Pielke, Jr. says:


    Going down this path, you’ll quickly find yourself in a debate on discounting and the time value of action/resources, which will take you deep into discussions of subjects such as environmental ethics, future/present generations, the foundational assumtions of the discipline of economics, etc. — all very important and interesting subjects, but ones on which there is unlikely to be forged a new consensus on meaningful time scales related to climate change. (And an assumption that a consensus on these subjects would motivate certain actions is itself dubious.) Along these lines this exchange may be of some interest:

    Since this is off topic here (and thanks for the RC folks for the forum), if you’d like to continue to discuss, visit us over at Prometheus where I’d be happy to try to draw in some others.

  42. 42
    Angela Williams says:

    This is obviously an attempt to intimidate scientists into silence. But I believe that this could turn out to be a great opportunity to warn the public about the dangers of global warming. We have often complained that the public is uneducated about global warming. Take this opportunity to educate the public.

    The first thing these scientists should do is to hand over the requested documents. However they should hand over everything they have connected with global warming. It would take Barton and his staff the better part of a year to sort it all out. Fellow scientists should submit there own documents to Barton. Make it as unpleasant for him and his staff as possible. The next thing is to publically go on the offensive. Barton’s connections to the oil and gas industry (I’m sure he has some) should be highlighted at every opportunity. This should especially be done at the hearings themselves. Openly question his motives at every opportunity. He is obviously doing this at the behest of the oil industry; a fact the public has a right to know. What you want to do is to put Barton on the defensive.

    It should also be made clear to the public that there is no debate about global warming. It is real and it is happening! Point out the fact that those who question global warming tend to work for the oil industry-so their true motives must be questioned.

    A final thought. Back in the 1950’s scientists first raised the possibility that cigarette smoking causes cancer. The powerful tobacco industry spent the next 50 years trying to debunk the science. Finally, they were forced to admit that cigarette smoking does indeed cause cancer. We may not have 50 years when it comes to global warming.

  43. 43
    Hellblazer says:

    Responding to Texas Congressman Joe Barton
    The three scientist who were called out on the floor by Congressman Joe Barton from Texas have provided their responses. When last we looked, the theoretically intelligent amongst the right were slavering over the possibility that these uppity scientis…

  44. 44
    garhane says:

    The responses of Professor Mann and the other scientists are thorough and professional, but it cannot be avoided that Congressman Barton has mounted an attack and it is based on the destructive campaign of M&M. They in turn have largely based their attacks on holding science to a standard of perfection and thus clamoring endlessly over petty mistakes of fact and alleged procedural flaws having little or no effect on outcomes.You can make book on it that Barton will follow the same approach as he seeks public attention to build his political capital. Must the science be utterly perfect?

    I would like to suggest that Dr. R.A. Pielke Jr. has made an important contribution to public understanding by being the first to openly broach what can be called Messy Science. This is not just a question of errors in papers, or of the new pushing aside the old, or polemics, or technical controversies. As he described it in Promotheus, it is a general fact that scientists and their methods of work can be ill organized, that things can be hard to find once used and put aside, and that the rush to get the work done can leave all sorts of things trailing that never do get…finished.

    This bit of social reality (if it is OK to call it that) opens the door for the general reader to get a better appreciation of a reasonable approach to viewing the efforts of scientists. Without it one is easily stopped by opportunists who will find petty errors, like M&M did using about 17 1/2 pages of the 20 pages of their first article to describe them, then using the claim that only perfection is acceptable as a basis for denouncing a major collaborative work that has been peer reviewed and even had its conclusions reproduced several times since. Dr. Pielke’s remarks point toward a needed re-balancing in such matters. He was joined in comments by a number of scientists. Dr. James Annan explained that messy features are found not only in climate science. Dr. Kooiti Matsuda explained, with careful precision, practical and ethical difficulties in collaborative work with respect to code writing. And Dr. Hans von Storch explained difficulties of retrospective efforts to untangle who-did-what and what may or may not still be extant among a variety of contributions to method. He also provided a stunning example of scientific forthrightness in his description.

    A big gap in understanding for the general reader has been identified with a resulting gain in reason, for which Dr. Pielke may be thanked.

  45. 45
    Gregory Lewis says:

    re #5 && #22 (apropos of the New York Times coverage).

    It seems the web and print versions of the article were different. The print version (which prompted my comment)was heavily edited, ended with the quote by a spokesman for the Energy and Commerce Committee, and focused on the spat between the two Senators.

  46. 46
    John Finn says:

    Mike, you respond to my first question as follows

    1. What is the reason for the sudden sharp upwards inflection just after 1900. This is not something which can be seen in any of the various, measured surface temperature records?

    [Response: Your assertion is peculiar, and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The increase in the early 20th century is well known from the instrumental record of global and hemispheric mean temperatures (which extends back into the mid 19th century). See for example the University of East Anglia/CRU global temperature record. – mike]

    I am actually quite familiar with the the CRU temperature record and am well aware that there is an increase in the early part of the 20th century. Let’s just say I believe there is a ‘visual anomaly’ between the CRU record and the reconstruction. Not to worry we’ll let that pass. Could I, though, just ask for a comment or opinion on one aspect of the reconstruction.

    Ok – let’s accept that the reconstruction is broadly correct – particularly with respect to the period 1850-1980. Now – as you point out – the CRU record and the reconstruction both show a sharp increase in the early 20th century.

    So – what in your opinion was responsible for this?

    I assume it’s due to an increase in solar activity and/or a decrease in volcanic activity. We know that additional GHGs cannot be the cause as there was no discernible increase in the atmospheric concentration from the the pre-industrial period. What’s more James Hansen (with Gavin as a co-author) has produced a paper which implies a time lag of several decades before the full warming response is realised.

    Mike – your reconstruction shows this rise to be without precedent in the previous 900 years, so I’m interested in your view as to why this particular change in solar/volcanic forcing was so unusual. As you point out other studies agree with the MBH study so I would have thought what amounts to a sudden global climate shift would be of major interest to climate scientists everywhere yet one sees relatively little written about it. Anything you can tell me, therefore, would be greatly appreciated.

  47. 47
    dave says:

    Re: Political Interference With Science

    From the Union of Concerned Scientists: “UCS President Kevin Knobloch is scheduled to appear on the PBS television program NOW to talk about the growing problem of political interference in science this Friday, July 22, 2005…. The hour-long program is expected to focus on one well-known example of scientific abuse: the Bush administrationâ��s long history of manipulating, suppressing, and distorting the science on global warming. Last month, the New York Times reported that Phil Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist working for the White House, edited scientific climate change reports to significantly exaggerate uncertainty about the science behind global warming. Two days after the Times article, Cooney resigned and took a job with Exxon-Mobil.”

  48. 48
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #35, the best economic argument can be found in the work of Amory Lovins, who figures the U.S. could reduce its fossil fuel consumption by at least 3/4 cost-effectively & without lowering productivity, given current technology. He has examples of some businesses reducing even 90%, without lowering productivity, by “tunneling through.” Even if he’s overly optimistic, a 50% reduction still sounds very good! See and

    Now why do we need Kyoto, if we can reduce so drastically in a money-saving manner without lowering productivity. The answer comes from some research I did preparing a “business & environment” course. For instance, 3M started 3P (Pollution Prevention Pays) after they told their all their workers, from assembly line to engineers, to start finding ways to reduce pollution to meet future regs in ways that wouldn’t cost them too much. Their workers found plenty of ways to reduce in ways that save money – I think over $1 billion to date. When they asked the engineers why they hadn’t come up with those money-savers before, they replied that it wasn’t put to them that way. Dow has its similar WRAP (Waste Reduction Always Pays), and I read that Dow would have continued to reduce pollution/waste cost-effectively, if the head & impetus of that program had not retired. Another example was a plating company in Mass. that was polluting the river & knew it had to reduce to meet tougher future regs. They tried reducing their water, but still couldn’t meet regs, until they developed a “closed-loop” system – separating out the pollutants (which were valuable resources) & recycling the water, reducing their pollution to almost nothing. They figured the system would pay for itself in a couple of years, except that the water main for the city broke for three days a few months later & they were able to keep up production, saving them $150,000, nearly paying for the system right then.

    The fact is that regs & Kyoto are ultimately great for business – it gets them to think outside the box, & more often than not come up with solutions that are even better than their earlier business-as-usual. I have some archaeological examples, as well. The principle is that some barrier, natural or artificial, leads to great break-throughs. Refusing Kyoto, as the U.S. has done, is tantamount to stifling economic progress, even if GW is totally false & later disproved. It is tantamount to destroying the economy, if GW is real, because (I’ll state it again) the environment is fundamental, the economy contingent. It surprises me (and angers me as a tax-payer funding public education) that it takes so much smarts to figure that one out.

  49. 49
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #16, I agree with #25, though I think framing is also very important (I take a nondeterministic, more ecological, multivariable approach). But one frame that irks me a bit is the binary structural framing of liberal v. conservative, blue v. red. What about green?

  50. 50
    Stephen Luntz says:

    Re #33 and #34, it is important to distinguish between audiences. Rep Barton will not be swayed by evidence. He is on a witchhunt. Some of his requests might be relevant, but the demand for complete CVs, the repetition of known lies from the WSJ etc make clear this is not a genuine fact-finding mission.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of people out there who have not followed this closely. They are open to being swayed, and clearly written, convincing and polite responses will move them. Hopefully, really good responses will cause Barton to go beserk and lose even more credibility. As a science communicator (rather than research scientist) I think this has been handled well so far.