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Chris Mooney Turns a Climate "Trick"


Science journalist and global warming alarmist Chris Mooney is many things.

From his own lavish blog bio at Discover Magazine:

Chris Mooney is a visiting associate in the Center for Collaborative History at Princeton University and the author of three books: The Republican War on Science, New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science-- Storm World, Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming--dubbed "riveting" by the Boston Globe, selected as a 2007 best book of the year in the science category by Publisher's Weekly, and winner of the American Meteorological Society's 2009 Louis J. Battan Author's award; and the forthcoming Unscientific America, co-authored with Sheril Kirshenbaum.

In addition, he is a contributing editor to Science Progress, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect magazine, and also writes "The Intersection" blog with Kirshenbaum. He is quoted regularly in the media and has appeared on many radio and television programs, including The Colbert Report and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Among other accolades, in 2005 Chris was named one of Wired magazine's ten "sexiest geeks." In addition, The Republican War on Science was named a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times book prize in the category of "Science and Technology," and Chris's 2005 Mother Jones feature story about ExxonMobil, conservative think tanks, and climate change was nominated for a National Magazine Award in the "public interest" category (as part of a cover package on global warming). Chris's 2005 article for Seed magazine on the Dover evolution trial was included in the volume Best American Science and Nature Writing 2006. In 2006, Chris also won the "Preserving Core Values in Science" award from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Chris was born in Mesa, Arizona, and grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana; he graduated from Yale University in 1999, where he wrote a column for the Yale Daily News. Before becoming a freelance writer, Chris worked for two years at The American Prospect as a writing fellow, then staff writer, then online editor (where he helped to create the popular blog Tapped). Chris has contributed to a wide variety of other publications in recent years, including Wired, Science, Harper's, Seed, New Scientist, Slate, Salon, Mother Jones, Legal Affairs, Reason, The American Scholar, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. In addition, Chris's blog, "The Intersection," was a recipient of Scientific American's 2005 Science and Technology web award, which noted that "science is lucky to have such a staunch ally in acclaimed journalist Chris Mooney." Chris speaks regularly at academic meetings, bookstores, university campuses, and other events. He has appeared at distinguished universities including the Harvard Medical School, MIT, Yale, Princeton, Rockefeller University, and Duke University Medical Center; at major venues such as the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and Town Hall Seattle; and at bookstores across the country, ranging from Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida to Powell's in Portland, Oregon. In 2006, he was the keynote speaker for the 43rd Annual Dinner of Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties and the Edward Lamb Peace Lecturer at Bowling Green State University. In 2007, he was the opening plenary speaker at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne, Australia. Chris has also been featured regularly by the national media. He has appeared on CSPAN's Book TV, Fresh Air With Terry Gross, NPR's Science Friday (here and here), and The Al Franken Show, among many other television and radio programs. He has been profiled by The Toronto Star and The Seattle Times, and interviewed by many outlets including Grist and Mother Jones. To see a more comprehensive list of Chris's various writings, click here. For speaking engagements click here ...

Mooney, leading science journalist and "one of Wired magazine's ten 'sexiest geeks'" has of course benefited lavishly from his passionate embrace of consensus science. He has extraordinary access to scientists, who understand that he is a "staunch ally," and he has leveraged his amicable access into best-selling books, as well as awards for "Preserving Core Values in Science," speaking engagements, and widespread acclaim in the science community.

But these are times that test science journalists. A week ago, hackers released 160 mb of emails, data, and computer code from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. The data extends back a decade, and rather clearly documents an astonishing pattern of manipulation of evidence, concealment of doubts about the validity of global warming, destruction of data not favorable to global warming, fantasizing violence against prominent climate skeptic scientists, and a long series of communications discussing how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process. The data reveal extensive scientific misconduct and even criminal fraud in the top echelons of the pro-global warming scientific community.

Climate science is of course Money's journalistic specialty, and you would assume that he would apply the same scrutiny to this massive evidence of climate science fraud that he applied to the "Republican war on science."

Well, no. This is Mooney's initial post on his blog, in its entirety, about the ClimateGate scandal:

"Why Climate-Gate ain't nothing"

By now you've probably heard (New York Times, Washington Post, RealClimate). A server at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was hacked; hundreds of emails from climate scientists are now public due to this despicable act. Global warming deniers are having a field day, because in some of the emails, the scientists are acting like, you know, people. They are also acting like scientists under fire, which is what they were and are. The Climate Research Unit is headed by Phil Jones, who has been involved in the highly public and seemingly unending "hockey stick" battle--and so peering into the emails lets the skeptics and deniers once again claim there was some kind of bad science involved in this one particular study, a claim they've been making for almost a decade now.

Of course, none of this is at all relevant to the climate issue today. It's a nasty, ugly sideshow. The science of climate change doesn't stand or fall based upon what a few scientists said in emails they always thought would remain private. And as for the "hockey stick"; well, fully four years ago, in The Republican War on Science, I explained why the right was using this as a distraction from the real issues:

...although it might create good publicity, the Right's selective attack on [hockey stick study lead author Michael] Mann's work ultimately presents a huge diversion for policymakers trying to decide what to do about global warming. Mann points out that he's hardly the only scientist to produce a "hockey stick" graph--other teams of scientists have come up with similar reconstructions of past temperatures. And even if Mann's work and all of the other studies that served as the basis for the IPCC [2001] statement on the historical temperature record are wrong, that would not in any way invalidate the conclusion that humans are currently causing rising temperatures.

"There's a whole independent line of evidence, some of it very basic physics," explains Mann.

That's even truer now than it was in 2004, when I interviewed Mann, or 2005, when The Republican War on Science actually came out.

The fact is that no matter what a few scientists may have said in emails, we have to go to Copenhagen and deal with our warming, melting planet. That's what matters. The rest of this is hot air, and--unless it can somehow be channeled to power a few wind turbines--it doesn't do us or the planet any good.

Who knew that plausible deniability is one of the "core values of science"? Mooney's "Why Climate-Gate ain't nothing" post generated 180 comments, mostly scathing and mostly criticizing Mooney and fraudulent climate science (from Discover Magazine readers!), so Mooney spun again:

The "ClimateGate Burden" of Proof

After the large volume of climate skeptic/denier comments that came in yesterday disagreeing with my post on the relative insignificance of ClimateGate, I feel that more needs to be said. This time, let me couch my argument in a different format, so that perhaps it will be better understood.

Those of us who think this is all smoke and no fire are starting from the following position: There is a massive body of science, tested and retested and ratified by many leading scientific bodies, showing that global warming is real and human caused. So then we pose the following question: What would it take for "ClimateGate" to significantly weaken this body of evidence in a serious way?

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that all of the worst and most damning interpretations of these exposed emails are accurate. I don't think this is remotely true, but let's assume it.

Even if this is the case, it does not prove the following:

1) The scientists whose emails have been revealed are representative of or somehow a proxy for every other climate scientist on the planet.

2) The studies that have been called into questions based on the emails (e.g., that old chestnut the "hockey stick") are somehow the foundations of our concern about global warming, and those concerns stand or fall based on those studies.

Neither one of these is true, which is why I can say confidently that "ClimateGate" is overblown--and which is why I've never been impressed by systematic attacks on the "hockey stick." Even if that study falls, we still have global warming on our hands, and it's still human caused.

My sense is that the climate skeptic commenters we're seeing aren't actually familiar with the vast body of climate science work out there, and don't realize how most individual studies are little more than a drop in the evidentiary bucket. It is because of the consilience of evidence from multiple studies and fields that we accept that climate change is human caused, and it is because of the vast diversity and number of scientists, and scientific bodies, who find that evidence compelling that we talk of a consensus.

I don't see how anything about "ClimateGate" changes this big picture significantly--and again, that's even if we assume the worst about what the emails reveal

Mooney's second post generated 371 comments, mostly scathing and mostly criticizing Mooney and fraudulent climate science.

Mooney neither quotes nor analyzes any of the 1000 or so ClimateGate emails, nor does he discuss any of the hundred megabytes of data and computer code that reveals systematic manipulation to coax warming out of reluctant data (so 'man-made' global warming is real, in a sense). In fact, Mooney shows no familiarity at all with the 160 mb of emails and data, although the internet is on fire with detailed quotes and analysis. Mooney merely asserts that

...no matter what a few scientists may have said in emails, we have to go to Copenhagen and deal with our warming, melting planet.

Admittedly, Mooney has been busy. Too busy to analyze any of the emails or data that document scientific misconduct and fraud. No time for science journalism here. Yet Mooney insists that we pony up trillions of dollars and get right to work restructuring our lives, our governments, and the world economy along the lines that Mooney and his award-bestowing-to-Mooney science patrons demand. He insists that doing exactly as scientists say is "what matters". Why should humanity be any different than Chris Mooney?

Scientific American revealed perhaps too much when it purred "...science is lucky to have such a staunch ally in acclaimed journalist Chris Mooney." Can we trust staunch-ally-science-journalists like Mooney to investigate science fraud? One wonders what would have become of Watergate, if the Nixon administration had bestowed preemptively such lavish acclaim on Woodward and Bernstein ('Preserving the Core Values in Government')--and Woodward and Bernstein accepted. WaPo headline, circa 1974: "Why Watergate Ain't Nothing."

But heck, I've got a little time, and Copenhagen's a couple of weeks away, so let's take a look at just one of the emails. This is just one (of dozens) of incriminating emails that have attracted quite a bit of scrutiny from scientists, bloggers and journalists who are not burdened by Mooney's busy award-receiving schedule.

"Phil Jones" is the director of the Climate Research Unit in England and one of the world's leading global warming scientists. "Mike" is Michael Mann, a Penn State climatologist who is the author of the famous "Hockey Stick Graph", which purports to show a radical increase in global temperatures in the past several decades.

From: Phil Jones
 To: ray bradley ,mann@xxxxx.xxx, mhughes@xxxx.xxx
Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:31:15 +0000
Cc: k.briffa@xxx.xx.xx,t.osborn@xxxx.xxx

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
 Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or 
first thing tomorrow. 
I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps
 to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
1961 for Keith's to hide the decline. Mike's series got the annual 
land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH l and
 N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
 data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
Thanks for the comments, Ray.


Prof. Phil Jones 
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) xxxxx
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) xxxx
University of East Anglia 
Norwich Email p.jones@xxxx.xxx
UK [Emphasis mine]

The salient phrase is this:

I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps
 to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.

"Mike's Nature trick"? Jones is referring to a data manipulation used by climatologist Michael Mann to generate his famous "Hockey Stick Graph," which is an icon of global warming science.

But what precisely does Jones mean by "trick"?

Now there are three meanings that could be assigned to "trick":

1) Neat handy little technique for doing something innocent
2) A deception
3) An work-related act performed by a prostitute

So which kind of "trick" was Jones referring to?

Jones offers the answer in the next clause:

...to hide the decline.

Ahhh. "Hide" means to conceal (it doesn't likely refer to an animal skin) and "decline," in an e-mail about temperature data, refers to a decline in temperature--i.e. global cooling. So Dr. Jones provides his own explanation for his use of "Mike's Nature trick." Translated into normal language, Jones' "trick" was "...to hide the global cooling."

A leading British climate scientist acknowledges that he and an equally prominent American climate scientist use a "trick" to hide global cooling in their published data.

To an award-winning science journalist who specializes in the investigation of climate science, this may sound like it "ain't nothing." But to me it sure doesn't sound right. So let's review the possible meanings of Jones' "trick."

1) "Trick": a neat handy little technique for doing something innocent

Not likely, because "...to hide the decline" isn't to do something innocent.

2) "Trick": a deception


3) "Trick": a work-related act performed by a prostitute.

A spot-on description of Mooney's science journalism.