Rearranging The Deckchairs

Frank O'Dwyer's blog

Mann 12, Shollenberger 0

Continuing on from my previous post on this, here’s 4 more problems with Shollenberger’s review.

Now there are 12, out of a total of about 19 claims that Shollenberger makes, so already most of Shollenberger’s points are shown to be bogus. I intend to deal with the rest also, but might not get back to it until next weekend.

10. Incorrect claim that Mann misrepresents Roy Spencer

Shollenberger quotes Mann regarding Roy Spencer:

Spencer still contends, nonetheless, that humans are not to blame for the increase [in temperature]

This he cites under a heading of ‘contradiction’ and a minor heading of ‘Mann contradicts his sources’.

Let’s see if there’s really a contradiction. Mann’s reference is to a blog post from Spencer which says this:

But when we start examining the details, an anthropogenic explanation for increasing atmospheric CO2 becomes less obvious.

and this:

since most of the cycling of CO2 between the ocean, land, and atmosphere is due to biological processes, this alone does not make a decreasing C13/C12 ratio a unique marker of an anthropogenic source.

and this:

If natural temperature changes can drive natural CO2 changes (directly or indirectly) on a year-to-year basis, is it possible that some portion of the long term upward trend (that is always attributed to fossil fuel burning) is ALSO due to a natural source?

and this:

since the natural fluxes in and out of the atmosphere are so huge, this means that a small natural imbalance between them can rival in magnitude the human CO2 input. And this clearly happens …

Sure sounds like the beginning of an argument contending that humans are not to blame for the CO2, and thus not to blame for the warming either, to me.

Shollenberger doesn’t cite any of the above, but perhaps realising that he can’t really get away with a claim of ‘contradiction’, he walks it back to ‘exaggeration’ when citing the conclusion from the same Spencer blog post:

This means that most (1.71/1.98 = 86%) of the upward trend in carbon dioxide since CO2 monitoring began at Mauna Loa 50 years ago could indeed be explained as a result of the warming, rather than the other way around.

So, there is at least empirical evidence that increasing temperatures are causing some portion of the recent rise in atmospheric CO2, in which case CO2 is not the only cause of the warming.

So, instead of contending that humans are not responsible for all of the CO2 increase, he is contending that humans are not responsible for almost all of it? Gee, what an exaggeration.

But in fact Mann’s statement isn’t any kind of exaggeration of Spencer’s arguments, because Spencer doesn’t just argue that nature, and not humans, is responsible for almost all of the increase in CO2. He also argues elsewhere on his blog that natural variations, and not CO2, are responsible for almost all of the warming!

Here I will use it to demonstrate that the global warming so commonly blamed on humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions can just as easily be explained as largely natural in origin, most likely due to a natural decrease in global cloud cover.

This is under the heading Misinterpreting Natural Climate Change as Manmade.

So Spencer is not only arguing that humans have little to do with the CO2 increase, but also that CO2 has little to do with the warming in any case.

Therefore Spencer really does contend that humans are not to blame for the warming, and Mann is not exaggerating, and certainly not contradicting, Spencer’s arguments, to say that he does.

Michael Mann: 9, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

11. Incorrect claim that Mann fabricated that hackers had access to the material in October 2009

Shollenberger claims that this quote from Mann is a fabrication:

The hackers had access to the materials in early October 2009, but held off releasing them until mid- November 2009, apparently to inflict maximum damage to the Copenhagen climate summit in early December 2009.

He then says:

In fairness to Mann, he does offer a reference for his claim. It’s a newspaper article by Ben Webster that doesn’t explain how it reached its conclusion.

But the article referenced by Mann clearly does explain its conclusion that the hackers had access in October:

The first hack was in October or earlier, [according to according to a source close to the investigation of the theft]. The e-mails were not leaked until mid-November. […] The computer was hacked repeatedly, the source close to the investigation said: “It was hacked into in October and possibly earlier. Then they gained access again in mid November.”

This is in itself is enough to establish that Mann didn’t fabricate anything: Mann didn’t write that. Whether or not you think it’s correct is neither here nor there, basing a claim off reports of what happened isn’t making things up.

But Shollenberger needs to pretend Mann made something up, and in order to do so he goes off on a wild tangent, quoting another article by the same author which he claims clarifies the conclusion by saying:

Almost a month before they were posted on a website popular with climate-change sceptics, the hacked information was sent to a BBC weatherman who had expressed his doubts about climate science on his blog. The BBC has confirmed that Paul Hudson received some documents on October 12 but no story was broadcast or printed by Mr Hudson or the corporation.

Shollenberger then notes that it turns out that Hudson was cc’d on the original emails, and he didn’t receive the actual hacked materials back in October. Then he tries his hand at mind reading:

mind reading

This misunderstanding is what led Mann claiming the “hackers had access to the materials in early October 2009.”

However, nothing of the followup article Shollenberger quotes refutes that the hackers had access to the computer in October, because that claim was based on “a source close to the investigation” that said the computer was hacked in October, and hacked repeatedly.

While it’s possible that this claim was based on Paul Hudson supposedly receiving the material back then, nowhere does it state or give any reason to think that is so. Nor does Shollenberger provide any other reason to think so—so if anyone is guilty of ‘fabrication’ here, it would appear to be him.

Shollenberger concludes his train wreck of an argument by saying this:

While Mann claimed the hackers had the material in October, the released e-mails contained e-mails from November. It doesn’t matter how “highly skilled” computer hackers may be. They cannot steal e-mails before those e-mails are written.

Hackers clearly can obtain emails from both October and November if they have extended access to the computer, or if they hack it repeatedly. Which is exactly what Mann’s reference said happened:

The first hack was in October or earlier, [according to according to a source close to the investigation of the theft]. The e-mails were not leaked until mid-November. […] The computer was hacked repeatedly, the source close to the investigation said: “It was hacked into in October and possibly earlier. Then they gained access again in mid November.”

This does support Mann’s claim, and Shollenberger’s statement that Mann fabricated it is manifestly false.

Michael Mann: 10, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

12. Incorrect claim that Mann fabricated that the Climategate began with a crime committed by skilled hackers

Shollenberger also states that the following claim from Mann is a fabrication:

The episode began with a crime committed by highly skilled computer hackers…

Shollenberger tries to justify this accusation by claiming this:

No police investigation has ever determined how the e-mails were released, yet Mann says it was the work of “highly skilled computer hackers.” Not just one hacker. Not even just one very skilled hacker. No, Mann claims to know there were multiple hackers with great skill. How he could possibly know this when the police don’t is a mystery as his note #1 doesn’t address the issue.

But note 1 refers to the same article mentioned above:

The first hack was in October or earlier, [according to according to a source close to the investigation of the theft]. The e-mails were not leaked until mid-November. […] The computer was hacked repeatedly, the source close to the investigation said: “It was hacked into in October and possibly earlier. Then they gained access again in mid November.”

So that there were hackers is not a fabrication by Mann at all but is clearly based on reports of what happened. Even if you think those reports are not true, Mann didn’t write them.

The remainder of Shollenberger’s claim is nitpicking over whether or not the hackers were skilled and whether or not there was more than one of them. Nothing of importance turns on whether there was one hacker or several, and Mann uses the terms hacker and hackers pretty much interchangeably throughout the book. Furthermore that at least one hacker was involved is evidenced by the hack of the realclimate.org website (which in fact looks to be the hack Mann was referring to with the episode began, as discussion of this immediately follows in the book under the title ‘The Hacking’).

As for skilled, the evidence that they were skilled is at least this:

  1. They succeeded in gaining unauthorised access to more than one server

  2. Unlike hackers such as Mitnick and LulzSec (who are certainly skilled) they haven’t been caught.

Michael Mann: 11, Brandon Shollenberger: 0

13. The ‘spreadsheet’ nitpick

Shollenberger quotes Mann saying this:

those claims were false, resulting from their misunderstanding of the format of a spreadsheet version of the dataset they had specifically requested from my associate, Scott Rutherford. None of the problems they cited were present in the raw, publicly available version of our dataset…

And then says:

This claim is absolutely untrue. Even worse, when the claim was first made, McIntyre and McKitrick responded by posting the correspondence between them and Mann (and co-authors), proving they never asked for a spreadsheet.

And indeed the correspondence (assuming this is all of the contact, which I’ve no reason to doubt, as I’ve seen nobody dispute it) shows that while they did ask for the data that Mann said they asked for, they never specified a format.

And so what? Mann’s point was that they were requesting data that were already available in a different format, and that the spreadsheet format that they actually received had errors. The whole thing hinges on what data they requested, what data were already available, and what data they got. Nothing of any importance depends on what format they requested, and in any case what format did they expect to get it in if not spreadsheet format?

But it is this triviality that Shollenberger deems a ‘big lie’ and summons Goebbels for. None of the substance of Mann’s point is addressed by him at all.

In any case, the file they received clearly is in spreadsheet format, it is a delimited text file that is practically the esperanto of spreadsheets. Furthermore it is a format that Excel readily understands:

opening pcproxy.txt in Excel

pcproxy.txt open in Excel

(updated 11 Mar to show a better method of opening the file in Excel)

Michael Mann: 12, Brandon Shollenberger: 0