Wednesday, September 24, 2014

All over, almost before it started. Michael Mann and what WUWT won't tell you

Update - see below. The WUWT report is now up.

I know that after my last article you'll all have been expecting a new conciliatory tone from Anthony Watts. Well maybe some of you were. Okay, fair enough. No-one was. And it looks as if no-one was wrong. Just as I was able to report some of John Cook's lecture where Anthony Watts, who was paid to attend, failed. Now I can report a bit more about Michael Mann's Cabot Institute lecture in the Victoria Rooms at the University of Bristol yesterday. Anthony hasn't even bothered to write one article about it, or not so far anyway. The lecture was called:

The Hockey Stick and the climate wars - the battle continues

Victoria Rooms, Michael Mann Lecture venue Credit: Katy Duke

Anthony hasn't reported back to his funding bodies but he has shot off a couple of tweets. He tweeted (somewhat deceptively):
Two things. Maybe three (the third being that Anthony can't count). You may recall, Leo Hickman was sitting right behind Anthony and from this tweet (and confirmed) Anthony didn't even attempt to ask a question. He didn't raise his hand once. Anthony chickened out again. That's why I say he was being deceptive. Leo Hickman tweeted:

And to be certain, I asked Leo Hickman if Anthony raised his hand to ask a question (and if James Delingpole did the same, though I figured the latter would be too ashamed after he embarrassed himself in front of the entire world). He replied:

Anthony's deflected any criticism of him not asking one of his "many" questions by claiming that Stephan Lewandowsky seemed to have "pre-selected" them. That's some conspiracy ideation. Not just "selected" but "pre-selected". Now questions came from the audience downstairs and upstairs on the balcony. Did Stephan know all the people who he selected? I'd be surprised if he knew who was who. He might have been able to make out one or two people. Unlikely, but possible. But all four? And "pre-selected'? (Remember, Professor Lewandowsky is relatively new to the UK. He's been in Australia and the USA and Canada, but he's only been at Bristol since last year.)

Michael Mann at Bristol Credit: Katy Duke
I wasn't at the lecture myself, but thanks to those who were there, I'm able to report some of the questions and answers. I can also report that it was a sell-out (or the equivalent, given there was no charge for attending.) A full house. Which doesn't surprise me one bit.

It sounded as if three of the four people asking Michael Mann a question didn't introduce themselves. Whether they were Dorothy Dixers or not (and I've been informed they were not), the questions weren't bad, but not as hard-hitting as Michael Mann or some in the audience would have liked. In particular, there didn't seem to be any questions from fake sceptics, which was probably a disappointment to Michael Mann and the organisers. They ran out of time to take more questions. In any case, I'm not surprised that Anthony was reluctant to be shown up as a something of an idiot.

Three questions were from women and one from a man. Here's a taste for those of us who weren't there.

One person asked about tipping points and Michael responded by giving some examples. He went on to explain how we will need to be aware that there will be different "points of no return". For example, the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. We don't know how quickly it will happen, but it is likely that we are already beyond the point of no return. Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than it was predicted only a few years ago. He said that knowing we've already passed some tipping points is no cause to give up because there are tipping points that we haven't yet crossed. So there is time to prevent them.

Someone asked if there was any argument that could be used to persuade "sceptics" of climate change. Professor Mann made the point that all scientists are sceptical, that scientific processes are designed to be self-correcting. As he said, the term "sceptic" has been misappropriated by people who don't apply sceptical analysis to their own arguments. That's denial, not scepticism. He pointed out that with a lot of science there is much debate and/or large uncertainty. For example, how is climate influencing the jet stream. He also made the point that uncertainty is not a reason for inaction. There is a lot of debate about details but no debate about the fact that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing climate change. Or that this is happening so quickly there will be little time to adapt.

There was one question from Alex Wilks from Avaaz, who asked about the "outrageous intimidation" to which Professor Mann's been subjected, and how it affected Dr Mann as a person. Secondly he asked whether he felt there was a "hockey stick" or surge in public interest in climate change again.

Michael Mann responded, referring to his "deepest and darkest" periods when he started to think about continuing or not, but on reflection, he wouldn't make any different choice. He considers himself blessed to be in the position he is in, being able to inform the public about climate change and the risks we are having to manage. He sees some very hopeful signs of renewed public support, referring, among other things, to the recent announcement by the Rockefeller Foundation that it is divesting its funds in fossil fuel industries.

Finally, where Michael Mann is, you're bound to find lots of hockey sticks, maybe even a hockey league :)
Michael Mann, Bristol Credit: Katy Duke

PS I think that the Cabot Institute has recorded Michael Mann's lecture and John Cook's lecture on video, and they will be released in a couple of weeks. If so, I'll let you know.

PPS Anthony's tweets could have been a lot worse. Maybe his scientific dinner did have some effect.

Disclaimer: I didn't attend either lecture. I've tried to be accurate but any errors in reporting are mine.


Anthony has finally written an article about Michael Mann's lecture. Or should I say he's copied and pasted a report from someone else who wrote about Michael Mann's lecture.

Their main complaint seemed to be that Professor Mann talked about "The Hockey Stick and the climate wars - the battle continues" instead of something else that they wanted (expected) him to talk about. Perhaps they should have read about the lecture topic before signing up. (Archive here.)

Sou 25 September 2014

From the WUWT comments

Ha ha. No article (yet) therefore no comments. I'll let you know if Anthony decides to report anything. Here's a link to the article and comments (archived copy).


  1. because on Friday I was sitting next to somebody who asked a very tough question?, though, i think the main reason very few questions were asked, because the institute director was wantingto get the book signing started (big queue formed), questions were only just warming up. Perhaps understandable to have a short Q/A because of this but disapointing

    Peoplesclimatemarch organsiser getting to ask long question/ make statement, was pure coincidence of course -

    I met Leo Hickman for first time, we talked before and corresponded, but never met, so that was good.

    This was more interesting to me

    [Sou: I've redacted Barry's link to WUWT. Click here to go to my article (why not? :D) about the article that Barry linked to. It's got links to an archived version of Barry's WUWT article.]

    1. Thanks, Barry. Sorry about redacting your link. Only archived versions allowed to WUWT etc (comment policy).

      I agree that the Avaaz guy used the opportunity to grandstand. Michael Mann's responses to his two questions were good to hear though.

  2. Actually "The Victoria Rooms" not Victoria House (first pic caption). And Barry is wrong about the queue, it was fairly short. I was in it with about four/five others quite some time after the talk ended, most people went out (ushered by the two security guards as explained by Richard Pancost). Michael had time to chat to each person in turn ans ask about our areas of interest.

    His lecture was longer than I expected and he had some great slides. Much about the science & some on the extreme weather events relevant to each country.

    1. Oops - Fixed. Great pics too. Thanks :)

    2. well wait for the video, the director of the institute - said no more questions, cutting them much shorter than at John Cook's event. as he said they wanted to move on with the book signing..
      he did say time pressure , as the rooms/building needed to be vacated by a certain time.

  3. The Lewandowsky thing is starting to look like a phobia: I wonder if Stephan's diagnosis had a significant impact on the viewing figures at denier websites.

  4. Sou said:

    PS I think that the Cabot Institute has recorded Michael Mann's lecture and John Cook's lecture on video, and they will be released in a couple of weeks. If so, I'll let you know.

    Yes please!

  5. I do think that at these kind of events the Q&A is an important part of the procedings, so if only four or five people got to ask questions it's a bit disappointing.

  6. More questions would have been good but time ran out. I'm sure MM wouldn't have minded some more feisty questions; the idea that nice questions were prearranged is a bit daft really. Tip for contrarians wanting to ask questions - put up your seemed to work for you on Friday with John Cook.

    1. Maybe they had run out of material. Perhaps even a denier wouldn't want to look stupid in the flesh by asking the same questions that they asked Cook. Looking stupid anonymously on the web is more their style.

  7. I can update with some info since I was there too (both talks).

    Mr Watts didn't put his hand up at either session. Since he was sitting in the front row at each event and I was a few rows back at each event this was easy to see. Not a big deal 'though. Personally I think he would have a very hard time asking a meaningful "contrarian" Q that wasn't rather easy to respond to.

    From my perspective not that many people did put their hands up last night and most of these were women - and they were the ones to ask Q’s mostly.

    The limited number of Q's was due (i) to most Qstioners sneaking in 2 Q’s and (b) Dr Mann being a little long-winded in his responses (despite prefacing the Q/A session with a suggestion that he would try to be brief in his responses!).

    The woman who asked about tipping points also asked whether there was any relationship between science denial and the evangelical Xystian movement in the US. Dr. Mann responded that this particular grouping was divided with one group being on the rather far-right and aligning with science-denial and the other having the rather more Christian ethos of stewardship.

    A young woman asked what individuals can do in their personal lives to help address the problem of man-made climate change and whether this is a meaningful contribution. This Q is rather conducive to a long reply and Dr. Mann's reply was long but also quite enlightening.

    Alex Wilk's (who he?) supplementary Q was rather more specifically about the Climate Marches and whether these and similar are perceived to have had an effect. Dr Mann responded that one can't really tell yet, 'though there are hopeful signs (such as the Rockefeller Foundation deciding to stop funding anti-science organizations).

    My feeling from the first (John Cook) talk is that Q's from the "pseudosceptics" are in reality rather banal and easily fielded, and I wonder whether that problem is the reason that in the end not many of these seemed to want to risk a Q in the last night's talk.

    note, BTW, that despite the apparent "profundity" of the occurrence of these talks and the hoo-haw raised in the blogosphere about the delicious subversiveness of turning up and "showing these darned scientists a thing or two with killer questions", in reality they were like any number of public talks given by the University in the Victoria Rooms with a broad mix of local people interested in science and current affairs, University people, retired folk and so on. The main difference was that there were police/security in attendance. That rather threw me at last week's talk and being quite naive it only dawned on me well into the Dr. Cook talk that there was actually some potential for argy-bargy particularly so if one goes back and reads some of the rather creepy bluster from the "eggers-on" on various blogs.

    apols for the long post..

    1. Thanks, Anon. I said way back when I was writing about Anthony's announcement that he was going to the UK, that it seemed as if neither he nor most of his readers had much of clue about public lectures at universities, which as you say, are held all the time. (At least I think I said something like that. I know I thought it.)

      Here in Australia when there are high profile speakers who are controversial, security is beefed up a bit. Though that's usually for when politicians talk - not so much scientists. Climate science these days can generate as much emotion as politics and religion - not to forget sport. (In the US, I hear that evolution deniers can get pretty worked up, too.)

    2. Just to add, Michael Mann does a lot of public speaking AFAIK. That was the other odd thing. That people would travel from the USA to the UK to hear him - or should I say to play "gotcha" (and then chickening out). Why not in the USA? Cheaper and easier I'd have thought.

      John Cook goes to North America from time to time, too.

      It really was all very odd the way that Anthony and co carried on.

    3. That people would travel from the USA to the UK to hear him - or should I say to play "gotcha" (and then chickening out). Why not in the USA? Cheaper and easier I'd have thought.

      Michael Mann has spoken in California several times over the past few years, which would have provided Anthony with multiple opportunities to ask his "many" questions without having to go through trouble of even getting on an airplane. -- Dennis

    4. It needs to be recognized that the University has an obligation and policy to look after the public and their own buildings at a large public event after business hours. There were a few unarmed security folks in hi-vis vests there who were _outside_ the lecture hall and whose explicit brief was _not_ to interfere with any discussion, debate, or even heckling and other forms of protest. Rich announced their presence at the beginning, together with the fire exits and so on. You know, with 650 people in a large hall, we have to tell them where the exits are and the hallways, and how you get out quickly. (Tedious, I know, just like the oxygen masks and fitting buckles into clasps before takeoff). Concerning the selection of questions, I recommend Leviston, Z.; Walker, I. & Morwinski, S. Your opinion on climate change might not be as common as you think Nature Climate Change, 2013, 3, 334-337.

    5. Thanks, Stephan.

      Re Leviston et al, There doesn't seem to be a full pdf available on-line, but here's a direct link to the journal article.

      I recall you cited it in the Recursive Fury paper, too.

  8. Michael Mann linked to this article from his facebook page.

    1. Of course he links a blog about the "deniosphere, its weird pseudo-science and crazy conspiracy whoppers."

      If you're wondering why Australia axed the whole program, look around your blog.

    2. If you're wondering about that, look at Abbott's friends.

    3. Yeah, Dave could have pointed out where to look "around your blog". for example:

  9. So Delingpole, Montford and Watts were all there and none of them raised a hand to ask a question. Their excuse? There was no point as the Q&A were fixed. CONSPIRACY!!

    So much for Watts' 'polite discourse pays off'

    I note in the comments ref the dinner party the acolytes praising Watts as clearly "dominating the table" - they clearly think he's God or Elvis (possibly both)

    1. "dominating the table"

      I think they mean table dancing.

  10. Regarding Q selection: Tony Rogers says:

    (I provide no link here but you know where to find this..)

    "I was astonished to see Lewandowsky acting as Mann’s point man. During the Q & A session he was very interesting to watch. One guy in the front row (presumeably a sceptic) had his hand in the air before anyone else. Lewandowsky stood directly in front of him about five feet away and scrupulously ignored him! He managed to avoid eye contact for the entire Q & A session while pretending to be giving serious consideration to who to select next before pointing out the next questioner to the lady with the microphone. Embarrassing to watch!"

    1. Ha ha - thanks for that. Is that from WUWT? Beautiful.

      I love the paranoid language, MC becomes "point man", and the emotive stuff - "embarrassing to watch", plus the mind-reading "presumably a sceptic".

      Plus the unspoken assignation of superpowers to Stephan Lewandowsky who he presumably thinks knew every fake sceptic in the room by sight. Or maybe that he can spot a fake sceptic just by looking at them. Supershrink :)

      Anything to support Anthony's conspiracy theories, eh?

    2. Perhaps - to be generous - the man was dribbling down his shirt: which I accept would be indicative of a faux sceptic.

  11. This has all been very nice and interesting, but when can we start raising a little hell?

    "Surely you're joking Mr. Weingarten - updated with invite"

    Ben Weingarten }


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