EXCLUSIVE: Michael Mann responds to Rep. Barton

Bad Astronomy
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Oct. 14 2010 6:00 AM

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Mann responds to Rep. Barton

earthonfireLast week, climate scientist Michael Mann wrote an OpEd in the Washington Post defending himself against attacks by ideologically-driven climate change deniers.

On Tuesday, the Post ran a "rebuttal" of sorts by Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX). In it, Barton grossly mischaracterizes Dr. Mann's research and motivations. Go ahead and take a moment to read it.

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Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Mann sent a letter to the Post asking for a chance to defend himself against Barton's slurs. The Post declined: if they allowed this sort of thing, it would go on forever, in a "he said/she said" war of words. I can understand that decision, but it doesn't mean Mann has to remain quiet. I was contacted on behalf of Mann by the Union of Concerned Scientists, asking if I would run the letter from Mann that the Post declined.

Of course I would. Here it is, in its entirety:

I recently wrote an essay arguing that politicians should stop attacking scientists. Rep. Joe Barton’s response was to write a letter attacking me yet again. He continues to misrepresent my research, insult my character and spread misinformation about climate science.

Barton deeply mischaracterizes a 2006 National Academy of Sciences report on past climates. He wrongly equates the report’s conclusions regarding how to further advance the science with a criticism of my scientific conclusions. As the Post noted ("Study Confirms Past Few Decades Warmest on Record", June 2, 2006 [link]), the academy study backed up the conclusions my colleagues and I reached more than a decade ago about the unprecedented nature of modern climate change. So have more than a dozen independent studies since.

Tellingly, Barton calls my research in this area "global warming projections." But such projections use models to predict future climate changes. They have nothing at all to do with the research Barton has attacked my colleagues and me for, which use real world data to reconstruct past climate changes.

After six years of these attacks, is it possible that Barton cannot even identify the nature of our work?

Rep. Barton apologized to former BP CEO Tony Hayward after the company was required to pay for damage from the Gulf oil leak. He should apologize to me and my colleagues too, but I won’t be holding my breath.

-- Michael E. Mann, the author of "Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming," is a professor in the meteorology department at Penn State University and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center.

The Honorable Barton's editorial is already getting ripped to shreds in various venues, such as on Deep Climate here, the DeSmogBlog, and here, as well as in the comments of the editorial itself. I would categorize Congressman Barton's editorial to be dissembling at best: Mann doesn't want to suppress questioning of scientific research. In fact, he knows, as we all do, that science thrives when it's questioned. It's how we learn.

But what's going on in Congress is not an evidence-based query, it's a politically-driven attack on science.

It's not exactly a subtle distinction.

joe_bartonI'll note that Representative Barton has the distinction of being the Congressman who received the highest amount of lobby dollars from the oil and gas industry -- 1.7 million dollars over the past 20 years. As Mann mentions, you may remember Barton as the Congressman who shamefully apologized to BP executive Tony Hayward after that company dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico (and then issued a non-apology about it). He is a notorious global warming denier and exactly the sort of person Dr. Mann is warning us about in his Post editorial.

And I'll remind you, every single one of the Republican Senate hopefuls this election season is against taking any action about climate change.

Congressman Barton, if you read this -- and I certainly hope you do -- I will point you to your own words in your editorial: "I think Mr. Mann is entitled to make up his own mind, but not his own truth." That is ironic indeed, given that this is precisely what you have been doing for a long, long time. The actual truth is clear: the climate is changing, the globe is warming, and all the denying, all the noise, all the letter writing you can do will not change those simple facts.

You are not fighting a political battle, you are fighting against reality itself. And if you win, we will all lose.



Related posts:

About Barton:

About Mann:

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