Sou has a recent post about why scientists talk to contrarians. This all started when Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) reported on a talk by Rob Wilson. In this talk Rob discussed the analysis used by Michael Mann and colleagues to produce their millennial temperature construction, now referred to as the hockey stick. Rob also referred to some of Michael Mann’s recent work as a “crock of xxxx”.
To a certain extent, this whole exchange rather confused me as I had thought that the basic hockey stick had been replicated a number of different times in a number of different ways. I wrote a post about this confusion (Hockey Sticks and things) and a number of people who appear to be experts in millennial temperature reconstructions, including Rob Wilson, responded to clarify the position. Although there are still uncertainties and disagreements about some of the details, the basic picture seems robust. There was a medieval warm period (that may have been similar to today, but may not have been global), a gradual cooling towards the little ice age, and then the modern warming. Millennial temperature reconstructions continue to produce a hockey stick-like shape.
So, although there may have been some issues with the original Mann analysis (not surprising, given that it was an early attempt at such a detailed reconstruction) the basic picture has not changed much in 15 years. Rob Wilson then commented on the Bishop Hill post to make clear that
the “crock of xxxx” statement was focussed entirely on recent work By Michael Mann w.r.t. hypothesised missing rings in tree-ring records (a whole bunch of papers listed below). Although a rather flippant statement, I stand by it and Mann is well aware of my criticisms (privately and through the peer reviewed literature) of his recent work.
So, the “crock of xxxx” statements refers only to the recent work by Michael Mann on missing rings in the tree-ring record and not to his work that produced the hockey stick. Good, that’s very clear. However, two Bishop Hill posts later, we get the following cartoon (yes, I know I probably shouldn’t show it, but it’s part of the narrative)
Essentially, a scientist who willingly engages on Bishop Hill refers to Michael Mann’s work as a “crock of xxxx” – but makes it very clear that this refers only to his recent work on missing tree-rings and not to his hockey stick – and the site then promotes a cartoon that very clearly links the “crock of xxxx” statement to the hockey stick.
As far as I can tell, this appears to be a very obvious mis-representation of what was said about Michael Mann’s work and is an illustration of why myself (and others, I think) are confused about what some hope to gain from engaging on such sites. Why would you be happy engaging on such sites only to find that they then mis-represent what you say. Furthermore, Michael Mann is a bit of flashpoint, so why wouldn’t those who engage on contrarian sites at least try to be careful about what they say about his work. I’m not suggesting that he should be treated specially, it just seems that maybe people should put a bit of care into making sure that what they say isn’t mis-interpreted. It’s one thing to criticise someone’s work, it’s another to do so in a way that then likely leads to unnecessary attacks on that person’s credibility (unless, of course, you think that’s warranted).
To be clear, though, I don’t think that those who engage on contrarian sites need to justify themselves to me or to anyone else, nor do they need to explain their motives. All I’m really trying to illustrate here is why some, like myself, are confused about what they hope to achieve by engaging on such sites. Personally, I’m in favour of trying to engage with those who are “skeptical” about climate science, I’m just not in favour of doing so in a way that ultimately just seems to provide more ammunition for them to then use to undermine the scientific evidence.