Will Yet Another Hockey Stick Silence Deniers?

August 11, 2020

Of course not.


An extensive new multi-proxy database of paleo-temperature time series (Temperature 12k) enables a more robust analysis of global mean surface temperature (GMST) and associated uncertainties than was previously available. We applied five different statistical methods to reconstruct the GMST of the past 12,000 years (Holocene). Each method used different approaches to averaging the globally distributed time series and to characterizing various sources of uncertainty, including proxy temperature, chronology and methodological choices. The results were aggregated to generate a multi-method ensemble of plausible GMST and latitudinal-zone temperature reconstructions with a realistic range of uncertainties. The warmest 200-year-long interval took place around 6500 years ago when GMST was 0.7 °C (0.3, 1.8) warmer than the 19thCentury (median, 5th, 95th percentiles). Following the Holocene global thermal maximum, GMST cooled at an average rate −0.08 °C per 1000 years (−0.24, −0.05). The multi-method ensembles and the code used to generate them highlight the utility of the Temperature 12k database, and they are now available for future use by studies aimed at understanding Holocene evolution of the Earth system.

Michael Mann in Newsweek:

Those of us on the front lines of the climate wars know how it feels. For decades, we’ve been under assault by politicians and fossil fuel attack dogs because of the inconvenient nature of our science—science that demonstrates the reality of climate change.

I have received death threats, and endured a multitude of attacks from conservative media outlets, Republican congressmen and attorneys general, all because of the “Hockey Stick” graph my co-authors and I published more than two decades ago. The Hockey Stick demonstrated the devastating effect burning fossil fuels has on our planet—and therefore threatened those profiting off them. So they sought to discredit my science and me personally, while orchestrating a campaign of vilification against climate scientists like me.

Now, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, represents a threat to Donald Trump. Fauci’s prescription (and that of the mainstream public health community)—continued social distancing to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic—is undeniably in the best public interest, and the economy cannot recover until the virus is under control. Yet Trump believes he needs results fast to win re-election, and so he is ignoring Fauci’s advice and reopening the economy as the United States surpasses 5 million cases and 160,000 deaths.

It is sadly unsurprising that Fauci, too, has found himself at the receiving end of death threats. It’s the logical conclusion of a concerted, months-long disinformation campaign by Trump supported by Republicans and conservative news organizations. As Steve Schmidt, former presidential campaign co-adviser for the late Senator John McCain, put it: “The injury done to America and the public good by Fox News and a bevy of personalities from Limbaugh to Ingraham…will be felt for many years in this country as we deal with the death and economic damage that didn’t have to be.”

Fox News and other right-wing media have resorted to orchestrated character attacks against Fauci, simply because he refused to act as a rubber stamp for Trump’s most misguided coronavirus policy gambits. Media Matters described the phenomenon: “Despite his credibility established over decades as a public health official, right-wing media have begun to launch attacks against [him], blaming the medical expert for allegedly harming the economy and undermining President Donald Trump.”

Central to the campaign to vilify our leading public health official during a pandemic has been Tucker Carlson. The Fox News host has used his nightly program to denounce Fauci as a “flawed” individual who is “maybe even more off-base than your average epidemiologist.” Carlson complained that Fauci “has become one of the most powerful people in the world” and even claimed he could become a “dictator for the duration of this crisis.” One is struck by the ironic mendacity of these accusations, given that they are true for Trump rather than Fauci.

We see other remarkable parallels between the right-wing coronavirus and climate change disinformation campaigns. Mirroring the “climategate” smear campaign of 2010, wherein fossil fuel interests and their abettors sought to discredit climate scientists by misrepresenting their words and phrases from stolen emails, the Trump administration went so far as to circulate an opposition research document cherry-picking and misrepresenting Fauci’s past statements in an effort to discredit him as a scientist and as a messenger.

When it comes to the agenda of inactivism, we once again witness the transition from denial to false solutions, and then, eventually, to “it’s good for us.” That took decadeswith climate deniers, but with coronavirus it happened in a matter of weeks. As former CBS News anchor Dan Rather noted: “After years when we should have learned of the dangers of ‘false equivalence,’ it baffles me that we are seeing a framing that pits the health of our citizens against some vague notion of getting back to work.” I noted, in turn, that it’s “not unlike the false equivalence…that pits the health of our entire planet against some vague notion of economic prosperity.”

Those of us on the front lines of the climate battle recognize that the stakes are too high for us to submit to the politically motivated forces of inaction. As I wrote several years ago in The New York Times:

“There is nothing inappropriate at all about drawing on our scientific knowledge to speak out about the very real implications of our research. If scientists choose not to engage in the public debate, we leave a vacuum that will be filled by those whose agenda is one of short-term self-interest. There is a great cost to society if scientists fail to participate in the larger conversation—if we do not do all we can to ensure that the policy debate is informed by an honest assessment of the risks. In fact, it would be an abrogation of our responsibility to society if we remained quiet in the face of such a grave threat.”

It’s clear that Fauci and other health professionals who continue to speak out, despite the attacks against them, recognize that as well. It is critical that they continue to fight back against the forces of disinformation. As I recently told CNN’s Bill Weir, “If there is a silver lining, it is that the failure of the current administration to respond meaningfully to the pandemic lays bare the deadliness of ideologically motivated science denial. This applies to the even greater crisis of human-caused climate change and the need to treat it as the emergency it is.”

6 Responses to “Will Yet Another Hockey Stick Silence Deniers?”

  1. Joyce.Lanning Says:

    Thanks for all your posts – and especially for this one. It so clearly shows the damage done when perceived political advantage promotes dangerous targeting of the messengers providing scientifically sound – but unwelcome – analysis.

  2. grindupbaker Says:

    Ironically enough, when I saw 6 proxies covering ~1700-~1900 in a climate scientist talk the one showing the least warming was including Mann (2008 if memory serves) and perhaps it actually showed minuscule cooling 1735-65 – 1850-1900 but my memory’s foggy on that. That talk one is the one I measured to determine +0.14 degrees +/- 0.18 degrees 1735-65 – 1850-1900 but the +/- 0.18 degrees is also foggy (very much like that anyway). The +/- 0.18 degrees is what facilitates the cherry picking of course.

  3. grindupbaker Says:

    Bill Ruddiman’s proxy science analysis of that above “warmest 200-year-long interval took place around 6500 years ago when GMST was 0.7 °C (0.3, 1.8) warmer than theCO2 at 6,000 BP 19thCentury” (that it would naturally have been 1.2 °C, not 0.7 °C) CH4 at 4,000 BP he explains at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqoh1jTBCh4 (posted by “Understanding Climate Change”). That’s well worth a watch/listen while eating dinner.

    • grindupbaker Says:

      ” theCO2 at 6,000 BP 19thCentury” (that it would naturally have been 1.2 °C, not 0.7 °C) CH4 at 4,000 BP”
      ” the 19thCentury” (that it would naturally have been 1.2 °C, not 0.7 °C) due to +CO2 at 6,000 BP, +CH4 at 4,000 BP”

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    Will Yet Another Hockey Stick Silence Deniers?

    Short answer—-NO—-not until we see some major global-wide catastrophes that simply cannot be denied.

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