It was just about a decade ago that Nate Silver asked me to join his rebooted 538 at ABC. Nate asked if I’d write on climate and I asked if I could also write on sport governance. Deal!
You can see in the image below — from a puff piece in Time published a few weeks before 538’s relaunch — above Nate’s left shoulder is the list of scheduled 538 pieces on Science. At the top of the list is “Climate Change Disasters,” referring to my first piece for 538. [emphasis, links added]
After my piece was published, Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change (which remains excellent a decade later), the Center for American Progress, a progressive advocacy group funded by billionaire Tom Steyer, organized a campaign to have me removed as a writer for 538 — as later was famously revealed in the 2016 Wikileaks release of John Podesta’s hacked emails.
A key player in CAP’s ultimately successful campaign against me was the famous and celebrated climate scientist Michael E. Mann, who joined with the Center for American Progress in falsely claiming to 538 that I had threatened to sue him — Deeply ironic, I know.
Today, based on documents from the ongoing civil case that Mann has brought against two of his critics, I can reveal smoking-gun evidence of Mann’s efforts to manipulate peer review of a paper that I had co-authored in 2007.
I only learned of this recently, and in the interests of transparency about shenanigans that have occurred in climate science, I am sharing this bit of history with you today.
A long time ago, I chronicled the ongoing debates over the famous “Hockey Stick” on my first blog, Prometheus.
At the height of these debates, which took place on the dueling blogs Real Climate and Climate Audit, I encouraged both Michael Mann and his chief protagonist Steve McIntyre to collaborate on a piece that would highlight areas of agreement and disagreement and to publish the discussion in a peer-reviewed journal.
It would be good for the community and perhaps take some of the vitriol out of the blog debate. McIntyre agreed and Mann did not.
On his blog, McIntyre occasionally explored data issues in climate science beyond the “Hockey Stick.” McIntyre is a sophisticated statistician and in 2006 had posted some interesting analyses of hurricane data related to my work.
I contacted Steve and asked if he’d like to collaborate on a peer-reviewed paper based on my research, his blog posts, and a scientific presentation that he gave at the 2006 meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
McIntyre agreed and we collaborated on a paper that we submitted to Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). Nothing in this paper (which you can find linked at the bottom of this post) had anything to do with Michael Mann or the “Hockey Stick.”
Our paper documented a trend in the median longitude of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic, and it was the first paper to rigorously document and explore this trend.
Our abstract starts:
We report here on long-term trends present in data on North Atlantic (NATL) tropical cyclones. We document a movement to the east in reported Atlantic tropical cyclones resulting in a change in median longitude from 77W at the start of the 20th century to current 63W.
The figures below show our main results for trends in five different regions of the North Atlantic.
There are no trends in the western three regions, which is consistent with there being no trend in U.S. hurricane landfalls, all of the basin-wide trend was in the eastern regions. Interesting!
Much to my surprise, this paper (which I hadn’t thought of in years) showed up in McIntyre’s 2020 deposition as part of Mann’s current lawsuit.
McIntyre was asked:
Did you prepare a paper with Roger Pielke, Jr. entitled “Decreased proportions of tropical cyclone landfalls in the United States” in or around of February 2007?
Prior to submitting our paper to GRL in February 2007, we had — as is customary and proper — shared the paper with several colleagues for comments and suggestions.
Michael Mann was not one of those colleagues.
These colleagues were Kerry Emanuel, Greg Holland, and Peter Webster, three people who I knew at the time would be predisposed against my work, and chosen for exactly that reason, in the expectation that their critical comments would help us to make our paper stronger.
Somehow, our presubmission paper landed in the hands of Mann.
The figure below, from McIntyre’s 2020 deposition, describes an email from Mann to several of his colleagues that was written four days before we submitted our paper to GRL.
In Mann’s email, “Famiglietti” refers to the editor of GRL at the time, Prof. James Famiglietti.
Mann’s email reveals that he had contacted the editor of the journal to which we were submitting our paper and had directed him to assign our paper to hostile reviewers. Mann writes that he fully expected Famiglietti to obey his directive:
I can promise you that Famiglietti follows my recommendation…
There is absolutely nothing about this behavior that is ethical or acceptable in the practice of science.
Of course, our paper was rejected. Famiglietti wrote us to tell us that:
I cannot consider your manuscript further for publication in Geophysical Research Letters…
The two reviews were among the nastiest I have ever received over 35 years of publishing hundreds of peer-reviewed papers.
One reviewer wrote:
The statistical analysis is fraudulent … outlandish
Another wrote (notice the names cited here, I sure did):
Indeed, the paper reads more like a poorly constructed commentary on Mann and Emanuel (2006) and Holland and Webster (2007a) than a piece of original scientific work…
I am not even able to recommend resubmission to focus on a specific point of merit, as there is not one… I could continue on with specific criticisms here, but quite frankly the paper is not worth the effort.
Whether our paper should have been published or not is not the issue. At the time I chalked it up to bad luck, assuming we just randomly were assigned some angry reviewers, as the paper was pretty good.
We now know that it wasn’t just bad luck — a climate scientist intervened in the peer-reviewed publication process by requesting that an editor assign hostile reviewers such that the paper “won’t stand a chance.”
The editor may or may not have followed Mann’s directive, as the identities of the reviewers are unknown — though from the style and content of the reviews, it seems to me likely that [the editor] did.
An interesting postscript — later in 2007 well after our paper had been rejected, a short commentary on hurricanes appeared in the AGU periodical EOS.
That commentary included a claim remarkably similar to the main thesis of our paper that was rejected by GRL, emphasis added below:
However, the reported [hurricane] genesis locations are expanding eastward with time along with the greater rate of SST warming in the eastern portion of the tropical Atlantic.
The lead author of that paper was Michael Mann, and his co-authors were Kerry Emanuel, Greg Holland, and Peter Webster — three of the four hostile reviewers he had directed the GRL editors to review our paper.
The Honest Broker is written by climate expert Roger Pielke Jr and is reader-supported. If you value what you have read here, please consider subscribing and supporting his work.
About RPJ: Roger Pielke Jr. has been a professor at the University of Colorado since 2001. Previously, he was a staff scientist in the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He has degrees in mathematics, public policy, and political science, and is the author of numerous books. (Amazon).
Read more at The Honest Broker
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