Experts on opposing sides of the global-warming debate are now squaring off against each other over a satirical Internet video.
On one side is Dr. Michael Mann, professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, who has been ensnared in the Climategate scandal. He is threatening to sue Minnesotans for Global Warming (M4GW) after the group produced a satirical video called “Hide the Decline,” which features Mann’s face and makes fun of his scientific findings, and accuses him of covering up evidence of an apparent decline in temperatures over the past decade.
On the other side is Dr. Patrick Michaels, a contributing author and reviewer on the U.N.’s 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a well-known skeptic of global-warming alarmism. At a National Press Club press conference Tuesday, Michaels criticized Mann for having “very, very, very thin skin.”
The notion that a professor would file a lawsuit over a satirical video “is just quite shocking,” said Dr. Michaels.
Dr. Mann is perhaps most famous for his “hockey stick graph” which showed that mean global temperature changes, which had remained stable for the past millennium, spiked dramatically during the 20th Century. Mann was also involved in controversial e-mails between climate experts, which sat at the center of the Climategate scandal.
“Makin’ up data the old hard way, Fudgin’ the numbers day by day, Ignoring the snow and the cold and a downward line, Hide the decline (hide the decline),” reads the song in the video’s background, critical of Dr. Mann’s alleged manipulation of climate data.
The “Hide the Decline” video garnered more than 500,000 viewers and was featured on the CBS Evening News as well as on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.
Dr. Mann’s lawyer sent a letter, dated March 8, to the video’s makers demanding that they “cease and desist any and all use of Dr. Mann’s likeness, which you have misappropriated in various videos posted on your webpage.”
The letter claimed that use of Dr. Mann’s image, from the Penn State University website, infringed upon copyright laws, and also that the video’s message constituted defamation. “The referenced video clearly defames Professor Mann by leaving viewers with the incorrect impression that he falsified data to generate desired results in connection with his research activities,” the letter states.
However, Dr. Michaels pointed out that Dr. Mann did not manipulate the data, as the video seemed to assert, but used techniques that were conducive to the conclusions he drew.
“Mike did not fudge data,” Dr. Michaels said. “He used a technique that, because of the mean period that was referenced to, was likely to give the result that it gave.” Dr. Mann simply “analyzed [the data] in an interesting way,” Dr. Michaels said.
Dr. Michaels criticized other professors over their disregard for scientific method when it involves global warming.
Michaels brought up a number of instances where experts conspired to attack scientific journals for publishing the views of global warming skeptics. He used e-mails between professors to prove his point.
One of the e-mails read, “If you think that (name) is in the Greenhouse skeptics camp, then if we can find documentary evidence of this, we could go through the official American Geophysical Union channels to get him ousted.”
“When you play with the peer-review process, you’re playing with the canon of scientific truth,” Dr. Michaels stated. “It displays a mindset that is very troubling.”
In response to an e-mail where one colleague expressed his wishes to “beat the crap” out of Dr. Michaels, Michaels emphasized that “the thing that characterizes the Climategate troupe is remarkably thin skin. And that’s what no one here understands…we have had the crap beat out of us in public. We know we’re public figures.”
Dr. Michaels added that it was “unbelievable” that professors would react so strongly to papers published that are contrary to their theories on climate change.
The No Cap-and-Trade Coalition, a larger group of which M4GW is a part, created another video named “Hide the Decline 2” and screened it at the press conference. The new video does not feature the actual face of Dr. Mann, but features a replica of his image in various green balloons within the film.
And if Dr. Mann decides to bring a lawsuit against the coalition for the new video? “Bring it on,” said the coalition’s founder Jeff Davis.
“If Doctor Mann decides to sue,” said Davis, “we would welcome the opportunity to do legal discovery. I believe he’s hiding more than just ‘the decline.’”
Davis thought Dr. Mann’s reaction to the first video was “completely frivolous,” and said that as a public figure and an expert, Dr. Mann needs to be open to criticism.
“We believe Dr. Mann’s claims are groundless for three basic reasons,” Davis stated. “First, he’s a public figure, and fair game for public discussion, including satirical criticism.”
“Secondly, defamation requires the claim to be false. In this case, Dr. Mann’s hockey-stick chart, which is the primary subject of the ‘Hide the Decline’ video, is discredited by numerous sources…. Finally, the ‘Hide the Decline’ is satirical political speech, and therefore protected under our Constitution, under the First Amendment.”