The Climate Inquisitor

  • Date: 30/04/14
  • Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review Online

Michael Mann has taken it upon himself to try to suppress debate and to silence “irrational” and “virulent” critics.

“Everyone is in favor of free speech,” Winston Churchill once wrote. “Hardly a day passes without its being extolled.” And yet, he added dryly, “some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

This aphorism, generally applicable as it is, could easily have been issued to describe the attitude of one Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist and opponent of free inquiry who is currently suing National Review for libel. 

Mann, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University, rose to prominence for his “hockey stick,” a graph that purports to depict global temperature trends between the years a.d. 1000 and 2000. The graph takes its name from its shape, which shows a mostly flat line of temperature data from the year 1000 until about 1900 (the handle of the hockey stick), followed by a sharp uptick over the 20th century (the blade). Based on this graph and related research, Mann has built a noisy public career sounding the alarm over global warming — a plague, he argues, that has been visited upon the Earth as a result of mankind’s sinful penchant for fossil fuels.

In the course of his evangelizing, Mann has shown little tolerance for heretics. A recent op-ed he penned for the New York Times is illustrative. “If You See Something, Say Something,” the headline blares, mimicking New York subway warnings and suggesting a not-so-subtle parallel between the dangers of global-warming “denial” and the murderous terrorism that brought down the Twin Towers. In the opening paragraph of the piece, Mann castigates his critics as “a fringe minority of our populace” who “cling [...] to an irrational rejection of well-established science.” These aristarchs, Mann contends, represent a “virulent strain of anti-science [that] infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV, leading to the appearance of a debate where none should exist.” Alas, such comparisons are commonplace. In the rough and tumble of debate, climate-change skeptics are routinely recast as climate-change deniers, an insidious echo of the phrase “Holocaust deniers” and one that has been contrived with no purpose other than to exclude the speaker from polite society.

Secure as he appears to be in his convictions, Mann has nonetheless taken it upon himself to try to suppress debate and to silence some of the “irrational” and “virulent” critics, who he claims have nothing of substance to say. To this end, Mann has filed a lawsuit against National Review. Our offense? Daring to publish commentary critical of his hockey-stick graph and disapproving of his hectoring mien.

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