Polar Opposites… Or Not

Both the followers of the mainstream view of climate change and their opponents have heroes–for example, James Hansen and Michael Mann are lauded for their part in articulating the consensus, Judith Curry and Steve McIntyre for explicating the position on the other side of the fence.

What’s perhaps surprising is how thoroughly detested each of these people are by their opponents. Skeptics won’t say a nice word about James Hansen, who is a respected climate scientist who has contributed a lot to our knowledge. (I can understand why Mann is disliked–I’m a bit puzzled why he is defended so fiercely, to be honest.) My sympathies do lie with Mr. Hansen, who is now being equally reviled by those to the left of him for his support of nuclear power and his condemnation of the Paris COP 21 meeting as a trivial exercise yielding nothing concrete.

Similarly, Judith Curry, a respected climate scientist who has contributed a lot to our knowledge, is reviled by climate activists and called a denier by Michael Mann. Steve McIntyre is loathed, not for any element of his personality, but because his criticisms of some pieces of activist science were so to the point that it may have helped stop the stampede towards wholesale acceptance of activist policies.

If anyone is looking for evidence that the climate debate is not about science, the hostility engendered by these individuals surely qualifies. In World War 2 the Allies respected Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox and the Axis held similar respect for George Patton. The idea that policy opponents on climate change should be compared to evil characters of mythic proportions and assaulted on every front shows that no rational thought is pursued in the climate change Arena of Destruction.

With the possible exception of Mann, who really seems a bit unsavory, the figures being assailed are quite obviously persons of good will, good intentions and high accomplishment. (And it would be easy to replace Mann on the pedestal with any one of a number of scientific figures as praiseworthy as James Hansen.) They have stood up for a point of view, put their reputations on the line and worked very hard to make their views and the reasoning (and science) behind those views known to all. Truth be told, although partisans do detest these figures, either side would welcome the defection of their opponents.

Both the skeptical and activist sides of the climate debate are fortunate to have those figures as opponents. It keeps you sharp and keeps your arguments on a proper plane. If you don’t succumb to the easy temptation of demonization. The Lukewarmers I know look to each of the three with respect and have learned from each of them. (Mann, I believe, is as detested by Lukewarmers almost as much as by skeptics.)

On an issue as important as climate change, with the money to be made or lost and the stakes in play this high, each side should be glad to have worthy opponents.




16 responses to “Polar Opposites… Or Not

  1. I won’t say Hansen is a bad scientist. I found his book interesting and I don’t even completely discount his fear that Earth could turn into Venus. But he’s a bit self important and has contributed to the polarization with his call for oil executive tribunals.

  2. Not so certain about your assumptions
    Check out the blog post at Bishop Hill blog regarding Seitz and read the comments. Something significant happened in the academic community basically without much fanfare

  3. The criticism against Mann and Hansen is directed at their behavior. Mann is a repugnant attack dog who barks at anything that moves. Hansen is an activist who gets himself arrested for violating other people’s rights.

    On the other hand McIntyre and Curry are exemplary human beings who are criticized mainly for their positions and opinions.

    BIG, BIG, BIG difference.

    • Hi AI,

      Well, you’re not going to find a bigger fan of either Curry or Mac than I am. I like their public personae and think they’ve done a great service.

      But Hansen undoubtedly feels the same about his work. He’s just on the other side of the fence.

      • I don’t have any problem with Hansen’s opinions, it is his behavior I find objectionable. If Judith Curry got herself arrested for disrupting the Paris Conference, I would object to her behavior too.

  4. I, for one, have never understood the praise and awards heaped on Hansen.

    When he’s not playing (as he apparently has at least four times) juvenile attention-seeking games – such as getting himself arrested – he’s always struck me as being a Caspar Milquetoast kinda guy who revels in sulking and/or stomping his feet, when he doesn’t get his own way. To my mind, such behaviours are somewhat reminiscent of the actions of an only child who never outgrew his childhood as an utterly spoilt brat!

    As far as I have been able to ascertain, Hansen has no siblings. Or if he does, they’ve certainly – and understandably, IMHO – succeeded in keeping themselves well-hidden from any of Hansen’s self-glorifying bio-notes cf his:




    Interestingly enough, there is no mention in either of the above of his activist-in-attention-seeking-action-mode arrests.

    When Hansen was in Vancouver (circa February 2012) for a gathering of the great and the good of the AAAS, I watched his public performance which, in my view, was far from impressive. As I had written at the time:

    FWIW, my overall impression is that [Hans] Rosling and [Olivia] Judson far outshone Hansen. The latter struck me as being quite uncomfortable and very much out of his element – but he was granted the last word. And I’ll give you three guesses as to what Hansen’s final “message” might have been … the first two don’t count 😉
    [Hansen:] “we have a planetary emergency and ppl don’t recognize this”

    Alas, the powers that be at the AAAS – perhaps for reasons best known only to themselves – seem to have either moved or removed this video from their readily available (and previously linked) archives of this momentous webcast. Pity, eh?!

    • Hiya Hilary

      You good folks on the skeptic side have no hope of beating the faux consensus until such time as you can understand how they view themselves. You don’t have to accept their self portraits. You do have to understand it.

      • Sorry, Tom … Seems to me you’re striving for what strikes me as being a very superficial balancing act. You have claimed that Hansen is a:

        respected climate scientist who has contributed a lot to our knowledge

        Perhaps you could enlighten me by sharing your insights into Hansen’s specific “contributions to our knowledge” that are “deserving of our respect”.

        And, just because I’m curious, does the level of respect you accord him mean that one should overlook Hansen’s four documented instances of (IMHO) juvenile attention-seeking law-breaking activities?!

        To be honest, my primary interest in the climate wars derives from the antics and word-salads of the likes of UNEP/WMO/UNFCCC honchos, such as (for example) the UNEP’s Achim Steiner, WMO’s Michel <There.Is.No.Pause> Jarraud, and the UNFCCC’s Christiana <Tinkerbell> Figueres.

        Not to mention the ever-revolving and/or widening UN doors through which such high and mighty personnel seem to float with amazing ease – and with the apparent blessing of an ever-increasing army of duly “accredited” NGOs.

        And, as an aside, on the demon CO2 front .. Frankly, with each passing day, I find myself far more concerned with the immediate needs and fate of the millions of real refugees that the UN’s many years of neglect – and/or sheer incompetence – have allowed to grow to crisis proportions.

        If I ruled the world (as the UN honchos apparently would very much like to do … just ask anyone who’s actually slogged through Agenda 21 and/or the somewhat more recent utterances of the likes of Norway’s Gro Harlem Brundtland and Ireland’s Mary Robinson**), I would put a five-year moratorium on any further climate related confabs (of all kinds … High Level, Low Level, no-level etc) until the (primarily) UN-created refugee problem has been appropriately dealt with.

        ** See this dynamic duo drumming up the need for action a little over a year ago: https://hro001.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/from-the-n-y-c-climate-summit-a-telling-tale-of-three-videos/

        And, let us not forget that this gathering of the great and the good in N.Y.C. was preceded by a (perhaps little noticed at the time) indication, a few months earlier – while various and sundry committees were still working on the now “Approved” 17 Sustainable Development Goals, of which climate change is No. 13** – that the UN had entered a US$4.5 trillion twilight zone

        ** Take your mouse to https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300 Then choose the “Expand All Goals”, then search for “refugees”. You will find zip, nada, zilch.

        US$4.5 trillion … And not even a single dollar dedicated to the welfare and/or resettlement of refugees? But “$100 billion annually by 2020” on the climate front (see “Target” 13.a) certainly gets an honourable, albeit convoluted and verbose mention.

        Pardon my skepticism but … To my mind there’s something very, very wrong with this picture. Particularly the deafening sounds of silence on the UN’s multi-million refugee front:-(

    • I have always had suspicions that Hansen got into climate science because of his apocalyptic fears regarding the possibilities of a Venus like event. I believe he even described this motivation himself. Selection bias is a very subtle and hard to contain bias and those who have ulterior motives (even if they are noble) cannot be trusted to do unbiased science.

      • dpy6629,
        If your conjecture is true, then Hansen has been delusional most of his career. The chance of Earth becoming Venus due to human caused CO2 emissions of GHG is 0. The breathtaking gullibility of people not to have laughed Hansen right off the stage as soon as he publicly framed the Venus ideas as a serious science is directly linked to the spread of the social madness of climate obsession.

  5. Hansen was way out ahead of the curve when it come to politicizing global warming and spouting unscientific exaggerations of the consequences. He’s been doing so for nearly 30 years. In 1988 he predicted that the West Side Highway in Manhattan would be under water in 40 years, assuming that CO2 doubled (source below). That was extremely alarmist in terms of both the predicted CO2 concentration and the consequences of that concentration. He has pushed the possibility of a runaway greenhouse effect making the planet uninhabitable. He wants to send fossil fuel executives to jail for crimes against humanity (source below). I think he has more recently been on the side of silencing “deniers”, but I have not been able to quickly confirm that.

    So yes, the climate debate is often not about science. Hansen is a big part of why that is the case. He deserves to be reviled. It is unfair to people like Judith Curry to suggest that they are like Hansen. It is also unfair to the vast majority of mainstream climate scientists to suggest that they are like Hansen.

    There are indeed mainstream climate scientists who are “persons of good will, good intentions and high accomplishment” and who deserve respect, even as we disagree with them. Hansen is not among them.

    Sources (note that they are *defending* Hansen):

  6. Hansen is lauded by the sceptics for his pro-nuclear position. At least Hansen is realistic about the only solution to his proclaimed thermageddon.

  7. Mann may not be just despicable and loathsome, he may be insane!

    curryja | December 24, 2015 at 5:25 pm |
    “Mann is insane if that is what he pulled from my testimony”


    • Don B. In the interest of ‘total accuracy in posting’ – considering his record to date, not something to which one might reasonably expect Mann will ever learn to aspire, let alone practice! – here’s the full quote:

      Mann is insane if that is what he pulled from my testimony. Oops, probably not insane, just agenda driven and in a never ending quest to try to discredit me.

      But don’t take my word for this. See:


    • I also find it hard to believe that Mann has escaped censure by his more respectable colleagues. This in my mind does go to discredit climate science generally. Normal science involves refutation of errors and bias. No “mainstream” climate scientist has come out against the hockey stick except for Judith Curry that I know of. It’s is a sad commentary. That Schmidt went to such dishonest lengths to defend it discredits his other work in my mind.

  8. Mann’s corrosive influence is a brief few drops of intellectual acid compared to that of Ehrlich, or especially the godfather of faux sciencey doom predictions, Malthus.

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