There's no police tape across Michael Mann's office doorway this morning. "Always a good start," he says, juggling a cup of coffee as he slides his key into the lock.
Mann, a paleoclimatologist, wears a sport coat over a turtleneck. As he takes a seat at his desk, a narrow sunbeam angles through the window, spotlighting a jumble of books, journals and correspondence. Behind him, a framed picture of his six-year-old daughter rests near a certificate for the Nobel Peace Prize he shared in 2007. Propped into a corner is a hockey stick, a post-lecture gift from Middlebury College, which Mann jokingly says he keeps "for self-defense."
Mann directs Penn State University's Earth System Science Center. Several months ago, he arrived at his office with an armload of mail. Sitting at his desk, he tore open a hand-addressed envelope and began to pull out a letter. He watched as a small mass of white powder cascaded out of the folds and onto his fingers. Mann jerked backward, letting the letter drop and holding his breath as a tiny plume of particles wafted up, sparkling in the sunlight. He rose quickly and left the office, pulling the door shut behind him. "I went down to the restroom and washed my hands," he says. "Then I called the police."
For someone describing an anthrax scare, Mann is surprisingly nonchalant. "I guess," he says, "it's so much a part of my life that I don't even realize how weird it is."
"Weird" is perhaps the mildest way to describe the growing number of threats and acts of intimidation that climate scientists face. A climate modeler at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory answered a late-night knock to find a dead rat on his doorstep and a yellow Hummer speeding away. An MIT hurricane researcher found his inbox flooded daily for two weeks last January with hate mail and threats directed at him and his wife. And in Australia last year, officials relocated several climatologists to a secure facility after climate-change skeptics unleashed a barrage of vandalism, noose brandishing and threats of sexual attacks on the scientists' children.
Those crude acts of harassment often come alongside more-sophisticated legal and political attacks. Organizations routinely file nuisance lawsuits and onerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to disrupt the work of climate scientists. In 2005, before dragging Mann and other climate researchers into congressional hearings, Texas congressman Joe Barton ordered the scientists to submit voluminous details of working procedures, computer programs and past funding—essentially demanding that they reproduce and defend their entire life's work. In a move that hearkened back to darker times, Oklahoma senator James Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, released a report in 2010 that named 17 prominent climate scientists, including Mann, who, he argued, may have engaged in "potentially criminal behavior." Inhofe outlined three laws and four regulations that he said the scientists may have violated, including the Federal False Statements Act—which, the report noted, could be punishable with imprisonment of up to five years.
It's late February when I visit Mann in his office, almost two years after Inhofe issued his "list of 17." Though it's still winter in central Pennsylvania, the temperature outside hangs in the upper 60s, crocus stems poke up from flower beds, and shopkeepers have thrown open their doors along College Avenue. Mann is home for three days between conferences in Milwaukee and Hawaii and West Coast stops on a promotional tour for his new book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.
In the late 1990s, Mann developed a graph that demonstrated a recent and dramatic uptick in global mean surface temperatures. The hockey-stick-shaped curve has become emblematic to both sides of the climate debate. To the vast majority of climate scientists, it represents evidence, corroborated by decades of peer-reviewed research, of global warming. To climate-change skeptics, the hockey stick is the most grievous of many illusions fabricated by thousands of conspiring scientists to support an iniquitous political agenda.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) included Mann's graph in its Third Assessment Report in 2001. Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim then included it in their 2006 climate-change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The film galvanized both the pro- and contra-climate-science camps, propelling the issue of human-caused global warming into the culture wars—and Mann along with it. "Since then, my life has been crazy," he says. "People have stolen my e-mails and bought billboards and newspaper ads to denounce me; they've staged bogus grassroots protests; they've threatened my family. I've been through eight investigations by everyone from the National Science Foundation to the British House of Commons. Every time, they find no evidence of fraud or misuse of information. Every time, they conclude that my methods are sound, my data replicable. And every time I'm exonerated, another investigation pops up."
Mann has been called a "compulsive liar, a con man and an extraordinary psychological case." Some critics accuse him of masterminding a cabal of scientists that aims to establish a new world order. Still others compare him to Hitler, Stalin and Satan.
At the time of our meeting, Mann was juggling several FOIA requests and two lawsuits—one of which would be resolved the following week, when the Virginia Supreme Court rejected the state attorney general's demand that the University of Virginia (Mann's former employer) turn over the researcher's e-mails and other documents. The university spent nearly $600,000 to argue that releasing personal correspondence would chill academic research. "Yes, there's been a toll on me and my family," Mann says. "But it's bigger than that. Look what it's doing to science, when others see this and see what happens if they speak up about their research. These efforts to discredit science are well-organized. It's not just a bunch of crazy people."
I didn’t say Americans are difficult to teach. I said they are not getting the mixture of messages and economics in action that most of the world gets and this leaves them without comparisons to consider. It’s a problem all very large monoculture nations face, they are very inward looking and insular. Travel the world more. I’ve been to China three times now and nearly everywhere else, America most of all places.
No doubt America is less free in some senses than in its pioneer days, but that’s a function of moving from a simple society to a complex one where people need to cooperate more and compete less. We can’t all be independent village shopkeepers or crop farmers in competition with each other now. Today most of us must work in cooperation inside large corporations. That’s the reality, good or bad (and I don’t much like it so I’m one of the few that still works alone).
The problem is America’s government hasn’t adapted to a complex society that needs to cooperate more. This is largely because Americans insist on (or are stuck with) a Libertarian government model that really only works in practice in a resource-rich and population-poor context - where there's a mountain for each of us to pillage for its resources – the theory is good but the practice is bad in the current context.
America is losing its edge because it hasn’t moved away from its former unworkable idea of individualist freedom to a modern cooperative model of freedom, or at least it lags behind other nations in this movement. I have faith in America’s future as I’ve noticed in the past that America always does the right thing after it has tried everything else.
This comment isn’t arrogance on my part; it’s just observation of the forest from outside instead of the trees from inside.
Since we're at 11:59, I like both the carrot and the stick-- developing viable, attractive solutions for energy and transportation while throttling down the sources of greenhouse pollution. I think the latter requires system re-thinking, a group effort to replace our transportation system with a different design conceived to treat energy as precious and to produce 0 pollution. I see this as justified to protect our shared atmosphere and all that it affects from greater damage. That said, if voluntary action works I'm all for it-- the main requirement, in my view, is that it works though. Call me arrogant if you like but I have kids to protect and I will protect them without apology.
Will you protect them from oppressive government?
"... modern cooperative model of freedom..."
Would that be freedom to obey the tyrants? How is that modern? How antiquated is tyranny?
The mantra of the tyrant, throughout history has been "Do what you're told and you won't get hurt... really... honest... trust me".
Is that the modern cooperative model of freedom you are referring to?
How easy you accept, even welcome, your shackles.
So why, Greystone1, do you promote a way of thinking and (lack of) governance that leads to the very tyranny that you so despise? Do you think disentitling others to a fair share of dwindling resources or damaging their resources to your benefit can lead to anything else? Is the deprived majority just going to let the privileged minority have what remains of their common resources for long? I doubt very much they will share your sense of entitlement no matter how much effort or wealth you personally invested if you caused them suffering by your actions. This is called real politics. Think sustainably or face tyranny.
Of course, if you have no children and no real concern for humanity at large, then I can understand a “me first” or “me only” attitude. You will be gone before you can be held accountable. In which case I would say you essentially agree with me that climate change is a problem but hold the view that “it’s not MY problem”.
Apparently you missed the part about my great grandchildren... and also the part where I offered a non-oppressive solution. But then, you only see what you want to see and only validate that which fits your oppressive 'beat them into submission' worldview.
In any case, we seem to be arguing in circles and can only agree to disagree.
I did not miss the part about your great grandchildren. My comment was tailored to that fact but you have failed to absorb its relevance because you think you can have both a future and cheap fossil fuels.
Yes, your non-oppressive solution will work. Just like stopping people that drive at the speed limit and giving them gift certificates will work, instead of handing out fines to those that actually speed over the limit. Not!
Global warming is an economic problem and an economic solution is needed. Fossil fuel prices need to reflect their true costs and they don’t now.
"Will you protect them from oppressive government?"
The Supreme Court decided corporations are people and handed corporate decision-makers thousands of votes to my 1, through their ability to spend freely on elections. With this ruling, all that Abe Lincoln spoke about at Gettysburg, about government of the people, by the people and for the people fell to the wayside and the idea perished, simply by defining a person differently. Our government fell with Citizens United, like a quiet coup, and I do advocate for a constitutional amendment to undo it.
The climate is a physical threat, however-- a direct threat to life and to quality of life at enormous scale. Both are like defending against an attack-- the climate being a physical attack, like a charging bear, that demands standing up and getting between the bear and the kids. I'll grant you, it's absurd that modern life forces such dilemmas on a fellow at one time-- and I suspect it's going to get much worse.
Professor Bartlett's lecture reminds me of Chris Martenson's Crash Course - fascinating thinking. http://youtu.be/EXd66gP53fk
The great things about Global "Heating" as I like to call it is that deny it or not pray about it or not, we are all on this boat called Earth and in the end everyone is going to get a taste of it. The ones who follow the science will deal with it long before it starts to hurt them, the ones that don't will wait till the last minute and then some, its all good in my book.
So enjoy the retarded believes its all magic thinking and some deity ROFMAO is going to just come and A. whisk you away B. blow on the planet and all the gasses will just magically go away. Which ever way you think this is going to play out in the next couple of decades.
Then we will get a nasty wakeup call and like everything humans do we will have to scramble to fix the problem.
I for one am not worried there are dedicated people who are making some very cool and tech advance technology now and into the future. So when society finally freaks out we can implement them and maybe save our sorry ass. To bad deniers can't be made to live in the dead zones but I can dream can't I.
"My comment was tailored to that fact but you have failed to absorb its relevance because you think you can have both a future and cheap fossil fuels."
No... I think we can have both a future and free solar fuel. Fossil fuels cannot compete with free. Every solar panel installed replaces/eliminates fossil fuel consumption.
Sorry but most of the links are dead, I have checked them all yet. And the links that did work didn’t show any real data, nor how it was collected, nor did it show anything that would allow someone to check the work. I will quote from the link “…Dr. Mann and his other US colleagues are under no obligation to provide you with any additional data beyond the extensive data sets they have already made available. He is not required to provide you with computer programs, codes, etc….”
So basically we’re told trust me. If AGW is as bad as claimed, then it is criminal NOT to release everything. It not that hard to release everything, heck I’ve shipped gigabytes of data, programs, code for the programs, etc so I know it can be done. Again if is as bad as it’s claimed they should be shipping it out to everyone, not hiding it.
rwee20, you are 7 seven years late to the party so it’s not surprising that some links have moved around on something as dynamic as the internet. Make Google your friend and I’m sure you find them somewhere. Search on the last part of the link name.
Maybe here www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/shared/research/MANNETAL98/
or here: www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/supplements/MultiproxyMeans07/
Your quote “… under no obligation to provide you with any additional data …” is from a 2003 letter sent to Steve McIntyre from the director of the National Science Foundation. While the director’s claim is true, Mann did provide everything, as he very clearly says in his 2005 letter here: “all of our data and methodologies have been fully disclosed and are available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection”. Mann goes on to say “As a result of our willingness to share our research with others, an independent team of scientists has used the research data my colleagues and I have made public to replicate our research and confirm the reliability of our findings.”
Even if you do check all his work, it is unlikely that you will find any flaw that affects his conclusions since McIntyre has not been able to do this after 7 years of trying. If Mann was up to something nefarious you would not find it anyway without making your own paleoclimate measurements. If you had the skills to do that you would not be here asking for links.
In science, it is far more important that others can reach the same conclusions using their own methods and data sources. If they just replicate the original work, they could be replicating the same mistakes or looking at the same bad data. Many other scientists have replicated Mann's results independently.
One study is by Ammann and Wahl here:
Their data and code is available at:
(includes a link to a tar file of all source-code and data).
I’m aware of at least 12 independent studies that have replicated Mann’s work at this point. This makes Mann the most vindicated climate scientist on the planet. And his work isn’t even essential to the whole issue of global warming; it’s just a picture of what happened over the last millennium or so and it happens to make a handy icon showing the unusualness of recent changes.
Kiljoy, I've proposed a few tech advances myself to companies that asked for ideas, and I'll be damned if they're not developing technologies that would enable a few. Big, highly capable companies, economically attractive concepts that would change how things currently work. A lot of people, hundreds of thousands, put in their two bits and I think in aggregate produced a lot of value from the exercises.
As for deniers, denial is a common, immature psychological response to an unacceptable reality, described nicely here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial
Greystone1: “I think we can have both a future and free solar fuel.”
I hope you are correct but the preponderance of the evidence is against such an outcome – all energy costs something and renewables are still a bit more costly than burning fossil fuels, and often less convenient. People aren’t going to switch quickly and perhaps not at all if the costs remain where they are and no corrective economic signal is applied by governments. All the waiting caused by the delay-and-pray crowd has now left us with very little time to make the big switch. I hope you are correct but it’s a long odds risk to take when you are betting against your great grandchildren’s future if you lose.
"All the waiting caused by the delay-and-pray crowd has now left us with very little time to make the big switch."
That's because you keep threatening to hit them with the big stick. Nobody wants to get hit with the stick. The stick generates opposition. Everybody loves the carrot. The carrot generates no opposition.
Make solar a solid, affordable, profitable investment and all of the panel manufacturers in the world won't be able to keep up with the demand.
I’m quite sure if solar manufacturers could make solar into a solid, affordable, profitable investment, they would do so – they want the business. This may come to pass eventually, but what’s your Plan B if it doesn’t happen soon enough? Anarchy or tyranny?
Plan B is better carrots. Plan Z is the stick.
Your plan A is to bludgeon people... and then you wonder why there is so much opposition, why it is taking so very long to get people to voluntarily take their beating. Your Plan A is counter productive.
I don’t object to your Plan A. It’s just that it isn’t working fast enough since CO2 concentrations are generally still increasing at an exponential rate. Don’t forget that population growth 'targets' are to add another equivalent of China and India to the world in the next 40 years (barring an all-out global thermonuclear war as nations start competing for limited resources in a hotter world).
What will happen to CO2 concentrations with China and India moving towards a middle class emissions level, with another China and India added into the mix, and the rest of us still generously using fossil fuels while the main CO2 sink, the ocean, is saturating?
I don’t think we can afford your Plan B’s bigger carrot (massive subsidies) without a corresponding bigger stick (massive carbon taxes), the latter of which you don’t want. You need to appreciate the scale of this problem – virtually all human CO2 emissions need to cease over the coming decades.
A buy back guarantee doesn't take massive subsidies. What's in it for the guarantor? For starters, market share in a fast growing market.
What will it cost them? Nobody in their right mind is going to sell back the system during the warranty period, which for solar is 20-25 years and probably beyond the warranty period if it's still making money for them.
So the guarantor gets to buy back the system far in the future when it finally dies, in what will no doubt be highly inflated dollars (pocket change?), refurbish and sell them for 1/2 the price of new, which by then will no doubt be much higher.
Greystone1, I had another closer read of your guaranteed retained value scheme. I don’t see how it would convince me to purchase a $20,000 solar system for my home. If it won’t convince me with my climate concerns, then it won’t convince many ordinary people. The problem for me is the upfront capital cost and the debt service charges that I would incur, which would take funds away from my other endeavors. If I had unlimited funds, I would do it, but (alas) I don’t. If I had a low credit rating I wouldn’t even be able to consider your proposal. That doesn’t leave too many takers.
I already know that I will make a profit on a solar system installed on my home since my jurisdiction guarantees me $0.55 / kWh for 20 years if I install a solar system (a FIT program). [It was $0.80 until last year.] This generous FIT program has worked wonders but it still has had a very small number of takers out of the total population, way too few to make any CO2 difference yet anyway. Just as well, since there are very few qualified companies able to install the systems (but a lot of fly-by-night operators who say they can). Solar systems are only going to make serious inroads if/when home builders are forced to put them on every new home as part of the building code and they are properly inspected, or when the system setup costs drop to near zero. We can’t wait for the level of penetration to naturally reach the point of helping with climate. It really needs a major push.
The guarantee you propose would be instead of the FIT program (since you don’t like subsidies or taxes), which means it won’t really provide any further incentive, and in fact less incentive, so I’d expect it would have even fewer takers. I say less because, while your program would guarantee that I can’t lose, I might still only break even. With the FIT program I’m guaranteed a healthy profit. I’m still not really keen on spending money on a solar system even if there’s a healthy profit for me in the future. Given the maximum kWh that I could generate using my roof area, the profits are really small potatoes to me even if the ROI is very good. There are alternative non-energy investments that appeal to me more right now.
Another lesser matter is the salvage value is very low for a first solar system since much of the cost of the first system would be sunk into the roof installation effort and rewiring within my home. If you are the guarantor and your guarantee is really for full cost or any cost greater than the true scrap value, I’d be inclined to sell my solar system to you the day after I had it installed and then immediately install another new system more cheaply the second time around (or perhaps even my old scrap system that I bought back from you at the much lower true scrap cost). I’m not saying that everyone will do this but enough people might to make it such that the guarantor is effectively giving a huge price subsidy to those who install solar systems. I’m sure adding some draconian terms to your deal could prevent this abuse but then you will scare off some small number of the legitimate takers too and that’s not what we want.
We are left with either bigger carrots or bigger sticks.
As I understand it, the FIT programs are designed to benefit larger scale projects where the entire output is sold to the grid. This does little or nothing for the residential system where most or even all of the output is consumed by the residence. It does nothing to reduce the payback period... which is the major drawback.
"I’d be inclined to sell my solar system to you the day after I had it installed..."
At a substantial loss to you. How does that make sense?
Let's consider a strategy that doesn't require government approval:
The manufacturer of a self-contained plug in system (easily uninstalled) offers to buy back the system for a fixed amount, thus drastically reducing the payback period.
For reasons previously stated, it is highly unlikely that he will be buying back the system until it dies of old age, at which time he will buy it back with highly inflated dollars... and in the meantime he grabs market share.
If at any time he feels he might lose on the deal (deflation?), which is highly unlikely, he can discontinue the guaranteed model, thus limiting his losses.
If the guarantor wanted to really cover his butt, he could base the buy back amount on measured output, rather than nominal output. That way he isn't going to be buying dead systems.
There is a FIT program for commercial operators in my jurisdiction but it is nowhere near as generous. The generous program is limited to non-commercial scale rooftop systems. Given all the multiple small facets on my complex roof I think it will cost me more than usual to install a solar system and my payback will therefore be longer. This is perhaps why not one home in my area of 5000 similarly styled homes has a solar system yet. I only know of one estate home nearby that has a 40 X 60 foot ground-mounted system that rotates through the day to face the sun. It looks to be a $100,000 system. I think it pre-dates FIT.
Perhaps I don’t understand your guarantee scheme properly. If it ensures that the guarantor will buy my solar system back from me at any time for my full cost or at least my full cost less any revenue earned or expenses saved to that point (likely none), then your scheme is an incentive since it prevents me from incurring ongoing losses should my solar system not achieve grid parity. In this case, grid parity can only be achieved by electrical prices increasing to a level higher than my system’s generating cost, which is effectively locked in when I buy the system. That said, if this is your scheme, it is still less of an incentive scheme than my local FIT program which hasn’t got the residential conversion job done yet either. And I could well scam it in the way I described earlier. Furthermore, the guarantor would have to be a government or a monopoly utility otherwise I’d put no faith in the guarantor being around in the future to make good on the guarantee.
If your scheme only allows me to sell my solar system back to the guarantor at some loss to me or at nearly the true scrap value of the system at some future date, then it is no incentive at all because I’m the one risking whether grid rates will eventually be higher than my locked in generating cost and I can’t limit those daily losses. I’m sure grid parity will happen eventually but not for those who lock in at the higher costs of present-day solar systems. Electricity rates, absent carbon taxes, are not at all likely to climb in real terms to match present day solar energy costs; rather solar energy costs will fall to grid parity in a decade or so. The FIT program would only work for me because I would be selling my generated electricity to the grid at 55 cents/kWh and buying it back from them at 12 cents on peak, or 6.5 cents off peak (we also have a TOU smart meter system). The difference is my profit (it’s taxable).
I suspect what your scheme does is it somewhat reduces my losses, at best, if my solar system don’t achieve grid parity over its useful life. Grid rates are what the utility company pays to private generators of electricity. In my area, grid rates average around 11 cents a kWh and my locked in cost should be about 15 cents a kWh according to solar system installers that I’ve consulted. This means I would be losing money from day one without FIT. Likely, if the situation came to the point where it made sense for me to exercise the buyback guarantee, it would make sense to a great many solar system owners to do the same thing. The guarantor would be in for huge losses and the returned systems would have no value either.
Economic reality is we need either bigger carrots or bigger sticks.
"Perhaps I don’t understand your guarantee scheme properly."
Apparently, you do not understand it at all, because the rest of your post is totally irrelevant to the guarantee scheme.
The guarantor would not buy back your system at the full cost. He would offer an amount that is beneficial to both him and you. High enough to promote solar sales by reducing the payback period and yet low enough to cover his potential liability. The optimum amount for the buyback offer is yet to be determined. I put example numbers in there just to illustrate how it works.
Grid parity? Generating costs? It's solar. The fuel is free. The generating cost is zero.
This is going to be asking a lot, but I ask both sides to convince me of the truth. I am a proponent of man-made climate change/global warming, but I understand Earth cycles and solar activity do have an effect. I grew up in Alaska, and I know better than some the effects of clouds on temperature.
But I issue this challenge. I want someone from BOTH SIDES of the argument to put forth evidence IN THEIR OWN WORDS, no links allowed except for visual aide.
I would like to ask that this be kept in a CIVIL fashion, and use legitimate websites and include a bibliography.
I gave you two scenarios. One guarantees me something and one guarantees me nothing. But you say your scheme is neither. I can only conclude that it is apparently an economic fiction that you are unable to explain. What use is a guarantor that offers a price beneficial to both parties? That’s essentially market price and can be negotiated at any time for anything of value. Perhaps it’s more of a futures market in your scheme. Thanks but no thanks.
“The generating cost is zero.” This might be the fallacy behind your scheme. Business endeavors have a fixed cost (overhead that can’t be avoided) and variable cost (that is a function of operations). For solar panels, wind turbines, hydro dams, nuclear reactors and most non-combustion sources of energy, the variable cost is very close to zero. Unfortunately, the fixed cost component tends to be much higher for some of these. The full cost is the fixed cost amortized over the lifetime expected units of output of the asset + the variable cost per unit of output, or about 15 cents a kWh for a rooftop solar system (depending on climate and latitude).
Variability of the input energy source is also an important factor for solar and wind and usually leads to either a higher fixed cost or some variable costs to store the output energy until it’s needed. This becomes a very important cost if solar systems provide any more than ~20% of total electrical supply.
Let me know if you come up with a workable idea.