Source: BBC World Service: Newshour
Date: 30/11/2012
Event: Michael Mann: Marc Morano "uses language that makes it sound like we should be subject to death threats"
Credit: BBC World Service, Bishop Hill and Climate Depot

  • Professor Michael MannClimatologist, director of the Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University
  • Julian Marshall:
    Presenter, BBC World Service: Newshour
  • Marc Morano: Founder and editor of Climate Depot

Julian Marshall
: With U.N. climate talks now under way in Doha, how willing are scientists to publicly make their case that global warming is man-made? They're well used to the sceptics, who challenge their science, but many are tiring of the personal abuse and harassment they're suffering, from those who disagree with them, and as a result withdrawing from the public debate. Marc Morano is editor of a news website called climatedepot.com, who's got it in for climate scientists. He joined me on the line earlier, as did Professor Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. He's been targeted by Mr. Morano but asked not to debate with him directly. First, I asked Professor Mann to describe what had happened to him.

Michael Mann: Ever since my colleagues and I published this graph, more than a decade ago, known as the Hockey Stick, which demonstrates how unprecedented recent warming is, in a long-term context, we have been subject to attacks by those looking to discredit the science. When the Hockey Stick became an icon in the climate change debate, it placed me directly in the crosshairs of those looking to discredit the science of climate change because they find its implications inconvenient, frankly. 

Julian Marshall
: Well, it's one thing to discredit the science, but it's another to mount personal attacks on those behind the science. Is that what's been happening to you?

Michael MannWell, indeed. I've been personally threatened with violence, I've had death threats, I've had substances sent to me in the mail, where I had to have the FBI come in and do a test to make sure I hadn't been subject to a dangerous substance. I'm constantly under attack in various right-leaning news venues - character attacks against me. I've had my family brought into the matter, I've had threats made against my family, where again I've had to call in the authorities. And all of this because I guess I had the temerity to publish a graph, more than ten years ago, that built on a vast array of evidence that tells us that in fact we are warming the planet and changing the climate. 

Julian Marshall
: Well, let's bring in Marc Morano. And, Mr. Morano, are you putting people up to this? 

Marc Morano: No, not at all. I put, sometimes, publicly available emails I've posted on my website throughout the years - I don't even know how many times I've ever even posted Michael Mann's emails. But this goes with the territory - here's a political and scientific debate, and he's here acting as though he's some kind of victim. I've gotten emails just earlier this year about people wanting to hang me, and when I was in the United States Senate, working for Senator James Inhofe, we had to report stuff to the Senate security, because we got threatening physical violence emails, because of the work I was doing on the sceptical side. You have NASA's James Hansen accusing sceptics of crimes against humanity, raising the Nuremberg-style trials, and I don't see the BBC covering sceptics' hate mail.

Julian Marshall
: But you do admit that you encourage climate change sceptics to get in touch with the scientists who are putting the science out there, is that right? 

Marc Morano: Oh, absolutely. Here's what's going on. The ones like Michael Mann - he's feted by the media, he wouldn't know what a hostile interview was if it came up to him, he gets all this fawning praise, he goes to the United Nations conference. It was very refreshing when, after the Climategate emails, people could see the collusion behind the scenes, with Michael Mann and the other upper echelons of the U.N. crafting a narrative of how they were going to, basically, have a partisan campaign to present the science and exclude people they didn't like. And to have the public to finally be able to reach these scientists and they can actually hear that their actions and their claims have consequences. And the idea of a study built upon all this - there's the Wegman Report in Congress, which Gerald North and other scientists agreed with the conclusions that showed this was an echo chamber of Michael Mann and his colleagues. And beyond that, new peer-reviewed studies - one just came out in the Journal of Global and Planetary Change - showing that the Earth was warmer 1,000, 2,000 years ago. 

Julian Marshall
: Okay, Mr. Morano, I'm going to have to leave it there, because we're drifting slightly from the topic, which is -

Marc Morano: He plays the part of martyr very well, he plays the part of martyr...

Julian Marshall
: Okay, Professor, Mr. Morano there's basically saying you've got to man up.  

Michael Mann: Yes, so, I think we've seen a display of the sort of dishonesty and the sort of antagonism by people like Morano that is so hurtful to the public discourse on this issue. Literally everything he said was untrue. He spreads malicious lies about scientists, paints us as enemies of the people, then uses language that makes it sound like we should be subject to death threats, that we should be literally harmed or killed, because we're supposedly perpetrating a fraud, as he and his ilk would have us believe. And in reality, what you need to understand is that Mr. Morano is funded by some of the largest right-wing interests, he's been funded by the fossil-fuel industry, by the Scaife Foundations. He's a hired assassin who helped vilify John Kerry, he was behind the Swiftboat campaign to discredit John Kerry, more than a decade ago, and now what he's doing - he's paid by those very same vested interests to "swiftboat" climate scientists, to try to distort our work, to try to undermine the public's credibility in the science. What he wouldn't have you know is that because of the bogus allegations that he and his ilk have made against people like me, we actually had to have the National Academy - the National Science Foundation do an investigation into me, to see if there was any impropriety in anything I've done in my scientific career. And they came back, and what they said was there's absolutely no evidence of that whatsoever, despite the claims made by people like Marc Morano. It's very hurtful to the discussion.

Julian Marshall
: That was Michael Mann. I was also speaking to Marc Morano.

[The BBC's recording ends here. However, according to the Climate Depot website, there is a missing further audio segment, which has been transcribed here, and which I've reproduced below.]

Julian Marshall: Mr. Morano, you have got to be extremely brief, but there is a long list of allegations against you, but you have got to be very brief.

Marc Morano: Michael Mann has been at this now for two and a half decades and yet he refuses to debate anyone on the science. His claims of exoneration by Penn State - that investigation was called a farce. The investigation he claims –

Julian Marshall [interrupting]: Mr. Morano... We have to wrap it up. That was Marc Morano.

Marc Morano: Thank you very much.

Julian Marshall: We also hard from Prof. Michael Mann, Director of Earth Science Center and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.