Mann at the Cabot
Sep 24, 2014
Bishop Hill in Climate: Mann

As we waited in our seats for Michael Mann's lecture at the Cabot Institute to begin, I was struck by the sight of the great man alone at the side of the stage. He stood there for several minutes, ignored by everyone, as the last of the audience appeared and the Cabot Institute people, Lewandowsky among them, scurried about making final arrangements. I couldn't help but be reminded of Mark Steyn's comments about climatologists' stark failure to make any amici submissions to the DC court on Mann's behalf. The other day I also heard a story about a room full of paleo people rolling their eyes and groaning at the mere mention of his name. Somehow the Cabot Institute's abandonment of the honoured speaker at the side of the stage seemed to epitomise this growing isolation. Even the scientivists seemed to be abandoning him.

The lecture was, as expected, quite breathtakingly dull, at least as far as the content was concerned. We have all heard the lecture before - the locker room full of hockey sticks that show that he was right all along, the wicked republicans who dog his every step, the temperature data that stops at 2005; you know the routine. The delivery was largely very slick, and Mann appears to have had some coaching in this regard, because there were some amusing one-liners and some good comic timing. I don't remember him having this ability before.

But in terms of advancing the debate or getting at the truth, the occasion was a dead loss. I certainly went in to the lecture expecting that precisely nothing useful would come of it and I was not wrong. The Q&A session was a non-event, with a series of questions along the lines of 'tell us what we can do to save the planet Professor Mann'. Afterwards, several people suggested that the questions were planted, and I certainly thought that Lewandowsky, who was moderating the session, appeared to be looking for particular faces in the audience. The questions were all slick and free of the kind of waffle that usually characterise such contributions and it was also an extraordinary coincidence that one of the questions came from one of the organisers of last week's climate march. My money would therefore be on the whole thing being a charade.

As I said though, this was pretty much what I expected: Mann, like so many others on the green side of the climate debate, does not engage with anyone who might ask awkward questions. My reason for coming south was not to hear Mann but to meet Anthony Watts, and I'm therefore grateful to BH reader Caroline K for organising a get-together beforehand and laying on a great spread for us all. I'm not sure we achieved very much (organising sceptics is always akin to herding cats) but it was good to meet so many readers face to face. Before the lecture I also got to say hello to Leo Hickman for the first time and to say hi to others like Richard Betts and Warren Pearce. This was where the important work of the day was done.

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