By Michael E. Mann

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Gordon Fulks’ Dec. 27 commentary is a dishonest smear against scientists and science.

Fulks promotes boiler-plate climate denier myths such as: (1) climate models have failed to predict the observed warming (in fact they’ve done a remarkable job); (2) NOAA scientists are fudging temperature data (a thoroughly debunked canard); and (3) temperatures were warmer during the so-called “Medieval Warm Period” (the evidence shows that global temperatures were not as warm as today).

Fulks makes untruthful statements about my research in the late 1990s that resulted in the well-known “Hockey Stick” curve which demonstrates recent warming to be unprecedented over the past thousand years. Fulks parrots discredited criticisms by two individuals (Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick) with no expertise in climate science and fossil-fuel industry ties.

As I recount in “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines,” this graph has been ceaselessly attacked by climate deniers like Fulks owing to the simple, undeniable message it conveys about the dramatic impact of human activity on our climate.

Fulks fails to divulge that the scientific community has overwhelmingly validated our findings. The highest scientific body in the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences, affirmed our findings in an exhaustive independent review published in June 2006 (“Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate,” New York Times, June 22, 2006).

In the two decades that have passed since our original work, dozens of groups of scientists have independently reproduced, confirmed and extended our findings, including an international team of nearly 80 scientists from around the world, publishing in the premier journal Nature Geoscience in 2012. They concluded that recent warming is unprecedented over an even longer time frame. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that recent warmth is likely unprecedented for at least the past 1,300 years, and there is now tentative evidence that the recent warming spike is unprecedented in tens of thousands of years.

Fulks doth protest too much when he impugns scientists, like myself, who challenge disinformation artists when they spread untruths about climate change. There is a term known as projection that describes how some individuals defend themselves by simply turning around and accusing others of the wrongdoing of which they are guilty. It is an all-too-familiar tactic in our current political atmosphere, and it is central to interpreting Fulks’ accusations against others.

Fulks dismisses the respected National Academy of Sciences with the accusation that they have “received many millions of dollars during the Obama era to promote the scam (of climate change)”. The National Academy is in fact the highest scientific authority in the land. It was established by an act of Congress, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Their integrity is beyond reproach. Fulks, by contrast, serves as a “policy adviser” for the fossil-fuel-funded Heartland Institute and is a speaker for the Cascade Policy Institute, a right-wing front group for polluters and dark money interests.

Fulks dismisses peer review, an essential part of the self-correcting machinery of science, with the accusation that it is compromised by incestuousness or “pal review.” In reality, scientists are highly competitive and the process of peer review and scientific publication is highly contentious. Scientists tend to be critical of others’ findings — and that’s a good thing. Ironically, the most egregious examples of “pal review” lie in climate deniers’ efforts to hijack the peer review process at fringe journals as a means of laundering climate denial propaganda into the ostensible peer-reviewed literature.

Readers who are genuinely interested in the truth behind the science, rather than the falsehoods and smears perpetuated by fossil fuel industry-hired guns, should read scientist-run websites like skepticalscience.com and books like my “Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change.”

Let’s get past the fake debate about whether climate change is real and onto the worthy debate about what to do.

— Michael E. Mann is a professor of meteorology and atmospheric science at Penn State University.

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