A Tribute to Professor Steffen

FORESCRIPT

Yesterday I was haunted to find a certain guest post gathering digital dust on Climate Nuremberg’s server.

Nobody can say why exactly we never published it, but perhaps the editorial team dismissed it as pedestrian, un-newsworthy, childishly written, or all of the above.

And it is. But it’s also eerie, for this reason: the piece came to us from Will Steffen. As you probably know, the Australian National University [ANU] Professor and seven scared colleagues are now missing, presumed destined for a fate worse than death in the underground debating pits.

We therefore print the following as a tribute to Australia’s own Gone Girls.

“An Awful Fright”
by Will Steffen (1947—?)

It was on a faculty canape night in the spring of 2011 that someone attempted to pass himself off as one of us. The interloper was impeccably academic in appearance, perhaps having learned from the failure of the Coochey plot in 2010—this time his attire gave no hint of the truth that he was a conservative.

But suspicions were aroused by an unguarded remark, which is said to have been, “So, how about them Knicks?”

Upon verification that the Knicks are neither [an] ice nor [a] field hockey [team], the rest of the room adopted a stance of defensive hostility to the infiltrator. I was proud of my staff: just a year ago, I thought, these people didn’t even know the basics of Stranger Danger theory.

Starved of the oxygen of politeness, and unequal to the strain of long silences, the unidentified male eventually resorted to, “So, how ’bout this weather?”

We had trained for this scenario.

Even the security staff knew enough science to prick up at the mention of “weather” (a topic no climate scientist would have studied enough to form an opinion on). They leaped into action.

“The individual is understood to have left voluntarily,” as I would phrase it the next day in a comforting mass email to ANU climate staff.

(They’re always individuals, aren’t they? What is it about denialism and individualism? Note to self: grant material here?)

Just to be safe, festivities adjourned to the state-of-the-art panic room the university had built for us, on my insistence, following the Coochey threats. But as you can imagine, there was little appetite for canapes now. I for one was too busy trying to steady my shaking hands with champagne substitute.

As adrenalin slowly returned to background titres over the following few days, I came to look back on the incident with some pride. Whoever was behind it had, in a real sense, flattered the ANU by targeting us for the second time in as many years.

We were obviously making some interest, or interests, nervous—the mark of all good science.

POSTSCRIPT

The events recounted above are considered the second-most audacious terrorist plot against climate scientists in Australian history, but are sure to be eclipsed by the abduction of the Scared Scientists. Professor Steffen must be proud of the attention he’s attracted—wherever he is now.

Scared Scientists Steffen

Professor Steffen would go on to achieve the rank of Scared Scientist (pictured), but he wrote this piece when he was a humble macroeconomist with a chemical-engineering doctorate who specialised in aversive tax therapy.

In wake of Trouble With Girls speech, feminists blast Pachauri’s ‘antiquated’ critics

pach-glss

Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri, the ‘top UN climate scientist’ whose humorous monologue on women in science is at the centre of a firestorm in a teacup.

Have opponents of the science stooped to using women as political footballs in the quote-unquote climate debate?

That’s the question on everybody’s lips with reports that a “laugh-out-loud” riff by Rajendra Pachauri has been taken out of context in an apparent attempt to sic feminists on the climate visionary.

Displaying all the humorless literalism we’ve come to expect of them, climate deniers—oh, I’m sorry, dangerous anthropogenic global warming unpersuadeds—are baying for the former IPCC Chairman’s blood.

What was his Federal offense, you ask? A jocular speech in which he appeared to condone sexual harassment in the workplace. (The lighthearted monologue also pretended to blame women for distracting scientists with their generous breasts.)

Unfortunately for climate dismissives, though, the individuals and groups who actually speak for women refuse to lend moral authority to their shrill protest. I spoke to several feminists and they all agreed on one point: the Pachyphobes need to lighten up.

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Connie St Louis, giant of journalism.

Connie St Louis, a science journalist who specialises in being a female science journalist of color, said nothing was more pathetic—or a surer sign of irrelevance—than a movement that can’t take a joke.

But while Pachauri’s speech had her in stitches, there was nothing funny about denialist objections to it, which are now making the rounds of the Twitterverse.

“The witch hunt against Dr Pachauri is no laughing matter,” she said. “It plays right into the old stereotype of women as fragile petals in constant need of protection from jokes because they can’t hack it in a ‘boy’s club’ like the scientific fraternity.”

For St Louis, the most distressing feature of this “nontroversy” has been “the patronizing implication that Dr Pachauri’s comments have the power to somehow drive women away” from jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM].

“When detractors [of climate science and the IPCC] suggest—with a straight face—that girls in the 21st century are such trembling, thin-skinned, emotional little dears that they’d allow harmless Mad Men-era banter not only to get to them, but to determine their career path, I find it… devastating,” Ms St Louis told me, choking back tears of anger.

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Know Your Newsmaker: Who is Barack Obama?

A bluffer’s guide to those names you keep hearing but don’t quite know why.

What you should know
to avoid embarrassing yourself

Who:       Barack Obama
What:     President of the United States of America [USA]
Where:   A large republic in Subcanadian America

A nerd of the people

The People’s Dork: Obama is an unabashed Trekkie.

Although he acts and speaks like a white guy, Obama is actually biracial. On June 4, 2008 he was sworn in as the 1st black President and the 44th white President in US history.

Whereas US Republicans have a long, meritocratic history of promoting talented persons of color (think General Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice), the left has traditionally viewed race as a handicap. So it’s no exaggeration to say Obama made history by achieving such a high rank in the Democratic party, which until recently has harbored former Klansmen like Senator Robert Byrd. 

Vice President Joe Biden once credited Obama’s electability to his daily showering and use of complete sentences.

the-famous-photo-inside-the-situation-room-during-the-osama-bin-laden-raid-is-immortalized-on-his-facebook-timeline 2 copy

Stone cold leader: The Commander in Chief’s iconic pose at the precise moment when he kills Osama bin Laden multiple times in the head and body.

What you should toss off
to impress your friends
  • Because the average rural American is so prejudiced, Obama had to change his middle name (Hussein) by deed poll in 2007. “Arabophobia and misoxeny are core flyover values,” he explained during the Presidential primaries. “They [intercostal Americans] will never vote for a candidate who sounds like Saddam.”
  • Obama has been nicknamed the Black Lincoln after his preferred Presidential limousine.
  • Caretakers had to remove almost a dozen mirrors from the White House, of varying degrees of historical importance, before the Obamas took up residence, and guests are asked not to bring reflective objects with them—particularly into the West Wing. All official invites include the explanation that the President “is a very humble man.”
  • First Lady Michelle Obama, who is also founder and patron of Americans Against Ignance, says kids who can’t read make her ashamed of her country. On the First Blog she has described “classrooms full of missing students” and argued that the solution starts at home:

Rarely is the question asked, where our children at? What we need is a grass-roots fight against illiterate kids of all colors, and none; it’s up to us ordinary citizens to do something about them. Do you really think the fat cats in Washington are going to lift a finger? They could [sic] care less.

What he is like:
winning the conversation by taking it up to the personal level

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Obama savaged for getting brother’s name wrong

Wash., DC, USA: In what is already being called ‘a non-story’ and ‘fodder for the lowest stratum of the junkosphere,’ the US President last night drew a blank on the name of George Obama, the US President’s brother.

“I’m only human,” he insisted today, to a skeptical White House press corps.

Obama then challenged reporters to do better. “So I don’t always know the full name of everyone in my immediate family. Do you? No cheating by googling.”

A White House spokesman today said the slip-up was of interest only to sleazy attack journalists. So far it hasn’t been mentioned in the reputable media, nor is it likely to be. To hear about the incident Americans would have to tune in to Fox News or breitbart.com.

The editorial in this week’s TIME avoids mentioning specifics but argues that no US President has been held up to so much ridicule over such trivial gaffes since George W. Bush. It goes on to deplore the “gotcha” culture of hate that pervades the rightwing media.

George Obama was once reported to be living in Kenya on less than a dollar a day. But his years of “sleeping rough” came to an end in 2008 when, according to Wikipedia, “his aunt gave him a six-by-eight foot corrugated metal shack in the Nairobi slum of Huruma Flats.”

The President forgot his name during a guest speech at the annual NAACP ‘Beyond Nuclear’ ball, held to celebrate the full diversity of non-traditional family structures in the African American community.

The theme of the speech was gratitude for the opportunities his unusual childhood had given him. 

“We can only wish more African and Hispanic American kids had a chance to grow up dreaming of their absent, serial-monogamist fathers,” said Obama in one of the night’s most moving lines.

Among academics who study black non-privilege for a living, the overwhelming consensus is that Americans of color are falling short of their potential because there are far too many stable families in minority communities.

The President was initially reported to be “saddened and hurt” by the uproar his minor memory lapse occasioned throughout the hateblogosphere. According to handlers he locked himself in the Oval Office last night, refusing to sign legislation or touch his food. 

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Found In Translation: internat’l reax to the Hughes et al. Shenanigans paper (in press)

Begging your indulgence of my freshman German and schoolgirl French, let me belatedly give you a taste of what a couple of foreign outlets have to say about the upcoming blockbuster HBM’15.

First but not least, though: our thanks to ever-perceptive reader Sarmange for the observation that,

The Hockey stick is evidently a basic form in Nature (the magazine and the universe alike), like spirals, the golden section, all the geometric figures you can get from the conic sections, like circles, parabolas and hyperbolas…

masthead Le-Monde-newspaper-logoIn what is being called the last nail in the coffin of global-warming incredulisme, a new study purports to find a roughly hockey-stick-shaped temperature signal without using any fraud.

News of the finding comes as a relief to Dr Michael Mann, whose much maligned 1998 hockey stick—the original and best—has come in for much maligning by the forces of denialisme over the years. He is currently being dragged through multiple countries’ legal systems by climate defamers, an ordeal to which he would much prefer a quick, out-of-court dénouement.

“Litigation is a waste of time I should be spending on frontier science. At this point I’d settle for a sincere, soul-searching apology from the Canadian race,” says Mann.

“Not for my sake, so much as for the benefit of the people watching them apologise to me,” adds the renowned tree physiologist [sic], who considers the public to be “the real victims” of the damage America’s northern neighbour has done to his good name.

In a notoriously contentious science, one thing’s for sure: the new article will leave négateurs of the Earth’s climate no room to manoeuvre.

Accusations of paranoia and secretiveness—probably orchestrated by industry-linked attack blogs—have forced Mann to retreat behind the siege mentality of a recluse. His contact with the public is now limited to the occasional Tweet per day, a full-page letter to the New York Times when absolutely necessary, guest spots on American raconteur Bill Maher’s show, a bestselling book about himself and of course scientific pressers like today’s, which couldn’t be avoided.

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Hockey Stick exonerated. Again.

As you probably know, leading scientist Malcolm Hughes held a press conference today to announce what could be a game-changing result in paleoclimatology.

Flanked by coauthors Raymond Bradley and Michael Mann, Hughes said that thanks to new, better data, they’d finally succeeded in approximating a ‘hockey stick’ curve without the use of cheating—putting paid at last to denialist claims that the iconic temperature-reconstruction is somehow ‘fraudulent.’

Hughes et al. have written up their findings in HBM2015, due out next month. Here’s what the lesser outlets are saying about it.

masthead NYTThe instantly-recognizable “hockey stick” graph made its debut in MBH’98, a seminal article by scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes that has been plagued by suspicions of monkey business ever since its publication last century.

That accusation, according to the authors of a major new peer-reviewed study, “is irrelevant.”

It turns out jiggery-pokery isn’t even necessary to get “essentially” the correct, hoccobacilliform  curve for historic temperatures, Dr Malcolm Hughes explained at a media conference today. That’s the take-home conclusion of a paper Hughes authored with colleagues Raymond Bradley and Michael Mann, which goes to print next month under the title Millennial Climate Reconstructions are Robust to the Addition or Removal of Shenanigans.

After eliminating any disreputable or disingenuous steps involved in producing the original graph, said the authors, they found it was still possible to get “just about as good a hockey-stickish result as most recent studies”—all without straying an inch from accepted climatological practices.

The finding is just the latest in almost two decades of independent vindications of the work of Mann, Bradley and Hughes in 1998.

Lead author Hughes said he hopes the new facts will silence once and for all the ‘skeptics’ who allege—vocally if not outright vehemently—that the disturbing diagram presented in MBH’98 is necessarily the product of sleight of hand.

But one coauthor, Dr Mann, failed to share his optimism. He interrupted Dr Hughes to say that in his experience deniers, as they’re technically known, seldom learn from their mistakes. A roomful of journalists tittered in sympathy.

Today’s revelation won’t be official until it comes out in November’s issue of Sap (the journal widely considered the Bible of dendroclimatology). Because of the extraordinary public interest in the findings, however—a function of the sheer urgency of the climate issue in general—the researchers decided it was unethical to wait. This morning’s media event was their way of giving the world as much notice as possible, as far away as possible from the noisy scrutiny of self-appointed literary critics.

Science-by-press-release is frowned on in normal fields of inquiry, but such are the existential ramifications of global warming theory—and the toxic counterarguments of its doubters—that the practice has increasingly become a necessary evil for climate scientists.

Which doesn’t mean they have to like it. Hughes, Bradley and Mann weren’t entirely comfortable with today’s publicity, and it showed. Throughout their remarks they had the resentful, almost haughty bearing of pure intellectuals dragged into the political spotlight against their will. We’d rather be in the lab—said their petulant mien—enriching human knowledge by discovering the next killer argument against hockey-stick denial.

Dr Raymond

One of the two non-lead authors of HBM2015; probably Raymond S. “Ray” Bradley, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

masthead nature copyHockey sticks seem to be popping up everywhere!

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Frequently Feared Questions

Dear climate academia,
Stefan Lewandowsky tells you all you ever wanted to know about the Scared Scientists but were afraid to ask because you didn’t want to know.

Q I worked briefly with [Scared Scientist’s name withheld] and the abduction of the octet has brought up certain… emotions. What if I talk to a trauma counselor at the University and they think I’m nuts? —Logic Bloke

A Mr Bloke,

Nobody is going to judge you! There’s no “right” way to respond to incidents like this, psychologically speaking.

Debilitating grief, constant white-knuckle panic, recurrent ideation about pain and death that crowds out everything else, an all-consuming dread, feelings of paralytic anxiety—these are all normal, healthy reactions.

Lew's views 08

Magic bullet: Lewandowsky owes his life to the designer stimulants that have kept him one step ahead of his pursuers—and with zero adverse effects. Could uppers be the the holy grail of pharmacology: a life-saving drug class with literally no downside?

But you don’t have to go through them alone. As someone who’s experienced them all since breakfast, I can assure you it helps to vent.

So don’t be shy. For once in your climate career, this is no time for scientific reticence!

—Steve.

Q Professor Lewandowski (sic), could you settle a faculty bet: as day 4 of the crisis dawns, is there any unhealthy or ‘incorrect’ way to feel? —ExCapitalistWoman, Sydney

A Ms Woman,

Panic is a deeply personal journey. Your amygdalae, adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system are different from the next person’s, so why should you drop your bundle exactly the same way?

We each have our own timetable for not getting through events like this.

What’s important is that you give in to terror on your own terms—nobody else’s.

Lew' Views Two 06

Nope: On further rumination, Lewandowsky still can’t think of a single ill effect from “half a lifetime” of amphetamine use.

When life gets traumatic the only ‘wrong‘ way to respond is denial. This week’s news is a case in point.

If you ever feel you’re coping well as the kidnapping crisis unfolds, that’s what we call a major red flag. Call your doctor or counselor as a matter of urgency. They can help you get back on track, or put you in contact with someone who can.

But there’s a limited time window, so act while the trauma is still acute.

—Stevan.

Q Dear Dr (sic) Lewandowsky, police here in Australia keep assuring us they have “no credible information” about an elevated threat [of further abductions] to us [climate scientists]. Why don’t I find this comforting? —Professor_Planet, Melbourne
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