Climate Scientists’ Road to Hell


Guest post by

If some of Michael Mann’s followers think that prominent skeptics belong in a special circle of hell (see ‘Mannte’s Inferno‘), here’s news for them.  The Nine Circles of Scientific Hell*, as proposed by Neuroskeptic blogspot, are likely to be well populated with climate scientists (*An excellent post from 2010 recently published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science).  CAGW alarmism seems to think ‘the end justified the means’ and supporters have gone to extraordinary lengths to defend or justify highly dubious actions.

Dante's Academic Hell

Image Source: Neuroskeptic Blogspot

If Hell is for the unrepentant and those who try to justify their sins, where might such individuals meet their end?  In Dante’s Inferno the sinners in each circle face a punishment for all eternity that befits their crimes. What punishments might be meted out in relation to climate (other than the generic ones suggested in the original post)?  With a little help from Josh, and a suitable sound track, let me take you through the Climate Scientists’ Road to Hell.


But let’s begin with the repentant.  These brave souls have seen the light and thus have avoided Hell but face Purgatory, where they toil in reparation.  One scientist who has dared to speak out is Judith Curry.  Her Climate Etc. blog is one of the few places where sceptics mix with believers and she has developed a reputation of giving no quarter to those who step over the line on epistemological attribution.  Mark Lynas might also get a pass for his willingness to criticize the IPCC for its renewables report with a conclusion that owed more to Greenpeace than science.

Jude of Arc mark_lynas_scr

First Circle: Limbo

According to Neuroskeptic:

“The uppermost circle is not a place of punishment, so much as regret. Those who have committed no scientific sins as such, but who turned a blind eye to it, and encouraged it by their awarding of grants and publications, spend eternity on top of this barren mountain, watching the carnage below and reflecting on how they are partially responsible…”

Reserved for those who observe the mess that climate science has become, subservient as it is to politics, and wonder whether redemption and a return to a true science-serving path is ever possible. Despite this they remain silent and do not speak out even in defense of others. This place could be full to bursting, such is the influence of the Hockey Team of reviewers and the carrot of climate-related funding.

Likely Denizens:  hamstrung journal editors and others for whom keeping jobs has been more important than truth; reviewers who wanted to keep in with the Hockey Team; scientists fearful of having papers rejected; funding agencies (NSF, RCUK); many IPCC reviewers who quietly, but uncomfortably, toe the line (let’s hope more start to speak out).  Also found here would be The Royal Society, AGU and the world’s various scientific bodies.  They deserve to be  castigated for following their own financial interests at the expense of science, or alternatively, simply being fooled. Scientific method anyone? What happened to insistence on testing and evidence?

Second Circle: Overselling

join_the_dots_scr“This circle is reserved for those who exaggerated the importance of their work in order to get grants or write better papers. Sinners are trapped in a huge pit, neck-deep in horrible sludge. Each sinner is provided with the single rung of a ladder, labelled ‘The Way Out – Scientists Crack Problem of Second Circle of Hell”

Well where do we start? Another level full to bursting. The whole climate ‘movement’ is based on overselling uncertain science, turning it into a world-threatening catastrophe.

Who deserves to spend eternity here?
The IPCC most definitely, and in particular its political aides responsible for the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) which rides roughshod over uncertainties; a vast swathe of alarmist climate scientists; Richard Muller for promoting BEST in advance of peer-review; University press departments who will happily spin a story on any finding way beyond its original significance; Tim Flannery for PR and wild statements; the late Stephen Schneider for his encouragement of climate science to oversell the science “So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”; Al Gore for An Inconvenient Truth; Bill McKibben for connecting the dots. I could go on. 

Third Circle: Post-Hoc Storytelling

First we were told winters would be warmer and wetter: according to UEA’s David Viner “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,…”.  Then, just when we had forgotten how to build snowmen in Britain, snowy winters returned with a vengeance. Now we have the explanation “warming makes winters colder“.

dr liz
In fact those who tout weather-as-climate alarmism in general will reside here, of which the most recent example is probably Superstorm Sandy – a wimp beside the New England Hurricane of 1938.   James Hansen blamed Climate Change for the Russian heatwave of 2010 and US drought; NOAA disagreed publishing an article that it was “well within the bounds of natural climate variability”. Here also we have Al Gore for “Dirty Weather” along with Bill McKibben and Joe Romm. Basically, take an extreme weather event and blame climate change for it in the media. No matter that others speak out to counter this propaganda – the damage is done.

Richard Muller may be deserving of this circle for saying that he was a sceptic when he wasn’t, and for saying that the BEST results had converted him to alarmism when he had been in that camp from the start.

Greenpeace also gets a place here for their renewables reporting.  As Mark Lynas put it -

“Whilst the journal-published version looks like proper science, the propaganda version on the Greenpeace website has all the hallmarks of a piece of work which started with some conclusions and then set about justifying them.”

Fourth Circle: P-Value Fishing

“Those who tried every statistical test in the book until they got a p value less than 0.05 find themselves here, an enormous lake of murky water. Sinners sit on boats and must fish for their food. Fortunately, they have a huge selection of different fishing rods and nets (brandnames include Bayes, Student, Spearman and many more). Unfortunately, only one in 20 fish are edible, so they are constantly hungry.”

Matt Briggs
will appreciate this one and no doubt can suggest some misdemeanors.

On the basis that flawed use of statistical analysis also lands authors in this circle, we might find a certain Dr Eric Steig here, still arguing his side, having smeared warmth from the West Antarctic Peninsula across the continent as an artefact of his analysis.

A recent sinner here would be Dr Vaughan Pratt of Stanford University and his execrable post Multidecadal climate to within a millikelvin on Judith Curry’s blog, in which he claimed to have matched Hadley Centre temperatures (which have error bands around +-100 milliKelvins) to within “a few milliKelvins”. See Mike Jonas’ criticism Circular Logic not worth a Millikelvin on WUWT.

Of course the poster child for p-value abuse has to be a recent paper that links heat waves and birth defects. Willis takes the authors to task in “Keep doing that and you’ll go blind” while Matt Briggs also damns it (as is deserved). Really, some authors (and reviewers) need a common sense check.

Fifth Circle: Creative Use of Outliers


According to Neuroskeptic: “Those who ‘cleaned up’ their results by excluding inconvenient data-points are condemned here. Demons pluck out their hairs one by one, every time explaining that they are better off without that hair because there was something wrong with it.”

Climate scientists like to do things a little differently; sometimes the outliers are more useful than the bulk of the data.

The ultimate example of the use of outliers in climate science has to be the Yamal hockey stick, where one tree came to represent the entire global temperature (see also: here).

Sixth Circle: Plagiarism

Miscreants in the Sixth Circle of Hell should be forced to sit while unable to move or speak and repeatedly watch others being lauded in their place for their work, stolen and used without attribution.

produced bluster over plagiarism of a book (by Raymond Bradley) by Edward Wegman’s report to Congress investigating hockey sticks before it was shown that Bradley had copied captions from a 1976 book, also without citation. Eventually Wegman was “slapped on the wrist” for ‘extensive paraphrasing’ and ‘poor attribution’. But lack of attribution seems common enough in climate science. Kevin Trenberth was caught out by Steve McIntyre and quietly added citations, while Anthony Watts handled attribution oversight by Matt Menne and NOAA in an exemplary manner.  At blog level Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate has certainly incorporated information without acknowledgement, probably out of pettiness as Steve McIntyre suggests.

See also Donna LaFramboise’s post highlighting uncomfortable parallels between text in a chapter of the IPCC Second Assessment Report (1995) and a book by the lead author.

Seventh Circle: Non-Publication of Data

Phil Jones and colleagues at UEA CRU, and Michael Mann/UVa get star billing here for their determination to avoid FOI requests.  Non-archiving of data counts too, but perhaps the most insidious example is the disappearing data from the Polar Urals enabling the perpetuation of the hockey stick sham. The story is well covered by Andrew Montford’s The Yamal Deception:

“… [Steve] McIntyre discovered that an update to the Polar Urals series had been collected in 1999. Through a contact he was able to obtain a copy of the revised series. Remarkably, in the update the eleventh century appeared to be much warmer than in the original – in fact it was higher even than the twentieth century. This must have been a severe blow to paleoclimatologists, a supposition that is borne out by what happened next, or rather what didn’t: the update to the Polar Urals was not published, it was not archived and it was almost never seen again.”

Eighth Circle: Partial Publication of Data

Michael Mann gets a nomination for this circle for telling the story but not the whole story in Nature.  Of course Phil Jones and Keith Briffa are condemned here too by Phil Jones’ email:

“I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

Gergis et al, deserve a mention for prescreening of data (see subtitle “Screening Fallacy” here); selection of proxies in this manner constitutes partial publication – by only publishing the data that fits the presupposed relationship.  Partial publication could also be construed from the paper’s subsequent withdrawal – it partly made it.

Ninth Circle: Inventing Data


The ultimate crime. Inventing results, or publishing such erroneous and/or contrived data that the results constitute fraud near as dammit, comes pretty close too.

Stephan Lewandowsky is an offender here for “an article relying on fraudulent responses at stridently anti-skeptic blogs to yield fake results“.

Peter Gleick lands himself in this circle too. Luboš Motl summarized it as published a guest post by Eric Dennis Selling your soul for a narrative: understanding the Gleick fraud:

This fraud did not involve any aspect of his own research, but was purely ideological in nature, directed against the Heartland Institute, [...]. Gleick impersonated a Heartland board member in order to obtain confidential documents including the institute’s donor list. He proceeded to combine this material with a fabricated strategy memo, [...] and send the package anonymously to media organizations for the purpose of outing the donors and undermining future contributions.

Only after himself being outed as the source of these documents by the detective work of a non-catastrophist blog contributor, Gleick fessed up and thereby cemented his career self-sabotage.

Worthy of a Gleick Tragedy indeed.


Finally, if we total up the work done by Michael Mann and IPCC collaborators in producing, perpetuating and defending the Hockey Stick graph, clearly he has done plenty to earn a spot here for eternity.  It is a lot more than just ‘hiding the decline’ – see a History Of How The Hockey Stick Was Manufactured; How to Make a Hockey Stick– Paleoclimatology (What they don’t want you to know) and consider what Climategate, and FOI uncovered. If you are still in any doubt, review maps and graphs from Jo Nova’s Fraudulent hockey sticks and hidden data that make it clear ‘just how brazen the Hockey Stick fraud is’.


I like to think of Mann and his IPCC cohorts marooned in a ship frozen into the Arctic ice at the pole waiting in vain each year for the summer melt to bring an ice-free Arctic thus enabling the release of their ship.  In the meantime they are forced to use their own analytical methods to analyze large quantities of data.  If the method can produce anything other than a hockey stick they will escape, but it never does – all data run through the programme produces hockey sticks – even data from telephone directory.


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