The Walter White of Climatology

What do Michael Mann and Walter White have in common?

Walter White is a fictional character in the award winning television series Breaking Bad (and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. This article does not contain spoilers). White is a high school chemistry teacher, who decides to manufacture the illegal drug ‘crystal meth’, initially just to fund his medical bills, but his life then spirals out of control and he is drawn deeper into the criminal underworld.

Both men are scientists. One is embittered and resentful at the success of his former colleagues and the vicissitudes of fate, and ruthlessly destroys everyone who gets in the way of his drive for power and recognition. The other is a drug dealer. No, just kidding.

I won’t be the first to use the meth-dealing White as a benchmark. Writing for, journalist Marty Beckerman expends almost 1000 words detailing How Mitt Romney is like Walter White, where he generously concedes that Romney “is (maybe?) less of a sociopath”. But as Michael Mann is notoriously more litigious than Romney, I had better be specific about what I mean.

So what is the parallel? It comes in the opening minutes of the first episode of the first series (where storytellers often introduce insightful background details).

After an intriguing flashforward scene
and the credits
the director takes us to quiet suburbia.
It’s 5:02 a.m. White is lying awake in bed. His wife is still asleep beside him. He gets up and mounts one of those treadmills that look like two foot-pumps bolted together.
As he trudges on the spot, as if marching across Bataan, the camera pans around to reveal the trappings of fatherhood. As it returns to White, he stops his stepping, as he stares, dispirited and open-mouthed, at something on the wall directly in front of him.
It is a framed certificate.
The camera zooms in to better read the text.
hereby recognizes

This is, of course, the same kind of certificate that Mann prominently displays in his office.
Unlike Mann’s certificate, White’s refers to a, much more coveted, Nobel prize for science, not something as vague, arbitrary, and political as “Peace”.
But unlike Mann, White never claims to be a Nobel laureate, or recipient, or similar, and never uses this, in the course of the series, to inflate himself in the eyes of others.

The background

On October 22 2012 Mann filed his defamation suit against Mark Steyn. The following day Mann issued a press release on his Facebook page:

Dr. Mann is a climate scientist whose research has focused on global warming. In 2007, along with Vice President Al Gore and his colleagues of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having “created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming.”

The following morning Steyn comments on the press release.

I confess I wasn’t aware Dr. Mann “was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” The official Nobel site makes no mention of him; there are no speeches, no citations, no pictures of him with the King of Norway, no namecheck on the 2007 Nobel diploma.

Not only did Mann make this claim in the press release he also made it in his court filing.

This is a defamation action brought by Michael E. Mann …  Dr. Mann and his colleagues were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
It is one thing to engage in discussion about debatable topics. It is quite another to attempt to discredit consistently validated scientific research through the professional and personal defamation of a Nobel prize recipient.

Steyn pointed out that the claim was also made on Mann’s web page

On the one hand, Michael Mann’s own web page:

He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with other IPCC authors in 2007.

On the other, the Nobel committee:

Only persons named explicitly in the citation may claim to share a Nobel Prize.

And pointed out the absurdity of the legal complaint.

When Nobel Fantasists Attack . . .

Accepting for the purposes of argument that there is such a crime in U.S. law as “defamation of a Nobel prize recipient”, don’t you have to be a Nobel prize recipient to be the victim of it?

A man who has declared himself a Nobel laureate is suing NR for refusing to respect him as one.

The same day Mann posted an image of his certificate from the IPCC on Facebook

Since some have asked about my contribution w/ other IPCC lead authors to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize…
Official certificate from IPCC acknowledges me, as a lead author “contributing to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize”. Not enough for some. I guess they want to see my birth certificate too?

The next day Mann resorts to a sort of tu quoque argument (but instead of maligning his opponents he does it to his colleagues).

Its sort of funny how the rabble don’t seem too interested in the fact that many other IPCC co-authors (e.g. University of Montana scientists Steve Running) have found the IPCC’s official commendation to lead authors (“contributing to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize”) translated to having been co-awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize or e.g. as “scientist shares in Nobel Peace Prize” Where’s the outrage climate change deniers?

Will deniers now argue that identical certificate issued to IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth is too a forgery?

Completely oblivious to the consequences of his own actions (repeatedly smearing and suing skeptics) Mann asks why he is being singled out. Which brings to mind a passage from his latest book.

Predators, in what I call the “Serengeti strategy,” look for the most vulnerable animals at the edge of a herd. But they have difficulty picking out an individual zebra to attack when it is seamlessly incorporated into the larger group, lost in this case in a continuous wall of stripes. Only later would I understand the profound lesson this scene from nature had to offer me and my fellow climate scientists in the years to come.

Mann seems to be using his own “Serengeti strategy”, pointing out other climate scientists of the same stripe. Actually, a wall of seamlessly incorporated stripes designed to confuse sounds a bit like one of Mann’s graphs.

Thomas Richard of then sought clarification direct from The Norwegian Nobel Institute, who wrote:

1) Michael Mann has never been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
2) He did not receive any personal certificate. He has taken the diploma awarded in 2007 to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (and to Al Gore) and made his own text underneath this authentic-looking diploma.
3) The text underneath the diploma is entirely his own. We issued only the diploma to the IPCC as such. No individuals on the IPCC side received anything in 2007.

All this finally attracted the attention of the IPCC who issued their own statement.

The prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organization, and not to any individual associated with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner.

h/t to Chris Horner

Nobel Cause Corruption

The Nobel deception may appear trivial to some. But it illuminates three aspects about Mann and the climate debate.

1) It illustrates a tendency to exaggerate, which may be reflected in Mann’s work.

2) The motivation for both types of exaggeration is the same: the desire for recognition. Mann and his supporters ask how anyone can believe that scientists would manipulate data for the sake of more grant money or other financial reward. It is not about money. It is about glory. If your science “saves” the world you are a saviour.

3) The unhealthy deference to authority displayed by much of the climate establishment and media.

Penn. State’s “investigation” of Mann dismissed the charges against him largely based on the recognition he had received.

This level of success in proposing research, and obtaining funding to conduct it, clearly places Dr.  Mann among the most respected scientists in his field. Such success would not have been possible had he not met or exceeded the highest standards of his profession for proposing research.

All of these awards and recognitions, as  well as  others not specifically cited here, serve as evidence that his scientific work, especially the conduct of his research,  has from the beginning of his career been judged to  be outstanding by a broad spectrum of scientists. Had Dr.  Mann’s conduct of his research been outside the range of accepted practices, it would have been impossible for him to receive so  many awards and recognitions, which typically involve intense scrutiny from scientists who mayor may not agree with his scientific conclusions.

They list “Dr. Michael Mann’s curriculum vitae” as one of the documents they examined. But obviously didn’t give it “intense scrutiny” as it contained the line.

2007 Co-awarded (with other IPCC report authors) the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize

Qui tacet consentire videtur

One of the more serious flaws in academic papers is failure to report contrary evidence or things that don’t suit your argument i.e. sins of omission or silence. Michael Mann meticulously documents interviews of Micheal Mann and other press reports about Michael Mann on his homepage. In many of these interviews, Mann is sitting right next to the interviewer as he is being introduced. There is nothing stopping Mann from correcting any mistakes. A few examples:

Alan Colmes, Fox News Radio, 29 February 2012
Dr. Mann … in 2007 was part of a group that won a Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore.

WAMU 88.5, 15 March 2012
Link to transcript.
His research on climate change has been both revered, earning him a shared Nobel Peace Prize, and vilified, with skeptics and deniers accusing him of fraud. … Michael Mann, thankyou so much for joining us.

Russia Today, 17 March 2012
In 2007 Dr. Mann was a joint recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pittsburgh City Paper, 21 March 2012
In 2007, Mann was among the group of scientists awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for their work with the IPCC.

The POD Delusion, Episode 128, 23 March 2012
[25:39] segment start
INTERVIEWER: Michael Mann’s career has included groundbreaking climate change research, sharing in a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore and the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change …[At 25:50]
INTERVIEWER: And I think we can sort of tout you as our first Nobel Peace Prize winner, maybe.
MANN: [laughs]
INTERVIEWER: We’ve had some Nobel scientists on, but not Peace Prize winners. We’ll skew the facts a little bit in that case.
MANN: [laughs]
INTERVIEWER: Michael Mann, thankyou very much for coming on our show.
MANN: Thank you Liz, it was a pleasure talking to you.

Patt Morrison, 89.3KPCC, 28 March 2012
In his new book, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Michael E. Mann, lead author on the scientific paper that introduced the infamous symbol, explores the controversy and unravels the political and market influences behind the denial of what, he believes, is irrefutable scientific fact.

Guy Rathbun, KCBX Public Radio (undated)
Along with other scientists who participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

The Mark, 20 April 2012
He shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with other scientists who participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

EcoReport, WFHB, 26 April 2012
In today’s feature report, Nobel Prize winning scientist Michael Mann speaks about the dirty tactics petroleum-industry front groups use to deny the reality of global warming.

Scott LaMar, Radio Smart Talk, WITF, 30 May 2012
He also shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Conversations from Penn State, 30 March 2012
SATALIA: Michael Mann is one of the nation’s leading climatologists. He was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the team of scientists that shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
SATALIA: You were a part of the 2007 team of scientists who won the Nobel Peace prize. You were part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate uh Change with Al Gore and I’ve often wondered if because this is such a polarizing issue- if Al Gore had not been the spokesperson for uh an Inconvenient Truth or for this ICPCC report do you think we’d be having this same debate?
MANN: It’s a great question. Uh one sort of minor uh point of clarification is uh Gore wasn’t actually associated with the IPCC in any way. Um but the Nobel Prize was jointly awarded to the IPCC-
SATALIA: And to him. Ok.
MANN: Al Gore uh collectively. And um and certainly he did become uh in you know 2006 2007 um with uh winning the with him uh being co-warded the Nobel Prize uh Peace Prize um with the success of his movie An Inconvenient Truth.

This is the only example I came across of Mann venturing to clarify (if that’s the word) an interviewer’s attribution of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Alan Colmes, Fox News Radio, 11 July 2012
In 2007 shared a Nobel Prize with a team of scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…

Stacy Clark, Huffington Post Green, 17 July 2012
In talking recently with climate expert, author, and Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Michael E. Mann

Martha Foley, North Country Public Radio, 25 September 2012
Nobel Prize-winning scientist Michael Mann talks climate change politics

Not only did Mann fail to correct Foley’s “Nobel Prize-winning” description at the start of her interview, she used the same phrase in the title of her article, and Mann, without comment, pasted this onto his web page., 6 October 2012
Along with other scientists Michael Mann jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Climate scientist sues for defamation
The Daily Climate, 23 October 2012
In 2007 he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore and authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report for work connecting human activities to global warming

The Daily Climate’s description makes it sound like a three-way split: Mann, Gore, IPCC. This article was reposted at Scientific American

Penn State climate professor sues think tank, National Review
Keith L. Alexander, Washington Post, 23 October 2012
A Nobel Peace Prize winner and Penn State University climate science professor has sued a Washington-based think tank and a national magazine that called his scientific findings fraudulent and compared him to Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach convicted of numerous counts of child molestation.

Note after this date Mann no longer had the excuse of ignorance to continue calling himself or allowing others to call him a Nobel laureate or similar.

Michael Mann interviewed by Michael Masters, Background Briefing, 30 October 2012
…in 2007 he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with others on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Al Jazeera, 31 October 2012
INTERVIEWER: And from State College Pennsylvania we’re joined by Nobel Prize winning climate scientist Michael Mann. Professor Mann it was notable though that both Governor Cuomo of New York and Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, while acknowledging the frequency of these sorts of weather events, they were very reluctant, clearly, to make the connection with climate change. What is the connection with climate change?
MANN: Well there are a number of connections…

WFAE90.7, 6 November 2012
… he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with other authors in 2007 …
MSNBC: Interview with Dr. Michael Mann, 11 November 2012
INTERVIEWER: Penn State University Professor Michael Mann, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2007 with his fellow climate change report authors and former Vice President, as well, Al Gore.

Michael Mann interviewed by Ian Masters, Background Briefing, 10 February 2013
We begin with the latest super storm that has dumped record amounts of snow in New England and speak with Michael Mann, the Nobel Prize-winning founder and contributor to the award winning science website
And joining us now is Michael Mann, the Director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn. State University. He is a co-founder and contributor to the award winning science website And in 2007 he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with others on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Michael Mann interviewed by Ian Masters, Background Briefing, 16 May 2013
And joining us now is Michael Mann, the Director of the Earth Systems Science Center at Penn. State University. He is a co-founder and contributor to the award winning science website And in 2007 he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with others on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

That last one is not a duplicate. Masters is obviously reading from a script. It is not uncommon for interviewers to get their guests to review these introductory scripts to avoid mistakes. In fact, the skill with which Mann avoids hostile or ambush questions or interviews suggests that he, or more likely his agent, does some preparation with each interviewer beforehand.


The original blurb (since amended), put out by Columbia University Press, that accompanied Mann’s latest book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, stated:

In 2007, he jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize along with other scientists who participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…

And in that book Mann states about one of his critics:

Richard Littlemore of the fossil fuel industry watchdog group DeSmogBlog tells us that Monckton has been caught on several occasions “indulging in deliberate manipulation of scientific data to arrive at misleading conclusions about climate science.” Monckton’s assertions aren’t confined to science; he has even claimed, falsely, to have won the Nobel Prize.

Following a trail starting with Mann’s footnotes we discover that Monckton’s “claim” was, in fact, a joke mocking those climate scientists who having contributed to the IPCC reports, like Mann, claim to be Nobel laureates. And here it is.

His contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 – the correction of a table inserted by IPCC bureaucrats that had overstated tenfold the observed contribution of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to sea-level rise – earned him the status of Nobel Peace Laureate. His Nobel prize pin, made of gold recovered from a physics experiment, was presented to him by the Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, New York, USA.

This joke was made once (as far as I can tell) on one webpage. And,  perhaps because people like Littlemore (what an excellent name for someone who exaggerates) and Mann used it to deliberately misrepresent Monckton’s meaning, it was removed years before Mann published his book (I had to use an archived link).

Mann on the other “has been caught on [considerably more than] several occasions” pretending to be a Nobel winning scientist. Mann doesn’t like being called the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, but he has displayed a preference for animal metaphors. So if Michael Mann is not a zebra or a lion or the Walter White of climatology (Walter had more integrity when it came to his contribution to a Nobel Prize) then what is he?

Perhaps Walter said it best (in the 7th episode of the 2nd season):

You are a blowfish. A blowfish. Think about it. Small in stature, not swift, not cunning, easy prey for predators. But the blowfish has a secret weapon. Doesn’t he? What does the blowfish do? The blowfish puffs up. The blowfish puffs himself up, four, five times larger than normal. … And that’s you. You are a blowfish. You see it’s just all an illusion. It’s nothing but air.


Useful links:

Mike’s Nobel Trick
Mark Steyn, 27 October 2012

The fraudulent Nobel Laureate
Mark Steyn, 28 October 2012

What is Wrong with Embellishing Science?
Roger Pielke Jr. 26 October 2012

P.S. This is the promised concluding part of a series “Is Michael Mann a Zebra or the Walter White of Climatology?” but as the events and the previous posts were over a year old I had to go over some old ground. And the fraudulence of the hockey stick (my own take) will be covered in separate articles.

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One Response to The Walter White of Climatology

  1. Speed says:

    I’ve wondered who Dr. Mann’s supervisor (boss) is and if he/she has any interest in Dr. Mann’s public persona. The Dean of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences is William E. Easterling.

    Dr. Easterling is an internationally recognized expert on how global warming likely will affect the Earth’s food supply, and was one of the lead authors of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the effects of climate change. The IPCC was the co-recipient (with Al Gore) of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. The efforts of Dr. Easterling and other scientists were hailed for providing comprehensive and objective information to better understand the scientific basis of human-induced climate change, its potential impact, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

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