In a 1988 paper James Hansen presented three scenarios (A, B and C) for future climate change, saying that Scenario B was the most plausible. In 1998 Pat Michaels committed scientific fraud when he erased scenarios B and C from Hansen’s graph to argue that Hansen’s predictions was out by 300%. In fact, as you can see from the graph below (updated to include 2007 temperatures), his predictions have been pretty close to reality. (More discussion at RealClimate.)


You can bet that if a mainstream climate scientist had done anything one tenth as bad, Steve McIntyre would be all over it, but not in this case. He’s defending Michaels:

In the right panel, only Scenario A is taken through to 2050 and in both panels, Scenario A is plotted as a solid line, which could be taken as according at least graphic precedence to Scenario A. Hansen has subsequently said that Scenario B was said by him at the time (in his testimony) to have been the “most plausible”, although the article itself contained no such statement.


You can see for yourselves that, in the article, Scenario A was arguably more prominent graphically.

None of this could excuse erasing scenarios B and C from the graph, but in any case, scenario A is not plotted as a solid line, and the article does say that B is the “most plausible”.

Scenario A is actually plotted as a dotted line, it only looks like a solid grey line in a low resolution image. Click on the image below to see a high resolution scan.

Hansen 1988 fig 3a

More importantly, in four full page colour plates where there was only room to display one scenario, it is scenario B that is shown. There is no question that scenario B is more prominent graphically in the paper.

Here’s what Hansen wrote about the scenarios in his paper:

These scenarios are designed to yield sensitivity experiments for a broad range of future greenhouse forcings. Scenario A, since it is exponential, must eventually be on the high side of reality in view of finite resource constraints and environmental concerns … Scenario C is a more drastic curtailment of emissions than has generally been imagined … Scenario B is perhaps the most plausible of the three cases.

See if you can spot the words that McIntyre claimed were not there.

No reasonable person can read Hansen’s paper and conclude that A was his preferred scenario.

Oh and for some reason, McIntyre wants you to know that Gavin Schmidt works for NASA, because he tells you this nine times in his post.


  1. #1 BillBodell
    January 22, 2008


    I think you’re a little paranoid.

    “An Inconvenient Truth” was very successful and Al Gore won a Nobel Prize. “The Global Warming Swindle” was never even shown on TV in the US.

  2. #2 BillBodell
    January 22, 2008

    Interestingly, I was just checking out CA and McIntyre has made a correction about “the error in the NASA data”. But the most interesting thing is that, this time, he preserved the original text by striking through it as suggested on this thread.

  3. #3 BillBodell
    January 22, 2008

    Tim Lambert,

    CA now acknowleges that the error in digitization was Willis’.

    Steve: Willis, it looks like you digitized a later version of the image. Here’s a blown up version of the image in question excerpted from HAnsen et al 1988 Figure 3a, rather than a later rendering. In this figure, Gavin’s value of for Scenario B in 1994 looks correct, while yours doesn’t.

    It’s still a valid point that didn’t originally mention Willis as the possible source of the error.

  4. #4 Hank Roberts
    January 23, 2008

    > the polemic abuse of models

    It’s become easy to forget the ozone ‘wars’ — the most embarassing originals have faded from originally linked pages and can’t be found any longer.

    Fortunately both skeptics and true believers kept copies, like


    and the bizarre claims banning freon would ruin businesses:

    It’s good to be remembered. And to remember.
    Lest we repeat.

  5. #5 Jeff Harvey
    January 23, 2008

    “My personal experience is that I hear very little in the MSM that is skeptical”.

    Really? The truth is that the corporate MSM has played a major role in promoting a small coterie of sceptics, who otherwise would disappear into the academic obscurity from whence they emerged. Countless articles juxtapose the views of a climate scientist arguing in favour of the AGW hypothesis against another person – often someone like Myron Ebell from the CEI or another unqualified person – presenting a counter view. Controversy sells in the media; consensus does not.

    As scientist and writer Sharon Beder has also explained, the media might talk about the serious consequences of AGW, but they very rarely explain how much industry is funding efforts to twist and mangle the empirical science to bolster a pre-determined worldview. This could be because the media is either owned by large corporations that have a vested interest in denial, or else they depend on corporate advertising as the major source of their funding. One can not underestimate the amount of coverage given to the denial lobby in the MSM. Its huge.

    Over here in Holland, a few days after the IPCC report came out last January, several of the papers here went into ‘adaptation and denial’ mode within a few days. One of the broadsheets ran much of their front section on articles explaining how the Dutch have the technology to prevent flooding as the sea level rises from AGW. This was followed by an op-ed by a British climate change sceptic in the editorial section arguing that climate change was natural anyway, so that there was nothing to worry about. It was a classic example of ‘A & D’ in practice.

  6. #6 guthrie
    January 23, 2008

    BillBodell- it would be worth doing a study on media reporting. In my own limited experience here in the UK, you have several broadsheets which will report the science, however the journalist mangles it, and the scientific consensus. However they tend to also allow people like Lomborg to have a say in the opinion pages, and certainly kooks are forever writing letters to the papers saying global warming is all bunk. But in pursuit of profits and their mythical balance, the papers do tend to print a fair bit of disinformation. How much, I cannot tell.

  7. #7 Barton Paul Levenson
    January 23, 2008

    Hank — I think you have a good point about past industry anti-regulation campaigns. Didn’t they also say passing the Clean Air Act would destroy the American economy?

  8. #8 Dano
    January 23, 2008

    Thank you P Lewis!



  9. #9 TCO
    January 24, 2008


    You seem to have a head on your shoulders, to be fair, and to be “discover the truth” versus “help my side” focused.

    At one time, I was very intrigued and politically sympathetic to Steve’s writings. But I have seen a pattern of significantly skewed behaviour. Criticism of his skewedness may itself have errors (Steve is awfully opaque and meandering and his opponents are not always precise in pinning him down.) But the main point is that when you go down the rabbit hole, you find equivocation, mischaracterization, confounded variables, failure to ask key questions, etc. (and with Steve, they slant in his favor).

    Check out this series of posts:

    You are very good at looking at timestamps and such, so will let you figure this out on your own, but I do call your attention to these things:
    -now in-line correction on first post was added several days after the issue was first surfaced and only after significant embarressment (i.e. grudgingly). Note also that this correction is undated, that it is written in such a way as to give the false impression that ASOS is close to the parking lots, and thus attempts to still have people see his post as significant (rather than as a blatantly false impression). Note also how the comment is inline, rather than up front.
    -the last post had major portions changed after it was first posted, with no comments that that had been done (this is common Steve behavior).

  10. #10 Majorajam
    January 25, 2008


    McI just over and over manages to destroy any credibility he attains, it’s so self-destructive it’s sad to watch happen.

    The thing is, irrespective of where he started out on the issue, or where he could’ve ended up under different circumstances, he’s now a hero to a movement, and that’s pretty potent stuff. Of course, the challenge for him is going to be to diversify. Endlessly tilting at the Hockey Stick isn’t going to keep the peanut gallery interested. Hence, that other bete noir of the conspiracy minded right: Hansen. I wonder the extent to which the ambition to keep and build upon the accolades that he has received is leading to more overt fudges like this one. Irrespective, it’s nice to see Lambert, Eli and co have him well boxed in.

  11. #11 Dano
    January 25, 2008

    Welcome to the RBC, TCO.



  12. #12 TCO
    January 26, 2008

    What’s up little Dano?