It starts with a very simple question: Is global warming real and human caused? It ends with a very simple answer: Yes to both. But in the middle we have, like every other good story, sex, intrigue, and intriguing sex.
In the beginning, there was a strong theory that said, “If we add greenhouse gasses, such as CO2, the byproduct of burning fossil fuels, to the atmosphere, the planet will warm.” But direct observations of this warming actually happening were sketchy. Widespread systematically collected and curated temperature records only went back a few decades, and as we were to learn later, the warming that was indeed happening was undergoing a quiescence. Such slower periods are interspersed with periods of rapid warming as part of the natural variation in the Earth’s climate system. In short, there is a natural component to variation in the Earth’s surface temperature, and a human-caused component, and at the time the human component was not yet the dominating force it would soon become.
Eventually, the record of surface temperatures was pushed back decade by decade through the diligent collection, critical evaluation, and cleaning up of data that had been sitting around in hand written form in myriad locations. The direct measurements of surface temperatures was extended back over a century, and at the same time, because that took a while, a decade or two of actual time passed by, during which thermometer and satellite data were collected. Now, we can look back to 1850 or 1880 (depending on the database) up to the present, and we see a warming trend.
A lot of research was being done those days, in the 1970s and 1980s, in paleoclimate and climatology. In particular, proxyindicators were being developed and contributing significant data. I remember as a young pre-graduate student sitting in a class where the professor was carefully explaining what a “proxy” was, as though no one had ever heard of them before (and we hadn’t). A proxy is a signal obtained from some natural material such as glacial ice, the sediment at the bottom of a pond or an ocean, or the pattern of growth rings of trees. This signal is linked via a model of some sort to a desired measurement (such as sea level, or temperature, or something) to imitate an instrument over the time covered by the proxy.
Just two years later, I remember an impromptu conference organized by my advisor, with a half dozen of the key paleoclimatologists, in which they provided updates to current research coming out of oceanography, and it was pretty amazing. Suddenly, using ocean cores, Oxygen isotopes, and theory, it was possible to make a reliable and remarkably precise estimate of how much water was missing from the ocean at any given time. Since most of that missing water was trapped in glacial ice, this proxy became the first accurate tracking of the comings and goings, and patterns of, Pleistocene ice ages. At first the record only went back 500,000 years. Then 800,00 years. Now, it is being extended back further.
Roughly ten years or so later, by the time 1998 rolled around, the world of climate science was ready for one of those pivotal moments to come along, and it did. This was the publication by Michael E. Mann, Raymond S. Bradley, Malcolm K. Hughes, of research linking long term records of the Earth’s surface temperature with more recent data, showing a clear signal of recent human-caused warming. Subsequently, that result, sometimes referred to as the “Hockey Stick Graph” because it looks somewhat like a hockey stick, has been confirmed over and over again. The best place to get a review of that research and its subsequent verification is in a post by climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf called “Most Comprehensive Paleoclimate Reconstruction Confirms Hockey Stick.”
(Added: See also the reference to Jones et al in this blog post pertaining to the history of all of this, by John Mashey.)
There have always been science deniers. God was a denier (“…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge…”). Galileo was harassed by deniers. I recently read a quote from a late 18th century, of a British soldier, referring with derision to the “bible-faced Americans” and, certainly, the American Christian churches have found anti-science activism and rhetoric to be excellent, um, fertilizer, to enhance their own growth.
The deniers of climate change didn’t just get the gas for their cars from Big Oil; Their entire movement was, and is, fueled by the likes of the Koch Brothers, deep pocketed one percenters and corporations harboring the unfortunate delusion that if we pretend climate change is not caused by the burning of fossil fuels, everything will be fine and they’ll keep getting rich.
The publication of the Hockey Stick research became a focusing point for these deniers, and Michael Man, the lead on that research, became a target on which they have fired continuously since then. No living scientist, no recent deceased scientists, and perhaps no scientist in history, has experienced such a sustained violation by so many deniers over such a period of time as Mike Mann. You can read all about the first phase of this relentless attack in this book by Mann himself.
You can disagree with a scientist. In fact, please do. Maybe the scientist is wrong about something. Chances are, if you are not a scientist and your disagreement is about something the scientist is an expert on and you are not, there is a different problem. Perhaps the science has not been explained clearly, and that is a problem, a reasonable thing to ask about. That can also be fixed. If, however, the science has been explained, and you maintain your disagreement not because the scientist is wrong, but because you want the scientist to be wrong, or because it is in your financial or political interest to disagree or cause confusion or sow doubt then … well, you can still do that because this is a free country.
In America, you can be an asshole.
But, if you publicly claim of anyone, in this country, that they have committed a crime, and they didn’t, especially if you make this claim with nefarious intent, then it is you who have potentially committed an offense, perhaps a civil offense, perhaps libel. In Canada they have similar rules. Lots of countries have that rule.
As the number one target of climate deniers world wide and for decades, Michael Mann has been defamed a number of times. On a couple of those occasions, with the support of various groups, Mann has pursued his legal and ethical right to fight back, and has filed suit.
I know Michael Mann well enough to know that this is not libel tourism. This is not Mann trying to make a fast buck. Mann would probably be fine in each case if the defendants had simply withdrawn the libel. (Given the nature of court costs and such, and the tenacious and obnoxious nature of the defense pretty much universally as I’ve seen it, I have no idea what the status of possible settlement is at this time and I’m sure everyone involved is under legal recommendation to not speak of such things at this time.)
One of these cases is against Tim Ball. Who is Tim Ball?
Ball has a PhD from the University of London (1982). According to the DeSmogBlog database on climate deniers,
Tim Ball was a professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg from 1988 to 1996. He is a prolific speaker and writer in the skeptical science community.
He has been Chairman to the now-defunct Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP), “Consultant” to the Exxon-funded Friends of Science (FoS), senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP), and has connections to numerous other think tanks and right-wing organizations.
Tim Ball is member of Climate Exit (Clexit), a climate change denial group formed shortly after the UK’s decision to leave the EU. According to Clexit’s founding statement (PDF), “The world must abandon this suicidal Global Warming crusade. Man does not and cannot control the climate.”
Ball and the organizations he is affiliated with have repeatedly made the claim that he is the “first Canadian PhD in climatology.” Ball himself claimed he was “one of the first climatology PhD’s in the world.”
Many have pointed out that there have been numerous PhD’s in the field prior to Ball.
Ball was a former professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg from 1988 to 1996. The University of Winnipeg never had an office of Climatology. His degree was in historical geography and not climatology. 
A search of 22,000 academic journals shows that over the course of his career Ball published four pieces of original research in peer-reviewed journals on the subject of climate change.
According to Google Scholar, his most recent peer-reviewed article on climate change was published in 1986, titled “Historical evidence and climatic implications of a shift in the boreal forest tundra transition in central Canada.”
Tim Ball is a prolific writer of newspaper articles, opinion pieces, and letters to the editor questioning the existence of climate change. 
Ball is also a lead author of Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, a book published in 2011.
In 2011, Michael Mann filed suit against Ball and a Canadian think tank for claiming that Mann carried out criminal fraud. The nature of the fraud claim is a little complex and muddled, but it was part of the ongoing attack on Mann discussed in the above mentioned book. Ultimately this has to do with a bunch of innocuous private emails that had been exchanged among colleagues, then stolen by nefarious actors, cherry picked to make it look like bad things had happened, and widely publicized. In relation to this alt-news now known as “climategate” Ball said, “Michael Mann at Penn State should be in the State Pen, not Penn State.”
This is not the only law suit against Tim Ball. He has made similar accusations against others as well.
Now, that is all very interesting. But here is where it starts to get strange.
Libertarian Bisexual Prostitutes In My Blog
I am happy to have a wide range of commenters on my blog, and I trust my regular readers to handle those with racist, sexist, or anti-science tendencies. But I was a little shocked the other day to get a comment by someone I had never heard of before, ranting about Michael Mann and making claims about the Mann vs. Ball lawsuit that I knew were false.
The commenter used the name “Starchild.” I’d heard of Starchild, but I was suspicious that an alien hoax was commenting on my blog. So, I contacted this Starchild chap and asked if he was for real. Turns out, his real life name is none other than Starchild, and he is a famous San Francisco based bi-sexual sex worker Libertarian. Like this:
Starchild, in his comments, was essentially parroting a guy named John O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan runs a really nasty anti-science blog, and is well known for a wide range of shenanigans.
Sullivan was making legal claims about the Mann vs. Ball law suit, and I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, who is John O’Sullivan?
John O’Sullivan: Not a lawer
Sometimes John O’Sullivan claims to be a lawyer, but sometimes he backs off that claim.
According to himself, John O’Sullivan is not lawyer, but “… just some Brit with a brain who can go live with his American wife in her country and kick ass big time around a courtroom.”
He is the author of “Vanilla Girl: a Fact-Based Crime Story of a Teacher’s Struggle to Control His Erotic Obsession with a Schoolgirl.” This is an online book of some kind (I looked, it is not on Amazon).
O’Sullivan was successful in winning an acquittal when he was personally charged in England as a high school teacher accused of sending lewd text messages and assaulting a 16-year-old female. Given the acquittal, it would not generally be appropriate to bring up this sordid and unproven bit of history, except that O’Sullivan himself went on to write an “erotic” “novel” with a startlingly similar storyline: Vanilla Girl: a Fact-Based Crime Story of a Teacher’s Struggle to Control His Erotic Obsession with a Schoolgirl.
O’Sullivan claimed that he was an experienced attorney with an excellent record in New York and US federal courts. He isn’t. He identified a major law firm that he worked for. He didn’t work for them. He claims a fairly imporessive writing resume including some major outlets such as Forbes. None of that was true. He claims to be a member of the American Bar association but isn’t. He may or may not have a fake law degree from an on line alt-degree mill.
To focus this line of thoughtlessness on the issue at hand, I’ll replicate Starchild’s comments here (combined into one):
Now that Michael Mann is in danger of being held in contempt of court for failing to release his research data, who’s the climate science “denier”? Hmm…
In his blog entry at http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2014/08/15/electronic-frontier-foundation-messes-up/ , Greg Laden wrote, “I’ll add that Mann’s research is all open source or open access with respect to data, methods, software, and results.”
It is, is it? Maybe that’s what he wanted you to think, until the time came when he actually had to produce:
“Prominent alarmist shockingly defies judge and refuses to surrender data for open court examination…
“(Climatologist Dr. Tim) Ball explains, ‘We believe he [Mann] withheld on the basis of a US court ruling that it was all his intellectual property. This ruling was made despite the fact the US taxpayer paid for the research and the research results were used as the basis of literally earth-shattering policies on energy and environment. The problem for him is that the Canadian court holds that you cannot withhold documents that are central to your charge of defamation regardless of the US ruling.’”
Let’s begin right away with the data that is supposedly being held secret. They are HERE They have always been there. Anytime anyone says “where’s the data, Michael Mann” just send them there, where the data are.
Regarding the rest of O’Sullivan’s claims as echoed by Starchild, this is a statement by Michael Mann’s attorney:
Contrary to the nonsensical allegations made by John O’Sullivan in his July 4 posted on climatechangedispatch.com and elsewhere, plaintiff Michael Mann has fully complied with all of his disclosure obligations to the defendant Tim Ball relating to data and other documents.
No judge has made any order or given any direction, however minor or inconsequential, that Michael Mann surrender any data or any documents to Tim Ball for any purpose.
Accordingly it should be plain and obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense that Mann could not possibly be in contempt of court.
Just to be clear: Mann is not defying any judge. He is not in breach of any judgment. He is not, repeat not, in contempt of court. He is not in breach of any discovery obligations to Ball.
In this context, O’Sullivan’s suggestion that Ball “is expected to instruct his British Columbia attorneys to trigger mandatory punitive court sanctions” against Mann is simply divorced from reality.
Finally, a word about the actual issues in the British Columbia lawsuit.
If O’Sullivan had read Ball’s statement of defence, he would immediately see that Ball does not intend to ask the BC Court to rule that Mann committed climate data fraud, or that Mann in fact did anything with criminal intent.
O’Sullivan would have noticed that one of Ball’s defences is that the words he spoke about Mann (which are the subject of Mann’s lawsuit) were said in “jest.”
The BC Court will not be asked to decide whether or not climate change is real.
So there is no chance whatsoever that any BC Court verdict about Mann’s libel claims against Ball will vindicate Donald Trump’s perspective on climate change.
Roger D. McConchie
Also, the data are here.