The "hockey stick" temperature graph is a mainstay of global warming science. A new book tells of one man's efforts to dismantle it—and deserves to win prizesby Matt Ridley / March 10, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
Messy, truncated data? Trees on the Gaspé Peninsula in Canada: one of several pieces of evidence for rising temperatures that have been called into question
Andrew Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion is one of the best science books in years. It exposes in delicious detail, datum by datum, how a great scientific mistake of immense political weight was perpetrated, defended and camouflaged by a scientific establishment that should now be red with shame. It is a book about principal components, data mining and confidence intervals—subjects that have never before been made thrilling. It is the biography of a graph.
I can remember when I first paid attention to the “hockey stick” graph at a conference in Cambridge. The temperature line trundled along with little change for centuries, then shot through the roof in the 20th century, like the blade of an ice-hockey stick. I had become somewhat of a sceptic about the science of climate change, but here was emphatic proof that the world was much warmer today; and warming much faster than at any time in a thousand years. I resolved to shed my doubts. I assumed that since it had been published in Nature—the Canterbury Cathedral of scientific literature—it was true.