Andrew Montford’s “The Hockey Stick Illusion,” reviewed for Prospect by Matt Ridley, tells a story that will undoubtedly worry those who believe that our climate is warming—and infuriate critics (who are legion) of the book’s protagonist, Steve McIntyre.
If you haven’t come across him before, McIntyre was, in 2003, the first to publish a critique of the “hockey stick” temperature graph: the classic piece of evidence for man-made global warming used since 1998. McIntyre argued that the graph was fundamentally unsound by demonstrating, for example, that the model produced a “hockey stick” shape even when random data was put into it. There followed Montford’s story, of articles suppressed, data sets withheld and “warmist” malfeasance.
Since 2005 McIntyre has edited climateaudit.com, where he and a multitude of commenters dig for assumptions and oversights in every piece of climate science from a position of sceptical empiricism. His chief adversary is the Nasa climatologist Gavin Schmidt and his group of climate scientists at realclimate.org. (McIntyre has a maths degree, but no background in applied science.)
Climate science is one of the internet’s few debates (supposedly) to be based on hard evidence. Nevertheless, its participants contrive to misinterpret, bamboozle and irritate each other so successfully that they’re known to take leave of their data sets, as Gregory Norminton found out to his dismay when he tackled Lord Monckton in a debate at St Andrews University.
The British government, though, has made up its mind, and the Carbon Reduction Commitment, which aims to reduce CO2-equivalent emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, will begin charging £12 per ton for carbon emissions next year. And at the end of 2009, Prospect invited a number of leading thinkers to contribute their thoughts on climate change. For those concerned about global warming, and alarmed by the traction that the climategate and hockey stick stories have gathered, it’s worth looking back at Prospect‘s climate change special to see how the climate change debate has brought attendant issues, such as waste, deforestation and resource geopolitics, into the public eye.