The Hockey Stick Illusion by A. W. Montford, published by Stacey International, 2010. 482 pp, £10.99
In the August issue of Prospect, Matt Ridley recommended this as one of the “must read” books of the summer. You need not bother—The Hockey Stick Illusion is a McCarthyite book that uses the full range of smear tactics to peddle climate change denial.
There is both clear evidence and general agreement that the earth has warmed up in the last 100 years, probably by about 0.8 degrees. The scientific consensus is that this has been caused by human activity, and that we need to take steps to prevent further warming. This view is not universally shared, even by scientists, and it is therefore important to put recent warming in context. That is why a number of scientists have sought methods to try to see how the earth’s temperature has varied in the time previous to good thermometric records becoming available. They have used a number of methods, including examining tree rings and ice cores.
In 1998 Michael Mann and co-workers published a paper based on tree ring studies, which claimed that the earth’s temperature has not changed much in the period from 1000 to 1900, when the warming started. Because of the shape of the temperature/time graph, Mann’s conclusion was dubbed the (ice) hockey stick. Mann’s graph has been one of a number of pieces of evidence used by the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) in its efforts to convince us that global warming is real and is man-made.
Montford’s book aims to convince us that the “hockey stick” evidence is flawed. Furthermore, he seeks to argue that there has been a significant and wide-ranging conspiracy by scientists, international bureaucrats and journalists to keep these flaws secret. His hero is a Canadian engineer called Steve McIntyre. McIntyre is a climate change sceptic and blogger who has sought for years to challenge the science and the statistics behind the hockey stick. Some of McIntyre’s concerns have been published in the scientific literature, and as far as can be told from the book, his challenges have always been by legitimate means. Not so Montford. Montford argues that nearly all of the scientists who have published in…