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« It's true! | Main | A chat with Graham Stringer »
Sunday
Apr112010

Courier feature

This is the feature about yours truly that appeared in the Dundee Courier a couple of weeks ago.

Climate of change

TAKE AN ice hockey stick and lay it on its side. The now horizontal shaft, according  — while the blade, pointing practically straight upwards, is temperature over the last few decades. Accelerating, running away, threatening the planet.

Except it's not. At least according to Milnathort author Andrew Montford (pictured), an internet blogger who argues in his new book that the science behind climate change has been corrupted to suit political and environmental agendas. Bruce Robbins finds out more.

 

ANDREW MONTFORD isn't alone in reaching his conclusion, but the thousands of scientists who agree with him, shattering the so-called "consensus" that global warming is man-made, struggle to have their voices heard over the latest doom-laden predictions emanating from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the shrill demands from green activists and politicians that we have to slash CO2 emissions to save polar bears.

Andrew's book, The Hockey Stick Illusion, charts in great detail the efforts of a sceptical mining industry consultant and statistician, Steve McIntyre, to take apart a graph that became know as the Hockey Stick. The iconic Hockey Stick, put together by US climate scientist Michael Mann, is important to proponents of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW) because it became the cheerleader for the IPCC's influential Third Assessment Report on climate change — the tool used to sell the Kyoto Protocol to the public.

Andrew, who moved to Scotland from his native Surrey 25 years ago to gain a chemistry degree at St Andrews University, has watched the global warming story unfold over recent years and grown increasingly slack-jawed by it all.

With a background in accountancy and a business knocking scientific papers and books into shape for publishers, he wasn't fazed by McIntyre's statistics-based analysis or the dense scientific text of which climate change papers are composed. It's a triumph that Andrew has managed to break the episode down and re-assemble it in a way that has transformed the Hockey Stick saga into a compulsive detective story.

McIntyre's forensic dissolution of the Hockey Stick achieved what the IPCC's much-vaunted "peer review process" failed to deliver: independent scrutiny of the issue. His work resulted in the Hockey Stick being discredited as an accurate temperature record. There were subsequent attempts through new scientific papers by AGW scientists to bolster the Hockey Stick but these, too, were found wanting when McIntyre set to work.

It was the Canadian's indefatigable .efforts that got Andrew interested in global warming and led to him starting his own internet blog, called Bishop Hill, to put the climate change sceptic's point of view. After the publication of a paper charting the hockey stick story up to that point, the number of readers of his blog increased practically overnight from 300 to 30,000 per day.

He told The Courier, "My interest  in the subject was piqued when I came across McIntyre's Climate Audit website and I liked the idea of looking into what he was doing. When readership of my blog shot up to 30,000 'hits' I realised that my next paper wasn't going to be a paper but a book.

"I hope the book will persuade people that there's a problem with the [climate] science: In an ideal world, it would change the way in which the whole question is dealt with.

"My book is about one graph: it's not going to solve the global warming question. The hockey stick is discredited and attempts to 'save' it have been discredited. It's all down to the assumption that tree rings respond to temperature and it's not clear that they do.

"If people come away thinking that we have to do global warming science in a different fashion, that would be a good thing for the book to achieve."            

The book is also a commentary on the state of the IPCC. The UN body has become increasingly gaffe-prone in recent months with a number of errors in its influential reports having come to light.

At the same time the leaking of emails and computer code originating from climatologists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit — "Climategate" as it has become known almost inevitably — has rocked the global warming movement.

The release of the material, now the subject of an investigation, appeared to show that scientists, many of whom have worked hand-in-hand  with Mr Mann and played different roles in theHockey Stick saga, were prepared to manipulate data to support their own needs, gang up to suppress the publication of scientific papers arguing against AGW, delete data and refuse legitimate Freedom of Information requests.

Andrew believes the IPCC and climate scientists will have to learn to operate in a different fashion from now on, dealing with conflicts of interest where they arise instead of glossing over them and ensuring that vested interests are no longer running the show.

AGW climatologists are notoriously reluctant to show the working behind the conclusions in their reports and papers — often refusing to release the original data and methodology  on which their findings are based — and this is something he says will also have to change.

Andrew, added, "If the scientific journals demanded that data and computer code had to be produced by climate scientists up front, we would have achieved something important.

"Some scientists would hate that but it would make for better science at the end of the day.

"I believe that CO2, other things being equal, will make the planet warmer. The six million dollar question is how much warmer. I'm less of a sceptic than people think. My gut feeling is still skeptical  but I don't believe it's beyond the realms of possibility that the AGW hypothesis might be correct. It's more the case that we don't know and I haven't seen anything credible to persuade me there's a problem."

If anything, the evidence against man-made global warming is growing and the Hockey Stick Illusion stands as the definitive account of a pivotal point in climate change science. 



 

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Reader Comments (22)

Very good article Bishop. What sort of comment did it elicit from the good people of Tayside?

Apr 11, 2010 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Very good Mr.Bish.I ordered your book from the Book Depository in the UK.Amazon kept on messing around so hopefully it will come this week.The best to you. The Rebel from central Texas.

Apr 11, 2010 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterrebel

I have just visited realclimate for the first time and they have explained to me that you are a very bad person.
Either that or they have one almighty persecution complex. Mmmm I wonder which it can be.
Also read their review of an inconvenient truth. Unbelievable.
Your book is on its way to me in spain and i can,t wait to read it. You might just turn out to be the next david Bodanis.
Keep up the great work, very many people are relying on you and wuwt and steve m.

Apr 11, 2010 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

I sorry you were subjected to that pesadia, I hope it doesn't cause any permanent damage, those dispassionate dedicated-to-the-truth types at RC can be a little harsh. Are they still trying to put together a crew to sue Montford for libel?

Apr 12, 2010 at 3:50 AM | Unregistered Commentermax

Great piece. I glad to learn more about your background as well.

Apr 12, 2010 at 4:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Very nice piece, well written. However, the brief trip to RC prompted by comments above left me scarred.
"We'll sue the s o b bejesus"

Is this any way to speak of a man of the cloth?

Also, they seem to regularly confuse the Lord M's and the Bishops. Very odd crowd.

Apr 12, 2010 at 6:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy Scrase

It is nice to read press coverage like that, that really gets to the heart of the issue. It would have been nice to have mentioned the fact the raw temperature data gets 'homogenised' before being published - but there is only so much room in a newspaper article!

Keep up the good work!

Apr 12, 2010 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Bailey

This gets to the heart of what is obviously wrong with the climate science community.

I've read The Hockey Stick Illusion which is excellent. There were few surprises since I had been following Climate Audit for some time before that and before Climategate. I had read the actual papers on the hockey stick - Mann's, McIntyre and McKitrick's, the Wegman and NAS reports, Ammann's defense of the hockey stick, etc. It's not rocket science: anyone with some technical background, or even interest, can understand the arguments.

One of the common reactions from the climate science community is to say that AGW is supported by far more evidence than just Mann's hockey stick. Fine then - in that case, why won't they admit that the hockey stick is rubbish?

I simply can't take seriously any scientist, or scientific community, that continues to defend the science of the hockey stick. The issue is not that it means that it invalidates the whole of climate science. The issue is that it destroys the credibility of those who defend it.

On another note, back to what was discussed in another thread - I just got from Amazon.fr Claude Allegre's L'imposture climatique. He also says that the hockey stick is "not serious".

Apr 12, 2010 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter B

We're all followers of the Magus of Milnathort.

Apr 12, 2010 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Though I also follow the Pontificator of Pilsen, Dr Lumoš Botl.

Apr 12, 2010 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

That was meant to be a gentle tease of Luboš Motl, but it turns out that there really is someone called Lumoš Botl. Hey ho.

Apr 12, 2010 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Good for the Courier.

I just checked the Scotsman site, and can find no reference to the book. Nor does the Herald's rather scattergun search engine seem to have heard of you.

These used to to be good newspapers.

Apr 12, 2010 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Wood

I'm in contact with the Herald and they're thinking about it.

Apr 12, 2010 at 1:28 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Peter,

The lack of credibility goes far beyond the hockey stick. In fact, it's even worse than the screwed up computer code or the regular bouts of screwed up statistics. It goes right to the most basic of instruments -- the thermometer. Not only have they been woefully incompetent in the installation and maintenance of their instruments, most of them never expressed any curiosity as to whether the temp data was accurate.

I won't consider climate scientists to have any credibility until they can convene a conference with enough brainpower to figure out how to use a thermometer properly.

Apr 12, 2010 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterstan

"there really is someone called Lumoš Botl"

Are you sure he's not one of JK Rowling's creations?
:-)

Apr 12, 2010 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Ah, James P, you're thinking Diagon Alley.

Apr 12, 2010 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

I am looking forward to reading this because in my opinion this graph and the conclusions drawn from it show who the real villain is in the warmist theologies (CRU emails are very revealing in this context)
If you read Manns original paper or any of the dicussions since, somewhere along the line a point is reached where out comes the data showing that CO2 is rising quickly and it is stated must be anthropogenic

Then without any further scientific rational out comes the statement usually that 'it is logical to assume the late 20TH warming must be due to this'.
Just as rational as saying exhaled anthropogenic CO2 from doubling of global population is causing the rise in atmospheric CO2 (curves look similar)

It is interesting the graphics of global temperature anomolies are still all displayed to reflect the same shape ( not so easy with unadjusted means showing the normal ranges +/- 2 sd)

Apr 12, 2010 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterPKthinks

bye, bye soon tens of thousands of the remaining manufacturing jobs in the UK.

Thanks to carbon 'emissions' - relocate elsewhere and keep on emmiting of course.

from the Guardian!

"This is death by a thousand cuts."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/apr/11/manufacturing-carbon-emmissions-pollution

"In the next month, the European commission will decide how industry will meet tough new targets for the third phase of the EU emissions trading scheme, which begins in 2012. The scheme sets a cap on companies' emissions by issuing permits to pollute and imposes a penalty if they exceed this. Under the scheme, which runs until 2020, the cap is tightened each year. The EU wants the scheme to achieve its targets of reducing Europe's emissions by a fifth in 2020 compared with 2005 levels. But industry fears the extra costs will put them at a disadvantage against rivals outside the EU.

One large steelmaker in the UK, which spoke on the condition of anonymity, estimates that to maintain current production, it would have to buy millions more permits, at an estimated cost of at least €100m (£88m). The steelmaker warned that moving production overseas would be an inevitable consequence. One executive said: "This is death by a thousand cuts."

The chemical industry in the UK, which employs 180,000 people and represents about 12% of value added in manufacturing, is likely to be similarly affected. More than two-thirds of chemical companies are multinationals with overseas headquarters, making relocation more likely."

Apr 12, 2010 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterbarry woods

Great review!

Apr 12, 2010 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrugal Dougal

good review, bish.

LOL bbc's reputation sinks further, worth reading all:

11 APRIL: Guardian: Carbon credit documentary should not have been shown, BBC admitsCorporation acts on Observer investigation into secretive trust  linked to socialite Robin Birley that funded film on his carbon credits firm, Envirotrade
A BBC statement said: "As a consequence of this case, [we] will work closely with Rockhopper to ensure that robust compliance measures are implemented … Until the BBC is fully satisfied that these measures have been put in place, no Rockhopper programmes will be acquired or commissioned."
Rockhopper, which is run by Richard Wilson, a former BBC environment correspondent, and ex-Sky News presenter Anya Sitaram, told the Observer that every indication suggested that the trust was independent...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/apr/11/bbc-envirotrade-robin-birley-mozambique

Apr 12, 2010 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

do you know who this is:

http://climateopinions.blogspot.com/2010/03/w-montford-hockey-stick-illusion.html

He (she?) has written a review, but there's a sting in tail!

Apr 13, 2010 at 7:16 PM | Unregistered Commenteranon

I'm almost relieved to see some criticism at last!

I must write something about this.

Apr 13, 2010 at 8:36 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

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