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Environmental Madness (XVIII)

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3. The ‘Hockey Stick’, a Farce Cloaked as Science

A hockey stick is the figure that comes to mind as one looks at a graph of one thousand years of global temperatures on Earth, published by the magazine Nature in 1998 in an article titled Global-scale Temperature Patterns and Climate Forcing Over the Past Six Centuries” by a team of the University of Virginia led by Michael Mann. The chart became known as “hockey stick” because it resembles a long horizontal handle ending with a nearly vertical blade. The image is dramatic, showing the global temperature of the Earth as having been stable for 900 years but rising alarmingly over the last 100 years.

Jorge BuescuProfessor Jorge Buescu has a degree in Physics from the College of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Warwick and is and contributor to the magazine Ingenium, of the Order of Engineers of Portugal. He wrote on the blog, De Rerum Natura, an interesting article on the ‘hockey stick’ titled “A Strong Shot on Convenient Lies.” It was reproduced in full on the blog Climate Myths, by Rui G. Moura. Below are a few excerpts:

“The Hockey Stick became famous, figuring prominently in the 3rd IPCC report in 2001 and becoming an icon of alarmism about global warming. No magazine or newspaper failed to reproduce it with apocalyptic warnings that the End is near. Al Gore used it (conveniently stripped of error margins) in his 2000 presidential campaign….

“But there is a fundamental scientific problem about the Hockey Stick. It is flawed.

“For starters, the Hockey Stick denies long established climatological facts: the Medieval Warm Period (c.1000 – c. 1400) and the Little Ice Age (c.1500 – c. 1850) whose existence the IPCC itself affirmed in its previous report (1995). The Hockey Stick denies these global climate changes: the handle is horizontal. To accept the Hockey Stick would entail conducting a thorough revisionism of the climatological history of planet Earth! That would be enough reason to be suspicious and even highly suspicious.

Ross McKitrick

Steven McIntyre“Many people found the subject strange. Two Canadians, the mathematician Steven McIntyre and the Professor of Economics Ross McKitrick (known collectively by M & M) have done more: they decided to investigate and asked Mann for the data in order to check it out. Mann’s group (contrary to the scientific praxis of obtaining independent confirmation) would not give them access to the data. But M & M did not give up. After many obstacles and several years of work, here are their conclusions:

“…In short, the Hockey Stick was an artifact [resulting] from wrong methods of analysis and was not a reality. It was in the field of religious dogma, not of scientific fact….

“Two comments: The first is that contrary to what the media’s agenda and some politicians would have us believe, it is false that there is scientific consensus on global warming as it is sold by the tabloid nearest you. It is a fact that on average the Earth has been warming since the mid-nineteenth century. After all, that is when it left the Little Ice Age and is therefore (inevitably!) experiencing moderate global warming ever since. This is as surprising as to say that ice warms up if we remove it from the freezer. But this warming is not even constant: between 1940 and 1975 there was a marked reduction in global temperatures so that a major concern in the 70’s was a possible ‘Ice Age’ – with a global cooling rather than warming….

“The second is that there is no scientific consensus on a causal relationship between the release of greenhouse gases and global warming.

“There are hundreds of articles published annually in both directions. What is known is that there is a correlation: CO2 increases when the earth heats up.

“This happened, for instance, in the Medieval Warm Period (as it is known from analyses of tree rings), and then it was not by human intervention.

“One known mechanism is the thermal elevation of ocean water, which causes the release of dissolved CO2. Hence global warming causes a non-anthropogenic release of CO2. What can be said is that there is a correlation, but not necessarily causation between the two events. And a scientific consensus is far from existing. On the contrary: doubts today in 2007 are much higher than 10 years ago when Kyoto was signed.

“I find it very suspicious when my barber (otherwise a highly likable person) thinks he understands a scientific problem better than me.

“The knowledge embedded in the popular mind, distributed in free newspapers, served by the news or sold in the latest disaster movie is that ‘Science has proved’ that CO2 causes global warming.

“This is not true. It is not even true that there is a consensus among scientists. But apparently, one Hockey Stick is not enough. Will there be hockey sticks in the 2007 IPCC reports? We will see.”[1]

[1] Article by Prof. Jorge Buescu reproduced in April 2007 on the blog by Rui G. Moura, Mitos Climáticos.

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