Jeff Rubin recently mentioned that “Prices are (his) religion”. “Questions” are mine. When you stop asking em? You may just be part of a cult.
Few scientists sweet on M & M
Two Canadians, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, are a thorn in the side of climatologists who say the planet is under threat from man-made global warming
Steve McIntyre, 62, is a Toronto retiree. He plays squash, dabbles with numbers and insists he never set out to stir up any trouble.
So why does his name appear again and again in the most unflattering ways in hundreds of emails – written by the world’s most influential climate change scientists – that were mysteriously taken from a computer in Britain last month and published on the Internet?
In these private messages, McIntyre is called everything from a “bozo” and a “moron” to a “playground bully.”
“In my opinion,” said one email written by Benjamin Santer, a climatologist with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, “Stephen McIntyre is the self-appointed Joe McCarthy of climate science.”
The “climategate” emails have sparked a scandal – just ahead of next week’s global warming summit in Copenhagen – for suggesting climatologists may have manipulated data to exaggerate the threat of global warming and conspired to keep contrary points of view out of the scientific journals.
But the emails are also conspicuous for their repeated nasty references to two Canadians – McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick – who have become a serious thorn in the side of climatologists and others who say the planet is under serious threat from man-made global warming.
Although little-known in Canada, McIntyre and McKitrick – or M & M, as they’re called in climate change circles – have since 2003 put forward evidence of faulty calculations in some of the key scientific studies behind the reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Their work has drawn the attention of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Wall Street Journal, which last month called them “the climate change gang’s most dangerous apostates.”
McIntyre, a Toronto mining analyst and speculator, became intrigued by the climate change issue when the Kyoto Protocol was up for debate in 2002. He was skeptical of a key piece of science in the IPCC reports of the time – a graph based on research by U.S. climatologist Michael Mann that showed Earth’s temperatures had remained relatively stable over the past 1,000 years then began rising suddenly in the 20th century.
The graph, shaped like a sideways hockey stick, became one of the most convincing illustrations in Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. But it reminded McIntyre of the promotional graphs and statistics commonly used by mining promoters in search of investors.
He said he decided – purely out of curiosity and not because he wanted to shake up the global warming debate – to carry out some due diligence on the numbers.
Replicating the arcane calculations of climate modelling science would be an impossible task for most people. But McIntyre had been a math prizewinner in high school, had studied pure mathematics at the University of Toronto and had won, but turned down, a mathematics scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, choosing a business career instead.
“I read Mann’s paper and thought, ‘What this looks to me is like really overblown and high falutin’ language for fairly simple linear regressions and matrix algebra. I figured it would be like doing a big crossword puzzle, so I went at it,” he said in a recent interview. “I had no particular expectations that it would be wrong, I just thought it would be interesting.”
McIntyre contacted Ross McKitrick, a University of Guelph statistical economist who was also analyzing the science behind the IPCC reports. Together, they unearthed evidence that Mann’s calculations were predisposed to producing a hockey stick-shaped graph. They also showed that his calculations ignored the data showing a major warming trend in the 15th century, much like the warming of the 20th century.
“Suddenly the ‘hockey stick,’ the poster child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics,” wrote one scientist in the MIT Technology Review in 2004.
M & M’s findings sparked hearings on the science of global warming by the U.S. Congress and an investigation by the National Academy of Sciences. Their report concluded that while the wider science behind 20th-century global warming remains valid, the hockey stick graph and other long-term temperature models were fraught with “uncertainties” and that Mann’s calculations “tended to bias the shape of (hockey stick) reconstructions.” Mann was required to publish a retraction about some of his statistical methods in the science journal Nature.
In 2007, M & M scored again, finding errors in NASA’s own long-term temperature records. The agency was forced to issue a correction, stating that 1934, not 1998, was the warmest year recorded in the United States.
This year, M & M have also raised questions about the accuracy of another hockey stick-shaped graph, this one by a British climatologist. The Canadians showed that the graph – showing drastically warmer 20th-century temperatures – is based on tree ring samples taken from a mere 12 tree cores in one region of Russia.
McKitrick said at first it was “very stressful” questioning the work of the tight-knit climate change science community. For one thing, their work was shunned by the main academic climate science journals, which forced them to put their findings on the Internet instead. McIntyre’s blog, climateaudit.org has since exploded in popularity.
Scientists such as Mann have also denounced M & M as “frauds” and called their research “pure crap.” Others have accused them of being secretly sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, a charge both McIntyre and McKitrick deny.