|The Week That Was
Feb. 19, 2005
New on the Web: Now that the Kyoto Protocol has been adopted, second thoughts may soon appear. Fred Singer reviews its well-known ineffectiveness, huge cost, and lack of a sound science base. His discussion concentrates on the pressures bearing down on the White House and what might be done to respond.
Realities are beginning to sink in in Britain, which is in a fight with the EU bureaucracy on emission quotas (Item #1). A scathing critique of Kyoto in The Times (London) by Rosemary Righter (Item #2) and a penetrating analysis by its foreign editor Bronwen Maddox. The Canadians too face a dilemma that defies easy solution (Item#3).
Dutch economist Hans Labohm gives a sophisticated overview of events in Britain during the past month (Item #4 - see also TWTW of Feb. 5). He also discusses the impact of the Scientific Alliance conference "Apocalypse NO!" held in London.
Domestic challenges to the Bush White House from "blue" states are clearly politically motivated. So is the attempt to ignore Clinton's lack of enthusiasm for Kyoto (Item #5).
We turn next to climate science and reprint the frank conclusions of a 1999 workshop that tell the real story of model and data uncertainties (Item #6). This is followed by a WSJ investigative article on the demise of the Hockey Stick (Item #7). We recommend also the WSJ editorial of Feb 18 on the same topic (Item #8).
Finally, a news report on a science talk by Tim Barnett and co-authors (including Ben Santer of IPCC-SAR notoriety) in which they claim to have found incontrovertible evidence for manmade global warming in a computer analysis of ocean data. As reported, Barnett said "climate models based on air temperatures are weak because most of the evidence for global warming is not even there." (See Item #9). Thanks for telling us, Tim. We could not find such evidence either.
We will say more about Tim's "discovery" in our next TWTW
and expose its fallacies. Stay tuned
The fact of the matter is that we as a government were faced with a genuine and real dilemma. Projections suggested that if we stuck with the original formula, it would have had a devastating effect on our industry. --Margaret Beckett, UK Environment Secretary, 27 October 2004 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3958557.stm
Brussels has rejected UK requests to increase its industry sector allocation
for companies taking part in the EU's emission trading scheme, warning
that changes to their plans at this stage are "illegal". --EUPolitix,
14 February 2005
2. The end is nigh - but Kyoto will cost us dear
THE globe will not notice Kyoto - but we will notice, because it will cost us a bomb. What is the collective noun for environmental modellers? Try a catastrophe.
The "scientific consensus" on global warming is not only that it is occurring, and that heavy use of fossil fuels is mainly to blame, but also that the impact on the Earth will be catastrophic unless the trend can be slowed or reversed by dramatic - and dramatically expensive - policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This progression moves from established fact to reasonably high level of probability to the realm of guesswork - and the farther into the future, the wilder the guesses.
That would be the flattest of truisms were it not that on global warming, government policy is increasingly driven by alarmist scenarios about the world in 2100 that make long-range weather forecasting look rock solid by comparison.
A recent scientific conference at Exeter University, summoned to provide Tony Blair with environmental ammunition for the G8 summit, became like a contest between horror stories - the Vanishing Gulf Stream, Millions Dead of Malaria in the Midlands, the Parboiled Polar Bear - that would do the best job of making the public's flesh creep. As spin for the Government's case that climate change is a threat greater than terrorism, this was all no doubt effective.
But these scenarios are what scientific insiders know as "computer-aided
story lines", not reliable predictions. Tall stories have no place
at G8 summits. To base decisions on them would be not only absurd, but
The Kyoto Protocol is proving problematic and politically divisive for Canadians, whose economy and consumption habits create more challenges in reducing emissions than for Europeans, says the Wall Street Journal.
Canada, a major oil supplier to the United States and China, is experiencing stronger than expected economic growth, creating quite a predicament in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases:
o Canada has pledged to reduce greenhouse gases to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2012; however, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada are currently increasing at an average of 1.5 percent per year.
o Furthermore, Canadians are bigger energy consumers than Europeans; attempts in Ottawa to have consumers voluntarily reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent yielded only about half the expected goal.
o Canada, unlike most European nations, is a large oil exporter and must extract its oil from sticky, gritty "oil sands" in Alberta, which requires large amounts of steam and electricity and produces massive quantities of carbon dioxide, the chief suspected global-warming gas.
In fact, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Canada's largest oil producer, will begin a new "oil sands" project in 2008, worth about US$8.75 billion, which will further add to energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Canadian government is scrambling to find a way out. Solutions include the possibility of providing tax breaks and subsidies to energy companies, although the Finance Ministry will likely balk at the idea of tinkering with the budget, which is currently in the black. Another solution is using taxpayer money to invest in emission reduction projects around the world, which would yield emission "credits" for Canada, says the Journal.
Source: Tamsin Carlisle and Jeffrey Ball, "Nations Wince at Kyoto
Reality," Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2005. Courtesy:: National
Center for Policy Analysis
A high-profile campaign by the British government -- focusing on the discussion of a new alarming report by the International Climate Change Taskforce: 'Meeting The Climate Challenge' -- has attempted to bolster the treaty. The main message of this report is that it is vital that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that would trigger this rise could possibly be reached in about 10 years or so.
The taskforce was set up by Blair's favourite think-tank, the British Institute for Public Policy Research, working in concert with the Centre for American Progress and the Australia Institute. The group was co-chaired by Stephen Byers, a former minister of transport in the Labour government (whose credentials in the field of climate science had remained a well-kept secret until then) and US Senator Olympia Snowe. In order to secure a politically correct outcome of the exercise, its instigators apparently did not want to run the risk of inviting prominent climatologists to contribute to it.
Yet the report was the capstone of a UK governmental conference in Exeter, southwest England, Feb. 1-3. The conference, 'Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change', was announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair, and was intended to give a scientific context to Britain's efforts to make the climate issue a central feature of its Group of Eight (G8) and EU Presidencies this year. The conference was charged with examining the impact of climate change, stipulated in advance to be catastrophic.
The well-known British climate sceptic, Benny Peiser, was among the audience. His first-hand impressions:
"I have just returned from the most depressing conference I have ever attended. After two days of relentless barrage of doom and gloom predictions at the Met Office conference on 'Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change' I decided that enough is enough.
'The unmitigated exposure to prophecies of imminent ice ages, looming
hell fire, mass starvation, mega-droughts, global epidemics and mass extinction
is an experience I would not recommend to anyone with a thin-skinned disposition
(although the news media couldn't get enough of it). But such was the
spectacle of pending disaster that anyone who dared - or was allowed -
to question whether the sky is really about to fall on us (and there were
at least half a dozen of moderate anti-alarmists present), was branded
a 'usual suspect'
The final result was that the British chairman
tried and failed to push through a resolution defining crisis levels for
rising temperatures and atmospheric concentrations of CO2.
The Exeter meeting was preceded by a conference, 'Apocalypse, No!' organized by the Scientific Alliance, an independent group of scientists without taxpayer funding, on Jan. 27 at the Royal Institution (London). Speakers were Profs David Bellamy, Richard Lindzen, Fred Singer, Nils-Axel Mörner, and Benny Peiser. They dealt, amongst other things, with the claims derived from computer models and gave examples of tuning, in which there were so many adjustable parameters that the modeling amounts to an exercise in curve fitting. The conclusion was that the likelihood that the computer models were correct, with all those adjustable parameters, was zero. Regarding the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) claim that models can fit the observed global mean temperatures, Fred Singer referred to a nice quotation from the famous mathematician John von Neumann: 'With four parameters I can fit an elephant and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.'
In a subsequent letter to The Times, Sir Ian Lloyd, commented:
'The conference organised by the Scientific Alliance on Thursday [...]
was, in my judgement, outstanding in the quality, conviction, impartiality
and authority of the speakers. Whatever one's views on the so-called 'scientific
consensus' on global warming may be, the solid facts and arguments presented
deserve rather more attention and discussion than that which they have
so far received in the British press as a whole.'
How to deal with the apparently irresistible temptation by Kyoto adherents to frighten the public by orchestrated scare-mongering campaigns based on pseudo-science? The well-respected climate modeler Hans von Storch (who is not a climate sceptic) recently warned that there is a serious problem for the natural sciences: namely, the public depiction and perception of climate change. Research has landed in a crisis because its public actors assert themselves on the saturated market of discussion by overselling the topic. Von Storch:
'The pattern is always the same: the significance of individual events is processed to suit the media and cleverly dramatized; when prognoses for the future are cited, among all the possible scenarios it is regularly the one with the highest rates of increase in greenhouse gas emissions -- and thus with the most drastic climatic consequences -- that is chosen. Equally plausible variations with significantly lower emission increases go unmentioned.
'Whom does this serve? It is assumed that fear can motivate listeners, but it is forgotten that it mobilizes them only in the short term. [...] Each successive recent claim about the future of the climate and of the planet must be ever more dramatic than the previous one. Once apocalyptic heat waves have been predicted, the climate-based extinction of animal species no longer attracts attention. Time to move on to the reversal of the Gulf Stream. Thus there arises a spiral of exaggeration. Each individual step may appear to be harmless; in total, however, the knowledge about climate, climate fluctuations, climate change and climatic effects that is transferred to the public becomes dramatically distorted.
'Sadly, the mechanisms for correction within science itself have failed. Within the sciences, openly expressed doubts about the current evidence for climatic catastrophe are often seen as inconvenient, because they damage the 'good cause,' particularly since they could be 'misused by skeptics.' The incremental dramatization comes to be accepted, while any correction of the exaggeration is regarded as dangerous, because it is politically inopportune. Doubts are not made public; rather, people are led to believe in a solid edifice of knowledge that needs only to be completed at the outer edges.'
And von Storch concludes:
'The result of this self-censorship in scientists' minds is a deaf ear
for new and surprising ideas that compete with or even contradict conventional
patterns of explanation; science degenerates into being a repair shop
for popular, politically opportune claims to knowledge. Thus it not only
becomes sterile; it also loses its ability to advise the public objectively.'
Now what about the politics of global warming? The international climate conference in Buenos Aires, last December, has been a disaster for the Kyotoists. The US and Australia have repeated their refusal to join. Moreover, China, India and other G-77 countries have made clear that they will not accept any commitment to reduce emissions as from 2012, when Kyoto Mark I expires. More surprisingly, Italy has announced that it will withdraw from the Kyoto process in the same year. It is plausible to assume that other European countries, particularly Russia, will follow suit.
Against this background will Tony Blair succeed in getting the US and Australia on board as yet, as a first step to wider global acceptance of Kyoto? It seems highly unlikely to me. But what would Blair's assessment be? In fact, we don't know.
But Tony Blair is neither fool nor zealot. He has excellent political instincts. Moreover, he is an outstanding strategist. He will probably be well informed. On the one hand he is being briefed by the noble greenhouse warrior and Kyoto fanatic Sir David King, the chief scientific adviser to the British government, who qualified climate change as a bigger threat than terrorism. But on the other hand, one might assume that Blair will also be aware of more sobering information, e.g., by 'The Economist', which recently carried an article foreboding the turning of Kyoto's tide ('Hotting Up, The Debate over Global Warming Is Getting Rancorous', Feb. 4th, 2005). So how to solve this quandary?
Tony Blair is tough on security and the economy. His stance on Iraq and the recently announced measures to reform the British disability pension scheme are cases in point. With the latter he tries to impose a sound dose of additional work ethic on his flock. On the other hand, he has to preserve his leftish credentials in order to please the left wing of his Party. Kyoto, the darling of the Left, offers him a golden opportunity to do so. So he has to posture as a fierce defender of this messianic project. When it fails, he can clearly show that he has done his utmost to succeed, but he had to yield to strong opposing forces, on which he can put the blame. Of course, Europe's favourite candidates for this role include the Americans and/or President Bush. Subsequently, Blair may leave the battle unscathed and have his way.
But of course, it is preposterous, yes even malicious, to speculate that
this kind of premeditation is part of Blair's calculations. Therefore,
the reader should erase it immediately from his memory.
Expert comments on the Kyoto Protocol, which will come into effect on Feb. 16, mandating participating nations to reduce their emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases:
**1. PETER CANNAVO, assistant professor of government at Hamilton College,
**2. S. FRED SINGER, professor emeritus of environmental sciences, U
of Virginia and research fellow for the Independent Institute:
Edited by : Timothy R. Carter , Mike Hulme and David Viner
Published by the Climatic Research Unit, UEA, Norwich, UK. September 1999
The climate system, as a complex non-linear dynamic system, is also indeterminate (Shukla, 1998) and even with perfect models and unlimited computing power, for a given forcing scenario a range of future climates will always be simulated. It is for this reason that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have always adopted the term 'projection'.
Climate change is an inexact field of science. It has long been recognised, by researchers and decision makers alike, that uncertainties pervade all branches of the subject. However, as the science of climate change has progressed, the effectiveness with which uncertainties have been identified, analysed and represented by scientists has abjectly failed to keep pace with the burgeoning demand for usable information about future climate and its impacts (Shackley et al.., 1998; Rotmans and Dowlatabadi, 1998; Jaeger et al.., 1998; Jones, 1999).
Representing Uncertainty in Climate Change Scenarios and Impact Studies
Uncertainty is a constant companion of scientists and decision-makers involved in global climate change research and management. This uncertainty arises from two quite different sources - 'incomplete' knowledge and 'unknowable' knowledge. 'Incomplete' knowledge affects much of our model design, whether they be climate models (e.g. poorly understood cloud physics) or impact models.
Unknowable' knowledge arises from the inherent indeterminacy of future human society and of the climate system. Human (and therefore social) actions are not predictable in any deterministic sense and we will always have to create future greenhouse gas emissions trajectories on the basis of indeterminate scenario analysis (Nakicenovic et al.., 1998). Uncertainties in climate change predictions arising from this source are therefore endemic.
Climatologists commonly describe the present-day climate using observations from a recent thirty-year period (e.g. 1951-80 or 1961-90). The performance of GCMs at simulating present climate can be tested with reference to such information, although measurement errors, interpolation errors and sampling errors lead to considerable uncertainty regarding the true baseline climate (e.g. New et al.., 1999).
Climate is also known to vary naturally on multi-decadal (e.g. 30-year) time scales and for reasons that have nothing to do with anthropogenic forcing.
Determining what is the true level of natural climate variability on 30-year timescales is not therefore straightforward. Observational data are limited to at most usually 100 years or so (and in any case may already contain an anthropogenic signal).
Another way of obtaining estimates of multi-decadal variability is to use multi-century unforced GCM simulations. However, with only a limited observational record and uncertain multi-century paleoclimatic reconstructions of climate (Jones et al., 1998) available for comparing with model outputs, it is difficult to judge how effectively such model simulations represent the true natural variability of climate.
The IPCC has tended to adopt a 'best guess' approach in many aspects of its various assessments. This has usually been accompanied by a 'range' of outcomes, but usually without any quantification of confidence levels. There is a danger that only 'best guesses' get reported or that users of the output variable thus quantified incorporate only the 'best guess' value in their studies. In either case, an unwarranted confidence in the downstream outcome may result.
Future greenhouse gas emissions trajectories suffer from systemic unpredictability.
CLIMATE SENSITIVITY This key climate model parameter is poorly known and emerging work suggests it is also poorly defined (Sarah Raper, pers. comm., September, 1999). The IPCC have always quoted a range from 1.5º to 4.5ºC, with a mid-range value of 2.5ºC. It has never been stated by IPCC what confidence limits are attached to this range9.
And from Richard Katz:
if any consensus about the present state of knowledge exists, it is that "uncertainties pervade all levels of a climate impact assessment" (Carter et al.., 1994).
On climate modeling [especially, general circulation models (GCMs)], Shackley et al.., (1998) observe that "significant sources of uncertainty are not being considered at present."
Jaeger et al. , (1998) assert that "uncertainties in climate change are so pervasive and far reaching that the tools for handling uncertainty provided by decision analysis are no longer sufficient."
Despite these strong statements about the importance of uncertainty, its present treatment is viewed as quite inadequate.
Uncertainties in Social and Economic Projections
Projecting the future state(s) of the world with respect to demographic, economic, social, and technological developments at a time scale consistent with climate change projections is a daunting task, some even consider as straightforward impossible.
Over a century time scale, current states and trends simply cannot be extrapolated. The only certainty is that the future will not be just more of the same of today, but will entail numerous surprises, novelties and discontinuities.
Practices of linear or exponential trend forecasting (e.g. a 0.5 or 1 percent growth in radiative forcing) relying on "linear" futures are more unlikely as scenarios of discontinuous developments and trend changes.
Even if probability distributions can be constructed, they are inherently subjective and also time dependent. To quote Henry Linden: "The probability of occurrence of long-term trends is inversely proportional to the 'expert' consensus."
.excessive self-cite and "benchmarking" of modeling studies to existing scenarios creates the danger of artificially constructing "expert consensus".
Uncertainty in Representing Observed Climate
Surface climate measurements are subject to a range of influences that can lead to random data errors, biases and inhomogeneities.
Random errors often result from observer mistakes, either in reading the instrument or in transcription/digitisation of observations. Modern electronic instrumentation and recording negate this type of error, but is often expensive and/or inappropriate technology for many regions of the world.
Biases can arise from instrumental or systematic observer errors. Examples of the former are the well-documented gauge under-catch in precipitation records, particularly solid precipitation and differences in the time of temperature measurements
Observer biases include the overestimation of cloud cover in regions where cumulus clouds predominate. Where biases are identified, empirical correction formulae can be derived. However, these are usually based on data from many stations, so station-specific residual biases can be significant.
..it is conventional to use a 30-year period for the construction of datasets of climatological means and variances. In the presence of multi-decadal climate variability a thirty-year mean may provide an incorrect estimate of the longer-term average climate.
Unfortunately, observed climate data over much of the world is limited to the 20th Century or parts thereof, making it difficult to assess these data in the longer-term context. It is only in Europe that multi-century homogenised climate records exist (Jones, 1999). The best-known example is the Central England Temperature (CET) series, which extends back to 1659 (Manley, 1974).
Observed climate data are typically of short duration - less than 100 years - which makes it difficult to place an observational record in the context of longer-term natural variability. This issue is complicated further because some of variance in the observational record may be anthropogenic.
Detrended observed data for England over the last 350 years provide evidence
of natural variability on a similar scale to that simulated in HadCM2
control integration. Similarly, natural spatio-temporal variability in
20-year mean climate
suggesting that the sub-GCM
scale change signals in this regional model may be indistinguishable from
Nonscientist Assails a Graph Environmentalists Use, And He Gets
One of the pillars of the case for man-made global warming is a graph nicknamed the hockey stick. It's a reconstruction of temperatures over the past 1,000 years based on records captured in tree rings, corals and other markers. The stick's shaft shows temperatures oscillating slightly over the ages. Then comes the blade: The mercury swings sharply upward in the 20th century.
The eye-catching image has had a big impact. Since it was published four years ago in a United Nations report, hundreds of environmentalists, scientists and policy makers have used the hockey stick in presentations and brochures to make the case that human activity in the industrial era is causing dangerous global warming.
But is the hockey stick true?
According to a semi-retired Toronto minerals consultant, it's not. After spending two years and about $5,000 of his own money trying to double-check the influential graphic, Stephen McIntyre says he has found significant oversights and errors. He claims its lead author, climatologist Michael Mann of the University of Virginia, and colleagues used flawed methods that yield meaningless results.
Dr. Mann vigorously disagrees. On a Web site launched with the help of an environmental group (www.realclimate.org), he has sought to debunk the debunking, and counter what he calls a campaign by fossil-fuel interests to discredit his work. "It's a battle of truth versus disinformation," he says.
But some other scientists are now paying attention to Mr. McIntyre. Although a scientific outsider, the 57-year-old has forced Dr. Mann to publish a minor correction. Now a critique by Mr. McIntyre and an ally is being published in a respected scientific journal. Some mainstream scientists who harbored doubts about the hockey stick say its comeuppance is overdue.
The clash has grown into an all-out battle involving dueling Web logs (www.climateaudit.org), a powerful senator and a score of other scientists. Mr. McIntyre's new paper is circulating inside energy companies and government agencies. Canada's environment ministry has ordered a review.
Mr. McIntyre's critique isn't going to settle the broader global-warming debate. Indeed, he takes no strong position on whether fossil-fuel use is heating the planet or, if so, how to cope. He just says he has found a flaw in a main leg supporting the global-warming consensus, the consensus that led to an international initiative taking effect this week: Kyoto.
The Kyoto protocol obligates the 35 industrialized nations that ratified it -- which don't include the U.S. -- to reduce emissions of six gases 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. The thinking behind it is straightforward: Human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels, generates carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that accumulate in the atmosphere; there they trap the sun's heat the way a greenhouse does; to reduce the heat, reduce the gases.
But that will mean far-reaching industrial changes. Mr. McIntyre's complaint is that supporters of Kyoto pushed for it by wielding a graph, the hockey stick, whose validity they'd never fully scrutinized. "Give me a break -- we are making billion-dollar decisions," he says, noting that businesses, by contrast, must carefully audit their financial statements and projections.
Many skeptics contend that liberal environmental agendas are behind alarming global-warming headlines, though often skeptics bring policy agendas of their own. Think tanks backed with funding from the energy industry have waged a wide campaign to cast doubt on key scientific results. "Climate science today is fully politicized," says Roger Pielke Jr., head of the University of Colorado's Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. Mr. McIntyre says he hasn't received any industry funding.
The hockey stick was a highlight of a 2001 report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That is an advisory body through which the world's scientists try to reach consensus on man-made climate change and provide advice on how to limit it. Because the graph showed only minor temperature changes before the industrial age and then an upward slant -- the hockey-stick shape -- it became an oft-cited argument that human activity was raising temperatures.
The problem, says Mr. McIntyre, is that Dr. Mann's mathematical technique in drawing the graph is prone to generating hockey-stick shapes even when applied to random data. Therefore, he argues, it proves nothing.
Statistician Francis Zwiers of Environment Canada, a government agency, says he now agrees that Dr. Mann's statistical method "preferentially produces hockey sticks when there are none in the data." Dr. Zwiers, chief of the Canadian agency's Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis, says he hasn't had time to study Dr. Mann's rebuttals in detail and can't say who is right.
Dr. Mann, while agreeing that his mathematical method tends to find hockey-stick shapes, says this doesn't mean its results in this case are wrong. Indeed, Dr. Mann says he can create the same shape from the climate data using completely different math techniques.
The dispute turns on esoteric math concepts like "principal components" analysis, detrended standard deviations and autoregressions. "It's a very difficult technical question, one that not even most people in climate research would understand," says Eduardo Zorita, a climate scientist at the GKSS Research Centre in Germany. He, too, now agrees that Mr. McIntyre has identified a statistical snafu in the hockey-stick math. What he says isn't yet clear is whether it could invalidate Dr. Mann's final result.
Some scientists believe the debate has little bearing on the broad case for man-made warming. That's because, they say, other studies of past temperatures also indicate that the late 20th century was unusually warm. Recent temperature increases also square with the known effects of greenhouse gases. "The main punch line still appears in many other studies," says Jonathan Overpeck, a climate specialist at the University of Arizona. He shares some other scientists' concern that critics have unfairly singled out Dr. Mann's work. A variety of critics appear to be "on some kind of witch hunt," Dr. Overpeck says.
Mr. McIntyre first became interested in the hockey stick in late 2002 after seeing the graph in materials distributed by the Canadian government. "What struck me is that it looked very promotional," he says, "and I wanted to see how they made it." As a financial consultant to small minerals-exploration companies, he was mindful of how wrong estimates of the size of Borneo gold deposits lay behind the 1997 Bre-X Minerals scandal. Mr. McIntyre, who won math contests in high school and a math scholarship to the University of Toronto, says he'd always been disappointed in not having any academic accomplishments "despite having a good mind."
Mr. McIntyre e-mailed Dr. Mann requesting the raw data used to build the hockey stick. After initially providing some information, Dr. Mann cut him off.
Dr. Mann says his busy schedule didn't permit him to respond to "every frivolous note" from nonscientists. The climate-statistics expert, now 39, gained a big career boost from initial publication of the graph in 1998 and 1999. Although others had sought clues to past temperatures, his team was among the first to stitch many disparate records together to span hundreds of years across the entire Northern Hemisphere.
Scientists already knew that average global temperatures had risen about one degree Fahrenheit since 1900. Now the hockey stick, showing only smaller fluctuations in earlier centuries, was seen as a breakthrough. The IPCC used it to back a striking conclusion: The 1990s were probably the warmest decade in 1,000 years. This conclusion helped shut down skeptics' claim that the 20th century's greater warmth might be due to natural factors such as changes in solar intensity.
Some scientists had doubts, however. The graph gave little emphasis to what's known as the "medieval warm period," the years around 1000 A.D. when the Norse colonized Greenland. It also seemed to smooth over a cold epoch starting in the 15th century called "the little ice age." Others worried that it relied too heavily on growth rings from a small number of ancient trees, such as California bristle-cone pines that can live thousands of years clinging to mountainsides.
Some also disliked Dr. Mann's self-confident persuasive style, among them Wallace Broecker of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Yet because the graph so neatly strengthened the case for man-made warming, Dr. Broecker says, "a lot of people grabbed that hockey stick."
From the outset, the graph was a target of numerous lobbyists and skeptics. When Mr. McIntyre became interested in it, he quickly teamed up with Ross McKitrick, an economist at Canada's University of Guelph who'd written a book questioning global warming. (The two met on an Internet chat group for climate skeptics.) In October 2003, Energy & Environment, a British social-science journal known for contrarian views, published an initial critique by the pair.
The two were invited to Washington as a vote neared on a bill to cap fossil-fuel emissions. They met with Sen. James Inhofe, who heads the environment committee and has called the threat of catastrophic global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." The Oklahoma Republican relied on doubts raised by a variety of skeptics in leading successful opposition to the bill in 2003. Mr. McKitrick says he was paid $1,000 by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market research and lobbying group, and had his travel costs picked up by another lobby group. Mr. McIntyre, who briefed lobbyists with the National Association of Manufacturers, says he has taken no payment.
Dr. Mann and scientists close to him viewed this as a political attack, not science. Dr. Mann offered a strong rebuttal of the Canadians' 2003 journal article, explaining that it didn't correctly apply his techniques. In doing so, however, he revealed details of his data and mathematical methods that hadn't appeared in his original paper.
When Messrs. McIntyre and McKitrick pointed this out to Nature, the journal that first published the hockey-stick graph, Dr. Mann and his two co-authors had to publish a partial correction. In it, they acknowledged one wrong date and the use of some tree-ring data that hadn't been cited in the original paper, and they offered some new details of the statistical methods. The correction, however, stated that "none of these errors affect our previously published results."
Mr. McIntyre thinks there are more errors but says his audit is limited because he still doesn't know the exact computer code Dr. Mann used to generate the graph. Dr. Mann refuses to release it. "Giving them the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in," he says.
Mainstream scientists have also been scrutinizing the hockey stick. One, Hans von Storch of Germany's GKSS center, has presented theoretical findings arguing that Dr. Mann's technique could sharply underestimate past temperature swings. Indeed, new research from Stockholm University on historical temperatures suggests past fluctuations were nearly twice as great as the hockey stick shows. That could mean the 20th-century jump isn't quite so anomalous.
Dr. von Storch says he faced pressure from colleagues who feared that skeptics could misuse his results. He complains of a tendency in climate science to "use filters and make only comments that are politically correct."
Reports such as his helped to reopen the debate, even to outsiders. And last month, a peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters, accepted a paper by Messrs. McIntyre and McKitrick.
The editor, Steve Mackwell, says Dr. Mann contacted him to argue that the Canadians' work was deeply flawed. Dr. Mann then put a critique on his blog, "Realclimate.org," calling the Canadians' new paper "demonstrably specious." He said the intense criticism of his work struck him as odd because he had always "emphasized...the uncertainties."
Now the IPCC is preparing a new global warming report, due in 2007, and charges of exaggeration are again flying. A U.S. hurricane researcher, Chris Landsea, quit the U.N. body last month after an IPCC senior author, Kevin Trenberth, said storms could get worse because of global warming. Dr. Landsea called that idea unsupported by data and said the IPCC was "motivated by pre-conceived agendas." Dr. Trenberth, defending his analysis, said his critic is the one "politicizing" the science.
As the IPCC revisits the warming issue -- and the hockey stick -- it is taking account of all views, including Mr. McIntyre's, say the group's leaders.
Mr. McIntyre says he intends to continue his audit of climate science
and has demanded that other researchers send him details of their work.
He isn't satisfied with the responses so far. "When I ask them for
additional data, you can imagine how cooperative they are," he says.
On Wednesday, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman canceled the season, and we guess that's a loss. But this week also brought news of something else that's been put on ice. We're talking about the "hockey stick."
Just so we're clear, this hockey stick isn't a sports implement; it's a scientific graph. Back in the late 1990s, American geoscientist Michael Mann published a chart that purported to show average surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1,000 years. The chart showed relatively minor fluctuations in temperature over the first 900 years, then a sharp and continuous rise over the past century, giving it a hockey-stick shape.
Mr. Mann's chart was both a scientific and political sensation. It contradicted a body of scientific work suggesting a warm period early in the second millennium, followed by a "Little Ice Age" starting in the 14th century. It also provided some visually arresting scientific support for the contention that fossil-fuel emissions were the cause of higher temperatures. Little wonder, then, that Mr. Mann's hockey stick appears five times in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's landmark 2001 report on global warming, which paved the way to this week's global ratification--sans the U.S., Australia and China--of the Kyoto Protocol.
Yet there were doubts about Mr. Mann's methods and analysis from the start. In 1998, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics published a paper in the journal Climate Research, arguing that there really had been a Medieval warm period. The result: Messrs. Soon and Baliunas were treated as heretics and six editors at Climate Research were made to resign.
Still, questions persisted. In 2003, Stephen McIntyre, a Toronto minerals consultant and amateur mathematician, and Ross McKitrick, an economist at Canada's University of Guelph, jointly published a critique of the hockey stick analysis. Their conclusion: Mr. Mann's work was riddled with "collation errors, unjustifiable truncations of extrapolation of source data, obsolete data, geographical location errors, incorrect calculations of principal components, and other quality control defects." Once these were corrected, the Medieval warm period showed up again in the data.
This should have produced a healthy scientific debate. Instead, as the Journal's Antonio Regalado reported Monday, Mr. Mann tried to shut down debate by refusing to disclose the mathematical algorithm by which he arrived at his conclusions. All the same, Mr. Mann was forced to publish a retraction of some of his initial data, and doubts about his statistical methods have since grown. Statistician Francis Zwiers of Environment Canada (a government agency) notes that Mr. Mann's method "preferentially produces hockey sticks when there are none in the data." Other reputable scientists such as Berkeley's Richard Muller and Hans von Storch of Germany's GKSS Center essentially agree.
We realize this may all seem like so much academic nonsense. Yet if there really was a Medieval warm period (we draw no conclusions), it would cast some doubt on the contention that our SUVs and air conditioners, rather than natural causes, are to blame for apparent global warming.
There is also the not-so-small matter of the politicization of science: If climate scientists feel their careers might be put at risk by questioning some orthodoxy, the inevitable result will be bad science. It says something that it took two non-climate scientists to bring Mr. Mann's errors to light.
But the important point is this: The world is being lobbied to place
a huge economic bet--as much as $150 billion a year--on the notion that
man-made global warming is real. Businesses are gearing up, at considerable
cost, to deal with a new regulatory environment; complex carbon-trading
schemes are in the making. Shouldn't everyone look very carefully, and
honestly, at the science before we jump off this particular cliff?
[Reuters] - A parcel of studies looking at the oceans leave no room for
doubt that it is getting warmer, people are to blame, and the weather
is going to suffer, climate experts said on Feb 17. New computer models
that look at ocean temperatures instead of the atmosphere show the clearest
signal yet that global warming is well underway, said Tim Barnett of the
Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Please note that Professor David Deming's comments on "scientific
consensus" posted on Feb. 12, 2005 are copyrighted material and must
not be used in any form without prior permission.