## Friday, January 28, 2005

### Breaking hockey stick

I was just informed about a new article by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (MM) that will be published in Geophysical Research Letters, the same journal in which Michael Mann et al. published an early version of their paper about the "hockey stick graph" that claimed that they had evidence that the 20th century was the warmest century in this millenium. Read e.g. the story at
Despite the authors' and alarmists' claims, everyone seems to agree that these papers by Mann et al. were the most influential - and essentially unique - articles that support the statements that the human activity is causing an unprecedented warming trend above the natural variations - and they were the main papers that supported the Kyoto protocol. The most politically controversial question turned out to be the 15th century weather. ;-)

Of course, only Nature knows for sure what the climate looked like - but the advocates of Kyoto (such as Mann et al.) would prefer if the 15th century were cooler than the present while the skeptics are skeptical, as usual.

Two years ago or so, my feeling was that MM had a much more rational and scientific approach to the questions about the global climate than Mann et al., but I could see some minor errors in their analysis of the data. Meanwhile, they have improved their knowledge and abilities. They showed that the statistical method by Mann et al. effectively picks the data that lead to the hockey stick shape. Even if one inserts "red noise" as input, the result is a hockey stick graph in 99 percent of cases. They also learned which data sets are the dominant contributors to the conclusions by Mann et al.

I apologize for the wording, but there now seems to be a consensus that the papers by Mann et al. were flawed, and that there exists no evidence that the 15th century was cooler than the 20th century. On the contrary, it's pretty likely that the 15th century was warmer. Another recent criticism by von Storch et al. was published in Science. Von Storch as well as other leading climate scientists and statisticians confirm the findings of MM.

The Dutch National Science Foundation (NOW, not to be confused with the U.S. feminist organization) and the Dutch National Meteorological Agency (KNMI) will convene a special conference within the next month to assess the implications of the findings. Various key members of IPCC (the international climate panel) agree that the image of IPCC will be seriously damaged when the findings are published. A purely political comment: MM can no longer be considered to be cranks and outsiders - they publish in the same journals as the "official" climate scientists, and moreover, there is a growing consensus that MM are the more correct ones.

Also, the alarmists' propagandistic website
is already preparing its readers for the fact that the papers by Mann et al. are flawed (the article is called "What if the hockey stick were wrong?"). The alarmists essentially argue that it does not matter whether the science behind the claims is correct or wrong. Even when the paper is proved wrong, there is still a consensus among the "Hockey Team" (the other papers), they say. They can still play ice-hockey once the goalie is shot, they think. There are other papers independent (...) from Mann et al.: for example Mann and Jones, Jones and Mann, Crowley and Lowery based on data from Jones, Jones and Briffa, Briffa and Jones, and so on. ;-)

Well, I am quite skeptical, especially because the rest of the "Hockey Team" either shares the same authors (Mann, Bradley, Hughes, or Jones), and/or the same data, and/or the same methods - and moreover, the rest of the "team" are even less controllable papers than Mann et al. The global warming activists among the scientists will be in deep trouble since February 2005.

1. Incompetent or dishonest science needs to be exposed and judged. It looks like this analysis may have mislead climate scientists in some important ways.

On the other hand, how big a deal is it that the last fifteen years may have only been the warmest in the last 600 years rather than the last 1000? The bottom line seems to be that less is known about the last 1000 years of climate history than we thought, but the best known part, the last 160 years or so, is ominous enough.

2. It's a matter of personal judgement. If it turns out that the last 15 years were probably the warmest 15-year-long period in the last 550 years, I personally find such a finding pretty uninteresting.

If they were, on the other hand, the coldest period in the last 550 years, some people would also start to scare others (in fact, this has happened, too). The probability that the last 15 years form an extreme (either minimum or maximum) in the last 550 years is naively 2:35, roughly 6 percent - and actually I think that in reality, it is much more because the "last" and "first" periods in a time interval are more likely to be the extreme ones simply because there is usually some trend (regardless of its origin that may be perfectly natural).

And even if a different period of 15 years were the extreme one, you could wait long enough - and eventually you would see the extreme 15 years in the last 550 years. This is guaranteed to happen at least once in a few centuries. ;-) And this is just about the temperature.

If you measure many variables, it is nearly guaranteed that at least one of them would be extreme compared to the previous 550 years at every moment in the human history. Should we be worried? I don't think so. We pretty obviously see that no catastrophe - or anything that would even remotely resemble it - is happening right now.

I know that the life and climate worked great in the 15th century. The weather was very pleasant for life - probably much more pleasant than the religious and political atmosphere at that time. If someone asked me to pay a penny just to avoid a similar weather like in the 15th century, I would definitely not pay this penny. It would be a complete waste of money. But the people don't want us to pay a penny - they want us to pay trillions of dollars.

But this is a political question that is decided democratically in democracy. If the fearmongers convince the ordinary people that the only acceptable weather is a constant one - and that they should even believe that this was the natural state of affairs in the past (which is a complete nonsense) and these ordinary people will be stupid enough to buy it, well, then all of us will have to pay. Maybe, we won't return to the temperatures of the Middle Ages, but we will return to the same unscientific approach to the questions about Nature.

This is not just a speculation because Europe and other parts of the world will start to pay for the Kyoto stupidity already in February this year - something that can turn economic growth into a recession. From this perspective, Mann could well be the leader of the most costly scientific fraud in the history of humankind.

3. The thing that gets me about this "they want us to pay trillions of dollars" thing is that it falsely leads us to believe there are only two choices - all or nothing.

Of course there are easy and cheap ways to reduce co2 emissions, as well as some that will actually contribute to a happy lifestyle.

Why pretend it is "trillions" or nothing?