Professor Michael Mann, the inventor of the Hockeystick temperature graph, had a contentious editorial essay in the January 17 issue of the New York Times. [The Hockeystick graph purports to show that temperatures of the last thousand years declined steadily — until the 20th century, when there was a sudden large rise.]
I am using the word “inventor” on purpose, since the Hockeystick is a manufactured item and does not correspond to well-established historic reality. It does not show the generally beneficial Medieval Warm Period (MWP) at around 1000 AD, or the calamitous Little Ice Age (LIA) between about 1400 and 1800. In the absence of any thermometers during most of this period, the Hockeystick is based on an analysis of so-called proxy data, mostly tree rings, from before 1000 AD to 1980, where the proxy temperature suddenly stops and a rapidly rising thermometer record is joined on.
Since its publication in 1998 and 1999, the hockeystick graph has had a turbulent history. It was adopted by the IPCC (UN-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in its 3rd Assessment Report (2001) to support the claim of a major anthropogenic global warming (AGW) during the 20th century. Since then, the IPCC has distanced itself from the graph, which has been completely discredited. It not disagrees not only with much historic evidence that shows a MWP and LIA, but also with other analyses of proxy data. Most of the criticism has come from the work of two Canadian statisticians, Steven McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, who have uncovered a misuse of data, a biased calibration procedure, and fundamental errors in the statistical methods.
McKitrick, an econometrician at Guelph University in Canada, has a pungent comment on Mann’s op-ed, which was titled “If you see something, say something.”
“OK, I see a second-rate scientist carrying on like a jackass and making a public nuisance of himself.”
I have added my own comment as follows: “OK, I want to say something too: I see an ideologue, desperately trying to support a hypothesis that’s been falsified by observations. While the majority of climate alarmists are trying to discover a physical reason that might just save the AGW hypothesis, Mann simply ignores the ‘inconvenient truth’ that the global climate has not warmed significantly for at least the past 15 years — while emissions of greenhouse gases have surged globally.”
Of course, this is not the first time that “hide the decline” Mike has done this. Remember his “Nature trick” — so much admired by his ‘Climategate team’ mates? [For those who don't remember the 2009 Climategate scandal: It consisted of a leak of some thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia, involving mainly Michael Mann and several of his English colleagues, documenting their completely unethical attempts to suppress any contrary opinions and publications from climate skeptics by misusing the peer-review process and by pressuring editors of scientific journals -- unfortunately, with some success.]
We don’t quite know yet what the “Nature trick” refers to — until we get Michael Mann to tell us why he has refused to reveal his never-published post-1980 proxy data. We may have to wait until we have him on the witness stand and under oath. But I strongly suspect that it has to do with absence of any temperature increase after 1980; its publication would have created a conflict with the reported (and problematic) thermometer data and with the assertion by the IPCC that humans are responsible for such a temperature rise.
In actuality, we now have adequate proxy data from other sources, most particularly from Fredrick Ljungqvist and David Anderson. Their separate publications agree that there has been little if any temperature rise since about 1940! However, there was a real temperature increase between 1920 and 1940, which can be seen also in the various proxy as well as thermometer data.
Michael Mann saw something he didn’t like in the Senate testimony (Jan 16, 2014) of fiercely independent climate scientist and blogger, Georgia Tech professor Judith Curry; so he decided to say something in his NYT op-ed. He forgot that often it is better to say nothing than to accuse Curry of peddling anti-science.
Curry has lost no time in taking Mann’s challenge and turning the tables on him:
“Since you have publicly accused my Congressional testimony of being ‘anti-science,’ I expect you to (publicly) document and rebut any statement in my testimony that is factually inaccurate or where my conclusions are not supported by the evidence that I provide.
During the Hearing, Senator Whitehouse asked me a question about why people refer to me as a ‘contrarian.’ I said something like the following: Skepticism is one of the norms of science. We build confidence in our theories as they are able to withstand skeptical challenges. If instead, scientists defend their theories by calling their opponents names, well that is a sign that their theories are in trouble.
Curry’s final message to Mann:
“If you want to avoid yourself being labeled as ‘anti-science’, I suggest that you are obligated to respond to my challenge.”
War on Coal
It is interesting that Mann now plays the role of the victim in purported persecution by powerful interests, darkly identified as the fossil-fuel industry. Actually, the reverse may be the case. Mann has become a strong proponent of emission controls on carbon dioxide, which fits in very nicely with the ongoing War on Coal conducted by the EPA and the White House — and with the editorial policies of the New York Times — coal being the most prolific source of CO2.
It is ironic that while coal use is increasing rapidly in China and India, it is also increasing in Europe where governments have been anti-CO2 fanatics in the past but have decided to stop nuclear power, which emits no CO2 whatsoever.
In the United States, requirements are being set up to capture CO2 from smoke stacks of power plants and store it underground. Carbon Capture and Sequestration is a difficult and costly undertaking, and has never been demonstrated on a commercial scale. There have even been calls for sucking CO2 out of the global atmosphere, which sounds like an impossible task — and in any case, would be very, very expensive.
And to what purpose? As pointed out many times, CO2 is beneficial for agriculture. As a natural fertilizer, it accelerates the growth of crops. Czech physicist Lubos Motl has calculated that if it were indeed possible to reduce CO2 levels to their pre-industrial value, global agriculture would suffer a strong decline and billions of people would starve to death.
But perhaps this level of population control is what the climate fanatics are really after. They have always maintained that the Earth suffers from over-population and that the number of people needs to be reduced to protect natural values — a truly misanthropic scheme. In 1974, the Club of Rome group published a detailed study, predicting that a billion people would die of starvation, beginning in the 1980s and peaking in 2010. One of the proponents of this thesis is now the White House science adviser.