Tag Archives: hockey stick

Matt Ridley needs to take some advice from Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley is a techno-optimist of the Lomborgian mold, with all of the cherry-picking and source misrepresentation that goes with it apparently. He gave a speech to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh [corrected - see below] that has “skeptics” falling all over themselves in delight.

What groundbreaking evidence does Ridley marshal in defense of his rejection of mainstream science?

I was curious. Ridley ostensibly is a cut above the average denizen of WUWT. He was trained as a zoologist before taking up science writing. He has articles frequently published in the mainstream press, as the delicious-in-hindsight tweet by Andy Revkin reflects. He’s widely acclaimed for popularizing science concepts for mainstream reading audiences. So whatever Ridley had must be good, I thought. His arguments would reflect the best of the “skeptics’” best.

It turned out I was wrong. Or perhaps, I was right, and Ridley was bringing the best of the “skeptics’” best. Either way, it was an enormous disappointment. Ridley’s speech turned out to be a textbook Gish Gallop, full of false claims, logical fallacies, and trivially true but irrelevant “facts”. It was, as I put it at Keith Kloor’s blog, “skeptic” bingo.

  • Sea level rise is small and is decelerating!
  • Methane isn’t increasing!
  • Hockey Stick!
  • Etc.

I don’t think I will do a point by point rebuttal to every claim in Ridely’s speech at this time (maybe later, for sport, time permitting). But suffice it to say that while Ridley is being lauded by the denialosphere now, he’s actually done them a tremendous disservice. With this speech, he’s fully exposing himself as a crank, and has thus reduced the ever-dwindling list of “credible skeptics” one further.

And in case anyone is curious, while the year-to-year variability is significant,  on climate-relevant timescales, sea level rise is indeed accelerating (Church and White 2011; Rahmstorf and Vermeer 2011).

But more to the point, absent emissions stabilization, sea level rise is going to increase, reaching 1m or more by end of century (Vermeer and Rahmstorf 2009).

Failure to stabilize emissions will almost assuredly result in the eventual collapse of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, committing the world to multimeter sea level rise that will be for all practical purposes irreversible. Many of Ridley’s claims similarly depend on falsely equivocating between concern over future climate changes absent emissions stabilization (and their relative irreversibility over human timescales) and what is happening at present. This couldn’t be more misleading.

As you might imagine, given the way this is going, Ridley’s claim that methane isn’t increasing is also false. Methane levels today are much higher than they’ve been over at least the past 800,000 years and continue to increase (Loulergue et al., 2008; NOAA AGGI).

The “hockey stick” nonsense has been done to death. And “skeptics” like Ridley inevitably fail to mention the main points: the “hockey stick” has basically nothing to do with either the attribution of recent warming to humans or the seriousness of future warming; the ostensible statistical problems in the original Mann et al. paper were overstated by its critics, and the actual problems it did have don’t tremendously affect its results (Huybers 2005; Wahl and Amman 2007); moreover, independent Northern Hemisphere reconstructions (including “skeptics’” own) show more or less the same results as Mann et al.’s recent work- the warming during the instrumental record exceeds peak Medieval temperatures (Ljunqvist 2010; Loehle and McCulloch 2008; Mann et al., 2008; Moberg, et al., 2005).

People like Ridley spend an awful lot of time listening to “skeptic” bloggers like Jo Nova and Bishop Hill, but seem to have no grasp of basic Earth systems science. And it shows. There is a total lack of coherence in Ridley’s claims. Ridley wants us to know that the climate changed rapidly in the past- but yet we’re also supposed to believe that climate sensitivity is very small. He also flubs basic concepts- equilibrium sensitivity is not the same thing as transient sensitivity (i.e. how much we will warm in response to a given increase in radiative forcing is larger than how much warming we’ll experience in the near term due to things like the thermal inertia of the ocean).

Perhaps Ridley can follow his own advice and “unlearn” the lies, fallacies, and nonsense he’s being cheered for regurgitating. Though let’s just say I’m a little skeptical of the prospect.


  • Church, J.A., and N.J. White (2011): Sea-Level Rise from the Late 19th to the Early 21st Century. Surveys In Geophysics, 32, 4-5, 585-602, doi:10.1007/s10712-011-9119-1.
  • Huybers, P. (2005): Comment on “Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance” by S. McIntyre and R. McKitrick. Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L20705, doi:10.1029/2005GL023395.Ljungqvist, F.C. (2010): A new reconstruction of temperature variability in the extra-tropical northern hemisphere during the last two millennia. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, 92, 3, 339-351, doi:10.1111/j.1468-0459.2010.00399.x.
  • Loehle, C. and J.H. McCulloch (2008): Correction to: A 2000-Year Global Temperature Reconstruction Based on Non-Tree Ring Proxies. Energy + Environment, 19, 1, 93-100.
  • Loulergue, L., et al. (2008): Orbital and millennial-scale features of atmospheric CH4 over the past 800,000 years. Nature, 453, 383-386, doi:10.1038/nature06950.
  • Mann, M.E., et al. (2008): Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 105, 36, 13252-13257, doi:10.1073/pnas.0805721105.
  • Moberg, A., et al. (2005): Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data. Nature, 433, 613-617, doi:10.1038/nature03265.
  • NOAA AGGI: The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index. URL: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/
  • Rahmstorf, S., and M. Vermmer (2011): Discussion of: “Houston, J.R. and Dean, R.G., 2011. Sea-Level Acceleration Based on U.S. Tide Gauges and Extensions of Previous Global-Gauge Analyses”. Journal of Coastal Research, 27, 4, 784–787, doi:10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-11-00082.1.
  • Vermeer, M., and S. Rahmstorf (2009): Global sea level linked to global temperature. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 106, 51, 21527-21532, doi:10.1073/pnas.0907765106.
  • Wahl, E.R., and C.M. Ammann (2007): Robustness of the Mann, Bradley, Hughes reconstruction of surface temperatures: Examination of criticisms based on the nature and processing of proxy climate evidence. Climatic Change, 85, 33-69, doi:10.1007/s10584-006-9105-7.

Exoneration fails to appease conspiracy theorists, cont’d, cont’d, cont’d

Image courtesy of Flickr user "Jennoit", used under Creative Commons

The National Science Foundation’s Inspector General office has completed its inquiry into allegations of misconduct leveled at Penn State climate scientist, RealClimate blogger, and “hockey stick” lead author Mike Mann. Yet again, Mann was cleared of all allegations of misconduct. And, yet again, this does nothing to dissuade the paranoid conspiracy theorists that fancy themselves “skeptics” but who are anything but.

As always, Conspiracy Theory 101 dictates that when an investigation fails to confirm your tin foil nuttery, it can only mean that the investigation was illegitimate and part of the conspiracy. Previous examples here, here, and here.

[UPDATELike clockwork...]

Wegman plagiarism scandal heating up


Courtesy of Flickr user TalkMediaNews


I’ve been a little unsure how or when to discuss John Mashey’s and Deep Climate’s yeoman’s work on uncovering the depths to which Edward Wegman stooped in attempting to discredit the work of Mike Mann, Ray Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes.

But the ScienceFair blog at USA Today has posted on it, so it’s probably going to reach “mainstream” status soon. Wegman’s university is formally investigating him for plagiarizing (at the very least) Raymond Bradley.

I’m curious to see how far this will go. There’s certainly enough circumstantial evidence to consider investigating the full extent of Reps. Barton and Whitfield’s offices involvement in this farce.

For those of you who don’t have a clue what this is all about, DeSmog Blog has a good backgrounder here.

As an aside- many of the champions of the Wegman Report (e.g Steve McIntyre) took up Wegman’s claim “Method Wrong + Answer Correct = Bad Science” as a sort of incantation, chanting it as though it might somehow dispel the fact that reality appears to have a hockey-stick-shaped bias. I am sure that these same people will maintain their integrity and immediately disavow the Wegman Report and its conclusions.



I’ve been an outspoken critic of Keith Kloor, but please give him deserved respect for at least covering this, unlike so many other “climate journalists”.

Exoneration fails to appease conspiracy theorists, cont’d, cont’d

Michael Mann has been unanimously cleared of the final accusation of wrongdoing by Penn State. Its full report is here.

In keeping with the tenets of Conspiracy Theory 101 (previous examples here and here), the panel’s findings were immediately dismissed as a “whitewash” by climate denialists, like CEI‘s Myron Ebell:

“It has been designed as a whitewash,” Ebell wrote in an e-mail. “To admit that Dr. Mann is a conman now would be extremely embarrassing for Penn State. But the scandal will not be contained no matter how many whitewash reports are issued. The evidence of manipulation of data is too obvious and too strong.”

Because as any good tinfoil hatter will tell you, when the investigation fails to confirm your pathological rejection of reality it can only mean that investigation is illegitimate.

[h/t John Mashey and Aaron Huertas]

UPDATE: Brian Angliss of Scholars and Rogues covered the “whitewash” nonsense back in February.

The latest SwiftHack meme: ‘Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL’ outrage

It’s odd how some (sticky? viral?) memes propagate through the denialosphere. The classic example is how “hockey stick” lost all of its original context, and soon there was very little that was not a “hockey stick” according to the denialosphere: from the temperature projections in the AR4 to pre-industrial vs. current CO2 levels. And through an apparent belief in sympathetic magic, all it took was the labeling of something as a “hockey stick” in order to discredit it in the eyes of a certain audience.

The SwiftHack “scandal” is proving to be no different. “Hide the decline” has metamorphosed from the truncation of certain dendro proxy data post-”divergence”  into a fraudulent artificial inflation of, by turns:

  • the global surface temperature record
  • the US surface temperature record (occasionally with unrelated graphics of real NCDC adjustments)
  • GCM projections of future warming

And so on. They’re not really sure what it means, but they’re sure that it’s undeniable evidence of fraud and the global Gore-Commie conspiracy. It’s humorous to watch this spring up repeatedly in comment sections of forums and the like, as the reality-based community seems to be all over it. You can still see it popping up, but its “juice” has been diminished incredibly.

The latest (I’m sure as I write this something new is coming down the pike) meme concerns two nearly identical snippets of code in “briffa_sep98_d.pro” and “briffa_sep98_e.pro”, e.g. at RealClimate here and here, and addressed at Deltoid here. The code comments talked about “arifical” [sic] adjustments and “fudge factors”, and as such it is being taken as undeniable proof of Something Nefarious.

The code in question appears to “test the sensitivity of certain calculations to the presence or absence” of the post 1960 divergence problem in Briffa’s MXD archive. It does not appear to have been used in any published paper, figure, or data set. [Denialists can feel free to set me straight on that- you've got a fixed range in which the publication had to occur, the name of at least one coauthor, the archive it supposedly en-fraud-ulates, and a pretty good idea about what this adjustment will look like] In spite of this, if you’ll find claims that this bit of code is in fact:

  • “Mike’s Nature trick”
  • Phil Jones’s use of “Mike’s Nature trick”
  • fabricated warming in the global surface temperature record
  • fabricated warming in the US surface temperature record
  • fabricated warming inserted into the projections of GCMs

And so on.

I’m guessing that we can expect to this sort of thing repeated over and over and over again for weeks if not months to come. A line in an email, some snippets of code, etc. will be trotted out (completely excised of content) with no grasp of what it actually means as the newest Proof That Definitely Shows Global Warming Is Fake And We’re Serious This Time. The supporting evidence will be non-existent, the explanations of what the “proof” does will be incoherent and self-contradictory, but the confidence with which it will be paraded around will be unshakable. It will be the final nail in the coffin of radiative transfer the hippie scam.

Until the next one.

Let the gnashing of teeth commence

I’m sure this will be met with reasoned and civilized discussion. Doesn’t seem to be online yet.

[UPDATE: Here is the paper with a stable url that won't go dead once PNAS moves it from the early edition. And I see a certain site managed three catty threads in a half a day on it before it even hit PNAS online. You'd almost think someone was a little... bitter.]