Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hockey Stick Thuggery

UPDATE: Doug has launched a vigorous attack on this post, and there is a real chance that the Pig may dine on crow on this one. To be Determined.

Not to worry that we haven't had an NHL season this year, we still have one guy willing to play the thuggish hockey bully. Joe Barton, U. S. Representative from Texas, and Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is our man.

Those who follow such things may recall some controversy over the so-called 'hockey stick' graph in climate science. Briefly, the hockey stick is a graph of world wide temperatures over the past 1000 years that looks a bit like a hockey stick, more or less flat for a long period, and bending sharply up (like the blade of a hockey stick) over the last several decades. The controversy, or rather pseudo-controversy, arises from an article by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick in an industry magazine called Energy & Environment. The magazine is not peer reviewed, and neither author is a climate scientist, but by selectively ignoring some of the data, they found that the climate 500 years ago was sufficiently uncertain that current temperatures might not actually be as hot as they were then. Never mind that the data they ignored was that most germane to the question nor that subsequently obtained data has only confirmed and reinforced the ignored data, their 'result' has been endlessly trumpeted by The Wall Street Journal, the energy industry, wingnuttery in general, and, I'm sorry to mention, our fellow blogger and habitual trumpeteer of right-wing propaganda, Lubos Motl.

Enter Joe Barton, stage right. Gavin Schmidt and Stefan Rahmstorf of RealClimate pick up the story .

Many readers will be aware that three scientists (two of which are contributors to this site, Michael Mann and Ray Bradley) have received letters from Representative Joe Barton (Texas), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee specifically requesting information about their work on the 'hockey stick' papers (Mann et al (1998) and Mann et al (1999)) as well as an enormous amount of irrelevant material not connected to these studies.

Many in the scientific community would welcome any genuine interest in climate change from the committee, but the tone and content of these letters have alarmed many scientists and their professional organisations. In the words of Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Barton letters "give the impression of a search for some basis on which to discredit these particular scientists and findings, rather than a search for understanding." Other organisations and individual scientists have also expressed strong concerns:
Barton's letters look more like an attempt to intimidate that gather information. Schmidt and Rahmstorf's story includes includes links to the replies and the devastating mountain of evidence they have produced. It's too much to hope that Barton or his staffers will read it, but we can.


  1. There is another side to the story,

    The untold story of the Global Warming Fiasco:

    "Barton Investigation Uncovers
    Key Puzzle Piece In
    Global Warming Mystery

    (July 24 2005)

    Howling yelps of protest are yipping: “Inquisition”! “Intimidation”!, and “Witch Hunt”! after the sending of some letters by Rep. Joe Barton Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to key figures in the Global Warming Mystery.

    Concealed by the volume and hysteria of the biteless bark of protests by promoters of Global Warming Alarmism, was a quiet voice of caution displayed by key figures in the investigation and their most prominent supporters. Carefully hidden in their subdued message was a reluctance to support what once was a major pillar of Global Warming Theory, the claim that "


    if the link doesn't work, click on "doug" at the beginning

    Not mentioned in the link, is that the House Science committee has been caught flat footed on this, so their response is to attack Joe Barton!

  2. Doug,

    Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your comments. I have read your comments, and especially the link to Steve McIntyre's blog. I don't think there is any merit to the notion that they didn't all defend both TAR "pillars" in their letters - they were addressing specific questions which didn't ask about that. Hughes did cite them in his prefactory remarks, though.

    The only point I found interesting was Steve McIntyre's argument that the original paper should have reported r^2 as well as RE. I don't currently have a satisfactory answer to that, but it seems a bit much for McIntyre to resort to innuendo when he should have been able to check r^2 himself. I intend to pursue this point.