on January 15, 2013
The author A.W. Montford wrote a thrilling scientific detective story regarding the famous Hockey Stick graph, which at one stroke got rid of the Medieval Warming Period (when the Vikings settled Greenland (Vinland then because it was warm enough to grow grapes)) and the Little Ice Age when the Thames froze over. Instead temperatures were nice and flat until the 20th century when they swooped upward like the curve of a hockey stick. The graphbecame the central icon of those who believed the world was headed for catastrphic global warming. Montford's book, the Hockey Stick Illustion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science, followed the patient unraveling of this flawed idea by a retired mining engineer named Steve McIntyre, who overcame years of stonewalling and was eventually able to reverse engineer the reasoning that led to the famous graph and show that the statistics were faulty.
Now Montford is back looking into the equally infamous episode known as hiding the decline. Tree ring growth had been used to estimate temperatures in the past millenium, but beginning about 1960 they were not behaving--they showed temperatures were cooling whereas thermometers showed they were rising. So the scientists cut off their badly behaving tree ring curve and overlaid it after about 1960 with the measured temperatures. Never mind that if they were misbehaving now what might they have been doing back in the time when there were no thermometers. This would have destroyed decades of work so couldn't be allowed to stand. Montford delves deeply into the story and once again shows the ability to make a fascinating detective story out of this shocking example of scientific fraud.
on November 22, 2012
A lot of us enjoy reading a good book a second, or even a third time. I have read Montford's Hockey Stick Illusion three times - most recently about a month before learning of this upcoming new book. We read books multiple times when they continue to reward our efforts. In a new reading, we find something we missed the first time. Or we did not appreciate the importance of something the first time. But we do in some sense "remember" much of it deep down - the framework is still there, the decorations are put back in place, and often we re-anticipate the impending content.
So here is a new book. In reading it, I was often of the impression as though I had read it before. Now right away, let me dispense with any notion that you don't need to read this because it is history. You DO need to read this - desperately. As you would expect, in the account there are likely things you "remember" but also items you may have forgotten, or perhaps never happened to run into. Also, many things, for all I remember, are very likely pointed out here for the first time.
For those events we remember well, or are reminded of, where did you see them the first time? On the blogs - in real time. So, the good Bishop has done it again - somehow organized all this for us in a convenient, and in fact an exciting and even entertaining package. Well not quite. Much is too serious to be truly entertaining. A lot of it will make you angry (again?). That this was done (and still is being done) to us all so blatantly, and that we are all held in total disdain by these self-serving alarmist pretenders; remains hard to take.
The science of climate is extremely complex, and to this we did not really need politics and dogma added. Fortunately, a lot of very good people have been fighting this very well. If we had to single out just one on the hero side, it would obviously have to be Steve McIntyre as champion supreme. For years I have read the Climate Audit blog in awe - he did it yet again! He takes on an issue in a highly focused manner, scientifically, honestly, as a gentleman, and with an astounding ability to get his mind around all the facts. We could wish the "world's leading climate scientist" could do what he himself seems to do every day just for one day a year. He puts it all together, in neat packages, and here it all is on the CA blog. We owe him big. He posts these neat packages and then moves forward, seeming tirelessly, and seems never to be defeated by mere disappointments. Reading his posting, we feel enlightened, but it is hard to stay with him. The rest of us are in general just not that good.
But we do remember the framework. And this is where Andrew Montford on the Bishop Hill blog comes in with his sometimes extended postings and certainly with his (now) two books. Andrew, to me, seems to be the macro to Steve's micro. He puts together the sections and chapters and forms a book (literally), with the same sort of astounding organizational and explanatory skills that Steve does - getting the bigger pieces all in order. I don't know how he gets his mind around all this either.
Andrew's book is not just about "Climategate". Indeed, looking at the sources only 1/4 of them are from CG1 and CG2 emails. The rest are diverse: from blogs, articles, and public reports, particularly of boards of inquiries. The inquiries (four or more of them) were in response to possible misconduct on the alarmists' part, principally as exposed by climategate emails. Such matters as the eponymous "hide the decline", perversion of peer review, manipulations to evade FOI, agenda-driven "science", etc. Here we find another "mirror" of McIntyre/Montford. Much as McIntyre generally outclasses the official "world leading climate scientists" on the technical stage, Montford, by this very book, has vastly outclassed the review panels in the fields of investigation and reporting. It is perhaps a bit painful to read how one panel after another "failed" their responsibility in most important senses, becoming (or is it revealing themselves as) just another part of the problem.
So - the book - it's about Climategate of course. It's a page-turner. We have the expected players: McIntyre, McKitrick, Mann, Jones, Briffa, not to mention the still unknown leaker. And many more very FAMILIAR names; we could easily list at least a hundred others - literally too numerous to list.
Here is why you need this book even if you were following the issues all along. Do you remember (to list a few): Charles the Moderator, Keenan, Holland, Boulton, Russell, Oxburgh, Saiers, Yamal, Wang, Lucia (Of course you know her - but how was she involved in the first notice of Climategate). And that's much the point: Climategate (I) was three years ago. Yes, your mind likely needs a refresh, and gaps need to be patched. Thanks again Andrew.
on March 25, 2013
Not an easy book to read, as it is more forensic than entertaining. It goes into a level of detail that is essential for the subject, but almost numbing in its complexity. Even so I found it enthralling and horrifying by turns. Montfort has not attempted a novel like presentation, although the story of hiding the decline will undoubtedly be presented as such some time in the near future. Rather this is a text book. It will be the source material from which others will mine the nuggets. And this book is full of them. Personally I see the whole episode as a morality play examining the nature of hubris. I do not think that these were bad men, but they became so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that they lost all sense of balance and proportion. History will judge them harshly. They are not the first good and clever men to have been seduced by an ideology, and they will not be the last. A story that is sadly shocking, but not a surprise.
on November 19, 2012
While this is 300 pages of (climate science) inside baseball, it is a home run.
In the final section Montford writes "The tale of Climategate and its aftermath is not an edifying one.
As we look back over the ten years of this story, the impression we get is of a wave of dishonesty, a public sector that will spin and lie, and mislead and lie, and distort and lie, and lie again."
Montford pulls no punches in his finale, but in the body of the book dispassionately tells the story with much detail, supporting his conclusion.
This book is important.
on October 19, 2014
Well written. Chapter 1 was great review of earlier book on "The Hockey Stick Illusion.".
What was role of Freedom of Information requests in accelerating cover-ups?
"Collegiality" is misused or abused to shy away from the real issues, cover up facts and try to keep all on a friendly basis. It's a common problem in academe in the US and UK.
Accountability standards appear non-existent. In UK. IN US, after the increased accountability requirements, it's a big surprise to see such a lack of accountability on the part of certain individuals..
"Siege mentality." Problem here everything was taken too personally - a personal attack. Again, common problem in academe.
The use of blogs, web sites, etc to argue science is a new twist and its reliability is questionable. Some of it is extremely useful. ftp protocols an issue too. Archiving on memory stick is acceptable ONLY as back-up.
Media role unusual -only because of implications of climate change in social context. Moreover, most of the key scientists clearly did not have experience handling media inquiries, questions, or requests, and some let it go to their heads.
Crosscultural aspects - Different cultures seem to manage science differently or conduct its protocols differently?
Problem of oversight by those lacking expertise or knowledge emerges a major contributor to the cover-ups and disclosurs..