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The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science (Independent Minds) Paperback – March, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Andrew Montford's The Hockey Stick Illusion is one of the best science books in years...This book deserves to win prizes.
Matt Ridley, Prospect


Andrew Montford tells this detective story in exhilarating style.
Joe Brannan, Geoscientist


Montford, who conducts a blog mostly about climate, called Bishop Hill and used his accounting skills of patience and precision in dealing with heaps of data to tell a connected and, often, thrilling story. --HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer The Maui News July 11 2010

You may have heard that the 20th century was the warmest in 1,000 years, or that the 1990s were the warmest decade in at least 600 years. Perhaps you also know that these claims originated in peer-reviewed science, which produced a temperature graph showing a hockey stick shape.
These claims are, in fact, bogus. It was obvious from the start that they were at least dubious, because when professor Michael Mann stated that his studies showed that "there was no Medieval Warm Period," the fact of a MWP had already been established, beyond dispute, by direct observations made by the French social historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.
Why, then, did Mann's hockey stick persuade so many people? A.W. Montford, an English accountant, does not answer that question - except indirectly, by showing that the people persuaded did not look at it carefully - but he does explain, in detail, why the hockey stick was junk science.

Improbably, the story reads like a murder mystery, a combination of locked room puzzler (how did Mann and his associates get a hockey stick where it could not have existed?) and courtroom drama (as Sherlock Montford presents the forensic deconstruction of the trick).
Montford, who conducts a blog mostly about climate, called Bishop Hill and used his accounting skills of patience and precision in dealing with heaps of data to tell a connected and, often, thrilling story.
Although the Hockey Team did, and is still doing, its best to keep its data secret, the persuasive advantage that Montford has is that all his claims are based on documents, many of which are reproduced in his book.
"The Hockey Stick Illusion" deserves space on the shelf of classic books about science fraud like Peter Medawar's "The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice." Montford, though not a scientist, is a good choice to tell this story, for, as Medawar said, "There is poetry in science but also a lot of bookkeeping." --HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer The Maui News July 11 2010

About the Author

Andrew Montford - The author studied chemistry at St Andrews University. He is a respected blogger at Bishop Hill where his layperson's explanations of the Hockey Stick debate have won wide acclaim. He lives in rural Scotland with his wife and three children.
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Product Details

  • Series: Independent Minds
  • Paperback: 482 pages
  • Publisher: Stacey International; 1 edition (March 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906768358
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906768355
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #537,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a superb review of the story of the hockeystick, the temperature reconstruction which was supposed to show that late 20th century temperatures were unprecedented for at least 1,000 years and which was highlighted in the third IPCC report in 2001. What Montford does in this book is take us through Steven McIntyre's attempt to reproduce the original result of Michael Mann and the controversy that followed. His account is very well written and it reads like a detective story. The technical details of the debate are clearly explained even though there is no heavy mathematics or statistics. He tells the story chronologically and gives a good feel of what people on both sides of the debate actually said at the time (and there are plenty of references as well as judicious quotes from all sides). I have been following this debate for the past five years or so. To my mind this gives as clear an account of the debate as we are likely to see. What is now clear is that the Mann conclusions, far from being based on coherent evidence across a geographical widespread range of proxies all showing similar patterns across the Northern hemisphere, were based on a tiny subset of proxies, bristlecone and foxtail pines, from California whose anomalous 20th century growth was almost certainly not caused by high temperature. The apparently broad evidence was an illusion created by an eccentric implementation of a standard statistical technique called principal components analysis. Mann's version of this (which appears to be his own creation) effectively mined his hundred plus proxies for any which had hockeystick shapes and then gave them huge weight in the analysis. What is worrying about all this is not so much the fact that a paper is wrong.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the most important books of modern times. A very erudite, well-read commentator on science and society, Montford demolishes the global warming scam, one lie at a time. This is one of the most important books to read if you are the least bit concerned about maintaining life on this planet. A very brave man, Monford stands agains the plethora of commentators who have been bought by governments and big industry to promote the myth of global warming as a thinly-veiled initiative to generate new income tax streams. This is book that is a MUST-READ.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would normally post 4 for this, for it to be about an approximation of my entire feeling on the book. The book is well researched and thoughtfully laid out. What is most disconcerting about this book is the amount of people who lie in their one star reviews with obvious agendas. They all have tendencies to review only things on partisan basis, and never be verified Amazon purchasers (they never read what they review, which is intellectually dishonest at best to begin with), and literally seem to get their kicks from lying day to day about reviewing products (which the vast majority never review), they virtually never post anything of substance, but instead regurgitate googled crap from their favorite blogs about the books, without even having the honesty to look at it yourself. So an honest review, read this book, and make up your mind for yourself. There is a lot of information in this book you will find to be thought-provoking.
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This is a wonderful book, a must read. As a retired biostatistician I was appalled by the statistical mal-practice that this book reveals to be standard procedure for the people who generated and still defend the iconic hockey stick graph. If I had done data analysis the way the "hockey team" does it routinely, I would have deservedly been fired!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Best understood if one has a degree in statistics, but very enlightening at any rate. Montford details the actions and arguments of all
players, exposing the unethical tactics that the originators of the hockey stick theory used to foist their scam on the public and, most harmfully, presented it to politicians for their misuse. You can read transcripts of some of the email exchanges among the players, further illuminating the development of the con job of the century.Complex story,. Excellent book.
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There's ample historical and temperature proxy evidence the world was warmer during the Medieval Warming period (1000-1300s) than today. Then, temperatures declined from 1300-1800s ("little ice age") before warming again in the late 19th century. This all happened at a time when CO2 levels were flat and much lower than today.

In the past century, global temperatures rose by ~1C (0.5C from the 1970s to 1990s) during a time when CO2 levels significantly increased due to industrialization. By itself, CO2 should warm the earth by ~1C per doubling of CO2 ("climate sensitivity"). Alarmists, though,hypothesize positive feedback will also kick in and magnify the sensitivity to 3-10C due to increased water vapor, which is the most powerful greenhouse gas. But this has never been proven and the real-world evidence is shaky at best (computer models don't count as real evidence). Since 1998, temperatures have been flat with slight random fluctuations. So it's both true that recent temperatures have been "flat" and also at "record" highs- unless you include the Medieval warming period. The MWP is significant then because it casts doubt on the notion that CO2 has high climate sensitivity. The simpler null hypothesis is that we're well within natural variation and that most of the 20th century warming was not due to CO2.

In 1998, Michael Mann et al published a temperature reconstruction of the past 1000 years with a "hockey stick" shape, which claimed to prove that the MWP wasn't that warm (or global) after all and that late 20th century temperatures were at unprecedented levels. The hockey stick became the face of AGW and convinced the public (myself included) that AGW was a dire threat.
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