Reason Foundation

Reason Foundation

The Death Knell for Global Warming Alarmism

Leonard Gilroy
January 27, 2005, 7:31pm

Good teachers try to instill in schoolchildren a healthy dose of respect for the profound beauty of the scientific method and the imperative for transparency in empirical research. These are the pillars of knowledge in the modern world, and scientific progress depends on a faithful adherence to these processes. Gone are the days when a Galileo is imprisoned and threatened with torture for daring to advance controversial scientific theories. In the modern era, scientists publish the results of their research and then open the floor to others to come in and replicate their methods and compare outcomes. This typifies the slow but steady march of human progress. So it is indeed profoundly distressing when this process breaks down -- when politics, religion, or other considerations trump good science and inhibit the advance of knowledge, particularly on matters of great import. And it is equally inspiring when good science succeeds despite overwhelming odds against it. And so we come to today, a day that we can both lament a travesty in science and celebrate a triumph of scientific integrity over bad science. The prestigious journal Geophysical Research Letters will publish a groundbreaking article by Canadian researchers Ross McKitrick and Stephen McIntyre that calls into question the credibility of UVA scientist Michael Mann's "hockey stick," a graph of Northern Hemisphere temperatures over the last 1,000 years showing a relatively flat line up to the 20th century which then trends sharply upward (hence the 'hockey stick'). Of course, the implication is that human activity and capitalism has set us on a course for global disaster. To say that this graph has been influential would be a tremendous understatement; it is THE central pillar of the anti-global warming movement and a primary justification for the Kyoto Protocol. It is the proverbial face that launched a thousand ships. But ladies and gentlemen, today is the day that we can begin to mourn (or celebrate, depending on your persuasion) the death of the venerable "hockey stick." From the Financial Post: From another Financial Post article: At this point, it is essential to read the entire Post article. Assuming that the article describes the situation accurately, two things become clear. First, McIntyre and McKitrick undertook research that should have been done a long time ago, before the "hockey stick" became elevated to dogma status. They approached the process with the skepticism that any serious scientist would have, but not to the degree that they let this bias their results. They set out with the goal of replicating the Mann research to see if indeed they could achieve consistent results. And they corresponded with the Mann researchers to get original data sets, to discuss methods, and to generally ensure that their new research was consistent with the original. But when their findings diverged, they discovered inconsistencies in the original Mann research, both in terms of data and methods. And, in violation of the unwritten gentleman's code of science, Mann chose to stonewall them and their attempts for constructive dialogue. Rather than engage them, Mann opted to protect his scientific turf, as if his unverified research had somehow become bulletproof. Whether it was due to hubris or simply protecting the hockey stick's well-established territory on a major global policy issue, Mann apparently chose to place other considerations ahead of what should have been the eternal aim of sound science, regardless of where the chips may fall. Writing for Tech Central Station, Dr. Roy Spencer considers the McIntyre and McKitrick article and hits the nail on the head: So, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the premier international body investigating climate change and exalted body of experts on the subject, took the Mann research and ran with it uncritically. To be fair, it is not their mandate to conduct research or to verify the research of others. This is the job of the scientific community-at-large, and, until McIntyre and McKitrick, they had largely failed. But it's not too late for the IPCC to inject some serious debate into their work and prove to the world that they value sound science over cherrypicking research to reach a preordained conclusion. This issue is too important; the implications of policy decisions based on IPCC's work will affect the lives and livelihoods of billions of people worldwide. So we get to the real question...what is the IPCC going to do now? (Via

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform

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