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Re: Hockey Stick Handle Hype
The Financial Post has provided a needed forum for discussing the views of experts skeptical of the rationale for human induced global warming. The continuing and overwhelming coverage of the hockey stick handle amounts to obsessive fixation on a single issue of limited relevance to the scientific examination of postulated carbon dioxide induced climate change from human activity.
The latest article (“Breaking the Hockey Stick – Part II”, 05/01/28, FP15) shows a discrepancy between Mann and McIntyre, McKitrick of under 0.50C five to six hundred years in the past. Mann’s original figure does acknowledge error bars of about that magnitude.
Let us not forget the origin of the temperature data under scrutiny. It comes from analysis of tree rings. Tree ring experts scrutinize growing season development of the rings and try to correlate them with temperature, precipitation and other factors relevant to plant growth. They then extrapolate backward hundreds of years to estimate past temperature. They are quick to point out that the process does not capture winter climate conditions when trees are dormant. Can tree rings provide information on temperature worthy of the small error bars provided by Mann? That seems another of many questions ignored throughout the heated discussion.
The importance of the Mann hockey stick handle to the climate change debate has been greatly exaggerated. Some use it to clamor with great alarm that the past ten years are the warmest in the past 1000 years. Others suggest the mistakes in statistical analysis that have been revealed negate the entire body of work done by the IPCC. Sensible scientists dismiss these polar positions as political posturing on the basis of uncertain historical data of limited relevance to current conditions.
McKitrick and McIntyre have done a great service by exposing apparent mistakes in analysis. Hopefully the attention given to these mistakes will lead to more care in future analysis. We should hope the scientists directly involved will be allowed to sensibly resolve their differences and move on to apply their expertise to more important issues. However, it seems possible the acrimonious discussion that has developed on this issue will discourage scientists from making their data available for close scrutiny.
This Financial Post reader, and climate change skeptic, is tired of seeing the hockey stick handle mole hill turned into a mountain. I hope we will see a move back to providing balanced coverage of science more significantly connected to alleged human induced global warming.