A very interesting profile of the gentle, retired Canadian Steve McIntyre who is taking on the might of the well-funded and oiled Pachauri and the IPCC Big Carbon machine. It’s a true David vs. Goliath.
McIntyre first became notorious in 2003 for his statistical critique, co-authored with economist Ross McKitrick, of the “hockey stick graph” that showed global temperatures rocketing upward in the 20th century. The hockey stick, featured in the 2001 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, had a profound influence on policy worldwide, and played a starring role in presentations like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The McIntyre-McKitrick critique called attention to uncertainties in its temperature reconstructions dating back before 1600, to certain problems with dendrochronology (the use of tree rings to estimate past temperatures), and to issues with the statistical calculations underlying the hockey stick. Some climatologists insist that the graph tells the same story when you correct for all this, but much of the critique is now accepted, and the hockey stick, whose weaknesses are better understood, has itself become a somewhat inconvenient distraction for climatologists and environmentalists.
Meanwhile, McIntyre, working alone, has gone on to score further critical points. In 2007, he caught a mistake in the reporting of U.S. surface temperatures by NASA’s Goddard Institute that was quickly acknowledged, with thanks, and corrected. (NASA’s gracious manner contrasts sharply with the attitudes displayed behind the scenes at the CRU.)
The truth is that McIntyre, 62, little resembles the caricature of a wild-eyed climate-change “denier.” He is scrupulous about focusing his criticism on statistical procedures and disclosure practices. He is polite to, and about, climate scientists. He refuses to make grand categorical statements of the “Global warming is just commie horse puckey” type, preferring to remain agnostic, and he discourages such talk on his website, Climate Audit.
Close observers of the climate wars recognize that the small group of scientists who first advanced the case for urgent concern over global warming were ill-prepared for the appearance of a critic like McIntyre. Spanish paleoclimatologist Eduardo Zorita of Germany’s GKSS Research Centre, who has clashed at times with both McIntyre and the climate-research elite, says that “in the realm of science, it doesn’t really matter by whom and why a study is criticized. It only counts whether or not the criticism is reasonably well-founded, is logical, and relevant for the final results.”
McIntyre observed in a May 2008 talk at Ohio State University, “there are complicated and expensive processes of due diligence, involving audits of financial statements, independent engineering reports, opinions from securities lawyers and so on. There are laws requiring the disclosure of adverse results.” Peer review in scientific journals is good, he suggested, but it is limited and vulnerable to compromise. “There is far more independent due diligence on the smallest prospectus offering securities to the public than on a Nature article that might end up having a tremendous impact on policy.”more-
His surprise and indignation seem sincere. In the CRU emails Mann speculates wildly about how McIntyre is “funded,” but his work has required little more than free time, effort, knowledge of statistics and linear algebra, and some software. Indeed, McIntyre says his climate-research activities—which quickly snowballed from an idle interest into a virtual second career—cost him the chance to ride a boom period in mining. “A lot of my friends made out very well,” he says, “but I just didn’t have any chips on the table. The opportunity cost to me has been horrendous.”
As the eco-loonies say –it’s time for action now!
And let that action be a twofer: a pat for Steve and a kick for Pachauri.