CAGW – Paralleling Kuhnian Science or New Labour Spin?

A review of Montford’s “Hockey Stick Illusion” suggests that it is an example science described by Thomas Kuhn in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. Both the Hockey Stick in particular, and CAGW theory in general, I believe parallel something entirely different.

Catastrophic AGW theory is not an example of Kuhnian science. It was swallowed whole by the political establishment without going through the strictures of scientific acceptance. Furthermore, it is coupled with a major political policy objective – to constrain CO2 emissions. The IPCC was then set up to confirm and fortify the science and the policy. CAGW is thus not a proper science as such, but “politicised science”.

The Hockey Stick is the major example of this – a public relations ploy to promote policy and direct attention away from proper analysis of the data. The shenanigans may have milder and more short-lived parallels in other fields of science, but better parallels are to be found in New Labour Spin. That is, never admit to error; talk over opponents and view them as self-evidently wrong; deflect adverse comments by saying something different; deflect criticism and error by making an easily answerable point the major issue, or conceding a minor point; and then quickly moving the discussion onto safer ground. Most of all rely on image more than substance. In the case of CAGW, make peer review and agreement with collective experts the ultimate demarcations between science and non-science.

Interpreters of Interpreters to the nth degree

James Delingpole has attracted some ire for saying he is an “interpreter of interpreters”. I commented on Bishop Hill’s Blog

Wasn’t the original hockey stick paper an “interpreter of interpretations”? That is it gathered together a selection of data studies of past climate proxies and tried to give an interpretation – with some elements of bias. The IPCC, liking this paper’s conclusion then interpreted this as being definitive, despite its conclusions being contrary to many other studies. Learned societies, not least the Royal Society then interpret this as being the final argument, being the opinion of 2500 leading scientists. With learned pronouncements from the leading scientific organizations, the BBC, Guardian etc interprets that the science is settled, so the subject is closed. James Delingpole, in putting himself as a second tier interpreter, might be over-reaching himself in the ranking. However, he actually considers the arguments, unlike those who rely on multi-layered interpretations.

But more important than lowly a person is in the interpretation chain, is the reliability of that opinion compared with the ultimate reality that we are interpreting. Scientific enquiry must positively endeavour to free itself from biases. That was part of Popper’s injunction to make hypotheses capable of falsification. But with climate science

In the Hockey Stick Studies you will find (See “The Hockey Stick Illusion”)

  • Positive efforts to choose the limited number of data interpretations that suite the conclusion desired (with some having their own strong biases)
  • Giving these favourable studies an undue statistical bias against those that come to no, or contrary, conclusions.
  • Choosing the statistical tests that give favourable results.
  • A clique of people providing similar results through using similar methods around a core group of papers.
  • Peer review being used as a means of peer pressure in promoting favourable comments and papers, whilst obstructing contrary views.

The IPCC has been set up to act as a biased interpreter. It is there to argue the case for action on global warming climate change, not to arrive at a balanced opinion on the science.

The bias is upon interpretation in one direction is at every level of science and opinion.

  • Funding of research is based on conformity.
  • Pressure groups exist to “out” the non-conformists, like the McCarthyists of two generations ago.
  • There is also pressure on scientific organizations to declare unequivocal support.
  • There is severe censure and libelous statements made against any who dissent.


So, however much Delingpole may provide interpretations of interpretations without reading all the original literature, his opinions might be more valuable than those prestigious scientists who conform.


Copygate – the Underlying Significance

Steve McIntyre puts the Copygate scandal (paper here) of the 2006 Wegman Report into context.

A minor, but potentially significant, point in all of this is the timing issue. The Wegman Report was published in 2006. Given the Hockey Stick Team are keen to pick up on any points that may undermine any criticism of their scientific work, why has it taken four years to pick up on this accusation of plagiarism. I can see two possibilities.

  1. The climate consensus only reads what it wishes to read. Why would Bradley himself, who was cited in this very important report for paleo-climatology, did not have a quick read through it? Or at least a bright student who used his textbook and read around the subject a little.
  2. The hockey stick team is reeling at present. Montford’s Hockey Stick Illusion lays out clearly the debate, so “evidence” that may damage the reputation of the “opposition” is welcome.

Something that is perhaps related is why it took so long for anyone to ask for the data that underpinned MBH98. On the back of it Mann (and to a lesser extent, Bradley) received world-wide fame. Yet there was no upstart PhD student to take it apart, even when it overturned the established perception of there have been a medieval warm period.

This relates to a point I have made before on this blog. There seems to be a lack of critical and balanced analysis within climate science, coupled with the inability to compare and contrast the arguments.

Denialists become Superfluous

OR Who Needs Enemies when you have Friends like These

Climate Psychology is a blog specialising in mirror-posting articles from one side of the climate change argument, but with more lurid titles. The direct inference being that the truth of the science is so blatantly apparent that any criticism must be by the deluded, the deranged, or be in the pay of some sinister forces. One such mirror posting is of Tamino’s “Hockey Stick Delusion” at RealClimate under the Title “Tamino debunks the junk science of Montford and McIntyre for the umpteenth time — the hockey stick is still sticking around

To anyone who looks at both sides of the argument – who properly compares and contracts each point made, will see that Tamino fails to address the points made. As I said in an earlier posting

 Look at

1. Who gives the fullest answers?

2. Which side evades the points, or attempts sleight of hand?

3. How are contrary or neutral points treated. Clue – look at how Judith Curry (who is trying to remain neutral) is treated. Further, look at how contrary opinions are treated.

4. Finally who are the real deniers in all of this?

This leaning on psychology is nothing new. It was used by the KGB to punish dissenters without trial (see also here and here). The recent publication of a statistical analysis of the Hockey Stick by McShane and Warner again shows which side of the debate the delusional mostly reside. The greatest irony is the blog has the following quote:-

“Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources — it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology.” Barack Obama

The Hockey Stick and Climate Science

Posted Yesterday to the discussion at Climate Audit on the topic of “The Team Defends Paleo-Phrenology”

It may help …. to understand the nature of the science. It relies on statistical techniques to establish results. These, crucially, depend for their validity on the elimination of bias. If a researcher has faulty data, then the results are undermined. If the researcher is selective in the data, then the results are undermined. It outliers are not eliminated then the results are undermined. This all means that where there is extremely complex data, and problems of measurement, it is extremely difficult to establish conclusions that cannot be overturned. This is both true of economics and of paleoclimate.

I would contend that climate scientists, as a junior scientists, need to learn from other disciplines.
– From accountancy, about sense-checking the data (see link below)
– From research into new drugs, about the necessity for more technicians to collect and collate data, and to experiance dead-ends.
– From law, to distinguish between levels of evidence and distinguish baseless rhetoric from cogent arguement
– Most of all from statistical theory, where you will find you results will have no validity unless you take active steps to eliminate bias. Even then, with complex data, your results may still be later undermined, despite passing a battery of tests.

For all of these reasons, we should accept that the results of research are tentative. We should recognise the limits of our knowledge. In recognising the boundaries, and establishing procedures to quickly identify error, paleoclimate may be able to move forward.


The whole hockey stick issue, brought to a head with the Tamino posting, shows the problem of bias. To obtain a temperature reconstruction requires using data that usually gives a very weak signal indeed. Therefore any data needs to be carefully collected and every conceivable bias removed. It is only by eliminating bias that the statistical analysis can begin. In many cases there will be no significant results. Much painstaking work will achieve a dead end. And there is the rub. Careers are not made by failing to get a result. In this arena phenomenal fame and prestige can come to those who produce results that fortify the consensus. And there is plenty of recognition to those with supporting roles as well.

The original MBH98 may never have emerged in a more muted form if an expert reviewer had asked how such a novel result could be reconciled with the existing view that there was a medieval warm period. Hence my point about sense-checking in the previous blog posting. Similarly the comment that the 20th century warming was unprecedented should be answered with how do you know that? Read the Hockey Stick Illusion and you will find that the claim lacks scientific validity.  

If climate science it to mature it needs more painstaking data collection and analysis. As a science, it needs to find the current boundaries and limits of our current knowledge.

For those who believe that the Hockey Stick Team still have something worthwhile to say, should start with Steve McIntyres repost of “Tamino and the Magic Flute“. Compare that with Tamino’s posting “The Montford Delusion”.

Look at

1. Who gives the fullest answers?

2. Which side evades the points, or attempts sleight of hand?

3. How are contrary or neutral points treated. Clue – look at how Judith Curry (who is trying to remain neutral) is treated. Further, look at how contrary opinions are treated.

4. Finally who are the real deniers in all of this?

Tamino v. Montford – A Sense-Check

Clarification – This post is an attempt to say two things – but badly.

First, a simplistic verification of a global temperature reconstruction is to cross-check against local temperature reconstructions from around the world. These, on average, strongly contradict the hockey stick.

Second, Tamino’s claim is essentially McIntyre has just been taking pot-shots at sound science. Instead McIntyre has looked at all the steps in making a reconstruction, and found all wanting.

So what of a neutral lay-person trying to compare the Montford’s Hockey Stick Illusion and Tamino’s debunking? From my accountancy experience, it is normal to try to get a sense-check. What is the expected result? If the actual is different from the expected, then difference needs to be reconciled. The MBH98, MBH99, and the subsequent reconstructions in the book, completely overturned perceived thinking, so there needs to be a sense-check to make sure the results are valid. 

 The sense-check for the global temperature reconstructions can be from localized reconstructions from around the world, to see if the global reconstruction replicates the typical pattern. A website,, documents peer-reviewed articles estimating temperatures in the medieval warm period. For those that have a temperature estimate, those that agree with the hockey stick – that temperatures were lower than today – are out-numbered 5 to 1 by those that say temperatures were higher in the MWP. The raw median, median, and mode values are that temperatures were about 0.75oC warmer than today. The weaker, qualitative, studies have a similar picture. Those that suggest that temperatures in the MWP were similar to or lower than today are outnumbered more than 4 to 1 by those that suggest temperatures were higher. So when the more scientific, global, reconstructions come up with a novel, contrary, result, there needs to a full reconciliation to explain why. Without such an explanation, we just have McIntyre’s multi-layered* findings that the global reconstructions are critically flawed stands.

*McIntyre’s findings are multi-layered, including.

a)      Hockey Stick shapes were given undue weighting by the short-centering of the PC analysis. For instance, McIntyre calculated that Sheep Mountain had 390 times the weighting of Mayberry Slough (p113-114). Of the 112 original proxies in MBH9, just 13 had a hockey stick shape. Tamino does not counter this, only looking at the 22 longer hockey stick series, made up of individual series, such as Gaspe, along with regional combinations such as NOAMERPC1.

b)      Dodgy data and infilling. Looking across the columns of data, McIntyre noticed identical data in adjacent columns, as though infilling had taken place. (p78-81)

c)      Many of these series were based on old data. If Mann had used the most recent data available in 1998, could the final Hockey Stick have been less pronounced? (p83-84)

d)      Some of the most important original proxies were flawed.

    1. Gaspé has better data, but was unpublished. (p174) It also had an alternative proxy with better data in Alaska. (More here)
    2. Sheep mountain had updated proxies that fails to show an HS (p 357-361)
    3. The Graybill bristlecone series had a number of flaws (e.g. p121-125 & p353-357)

e)      The failure of alternative reconstructions. (Chapter 10).

f)        There was considerable evidence of biases in the data selection in the proxies (along with small sample sizes); the selection of the proxies in the reconstruction; and the short-centring which gave rise to hockey sticks on random data 99% of the time. Given this, any measure of correlation statistic was rendered largely meaningless. McIntyre did not explore this. However, Montford provides evidence that the verification statistic used was highly irregular in the disciplines outside of climate science. (e.g. p156-164)  Latest – McIntyre shows the evidence that to suggest verification statistic was cherry-picked.

That is, the selection of data in the proxies, the proxy selection, the bias by short-centering, and the selection of verification statistic are all different levels in establishing a reconstruction, and all shown by McIntyre to have failed.

For a different take – which side pursues scientific understanding, see the follow-up

Tamino v Montford on the Gaspé series

Have just finished reading A.W. Montford’s (alias Bishop Hill) The Hockey Stick Illusion. Although I thought it excellent, and agree with the reviews (e.g. Air Vent), I thought I would look for contrary opinions, to allow me to compare and contrast the different sides. It just so happens that Tamino has posted a critical review at Real Climate blog on July 22nd. Bishop Hill has responded.

In the spirit of allowing you to make up your own mind, let me present one aspect, which does not need a scientific background to evaluate.

Tamino claims that McIntyre rejects Gaspé because

 “This particular series doesn’t extend all the way back to the year 1400, it doesn’t start until 1404, so MBH98 had extended the series back four years by persistence — taking the earliest value and repeating it for the preceding four years. This is not at all an unusual practice, and — let’s face facts folks — extending 4 years out of a nearly 600-year record on one out of 22 proxies isn’t going to change things much.”


I would agree with Tamino, if that was the only problem with Gaspé. But other problems Montford recounts.

  1. It had the biggest hockey stick of any of the 112 series. 1975 was 3.05 standard deviations from the series mean. Only 12 others had any sort of hockey stick shape. (p.75)
  2. It was included twice in the proxies – once as part of the North American PC series and once on its own. (p.140).
  3. It did start in 1404, but until 1421 relied on a single tree, and two up to 1447. The original authors “had not used the early portion of the series at all in their own reconstruction”, but Mann had. (p165.)
  4. Mann’s own claim for its’ inclusion was that the study represented the northern treeline. But Gaspé was well south of the treeline. As a sensitivity analysis, McIntyre replaced Gaspé with the Sheenjek River Series in Mid-Alaska. It was further north and had more trees. When this was replaced, the medieval warm period re-appeared. (p.166).*
  5. McIntyre showed “that you could only get rid of the Medieval Warm Period by using the Gaspé series twice and by including the unreliable early portion, and by extending this highly dubious data back to the start of the fifteenth century.”
  6. An updated study was done taking the data to 1991, instead of 1982. There was nothing like the same growth spurt in recent times. The data went unpublished, and the author claiming to have lost the location. So the results could not be independently replicated. (p.174).
  7. Montford says in reply to Tamino

“The observation that “McIntyre argued that the entire Gaspe series should be eliminated because it didn’t extend all the way back to 1400” is wrong. MBH had its steps starting at 50-year intervals. Gaspe should therefore have been in the 1450 step not the 1400 one.”


From my simple view, the criticism of the Gaspé proxy series is multilayered. It was used inappropriately; there was a better proxy available (or an update); it was clearly an outlier; and was used twice.

Finally, Steve McIntyre has already criticised Tamino on Gaspé here. McIntyre makes the additional point

“The Gaspé series is a cedar chronology. There is no botanical evidence that cedars respond linearly to warmer temperatures. World experts on cedar are located at the University of Guelph, Ross McKitrick’s university. Ross and I had lengthy discussions with these cedar experts about this chronology – they said that cedars like cool and moist climate.”


* Gaspé is around 49o North (same as Paris), Sheenjek River 65o North. (same as Iceland).