Canadian duo ripped in emails in ‘climate-gate’
Findings poked holes in scientists' major works on global warming
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/12/2009 (4811 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Steve McIntyre, 62, is a Toronto retiree. He plays squash, dabbles with numbers and insists he never set out to stir up any trouble.
So why does his name appear again and again — in the most unflattering ways — in hundreds of emails written by the world’s most influential climate change scientists, that were mysteriously taken from a computer in Britain last month and published on the Internet?
In these private messages, McIntyre is called everything from a “bozo” and a “moron” to a “playground bully.”
“In my opinion,” said one email written by Benjamin Santer, a senior climatologist with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, “Stephen McIntyre is the self-appointed Joe McCarthy of climate science.”
The “climate-gate” emails have sparked a scandal — just ahead of next week’s global warming summit in Copenhagen — for suggesting climatologists may have manipulated data to exaggerate the threat of global warming and conspired to keep contrary points of view out of the scientific journals.
But the emails are also conspicuous for their repeated, nasty references to two Canadians — McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick — who have become a serious thorn in the side of climatologists and others who say the planet is under serious threat from man-made global warming.
Although little-known in Canada, McIntyre and McKitrick — or M and M as they’re called in climate change circles — have since 2003 put forward evidence of faulty calculations in some of the key scientific studies behind the reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Their work has drawn the attention of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Wall Street Journal, which last month called them “the climate change gang’s most dangerous apostates.”
McIntyre, a Toronto mining analyst and speculator, became intrigued by the climate change issue when the Kyoto Protocol was up for debate in 2002.
He was skeptical of a key piece of science in the IPCC reports of the time — a graph, based on research by U.S. climatologist Michael Mann, that showed Earth’s temperatures had remained relatively stable over the past thousand years then began rising suddenly in the 20th century.
The graph, shaped like a sideways hockey stick, became one of the most convincing illustrations in Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which rallied millions to the cause of global warming. But it reminded McIntyre of the promotional graphs and statistics commonly used by mining promoters in search of investors.
He said he decided — purely out of curiosity and not because he wanted to shake up the global warming debate — to carry out some due diligence on the numbers.
Replicating the arcane calculations of climate modelling science would be an impossible task for most people. But McIntyre had been a math prizewinner in high school, had studied pure mathematics at the University of Toronto and had won, but turned down, a mathematics scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, choosing a business career instead.
“I read Mann’s paper and thought, ‘What this looks to me is like really overblown and high-falutin’ language for fairly simple linear regressions and matrix algebra. I figured it would be like doing a big crossword puzzle, so I went at it,” he said in a recent interview.
“I had no particular expectations that it would be wrong, I just thought it would be interesting. It sounds bizarre in retrospect, but I take up odd interests from time to time.”
McIntyre contacted Ross McKitrick, a University of Guelph statistical economist who was also analyzing the science behind the IPCC reports. Together they unearthed evidence that Mann’s calculations were predisposed to producing a hockey stick-shaped graph, with sharply rising temperatures in the 20th century.
They also showed Mann’s calculations ignored the data showing a major warming trend in the 15th century, much like the warming of the 20th century.
Mann was required to publish a retraction about some of his statistical methods in the science journal Nature.
Scientists such as Mann have denounced M and M as “frauds” and called their research “pure crap.” Others have accused them of being secretly sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, a charge both McIntyre and McKitrick deny.
McKitrick said his only salary comes from the University of Guelph, and while he is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute — a think-tank skeptical of global warming, and which has received funding from some oil companies — his affiliation to the institute is unpaid.
As for McIntyre, he said he’s not paid by anyone, nor formally affiliated with any agency or industry. He’s just an old math whiz with time on his hands, and an eccentric hobby.
“I don’t know why I’m doing it,” he said. “I have no particular cause, and I’m not trying to change public policies. I sort of like doing it, and I’m good at it.”
— Canwest News Service