Features Australia

Cherry-picking the hockey stick

...or how I nearly got to debate a global warmist

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

19 December 2020

9:00 AM

Whatever else the hysteria over Wuhan flu did to the world, it obliterated the alarmist global warming fearmongering for a very healthy ten months. Panic-stricken school children weaponised by Greta Thunberg to the point of delusional rage over pending extinction were faced with the somewhat more tangible threat their grandparents fell afoul of in aged care homes.

This time last year eastern Australia was shrouded in bushfire smoke and the usual warmist propagandists were in full cry demanding an immediate cessation of so-called greenhouse gas emissions via the closure of Australia’s only reliable electricity suppliers, its coal-fired power stations. The usual rent-seeking leeches, sensing even greater taxpayer-funded  subsidies for unreliable wind and solar programs, were quick to join in the chorus and invited the best-known contributor to the global warming alarmism, the inventor of the discredited ‘hockey stick’ graph, Michael Mann, to speak to hand-picked audiences of the susceptible and the gullible in Australia in February.

Mann’s graph provided a ‘gotcha’ moment for the global warmists when it was produced in 1998. It showed global temperatures largely flatlining over the past 900 years but trending gently downward before alarmingly rocketing upward in recent decades as humans created greater carbon dioxide emissions.

No matter what else was taking place, volcanoes (submarine or otherwise ), bushfires even, Mann and his co-authors blamed human-activity related CO2 emissions for their claimed findings of projected and ever-increasing warming.

The ‘hockey stick’ was the essential theme of the UN’s 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report on the state of the climate.

With the smell of burning eucalypts still hanging in the air, what better time for the operators of ‘environment, social and governance’ funds to spruik for investors and who better to headline events than Dr Hockey Stick?

The fact that Mann had been accused of fraud by Canadian climate scientist Tim Ball in 2011 and that Mann’s libel suit in the Supreme Court of British Coumbia had been dismissed ‘with prejudice’ and with costs awarded to Ball in August last year, didn’t seem to influence his hosts.Nor, indeed, did another unfortunate fact – Mann’s refusal to provide the court with underlying data and methodologies – persuade them that he might be a somewhat unreliable source of information.

How, then, could I refuse to meet the notorious hockey stick creator when one of those who assisted in underwriting Mann’s visit generously offered to introduce me, with the additional lure of the wager ‘I’ll bet you $50 he can move your thinking a bit on at least the science side of the debate’.

We met, we dined on Monday 17 February, I listened and suggested that as I was poorly equipped to debate such serious issues a scholar of the science such as my friend, the distinguished Emeritus Professor Ian Plimer would be more engaging company. Mann was hesitant but reassured that civil discourse was still permissible in Australia, reluctantly agreed to a discussion before a small audience. On leaving the restaurant, I dialled Ian. He was on an island in the Galapagos with a young relative (I pictured him taking a large refreshing drink from a tray atop the carapace of a passing giant tortoise as we spoke) and he immediately agreed to be available.

Unfortunately, the great exchange never took place. Mann hastily found he had too many other commitments, such as subsidised talks at the University of NSW.

However, I was able to simulate an exchange of sorts by accessing the slide show Mann used at a show-and-tell organised by David Paradice, of the privately held ESG-led fund manager Paradice, and asking Ian to review the material.

His reply reminded me of the unveiling of the fraudulent Hitler Diaries, initially authenticated by the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, that the Sunday Times had bought in 1983. It began: ‘The presentation is naive and by someone who has never undertaken scientific research, has no critical ability and does not have a breadth of scientific knowledge.’

Phew. Glad he cleared that up before he began deconstructing the more than forty graphs and charts that Mann had used to bedazzle his undoubtedly enthusiastic investment audiences and classes of über-woke students during his sabbatical at UNSW.

He found that the diagrams had errors of fact, some were cherry-picked, not one after the third dealt with the main greenhouse gas: water vapour. In slide 4, the disproved fraudulent ‘hockey stick’ was presented for the first time and dismissed by Ian who noted ‘Mann has got rid of the Medieval Warming, the Little Ice Age and the three very slight warmings, three very slight coolings and a pause since 1850.’

‘I would be concerned about someone supporting a diagram that has been thoroughly discredited many times. Furthermore, the diagram does not show how these temperature estimates were made and the scale exaggerates the 0.8°C rise since industrialisation and does not plot that the Medieval Warming was 5°C warmer than now.’

The ‘hockey stick’ slide and others reappeared several times, perhaps to reinforce the message.

Ian’s commentary on the various diagrams included ‘This is nonsense’, ‘This is misleading and deceptive’, ‘Again a self-interested political non-scientific slide BUT this slide shows that whatever Australia does, it makes no difference globally. Unless China, India, Brazil and Japan also decarbonise their economies, Australia is committing economic suicide’ and ‘These are baffle with BS diagrams.’

‘The scale of the diagram does not show reality’ he wrote of slide 15. ‘Other data shows that over the last 20,000 years (i.e. post peak glaciation), there is no relationship between sea level and temperature and that there is no relationship between sea level and atmospheric carbon dioxide.’

‘The take home message from this (slide 36) is obvious: We live in an ice age, previous warmings have led to a thriving of ecosystems and we should be far more concerned about further cooling than a slight temperature rise.’

His remarks reminded me of the line in Ball’s interview back in 2011 which caused Mann to launch his unfortunate unsuccessful libel suit, to wit: ‘Michael Mann should be in the State Pen, not Penn State.’

Like thousands of other volunteer bushfire fighters across Australia I’ve just overhauled my kit ready for another season.

Global warming isn’t at the forefront of my mind but the need to prepare for the annual ordeal of fire by green politicians like NSW minister Matt Kean is front and centre.

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