Amazon Book Reviews for “The Hockey Stick Illusion”
[SPPI Note: See also:]
Review #1 — The “Bishop Hill” blog was well-respected, but not particularly remarkable until the posting of “Caspar and the Jesus paper” in August 2008. With this posting, we learned that the esteemed Bishop (now also revealed as Andrew Montford), the author of this new book, had a talent for putting scattered bits and pieces of information into a highly coherent presentation. It was remarkable enough that he was able to take myriad blog postings and figure out what they all added up to, and further remarkable that he was able to map this understanding into writing. Would it be possible to achieve this Casper-style in a more encompassing work? Too much to ask for? Well, HERE it is!
The narrative is highly readable, not mathematical, except that Montford does specifically give the official names of things. Instead of saying something like “they blew the math” he tells you how data were improperly normalized, or the use of SVD, and the consequences. In addition to describing the ill-advised technical issues, he describes appearance of the poor science (seeing what you want to see), other more common human foibles such as possible (or likely) “cherry-picking”, and the suppression of contradicting evidence, all of which are not supposed to be in science.
While it would not be difficult, based on his blog perhaps, to discern the Bishop’s views on AGW and its politics, the current book is basically impartial, except as it relates to the poor science and the overriding political motives of the AGW advocates. It deals rationally and fair-mindedly with the (illusion of the) Hockey stick graph. People commenting on the book are advised to direct criticisms, if any, on the basis of what he writes rather than what “camp” they perceive the author to belong to. This does involve actually reading the book however. Expect the usual reflex one star submissions from those who review just the title – and then go on to a few stock comment about the decline in the penguin population at the North Pole.
So, by the way, how DO you get to read the book. As of this writing, it does not appear to be widely available on Amazon in the US, and let’s hope that will be directly available soon. I got mine from Amazon.UK, which was surprisingly easy – pretty much like this Amazon site. Shipping was about as much as the book, but I think it was only $26 with the shipping, and it arrived in 8 days by “Royal Mail”. And it’s a beefy book of almost 500 page-turning pages.
Review #2 — This is a superb review of the story of the hockey stick, the temperature reconstruction which was supposed to show that late 20th century temperatures were unprecedented for at least 1,000 years and which was highlighted in the third IPCC report in 2001. What Montford does in this book is take us through Steven McIntyre’s attempt to reproduce the original result of Michael Mann and the controversy that followed. His account is very well written and it reads like a detective story. The technical details of the debate are clearly explained even though there is no heavy mathematics or statistics. He tells the story chronologically and gives a good feel of what people on both sides of the debate actually said at the time (and there are plenty of references as well as judicious quotes from all sides). I have been following this debate for the past five years or so. To my mind this gives as clear an account of the debate as we are likely to see. What is now clear is that the Mann conclusions, far from being based on coherent evidence across a geographical widespread range of proxies all showing similar patterns across the Northern hemisphere, were based on a tiny subset of proxies, bristlecone and foxtail pines, from California whose anomalous 20th century growth was almost certainly not caused by high temperature. The apparently broad evidence was an illusion created by an eccentric implementation of a standard statistical technique called principal components analysis. Mann’s version of this (which appears to be his own creation) effectively mined his hundred plus proxies for any which had hockeystick shapes and then gave them huge weight in the analysis. What is worrying about all this is not so much the fact that a paper is wrong. It is the failure to admit this when it is perfectly clear that it is wrong. Montford documents the evasions of debate and the consistent misrepresentation of what McIntyre and McKitrick actually said, as well as multiple refusals of access to data and clear descriptions of what had actually been done. By the time of the 2006 Wegman report it was clear that the hockeystick was broken, but it seems too much had been invested in it for people in paleoclimate to admit outright that it was just wrong. Montford tells this story too and documents the shenanigans surrounding the fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC. But rather than me attempting to condense the book into a paragraph I urge people to buy and read this excellent account. Note that it was largely written before the emails from CRU became public, though there is a final chapter dealing quickly with them. What is remarkable is how much of the story was already known to people who had been following the debate, but also the lengths people were prepared to go to try and stifle proper debate. For me the cover-up of the story has been a bigger influence in turning me sceptical than the mere fact of the hockey stick being wrong.
Review #3 — This excellent book operates on two levels. First, it details the tangled web of deception that made “the hockey stick illusion” the iconic image of the monstrous “Anthropogenic Global Warming” fraud.
Montford makes generally understandable the arcane issues of statistical manipulation that lie at the heart of the false “science.” He does so in a narrative that is clear, riveting and horrifying. As a result of the duplicity of the Hockey Team and the IPCC, billions have been spent and we have no idea whether or how human beings may affect climate change. We are at square one.
Second, Montford uses this saga as a case study for the need to require transparency and access to all data and code that underpin scientific claims, especially the research that is used to support government policies.
Clearly so many people were fooled for so long by this particular statistical legerdemain because, without access to the underlying data and code, the effort required to replicate and find the flaws in Mann’s Hockey Stick was almost impossible.
Thank Heaven for a retired mathematician – Steve McIntyre – who undertook the thousands of hours (and dollars) required to find and prove the flaws in this duplicitous artifact of NOT Science.
What is needed is a very intense investigation of how the public interest can be protected from such frauds – whether in climate science, financial derivatives, medical policies, etc. To err is human – but to really mess up, it takes a computer! Bravo to A.W. Montford who made the whole story understandable to a mathematically impaired reader like me.