(The "c" is optional, get it? Heh heh d*mn I'm smooth...)
In a previous post, I gave a dumbed down version of what McIntyre and McKitrick did to blow up Mann et al.'s hockey stick (featured again below, because pictures are so good to break up the monotony of this site--seriously Gene, let's hang up a portrait or something!).
(One other loose end: I emailed McKitrick and there wasn't a mistake in his description of what happens to the variance when you use Mann's algorithm. It's not worth getting into--and frankly I don't fully understand it yet myself, I need to print this thing out and really study it--but suffice it to say, McKitrick didn't get the direction mixed up, as I had speculated.)
Now then on to the fun stuff. So at RealClimate--the premier anti-denier website--one of the Real Climate Scientists has a "official" response to the hockey stick stuff. (There are plenty of other posts at RealClimate on this issue.) For the response I'm focusing on, the guy's strongest point is, "Hey Mann et al.'s mistakes don't affect the policy debate, because other scientists have produced similarly hockey-stick-shaped graphs."
But I don't care right now about the big important issues; I just want to focus on this tiny little throw-away quibble that the RealClimate guy here uses. To understand what's he talking about, we need to review that McKitrick claimed in his explanation of the whole hockey stick brou ha ha (pdf), that the reason the whole episode is important is that it shows how flawed the quality control is on the IPCC, and it shows that the mainstream journals were not bothered by what had happened.
Specifically, when M&M wrote up their results--which showed that even random data fed into Mann's algorithm would have generated a pronounced hockey stick over 99% of the time--and this was the graph featured in the IPCC Third Assessment Report--this is how the oh-so-self-correcting body of careful scientists responded:
We submitted a letter to Nature about this flaw [that it took any data and turned them into a hockey stick--RPM] in the MBH98 procedure. After a long (8-month) reviewing process they notified us that they would not publish it. They concluded it could not be explained in the 500-word limit they were prepared to give us, and one of the referees said he found the material was quite technical and unlikely to be of interest to the general readers. Instead Mann et al. were permitted to make a coy disclosure in their July Corrigendum. In an on-line Supplement (but not in the printed text itself) they revealed the nonstandard method [of standardizing using the mean of the 20th century, not of the whole series--RPM], and added the unsupported claim that it did not affect the results.
OK everyone get that? I mean look, the IPCC did in fact remove the Mann et al. graph from the report; it's not featured in the AR4 version. So that means M&M were basically right. That's...kind of a big deal. So if the above description of how the huge journal Nature reacted to this (what should have been a) bombshell, then that's pretty sobering.
Now then, the guy at RealClimate responds to McKitrick's version of what went down. This is from his MYTH #4 about the hockey stick debate:
False claims of the existence of errors in the Mann et al (1998) reconstruction can also be traced to spurious allegations made by two individuals, McIntyre and McKitrick (McIntyre works in the mining industry, while McKitrick is an economist). The false claims were first made in an article (McIntyre and McKitrick, 2003) published in a non-scientific (social science) journal "Energy and Environment" and later, in a separate "Communications Arising" comment that was rejected by Nature based on negative appraisals by reviewers and editor [as a side note, we find it peculiar that the authors have argued elsewhere that their submission was rejected due to 'lack of space'. Nature makes their policy on such submissions quite clear: "The Brief Communications editor will decide how to proceed on the basis of whether the central conclusion of the earlier paper is brought into question; of the length of time since the original publication; and of whether a comment or exchange of views is likely to seem of interest to nonspecialist readers. Because Nature receives so many comments, those that do not meet these criteria are referred to the specialist literature." Since Nature chose to send the comment out for review in the first place, the "time since the original publication" was clearly not deemed a problematic factor. One is logically left to conclude that the grounds for rejection were the deficiencies in the authors' arguments explicitly noted by the reviewers].
Does everybody see what this guy did here? McKitrick reported what he said actually happened to him, what he saw with his own eyes. And this guy "mike" is doubting what McKitrick said--and it's not like he said elephants flew out of his left nostril, ya know--and his reasons for basically calling McKitrick a LIAR are:
(1) I looked at the official policies of Nature, something that maybe only 130 other geeks on the planet have ever looked at, and
(2) I logically conclude (mike's words) that you must be a liar (or can't read, or have a really bad memory, etc.).
Folks, this is very similar to what is going on in the big picture. There are lots of experts in various areas who say that the official "consensus" story doesn't really fit in the (non-essential) part where it rests on their area of expertise.
And when you really boil it down, the response of the official climatologists is: "Oh yeah? Well in our models--which are extremely complex and would take you 5 years of training just to be able to manipulate them and know what you were doing--we can only match the observed temperature of the 20th century if we assume CO2 and other GHGs have been the driving forcings, and that the climate has high feedback loops with warming. In fact, we defy you to build a model as complicated as ours are, and show that natural forces alone can yield the temperature we saw in the 20th century. And don't give us some half-*ssed regressions, we want an actual model of the entire planet, including the oceans and atmosphere, that obeys the laws of physics. Until you do that, we have nothing more to say. And if you disagree, I'm going to assume you either hate life or are getting paid by Exxon."
Am I exaggerating? Sure. But just go reread the above post. Those things really happened. That guy mike really did give that argument to challenge McKitrick's recollection of what had occurred.