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The Hockey Stick Illusion

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The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science
The hockey stick illusion.jpg
Author A.W. Montford
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Climate change
Publisher Stacey International
Publication date
Pages 482
ISBN 978-1-906768-35-5

The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science is a book written by Andrew Montford and published by Stacey International in 2010. Montford, an accountant and science publisher who publishes a blog called ‘Bishop Hill’[1] provides his analysis of the history of the "hockey stick graph" of global temperatures for the last 1000 years and the controversy promoted by mining exploration company director Steve McIntyre about the research which produced the graph. The book describes the history of the graph from its inception to the beginning of the Climatic Research Unit email controversy ("Climategate").

Since its release, the book has received a mixture of positive and negative reviews; Bob Ward in The Guardian referred to "the serious inaccuracies in his book" which had been based on Montford's summary of posts on Macintyre's Climate Audit blog,[2] while Matt Ridley in The Spectator described it as "a detailed and brilliant piece of science writing"[1] and Christopher Booker in The Sunday Telegraph described it as "a remarkable scientific detective story".[3]

The book was Amazon UK's second bestselling environment book of 2010.[4]


According to Montford, in 2005 he followed a link from a British political blog to the Climate Audit website. While perusing the site, Montford noticed that new readers often asked if there was an introduction to the site and the story of the hockey stick controversy. In 2008, after the story of Caspar Ammann's "purported" replication of the hockey stick became public, Montford wrote his own summary of the controversy.[5]

Montford published the summary on his Bishop Hill blog and called it Caspar and the Jesus paper.[6] Montford states that word of his article caused the traffic to his blog to surge from several hundred hits a day to 30,000 in just three days. Montford adds that there was also an attempt to use his article as a source in Wikipedia. After Montford saw the hockey stick graph used in a science book manuscript he was reviewing, he decided to expand his article into book form.[5]


IPCC FAR 1990 Figure 7.1.c (red) based on Lamb 1965 showing central England temperatures; central England temperatures to 2007 shown from Jones et al. 2009 (green dashed line).[7] The high medieval temperatures contrast with the "hockey stick" MBH99 40 year average (blue, uncertainties omitted) and Moberg et al. 2005 low frequency signal (black).

The Hockey Stick Illusion first outlines a brief history of climate change science with particular emphasis on the description of the Medieval Warm Period in the first IPCC report in 1990, with its inclusion of a schematic based on central England temperatures which Montford describes as a representation of common knowledge at that time. He then argues that a need to overturn this "well-embedded paradigm" was met by the 1998 publication by Michael E. Mann, Raymond S. Bradley and Malcolm K. Hughes' of their "hockey stick graph" in Nature.[8] The book describes how Steve McIntyre first became interested in the graph in 2002 and the difficulties he found in replicating the results of "MBH98" (the original 1998 study) using available datasets, and further data which Mann gave him on request.[9] It details the publication of a paper by McIntyre and Ross McKitrick in 2003 which criticized MBH98, and follows with Mann and his associates' rebuttals. The book recounts reactions to the dispute over the graph, including investigations by the National Academy of Science and Edward Wegman and hearings held on the graph before the United States House Energy Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Efforts taken by other scientists to verify Mann's work and McIntyre's and others' responses to those efforts are described.[10]

The last chapter of the book deals with what the book calls "Climategate". Here, the author compares several e-mails to the evidence he presents in The Hockey Stick Illusion. Montford focuses on those e-mails dealing with the peer review process and how these pertained to Stephen McIntyre's efforts to obtain the data and methodology from Mann's and other paleoclimatologists' published works.[11]


Many reviews have praised the book for its content, writing style and accessibility. Climatologist Judith Curry called The Hockey Stick Illusion "a well documented and well written book on the subject of the 'hockey [stick] wars.' It is required reading for anyone wanting to understand the blogosphere climate skeptics and particularly the climate auditors," such as Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. She wrote that the book "presents a well reasoned and well documented argument".[12] Among those also praising the book was S. Fred Singer, who called it "probably the best book about the Hockey Stick."[13] Ross McKitrick wrote that "The best place to start when learning about the hockey stick is Andrew Montford’s superb book The Hockey Stick Illusion." [14] An an oil industry geologist reviewing the book in Geoscientist described the book as telling McIntyre's "detective story in exhilarating style",[15][16] Quadrant said McIntyre was the hero of the story, and Mann the villian "dishonourably assisted by global warming alarmists".[17] Columnist Christopher Booker said in the The Sunday Telegraph it "expertly recounts a remarkable scientific detective story".[3] Matt Ridley discussed it in The Spectator,[1] and in Prospect magazine said the book was "written with grace and flair" and deserved to win prizes, while conceding that he had financial interests in coal mining.[18] Montford was interviewed in The Courier ,[19] and a commentator in the National Post said it was required reading for "anybody who wants to understand the scientific and psychological background to Climategate".[20]

However, several reviewers criticized the book as providing cover for individuals opposing action on climate change. Alastair McIntosh, writing in the Scottish Review of Books, criticised the book as only being able to "cut the mustard with tabloid intellectuals but not with most scientists." Noting that Montford has not made any relevant scientific contributions, he commented that the book "might serve a psychological need in those who can't face their own complicity in climate change, but at the end of the day it's exactly what it says on the box: a write-up of somebody else's blog" and criticised the book as "at worst, ... a yapping terrier worrying the bull; it cripples action, potentially costing lives and livelihoods."[21] Bob Ward in The Guardian described how "Montford's entertaining conspiracy yarn" presented arguments based on "glaring inaccuracies".[2] In Geoscientist, Ward said Montford's "incredible yarn is based on a misleading and one-sided version of events, littered with inaccuracies".[16] Nick Hewitt in Chemistry World outlined the basic physics of climate change, and said that, unable to dispute this, climate deniers, "(or sceptics as they are disingenuously described in this book) have made sustained attempts to discredit climate scientists and the way they work", concluding that "Readers of Chemistry World will have far better things to do than read this pedantic book."[22] Richard Joyner, writing in Prospect, described it as "a McCarthyite book that uses the full range of smear tactics to peddle climate change denial."[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Matt Ridley (2010-02-03). "The global warming guerrillas". The Spectator ( Retrieved 2017-01-08. 
  2. ^ a b Bob Ward (2010-08-19). "Did climate sceptics mislead the public over the significance of the hacked emails?". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2010-08-19. This article was amended on 20 August 2010 following a complaint from Andrew Montford to make it clear that we did not mean to imply that Andrew Montford deliberately published false information in order to support the arguments made in his book. We apologise if such a false impression was given.  
  3. ^ a b Booker, Christopher (2010-01-30). "Amazongate: new evidence of the IPCC's failures". London: The Sunday Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2010-05-14. Montford's book, if inevitably technical, expertly recounts a remarkable scientific detective story. 
  4. ^ Damian Carrington (17 December 2010). "Bestselling green books of the decade". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Montford 2010, p. 13
  6. ^ Montford 2008
  7. ^ P. D. Jones et al., The Holocene 19,1 (2009) pp. 3–49, High-resolution palaeoclimatology of the last millennium: a review of current status and future prospects [1] Appendix A
  8. ^ Montford 2010, pp. 19–30
  9. ^ Montford 2010, pp. 57–87
  10. ^ Montford 2010, pp. 151–401
  11. ^ Montford 2010, pp. 402–49
  12. ^ "Climate book shelf by Judith Curry, September 25, 2010.
  13. ^
  14. ^ preprint from Climate Change: The Facts 2014, Institute for Policy Analysis, Australia.
  15. ^ Brannan, Joe, " The Hockey Stick Illusion - Climategate and the corruption of science]", Geoscientist, August 2010.
  16. ^ a b Ward, Bob (October 2010). "Not so jolly hockey stick". Geoscientist. Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  17. ^ Dawson, John, "Science: The Tree Ring Circus", Quadrant, July 29, 2010, Volume LIV Number 7-8.
  18. ^ Matt Ridley (2010-03-10). "The case against the hockey stick". Prospect ( Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  19. ^ Robbins, Bruce (2 April 2010). "Bishop Hill: the blogger putting climate science to test". The Courier. The Courier. Archived from the original on 2011-08-12. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  20. ^ Foster, Peter, "Peter Foster: Checking the hockey team", National Post, July 9, 2010.
  21. ^ McIntosh, Alastair (2010). "Reviews - The Hockey Stick Illusion". Scottish Review of Books. 6 (3). 
  22. ^ Hewitt, Nick (2010), "The hockey stick illusion: climategate and the corruption of science", Chemistry World, 7 (9) 
  23. ^ Joyner, Richard (2010-08-23). "Mean-spirited scepticism". 

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Bibliography and further reading

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