Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Typical Canadian

I got a chuckle out of this BBC article about the Heartland Institute's climate skeptics meeting in Chicago. A keynote speaker was the Canadian Steve McIntyre. What made me laugh was McIntyre's typically moderate, middle-of-the-road plea for a sensible understanding and an assertion of the need for good government in the face of rabid American's born and bread on the "Don't Tread on Me!" and "Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death!" slogans. In a nutshell, that is the difference between those north or south of the 49th parallel:
And the fervour reached a peak when the reluctant hero, Steve McIntyre, shambled on to the stage.

Mr McIntyre is the retired mining engineer who started enquiring into climate statistics as a hobby and whose requests for raw data from the UEA led to a chain of events which have thrown climate science into turmoil.
The crowd rose to applaud him to the stage in recognition of his extraordinary statistical battle to disprove the "Hockey Stick" graph that had become an emblem of man-made global warming.

There was a moment of anticipation as Mr McIntyre stood nervously before the podium - a lugubrious bear of a man resembling a character from Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon.

Steve McIntyre has worked to "break" the hockey stick
"I'm not used to speaking in front of such big crowds," he mumbled. And he winced a little when one emotional admirer blurted that he had travelled 10,000 miles from South Africa for the thrill of hearing him speak.

But then came a sudden and unexpected anti-climax. Mr McIntyre urged the audience to support the battle for open source data on climate change - but then he counselled them to stop clamouring for the blood of the e-mailers. McIntyre does not want them jailed, or even punished. He just wants them to say they are sorry.

The audience disappointment was tangible - like a houndpack denied the kill.

Mr McIntyre then advised sceptics to stop insisting that the Hockey Stick is a fraud. It is understandable for scientists to present their data in a graphic way to "sell" their message, he said. He understood why they had done it. But their motives were irrelevant.

The standard of evidence required to prove fraud over the Hockey Stick was needlessly high, he said. All that was needed was an acknowledgement by the science authorities that the Hockey Stick was wrong.

This was clearly not the sort of emollient message the sceptics expected from one of their heavy hitters. And the speech slipped further into climate pacifism when Mr McIntyre confessed that he did not share the libertarian tendencies of many in the ballroom.

As a Canadian, he said, he was brought up to believe that governments should govern on behalf of the people - so if CO2 were reckoned to be dangerous, it would be the duty of politicians to make laws to cut emissions.

The quiet man said he thought that the work of his climate-statistical website was probably done. He sat down to one-handed applause.

Not so much of a call to arms as a whispered advice to the adversary to lay down his weapons and depart the battlefield.
Needless to say, I side with Steve McIntyre. Keep the politics out. The issue is one of science. Where do the facts lead? If you let your theories tell you what are "the facts", you won't have a science. You will have an ideology.

I honor Steve McIntyre for resisting the lure of fame. It is too easy to play to the crowd. This crowd gave him a rousing reception, but when he didn't feed it the red meat they wanted, they turned cool on him. But he had the dignity to stay true to himself and indifferent to the call of the crowd. The man has honor and dignity as well as an independent intelligence. There's a lot to like in him. See for yourself...

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