Climate change sceptic Steve McIntyre is a withdrawn and quietly spoken individual who doesn’t go out of his way to offend people.
But when the Canadian mathematician and former mining company executive clinically debunked a landmark UN report on global warming known as the “hockey stick graph” he was vilified by climate scientists all over the world.
Climate change, he soon found out, is an explosive topic and sceptics like him can expect no mercy – as he has once again discovered after featuring in an NBR ONLINE story last week.
The article, Too Much Hot Air About Global Warming, generated an unprecedented response from readers worldwide who posted an avalanche of comments.
Some savaged him for intellectual incompetence while others lauded him for exposing scientific chicanery.
There was very little middle ground.
Typical of the condemnation was this post: “McIntyre’s credibility is equal to the number of papers he has published in scientific journals, which is precisely zero.
“He is nothing more than a propagandist for the fossil fuel and mining industries which publishes his 'research' on industry-funded sites frequented by bewildered chumps such as yourselves and reporters.
“Anyone who can say that 'on balance there’s been no serious impact' is either a fool, a liar or living on a different planet from the rest of us – Planet Denial, perhaps?”
Much different tack
Other commenters took a much different tack.
“I just think the focus (hysterical at times) on man-made CO2 is misguided, missing the real point, counterproductive in many instances and downright deceitful at times, hence data manipulation to suit desired conclusions, hockey sticks, etc.
“Maybe a bigger issue for the planet, which the climate change arm wavers are very quiet about (perhaps there’s no funding in it for them), is population growth in general.
“Don’t you think population growth and the increasing demand on resources of all kinds is likely to lead to greater man-made CO2 production?”
Mr McIntyre is sanguine about the huge response to the NBR ONLINE story, in which he pointed out that the impact of global warming is likely to be “about half of what current scientific models are showing”.
“The onus is on the people arguing it’s a big problem to really show in an engineering quality report why it’s a big problem.
“There’s too much arm waving in the reports and in all the years I’ve been doing this you get scientific models which have inherent assumptions in them.
“The observations indicate to me that the models are probably running hot, and that the impact is about half of what they are showing.
“I do view that as a black mark against the models.”
Despite the tirade against him Mr McIntyre does not resile from what he told NBR ONLINE, including his assessment of the damage that has been caused to the environment so far from global warming.
“That’s a good question and is the acid test between the broad group of sceptics who are not very hardline and activists.
“Activists will tend to say that carbon dioxide emissions in the last 50 years have caused serious negative impacts.
“But from my point of view, I would say I don’t know what they are and certainly on balance there’s been no serious impact.
“One way or another the impact has not been as much as all that or we’ve coped with it rather well.”
Keen to scotch claims
Mr McIntyre is also keen to scotch claims that he is in the pocket of the fossil fuels industry and that none of his work has appeared in scientific journals.
“I wouldn’t describe myself as having a huge inventory of articles in academic journals but the list is not zero.
“I’ve also made presentations at the American Geophysical Union, to a National Academy of Sciences workshop and other venues.
“I don’t publish on 'industry funded' websites but do write many articles at ClimateAudit (http://climateaudit.org), to which readers make some contributions, but the contributions are negligible compared to what I could be earning in the mining business.
“My mining interests are in gold exploration, which has no connection to the climate debate.
“I’ve tried to keep things separate because the companies have no connection to my climate work.”
More than a decade after exposing serious flaws in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) hockey stick graph, which showed global temperatures rocketing upwards in the 20th century, 65-year-old Mr McIntyre is in no mood to walk away from the international firefight that he and his collaborator, economist Ross McKitrick, accidentally ignited.
He still thinks it is vital to get our understanding of the earth’s climate right.
“We are trying to model something far more complicated than an oil rig or a Boeing 747, feasibility studies for which would be minutely detailed.
“Even in the mining industry, a feasibility study for a single project might be 2000 pages long and cost $20 million to produce.
“By contrast, IPCC reports are merely literature reviews, daisy-chains of journal articles, none of which is examined to the standard of a feasibility study.”
Mr McIntyre believes a truly independent audit of current climate models is mandatory to build the “broad social consensus needed to take appropriate action on climate change”.
“Somebody should be doing one.”
And no doubt such an audit would look at three other issues associated with climate change – extreme weather events, melting polar ice caps and population growth.
On two of these matters Mr McIntyre has firm views.
“Extreme (weather) events occurred in the past – e.g., mega-droughts beyond the scale of any in the 20th century.
“When you look closely at each class of extreme event, tornados, floods, cyclones, heatwaves, drought, there is evidence of extremes in the past – in most classes (there is) no association with warming.
“Even the IPCC special report on extremes made very muted findings on the topic."
Mr McIntyre says with regard to melting polar ice caps the “Antarctic and Arctic have different trends”.
“Antarctic sea ice has been increasing over the past 30 years. Sea levels have been rising throughout the Holocene (the last 12,000 years).
“For example, barrier islands along the US Atlantic east coast have migrated landward and upward throughout the Holocene.
“Preparing for and adapting to continued sea level rise merely seems prudent to me, especially given the high probability that China, India and other developing countries have dramatically increased CO2 emissions in the past 15 years and are likely to continue to do so.”
Asked whether he agreed with those who claim the biggest issue facing the Earth is population explosion and not global warming he said:
“Trying to decide which is the more 'important' is outside any technical studies that I’ve carried out.”
So, on some matters Mr McIntyre is not afraid to admit a lack of knowledge but on others, like hockey sticks, he has a formidable grasp of the facts.
“If I felt that I was ever going down the wrong course I would resolve to concede. But I also resolved that I would never be bullied.
“This work has been catastrophic financially, but I enjoy doing it: this is what I do.”