The Hockey Stick controversy: A potential paradigm shift in climate science

Josefine Lærke Skrøder Nytofte, Natasja Wexøe Jakobsen, Peter Rosendahl Dam & Nina Kattler

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


This project investigates why the so-called Hockey Stick curve by Mann et al. (1998, 1999) became the subject of significant controversy; whether a paradigm shift cf. Thomas Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions is occurring in climate change science, and if so, how the former controversy contributed to said shift. To this end, the project provides an overview of contemporary climate change science, such as chronostratigraphy, palaeoclimatology (including the use of proxies to reconstruct the Earth’s past climate), natural climate variability, the latest IPCC assessment, and the findings of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) The project accounts for the parts of Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions that are relevant in assessing the possibility of a paradigm shift, such as the term ‘normal science’. Terms such as ‘denialism’ and ‘peer review’ are also accounted for, as they play central roles in the controversy surrounding the Hockey Stick. The research and analyses lead to the conclusion that several groups with conflicting interests were invested in the outcome of the debate regarding the findings of Mann et al. (1998, 1999), and the debate encompassed topics of very different character. Some pertained to the science behind the findings, while other topics included the possibility of biased research, lack of objectivity and of academic merit. Kuhn’s theory states there are no absolute terms by which a paradigm shift can be measured. It shifts slowly and without one tangible moment of complete transition. Since individuals who dissent from the majority view are still influential in the debate, the authors conclude that a paradigm shift has not yet occurred. The authors tentatively conclude that a shift is underway. Finally, they conclude that this shift can partially be attributed to the controversy caused by the Hockey Stick, which managed to draw additional scientific and political attention to the scientific field of climate change.

UddannelserBasis - International Samfundsvidenskabelig Bacheloruddannelse, (Bachelor uddannelse) Basis
Udgivelsesdato24 jun. 2015


  • Climate
  • Paradigm
  • Michael Mann
  • McIntyre
  • Denialist
  • Mann
  • Climate change
  • Proxy
  • Kuhn
  • Denialism
  • Baliunas
  • North Report
  • Soon
  • Wegman Report
  • McKitrick