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« Strangeness from Norfolk Constabulary | Main | The Black thread »

Black redux

I have no idea what happened to the last post on Richard Black - it seems to be gone. I'm waiting for a response from Squarespace support, but in the meantime, from the Google cache, here is the original text.

Richard Black has an article up about BEST. It also mentions "hide the decline".

The original "hide the decline" claim is one of the most easily de-bunked in the entire pantheon of easily-debunkable "sceptic" claims.

Phil Jones wrote the email in 1999, immediately following what still ranks as one of the hottest years on record, and well before the idea of a "slowdown" or "hiatus" or even "decline" in warming gained currency.

So it can't have had anything to do with hiding a global temperature decline.

If it were a scientific idea, the notion that it did would be consigned to the garbage bin of history alongside perpetual motion machines, the steady-state theory of the cosmos and the idea of HIV/Aids as a gay-only disease.

It's that wrong.

I'm struggling to put an innocent gloss on Black's misrepresentation of what the allegation was. I can remember Sarah Palin making this claim a couple of days after the story broke, but did anyone make such an allegation to any of the inquiries? Perhaps readers could see how many people made the allegation as framed by Black and how many got it right - i.e that it was about hiding the divergence between instrumental temperatures and some proxy records.

The misrepresentation seems very blatant to me.

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Reader Comments (57)

Don't really have the energy to go through it all again :)

Suffice to say that the explanation given by Black that he meant he was debunking some sort of 'blog narrative' which had misunderstood the decline to mean instrumental temps going down was not really for us, it was just to stop the AGW wolves attacking him for bringing shame on them. Is this the best explanation for the gaffe they could come up with?

If he really WAS debunking this mythical narrative, the correct debunk is to say that the narrative is wrong because 'the decline' doesn't refer to instrumental temperatures, not because of datestamps of some climategate emails.

He knows, we know, they know.

Nov 2, 2011 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

The original "hide the decline" claim is one of the most easily de-bunked in the entire pantheon of easily-debunkable "sceptic" claims.

"The original" is the key here. Black has taken the post-modern step of redefining what "hide the decline" meant originally. This is what we are supposed to expect from the BBC science reporters, a misdirection away from the original truth and transportation into a new post modern land of meaning.

Nov 2, 2011 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterTS

One can draw one's conclusions about his journalistic standards

Richard Black has journalistic standards? Can you adduce any evidence for this? I am seriously concerned about making unsupportable claims here.

Nov 2, 2011 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterSara Chan

Post disapeared huh.............."if you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you could ever imagine..."

Scarey stuff.

Nov 2, 2011 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered Commentermikef2

or even scary...

Nov 2, 2011 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered Commentermikef2

There are three possibilities.

(1) Black is a moron.

(2) Black is completely dishonest.

(3) both (1) & (2).

So that's a (3), then.

Nov 2, 2011 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Martin yep 3 is the magic number ! lol

Nov 2, 2011 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered Commentermat

The best part is he is getting a right metaphorical kicking over this BS on his own blog , not that he will admit his wrong aand his little more than the 'Teams' BBC bag-man his non interest in reporting reality anyway .

Nov 2, 2011 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Amazing how climate scientists and their associated “journalists” can have such a wonderful penchant for re-writing history along with absolute conviction about the future but they all remain totally uncertain about the present?

Nov 2, 2011 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

maybe Bob Ward can help him out here?

Nov 2, 2011 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Interesting incident! As a curiosity, I had a shot at recreating my own comment on the original thread. Here it is as a hostage to fortune:

The poor intellectual performance of those promoting acute alarm over rising CO2 levels is a regular source of dismay to me, as is the sheer effectiveness of their approach in political terms. The BBC is a victim turned perpetrator of their nonsense, and Richard Black is one of its key footsoldiers in realising its corporate will.

But to be more cheerful, there are signs that we are moving past Peak-Madness by governments in response to the nonsense. If so, we can but hope for a steep, and very visible decline of it all over the next few years.

Nov 2, 2011 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Just wondering what this sort of stuff does for your career then I realised he was a civil servant.

Nov 2, 2011 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

On the original thread someone recomended making a copy of the Black post and comments from the BBC site before it was "disappeared", so off I went and dutifully saved it - a few minutes later the BH post and comments vanish, then my internet connection went down - Wow.

Oh, got to go there's a knock at the door....

Nov 2, 2011 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterHyperthermania

Not sure that this raises a question about Black's journalistic standards. Raises the usual question of how expert in the role the hack has been assigned to, the hack is required to be. His article today makes him look a real lightweight. I wish I could earn a salary like his for so little time and effort put into a task.

Nov 2, 2011 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarkJ

Black's article is especially misleading because David Rose, the author of the recent Mail article on Muller ( ) had a very precise and accurate understanding of "hide the decline", which he published in a Dec 2009 Mail article here
( ).

Rose's original article on Hide the Decline showed that IPCC had deleted the adverse portion of the Briffa reconstruction. The Climategate emails showed that this had been done intentionally so as not to "dilute the message" or "give fodder" to skeptics.

Nov 2, 2011 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve McIntyre

Black? He's rubbish. Always has been - a churnalist.

Nov 2, 2011 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRB

Sorry, I am just a poor Joe public ignoramus about this. My understanding of this issue is that when temperature records are constructed from evidence that pre-dates reliable instrumental records, it is very important that during the period in which your evidence, whatever it may be, overlaps the instrumental records, that there is a reasonable correlation between the two. It is upon this correlation that your claim for the accuracy of your pre-instrumental evidence relies. In this case, the instrumental and non-instrumental data correlated for a while and then diverged. This divergence cast serious doubts upon the veracity of the pre-instrumental data and this is what the 'hide the decline' issue was about. Is this argument easy to debunk? Or would it be more accurate to say that this argument is being ignored and the easy to debunk arguments are being publicised so that they can be easily debunked. I smell straw men.

Nov 2, 2011 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

"Black? He's rubbish. Always has been - a churnalist." Mmnn, the author is RB which is how Richard Black signs his emails.

Nov 2, 2011 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

No question Black is being deliberately deceptive, by obfuscating what Jones was referring to in his 'hide the decline' comment.

The rest of will probably reassure the believers, although a knowledgeable sceptic could pick multiple holes in it.

Toward the end, Muller sticks the boot into Gore.

"Politicians have been doing this kind of stuff for a long time - look at what Al Gore did with all his disinformation."

Which gave me a smile.

Nov 2, 2011 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Bradley

Possibly because I've just finished reading Matt Ridley's excellent lecture, but a wave of heretical exuberance has prompted me to post the link to the most excellent "hide the decline" video,that I had forgotten about until just now.
In case anyone fancied reminding themselves about how thoroughly naughty this pastiche was, allow yourselves a quick chuckle during the great reads that the Bishop has treated us to today...

Nov 2, 2011 at 8:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

Although an amusing video, which severely irritated Dr Mann, it actually does everyone a disservice by muddying the waters in the same way that dear old Richard Black has tried to do. The video suggests it was a decline in temperature that was being hidden when the issue was much more serious.

Nov 2, 2011 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Richard Black, and everyone else, needs to catch up, get with the program. The consensus defenders' long-running efforts to deny the flat-lining of the temperature in the last decade -- as most recently and egregiously done by Richard Muller and BEST -- is known as "Hide the Decline, Part 2". In other words, the phrase was so apt it became a franchise, a series, like "Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Transformers". Actually, "Hide the Decline, Part 2" was when they kept saying things like "the temperature this decade is higher than last decade's, which was higher than the previous decade's, etc.", and "2010 was the hottest year on record"; Muller's effort to deceive with BEST is technically "Hide the Decline, Part 3" (in technicolor and 3-D as it were), so you know the alarmist fans love it. For the scientists involved in it, "Hide the Decline" is a franchise imposed upon them by the necessity to put up a bold front in public -- for as long as they can.

Nov 2, 2011 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

Read the article at the Beeb then segued over here to watch the lightning. I knew there'd be plenty. That whopper was blatant.

Personally the flatline has never been an issue to me. A gentle warming - so what if it's a tenth of a degree per decade. It is the "C" in CAGW. In places mostly too cold most of the time, at least some warming has to be good. It is the denial of this that is the real "denialism".

RB gets a nice trip to Durban to the next IPCC party. Nice work. Why fight it?

Nov 2, 2011 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJit

I hadn't seen this post by Richard Black, but seriously, if he wrote what you say he wrote, then this is simply beyond the pale. The man deliberately went out to distort the truth. He can no longer be trusted to report truth, and as for the BBC's reputation for objective reporting, well, Richard Black has clearly failed and is no longer fit for purpose in his current job. He should resign, or if failing an honourable course of action, Black should be forced out of his current job. Richard Black is a disgrace of a journalist.

Nov 2, 2011 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDJM

Slightly OT but what happened to the police investigation into Climategate? It's nearly 2 yrs now.

Nov 2, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Mills

I emailed a week or so ago to ask for an update. No reply.

Nov 2, 2011 at 10:11 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Actually, I love it when someone like Black does something as blatantly silly as this. It becomes extremely easy, then, to make someone who accepts Black's version feel foolish. Thank you, Richard Black, for your poor journalistic skills, or your deliberate obfuscation, whichever applies, for giving us such wonderful ammunition. :)

Nov 2, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRDCII


The BBC has a reputation for objective reporting and reporting the truth? Hmmmm I must have missed that.

Nov 2, 2011 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Has anybody ever seen Richard Black and Michael Mann in the same place?

Nov 2, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Richard's certainly on the ball isn't he.

Apparently Grant Foster is an enigmatic climate blogger who runs the Open Mind site and keeps his identity deeply under wraps.

Nov 3, 2011 at 3:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

This is just an extreme case of what Black does in almost every one of his blog posts. Greenpeace should be paying his salary.

Nov 3, 2011 at 5:36 AM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

Has anybody else noticed how much Richard Black is beginning to look like Michael Mann? (Oh yes, David S has) Is there something we should be told?

Nov 3, 2011 at 6:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterVargs

The thing about Black's article which epitomises its propagandism for me is the intentionally provocative graphic-- worthy of a student pamphlet. Which is, I suppose, exactly what he is. An unreconstructed student activist masquerading as a journalist. The sad thing is that he is given voice (and a handsome salary, no doubt) by the UK's national broadcaster.

Nov 3, 2011 at 6:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterVargs

Its about visibility. He's applied for the BBC post recently announced as head of 'science reporting' or what ever. He can say look, I'm defending the faith...

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

I wonder if Black's piece ended with "will this do?"

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Why wouldn't the BBC take action against such dishonest journalism? No, I don't think that is OTT.

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Richard Black has to be the BBC's best candidate for their Peter O'Hanrahanrahan award ;)

Nov 3, 2011 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Has anybody else noticed how much Richard Black is beginning to look like Michael Mann? (Oh yes, David S has) Is there something we should be told?
Nov 3, 2011 at 6:44 AM Vargs

.....AND Gavin Schmidt............

We've had some big storms lately, here and there, anybody noticed any of those pod type thingies landing near them.....

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

.......and Halloween, come to think of it.

I feel a movie script coming on ..........

The attack of the whiskered pumpkin men

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

I think there might be something in RB's comment. Hey Bishop...could you double check the provenance of that one?

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito


You're spot on with the student analogy. My wife used to work for the BBC, before she saw the light. The Beeb is just a continuation of student life for most people there (including the on site subsidised bar!)

The irony of it is that she left 20 years ago, because she wanted to make use of her science degree and saw no scope for that at the BBC. Given the lack of a science qualification requirement for their new Science Editor it seems that nothing has changed.....

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterBuck

My complaint to the BBC:

In his article Richard Black writes:

"The original "hide the decline" claim is one of the most easily de-bunked in the entire pantheon of easily-debunkable "sceptic" claims.

Phil Jones wrote the email in 1999, immediately following what still ranks as one of the hottest years on record, and well before the idea of a "slowdown" or "hiatus" or even "decline" in warming gained currency.

So it can't have had anything to do with hiding a global temperature decline.

If it were a scientific idea, the notion that it did would be consigned to the garbage bin of history alongside perpetual motion machines, the steady-state theory of the cosmos and the idea of HIV/Aids as a gay-only disease.

It's that wrong."

This either demonstrates that Richard himself didn't understand what "hide the decline" was all about, which is the divergence of proxy records from the modern temperature record, thus throwing extreme doubt on the validity of the proxies over the historical time period or that he has deliberately set out to mislead the less informed amongst his readers.

If the former, then surely the BBC could have got someone who did understand the issues to write the piece, if the latter then...

I would expect the BBC to correct this error (be it deliberate or otherwise) and issue a fully corrected article with equal prominence to the original.

Best Regards

Dr Stephen W**********

Nov 3, 2011 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

I made much the same point in a blog post way back in April comparing the situation to a horse racing betting system which I once knew of. If I can quote my final paragraph:

The point of course is that as soon as it becomes clear that your hypothesis breaks down you are supposed to go back to basics and find out why and come up with a new hypothesis. The fact that there are comprehensive records that allowed me to prove this system was (and had always been) rubbish simply made life easier. Where no such reliable records exist there is a temptation to make unwarranted assumptions though why a reputable scientist would fall into that trap when it is inevitable that — sooner or later — someone will cotton on is difficult to understand. The assumption, in climate systems as in racing systems, has to be that once the facts start to diverge from the theory then the theory is wrong. And if the theory is wrong then it always was wrong and any time when it was “right” was purely coincidence.
I reckon the final sentence is key.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

In reality there are three 'hides'

1. Hide the decline - Mann, Jones, Briffa et al

'Hide the decline' refers to the deletion of troublesome divergent proxy data post 1960 - Mike's Nature trick. This was a deliberate attempt to mislead by not reporting all the data.

2. Hide the hiatus - Muller, BEST, et al.

'Hide the hiatus' refers to the 10 year smoothing method of the land instrumental record employed by BEST and the statement by Muller who concluded that this showed there was no downturn in global temps over the past decade. This was an attempt to mislead by using a statistical method.

3. Hide the conflation - Black and the BBC

'Hide the conflation' was an attempt by Richard Black to conflate (1) and (2) in order to construct a strawman that could be then knocked over, which was then followed up by an excuse that sceptics believed that (1) refers to (2).

This is the current state of AGW science and how it is reported.

Nov 3, 2011 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

RB has updated his article today with an apology over his misuse of the phrase Hide the decline. Fair play to him for that.

Nov 3, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarkJ

Has Black really apologised?

Black 1.

In that email, CRU's director, Phil Jones, the scientist mainly responsible for one of the three most important global temperature records, tells colleague Michael Mann that he discussed "using Mike's Nature trick" to "hide the decline".

The email was taken to be an admission that Prof Jones and others were deliberately hiding the fact that global temperatures had been falling during the most recent decade - hiding proof that global warming had stopped.

Black 2.

Re 'hide the decline'... yes, the Jones email concerned reconciling the tree ring record. But that's not how it was interpreted - at least by some - which is my point. Read Fred Pearce The Climate Files.

Black 3.

A number of comments have quite rightly pointed out that the "hide the decline" email was also critiqued at the time of "ClimateGate" in its proper context - ie, reconciling a tree-ring dataset with an instrumental dataset.

This wasn't the sense in which I dealt with it in this post, obviously - I was focussing on the mis-use of the email in claims that it "hid a decline", or slowdown, in temperatures from 1998 onwards.

With hindsight I should have made that clear in the text, and I could also usefully have pointed out that some "sceptical" blogs took pains to clarify the issue at the time, such as the wattsupwiththat post reading "contrary to what you've likely read elsewhere in the blogosphere or heard from the few policymakers and pundits actually addressing the issue, it was not the temperature decline the planet has been experiencing since 1998 that Jones and friends conspired to hide".

Apologies for any confusion

If Black has said from the off that he was attempting to debunk what Inhofe and Palin had reportedly said on the 'hide the decline' then that clearly could have been done very simply, but would it have been worthy of a whole article?

No, by drawing in a reference from Fred Pearce, Black was offering up an excuse to deflect criticism of his own attempt to construct a strawman agruement by deliberately conflating the original Climategate 'hide the decline' with BEST's use of a 10 year moving average to 'hide the hiatus'.

Black has apologised for the excuse offered, but he has not aplogised for deliberately trying to mislead people on the real meaning of 'hide the decline'.

Nov 3, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

MarkJ RB has updated his article today with an apology over his misuse of the phrase Hide the decline. Fair play to him for that.

Maybe - but how many of the warmist faithful will read it now? More than one per cent of those who absorbed and will in future trot out his message that 'The original "hide the decline" claim is one of the most easily de-bunked in the entire pantheon of easily-debunkable "sceptic" claims'?

Nov 3, 2011 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Martin A - Maybe you expect too much. I still think RB has a bit of a closed mind, and perhaps hadn't even bothered to understand the context of 'hide the decline' given he reads particular blogs (tamino etc) to help him put a handle on GW topics. I still think he is a bit of a bimbo on science and not capable of deliberate obfuscation.

Nov 3, 2011 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarkJ

Black's apology is standard BBC fair I'm afraid. By placing it at the food if a long article means that they can leave the article S it is, making no corrections, in the knowledge that the vast majority of readers will never actually get to the update/correction/apology. Thus, to you average reader it appears to them that blacks interpretation of hide the decline is right, even though we know it isn't.

This shouldn't surprise anyone as the BBC dies this time DVD time again throughout its website DVD the best (or very worst) examples of this are demonstrated daily in its Middke East section, where context is only delivered AFTER the BBC has told you how evil the Jews are (but by then most readers have moved on).



Nov 3, 2011 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

"Apologies for any confusion"

Weasel words. To apologise, you have to say "I apologise".

Nov 3, 2011 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

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