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An open door?

H/T to Hengist for pointing us to this interview with the BBC's new science editor, David Shukman. Here's the bit about climate change.

Interviewer: One of the inevitable hot potatoes falling into your lap will be the controversies over climate change. You will not please - probably - anyone in this tormented area but how will you approach it?

Shukman: I think we assess the weight of the evidence on any particular story, whether it's climate science or something else and make a judgement about the strength of that evidence, how we're going to cover it, the relative airtime we might give to different points of view, but it's important to stress that we have an open door and I hope we alway have to the full range of opinions

Interviewer: So no ideas are is shut off, not even in the controversial area of climate change

Shukman: Nothing is shut off, but if you have got,let's say, 30 years of data , painstakingly gathered in lets say the Arctic by the American space agency, NASA, that something you can say "that's a solid body of evidence". We'll explain to viewers where there may be weaknesses, but that's the kind of thing where you can say "let's apply due weight", and the due weight in that case might point in one direction.

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Reader Comments (103)

Bring back Roger Harrabin for Science Editor.....
Seriously.. much more nuanced than this rubbish
Caught it this morning and ever so cleverly, linked climate change, with gm and nmr..

Jan 21, 2012 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Lets hope Mr Shukman puts some time into looking at timescales a bit longer than 30yrs:

Jan 21, 2012 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Quote '30 years of data , painstakingly gathered'. He doesn't exclude using good data!

Oh joy! Let us look forward, for a week or two at least until his bosses(*) put him back on track, to some real science reporting about climate on the BBC.

(*)"I say, David old chap, those smart guys and gals at Futerra have made it quite clear that if we want the sausage to sizzle, we need good clear messages. So perhaps you might just take the warming for granted, and make better use of all those press releases we keep getting from the WWF, and that GCM Owners and Operators Club or whatever its called. That 'data' stuff is not only dull dull dull, it also gets in the way of our messaging duties. So get with it man, and stay cool - remember we're all hideously white, so we have to make amends for that. You're not against sustainability are you by any chance?"

Jan 21, 2012 at 5:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

In other nes Kim Jong-il has been succeeded by Kim Jong-un. No change in relations with North Korea is expected

Jan 21, 2012 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMangoChutney



Jan 21, 2012 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterMangoChutney

[Snip - manners]

Jan 21, 2012 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSalopian

Where did NASA get this arctic data from? They haven't any thermometers there. have they?

Jan 21, 2012 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Roger Harrabin can beaver away on his Malthusian eulogy "Scarcity: How many rich people can the Earth take?" for as long as he likes, as far as I am concerned. The longer Knight-Wallace keep him scribing - out of the public 's reach of his misanthropic advocacy - the better.

Jan 21, 2012 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

I think Mr Shukman is somewhat naive if he thinks that the data, however painstakingly gathered, is per se evidence. Perhaps this is the case in some domains, but most climate change conclusions contain a considerable component of analysis, with attendant assumptions. For example, see figure 1 of Lyman et al. "Robust Warming of the global upper ocean"; the same (or similar) data yields a half-dozen curves depending on how it's processed.

We'll see if Shukman holds to the "solid body of evidence" aproach, if the conversation turns to topics such as polar bear endangerment, which appears to be based solely on models whose correspondence with reality is not back by a "solid body of evidence". Not that polar bears are intrinsically important, but they have become iconic (through no fault of their own).

Jan 21, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterHaroldW

Did anybody catch an actual response to Trevor Tonkinson's question at 6:42?:

"How many of your presenters and production staff have studied science?"

Seemed to get lost in DS's enthusiasm for geography - fine subject, but surely not enough to carry the whole range and weight of science coverage. Maybe the BBC will start a recruitment drive to support the new role of Science Editor.

Jan 21, 2012 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

'Nothing is shut off, but if you have got,let's say, 30 years of data , painstakingly gathered in lets say the Arctic by the American space agency, NASA, that something you can say "that's a solid body of evidence".'

Fine. But please point out that NASA has no well confirmed physical hypotheses that can explain the evidence or predict similar phenomena. Reporting evidence without physical hypotheses is reporting only half the story. The converse is true also. (And if we are strict in these matters, reporting the evidence without the physical hypotheses is reporting only half a sentence.)

Jan 21, 2012 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Oh dear.

Is this what we can look forward to. Waffle without any depth of knowledge. Surely you have to know what you are talking about to apply "due weight" or will he just ask Paul Nurse?

BBC. How depressing. They don't have a clue.

Jan 21, 2012 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterGarT

The BBC Radio 4 programme 'Feedback' on Friday 20th Jan had a short discussion on the dropping of the programme 'Home Planet'. A regular contributor to that programme was Phillip Stott. At the end of the item, it was said that next week they'd have a feature on the appointment of David Shukman as Science Editor. That presumably gives an opportunity to write into Feedback with your questions and views.

I think Feedback is repeated on Sunday at 20:30 and it's R4 web page has contact details.

Jan 21, 2012 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Would he be on about Steig '09?
As shown to be largely an artifact of faulty application of statistical tools in O'Donnel '10?

Jan 21, 2012 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

A glimpse into the future. David has been reporting on good data showing temperature trends up down and sideways at locations all over the world in the past 100 years or so, and then satellite data showing little in the way of warming, data showing cooling in the Antarctic, glaciers not threatened in the Himalaya, Arctic ice extent as long being very variable and doing nothing unusual these past years, and, horror of horrors, data showing how ridiculous it would be to base the purchase of a hat based on GCM outputs on climate, let alone a global emissions policy, and much much more. But all is not well.

His bosses are worried, and starting to wish they’d given the job to Louise after all. Safer pair of hands, keeps to the press releases, and so on. So they call in a favour from an old leftie chum wise in these matters. Let us call him M.

M gets on the phone to David, and after discoursing unintelligibly but impressively about outreach, sustainability, the burden of being white, and wealthy, and the duty of all comrades to come to the aid of the party, support the UN, the EU, the pension fund, and Labour, he remembers at last why he is making the call and gives up on the BBC guidelines in order to make some points of his own. He really lectures poor David:

… within a capitalist world order, climate change is actually a convenient phenomenon to come along.
The danger of a “normal” reading of science is that it assumes science can first find truth, then speak truth to power, and that truth-based policy will then follow…exchanges often reduce to ones about scientific truth rather than about values, perspectives and political preferences.
. . . ‘self-evidently’ dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth-seeking…scientists – and politicians – must trade truth for influence. What matters about climate change is not whether we can predict the future with some desired level of certainty and accuracy. . . .
The function of climate change I suggest, is not as a lower-case environmental phenomenon to be solved…It really is not about stopping climate chaos. Instead, we need to see how we can the idea of climate change – the matrix of ecological functions, power relationships, cultural discourses and materials flows that climate change reveals – to rethink how we take forward our political, social, economic and personal projects over the decades to come.

Poor David is crestfallen. He had so hoped to get away from 'taking forward' those pesky political, social and economic goals he had once adored so much, and turning to something a bit more objective and, well, a bit more journalistic. He had had a glimpse of himself speaking truth unto power, but just look where it has got him. That was a four hour telephone call from M, and people have been avoiding him in the canteen. It’s just not worth it!

Jan 21, 2012 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

I caught this also, interestingly, before the DS interview the presenter explained that although many people complain about the BBC's bias when reporting climate change, its all ok because an "independant" report showed that the BBC is in fact not showing enough bias! I guess they just had to get that old chestnut in. Plus ca change mes amis1

Jan 21, 2012 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

The Arctic melting over the past 20years has been melting part of the 50-70 year biofeedback cycle.

Possibly nothing to do with CO2 but there may be a minor effect.

The warmists can't stand these data:

The warmed melt water sank into the N. Atlantic. In 2004, the process levelled off and the Arctic is now freezing. These data are the only accurate measure of global warming, now cooling......

Jan 21, 2012 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Adam - Steig et al was on the Antarctic but I do agree it would be good if the BBC had some statisticians capable of following the maths involved in climate work

Jan 21, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

You can rent him here for £2.5 - £5k a session - depending on "services required" I guess.

I find it a bit odd the way our multi-£100k BBC guardians of political correctness and public morality are always available to do tricks on the side for a few grand.

If we doubled the licence fee to £6bn a year - do you think we could have exclusive use of their talents?

Or maybe we could just club together, hire him for few days and have him reprogrammed by Steve McIntyre.

Jan 21, 2012 at 8:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose




It did not detract!

Jan 21, 2012 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand


The Arctic melting over the past 20years has been melting part of the 50-70 year biofeedback cycle.

But hasn't the CLAW hypothesis just been 'retired'? Isn't that what Tamsin Edwards was saying?

Jan 21, 2012 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Here is 30 years worth of RSS Land only data.

It says the last 14 were cooling.

Jan 21, 2012 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

30 year cooling trend from accurate instumental reasdings at Alfred Wegener Institute Antarctic Neumayer-Station III

Jan 21, 2012 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

BBD: the CLAW hypothesis is concerned with phytoplankton nucleating clouds to reduce UV energy. I'm talking about something rather different, the second optical process missed by Sagan that renders the climate models useless.

Jan 21, 2012 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Absent context and perspective, facts per se mean very little. Hot air rises, water runs downhill... the Dow-Jones' Index of 30 Industrials closed yesterday at 12,720.48. So what?

Does a falling body feel its own weight? If I were riding a light-beam and looked back, what would I see? The Master saw General and Special Relativity; Warmists of course would regress not to Galileo or Newton but to Aristotle, whose "Physics" stood for two millennia only to be refuted root-and-branch. AGW is deliquescing after barely two decades... get used to it.

Jan 22, 2012 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Blake

An interesting and, for me, not totally discouraging segment, reminding me of two other programmes currently on the iPlayer that may be of interest.

Expiring late this evening:

David Shukman visits Manhattan to discover how thousands of people have become seriously ill from toxic dust after 9/11.

Shocking in its own right and I thought compassionate from Shukman - but neither interviewer nor interviewees ask whether three vast steel-framed buildings "collapsing into dust", as one victim puts it, is at all abnormal as a matter or science or history. Another interesting example for me of where science, politics, social concern and societal taboos intersect.

Expiring in a week's time:

Labour MP Tom Watson giving a lecture on 'Parliament and Phone Hacking' in Portcullis House, from Wednesday 18 January.

Much of interest on FOI in general - Watson says his office has has initiated more than 2000 FOI requests - and some fascinating details on Neil Wallis and John Yates in particular. Watson says that his use of FOI is designed in part to put political pressure where that is needed. Someone needs to apply that kind of tough love to 'Poor Phil' and friends, taking us back to Neil Wallis when he wasn't doing PR for his chums at Scotland Yard.

Jan 22, 2012 at 4:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Bish, Tom Watson MP gave a very interesting lecture which you can catch on the BBC's so called 'Democracy Live' website, about mostly his experience as regards the hacking scandal. But what might interest you is his take on FOI - he wants to extend and strengthen it. He even gives a passing mention to Climategate!

Jan 22, 2012 at 4:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane


Thanks, I'll take a look.

Jan 22, 2012 at 8:08 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"We'll explain to viewers where there may be weaknesses, but that's the kind of thing where you can say "let's apply due weight", and the due weight in that case might point in one direction."

Ah... the suspense... which direction will it point?

Jan 22, 2012 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

The interview appears to have been edited. I wonder what, if anything, was left out? I never get to see the program so I don't know if it is always just 15 mins long.

Jan 22, 2012 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss H

"Shukman: Nothing is shut off, but if you have got,let's say, 30 years of data , painstakingly gathered in lets say the Arctic by the American space agency, NASA, that something you can say "that's a solid body of evidence". "

No, it's not!
30 years is only one (1) lousy stinking climate data point. By definition from the WMO.
A point is not a body by any definition, you silly Shukman, you.

Jan 22, 2012 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver


Here is 30 years worth of RSS Land only data.

It says the last 14 were cooling.

How to cook a graph:

- pick a very short time-series (eg 14 years)

- cherrry-pick the start point at the absolute peak of the 1998 Super El Nino, using RSS TLT which showed the strongest response to EN of any climate data set

- make a grossly misleading statement to go with grossly misleading graph.

How to be honest with graphs:

- use a long time-series

- DO NOT cherry-pick your start point

- show the long-term trend

Like this.

Jan 22, 2012 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Mine is better, clearer:

Jan 22, 2012 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

BBD: Or this?

Jan 22, 2012 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


Looked at your link. Are you the same BBD who wrote this?:

"How to cook a graph:

- pick a very short time-series (eg 14 years)

- cherrry-pick the start point at the absolute peak of the 1998 Super El Nino"

I see your link has a graph starting from the most recent extreme cold point in the 1970s. You know, when predictions of an imminent Ice Age were fashionable.

You ought to follow your own advice about 'cooked' and misleading graphs.

Jan 22, 2012 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

Edward Getty

Thank you for revealing the extent of your ignorance.

The graph shows the full extent of the satellite record from its inception in 1979 to the present.

Jan 22, 2012 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

John Silver

Mine is better, clearer

Your time-series is shorter even than Bruce's.

I think I mentioned something about doing this above.

Jan 22, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

edward getty

I see your link has a graph starting from the most recent extreme cold point in the 1970s.

I wouldn't want anyone to be mislead by this statment. The satellite record begins about half-way up a peak that represents the highest GAT in the entire composite record to that date (1979). This is easy to see when the satellite record is shown on a common baseline with the full HADCRUT and GISTEMP series (annual means used for clarity).

Jan 22, 2012 at 9:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD - Yes. The satellite record. Very convenient cherry pick.

But then how do we know it has been warming since ca 1850?

I guess we don't. No satellite record.

Jan 22, 2012 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

BBD "pick a very short time-series (eg 14 years)"

Actually, I have the FULL RSS record. I just showed the pre-1998 trand and post-1998 trend.

Why lie BBD. I showed the FULL RSS land record.

Jan 22, 2012 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Actually BBD, 1979 was one of the coldest winters in both the UK and USA. RSS started in a deep hole and has barely risen in 43 years.

"If the freezing conditions continued for the rest of the month, he said, the UK would be on course for its coldest winter since 1979. "

Jan 22, 2012 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Jørgen Peder Steffensen is an Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen and one of the world’s leading experts on ice cores. Using ice cores from sites in Greenland, he has been able to reconstruct temperatures there for the last 10000 years. So what are his conclusions?

* Temperatures in Greenland were about 1.5 C warmer 1000 years ago than now.
* It was perhaps 2.5 C warmer 4000 years ago.
* The period around 1875, at the lowest point of the Little Ice Age, marked the coldest point in the last 10,000 years.
* Other evidence from elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere confirms this picture.

His final comment is particularly telling :-

I agree totally we have had a global temperature increase in the 20thC – but an increase from what? ..Probably an increase from the lowest point in the last 10,000 years.

We started to observe meteorology at the coldest point in the last 10,000 years.

Jan 22, 2012 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce


Why lie BBD. I showed the FULL RSS land record.

Not exactly.

You show the record in two sections: trend lines: 1979 - 1998 (the peak of the Super El Nino) and 1998 - present.

Both this and this show more data and are less potentially misleading.

Using short-term trends to argue for long-term effects is inadvisable for what should be obvious reasons.

But in case you aren't convinced, let's look at the short-term cooling trends in the BEST reconstruction. They are numerous. But context is much more informative.

Jan 22, 2012 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Ho ho.

Jan 23, 2012 at 1:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJJB MKI

BBD, it is not misleading to show the real trends around the 1998 pivot point. In fact, it gives a much more accurate look at what is happening.

Interesting you should mention BEST. It appears to be totally out of whack compared to satellite. I would suggest the difference between BEST and satellite is UHI.

Its cooling since 1998.

Jan 23, 2012 at 1:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Bruce: "Its cooling since 1998."

Don't get him started! It's not cooling since 1998 it's statistically not warming. It's plateaued. Now in a science other than climatology people would be scurrying for their slide rules to see if they can understand why an increase of around 26ppm of CO2, the main driver of temperature if the "scientists" are to be believed, has not resulted in an increase in temperature. They are undeterred by any observational evidence that doesn't suit their beliefs. Or, more probably, threatens their grants.

Jan 23, 2012 at 4:44 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

"Its cooling since 1998."

More significantly, it has not warmed since 1998 despite the increasing CO2 concentrations.

The models do not fit reality. If this was actually a genuine scientific debate - which it obviously is not - that would be enough to send the CO2 cultists back to where they belong.

Jan 23, 2012 at 4:46 AM | Unregistered Commenteredward getty

Back to Shukman, I see there is still no mention of the Alfred Wegener Institute Neumayer Station III: Antarctic Cooling Over The Last 30 Years (which shows cooling trend for last 30 years) on the BBC Science~Environment pages. It is a week now since Pierre covered the study, and the door is still firmly shut by the BBC. Auntie knows best.

Jan 23, 2012 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

Jan 23, 2012 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Deny! Deny! Deny!

Sad, really.

Jan 23, 2012 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

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