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Is Seumas Milne ever right about anything?

There is lots of fun to be had with Seumas Milne's bile-filled rant in the Guardian today. This appears to be part of the campaign of vilification that those nice people at Greenpeace launched against Owen Paterson as soon as he was admitted to hospital for emergency eye surgery and unable to respond.

Count the misconception, mispresentation and misinformation in this sentence for example:

The basic physics may be unanswerable, 97% of climate scientists agree that carbon emissions are dangerously heating up the planet, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warn it's 95% likely that most of the temperature rise since 1950 is due to greenhouse gases and deforestation, the risk of a global temperature rise tipping above 1.5–2C be catastrophic for humanity.

Milne even cites Slingo's attribution of the floods to climate change two days after the Met Office distanced themselves from her.

He has the most astonishing hit rate. How does he do it?

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Reader Comments (49)

Star comment is from irefuteitthus spotted by latimer, a 9-level climate change belief scale. Here's a snippet:

Force 1: True believer (James Lovelock, Private Frazer); we’re all doomed, mankind is a hideous fungal growth on the face of the planet, and Gaia will be better off without us.

Force 2: Committed (George Monbiot); believes that climate change is the consequence of a deliberate conspiracy between bankers and Tories, that all air travel, cows, central heating and the purchase of food from third parties should be banned, ....

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:28 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Too bad it isn't the Daily Mail, otherwise Richard Betts would read the article and the Met Office would list all the bits they thought wrong.

But it's the Guardian, so who cares if they mangle the science?

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:30 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Seumas Who? What a nasty and dumb character. I suspect the answer to the headline question is no.

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:40 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

97% of climate scientists agree that carbon emissions are dangerously heating up the planet, the'

Given that no one knows how many climate 'scientists' there are , indeed there is not even an agreement of what makes a climate 'scientists', unless SM think there are only 75 climate 'scientists' in the world this is BS.

Still reading the SM and he followers you can see why water-mellow often applies to the greens for although their very keen to imposed mad ideas on the west in the name of saving the planet ,far worse polluters such as China get a free pass .

But to be fair to SM , he has not got other the fact that his was born to late to praise sing for Mao and Stalin while they where alive and in position to kill tens of millions in the name of the 'revolution'

Paul Matthews GM believers air travel should be band for the masses , he is happy for green activists ,especially those with books to sell , clocking up has many air miles as they like .

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Shame-Us Milne is the Last Communist in Britain. The epitome of the champagne socialist.
The younger son of the former BBC Director General Alasdair Milne, Milne attended Winchester College and read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Balliol College, Oxford and Economics at Birkbeck College, London University.
'Nuff said.
This does not make him AUTOMATICALLY wrong on the subject of climate change, but you get the general idea.

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

I'm sure Richard Betts will write in immediately to correct Seumas Milne's errors and misconceptions :-)

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Even Trenberth doesn't believe in AGW- induced global "weirding".

Where does that leave Slingo and her cheerleaders?

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

97% of real scientists believe that climate "science" is pseudoscience!

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

How does he get that hit rate? Good question- you'd think after running headlong into a wall THAT many times, he'd not be able to continue........

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

I wonder if a useful retort to those who think that mankind is a fungus/cancer/plague on the face of the planet might be the old line:

"Speak for yourself, Sunshine!"

Their vanity won't like it.

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

Richard Betts is currently on holiday and should not be expected to respond to this or anything similar. Mat Collins, on the other hand, would be ideally placed?

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:26 AM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

"He has the most astonishing hit rate. How does he do it?"

This is straightforward. Wherever there is high uncertainty in a particular domain of contention (and lets face it this has always been the case for Climate Change), replicative success regarding storylines (memes) within the domain, for which hit rates are a pretty good proxy, will tend to triumph over verifiability (factual content). The more (already successful) memes one can pack into an article, the higher it's hit rate will be, and this base can also form the launch platform for the inclusion of a 'next step' storyline within the evolution of the dominant (CAGW) narrative. Milne has certainly packed 'em in. This is a positive feedback, up until the dominant narrative either runs head-on into flat fact (for CAGW I guess only a plunge in global temperature may do this), runs into competitive narratives (as religions eventually all do), or runs out of adherents. Knowing, as most readers here do, what all the psychological hot-button memes are within CAGW, I'm sure it would not be that difficult to construct a near-perfect article that (given a reasonable exposure platform) would get a monster hit-rate; it just wouldn't have much of any relationship to climate reality though...

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

These people are desperate now they know credible science is emerging proving there my be no CO2-AGW after all and that the real AGW was from another cause which is stabilising.

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterMydogsgotnonose

I'm working through the comments in the Guardian article. What an eye-opener! It seems as if the average age of many of the posters is a match for their IQ. My favourite comment so far is this from Charminggal:

"You wouldn't walk around with your gob over a cars exhaust pipe would you...u be gone pretty quick...but mega tons of this toxic muck flows up into the air every time,people het into their cars.
We have non smoking areas,and soon a ban inside the car.
Yet nothing done on all the fumes from everyone else's car ground level and further up...oh come on deniers what you think going to happen before long now...slowly poisoning the planet."

It's quite an education. I particularly liked it when one poster mentioned that Matt Collins had rebutted Slingo's remarks - in the Mail on Sunday! That was enough to send commenters off into a frothing hate-fest, saying that you could never believe the Mail and that, by implication, the Guardian was the truth and the way....

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

This sort of stuff gives the game away. It's not about science.

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Let’s face it, CAGW is a religion now. Might even class as a cult. But it’s no wonder in a world where creation science is seen as valid that there is room for the climate cult. Creationists and CAGW disciples to be honest can anyone tell the difference anymore?

Feb 20, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterJaceF

Harry Passfield
It's amazing (and not a little worrying) that there are so many people who don't know the difference between carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. As some have commented before, "and these people get to vote!"

Nicholas Hallam
... and never was. As I have said repeatedly and over many years!

Feb 20, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Good comment from our own RR in there. Of course, his reasonable comment soon had to be attacked and I doubt it will remain 'free'.

Feb 20, 2014 at 11:14 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

He's a Wykehamist and a Marxist. The perfect blend of hypocrite for the Guardian. Best ignored.

Feb 20, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Harry Passfield: you are making me blush! What’s with “our own”? I do try to spread myself around, you know. (BTW: “his”? I’m off for a shower now, and will check.)

Finally, will you all please STOP! I am wasting far too much of my days reading your posts and comments, and the sites you send me to! I have housework to do and dogs and children to feed, but feel that I have to try and compose an occasional comment.

Feb 20, 2014 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

If the science was settled there would be no need for such ranting articles in the Grauniad.

Feb 20, 2014 at 11:53 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Textbook diversionary tactics. Traduce your opponent, thus demeaning his credibility. Anything he then says has little influence.

Add to that a bogus premise of self-interest - in this case 'deniers don't want to change their lifestyles' and on paper at least, they achieve their objective: deliver a demonised, selfish, ignorant person of no influence or credibility.

Note how Milne never mentions the lack of prediction / explanation for the pause, the failure of predictive models, falling sensitivity estimates, nothing unusual re sea levels, global ice extent bang on 30 year mean etc etc etc. Plenty of arm-waving about 'storms', 'floods' and 'droughts', but little in the way of detail. That's just the way his type like it, and the true believers BTL lap it up.

Once you ditch facts for rhetoric your argument is in trouble. They're in trouble and they know it. It's the climate equivalent of 'if the law and the facts aren't on your side, bang the table!

Feb 20, 2014 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

All this doomsday syndrome speculation is based on Trenberths magic 4% extra water vapour and 0.6K/century of warming. Hard to believe in this day and age! But i don't blame the journos. If we do successfully manage to de-industrialise our way back to poverty then it's 100% due to too many lying scientists and the silent cowardice of their colleagues who (you'd hope) must know there is nothing actually unnatural happening.

Of course a decent journalist would have noticed the blatant contradictions of the alarmists current flood hyperbole with their previous one about droughts - not just join in with the chorus of rank idiocy.

Feb 20, 2014 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

He is about a quarter right in the subtitle "The refusal to accept global warming is driven by corporate interests and the fear of what it will cost to try to stop it." The costs of the preconceived solutions to this largely non-existent problem will, and are, harming corporate interests. The costs are also harming the interests of individuals and families, men, women, and children, rich and poor alike.

Feb 20, 2014 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Fascinating. Even when their own (Mauvegrail, tswash) wander off-message with quite reasonable comments, the rest pounce on them. Obviously, no dissent is allowed; how very Orwellian.

Feb 20, 2014 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Feb 20, 2014 at 12:46 PM | Radical Rodent
'Obviously, no dissent is allowed'

Dissenting storylines that might harm the survival of a dominant narrative, are aggressively deselected by those deeply immersed in that narrative. This can occur even more severely regarding adherents within the narrative rather than outsiders, because they have more chance of subverting or fracturing orthodoxy. Folks are fairly familiar with such mechanisms when it comes to describing religions, but religions are only one example of memeplexes, and the same mechanisms operate just the same within secular memeplexes like CAGW. The climategate emails reveal this aggressive policing right within the heart of orthodox CAGW. In truth, and despite the 17 year 'pause', sceptics may not be that big a threat, and template demonisation ('denier') storylines, seem still to be working as a main defence.

Feb 20, 2014 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Its remarkable how almost every link in the article to a supposed fact appears to link to a Guardian story. Circular reasoning? Or a version of "I read it in The Sun the Guardian so it must be true"?

Feb 20, 2014 at 1:32 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

michael hart

Not only families and individuals are being harmed but industry as well.

Feb 20, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Looking at the excellent comment by irefuteitthus, I suspect I may be Force 6 stengthing Force 7...and I am a scientist too.

Feb 20, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Feb 20, 2014 at 11:04 AM | JaceF
'Let’s face it, CAGW is a religion now.'

An increasingly common observation, but not quite right. CAGW is a secular memeplex driven by exactly the same mechanisms that drive religions (along evolutionary trajectories, as studied for decades in the domain of cultural evolution). This is what causes the similarities, but there are differences too. For instance secular memeplexes cannot offer literal salvation (e.g. a place in heaven), hence foster 'salvation substitutes'. CAGW fosters at least two, one weak and one strong, see here for details.

Feb 20, 2014 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

"what we've got here is failure to communicate"

Even, if the next ice age kicked off next week, by this time next year with permanent snow in the Lake District and the Cotswolds, an ice covered river Thames - some of the adoring readership of Shame-useless would still be howling about CAGW and that it is - just a hiatus in man induced global warming.
Appositely, Adolf still believed he could win the war even with Georgy Zhukov's Red army pounding the streets into rubble near his Berlin 'residence'.

I've said this before and I'll posit it again.

Far away from earth, among the dreaming spires, all Utopian fantasies, Elysian fields and reverie academia - up at Oxford and on the campuses where those youthful febrile minds who waste their time studying PPE wander in the dream-time. These PPE-ers, do they put something in the students tea? Also, look to the spin meisters senior Deans and heads of faculties and just who is it, which warmist claque [is it all of them?] of Don's are so persuasive and so persuaded by the great myth - the supposition that man made emissions of CO2 causes runaway warming?

Not much objectivity and inculcation of independent thought is there - up at Oxford these days? Moreover, is it not a foundational breakdown of one of the corner stones of UK tertiary education and for those who deliberately con and bamboozle students with political dogmas: is that not a fundamental breach of trust?

Milne, automaton and all prep-ed up marches to the EU tune, all guns blazing and liberal bien pensant, of international Socialism doubtless a true believer and adherent of UN agenda 21. Ambitious - soon, as do they all he'll be angling for a parachute drop sinecure, a northern town which will seem to him like an alien landscape.........but to be a donkey wearing the red rosette, is only the start...

Feb 20, 2014 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Other Guardian climate articles are starting to show a sense of humour.

On Tuesday there was this, "Eventually, jellyfish might rule the world. What should the art world do about it?
If we believe that art can be a powerful force in slowing or stopping the worst of climate change, just how willing are we to use artists in this project?"

And on Monday, "Is it time to join the 'preppers'? How to survive the climate-change apocalypse"
"Could I disembowel a rabbit?" "Should I take my family (and could I eat them)?"

Feb 20, 2014 at 2:11 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Paul Matthews -
Thank you for the link to the wonderful comment by irefuteitthus. I don't have the stomach to wade through comments, but that one was well worth reading.

Feb 20, 2014 at 2:30 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Hi RadRod.....Ma'am! ;-) (Guess I need a shower now) Must have been brain-fade as I knew you were of the female tendency. Sorry.

I gave in to temptation and tried to leave a comment at CiF (to the idiot JJRichardson) but for some reason it won't let me on under my alter-ego of S**trocket as it says it's in use. Trouble is, I'm not sure I like the intrusive nature of their registration procedure and can't find a way to logon as my old id (always seems to want an email address).

Anyway, I so wanted to reply to JJRichardson about the comment he left:

"What is your point? Human emissions have increased the CO2 from 280ppm to 400ppm thus causing climate change."

The comment of a 12 year-old who seems to think that all CO2 is created by man. Duh. Then again, there's his/her comment about Mann's Hockey Stick being the truth, and anyone saying anything other is 'lying!!'

BTW...have we seen JJRichardson on here at all....the name rings a bell. Probably trolling Dellers when he was with the DT?

Feb 20, 2014 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Harry: "ma'am"? Am I? My gender is irrelevant to the discussion, and I prefer to keep it that way; so, too, is the colour of my skin or even my age, location, occupation or social status. It is amusing to see the amazing conclusions people can leap to in order to keep their personal prejudices in order.

Feb 20, 2014 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

No. No, he is not.

Feb 20, 2014 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

You mention the despicable behaviour of Greenpeace in trying to oust an honourable politician who has just undergone surgery.
Perhaps we can bombard the Charities Commission with complaints about this political action by Greenpeace (they are a charity aren't they?) But then seeing the name of a notorious quango queen holding a senior position on the commission I don't suppose anything will happen.

Feb 20, 2014 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan Wilson

As a fellow Balliol PPE graduate and contemporary of Seamus Milne's there in the late 1970s, I would just like to point out that not all of us share his views on the causes or consequences of climate change!

More significantly, one of our Economics tutors at Balliol then was the great Wilfred Beckerman, author of "In Defence of Economic Growth" (1974), a rebuttal of the Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth", "Small is Stupid: Blowing the Whistle on the Greens", "Through Green-Colored Glasses: Environmentalism Reconsidered" (both 1996) and "A Poverty of Reason: Sustainable Development and Economic Growth" (2002).

The last book is a brilliant and concise analytical demolition of many environmentalists' erroneous beliefs and policy prescriptions. It is still in print, available from Amazon, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in refining their economic arguments about resource depletion, inter-generational ethics and current climate change motivated policies.

Feb 20, 2014 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterGuy Leech


"The public mood has massively changed over the last week: people are making the connection between the floods and climate change, putting the sceptics on the back foot.

In just a few days nearly 40,000 of us have signed the petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to dump his climate change denying environment minister. Now is the chance to put climate change back at the heart of our national debate and isolate these dangerous climate sceptics. Please sign the petition now:

We’re in the middle of a crisis, which the overwhelming majority of scientists and senior politicians are convinced is linked to climate change. So why is a climate sceptic in charge of the department responsible for responding to its effects? It would be absurd if the issue was not so serious.

Cameron says he’ll do ‘whatever it takes’. That means having an environment minister that’s serious about climate change. Help us get to 50,000 - sign now:

Even Cameron himself says he suspects the floods are linked to climate change, and “money is no object” when it comes to flood defences. It’s increasingly embarrassing for him to have an environment secretary who doesn’t even believe the problem exists, and who cut funding to 1400 flood defence projects, in areas now under water.

Cameron is vulnerable right now on climate change and he knows it. The more of us who can show we’re serious about protecting our climate and stopping extreme weather, the more likely he’ll be forced to act.

Let’s pressure Cameron to get the sceptics out of government. We can reach 50,000 signatures today:

It’s high time this government got serious about climate change, its causes and its devastating effects.



Feb 20, 2014 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterFay Tuncay


I have no problem with Paterson, because the responsibility for the floods is down to poor management by Lord Smith and the Environment Agency. After all, they have the big budget to deal with storm water.

What is more of a worry is U.S soft power politics, which is becoming increasingly aggressive towards Britain. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are American trojan horse organisations following the orders from Obama's nasty regime:

"Call Out the Climate Change Deniers"

At what point do you expel these Green NGOs from the UK altogether?

Feb 20, 2014 at 9:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterFay Tuncay

I saw a great quote by Carl Sagan today:

We live in a society that exquisitely depends on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.

... including Milne it would appear.

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

John Cook is in the Conversation:

Including this:

This flies in the face of decades of peer-reviewed research. My colleagues and I have found that among climate research stating a position on the causes of global warming, more than 97% endorse the consensus that humans are responsible.

Feb 20, 2014 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud


So many things to pick!

…including before humans started altering the climate.

…it’s faulty logic to suggest that this means they’re not increasing now, or that it’s not our fault.

And that’s only the second paragraph! Humans are also the cause of “…droughts, bushfires, floods and storms…”! Is there no limit to these people’s vanity?

Having read the Brownwar e-mail, though, makes me very fearful for our future… which makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist, but, then – what better way of hiding but in plain sight, and ridiculing all those who see it.

Feb 21, 2014 at 12:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

The Guardian learned a lot from the Facists they are supposed to despise. Geobbles method was to repeat a lie long enough so a good proportion will believe.

Feb 21, 2014 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterFred Sage

As noted Milne has the reverse verbal Midas touch, we should lock him and Con Coughlin of the Telegraph in a debating chamber and feed the resulting Tsunami of bullshit into a methane digester to cure the energy shortage.

Feb 21, 2014 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Ozanne

Skeptics do not get it: The AGW believers, from relatively casual to climatocrats making millions off of 'global warming' are not amenable to facts. Skeptics need to understand that the more skeptics are proven right on things the madder and harsher the AGW community gets. The more failed weather predictions by the Met, the more AGW believers blame skeptics. The more failed predictions there are about ice, slr, temps, 'extreme' weather events, etc., the more hard core believers get. Somehow the AGW belief system has a self-regulating mechanism that removes its believer's ability to critically consider their belief, that insulates them from facts that should moderate or undermine their position in a reasonable discussion.
We miss this situation to our detriment.

Feb 21, 2014 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

I was able to count at least 7 mistakes in this extract. This is a very high hit rate for 6 lines of text. However this is not at all unusual for a typical Warmist. The lees that they are believed, the wilder the Warmist claims are becoming.

Feb 21, 2014 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered Commenternicholas tesdorf

Feb 21, 2014 at 10:20 AM | hunter

I agree that in a war of narratives it is not about 'right' or 'wrong', not about facts. In such a war, narrative success is rewarded more than verifiability (factual content), which is why the facts are overwhelmed by arbitrary message. This indeed is something that sceptics find difficult to grasp.

"Somehow the AGW belief system has a self-regulating mechanism that removes its believer's ability to critically consider their belief..." Those studying cultural evolution have been on the track of this mechanism for decades, and it's at the heart of the systems that support altruism, co-operation, the evolution of cultural entities, and ultimately civilisation itself. Precisely the same mechanism exists within religions, for instance. It appears such mechanisms are a critical benefit *overall*, which is why we're so easily swayed by dominant narratives, we evolved that way to achieve the huge benefit. BUT nature being what it is, someone's benefit is always someone else's dinner, and parasitical cultural entities can feed off the mechanism. CAGW is looking very much like one of those right now...

Don't know whether you got a chance per your comment at WUWT last November, to read deeper into this stuff, but the (I'm afraid v long) essay that explains all about the memetic perspective on CAGW, is introduced by the post here.

Feb 21, 2014 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

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