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The climate mob targets Tol

David Rose has another stunning piece in the Mail on Sunday, this time describing the smear campaign against Richard Tol, whose temerity in trying to distance himself from the sexing up of the WGII Summary for Policymakers has incurred the wrath of the climate mob.

The spread also features a useful analysis of the changes wrought by the political intervention into the SPM drafting process and documents some cynical and entirely predictable dishonesty from Bob Ward.

Read it here.

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Reader Comments (55)

Bob Ward is beyond belief! His attempts to denigrate Prof Tol are disgraceful.

Apr 6, 2014 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

"more than twice as hot their annual average temperature as the worst case of the IPCC predictions for the future climate world."

"Twice as hot is not that bad. perhaps we've been worrying too much about the world heating up".

Apr 6, 2014 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

The irony is that Bob Ward is a paid to spin his very job is to 'market ' a political stance , while the Grantham Research Institute does no actual education nor its own 'research' its set up to promote Grantham's personal goals , which are largely based on making a rich person richer still .
It hides under the LSE banner, while the institute itself not for the first time takes the money and ask no questions.

So the idea that Bob is either impartial nor brings any scientific value to the table is hilarious.

Apr 6, 2014 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

The highly paid spin doctor who smears all who oppose CAGW.

Given a previous email interaction with Phil Jones, one wonders how Bob Ward could find any mistake.

He starts by asking Phil Jones for December 2007 - "It would be great if somebody could respond to the article. I would be happy to do so if somebody can supply me with the ammunition. Any thoughts?"

Unfortunately he finds that Phil Jones can't even use Excel to work out a linear trend???? - "I'm not adept enough (totally inept) with excel to do this now as no-one who knows how to is here."

What then does Bob Ward realise in 2007 - "I'm not sure how to argue against this point - it appears to imply that there is no statistically significant trend in the global temperature record over the past few years."

So 6/7 years ago Bob Ward could see not temperature rise - strange how he crows the CAGW meme! Why should anyone believe him anyway.

Apr 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

When we need Richard Betts to explain his work, we get Bob Ward the paid mouthpiece.

Apr 6, 2014 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Rose also has The real cost of Climate McCarthyism, apart from big bills, is to free speech today. Just from the headline I think I'm going to like that one.

Apr 6, 2014 at 10:22 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

IPCC couldn't even run a railway, Oh I forgot their chairman is a railway engineer. He is not a scientist in any way.

Apr 6, 2014 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

This story is all over the BBC. No isn't. However, the BBC does have an article about John Kerry's view that inaction on climate change will be catastrophic.

The SPM's direct contradiction of the content of the actual technical reports makes the whole thing a farce. Those spouting the SPM as gospel should not be regarded as rational people.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

For 40 years I have been working on and off on cost benefit studies (CBA), for the UK government and then for projects financed by the UN and multinational development banks.

My interest in CBA for climate studies began with the Stern Review. I have found several CBA studies of climate online and but only one (for Quebec) appeared to me to follow the CBA convention of including both costs and benefits -- not merely the costs. The Quebec study showed a net benefit for global warming as might expected.

Recently, Lord Stern commented that Dr Tol is an outlier among economists because Dr Tol does not agree with the consensus.

Well that does not surprise me a all. The only economist I know who consistently argues for doing climate CBA in the conventional way is Richard Tol.

I mean by that, Dr. Tol may be the only climate economist who is not faking the cost-benefit analysis by leaving out the benefits of CO2 fertilization, leaf stomata effect on conservation of water, and the warming itself, which reduces the risk of early and late frosts.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterFred Colbourne

Richard Toll what Dr David Kelly all over again.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

We've been here before with Wegman. Scour the target's work. Find, inevitably, a minor error or some other insignificant defect. Fill the blogosphere and compliant media with hyperbolic criticism, then subsequently use this "content" to discredit anything the target ever says.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with auditing for errors. But the bias speaks for itself. Egregious errors by the Team, which fundamentally affect their conclusions - e.g. Mann's 2008 upside-down stick, or Steig's statistically fabricated Antarctic warmth - get the three wise monkeys treatment. Wahl & Ammann could even invent their own self-serving statistic and associated arbitrary "significance" level without comment. Tiny, inconsequential slips in an off-message paper, however, are to be exploited mercilessly.

The insincerity stinks. At least I got to practise my snorts on reading Bob's claim that he is "merely fulfilling his role as an IPCC reviewer". Unless Richard neutralises this cynical smear campaign, anytime in future his work gets cited in a debate, some activist somewhere will pop up and claim his work had errors so he can be disregarded. Richard needs to fight this, and I am glad to see he is doing so.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterigsy

i cannot help but think "dishonesty" is a very strong word.


Apr 6, 2014 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterper

Martyn @ 1004

Given that Singapore's annual average temperature is around 30C, twice as hot would be well outside my comfort zone.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:39 AM | Registered Commenterdavidchappell

i cannot help but think "dishonesty" is a very strong word.


Not anywhere strong enough, Criminal Behavour is probably closer to the truth, certainly deformation of character.
But that is the "official position" so that makes it alright.
The fact that Governments base political decisions on the obviously dishonest IPCC Summary is Immoral and Criminal and if you don't think the IPCC Summary is dishonest try reading the Mail article to see for yourself.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

No need to exaggerate.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

The Daily Mail has it right. I have only read a couple of chapters of WG2 AR5. Apart from the terrible prose, my primary takeaway is that we do not have the data to make anything like definitive statements as to the consequences of any likely climate change in the next 50 or 100 years. Therefore, any definitive pronouncements in the SPM are clearly more a reflection of the ideological stance of the authors of the SPM and not the findings of the report.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Fred Colbourne: Thank you for explaining so clearly how Richard Tol is indeed an outlier, the industry standard being cost-benefit analysis without the benefit. Thank God for the outlier, standing for untold millions whose lives already have been, and increasingly will be, impoverished and brought to the edge of extinction by a complete lack of care about the other side of the equation: the cost of 'mitigation'. (Deceitfully named and, from biofuel subsidies onwards, speedily and greedily implemented. But no need for the beautifully attired Bob Ward to mention that. Nudge nudge, wink wink, oink, oink.)

Apr 6, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake


The catastrophiles have an answer for your points about uncertainty. More uncertainty means higher risk of catastrophe as this uncertainty is asymmetrically distributed with a bias to the higher end of the range for ECS. The fact that the GCMs consistently and comprehensively overestimate average global temperature compared to reality is neither here nor there.

For a peek into the madness of warmist probability theory, check out the guardian monster article:

Apr 6, 2014 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterOnion

The B in CBA is silent like the W in @ret_ward

Apr 6, 2014 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeadless Chicken

As KnR points out, slagging off sceptics is effectively in Ward's job description.

If you think Sir Paul Nurse and the RS is getting it bad (from elements of the government) for not 'communicating' climate science well enough for the money received, then just imagine what it must be like for poor Bob Ward. When Jeremy Grantham phones after looking at the sliding carbon-credits market, his heart must be in his mouth.

Apr 6, 2014 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart


"Given that Singapore's annual average temperature is around 30C, twice as hot would be well outside my comfort zone"

Twice as hot as 30C would be outside of my comfort zone too but Singapore at 30C is wonderful or UK at 30C in the future would be blissful.

Apr 6, 2014 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

The central section of the Mail article;

How IPPC report was ramped up to predict wars, extreme weather and famine... while its authors slept on the job

is authored by Ben Pile.

Apr 6, 2014 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

BBD and theresphysics join the chorus in the latter's blog. The template, as igsy points out, has a colourful name.

Apr 6, 2014 at 2:18 PM | Registered Commentershub

With Bob Ward, and others, there is no moral problem with attacking Richard Tol. For them, catastrophic climate change is a fundamental truth. The task of climate science is to reveal that truth to the world. If anybody's work casts doubt on the fundamental truth, then it is in error. Anybody who doubts the fundamental truth is in denial, often from impure motives.

Apr 6, 2014 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

Over exaggeration in the Climate Change Debate really?

Richard Toll what Dr David Kelly all over again.Perhaps not.Maybe the IPCC report the Iraq WMD Dodgy Dossier of Climate Change.

So Richard pardon the pun you bailed out the IPCC jumped of the Bandwagon before it crashes thought it might take the heat off instead it just put more heat on.Sorry Richard you,re a political football now for both sides.

Couple of years ago i met David Arronovitch at Battle of Ideas.He autographed a couple of Voodoo Histories for me.
Theres a chapter in there about Dr Kelly.Basically typical Conspiracy theory stuff create a good story to back up what ever politics.
Norman Baker MP couldn't get into the Shadow Cabinet so he makes a nuisance of himself on the back benches asking hundred of questions about every half baked conspiracy theory going.With Dr Kelly all this stuff about Mossad the CIA ,Alqida or MI6 they all bumped him off somehow.Turns out he had history of depression and possibly a genetic link because his Mother had also Committed suicide previously.

Dr Kelly was the foremost expert on Mustard Gas.Both my Grand Fathers fought in WW1 and my dads dad had been injured in a German gas Attack in the Somme 1916 and he lost half his lung and left him with severe breathing difficulties.So Ive always had an affinity for the tragic Dr Kelly .Grilled by the Parliamentary Committee mumbling away ,pooor guy never stood a chance.

Apr 6, 2014 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Sounds a bit like the breathlessness a certain Prof Jones found himself with after his grilling?


Apr 6, 2014 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Hi rhoda

What did you want to know about my work?

Incidentally, I do find this whole Ward vs Tol episode rather bizarre. Chris Field wasn't particularly bothered about Richard T's views - he correctly pointed out that the SPM doesn't represent the views of any one individual scientist, and there's a range of views, and everyone would like to see more of their own views represented. His words were something like "Richard is on the fringe, but there's also others who are on the opposite fringe". As far as I'm concerned, it's good to have this mix of views within the IPCC author team - certainly keeps it interesting (it would be very boring if all we did was sit around and agree with each other!)

As far as I'm aware, Bob's decided to fan the flames on his own initiative, with no encouragement from IPCC (with which he has no connection).

A conspiracy theorist (!) might wonder whether Ward and Tol are deliberately conspiring together to elevate a trivial issue into mainstream news, in order to raise each other's profiles ;-) Well maybe that's not the intention, but it certainly seems to be having that effect. I'm reminded of the classic scene from HitchHiker, when Deep Thought gives this advice to the philosophers who are objecting to him:

So long as you can keep disagreeing with each other violently enough and slagging each other off in the popular press, and as long as you have clever agents, you can keep yourselves on the gravy train for life

Of course I'm sure it not really like this - the more simple explanation is that Bob and Richard just both like an argument…. ;-)

BTW I was interviewed by Paul Hudson this week, for his BBC Weather Show. He asked me about Richard T, amongst other things. I think it will be on iPlayer soon, and Paul said he'd send the link when it's up - I'll try to remember to post it on Unthreaded, or at least tweet it.

Apr 6, 2014 at 4:12 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Hi Richard, what I'd like to know is whether you think the SPM truly reflects the body of the work. Clearly you might have as much difficulty with last week's headlines as you previously did with the Indy leak story. Surely the dichotomy between what is in the report and what some people are making out of it is not desirable. Surely the false level of certainty is unhelpful. And the subsequent alarm, of course.

Apr 6, 2014 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

"the SPM doesn't represent the views of any one individual scientist"

Oh yes it does; It represents Chris Fields fanaticism. But the real question is does it represent the main report and the answer is apparently not (as Rose illustrates). Trying to project Tol as the outlier is an underhand tactic that relies on the certain knowledge that policymakers and most journalists never bother reading the main, less-alarming text,

Apr 6, 2014 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Andrew miller MP, chair of the science and technology committee. Qualifications: Diploma in Industrial Relations LSE, and he worked for a time as a technician in a geology lab. Frankly, his comments were a disgrace. As to Bob Ward: he could not hold a candle to Richard Tol.

But it is becoming clear that they are beginning to get rattled.

Apr 6, 2014 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

and as long as you have clever agents, you can keep yourselves on the gravy train for life
Richard Tol clearly distanced himself from the catastrophistas which could put him in harms way for future grants and/or scientific business. Therefore I think your presumption is way off. Richard Tol, being Dutch, is calling a spade a spade, that's his style. Not the Anglo-Saxon way of beating a round the bush. Many people are offended by that, but at least you know what you're up to without being woken up with a knife in your back.

Apr 6, 2014 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoi Polloi

Richard Betts:- A conspiracy theorist (!) might wonder whether Ward and Tol are deliberately conspiring to get her to elevate a trivial issue into mainstream news, in order to raise each other's profiles

It does seem odd, during the week in which there has been so much hand-wringing about letting sceptics debate with climate scientists on the BBC, that Bryony Worthington should argue with *PROFESSOR* Bjorn Lomborg on Ch4 News, and then demand on Twitter that Ch4 then put Ward up against *PROFESSOR* Richard Tol the next day -- which they dutifully did.

The angry alarmists seem to simultaneously want to deny 'deniers' publicity whilst demanding that they be summoned to appear on TV.

Apr 6, 2014 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Apr 6, 2014 at 2:55 PM | jamspid

The point is not whether you or anyone else see any comparison. it's whether you think this argument is helping - not least to convince any uncommitted reader who finds themselves here..

Apr 6, 2014 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Bob Ward is a paid spin doctor - and an obnoxious individual with no moral compass what so ever.

He - like many who sacrifice their scientific and moral principles - does what he does because he believes.

Truly a McCarthy-ite

"the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism." - McCarthyism

Apr 6, 2014 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

Strange that when Bob Ward appears on that tv he is never introduced as a paid advocate for the Green industry.

Shub followed your link - interesting to note that if Watergate happened now it would be known as Watergategate

Apr 6, 2014 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeadless Chicken

60C is definitely not "twice as hot as 30C." If you converted the temperatures to some other scale, e.g. Fahrenheit, that would become obvious. To work out what twice as hot as any given temperature would be you, have to convert those temperatures into degrees Kelvin so you start at absolute zero.

Twice as hot as 30C would be over 600K and you don't need to be a paid-up Warmist to realise that that amount of warming really would be catastrophic!

Apr 6, 2014 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Richard Betts. You say

A conspiracy theorist (!) might wonder whether Ward and Tol are deliberately conspiring together to elevate a trivial issue into mainstream news, in order to raise each other's profiles

Conspiracy theorists often ignore the obvious. The Daily Mail says of Richard Tol
In his view, the summary focused on ‘scare stories’ and suggestions the world faced ‘the four horsemen of the apocalypse’.
He said he did not want his name associated with it because he felt ‘uncomfortable’ with the way the summary exaggerated the economic impact of global warming.

At the same place Ben Pile details instances where, he claims, the UNIPCC "‘sexed up’ some of the key findings". These were in the areas of climate refugees, violent conflicts, crop yields and extreme weather.
Richard Betts, in your opinion, as a leading expert on climate impacts, are Ben Pile's claims true? If they are, would you not agree that the UNIPCC could be viewed as misinforming governments to garner support for costly policies that are inappropriate? Further, the attempts by Bob Ward to discredit Richard Tol can be construed as an attempt to block the exposure of a UN Organisation misleading it's clients?

Apr 6, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin Marshall

A very select list it is, castigated and vilified by the IPCC and their jackbooted groupies, Professor Tol can now join an exalted company in the form of perhaps the most learned and one surely who could lay claim to the title of 'climate scientist' - one Professor Richard Lindzen.

We few, we cadre of realists - we salute your steadfast and very right minded stance, Professor Richard Tol.

To the jackbooted thugs of climate alarmism, to the IPCC and the inner claque: we say Foxtrot Oscar.

Apr 7, 2014 at 12:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The WSJ has an article today on the WG2 report, with some bizarre, far-left quotes.
Second Climate Thoughts

Apr 7, 2014 at 2:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

@Richard Tol

Please correct me if I'm mistaken, but my recollection is that while you did participate in the proceedings, your decision to remove your name from the list of SPM "Drafting Authors" - was taken some time before this "transparent" behind closed doors WGII line-by-line "approval" process session began on Mar. 24.

Furthermore, perhaps I missed it in both David Rose's and Ben Pile's respective excellent articles, but for the record I believe it should be noted that this particular Retwardian™ smear campaign on the part of Rat Snake Bob had become evident as early as March 4 (if not sooner).

Needless to say such campaigning is not new behaviour on Ward's part. In fact, some might conclude that it's become rather a longstanding, nasty (and even predictable) habit of his. For example, in 2010, Ward pulled a similar smearing hatchet job on Australia's Bob Carter.

Ward may well have honed his "skills" while on the payroll of the Royal Society, as this 2006 article (and Open Letter) from Patrick Moore's Greenspirit archives clearly illustrates:

Greenpeace co-founder asks UK’s Royal Society to stop playing political blame game on global warming
In a letter dated September 4 and published this week in a London newspaper, the Royal Society’s Bob Ward accused ExxonMobil of misleading the public by daring to question the link between human activity and increases in global temperatures.

Dr. Moore responded today in an open letter sent to the Royal Society: “Certainly the Royal Society would agree there is no scientific proof of causation between the human-induced increase in atmospheric CO2 and the recent global warming trend, a trend that has been evident for about 500 years, long before the human-induced increase in CO2 was evident.

“While I may agree with certain statements made by the IPCC, surely you and the Royal Society would respect my right to disagree with other statements or at least to call them into question.”

Sometimes Ward's fast-fingers and imagination do succeed in making an utter fool of him, as they did when our host launched Hiding the Decline in November 2012. Without even reading the book, Ward took to the twitterverse to very wrongly and ignorantly declare that it was a "conspiracy yarn ... featuring a fictional character called Bob Ward".

More recently, as I had observed almost a month ago, Ward and his over-active imagination were in overdrive during the course of his litany of imagined “wrongs” on the part of Donna Laframboise, Richard Lindzen and Nic Lewis, when they testified before the U.K. House of Commons’ Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change.

So, knowing this history, YMMV, but I can't help wondering if Richard Betts would have donned his quasi-diversionary humour hat - as he did above - when postulating that this was a mere "trivial dispute" or alternatively that "the more simple explanation is that Bob and Richard just both like an argument" - if it was his name and his work that Ward was smearing.

Or would Betts simply have sat down and had a coffee with Ward in order to "clear the air", as he did at some point after Lewandowsky had pegged him as "espousing conspiracy theory" (or whatever the wording was in Lewandowsky's abominable and unpublishable Fury schema)?

I found it most unoriginal, to say the least, that Betts should have opted to echo (and rely upon) Chris Field's attempt to diminish the significance of Tol's objections to the alarmism in the SPM (while angelically smiling and euphorically waxing the IPCC party line about how wonderful and "scientific" their products are). I also very much doubt that either Field or Pachauri (who subsequently echoed Field's diversionary hand-waving and well-waxed word-salad during the March 31 Press Conference [in response to German freelancer, Martin Fritz's question at approx. 0:58:02]) succeeded in adding any clarity to the matter by using "SPM" and "report" almost interchangeably. But I digress ...

To the best of my knowledge, Tol's objections and withdrawal of his name were specifically in regard to the SPM, and did not pertain to the "underlying report". Consequently, I find it somewhat "bizarre", that Betts should now be claiming (as he did above) that:

[Field's] words were something like "Richard is on the fringe, but there's also others who are on the opposite fringe"

To my ear, this sounds far more Retwardian, Pachaurian, Goldbergian - or even Jarraudian - than Fieldian. And, having listened to Field's actual response to Fritz's question, I found no evidence that he had made such an insulting claim. Had Field made such a claim, then one could only conclude that he was unforgivably guilty of talking out of both sides of his mouth.

But speaking of Fieldian and Jarraudian ... it is worth noting that during this same Press Conference, when asked about "the pause", both Field and Jarraud seem to have picked up the ball that WGI Co-Chair, Thomas Stocker had fumbled with a mumble to the effect that WGI did not have enough evidence to assess either the pause or its cause, during his star performance on the release of WGI in September, before resuming his "must act now" talking points.

Thanks to Alex Cull's transcript, here's Field's pick-up trick, in response to John Parker's "I just wondered how you dealt with the issue of the pause, the so-called temperature pause. [...]":

Well, I think that the first thing that's important to recognise is that, from the earth system perspective, we haven't seen anything like a pause. What we've seen is that the earth has continued to warm at a rapid rate, that over the last few years - for reasons that are only partially understood - more of that warming has been showing up in the ocean and less - a lower fraction - has been showing up in the atmosphere. And even though the atmosphere has continued to warm, we've had more of the global warming showing up in the ocean. So the idea of a pause is not - it's just not correct, it's not - it's not what we're seeing in the data. What we're seeing in the data is continued rapid warming. [emphasis added -hro]

Field didn't seem too keen to specify which "data" he might have been talking about - or where this "data" might be found. Rather, he went back to singing another chorus from his risky business song; after which WMO head honcho, Michel Jarraud picked up the pause-ball from Field and (as he'd previously been rehearsing) most emphatically and authoritatively tossed it into the dustbin:

Yeah, I would like to come back to this "pause", because I think it's very misleading. There is. No. Pause. Thirteen out of the fourteen warmest years ever recorded occurred since the beginning of this century. What we call now a cold year - the coldest year since year 2001, which is actually 2011 - the coldest year in this period is actually warmer than any year before 1998. So I have real difficulties to accept that we can talk about a pause.

[A jumble of Jarraudian jargon, which he concluded with:]

So you have to look at the trend and the variability. And, of course, if you look at short periods, you can end up by drawing the wrong conclusions. So no, there is no pause, and the global earth system - including the atmosphere, the ocean and the land surface - continues to warm [emphasis added -hro]

Ergo, IPCC situation normal - SPM all alarmed up!

Amazing, eh?!

Apr 7, 2014 at 6:51 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

I did take my name off the SPM in Oct 2013, I was in Yokohama at the plenary, and I did not take my name of Chapter 10.

Nothing new on Ward, but a newspaper has to present things as news even if they aren't.

Apr 7, 2014 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Thanks for pointing out the hypocrisy of Richard Betts.
Maybe he would also like to comment on this;
and sit down for a nice cup of coffeewith his mate Bob (Ward)

Apr 7, 2014 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

"...Ward and Tol are deliberately conspiring together to elevate a trivial issue into mainstream news."

You'd have to define trivial for me Richard. Richard Tol wanted his name pulled because the SPM hyped disaster and hence mitigation rather than the adaptation Richard Tol says was in the body of the report. If Tol is telling the truth, and having read Chris Field's outpourings I suspect he is, then a grave disservice is being done to the people who'll be affected by what the politicians take from this SPM. So it definitely isn't trivial outside of academia.

I thought I'd tell you that because all too often I read your colleagues in the climate science community and they do come over as regarding all this as a bit of a game, with goodies and baddies, when their outpourings will adversely affect real people alive today in the western industrialised nations in the futile hope of saving as yet unborn people from imaginary climatic horrors.

It's not a game, and it's not trivial, in my view at least.

Apr 7, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Can someone tell me how many people wrote the SPM, as opposed to the total number of contributors to the larger report?

Apr 7, 2014 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Howerton

Richard Betts appears to have turned up, posted once in a flippant manner, avoided the question and then disappeared. Not unusual. But in this case of Bob Ward's shameful behaviour towards Richard Tol, rather surprising and very disappointing.

Apr 7, 2014 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Richard Tol:

Nothing new on Ward, but a newspaper has to present things as news even if they aren't.

That is right but I'd also like to defend the Mail on Sunday, while adding to the general verdict of "unconvinced" to the Richard Betts of this page. Pity to my mind Richard didn't stick with his earlier:

I thought the media coverage was variable. Some (like the Independent last week) focussed on the most dramatic-sounding (but often also least certain) aspects of the report, and also ignoring all the extensive discussion on the potential for some degree of adaptation. Others were more careful to reflect these points. If they acknowledged the potential for reducing climate-related risks through adaptation (which the WG2 SPM is very clear about) then I'm more comfortable with them.

When was the last time that Bob Ward emphasized the potential for adaptation, in WG2 or anywhere else? Wouldn't that have made his narrative that we are the deniers (including Richard Tol, ridiculously, in this case) far less powerful and indeed quickly led to areas of practical agreement?

I thought David Rose and Ben Pile did a great job bringing the key issues in front of the non-specialist reader in a way they would grasp. That did involve the promotion of rather old events, as Hilary points out, to 'news' - but from where I sit that is fine if it is indeed new information to most of the readers. So I don't find the presentation bizarre, as Betts does, and I see no need to blame Rose or Tol. Even Ward could redeem himself by focusing on the possibilities for adaptation for the next, say, hundred articles and media appearances. I'm sure Mr Bentham wouldn't mind. They only have the good of the planet in mind, after all.

Apr 7, 2014 at 6:16 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Hi rhoda

Sorry about the long delay in replying.

Do I think the SPM reflects the body of the report? I can obviously answer that best for my own chapter ('Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems') as I know the content of that in most detail, and for that chapter, yes, it is represented correctly. If anything the SPM is slightly more cautious than the chapter itself - an attribution statement about a particular species extinction was removed (fair enough - it's an isolated example and not representative of the big picture) and also one of our figures (showing locations where drought or heat-induced tree mortality had been observed)was dropped.

For other chapters, my level of knowledge of the detailed content varies considerably between chapters, but as far as I've seen, the statements in each chapter's Executive Summary seem to be reflected appropriately in the SPM. The chapter ES statements are themselves based on the body of each chapter - I've not checked through each chapter in fine detail but so far I've not come across any glaring inconsistencies. The chapter ES's went through 2 rounds of expert review. For chapters on which I acted as a reviewer, I checked the ES to see whether it represented the body of the chapter, but I didn't review all chapters.

There was lots of discussion of adaptation in the SPM, and hardly any of mitigation (except to note that it's WG3's area).

Of course, different areas of the media cherry-picked the SPM in different ways. Many newspapers (eg. Independent, Guardian) continued to focus on long-term impacts / risks, often giving less prominence to adaptation, while others (eg. Spectator) did the opposite and focussed on adaptation in a somewhat celebratory fashion whilst criticising the impacts / risks.

It's important to remember that this is a report which is responding to questions being asked by governments - they ask for information on certain specific topics (say, for example, the potential influence of climate change on human security), and this information is provided to the best of the authors' abilities and with appropriate levels of confidence attached. In cases where climate change influences are not the dominant driver, or are only seen with low confidence, then if the report was entirely bottom-up then these things may not receive prominence in the report. Many governments do want to know about some of the more controversial issues such as security, so these issues do get discussed. Sometimes it's hard to say anything concrete, and the wording can get convoluted when governments ask for specific information and scientists want to include important caveats, but the mere mention of some issues is enough to get them covered in the media. The only way to avoid this would be to not mention them at all - but then they wouldn't be addressing the questions that have been posed.

Apr 10, 2014 at 12:26 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Kevin Marshall

I don't support attacks on the reputations of IPCC authors, or indeed scientists in general. I think Bob Ward has his own personal motivations - he and Richard have very famously not got on for some years, and my interpretation is that this arises from Richard's high-profile criticisms of the Stern review.

Apr 10, 2014 at 12:30 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Geronimo, Hilary,

The 'trivial issue' I am talking about is the alleged errors in Richard Tol's economic assessments. As far as I can see, addressing these would have no real bearing on the overall conclusions of the WG2 report and therefore is a total red herring.

It seems to me that Bob was using this to try to undermine Richard's credibility because of Richard's stance on the SPM. This is what I mean by elevation of a trivial issue. The months-old news of Richard's withdrawal from the SPM was turned into a story by the BBC, and Bob hit back by finding a way of criticising Richard that would itself find traction with the media in a way that a mere disagreement over wording of the report would not.

I mentioned Chris Field's response because the contrast between this and Bob Ward's shows that Bob is not acting on behalf of the IPCC. This was from the UK press conference, not the German one which you (Hilary) seem to have heard.

I definitely do not regard the undermining of a scientist's reputation as trivial, especially one who I work with.

BTW my interview with Paul Hudson (including a question about Richard Tol) is here - starts at 30:05.

Apr 10, 2014 at 12:50 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

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