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« Is it 'cos he's a green? | Main | Read all about it »
Monday
Jul072014

Matt Ridley on the ecocorporation

Matt Ridley takes a look at the BBC's recent surrender to the greens in the Times.

The BBC’s behaviour grows ever more bizarre. Committed by charter to balanced reporting, it has now decided formally that it was wrong to allow balance in a debate between rival guesses about the future. In rebuking itself for having had the gall to interview Nigel Lawson on the Today programme about climate change earlier this year, it issued a statement containing this gem: “Lord Lawson’s views are not supported by the evidence from computer modelling and scientific research.”

The evidence from computer modelling? The phrase is an oxymoron. A model cannot, by definition, provide evidence: it can provide a prediction to test against real evidence. In the debate in question, Lord Lawson said two things: it was not possible to attribute last winter’s heavy rain to climate change with any certainty, and the global surface temperature has not warmed in the past 15 to 17 years. He was right about both, as his debate opponent, Sir Brian Hoskins, confirmed.

The GWPF has the rest.

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Reader Comments (28)

Welcome to our Orwellian world where the future is certain. The BBC is truly broken.

Jul 7, 2014 at 3:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterLiT

Computer modeling as evidence? How about modeling evidence with Photoshop? OK with BBC, apparently .. after all, it IS a computer modeling.

Jul 7, 2014 at 3:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

Yet again Matt Ridley comes up trumps.

Jul 7, 2014 at 6:44 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

What genius be this climate hoax, exposing forever the last names of faulty genetics, those who would be terribly evil, had they the chance, again.

Jul 7, 2014 at 8:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterNikFromNYC

It's time the BBC became separated from the public purse. Let us then see how it's editorial proclamations fare in the world of realistically maintaining a source of income.

Jul 7, 2014 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

The BBC Trust surely does not have the authority to order a breach of its charter? I think a letter to the secretary of State for Culture. Media and Sport is in order.

Jul 7, 2014 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

schrodinger,

The BBC can do what it pleases. It's funding, unlike commercial channels, does not rely on its accuracy or entertainment value therefore there is no pressure for the BBC to have to "perform" for its customers.

Besides, who is going to hold them accountable? Politicians? Hahahahahaha :)

Mailman

Jul 7, 2014 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Two great sentences from Ridley:

I sense that some presenters are growing irritated by their bosses’ willingness to take orders from the green movement.

That must be true but who's going to spark a real rebellion? And, mindful of the typical green agitprop:

Incidentally, I have vested interests in energy, too, but I am not asking for people who disagree with me to be silenced.

I have no such vested interests and I'm equally determined that those that disagree should have freedom to do so. Great article.

Jul 7, 2014 at 9:29 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

If Sir Brian Hoskins is an honourable man, he should have the decency to confirm that
Lord Lawson made reasonable and factual contributions to the debate.

Jul 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

@Richard Drake, I too have a vested interest in energy. I am a consumer of it. I want cheap energy.

Jul 7, 2014 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterSadButMadLad

Pesadia: +1

LiT: "Welcome to our Orwellian world where the future is certain." Indeed, Orwell also said: 'Those who control the present control the past; those who control the past control the future.' That's what BBC fulfilment is all about.

Jul 7, 2014 at 10:50 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

Congratulations to Matt Ridley for this excellent article, and in particular for giving due credit to Tony Newbery and Maurizio Morabito.
The sting in the tail is in his last paragraph:

I sense that some presenters are growing irritated by their bosses’ willingness to take orders from the green movement.
Imagine what it's like being an editor of the prestigious Today programme and being rapped over the knuckles for daring to interview an ex government minister, whose statements about "the science" were confirmed by his interlocutor! Not every journalist at the BBC is a Green activist.

Jul 7, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

pesadia:

If Sir Brian Hoskins is an honourable man, he should have the decency to confirm that Lord Lawson made reasonable and factual contributions to the debate.

geoff chambers:

Not every journalist at the BBC is a Green activist.

Anyone hearing the call of that small voice sometimes called conscience? Whatever the cost, the rewards of following it are great.

Jul 7, 2014 at 11:43 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I thought Ridley screwed up in this article. Of course a computer model can provide evidence, if it has been proved against reality over and over again. It is true that a model will never provide overwhelming evidence, no matter how successful it has been, but to declare that it cannot, by definition, provide *any* evidence is an obviously false claim, and just makes Ridley look dogmatic.

What he should have stressed was the climate models *have* been tested against reality and have consistently failed, and that is why their projections cannot be taken seriously. Making sweeping statements about all computer models just mean that he won't be taken seriously.

Jul 7, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Anon: He assumed the models are unvalidated, which they are. If that's screwing up you did worse. You assumed he looks dogmatic. Apply the same rigour to this statement as you tried to do to Ridley and let us know how you get on. Thanks.

Jul 7, 2014 at 1:50 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

What Ridley said was this: "The evidence from computer modelling? The phrase is an oxymoron. A model cannot, by definition, provide evidence".

It doesn't matter what he has assumed in such a case. What has been asserted is just plain false. There is no contradiction in the claim that a model cannot provide evidence. If you think there is a contradiction here, I would be glad to see your reasoning. (In fact, it makes no sense to claim both that it is definitional truth that a model cannot provide evidence, and also that the model has been tested against reality, and has failed).

>You assumed he looks dogmatic.

No, I explained why he looks dogmatic. He looks dogmatic because he made an assertion which most people who know some science and logic, but who aren't otherwise acquainted with the climate debate, will think is clearly false. And they would be right to do so.

If what he thinks is not that computer models cannot, by definition, provide evidence, but rather that the climate models provided by AGW zealots have been tested and shown to have failed (and also to have other failings), then he should say so. That was my point.

Jul 7, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Actually, the evidence from climate modeling does support Lawson's views, as that modeling is being falsified by the plateau in global temperatures.

Jul 7, 2014 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

The word footling comes to mind. Ridley is highly unlikely to appear dogmatic except to a climate zealot. An open-minded person might at worst be surprised by what he says, drill down and find the manifold problems with climate models that justify his words. Plus there's much more than this in the article, very much to the point. As Geoff said earlier it's excellent that credit is being given in our most famous national newspaper to Tony Newbery and Maurizio Morabito. Enough already.

Jul 7, 2014 at 4:01 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

To back Anon up, yes some output from some fully validated finite element models can produce evidence that is acceptable in court cases. Climate models are not in that category and very few people would claim they are. To back Ridley up, the phrase 'evidence from models' is an oxymoron when applied to 'climate models' which is obviously what he meant. We are all guilty of saying 'models' when we mean GCM's or 'climate models' and some folk do get a bit confused because the word model is ill-defined. If anyone though is talking about models in a discussion about climate it is almost 100% certain they are talking about climate models.

Jul 7, 2014 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

And last week Ridley was attacking the science that gave us the low fat diet. People who continue to treat consensus and authority as if they had any bearing on truth really should study the history of science a bit more closely.

Jul 7, 2014 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

>The word footling comes to mind. Ridley is highly unlikely to appear dogmatic except to a climate zealot. An open-minded person might at worst be surprised by what he says, drill down and find the manifold problems with climate models that justify his words.

This isn't footling. Skeptics have to convince the unpersuaded, not the likes of Richard Drake. The interested-but-unpersuaded will include many people who will know that this statement is wrong. Or else they'll be told by their green friends that Ridley doesn't know what he's talking about because look, he starts off his article saying something stupid, right in the second paragraph.

>As Geoff said earlier it's excellent that credit is being given in our most famous national newspaper to Tony Newbery and Maurizio Morabito."

Yes, it is excellent, but that has nothing to do with whether 'swing voters' will be persuaded. Nobody's going to say, "You know, I was on the fence about global warming, but now that I see that some guy called Maurizio Morabito has been getting some credit from Matt Ridley I've become a skeptic".

>Climate models are not in that category and very few people would claim they are. To back Ridley up, the phrase 'evidence from models' is an oxymoron when applied to 'climate models' which is obviously what he meant. We are all guilty of saying 'models' when we mean GCM's or 'climate models' and some folk do get a bit confused because the word model is ill-defined. If anyone though is talking about models in a discussion about climate it is almost 100% certain they are talking about climate models.

Still beside the point. You can say that existing climate models are garbage, and in fact provide no evidence. What you can't say is that it is contradictory (which is what Ridely was saying when he used terms such as 'oxymoron' and 'by definition') to suppose that they provide evidence.

Jul 7, 2014 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnon

I'm sure Mr Ridley means surrender to the oil industry.


Global warming. Probably the biggest financial scam in history.

http://www.scrapthetrade.com/intro

Jul 7, 2014 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Of course a computer model can provide evidence, if it has been proved against reality over and over again.
Jul 7, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnon

Please would Anon (or somebody) explain this in simple words I can understand. I assume that Ridley is talking about the sort of evidence that we get from physical measurements.

If a model is validated by comparing its output against physical measurements, is not any "evidence" that it subsequently provides simply a regurgitation of the evidence that has already been extracted from reality by the physical measurements made in validating it? I don't think it's *new* evidence that the *model* has generated.

Does this make sense?

Jul 7, 2014 at 11:38 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The only way to fix this is for parliament to do an independent study of BBC bias in environment and energy reporting. The only qualification is for members to understand the issues and controversy (science/economics), and ability to recognize activist "science" (98% claims). That would rule out all Greens, and leave people like Lawson and Ridley.

They would find obvious bias and corrruption, and could dismantle the BBC Trust and fire senior BBC management. Greens and leftists would be outraged, but the UK would set an example that other nations could apply to public broadcasters.

Jul 8, 2014 at 3:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterEric Gisin

>Please would Anon (or somebody) explain this in simple words I can understand. I assume that Ridley is talking about the sort of evidence that we get from physical measurements.

If that's what he's talking about then obviously a model does not provide evidence. But if you assume that the only evidence is physical measurements then you're just begging the question (ie. you're assuming what needs to be proved). If Ridley thinks that then he needs to argue for it, not just assume it.

>If a model is validated by comparing its output against physical measurements, is not any "evidence" that it subsequently provides simply a regurgitation of the evidence that has already been extracted from reality by the physical measurements made in validating it? I don't think it's *new* evidence that the *model* has generated.

It is new evidence, it's not just a regurgitation of old evidence, even thought the model is based on physical measurements. I don't think asking whether it's new or old evidence is really a useful way of looking at things.

Let's look at a less controversial example to make things clearer. Suppose you have developed an earthquake model of the the UK, based on painstaking measurements, incorporating the best science of the Earth's crust, and earthquakes, etc. For 20 years this model gives you pretty accurate predictions. Each prediction is tested against reality, and most are shown to be right, or close, and gradually the model gets improved over time, and the accuracy improves over this period. The model then predicts that Lincoln will be flattened by a big quake next week sometime. Is this evidence that Lincoln will be flattened next week? Yes it is.

It's not evidence in the sense of an observation. But then no prediction is ever observed before it happens. It's evidence for X in the sense that it is a reason to believe X, and a reason which has some plausibility, and it increases the probability that X will occur by a non-negligible amount.

Of course, it's a further question as to how strong this evidence is. Even in the fantasy scenario outlined above, where the model works really well, the model's prediction doesn't provide overwhelming reason to believe, because generally models are still massive over-simplifications of reality, and are full of flaws. We'd probably be on the fence about whether it's going to happen, but if I were a resident of Lincoln I'd think there was enough reason to get out of town for a while.

In the real world, models are never that good. So I wouldn't put much store in the same prediction made about Lincoln by an actual earthquake model. It does provide evidence that Lincoln will suffer a big quake, but the evidence is weak, and doesn't raise the probability much from its initial low level, so I don't think I would get out of town.

The situation with current climate models is extremely bad. Their predictions almost always turn out to be completely wrong. So their predictions provide no evidence at all regarding future climate scenarios. But this is something we have discovered by looking at the models' performance, and testing them against reality. You can't just declare from your armchair that a model cannot by definition provide evidence, because this is false -- it's possible that a climate model could provide good evidence about the future. The more important point to make is that actual climate models don't work, and that is why we should ignore them. This is a point that Ridley is otherwise good at making (but then to spoil it he also makes the irrelevant point that 'you cannot have certainty about the future', which isn't the issue).

Jul 8, 2014 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnon

So in a thousand words you've just backed up what Ridley said, models aren't evidence.

Mailman

Jul 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman
Jul 10, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Anon
You cannot provide evidence for something that has not yet happened.
You can provide a compelling argument up to and including as close to a 100% likelihood as your model is capable of.
Ask anyone who has ever devised a system for backing horses!

Jul 10, 2014 at 9:12 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

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