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Wiki wars

A correspondent writes to tell me that Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee are currently examining the conduct of people involved in the ongoing saga of edit wars over climate change articles. The allegations and counter-allegations over who did what and when can be seen here.

There has now been a draft decision issued and it looks as though, hot on the heels of losing his SysOp privileges, Dr Connolley may be up for a ban. He will be accompanied by at least one sceptic.

(As always with Wiki, please don't get involved if you are not already)


Newsnight reactions

Mixed reactions to my performance last night, and I guess from a sceptic point of view I was probably slightly off-message. A few thoughts though. Firstly my main objective last night was not to cock up. Ahead of the GWPF report that would have been a disaster. So to that extent I was successful.

In terms of the content of the Newsnight report, the whole thing was covered in what I thought was a reasonably nuanced way that was difficult to take umbrage with. In terms of getting the message over - that you can't point to the Pakistan floods and say they were caused by climate change, I think commenters here agree that everyone on Newsnight seemed to concur that you can't say this, so to that extent it went well. If the BBC and other media outlets are now going to eschew climate porn because everyone is saying it can't be attributed then that's quite an important victory. I would have liked to take a pot-shot at the "consistent with global warming" argument but they moved on so quickly I didn't get a chance.

The second question, on what to do about it was slightly odd - a bit of a no-brainer really. If you are prone to flooding, then, yes, take mitigation steps - provided they are economically sensible of course.

And finally the inevitable sceptic/denier question. I'd growled at the BBC researcher earlier in the day when he was doing the rehearsal. Then, he put the question in terms of something like "it must be hard being a denier". I think he was slightly taken aback when I (very gently) put him right on his terminology. So when it came to the question at the end, they had everything fixed and just asked whether I acknowledged that mankind was affecting the climate. This again is a pretty easy question, because of course mankind has always affected the climate. If I had my time over again, I would have made this point more clearly. I don't think you can get away from the radiative physics arguments for AGW. It seems likely to me that it has some effect, but as I tried to make clear in my 10 secs, we just don't know how big.



I've been invited to appear on Newsnight tonight to talk about the Pakistani floods and climate change. Should be interesting.


Enjoying Wiki

I'm thoroughly amused by the latest contribution to the Wiki talk page on the Hockey Stick Illusion. As previously, please don't get involved. Leave this to those who are already there. This avoids trouble with Wiki's canvassing rules.

Just get some popcorn and have a good giggle.


Helmer withdraws apology to Houghton

Roger Helmer MEP writes to the Telegraph today.

An apology withdrawn

SIR – Sir John Houghton (Letters, August 15), the former IPCC Chairman, challenges the use of the quote, widely attributed to him that: “Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen.” He insists he said (and the record confirms this) that: “If we want a good environmental policy, we’ll have to have a disaster.”

This is a distinction without a difference. Either way, he is saying that the IPCC needs disasters to convince the public of the need for climate mitigation.

As someone who used the slightly incorrect quotation (in my Bruges Group book Cool Thinking on Climate Change), I now feel vindicated, and I withdraw an apology I made to Sir John for misquoting him.

Roger Helmer MEP (Con)
Market Harborough, Leicestershire

I think there is actually room for doubt over what precisely Houghton meant in his original statement. People's opinions will depend on whether they feel he deserves the benefit of that doubt.


Josh 32


Judy C meets the SciGuy

Judith Curry is interviewed by Eric Berger, the SciGuy, covering her recent Antarctic paper and Climategate amongst other things.

Why have you been so conversant with some of the so-called skeptical sites, sites that are certainly outside mainstream climate science?

One of the other positives that I think has come out of Climategate is a realization of what other bloggers like (Steve) McIntyre (of Climate Audit) are actually up to. This isn't a Merchants of Doubt, oil-company-funded effort. It's a grassroots effort. These are people who are interested, they want to see accountability. They have a certain amount of expertise and they want to play around with climate data. There's no particularly evil motives behind all this.

We really don't understand the potential or impact the blogosphere is having. I think it's big and growing. The sites that are growing in popularity are Watts Up With That, which really have huge traffic. I think there's a real interest in the subject. I think there's a hunger for information. I think there's a huge potential here for public education. People say it's polarizing, and sure, you have Climate Progress and Climate Depot on the two extremes, but in the middle you've got all these lukewarmer blogs springing up. So I can also see a depolarizing effect. There seems to be a lot more stuff building up in the middle right now. With the IPCC, and the expectation that scientists hew to the party line, it was getting pretty evangelical. When I speak up about maybe there's more uncertainty, some people regard that as heresy. That's not a good thing for either science or policy. We've got to lose that.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.


Interacademies report coming

The Interacademies Council report into IPCC procedures will be published on 30 August.

H/T Marcel Crok.



Some changes have been made to Bob Ward's article.

More news soon, I hope.


Zorita on McShane and Wyner

Eduardo Zorita has an interesting review of McShane & Wyner's paper on the statistics of paleoclimate reconstructions. He takes them to task for not understanding the actual methods used by paleo people and in particular those used by Mann et al in the Hockey Stick papers. Although one can point to the foggy writing in MBH98 in defence of M and W, Eduardo's point that they should have worked more closely with paleo people is fair enough. That said, Eduardo does spend quite a lot of his review criticising the preamble to the paper rather than the guts of the thing.

When he does get onto the paper, he is less critical, but not convinced. He describes M&W's comparison of reconstructions based on proxies to those from various forms of noise as "interesting and probably correct" but doubts its usefulness because they have used a method that is not used by paleo people. I'm not sure about this - surely if there is a real temperature signal in the proxies, they should outperform noise regardless of the method?

There is a modicum of agreement on the last part of the paper though, with Zorita agreeing with M&W's conclusion that the uncertainties in paleo reconstructions have been underestimated. However, he says that this observation is...

...hardly revolutionary. Already the NRC assessment on millennial reconstructions and other later papers indicate that the uncertainties are much larger than those included in the hockey stick and that the underestimation of past variability is ubiquitous.

I guess the IPCC missed that memo.


Useless fact

Number of uses of the words "conspiracy", "conspirator", etc in The Hockey Stick Illusion: 2

Number of uses of the words "conspiracy", "conspirator", etc in Bob Ward's article: 3


Glaring inaccuracies and misrepresentations

...but not mine.

Firstly, one should always accentuate the positive first, so I am going to praise Bob Ward for eschewing the words "denier" and "denialist". This is a good thing and will help elevate the tone of the debate. I assume this was his idea rather than something that was forced upon him by the Guardian.

Click to read more ...


Me and Bob

Bob Ward has written an article in Comment is


Standing on the shoulders of pygmies

An extraordinary article at Nature's Great Beyond blog, reporting on a new paper by Judy Allen et al from the University of Durham.

Human hunters off the hook? Climate change caused wooly mammoths' extinction, say scientists.

Uh huh. So how do they know this?

Climate change, rather than human hunters, drove the wooly mammoth to extinction. That’s the claim from scientists who say that the hairy beasts lost their grazing grounds as forests rapidly replaced grasslands after the last ice age, roughly 20,000 years ago. The researchers used palaeoclimate and vegetation models to simulate the plant cover across the mammoths’ habitat around that time.

Yes folks, it's a modelling study. Another one. From the paper's abstract, the researchers took output from the Hadley Centre's Unified Climate Model and pumped it into another model which purports to simulate how a variety of plants react to temperature changes. So even if the vegetation model works it still relies on the Hadley Centre model being something one can rely on. Is it just me that finds this all rather unconvincing. I mean is the Hadley Centre Unified Model something you'd want to bet the house on?

Well, according to this article, the Unified Model is:

"the same model that is used to produce every weather forecast you see on British terrestrial television."

Oh dear.


The climate Cassandra

Climatologist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute is interviewed in Spiegel. The interviewer even tries a few challenging questions:

SPIEGEL: As climate adviser to the chancellor, you have a particularly high profile. Because of your frequently ominous predictions, critics have dubbed you the "Cassandra of Potsdam," after the figure in Greek mythology whose predictions always went unheard. Why do you always have to scare people?

Schellnhuber: Let me answer your provocative question in an objective way. As an expert, it's possible that I tend to point to dangers and risks more than to opportunities and possibilities -- similarly to an engineer who builds a bridge and has to make people aware of everything that could cause it to collapse. Warning against a possible accident is in fact intended to reduce the likelihood of an accident. And a sudden shift in the climate could have truly catastrophic consequences. Besides, in Greek mythology Cassandra was always right -- unfortunately.

SPIEGEL: Does that justify constantly predicting the end of the world?

Schellnhuber: Naturally, we have to be careful not to dramatize things. After all, scientific credibility is our unique selling point. But I do confess that when you have the feeling that people just aren't listening, it becomes very tempting to turn up the volume. Naturally, we have to resist this temptation.