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Global warming, my foot

Lookin' out my back door



Revkin responds

Andy Revkin has responded to the charge that the New York Times is operating a double standard, publishing the Wikileaks documents to fanfares, while refusing to do the same when the Climategate emails appeared.

His response is by way of an update to a post he made a few days after Climategate.

I'll note two things about my coverage of the unauthorized distribution of the climate files:

First, while I initially did not publish the contents of the climate files and e-mails (at the request of Times lawyers, considering the uncertain provenance and authenticity of the materials at the time), I did (from the start) provide links to the caches of material set up elsewhere on the Web.

Secon, in the rush on the day the files were distributed across the Web, I called them "private" when, in fact, I should have said their senders had presumed they were private. As I've said off and on since then, given that much of the research discussed in the exchanges was done using taxpayers' money, any expectation of privacy wasn't justified.]

It's interesting to go back to the original posting, where Revkin calls the Climategate emails at various times "purloined", "acquired illegally" and "hacked", so I find the protestations of innocence revolving around the word "private" somewhat unconvincing.

I'm not sure about claims of concerns over the authenticity of the emails are valid either, given that the University of East Anglia had confirmed that their systems had been compromised on 20th November 2009. It seems to me that the Wikileaks and Climategate scenarios are identical in terms of the evidence of authenticity of the leaked material.


Climate cuttings 42

As I noted last week, the BBC is doing a highbrow radio series on climate through history. It looks as though they are on a full-scale climate season (...again...) with the World Service doing what looks like a rather thinly disguised propaganda piece called "The Climate Connection 2010".

The Climate Connection explores a key question in the story of action on climate change: what's stopping us?

Australia's Jennifer Marohasy has a paper out looking at issues around Freedom of Information and environmental data, majoring on Doug Keenan's experiences with Queens University Belfast. QUB don't look to have come out of it too well.

Mike Hulme has a guest post at Klimazwiebel, calling on politicians to adopt the new "reality-based" language that Hulme himself has taken to using.

Lord Rees celebrated the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society, by sounding off on climate change:

The concentration of carbon dioxide is rising inexorably...the science is firming up and that tells us that there is a risk of serious climate change in the next 50 years.

He clearly hasn't got the message about talking about uncertainties. Oh yes, and he wants more money. (This was Lord Rees' last action as President of the Royal Society. He steps down today. I wonder how history will look on him?).


Phil Trans A gives up on science

Just in time for Cancun, the Royal Society's premier journal for the physical sciences, Phil Trans A, decides to devote an entire issue to environmentalism. What a remarkable coincidence on the timing!

"Four degrees and beyond: the potential for a global temperature increase of four degrees and its implications" is the not-very-sober title for the journal's outpourings, the first product of its new editor, Prof Dave Garner.

I wonder if any of the articles will look at how warming of four degrees per century compares to actual temperature rises since theb turn of the millennium?

Still, the good news is that Prof Garner has opened his door to reader feedback:

I wish to continue to develop a community of readers and authors who interact constructively. Therefore, I invite suggestions for ways in which we can enhance the scientific quality and value of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.

Erm, how about not acting like the house magazine of the Green Party?


CACC notices bishop

This is a guest post by Barry Woods.

Since the beginning of November the Campaign Against Climate Change has redirected their Skeptic Alerts email campaign towards the  Bishop Hill blog. I imagine this may be why Bishop Hill has had rather more 'warmist' guests than usual.

Up until the 7th November 2010, James Delingpole and Christopher Booker at the Telegraph received over 80% of these alerts between them from the Campaign Against Climate Change. However, since then (in less than 3 weeks) fifty-five Bishop Hill articles have been subject to skeptic alerts, compared to Delingpole's 10, and Booker's 5.   Whatever can have happened at the beginning of November to divert their attention to Bishop Hill?

The CACC have not yet made a place for Andrew Montford in their Sceptics Hall of Shame (which includes, Lord Lawson, Booker, Delingple, Plimer, Senator Inholfe, Monckton and Lomborg), I would like to suggest to Andrew that he sends a nice autographed photograph of himself to the CACC, lest they find an unflattering photo first.


The poisonous influence of GuardianEco

Interesting fact 1: when Bob Ward wrote his hit piece about me at the Guardian, the libellous bits - saying that I had a "history of making misleading statements" or whatever it was - were not written by Ward but were added by James Randerson, the editor at GuardianEco.

Interesting fact 2: when the Guardian wrote up the press conference for the GWPF report, the bit at the top saying the report would be "rejected for its hypocrisy" were not written by the author, Fred Pearce, but were added by the GuardianEco editors.

Interesting fact 3: on Friday, I linked to Andrew Holding's thoughtful piece in the Guardian on sceptics. Several people, including Judith Curry, noted that the title didn't seem to have the same considered tone as the rest of the article. In the title bar, it reads "Opening up climate science can cut off the denialists" (Denialists appears as sceptics in the article title". The standfirst reads "Equipping the public with the tools and knowledge to understand complex issues like global warming can help them avoid the rhetorical tricks of climate 'skeptics'".

So I emailed Andrew Holding and asked whether these were his work, and of course he said "no". The original title was "The importance of minority viewpoints".

What a poisonous publication the Guardian is.


Hypocrite, moi?

Much amusement is being had over the New York Times' enthusiastic reaction to the latest Wikileaks revelations noting the sharp contrast to their refusal to publish the Climategate emails because they were "acquired illegally". As the PowerLine blog puts it,

Without belaboring the point, let us note simply that the two statements are logically irreconcilable. Perhaps something other than principle and logic were at work then, or are at work now.

To his credit, Andy Revkin has tweeted the Power Line critique, but regrettably offers no explanation for the inconsistency.


Harrabin: Climategate inquiries "inadequate"

Speaking at the Environment Agency's annual conference, RH had this to say 

[Then there were] the shenanigans around Climategate, into which I have looked very closely, and I can find no smoking gun, but the investigations into Climategate have really been rather inadequate, I think, from the point of view of the public’s expectations of what they would produce, and there has been a loss of public confidence in climate science...

Video here. Money quote from 3:45.


Media links

A few media bits for you:

Roger Harrabin was on the radio today, looking at what happened at Copenhagen. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet.

Every day next week, Professor David Livingstone of Queen's University Belfast presents programme called "The Empire of Climate". The BBC blurb is as follows:

Eminent geographer Professor David Livingstone wants us to see that climate is more than just the weather outside our window - it's an empire that has shaped our lives throughout history.

In the Western world, we live very cushioned lives, so that climate rarely impacts on us in a disastrous fashion. When it does - like the floods that hit parts of the UK in 2007 - we're left shocked and surprised by the ferocity of what climate can do. David explores the way human beings are shaped by weather patterns; "climate has always been a moral issue - not just a description of the weather" he says.

We are used to talking about climate change - or how WE influence the climate. In today's programme David takes us back to a time in history when people were used to thinking about climate in terms of how it influenced us.

Prof Livingstone's own webpage describes it as "a social history of environmental determinism from Herodotus to Global Warming", which is probably not quite as sexy as the BBC's take on it.  (By the way, does Global Warming now need Capital Letters? It makes it look like something out of Winnie the Pooh).

Hold on...


The Economist on the Climategate anniversary

Slightly late out of the blocks, The Economist takes a look at Climategate, namechecking yours truly in the process.

I'm not sure quite what to make of the article, which doesn't seem to take much of a position. The thrust of the piece seems to be that Climategate was not principally about manipulation of the numbers, and its certainly fair enough to bat back the wilder claims that have been made about what the emails mean.

But there is much to take issue with. The inquiries were flawed, we learn, and yes, that's true, in the same way that Bill Gates is "well-off". The "secondary presentations", as the article coyly refers to the IPCC reports, apparently included misrepresentations of primary research; again, yes, but where does that leave policymakers? And if sceptical views were excluded from the primary literature, what is the point in secondary assessments anyway?

I would also take issue with the idea that we learned little from Climategate, because many of the claims "had all been aired long before". This seems slightly obtuse to me. Before Climategate they were just claims. After the emails hit the airwaves they were rather more than that.


Christmas is coming... it would seem churlish not to remind readers of an excellent book for the geek in your life...

Buy it from:


The Arctic gap

Andy Russell has posted an interesting graph in an attempt to provide support for the notion that things are still warming up, despite the cold we are experiencing in the UK at the moment.

The GISS derived figure shows a view of Arctic temperature anomalies, with the pole apparently experiencing temperatures 4-7° (not sure if this is F or C) above normal.

The problem with this is that there is almost no data to support this, as Stephen Goddard has previously shown. (GISS fill in with model-derived numbers, upon which nobody should surely place any reliance.) I've constructed a composite of Andy's GISS chart and Goddard's figure showing which gridcells have real data to support them.


Best sceptic books

Reader Pat writes from Australia, wondering what sceptic books he should be recommending to his local library. He suggests that they will take as many as five different titles, so tick as many suggestions as you like in the poll below.

Click to read more ...


Climate cuttings 41

The Guardian announced what it modestly described as "The Ultimate Climate Change FAQ".  We should be so lucky.

The Economist meanwhile was struck by a sudden burst of realism, in an article calling for adaptation to be taken much more seriously than it is now.

Click to read more ...


Someone is thinking

A thoughtful article on climate change in the Guardian - whatever next?

The piece in question is this one, by Andrew Holding of the Medical Research Council. He thinks the way to deal with us pesky global warming sceptics is to open things up:

[T]hose in academia are constantly debating and modifying their ideas over time as new evidence comes to light, and those who hold minority viewpoints are valued for their opinion, but only when they can provide evidence for their stance, not for their ability to sign a petition.

Sounds good to me.

We need to tear down the ivory towers of the past and remove the walls dividing the public and academia. Journals need to be open, and in complex cases, such as the evidence for climate change, we need to provide the skills and tools that people need to discover the answers for themselves. If we ask them to to accept our viewpoints just because we are the experts, we have already lost. We would be no different than anyone who stands on a pedestal and proclaims the truth.

The idea that climate journals are going to be open is probably wishful thinking, although we must admit, I suppose that there has been some improvement since the pesky sceptics started making a noise about it.

Scientific inquiry will not always provide the right answers first but, unlike other methods, it will eventually get there even if it has to admit its mistakes. There is plenty that we don't know yet, but what we do know is that, given the same resources, tools and time, there is no reason for the public to disagree with the established consensus.

Admitting mistakes is again a wonderful sentiment, but I'm just not sure that mainstream climate science is ready to make this step yet. Climatology still has to get past the "biased method + bad data -> correct answer" stage.