A few days ago I noted a new paper by Marotzke and Forster which claimed to show that the recent divergence of model predictions and observations was all down to natural variability. The paper was getting considerable hype from Marotzke's employers, the Max Planck Institute:
Sceptics who still doubt anthropogenic climate change have now been stripped of one of their last-ditch arguments...the gap between the calculated and measured warming is not due to systematic errors of the models, as the sceptics had suspected, but because there are always random fluctuations in the Earth's climate.
Marotzke was also quoted as saying: "The claim that climate models systematically overestimate global warming caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations is wrong" and he went on to get quite a lot of media coverage, including the Mail, the Sydney Morning Herald, Deutsche Welle, and the Washington Post.
Based on media coverage of the paper's contents, I expressed considerable concern over what the authors had apparently done. It seems, however, that my criticisms at the time were understated. It is in fact "worse than we thought".
I have an article up at the Spectator Coffee House blog about Greenpeace and its recent travails:
For the best part of half a century Greenpeace’s constant campaigning on environmental issues has been an almost unmitigated success. Its effectiveness has brought it both astonishing wealth and almost unimpeded access to decision-makers. During this time, it has had what amounts to a free pass from the media, its claims and methods rarely questioned by credulous environmental correspondents.
But are the wheels finally coming off? Looking back over the last few years it’s easy to get that impression: an organisation that once seemed untouchable has found itself having to answer some very sharp questions about the way it behaves and operates.
With the Scottish Government having made its absurd - if understandable - decision to put a moratorium on shale gas developments, lawmakers in Cardiff have noted the benefits to their own careers and have followed suit.
The Welsh parliament has voted against the use of shale gas fracking in Wales, just one week after Scotland passed a fracking moratorium, highlighting growing discontent with the British government's push to tap shale gas resources.
A proposal against shale gas fracking was voted through in the Welsh Assembly late on Wednesday, effectively making it impossible for shale gas developments to receive planning permits in Wales.
As ever with the public sector, you see that decisions are made for the benefit of the staff rather than those they allegedly work for. There are 100,000 unemployed people in Wales.
A reader pointed me to a very interesting French book that may be of interest to readers. In Chronique du Climat en Poitou-Charentes Vendee Jean-Luc Audé extracts accounts of climate-related disasters from historical records of this area on the west coast of France.
He starts right back in 567, with the flooding of the Ile de Bouin and takes us quickly on to the droughts - Gaul-wide - in 874 which led to "sterility of the soil, a dearth of bread and of all the fruits of the earth". Then we learn that just a couple of years later "the rivers came in flood and annihilated castles, villages and people everywhere". The litany of climate disasters, which continues right up to the end of the twentieth century, is rather amazing and puts claims of global weirding in their proper context.
It's in French unfortunately for the majority of readers here (the translations above are mine, errors and all), but if you have a smattering of the language it's well worth dipping into. Someone really ought to translate it.
You can get it here.
The Royal Society of the Arts is going to do one of those interminably dull events in which a bunch of pseudo-academics and green activists preach to the converted. The flyer is reproduced below, but note that the first sentence is completely untrue.
In a bid to generate a new dialogue that sparks enduring change, the RSA is embarking on a series of climate change events with a difference.
The 2015 Paris climate conference is looming, and there’s widespread consensus that it is our final chance for a truly international, multilateral resolution to the planet’s most pressing challenge. But why is it so hard to find a way forward?
For the second event in our brand-new series, we are adopting a 'Question Time' format, gathering expert representatives in each of what we feel are the seven main dimensions of the climate problem: science, behaviour, democracy, law, technology, economy and culture.
Our panel will provide expert insights into the competing priorities, responsibility voids and overlapping areas of jurisdiction that make climate change such a difficult issue to resolve. But above all, we are keen to hear what you, our audience, consider the key barriers to progress.
Panellists to include: Economist, LSE, Lord Nicholas Stern; climate scientist, UCL, Chris Rapley CBE; Green Party member of the London Assembly, Baroness Jenny Jones; Co-founder, Futerra, Solitaire Townsend; green-energy entrepreneur and founder of Solarcentury, Jeremy Leggett; psychoanalytic psychotherapist, Rosemary Randall
Stephen Tindale is a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform. He spent six years as executive director of Greenpeace UK, which opposes GM crops. However, he has always thought that GM technology should be assessed case-by-case. He minimised campaigning on GM – never authorising direct actions against GM during his time in charge – and told Greenpeace’s campaigners to focus instead on how to make agriculture less environmentally-damaging.
The extract above is from this recent article, in which Tindale argues for just such a case-by-case assessment. Despite what he says, this does seem to be quite a turnaround.
You can see the problem for a Greenpeace director. If he had said what he really believed ten years ago, the flow of funds from the terrified public to Greenpeace would have dried up. So he kept mum; at best toned things down a bit (although not that much as these (1,2) statements from his time in office make clear). Then when he had flown the coop he could tell us the truth.
Anne Glover, the EU Chief Scientist who was forced out of her job after a letter-writing campaign by green groups, has dished out a certain amount of retribution this morning, accusing Greenpeace of being dishonest about the risks and benefits of genetic modification.
I'm deeply disappointed with them, because those NGOs that you mentioned were NGOs that I used to trust and many citizens do trust. I think they have ignored the evidence and they have fabricated a scenario.
If I look at their letter, and what they describe, because I've met with many of them they know that simply it's not true what they talk about.
They have an ideology, they have a philosophy they wish to pursue. But you shouldn't try and back it up by evidence, or if you like bad calling the evidence. That's not honest.
I am constantly taken aback by the number of people in positions of power and authority who simply have no idea that many major environmental groups deceive the public in order to advance their aims. If Prof Glover is interested in becoming a little more enlightened, I commend the "Greens" tag on this blog to her.
Spiked has done a very interesting survey of freedom of speech on UK university campuses, rating each one on how good it is at protecting individuals' right to speak their mind and hear different views.
Needless to say the London School of Economics is right down among the worst. I wasn't surprised to see UCL or Birkbeck with a red flag either. More surprising were the red flags for Oxford and Edinburgh. My own alma mater - St Andrews - was at the other end of the scale and it was interesting to see that the UK's only private university - Buckingham - was also top-rated.
But the really striking thing is just how few universities received a green flag and how many got a red. This really does make the Spiked survey very important and I hope a few universities are now going to take a long hard look at themselves.
Michael Lavine, a statistician from the University of Massachusetts Amherst has performed a very polite savaging of Naomi Oreskes over at Stats.org. Here's an excerpt:
After urging scientists to adopt a threshold less stringent than 95 percent in the case of climate change, [Oreskes says]:
WHY don’t scientists pick the standard that is appropriate to the case at hand, instead of adhering to an absolutist one? The answer can be found in a surprising place: the history of science in relation to religion. The 95 percent confidence limit reflects a long tradition in the history of science that valorizes skepticism as an antidote to religious faith. Even as scientists consciously rejected religion as a basis of natural knowledge, they held on to certain cultural presumptions about what kind of person had access to reliable knowledge. One of these presumptions involved the value of ascetic practices. Nowadays scientists do not live monastic lives, but they do practice a form of self-denial, denying themselves the right to believe anything that has not passed very high intellectual hurdles.
Yes, most scientists are skeptics. We do not accept claims lightly, we expect proof, and we try to understand our subject before we speak publicly and admonish others.
Be warned, this is very, very ugly stuff, and there are several messages in there that seem to me to be criminal.
Colour me disgusted
Yours truly in the aftermath of death threats to Phil Jones
Now that lukewarmers have been outed by facts they are playing the 'victim' card. It's not the world that's against them it's the science.
Lord Deben in the aftermath of threats to Matt Ridley and David Rose
Bob Ward in the aftermath of threats to Matt Ridley and David Rose
The BBC's Inside Science had a fascinating section (from 30 sec) about the recent research by Cardiff University's Nick Pidgeon on the effect of last year's floods in the West Country on public perceptions of climate change. Pigeon found that those affected by the floods were more likely to develop a firm belief in manmade global warming than those who were not.
To his credit, presenter Adam Rutherford noted that linking flooding events to climate change is hard, but he was neatly parried by Pidgeon, who wheeled out the attribution paper from Myles Allen's group, with its silly claim that global warming has made floods 25% more likely in the UK. Listeners were not informed that this claim was based on an unvalidated climate model with no proven ability to model precipitation (no climate model has). It would also have been interesting to ponder whether this 25% increase in the likelihood of floods has produced actually made floods 25% more prevalent. I think not.
Still, the section was about Pidgeon's study. My abiding impression was of a BBC presenter and a social scientivist sitting about discussing the efficacy of what amounts to a con on the general public. Julia Slingo's desperate misinformation about the human link to last winter's floods has clearly done its work. And the sense you got of the reaction in the studio was of "how interesting" leavened with a bit of "oh goody", but not a hint of "people are not understanding" or "people are being misled".
The news that the Scottish government has kicked the shale gas question into the long grass until well after the general election has elicited a pretty forthright response from one of the experts involved in the official review of unconventional oil and gas north of the border.
SNP ministers are deliberately misleading the Scottish public by pretending their fracking ban is about health and environmental concerns instead of political posturing, an expert they asked to research the controversial practice has said.
In a damning intervention, Professor Paul Younger, Rankine Chair of Engineering at the University of Glasgow, said the Scottish Government’s justifications for unveiling an indefinite moratorium on fracking were “all made up” and “completely feigned”.
Read the whole thing.
Prof Younger has apparently posted the following in the comments to the Telegraph article:
Just for the record, re the following reported comment of Stewart Maxwell MSP: "... Mr Maxwell insisted the panel’s report did not provide all the evidence required but could not specify what was missing ... He claimed it did not address the public health impact but the interviewer pointed out this was tackled in the document. Pressed on his error, he then claimed that many experts disagreed with its findings ...".
The final line shows that, not abashed by having failed to read the report himself before the interview (otherwise he would have known its contents), Stewart Maxwell has now made up a story about disagreements from "many experts" disagreeing with our report's findings. Let me categorically state: no such disagreements from any scientist or engineer has been brought to the attention of the former members of the expert panel by the Scottish Government, and none have been directed to me, either publicly or privately. The "many experts" are therefore a complete fabrication on the part of Stewart Maxwell MSP. Shameful.
David Rose has a long piece in the Mail on Sunday looking at the increasing prominence of thuggery among environmentalists.
Climate of Hate: His children are urged to kill him, he's compared to Adolf Hitler and labelled a 'denier' – even though he's Jewish. Disturbing article reveals what happens if you dare to doubt the Green prophets of doom.
You get a sense that the powers that be in the Guardian are giving this behaviour a nod and a wink.