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Glacier-gate – the current feeding frenzy for climate change deniers brought back memories.

Any publishing scientist will have experienced the problem of errors getting through the review and checking process. Of course you notice them immediately when you proudly read through you masterpiece in the print journal.

However, I burst out laughing when I read this  post by a local blogger - IPCC: Earning the award for greatest number of errors per page. Because I was convinced I won that award years ago!

One of my old papers has far more errors than the IPCC reports. These were all misspellings of my own name in the reference list.

Bloody spell checkers!

Extrapolating way past the data

Of course the deniers are trying to make more of “glacier-gate” than it deserves. They wish to extrapolate from one faulty paragraph (or even sentence) on one page to all pages (about 2900) of all the reports. Talk about a faulty extrapolation technique!

Their motives are obvious. As this blogger says this error “is making the truth very hard to believe.” I guess if you don’t want to accept the truth you will grab at any excuse. Even one this far-fetched!

Not that the mistake itself should be ignored. The denier brigade dishonestly grabs such things and passes them straight on to fellow believers via their echo chambers (Twitter, blogs, conservative newspapers, etc).

So the mistake is irresponsible given the current political climate. The mistake had been brought up in the review process (see Publicly available IPCC archives )so it should have been removed before publication. Thankfully the IPCC has acknowledged it, apologised, is investigating and will fix the procedural problems which allowed it.

Fortunately, this mistake was in WG II Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, not the main evidence-based WG I The Physical Science Basis and did not make it into the The AR4 Synthesis Report meant for policy makers.

There really is such an award

Now, let’s get back to this award – the one I thought was on my mantelpiece.

There actually is such an award and it is specifically aimed at the climate denial industry. The Christopher Booker prize (see image above) was inaugurated by the Guardian jounralist George Monbiot (see Pure rubbish: Christopher Booker prize). George Monbiot said:

the award goes to whoever in my opinion – assisted by climate scientists and specialists – managed in the course of 2009 to cram as many misrepresentations, distortions and falsehoods into a single online article, statement, lecture, film or interview about climate change.”

“It is named in honour of the Sunday Telegraph columnist’s amazing ability to include misinformation and falsehoods in his pieces on climate change and other environmental issues.

Believe it or not, this stylish trophy is made entirely of recycled materials!

Lovingly fashioned by master craftsmen in mid-Wales, it shows what can be done with items that are often treated as mere rubbish!

And this isn’t all. I am suggesting that the winner of the Christopher Booker prize 2009 take the holiday of a lifetime: a one-way solo kayak trip to the North Pole. Following in the footsteps of the great Pen Hadow, the award winner could use the trip to see for him or herself the full extent of the Arctic ice melt. The Guardian will support this intrepid venture by supplying THREE BARS of Kendal mint cake towards the costs of this expedition.”

While Christopher Booker was considered to be the first winner (“In just one short column in the Sunday Telegraph, he managed to drop six and a half clangers”) I would have though Christopher Monckton would have won hands down. The fact that he didn’t may be more due to Monbiots refusal to to the hard work (“Viscount Monckhausen could have come out in front with one of his online lectures, which are riddled with crazy assertions and shocking misrepresentations, but the thought of spending a day inside his mind made me feel physically sick.”).

In the end the award went to John Tomlinson, a columnist for the Flint Journal in Michigan, “with a stunning 38 howlers.” His error density was “one per 21 words”! (see Winner of climate change denial’s premier award revealed).

OK – I concede the award. My mistakes were fewer in number, and they were in the reference list – not the body of the paper.

Nor were they intentional!


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See also: Climate chief admits error over Himalayan glaciers

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