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Climategate — Journalist withdraws and apologises Ken Perrott Jul 08

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George Monbiot

George Monbiot: Image via Wikipedia

Hot Topic has an informative article covering the the Independent Climate Change Email Review chaired by Sir Muir Russell (see Climategate’s final fizzle). The report can be downloaded here (FINAL REPORT). It’s 160 pages and appears very thorough. But it will take a little time to read.

Listen to the press conference where the report was launched this morning (download mp3 file Audio recording of the press conference (mp3 format approx 14MB). I think this gives a good idea of the flavour of the report and the effort that went into it. There is also of Transcript of Sir Muir Rrussell’s opening remarks.

Hopefully this report will do a lot to help reverse some of the misleading press and internet coverage of this unseemly climategate affair.

One journalist who has already admitted to have been mistaken is George Monbiot. Back in November he called for professor Phil Jones resignation. Now he says  he was wrong to call, soon after this story broke, for Jones’s resignation? (See The ‘climategate’ inquiry at last vindicates Phil Jones — and so must I).

There were a few local bloggers who echoed Monbiot’s mistaken call – I wonder if they will now withdraw and apologise. At least Monbiot has the honesty to admit his mistake.

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I thought the award for mistakes was mine! Ken Perrott Jan 23

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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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’Blithering idiocy’ Ken Perrott Jan 13

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Guardian journalist George Monbiot recently described some of the more blatant media attacks on the science of climate change as “blithering idiocy” (see The sceptics are skating on thin ice). He gave examples from the Telegraph claiming that the current weather in the UK supported the idea of a looming ice age rather than global warming (eg. Global warming: Al Gore’s convenient untruth freezes over). Monbiot asks: “Is there any other subject on which journalists can make such magnificent idiots of themselves and still keep their jobs?”

We have seen a bit of the same confusion of weather with climate amongst bloggers in New Zealand. Ian Wishart (TBR) and Poneke gloated over that lovely satellite picture of the UK covered in snow (see Here’s what British crow looks like… and Yet another Unfortunate Truth too delicious to ignore).

A new ice age!

Some of the reporting of climate change, and particularly comments and twitter messages, are just completely irrational – deserving of Monbiot’s description. And much of the other material just misrepresents the science. For example the UK Mail on Sunday claimed new scientific research showed global warming had paused, if not stopped altogether (see The mini ice age starts here). This was repeated by the Telegraph (Big freeze could signal global warming ‘pause’) and uncritically repeated here by Ian Wishart (Get ready for a decades long chill – top climatologist warns).

Fortunately the researcher quoted by these reports, Mojib Latif, a climate expert at the Leibniz Institute at Kiel University in Germany, protested at the misrepresentation. He pointed out that: “What we are experiencing now is a weather phenomenon” – not climate. His findings don’t contradict global warming at all (see Leading climate scientist challenges Mail on Sunday’s use of his research).

Atmospheric CO2 not increasing!!

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing

Then we have the silly reporting of some new research by Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. This found that the proportion of emitted CO2 retained by the atmosphere had not changed significantly over 160 years (see Is the Airborne Fraction of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Increasing?).

It’s well accepted that about 45% of added CO2 remains in the atmosphere while the rest is absorbed by oceans and into biomass. Of course, this doesn’t prevent the actual concentration of atmospheric CO2 increasing.

But you can see how the deniers interpreted this, can’t you? “No Rise of Airborne Fraction of Carbon Dioxide in Past 150 Years, New Research Finds” (marginally correct), “No rise of airborne carbon dioxide in past 150 years, new research finds” and “Study Shows No Increase of Airborne Carbon Dioxide in Past 150 Years” (outright distortions). Or what about this from the extremist British National PartyClimate Change Fanatics Shocked as New Scientific Paper Reveals Zero Atmospheric Carbon Increase!

Still waiting for New Zealand’s own Ian Wishart to pick up that story!

Denialism and creationism

So, while there is plenty of room for rational discussion with people who may be sceptical about various scientific assessments of climate change I think that George Monbiot is justified to call the statements of some of the deniers “blithering idiocy.” Their sort of distortion reminds me very much of the some of the behaviour of creationists. In fact the Daily Kos says “Denialism is essentially Creationism for otherwise smart people” in its post Climate Denial Sociopathology, Creationism: Hacked Emails, Piltdown. And “What they [the hacked emails] do show is that, like life scientists, climate scientists have to work in the shadow of a global program to discredit their efforts.”

Here’s an interesting comparison of global warming denialism and creationism taken from the daily Kos post:

Creationism Denialism
Virtually all world’s life scientists treat evolution as a fact Virtually all world’s climate and related scientists treat AGW as fact
All world scientific bodies are evolutionist All world scientific bodies hold to AGW
Few scientists not religiously committed support creationism Few scientists not in pay of fossil fuel firms deny AGW
Satan is controlling the scientists in a giant global conspiracy Environmentalists are controlling the scientists in a giant global conspiracy
No valid Creationist model to explain actual data from earth history No valid Denialist model to explain current alarming warming trend
Large, well-funded, primarily right-wing network of bogus institutes and think tanks pushing Creationism Large, well-funded, primarily right-wing network of bogus institutions and think tanks pushing Denialism
Real life scientists must operate in the shadow of ongoing program to discredit their work Real climate scientists must operate in the shadow of ongoing program to discredit their work
We don’t want to face philosophical implications of being just damned dirty apes We don’t want to face lifestyle changes because we’re roasting the world to death
Unremitting repetition of false and long-discredited “facts”: Dinosaur tracks and human tracks together, all known non-human skulls are just apes, the eye could not have evolved… Unremitting repetition of false and long-discredited “facts”: global cooling since 1998, warming is due to urban island effects, global cooling was predicted in the 1970s….
Constant repetition of: New discoveries cast doubt on evolution! Constant repetition of: New discoveries cast doubt on AGW!
Ver. 1.0 Creationism (Earth is under 10,000 years old) morphing to Ver. 2.0 (Intelligent Design) Ver. 1.0 Denialism (global warming isn’t happening, is hoax) morphing to Ver. 2.0 (there is global warming but it is natural so go ahead and drill baby drill)
“Christianity” “Free Market”
...and now we have the latest parallel, the Email Scandal.
Piltdown Man Email Scandal

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George Monbiot on ClimateGate & the climate denial industry Ken Perrott Dec 24

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Lord Christopher Monckton, the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

Public comments on the “climategate” emails have certainly been varied. From one extreme like Lord Monckton who uses it to justify his outlandish giant conspiracy theory, to the more rational discussion by science journalists.

George Monbiot, who writes for The Guardian, has made some of the more balanced comments. He is not dismissing the significance of the emails but at the same time puts them in a proper context. He is particularly warning that they are in no way evidence of a conspiracy, or that the current assessment of the threat of global warming is compromised.

The “Gish Gallop”

In this talk (video below) he points to the real issue of climate change denial and the propaganda industry built around this. He discusses some of the tactics used by deniers. I particularly liked his description of the “Gish Gallop*” where deniers make a series of claims, one after the other, continually moving the goalposts so that their opponents are denied the chance of replying to any of them. We have seen this locally with the denier groups and bloggers who have been attacking NIWA scientists. They have quickly moved on from the original claim that the raw data did not support NIWA’s conclusions, to new “demands” about details of adjustments, the numbers of stations used, etc.

Monbiot’s advice – don’t get sucked in! Stick with the original claims and show where they are wrong. Demand that the deniers justify their original claims instead of galloping on.

*The “Gish Gallop” gets its name from Duane Gish – a well known creationists who uses this tactic in his attacks on evolutionary science.

YouTube – George Monbiot on ClimateGate & the climate denial industry.

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’Climategate’ — the smoking gun? Ken Perrott Nov 26

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Some of the more extreme climate change deniers, and others who have an anti-science agenda, continue to dredge through the domestic debris of the emails stolen by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia. Their conclusions are, of course, predictable.  Meanwhile, the balanced media summary oif this fiasco is probably well represented by George Monbiot in the Guardian: “The leaked exchanges are disturbing, but it would take a conspiracy of a very different order to justify sceptics’ claims.” (see Global warming rigged? Here’s the email I’d need to see ).

I particularly liked his depiction of the email that the climate change deniers and their allies would dearly love to find. It’s a great satire and portrays some of the silliest conspiracy theories promulgated by deniers.

From:

Sent: 29 October 2009

To: The Knights Carbonic

Gentlemen, the culmination of our great plan approaches fast. What the Master called “the ordering of men’s affairs by a transcendent world state, ordained by God and answerable to no man”, which we now know as Communist World Government, advances towards its climax at Copenhagen. For 185 years since the Master, known to the laity as Joseph Fourier, launched his scheme for world domination, the entire physical science community has been working towards this moment.

The early phases of the plan worked magnificently. First the Master’s initial thesis — that the release of infrared radiation is delayed by the atmosphere — had to be accepted by the scientific establishment. I will not bother you with details of the gold paid, the threats made and the blood spilt to achieve this end. But the result was the elimination of the naysayers and the disgrace or incarceration of the Master’s rivals. Within 35 years the 3rd Warden of the Grand Temple of the Knights Carbonic (our revered prophet John Tyndall) was able to “demonstrate” the Master’s thesis. Our control of physical science was by then so tight that no major objections were sustained.

More resistance was encountered (and swiftly dispatched) when we sought to install the 6th Warden (Svante Arrhenius) first as professor of physics at Stockholm University, then as rector. From this position he was able to project the Master’s second grand law — that the infrared radiation trapped in a planet’s atmosphere increases in line with the quantity of carbon dioxide the atmosphere contains. He and his followers (led by the Junior Warden Max Planck) were then able to adapt the entire canon of physical and chemical science to sustain the second law.

Then began the most hazardous task of all: our attempt to control the instrumental record. Securing the consent of the scientific establishment was a simple matter. But thermometers had by then become widely available, and amateur meteorologists were making their own readings. We needed to show a steady rise as industrialisation proceeded, but some of these unfortunates had other ideas. The global co-option of police and coroners required unprecedented resources, but so far we have been able to cover our tracks.

The over-enthusiasm of certain of the Knights Carbonic in 1998 was most regrettable. The high reading in that year has proved impossibly costly to sustain. Those of our enemies who have yet to be silenced maintain that the lower temperatures after that date provide evidence of global cooling, even though we have ensured that eight of the 10 warmest years since 1850 have occurred since 2001. From now on we will engineer a smoother progression.

Our co-option of the physical world has been just as successful. The thinning of the Arctic ice cap was a masterstroke. The ring of secret nuclear power stations around the Arctic circle, attached to giant immersion heaters, remains undetected, as do the space-based lasers dissolving the world’s glaciers.

Altering the migratory and reproductive patterns of the world’s wildlife has proved more challenging. Though we have now asserted control over the world’s biologists, there is no accounting for the unauthorised observations of farmers, gardeners, birdwatchers and other troublemakers. We have therefore been forced to drive migrating birds, fish and insects into higher latitudes, and to release several million tonnes of plant pheromones every year to accelerate flowering and fruiting. None of this is cheap, and ever more public money, secretly diverted from national accounts by compliant governments, is required to sustain it.

The co-operation of these governments requires unflagging effort. The capture of George W Bush, a late convert to the cause of Communist World Government, was made possible only by the threatened release of footage filmed by a knight at Yale, showing the future president engaged in coitus with a Ford Mustang. Most ostensibly capitalist governments remain apprised of where their real interests lie, though I note with disappointment that we have so far failed to eliminate Vaclav Klaus. Through the offices of compliant states, the Master’s third grand law has been established: world government will be established under the guise of controlling man-made emissions of greenhouse gases.

Keeping the scientific community in line remains a challenge. The national academies are becoming ever more querulous and greedy, and require higher pay-offs each year. The inexplicable events of the past month, in which the windows of all the leading scientific institutions were broken and a horse’s head turned up in James Hansen’s bed, appear to have staved off the immediate crisis, but for how much longer can we maintain the consensus? Knights Carbonic, now that the hour of our triumph is at hand, I urge you all to redouble your efforts. In the name of the Master, go forth and terrify.

Professor Ernst Kattweizel, University of Redcar. 21st Grand Warden of the Temple of the Knights Carbonic.

Monbiot concludes: “This is the kind of conspiracy the deniers need to reveal to show that man-made climate change is a con. The hacked emails are a hard knock, but the science of global warming withstands much more than that.”

What do you think? Is he being a bit harsh?

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