Important to set the record straight — yes. Useful for overcoming prejudices — no. Studies show that for pieces like this, that tell you “X said A but the truth is Not-A,” a reader who is asked a few days later will remember “A is true” if that agrees with their preconceptions. Sigh.
A good beginning, but there are two necessary continuations:
1) Individual journalists who have made repeated egregious errors should no longer be professional journalists (i.e. no publisher should hire them, or publish their work, period). There must be personal repercussions for individuals who demonstrate either extreme journalistic incompetence or, worse, purposefully malicious misreporting.
2) We need more of the same. This needs to be repeated, over and over, for each and every case of nonsense, so that with the same clamor that people heard “the science is bad” they will hear “the journalism was very, very bad and the science was actually quite good.”
Any chance that this retraction is under threat of a libel suit under Britain’s rather ‘permissive’ law? As under that law, ‘libel’ amounts to publishing something a mentioned person believes is offensive to him, not the truth.
Comment by Jack W. Cremeans — 20 Jun 2010 @ 12:25 PM
I wonder if there is any point in getting a website online called ‘Lies of the deniers’ or something like that, where they have been caught out telling these blatant lies?
I think this is of the utmost importance. James Hoggan in Climate Cover-up gives statistics on public opinion in the US. 58% of Democrats believe in AGW, but only 27% of Republicans. And the figures get even more interesting when you look at level of education. Of college educated Democrats, there is an increase in belief, to 75%, as you might expect, but educated Republicans are even more likely to be in denial – only 19% are believers. I think this must be due to the propaganda to which they are exposed, chief amongst them being the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, both owned by Sunday Times owner Rupert Murdoch.
Apparently it is impossible to progress in the Republican Party unless you are a denier (Arnold Schwarzenegger is an exception) and given the strength of the Republicans, who since they won the late Ted Kennedy’s old seat can now block legislation, this is a real stumbling block to progress in UN climate negotiations, because China and India aren’t going to move until the US does
[Response: Although there is no doubt that differences in opinion correlate with political tendencies and other socio-cultural factors, and it is important to understand why those differences exist, I think it’s very important that we not label based on over-simplified categorizations, thereby playing into the hand of those who want to cast it as an ideologically-based issue. Not that this is necessarily easy or natural, but it is the better way.–Jim]
It is a ideologically based issue, unfortunately, since the earliest days of the science. Democrats and other liberals framed it as justification for their political planks, attempting to “own” climate change. To oppose their policies was painted as “killing the planet” and all sorts of exaggerations on the science were made. Scientists themselves did a poor job of countering skewing of the data into erroneous and alarmist conclusions, which looked like collusion.
Hell, the spokesman for AGW is a former Vice President that demonized Republicans at every turn. Imagine if Vice President Cheney took AGW as his pet cause – think Democrats wouldn’t be automatically opposed to anything coming out of his mouth, regardless of the facts behind it?
Why the WWF, Greenpeace, and like groups were cited in the IPCC reports to begin with is beyond me. They’re political advocacy groups first and foremost. It’s like citing the Jim Birch Society on the merits of deregulation. You know what their answer will be beforehand, and any study results they cite will be suspect.
[Response: No, I’m sorry but you are quite wrong. Climate change is, at its root, a strictly physical/biological issue. The fact that people you don’t care for have taken up its cause does not negate this, and if you are not able to make this distinction you are making a very serious mistake that will prevent you from really understanding the science. Furthermore, this post will not be derailed into such unproductive discussion.–Jim]
I really think the GOP has become the anti-science party in the US. I know there are people like McCain who know better, but the GOP is making a huge amount of political capital out of creationism, opposition to AGW, and in general, any kind of science that might threaten either extreme fundamentalism or big business. See Chris Mooney’s “The Republican War on Science.” The GOP is no longer the party of Gerry Ford and Lowell Weicker. It’s not even the party of Dick Nixon, who, much as he was hated by the left, at least never attacked science. It has moved way, way right, and dragged much of the electorate with it through its propaganda arm, Fox News. Don’t forget that the Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes, started out as a professional Republican political advisor.
[Response: Barton, I don’t disagree with anything you say. My point is that it is counter-productive to focus on these group-based beliefs/tendencies and better to instead focus strictly on the evidence–as you are among the very best at doing. I contend that this is what will carry the day in the end. Now, everyone, please, back to the media behavior-related issues raised by the post. Thanks.–Jim]
@Jack W. Cremeans: You may want to read Simon Lewis’ complaint to the PCC. It has everything to do with the truth not being what the Sunday Times originally published. Any honest human being should be appalled at what the Sunday Times did with Lewis’ comments.
Wonderful. Took long enough. What page was this on?
The press in its lackadaisical research into critical issues is contributing to the destruction of life on the planet.
Every step backward diluting the urgency with which we pursue turning round climate change diminishes a chance to do it. Every time the press gratifies the anti-science crowd and confuses the public is a step backward into hell for our children and the rest of biodiversity.
The “just do it, and apologize later” way what’s becoming a totally tabloid press casually misleading the public just to stir controversy and sell newspapers is extremely reprehensible. These reporters need to figure out the difference between smoke and mist when they try holding other people’s feet to the fire.
The subject should be revisited. Not as Leakgate but as a new article written with a tone that lauds the IPCC and the authors for work overwhelmingly well done – top of the fold, not bringing up the rear. If everything wrong was truly balanced with everything right with the report the deniers would have precious little to be grousing about.
And then the Sunday Times should apologize again for betraying the public trust. Much damage is done and the denier’s think tanks and blogs have no compunction to set the record straight, so crooked and dishonest is their agenda.
Jack W. Cremeans, in the UK, the truth is still a defence against libel. The main difference is that the burden of proof lies with the defendant.
I think newspapers will only be more careful with the truth when not doing so becomes very expensive for them. Whether this involves tying them up with legitimate press complaints, or pursuing libel cases in the courts, it has the same effect. The only problem is scientists lack the resources to mount a case – I hope that scientists’ institutions will step in and support their employees. And I also hope that more scientists will steel themselves for the indignity of taking newspapers to court.
The truth should always win, and science is all about truth.
Jim, the problem is that there has been a twinning of science and policy – to the detriment of all. And the Republicans didn’t start it.
To oppose a carbon tax or poorly implemented cap-and-trade issue is to deny the science, apparently. Question the Democrats and one is trying to “kill the planet.”
How is it that denying AGW is “anti-science” but completely misrepresenting the science in an alarming and incorrect manner isn’t? It’s all “anti-science.” And yet scientists and the IPCC don’t seem to get too upset when rediculous, unsupportable claims are made in their names.
On this site I’ve learned that we’re all dead in 50 years in a mass extinction event in the comment sections, and yet there’s never a scientist saying “whoa, now, that’s a friggin’ whopper that is not supported by the peer reviewed science.” And it’s a common meme here!
[Response: You are correct that all types of false statements should be called out, regardless of motive or orientation. All kinds of stuff gets said and we can’t police it all. If you focus more on the scientific literature and less on the interpretation of it by whomever, this will be less of an issue for you. I will leave it at that. No more comments on politics: they will be deleted. This post is about media related issues. Thanks–Jim]
[Response: It’s further worth noting two things. First, to the extent that scientists may say less when the science is exaggerated than when it is attacked, the reasons are clear. One does not have to try to question the integrity of scientists, or tell lies, to wind up with what one might call the ‘alarmist’ viewpoint. There is plenty of cause for alarm, and one can take the science pretty straight-up and come to alarmist conclusions. See my review of Mark Lynas’s book Six Degrees for more on this point. Second, at RealClimate we in fact do regularly call out exaggerated claims. See for example, here. I agree we should do more of it, but to suggest that the scientists are to blame for the current political partisanship surrounding climate change science is laughable.–eric]
Hi,I am delighted that the Sunday Times published a retraction. Unfortunately, soon such on-line retractions will be seen by few as it is becoming a subscription website.
I think the denialist issue will only go away, as a force, as the denialists themselves grow old and unable to publish articles, with their places taken by more recently educated, younger people who have grown up with climate change as a major issue.
I didn’t find any updates on this story with a quick search. Personally, I applaud Dr. Weaver for taking this step to defend truth in the Canadian media and wish him well. It may be that deciding where media should draw the line in policing the reuse of their content is not a simple question. But it’s certainly a question worth addressing.
And surely, media are responsible for more than just their shareholder’s bottom lines.
Prefacatorial remark: Eli Rabett recently suggested a division iof (1) frontier science, (2) textbook science, (3) regulatory science.
Even journalists specializing in science sometimes have some difficulty in accurately capturing the essential point of the frontier science reported upon. When it comes to climatology, most journalists don’t understand it well. (Phooey, despite several years of trying, I don’t understand climate all that well.) Some aspects of climatology border into regulatory science, or rather, are beginning to. I’ll opine that journalists largely view regulatory science as having “sides”, both or all of which deserve some coverage. And few journalists indeed understand what portion of climatology is textbook science. (I’mj not sure I do, beyond basic atmospheric and oceanographic physics.)
Worse, of course, are amny editors; older and more set in their ways as well as probably having less time to actually learn some basic climatology.
Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Jun 2010 @ 4:28 PM
The US lacks a law similar to the UK’s, and attempts to enact such laws have been repeatedly beaten down by our courts. It means that some news organizations publish whatever they think sells advertising, and care little about the truth. That doesn’t mean that individuals who have been libeled cannot sue, but let’s just say that the successful outcome of such suits can take years, and will rarely be reported by the types of news organizations that would publish adultered tripe to start with. So, the best defense against the outright lies, slander, and misinformation spread by denialists is to keep publishing though whatever means possible what the truth is.
Keep up the good work, RealClimate.
Comment by Geno Canto del Halcon — 20 Jun 2010 @ 4:31 PM
I’m a little surprised that competing news outlets don’t make a big deal out of these things when they happen. One would think that pointing out that your competition has been caught in flat out lies would be a huge competitive advantage.
And that’s really what the world needs to pick up the slack. When outlet A publishes nonsense about point B, outlets C, D, and E need to hammer the truth home, making A look silly.
That’s one of the things that really bugs me about journalism today. It’s like they’re so tied up in selling advertising and gaining readership in their own niche markets that there’s no actual journalism going on, just journaltainment.
I think that Gavin did such a good job that nothing more needed to be said, until some comments appeared. I agree with the RC responder Jim. I also say that scientists are a small minority and we cannot expect the majority to understand much, especially anything that is mathematical. We have a monumental task.
If the media become a little more accountable, it could go a long way. A few more retractions could turn the tide.
Bob says, “I’m a little surprised that competing news outlets don’t make a big deal out of these things when they happen. One would think that pointing out that your competition has been caught in flat out lies would be a huge competitive advantage.”
I am afraid I cannot agree with your assessment of the political impasse over climate. Yes, Al Gore was an early adopter of the issue, but he was far in front of his own party–still is.
It is not simply that the Republicans opposed remediation measures from Gore et al. They have opposed even the most basic action such as increased fuel efficiency standards, research into renewables, etc. Many Republican legislators decided there was political capital to be made in opposing the science as opposed to proposing solutions of their own. It is getting harder and harder to argue with a straight face that the Republicans are not the party of anti-science.
I am curious, Frank, how are your efforts received when you try to tell your fellow Republicans–let alone tea partiers–that climate change represents a real threat?
Frank Giger #7 says: “Hell, the spokesman for AGW is a former Vice President that demonized Republicans at every turn. Imagine if Vice President Cheney took AGW as his pet cause – think Democrats wouldn’t be automatically opposed to anything coming out of his mouth, regardless of the facts behind it?”
So, so misguided. Gore is not “the” spokesman, he is one of many. Secondly, if Cheney had the science right, I would applaud his efforts. This business of assuming that because you do not like someone’s politics (and I detest Cheney’s), then whatever they say about a scientific topic must be wrong is not only tiresome, but irrational. Get a life! This is way, way more important than issues of political ideology.
I have watched journalists reporting on other subjects I know well and have often found them uncurious, uninformed and incapable of asking the most obvious questions. When we add in the problem of their employers having vested interests in policy outcomes and the general inability of the public to understand the simplist of science, we are in trouble.
Comment by Don Gisselbeck — 20 Jun 2010 @ 10:16 PM
I am very glad that the Sunday Times took this complaint seriously – for a well-respected British newspaper like this to be publishing Leake’s nonsense was confusing and alarming.
I agree that it will not undo the damage that has already been caused by unsubstantiated rumours of Whatevergate, but I think that much of its benefit will be in preventing future journalism from sinking to this level. Leake’s career will be damaged by this, even if the consequences aren’t as strict as they should be; the retraction will be noticed by cover-to-cover readers of the Times, even if it goes over most people’s heads.
I think that more coverage of the IPCC in general is needed. As many people pointed out, in most newspapers, the articles about the Himalayan glacier screw-ups were longer than the articles about the publication of the entire AR4. Someone really has their priorities mixed up…We need more coverage of what the IPCC has done right, as well as what they have done wrong in the other direction. I wrote a post on this subject here: http://climatesight.org/2010/01/24/mistakes/
I am about to start my B.Sc. and really hope that, when I come out of it on the other side, I will be able to look back at this year as the peak of bad journalism and rumours and mud-slinging. Maybe things have to get worse before they get better, and maybe we have already passed rock-bottom.
This is just the sort of “news hook” the press would need to undertake a serious self-examination of how they have handled climate news, in general, but especially over the past eight months. Will they take the opportunity?
Can we hold out some hope that this “correction” gets more than a little play in the mainstream media?
On danger of feeding the off-topic politics discussion, let me note that the situation with the Republican party in the US really is an anomaly. Already long time Nr. 10 resident Margaret Thatcher was well aware of the seriousness of the AGW issue, and spoke out on it in several of her speeches. (Of course as a chemist — a scientist studying chemistry — by training she could hardly honestly take an anti-science position. And she certainly wasn’t ghost-written by the Potty Peer :) This was well before anybody had heard of Al Gore.
Even today, all major parties in Britain accept the science. Sure there’s denialism too, but for poetic justice some of the denialists are Labour…
So, climate can be a non-partisan issue. Here’s to hoping the Republicans become a serious party again.
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 21 Jun 2010 @ 12:41 AM
As I’ve said elsewhere, the major failing in climate change is a failing of journalism. The Australian is yet to issue a retraction of any of its bizzare claims like we are headed for an ice age. Their only retraction that I’ve seen was on a claim that the Pope had said something he didn’t say. Offending science is apparently less of a sin in their post-modern all points of view are good and screw the evidence universe than offending religion.
Not that this is necessarily easy or natural, but it is the better way.–Jim]
Care to cite sources on that? All during the Bush era, the lib/progressive cadre claimed taking the “high road” was the “better way.” All that did was embolden the conservatives and leave them the on;y team actually playing on the field. The only thing that got them off the field were their own screw-ups.
Climate science has been much the same: be polite to those who lie, mislead, slander, defame, etc., and the good ol’ American public will listen to wise counsel. Reality? Despite massive changes in climate, the physical and biotic worlds, fewer Americans understand AGW than before.
Not exactly a winning strategy.
There is one scientist who has understood you have to fight the BS with the truth, but also carry a big stick. Hansen. Now, the fellow who filed the lawsuit. Some of us have tried to point out that you beat the bully by standing up to him, not by having an academic discussion about the bully with the peers standing around watching him give you a wedgie.
Stick to the truth, but be prepared to slap prevaricators upside the head. You don’t have to stoop to their level of playing loose with the truth or being rude, but you **do** have to be willing to call them on their BS, and take legal action when the law is broken.
Or is civilization not worth fighting for?
[Response: I never appreciate misrepresentation of what people say, with something of an added “dislike factor” when that people is me. Thanks for dismissing the collective efforts of RealClimate (and quite a number of other scientists). Sorry that our macho factor falls short of your standards.–Jim]
Old-style feeding-frenzy journalism and politically directed hatchet jobs are bad enough, but the blogospheric forcing signal in the *gate reports has me worried about the shape of media to come. If I want blog-standard journalism I’d rather read a blog.
“I’m a little surprised that competing news outlets don’t make a big deal out of these things when they happen. One would think that pointing out that your competition has been caught in flat out lies would be a huge competitive advantage.”
They aren’t in competition. A Sun reader will not be reading the times. And in many cases, rather than competitors, the same corporation owns them.
There is also “my side, right or wrong”. If a newspaper gets it wrong, pointing it out merely makes the people distrust ALL newspapers less.
Add in that all of them are owned by multinationals and you get a good reason to ignore failures in reporting how bad climate change could be or the failures of the denial undustry. After all, there’s more money to be made in oil than in renewables.
So let’s not scare off the advertisers who are our REAL customers (they sell reader eyeballs to their customers who pay the costs of printing and employing).
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 21 Jun 2010 @ 3:10 AM
“Jack W. Cremeans, in the UK, the truth is still a defence against libel. The main difference is that the burden of proof lies with the defendant.”
There’s another difference (and a reasonable one, IMO). If someone has told the truth but that truth is damaging *and it was intended to damage* then it is actionable.
E.g. I’m running for office under “Family Values”. Someone finds out I’m gay and a competitor finds out and wants be out of the running so releases that information.
Although true, this damages my campaign and it was *intended* to do so.
(Note: you can still be pro Family Values if you yourself don’t believe in them: “I may not believe what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it”, isn’t it?)
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 21 Jun 2010 @ 3:16 AM
Many people including scientists are unaware of the nature of the current propaganda campaigns against science. That is why this sort of thing (and lots more like it) needs to be given as much prominence as possible. It is news which has not been getting through.
But it is not just lies.
Lies tend to flourish on a bed of ignorance. Yes the most extreme examples of misinformation are lapped up by people with prejudice, but that prejudice would be harder to maintain if there was more knowledge around. Lying newspapers would then find it harder to get away with it.
In the UK it used to be the BBC, which many people would use as a source of more reliable information. But they have a very weak record in educating people about the basic science of climate change. Even now there has not been a single decent series on this important subject. “Global Dimming” and “The Climate Wars” do not count as serious contributions (see Stoat on the latter).
So when the CRU emails were hacked, excited interviewers would make an uninformed comment or ask a stupid question at every reference to CO2 or to the Copenhagen conference.
After a long pause, BBC1 was due to have another go to-day:
Yet another barbeque summer has been predicted, but do you really trust the forecasters any more? Despite governments, scientists and campaigners telling us the world’s climate is changing, increasing numbers of us simply don’t believe in global warming.
After one of the coldest winters on record and a vicious row about the science behind climate change, Panorama goes back to basics and asks what we really know about our climate and how it will affect us.
Panorama reporter Tom Heap speaks to some of the world’s leading scientists on both sides of the argument, to find out what they can agree on and uncovers some surprising results.
This programme has now been postponed in favour of one on the oil spill. Perhaps it will be OK but I was not encouraged by the choice of non-experts (Why choose Tom Heap and Jeremy Vine?) and by the alternative wording in the Radio Times which highlights the Met Office’s forecast of a barbecue summer and confuses it with long term climate. Even if the eventual transmission turns out to be better, this announcement in the Radio Times (like that of the Great Global Warming Swindle) will stay in the minds of people who never see the programme.
What Martin Vermeer says of the UK is true – the leadership of all major parties has largely accepted the science; but large sections of the press have not. Again, this has been worst on the right (Telegraph, Sunday Times, Mail, Express), but has also affected the left (Guardian, Observer). For us in Britain, this points up the need to respond to denialist journalism in print and online. The “mainstream” right in the US (unlike most countries, as far as I know) have chosen to make the science of climate change a left-right issue; they may pay for it politically sooner or later, but unfortunately, we may all pay dearly for the resulting delay in mitigation.
The Media makes its money by carefully selecting which stories it feels are going to result in maximizing profits. Every day, millions of people get on airplanes in one city and get off in another, then get in a car and drive to their final destination. A newspaper that printed such a story each and every day would rapidly go out of business. A newspaper that reported that hundreds of scientists were busily doing routine science would also go out of business.
I disagree with Geno @ 21 that the media doesn’t care about the truth, but rather that often the truth is simply boring. I’d say that the Media is becoming more “tabloid” in nature.
The “mainstream” right in the US (unlike most countries, as far as I know) have chosen to make the science of climate change a left-right issue; they may pay for it politically sooner or later, but unfortunately, we may all pay dearly for the resulting delay in mitigation.
This goes back to Reagan. It was the Nixon administration who passed the bulk of our modern environmental laws (clean water and air acts, ESA, NEPA, NFMA, etc etc) and created the Environmental Protection Agency. This caused a huge reaction among western conservatives, primarily those in the natural resources industries (logging, ranching, mining). Nixon appointed the widely admired (by conservationists and environmentalists) Republican Ruckelhaus, who banned the agricultural use of DDT in the US. Reagan appointed James Watt- founder of a legal foundation created to protect the rights of western ranchers, loggers, and miners against all those laws signed by Nixon – as the head of Interior. Watts’ mission was to undo/ignore as much of that law as possible, and since those laws generally require the evaluation of best available science during various decision making processes, Watts and the administration took an anti-science stance. Remember Reagan and the “trees cause more pollution than …” speech?
The Republican Party has continued down the anti-science path and has gotten worse as “RINOs” have been encouraged to leave the party. The kind of socially liberal, fiscally conservative, respectful of science, lover of my country’s wildlands Republican I grew up with (and frequently voted for) no longer exists.
Since it was impossible to extend “The Silicon-Burning Day” to novel length, I finally decided to make it a novella and sell it to a magazine, rather than as a book. The first draft came out at 16,000 words. But my writers’ workshop is currently reviewing another novel of mine, and that could take up to a year.
I could use someone to look it over and offer a critique. A fellow writer who knows astrophysics would be ideal, but there can’t be many folks like that hanging out here. It should at least be someone who enjoys science fiction. Please let me know.
“Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount
of rainfall. In the 1998 dry season, some 270,000 sq. km of forest became vulnerable to fire, due to completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five metres of soil. A further 360,000 sq. km of forest had only 250 mm of plant-available soil water left”
The above came from the paper “Large-scale impoverishment of Amazonian forests by logging and fire” Nepstad et al. 1999, which says :
“Because of the severe drought of 1997 and 1998, we calculate that approximately
270,000 km2 of Amazonian forest had completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper ®ve metres of soil by the end of the 1998 dry season. In addition, 360,000 km2 of forest had less than 250mm of plant-available soil water left by this time (Fig. 1b).”
Firstly, the IPCC says “40% of the Amazonian forests”, while the WWF report says “40% of the Brazilian forest”.
Secondly, it’s not clear how the 40% figure is derived. The Amazon rainforest has approximately 5,500,000 km2 (a lower-end estimate, I believe). Brazil contains approximately 60% of the Amazon rainforest, so about 3,300,000 km2 of Brazilian rainforest.
The 270,000 km2 and 360,000 km2 figures for vulnerable forest sum to 630,000 km2, which is ~ 19% of Brazil’s rainforest, and 11.5% of the Amazon rainforest.
I always vote Republican, but Climategate made me see that many politicians in my party are promoting a pseudoscientific ideology. These politicians are hearing from me about their propaganda in no uncertain terms!
A lot of extremist parties have been based on pseudoscientific ideologies–NAZISM, “scientific” Marxist-Leninism.
If you keep fighting by carefully correcting the propaganda with the truth, pointing out the illogical arguments, and using legal action, denialist lies will finally be defeated because we need the truth to prosper, not lies.
This site, especially the “Skeptics’ Arguments,” helps me understand how the denialist Republicans and Libertarians are trying to manipulate me. I knew they were lying, but I didn’t know enough to counter their lies.
Did you know that during the 1980s, the KGB spread the lie that US scientists cooked up AIDS in Pentagon labs as an instrument of genocide? This was a huge and destructive media campaign. Finally, the regime needed—for its own reasons—to admit the truth and disown this ridiculous lie about Pentagon scientists. Even Russian politicians need good science, eventually.
The KGB threw the (few)scientists who had propagated this lie for them under the bus–figuratively speaking. (The Soviet Academy of Sciences had already distanced themselves from this disinformation in 1987.)
This miraculous admission, right out of the mouth of the KGB, appeared in Izvestia on 3-19-92:
“[KGB foreign intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists’ ‘crafty’ plots were fabricated in KGB offices.”–Izvestia (3-19-92)
The question discussed here is: “can you be too incompetent to understand just how incompetent you are?” The answer is pretty clear. Quite relevant for the denialosphere. It particularly reminds me of the lawyers, blog scientists, and RC commenters who once again decided they’d overthrow a half centuries worth of very solid science and declared that Venus isn’t hot because of CO2 but because of well, … something.
The surveillance tapes were key to his arrest. There he is with a gun, standing in front of a teller demanding money. Yet, when arrested, Wheeler was completely disbelieving. “But I wore the juice,” he said. Apparently, he was under the deeply misguided impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to video cameras.
Poor Wheeler actually tested the theory before he put it into practice. If only some of the denialists were as competent as Wheeler.
Comment by John E. Pearson — 21 Jun 2010 @ 9:00 AM
Thanks for the update. Wee typo: Frankfurter Rundschau.
There appears to be a misunderstanding among some commenters here (unless I’ve got it wrong!).
In the UK, we have the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), a body that deals with complaints about articles and stories in the press (printed newspapers and magazines). Although membership is voluntary and it has no legal power, its rulings are taken seriously. Simon Lewis complained to the PCC about Leake’s dishonest article and it was the PCC that forced the retraction. AFAIK there was no threat of legal action by Lewis himself.
You won’t get any retractions anywhere else unless you have something like the PCC (or take legal action yourself).
You are correct. However, it appears what happened was that the authors of the WWF failed to footnote the sources for the first (40%) part of the quote. Therefore, the passage reads as if the 40% figure is derived from the areas of fire-prone forest discussed immediately after. In fact, it did not come from those figures or from Nepstad (1999), but from other sources, including other work by Nepstad; see: http://www.whrc.org/resources/essays/pdf/2010-02-Nepstad_Amazon.pdf
dhogaza said: “The kind of socially liberal, fiscally conservative, respectful of science, lover of my country’s wildlands Republican I grew up with (and frequently voted for) no longer exists.”
I totally agree. I see very little that is conservative in today’s Republican party. (Transform the global climate – hey! no problem! Protect the environment – not if it gets in the way of getting rich! Tell lies to make those points? – sure, why not?) I often tell my friends on the right that I will become a Republican again if and when the Republican party returns.
How nice to see a media oversight body staffed with people who know how to read!
For those who don’t read Swedish: Swedish public radio got slapped for un-objective reporting of Phil Jones’ BBC interview in February. The broadcaster spends several pages defending its truly egregious reporting. The board of inquiry spends two sentences saying they’ve read the BBC interview, it doesn’t say what it was reported as saying, so they broke the rules.
For generations, we have assumed that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium of the world’s systems and atmosphere stable. But it is possible that with all these enormous changes (population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels) concentrated into such a short period of time, we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself.
Recently three changes in atmospheric chemistry have become familiar subjects of concern. The first is the increase in the greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons—which has led some[fo 4] to fear that we are creating a global heat trap which could lead to climatic instability. We are told that a warming effect of 1°C per decade would greatly exceed the capacity of our natural habitat to cope. Such warming could cause accelerated melting of glacial ice and a consequent increase in the sea level of several feet over the next century. This was brought home to me at the Commonwealth Conference in Vancouver last year when the President of the Maldive Islands reminded us that the highest part of the Maldives is only six feet above sea level. The population is 177,000. It is noteworthy that the five warmest years in a century of records have all been in the 1980s—though we may not have seen much evidence in Britain!
Who to believe, oneuniverse who spouts the denialist spin regarding Nepstad, or Nepstad himself, who, among other things points out that it is his 2004 follow-on paper, not his earlier 1999 paper, that is most relevant.
The special feature of some journalistic malpractice is that it is often easy for anyone to understand when it is exposed. That is yet another reason for publicity about it.
Jonathan Leake, Swedish Radio (#55) are examples.RC readers of course know there are lots more:
Just one of many many examples:
The Daily Telegraph’s headline (approximately)
“Global Warming , Its the Sun thats to blame says Solanki” and he had just said the exact opposite.
I mention this because the Telegraph, unlike say the Mail is respected in the UK and its readers might have been impressed by reading about a real piece of recent research.
But its not just malpractice ,its also the propagation of journalistic myths. How about the misunderstanding of what Keenliside (not the singer) is supposed to have said about the predictions of a few years global cooling (not slowed warming ). That was disproved by a couple of phone calls to the author and someone who actually listened to him.
But the full expression is “There is no honor among thieves,” implying that they should go after each other like rabid dogs… but they don’t. I don’t quite get it.
Admittedly, as I implied in my comment and CFU specifically stated in comment 36:
They aren’t in competition. A Sun reader will not be reading the times. And in many cases, rather than competitors, the same corporation owns them.
Which is very true, but wouldn’t you still want to position yourself as superior by highlighting other outlets’ flaws, maybe steal some readers who may read both and are on the fence, or just plain solidify the loyalty of your own readership by pointing out how unreliable the other side of the fence is?
But yes, the problem is that everything today is a business, which means pandering to advertisers, targeting specific markets, and providing people with what they want (entertainment, focusing on their own interests or telling them what they want to hear) instead of what they need (truth and news of all sorts, both good and bad).
That, “want” vs. “need”, is a flaw in us as a people and culture, not in the media. We should be “grown up” enough to demand the truth instead of candy, and yet we don’t. We flock to stories about celebrities and movies and tehno-toys, and anything that confirms our own preconceptions and political leanings, or feeds a deep seeded desire to battle each individual’s disaster-of-choice while confirming a world view in which we and those like us are strong and just and always right, which plays to both liberals and conservatives, but from completely different angles.
Climate is a perfect example. Conservatives say that mitigating climate change would destroy the economies of the world (their disaster-of-choice) because evil scientists want to steal money through ill-gotten research grants, or worse yet a sinister liberal cabal wants to use the resulting tax laws as a path to One World Government and so Global Domination. Liberals say that climate change will destroy civilization (their disaster-of-choice) because evil robber barons want to steal money by selling every last dollop of fossil fuel, or worse yet a sinister conservative cabal wants to use it as a path to One World Corporation and so Global Domination.
Again, it’s not journalism anymore, anywhere, it’s journaltainment, flavored with truthiness instead of truth, and the slogan or illusion of “fair and balanced” in place of the real thing.
It’s sad, and I hope our civilization lives long enough to work its way through this rather embarrassing period in human history. [Did I just expose myself as a liberal, by highlighting my disaster-of-choice?]
Now that the Heartland Conference is over, would it be possible for RealClimate and/or DeSmogBlog to produce a counter view to the topics and conclusions of these scientists? There was only 1 warmistmainstream scientist who came to the talks, but since the talks contradicted the warmist viewwell-establshed scientific evidence could a pro-AGW not demolish their stances and set the record straight? Their point of exaggeration on each item leading to a catastrophic temperature rise appears reasonable – without a catastrophic rise, there is no signature of the ACO2 contribution.
[Response: Many of us were invited to the Heartland Conference. We didn’t go because we’ve heard it all before, and the stuff that isn’t simply made up has been demolished already. If someone comes up with something new and interesting, we’ll pay attention. Until then, .. yawn…–eric]
Nepstad’s note : “The report that is cited in support of the IPCC statement (Rowell and Moore 2000) omitted some citations in support of the 40% value statement.”
Nepstad et al. 1999 estimated 15% of the Brazilian Amazon to be drought stressed in 1998. This is a much lower figure than their approximately 50% 1994 estimate for the Amazon, and presumably is a better estimate. The post-2000 publications mentioned in the note would not have been available to Rowell and Moore.
From the note : “The authors [Rowell and Moore] of this [WWF] report interviewed several researchers, including the author of this note, and had originally cited the IPAM website where the statement was made that 30 to 40% of the forests of the Amazon were susceptible to small changes in rainfall.”
So it appears, according to Nepstad, that the missing citation in the WWF report referred to the IPAM website. The IPAM website is not a peer-reviewed publication.
Does anybody know which study or studies were used as the basis for the IPAM website statement?
“everything today is a business, which means pandering to advertisers”
No, everything isn’t a business. The BBC was mentionned in this comment thread for instance.
Businesses do not necessarily pander to advertisers. Non-profits sometimes pander to advertisers. There is no causal relationship there.
I’ll give you a causal relationship: if you get your news from a business which panders to advertisers, it’s because you chose to.
Comment by Anonymous Coward — 21 Jun 2010 @ 12:05 PM
62 (Doug Proctor),
Their point of exaggeration on each item leading to a catastrophic temperature rise appears reasonable – without a catastrophic rise, there is no signature of the ACO2 contribution.
Reasonable to whom? If someone points a gun straight at you, do you think “no problem, I’m not dead yet” or do you duck?
No one ever said that the globe would instantly warm to catastrophic temperatures, or that the dangerous effects of that warming would instantly come to pass. Part of our character as an intelligent species is our ability to put 2 + 2 together and take corrective action before it’s too late (i.e. duck before you are shot).
No one said warming would be instantaneous. We are currently committed to roughly a 1.4˚C increase in temperatures, even if we stop using fossil fuels completely today, even though we’ve seen less then 1˚C warming to date. It hasn’t warmed that far yet, but it will, and if you wait until it does, by then we’ll have been committed to an even greater increase, and if you wait until it’s dangerously warm, then we’re in big trouble (understatement).
No one said catastrophes were right around the corner. Loss of Arctic summer ice, sea level rise, severe drought or regional changes to permanently arid conditions; these are all things we can expect if we don’t take action. Again, if you wait until they actually happen, it’s too late.
So you just stand there staring into the barrel of a gun, thinking happy thoughts. Me, I want to duck.
Lastly — how do get that without a “catastrophic rise, there is no signature of the ACO2 contribution?” You completely made that up (or they did). If I say “Penguins are birds, therefore you must give me one million dollars” do you give me the money, or do you walk away rolling your eyes?
a very good post over on Deltoid. reader Tom did e-mail the source of this false claims, “researcher” Richard North. i crosspost the exchange:
I emailed Richard North to get his reaction. I simply enquired:
“The Sunday Times has retracted their ‘Amazongate’ claims. Will you be doing the same?”
“Nope … the Sunday Times did not refer to me, did not consult me, and caved in to the pressure, ending up printing something by way of a “correction” which is neither factually correct nor honest. I do not intend to follow them.
The degree of pressure from the warmists, however, adequately indicates how dangerous the article was to them, and how important the Amazon is to the warmist cause.
“Which is very true, but wouldn’t you still want to position yourself as superior by highlighting other outlets’ flaws, maybe steal some readers who may read both and are on the fence”
Not if the boss says you can’t.
Doesn’t have to be money made him jump on it, mind. The extremely vocal can get their way just by being nuts.
And really, have a look at the state of journalism today.
nonpartisan journalism died because the only way to afford to make the news is to sell to advertisers.
(note: the BBC are afraid of the Labour Government. They nearly killed the BBC for their journalism over the MWDs and the death of David Kelly and DID get their boss sacked. They walk carefully because that government WERE willing to go to war over some things.)
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 21 Jun 2010 @ 12:55 PM
Read the note again. You must have missed the “estimate that approximately half of the forests of the Amazon depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought (Nepstad et al. 1994).” As well as the references to subsequent studies that had confirmed the same picture by the time of AR4. Was the 40% claim sloppily referenced? Sure. But by no means “unsubstantiated”, as the Sunday Times article stated.
[still doggedly grinding an ax that is hopelessly dull and won’t take an edge]
Most of us understand that Polygate is about as exciting and compelling now as an expended sodden cardboard roman candle tube a week after a holiday. Razzle-dazzle is over. Those keen on reenactments of expired historical fiction and the like have a dedicated site available where hobbyists keen on “what might have been” can play together.
This is a great victory for Lewis but isn’t there an entire chunk of explanation missing here? Like why the story got changed in the first place?
Lewis’s PCC said the initial report read to him by Leake was fine.
He wrote in his PCC complaint: “I spoke to Jonathan Leake on the afternoon of Saturday 30, a few hours before the article went to press, as he wanted to check the quotes he was using by me (checking quotes was agreed between ourselves on Friday 29 January).
“The entire article was read to me, and quotes by me agreed, including a statement that the science in the IPCC report was and is correct. “The article was reasonable, and quotes were not out of context. Indeed I was happy enough that I agreed to assist in checking the facts for the graphic to accompany the article (I can supply the emails if necessary). “Yet, following this telephone call the article was entirely and completely re-written with an entirely new focus, new quotes from me included and new (incorrect) assertions of my views. “I ask the Sunday Times to disclose the version of article that was read out to me, and provide an explanation as to why the agreed correct, undistorted, un-misleading article, and specifically the quotes from me, was not published, and an entirely new version produced.”
So here’s the question. Leake has written an entire article, read it to Lewis and then, for no apparent reason, completely rewritten it – apparently of his own volition.
What’s more he has deliberately inserted a number of errors – something any science journalist must know is risking trouble. This makes no sense. There has to be an extra element which The Sunday Times is holding back. So the big question is: Whose decision was it to rewrite it? And who did the rewriting?
Was it Leake? If so it sounds bizarre – any journalist would know that reading an article to a researcher then publishing something different is asking for trouble.
What’s notable here is that no-one has actually interviewed Leake (who actually has long history of writing stories supporting climate change, according to the Timesonline website) .
But there is a giant clue in the penultimate line of the ST apology where it says “A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points.”
So could the real question be not who wrote the article so much as who edited it?
It sounds like there is a back story here that no-one is being told. Someone needs to dig a little deeper and find out what actually happened to that article in between Leake reading it to Lewis and final publication.
(Might cross-post this – I think it’s interesting)
Comment by Professor Braynestawm — 21 Jun 2010 @ 5:13 PM
To those of us who have watched the British press decline, particularly after Murdoch moved in on the scene, this comes as no surprise. Of course some papers were always “truth-challenged” but this incident has highlighted just how bad it is.
If Leake read one version knowing another would be published, then he should be promoted. If he wrote a balanced article and it was edited and distorted by someone higher in the paper then he should shut his mouth and keep taking the pay check (it might even be increased.) He may even be promoted to Science correspondent for Fox News, so my American friends can enjoy more British erudition along with Viscount Monckton of Brenchley.
Meanwhile the laws of physics will still hold, even if they are rewritten by the Republicans. I hope, as I’m nearly 60, I won’t be around to see the consequences of this mendacity, but who knows?
Nepstad in his note suggests three possible pre-2000 sources for the 40% claim :
1) the IPAM website : 30-40% of the Amazon forest is susceptible to small changes in rainfall.
2) Nepstad etl al. 1994 : approximately 50% of the Amazon rainforest “depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought”.
3) Nepstad et. al. 1999 : 15% of the Brazilian rainforest was water-stressed in the 1998 drought.
It doesn’t seem possible to arrive at the 40% claim without using (1). The WWF report gives no detail on this derivation, neither does the AR4 report, but Nepstad notes:
“The authors of this report interviewed several researchers, including the author of this note, and had originally cited the IPAM website where the statement was made that 30 to 40% of the forests of the Amazon were susceptible to small changes in rainfall.””
Therefore it seems likely that IPAM s figure of 30-40% was a formative element in the WWF’s, and therefore the IPCC’s 40% claim. Which peer-reviewed study or studies, if any, did IPAM use?
Finally, the IPCC’s statement is stronger than supported by research such as Nepstad et al.’s:
IPCC: “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000). It is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems that have more resistance to multiple stresses caused by temperature increase, droughts and fires, such as tropical savannas.”
Where evidence do we have that a slight reduction in precipitation coud cause 40% of the Amazonian rainforest to rapidly change into other types of ecosystems?
Also, how much is “a slight reduction in precipitation”? Is this quantified anywhere?
“No one ever said that the globe would instantly warm to catastrophic temperatures, or that the dangerous effects of that warming would instantly come to pass. Part of our character as an intelligent species is our ability to put 2 + 2 together and take corrective action before it’s too late (i.e. duck before you are shot).”
Sorry, we’ve been treated to all sorts of direct correlations between AGW and immediate results. Shall we start with the Environmental Minister Tritten in Germany directly correlating hurricane Katrina with the failure to ratify the Kyoto treaty? It was a direct cause-effect statement, and one echoed quite frequently.
Every weather event is automatically direct proof of AGW to the activists in the media; heck, look down the front page where RC did a good job trying to tamp down this rediculous problem of over attribution (and then read the comment section that shows how little it was comprehended).
Professor Braynestawm #73 is asking the right question. Leake knowns but doesn’t speak.
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 21 Jun 2010 @ 11:27 PM
Shorter oneuniverse: “But — but — but –”
There seems to be a concerted effort on the blogs to keep the Ghost of Amazongate Past alive — like Stevie and the Decline. Give it up already folks.
Comment by Martin Vermeer — 22 Jun 2010 @ 12:03 AM
#78 No weather events, or no modification of weather events , is going to result from a warming globe? No warnings about some of the consequences that will directly affect human society and economy are permitted? Then what do we say about the likely future of this little planet? Certainly the energy companies would rather everybody kept quiet and pretended there were no adverse effects of rising CO2. Wouldn’t do to frighten the public, and politicians, now, would it?
“Every weather event is automatically direct proof of AGW to the activists in the media;”
Frank is correct. Where he is incorrect is in the implication that he’s not the activist in the media.
When there was a cold snap this winter, this was PROOF that AGW was bogus or that we are now cooling.
When 1998’s temperature is measured against 2009’s, this is a WEATHER comparison, and is “proof” that we’re in a cooling phase and that AGW is no longer a threat.
This, fellas, is called “projection” and is extremely common amongst the denialerati.
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 22 Jun 2010 @ 2:31 AM
Mr. Horton, you’ve hit on the point precisely, and the modality of articulation of the threat being misplaced.
Climate change is insideously slow process, which makes it far more dangerous a proposition than the sudden tipping point scenario.
It’s really not the threat of a tornado ripping the siding off of the house. It’s the poor flashing job on top of the chimney that allows the tiniest amount of water to trickle down the back side, setting up the expansion from absorbing the water and the cracking dry rot when it evaporates. Both have the same end result, but the latter is going to cost the homeowner more, as the insurance company might not cover it, and mitigating it requires a nuanced, thorough approach to home maintenance.
Back on topic:
Unfortunately, retractions and clarifications on matters in the media often do little more than bring them back to life, with the same complete miscomprehension of the affair that it was meant to rectify.
At the risk of inviting the usual suspects to pile on, oneuniverse makes a perfectly valid point. Whilst it is possible to argue that the peer reviewed literature supports something like what the IPPC said, it does not appear to me to support the specific claim made by the IPPC and cited by oneuniverse above. Nepstad (2004), for example, does not consider the specific issue and, whilst interesting and warranting further research, is highly speculative.
If anyone disagrees, then it will be a trivial task for that person to directly quote a couple of sentences from a particular cited work in the peer reviewed literature which supports the specific claim in the IPCC report. That person should also note that despite the 31 page length of Lewis’ detailed, cogent and persuasive submission, he did not provide any direct citation that specifically supported what the IPCC said. His submission boiled down to saying that there was material in the peer reviewed literature that kind of supports something like what the IPCC said. If anyone wants to argue that that is justifiable, then that is fine, but please do not try to dismiss someone who makes the valid point that the specific claim in the IPCC report does not appear in the peer reviewed literature with silly little digs like “But – but – but” per Martin Vermeer above.
May I also say that it was refreshing to see Jim step in and “in-line comment” an activist commenter, a practice which is used far too infrequently on this blog. Signal is invariably drowned out by the noise of drum-beating activists. This is off-putting for those would would seek to use this site as a science resource and ultimately defeats the communication objectives of the blog.
61 Bob (Sphaerica) has a point that the average person (IQ=100) lacks 45 points of IQ of being a scientist, and that includes journalists’ math IQs. The average person may also have other problems that interfere with learning science. The IQ distribution is well known to be Gaussian. Scientists are 3 or more standard deviations above the average, on the tail of the distribution.
73 Professor Braynestawm also has a point in wondering who did the editing.
Forced retractions will have the effect of making the editors feel threatened, hopefully to the point of leaving truthful stories alone or omitting them entirely. That may be enough to get an energy bill passed. I read somewhere recently that 75?% of people do think that GW is a problem that we need to solve.
Editors and publishers will still feel threatened by the fossil fuel industry. Is there some way that something like anti-trust action or a change in FCC rules could separate most journalism from fossil fuel company influence?
PS: The 21 June issue of Climate Progress mentions this RC post, “Leakegate: A retraction”.
Daniel Goodwin, strange that you would cite a reference that pretty much supports Frank G’s assertion in an attempt to refute him. It’s pretty hard to interpret Tritten any other way than as saying Katrina was Bush’s fault which he might have avoided had he signed Kyoto.
Martin, #89, thanks for the link; I’d read Nepstad’s press release already which was, I think part of Lewis’ submission. I could be wrong here, but I don’t think that Nepstad’s press release forms part of the body of peer reviewed literature? I’m sure he’s a very good scientist and his opinion carries some weight, but what he says outside of the peer reviewed literature is of less weight than what he says in the peer reviewed literature. Or are you arguing that the IPCC should cite press releases in its work? Nepstad’s press release is one of the factors which drove me to conclude that the correct view here is that there is material in the peer reviewed literature that kind of supports something like what the IPCC said.
Regardless, I set a trivial task for anyone disagreeing with me in my original post at #87: quote a couple of sentences from the literature that supports the specific claim that the IPCC made (yes, I spotted my typos – doh!) Sorry Martin but you don’t pass muster – press releases, even by eminent scientists, don’t count. In no way, shape or form do I claim to have any kind of comprehensive knowledge of the literature in this area, so if someone can quote a few relevant sentences from the literature, I’ll happily change my opinion.
So could the real question be not who wrote the article so much as who edited it?
I never once saw Leake protest, insist that his name be removed from the byline, or even hint that it was his bosses, not him, that did the dirty deed. Beyond this, he has a long list of recent, similar articles. I did a search, and he seemed to be on an event keel until the fall of 2009.
Why the change, I can only speculate, but the change seems genuine. His attitude is no doubt shared by the editors (or else why would they allow such a last minute change, and themselves not react very quickly and negatively once it came to light).
Your main point is certainly valid… how in the world does a responsible publication go from a carefully worded and balanced version, which has been vetted with an expert, to a hatchet job in a matter of hours? There’s an important story in there that we’re not privy to.
Something is very strange, but then I find everything that has transpired in the past year to be so far through the looking glass and then even beyond that through the next that my head is spinning.
Tritten said: “The American president [GW Bush] is closing his eyes to the economic and human costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural catastrophes like Katrina.”
Rod B wrote: “It’s pretty hard to interpret Tritten any other way than as saying Katrina was Bush’s fault which he might have avoided had he signed Kyoto.”
On the contrary. It is quite impossible to interpret Tritten’s comment as saying that US ratification of the Kyoto Protocol could have “avoided” Katrina — unless of course one is shamelessly dishonest.
Tritten very clearly was pointing to Katrina as an example of the “economic and human costs” of “natural disasters” that unmitigated AGW will surely bring, and was suggesting that the US president was “closing his eyes” to those costs.
And indeed, Bush was not merely “closing his eyes” to those costs: for eight long years, his administration systematically and aggressively sought to blind the rest of the country to those costs by suppressing and denying scientific information about the likely effects of AGW.
caveat: I’m just another reader here, not an expert on any of this.
I can’t shed any further light on the references for a statement on a website ten years ago, and I don’t see the point. I stipulate that the IPCC passage was “basically correct but poorly written, and bizarrely referenced,” as Simon Lewis was quoted at the time.
I think I can help with the “rapidly to another steady state” bit, though. A brief look at the context suggests it doesn’t come from the WWF report (despite the awkward placement of the citation) but from the preceding paragraph in the IPCC report, which reads in part:
…Several AOGCM scenarios indicate a tendency towards ‘savannisation’ of eastern Amazonia (Nobre et al., 2005) and the tropical forests of central and south Mexico (Peterson et al., 2002; Arriaga and Gómez, 2004). In north-east Brazil the semi-arid vegetation would be replaced by the vegetation of arid regions (Nobre et al., 2005), as in most of central and northern Mexico (Villers and Trejo, 2004).
You are being purposely obtuse. Dr. Vermeer provided a link for you where a scientist who is very active in research in the area, and who is in fact the author of some of the cited sources, details multiple papers and the logic which provided the foundation for the statement. It’s more than answer enough, and your refusal to accept it is typical of denial (just say “no” without foundation, it works every time).
Remember, the statement was part of a summary for policy makers. Nothing in that summary is going to be an exact quotation extracted word for word from a peer-reviewed paper, and it is going to be far more basic. It’s a summary.
As far as this:
I set a trivial task for anyone disagreeing with me in my original post at #87: quote a couple of sentences from the literature that supports the specific claim that the IPCC made
You set an impossible task, and couched it in terms making it look easy (nice trick, but it’s a trick). It’s like asking someone to quote a couple of sentences that explain the general theory of relativity, and saying that if it can’t be done, the theory is obviously not true.
You basically said that the only thing you will accept is to water complex frontier-science presented in multiple publications down to two simple sentences that even you can understand, and for the authors of those papers to have kindly done so in advance for you.
Of course, if one did, you’d then ask for the citations that support those statements, and on and on. If you don’t trust the authorities that produce the conclusions, then you have to be willing to go back and read and understand the studies involved, in their entirety. I’ve done so. They’re there, you could do it, Martin pointed you to Nepstad who pointed you to them, but instead you want it handed to you through primary school level simplifications, and if you can’t have those, you claim it doesn’t exist.
This is what is so infuriating about the denial crowd. They make the rules up as they go, and then arrogantly insist that a failure to play by silly rules (i.e. to bring the science down to a 5th grade level) proves their point.
Stephen, When a researcher says that a report did not misrepresent his work, I’m inclined to believe him, and I do not see how a peer review of such a statement would enhance its value. Perhaps you would do well to look at the role of peer review in science–to what it does and does not apply.
I’m afraid your missive is merely a desperate attempt to save a Leakey ship.
ACC is more fact than the mainstream media is presently to acknowledge even though the majority of climate scientists published work says so. For some reason the media continuously chooses to put both side of the argument regardless. Is that political I wonder or just the inability to believe and pay for it all?
Anyone with a respectable IQ should know that IQ is a bogus measure ‘-)
What ever happened to the other claim about the IPCC report–that they over blew the rate that the Himalayan glaciers were melting and how dire the effect would be on down stream Asian populations? Wasn’t that also supposed to have been based on a study by WWF?
(Apologies if this was already covered somewhere here.)
82 Completely Fed Up: is correct for people with short memory, possibly because they are young or recently moved to an area, or wish to forget. What is needed is an old person who remembers the weather in the same place half a century ago or somebody who looks up historical records. For example, last winter was the first time in a long time that there was significant ice on the Mississippi at Davenport, Iowa, but it was bad ice and short lived. It looked like a lot of last winter’s ice formed farther North and floated down. From the 1960s on back, the ice formed much earlier and it was fast [frozen] to the shore so that you could drive on it. In the covered wagon days, the ice was used to cross the river with wagons and horses at St. Louis. This information works for average people regardless of the fact that it isn’t peer reviewed literature.
98 BPL: There was something wrong with the IQ test you took. Your IQ is clearly NOT 83. 183, I would believe. The leading “1” somehow got dropped. A person with a real 83 IQ would not understand what is going on here, never mind being able to comment intelligently.
– then again, my guess about the context might be wrong. In his complaint, which I didn’t read properly before commenting, Simon Lewis refers to papers by himself and Nepstad. He also refers to the scary Amazon dieback papers that were published in 2004. For some reason, these were not cited in the IPCC WG2 report passage we’re discussing. But Lewis points out that they were cited in ch. 7 of the WG1 report.
“What ever happened to the other claim about the IPCC report–that they over blew the rate that the Himalayan glaciers were melting and how dire the effect would be on down stream Asian populations? Wasn’t that also supposed to have been based on a study by WWF?”
Bidisha Banerjee and George Collins carefully investigated possible sources for that unfortunate note about Himalayan glaciers in the IPCC WG2 report. They found that it did not, as widely claimed, originate with a WWF report. Here is an excerpt from their analysis:
“As mentioned above, the final version of the IPCC document also cites a 2005 WWF report. The WWF report has been intensely discussed since this mistake became clear. Its Table 7 (on page 32), however, is quite different from the IPCC’s. It does not include total retreat figures, only average retreats per year. To its credit, it also includes sources for each claim. All but two glacier studies in the WWF report either have different dates in the IPCC table or do not appear at all. Small details confirm the difference: the WWF spells Bara Shigri as Bada Shigri (both transliterations from Hindi are permissible), and puts a hyphen in Chota-Shigri. The only data identical in both tables is Hasnain’s 1985-2001 study of Gangotri, although the WWF cites a 2004 paper, not the 2002 paper mentioned by IPCC.
More strikingly, the IPCC table contains a simple mathematical error found also in the Down to Earth article, but not in the WWF report. This error is like a radioactive tracer back to Chettri’s article, as it could not likely have been made twice. The 1845 to 1966 Pindari Glacier study appears in all three tables, but only the WWF report correctly divides the 2,840-meter retreat by 121 years to arrive at the actual yearly rate of 23 meters. Both the Down to Earth and IPCC tables divide 2,840 by 21 years instead of 121, leading to an incorrect, much faster retreat rate of 135 meters per year.”
CM, I’m grateful for the references. I don’t have access to Huntingford et al., but the other two modelings of Amazonian die-back both feature a heavy reduction in precipitation over the time-span of the simulations :
Cox et al. 2004 : From 4.56mm/day in 1990 to 1.64mm/day in 2090 Betts et al. 2004: From 5mm/day in pre-industrial times to 2mm/day in 2100
(according to the latter’s model, some parts of the Amazon will have zero precipitation by 2100)
The simulated die-back in these papers is not accompanied or accomplished by “a slight reduction in precipitation”, but by a heavy (>50%) reduction.
So we’re still left with the question of how the IPCC came up with the strong statement : “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation [..]”
I don’t agree. It underestimates the effect it is trying to quantify. Just one reason is that it considers climatology to be a single area of expertise.
How often do contrarians criticise work from their own sub-discipline?
Consider as a comparison, the discovery of high temperature superconductivity. Would you go a theorist to make predictions about its technological significance? Perhaps not, because it would depend on all sorts of questions concerning the materials science. Would you go to a materials scientist to ask about the underlying mechanisms? Both could be called experts on high temperature superconductivity.
A similar point is true in climate science. On rare occasions an outsider may know better, but usually the best judgments are made by people who have worked on a problem for years.
There are a few scientists who repeatedly claim that the core subject depends on the validity of computer simulations (models) and that they know that these models can’t be trusted. But have these people done any climate simulations? Have they read the codes? Yet again we hear from a few ‘skeptics’ who are serious climatologists ; the fact that they may have held positions of responsibility as observationalists does not mean that we should respect their opinions on the theory of the subject, as much as a theorist who is soaked in the complexities of it.
Thats not all. None of this considers the actual merit of the few papers which oppose the core of the CO2 theory. That is more important and has been tackled e.g. here at RC and various other places linked on the right hand side.
This is *way* off-topic, but Edward (#102), don’t be too sure about BPL’s score–he is indeed a very capable fellow, but IQ score correlates much less well than most people think with generalized cognitive ability. Moreover, 83 is not all that low, IIRC–not out of the so-called “normal” range.
Ponder, for example, this quotation:
“The unreliability of IQ tests has been proved by numerous researchers. . . In one study, for example, ninety-nine school psychologists independently scored an IQ test from identical records, and came up with IQs ranging from 63 to 117 for the same person.”
You did of course say that “there’s something wrong with the IQ test you took.” I agree, but would contend that that’s because there’s something wrong with all IQ tests–beginning with the fact that there is no good reason to think that “intelligence” is actually a unitary quality in the first place. (A fact noted by the inventor of what became the IQ test, Monsieur Binet–educational history would have been quite different had his original caveats been heeded by his successors–I can’t say “his intellectual heirs.”) Wili, #101, had it right, IMO.
Gneiss (at 104), thanks for the clarification. I’m glad to hear that WWF is off the hook on these accusations. They generally strike me as a good organization. Of course, most people will only remember the original headlines (if that).
OT–total ice volume in the Arctic seems to be falling off a cliff lately. Is there any level of melt that will convince denialists that something serious is in fact going on? The Arctic is an area where the IPCC got it significantly wrong in the other direction. Somehow the denialosphere has managed to redirect the discussion to these other rare cases where they seem to have erred in the direction of exaggeration. We have to learn how to prevent them from framing the discussion in ways that distract from the real threats.
RE #45 – picky, picky, picky. It seems to me these were honest mistakes. People think rainforest, they think Amazon, not nec Brazil, or perhaps they were generalizing/extrapolating (which scientists do when they think other areas are comparable to the specific research area). The people who create the IPCC reports do so for free in their spare time. They (at least the vast majority, it seems) are very meticulous in their efforts, but, of course, mistakes will be made, esp when people not very expert in an area end up having to write a section about that area (not everyone wants to work for free or has the spare time) — as happened in the Himalayan glacier retreat mistake. The IPCC reports are massives reports created by many many scholars, each doing their part.
If mistakes are made, they can be found and pointed out, and the information disseminated. Altho I believe it was the scientists themselves who found most of the errors in the current IPCC report, the skeptics could play a role here (they should be useful for something!); they could read the IPCC very carefully and hunt for all the mistakes, which can then be corrected and the corrections disseminated in an addendum or “errata” section.
It seems in this current IPCC the errors WERE caught and “dissemenated” far far far abroad.
Corrective processes already seem to be in place.
Even tho I had always assumed the IPCC reports were based stickly on peer-review articles, and was a bit surprised when doing my own research in a WGII chapter that various NGO reports were cited, I really did like to get the NGO reports, which are written more for laypersons, and bring together the information in a more holistic fashion, and which I wouldn’t have known about, if the IPCC had not referenced them. Those NGO reports themselves are based on good science, peer-review studies, and other good sources. Afterall, the NGOs are on the ground there and may know some things even the scientists don’t know.
I think its okay for some such NGO reports (like WWF reports) to be included, esp in the WGII chapters. I think NOW everyone knows very well that mistakes can be make in the IPCC reports — so it should sort of be like an Easter egg hunt for the skeptics each time an IPCC report comes out.
I think we’re now in hypercorrective mode even. Like when a child says “I falled down” — that’s “hypercorrection” in linguistics.
“Beyond this, he has a long list of recent, similar articles. I did a search, and he seemed to be on an event keel until the fall of 2009.
Why the change, I can only speculate”
Here’s a speculation. The Climategate emails. Monbiot also got taken in too because (IMO only)
a) proper couching of the selected sentences made it look like climate science was being abused
b) proper couching of selected sencences made it look like the scientists were trying to silence others
c) it was a leak and journalism wants leaks to happen, so they can get a story
d) FOIA was seemingly refused and journalists fought EXTREMELY hard for it
I think that last one is the most important. As far as the journalists could read (remember: no time to read all the emails and little science background) FOIA (their baby) was being killed off.
They could have investigated and found the abuses of FOIA with the denial crowd, but no time and their baby was being attacked, so common sense and investigative rigour went out the window.
Having taken on FOIA was under attack by these scientists, the jounralists were angry, hurt and afraid. This made swallowing the rest of the conjured tripe much easier, since now the scientists in the climate sphere were “the enemy”.
Professional hubris and the fear that any fallout of climategate could see FOIA amended to refuse abuse have kept the journalists mostly against the proper investigation and reporting of the incident.
My speculation, of course.
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 23 Jun 2010 @ 4:06 AM
“CFU: “If someone has told the truth but that truth is damaging *and it was intended to damage* then it is actionable.”
Um, this doesn’t sound right. Are you sure? ”
Archer has won on this basis, as have a few others.
And the situation I gave shows why it is *right* to allow such.
Outings of private information is safe if released in the public interest. But if not and damaging, it SHOULD be actionable, else the world turns into a street full of curtain-twitchers, all tutting about the terrible things other people are doing.
After all, your bank details are facts. But if I tell everyone what they are, you’re going to have a case against me.
And what is blackmail other than releasing damaging information (the threat of blackmail doesn’t work if the information released is not true and is not damaging)?
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 23 Jun 2010 @ 4:11 AM
Stephen, are you saying that 0% of Amazonian forest would be affected? Or that more than 60% could be?
Because a refutation of “that specific claim” means one of those two.
If so, where is your value as to what the proportion of the Amazonian forest COULD be affected by such a change in climate and your workings thereof?
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 23 Jun 2010 @ 4:16 AM
CFU, Sorry, I’m going to show my ignorance here, which Archer? There are many. Do you have a link to a story about the case?
With blackmail, isn’t the crime Extortion, rather than the release of private information?
If you released my bank details (not that having them would do anyone any good), the action I could take against you would be for taking the details in the first place, not for making them public.
How do you prove that revealing a truth about a secret or withheld aspect of your life is what caused the claimed damage? In your example you may have lost because you have ginger hair, a big nose, or heaven forbid people didn’t like your policies.
I wish I shared the same optimism some have about retractions like this turning the message back on the reality track. At the moment, I don’t. I think right now, the general public is suffering from doom fatigue, and dealing with AGW is too much to swallow when the global economy is terrible, they’re hanging tenuously onto a job they hate, working more than they’d like, paying more and for for food and other family needs and a few pleasures in life. They see what is happening in the Gulf and don’t understand why a flip can’t be switched to make it stop. They (we) all want our plastics, fuel, fast cars, cheap food and beer to wash down the mind-numbing break that is American Idol or The Office, fantasy breaks from an increasingly ugly world. They don’t want to think about changing their lifestyles any more than they’ve already had to, which is why denying AGW makes life more comfortable, because accepting the reality comes with responsibility. I think the average family out there with two working parents and owes more on their house than it’s worth is feeling drowned in responsibility as it is.
I think it would be interesting to see a graph with economic hardship vs. acceptance of the AGW reality. I know it wouldn’t entirely hold, because my sister is economically secure, but an active denier, I think partly due to the company she keeps, but mostly due to the fact that she doesn’t want to make sacrifices in life or change her wasteful lifestyle. She probably also doesn’t want to believe that her children are facing an increasingly ugly world.
I don’t know how many average people would have read the original Leake article, much less the retraction. As someone else mentioned, it is hard to understand why competing news outlets don’t bring a lot of attention to retractions of this nature, especially since this one not only got a whole lot wrong, but nearly admitted to character assassination.
Another major problem we face, as has also been noted here, is that most journalists are generalists, and not very savvy when it comes to science of any kind. Basic Newtonian mechanics can be easily explained; climate science is very complicated and has many disciplines. I can’t tell you much about adiabatic lapse rates, but I can talk in much more detail about things like the End-Devonian Hangenburg Extinction Event, Snowball Earth, paleoclimate proxies like chironomids and forams, some of the CO2/O2 balancing acts during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic. Journalists glaze over with this stuff and are looking for simple yes/no answers.
I watched a CNN reporter, one I considered to be decent, ask a biologist how long it was going to take BP to cap the well. I watched someone else ask a geologist what the spill was going to do to wildlife. I have enough training in both to understand they had really good experts in front of them and asked them all the wrong questions, but common sense should dictate that they wouldn’t need my training to understand the difference between biologists and geologists. Instead, I guess they just focus on the “expert” part and expect them to know everything, which is silly.
So I fear that for a while at least, until the effects become more obvious and threatening, we’re stuck continuing our research and continuing to take up the cause and hoping that eventually, people will wake up. I haven’t seen enough evidence that will be the case, but the numbers have been better int eh past. We’ll see.
Comment by Shirley J. Pulawski — 23 Jun 2010 @ 9:27 AM
Barry North, the theft of information is also a crime. Indeed, in some cases, even unauthorized access of a computer is a crime. What is more, the crime was committed precisely because the perpetrators–or those that paid them–wanted to distract the public from the fact that their position is 100% evideence free. They succeeded, but how long will it be before people notice that they still have no evidence?
> The simulated die-back in these papers is not accompanied or accomplished
> by “a slight reduction in precipitation”, but by a heavy (>50%) reduction.
Off the top of my head , there’s a point you may be missing. Have you considered the vegetation-precipitation feedback? IIRC, part of the point made in those papers is that the Amazon recycles water inland from the ocean through multiple cycles of rainfall and evaporation, so a decrease in precipitation over the Amazon is amplified by the forest loss it causes. So the large reduction in precipitation reported in these modeling studies is, in part, the result of (“drastic”) vegetation changes initiated by a smaller (but “slight”?) change in precipitation. Perhaps someone better qualified can comment.
Though I am a moderate climate skeptic (not a denier…. uh oh, does that make me a denier) I posted the following on my blog:
I wrote a number of post about Climategate. After this story broke there were other “gates” that appeared, including “Amazon-gate” and “Africa-gate”. Both those stories, written by one Johnathan Leake, have been retracted. I am a skeptic of the alarmist, dooms-day wing of AGW climate consensus, and have written more than a few bits on this blog expressing my views. I searched my blog and couldn’t find any post where I mentioned either of these stories, but just the same, I think it is important to acknowledge and weed out journalistic fraud; what would, in this case, appear to be sloppy / misleading reporting, taking advantage of a dust-up in the climate science community, all for the purposes of selling news copy.
To me, this is no different than the incredibly sloppy / stupid journalistic rants of one Jason Leopold, who in 2006, fabricated a story that sources in Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s office, and those inside the White House were telling him of the imminent indictment of Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame fiasco. Now, if he claimed to have had one source, and the one source turned out to be wrong, then you could say that the source was simply mistaken, or misunderstood. But Leopold wrote that he had several. Leopold was so sure that Rove was the perp, that he fabricated the story. Even though he lied about having sources, created them out of thin air, if Rove had been indicted, Leopold would have been considered the first to break the story and would have been greeted with heeps of praise from the whole industry. He would have probably won the Pulitzer, and no one would have been the wiser.
Anyway, hats off to RealClimate for not dropping the blatant dishonesty of Leake and exposing it.
[Another OT discussion about scales which I didn’t start]
(A fact noted by the inventor of what became the IQ test, Monsieur Binet–educational history would have been quite different had his original caveats been heeded by his successors–I can’t say “his intellectual heirs.”)
Perhaps you mean David Wechsler who was no relative of mine. But he also appears to have emphasised the limitations, perhaps more than Binet?
I personally prefer physical scales and have just been defending the concept of temperature on an earlier thread. If A is warmer than B then energy will pass from A to B without doing work. Thats enough to define temperature. Similarly according to the hardness scale,if A is harder than B it can scratch it. But what if A has a higher IQ than B? Mental scratching?
I also don’t like the idea of combining several quite different skills into one number. Some universities attempt something analagous when they suggest that a First in Maths is ‘equivalent’ to a First in English.
“With blackmail, isn’t the crime Extortion, rather than the release of private information? ”
So why isn’t releasing private information with the intent to harm not libel or slander?
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 23 Jun 2010 @ 11:34 AM
Shirley J. Pulawsk, re (118).
Some skeptics are credibly so from a science view. But these are not who you are discussing. People will tend to believe nice things that are predicted for the future. They don’t (never have, never will) accept bad things at all, especially those that sound a bit esoteric like AGW, until it’s right at their front door — and even then sometimes not.
[edit – OT]
I don’t have any answers for you; just an observation.
The media likes to be factual but they report on things that are stimulating or enticing, not necessarily good to know things (other than diets and dating). Always have; always will. Paleoclimate proxies like chironomids and forams is a great example. Reporters also interview whatever expert they can get to answer the phone (unless they have a stipend to offer.) Though you make a good point (actually many…) in that a reporter, having luckily glommed onto some expert or another, ought at least be able to ask relevant questions. Few reporters will ever have more than a modicum of specialty training in some field or the other. And they have that mainly because their editor or producer puts some added value on it. Climatology is actually becoming more valuable (people like polar bears) but still in the basement. A reporter is still far better off learning more about FBI profiling.
EG 102: BPL: There was something wrong with the IQ test you took. Your IQ is clearly NOT 83. 183, I would believe. The leading “1″ somehow got dropped. A person with a real 83 IQ would not understand what is going on here, never mind being able to comment intelligently.
BPL: Not so. I can think clearly, but I do so much slower than normal people. People think that because I have a good vocabulary, I must be highly intelligent. Not true. My problem-solving abilities are not great.
BPL: Indeed. The only lack of IQ would have is that you have to work harder. Or find ways of bypassing a problem brought on from inherent inability to work in the accepted way.
A high IQ is overrated. A passion is required. All else is window dressing.
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 23 Jun 2010 @ 11:52 AM
#124 BPL Re: speed.
It is said that Pauli used to get quite impatient with Einstein’s slowness at times.
Anyway computers have already reduced the importance of fast thinking. I should imagine that trend will continue. We already have,artificial intelligence, chess,bridge,computer algebra,artifical neural networks, and pattern recognition.
CM says: [T]he Amazon recycles water inland from the ocean through multiple cycles of rainfall and evaporation, so a decrease in precipitation over the Amazon is amplified by the forest loss it causes.
There’s also the interesting phenomenon of the Amazon rainforest’s “flying rivers”:
The Amazon’s “flying rivers” — humid air currents that deliver water to the vast rain forest — may be ebbing, which could have dire consequences for the region’s ability to help curb global warming, an expert said this week at the Copenhagen climate conference.
Rising temperatures in the Amazon region, in large part due to climate change, are creating more arid savannas, which disrupt the water cycle vital to Brazil’s farming and energy industries. …
Comment by Completely Fed Up — 23 Jun 2010 @ 2:53 PM
IQ is not enough, you also need EQ (emotional quotient)
I have met many brilliant people whose IQ’s would register in the 190’s or higher.
but they could not survive a week on the street. In fact one I knew became a drop out from society at 19.
You have to be emotionally ready to manage in the millieu of the society you live in.
However most people with LOW EQs also are either really not that smart, or are intentionally
playing dumb. I knew people who did that in High School.
In either case having a decent EQ with a low IQ does not give as big an advantage as many think…
So let’s just ignore the IQ/EQ thing… Its more important to discern the thought processes
of the person.
It is said that Pauli used to get quite impatient with Einstein’s slowness at times.
People get irritated with all manner of things for all manner of reasons. When I was a technical lead I’d figure out my team members’ personalities and assign them tasks that exploited them. I had one team member who was thorough to the point of being utterly annoying, but I relied on her to act as a “check” on the entire team.
That said, “fast” and “slow” are relatives to tasks, and research into the nature of “Intelligence” has shown that reaction speed and intelligence are strongly correlated. To the point that accurate IQ scores can be gotten simply by measuring how fast a person pushes a button …
Anyway computers have already reduced the importance of fast thinking. I should imagine that trend will continue. We already have,artificial intelligence, chess,bridge,computer algebra,artifical neural networks, and pattern recognition.
That’s utterly, completely, and totally false. Until a computer can pass the Turing Test, a person is more intelligent than a computer. And for that matter, so is a chimp, pig, dog and probably even a cat.
What computers do is fast COMPUTATION, which is very different from fast THINKING.
FurryCatHerder (131) — Whatda you mean “probably even a cat”?
Them’s fighten’ words!
Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Jun 2010 @ 5:37 PM
Pauli got impatient with almost everyone. Dirac couldn’t abide him. And though Heisenberg was a friend, Pauli abused him mercilessly. That said, he did say some very funny and pithy things–one of the best, when he referred to physicist Wolfgang Paul as his “real counterpart in Bonn”.
Thanks for this post. The Australian newspaper reproduced the original Sunday Times article on 1 Feb and other articles by Leake, and I had expected a delay or complete absence in printing the retraction.
This is a very interesting discussion and it always surprises me how seldom the core drivers get looked at. The basic science of climate change and global warming is over 150 years old and in the last 30 years the evidence of its reality has been growing ever stronger. The challenge of how we respond it is made serially complex not just by the level of collaborative behaviour that will be required but also because the basis of our activity and thinking has a fundamental flaw. Politicians and governments do not control capitalism; it controls them, which is why politicians are always scared of markets. But the system itself is based on a false premise. Capitalism only became possible following the invention of double entry booking in 15th century Italy. Unfortunately, at that time there were many fewer humans around and they had not discovered how to use fossil fuels in any great way. This caused a system whose intellectual heart was the concept of balance to fail to recognise that there was a cost to using the planets ecosystem, an accounting error that continues to this day. The capitalist system may have been an effective system for delivering present day pleasures but it has done so by fooling us into thinking that destroying the future is “rational behaviour” because fossil fuels remain so much cheaper than renewable alternatives. Today, all of Earth’s ecosystems (climate, oceans, fresh water, forests)are threatened because the system is tilted the wrong way. We desperately need an overhaul of cost allocation so capitalism can continue to deliver but in a way that encourages us to live with the planet rather than on it.
Harold Forbes is Author of “How to be a Humankind Superhero: a manifesto for individuals to reclaim a safe climate”. Read chapter summaries at http://www.hksuper.com or download the complete first chapter at http://bit.ly/freehksk
I am a skeptic of the alarmist, dooms-day wing of AGW climate consensus
Comment by Sonicfrog — 23 June 2010 @ 10:32 AM
Then you don’t don’t seem understand climate science or have not read enough on the history, also, perhaps need to pay more attention to risk analysis – which isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Here’s an example of something that will not see any retractions any time soon, for your edification:
The 1980s and 1990s brought proof (chiefly from studies of ancient ice) that the global climate could indeed shift, radically and catastrophically, within a century — perhaps even within a decade.
I know this will strike many here as insane, but I think a sea change is about to happen with Global Warming belief in the public mind…
You see, while fringe right now, it seems that the thought in the Climate Change Denial circles is concluding that the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill is a HOAX.
While I’m certain the more intelligent deniers will disagree with this frantically, the grass roots is showing their true colors and it is really turning off the fence sitters right now. Denying obvious reality won’t play in the bread basket or even the bible belt.
Insane? Yes, but it is not my words here, just a noting of what the climate deniers on the fringe are already saying.
Your analysis of capitalism causing environmental harm might be acute, were it not for the fact that the Communist USSR produced even worse environmental devastation. Modern industrial societies in general can devastate the environment unless proper controls are applied.
New twist in Leakegate saga
(Continuation from comment #73)
Was Jonathan Leake hung out to dry by The Sunday Times? George Monbiot, The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2010/jun/24/sunday-times-amazongate-ipcc
“But the interesting question is how the Sunday Times messed up so badly. I spent much of yesterday trying to get some sense out of the paper, without success. But after 25 years in journalism it looks pretty obvious to me that Jonathan Leake has been wrongly blamed for this, then hung out to dry. My guess is that someone else at the paper, acting on instructions from an editor, got hold of Leake’s copy after he had submitted it, and rewrote it, drawing on North’s post, to produce a different – and more newsworthy – story. If this is correct, it suggests that Leake is carrying the can for an editor’s decision. The Sunday Times has made no public attempt to protect him: it looks to me like corporate cowardice.”
Comment by Professor Braynestawm — 24 Jun 2010 @ 5:51 PM
I don’t understand this defence of Leake.
Firstly, Leake isn’t just some journalist working in the trenches. He is the environment editor for a major paper. Secondly, this isn’t an isolated incident. Tim Lambert has documented a large number of egregious distortions and misquotations under Leake’s byline. If we give Leake the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that his words are being rewritten – why has he not stood up to it? He has many options, from running a story apologising for the errors, to resigning.
In fact, all this incident has done is make me trust Monbiot less. Following his mismanagement of the CRU story, this reinforces his reputation as an attack dog lacking in perspective.
Since we’re talking about hanging people out to try… have Monbiot and his editor apologized for what he said about Phil Jones already? If not, why are we still listening to him or reading the Guardian? Ah yes, the crosswords. I don’t do crosswords but perhaps they could put a picture on page 3.
Comment by Anonymous Coward — 25 Jun 2010 @ 5:15 AM
So, I return to the thread after a few days to see what interesting references might have been thrown up to my observation at #87. Aside from the predicted piling on (Bob Sphaerica, I’m looking at you and your silly post at #95; please check in your “denier” guns at the door next time), I do find it noteworthy that the IPCC statement is apparently not directly supported by primary literature. Unlike Bob, I don’t think that excuses like “it’s just a summary” or “it’s complicated” wash. Where a specific claim with numbers on it is cited, I, and, I hope, most people on a science blog, would expect to see the source of that claim cited and then to be able to go to the source and see the factoid for myself in the source material. We know here that the source that appeared in the IPCC report was incorrect. Fine, no biggie, mistakes happen. So then, what was the correct source in the peer reviewed literature? It seems pretty clear that this claim appears nowhere in the peer reviewed literature, otherwise I would expect that Lewis or Nepstad or some eager beaver on this board would by now have found the source. Quite simply, it seems to me that the IPCC claim did not come from the peer reviewed literature. Ex post facto efforts to tie it to the literature, and Nepstad’s support for the statement, tell us that there is indeed some basis for something like what the IPCC said, so this is nothing like the Himalayan glacier fiasco. But that does not change the fact the IPCC should have used a different, and properly referenced, form of words. I really don’t think that this is a very controversial observation. The “defend everything at all costs” mentality exemplified by Bob does more harm than good.
I know this is OT, but I think regular readers here will be interested. I have just completed writing a primer on infrared spectroscopy and global warming that tries to introduce people to basic concepts of IR radiation, its interaction with molecules, and the implications for global warming.
(…) there is indeed some basis for something like what the IPCC said, so this is nothing like the Himalayan glacier fiasco. But that does not change the fact the IPCC should have used a different, and properly referenced, form of words.
FWIW, I agree with the above. And I agree whether or not the 40% statement can ultimately be traced to a peer-reviewed paper (I won’t be beavering away very eagerly to try to settle that). And I understand Dr Lewis as saying much the same thing.
But that does not change the fact that the Sunday Times article should have given a different, and accurate, account. Or, by journalistic criteria of newsworthiness, perhaps rather no account at all? “UN Climate Panel Mildly Embarrassed By Citation Error, Poor Wording On Page 596” …yawn.
“The Sunday Times ran a prominent apology last week over a story by Jonathan Leake about rewriting the UN climate panel. ….. But is Leake entirely to blame?
News editor Nick Hellen is said to have been particularly enthusiastic about rewriting the UN story. Is that what the correction meant when it said: “A version of our article…underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of Simon Lewis’s views.” ?
“So if you are adding up a column of numbers in your head, that is not ‘thinking’?” SecularAnimist — 24 June 2010 @ 9:58 AM
Nope. It’s just calculation, which can be done faster and more accurately by a computer (bearing in mind GIGO)
Deciding which set of numbers represents the convenient fiction of my checking account balance, and which set represents the ugly reality of global warming requires thinking.
Regarding Dr. Nepstad’s papers, which are apparently the original basis for the IPCC’s “40% of the Amazon rainforest is at risk from small changes in precipitation…”
“What Nepstad Himself Says”(http://www.whrc.org/resources/essays/pdf/2010-02-Nepstad_Amazon.pdf)- Dr. Nepstad cites publications from 1994 through 2007, which make estimates of from 15% to up to 50% of the rainforest, depending on assumptions of varying degrees, as possbily near the critcal threshold. This appears to be souind scientific work of the effects of drought on the rainforest, but, once again, it is a short term(~15 years) trend that the IPCC used to determine that long term climatic change(AGW) was causing.
As the scientists here at Real Climate have so ably pointed out, short term trends are not climate change. In this case the IPCC was certainly wrong in using Dr. Nepstad’s research into the effects of drought on the Amazon rain forest to imply that the drought was caused by man-made CO2 release.
‘Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation
Emphasis mine, to help the hysterically blind.
Notice, the statement does not say the Amazon had already experienced drought due to global warming. What it was doing was using Nepstad’s research on past drought as a cue to what might happen if the Amazon experienced a drought in the future.
The cite was incorrect, the research intended to support the statement was correct:
“The IPCC statement on the Amazon is correct, but the citations listed in the Rowell and Moore report were incomplete. [The authors of this report interviewed several researchers, including the author of this note, and had originally cited the IPAM website where the statement was made that 30 to 40% of the forests of the Amazon were susceptible to small changes in rainfall]. Our 1999 article (Nepstad et al. 1999) estimated that 630,000 km2 of forests were severely drought stressed in 1998, as Rowell and Moore correctly state, but this forest area is only 15% of the total area of forest in the Brazilian Amazon. In another article published in Nature, in 1994, we used less conservative assumptions to estimate that approximately half of the forests of the Amazon depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought (Nepstad et al. 1994). After the Rowell and Moore report was released in 2000, and prior to the publication of the IPCC AR4, new evidence of the full extent of severe drought in the Amazon was available. In 2004, we estimated that half of the forest area of the Amazon Basin had either fallen below, or was very close to, the critical level of soil moisture below which trees begin to die in 1998. This estimate incorporated new rainfall data and results from an experimental reduction of rainfall in an Amazon forest that we had conducted with funding from the US National Science Foundation (Nepstad et al. 2004). Field evidence of the soil moisture critical threshold is presented in Nepstad et al. 2007.
In sum, the IPCC statement on the Amazon was correct. The report that is cited in support of the IPCC statement (Rowell and Moore 2000) omitted some citations in support of the 40% value statement.
But all of us already know this, impressionist and realist alike. Impressionists are disappointed to see their school of work deprecated so they’d like us to continue entertaining their illusions.
The IPCC has something like a “four nines” reliability record on cites so it’s no wonder the impressionists are eager to keep this work on exhibit, even though it turns out to be a cheap and inauthentic derivative.
Doug Bostrom #154 : “What it was doing was using Nepstad’s research on past drought as a cue to what might happen if the Amazon experienced a drought in the future.”
No, the IPCC’s statement said that the Amazon rainforest could “react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation”, which, while unquantified, seems to preclude a drought, due to the use of the word “slight”.
Did you notice, oneuniverse? I used the word “drought”, incorrectly, not the IPCC, as you point out, thank you. Meanwhile the IPCC’s conclusions are in concordance w/Nepstad’s findings on the sensitivity of the forest to precipitation.
Don’t be so desperately hungry. This is issue is stripped, gnaw on something else.
First off, Nepstad’s research shows that the Amazon was undergoing severe distress from 1994-2004 or so. So this is clearly a short term trend.
“Our 1999 article (Nepstad et al. 1999) estimated that 630,000 km2 of forests were severely drought stressed in 1998, as Rowell and Moore correctly state, but this forest area is only 15% of the total area of forest in the Brazilian Amazon. In another article published in Nature, in 1994, we used less conservative assumptions to estimate that approximately half of the forests of the Amazon depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought (Nepstad et al. 1994). After the Rowell and Moore report was released in 2000, and prior to the publication of the IPCC AR4, new evidence of the full extent of severe drought in the Amazon was available. In 2004, we estimated that half of the forest area of the Amazon Basin had either fallen below, or was very close to, the critical level of soil moisture below which trees begin to die in 1998. “(emphasis added)
So why is the IPCC making a vacuous statement like:
” Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation ”
This is very carefully couched(witness all the ‘could’s) that cannot be interpreted to really mean anything. However it does strongly imply that the Amazon basin is in great danger from drought, but does it in a way that can always fall back on “well, we did say COULD react” when the damage does not come to pass. It is a politically designed statement based on a short term trend in Amazonian precipitation. Real Climate scientists don’t depend on short term trends.
Nepstad’s 2007 paper at http://bibapp.mbl.edu/works/2660 says “A severe, four-year drought episode was simulated” but the referenced comment in the IPCC statement says “extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall”. Is a 60% reduction in rainfall considered a small reduction?
Once again, because you’re so voraciously hungry, here’s your food:
“The IPCC statement on the Amazon is correct, but the citations listed in the Rowell and Moore report were incomplete. [The authors of this report interviewed several researchers, including the author of this note, and had originally cited the IPAM website where the statement was made that 30 to 40% of the forests of the Amazon were susceptible to small changes in rainfall]. Our 1999 article (Nepstad et al. 1999) estimated that 630,000 km2 of forests were severely drought stressed in 1998, as Rowell and Moore correctly state, but this forest area is only 15% of the total area of forest in the Brazilian Amazon. In another article published in Nature, in 1994, we used less conservative assumptions to estimate that approximately half of the forests of the Amazon depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought (Nepstad et al. 1994). After the Rowell and Moore report was released in 2000, and prior to the publication of the IPCC AR4, new evidence of the full extent of severe drought in the Amazon was available. In 2004, we estimated that half of the forest area of the Amazon Basin had either fallen below, or was very close to, the critical level of soil moisture below which trees begin to die in 1998. This estimate incorporated new rainfall data and results from an experimental reduction of rainfall in an Amazon forest that we had conducted with funding from the US National Science Foundation (Nepstad et al. 2004). Field evidence of the soil moisture critical threshold is presented in Nepstad et al. 2007.”
Nepstad still speaking here:
“In sum, the IPCC statement on the Amazon was correct. The report that is cited in support of the IPCC statement (Rowell and Moore 2000) omitted some citations in support of the 40% value statement. “
Got it? Still hungry? Go ask Nepstad for a treat and maybe he’ll grace you with yet another reiteration of what you can’t seem to gag down.
Doug Bostrom, you thanked me (albeit rudely) for correcting your mistake in #155 but you didn’t then follow through the consequences of your error (also Nepstad’s error) :
The papers that Nepstad mentions to support his contention that the IPCC statement was correct are insufficient, as they concern drought scenarious, not scenarious with “slight reductions in precipitation”. The same is true for the modelling scenarios mentioned earlier (Cox et al., Betts et al.).
Doug Bostrom: “yet another reiteration of what you can’t seem to gag down”
Reiterated mistakes shouldn’t be “gagged down”, but rejected as errors to be corrected.
Anyway, thank you CM for having a civil and open conversation – fantastic contrast to input of folks like Bostrom, Martin Vermeer and dhogaza.
Oneuniverse, Nepstad knows what he’s talking about with regard to how the Amazon forest responds to variations in rainfall, you and I do not. I choose to defer to Nepstad’s years of training and practice in a discipline involving a myriad of details of which you and I are essentially ignorant. Nepstad, drawing on his expertise and incidentally the publications intended by the IPCC as authoritative on this subject: “In sum, the IPCC statement on the Amazon was correct.”
Are arrogant and uninformed speculations a form of rudeness? I think so.
thanks, but I’m not comfortable being used as a foil for dhogaza, Doug, and Martin. I nearly always enjoy their comments and have learned much from them. They are good at seeing the forest for the trees, and correspondingly impatient with fixating on a small side issue that was already done to death in this forum and elsewhere back when it was actually news, nearly half a year ago. This is more often the hallmark of the mindless drive-by hecklers than of someone who comes here for intelligent conversation, as I think you do.
> their models project between 8-12K warming by 2100, which is at the
> high end of the consensus expected range.
Looking at Betts (citing Cox 2000) that’s 8K over land, 5K in the global mean. Again, that includes an Amazon carbon feedback other models don’t have. High end, yes, but hardly over the top.
“Some earlier investigations at the ecosystem level resulted in threefold to fourfold accelerations, which would enhance the greenhouse effect. It was not possible to reconcile these data with global models and atmospheric measurements of carbon dioxide concentrations and their seasonal variations, however. “We can now settle obvious contradictions between experimental and theoretical studies,” says Miguel Mahecha, who played a crucial role in coordinating and evaluating the new measurements on ecosystem respiration. His colleague Markus Reichstein adds: “Particularly alarmist scenarios for the feedback between global warming and ecosystem respiration thus prove to be unrealistic.”
“We were surprised to find that the primary production in the tropics is not so strongly dependent on the amount of rain,” says Markus Reichstein. “Here, too, we therefore need to critically scrutinize the forecasts of some climate models which predict the Amazon will die as the world gets drier.”
“The study shows very clearly that we do not yet have a good understanding of the global biogeochemichal cycles and their importance for long-term developments.”