RealClimate logo


Filed under: — gavin @ 16 February 2010

It won’t have escaped many of our readers’ notice that there has been what can only be described as a media frenzy (mostly in the UK) with regards to climate change in recent weeks. The coverage has contained more bad reporting, misrepresentation and confusion on the subject than we have seen in such a short time anywhere. While the UK newspaper scene is uniquely competitive (especially compared to the US with over half a dozen national dailies selling in the same market), and historically there have been equally frenzied bouts of mis-reporting in the past on topics as diverse as pit bulls, vaccines and child abductions, there is something new in this mess that is worth discussing. And that has been a huge shift in the Overton window for climate change.

In any public discussion there are bounds which people who want to be thought of as having respectable ideas tend to stay between. This is most easily seen in health care debates. In the US, promotion of a National Health Service as in the UK or a single-payer system as in Canada is so far outside the bounds of normal health care politics, that these options are only ever brought up by ‘cranks’ (sigh). Meanwhile in the UK, discussions of health care delivery solutions outside of the NHS framework are never heard in the mainstream media. This limit on scope of the public debate has been called the Overton window.

The window does not have to remain static. Pressure groups and politicians can try and shift the bounds deliberately, or sometimes they are shifted by events. That seems to have been the case in the climate discussion. Prior to the email hack at CRU there had long been a pretty widespread avoidance of ‘global warming is a hoax’ proponents in serious discussions on the subject. The sceptics that were interviewed tended to be the slightly more sensible kind – people who did actually realise that CO2 was a greenhouse gas for instance. But the GW hoaxers were generally derided, or used as punchlines for jokes. This is not because they didn’t exist and weren’t continually making baseless accusations against scientists (they did and they were), but rather that their claims were self-evidently ridiculous and therefore not worth airing.

However, since the emails were released, and despite the fact that there is no evidence within them to support any of these claims of fraud and fabrication, the UK media has opened itself so wide to the spectrum of thought on climate that the GW hoaxers have now suddenly find themselves well within the mainstream. Nothing has changed the self-evidently ridiculousness of their arguments, but their presence at the media table has meant that the more reasonable critics seem far more centrist than they did a few months ago.

A few examples: Monckton being quoted as a ‘prominent climate sceptic’ on the front page of the New York Times this week (Wow!); The Guardian digging up baseless fraud accusations against a scientist at SUNY that had already been investigated and dismissed; The Sunday Times ignoring experts telling them the IPCC was right in favor of the anti-IPCC meme of the day; The Daily Mail making up quotes that fit their GW hoaxer narrative; The Daily Express breathlessly proclaiming the whole thing a ‘climate con’; The Sunday Times (again) dredging up unfounded accusations of corruption in the surface temperature data sets. All of these stories are based on the worst kind of oft-rebunked nonsense and they serve to make the more subtle kind of scepticism pushed by Lomborg et al seem almost erudite.

Perhaps this is driven by editors demanding that reporters come up with something new (to them) that fits into an anti-climate science theme that they are attempting to stoke. Or perhaps it is driven by the journalists desperate to maintain their scoop by pretending to their editors that this nonsense hasn’t been debunked a hundred times already? Who knows? All of these bad decisions are made easier when all of the actually sensible people, or people who know anything about the subject at all, are being assailed on all sides, and aren’t necessarily keen to find the time to explain, once again, that yes, the world is warming.

So far, so stupid. But even more concerning is the reaction from outside the UK media bubble. Two relatively prominent and respected US commentators – Curtis Brainard at CJR and Tom Yulsman in Colorado – have both bemoaned the fact that the US media (unusually perhaps) has not followed pell-mell into the fact-free abyss of their UK counterparts. Their point apparently seems to be that since much news print is being devoted to a story somewhere, then that story must be worth following. Indeed, since the substance to any particularly story is apparently proportional to the coverage, by not following the UK bandwagon, US journalists are missing a big story. Yulsman blames the lack of environmental beat reporters for lack of coverage in the US, but since most of the damage and bad reporting on this is from clueless and partisan news desk reporters in the UK, I actually expect that it is the environmental beat reporters’ prior experience with the forces of disinformation that prevents the contagion crossing the pond. To be sure, reporters should be able and willing (and encouraged) to write stories about anything to do with climate science and its institutions – but that kind of reporting is something very different from regurgitating disinformation, or repeating baseless accusations as fact.

So what is likely to happen now? As the various panels and reports on the CRU affair conclude, it is highly likely (almost certain in fact) that no-one will conclude that there has been any fraud, fabrication or scientific misconduct (since there hasn’t been). Eventually, people will realise (again) that the GW hoaxers are indeed cranks, and the mainstream window on their rants will close. In the meantime, huge amounts of misinformation, sprinkled liberally with plenty of disinformation, will be spread and public understanding on the issue will likely decline. As the history of the topic has shown, public attention to climate change comes and goes and this is likely to be seen as the latest bump on that ride.

Eppure si riscalda.

1,168 Responses to “Whatevergate”

  1. 101
    Steve E says:

    Some of these comments are simply stunning. Global warming is losing advocates because of the snow? People have a hard time believing in global warming because it’s so cold outside?

    Come to Montana, folks. Missoula, Montana, which should have significant snow-cover has none. The rest of the state is only slightly better. None of the areas in the state has over 80% of average snow cover. And that is AFTER a record-wet February.

    So which means more, the snows in the East or the snows in the West? How about looking at it globally. Novel concept!

  2. 102
    John Mason says:

    This is an interesting post by David Hone of Shell:

    “….Technology such as the iPad is built on the back of fundamental scientific research in many fields, from theoretical physics to materials science – even particle mechanics and other esoteric sciences creep into the picture. Years of research in universities, private laboratories and government agencies, leading to literally thousands of scientific papers have led the way to the products that we speculate about, eagerly await announcements of and then buy in the million.

    But somewhere along the line we seem to have lost our appetite for science, in fact some even look on it with disdain. In developed countries, far less students today engage in science or science based subjects in schools and universities than twenty or thirty years ago. Yet those same people crave the products that a science based education system can ultimately deliver.

    On a newscast I was watching last week an excited correspondent was telling us about the iPad. Not two minutes later the same person was salivating at the prospect of “the whole global warming story collapsing like a house of cards because of the bogus science”. But the approach to this science is no different to that behind the iPad, the scientists no less diligent, the papers they produce no less reviewed, yet because we either don’t want to know about or can’t accept the findings we choose to attack the science and the scientists – not with any intellectual rigour or scientific discipline, but with slander and sometimes even abuse. I doubt the correspondent had even the remotest idea as to the years of research in atmospheric chemistry that have led to the concern about the rising levels of carbon dioxide or the detailed measurements done in laboratories for the past century on the behaviour of carbon dioxide and infra red radiation. But he loved the iPad!!…”

    Pretty much sums it up: science is great when it produces things that folk like; science is the most evil thing on Earth bwhen it produces things that folk don’t like!

    Cheers – John

  3. 103
    A. Reader says:

    You correctly wonder where climate scientists have exaggerated the impact of climate science in the past. Now you sense that this exaggeration is the core of the problem of climate science. While in the past -when the media was asking few questions and repeated what was said to be “settled science”- the media support came as welcome amplifier of the alarmist messages, for the good cause, you know, this train has actually derailed now.

    Have a look at the Copenhagen Diagnosis, written up by 26 cliamte scientists.

    The front cover sets the scene, even without any further digging into the content: We see a tree in Dead Vlei in Namibia (top left), our beautiful planet from space with Asia taking up the majority of the image (top center), the end of a glacier (top right), and a stormy sea under a dark grey sky. This is alarmist style. This could also be the cover for a brochure from Greenpeace or the WWF.

    Then take a look at page 9, the Executive Summary. Every item is written up in an alarmist style, trying to convince the reader that something needs to be done, that any “delay” will cause further harm to the planet. And so it goes on and on and on, alarmist box, alarmist photo, alarmist graph, no end in sight.

    And now journalists discover that there has been an alarmist tendency (by some!), and that the real story is about the cost for the average Joe and the lifestyle changes required. What is a degree or two against having to give up your SUV? Not being able to pay the energy for your home? Not being able to go on vacation?

    And it turns out that even the alarmist community seems to show cracks in the wall, with Prof. Jones answering questions in ways that can be mis-interpreted (and easily so) by journos.

    And you wonder why the tide is turning?

    [Response: You are confusing alarming with alarmist. And I note that your entire argument is based on your perception of the presentation, and not any actual statement of fact. – gavin]

  4. 104
    bo says:

    tom, (#97)
    The hypothesis that contemporary journalists could find a bona fide flaw in a scientific process is laughable. The function of the media in this era of Rupert Murdoch is to whomp up controversy by any means necessary to sell advertizing.

    The “news” provides great comfort to mentally lazy and self-involved who are too invested in the rightness of their lives to ever think about the nature of life today and the impact of their actions.

    The rhetoric reminds me of the level of argument amongst 10 year-olds at recess, rife with the defensiveness of children uncertain of their self-worth.

  5. 105
    Christopher Hogan says:

    My opinion: Stupid as it is, all it will take to shift things back, in the US, will be “breaking the record” on annual global temperatures. (Well, that or another Dust Bowl.)

    Doesn’t matter that a single year is essentially irrelevant, doesn’t matter that the difference among the top N years is not statistically significant, we’re Americans, we’re culturally trained to pay attention to #1. That GISS found 2009 to be the 2nd hottest year in the instrumental record was completely ignored by the popular press. (Who is America’s favorite Olympic silver medalist? As if.) But if your modest prediction for 2010 comes true, most Americans will simply absorb that “we set a new record”. Sure, the usual guano-brains will accuse NASA GISS staff of stacking the deck (apparently incompetently, because they haven’t managed to engineer a new record since 2005), but that just won’t matter if its a new record.

  6. 106
    Tom Yulsman says:

    Gavin: You misrepresent my views on this subject, and what you say about the issue of coverage in the United States demonstrates a breathtaking naiveté of the role of the press, and how public opinion forms.

    You twist the body of my work to suggest that I (and Curtis Brainard too) are calling for sensationalist U.K.-style coverage of the issues, while ignoring so much of what I’ve written about them in recent weeks. Yes, I have called for the U.S. press to pay more attention to the issues — because right now what’s being said in the British press and by the nattering nabobs of negativity on U.S. television are the only things Americans are hearing on the issues. Are you suggesting that we ignore it all and simply let it stand? As a result of the absence of responsible coverage of the issues here, public opinion is probably swinging far away from where you would like it to be.

    When the U.S. press does weigh in, it seems to screw up the story. And here again, you ignore the context of my comments. In my post about John Broder’s embarrassment of a story on page one of the New York Times the other day, for example, I took the former newspaper of record to task for publishing something that is the quintessence of false balance — merely because it made for a provocative front-page piece.

    So Gavin, please tell me: Why do you cherry pick what I say?

    Whether you like it or not, our job as reporters is to report the news. And right now, whether we all like it or not, the political controversy is the news. Unfortunately, politics is masquerading as science in coverage, and what I’m calling for is for journalists to start disentangling the two to get at some semblance of the truth. Readers currently are missing responsible coverage of the issue right now. That is what I’m calling for.

    [Response: I think you are overreacting here. I have no problem with your body of work and appreciate the articles you’ve put up on problems with the NYT’s recent coverage. But both your and Curtis’s contention that the US MSM is somehow missing some huge story about the IPCC is off the mark. That is my only point of contention with your recent statements. I may be a scientist, but I am not ‘breathtakingly naive’ about US journalism. I too would love to see some more responsible coverage and I explicitly state that above. This is not what is happening in the UK, and to date, the US reflection of that has not distinguished itself either. I would hope that we could agree on what is required. – gavin]

  7. 107
    joe says:

    [Response: Where have any scientists on this site, or any of the people being targeted, condoned or encouraged overstatement? Show me an actual quote (and not one that was just made up). – gavin

    Sure, you just sat back and let Al Gore et al do it for you with a smug ends justifies the means attitude, all the while endorsing his movie.

    [Response: We critiqued the movie at the time, and found it to be a very good summary of the science with a few things that we would have done differently. No-one has endorsed an ends-justifies-the-means strategy. – gavin]

  8. 108

    Gavin, In light of current world wide warming reports, I find this ongoing UK “researchers confession” media debate frenzy a farce. A ploy, a nullification effect of what should be rather a slate of news events confirming the good works done by now the same assailed scientists. Winter Olympics without winter should be more a news story than it is. Goes to show that the media can literally manufacture stories designed for one media mogul owner or another. To counter this , it would seem obvious to bring out the facts. If its been cooling “since 98” , why are we getting temperatures as warm as or warmer than 98 (upper air of January 2010)? The contrarian media build “house cards” easily blown away, RC needs to be windier, with satire ridiculizing propaganda from climate knowledge defficient pundits. RC use to show warming reports more often, dont be caught up in only exposing garbage without divulging true climate news stories, at present , severely unrepresented.

  9. 109

    Regarding the reference to the number of climate deniers in comment threads (#3, etc):

    We do not know whether anonymous comments are genuine – indeed any comments. It is suspected, and plausible that organized denialist campaigns are targeting major comment sections. We should suspect every big newspaper and news outlet, every major blog to be monitored and targeted with opinion shapers – of course, this is possible on either side of the issue. But given the know budgets of Exxon in influencing PR, it is a plausible supposition. Not easy to reveal.

  10. 110
    Walt The Physicist says:

    To John Mason and tom, (#97)
    Science produces nothing! The developers of iPods, iPads, and iEverything don’t use and don’t even know “particle mechanics” and other esoteric sciences. General knowledge is sufficient to advance technology and nobody does or can theoretically model and computationally simulate performance of a transistor. So stop these nonsense statements that “sciences creep into the picture”. The knowledge base for all electronics gadgets invented so far was developed by hand full of scientists. All the rest thousands are just pretending and flooding the journals with your insignificant ideas in order to get tenure. And the most successful of those thousands of pretenders get opportunity to further deceiving layman by exaggerating their achievements and predicting inevitable catastrophes. That is for getting the topping on the tenure cake – having meeting with Bono on his yacht, taking a private plane ride to talk to Gates and have dinner with the “royal” couple. In the mean time, you, untalented pretenders, try to screw us, real scientists by denying our tenure, preventing from publications and “judging” unfavorably our proposals to the finding agencies for the lacking “greater impact”.

    [Response: Tell us how you really feel. – gavin]

  11. 111
    ghost says:

    RE: Post 9 windansea: The Texas appeal to the D.C. Circuit says little more than “we appeal,” which is about all it is required to say at this stage; the Virginia and other challenges likely will join together in the appeal.

    The Texas petition for reconsideration to the EPA sets forth the apparent Texas argument to date, and may be viewed here: The piece isn’t a paragon of administrative appeal, and it probably would be a surprise if it goes anywhere. Frankly, it reminds me of former Texas Attorney General, later governor, Mark White’s claim that “I’m gonna sue the state of Montana” over the coal slurry pipeline matter. More a PR/political statement than jurisprudence, but it gave a talking point in White’s campaign for governor. The Texas attack on the EPA’s GG endangerment rule relies on EPA’s alleged reliance on the IPCC to support the endangerment rule (“THE IPCC’s MANIPULATION OF ITS CLIMATE CHANGE DATA” . . . In one notable email, a CRU staff member discuss a “trick” to “hide the decline” in CRU temperature data sets from 1981-2O0O. . . .”) Oddly, the statements about Texas’s low-carbon energy initiatives would appear to diminish the allegation of harm from the endangerment rule. The petition appears to be as good a summary of blogosphere denial propaganda as one is likely to find.

    Departing from windansea’s comment to general aside, much is said stateside about the cold winter’s rebuttal to GW, let alone AGW, but little is said about the summer heat in Rio de Janeiro, , and Australia. The today’s-weather-is-climate crowd might get their chance to reconsider this summer, but will they change directions if the US summer approaches Rio’s? I’d expect a ‘well, the winter was climate, but the summer is just weather’ sort of din.

  12. 112
    Marco says:

    @Christopher Hogan:
    Possibly no need to invoke GISS. Both satellite records (nicely promoted by Watts and company in their highly flawed attack on GISTEMP) are running mightily hot these last few months. UAH even hotter than RSS!

  13. 113
    Roger Blanchard says:

    When I was younger, my brother-in-law would adamantly deny that there was any scientific evidence for a smoking/lung cancer link. He was a chain smoker addicted to nicotine. His lifestyle was intricately linked to smoking. In spite of his denial of a smoking/lung cancer link, he died of lung cancer at a relatively young age. Unfortunately my sister was a casualty of his smoking as well.

    The lifestyle of most Americans and those of other developed nations is based upon burning large quantities of fossil fuels. Also, the incomes of many industries are based upon selling fossil fuels. People whose lifestyle is based upon burning large quantities of fossil fuels may prefer to believe that climate science is a hoax.

    As I remember it, scientists and the science associated with smoking/lung cancer were aggressively attacked during the 1960s-1980s period. The science of global warming is just as solid as the smoking/lung cancer science even if some people prefer it to be otherwise

  14. 114
    Completely Fed Up says:

    One thing I keep hearing from people saying that this AGW mitigation stuff is worthless is that “the elephant in the room” is the population.

    All the time, this turns up from some member of the public.

    But Utah has passed a resolution that climate change is wrong and part of the report of proceedings was:

    “In the heat of the debate, the representative Mike Noel said environmentalists were part of a vast conspiracy to destroy the American way of life and control world population through forced sterilisation and abortion.”

    Would that not be what so many “elephanters” are saying should be done?

    Don’t the rightwing often go on about young girls getting pregnant to get government handouts and that this is why $MY_COUNTRY is overpopulated and in debt?

    Yet the same rightwingnuts proceed to pass off the sterilisation of populations as a leftwing conspiracy.

  15. 115
    Walt The Physicist says:

    Gavin, you sound like a man whose sore was touched. Sorry for that.

  16. 116

    #78 Gail took the words right out of my mouth.

    The ice is speaking, the oceans are speaking, the reefs are speaking, the birds, frogs, trees, insects, etc. all are speaking. It is a shame that their voices are going unheard outside the journals.

    I implore you all to read Mooney & Kirshenbaum’s Unscientific America if you wish to understand why there is such a disconnect between the science and the public here in America.

    In America, isn’t it sad that the following conversation routinely takes place:

    “What? I cannot do math, LOL, I barely know how to add 2 + 2.”

    Everybody in the room nods their heads and laughs along.

    Can you imagine the next conversation ever happening:

    “What? I cannot read or write, LOL, I can barely spell my own name!”

    I assure you that few would publicly admit this and nobody else in that room would be laughing.

    Why is math/science illiteracy OK?

    To drive my point home:

    My Earth & Space Sciences faculty have been in a two year battle trying to raise the mathematics pre-requisite for our non-majors lab science elective courses from 7th grade algebra to 10th grade high school algebra. Strangely enough, the biology faculty at my campus oppose such a standard and the science faculty at the two other campuses do also. If our science faculty oppose a minimum math proficiency at the high school level, is it any wonder that our press cannot get the science correct much of the time?

  17. 117
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    Good news fellas! Utah has democratically decided there is no global warming problem:

  18. 118
    Completely Fed Up says:

    elliot says:
    16 February 2010 at 11:47 PM

    While it may be a media frenzy there is certainly plenty of fuel for the fire. It started with leaked (no evidence they were stolen) ”

    The experts in intrusion beg to differ:

  19. 119
    Walt The Physicist says:

    I keep wondering: how in the world the scientists with 60+ peer reviewed publications keep presenting temperature measurement data without error bars? When I was a student at my elite physics school we had as much discussion of the measurement errors as the data interpretation. In the not so elite place I work now the physics major students are actually taught about errors and only few of them put error bars on the data graphs. What’s up with the climate researchers? Do you know the concept of the measurement error? If you do, how come you don’t use it?

    [Response: Do you know the concept of reading the references? Or the related concept of looking at the figures? How come you don’t use it? – gavin]

  20. 120
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Bulldust says:
    17 February 2010 at 12:27 AM

    Is there some reason you refer to the CRU email incident as a hack? ”


    Because it was a hack. And rather more one than Sarah Palin’s “hack” on her email account that many RWNJ’s complained long and bitterly and proclaimed an unconscionable and illegal computer hacking case.

  21. 121
    Tim Jones says:

    RE: 5 elliot says: 16 February 2010 at 11:47 PM
    “Dont make cataclysmic predictions the world will not end because of AGW and life (including human life) will go on. It just might be a bit warmer and for where I live that would be a good thing!”

    Elliot should try to think outside the box he lives in.

    Where we own property in Central Texas I’ve lived through three summers and more of “exceptional drought,” the worst it gets, and whole summer months of temperatures over 100º and almost no rain at all. I’ve very well seen that just the beginning of a barely discernable warming trend has had cataclysmic effects, whether the drought is merely coincident or not.

    By effects I mean the base of the food chain being wiped out.

    Flowering plants wilt and die. Thereby insects that depend on host plants don’t survive. Thereby birds and mammals depending on seeds and insects migrate away or die off.
    Hummingbirds become totally dependent on their human feeders then only to migrate on. Old oak and cedar elm trees dependent on certain levels of rainfall suddenly wilt and die. Creeks and rivers dry up so aquatic life dies out. The aquifers aren’t recharged so springs and seeps dry up and wells silt up and then go dry as well.

    With the grass short and sparse and brown the cattle industry goes belly up. With no rain the corn and cotton fields wilt away if they get started at all. In the cities, as the reservoirs dry up drought stage alerts make for water rationing. The heat makes summertime electric bills skyrocket and the poor suffer even more for that.

    Since the movement of the subtropical zone northward is forecast to be a consequence of global warming these tastes of drought are indicators of what’s to come, if it hasn’t already started. The whole American Southwest is subject to this, and it’s not just there.

    Believe me, desertification is a serious matter. The predictions of impending catastrophe need to be made loud and clear.

  22. 122
    Completely Fed Up says:

    james allison says:
    17 February 2010 at 1:05 AM
    What do you think has gone wrong for the advocates of AGW?”


    What’s gone wrong with your friends intelligence?

  23. 123
    Tim S says:

    The point made several times here, that this is at least partly a result of recent weather conditions in the UK and US, is I think the most relevant one. That and the global temperature. The UK print media will get excited about global warming again when we next get a hot summer like 2003 or 2006.

    It is very difficult to worry about runaway warming when the weather outside is unusually cold, regardless of of what the global temperature anomaly might be. Quite why scepticism seems to rife in Australia is a bit off a mystery considering its recent weather record, but maybe that’s the exception that proves the rule.

  24. 124
    Dan Olner says:

    I’m horrified at what’s happening; I also wonder if the people doing all this have any real idea of the knock-on effects for undermining evidence-based thinking and science more generally?

    I’m wondering if, as summer approaches, we should all be getting out to town centres to try and get the simple elements of the science across? It wouldn’t take very much at all to equip people with the tools to be able to tell nonsense from sense in this debate. There needs to be an education drive. I’d be happy to get stuck into that, but I’m wondering how such a drive might get momentum behind it? Some kind of website with template experiments and presentations? E.g. “Is summer coming or is it just hotter this week? Intro to trends” would help anyone faced with that insulting Daily Mail headline realise what nonsense it was.

  25. 125
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Michael says:
    17 February 2010 at 2:56 AM
    It was (and is) not uncommon that the media reports all sorts of nonsense “in favor” of climate change (like an increase in kidney stones, increase in bear prices, increase in shark attacks).”

    However, that is only ever in the headlines THEY produce.

    If you ever read the content of such, if it ever had a climatologist quote and that quote was verbatim, then such nonsense was NEVER seen.

    It was only seen by the media sexing up the story (cf “barbecue summer”: marketing must have said that because I remember going to the Met Office forecast site and it didn’t mention that, just “it’ll be dryer than last year”).

    However, in this case, the media are either misquoting (recent Daily Mail) or making up (Latif and The Times) the climate scientists to make it look like a scam, or quoting directly from the ditto figureheads who specifically state such nonsense.

    So in the (very few) instances of pro-AGW nonsense, it’s been the media.

    In the (very many) instances of anti-AGW nonsense, it’s been the anti-AGW crowd themselves.

  26. 126
    Steven T. Corneliussen says:

    Gavin, this crystal from your answer in 87 is useful for those of us who
    are surrounded by questioners who think that GW is a hoax: “The idea
    that thousands of scientists have conspired over decades, roping in all
    the National Academies and the relevant societies, to impose their
    vegetarian/socialist/eco-fascist dystopia on the world is self-evidently
    ridiculous.” Ha! Great compression of thought. As someone surrounded
    here in Virginia by questioners who think that GW is a hoax, I can use
    it. And that’s why it’s also important to note an answer to your own
    question in 83, where you wrote, “The demonstrated existence of cranks
    does not imply that anyone who asks a question is a crank. Why did you
    conclude that I said otherwise?” Why indeed. Before I had even reached
    that comment, and because of the questioners surrounding me here who
    think that GW is a hoax, I had already made a note of what you had said
    in your answer in 15. There you wrote: “Someone who thinks that GW is a
    hoax is a crank.” The problem is that they’re not always cranks. And as
    I know you know too, the problem out here is worsened when such
    questioners — whether or not you and I believe they have questioned
    sharply, sensibly, and well — perceive themselves being disdained.

  27. 127
    John Peter says:

    gavin #84

    “[Response: Somebody else who thinks that statistics triumphs over physics. Or in other words, someone who thinks that the planet has to respond in some neat statistical way to a forcing. It doesn’t. Since this appears to be a working paper, I would advise that they do some more work – for instance with the AR4 archive to demonstrate that their methodology is able to distinguish causes in much simpler (though realistic) cases. – gavin]”

    As far as I know, global temperature can can only be calculated using a particular statistically “correct” formula. It is not measured directly like most physical objects, rather a statistical selection of proxy measurements are used as inputs for the formulae.

    OTOH, Joe six-pack uses his personal insight on weather and some local thermometer readings and so finds your process arcane at best. Perhaps this is most of your difficulties with them and, by extension – with the MSM.

    As far as my speculation regarding -issing is concerned. from Wikipedia updates to the hockey stick controversy:

    Wegman (a statistician) reported on the 2001 hockey stick controversy.
    “…(Mann) has further suggested that the criticisms directed at his statistical methodology are purely political and add nothing new to the scientific debate.”

    It is noted that there is no evidence that Mann or any of the other authors in paleoclimatology studies have had significant interactions with mainstream statisticians.

    Gavin, you do some excellent work. I wouldn’t try to post here if I didn’t believe that.

    john peter

  28. 128
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “That the skiing resorts have no snow because of the climate change (I am Austrian, that was a constant theme)”

    PS that’s true: the STORY (rather than your reappraisal ^W revision) was that they’d have less and less snow because of GW.

    This is true.

    Any one year, isn’t attributed to GW, but several bad years are.

    Trend. Climate. Not weather.

  29. 129
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Roger says:
    17 February 2010 at 3:15 AM
    Please don’t tell me that I have no business in trying to understand something that only scientists can understand. ”

    Why not?

    You SHOULD be glad that people have no business trying to understand how to do keyhole surgery on human hearts which only surgeons can understand.

    What hasn’t been told to you is that the AGW science is 100% made from stuff that only a scientist can understand.

  30. 130
    Completely Fed Up says:

    wilt says:
    17 February 2010 at 4:21 AM

    You have have missed this, but the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK has recently concluded that Phil Jones’ CRU at the University of East Anglia broke the law with respect to the Freedom of Information Act. ”

    With respect to that comment, the ICO hasn’t said what law or how. Just said that it’s too late because of the statute of limitations.

  31. 131

    > Forget your rectitude, scientists, step up to the plate!

    Gail, that works only once. Our rectitude is our only weapon. Sigh.

  32. 132
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Tony O’Brien says:
    17 February 2010 at 5:37 AM

    So you should not be kicking us doomsayers. Explain why we are wrong, absolutely.”

    You’re wrong because you have nothing to replace the science that leads to AGW being a natural consequence of the natural world we’re naturally changing by burning fossil fuels at an unnatural rate.

    “Explain, that we are putting too much emphasis on the slow feedbacks.”

    What slow feedbacks?

    Have you even tried to find out what they are and whether they can combat the known natural effect of CO2?

  33. 133
    SecularAnimist says:

    elliot wrote: “… It started with leaked (no evidence they were stolen) emails …”

    That is exactly the opposite of the facts. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the emails were “leaked”. There is evidence that they emails were stolen and the relevant law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident on that basis.

    elliot wrote: “… after all predictions were made that snow would reduce and now it is back in force.”

    That is exactly the opposite of the facts. Models predict that global warming will lead to more “extreme precipitation events”, including heavy snow storms during winter. And weather records show that in fact, the snowiest winters tend to be the warmer winters.

    You exemplify the arrogant, ignorant, gullible Ditto-Head who slavishly repeats whatever idiotic, ExxonMobil-scripted drivel is spoon-fed to him by the phony “right wing” media … and calls himself a “skeptic” for doing so.

  34. 134
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “2. Nuclear power is at present the best alternative fuel source to fossil fueled base-loaded electricity production.”


    How long will the proven power stations last? The fuel they can manage won’t last 50 years. Taking 15 years to build…

    Of course you could try an unproven advanced design, but Russia tried that in Chernobyl. The engineers knew it was safer, but it got handed to another cheaper group to operate.

  35. 135
    Walt Bennett says:

    Re: #100



    I thought the point of this post was to show how much noise there still is, and in this case Christy has (or had) more “street cred” in the climate community.

    I don’t think any of this nonsense is worth discussing.

    [Response: Sorry! My misunderstanding. – gavin]

  36. 136
    Completely Fed Up says:

    wilt says:
    17 February 2010 at 8:55 AM

    Gavin’s response #83

    My remark about calling opponents in the scientific debate cranks was not directed against you personally, but against a general attitude of disrespect that I often observe ”

    from people like Pielke Jr and Monckton and Beck…

  37. 137
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walt the “physicist” says: “…nobody does or can theoretically model and computationally simulate performance of a transistor.”

    See, Walt, that right there tells me you don’t know what you are talking about. Many of my colleagues make their living doing just that. Many other colleagues pay hundreds of thousands a year for software that does just what you are saying is impossible.

    I presume the “information” in the rest of your post is of similar quality.

  38. 138
    Completely Fed Up says:

    joe says:
    17 February 2010 at 9:58 AM

    Sure, you just sat back and let Al Gore et al do it for you with a smug ends justifies the means attitude, all the while endorsing his movie.”

    The judge presiding over the case against AIT endorsed it.

    The only changes were in respect of it being used as a primary teaching aid for children about the science. And the changes needed were along the lines of “the science does not yet predict that WAIS and Greenland will melt by 2050, but that it will eventually melt”.

  39. 139
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Marco@112 I think it is a mistake to oversell satellite data during an El Nino or a La Nina year. The satellites seem to be even more affected by these phenomena than ground temps. Given the difficulties of turning satellite measurements into temperatures even under normal circumatances, I don’t attach much weight to them during off-normal periods.

    ATTENTION: SKEPTICS, ETC. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS DOWNPLAYING A MEASUREMENT THAT INDICATES ANOMALOUS WARMING. I just wanted to make sure that you do see that we do point out potential exaggerations on both sides.

  40. 140
    Dean says:

    It’s a common problem that initial accusations get far more coverage than later findings that nothing wrong was done. The fundamental inequity here is that of building vs destroying. It is far easier to destroy something than to build it, whether you’re talking about a building, an organizations, or the case for something.

    In this case, the climate science community is building the case for AGW and a broader political movement is trying to build a case to do something about it.

    Those attacking it aren’t trying to build anything and it is far easier to destroy the case if you don’t need to build an alternative case. Given the scope of the case that is being built, and that in the end it has to go through the ridiculously dysfunctional US Congress, there will always be a weak link somewhere that they can find, tack the word ‘gate’ onto the end and call a scandal. No institution of this scope can ever be 100% free of errors. And when they are having trouble destroying the case, they break into a computer, steal thousands of emails, and publicize 10 or 20 that are years old that say something embarassing or nasty. If only we had emails between Wegman and the deniers. But of course, they aren’t in the public pay and so their correspondence isn’t subject to the FOI. More inequity in this debate.

    On top of all of this is a public (at least in the US) with plenty of other short-term concerns that is happy to be told that they really don’t have to have this additional worry.

    Proving the case is so much harder than destroying it that even if all the “messaging” pleas from supporters were followed, it’s hard to imagine success in this endeavor until the physical impacts are such that deniers become the joke, by which time we will be well past the tipping points.

  41. 141
    John Mason says:

    #110 Walt the Physicist:

    Gordon Bennett! (onetime popular UK expression of incredulity)

    Cheers – John

  42. 142

    re81 Paul Gosling says:

    “”””You have only got yourselves to blame (climate scientists). For the last decade we have been told of impending disaster.””””

    Try attacking the Department of Defense, please. I am expecting you to attack the agency that protects you, and I expect you to do do it soon too: DOD’s 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report.

    I expect a polite response to this post, too, sir.

    The following are quotes from their 2010 document for more reference. They are in effect taking action on their own and spending tax payers’ money to “manage” the effects of climate change. In their words.

    “Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.” p. 84

    “Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments.” P. 84

    “Although the United States has significant capacity to adapt to climate change, it will pose challenges for civil society and DoD alike, particularly in light of the nation’s extensive coastal infrastructure.” p. 85

    “In 2008, the National Intelligence Council judged that more than 30 U.S. military installations were already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels.” p. 85

    “Climate change … will play significant roles in the future security environment.” P. xv

    “The Department is developing policies and plans to manage the effects of climate change on its operating environment, missions, and facilities.” P. XV

    “The QDR focused on four specific issues where reform is imperative:
    … climate change.” P. 7

    “Climate change will affect DoD in two broad ways. First, climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions that we undertake. “ p. 84

    “The U.S. Global Change Research Program, composed of 13 federal agencies, reported in 2009 that climate-related changes are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters.” p. 84

    “Among these physical changes are increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the oceans and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows.” P. 84

    “The opening of the Arctic waters in the decades ahead which will permit seasonal commerce and transit presents a unique opportunity to work collaboratively in multilateral forums to promote a balanced approach to improving human and environmental security
    in the region.” p. 86 (Again note the DOD uses the word “will” here instead of “could.”)

    “The Department is increasing its use of renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand to …reduce greenhouse gas emissions…” p. 87

  43. 143
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    I think the science/public interaction got off on the wrong foot by the emphasis on the historical record instead of the physics. I can understand the thinking: the process of warming is a long one caused by subtle forces that can be calculated but not felt. Unfortunately, the historical record is going to “wiggle” exactly because the forces involved are subtle and can only be calculated rather than felt. The “other forces” that the con-men claim scientists don’t consider step in and make themselves felt all too easily.

    The problem is much like the problem of living in California. We all know that California is prone to earthquakes, but since the threat is spread over a huge expanse of land the likelihood of you being affected by a quake over your lifetime is, in fact, extremely small. Same with wildfires or landslides. California has those all the time, but the odds are, even if you live smack up against the San Gabriel Mountains, you won’t be affected by either threat. And AGW is spread over hundreds of years. There’s no consequence to someone for being wrong, wrong-headed, or even malicious. Meanwhile, there’s cold to be warmed, heat to be cooled, distances to be driven, profits to be made, and elections to be won. We’re monkeys with SUVs not monks.

    I long ago came to the conclusion that we were going to experience the brunt of AGW in as full a measure as possible. I just hope that the full measure is at the low end of estimates.

  44. 144
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Ray Ladbury
    > … it is a mistake to oversell satellite data during an El Nino or a La
    > Nina year. The satellites seem to be even more affected by these phenomena
    > than ground temps …

    Important point made at 17 February 2010 at 11:18 AM, worth propagating widely.
    The temptation is always there to cherrypick, and always worth flagging.

  45. 145
    Windy says:

    You reap what you sow. During the past 15 years or so, the UK media sensationalized every extreme weather event by making sure that they included AGW as a possible cause for said weather. I may have missed it but I don’t recall the climate community being all upset about the media’s confusion between weather and climate when it was aiding in the tenfold increase in funding for climate research.

    [Response: Then you weren’t paying attention. – gavin]

  46. 146
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:103 A. Reader says: 17 February 2010 at 9:28 AM
    “And you wonder why the tide is turning?”

    The tide turns twice a day.

    The collective mind is like the sea. When the winds blow
    waves arise with crests and troughs. What we’re seeing now
    is a media primed public trough, the pun intended.

    Indeed unkind waves tower over climate scientists. The turning
    tide piles up the bones of some’s mistakes and then carries them out to sea.

    In time the floating carcass of email & IPCC furies will be
    picked clean. The bones will sink into the abyss and the bottom
    feeders will feast awhile longer.

    Then winter storms become Spring and Summer storms and
    the news reflects a new kind of energy. Early storms,
    the floods, the tornadoes fulfill predictions of violent weather
    and alarm will come of sirens warning, warning, warning.

    In summer heat waves and drought ensue and we’ll wonder
    at waves of sweat and dust in dry winds.
    And the warning.

    And then Autumn hurricanes and wet winds and storm surge
    will be a new kind of tide and will we wonder as we ride
    our roofs into the sea if the tide has turned for the able

    And his warning?


  47. 147
    ghost says:

    I apologize in advance for one more comment on the Texas petition for reconsideration to the EPA ( ) (the immediate thrust appears to be to deter/delay new ground-level ozone initiatives by attacking the broader rule on which the initiatives would be based). The position Texas asserts apparently would forbid the EPA from using research or data from NASA, the Department of Energy, the Pentagon, and indeed any institution, governmental department, or resource outside of the EPA. For scientists this might evoke an image of a guy jousting with a windmill. The petition states in pertinent part:

    “And although the Administrator is legally required to undertake a scientific assessment before reaching a decision that is supposed to be based on scientific conclusions, the Administrator outsourced the actual scientific study, as well as her required review of the scientific literature necessary to make that assessment. In doing so, EPA relied primarily on the conclusions of outside organizations, particularly the
    United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”).”

    A plain reading leads to the conclusion that Texas would require the EPA to conduct the basic research internally. Elsewhere, the governor demands efficiency and financial austerity in Washington, which appears contradictory considering he is demanding here that the EPA do something requiring a multiplication of its budget. (Perhaps the implied message is to avoid the issue by requiring the EPA to re-start decades of research that the EPA could not fund if it wanted to.) It’s not hard to imagine the yelling that would ensue if the EPA sought to become as large, diverse, and capable as NASA, NOAA, the Department of Energy, the Pentagon, the IPCC, all of the world’s universities and research institutions working on climate issues, Superman, Batman, and Bicycle Repairman in order to comply with Texas’s demand. One imagines that the Texas position would switch if NASA supported it, but the EPA’s internal work (on which the state demands the rulemaking be based) contradicted it. They claim to be having a tea party in Texas, but it must be peyote tea.

    On the hogwash petition in general, it even has something for the Dutch: “Similarly, Dutch Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer has ordered a thorough investigation into the quality of climate reports that she relies upon to develop public policy. This decision was made shortly after it was learned that the IPCC had incorrectly reported that 55% of the Netherlands is under sea level; a claim which is simply not true.”

    The way this is worded sort of suggests that policymakers don’t know their own countries very well and must rely on someone beyond the borders to explain; for Texas state politicians, that would be “pot, meet kettle.”

  48. 148
    Ike Solem says:

    The UK press should pay more attention to science that affects their local region. Here’s something interesting along those lines:
    Feb. 14 2010 Nature Geosciences:

    “This is the first extensive survey of one of these fjords that shows us how these warm waters circulate and how vigorous the circulation is,” says Straneo. “Changes in the large-scale ocean circulation of the North Atlantic are propagating to the glaciers very quickly — not in a matter of years, but a matter of months. It’s a very rapid communication.”

    Straneo adds that the study highlights how little is known about ocean-glacier interactions, which is a connection not currently included in climate models.

    To be fair to the British press, some sectors have had some pretty good reporting, try the Financial Times / Sam Knight piece on the Cumbria flooding, Feb 5 2010:

    It is hard to know what to make of last November’s floods in Cumbria. During the disaster, which cost one life, caused around £100m in damage, and flooded 1,500 homes – 885 of them in Cockermouth – public officials were quick to emphasise its extreme rarity…

    ….And yet, at the same time, for all their drama, the floods should not have come as much of a surprise. Twenty years ago, Britain’s first climate change predictions told us we should prepare for drier summers and wetter winters, with more intense rainfall and flooding the likely consequences. While climate change does not create disasters out of nothing, Paul Davies, the chief forecaster at the Flood Forecasting Centre, told me that the Cumbrian floods were “entirely consistent with the climate change predictions for the UK”. Warmer temperatures allow the atmosphere to hold more water vapour – 6 per cent more for every 1°C increase – and give it more energy, amplifying existing weather patterns.

    That’s more accurate than most news reports, U.S. or British. Take the heavy snow across the mid-Atlantic states – despite Senator Jim ‘Perfect Score’ Inhofe’s claims to the contrary, that is indeed consistent with global warming projections, well within the range imposed by natural variability. So are the above-freezing slushy conditions in Vancouver.

    The difficulty for local policy makers is that the regional variability is all over the place for projections of rainfall and snowfall changes – do you have to plan for flooding, or for drought, or for both?

    Funny thing, isn’t it – if they had simply invested a few hundred million dollars in shoring up the New Orleans levees, billions in property and thousands of lives would have been saved… of course, to justify those funds, you’d likely have to get everyone to admit that climate destabilization is a reality…. and yet undoubtedly Inhofe et al. would claim there was no need for such an effort.

    Why? If the general public sees major efforts being made to prepare for climate change, then they’re more likely to accept that climate change is real. Also, since such large-scale adaptation projects create jobs and stimulate economies, they might see that taking action has economic as well as ecological benefits – and then, the Orwellian window has opened a bit wider, and people are more willing to start thinking outside the box – which is not in the interest of Inhofe’s sponsors.

  49. 149

    re 237Edward Greisch (a reader) says:
    19 January 2010 at 4:03 AM

    “”” 1. Famine. Because the rain moves. 2. Methane fuel-air explosions from melting tundra peat bogs 3. H2S made by sulfur bacteria that take over anoxic hot oceans.

    Why doesn’t RealClimate have a special page on this stuff? I have posted the details too many times already.”””

    Doesn’t anyone get it???? RealClimate IS REPRESENTATIVE, CONSERVATIVE AND NOT ALARMIST!!!!!

  50. 150
    Harry Hodge says:

    I hear the distinct creak of a new “gate” opening ina piece by Christopher Horner:

    [Response: Horner’s a funny guy. The ‘Brazilian connection’ would make a great movie (fiction rather than documentary though). – gavin]