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The Guardian responds

Filed under: — group @ 24 March 2010

We recently ran two articles that were quite critical of aspects of the Guardian’s coverage of the stolen emails. This is a response from Dr. James Randerson, the editor of the Guardian’s environmental website.

I edit the Guardian’s environment website and was part of the editorial team that produced the 12-part investigation by veteran science journalist Fred Pearce into the hacked East Anglia climate emails. I’m very grateful to RealClimate for giving us the opportunity to respond to the recent posts on the investigation: “The Guardian Disappoints” and “Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind”.

I should say first that we hold RealClimate in very high regard. The site is part of the Guardian Environment Network, a collection of more than 20 hand-picked websites including Grist and Nature’s Climate Feedback blog with whom we have a mutual content sharing agreement. Under the arrangement, the Guardian website republishes RealClimate blogs regularly. We take seriously your criticisms and are considering them carefully. The Guardian has a commitment to accuracy and correcting factual errors.

Such is the public interest in this story that ever since the emails were released in November, there has been a strong demand for an in-depth journalistic account of what they tell us about how climate scientists operate. As RealClimate rightly pointed out, the response from much of the media has been lazy to the point of “pathology”.

No other media organisation has come close to producing such a comprehensive and carefully researched attempt to get to the bottom of the emails affair. The investigation tries to reflect the complexity and historical context of the story, and runs to some 28,000 words – of which around half appeared in the printed newspaper.

Dr. Schmidt did not mince his words though when he said that Fred’s investigation falls, “well below the normal Guardian standards of reporting”, while Dr Ben Santer wrote, “I am taking this opportunity to correct Mr. Pearce’s omissions, to reply to the key allegations, and to supply links to more detailed responses.” Both have also criticised our experimental online exercise to harness the expertise of people with a special knowledge of the emails in order to create a “peer reviewed” account of what they tell us.

More on that later, but it is wrong to suggest that this is a lazy substitute for traditional journalistic standards and that key protagonists were not invited to respond prior to publication. On the contrary, the investigation was subject to rigorous editorial checking and Fred contacted numerous individuals in the course of his research. Many (particularly those at UEA) declined to comment.

The other side of the story

The RealClimate commentary reads like a distorted fairground mirror of the Guardian investigation – one that highlights the uncomfortable bits but blurs the rest. The posts did point out that “Some of the other pieces in this series are fine” but do not reflect the large amount of analysis in the investigation of the way the emails have been misused by those with a political agenda and the extensive context we included to indicate the pressure scientists writing those emails were under from time-consuming requests for data.

In part 2 (How the ‘climategate’ scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics’ lies), for example, we detail how the “hide the decline” email has been misused by Sarah Palin, Senator James Inhofe and others to create, apparently deliberately, the impression that climate scientists had fiddled the figures.

Almost all the media and political discussion about the hacked climate emails has been based on soundbites publicised by professional sceptics and their blogs. In many cases, these have been taken out of context and twisted to mean something they were never intended to.

In part 1 (Battle over climate data turned into war between scientists and sceptics) and in a separate piece that appeared in the newspaper (Climate scientists have long been targets for sceptics) Fred outlines the tactics and motivations of some on the “sceptic” side of the debate.

All this happened against the backdrop of a long-term assault by politically motivated, and commercially funded, climate-change deniers against the activities of many of the key scientists featuring in the emails.

Similarly in Part 7 (Victory for openness as IPCC climate scientist opens up lab doors) Fred explains how the emails give a special insight into what being on the end of that assault was like.

In the leaked emails, [Ben Santer] is seen sharing those experiences with other victims of hectoring and abuse by the more rabid climate sceptics. Others had their own horror stories, including Mike Mann over his hockey stick graph, Kevin Trenberth over his analysis of hurricanes and warming in the aftermath of Katrina, and later Jones over his escalating data wars. In each case, they argue, legitimate debates about scientific analysis and access to researchers’ data have been turned into vindictive character assassination.

And in the concluding part of the investigation (Part 12: Climate science emails cannot destroy argument that world is warming, and humans are responsible), Fred lays out unequivocally that nothing in the emails casts doubt on the case for climate change being attributable to human actions.

Is the science of climate change fatally flawed by the climategate revelations? Absolutely not. Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet. None of the 1,073 emails plus 3,587 files containing documents, raw data and computer code upsets the 200-year-old science behind the “greenhouse effect” of gases such as carbon dioxide, which traps solar heat and warms the atmosphere. Nothing changes the fact that carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to human emissions from burning carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil. Nor the calculations by physicists that for every square metre of the Earth’s surface, 1.6 watts more energy enters the atmosphere than leaves it.

And we know the world is warming as a result. Thousands of thermometers in areas remote from any conceivable local urban influences tell us that. The oceans are warming too. The great majority of the world’s glaciers are retreating, Arctic sea ice is disappearing, sea levels are rising ever faster, trees are climbing up hillsides and permafrost is melting.

These are not statistical artefacts or the result of scientists cherry-picking data.

Looking under every rock

There are few, if any newspapers in the world with a stronger commitment to action on climate change than the Guardian and our sister paper the Observer. We have a team of 6 full-time environment correspondents as well as three editors and a collection of bloggers and columnists.

It was the Guardian that orchestrated a global editorial carried by 56 newspapers in 45 countries on 7th December 2009 to call for action from world leaders at Copenhagen. [RC: Also at RealClimate]

And we have been instrumental in supporting the 10:10 climate change campaign which aims to inspire individuals, organisations and businesses to cut their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010. The UK branch of 10:10 has signed up nearly 60,000 people and over 4000 businesses and organisations.

But only by looking thoroughly under every rock can those of us pressing for action on climate change maintain with confidence that the scientific case remains sound. Fred’s investigation shows that confidence is indeed well placed, but to claim that the emails do not throw up some troubling issues looks like the inward-looking mentality that is sometimes (perhaps understandably) expressed in the emails themselves.

The two posts published so far on RealClimate come to over 8500 words and it has been suggested that a line by line response to each of the points made would not be productive. I say again that we are totally unembarrassed about correcting genuine errors, but many of the points raised at RealClimate are differences of interpretation. There were implications that the investigation omitted some key information which in fact appeared in Fred’s pieces – for example that the data on Chinese weather station locations from the Phil Jones et al 1990 Nature data were eventually released publicly and that the two studies Jones had threatened to keep out of the IPCC AR4 report were in fact cited there.

However, I would like to make four points:

  • Dr Phil Jones, the head of the Climatic Research Unit at UEA has said in an interview with Nature that the handling of the records of the Chinese weather station data from his 1990 Nature paper (which Fred wrote about in part 5 of the investigation) was “not acceptable… [it’s] not best practice,” and he acknowledged that that stations “probably did move”. He added that he was considering a correction to Nature. To our knowledge, no other media organisation or blogger had used the emails to shed light on the controversy over the 1990 paper so a correction would not be on the table without the Pearce investigation.
  • Dr. Schmidt states that we imply Dr Tom Wigley supported allegations of “fabrication” from climate sceptic Douglas Keenan. We do not make that assertion in the piece. Also, Dr Schmidt does not reproduce the most eye-catching quotes from a May 2009 email from Wigley to Jones in which he raises serious doubts about the quality of Jones’s scientific team and his handling of the Chinese weather station data.The hacked emails do not include a response from Jones if there was one.
  • As Dr. Schmidt pointed out, we have made three small corrections to the piece “Controversy behind climate science’s ‘hockey stick’ graph” at the request of Dr Michael Mann, but none changed the main point the article was making, which was that in 1999, Mann’s hockey-stick reconstruction was the subject of intense academic debate amongst climate scientists.
  • Neither of the RealClimate blogs dealt with Fred’s piece on FOI requests, but a statement from the UK’s deputy information commissioner Graham Smith has made clear that he believes that FOI legislation was not followed correctly. He wrote, “The emails which are now public reveal that [climate sceptic David] Holland’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information.” This is a serious issue worthy of discussion and debate.

Peer-reviewed journalism

I mentioned above our attempt to create a definitive account of the emails by leveraging the expertise of people involved or with a special knowledge of the messages and the issues they discuss. This account will eventually be expanded into a book. In practice, this means us adding annotations from people to the online versions of the articles so that readers can watch a form of living peer-review in progress. Click on the yellow highlights in the pieces themselves to read the annotations.

This represents an extraordinary commitment to transparency that we believe is unique in journalism. What other news organisation would open itself to direct criticism in this way including, for example, annotations that read “this is absolutely false” and “this is really bad”? The respected Columbia Journalism Review has praised the approach. “Regardless of whether you agree with Pearce or Schmidt, the Guardian’s approach appropriately acknowledges that evidence leaves room for some degree of interpretation. It is this kind of detailed, intellectually honest (even technologically innovative) reporting that news outlets like The New York Times should be striving for,” it wrote.

In the same spirit we have showcased diverse critical opinions on the issues and our own coverage of them, including from Dr Myles Allen, Dr Vicky Pope, Dr Mike Hulme and the Guardian’s environment correspondent Dr David Adam. Again few newspapers would have reflected such diverse viewpoints.

The reaction from some to our online annotation exercise has been hostile though. On our letters pages Dr Myles Allen and Dr Ben Santer wrote last week:

Claiming to produce “the definitive” analysis now is a brazen attempt to pre-empt the inquiries’ conclusions…What is wrong with the old-fashioned approach of checking facts before publication? When the final version is published, you will no doubt make much of the fact that “everyone had a chance to comment”, implying that any statement that was not challenged must therefore be true.

Our intention is not to undermine or pre-empt the ongoing inquiries into the CRU emails. Each of those has a very specific remit and none is attempting to produce a detailed account that uses the emails to shed light on recent climate controversies. Nor is this an exercise in blackmailing scientists into fact-checking on the cheap – if it were then it would be a monumental false-economy.

In truth, this is a serious-minded attempt to make sense of a large volume of new information about a complex and highly charged issue. No other newspaper has ever offered its journalism up for very public and exacting scrutiny in this way. We sincerely invite those involved who know the issues most thoroughly to contribute.

507 Responses to “The Guardian responds”

  1. 201
    jo abbess says:

    @EdwardGreisch (#195)

    In the past, with a variety of organisations, I have co-facilitated open, free workshops on the Science and social aspects of Climate Change, in London. We have attracted a smattering of journalists, who seemed to come looking for signs of political movement. I mean, what’s the story here ? We can’t write about Science, can we ? Nobody will read it ? It’s not like there’s an overarching narrative, is there… ?

    I think Climate Change offers the most significant and all-encompassing continual storyline of all time. There’s the ongoing scandal of outright, financed denial of the facts. There’s the smear campaign against Scientists and even the Science itself. There’s the deep structural problems implied by such things as higher incidence of major drought and, perversely, major flooding and storms in the same regions. There’s the inability of the economists to stop squabbling about the theory of Carbon markets. There’s the genuine debates taking place at a very high level in the Science communities, as conflicting research evidence is refined by further investigation. There’s the resistance to accepting the one underlying “sine qua non” essential of emissions reductions in industrialised countries. There’s “something happened to our satellite” problems going on, as well, and added into the mix is the normal political shifting sands.

    I am ready to offer, once again, to facilitate free, open workshops for journalists on Climate Change, in London. The first workshop would be something like “Climate Change : Is it important ?” because this framing of environmental issues as marginal or dead weight in newsgathering and newsmaking still needs to be challenged, and it starts with individual responses to some basic, stark facts. That can only be done on a face-to-face, taking-time-to-consider basis, not through published opinionation.

  2. 202
    Deech56 says:

    Thanks to RC for printing the Guardian’s response. Here’s hoping that Dr. Randerson condsiders the thoughtful criticism. Speaking of thoughtful criticism, Kate has reprinted Steve Easterbrook’s comment at her web site here.

  3. 203
    Kris says:

    #186 Andrew: “Therefore no conclusions can be drawn”

    This is incorrect. If you read the statements of the former ICO I linked in #188, he makes it clear that the SPIRIT of the law was broken. Section 77 is intended to penalize deletion of information in order to defeat disclosure — which is EXACTLY what Jones did with respect to the AR4 emails. Now, he MIGHT have been lawfully entitled to delete this information. And even if he was not, he cannot be charged due to the time limit. Such conclusions CAN, in fact, be drawn. The former ICO has even made a specific recommendation how the law should be changed to avoid such situation in the future.

    Next, I don’t live in UK and I don’t know UK law; however, I have looked at the laws in my country. It looks like if something like that has happened here the accused would be in much more trouble. Our law defines basically requires how long official documents (including CORRESPONDENCE) should be retained. The law says that a document CANNOT be destroyed unless the time limit for a given document class has elapsed, and even then it must be destroyed in accordance with the established procedures. Each institution must have an internal regulation dealing with document/data retention. This regardless of whether the document is under FOIA or not. So where I live, unauthorized destruction of documents is at minimum a violation of institutional regulations and at worst a criminal offence (up to 2 years in prison), depending on the document in question.

    In conclusion, I believe that Jones’ actions regarding the AR4 emails are simply indefensible and arguing with the denialists over the legal technicalities of FOIA law is simply giving them more ammunition. It is much better to use your time explaining that there is nothing in the CRU case which would significantly undermine the scientific evidence for AGW.

  4. 204
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Anand you again manage to prove my point absolutely perfectly. Troll away.

  5. 205
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “This is incorrect. If you read the statements of the former ICO I linked in #188, he makes it clear that the SPIRIT of the law was broken.”

    This is a personal opinion as proven by his status as FORMER ICO.

    And as a personal opinion (note too how it’s moved from “the law has been broken” to “the spirit of the law”, watch those goalposts fly!) it has as much relevance as mine that you are a concern troll.

  6. 206
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Deputy ICO Commissioner Graham Smith is responsible for FOI issues. His official statement represents the ICO’s view: ”


    If it did there would be a genuine report from the ICO.

    He’s talking out his arse, lapping up the fame. He has a cushy job coming up, I bet…

  7. 207
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Shibui says:
    26 March 2010 at 12:44 PM

    Completely Fed Up #137

    But don’t you think that might cast doubt on the earlier proxy results?”

    No. In exactly the same way as misreading 300C temperature with an alcohol thermometer means that using a resistive thermometer instead means that the resistive thermometer is wrong too.

    i.e. not at all

  8. 208
    Jay says:

    One thing that drives me crazy, and maybe someone who administers or even a commenter can clarify for me is, why are there so many contradictory claims on climate change? I have read studies what predict more rainfall and less rainfall, more snow and less snow, and so on and so on. I understand that with any constantly evolving theory there will be new revelations but the amount of variability borders on lunacy. To a layperson it seems like every little thing gets blamed on AGW without a true test of merit. Wading through all the disinformation to get at the truth is beyond the time most people have. Perhaps the studies need to be better reviewed before being made public.

    [Response: You are confusing headlines with science. If you look into most of the seemingly contradictory claims, you’ll find that they are talking about different places, different seasons or different metrics altogether. This has nothing to do with the need for better scientific review, but everything to do with the need for headline writers to simplify things and the lack of context that is often found in news stories. Occasionally, there are some issues where the science is uncertain and really contradictory studies are published, but that is just part of the process. Would you prefer that those studies which contradicted another were suppressed in some way? – gavin]

  9. 209
    Theo H says:

    Would I be moderated out if – on a fairly cursory skim of this discussion – I said that some people here are being a bit like the sceptics/denialists, so a small number of errors are being used to demolish all of the extended reporting of the Guardian?

    Bit like the way that the sceptics/denialists are using a small bit of the IPCC’s work – say on Indian glaciers – to demolish all of their report?

    Please step back and then tell us how, in light of the entire 12 article series, you feel about the entire series.

  10. 210
    Rod B says:

    Len Conly (196), which assumes prima facie that those first few studies of tobacco smoke were perfectly factual science — I suppose because they were on the ‘right side.’ Much like the EPA’s original study of second-hand smoke, maybe, which almost got them a fraud charge (actually contempt of court) from the Federal District Court.

  11. 211
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Kris #203, if you want to define by assertion the spirit of the law, please allow me to play the same game: I assert that the spirit of the law, which Jones tried to physically enforce, is that IPCC internal correspondence is confidential. Established legal practice in two countries at least. The proposed deletion was a victimless crime — a ‘technicality’, to use your language.

    Heck, legalistic technicalities are all the denialists have. In my book, being passionate about the science and irreverent/naive about the law is a feature, not a bug!

  12. 212
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Theo@209, So how would you feel if a newspaper started running the Horoscope under a big “SCIENCE” banner? Don’t you think it might diminish your respect for the judgment of the publication?

    That The Guardian deemed it appropriate to pass judgment on Phil Jones, CRU and much of climate science based on a selectively edited sample of emails says to me that they either have no ability to discern fact from propaganda or that they don’t care. In either case, I’ll be getting my news from The Economist and NPR from now on. The Guardian can continue on its path to become Faux News Lite.

  13. 213
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Theo H #209: perhaps that is the reason why the proprietors of this site are trying to interact with the Guardian in a positive way — could you imagine this kind of guest post from the Telegraph or the Wall Street Journal?

    Yes, several of the Guardian articles are well written and make necessary points, like that nothing in this undermines the science itself. Unfortunately the errors they do make are serious, and, factually, serve to undermine the future of the science.

    A world in which research scientists can be hounded out of their jobs for political reasons, by politically motivated campaigns of lies and misrepresentation by folks not having the faintest about how science works yet hating its conclusions, would be an ever-so-slightly more dangerous world, in which one more group willing to speak truth to power would be chilled out of existence.

    As Steven Dutch puts it:

    Once professors get tenure, it pretty much takes a thermonuclear weapon to remove them. That protection is there because a significant part of our job is to tick people off. We tell them things they don’t want to hear, like the earth is 4.6 billion years old, there is a finite amount of oil in the ground, you can’t provide government services without taxes, we really did go to the moon, or they didn’t learn enough to pass the course. So when a university grants tenure, it basically makes a lifetime commitment.

    (Disclosure: I am one of those research scientists feeling the chill.)

  14. 214
    flxible says:

    Theo@209 – Stepping back:

    Sad state of affairs, like many human endeavors. Commentors here at RC have been calling for “scientists” to step up and lead the charge educating the public on the facts (which RC is actually doing, for that segment of the public that is educable). A media group puts forward “PhD’s” claiming to do better. Those PhD’s then proceed to dwell on the manufactured controversies around the politics, as if J&J Public can meaningfully parse a 12 part series about the politics of science over morning coffee, further muddying the public perceptions of the objective reality we face by opening the discussion to opinion in the name of “balance”. And effectively “blaming” climate scientists for the murky public perception of climate politics. Does that convey any of the information that voters, and the policy makers they elect, need to actually take action? There are legal and political processes underway to deal with ’emailgate’, let them run their course. If Mr Randerson wishes to convey the science he should get on with that and leave “a comprehensive and carefully researched attempt to get to the bottom of the emails affair” to the legal channels where it belongs. Having a doctorate in something is really meaningless when MSM articles are devoted to opinion and hand waving, appearing more like the PhD was useless in the field for which it was intended. I can easily imagine the Guardian series being used as “evidence” in the legal proceedings, where it would of course further muddy the waters.

  15. 215
    Anand says:

    A climate troll is a goat-like beast that guards bridges that lead to climate enlightenment. It has lot of time on its hands, it assiduously demands coin from every comer standing at the gate. The coin is acquiescence to the theory of anthropogenicity. Paradoxically, the coin is available in abundance on the other side of the bridge.

    Let your guard down and maybe we can all see “the point” that you fondly refer to. Let people in for free. :)


  16. 216
    Hank Roberts says:

    > almost got them a fraud charge

    Ah, Rod, Rod, you’re back in ‘bertarian parrot mode again, claiming that if the first report of something is disproved, that undermines the science. You know better, you get corrected each time you revert to this “founder” notion.’s+original+study+of+second-hand+smoke
    “Almost” counts throwing horseshoes and hand grenades, not in law.

  17. 217
    Andrew Hobbs says:

    #203 Kris

    The statement you refer to does NOT make it clear that the spirit of the law was broken. It makes it very clear that only a prima facie case (albeit a strong prima facie case) exists to suggest that the law was broken. However it is only a prima facie case. As such it could be proven wrong with appropriate evidence. Therefore you cannot make such a claim or conclusion.

    In my opinion it was very wrong of the ICO spokesperson to be talking to anyone with the assumption that Jones had broken the law without an official decision notice having been published. I see the letter you refer to as being their pathetic attempt to wriggle out of the hole they dug for themselves.

  18. 218

    #189 Septic Matthew

    I’m not entirely sure of your reference as to “as written at your site”? Could you specify. Is there something I need to re-examine?

    As to “carbon fuel content of imported goods” several points come to mind

    – The primary goal is to address the major sources of industrial CO2 output
    [compare non-energy use of fuels to fossil fuel combustion]

    Electricity Generation and Transportation are the largest and Industry is a major component

    Agriculture and Commercial are lower on the allocation list. So, yes it is a target, and there should be a way to address CO2 emissions used to product production. SInce the tax is on point of origin or point of import, this can be included in the mix and will need to be paramterized.

    – Carbon content in imported goods that are not to be burned might be considered sequestered carbon, but CO2 release form production should be included.

    Since this is a global petition, let’s hope that we can make some progress in those nations as well or raise the importance of the issue so the UN takes notice.

    The chief goal of the proposal is to target fossil fuel energy imports/exports in order to provide a mechanism for pushing us into sustainable renewable energy sources and hopefully consumption reduction and efficiency as well.

    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    Sign the Petition!

  19. 219
    bigcitylib says:

    #203 No, the claim that the ICO finally settled upon was that there was a primie facie argument for the law’s having been broken, not that it had been broken. Jone’s claim, made in several venues now, is that no emails were in fact deleted. If he’s right,no law was broken, and ICO looks foolish for having made some rather inflammatory statements based on a selection of stolen emails.

    Also, a point not fully appreciated: the UEA policy in regards to the various FOI requests was developed in consultation with the ICO. So there is plenty of opportunity for the latter agency to be embarrassed over the next couple of months. Ie. are they now attacking the UEA for following their own advice?

  20. 220
    Ron R. says:

    Ben Santer: “With some work – which he was unwilling to do – Mr. McIntyre could have replicated all of the calculations performed in the 2008 Santer et al. International Journal of Climatology paper.”

    Unwilling or, perhaps, unable? I wonder…

    Maybe knowing these people and their motivations some have been less than 100% forthcoming, and in hindsight that was wrong. Yet it’s clear that the skeptics requests went well beyond what is reasonable. More than simply requesting the same data the way any other scientist would do they wanted every last bit of paper that a thought might have been jotted down on, every impromtu snippet of conversation ever uttered even every thought if they could have gotten it. Can you imagine Darwin having to turn over every single thing that he’d ever said or wondered about in the formulation of evolution theory? His “I think” when trying to put it all together would have made headline news these days:


    What the skeptics have demanded amounts to an invasion of privacy. And the reason they wanted every last jot and tittle was quite lawyer-esque, they hoped that in the less careful wanderings of casual conversation they might find at least some little bit of uncertainty that they could then blow out of all proportion in the minds of a suspicious people. And so they’ve done with the emails.

    One last comment about the Guardian, just my 2c worth of course. People need to remember that journalism is more than ‘just the facts ma’am’. It’s also a business. Unlike science it’s funding source is private and by no means sure, especially in this economy. Again, in our internet age of instant verification we can pick just about anything to death but (not knowing all the details) I do believe that the Guardian has been doing an admirable job, way better than others. The reason they merited several posts so far discussing some of the details recognizes that. Of course where mistakes have occurred they must be willing to correct them immediately, and my guess is that they will be more careful in the future just as climate scientists will be about how to deal with the professional skeptics. Carefully, and thoroughly.

    I don’t like the pussyfooting around that journalists often do with regard to notions held by fringe groups (or in their less than damning coverage of corporate abuse). Maybe it would be better to take the philosophy of certain middle eastern countries when attacked – strike back ten times harder. Go for the kill. The papers have learned though that they have to be diplomatic, which sometimes translates as waffling. It’s a pity. The options are government reporting (Pravda anyone?) or reporting from the scientific institutions themselves. But then you’d have then people screaming about bias. So what we’re stuck with is this hopefully independent “forth estate”, even if that’s in perception only.

  21. 221
    Theo H says:

    @ 214 flxible

    “”Theo@209 – Stepping back:

    Sad state of affairs, like many human endeavors. Commentors here at RC have been calling for “scientists” to step up and lead the charge educating the public on the facts (which RC is actually doing, for that segment of the public that is educable). “”

    Scientists _should_ “step up and lead”. But steeping backwards is an integral part of leading.

    Well – I think so.

  22. 222
    Jay says:


    Thank you for your response to my earlier post. One example of the contradiction I was talking about is the decrease in Accumulated Cyclone Energy to levels around the early 80’s after peaking in the mid-late 90’s. I have read a lot of studies that say the hurricanes will become more numerous and stronger. I have also read a study that says Atlantic hurricanes will become less intense. Kerry Emanuel has said that the models don’t follow the observations. Also Christopher Landsea with the NOAA Hurricane Research Division found less intense intense hurricanes. I just wanted to maybe have some links for information to clarify stuff like this. I am sure that you may have covered it before on a previous blog entry.

  23. 223
    JiminMpls says:

    Anand – What would you think of someone who posted on anandtech that “There has been no increase in CPU performance since 2004 and the Pentium 4 570j running at 3.8 GHz proves it!”?

  24. 224
    Septic Matthew says:

    218, John P. Reisman: I’m not entirely sure of your reference as to “as written at your site”? Could you specify. Is there something I need to re-examine?

    Unless there is an effective tax on the carbon content of the manufacture etc of imported goods, then the tax on domestic producers gives money to consumers to buy cheaper imported goods. But the new production facilities in China (India, whatever), are generally more polluting than the facilities in the EU and US that are driven out of business. This isn’t the only reason that China is doing well in international trade, but it contributes.

  25. 225
    Gerry Quinn says:

    Ray Ladbury writes in #190:

    “Gerry Quinn, Well, since you are too lazy to go find the reference yourself, here it is:

    And Jones cited it. If you had any decency, you’d apologize to Jones, but I’m not waiting up.”

    What are you blathering about, Ray? That paper was submitted more than two years before Jones wrote in an email “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick…”. We may safely infer that the email did not refer to the contents of that paper.

    Tip: when posting in future, double-check to make sure you have not blundered, especially if you wish to incorporate gratuitous insults to other correspondents.

  26. 226
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by bill — 26 March 2010 @ 5:42 PM:

    It is true that overpopulation is the big elephant in the room. The solution to both the global warming and peak oil problems is converting to renewable energy ASAP. Global warming and ocean problems by themselves have the potential to create enormous misery for the most vulnerable people in the world, and like peak oil would make any real efforts to solve the population problem impossible.

    I know of only one way to deal with overpopulation (other than a mass die off) and that involves helping undeveloped nations to educate their people, especially women, and provide health and food security. This doesn’t seem very likely, but it would be impossible if both global warming and peak oil aren’t dealt with.

    The frustration and squabbling you see regarding much smaller problems has to do with the organized corporate disinformation campaign regarding both the warming and fossil fuel problem. The inability of the press to put this campaign into perspective for all of us is a major problem.


  27. 227
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Jay says: 27 March 2010 at 9:37 AM

    One thing that drives me crazy, and maybe someone who administers or even a commenter can clarify for me is, why are there so many contradictory claims on climate change? I have read studies what predict more rainfall and less rainfall, more snow and less snow, and so on and so on.

    Gavin refers to the need of the popular press to simplify. In all fairness redaction of this kind is simply unavoidable as a story grows in scope and content; the job of the press is not to repeat the entire background of a story with each new development. Newspapers cover “news”, the new. At best a story will provide a coherent synopsis of the previous narrative and then move on to providing detail about the newly emerged part of the story.

    For a story of global scale this system is sorely tested, stressed to the point of strain. Climate change will in fact result in more rainfall in some places and less in others, changes in the distribution of snowfall, scads of seemingly contradictory observations. There’s simply no way a brief newspaper article can convey this level of detail, not when the subject is so enormous.

    Ultimately the interest and memory of the newspaper reader is a vital part of conveying a developing story of this scale. Confusion will happen unless readers are able to retain facts and integrate new information into their mental models. The challenge for newspapers is to make a reader’s job more successful by avoiding careless introduction of content either inauthentic or not relevant to the central story, that is to say “fluff.”

    The need to avoid bogus and useless content, to help readers understand an extraordinarily complicated story is why fake dramatics such as Pearce’s sexing up of the Chinese temperature data story are so intolerable. Getting the story of climate change across to the public is an enormous challenge even in the best of circumstances, so dreaming up and reporting controversy where none exists is corrosive to the public intellect and a breach of faith on the part of a journalist.

  28. 228
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Yes, several of the Guardian articles are well written and make necessary points, like that nothing in this undermines the science itself. Unfortunately the errors they do make are serious, and, factually, serve to undermine the future of the science. ,

    I agree with all of that.

    The media has asymmetric power. They can ask questions , like Roger Harrabin, but do not get cross examined in return. They can promote opinion and gossip by re-packaging it as an ‘investigation’ to which they can give enormous publicity.

    I am not aware of any risks entailed by irresponsible use of this power. What will happen if the inquiries do not corroborate the Guardian’s investigation , except perhaps to a minor extent? Will anyone come back to apologise? What will happen if there are some unforseen consequences caused by this interference with natural justice? Have the media (Guardian not excluded) ever considered what it must be like to have to face at least five inquiries if you are totally untrained for that sort of thing? Have they learned nothing from past case studies of bullying in the UK?


    (no analogies intended, except for the bullying)

  29. 229
    Kris says:

    #219: “Jone’s claim, made in several venues now, is that no emails were in fact deleted. If he’s right,no law was broken”

    Thank you, I was not aware of this.

    I rescind my previous position and admit that most likely there was no offence committed. For the record, can you provide a link to Prof. Jones’ statement?

  30. 230
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re: My previous comment.

    The first link should be halved.

  31. 231
    Kris says:

    #198: “CO2 is NOT air. ”

    But in most cases, it is produced by a reaction involving a carbon-based fuel and atmospheric oxygen. So CO2 tax _can_ be viewed as a tax on the use of air (O2). The denialists have that right. The thing is: industrial use of mineral resources is already taxed so it’s somewhat logical to tax the use of atmospheric resources as well.

    “We can only hope that they do in fact tax CO2, and soon and steeply.”

    Actually, when I think of it, I am not afraid that they won’t. I am afraid of a taxation scheme that doesn’t work — i.e. money changes hands but the emissions keep on rising. Nightmare. Absolute horror.

  32. 232
    Hank Roberts says:

    > CO2 tax _can_ be viewed as a tax on the use of air (O2)

    See, Guardian editors? This is the level of understanding you’re facing.
    It’s not a _carbon_ tax, it’s an _oxidation_ tax.

    It will just drive people to using chlorine or fluorine for combustion, instead, since those aren’t taxed.

    Oh, wait …

  33. 233
    Greg C. says:

    #229, Kris: “I rescind my previous position and admit that most likely there was no offence committed.”

    WHOA! That’s a rare line to hear nowadays. :-)

  34. 234
    CM says:

    Martin Vermeer very rightly said:

    A world in which research scientists can be hounded out of their jobs for political reasons (…) would be an ever-so-slightly more dangerous world, in which one more group willing to speak truth to power would be chilled out of existence.

    Addendum: And then, they’ll come for the journalists.

  35. 235
    JiminMpls says:

    #224 Septic – The fee would apply to imports, as well.

    What I don’t like about Fee and Dividend proposal is the idea that dividends would be paid out equally to everyone. That gives the general public a strong disincentive to conserve. Any dividends (tax receipts) should be dedicated to projects that would improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

    I am in agreements, however, that cap and trade won’t work for carbon mitigation. It’s too complicated. A simple tax – that IS passed through to the consumer like a value added tax – is the most effective means to influence consumption choices thoughout the supply chain. In the end, products with high carbon costs won’t be competitive in the market place.

  36. 236
    Edward Greisch says:

    201 jo abbess: THANK YOU very very much. I hope you have very full classes/workshops.

    Can you also teach them the math? Let’s hope we get another volunteer who can teach math, especially probability and statistics, to the journalists. Statistics words and concepts are often the stumbling blocks that cause an article in a newspaper to miss the mark.

  37. 237
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Gerry Quinn #225, you may want to stop digging when in a hole. Ray pointed you to an article in a top journal, indeed two years old at the time, where the thing that was supposedly being hidden was being explained in gory detail for all the world to see. Your bluster fools nobody.

  38. 238
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Re: first link of #228.

    Very odd what a cut and paste can do. The corrupted version of the link to “Alan Turing: A short biography” is liable to go to a different version from the one I saw and to get to that different article , you might have to pass a prominent advert for an article opposing Darwin.

  39. 239
    Frank Giger says:

    Y’all act as though the Guardian put out a hit piece, when in fact is was favorable to the science and the process in general – if critical of particular behavior by some scientists.

    If this is how the friends of AGW get treated, no wonder anyone with any doubt at all is labelled a “denier” or a straight up shill for [insert industry] interests.

    The waters are quite muddied by “environmental activists” as much as by any other group, yet there seems to be little concern when they skew or misrepresent the science.

    Why is that?

  40. 240
    flxible says:

    Kris@229 The statement from UEA should be enough:

    “No record has been deleted, altered, or otherwise dealt with in any fashion with the intent of preventing the disclosure of all, or any part, of the requested information”

    And other official communications listed here might clarify things a bit more then the Guardian series does.

  41. 241

    Kris (203): Section 77 is intended to penalize deletion of information in order to defeat disclosure — which is EXACTLY what Jones did with respect to the AR4 emails

    BPL: Where and when did he do that? What, specifically, did he delete? And what’s your source for that accusation of criminal misconduct?

  42. 242

    #195 Edward Greisch

    Without a strategic capacity, we need to do this piecemeal. We need to help journalists become educated as to how to understand the contexts. They need to become more aware on their own. It’s the old ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink’ problem.

    In the mean time we can address our town and city councils. I am attending one in my area in two weeks.

    We need to get out their on foot and help people understand.

    I went to our local school board last week and the person I spoke with said two things:

    1. Volcanoes put out more CO2 than humans.
    2. Did you know that more and more scientists are saying global warming is not human caused.

    It was disappointing to hear and clearly we have a long way to go. Of course the easy answers don’t penetrate the religious mindset. I explained volcanoes CO2 output in relation to human and of course, which scientists?, but then she was called away from the front office and I went home.

    For those not so indoctrinated, most can be turned around rather easily with reasoned contextual arguments. For the indoctrinated, I have found that once a meeting is established and I can do a full briefing on the subject with pictures, the success rate is 98 to 99% turnaround. But all this needs to be scaled up and we still have no funding for a strategic approach to ending this debate, while of course the denialists are well funded and organized in their communications.

    One of the problems is establishing enough time to present the contexts, depending on your audience.

    I have gone to my local paper for example and met with the publisher. He was willing to hear my briefing on AGW and realized the serious nature of the problem, but he can not repeat what I said to his boss (owner). He said the owners of the papers (plural) have a policy not to report on global issues. This is a convenient out. What they don’t realize yet is that global warming will affect the entire planet including their local region. But it is an easy way for them to say no, we just don’t report on things that don’t concern the locality.

    I will attempt to talk to the owners of the papers next.

    Conclusion, without a strategic plan, it’s a ground war (urban combat), and urban warfare is notoriously difficult. So until someone recognizes the need for a true strategic communication, we will have to muddle along with fighting against the IED’s and snipers that are picking away at the argument with religious fervor until such time as it is obvious (to late) or someone out there with money wakes up and says we need a strategic ‘effective’ approach.

    I have a structured plan. The problem is I can not share it until I meet someone trustworthy with appropriate funding capacity that wants to help, and that has not happened. The simple reason it can not be shared is that once the enemy knows your plan they can counter it more easily. It’s as simple as that.

    So, keep fighting in the streets and alleys. We will take a lot of hits but any fight worth fighting is going to have challenges. Let’s just hope we make better progress.

    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    Sign the Petition!

  43. 243

    #224 Septic Matthew

    I would then say that the fee needs to consider the CO2 emissions of the production process. Once the amounts are quantified, then the applicable fee can be applied. That would have a ripple effect in product cost that would work backwards to the producer due to sales pressures.

    Drops in sales due to increasing fee costs would give incentive to producers to look towards alternative energy to produce goods.

    Of course, raising awareness in India will help as global warming will have a massive effect in their country, including the drop in fresh water from the Himalaya and the eventual flooding of Bangladesh and other low lying areas.

    China will also experience the same problems from the Himalaya fresh water loss and Shanghai and other low lying areas, including Hong Kong and Kowloon, which is a major industrial hub.

    Since EU and US are still major consumers, this indicates that Fee & Dividend will still be highly effective on a progressive scale.

    It is a balancing act. The economy needs to remain functional and we need to move as quickly as possible. No one thinks this will be easy to accomplish, but that must not stop us from trying.

    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    Sign the Petition!

  44. 244

    #235 JiminMpls

    I understand your concern. When I first considered it now a few years ago I had the same concern and thought we should have monies flowing into solution development.

    But upon further consideration, handing monies to politicians to divvy out would more than likely inhibit good efficient/effective solution development. Remember, politicians want jobs in their district so the will have incentive to allocate funding to just about every hair-brained scheme that comes along and they will lobby hard on those schemes.

    On the other hand, if we actually allow the market system to develop the solutions. The solutions developed will mostly likely have a higher probability of working since the solutions will not be money thrown at the problem but rather a problem that needs to be efficiently and effectively solved. This reduces the hair brained incentive and translates to what’s the actual best way to do this.

    We need to remove the special interest potential as we all know how that works.

    As to returning it to the consumer, it will provide much needed economic stimulus and the product mix will be moving more and more toward utilitarian and away from non utilitarian. This will help keep the economy functioning, and that is one of my greatest concerns; if the economy ceases to function in a manner conducive to implementation of needed solutions, we all fail.

    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    Sign the Petition!

  45. 245
    Gerry Quinn says:

    Martin Vermeer wrote in #237:

    “Gerry Quinn #225, you may want to stop digging when in a hole. Ray pointed you to an article in a top journal, indeed two years old at the time, where the thing that was supposedly being hidden was being explained in gory detail for all the world to see.”

    This is irrelevant obfuscation. We are all aware that the ‘divergence problem’ was mentioned in some scientific papers.

    The question at issue is what was Jones up to a couple of years later, when he was manipulating data in such a way as to hide that very divergence? For what purpose was he preparing the ‘adjusted’ proxy series?

    Not all the world reads Nature. Politicians and policymakers get their scientific information from reports prepared by people like Jones. Was he perhaps preparing such a report, or part of one, but for this purpose sweeping the data discrepancies of which he was aware under the carpet? It seems the obvious interpretation, and the attempts of you and others to evade the issue do nothing to make me doubt it.

  46. 246
    dhogaza says:

    The question at issue is what was Jones up to a couple of years later, when he was manipulating data in such a way as to hide that very divergence? For what purpose was he preparing the ‘adjusted’ proxy series?

    He wasn’t “manipulating data”. He was asked to provide a graphic summarizing our best understanding of the temperature record to be used as a cover of a WMO report. Not a scientific report, not even a policy report, just a cover graphic that accurately reflected scientific thinking at the time. And it does. The divergence problem isn’t interpreted by anyone who’s serious as “proving” that recent temperature observations are shown wrong. Some of the proxy series began diverging a few decades ago, after matching previous observations and proxies very closely before that. The combination of proxy and observed temperatures *are* our best estimate of the record. There’s nothing wrong with the graphic he produced. It reflects the best view of reality we have.

  47. 247
    Robert Murphy says:

    Gerry Quinn said (245):
    “The question at issue is what was Jones up to a couple of years later, when he was manipulating data in such a way as to hide that very divergence?”

    He did no such thing. Everything he did was out in the open, in published papers. It was only *hidden* to those who don’t know the relevant literature.

    “Not all the world reads Nature.”

    Certainly not the denialists. Is Phil Jones to blame because some people are too lazy to actually read the scientific literature before they make baseless, inflammatory accusations?

  48. 248
    Kris says:

    #240 flxible: Thank you very much.

    #241 BPL: I have incorrectly (albeit logically) assumed that if he asked his colleagues to delete information he did it himself in the first place. He did not. See #229.

  49. 249

    #239 Frank Giger

    It’s not about friends of AGW (or ‘Friends of Science’, a denialist web site). It’s about context and relative accuracy in communications. If people are to understand relevance they need to know the relevant contexts. Otherwise, confusion will abound for some years to come.

    It is critical that reporters understand the contexts in this debate. Any facts out of context are irrelevant.

    It is about getting the story right. Global warming is human caused and understanding the issue will enable effective policy. Without effective policy, we are looking at the difference between catastrophic climate change and less worse scenarios.

    It is the job of the media to get it right and their survival along with that of the rest of our human economy relies on their ability to communicate relevant points.

    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    Sign the Petition!

  50. 250
    Frank Giger says:

    Ed (242) wrote:

    “For those not so indoctrinated, most can be turned around rather easily with reasoned contextual arguments. ”

    And then mentioned volcanoes.

    Here’s what’s missed in most AGW discussions: nature. Excluding natural background CO2 emissions from discussion is an illogical approach, and counter-intuitive to the average layman.

    Oddly enough, the starting point of most discussions isn’t nature’s own balance, but jumping head long into pointing fingers and demanding that industrialized nations be punished. It’s a very dumb approach.

    The second is an implied assumption that climate is static, and therefore climate change is something new and wholly dependent on us. Whenever someone states that we must “stop climate change” it makes me cringe – they’re talking out the wrong end from the start, and is far too absolutist (and impossible). We need to soften our influence on the current cycle of climate change.

    Far and away most people understand that tinkering with systems – even dynamic ones like climate – can produce bad effects.

    I travel in very politically (US style) conservative circles, and the topic of GHG’s and influencing climate is very simple to approach and even get agreement on. One simply has to dismiss the radicals and the alarmism and speak to the root issues.

    Efficiency, diversification of energy sources, and lower emissions are all desireable goals no matter the political persuasion of a person.

    Carrots, not sticks, is the way forward, IMHO. Punitive taxes just to tax people for living in a prosperous nation (in order to make them less prosperous and therefore less polluting) is politically and ideologically impossible to the majority of people – and yet this seems to be the prime solution offered for AGW (carbon taxes, etc.).

    The reason the stolen emails cut so deeply is the unreasonable expectations and PR picture given to scientists and the IPCC. Regardless of what an individual scientist will say, the truth is that the IPCC and the reports have been billed as infallible canon, and with that everything and everyone associated with it. And since it is canon, every political ruling must adhere to its principles.

    It might be factual, but it’s not canon, and no, we really don’t have to adhere to it. It is in our best interest to take the facts laid out in the reports, but there is no real imperative to do so.