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Leakegate: A retraction

Filed under: — gavin @ 20 June 2010

Back in February, we commented on the fact-free IPCC-related media frenzy in the UK which involved plentiful confusion, the making up of quotes and misrepresenting the facts. Well, a number of people have pursued the newspapers concerned and Simon Lewis at least filed a complaint (pdf) with the relevant press oversight body. In response, the Sunday Times (UK) has today retracted a story by Jonathan Leake on a supposed ‘Amazongate’ and published the following apology:

The article “UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim” (News, Jan 31) stated that the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had included an “unsubstantiated claim” that up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest could be sensitive to future changes in rainfall. The IPCC had referenced the claim to a report prepared for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) by Andrew Rowell and Peter Moore, whom the article described as “green campaigners” with “little scientific expertise.” The article also stated that the authors’ research had been based on a scientific paper that dealt with the impact of human activity rather than climate change.

In fact, the IPCC’s Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. In the case of the WWF report, the figure had, in error, not been referenced, but was based on research by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) which did relate to the impact of climate change. We also understand and accept that Mr Rowell is an experienced environmental journalist and that Dr Moore is an expert in forest management, and apologise for any suggestion to the contrary.

The article also quoted criticism of the IPCC’s use of the WWF report by Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds and leading specialist in tropical forest ecology. We accept that, in his quoted remarks, Dr Lewis was making the general point that both the IPCC and WWF should have cited the appropriate peer-reviewed scientific research literature. As he made clear to us at the time, including by sending us some of the research literature, Dr Lewis does not dispute the scientific basis for both the IPCC and the WWF reports’ statements on the potential vulnerability of the Amazon rainforest to droughts caused by climate change.

In addition, the article stated that Dr Lewis’ concern at the IPCC’s use of reports by environmental campaign groups related to the prospect of those reports being biased in their conclusions. We accept that Dr Lewis holds no such view – rather, he was concerned that the use of non-peer-reviewed sources risks creating the perception of bias and unnecessary controversy, which is unhelpful in advancing the public’s understanding of the science of climate change. A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this.

Note that the Sunday Times has removed the original article from their website (though a copy is available here), and the retraction does not appear to have ever been posted online. Here is a scan of the print version just in case there is any doubt about its existence. (Update: the retraction has now appeared).

This follows on the heels of a German paper, the Frankfurter Rundschau, recently retracting a story on the ‘Africagate’ non-scandal, based on reporting from….. Jonathan Leake.

It is an open question as to what impact these retractions and apologies have, but just as with technical comments on nonsense articles appearing a year after the damage was done, setting the record straight is a important for those people who will be looking at this at a later date, and gives some hope that the media can be held (a little) accountable for what they publish.


167 Responses to “Leakegate: A retraction”

  1. 1
    Spencer says:

    Important to set the record straight — yes. Useful for overcoming prejudices — no. Studies show that for pieces like this, that tell you “X said A but the truth is Not-A,” a reader who is asked a few days later will remember “A is true” if that agrees with their preconceptions. Sigh.

  2. 2
    dhogaza says:

    The importance, hopefully, is that they’ll think twice about running anything Leake has to say about climate science without first fact-checking his article.

    The damage done by the two retracted articles can’t be fully undone, but future damage due to new lies can just possibly be prevented.

  3. 3

    A good beginning, but there are two necessary continuations:

    1) Individual journalists who have made repeated egregious errors should no longer be professional journalists (i.e. no publisher should hire them, or publish their work, period). There must be personal repercussions for individuals who demonstrate either extreme journalistic incompetence or, worse, purposefully malicious misreporting.

    2) We need more of the same. This needs to be repeated, over and over, for each and every case of nonsense, so that with the same clamor that people heard “the science is bad” they will hear “the journalism was very, very bad and the science was actually quite good.”

  4. 4

    Let’s just hope mr. Leake has now sufficiently discredited himself to prevent his further conspiracy theories from being published in papers like the Sunday Times and the Frankfurter Rundschau.

  5. 5
    Jack W. Cremeans says:

    Any chance that this retraction is under threat of a libel suit under Britain’s rather ‘permissive’ law? As under that law, ‘libel’ amounts to publishing something a mentioned person believes is offensive to him, not the truth.

  6. 6
    Chris Keene says:

    I wonder if there is any point in getting a website online called ‘Lies of the deniers’ or something like that, where they have been caught out telling these blatant lies?

    I think this is of the utmost importance. James Hoggan in Climate Cover-up gives statistics on public opinion in the US. 58% of Democrats believe in AGW, but only 27% of Republicans. And the figures get even more interesting when you look at level of education. Of college educated Democrats, there is an increase in belief, to 75%, as you might expect, but educated Republicans are even more likely to be in denial – only 19% are believers. I think this must be due to the propaganda to which they are exposed, chief amongst them being the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, both owned by Sunday Times owner Rupert Murdoch.

    Apparently it is impossible to progress in the Republican Party unless you are a denier (Arnold Schwarzenegger is an exception) and given the strength of the Republicans, who since they won the late Ted Kennedy’s old seat can now block legislation, this is a real stumbling block to progress in UN climate negotiations, because China and India aren’t going to move until the US does

    Chris Keene

    [Response: Although there is no doubt that differences in opinion correlate with political tendencies and other socio-cultural factors, and it is important to understand why those differences exist, I think it's very important that we not label based on over-simplified categorizations, thereby playing into the hand of those who want to cast it as an ideologically-based issue. Not that this is necessarily easy or natural, but it is the better way.--Jim]

  7. 7
    Frank Giger says:

    It is a ideologically based issue, unfortunately, since the earliest days of the science. Democrats and other liberals framed it as justification for their political planks, attempting to “own” climate change. To oppose their policies was painted as “killing the planet” and all sorts of exaggerations on the science were made. Scientists themselves did a poor job of countering skewing of the data into erroneous and alarmist conclusions, which looked like collusion.

    Hell, the spokesman for AGW is a former Vice President that demonized Republicans at every turn. Imagine if Vice President Cheney took AGW as his pet cause – think Democrats wouldn’t be automatically opposed to anything coming out of his mouth, regardless of the facts behind it?

    Why the WWF, Greenpeace, and like groups were cited in the IPCC reports to begin with is beyond me. They’re political advocacy groups first and foremost. It’s like citing the Jim Birch Society on the merits of deregulation. You know what their answer will be beforehand, and any study results they cite will be suspect.

    [Response: No, I'm sorry but you are quite wrong. Climate change is, at its root, a strictly physical/biological issue. The fact that people you don't care for have taken up its cause does not negate this, and if you are not able to make this distinction you are making a very serious mistake that will prevent you from really understanding the science. Furthermore, this post will not be derailed into such unproductive discussion.--Jim]

  8. 8

    Jim,

    I really think the GOP has become the anti-science party in the US. I know there are people like McCain who know better, but the GOP is making a huge amount of political capital out of creationism, opposition to AGW, and in general, any kind of science that might threaten either extreme fundamentalism or big business. See Chris Mooney’s “The Republican War on Science.” The GOP is no longer the party of Gerry Ford and Lowell Weicker. It’s not even the party of Dick Nixon, who, much as he was hated by the left, at least never attacked science. It has moved way, way right, and dragged much of the electorate with it through its propaganda arm, Fox News. Don’t forget that the Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes, started out as a professional Republican political advisor.

    [Response: Barton, I don't disagree with anything you say. My point is that it is counter-productive to focus on these group-based beliefs/tendencies and better to instead focus strictly on the evidence--as you are among the very best at doing. I contend that this is what will carry the day in the end. Now, everyone, please, back to the media behavior-related issues raised by the post. Thanks.--Jim]

  9. 9
    Marco says:

    @Jack W. Cremeans: You may want to read Simon Lewis’ complaint to the PCC. It has everything to do with the truth not being what the Sunday Times originally published. Any honest human being should be appalled at what the Sunday Times did with Lewis’ comments.

  10. 10
    Tim Jones says:

    Wonderful. Took long enough. What page was this on?

    The press in its lackadaisical research into critical issues is contributing to the destruction of life on the planet.
    Every step backward diluting the urgency with which we pursue turning round climate change diminishes a chance to do it. Every time the press gratifies the anti-science crowd and confuses the public is a step backward into hell for our children and the rest of biodiversity.

    The “just do it, and apologize later” way what’s becoming a totally tabloid press casually misleading the public just to stir controversy and sell newspapers is extremely reprehensible. These reporters need to figure out the difference between smoke and mist when they try holding other people’s feet to the fire.

    The subject should be revisited. Not as Leakgate but as a new article written with a tone that lauds the IPCC and the authors for work overwhelmingly well done – top of the fold, not bringing up the rear. If everything wrong was truly balanced with everything right with the report the deniers would have precious little to be grousing about.

    And then the Sunday Times should apologize again for betraying the public trust. Much damage is done and the denier’s think tanks and blogs have no compunction to set the record straight, so crooked and dishonest is their agenda.

  11. 11
    Didactylos says:

    Jack W. Cremeans, in the UK, the truth is still a defence against libel. The main difference is that the burden of proof lies with the defendant.

    I think newspapers will only be more careful with the truth when not doing so becomes very expensive for them. Whether this involves tying them up with legitimate press complaints, or pursuing libel cases in the courts, it has the same effect. The only problem is scientists lack the resources to mount a case – I hope that scientists’ institutions will step in and support their employees. And I also hope that more scientists will steel themselves for the indignity of taking newspapers to court.

    The truth should always win, and science is all about truth.

  12. 12
    Snapple says:

    Happy Fathers’ Day.

    I was Republican for 40 years, but when Climategate happened I thought that it was propaganda against the scientists. I don’t think sneaky scientists are plotting to steal my money.

    I started paying more attention to climate science and politicians like Inhofe and Cuccinelli. I was horrified.

    I think it is good to keep explaining the facts to people, but you also need to realize that professional denialists aren’t really going to change. They will have to be exposed and defeated.

    It is pretty hard for people to understand how a few degrees can drastically change the climate.

    It is hard to understand if the political responses like cap and trade will work or if they will turn into boondoggles.

  13. 13
    Frank Giger says:

    Jim, the problem is that there has been a twinning of science and policy – to the detriment of all. And the Republicans didn’t start it.

    To oppose a carbon tax or poorly implemented cap-and-trade issue is to deny the science, apparently. Question the Democrats and one is trying to “kill the planet.”

    How is it that denying AGW is “anti-science” but completely misrepresenting the science in an alarming and incorrect manner isn’t? It’s all “anti-science.” And yet scientists and the IPCC don’t seem to get too upset when rediculous, unsupportable claims are made in their names.

    On this site I’ve learned that we’re all dead in 50 years in a mass extinction event in the comment sections, and yet there’s never a scientist saying “whoa, now, that’s a friggin’ whopper that is not supported by the peer reviewed science.” And it’s a common meme here!

    [Response: You are correct that all types of false statements should be called out, regardless of motive or orientation. All kinds of stuff gets said and we can't police it all. If you focus more on the scientific literature and less on the interpretation of it by whomever, this will be less of an issue for you. I will leave it at that. No more comments on politics: they will be deleted. This post is about media related issues. Thanks--Jim]

    [Response: It's further worth noting two things. First, to the extent that scientists may say less when the science is exaggerated than when it is attacked, the reasons are clear. One does not have to try to question the integrity of scientists, or tell lies, to wind up with what one might call the 'alarmist' viewpoint. There is plenty of cause for alarm, and one can take the science pretty straight-up and come to alarmist conclusions. See my review of Mark Lynas's book Six Degrees for more on this point. Second, at RealClimate we in fact do regularly call out exaggerated claims. See for example, here. I agree we should do more of it, but to suggest that the scientists are to blame for the current political partisanship surrounding climate change science is laughable.--eric]

  14. 14
    john says:

    Hi,I am delighted that the Sunday Times published a retraction. Unfortunately, soon such on-line retractions will be seen by few as it is becoming a subscription website.

    I think the denialist issue will only go away, as a force, as the denialists themselves grow old and unable to publish articles, with their places taken by more recently educated, younger people who have grown up with climate change as a major issue.

  15. 15

    Jim, IMHO the firm tone in moderation will prove helpful in keeping S/N at a reasonable value–just FWIW.

    Relevant to the current discussion:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/crime/article/800162–media-lawyers-not-warm-on-climate-scientist-s-lawsuit

    I didn’t find any updates on this story with a quick search. Personally, I applaud Dr. Weaver for taking this step to defend truth in the Canadian media and wish him well. It may be that deciding where media should draw the line in policing the reuse of their content is not a simple question. But it’s certainly a question worth addressing.

    And surely, media are responsible for more than just their shareholder’s bottom lines.

  16. 16
    DeNihilist says:

    Well good to see that the press and or anyone still has the (wanted to say integrity, but this was a forced retraction, so that won’t work)ability to say they were wrong.

  17. 17
    Joseph Romm says:

    You can find some comments by Simon Lewis on his victory over disinformation here.

  18. 18
    John E. Pearson says:

    Jim said: “all types of false statements should be called out”

    I’m not sure about that. I have adopted the strategy of largely ignoring* the most egregious nonsense. *(With some exceptions that I won’t bother discussing.)

    [Response:For sure. I was referring to the idea of refuting both over- and under-exaggerations of what is known.--Jim]

  19. 19
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Imagine if Vice President Cheney took AGW as his pet cause

    Insert the cartoon of Calvin and Hobbes daubing their eyes from laughter.

  20. 20
    David B. Benson says:

    Prefacatorial remark: Eli Rabett recently suggested a division iof (1) frontier science, (2) textbook science, (3) regulatory science.

    Even journalists specializing in science sometimes have some difficulty in accurately capturing the essential point of the frontier science reported upon. When it comes to climatology, most journalists don’t understand it well. (Phooey, despite several years of trying, I don’t understand climate all that well.) Some aspects of climatology border into regulatory science, or rather, are beginning to. I’ll opine that journalists largely view regulatory science as having “sides”, both or all of which deserve some coverage. And few journalists indeed understand what portion of climatology is textbook science. (I’mj not sure I do, beyond basic atmospheric and oceanographic physics.)

    Worse, of course, are amny editors; older and more set in their ways as well as probably having less time to actually learn some basic climatology.

  21. 21
    Geno Canto del Halcon says:

    The US lacks a law similar to the UK’s, and attempts to enact such laws have been repeatedly beaten down by our courts. It means that some news organizations publish whatever they think sells advertising, and care little about the truth. That doesn’t mean that individuals who have been libeled cannot sue, but let’s just say that the successful outcome of such suits can take years, and will rarely be reported by the types of news organizations that would publish adultered tripe to start with. So, the best defense against the outright lies, slander, and misinformation spread by denialists is to keep publishing though whatever means possible what the truth is.

    Keep up the good work, RealClimate.

  22. 22

    Well done Simon Lewis.

  23. 23

    I’m a little surprised that competing news outlets don’t make a big deal out of these things when they happen. One would think that pointing out that your competition has been caught in flat out lies would be a huge competitive advantage.

    And that’s really what the world needs to pick up the slack. When outlet A publishes nonsense about point B, outlets C, D, and E need to hammer the truth home, making A look silly.

    That’s one of the things that really bugs me about journalism today. It’s like they’re so tied up in selling advertising and gaining readership in their own niche markets that there’s no actual journalism going on, just journaltainment.

  24. 24
    Edward Greisch says:

    I think that Gavin did such a good job that nothing more needed to be said, until some comments appeared. I agree with the RC responder Jim. I also say that scientists are a small minority and we cannot expect the majority to understand much, especially anything that is mathematical. We have a monumental task.

    If the media become a little more accountable, it could go a long way. A few more retractions could turn the tide.

  25. 25
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bob says, “I’m a little surprised that competing news outlets don’t make a big deal out of these things when they happen. One would think that pointing out that your competition has been caught in flat out lies would be a huge competitive advantage.”

    I believe it’s known as honor among thieves.

  26. 26
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Frank Giger,
    I am afraid I cannot agree with your assessment of the political impasse over climate. Yes, Al Gore was an early adopter of the issue, but he was far in front of his own party–still is.

    It is not simply that the Republicans opposed remediation measures from Gore et al. They have opposed even the most basic action such as increased fuel efficiency standards, research into renewables, etc. Many Republican legislators decided there was political capital to be made in opposing the science as opposed to proposing solutions of their own. It is getting harder and harder to argue with a straight face that the Republicans are not the party of anti-science.

    I am curious, Frank, how are your efforts received when you try to tell your fellow Republicans–let alone tea partiers–that climate change represents a real threat?

  27. 27
    Ron Taylor says:

    Frank Giger #7 says: “Hell, the spokesman for AGW is a former Vice President that demonized Republicans at every turn. Imagine if Vice President Cheney took AGW as his pet cause – think Democrats wouldn’t be automatically opposed to anything coming out of his mouth, regardless of the facts behind it?”

    So, so misguided. Gore is not “the” spokesman, he is one of many. Secondly, if Cheney had the science right, I would applaud his efforts. This business of assuming that because you do not like someone’s politics (and I detest Cheney’s), then whatever they say about a scientific topic must be wrong is not only tiresome, but irrational. Get a life! This is way, way more important than issues of political ideology.

  28. 28
    John Mashey says:

    re: 23 competing news outlets.
    It is Sunday. Monday cometh.
    I have reason to believe it will not go unnoticed…

  29. 29
    Don Gisselbeck says:

    I have watched journalists reporting on other subjects I know well and have often found them uncurious, uninformed and incapable of asking the most obvious questions. When we add in the problem of their employers having vested interests in policy outcomes and the general inability of the public to understand the simplist of science, we are in trouble.

  30. 30
    Kate says:

    I am very glad that the Sunday Times took this complaint seriously – for a well-respected British newspaper like this to be publishing Leake’s nonsense was confusing and alarming.

    I agree that it will not undo the damage that has already been caused by unsubstantiated rumours of Whatevergate, but I think that much of its benefit will be in preventing future journalism from sinking to this level. Leake’s career will be damaged by this, even if the consequences aren’t as strict as they should be; the retraction will be noticed by cover-to-cover readers of the Times, even if it goes over most people’s heads.

    I think that more coverage of the IPCC in general is needed. As many people pointed out, in most newspapers, the articles about the Himalayan glacier screw-ups were longer than the articles about the publication of the entire AR4. Someone really has their priorities mixed up…We need more coverage of what the IPCC has done right, as well as what they have done wrong in the other direction. I wrote a post on this subject here: http://climatesight.org/2010/01/24/mistakes/

    I am about to start my B.Sc. and really hope that, when I come out of it on the other side, I will be able to look back at this year as the peak of bad journalism and rumours and mud-slinging. Maybe things have to get worse before they get better, and maybe we have already passed rock-bottom.

  31. 31

    This is just the sort of “news hook” the press would need to undertake a serious self-examination of how they have handled climate news, in general, but especially over the past eight months. Will they take the opportunity?

    Can we hold out some hope that this “correction” gets more than a little play in the mainstream media?

  32. 32
    Martin Vermeer says:

    On danger of feeding the off-topic politics discussion, let me note that the situation with the Republican party in the US really is an anomaly. Already long time Nr. 10 resident Margaret Thatcher was well aware of the seriousness of the AGW issue, and spoke out on it in several of her speeches. (Of course as a chemist — a scientist studying chemistry — by training she could hardly honestly take an anti-science position. And she certainly wasn’t ghost-written by the Potty Peer :) This was well before anybody had heard of Al Gore.

    Even today, all major parties in Britain accept the science. Sure there’s denialism too, but for poetic justice some of the denialists are Labour…

    So, climate can be a non-partisan issue. Here’s to hoping the Republicans become a serious party again.

  33. 33

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the major failing in climate change is a failing of journalism. The Australian is yet to issue a retraction of any of its bizzare claims like we are headed for an ice age. Their only retraction that I’ve seen was on a claim that the Pope had said something he didn’t say. Offending science is apparently less of a sin in their post-modern all points of view are good and screw the evidence universe than offending religion.

  34. 34
    ccpo says:

    Not that this is necessarily easy or natural, but it is the better way.–Jim]

    Care to cite sources on that? All during the Bush era, the lib/progressive cadre claimed taking the “high road” was the “better way.” All that did was embolden the conservatives and leave them the on;y team actually playing on the field. The only thing that got them off the field were their own screw-ups.

    Climate science has been much the same: be polite to those who lie, mislead, slander, defame, etc., and the good ol’ American public will listen to wise counsel. Reality? Despite massive changes in climate, the physical and biotic worlds, fewer Americans understand AGW than before.

    Not exactly a winning strategy.

    There is one scientist who has understood you have to fight the BS with the truth, but also carry a big stick. Hansen. Now, the fellow who filed the lawsuit. Some of us have tried to point out that you beat the bully by standing up to him, not by having an academic discussion about the bully with the peers standing around watching him give you a wedgie.

    Stick to the truth, but be prepared to slap prevaricators upside the head. You don’t have to stoop to their level of playing loose with the truth or being rude, but you **do** have to be willing to call them on their BS, and take legal action when the law is broken.

    Or is civilization not worth fighting for?

    Cheers

    [Response: I never appreciate misrepresentation of what people say, with something of an added "dislike factor" when that people is me. Thanks for dismissing the collective efforts of RealClimate (and quite a number of other scientists). Sorry that our macho factor falls short of your standards.--Jim]

  35. 35
    CM says:

    On topic: “Public opinion”, http://xkcd.com/756/

    Old-style feeding-frenzy journalism and politically directed hatchet jobs are bad enough, but the blogospheric forcing signal in the *gate reports has me worried about the shape of media to come. If I want blog-standard journalism I’d rather read a blog.

  36. 36
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I’m a little surprised that competing news outlets don’t make a big deal out of these things when they happen. One would think that pointing out that your competition has been caught in flat out lies would be a huge competitive advantage.”

    They aren’t in competition. A Sun reader will not be reading the times. And in many cases, rather than competitors, the same corporation owns them.

    There is also “my side, right or wrong”. If a newspaper gets it wrong, pointing it out merely makes the people distrust ALL newspapers less.

    Add in that all of them are owned by multinationals and you get a good reason to ignore failures in reporting how bad climate change could be or the failures of the denial undustry. After all, there’s more money to be made in oil than in renewables.

    So let’s not scare off the advertisers who are our REAL customers (they sell reader eyeballs to their customers who pay the costs of printing and employing).

  37. 37
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Jack W. Cremeans, in the UK, the truth is still a defence against libel. The main difference is that the burden of proof lies with the defendant.”

    There’s another difference (and a reasonable one, IMO). If someone has told the truth but that truth is damaging *and it was intended to damage* then it is actionable.

    E.g. I’m running for office under “Family Values”. Someone finds out I’m gay and a competitor finds out and wants be out of the running so releases that information.

    Although true, this damages my campaign and it was *intended* to do so.

    UK: Actionable.

    (Note: you can still be pro Family Values if you yourself don’t believe in them: “I may not believe what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it”, isn’t it?)

  38. 38
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Many people including scientists are unaware of the nature of the current propaganda campaigns against science. That is why this sort of thing (and lots more like it) needs to be given as much prominence as possible. It is news which has not been getting through.

    But it is not just lies.

    Lies tend to flourish on a bed of ignorance. Yes the most extreme examples of misinformation are lapped up by people with prejudice, but that prejudice would be harder to maintain if there was more knowledge around. Lying newspapers would then find it harder to get away with it.

    In the UK it used to be the BBC, which many people would use as a source of more reliable information. But they have a very weak record in educating people about the basic science of climate change. Even now there has not been a single decent series on this important subject. “Global Dimming” and “The Climate Wars” do not count as serious contributions (see Stoat on the latter).

    So when the CRU emails were hacked, excited interviewers would make an uninformed comment or ask a stupid question at every reference to CO2 or to the Copenhagen conference.

    After a long pause, BBC1 was due to have another go to-day:

    Yet another barbeque summer has been predicted, but do you really trust the forecasters any more? Despite governments, scientists and campaigners telling us the world’s climate is changing, increasing numbers of us simply don’t believe in global warming.

    After one of the coldest winters on record and a vicious row about the science behind climate change, Panorama goes back to basics and asks what we really know about our climate and how it will affect us.

    Panorama reporter Tom Heap speaks to some of the world’s leading scientists on both sides of the argument, to find out what they can agree on and uncovers some surprising results.

    This programme has now been postponed in favour of one on the oil spill. Perhaps it will be OK but I was not encouraged by the choice of non-experts (Why choose Tom Heap and Jeremy Vine?) and by the alternative wording in the Radio Times which highlights the Met Office’s forecast of a barbecue summer and confuses it with long term climate. Even if the eventual transmission turns out to be better, this announcement in the Radio Times (like that of the Great Global Warming Swindle) will stay in the minds of people who never see the programme.

  39. 39
    Hunt Janin says:

    What do reputable and responsible pubic opinion polls now tell us about the public’s views on global warming?

  40. 40
    Nick Gotts says:

    What Martin Vermeer says of the UK is true – the leadership of all major parties has largely accepted the science; but large sections of the press have not. Again, this has been worst on the right (Telegraph, Sunday Times, Mail, Express), but has also affected the left (Guardian, Observer). For us in Britain, this points up the need to respond to denialist journalism in print and online. The “mainstream” right in the US (unlike most countries, as far as I know) have chosen to make the science of climate change a left-right issue; they may pay for it politically sooner or later, but unfortunately, we may all pay dearly for the resulting delay in mitigation.

  41. 41
    sod says:

    special thanks to Simon Lewis. it is of utter most importance, that such practises get pointed out EVERY TIME.

    basically 99% of “sceptical” and denialist talking points are based on misinterpretations of science and scientists. we must not let them get away with it…

  42. 42

    The Media makes its money by carefully selecting which stories it feels are going to result in maximizing profits. Every day, millions of people get on airplanes in one city and get off in another, then get in a car and drive to their final destination. A newspaper that printed such a story each and every day would rapidly go out of business. A newspaper that reported that hundreds of scientists were busily doing routine science would also go out of business.

    I disagree with Geno @ 21 that the media doesn’t care about the truth, but rather that often the truth is simply boring. I’d say that the Media is becoming more “tabloid” in nature.

  43. 43
    dhogaza says:

    The “mainstream” right in the US (unlike most countries, as far as I know) have chosen to make the science of climate change a left-right issue; they may pay for it politically sooner or later, but unfortunately, we may all pay dearly for the resulting delay in mitigation.

    This goes back to Reagan. It was the Nixon administration who passed the bulk of our modern environmental laws (clean water and air acts, ESA, NEPA, NFMA, etc etc) and created the Environmental Protection Agency. This caused a huge reaction among western conservatives, primarily those in the natural resources industries (logging, ranching, mining). Nixon appointed the widely admired (by conservationists and environmentalists) Republican Ruckelhaus, who banned the agricultural use of DDT in the US. Reagan appointed James Watt- founder of a legal foundation created to protect the rights of western ranchers, loggers, and miners against all those laws signed by Nixon – as the head of Interior. Watts’ mission was to undo/ignore as much of that law as possible, and since those laws generally require the evaluation of best available science during various decision making processes, Watts and the administration took an anti-science stance. Remember Reagan and the “trees cause more pollution than …” speech?

    The Republican Party has continued down the anti-science path and has gotten worse as “RINOs” have been encouraged to leave the party. The kind of socially liberal, fiscally conservative, respectful of science, lover of my country’s wildlands Republican I grew up with (and frequently voted for) no longer exists.

  44. 44

    Since it was impossible to extend “The Silicon-Burning Day” to novel length, I finally decided to make it a novella and sell it to a magazine, rather than as a book. The first draft came out at 16,000 words. But my writers’ workshop is currently reviewing another novel of mine, and that could take up to a year.

    I could use someone to look it over and offer a critique. A fellow writer who knows astrophysics would be ideal, but there can’t be many folks like that hanging out here. It should at least be someone who enjoys science fiction. Please let me know.

  45. 45
    oneuniverse says:

    The Sunday Times may have reported inaccurately, but the IPCC report’s statement in question about the Amazon does appear to be at odds with the peer-reviewed source on which it is supposedly based.

    The IPCC AR4 report says :
    “Up to 40 per cent of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation”

    The source was the WWF report “Global Review of Forest Fires”, which says :

    “Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount
    of rainfall. In the 1998 dry season, some 270,000 sq. km of forest became vulnerable to fire, due to completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five metres of soil. A further 360,000 sq. km of forest had only 250 mm of plant-available soil water left”

    The above came from the paper “Large-scale impoverishment of Amazonian forests by logging and fire” Nepstad et al. 1999, which says :

    “Because of the severe drought of 1997 and 1998, we calculate that approximately
    270,000 km2 of Amazonian forest had completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper ®ve metres of soil by the end of the 1998 dry season. In addition, 360,000 km2 of forest had less than 250mm of plant-available soil water left by this time (Fig. 1b).”

    Firstly, the IPCC says “40% of the Amazonian forests”, while the WWF report says “40% of the Brazilian forest”.

    Secondly, it’s not clear how the 40% figure is derived. The Amazon rainforest has approximately 5,500,000 km2 (a lower-end estimate, I believe). Brazil contains approximately 60% of the Amazon rainforest, so about 3,300,000 km2 of Brazilian rainforest.

    The 270,000 km2 and 360,000 km2 figures for vulnerable forest sum to 630,000 km2, which is ~ 19% of Brazil’s rainforest, and 11.5% of the Amazon rainforest.

  46. 46
    Snapple says:

    I always vote Republican, but Climategate made me see that many politicians in my party are promoting a pseudoscientific ideology. These politicians are hearing from me about their propaganda in no uncertain terms!

    A lot of extremist parties have been based on pseudoscientific ideologies–NAZISM, “scientific” Marxist-Leninism.

    If you keep fighting by carefully correcting the propaganda with the truth, pointing out the illogical arguments, and using legal action, denialist lies will finally be defeated because we need the truth to prosper, not lies.

    This site, especially the “Skeptics’ Arguments,” helps me understand how the denialist Republicans and Libertarians are trying to manipulate me. I knew they were lying, but I didn’t know enough to counter their lies.

    Did you know that during the 1980s, the KGB spread the lie that US scientists cooked up AIDS in Pentagon labs as an instrument of genocide? This was a huge and destructive media campaign. Finally, the regime needed—for its own reasons—to admit the truth and disown this ridiculous lie about Pentagon scientists. Even Russian politicians need good science, eventually.

    The KGB threw the (few)scientists who had propagated this lie for them under the bus–figuratively speaking. (The Soviet Academy of Sciences had already distanced themselves from this disinformation in 1987.)

    This miraculous admission, right out of the mouth of the KGB, appeared in Izvestia on 3-19-92:

    “[KGB foreign intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists’ ‘crafty’ plots were fabricated in KGB offices.”–Izvestia (3-19-92)

    http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/aids_bioweapon.html

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/06/jakob-segal-thrown-under-bus-by-kgb.html

  47. 47
    John E. Pearson says:

    Long interview with Dunning. Very interesting.

    The question discussed here is: “can you be too incompetent to understand just how incompetent you are?” The answer is pretty clear. Quite relevant for the denialosphere. It particularly reminds me of the lawyers, blog scientists, and RC commenters who once again decided they’d overthrow a half centuries worth of very solid science and declared that Venus isn’t hot because of CO2 but because of well, … something.

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/the-anosognosics-dilemma-1/?hp

    The surveillance tapes were key to his arrest. There he is with a gun, standing in front of a teller demanding money. Yet, when arrested, Wheeler was completely disbelieving. “But I wore the juice,” he said. Apparently, he was under the deeply misguided impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to video cameras.

    Poor Wheeler actually tested the theory before he put it into practice. If only some of the denialists were as competent as Wheeler.

  48. 48
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Thanks for the update. Wee typo: Frankfurter Rundschau.

  49. 49
    JMurphy says:

    How long before the Denialosphere is buzzing with outrage at ‘censorship’, ‘liberal bully-boy tactics’ and ‘the right to read’ ?

    5, 4, 3, 2…

  50. 50
    Martin Vermeer says:

    In related news


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