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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. 51
    TrueSceptic says:

    There appears to be a misunderstanding among some commenters here (unless I’ve got it wrong!).

    In the UK, we have the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), a body that deals with complaints about articles and stories in the press (printed newspapers and magazines). Although membership is voluntary and it has no legal power, its rulings are taken seriously. Simon Lewis complained to the PCC about Leake’s dishonest article and it was the PCC that forced the retraction. AFAIK there was no threat of legal action by Lewis himself.

    You won’t get any retractions anywhere else unless you have something like the PCC (or take legal action yourself).

  2. 52
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Hunt Janin #39:

    here is an interesting NYT article (h/t Stefan):

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/opinion/09krosnick.html

  3. 53
    CM says:

    Oneuniverse #45,

    You are correct. However, it appears what happened was that the authors of the WWF failed to footnote the sources for the first (40%) part of the quote. Therefore, the passage reads as if the 40% figure is derived from the areas of fire-prone forest discussed immediately after. In fact, it did not come from those figures or from Nepstad (1999), but from other sources, including other work by Nepstad; see:
    http://www.whrc.org/resources/essays/pdf/2010-02-Nepstad_Amazon.pdf

  4. 54
    Ron Taylor says:

    dhogaza said: “The kind of socially liberal, fiscally conservative, respectful of science, lover of my country’s wildlands Republican I grew up with (and frequently voted for) no longer exists.”

    I totally agree. I see very little that is conservative in today’s Republican party. (Transform the global climate – hey! no problem! Protect the environment – not if it gets in the way of getting rich! Tell lies to make those points? – sure, why not?) I often tell my friends on the right that I will become a Republican again if and when the Republican party returns.

  5. 55
    CM says:

    Martin #50,

    How nice to see a media oversight body staffed with people who know how to read!

    For those who don’t read Swedish: Swedish public radio got slapped for un-objective reporting of Phil Jones’ BBC interview in February. The broadcaster spends several pages defending its truly egregious reporting. The board of inquiry spends two sentences saying they’ve read the BBC interview, it doesn’t say what it was reported as saying, so they broke the rules.

  6. 56
    TrueSceptic says:

    32 Martin,

    Indeed. RS Speech 1988. In particular,

    For generations, we have assumed that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium of the world’s systems and atmosphere stable. But it is possible that with all these enormous changes (population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels) concentrated into such a short period of time, we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself.

    Recently three changes in atmospheric chemistry have become familiar subjects of concern. The first is the increase in the greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons—which has led some[fo 4] to fear that we are creating a global heat trap which could lead to climatic instability. We are told that a warming effect of 1°C per decade would greatly exceed the capacity of our natural habitat to cope. Such warming could cause accelerated melting of glacial ice and a consequent increase in the sea level of several feet over the next century. This was brought home to me at the Commonwealth Conference in Vancouver last year when the President of the Maldive Islands reminded us that the highest part of the Maldives is only six feet above sea level. The population is 177,000. It is noteworthy that the five warmest years in a century of records have all been in the 1980s—though we may not have seen much evidence in Britain!

  7. 57
    TrueSceptic says:

    47 John,

    Dunning? Could it be? I read the article and indeed it was the Dunning of Dunning-Kruger fame. Great story, so unlikely that no one could make it up.

  8. 58
    SqueakyRat says:

    @37: I think the quote you need is: “I may not agree with what I’m saying, but I will defend to the death my right to say it anyway.” On the other, maybe no one ever actually said that.

  9. 59
    dhogaza says:

    oneuniverse:

    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 misrepresentation of Nepstad is the denialsphere’s response to the retraction of the story. It’s already making the rounds.

    Here is what Nepstad himself says.

    Who to believe, oneuniverse who spouts the denialist spin regarding Nepstad, or Nepstad himself, who, among other things points out that it is his 2004 follow-on paper, not his earlier 1999 paper, that is most relevant.

  10. 60
    Geoff Wexler says:

    The special feature of some journalistic malpractice is that it is often easy for anyone to understand when it is exposed. That is yet another reason for publicity about it.

    Jonathan Leake, Swedish Radio (#55) are examples.RC readers of course know there are lots more:

    Just one of many many examples:

    The Daily Telegraph’s headline (approximately)
    “Global Warming , Its the Sun thats to blame says Solanki” and he had just said the exact opposite.
    I mention this because the Telegraph, unlike say the Mail is respected in the UK and its readers might have been impressed by reading about a real piece of recent research.

    But its not just malpractice ,its also the propagation of journalistic myths. How about the misunderstanding of what Keenliside (not the singer) is supposed to have said about the predictions of a few years global cooling (not slowed warming ). That was disproved by a couple of phone calls to the author and someone who actually listened to him.

    Once again. Easy for anyone to understand.

  11. 61

    25 (Ray) and 36 (CFU),

    I believe it’s known as honor among thieves.

    But the full expression is “There is no honor among thieves,” implying that they should go after each other like rabid dogs… but they don’t. I don’t quite get it.

    Admittedly, as I implied in my comment and CFU specifically stated in comment 36:

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

    Which is very true, but wouldn’t you still want to position yourself as superior by highlighting other outlets’ flaws, maybe steal some readers who may read both and are on the fence, or just plain solidify the loyalty of your own readership by pointing out how unreliable the other side of the fence is?

    But yes, the problem is that everything today is a business, which means pandering to advertisers, targeting specific markets, and providing people with what they want (entertainment, focusing on their own interests or telling them what they want to hear) instead of what they need (truth and news of all sorts, both good and bad).

    That, “want” vs. “need”, is a flaw in us as a people and culture, not in the media. We should be “grown up” enough to demand the truth instead of candy, and yet we don’t. We flock to stories about celebrities and movies and tehno-toys, and anything that confirms our own preconceptions and political leanings, or feeds a deep seeded desire to battle each individual’s disaster-of-choice while confirming a world view in which we and those like us are strong and just and always right, which plays to both liberals and conservatives, but from completely different angles.

    Climate is a perfect example. Conservatives say that mitigating climate change would destroy the economies of the world (their disaster-of-choice) because evil scientists want to steal money through ill-gotten research grants, or worse yet a sinister liberal cabal wants to use the resulting tax laws as a path to One World Government and so Global Domination. Liberals say that climate change will destroy civilization (their disaster-of-choice) because evil robber barons want to steal money by selling every last dollop of fossil fuel, or worse yet a sinister conservative cabal wants to use it as a path to One World Corporation and so Global Domination.

    Again, it’s not journalism anymore, anywhere, it’s journaltainment, flavored with truthiness instead of truth, and the slogan or illusion of “fair and balanced” in place of the real thing.

    It’s sad, and I hope our civilization lives long enough to work its way through this rather embarrassing period in human history. [Did I just expose myself as a liberal, by highlighting my disaster-of-choice?]

  12. 62
    Doug Proctor says:

    Now that the Heartland Conference is over, would it be possible for RealClimate and/or DeSmogBlog to produce a counter view to the topics and conclusions of these scientists? There was only 1 warmist mainstream scientist who came to the talks, but since the talks contradicted the warmist view well-establshed scientific evidence could a pro-AGW not demolish their stances and set the record straight? Their point of exaggeration on each item leading to a catastrophic temperature rise appears reasonable – without a catastrophic rise, there is no signature of the ACO2 contribution.

    [Response: Many of us were invited to the Heartland Conference. We didn’t go because we’ve heard it all before, and the stuff that isn’t simply made up has been demolished already. If someone comes up with something new and interesting, we’ll pay attention. Until then, .. yawn…–eric]

  13. 63
    jpd says:

    another beauty by Leake:
    “Big Bang machine could destroy Earth”
    http://www.wisdomofsolomon.com/bigbang.html

    where did they get this guy?

  14. 64
    oneuniverse says:

    CM (#53), thank you.

    Nepstad’s note : “The report that is cited in support of the IPCC statement (Rowell and Moore 2000) omitted some citations in support of the 40% value statement.

    Nepstad et al. 1999 estimated 15% of the Brazilian Amazon to be drought stressed in 1998. This is a much lower figure than their approximately 50% 1994 estimate for the Amazon, and presumably is a better estimate. The post-2000 publications mentioned in the note would not have been available to Rowell and Moore.

    From the note : “The authors [Rowell and Moore] of this [WWF] report interviewed several researchers, including the author of this note, and had originally cited the IPAM website where the statement was made that 30 to 40% of the forests of the Amazon were susceptible to small changes in rainfall.

    So it appears, according to Nepstad, that the missing citation in the WWF report referred to the IPAM website. The IPAM website is not a peer-reviewed publication.

    Does anybody know which study or studies were used as the basis for the IPAM website statement?

  15. 65

    “@37: I think the quote you need is: “I may not agree with what I’m saying, but I will defend to the death my right to say it anyway.” On the other, maybe no one ever actually said that.”

    Maybe some folks should have said that. . . ? ;-)

  16. 66
    Anonymous Coward says:

    “everything today is a business, which means pandering to advertisers”

    No, everything isn’t a business. The BBC was mentionned in this comment thread for instance.
    Businesses do not necessarily pander to advertisers. Non-profits sometimes pander to advertisers. There is no causal relationship there.
    I’ll give you a causal relationship: if you get your news from a business which panders to advertisers, it’s because you chose to.

  17. 67

    62 (Doug Proctor),

    Their point of exaggeration on each item leading to a catastrophic temperature rise appears reasonable – without a catastrophic rise, there is no signature of the ACO2 contribution.

    Reasonable to whom? If someone points a gun straight at you, do you think “no problem, I’m not dead yet” or do you duck?

    No one ever said that the globe would instantly warm to catastrophic temperatures, or that the dangerous effects of that warming would instantly come to pass. Part of our character as an intelligent species is our ability to put 2 + 2 together and take corrective action before it’s too late (i.e. duck before you are shot).

    No one said warming would be instantaneous. We are currently committed to roughly a 1.4˚C increase in temperatures, even if we stop using fossil fuels completely today, even though we’ve seen less then 1˚C warming to date. It hasn’t warmed that far yet, but it will, and if you wait until it does, by then we’ll have been committed to an even greater increase, and if you wait until it’s dangerously warm, then we’re in big trouble (understatement).

    No one said catastrophes were right around the corner. Loss of Arctic summer ice, sea level rise, severe drought or regional changes to permanently arid conditions; these are all things we can expect if we don’t take action. Again, if you wait until they actually happen, it’s too late.

    So you just stand there staring into the barrel of a gun, thinking happy thoughts. Me, I want to duck.

    Lastly — how do get that without a “catastrophic rise, there is no signature of the ACO2 contribution?” You completely made that up (or they did). If I say “Penguins are birds, therefore you must give me one million dollars” do you give me the money, or do you walk away rolling your eyes?

  18. 68
    sod says:

    a very good post over on Deltoid. reader Tom did e-mail the source of this false claims, “researcher” Richard North. i crosspost the exchange:

    I emailed Richard North to get his reaction. I simply enquired:

    “The Sunday Times has retracted their ‘Amazongate’ claims. Will you be doing the same?”

    His reply:

    “Nope … the Sunday Times did not refer to me, did not consult me, and caved in to the pressure, ending up printing something by way of a “correction” which is neither factually correct nor honest. I do not intend to follow them.

    The degree of pressure from the warmists, however, adequately indicates how dangerous the article was to them, and how important the Amazon is to the warmist cause.

    Best

    R”

    Posted by: Tom | June 21, 2010 12:05 PM

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/06/leakegate_corrections_needed_f.php#c2601929
    (comment 15)

  19. 69
    Radge Havers says:

    John E. Pearson @47

    “Long interview with Dunning. Very interesting.”

    Here’s something that might be worth a look as well:

    The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us

  20. 70
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Which is very true, but wouldn’t you still want to position yourself as superior by highlighting other outlets’ flaws, maybe steal some readers who may read both and are on the fence”

    Not if the boss says you can’t.

    Doesn’t have to be money made him jump on it, mind. The extremely vocal can get their way just by being nuts.

    And really, have a look at the state of journalism today.

    nonpartisan journalism died because the only way to afford to make the news is to sell to advertisers.

    (note: the BBC are afraid of the Labour Government. They nearly killed the BBC for their journalism over the MWDs and the death of David Kelly and DID get their boss sacked. They walk carefully because that government WERE willing to go to war over some things.)

  21. 71
    CM says:

    Oneuniverse,

    Read the note again. You must have missed the “estimate that approximately half of the forests of the Amazon depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought (Nepstad et al. 1994).” As well as the references to subsequent studies that had confirmed the same picture by the time of AR4. Was the 40% claim sloppily referenced? Sure. But by no means “unsubstantiated”, as the Sunday Times article stated.

    And if the following account is correct, Leake already knew that from both Lewis and Nepstad:
    http://climatesafety.org/swallowing-lies-how-the-denial-lobby-feeds-the-press/

  22. 72
    Doug Bostrom says:

    oneuniverse says: 21 June 2010 at 11:58 AM

    [still doggedly grinding an ax that is hopelessly dull and won’t take an edge]

    Most of us understand that Polygate is about as exciting and compelling now as an expended sodden cardboard roman candle tube a week after a holiday. Razzle-dazzle is over. Those keen on reenactments of expired historical fiction and the like have a dedicated site available where hobbyists keen on “what might have been” can play together.

  23. 73
    Professor Braynestawm says:

    This is a great victory for Lewis but isn’t there an entire chunk of explanation missing here? Like why the story got changed in the first place?

    Lewis’s PCC said the initial report read to him by Leake was fine.

    He wrote in his PCC complaint: “I spoke to Jonathan Leake on the afternoon of Saturday 30, a few hours before the article went to press, as he wanted to check the quotes he was using by me (checking quotes was agreed between ourselves on Friday 29 January).

    “The entire article was read to me, and quotes by me agreed, including a statement that the science in the IPCC report was and is correct. “The article was reasonable, and quotes were not out of context. Indeed I was happy enough that I agreed to assist in checking the facts for the graphic to accompany the article (I can supply the emails if necessary). “Yet, following this telephone call the article was entirely and completely re-written with an entirely new focus, new quotes from me included and new (incorrect) assertions of my views. “I ask the Sunday Times to disclose the version of article that was read out to me, and provide an explanation as to why the agreed correct, undistorted, un-misleading article, and specifically the quotes from me, was not published, and an entirely new version produced.”

    So here’s the question. Leake has written an entire article, read it to Lewis and then, for no apparent reason, completely rewritten it – apparently of his own volition.

    What’s more he has deliberately inserted a number of errors – something any science journalist must know is risking trouble. This makes no sense. There has to be an extra element which The Sunday Times is holding back. So the big question is: Whose decision was it to rewrite it? And who did the rewriting?

    Was it Leake? If so it sounds bizarre – any journalist would know that reading an article to a researcher then publishing something different is asking for trouble.

    What’s notable here is that no-one has actually interviewed Leake (who actually has long history of writing stories supporting climate change, according to the Timesonline website) .

    But there is a giant clue in the penultimate line of the ST apology where it says “A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points.”

    So could the real question be not who wrote the article so much as who edited it?

    It sounds like there is a back story here that no-one is being told. Someone needs to dig a little deeper and find out what actually happened to that article in between Leake reading it to Lewis and final publication.
    (Might cross-post this – I think it’s interesting)

  24. 74
    Syd B says:

    To those of us who have watched the British press decline, particularly after Murdoch moved in on the scene, this comes as no surprise. Of course some papers were always “truth-challenged” but this incident has highlighted just how bad it is.

    If Leake read one version knowing another would be published, then he should be promoted. If he wrote a balanced article and it was edited and distorted by someone higher in the paper then he should shut his mouth and keep taking the pay check (it might even be increased.) He may even be promoted to Science correspondent for Fox News, so my American friends can enjoy more British erudition along with Viscount Monckton of Brenchley.

    Meanwhile the laws of physics will still hold, even if they are rewritten by the Republicans. I hope, as I’m nearly 60, I won’t be around to see the consequences of this mendacity, but who knows?

  25. 75
    oneuniverse says:

    CM,

    Nepstad in his note suggests three possible pre-2000 sources for the 40% claim :

    1) the IPAM website : 30-40% of the Amazon forest is susceptible to small changes in rainfall.
    2) Nepstad etl al. 1994 : approximately 50% of the Amazon rainforest “depleted large portions of their available soil moisture during seasonal or episodic drought”.
    3) Nepstad et. al. 1999 : 15% of the Brazilian rainforest was water-stressed in the 1998 drought.

    It doesn’t seem possible to arrive at the 40% claim without using (1). The WWF report gives no detail on this derivation, neither does the AR4 report, but Nepstad notes:

    “The authors of this report interviewed several researchers, including the author of this note, and had originally cited the IPAM website where the statement was made that 30 to 40% of the forests of the Amazon were susceptible to small changes in rainfall.””

    Therefore it seems likely that IPAM s figure of 30-40% was a formative element in the WWF’s, and therefore the IPCC’s 40% claim. Which peer-reviewed study or studies, if any, did IPAM use?

    Finally, the IPCC’s statement is stronger than supported by research such as Nepstad et al.’s:

    IPCC: “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000). It is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems that have more resistance to multiple stresses caused by temperature increase, droughts and fires, such as tropical savannas.”

    Where evidence do we have that a slight reduction in precipitation coud cause 40% of the Amazonian rainforest to rapidly change into other types of ecosystems?

    Also, how much is “a slight reduction in precipitation”? Is this quantified anywhere?

  26. 76
    David Horton says:

    #67 The slow development of global warming changes is a factor both in the refusal of the public, and politicians, to accept that something serious is going on. It will also be a factor if, by a miracle of communication the public agrees to start taking steps to reduce CO2 output http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-horton/in-the-long-run_b_618876.html.

  27. 77

    #75–Yes, we’re rather like the frog in the fable, aren’t we? Turn up the heat slowly enough and we don’t notice.

    Or so it seems–but I’m hoping for some “non-linearities” in this regard.

  28. 78
    Frank Giger says:

    @ Bob in #67

    “No one ever said that the globe would instantly warm to catastrophic temperatures, or that the dangerous effects of that warming would instantly come to pass. Part of our character as an intelligent species is our ability to put 2 + 2 together and take corrective action before it’s too late (i.e. duck before you are shot).”

    Sorry, we’ve been treated to all sorts of direct correlations between AGW and immediate results. Shall we start with the Environmental Minister Tritten in Germany directly correlating hurricane Katrina with the failure to ratify the Kyoto treaty? It was a direct cause-effect statement, and one echoed quite frequently.

    Every weather event is automatically direct proof of AGW to the activists in the media; heck, look down the front page where RC did a good job trying to tamp down this rediculous problem of over attribution (and then read the comment section that shows how little it was comprehended).

  29. 79
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Professor Braynestawm #73 is asking the right question. Leake knowns but doesn’t speak.

  30. 80
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Shorter oneuniverse: “But — but — but –”

    There seems to be a concerted effort on the blogs to keep the Ghost of Amazongate Past alive — like Stevie and the Decline. Give it up already folks.

  31. 81
    David Horton says:

    #78 No weather events, or no modification of weather events , is going to result from a warming globe? No warnings about some of the consequences that will directly affect human society and economy are permitted? Then what do we say about the likely future of this little planet? Certainly the energy companies would rather everybody kept quiet and pretended there were no adverse effects of rising CO2. Wouldn’t do to frighten the public, and politicians, now, would it?

  32. 82
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Every weather event is automatically direct proof of AGW to the activists in the media;”

    Frank is correct. Where he is incorrect is in the implication that he’s not the activist in the media.

    When there was a cold snap this winter, this was PROOF that AGW was bogus or that we are now cooling.

    When 1998’s temperature is measured against 2009’s, this is a WEATHER comparison, and is “proof” that we’re in a cooling phase and that AGW is no longer a threat.

    This, fellas, is called “projection” and is extremely common amongst the denialerati.

  33. 83
    Frank Giger says:

    Mr. Horton, you’ve hit on the point precisely, and the modality of articulation of the threat being misplaced.

    Climate change is insideously slow process, which makes it far more dangerous a proposition than the sudden tipping point scenario.

    It’s really not the threat of a tornado ripping the siding off of the house. It’s the poor flashing job on top of the chimney that allows the tiniest amount of water to trickle down the back side, setting up the expansion from absorbing the water and the cracking dry rot when it evaporates. Both have the same end result, but the latter is going to cost the homeowner more, as the insurance company might not cover it, and mitigating it requires a nuanced, thorough approach to home maintenance.

    Back on topic:

    Unfortunately, retractions and clarifications on matters in the media often do little more than bring them back to life, with the same complete miscomprehension of the affair that it was meant to rectify.

  34. 84
    Daniel Goodwin says:

    FG, #78:

    Shall we start with the Environmental Minister Tritten in Germany directly correlating hurricane Katrina with the failure to ratify the Kyoto treaty? It was a direct cause-effect statement…

    You’re either prone to false memories, or to deliberate distortion.

    What Tritten actually said was “The American president [GW Bush] is closing his eyes to the economic and human costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural catastrophes like Katrina.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/01/health/01iht-warm.html

    Maybe you could avoid embarrassing yourself if you Google it next time.

  35. 85
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Frank asserts: “Shall we start with the Environmental Minister Tritten in Germany directly correlating hurricane Katrina with the failure to ratify the Kyoto treaty”

    Shall we instead look to the Environment minister’s own words?

    “The American president is closing his eyes to the economic and human
    costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural catastrophes
    like Katrina,”

    Rather different.

  36. 86
    Barry North says:

    CFU: “If someone has told the truth but that truth is damaging *and it was intended to damage* then it is actionable.”

    Um, this doesn’t sound right. Are you sure? Libel is all about false and damaging statements, not damaging truths. If you are right then the law is completely out of whack and I’m moving to Canada.

  37. 87
    Stephen says:

    At the risk of inviting the usual suspects to pile on, oneuniverse makes a perfectly valid point. Whilst it is possible to argue that the peer reviewed literature supports something like what the IPPC said, it does not appear to me to support the specific claim made by the IPPC and cited by oneuniverse above. Nepstad (2004), for example, does not consider the specific issue and, whilst interesting and warranting further research, is highly speculative.

    If anyone disagrees, then it will be a trivial task for that person to directly quote a couple of sentences from a particular cited work in the peer reviewed literature which supports the specific claim in the IPCC report. That person should also note that despite the 31 page length of Lewis’ detailed, cogent and persuasive submission, he did not provide any direct citation that specifically supported what the IPCC said. His submission boiled down to saying that there was material in the peer reviewed literature that kind of supports something like what the IPCC said. If anyone wants to argue that that is justifiable, then that is fine, but please do not try to dismiss someone who makes the valid point that the specific claim in the IPCC report does not appear in the peer reviewed literature with silly little digs like “But – but – but” per Martin Vermeer above.

    May I also say that it was refreshing to see Jim step in and “in-line comment” an activist commenter, a practice which is used far too infrequently on this blog. Signal is invariably drowned out by the noise of drum-beating activists. This is off-putting for those would would seek to use this site as a science resource and ultimately defeats the communication objectives of the blog.

  38. 88
    Edward Greisch says:

    61 Bob (Sphaerica) has a point that the average person (IQ=100) lacks 45 points of IQ of being a scientist, and that includes journalists’ math IQs. The average person may also have other problems that interfere with learning science. The IQ distribution is well known to be Gaussian. Scientists are 3 or more standard deviations above the average, on the tail of the distribution.
    73 Professor Braynestawm also has a point in wondering who did the editing.

    Forced retractions will have the effect of making the editors feel threatened, hopefully to the point of leaving truthful stories alone or omitting them entirely. That may be enough to get an energy bill passed. I read somewhere recently that 75?% of people do think that GW is a problem that we need to solve.

    Editors and publishers will still feel threatened by the fossil fuel industry. Is there some way that something like anti-trust action or a change in FCC rules could separate most journalism from fossil fuel company influence?

    PS: The 21 June issue of Climate Progress mentions this RC post, “Leakegate: A retraction”.

  39. 89
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Stephen #87, Nepstad himself seems to disagree with you. Is he wrong too?

  40. 90
    Rod B says:

    Daniel Goodwin, strange that you would cite a reference that pretty much supports Frank G’s assertion in an attempt to refute him. It’s pretty hard to interpret Tritten any other way than as saying Katrina was Bush’s fault which he might have avoided had he signed Kyoto.

  41. 91
    Stephen says:

    Martin, #89, thanks for the link; I’d read Nepstad’s press release already which was, I think part of Lewis’ submission. I could be wrong here, but I don’t think that Nepstad’s press release forms part of the body of peer reviewed literature? I’m sure he’s a very good scientist and his opinion carries some weight, but what he says outside of the peer reviewed literature is of less weight than what he says in the peer reviewed literature. Or are you arguing that the IPCC should cite press releases in its work? Nepstad’s press release is one of the factors which drove me to conclude that the correct view here is that there is material in the peer reviewed literature that kind of supports something like what the IPCC said.

    Regardless, I set a trivial task for anyone disagreeing with me in my original post at #87: quote a couple of sentences from the literature that supports the specific claim that the IPCC made (yes, I spotted my typos – doh!) Sorry Martin but you don’t pass muster – press releases, even by eminent scientists, don’t count. In no way, shape or form do I claim to have any kind of comprehensive knowledge of the literature in this area, so if someone can quote a few relevant sentences from the literature, I’ll happily change my opinion.

  42. 92

    73 (Professor Braynestawm),

    So could the real question be not who wrote the article so much as who edited it?

    I never once saw Leake protest, insist that his name be removed from the byline, or even hint that it was his bosses, not him, that did the dirty deed. Beyond this, he has a long list of recent, similar articles. I did a search, and he seemed to be on an event keel until the fall of 2009.

    Why the change, I can only speculate, but the change seems genuine. His attitude is no doubt shared by the editors (or else why would they allow such a last minute change, and themselves not react very quickly and negatively once it came to light).

    Your main point is certainly valid… how in the world does a responsible publication go from a carefully worded and balanced version, which has been vetted with an expert, to a hatchet job in a matter of hours? There’s an important story in there that we’re not privy to.

    Something is very strange, but then I find everything that has transpired in the past year to be so far through the looking glass and then even beyond that through the next that my head is spinning.

  43. 93
    SecularAnimist says:

    Tritten said: “The American president [GW Bush] is closing his eyes to the economic and human costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural catastrophes like Katrina.”

    Rod B wrote: “It’s pretty hard to interpret Tritten any other way than as saying Katrina was Bush’s fault which he might have avoided had he signed Kyoto.”

    On the contrary. It is quite impossible to interpret Tritten’s comment as saying that US ratification of the Kyoto Protocol could have “avoided” Katrina — unless of course one is shamelessly dishonest.

    Tritten very clearly was pointing to Katrina as an example of the “economic and human costs” of “natural disasters” that unmitigated AGW will surely bring, and was suggesting that the US president was “closing his eyes” to those costs.

    And indeed, Bush was not merely “closing his eyes” to those costs: for eight long years, his administration systematically and aggressively sought to blind the rest of the country to those costs by suppressing and denying scientific information about the likely effects of AGW.

  44. 94
    CM says:

    Oneuniverse #75, stephen #87

    caveat: I’m just another reader here, not an expert on any of this.

    I can’t shed any further light on the references for a statement on a website ten years ago, and I don’t see the point. I stipulate that the IPCC passage was “basically correct but poorly written, and bizarrely referenced,” as Simon Lewis was quoted at the time.

    I think I can help with the “rapidly to another steady state” bit, though. A brief look at the context suggests it doesn’t come from the WWF report (despite the awkward placement of the citation) but from the preceding paragraph in the IPCC report, which reads in part:

    …Several AOGCM scenarios indicate a tendency towards ‘savannisation’ of eastern Amazonia (Nobre et al., 2005) and the tropical forests of central and south Mexico (Peterson et al., 2002; Arriaga and Gómez, 2004). In north-east Brazil the semi-arid vegetation would be replaced by the vegetation of arid regions (Nobre et al., 2005), as in most of central and northern Mexico (Villers and Trejo, 2004).

    More context:
    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch13s13-4.html#13-4-1

  45. 95

    91 (Stephan),

    You are being purposely obtuse. Dr. Vermeer provided a link for you where a scientist who is very active in research in the area, and who is in fact the author of some of the cited sources, details multiple papers and the logic which provided the foundation for the statement. It’s more than answer enough, and your refusal to accept it is typical of denial (just say “no” without foundation, it works every time).

    Remember, the statement was part of a summary for policy makers. Nothing in that summary is going to be an exact quotation extracted word for word from a peer-reviewed paper, and it is going to be far more basic. It’s a summary.

    As far as this:

    I set a trivial task for anyone disagreeing with me in my original post at #87: quote a couple of sentences from the literature that supports the specific claim that the IPCC made

    You set an impossible task, and couched it in terms making it look easy (nice trick, but it’s a trick). It’s like asking someone to quote a couple of sentences that explain the general theory of relativity, and saying that if it can’t be done, the theory is obviously not true.

    You basically said that the only thing you will accept is to water complex frontier-science presented in multiple publications down to two simple sentences that even you can understand, and for the authors of those papers to have kindly done so in advance for you.

    Of course, if one did, you’d then ask for the citations that support those statements, and on and on. If you don’t trust the authorities that produce the conclusions, then you have to be willing to go back and read and understand the studies involved, in their entirety. I’ve done so. They’re there, you could do it, Martin pointed you to Nepstad who pointed you to them, but instead you want it handed to you through primary school level simplifications, and if you can’t have those, you claim it doesn’t exist.

    This is what is so infuriating about the denial crowd. They make the rules up as they go, and then arrogantly insist that a failure to play by silly rules (i.e. to bring the science down to a 5th grade level) proves their point.

  46. 96
    caerbannog says:

    A little off-topic, but still relevant to this discussion….

    Q) What is the source of the sentence, “But climate sceptics questioned the findings, saying that publication in scientific journals was not a fair test of expertise.”?

    1) The Colbert Report
    2) The BBC

    If your answer was (2), then you are (sadly) correct: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/science_and_environment/10370955.stm

  47. 97
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Stephen, When a researcher says that a report did not misrepresent his work, I’m inclined to believe him, and I do not see how a peer review of such a statement would enhance its value. Perhaps you would do well to look at the role of peer review in science–to what it does and does not apply.

    I’m afraid your missive is merely a desperate attempt to save a Leakey ship.

  48. 98

    EG 88: Bob (Sphaerica) has a point that the average person (IQ=100) lacks 45 points of IQ of being a scientist, and that includes journalists’ math IQs.

    BPL: With a degree in physics, and actively doing research, computer-bound though it bed, I consider myself a scientist, if not a professional one. And my measured IQ is 83.

  49. 99
    John E. Pearson says:

    95: Bob, I’m afraid Stephan is “wearing the juice”. (see my post 45). It doesn’t matter what you say.

  50. 100
    pete best says:

    Perhaps the most important paper on climate science ever written from the National Academy of Sciences.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

    ACC is more fact than the mainstream media is presently to acknowledge even though the majority of climate scientists published work says so. For some reason the media continuously chooses to put both side of the argument regardless. Is that political I wonder or just the inability to believe and pay for it all?


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