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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. 101
    wili says:

    Anyone with a respectable IQ should know that IQ is a bogus measure ‘-)

    What ever happened to the other claim about the IPCC report–that they over blew the rate that the Himalayan glaciers were melting and how dire the effect would be on down stream Asian populations? Wasn’t that also supposed to have been based on a study by WWF?

    (Apologies if this was already covered somewhere here.)

  2. 102
    Edward Greisch says:

    82 Completely Fed Up: is correct for people with short memory, possibly because they are young or recently moved to an area, or wish to forget. What is needed is an old person who remembers the weather in the same place half a century ago or somebody who looks up historical records. For example, last winter was the first time in a long time that there was significant ice on the Mississippi at Davenport, Iowa, but it was bad ice and short lived. It looked like a lot of last winter’s ice formed farther North and floated down. From the 1960s on back, the ice formed much earlier and it was fast [frozen] to the shore so that you could drive on it. In the covered wagon days, the ice was used to cross the river with wagons and horses at St. Louis. This information works for average people regardless of the fact that it isn’t peer reviewed literature.

    98 BPL: There was something wrong with the IQ test you took. Your IQ is clearly NOT 83. 183, I would believe. The leading “1” somehow got dropped. A person with a real 83 IQ would not understand what is going on here, never mind being able to comment intelligently.

  3. 103
    CM says:

    Oneuniverse, Stephen,

    – then again, my guess about the context might be wrong. In his complaint, which I didn’t read properly before commenting, Simon Lewis refers to papers by himself and Nepstad. He also refers to the scary Amazon dieback papers that were published in 2004. For some reason, these were not cited in the IPCC WG2 report passage we’re discussing. But Lewis points out that they were cited in ch. 7 of the WG1 report.

    – Betts, R., et al., 2004: The role of ecosystem-atmosphere interactions in simulated Amazonian precipitation decrease and forest dieback under
    global change warming. Theor. Appl. Climatol., 78(1–3), 157–175.

    – Cox, P.M., et al., 2004: Amazonian forest dieback under climate-carbon
    cycle projections for the 21st century. Theor. Appl. Climatol., 78, 137–

    – Huntingford, C., et al., 2004: Using a GCM analogue model to investigate
    the potential for Amazonian forest dieback. Theor. Appl. Climatol.,
    78(1–3), 177–185.

  4. 104
    Gneiss says:

    Wili writes,
    “What ever happened to the other claim about the IPCC report–that they over blew the rate that the Himalayan glaciers were melting and how dire the effect would be on down stream Asian populations? Wasn’t that also supposed to have been based on a study by WWF?”

    Bidisha Banerjee and George Collins carefully investigated possible sources for that unfortunate note about Himalayan glaciers in the IPCC WG2 report. They found that it did not, as widely claimed, originate with a WWF report. Here is an excerpt from their analysis:

    “As mentioned above, the final version of the IPCC document also cites a 2005 WWF report. The WWF report has been intensely discussed since this mistake became clear. Its Table 7 (on page 32), however, is quite different from the IPCC’s. It does not include total retreat figures, only average retreats per year. To its credit, it also includes sources for each claim. All but two glacier studies in the WWF report either have different dates in the IPCC table or do not appear at all. Small details confirm the difference: the WWF spells Bara Shigri as Bada Shigri (both transliterations from Hindi are permissible), and puts a hyphen in Chota-Shigri. The only data identical in both tables is Hasnain’s 1985-2001 study of Gangotri, although the WWF cites a 2004 paper, not the 2002 paper mentioned by IPCC.

    More strikingly, the IPCC table contains a simple mathematical error found also in the Down to Earth article, but not in the WWF report. This error is like a radioactive tracer back to Chettri’s article, as it could not likely have been made twice. The 1845 to 1966 Pindari Glacier study appears in all three tables, but only the WWF report correctly divides the 2,840-meter retreat by 121 years to arrive at the actual yearly rate of 23 meters. Both the Down to Earth and IPCC tables divide 2,840 by 21 years instead of 121, leading to an incorrect, much faster retreat rate of 135 meters per year.”

  5. 105
    oneuniverse says:

    CM and Stephen, thank you both.

    CM, I’m grateful for the references. I don’t have access to Huntingford et al., but the other two modelings of Amazonian die-back both feature a heavy reduction in precipitation over the time-span of the simulations :

    Cox et al. 2004 : From 4.56mm/day in 1990 to 1.64mm/day in 2090
    Betts et al. 2004: From 5mm/day in pre-industrial times to 2mm/day in 2100
    (according to the latter’s model, some parts of the Amazon will have zero precipitation by 2100)

    The simulated die-back in these papers is not accompanied or accomplished by “a slight reduction in precipitation”, but by a heavy (>50%) reduction.

    So we’re still left with the question of how the IPCC came up with the strong statement : “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation [..]”

  6. 106
    Geoff Wexler says:

    # 100

    Perhaps the most important paper…

    I don’t agree. It underestimates the effect it is trying to quantify. Just one reason is that it considers climatology to be a single area of expertise.

    How often do contrarians criticise work from their own sub-discipline?

    Consider as a comparison, the discovery of high temperature superconductivity. Would you go a theorist to make predictions about its technological significance? Perhaps not, because it would depend on all sorts of questions concerning the materials science. Would you go to a materials scientist to ask about the underlying mechanisms? Both could be called experts on high temperature superconductivity.

    A similar point is true in climate science. On rare occasions an outsider may know better, but usually the best judgments are made by people who have worked on a problem for years.

    There are a few scientists who repeatedly claim that the core subject depends on the validity of computer simulations (models) and that they know that these models can’t be trusted. But have these people done any climate simulations? Have they read the codes? Yet again we hear from a few ‘skeptics’ who are serious climatologists ; the fact that they may have held positions of responsibility as observationalists does not mean that we should respect their opinions on the theory of the subject, as much as a theorist who is soaked in the complexities of it.

    Thats not all. None of this considers the actual merit of the few papers which oppose the core of the CO2 theory. That is more important and has been tackled e.g. here at RC and various other places linked on the right hand side.

  7. 107

    This is *way* off-topic, but Edward (#102), don’t be too sure about BPL’s score–he is indeed a very capable fellow, but IQ score correlates much less well than most people think with generalized cognitive ability. Moreover, 83 is not all that low, IIRC–not out of the so-called “normal” range.

    Ponder, for example, this quotation:

    “The unreliability of IQ tests has been proved by numerous researchers. . . In one study, for example, ninety-nine school psychologists independently scored an IQ test from identical records, and came up with IQs ranging from 63 to 117 for the same person.”

    You did of course say that “there’s something wrong with the IQ test you took.” I agree, but would contend that that’s because there’s something wrong with all IQ tests–beginning with the fact that there is no good reason to think that “intelligence” is actually a unitary quality in the first place. (A fact noted by the inventor of what became the IQ test, Monsieur Binet–educational history would have been quite different had his original caveats been heeded by his successors–I can’t say “his intellectual heirs.”) Wili, #101, had it right, IMO.

  8. 108
    wili says:

    Gneiss (at 104), thanks for the clarification. I’m glad to hear that WWF is off the hook on these accusations. They generally strike me as a good organization. Of course, most people will only remember the original headlines (if that).

    OT–total ice volume in the Arctic seems to be falling off a cliff lately. Is there any level of melt that will convince denialists that something serious is in fact going on? The Arctic is an area where the IPCC got it significantly wrong in the other direction. Somehow the denialosphere has managed to redirect the discussion to these other rare cases where they seem to have erred in the direction of exaggeration. We have to learn how to prevent them from framing the discussion in ways that distract from the real threats.

  9. 109

    RE #45 – picky, picky, picky. It seems to me these were honest mistakes. People think rainforest, they think Amazon, not nec Brazil, or perhaps they were generalizing/extrapolating (which scientists do when they think other areas are comparable to the specific research area). The people who create the IPCC reports do so for free in their spare time. They (at least the vast majority, it seems) are very meticulous in their efforts, but, of course, mistakes will be made, esp when people not very expert in an area end up having to write a section about that area (not everyone wants to work for free or has the spare time) — as happened in the Himalayan glacier retreat mistake. The IPCC reports are massives reports created by many many scholars, each doing their part.

    If mistakes are made, they can be found and pointed out, and the information disseminated. Altho I believe it was the scientists themselves who found most of the errors in the current IPCC report, the skeptics could play a role here (they should be useful for something!); they could read the IPCC very carefully and hunt for all the mistakes, which can then be corrected and the corrections disseminated in an addendum or “errata” section.

    It seems in this current IPCC the errors WERE caught and “dissemenated” far far far abroad.
    Corrective processes already seem to be in place.

    So, what was the problem again?????

  10. 110

    Even tho I had always assumed the IPCC reports were based stickly on peer-review articles, and was a bit surprised when doing my own research in a WGII chapter that various NGO reports were cited, I really did like to get the NGO reports, which are written more for laypersons, and bring together the information in a more holistic fashion, and which I wouldn’t have known about, if the IPCC had not referenced them. Those NGO reports themselves are based on good science, peer-review studies, and other good sources. Afterall, the NGOs are on the ground there and may know some things even the scientists don’t know.

    I think its okay for some such NGO reports (like WWF reports) to be included, esp in the WGII chapters. I think NOW everyone knows very well that mistakes can be make in the IPCC reports — so it should sort of be like an Easter egg hunt for the skeptics each time an IPCC report comes out.

    I think we’re now in hypercorrective mode even. Like when a child says “I falled down” — that’s “hypercorrection” in linguistics.

  11. 111
    Sus Scrofa says:

    Referenced in other media, for linkcollectors:
    (in Norwegian. Aftenposten is tied for Norway’s biggest newspaper, although the www edition is not in top 2.)

  12. 112
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Beyond this, he has a long list of recent, similar articles. I did a search, and he seemed to be on an event keel until the fall of 2009.

    Why the change, I can only speculate”

    Here’s a speculation. The Climategate emails. Monbiot also got taken in too because (IMO only)

    a) proper couching of the selected sentences made it look like climate science was being abused
    b) proper couching of selected sencences made it look like the scientists were trying to silence others
    c) it was a leak and journalism wants leaks to happen, so they can get a story
    d) FOIA was seemingly refused and journalists fought EXTREMELY hard for it

    I think that last one is the most important. As far as the journalists could read (remember: no time to read all the emails and little science background) FOIA (their baby) was being killed off.

    They could have investigated and found the abuses of FOIA with the denial crowd, but no time and their baby was being attacked, so common sense and investigative rigour went out the window.

    Having taken on FOIA was under attack by these scientists, the jounralists were angry, hurt and afraid. This made swallowing the rest of the conjured tripe much easier, since now the scientists in the climate sphere were “the enemy”.

    Professional hubris and the fear that any fallout of climategate could see FOIA amended to refuse abuse have kept the journalists mostly against the proper investigation and reporting of the incident.

    My speculation, of course.

  13. 113
    Completely Fed Up 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? ”


    Archer has won on this basis, as have a few others.

    And the situation I gave shows why it is *right* to allow such.

    Outings of private information is safe if released in the public interest. But if not and damaging, it SHOULD be actionable, else the world turns into a street full of curtain-twitchers, all tutting about the terrible things other people are doing.

    After all, your bank details are facts. But if I tell everyone what they are, you’re going to have a case against me.

    And what is blackmail other than releasing damaging information (the threat of blackmail doesn’t work if the information released is not true and is not damaging)?

  14. 114
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Stephen, are you saying that 0% of Amazonian forest would be affected? Or that more than 60% could be?

    Because a refutation of “that specific claim” means one of those two.

    If so, where is your value as to what the proportion of the Amazonian forest COULD be affected by such a change in climate and your workings thereof?

  15. 115
    Barry North says:

    CFU, Sorry, I’m going to show my ignorance here, which Archer? There are many. Do you have a link to a story about the case?

    With blackmail, isn’t the crime Extortion, rather than the release of private information?

    If you released my bank details (not that having them would do anyone any good), the action I could take against you would be for taking the details in the first place, not for making them public.

    How do you prove that revealing a truth about a secret or withheld aspect of your life is what caused the claimed damage? In your example you may have lost because you have ginger hair, a big nose, or heaven forbid people didn’t like your policies.

  16. 116
    Shirley J. Pulawski says:

    I wish I shared the same optimism some have about retractions like this turning the message back on the reality track. At the moment, I don’t. I think right now, the general public is suffering from doom fatigue, and dealing with AGW is too much to swallow when the global economy is terrible, they’re hanging tenuously onto a job they hate, working more than they’d like, paying more and for for food and other family needs and a few pleasures in life. They see what is happening in the Gulf and don’t understand why a flip can’t be switched to make it stop. They (we) all want our plastics, fuel, fast cars, cheap food and beer to wash down the mind-numbing break that is American Idol or The Office, fantasy breaks from an increasingly ugly world. They don’t want to think about changing their lifestyles any more than they’ve already had to, which is why denying AGW makes life more comfortable, because accepting the reality comes with responsibility. I think the average family out there with two working parents and owes more on their house than it’s worth is feeling drowned in responsibility as it is.

    I think it would be interesting to see a graph with economic hardship vs. acceptance of the AGW reality. I know it wouldn’t entirely hold, because my sister is economically secure, but an active denier, I think partly due to the company she keeps, but mostly due to the fact that she doesn’t want to make sacrifices in life or change her wasteful lifestyle. She probably also doesn’t want to believe that her children are facing an increasingly ugly world.

    I don’t know how many average people would have read the original Leake article, much less the retraction. As someone else mentioned, it is hard to understand why competing news outlets don’t bring a lot of attention to retractions of this nature, especially since this one not only got a whole lot wrong, but nearly admitted to character assassination.

    Another major problem we face, as has also been noted here, is that most journalists are generalists, and not very savvy when it comes to science of any kind. Basic Newtonian mechanics can be easily explained; climate science is very complicated and has many disciplines. I can’t tell you much about adiabatic lapse rates, but I can talk in much more detail about things like the End-Devonian Hangenburg Extinction Event, Snowball Earth, paleoclimate proxies like chironomids and forams, some of the CO2/O2 balancing acts during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic. Journalists glaze over with this stuff and are looking for simple yes/no answers.

    I watched a CNN reporter, one I considered to be decent, ask a biologist how long it was going to take BP to cap the well. I watched someone else ask a geologist what the spill was going to do to wildlife. I have enough training in both to understand they had really good experts in front of them and asked them all the wrong questions, but common sense should dictate that they wouldn’t need my training to understand the difference between biologists and geologists. Instead, I guess they just focus on the “expert” part and expect them to know everything, which is silly.

    So I fear that for a while at least, until the effects become more obvious and threatening, we’re stuck continuing our research and continuing to take up the cause and hoping that eventually, people will wake up. I haven’t seen enough evidence that will be the case, but the numbers have been better int eh past. We’ll see.

  17. 117
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Barry North, the theft of information is also a crime. Indeed, in some cases, even unauthorized access of a computer is a crime. What is more, the crime was committed precisely because the perpetrators–or those that paid them–wanted to distract the public from the fact that their position is 100% evideence free. They succeeded, but how long will it be before people notice that they still have no evidence?

  18. 118
    CM says:

    Oneuniverse #105,

    > The simulated die-back in these papers is not accompanied or accomplished
    > by “a slight reduction in precipitation”, but by a heavy (>50%) reduction.

    Off the top of my head , there’s a point you may be missing. Have you considered the vegetation-precipitation feedback? IIRC, part of the point made in those papers is that the Amazon recycles water inland from the ocean through multiple cycles of rainfall and evaporation, so a decrease in precipitation over the Amazon is amplified by the forest loss it causes. So the large reduction in precipitation reported in these modeling studies is, in part, the result of (“drastic”) vegetation changes initiated by a smaller (but “slight”?) change in precipitation. Perhaps someone better qualified can comment.

  19. 119
    Sonicfrog says:

    Though I am a moderate climate skeptic (not a denier…. uh oh, does that make me a denier) I posted the following on my blog:

    I wrote a number of post about Climategate. After this story broke there were other “gates” that appeared, including “Amazon-gate” and “Africa-gate”. Both those stories, written by one Johnathan Leake, have been retracted. I am a skeptic of the alarmist, dooms-day wing of AGW climate consensus, and have written more than a few bits on this blog expressing my views. I searched my blog and couldn’t find any post where I mentioned either of these stories, but just the same, I think it is important to acknowledge and weed out journalistic fraud; what would, in this case, appear to be sloppy / misleading reporting, taking advantage of a dust-up in the climate science community, all for the purposes of selling news copy.

    To me, this is no different than the incredibly sloppy / stupid journalistic rants of one Jason Leopold, who in 2006, fabricated a story that sources in Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s office, and those inside the White House were telling him of the imminent indictment of Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame fiasco. Now, if he claimed to have had one source, and the one source turned out to be wrong, then you could say that the source was simply mistaken, or misunderstood. But Leopold wrote that he had several. Leopold was so sure that Rove was the perp, that he fabricated the story. Even though he lied about having sources, created them out of thin air, if Rove had been indicted, Leopold would have been considered the first to break the story and would have been greeted with heeps of praise from the whole industry. He would have probably won the Pulitzer, and no one would have been the wiser.

    Anyway, hats off to RealClimate for not dropping the blatant dishonesty of Leake and exposing it.

    Signed: Mike aka Sonicfrog.

  20. 120
    Geoff Wexler says:

    [Another OT discussion about scales which I didn’t start]

    (A fact noted by the inventor of what became the IQ test, Monsieur Binet–educational history would have been quite different had his original caveats been heeded by his successors–I can’t say “his intellectual heirs.”)

    Perhaps you mean David Wechsler who was no relative of mine. But he also appears to have emphasised the limitations, perhaps more than Binet?

    I personally prefer physical scales and have just been defending the concept of temperature on an earlier thread. If A is warmer than B then energy will pass from A to B without doing work. Thats enough to define temperature. Similarly according to the hardness scale,if A is harder than B it can scratch it. But what if A has a higher IQ than B? Mental scratching?

    I also don’t like the idea of combining several quite different skills into one number. Some universities attempt something analagous when they suggest that a First in Maths is ‘equivalent’ to a First in English.

  21. 121
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Correction to my last comment:

    it should have been “without having to supply work” … as you all knew anyway.

  22. 122
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “With blackmail, isn’t the crime Extortion, rather than the release of private information? ”

    So why isn’t releasing private information with the intent to harm not libel or slander?

  23. 123
    Rod B says:

    Shirley J. Pulawsk, re (118).

    Some skeptics are credibly so from a science view. But these are not who you are discussing. People will tend to believe nice things that are predicted for the future. They don’t (never have, never will) accept bad things at all, especially those that sound a bit esoteric like AGW, until it’s right at their front door — and even then sometimes not.
    [edit – OT]
    I don’t have any answers for you; just an observation.

    The media likes to be factual but they report on things that are stimulating or enticing, not necessarily good to know things (other than diets and dating). Always have; always will. Paleoclimate proxies like chironomids and forams is a great example. Reporters also interview whatever expert they can get to answer the phone (unless they have a stipend to offer.) Though you make a good point (actually many…) in that a reporter, having luckily glommed onto some expert or another, ought at least be able to ask relevant questions. Few reporters will ever have more than a modicum of specialty training in some field or the other. And they have that mainly because their editor or producer puts some added value on it. Climatology is actually becoming more valuable (people like polar bears) but still in the basement. A reporter is still far better off learning more about FBI profiling.

    Good and interesting post.

  24. 124

    EG 102: BPL: There was something wrong with the IQ test you took. Your IQ is clearly NOT 83. 183, I would believe. The leading “1″ somehow got dropped. A person with a real 83 IQ would not understand what is going on here, never mind being able to comment intelligently.

    BPL: Not so. I can think clearly, but I do so much slower than normal people. People think that because I have a good vocabulary, I must be highly intelligent. Not true. My problem-solving abilities are not great.

  25. 125
    Barry North says:

    “So why isn’t releasing private information with the intent to harm not libel or slander?”

    Because both libel and slander require the information to be not true. Blackmail, or extortion, is the act of demanding money to prevent the release of truthful and probably damaging information.

    You don’t hear of many blackmailers charged with libel after damaging information is released. And that’s because the information is true.

  26. 126
    Completely Fed Up says:

    BPL: Indeed. The only lack of IQ would have is that you have to work harder. Or find ways of bypassing a problem brought on from inherent inability to work in the accepted way.

    A high IQ is overrated. A passion is required. All else is window dressing.

  27. 127
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #124 BPL Re: speed.

    It is said that Pauli used to get quite impatient with Einstein’s slowness at times.

    Anyway computers have already reduced the importance of fast thinking. I should imagine that trend will continue. We already have,artificial intelligence, chess,bridge,computer algebra,artifical neural networks, and pattern recognition.

  28. 128
    Jim Galasyn says:

    CM says: [T]he Amazon recycles water inland from the ocean through multiple cycles of rainfall and evaporation, so a decrease in precipitation over the Amazon is amplified by the forest loss it causes.

    There’s also the interesting phenomenon of the Amazon rainforest’s “flying rivers”:

    Amazon losing ‘flying rivers,’ ability to curb warming

    The Amazon’s “flying rivers” — humid air currents that deliver water to the vast rain forest — may be ebbing, which could have dire consequences for the region’s ability to help curb global warming, an expert said this week at the Copenhagen climate conference.

    Rising temperatures in the Amazon region, in large part due to climate change, are creating more arid savannas, which disrupt the water cycle vital to Brazil’s farming and energy industries. …

  29. 129
    Completely Fed Up says:

    [edit – one a day]

  30. 130
    harvey says:

    IQ is not enough, you also need EQ (emotional quotient)
    I have met many brilliant people whose IQ’s would register in the 190’s or higher.
    but they could not survive a week on the street. In fact one I knew became a drop out from society at 19.
    You have to be emotionally ready to manage in the millieu of the society you live in.
    However most people with LOW EQs also are either really not that smart, or are intentionally
    playing dumb. I knew people who did that in High School.
    In either case having a decent EQ with a low IQ does not give as big an advantage as many think…
    So let’s just ignore the IQ/EQ thing… Its more important to discern the thought processes
    of the person.

  31. 131

    Geoff Wexler @ 127:

    It is said that Pauli used to get quite impatient with Einstein’s slowness at times.

    People get irritated with all manner of things for all manner of reasons. When I was a technical lead I’d figure out my team members’ personalities and assign them tasks that exploited them. I had one team member who was thorough to the point of being utterly annoying, but I relied on her to act as a “check” on the entire team.

    That said, “fast” and “slow” are relatives to tasks, and research into the nature of “Intelligence” has shown that reaction speed and intelligence are strongly correlated. To the point that accurate IQ scores can be gotten simply by measuring how fast a person pushes a button …

    Anyway computers have already reduced the importance of fast thinking. I should imagine that trend will continue. We already have,artificial intelligence, chess,bridge,computer algebra,artifical neural networks, and pattern recognition.

    That’s utterly, completely, and totally false. Until a computer can pass the Turing Test, a person is more intelligent than a computer. And for that matter, so is a chimp, pig, dog and probably even a cat.

    What computers do is fast COMPUTATION, which is very different from fast THINKING.

  32. 132
    David B. Benson says:

    FurryCatHerder (131) — Whatda you mean “probably even a cat”?

    Them’s fighten’ words!


  33. 133
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Pauli got impatient with almost everyone. Dirac couldn’t abide him. And though Heisenberg was a friend, Pauli abused him mercilessly. That said, he did say some very funny and pithy things–one of the best, when he referred to physicist Wolfgang Paul as his “real counterpart in Bonn”.

  34. 134
    Geoff Wexler says:


    reaction speed and intelligence are strongly correlated.

    Reaction speed and x, where this sentence omits to tell us how x is defined. I take it that the method of defining (i.e. measuring) x is unbiased with respect to all kinds of speeds?

    I completely agree with the reservations based on the Turing test but I claim no special knowledge concerning Pauli’s skills at judging speeds (that works both ways).

  35. 135
    David says:

    Thanks for this post. The Australian newspaper reproduced the original Sunday Times article on 1 Feb and other articles by Leake, and I had expected a delay or complete absence in printing the retraction.

    I was wrong. The Australian published the retraction/correction on 24 June

    Despite past evidence, there may be some semblance of responsible editorship at the Australian.

  36. 136

    This is a very interesting discussion and it always surprises me how seldom the core drivers get looked at. The basic science of climate change and global warming is over 150 years old and in the last 30 years the evidence of its reality has been growing ever stronger. The challenge of how we respond it is made serially complex not just by the level of collaborative behaviour that will be required but also because the basis of our activity and thinking has a fundamental flaw. Politicians and governments do not control capitalism; it controls them, which is why politicians are always scared of markets. But the system itself is based on a false premise. Capitalism only became possible following the invention of double entry booking in 15th century Italy. Unfortunately, at that time there were many fewer humans around and they had not discovered how to use fossil fuels in any great way. This caused a system whose intellectual heart was the concept of balance to fail to recognise that there was a cost to using the planets ecosystem, an accounting error that continues to this day. The capitalist system may have been an effective system for delivering present day pleasures but it has done so by fooling us into thinking that destroying the future is “rational behaviour” because fossil fuels remain so much cheaper than renewable alternatives. Today, all of Earth’s ecosystems (climate, oceans, fresh water, forests)are threatened because the system is tilted the wrong way. We desperately need an overhaul of cost allocation so capitalism can continue to deliver but in a way that encourages us to live with the planet rather than on it.

    Harold Forbes is Author of “How to be a Humankind Superhero: a manifesto for individuals to reclaim a safe climate”. Read chapter summaries at or download the complete first chapter at

  37. 137
  38. 138
    ccpo says:

    I am a skeptic of the alarmist, dooms-day wing of AGW climate consensus

    Comment by Sonicfrog — 23 June 2010 @ 10:32 AM

    Then you don’t don’t seem understand climate science or have not read enough on the history, also, perhaps need to pay more attention to risk analysis – which isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Here’s an example of something that will not see any retractions any time soon, for your edification:

    The 1980s and 1990s brought proof (chiefly from studies of ancient ice) that the global climate could indeed shift, radically and catastrophically, within a century — perhaps even within a decade.


  39. 139
    SecularAnimist says:

    FCH wrote: “What computers do is fast COMPUTATION, which is very different from fast THINKING.”

    So if you are adding up a column of numbers in your head, that is not “thinking”?

  40. 140
    Dale Power says:

    I know this will strike many here as insane, but I think a sea change is about to happen with Global Warming belief in the public mind…

    You see, while fringe right now, it seems that the thought in the Climate Change Denial circles is concluding that the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill is a HOAX.

    While I’m certain the more intelligent deniers will disagree with this frantically, the grass roots is showing their true colors and it is really turning off the fence sitters right now. Denying obvious reality won’t play in the bread basket or even the bible belt.

    Insane? Yes, but it is not my words here, just a noting of what the climate deniers on the fringe are already saying.

    Everything interconnects at a certain level.

  41. 141

    HF 136,

    Your analysis of capitalism causing environmental harm might be acute, were it not for the fact that the Communist USSR produced even worse environmental devastation. Modern industrial societies in general can devastate the environment unless proper controls are applied.

  42. 142
    Mike F says:

    George Monbiot thinks Leake may have been hung out to dry by the Sunday Times:

  43. 143
    Professor Braynestawm says:

    New twist in Leakegate saga
    (Continuation from comment #73)
    Was Jonathan Leake hung out to dry by The Sunday Times? George Monbiot, The Guardian
    “But the interesting question is how the Sunday Times messed up so badly. I spent much of yesterday trying to get some sense out of the paper, without success. But after 25 years in journalism it looks pretty obvious to me that Jonathan Leake has been wrongly blamed for this, then hung out to dry. My guess is that someone else at the paper, acting on instructions from an editor, got hold of Leake’s copy after he had submitted it, and rewrote it, drawing on North’s post, to produce a different – and more newsworthy – story. If this is correct, it suggests that Leake is carrying the can for an editor’s decision. The Sunday Times has made no public attempt to protect him: it looks to me like corporate cowardice.”

  44. 144
    Didactylos says:

    I don’t understand this defence of Leake.

    Firstly, Leake isn’t just some journalist working in the trenches. He is the environment editor for a major paper. Secondly, this isn’t an isolated incident. Tim Lambert has documented a large number of egregious distortions and misquotations under Leake’s byline. If we give Leake the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that his words are being rewritten – why has he not stood up to it? He has many options, from running a story apologising for the errors, to resigning.

    In fact, all this incident has done is make me trust Monbiot less. Following his mismanagement of the CRU story, this reinforces his reputation as an attack dog lacking in perspective.

  45. 145
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Since we’re talking about hanging people out to try… have Monbiot and his editor apologized for what he said about Phil Jones already? If not, why are we still listening to him or reading the Guardian? Ah yes, the crosswords. I don’t do crosswords but perhaps they could put a picture on page 3.

  46. 146
    Stephen says:

    So, I return to the thread after a few days to see what interesting references might have been thrown up to my observation at #87. Aside from the predicted piling on (Bob Sphaerica, I’m looking at you and your silly post at #95; please check in your “denier” guns at the door next time), I do find it noteworthy that the IPCC statement is apparently not directly supported by primary literature. Unlike Bob, I don’t think that excuses like “it’s just a summary” or “it’s complicated” wash. Where a specific claim with numbers on it is cited, I, and, I hope, most people on a science blog, would expect to see the source of that claim cited and then to be able to go to the source and see the factoid for myself in the source material. We know here that the source that appeared in the IPCC report was incorrect. Fine, no biggie, mistakes happen. So then, what was the correct source in the peer reviewed literature? It seems pretty clear that this claim appears nowhere in the peer reviewed literature, otherwise I would expect that Lewis or Nepstad or some eager beaver on this board would by now have found the source. Quite simply, it seems to me that the IPCC claim did not come from the peer reviewed literature. Ex post facto efforts to tie it to the literature, and Nepstad’s support for the statement, tell us that there is indeed some basis for something like what the IPCC said, so this is nothing like the Himalayan glacier fiasco. But that does not change the fact the IPCC should have used a different, and properly referenced, form of words. I really don’t think that this is a very controversial observation. The “defend everything at all costs” mentality exemplified by Bob does more harm than good.

  47. 147
    Rich says:

    I know this is OT, but I think regular readers here will be interested. I have just completed writing a primer on infrared spectroscopy and global warming that tries to introduce people to basic concepts of IR radiation, its interaction with molecules, and the implications for global warming.

    I would welcome comments on the effort.

  48. 148
    CM says:

    Stephen #146,

    (…) there is indeed some basis for something like what the IPCC said, so this is nothing like the Himalayan glacier fiasco. But that does not change the fact the IPCC should have used a different, and properly referenced, form of words.

    FWIW, I agree with the above. And I agree whether or not the 40% statement can ultimately be traced to a peer-reviewed paper (I won’t be beavering away very eagerly to try to settle that). And I understand Dr Lewis as saying much the same thing.

    But that does not change the fact that the Sunday Times article should have given a different, and accurate, account. Or, by journalistic criteria of newsworthiness, perhaps rather no account at all? “UN Climate Panel Mildly Embarrassed By Citation Error, Poor Wording On Page 596” …yawn.

  49. 149
    Braynestawm says:

    Should LeakeGate be HellenGate? Independent newspaper names Nick Hellen, news editor of the Sunday Times, as real author of infamous Amazon story

    “The Sunday Times ran a prominent apology last week over a story by Jonathan Leake about rewriting the UN climate panel. ….. But is Leake entirely to blame?
    News editor Nick Hellen is said to have been particularly enthusiastic about rewriting the UN story. Is that what the correction meant when it said: “A version of our article…underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of Simon Lewis’s views.” ?

  50. 150
    Brian Dodge says:

    “So if you are adding up a column of numbers in your head, that is not ‘thinking’?” SecularAnimist — 24 June 2010 @ 9:58 AM

    Nope. It’s just calculation, which can be done faster and more accurately by a computer (bearing in mind GIGO)
    Deciding which set of numbers represents the convenient fiction of my checking account balance, and which set represents the ugly reality of global warming requires thinking.