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More Amazonian knockabout

The Amazongate story looks as though it may run for a considerable time. We have had, in rapid succession, a crowing article from George Monbiot, a fighting response from Delingpole and now articles from Booker in the Telegraph and North on EU Referendum.

It seems clear that the Sunday Times withdrew its article without a adjudication being made - it's not on the PCC's list of cases adjudicated and Monbiot says that the ST withdrew the article in order to avoid an adverse ruling. Strangely though, the case doesn't appear in the list of cases resolved - i.e. negotiated settlements - either.

The more interesting questions are the ones raised by Booker and North though. Just where did the IPCC's claim that 40% of the Amazon was at risk from climate change come from? The original source was a WWF report, which both Monbiot and Booker/North agree shouldn't have been used. Monbiot says however that the claim was indeed based on the peer-reviewed literature:

The projection was drawn from a series of scientific papers by specialists in this field, published in peer-reviewed journals, some of which are referenced in the first section of the IPCC's 2007 report (pdf).

Now this should be enough to set the alarm bells ringing - Monbiot appears to be saying, in essence, that the correct citations are in the WG1 report somewhere. But where? He links to one chapter of WG1, when the dispute is about a statement made in the WG2 report. And which paper or papers is he actually citing?

This skirting round the question of the actual papers that support the allegation that 40% of the Amazon is at risk from climate change suggests strongly that there are none. What is more one is tempted to conclude that George Monbiot knows it.


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Reader Comments (15)

I read Willis Eschenbach's run-down of the "Amazongate" situation, over at WUWT. Willis does a good job of lining up ducks and it's worth reading his post to get a grasp on what's what and who's where:

I agree that this isn't over yet. I can see the ST retracting its retraction before this is over.. or at the very least revisiting the "Amazongate" furore with new numbers and new pointy fingers. The original retraction was too fast and ill-advised and unfortunately implied a lack of confidence in their own scepticism on ST's part.

Jun 27, 2010 at 6:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimonH

Isn't the Sunday Times owned by Murdoch? I only ask because Sky is also Murdoch and they are currently running a 'Save the Amazon adopt a jaguar' scam appeal jointly with WWF. This appears to be a 'buy a bit of the Amazon unthreatend by man and charge carbon credits for 'protecting' it deal, but maybe that's just my cynicism kicking in.

Jun 27, 2010 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin B

There is obviously something very important about the Amazon narrative, since the faithful are expending an awful lot of energy defending it. Prior to this Times recanting of their apostasy, we had Real Climate, Tobis, Woods Hole R C, Letters from 'concerned scientists', Simon Lewis et al, all getting very exercised about Amazon claims. Seem to remember they were attacking a paper from someone in Boston, then everyone suddenly kissed and 'made up'?
I also seem to remember that it was tied in with WWF standing to make millions from a carbon offset scheme on the Amazon fringes?

For the ultimate in reading/comprehension and media studies, we present the Salon interpretation -

Politics? War Room? I think someone takes this seriously?

Jun 27, 2010 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

It is certainly not over.

The mainstream media basically were given a go-ahead to do a run on Leake's (and North) Amazongate story and somehow draw the wrong conclusion that the IPCC has been vindicated.

The Times withdrew its story (comprehensively), it appears, on journalist technical grounds. Leake did not contact Rowell, an enviro journalist, and of the WWF, to get his side of the story - which was an 'omission'.

Strangely enough, this misstep by Leake turned out immaterial. Nussbaum of the WWF-UK wrote to the Times saying Rowell should have referenced this 40% claim, to another WWF pamplet 'Fire in the Amazon'.

'Fire in the Amazon' does not seem to be available online. I haven't searched extensively though.

You can read Simon Lewis' defence of the IPCC statement at RealClimate - he offers two possibilities for what it means ( ! ).

Nepstad and Lewis between each other, agree that the sentence is 'poorly worded', 'bizarre', 'improperly referenced' and "not as well-worded as it ought to be'.

Jun 27, 2010 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub Niggurath

My notes from the last time I looked at this say that 'Fire in the Amazon' (or a version of it) was published in Portuguese as 'Floresta em Chamas: Origens, Impactos e Prevenção do Fogo na Amazônia'. It's available online but I've lost the URL. Also, I can't remember why I thought it was the document in question and I'm taking a holiday from misrepresented science so aren't in a mood to delve deeper at the moment.

The key to all this to surely that the studies that were presented as evidence for the 40% claim were talking about fire rather than dieback. Forest loss through fire is (or can be) temporary; dieback through climate change is permanent (or lasts until the climate changes again). So the IPCC's defenders are trying to prove an apple with an orange. (My memory also tells me that the paper put forward by Nepstad said 20%, not 40%: proving a big apple with a small orange.)

Jun 27, 2010 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterVinny Burgoo

Great stuff. The document is here

Jun 27, 2010 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub Niggurath

My take on this is that they did indeed misrepresent Dr. Lewis, and the ST had to withdraw its article because they were wrong, but not about the IPCC.

Jun 27, 2010 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I love this story. I.e the triumphilism of idiots invested in so little.

We all know that the amzonian jungle doesn't care, but should we?

Monbiot shows no interest in innate science and more in public relations. That is to say the area of knowledge he can control via his Guardian hegemony.

Mmmm. I'm thinking.

What is his choice of response?

Jun 28, 2010 at 1:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

But does any pamphlet published by the WWF count as being a "peer-reviewed article published in a reputable scientific journal"? I mean, really! "Oh, it wasn't that pamphlet; it was the other one. Yes that one there, in Portuguese." A pamphlet is ordinarily a method of distributing a press statement or perhaps a propaganda piece; hardly how "reputable science" is done. Or is it, these days?

Jun 28, 2010 at 3:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterIke

A comment on WUWT gave this link, Simon Lewis is working on a WWF project in Tanzania.

Valuing the Arc is an international, collaborative, research programme, involving experts from: five UK-based universities (University of Cambridge; University of East Anglia; University ofYork; University of Leeds; and, Cranfield University); two Tanzanian universities (University of Dar es Salaam and Sokoine University of Agriculture); the WWF Tanzania Programme Office; and, the Natural Capital Project in the USA, through WWF-US.

The Programme Coordinator is a Dr Neil Burgess - University of Cambridge and WWF-US

Professor Philip Stott wrote this a few years ago: Tropical Rain Forests – Exposing the Myths

“At the end of the Last Ice Age, only some 12,000 to 18,000 years ago, the tropics which are today occupied by these so-called ‘ancient cathedrals’ were seasonal savanna grasslands, both cooler and much drier than now.”

It is based on an earlier paper called Jungles of the Mind,

Jun 28, 2010 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

the war room piece on salon appears to think that the ST retraction on "amazongate" is admiting that the "climate gate" stories are also incorrect!!. Are these peaople so lost in their own inverted logic that they can't see the rain forest for the trees?

Jun 28, 2010 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

Here are Daniel Nepstad's arguments in support of the IPCC statements:

They are described on Tim Lambert's blog by Shub Niggurath as 'convoluted'. As he puts it in comment #47:

To excuse Rowell and Moore's enthusiasm (for lack of words) displayed in their 2000 report, Nepstad offers his 2004 paper and his 2007 papers for support. I find the chronology headache-inducing.

Jun 28, 2010 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterDR

Hi Bishop,

I just posted this to WUWT comments page but it is worth posting it here too. Some startling development. Dr Richard North publicly (in CiF) threatens to sue Monbiot and the Guardian for libel unless retractions are made

Dear Mr Monbiot

Following the publication of your post here, I have written to your newspaper by e-mail, expressing my concerns about the piece, and inviting the newspaper to contact me to discuss it informally, to avoid the need to take expensive and (to you) potentially damaging action in order to protect my professional reputation.

Since your newspaper has not troubled itself to contact me, I am forced to take the step of contacting you and the newspaper more formally, which I am in the process of so doing.

In the meantime, however, I am writing here as the most direct means of contacting you, to ask you to remove from this post all references to myself, as being libellous and highly damaging – the precise details of which will be passed to your newspaper shortly.

You may, of course, leave this message visible or remove it, but you may wish to note that the addition of further comments arising as a result of references to me remaining in your post, and which are also of a libellous or denigratory nature, may form part of any subsequent action which I choose to take.

Commentators who choose to comment on this post may also wish to note that I would be happy to enjoin them in any legal action taken against Mr Monbiot or The Guardian newspaper if they too are of a libellous or denigratory nature. You have been warned.

Yours sincerely,

Richard North (Dr)

Jun 28, 2010 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I agree with Simon H. -- Willis Esenbach's article is wroth reading; see the link provided above.

Jun 28, 2010 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrCrinum

@sunderland steve
"the war room piece on salon appears to think that the ST retraction on "amazongate" is admiting that the "climate gate" stories are also incorrect!!. Are these peaople so lost in their own inverted logic that they can't see the rain forest for the trees?"

I had the same reaction. It utterly boggled my mind to see that, - and it prompted some very vicious comments about "evil deniers" in the comments there.

Jun 28, 2010 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterKatabasis

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