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« A baseless attack on Leake | Main | Mann cleared »

More Amazongate

Richard North has managed to get hold of two different versions of the IPAM report, which, you may remember, is the one the WWF says contains the scientific evidence for the claim that 40% of the Amazon is sensitive to slight changes in rainfall.

Neither of the two documents even mention the subject of the Amazon's sensitivity to rainfall.

This appears to be problematic for many people party to the row - Nepstad the scientist-cum-activist responsible for the claims, the WWF and of course dear old George Monbiot.

Read the whole thing.

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Reader Comments (48)

Oh dear, Oh dear, what will Georges next move be?

Jul 2, 2010 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete Hayes

Well it wont be an apology and retraction that's for sure.

Jul 2, 2010 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered Commentertom

A quick scientific inquiry will resolve this issue once and for all (RS perhaps?), but is there any whitewash left in the world?

Jul 2, 2010 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

It looks the only thing on fire are Monbiot's pants.

Nepstad has made himself look like a first class eco-numptie.

The WWF should be be called the WWE from now on - World Wildlife Entertainment.

Jul 2, 2010 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Monbiot's article in the Guardian now carries this caveat in bold fonts: This article is the subject of a legal complaint made by Dr Richard North.

Twelve hours ago, the statement was at the end of the article. It is at the top now.

Jul 2, 2010 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

And I think WWF should be called as it always was: The World Wrestling Federation.There is a touch of Hulk Hogan about them.

Jul 2, 2010 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

The WWF is flying under false colours. Most people seem to think it's all to do with saving pandas and baby seals rather than promoting a political agenda.

Jul 2, 2010 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

I've said it before and I'll say it again, because it has a certain resonance to it (at least I think it does). Monbiot is a serial premature ejaculator, in this case instead of maintaining a dignified silence when North wrote to him complaining, he had to respond with, "Make my day," and then something like "Woohoo," to signify he wasn't afraid. Now, the first thing to do when someone hints at court action is go quiet, and don't, under any circumstances whatsoever, write anything down that you don't want read back to you in front of a jury in a court of law. What did the Guardians resident Telly Tubby do, he wrote "Woohoo" I'm not sure what it means in Telly Tubbyese, it may mean, "I'm terribly sorry", but in English it just looks like a fellow trying to be tough.

Jul 2, 2010 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Monbiot's latest.
"Forget about the 40% (now that no one can justify this figure) - look over here instead..... it's even worse than we thought!"

Said in the style of Bilko.

Jul 2, 2010 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

There is a typo:
"Nepstad the scientist-cum-activist"
should be:
"Nepstad the activist-con-scientist"

Jul 2, 2010 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

I guess the question now is whether Monbiot, Nepstad & the WWF have the humility to publicly admit they were completely wrong about this. It certainly looks as though Richard North has 'em by the short & curlies.

On a related note; isn't there anything that can be done in law about activist charities such as the wretched WWF? At the very least there must be a huge gulf between the public perception of what these people do & the politicised collection of creepy little oddballs that seem to infest charities such as this. The same thing seems to be happening with Oxfam, with Save the children & others. They've become strident, alarmist, politicised organisations - in some cases arguably destructive toward the very causes they're supposed to support.

Jul 2, 2010 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

Monbiot today. It looks like he is framing his defence.

Apparently now the IPCC was in error and the "40%" claim doesn't hold, but it doesn't matter anyway becasue the IPCC report is a big one and other research has been done, not cited by the IPCC, that says the Amazon is in even BIGGER trouble than we thought.

There is no doubt that the IPCC made a mistake. Sourcing its information on the Amazon to a report by the green group WWF rather than the substantial peer-reviewed literature on the subject, was a bizarre and silly thing to do. It is also an issue of such mind-numbing triviality, in view of the fact that the IPCC's 2007 reports extend to several thousand pages and contain tens of thousands of references, that I feel I should apologise for taking up more of your time in pursuing it. But the climate change deniers have made such a big deal of it that it cannot be ignored.

It is also true that nowhere in the peer-reviewed literature is there a specific statement that "up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation". This figure was taken from the WWF report and it shouldn't have been.

Jul 2, 2010 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Let's not forget that the 40% is secondary to the North complaint, which is based around GM calling North basically an incompetent researcher who is always wrong. As North is a researcher by profession, he cannot let this go. He just can't. The 40% IPCC claim and others are relevant only because they reflect the accuracy or otherwise of his research. (In my opinion North is very hard to argue with once he has delved into an issue.)

Jul 2, 2010 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Where else could all the lefties go and earn a living without compromising their tender-hearted consciences. Think about it as a political strategy: They dominate the education system, they penetrate the media establishment, they infiltrate foundations and they set up "do gooding" non-profits. The level of funds available for pro-CAGW PR via foundations and not-for-profits is huge.

Jul 2, 2010 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

I have for years made small monthly contributions to various children's charities, a few months ago I read that Oxfam were campaigning to reduce consumerism in the UK, so I stopped my contributions and moved them to another, less political charity. Around the same time my wife took a call from Save the Children and asked them directly what their position on AGW was, the young boy on the phone told her they had been instructed not to discuss AGW with donors. You have to assume that STC have had unfavourable responses to AGW propoganda.

Jul 2, 2010 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Rob wrote:

"I guess the question now is whether Monbiot, Nepstad & the WWF have the humility to publicly admit they were completely wrong about this. It certainly looks as though Richard North has 'em by the short & curlies."

If cornered yes.

Admit that they are wrong, but over a merely technical issue. This is definitely a process failure and they will review their processes.......

Insist that this so-called Amazongate matter changes nothing and carry on blathering about how the Amazon is on a knife-edge because of global warming.

I mean, you can't see them admitting the jig's up and folding can you?

Jul 2, 2010 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

The third document is on its way, I am informed. My guess, and it is only an educated guess, is that even that will fail to show the sentence in question.

Let us wait and watch

Jul 2, 2010 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub Niggurath

Well done Richard North for nailing this.

Will the Sunday Times now retract its retraction?

One thing Jonathan Leake is due an apology from all concerned.

Jul 2, 2010 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Monbiot has missed the point again. In his latest article, he says that Cox et al 2004 is proof that the IPCC didn't grossly exaggerate the state of the science in 2007. But Cox et al's dieback results came from projections of intense periodic droughts, not the IPPC's 'slight reduction in precipitation', so they have little or no relevance to the IPCC's 40% claim.

He then goes on to say that Cox et al 'predicted' a huge loss of broadleaf cover, much of which will become plantless desert. The paper certainly discusses this possibility but it's dishonest to say that it predicted it. The paper decribed a first attempt at modelling the response of vegetation to CO2 and climate. Not unnaturally, being a first attempt, there were lots and lots of caveats. Monbiot ignored all of these and (dread phrase!) cherrypicked a statement to support an insupportable conclusion that suited his alarmist mindset.

This isn't to say that the Amazon isn't in trouble or that anthropogenic climate changes (some due indirectly to atmospheric CO2 levels) might be very bad for the forests. I'm just saying that Monbiot is a bad joke and should be ignored. His copious scientific references are just a fig-leaf for his prejudices.* As the folks at Climate Resistance like to say, his politics is prior. I'd respect him more if he dropped this pretence of scientific objectivity and went back to being a simple disaffected hippie who just knew what he knew because he felt it in his bong-water.

Incidentally, he seems to have picked up this fig-leaf from scientific and quasi-scientific Zapastistastic chums at This Land Is Ours (eg Simon Lewis), Reclaim The Streets (eg Simon Lewis), Global People's Action (eg Simon Lewis), CorporateWatch (eg Simon Lewis), Turbulence (eg Simon Lewis and/aka Kay Summer) and similar guilt-driven white middle-class radical (ha!) autonomist (ha!) groups. Just because real scientists sometimes wear science as a fig-leaf doesn't make it right, George.

*Does anyone remember Monbiot's scientifically referenced but risible claim earlier this year that climate change has doomed the English common frog?

Jul 2, 2010 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterVinny Burgoo

Monbiot cherry picks science to construct ad-hom attacks on those individuals who he deems are opposed to his ideology.

To have Monbiot chair the Guardian's public debate on Climategate is now untenable. He should be made to step down.

Jul 2, 2010 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Does anyone know if Richard North has actually filed suit against "Dirty Harry" Moonbat? That would "make my day" if he has.

Vinny Burgoo

I love reading these blogs mainly because it increases my understanding of the issues, as well as my already extensive, but still inadequate vocabulary. It appears the British educational system is still far superior in that regard. I am at a loss, however, with Zapastistastic. Are you referring to the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, or EZLN?

Jul 2, 2010 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Yes, Don Pablo, that's them. (An extraneous S. How annoying! That's the trouble with making words up. Spear-chuckers can't help you.) The Zapatistas were hugely popular in the British educational system in the 1990s. This popularity still lingers in 'radical' outposts like Strathclyde University's CHE programme (which gave the world Spinwatch and Plane Stupid) and the School of Geography at the University of Leeds (which gave the world Paul Chatterton).

Jul 2, 2010 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterVinny

"What did the Guardians resident Telly Tubby do, he wrote "Woohoo" I'm not sure what it means in Telly Tubbyese, it may mean, "I'm terribly sorry", but in English it just looks like a fellow trying to be tough."

Well, in Scottish, it looks like a fellow being a total tube.

Jul 2, 2010 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

In the southern part of the US, the use of "woohoo" is indicative of a redneck. However, to equate Moonbat with the rednecks is to do a disservice to the rednecks.

Jul 2, 2010 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Don Pablo,

"Does anyone know if Richard North has actually filed suit against "Dirty Harry" Moonbat? That would "make my day" if he has."

There's a reference on the EUreferendum blog

It appears Richard North's lawyers are talking to The Guardian's lawyers.

My understanding of the way these things work, is that unless it's black and white, very serious and can't be retracted, the courts prefer parties to attempt a reasonable settlement outside court.

Jul 2, 2010 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Both the Guardian and Monbiot have retreated to a safe position. It is the IPCC, WWF and Nepstad who are exposed.

Jul 2, 2010 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac


It appears Richard North's lawyers are talking to The Guardian's lawyers.

My understanding of the way these things work, is that unless it's black and white, very serious and can't be retracted, the courts prefer parties to attempt a reasonable settlement outside court.

Thank you for the pointer. While talking lawyers isn't quite filling suit, it is a step in the right direction. And in the US it is clearly best if you tried to reconcile first, because if the other side remains adamant, it goes harder against them. I assume the same is true in the UK, as you suggest.

Next question -- is Moonbat still sounding like he comes from the Okefenokee Swamp?

Jul 2, 2010 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

The comments have (suspiciously) closed already on the latest Monbiot blather.

Jul 2, 2010 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Mac - surely the allegation is that Monbiot has libelled North? What is the safe position to which he and the Guardian can retreat?

Jul 2, 2010 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil D


Yes, well, rude, scurrilous and defamatory remarks are maybe technically libelous but are generally seen as part of the fun of the internet.

With a serious prospect of a costly and embarrassing legal action, maybe it's not surprising that the difference between a technically libelous remark and an actually libelous remark is looked at more closely.

If you apologise over a libel and you continue to publish via comments to blogs, statements which further the libel, you aren't exactly helping your case.

Maybe that's why The Guardian is a little sensitive as to comments on this matter appearing on their website?

Jul 2, 2010 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

For giggles -- it is a slow day watching the grass grow -- I went out to Moonbat's blog on the Guardian and saw he had not one but THREE articles referenced. Two of them are available on line.

The first Cox et al article

Summary The first GCM climate change projections to include dynamic vegetation and an interactive carbon cycle produced a very significant amplification of global warming over the 21st century. Under the IS92a ldquobusiness as usualrdquo emissions scenario CO2 concentrations reached about 980thinspppmv by 2100, which is about 280thinspppmv higher than when these feedbacks were ignored. The major contribution to the increased CO2 arose from reductions in soil carbon because global warming is assumed to accelerate respiration. However, there was also a lesser contribution from an alarming loss of the Amazonian rainforest. This paper describes the phenomenon of Amazonian forest dieback under elevated CO2 in the Hadley Centre climate-carbon cycle model.

The second, which was published right after the first, is Betts et al article

Summary A suite of simulations with the HadCM3LC coupled climate-carbon cycle model is used to examine the various forcings and feedbacks involved in the simulated precipitation decrease and forest dieback. Rising atmospheric CO2 is found to contribute 20% to the precipitation reduction through the physiological forcing of stomatal closure, with 80% of the reduction being seen when stomatal closure was excluded and only radiative forcing by CO2 was included. The forest dieback exerts two positive feedbacks on the precipitation reduction; a biogeophysical feedback through reduced forest cover suppressing local evaporative water recycling, and a biogeochemical feedback through the release of CO2 contributing to an accelerated global warming. The precipitation reduction is enhanced by 20% by the biogeophysical feedback, and 5% by the carbon cycle feedback from the forest dieback. This analysis helps to explain why the Amazonian precipitation reduction simulated by HadCM3LC is more extreme than that simulated in other GCMs; in the fully-coupled, climate-carbon cycle simulation, approximately half of the precipitation reduction in Amazonia is attributable to a combination of physiological forcing and biogeophysical and global carbon cycle feedbacks, which are generally not included in other GCM simulations of future climate change. The analysis also demonstrates the potential contribution of regional-scale climate and ecosystem change to uncertainties in global CO2 and climate change projections. Moreover, the importance of feedbacks suggests that a human-induced increase in forest vulnerability to climate change may have implications for regional and global scale climate sensitivity.

As for the third, well good luck. For those of you both interested and willing to pay something like $35 each, you can get the PDF of each. Not that I would spend that much.

It is interesting that these are basically nothing more than computer simulations. No data, just assumptions and plenty of computer time.

Since they are computer programs, they were probably written in F77 -- Oh, my God! They must be clever chaps to actually make such a complex language work!

Maybe I will go back to watching the grass grow. Or perhaps paint a wall and watch the paint dry. I am sure that would be more informative. One of the prime rules of computing, which I have some 40 years experience in (as do many of the readers of this blog) is Garbage in, garbage out

Jul 2, 2010 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Gareth tracks down the real 'source' of the sentence in Rowell and Moore document.

It was an educational web page on the IPAM website! The stuff is mind-boggling.

From the Internet wayback machine:

Fire in the Amazon

So it is this thing, this page, that is the 'source' for the claim that 40% of the Amazon will fold over, which found its way right upto the IPCC 2007 report ?? It sounds too crazy.

This is important because it has been a week since North, Gareth, me and certainly many others have been looking high and low for this 'reference'. Because this is what Nepstad claimed the original source was, in his press release - and he is right.

One would have expected a referenced document at the heart of the controversy, not some cartoon pamphlet.

Kudos to Gareth


Jul 2, 2010 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Cartoons and child-like language formed the basis of IPCC science.


AR4 is more like Climate Change for Idiots.

By the way do trees in the Amazon actually wear sunglasses? Just asking!

Jul 2, 2010 at 9:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

The thing is, we kept looking for a 'paper' that substantiated the IPCC claim. Nussbaum (WWF-UK head) never mentions that "Fire in the Amazon" is a website, although Nepstad does.

Quoting Nussbaum's letter to the Times:
"The primary source for this statement is Fire in the Amazon, a 1999 overview by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute that states: “Probably 30-40% of the forests of the Brazilian Amazon are sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall.”

However he goes on to say:
This is fully supported by peer-reviewed literature. Contrary to the headline’s suggestion, it is not a “bogus” claim.

So the question is: What peer-reviewed literature was available in 1999 that supported this WWF conclusion?

The even bigger question is: Why should anyone dissect a freaking WWF website claim and prove that their statement is unsubstantiated? They should prove to the rest of the world that their statement is substantiated!

Jul 2, 2010 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Of topic, but worth a mention because it is relevant to the Penn State thread of a few days ago . There is a reaction -- finally -- to Mann's "acquittal" in the American press. The article is fairly even handed, but the comments are pretty hostile. I don't think Mann can get elected dog catcher.


Jul 2, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Shub, who is Gareth? He would seem to be worth monitoring.

Jul 2, 2010 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterVinny Burgoo

Gareth posts at North's forum.

He went looking for "Fire in the Amazon" in the wayback machine when I was googling the crap out of the same search term and nothing would show up. Look at the entire 'Moonbat/corporate' thread - it has the entire record of how the story unfolded.

AFAIK, the "Fire in the Amazon" web page is not cited anywhere expect in the Rowell and Moore report, and even there it is reproduced verbatim from the web page and the page is not even referenced - Nepstad 1994 is cited instead.

The reason is simple - it is just not citation worthy.

Jul 2, 2010 at 11:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

This spat reminds me of something that AA Gill once wrote (I think about the Cavaliers and Roundheads), which I think is widely applicable:

"Romantic but wrong, or revolting but right". North seems to me to fall into the latter category. Certainly I found a recent entry on his blog distasteful, despite broadly agreeing with his ridiculing of the 'artist' in question.

Fiona Banner they call this tart, who thinks it is soooooo clever to truss up a Sea Harrier, the type that helped save the Falklands, and much else besides. Now if they would truss her up and hang the stupid, vain bitch upside down from a lamppost, then that might not be art. But it would be a small compensation for the insult, and the offence she has given.

Let's be honest, it's all to easy to fall into the ad hominem style that we so justly criticise in warmists. All we're left with is 'well, that's ok as we're right and they're wrong', which is, er, exactly what they believe...

Jul 3, 2010 at 12:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterDougieJ

The story goes live at EUReferendum

Amazongate: The smoking gun

Jul 3, 2010 at 1:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub
July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommentersHx

It would appear the Monbiot article now has an apology. A really tight lipped one but.....

Jul 3, 2010 at 2:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete Hayes

As of today, Monbiot says that he was/is right about Amazongate:

Jul 3, 2010 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterSuramantine

Peter Hayes said:
July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommentersHx

It would appear the Monbiot article now has an apology. A really tight lipped one but.....
Now I just looked for this comment - but it seems that comments were closed after 29 June - does this mean that the apology was possibly deemed to be unhelpful and deleted?

Jul 3, 2010 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

The apology is now at the head of the article. It only covers one minor error. The article is still totally wrong in claiming
1) That the original claim is based on peer reviewed papers
2) That North and Booker are wrong
3) That the PCC rarely criticises newspapers (this claim is corrected by the PCC in a comment, but not acknowledged by Monbiot)
This wholly false article has been left up, with only a minor retraction, and with additional insulting comments by Monbiot addressed to North when North demanded an apology.
Monbiot has written a second article, comments to which were closed a few hours after publication, which ignores the errors in the first, and seeks to justify the IPCC with completely new claims.
This is not the action of a serious journalist or of a serious newspaper. I urge everyone who hasn’t (like me) been banned for life from commenting at Guardian Environment, to complain.

Jul 3, 2010 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

"A new NASA-funded study has concluded that Amazon rain forests were remarkably unaffected in the face of once-in-a-century drought in 2005, neither dying nor thriving, contrary to a previously published report and claims by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"We found no big differences in the greenness level of these forests between drought and non-drought years, which suggests that these forests may be more tolerant of droughts than we previously thought," said Arindam Samanta, the study's lead author from Boston University.
"The way that the WWF report calculated this 40% was totally wrong, while [the new] calculations are by far more reliable and correct," said Dr. Jose Marengo, a Brazilian National Institute for Space Research climate scientist and member of the IPCC. read more... "

Geophysical Research Letters article citation: Samanta, A., S. Ganguly, H. Hashimoto, S. Devadiga, E. Vermote, Y. Knyazikhin, R. R. Nemani, and R. B. Myneni (2010), Amazon forests did not green‐up during the 2005 drought, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L05401, doi:10.1029/2009GL042154. - published 5 March 2010.

New Study Debunks Myths About Vulnerability of Amazon Rain Forests to Drought
ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2010)

Jul 3, 2010 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimbo


You know the RealClimate guys were really pissed off with that paper...

Jul 3, 2010 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Richard North traced the quote back to a Brazilian NGO, IPAM whose founding president was none other than the remarkable Dan Nepstad. Nepstad WHRC cirtes Nepstad WWF cites Nepstad IPAM.

Jul 4, 2010 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllen McMahon

Jimbo, the Samanta paperwas based on faulty satellite data and the findings could not be replicated. Samanta acknowledged the error and withdrew his claim.

Jul 4, 2010 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllen McMahon

I followed the entire story on RealClimate and beyond. Samanta et al and Saleska et al ( the two threads on RealClimate) both are valid. The Samanta et al paper still remains on the GRL website.

The only confusion sowed into the whole mix, it now appears to me, was Lewis' very prominent attack of the Samanta et al press release, because they said something like "the 40% Amazon statement is debunked".

Whereas we now know that the 40% Amazon statement, does not require any debunking as it came with built-in 'debunking' - from a 'respected' IPAM web page.

Jul 4, 2010 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

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