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Newsnight reactions

Mixed reactions to my performance last night, and I guess from a sceptic point of view I was probably slightly off-message. A few thoughts though. Firstly my main objective last night was not to cock up. Ahead of the GWPF report that would have been a disaster. So to that extent I was successful.

In terms of the content of the Newsnight report, the whole thing was covered in what I thought was a reasonably nuanced way that was difficult to take umbrage with. In terms of getting the message over - that you can't point to the Pakistan floods and say they were caused by climate change, I think commenters here agree that everyone on Newsnight seemed to concur that you can't say this, so to that extent it went well. If the BBC and other media outlets are now going to eschew climate porn because everyone is saying it can't be attributed then that's quite an important victory. I would have liked to take a pot-shot at the "consistent with global warming" argument but they moved on so quickly I didn't get a chance.

The second question, on what to do about it was slightly odd - a bit of a no-brainer really. If you are prone to flooding, then, yes, take mitigation steps - provided they are economically sensible of course.

And finally the inevitable sceptic/denier question. I'd growled at the BBC researcher earlier in the day when he was doing the rehearsal. Then, he put the question in terms of something like "it must be hard being a denier". I think he was slightly taken aback when I (very gently) put him right on his terminology. So when it came to the question at the end, they had everything fixed and just asked whether I acknowledged that mankind was affecting the climate. This again is a pretty easy question, because of course mankind has always affected the climate. If I had my time over again, I would have made this point more clearly. I don't think you can get away from the radiative physics arguments for AGW. It seems likely to me that it has some effect, but as I tried to make clear in my 10 secs, we just don't know how big.

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Reader Comments (32)

You were in the lion's den and came out unscathed and with your integrity intact too!
Looking forward to your GWPF report.

Aug 24, 2010 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

You did well.

The other guy mumbled on too much.

Kirsty Wark looked and sounded like she was out of her depth.

Aug 24, 2010 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Good and accurate piece of post event self-critique. Now is the time for a safe pair of hands not a waving of arms as portrayed by the two instances of pre-event critique that we have been entertained with of late.

Somehow I doubt that we will witness a case of three strikes and out, well, you never know.....

Well done sir, please keep up the good work

Aug 24, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

I was impressed by what you did, and even by your agreeing to go on the air under the febrile circumstances of the tragedies in Pakistan (and elsewhere) in the den of the notoriously left-wing-establishment-AGW-promoting BBC.

I think you would have left many viewers wanted to hear more from you. Unlike that beneficiary of some climate fund in Seattle whose rambling, verging on incoherent, sentences would surely have made as many wanting to hear less from him. Earlier in the show, a London professor made some excellent points about variability, and mentioned several precedent flood events in Pakistan over the recent past. Are his invitation and yours, straws in the wind?

Is the supertanker at Broadcasting House slowly turning? Or are some renegade researchers and producers in for a hard time this week when the climate-screechers have had their 'say'?

Aug 24, 2010 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Just saw “review of review” of The Hockey Stick Illusion by a guy called Richard Barry over on Prospect Magazine’s website. Heading: “Mean-spirited scepticism”. Following Matt Ridley’s excellent review of the book in Prospect it is a bit of a disappointment and think the guy comes across as a bit naïve (if not something worse) re research funding.

Aug 24, 2010 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterH

OT, but Monbiot is back using the 'DENIER' slander again, in his latest piece on Ausie politics.

I thought the Guardian (and Monbiot) were supposed to be stopping this kind of thing?

Aug 24, 2010 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Stuck-record. You may have noticed that Monbiot posted on CiF, NOT on his own blog-spot.
Methinks this may allow him to circumvent some 'gagging order' placed on him after the disastrous failed attack on Dr Richard North. He also refers you to his personal website for references, interesting !

Aug 24, 2010 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Stuck-record, interesting enough I recently sat next to a leading American scientist (fellow of APS etc, ect) on a plane (I got upgraded, okay :o) who believed in the effect (of warming) but also believed that it had been blown up out of proportion for political expediency and referred me to the cold fusion business. So Monbiot’s argument but the other way around. I asked him if he had signed the petition to have the 2007 APS statement withdrawn and he said no, amongst others because it had been put forward/signed originally by some guy working for Exxon. Not sure why they decided to have him sign it……..the words “cost-benefit analysis” springs to mind….:o)

Aug 24, 2010 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterH

As James Delingpole discovered when he was up against Porritt and three others who adored wind farms, (including the chairman who had his own), however well you marshall your arguments the Biased Broadcasting Corporation will always have the whip hand. When JD was up against Monbiot, the programme opened with a short film about the green guru's idyllic lifestyle
.As you found, if all else fails the 'Have you stopped beating your wife yet ?' question will always ensure that you never get a chance to make your point fully.

Aug 24, 2010 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Any person, will see that article as a GUARDIAN article...,, etc,etc in the link being a giveaway.....

Coincidentally, just responded to some one about 'use of the word denier, at colide a scape...
Was talking about Newsnight and Bob Ward, at work in the BBC comments there:
Michael Tobis: (#100)

Johann Hari, probably started it of (in the UK) (writer for the Independent, MSM newspaper – 2005)

“they are nudging close to having the moral credibility of Holocaust deniers.”

holocaust denial ball picked up, by many, noteably including, George Monbiot (in 2006, writes for the Guardian, MSM newspaper UK):

“Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and as unacceptable as Holocaust denial.”

Of course the various actvists, lobby groups, ect ( Transition Towns, Greenpeace, wwf, etc) picked up this theme and ran with it…

Fallen out of fashion of late, Bob Ward ( Grantham Institute) now using words like sceptics again, trying to link them with creatiuonists, tobbaco funding, deniars wasn’t working as well anymore, ie the AGW crowd admitting some unceratinities / questiuons, so denial, only works if no questions.

Bob Ward at work in the Guardian: (slagging of – ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ – AJ Montford – aka – Bishop Hill

Bishop Hill response:

Andrew Montford appeared on BBC Newsnight last night.
ie Is Climate Change responsible for flooding in Pakistan….

Bob Ward, has a go in the comments section:
Bob Ward wrote:
I see that Andrew Montford is bragging on his Bishop Hill blog that he is an interviewee on this evening’s programme about the link between the floods in Pakistan. His only contribution to the climate change debate so far has been a controversial book about palaeoclimatology, so it is not clear what his expertise on climate change and extreme weather is meant to be. Or perhaps he will be representing Lord Lawson’s group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which now regularly provides the ‘balancing’ voice of dissent every time a scientist is interviewed about climate change on ‘Newsnight’. If so, this is presumably evidence of the commitment of ‘Newsnight’ to impartiality rather than accuracy? And can I look forward to further instances of this balance by for instance, by including comments from a creationist every time there is a story about evolution?”

Someone replies, making Bob look a bit silly (with his obvious spin)

“I’ve just been to his blog, by the way, and “bragging” is hardly a fair description of what he wrote:

“I’ve been invited to appear on Newsnight tonight to talk about the Pakistani floods and climate change. Should be interesting.”

Andrew Montford is a man who lets the facts speak for themselves, Mr Ward, as I’m sure you may now be aware.”

So a few minutes with google, gave all those verifiable links/quotes..

ie the denail thing seemed to start around 2005, in the UK.
was rampant in the Gardian, post climategate they have realised, and said in print, stop using the denial word..

Roger Harrabin (BBC) does not use the denier word, and does not like it (he is good friends with George Monbiot) and Roger has said to me in person (after Guardian Climategate debate), that he has suggested to George in the past, before best not to use it…………

Yet the Guardian are still at it, they have said they would not use denier any more(because of the recognised connotations) ?, maybe they think ok ,if just George uses it…

Aug 24, 2010 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I still think that it appeared weak. My wife (who was watching, and who can't or wont take an interest in climate change, man-made or otherwise) said that she thought that for a sceptic, you wren't particularly confident, and gave the impression that you didn't really know whether cilmate change was man-made or not, and that you should perhaps have argued your corner better.

Let's face it, the opportunities for sceptical air time on television and radio are notably scarce, and we just don't seem to be very organised, or outspoken when given the chance (I remember a recent interview with Monbiot and James Delingpole - the other side always appears to win because they get their oar in forcefully, and for some reason we seem frightened to put the boot in). If you want the public on-side, then you have to get the message over, by fair means or foul. We don't have the time for softly, softly catchy monkey.

We always have a lot to say on these blogs, and some pretty impressive science is discussed, too, by some eminent people, but on the radio and telly we seem to go to pieces and appear weak.

This isn't a criticism of The Bishop, per se, but I somtimes wish we could get hold of the media by the scruff of the neck and shake it - vigorously.

Aug 24, 2010 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterNatsman

The point is that this debate happened at all. Both yourself ( if slightly nervous looking) and the other guy concurred on the scientific facts - which is something Susan Watts did not seem to appreciate up until a few weeks ago. I must admit ( even as a qualified geographer) I found the Asian gentleman hard to follow because his English was so stilted. The main point is that Newsnight who held that disgraceful Ethical Man series, has ignored the Climate Camp at RBS and has given orthodox geomorphology and climatology a chance. There has quite obviously been an editorial change of policy.

Aug 24, 2010 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrefor Jones

FAO: Andrew Montford,

Hello there,

Saw you on Newsnight. Perhaps you would like to link with our website – we have put a link to yours. As you can see, although we are not singing off exactly the same hymn sheet in all areas I think there is enough commonality to establish a link.

Don’t be put off by the name, “British Gazette” I acquired this domain to prevent it from being used by certain other parties who shall remain nameless.

Kind Regards,

Peter H. Rogers.

Aug 24, 2010 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter H. Rogers

I thought you seemed a bit nervous but it was a welcome antidote to the almost cocky self assurance we see eminating from the warmist camp. Indeed, admitting, at the end, that the science was so uncertain that we just do not know, must have come as a breath of fresh air to many watching - and a reminder that science is about getting closer to the truth without being 100% certain about anything. So, on its own, not a watershed in the ongoing debate but a performance which added a little weight in favour of science and reason.

Thank you for your ongoing sterling work on climate change. It means a lot when one`s sclentific knowledge and understanding is low. BH along with Climate Audit and WUWT are now daily fare. Keep it up.

Dave G

Aug 24, 2010 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Grogan

As I was listening to the preceding experts I wondered what they could ask you that hadn’t already been answered. They sort of left you with nothing easy to say when they admitted it was largely a natural event

What you might have said was that every catastrophe is now attributed to climate change, even cold events and geological ones. Not to mention increased prostitution and kidney stones. Since not every one is related to man made climate change, the public are given an exaggerated impression of how much effect CO2 is having. Climate science largely keeps quiet when one of its supporters makes a link between the latest event and CO2 despite knowing the tenuousness of the connection. Without predictions of how many floods, droughts, etc they expect, how do we know if they are increasing or not. What studies there have been, have largely shown no discernable change.

Finally, many of the benchmarks for climate statistics (eg floods) were set before the global temperature anomaly hit zero. How much of the change is due to the migration from below normal to just normal and how much is due to the change from normal to above normal? Climate science is very vague about that simply because they don’t know.

As for mitigation. Do we concentrate our ‘spare’ cash on insulating British homes (and thus cutting CO2) or on helping people when and where disasters tend to happen? There certainly isn’t enough money to do it all. It's one of the many areas we have not been allowed to debate.

Aug 24, 2010 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

It was good to hear a reference to the deforestation that has exacerbated the problem - also that such rains in a monsoon climate were not so very rare. The conclusion that man had made matters worse, but not via CO2, was probably not what the warmists wanted to hear!

Aug 24, 2010 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

At the risk of writing more analysis than such a (sadly) short Newsnight piece can bear...

Andrew, I thought you were suitably cautious. You didn't say anything that you couldn't back up, and you didn't come across as a ranting anti-science mutt.

The only thing you appear to have been criticised for is not advancing someone else's agenda. Good. To the question "Are the Pakistan floods caused by climate change?" The only appropriate answer is "I don't know."

If you could have done anything to advance the cause of reason, in the face of CAGW idiocy, perhaps you could have said "WE don't know," because behind any and all arm-flailing and finger-pointing, the simple fact is that nobody knows.

Apart from that, I suspect there were a couple of points where instead of replying using the term "climate change" framed in the question, you might have replied highlighting the question's implicit reference to "global warming". The net effect of that might have better communicated what I suspect you think.

But studio lights are bright and the rolling inertia to provide a rapid-fire response to a question is irresistible, and hindsight is always 20/20.

Aug 24, 2010 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimonH

You did alright. Very steady. Nervous, but who wouldn't be in a hostile and uncertain situation with a few hundred thousand people watching? It will be easier next time.

Aug 24, 2010 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan Knaik

I don't think you can get away from the radiative physics arguments for AGW. It seems likely to me that it has some effect, but [...] we just don't know how big.

Spot on. This kind of statement establishes the limits of a reliable scientific case and decouples the science from the politics. I've noticed that even in CiF, one or two of the more well informed AGW-ers are prepared when pushed to agree with this position - depending on precautionary principle based arguments to try to move on from there.

Anyway, well done and sincerely thanks for all your efforts.

Aug 24, 2010 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Natsman. See my post at 11.08. James Delingpole was unaware that the 'debate' was to be preceded by a short film eulogising George's healthy lifestyle. George has many friends within the Beeb who will always ensure that he's never at a disadvantage. After all, their pensions depend on it.(See DT blog just posted by Neil Midgely).
As Andrew and James have both found to their cost you can prepare your armoury as thoroughly as you like, but it's no good blasting off at a target that hasn't appeared, and you can always be cut short by a chairman who doesn't want to see you get into your stride.

Aug 24, 2010 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

As I understand it, BBC pensions are underwritten by the corporation, irrespective of their investment performance, thus allowing the managers to play fast and loose with the money. If the safety net is removed, which may well happen if the austerity measures begin to bite, it will be very interesting to see what happens...

Aug 24, 2010 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Congratulations Mr Bish.
Becoming an author does not automatically mean that you want to be on TV and I guess the invite came as a surprise?
It takes courage to walk into that Newsnight studio and answer questions.
However for you to get that invite means your book has truly put you high up amongst the perceived "major players" in the debate.
You came through unscathed and as you rightly said there were no gaffs.

Critique of the other guy (cant be bothered going back to find out who he was):
Utterly, totally, unbeleivably boring.
Talked over the interviewers weak attempts to shut him up (resulting in less time for you).
However he made the case that current warming was "a cause" of the floods and by implication then man is also a cause.
This guy has been on TV many many times.

Critique of your eminence :
Acheived your objective of not screwing up.
You were honest at all times.
You were polite at all times.
You were tentative (who would not be)
You went out of your way NOT to say anything contraversial.
You missed a couple of opportunities to make a good point.

Critique of the interviewer:
Allowed the other guy to hog the time.
Did not respond when the other guy ignored her attempts to interrupt him.
Allowed confusion about the meaning of the terms "Global Warming" and "Climate Change"
Interestingly selected your eminence for the only mention of man's impact on warming.

The two opportunities:

It is my understanding that the temperature of the ocean takes at least 1000 years and maybe as much as 10000 years to react to changes in surface temperature of the atmosphere. Whatever is warming the atmosphere at the moment is not the cause of rising ocean temperature and therefore is not affecting Pakistan floods.
I think the guy should have been put down on this issue.

"I don't think you can get away from the radiative physics arguments for AGW. It seems likely to me that it has some effect, but as I tried to make clear in my 10 secs, we just don't know how big."

The average viewer of Newsnight has no idea what radiative physics is.
The "we" in "we just dont know" was probably interpreted as "we the sceptics dont know"
Viewers of Newsnight with no previous knowledge of the climate debate are told:
There is some physics that you dont understand but which a climate sceptic accepts has some credence, this shows that man is warming the planet and the only question is by how much.

When there are empirical observations that show a scientific theory to be wrong or to be incomplete then it should have no credence.

The papers by Idso and others on the ice core records are not disputed by Realclimate. These papers show that changes in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere lag changes in atmospheric temperature.
Realclimate posted two "explanations" of why the fact that CO2 lagged interglacial warming by 800 years did not mean CO2 did not cause warming (I admire their chutzpah but nothing else). One was by Eric Stieg but I forget the other.
However I have seen no discussion of what happens when the interglacial starts to cool.

This situation could not be more relevant to today. We have passed the "high point" of the Holocene Interglacial and we have rising CO2.
Idso et al show that in all the interglacials in the current ice age levels of CO2 continued to rise after the high point but that the earth cooled. The maximum period that CO2 rose during an interglacial cooling was 2500 years.
Radiative physics does not explain or predict this therefore it is wrong or incomplete.
Radiative physics did not explain the cooling from 1940 to 1970 or the lack of warming in the last ten years.
Radiative physics is a red herring, there IS NO PROOF that CO2 will always warm the atmosphere and so man has no effect that we know of through CO2 .

Aug 24, 2010 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

I thought the understated approach was excellent. I find that agreeing that there might be some degree of human input into warming prevents instant dismissal by the believers. I have rehearsed prefacing any arguments with "...there has been no significant warming for 11 years" which usually makes them sit up! (Is that figure correct?)
Well done. I think you can look forward(?) to more invitations!

Aug 24, 2010 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered Commentermunroad

Given the subject and the questions asked, I think you did all that could be expected. Balanced and uncontroversial, there was nothing for your "critics" to home in on.

I don't know why, but for some reason I expected you to be older;) ???

Aug 24, 2010 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris S

I've been on a number of BBC news programmes in the past and know how difficult it can be. You did very well. I suggest you don't over-analyse your performance; as you get more experienced, and I think that's what's going to happen, you will become less nervous.

Really good job, Andrew.

Aug 24, 2010 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Risdon

The certainty and the unquestioning self assurance which was the hallmark of those who told us that man's activities will start "the Planet Burning" (part of the subtitle of George Monbiot's book) seems to have gone. That is progress indeed and the fact that the Bishop was even invited onto Newsnight underlines the change.

Aug 24, 2010 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterOxonpool

I see no reason to change my assessment made (see below) just as the item ended: the programme was balanced and sensible - not least your bit, Bish. What struck me most was that the BBC really does seem to be changing its tune. I call that a result: a change of heart may follow in due course.

An objective viewer would, in my view, have formed the impression that these experts really don't know whether or not, apart from direct actions such as deforestation, mankind is responsible for the floods. It's inconceivable that that would have been the outcome two years ago.

Aug 24, 2010 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

Congratulations on your performance. You will only get better as you gain experience. And you will be gaining TV interview experience rapidly. One suggestion: Only do live interviews - it is easy to manipulate recorded sessions. Have you considered media training? That is how the PR pros operate and your should be able to perform even more effectively without compromising your obviously transparent integrity. Your message is extremely valuable and must be transmitted as effectively as possible.

Aug 24, 2010 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

Hi Bish

I thought you did well. It was clear that you were nervous and inexperienced at the live interview game but you were clearly a sensible person and not the loon that some people claim sceptics are. I am sure you will become more assured with a few more such experiences and before you know it you will be so smooth that no-one will believe you ! ;-)

What did strike me as noteworthy was the academic from King's college London (I think) who poo pooed the whole link between AGW and the floods stating that it was within the scope of natural variability. This is someone who appeared to know what he was talking about and someone who could become a player.

Aug 24, 2010 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred

Well done, but I think a little training would do you wonders - the questions asked were not too difficult and you should have had prepared soundbites. For example you were asked "Is climate change a grave risk facing us all?". The answer to that could have been - yes it is a risk, but the computer based climate models do not match up to reality, there are serious problems with the current temperature record and some analyses of the proxy temperature records show that the medieval period was warmer than current temperatures.

I can recommend someone...

Aug 25, 2010 at 2:02 AM | Unregistered Commenteral

But what of Bob Wards blog on the BBC boards before it had even been broadcast Bishop?
Foot in the mouth job? Several followed up seeming to think so ;-)

Aug 25, 2010 at 7:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete Hayes

agw and freak weather events:

If 300Kelvin make N freak weather events, what is the extra freak weather events N+n when we have 300.6Kelvin in the atmosphere??

I would like to see a documented justification for the usual leftwing opinionating on that now.

Also the n extra freak weather events have to be set out against the benefits of extra CO2, warmth and H2O in the atmosphere which are a boon to plant life and animal life alike.
Focusing on one topic , freak weather events, without setting them off against their counterparts is BBC style cherry picking. We saw 8y of that with the unjust war, and 40y of that with their "unbiased reporting" on Israel/Palestine, and our main costcentres the "free" NHS and "free" skools.

Aug 25, 2010 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterphinniethewoo

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