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« Does Ross McKitrick sleep? | Main | More evidence of changing GW narrative »
Sunday
Aug082010

BBC apologises to CRU

UEA have issued a press release noting that they have received an apology from the BBC. The kerfuffle was over a Today programme piece back in December 2009, in which John Humphrys said:

The facts are that the emails were stolen and they revealed that some researchers in the university's Climatic Research Unit had been distorting the debate about global warming to make the threat seem even more serious than they believed it to be.

The BBC explain that they were open minded on the question of whether data was manipulated and that this doubt over the guilt or innocence of the CRU scientists at the time would have been clear from the rest of the programme. So I think the BBC is probably right to apologise in this instance, since when serious claims are made it is right that they don't appear to have prejudged any investigation.

Of course, now that Muir Russell has pronounced Mike's Nature Trick as "misleading", we know that Humphrys was right all along, but that's another question.

The Mail picks up the story here.

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Reader Comments (43)

the bbc apology is as unwarranted as the Times' apology over Amazongate. both apologies could, in fact, be interpreted as attempts to keep the CAGW scam going.

although i am extremely interested in the hockey stick and other scientific debates surrounding climate science, for lay people these 10 emails speak far more directly, because they speak of the past ten years when the temperatures were not following the CAGW script. all members of The Team must have know this, yet neither they nore the media informed the public.

no emails were more telling than the 10 listed on this page for the exact phrase "paul hudson", which were sent immediately after Hudson's BBC article was published twice, with its explosive opening paragraphs:

9 Oct 2009 12:28: BBC: Weather Blog: Whatever happened to global warming?
The title of this may be a surprise. So might the fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not last year, or 2007, but 1998. For the last decade we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. What's more, climate models did not forecast it even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise. So what on earth is going on?
Climate change sceptics, who passionately and consistently argue that man's influence on our climate is overstated, say they saw it coming. They argue there are natural climate cycles over which we have no control which dictate how warm the planet is. But what is the evidence for this?...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulhudson/2009/10/whatever-happened-to-global-wa.shtml

also published in "Science & Environment"

9 Oct 2009 16:22: BBC: Science & Environment: What happened to global warming?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8299079.stm

My Top Ten of Climategate:
East Anglia Emails re BBC's Paul Hudson
http://www.eastangliaemails.com/search.php

two interesting examples

East Anglia Confirmed Emails from the Climate Research Unit - 1255352257.txt
Hi all
Well I have my own article on where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here in
Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on record. We
had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal is 69F, and it
smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about 18F and also a
record low, well below the previous record low. This is January weather (see the Rockies
baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last night in below freezing
weather).
Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth's global
energy. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 1, 19-27,
doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [1][PDF] (A PDF of the published version can be obtained
from the author.)
The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008
shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing
system is inadequate.
That said there is a LOT of nonsense about the PDO. People like CPC are tracking PDO on a
monthly basis but it is highly correlated with ENSO. Most of what they are seeing is the
change in ENSO not real PDO. It surely isn't decadal. The PDO is already reversing with
the switch to El Nino. The PDO index became positive in September for first time since
Sept 2007. see
[2]http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/GODAS/ocean_briefing_gif/global_ocean_monitoring_c
urrent.ppt
Kevin
http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=1048&filename=1255352257.txt

East Anglia Confirmed Emails from the Climate Research Unit - 1255553034.txt
Gavin,
I just think that you need to be up front with uncertainties
and the possibility of compensating errors.
Tom
http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=1057&filename=1255553034.txt

give thanx paul hudson, u r up there with Steve Mac in my books.

Aug 8, 2010 at 8:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

"Mr Mitchell added: ‘I apologise wholeheartedly on behalf of the Today programme. We were dealing with a matter that hadn’t at that stage been fully investigated and which was the subject of widespread comment and conjecture.
‘Having spoken to John Humphrys and his editor about it, I can assure you that they too regret that his script was not more precise.’
He adds the remark was ‘an isolated but significant lapse’."

Yeah, right!

And if the BBC in general and Today programme in particular are going to issue apologoies for every instance where "matters hadn't been fully investigated" and the script might have been "more precise" then they will be doing it without a break until the only white thing left in the Arctic Circle are the bodies of drowned polar bears.

In a few millenia.

When will they apologise for all the bare faced cAGW lies and distortions they broadcast on a daily basis. And even take care to build into programmes designed for little children?

I'm sorry you think they were "probably right to apologise in this instance", Andrew. It is an extremely moot point whether the comment apologised for could even be described as exaggerated. The real apology should be for the fact that ANY questioning of the cAGW scaremongering monolith by the BBC should indeed be "an isolated [] lapse"

Aug 8, 2010 at 8:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Pat: The question could be: whatever happened to Paul Hudson? I know he is only a weather presenter and climate correspondent for BBC Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, but on his blog he produces far more and far better articles than Richard Black, Roger Harrabin and David Shukman put together. I am surprised the beeb still employs somebody with sciemtific training who knows what he is talking about and isn't an alarmist (I hope no-one from auntie reads this blog; I would hate to think I was responsible).

Aug 8, 2010 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Phillip

I think when people are accused of serious misconduct, it is right that the BBC is very circumspect about their guilt or innocence until an investigation has taken place.

Aug 8, 2010 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterBishop Hill

Keep those apologies coming all its doing is keeping CRU and climate in the news and reminding the public what sort of desperate people the government are handing out millions upon millions of pounds too in their attempt to push a crock of sheet called AGW.

Aug 8, 2010 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

2nd Feb 2010.George Monbiot's blog 'Climate Change email scandal shames the University and requires resignations'.
7th July 2010. GM (through gritted teeth) 'The climategate inquiry at last vindicates Phil Jones and so must I.'
14th July 2010.Those of us at George's 'climategate' debate were squirming with embarrassment at Prof Trevor Davies's answers to Steve McIntyre's questions.
To-day. How George must be seething, as he reads that the man we saw being so totally wrong-footed is now the recipient of an apology from the BBC.
No wonder George has not blogged lately.

Aug 8, 2010 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Bishop.
You are correct that when people are accused of "serious" misconduct an investigation should take place. I submit that the investigation should also be "serious"?

Aug 8, 2010 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterKilted Mushroom

Bishop

I don't think your response should have been addressed to me! Martin perhaps.

Aug 8, 2010 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

"The first thing to say is that the sentence : "The facts are that the emails were stolen and they revealed that some researchers in the university's Climatic Research Unit had been distorting the debate about global warming to make the threat seem even more serious than they believed it to be" is incorrect."

Is he saying the emails were not stolen? Because the rest seems correct.

Aug 8, 2010 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete

Andrew, on this I think you are wrong. It is a journalist's job to pose awkward questions about matters of public concern; asking them in an interview pre-judges nothing because the respondent has an opportunity to deny what is being alleged and put the allegations into context. In this case, it was being widely reported that the Climategate emails suggested "manipulation"; against that background, it would have been both disingenuous and absurd for John Humphrys not to probe in that area. What is especially worrying about this apology is that subsequent inquiries (as you have so deftly pointed out) have not exactly exonerated CRU from charges of manipulation; Stephen Mitchell must know there is residual doubt and therefore he is reinforcing the BBC's stance on "due impartiality" against skeptics.

Aug 8, 2010 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Horbury

Robin

I agree with the last part of your comment - that CRU have "not exactly been exonerated". In fact I would say that they have been found guilty, as least as far as hiding the decline is concerned. I also agree that Humphrys had a duty to probe the issue. But his sentence as given implied guilt and I think this was wrong - he should have inserted the word "appeared to" or something like it, to make it clear that nobody had been found guilty. Apart from that, I thought the piece was fine.

Aug 8, 2010 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterBishop Hill

What I want to know?.....when is David Cameron going to apologies for the industrial revolution?

Aug 8, 2010 at 12:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

The BBC might also apologise for Humphrys' presumption that the emails were stolen. Poor old plod has not yet managed to cast any light on the subject of how the emails found their way to RC, then Mosher and Jeff Id, even though they were clearly far more interested in the security breach than in the breaches of the FOIA. Suggests to me that it was an inside job - if there had been any evidence of theft, the UEA would have been shouting it from the rooftops and demanding jail sentences.

Aug 8, 2010 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Bishop

I think when people are accused of serious misconduct, it is right that the BBC is very circumspect about their guilt or innocence until an investigation has taken place.

Yes, indeed. There have been three and they all found them innocent as babes in the woods cutting down trees to count their rings. So, obviously, the Beeb did the right thing. Absolutely! No question.

Your British tax payer money is being used to do the right thing, it is.

HOGWASH!

Once again I ask when are you Brits going to pull the teat on Beeb?

Aug 8, 2010 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

The BBC statement suggests that John Humphrys assented to the retraction. In a strictly legal sense, I am sure he did - the key word "appeared" was omitted from his interview. Who knows what legal pressure the BBC faced in this case because of that omission.

But I would not be surprised if Humphrys is fed up with this apology being splashed across the Mail - where he often writes a column. He might well have preferred a different sort of statement, that did not cast him so much in the wrong - and CRU as being pure as the driven snow.

If Humphrys is fed up - he'll be back. He will be "sceptical" about the gangs of climate scientists whose apparent behaviour he had questioned.

So far, Andrew Neil is the only senior BBC figure not in the tank for the Warmists. (Paul Hudson is a good guy but a minnow, unfortunately, even though he probably has a better view than the entire team of BBC arts-graduate "environmental analysts", whatever that means.)

What is urgently needed is for some other senior BBC figure to start really challenging the Warmist case. Humphrys would be ideal because he would then chase the case every week on the BBC's flagship news programme. So far, the BBC has been by far the most important UK proponent of the Warmists' myths.

I do hope Your Grace ensures that Mr Humphrys receives an embargoed copy of your forthcoming review of the whitewashes.

Aug 8, 2010 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohninLondon

bish -
why don't u send paul hudson a copy of your book?
my point is the 'A Team - who went into full panic mode as soon as hudson blew their "story" apart - indicated in the emails that they knew the decade had not performed according to their models yet omitted to inform the public, and therefore "revealed that some researchers in the university's Climatic Research Unit had been distorting the debate about global warming to make the threat seem even more serious than they believed it to be."
hence, there was nothing to apologise for.

Aug 8, 2010 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Pat

It's an idea. I'll see what I can do.

Aug 8, 2010 at 9:07 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

goof bidh -
also of conern -

Michael Mann wrote:
extremely disappointing to see something like this appear on BBC. its
particularly odd, since climate is usually Richard Black's beat at BBC
(and he does a great job). from what I can tell, this guy was formerly
a weather person at the Met Office.
We may do something about this on RealClimate, but meanwhile it might
be appropriate for the Met Office to have a say about this, I might
ask Richard Black what's up here?
mike -

which suggests the "A Team" used the media, incl bbc, to keep the public misinformed. why else where they panicking over hudson stating a simple fact.

and how neatly bbc has kept the hudson emails out of public view. surely at least Newsnight could have done a piece with hudson.

Aug 8, 2010 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

The other BBC journalist who MAY be starting to change views a little is Susan Watts, science editor for Newsnight.

Aug 8, 2010 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohninLondon

my point allways was. Mike Mann's first idea, was to do something at Realclimate, followed by giving Richard Black a call. Would Steve Mcintyre have that access?!

Aug 8, 2010 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Certainly not at that time Barry, but I wonder now if the field is a little more level?

Aug 8, 2010 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

"the bbc apology is as unwarranted as the Times' apology over Amazongate. both apologies could, in fact, be interpreted as attempts to keep the CAGW scam going."

As usual, Pat's right on top of things.

Aug 9, 2010 at 1:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

There is certainly some doubt over whether Humphrys could or should have been more, shall we say, nuanced, given that the e-mails did in fact reveal that the CRU scientists did attempt to portray GW as more severe than they knew it to be. Whether Humphrys should have been more nuanced or not, an apology for the failure to include two words in the story is totally unwarranted. It will be spun as another retraction and vindication.... which it is. Unwarrantedly so. The exoneration marches on.

Aug 9, 2010 at 4:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert E. Phelan

Come on people, what do these apologies actually achieve. Huge swathes of the population realise the reviews were whitewashes and therefore the apologies are no more than a quick answer to some spoilt whinging kids. The extra publicity generated should be taken advantage of by pointing out the inadequacies of all the reviews again and again. The general public know vast amounts of money is being thrown at climate research and other green policies but it will only be when the financial cuts in services and individual pockets start really hitting home will the public start disapproving of the governments financial priorities. In the meantime climate publicity simmers on the backburner ready to be turned up when the public realise it is not only free milk they are missing out on because their tax is being distributed to the wrong areas.

Aug 9, 2010 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

@Martyn,

I think (based on a few samples of talking to my friends who are not necessarily informed, but do listen to the BBC and read the papers) ... these apologies seem to have accomplished getting out the message that the climate scientists were found innocent of the charges and the were right. Sigh.

Aug 9, 2010 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

Rob

Strange similar chats of mine seem to have reinforced the whitewash impression and the apologies are no more than patronising the kids to stop them whinging. I feel another survey coming on.

Aug 9, 2010 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

"the emails .. revealed that some researchers in the university's Climatic Research Unit had been distorting the debate"

I can't see anything to argue about there. If the emails were genuine (no-one has suggested otherwise) then, as Humphrys said, those are facts. If explicit instructions to delete information don't distort the debate, I don't know what does!

Aug 9, 2010 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

BTW, some good comments below the Mail article. Not many seem to be taken in!

Aug 9, 2010 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"this guy [Black] was formerly a weather person at the Met Office" (M.Mann)

Funny how that becomes a term of abuse when the weather man in question is Anthony Watts.

Aug 9, 2010 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Honourable Men


Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar ... The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it ...
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,
(For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all; all honourable men)
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral ...
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man….
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason…. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Aug 9, 2010 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

This is UEA being clever in cleaning up the mess. Having got the whitewash they required through their friends at the various inquiries, they then go back to the accusers asking them to retract the accusations made. I have to admire them in getting the beeb to apologise as it will be a good publicity coup. They can now say that they have been fully vindicated by the reveiws and that all accusations have been withdrawn. Tax payers money rolls back in from various governments and normal service is resumed.

Aug 9, 2010 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered Commentermactheknife

Mac

"O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men."

I wish I saw more signs of mutiny and rage.

Aug 9, 2010 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Dreadnought- The "mutiny and rage" is there, but will remain subtle and polite until we can vote.

Aug 9, 2010 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterGHowe

the weatherman was Paul Hudson! (BBC) Writing at the bbc website 'Whatever happened to Global Warming' this response may even have prompted climategate - oct 2009

Aug 9, 2010 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Paul Hudson (bbc)has a meteological degree and worked at the Met Office. Richard Black (bbc Earthwatch) eco actvist bbc environmental correspondent, degree unknown. Mann was going to ask Black what was going on! Just b4 Copenhagen. A bbc article doubting man made global warming!! paul hudson received climategate emails , where he was memtioned, a MONTH before the climategate leak. Very strong indication of a inside CRU whistleblower imho

Aug 9, 2010 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Well it's hardly as if the BBC as a whole doesn't have a dog in the fight is it now?

As to the effect, I don't think it much matters one way or the other, the public is gradually getting Global Warming overload. It's difficult to keep people scared with a vague threat for long.

Aug 9, 2010 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Richard Black is a former eco activist - David Shukman got his job by default, he didnt want it but it was that or nothing - Roger Harrabin was a transport and education reporter.

The best science reporter the BBc ever had was DR David Whitehouse who was I understand a proper scientist, but I hear the BBC drove him mad. His outstanding science observations can be found on the website of the Global Warming Policy Foundation at which he is an advisor www.thegwpf.org

Seems the BBC would have done well to keep him.

Aug 9, 2010 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered Commentermovealong

apologies for repeating myself but, for a layperson who was a "believer" who knew they didn't "know" but trusted the media when they said thousands of scientists had verified the data, the following statements in the emails were a revelation. they confirmed the A Team didn't know either:

Kevin Trenberth: "The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008
shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing
system is inadequate."

Tom Wigley: "I just think that you need to be up front with uncertainties
and the possibility of compensating errors."

up until Hudson and the release of the climategate emails etc, i had kept an open mind on what the sceptics were saying, but Hudson's article and the above revelations, plus the fact the "A Team" were not independent, but some kind of cabal, forced me to face my own oh-so-human gullibility. post climategate, i have to ask how i believed anyone, much less the "A Team", could predict with such certainty and precision the climate of the future.

btw i forgot in my first post to explain u have to put paul hudson, without quotation marks, in the east anglia email page to get the ten results i referred to.

Aug 9, 2010 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

I'm not saying that I was a 'believer', just that I accepted as true the 'consensus' view. It seemed more compelling than 'one scientist here says that X is bad for you'. My road to damascus moment came one day when reading El Reg. Probably an article by Andrew O that referenced the Bish, which in turn led me to Casper.
Not a particularly good idea on their part, as I now read the Bish several times a day rather than El Reg....

Aug 10, 2010 at 12:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterDennis

Bish
I will have to wash my mouth out with soap after this but:

"I think when people are accused of serious misconduct, it is right that the BBC is very circumspect about their guilt or innocence until an investigation has taken place"

As I understand it, pretty much everybody posting on this blog agrees that serious misconduct occurred. John Humphrys alone of BBC commentaters stood up and said it like it was.
You seem to agree that the BBC should apologise.
I hope that one day the BBC will never apologise for telling it like it is.

Aug 10, 2010 at 2:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Dung

They didn't know that misconduct had occurred at the time JH said it. We only know that now that Russell has said that hiding the decline was misleading.

Aug 10, 2010 at 8:34 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

This does not suggest there is much hope of a meaningful review of scientific reporting by the BBC

Aug 10, 2010 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterPKthinks

I'm puzzled by our host's response. Firstly, Humphrys' utterance was in December. The email corpus had been 'in the wild' for a fortnight. We have to assume that Today Programme researchers had been burrowing in it (if they hadn't, then it is the licence fee payers who deserve the apology). Humphrys' comment was surely warranted by that research -- without the need to await formal enquiries. One does not need to be a Climate Audit regular to understand from those emails that something pretty shabby had been going on. It is not a question of prejudging an investigation, it is a question of accurately conveying what those researchers had found.

Secondly, suppose that Mandy is found dead and Humphrys reports this as "Gordon has murdered Mandy". Subsequent to this report, Gordon is arrested for murder and convicted. Should the BBC now apologise to Gordon because, at the time Humphrys made his report, Gordon had not been either arrested or convicted? Surely not -- rather the BBC should be congratulated for its accurate reporting and for identifying the culprit before the police.

[I never thought I'd read myself defending Humphrys or his employer -- I purged the BBC, both radio and TV, from my household years ago -- the conceptual equivalent of ripping the wires from one of those street corner loudspeakers in North Korea.]

Aug 10, 2010 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJane Coles

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