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« Sissons on BBC climate change coverage | Main | The Climategate Inquiries - in Italian »

Scientists exaggerate global warming

Oops. This got published prematurely and minus the links. Oh well, you've seen it now...

John Beddington

The impact of global warming has been exaggerated by some scientists and there is an urgent need for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change, according to the Government’s chief scientific adviser.

Professor Beddington said that climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.

Vicky Pope

Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office...was particularly critical of claims made by scientists and environmental groups two years ago, when observations showed that Arctic sea ice had declined to the lowest extent on record, 39 per cent below the average between 1979 and 2001. This led Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, to say that Arctic ice was “in a downward spiral and may have passed the point of no return”.

Myles Allen, head of the Climate Dynamics Group at the University of Oxford, said: “Some claims that were made about the ice anomaly were misleading."

Hans von Storch

Every prediction has to trump the last. Melting Antarctic ice is one of the current horror scenarios du jour. Who benefits from this? The assumption is made that fear compels people to act, but we forget that it also produces a rather short-lived reaction. Climate change, on the other hand, requires a long-term response. The impact on the public may be “better” in the short term, thereby also positively affecting reputations and research funding. But to ensure that the entire system continues to function in the long term, each new claim about the future of our climate and of the planet must be just a little more dramatic than the last. It’s difficult to attract the public’s attention to the climate-related extinction of animal species following reports on apocalyptic heat waves. The only kind of news that can trump these kinds of reports would be something on the order of a reversal of the Gulf Stream.

All of this leads to a spiral of exaggeration...

Bob Watson

Robert Watson said that all the errors exposed so far in the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) resulted in overstatements of the severity of the problem.

Bob Ward

Somewhere there is a similar quote from Bob Ward. If anyone can find it, do let me know.

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Reader Comments (38)

Prof. Beddington can expect a visit from the Huhnian thought police.

Jan 25, 2011 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterG.Watkins

Alibis in the making as we watch: this is starting to become good theatre!

Jan 25, 2011 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

It's encouraging to see this from these people.. until now this has been a poorly kept industrial secret, but the cynic in me concurs with Ian E, that this is alibi-generation.

All of these familiar names - Beddington, Pope, Watson (von Storch isn't associated with the same British climate hierarchy) - getting their revised positions out early, so very much in accordance with each other, suggests to me that these figures are moving into job-rescuing mode. They didn't ascend to their positions by being ignorant of the direction of flow of the tide of impetus.

It's important to recognise that this activity - distancing themselves from, and even condemning unqualified alarmism - denotes an important shift. It IS a snarl, regardless of the toothlessness of the Parliamentary report. It is impossible to glean anything but displeasure with and disappointment in the performance and current state of British climate sciences in this ST report.

Unhesitating, unquestioning support for the actions and activities of British climate scientists involved in advocacy research has suddenly faded from Parliament. Alarmism is dead, and realism and honest scientific endeavour must be reasserted. Beddington, Pope and Watson know which side they need to be on to retain their positions, and it is not on the side of the alarmists.

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Links would be good, Bish!

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Whenever a "scientist" (real or not) speaks from the heart for the good of the whole, wide, wonderful, wacky world, and for the welfare of generations yet to be born, the media and passer-by audience really do need to glance at (perhaps even inspect) the label on the soapbox upon which the speaker stands. Too many Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner podiums are built, designed, and paid for by some very nefarious people who never made (or used) a cake of soap of any kind.

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPascvaks

So Bob Watson, who I've seen many times on television overstating the case, is saying that the case has been overstated? Well, he's probably right!

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Night of the Generals...

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterNatsman

John Beddington - UK government Chief Scientist, no less - is certainly swimming in dangerous waters...
Still - if he gets the boot - and our 'Uber-green' PM is not known for tolerence of dissent - he can come and join us here on the 'Truth Express'...!
Just an aside - said PM is very keen on 'local democracy' - not sure he intended it to include throwing out a proposed wind farm near Huntingdon - but that's exactly what's happened. Eventually I suppose the penny will drop that the things are useless anyway... (Peak demand - 60000MW on 7th December 2010. Contribution from wind farms: 0.1%....)

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Agree entirely with Ian E - alibis being created, made ready and polished.

Many careers have been built on the basis of the overstatements of AGW, Climate Change, Climate Disruption and the authors and main proponents now see the writing on the wall.

It will still take time but slowly we will see the edifice collapse. As it does I hope that the alibis now being created are ignored and that those involved in creating and amplifying the scam are rewarded with the P45/pink slip.

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterDominic A

Is this the Bob Ward snippet you were after ?

Bob Ward claims the media in the UK are ignorant in their interviews. The scientist (sic) said it is astounding how many of the journalists don’t know “the difference between fact and fiction”. But he also conceded that there have been grave mistakes made by researchers. “The IPCC is too slow in correcting the faults,” said Ward, and called for scientists to handle their findings and knowledge responsibly.

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterjazznick

There are several choices in a regime change if you are associated with the old regime:

Throw in your lot with the rebels - but the regime may not change.

Keep your head down and hedge your bets, quietly changing sides and hope no one notices.

Be loud and muddy the waters, changing sides but arguing you were always really on the side of the rebels when you can see they are winning.

Defend the old regime to the last and be one of the final few fighting a lost battle in the ruins.

Jan 25, 2011 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Fascinating stuff. Could we have the links, please?

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheSkyIsFalling


No I don't think that's it.


Links now added

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:15 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The more science is politicised, by which I mean used to further political ambitions, the more such exaggeration is to be expected. And in turn, political opponents may pick up on the exaggerations when they judge the moment is right for them. Who would have guessed that dull old climatology would have become the vehicle of choice for so many! This is a science in such a primitive state that little can be expected from it, but perhaps its very infancy, with all the muddle and mess that evokes, is an ideal playground for politics? And mostly, as far as I can see, for the leftwing corner. That of course attracts the BBC, and helps explain its remarkable, and shameful, track record on climate matters, up to and including the latest Horizon documentary fronted by Sir Paul Nurse. He, by the way, is one of several leftwing activists with links to the University of East Anglia (UEA):

'One exception was a brilliant Norwich-born biology student called Paul Nurse. Three decades before he won his Nobel prize, Nurse had been radicalised by the events of 1968. Two years before moving to UEA, he gave seminars on science and society during an occupation at Birmingham University. "It was a really heady time and enormously important to my development," he says. Though less active at UEA, he still found time to pursue politics off campus.

Nurse recalls Gibson as something of a maverick and iconoclast. "Not everybody in the faculty approved of him expressing his views," he says. "But I had lots of discussions with him. It was remarkable to hear a figure of the 'establishment' speaking about the sorts of things you expect to hear from students." Nurse sympathised with but was not a member of the International Socialists, standing beside Gibson selling the party newspaper, Socialist Worker , in Norwich streets or outside factory gates. "We did well if we sold five copies," Nurse says. Although his political involvement fell away as his scientific career took off, Nurse, like King and Gibson, turned his radical outlook into a passion for exploring science's impact on society. He currently chairs the Royal Society committee that examines such matters. '

Source: (the rest of the article is worth reading, a bit of an eye-opener from the year 2003)

Presumably the dialectic of 'exaggeration' vs 'anti-exaggeration', or 'crisis! panic!' vs 'the government is looking after you', or 'power to the people!' vs 'science is for the elite, trust us', will continue for some time to come. Karl Popper would have had something to say on all this, since he argued that Hegelian dialectic in particular helped encourage 'irrationalism' (a precursor of postmodern science?) and that that in turn helped pave the way to fascist dictatorship in the 1920s and 1930s.

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

If one scrolls to the bottom of the “Bob Watson” link (The Times February 15, 2010) the following appears:

"Meanwhile, a member of the inquiry team investigating allegations of misconduct by climate scientists has admitted that he holds strong views on climate change and that this contradicts a founding principle of the inquiry. Geoffrey Boulton, who was appointed last week by the inquiry chairman, Sir Muir Russell, said he believed that human activities were causing global warming.

Sir Muir issued a statement last week claiming that the inquiry members, who are investigating leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia, did not have a “predetermined view on climate change and climate science”.

Professor Boulton told The Times: “I may be rapped over the knuckles by Sir Muir for saying this, but I think that statement needs to be clarified. I think the committee needs someone like me who is close to the field of climate change and it would be quite amazing if that person didn’t have a view on one side or the other.”

Lest we forget.

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

“brilliant Norwich-born”

I trust there’s a medical abbreviation for the smarter inhabitants: BFN (brilliant for Norfolk)...

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

“Lest we forget”

That may be where the new alibis come unstuck. The old habits were formed before the information age, not to mention those pesky bloggers!

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P


This may be it.

Bob Ward, New Scientist,

Jan 25, 2011 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

When Boris Johnson came out with his "Yeah, we're changing the climate, but it's that great shiny ball in the sky wot really dun it" revelation, I agreed with those who saw this as the politician's get out clause. I also agreed that the Met office were being set up as the fall guy. (Not that I disapprove of the Met office getting a good kicking, but I'd hate to see the pols slide out from under.)

The quote from Vicky Pope seems to be her attempt at spreading the blame.

"I always said they were exagerating the role of CO2 and the danger to our society."

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin B


That's behind a paywall - can you post the quote? Thanks

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:07 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

[Snip - rude. Even in strikethrough]

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin B

How about this for Bob Ward?

"I am disappointed that RC has not been more constructively critical of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Whilst the film may be “broadly accurate”, in the sense that it acknowledges climate change is being driven by greenhouse gas emissions, it clearly has exaggerated the immediacy and magnitude of impacts. Here are two examples. When the film discusses the melting of the ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica, it shows an aerial photograph of Manhattan showing it being gradually inundated. Whilst Gore does not mention timescales, the sequence clearly gives an impression of sudden flooding, rather than encroachment over centuries and millenia. Indeed Gore even says “They can measure this precisely, just as the scientists could predict precisely how much water would breach the levy in New Orleans”. You can try to argue that the statements are not explicitly inaccurate, but they are clearly, and probably deliberately, misleading. The second example is the sequence on infectious diseases. The accompanying slides refer to SARS, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis and avian influenza. If there is a link between climate change and the spread of these diseases, it is not very direct and there are other factors that are far more important. It gives a misleading impression of what is driving the spread of these diseases.
There are other examples. The images showing Katrina are clearly designed to make the audience believe there is a connection to climate change, even though this cannot be proved. It is a tactic that has been used to great effect in the United States, such that the majority of the public now appear to believe that the two are connected.
The scientific evidence on climate change is clear enough without the need for exaggeration. ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ misleads about several aspects of the science, and RC should be willing to acknowledge these rather than defending them as ‘technically not wrong’.
And before anybody tries to cast doubt on my motives, I am definitely not in the ‘denial camp’ (see ). Bob Ward"

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Bob Ward - Further emissions.

Subsequent authors should have checked the primary source and identified the error earlier. The IPCC in particular should have shown far more scepticism about the extraordinary suggestion that glaciers in the Himalayas, which currently cover more than 30,000 sq km, would probably disappear within three decades.
This is a regrettable mistake, revealing that there is room for improving the IPCC's review processes

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterjazznick


This Link is the Bob Ward NS piece but not ascribed.

"They must realise that they face doubts not just about published results but also about their conduct and honesty. It simply won't work for scientists to continue to appeal to the weight of the evidence while refusing to discuss the integrity of their profession. The harm has been increased by a perceived reluctance to admit even the possibility of mistakes or wrongdoing."

Jan 25, 2011 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Perhaps Bob Ward himself would like to clarify which claims he considers to be over exaggerated.

If there is to be a period of reining back, and realignment of beliefs, he would not wish to be left exposed, as advocating exaggerations, would he?

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

In fact, nothing like this quote appears in the cited document, and the magazine 'New Scientist' has reported that one of its articles from 1999 was the source

-Bob Ward

Bob does not know what he is talking about.

The magazine, Down to Earth, formed the source for the IPCC's glacier claim. This demonstrates how Ward poses as an expert lecturing the IPCC, even as he does not have his own story right.

Jan 25, 2011 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub


Jan 25, 2011 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris S

@ Kevin B,

"When Boris Johnson came out with his "Yeah, we're changing the climate, but it's that great shiny ball in the sky wot really dun it" revelation, I agreed with those who saw this as the politician's get out clause."

The obvious way to get out of it is to stop talking about tackling climate change and start talking about energy security, thus allowing much of what's been put in place to tackle climate change to be preserved, and serve a sensible end. As for tackling climate change, admit it's a lost cause and put the money (less money with more obvious results) into mitigation - flood defences and so on.

I'm surprised this hasn't been started on.

Jan 25, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

I wonder if the BBC are invited to this:

Mcintyre, Mckitrick, Fred Pearce, Judith Curry,etc

Jan 25, 2011 at 9:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Bahh.. I didn't recognise any of these quotes and assumed this was an out-pouring of new positions. These quotes range in date over a period of almost 6 years, the newest of which is almost a year ago.

Jan 25, 2011 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

It's only von Storch which is old I think.

As noted in the header post, this got published early by mistake. Otherwise I would have had more explanation.

Jan 25, 2011 at 10:41 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Well, Bish you can still add an update to the post stating the year of publications for those quotes. As it stands, the post gives the reader the impression that the quote is recent.

Jan 26, 2011 at 12:43 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

And if scientists can exaggerate global warming, imagine what activist journalists can do. Just to refresh the memories, here is the intro to the usual fare that one might find in, say, the Guardian, three years ago:

There are exactly 21 months to go until humanity's date of destiny with the climate. On December 11, 2009, in the Danish capital Copenhagen, world governments will be asked to agree on a long-term framework to stabilise global temperatures below the all-important level of two degrees. Whether they succeed will determine our future, our children's future, and the future of all succeeding human generations.

Unless a deal is done in Copenhagen that puts the world on a path towards peaking global emissions by 2015, and to cuts of at least 50% by mid-century, then the two-degrees target will almost certainly be missed. If that happens, human civilisation - and indeed most of life on earth - faces catastrophe. Above that level of warming lie tipping points in the earth system which will likely pour billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in a series of escalating positive feedbacks. This is a line we dare not cross.

I am optimistic that we will rise to this challenge. Billions of dollars of investment is now pouring into renewable energy. Wind and solar power are now doubling in capacity every two years. Many powerful and influential people - plus a rising grassroots movement - realise how urgent the current situation is and are determined to see a deal done in Copenhagen. Tony Blair is the latest senior figure to join this clamour. If he can use his international profile to help ensure that major emitting countries like China, India and the United States (Europe is already committed to stabilising temperatures at under two degrees) join this emerging '"Copenhagen consensus", then history will owe him an unusual debt of gratitude.

Despite his optimism, history charted a different trajectory than the one envisioned by Mark Lynas, a "freelance climate change correspondent" of the Guardian.

Curiously, the only point of argument in the comments section is whether Tony Blair can be or should be entrusted with such a 'historic' and momentous duty as a consensus leader. Mark Lynas's catastrophic predictions got simple free pass.

It's almost unimaginable for the Guardian to publish something like that today, more than a year after "humanity's date of destiny with the climate" in Copenhagen, and not be criticised for its catastrophism.

Jan 26, 2011 at 1:37 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

For reference:

- John Beddington: Sunday Times - January 27, 2010

- Vicky Pope: Sunday Times - October 30, 2009

- Hans von Storch: Spiegel - January 24, 2005

- Bob Ward: Sunday Times - February 15, 2010

Still wonderful quotes, but if they'd been made since the latest ST findings they would have meant so much more :o)

Jan 26, 2011 at 2:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Beddington was on BBC World News the other night and it is clear that he has begun to move towards the next "catastrophe"- we have 20 years before the global supply of food will run out, accelerated by CAGW naturally. He thinks there must be global action.

Jan 26, 2011 at 3:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Surely not the John 'Oxburgh, my dear chap, you played a blinder, drinks are on me' Beddington!?

Jan 26, 2011 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

@Simon Hopkinson

Thanks for the refs. Honestly, I should have done it myself instead of whinging about it to His Grace. The post was served by mistake before it was cooked properly. Busy kitchen yesterday.

Jan 26, 2011 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Scientists exaggerate everything. Remember Swine flu - or the sequel Swine flu 2 releaeed before Christmas, bird flu, the MRSA scare, Mad cow disease etc. They were all going kill everybody but most of us are still here.

In the case of the Swine flu pandemic, to save face the WHO had to redefine pandemic. Instead on meaning 'millions will be infected and hundreds of thousands wll die in many countries,' it now means 'a few people here and there will feel a bit poorly.'

Increasing CO2 in air would actually save lives in the impending food crisis by increasing crop yields.

Jan 26, 2011 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterEd Butt

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