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« Dates for Scottish readers | Main | Richard Milne on the divergence problem »

Misrepresenting hide the decline

After uncovering a consistent error in the way the BBC's Richard Black has represented sceptics allegations over the "hide the decline" incident, I thought it might be interesting to see how some other well-known environmentalist correspondents have dealt with the question.

Here's Nature's David Adam:

Most famously, he boasted that he had used a "trick" to "hide the decline" in a temperature chart. Very soon, members of the sceptic community had pounced on these messages as evidence that Jones and others had concealed flaws in their temperature data...

Wow. The same mistake as Richard Black! What about...Geoffrey Lean?

The most quoted of them – about using "a trick" to "hide the decline" – has been widely, but wrongly, spun as evidence of a cover-up of a supposed drop in global temperatures since 1998, an anomalously hot year, which sceptics often cite to support their belief that global warming has stopped

Louise Gray?

The "climategate" scandal erupted after thousands of emails were stolen from the CRU at the end of last year. One email referred to a "trick" to "hide the decline" in global temperatures, prompting claims that scientists were willing to manipulate the data to exaggerate the extent of global warming.

David Rose appears to be an exception.

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Reader Comments (84)

Is this a coordinated effort to hide the hide the decline then?

Nov 14, 2011 at 6:03 PM | Registered CommenterJosh

It seems to be cognitive bias of (I hope) an unconscious kind. As if whenever these folks hear contradictory evidence about AGW, they just stick their fingers in their ears. When they hear stuff they agree with, they eagerly lap it up. Then, later, they merely assume that the phrase "hide the decline" refers to temperatures (and don't bother to check).

Most skeptics know what is referred to here. (Maybe we unconsciously close our ears to other things...)

Nov 14, 2011 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJit

Disinformation pure and simple. Whether deliberate or not, you don't have to be an amygdala labelling poncy pseudo psyche like Milne in the last thread to spot that it shows a cognitive chink in their armour.
It seems as if they know that there is a real threat in that particular area. That once the water spills through that particular philosophical gap there may be no stopping a collapse - probably of their own careers rather than any scientific imperative. So in response they pick the weakest and lamest interpretation of HTD and spin a tale that is the only fact they need to deal with.

You would think there would be more honest dealing with this clear issue, get it out of the way and move on, but it hasn't happened there has been no closure - notice even now how forgiving the language is from all the apologists for the HTD episode.

I say watch that space ;)

Nov 14, 2011 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Sorry, but to continue from my last post, about acknowledging the full implication of HTD. That is what Richard Muller did, unambiguously. Dealt with hide the decline. That is why I personally respect him a hell of a lot - for what my layman opinion is worth.

Muller had the cojones to say he wouldn't respect anything from "those people" in the future because of that episode. And you really don't have to have a PhD to see why. That is the terrifying thing to some of the HTD "deniers" ;). A lot of people know that is what a real honest appraisal demands in response.

Nov 14, 2011 at 10:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Let's be honest: whatever Louise Gray writes is never more than a very slight re-wording of the last press release to land on her desk. There was a classic, just a couple of weeks ago, where she summarised the latest "polar bears are shrinking / growing / melting" scare story and quoted verbatim from the press release in her last paragraph. The press release and her own (so to speak) words were virtually identical.

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Nov 14, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

As if it weren't already difficult enough to swallow their "denies are anti-science" nonsense...

Nov 14, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

What led to the decline in journalistic standards? Did it coincide with the machinations in and around the IPCC? Or am I being naive in thinking these standards were once higher, that there was a time when most journalists acted like Donna and did some checking and thinking on their own, and were willing to go public on what they found? The relaying of press releases, the apologetics for IPCC nonsense, the grovelling to corrupt establishments. Where did all that come from?

Nov 14, 2011 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

It takes a particular interest in a story to consistently get the facts wrong - invariably in the direction of ones friends' bias.

...and wasn't David Rose Johann Hari's 'other name' used to attack fellow journalists on Wikipedia and support the plagiarist's position on various blogs? Perhaps Hari should apologize to the real David Rose, who apparently isn't a phony.

Nov 14, 2011 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Richard Black gets pwned in the comments on his latest blog...

Nov 14, 2011 at 11:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Davis Rose is good, very good, and the bile he receives from alarmist blogs testifies to that. He sparked the recent Muller/Curry eruption.

Nov 14, 2011 at 11:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Here is Nobel laureate Paul Krugman writing in the New York Times [27 March 2011].

Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety….
… if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you’re bound to find a few. In fact, it’s surprising how few such lines the critics managed to find in the “Climategate” trove: much of the smear has focused on just one e-mail, in which a researcher talks about using a “trick” to “hide the decline” in a particular series. In context, it’s clear that he’s talking about making an effective graphical presentation, not about suppressing evidence.

Nov 15, 2011 at 12:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

..hide the "hide the decline"?

Nov 15, 2011 at 1:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

It seems like the first three read off a script from some outside organisation.

Nov 15, 2011 at 4:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterRipper

Poor Helena Christensen. She looked to be so very cold when she was addressing that global warming conference...

Nov 15, 2011 at 5:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

John Shade 10.35 PM:
“Am I being naive in thinking these standards were once higher, that there was a time when most journalists acted like Donna and did some checking and thinking on their own, and were willing to go public on what they found?”

No you’re not. The Sunday Times lost money and readers reporting on Thalidomide and Israeli treatment of Paelstinian prisoners back in the 70s. Our own Monbiot took risks with his career when he criticised the police over the death of a passerby during a demonstration. He usefully revealed the machinations of police chiefs who formed a limited company to hide their deliberations from FOI requests, yet kept shtum when greens were found to have done the same thing over GLOBE. The journalistic cognitive dissonance noted by Leopard in the Basement is concentrated around climate change.
The problem is that they project their “errors” on us. Any criticism, however well supported by evidence, of, for instance the Richard Milne interview in the previous post, becomes a pointless exchange of name-calling.
The only solution I can see is to refuse to accept that they are as stupid as they pretend to be, and to call them out as liars and frauds (though not on a civilised blog like this one, obviously) in order to provoke a libel case (the Marquess of Queensberry gambit). Result: publicity and economic ruin. Any other suggestions?

Nov 15, 2011 at 7:55 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

The fact that these people get the meaning of the 'trick' and 'hide the decline' consistently wrong highlights that their arguements in this debate are based on bad faith.

Definition of Bad Faith: the phenomenon where a human being under pressure from societal forces adopts false values and disowns their innate freedom to act authentically.

Black et al know exactly what the meanings are of the 'trick'and 'hide the decline' but can't publicly acknowledge it because of the pressure that they would immediately find themselves under. By simply adopting a false meaning they may keep the faith but they show how sensitive the current debate has become during this current hiatus in global warming - 15 years and counting.

We are dealing with a climate of fear in academia and in the media over expressing scepticism on climate change.

Nov 15, 2011 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Monbiot tried a demolition job on the excellent David Rose last year at
His demolition was itself demolished in the comments by my close friend sisterdingo, and despite his claim that “no-one likes an argument better than I” Monbiot didn’t come back to defend himself.
Having tried vainly to persuade several fellow-Guardian readers that all is not well in the official climate change story, I can report that many highly intelligent people react to the words “Daily Mail” like vampires to a clove of garlic. Many highly intelligent people are incurably stupid.

Nov 15, 2011 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

@John Shade,
The mass media have always done this. They live by flattery, providing what is deemed to be public demand by the owners and editors. Flattery is what is supposed to sell and make money. The main weapon of flattery these days is convincing those of a conventional mindset that they are revolutionaries because revolutionaries have romantic appeal. In that respect CAGW has been an enormous gravy train they are not in a hurry to get off. Of course they especially target the young who are mainly slaves to fashion because vulnerable to peer pressure,
You will no doubt gather from the above that I have zero respect for the mass commercial media; it has been so since long before the current scare.

@ Jeff Chambers: 10-35,
What you suggest may be worth a try, although the dice is now very heavily loaded against sceptics. In a way you can draw a parallel with what is happening in the Mann v Ball case the outcome of which is extremely crucial. Anyway, at least we shall soon see to what point the alarmists have a hold on the law establishment.

Totally agree.

Nov 15, 2011 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

I honestly believe that we are beginning to see a retreat from climate alarmism over AGW.

The AGW signal now appears to be so small that it can be effectively discounted in comparison to natural climate variability that we are unlikely to experience climate extremes.

If that is what eventually transpires how will the politicians, the scientists and environmental moverment deal with the public expressions of outrage that will undoubtly follow.

Some will play the blame game, some will adopt defensive strategies, some will retire without grace, but you get the feeling that history will not be kind.

Nov 15, 2011 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

It's far easier to show how stupid "hide the decline" is when you make people think that mean evil sceptics were trying to say the temperatures were declining and it was being hidden by noble scientists. Simply point to the last 20 years of satellite and land temperatures - no decline, nothing to hide, therefore sceptics are stupid.

Far less easy to explain how the proxies which made up most of the pre-industrial temperature record (and which go to prove the absolutely crucial 'unprecedented' nature of current temps) started to show a temperature decline when we had instrumental readings to compare them against. It's this decline that was hidden, not an actual decline in temperature - just a decline in the ability of the proxies to reflect reality, throwing doubt on their ability to match real temps at any point in the past - in other words discrediting it.

Are journalists hiding their brains?

Nov 15, 2011 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

@ geoffchambers

Sisterdingo was obviously winning that argument hands down because the Narugdia censors had to go in and delete all her posts.

Comment is free but unorthodoxy is hateful.

Reading Guardian commenters' remarks the tone always reminds me of this:

Nov 15, 2011 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

@ Mac

Simple: it will be denied.

Finding a politician in 2025 who'll admit he was in favour of green crap in 2010 will be like trying to find a German in 1946 who'll admit he voted for Hitler in 1932.

Those fingered by Hansard as having voted for the Climate Fascism Bill will shrug and say they were whipped or that everyone else did it too. Hansen's Willing Executioners, to adapt a book title.

Some will certainly assert that there never were any sceptics and thus there was no other view they might have held.

The really serious issue from all this is the long term and potentially permanent damage this does to truth and reason. In the same way that World War One buggered up European civilisation for the next 100 years (and still does so), so will this.

There comes a point when, after countless completely groundless pseudo-scientific scares, people start believing in anything. It's probably a pretty good time to be David Icke.

Nov 15, 2011 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

The Hockey Stick has been debunked. There is no tropospheric Hot Spot. The oceans are not storing heat as expected. There is no AGW signal in extreme weather events. The 2 degree meme is junk science. There is a 15 year hiatus in global temps. The models are diverging from the the instrumental record. Scientists have resorted to tricks, witholding the data, whitewash reports and law suits.

The only thing that must be holding the consensus together is fear.

Nov 15, 2011 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Journalists always get it wrong and always have. Michael Crichton has a great speech titled "Why Speculate" (one of a number of good ones) in which he points out the gullibility of readers. Whenever we read an article about which we have actual knowledge, we see that the story is a mess.

"Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

Nov 15, 2011 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Justice4Rinka 10:53 AM
Most of Sisterdingo’s comments on Monbiot’s article rubbishing David Rose survive. Guardian moderators are firm but fair.
11.02 AM
“The really serious issue from all this is the long term and potentially permanent damage this does to truth and reason. In the same way that World War One buggered up European civilisation for the next 100 years”.
Well, yes, in the same way that every stupidity in history buggers up the future. There’s a lot that makes this particular stupidity unique, though. We thought that democracy and a free press would protect us from the Orwellian nightmare, and mostly they do. Climate change is different, and I don’t share Mac’s optimism that reason will win out. I don’t see any sign that politicians or journalists will ever be called upon to apologise. Mac suggests fear as the only possible reason that CGW is holding on. Fear in the form of group pressure certainly plays a part.
It would take a lifetime’s work by a sociologist of genius to unravel how we got here, how science, journalism and politics became so corrupted. it’s like the last chapter of Alice one moment you’re being menaced by a bunch of madmen shouting “Off with their heads!” then you realise they’re just a pack of cards - jokers mostly.

Nov 15, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

geoffchambers, I can see how Science got here from a psychology point of view - it's a pendulum swing.

In the 50s and 60s, Science became "the destroyer of worlds" - the baddie that would kill us all, which gave us nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, DDT, Thalidomide, and a thousand ecological disasters. It's not a really a surprise that it's now swung across to to be "the saviour of the world" - anyone in the 70s and 80s wanting to go into science would have been influenced by the "bad feeling" science engendered then, and would want to change it, make science the goodie for a change.

Science should be fairly neutral. It's a description of what can be done. Not whether it should be done. In the 50s and 60s, we messed the place up with our technology a bit, if it could be done, it was, with little regard to the 'should'. Now Science is all about the 'should' and is backwards feeding the 'can be' in a yucky illogical feedback.

Nov 15, 2011 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

One source of this misrepresentation is 'skeptical science'.
They claim that

"The skeptic argument...
Scientists tried to 'hide the decline' in global temperature"

In an attempt to support this, they then quote and link to an article by David Lungren. But that article doesnt make this error, in fact explaining very clearly that the hidden decline was in the tree-ring proxies.

This is the kind of disinformation that we are familiar with from SKS.

Nov 15, 2011 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Krugman: if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you’re bound to find a few

It didn't work about Sarah Palin, did it?

Nov 15, 2011 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

"I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd(sic) from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline."

From that released email of Jones, the first public mention of 'hide the decline', the question would be how anyone came to the conclusion that adding real temps to real temps would hide a decline in real temps? For a science journalist to do so could either be an attempt at obfuscation or just plain incompetence.

Come on Adam, Black, Gray and Lean: which was it?

Nov 15, 2011 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

There is a fiction manufactured by reporters and covert public relations men since about 1950 that they're in fact "objective journalists" and fairminded solons of the truth. I think it's demonstrable that throughout history precisely the opposite has been true.... and the Internet is once again showing us that paid liars always have been and shall remain paid liars.

Nov 15, 2011 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterGarry

Talking of majorities (and as she hasn't got the DT on-side she can't call it 'unanimous'), our resident troll gives the opinion that she is active all over the web and in the MSM. Well, as far as I can see, I have only ever seen her in the DM (a filthy rag that she has gone on record as never giving time of day to), and NEVER under her 'nom-de-troll' on WUWT or CA. Methinks that the quality of the posters on those two blogs would be too much for her feeble arguments.

The question must surely be, that if the troll believes the 'hide-the-decline' argument has been misrepresented in the MSM, and if, as she has said here, she believes that's wrong, what then, in her own words, is the TRUE meaning of HTD?

Nov 15, 2011 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Do I read this right? You are now claiming the journalists were misrepresenting the claims of skeptics all along? Perhaps advocates positioned as skeptics should take a long hard look at themselves. You've mostly been fairly happy to say that 'hide the decline' is a reference to a decline in temperatures, now with the balance of evidence turning against you we see some nimble footwork saying you've never said that. Well take a look at this video . At 1:38 it's quite clear that advocates positioned as skeptics were emailing the BBC and getting airtime to suggest hide the decline refers to a decline in global temperatures. That was two years back, now your narrative is changing so you are claiming to be misrepresented. But skeptics were quite happy with the narrative of declining temps over the last two years because it spread misinformation and distrust of climate science .

Nov 15, 2011 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist

This is a pretty bizarre claim, even for this blog.

It's also very easy to prove wrong. Just search for 'hide the decline in temperature' in google news from 2009.

among the very first results is

"Among his e-mails, Professor Jones talks to Professor Mann about the "trick of adding in the real temps to each hide the decline [in temperature]."

taken from here:

and here


"Jones is the author of the most widely cited leaked e-missive, telling colleagues in 1999 that he had used "Mike's Nature [magazine] trick" to "hide the decline" that inconveniently shows up after 1960 in one set of temperature records."

"Back in 1999, CRU director Phil Jones reported that he'd "just used [Penn State climatologist Michael Mann's] trick … to hide the decline" in average global temperatures"


Nov 15, 2011 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Adam

Michael Mann, quote, Dec 2004, "No researchers in this field have ever, to our knowledge, "grafted the thermometer record onto" any reconstruction."

From Climate Audit:

Mike’s Nature Trick
Mike’s Nature Trick was originally diagnosed by CA reader UC here and expounded in greater length (with Matlab code here and here and here ). It consists of the following elements:
1. A digital splice of proxy data up to 1980 with instrumental data to 1995 (MBH98), lengthened to 1998 (MBH99).
2. Smoothing with a Butterworth filter of 50 years in MBH98 (MBH99- 40 years) after padding with the mean instrumental value in the calibration period (0) for 100 years.
3. Discarding all values of the smooth after the end of the proxy period.

How it was reported:

"Dr. Mann now tells me that he was unaware, when he wrote the response, that such grafting had in fact been done in the earlier cover chart, and I take him at his word. But I don’t see why the question was dismissed so readily, with the implication that only a tool of the fossil-fuel industry would raise it. "

"E-Mail Fracas Shows Peril of Trying to Spin Science" - by JOHN TIERNEY

Climate scientists carried out a 'trick', then denied, then admitted it, then downplayed, then misrepresented it, and then misrepresented critics of it.

Nov 15, 2011 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

David Adam

I've never said that nobody said these things, but the fact that you can only come up with two comments made on the day after the story broke in the MSM and a blog nobody has ever heard of before says a lot about how you selected the narrative. The idea that hide the decline was about instrumental temperatures lasted about 24 hours after the story hit the MSM and then only in one or two outlets. For you to still be reporting this as the principal allegation a year later tells a story.

If you don't base the criticism on what the principal critics of CRU - McIntyre, WUWT and the other climate bloggers - were saying, in what way were you representing the arguments fairly?

Nov 15, 2011 at 2:47 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

David Adam at 2:15 PM finds the accusation of inaccuracy among environment correspondents “bizarre”. Would that be the David Adam who, as environment correspondent for the Guardian announced:
13 Nov 2006: “Digital broadcasting is increasing the threat of global warming by pumping massive amounts of extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere”.
2 Aug 2006 “Despite its flaws, Al Gore's film on climate change is strong, witty and convincing”.
22 Jul 2006: “As this week's heatwave shows, climate change will affect almost every aspect of British life”.
21 Apr 2006: “Britain's scientists are drawing up a plan to fight renewed attempts by sceptics and industry-funded lobby groups to derail international action on climate change”.
12 Oct 2005; “Rising sea levels, desertification and shrinking freshwater supplies will create up to 50 million environmental refugees by the end of the decade”
... and so on (and on and on and on)?

Nov 15, 2011 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

"The idea that hide the decline was about instrumental temperatures lasted about 24 hours after the story hit the MSM and then only in one or two outlets. For you to still be reporting this as the principal allegation a year later tells a story."
Nov 15, 2011 at 2:47 PM | Andrew Montford

No Andrew. For you to be trying to claim this is what really tells a story. The general useage right accross the board in the 'sceptical' national outlets has been that hide the decline refers to temperature. If not outright stated, it is heavily inferred. I have posted links to articles this year from national UK newspapers on your website using hide the decline to refer to temperature on your blog. Two from the Mail and one from the Telegraph, if I remember rightly.

If the comments underneath these articles represent the readers, then the readership also believe that hide the decline refers to temperature.

There's a term for retrospectively changing the backstory to something in fiction, it's called 'retconning' - I thought that might ring a few bells with you.

Nov 15, 2011 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Actually, I was responding to your assertion that I made a mistake. I didn't. Lots and lots of prominent and influential pieces from the time made the claim that the decline hidden was in global temperatures.
And most importantly, in my view as a reporter at the time, it was that claim, presented as a so-called smoking gun, that helped to give the story legs and made sure that it caught on beyond the 'principal critics of CRU and climate bloggers'.

Plus you say:
"For you to still be reporting this as the principal allegation a year later tells a story."

well it would if I were, which I'm not. as your quote from my piece makes clear, i was referring to events as they unfolded immediately after the emails were released.

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Adam

Geoff Chambers

Please keep on topic

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:09 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Mr Adam

In your Nature article, you attribute the framing of "the trick" and "hide the decline" to 'members of the sceptical community'. Instead, you should have, more accurately, ascribed this to members of your own community, i.e., journalists, for this apparently deliberate misinterpretation you so eargerly sought to correct.

It is interesting how Nature magazine is always interested in the views of Fox News.

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

David Adam got the story right (sort of):

“The decline was not in recorded global temperatures, as was sometimes said, but in temperatures inferred from a series of tree rings over the last few decades. The trick is to ignore the obviously faulty information. This statistical technique has its critics, and it raises questions about why the decline occurs and whether earlier data can be relied on...”

Which makes one wonder why he’s coming there to defend his incompetent colleagues

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers


You are saying that it is valid to ignore the criticisms of informed critics of CRU and concentrate on uninformed ones? Then by rebutting the uninformed ones the situation is saved? That's what's called a "straw man" isn't it?

Here's one of your Guardian era takes on hide the decline:

"When news of the East Anglia emails broke in November, it was a phrase that climate scientists had used a "trick" to "hide the decline" that got most people excited. Media reports, including in this newspaper, reported that climate sceptics believed they had found a smoking gun that proved scientists who worked on global warming were up to no good, and by extension that the problem was exaggerated or a falsehood. This was the "WMD-in-45 minutes" claim that drove the email story around the world and earned it the drearily predictable "climategate" tag. It was also total nonsense. The decline was not in recorded global temperatures, as was sometimes said, but in temperatures inferred from a series of tree rings over the last few decades. The trick is to ignore the obviously faulty information. This statistical technique has its critics, and it raises questions about why the decline occurs and whether earlier data can be relied on, but these questions have been openly addressed by scientists for years. The issue appears in text books and even has its own, rather more pedestrian, name — the divergence problem."

Here again we see that you have done exactly what I suggest you are doing: you create a straw man in the form of the "decline in instrumental temperatures" idea and then say that everything is fine and dandy because it's not true. The actual allegation made by McIntyre and other informed critics (why don't you mention his name in the article? It's everywhere in the emails), namely that the divergence problem and the uncertainty it engenders were hidden in the secondary literature (ie reports for policymakers) are not mentioned.

Do you support the idea that uncertainties should be hidden from policymakers? And why did't you explain this concern to your readers? Pretty important, wouldn't you say?

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:19 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill


Have you ever explained to your readers what the criticisms of the informed critics of CRU were over hide the decline?

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:22 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Just search for 'hide the decline in temperature'
David Adam, don't you think it would be more honest simply to google "hide the decline"? That way we might be able to put those who chose to assume that it was a decline in temperature in their proper context.
I did not and never have assumed it was anything to do with a decline in temperature since the records were showing increases all the way through to 1998 (with minor variations) and the 1998 spike and 1999 recovery were well-documented and well explained.
It was always the case, as the graph in David Rose's article demonstrates, that the divergence was an embarrassment and whatever Mann's "trick" might have been, Jones's was intended — perhaps for very human and natural reasons, as I said to Zed earlier — to avoid having to explain why his temperatures and his proxies suddenly didn't match.
In any other sphere of activity the truncating of a line on a graph at a point where it started to do something you'd rather it didn't would have been at least cause for a reprimand; in some it would be considered gross misconduct. Either way, the subsequent misinterpretation which was indeed almost universal in the media — in some cases due to ignorance and in others due either to incompetence or wilful blindness as to the real meaning — misled the general public as to what the purpose of the trick was, a state of affairs easily denied within the climate change community.
By the way, I read your hagiography of Jones when you first wrote it. It doesn't improve with age. As a piece of reportage it would have got a cub reporter fired. It is an unquestioning paean of praise to a man who has rejoiced at the death of a fellow scientist, refused to make data available because someone might "find fault" with them (what is science about if not "finding fault" in people's data, your own especially?), encouraged colleagues to delete embarassing emails, threatened to destroy his own data rather than comply with the law, and threatened to do whatever is necessary to ensure that research that does not agree with his does not see the light of day.
You make me ashamed to have been a journalist.

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

David has a point that 'very soon' after Climategate people were still trying to work out which way was up, but this article was a year later. By then any journo worth his salt should have known the real issues. I've just re-read that Nature article. It's pretty much a 'friendly' interview, more akin to the genre of celebrity interview that PR minders would police. (Was Bob 'fast fingers' Ward in the background?) I'd have expected a thorough journalist to at least quiz Dr. Jones on why he felt it was necessary to graphically edit the proxy/data splice, or to push harder on the peer review issues. I've no idea if this sort of PR interview is common in Nature, or even common in Davids work in general, but if that is sort of piece he writes for the Climatgate first anniversary, perhaps he'd like to do one for the second anniversary with Steve McIntyre. (Using the same avuncular manner of course!)

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Mike Jackson

Tone it down please.

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:28 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill


If you are wondering where your comment has gone - it's with the others. Not polite enough. In view of your normal behaviour, you have to be much nicer than anyone else.

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:42 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Zed said: "The general useage right accross the board in the 'sceptical' national outlets has been that hide the decline refers to temperature" PROXY.

There, fixed.

BTW: Please feel free give citations (ie: their names) as to what constitutes "'sceptical' national outlets"?

Nov 15, 2011 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

"Please feel free give citations (ie: their names) as to what constitutes "'sceptical' national outlets"?"
Nov 15, 2011 at 3:50 PM | Snotrocket

Are you kidding me? You don't know the difference between majority and unanimous majority, and now you don't know which media outlets are 'sceptical'?

The Mail, the Express and the Telegraph all regularly run stories which you lot would say were 'sceptical'. These attitudes are most definitely reflected in the comments under the stories. Most of the other right-leaning ones run stories from time to time, but to a lesser degree.

I'm not really sure what your angle is. I can't believe you don't really know the answers to the questions you're asking, so why are you asking them?

Nov 15, 2011 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Fair point -- not really, beyond the brief description in the interview piece.

But it comes back to the previous issue. I don't think the distinction between the informed and uninformed criticism is as neat as you suggest, but running with it, crudely it was the uninformed criticism that drove the political (and so mainstream media) angle on the story.
'global warming is a scam and scientists caught cheating' is just more influential than 'climate scientists didn't label a figure properly used on the cover of a little known WMO leaflet from a decade ago that used a statistical technique published in the scientific literature that has its critics'.

after all, much of the 'informed' criticism -- McIntyre, Keenan, attacks on MBH etc was already out there well before the hack. i even pitched a story on the CRU-climate audit FOI fight in the summer of 2009, but nobody (on the guardian) cared about any of it until the 'uninformed' smoking gun of the hidden temperature decline was being quoted by US politicians just days before the copenhagen talks.


Nov 15, 2011 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Adam

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