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« Virginia Mann | Main | Henderson on Castles »
Thursday
Nov292012

Leveson

Lord Leveson's report is out. I'm afraid I'm not going to have time to say much tonight, but suffice it to say that he has ignored everything Tony N and I had to say. In fact he has even gone as far as to repeat the incorrect statements made by Fiona Fox.

Ho hum.

David Whitehouse has more considered thoughts here.

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Reader Comments (25)

Do they call them a "Lord" because that's what everybody says when they leave the room?

Nov 29, 2012 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

What a complete waste of time, money, intellectual effort and national prestige (if we still have any) this enquiry and report have been. There are important matters happening just about everywhere and the press concerns itself with trivia, politicians use it as a diversionary tactic and political weapon, certain prissy, pompous celebs use it as an opportunity to grandstand and unwittingly exhibit their stupidity and intolerance of free speech, while the vast majority of the general public are left bemused over what this cabal of elitists has been doing all these months.

Nov 29, 2012 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

jorgekafkazar: That observation reminds me of one of my favourite stories of Winston Churchill, which I will attempt from memory as a quick google doesn't seem to produce an account of it. Lord Louis Mountbatten was holding forth at a dinner shortly after the Second World War, with Churchill close by, about his immense achievements during the said conflict and seeming, to some present, almost to be claiming single-handed credit for the Allied victory. Some naturally wondered if Churchill himself would be tempted to intervene. But there was silence from the great man. Then Mountbatten gave his apologies to his audience that having greatly enjoyed himself he had to leave early. As he departed Churchill leaned over to the person next to him and said gently "Do you think I should know that chap's name?"

Some who are designated Lord are indeed eminently forgettable - others, like Churchill himself, are not. Based on what Andrew indicates here Leveson may not make it into the latter category as far as his influence on climate reporting is concerned. Whether that becomes a pressing problem we'll have to wait and see. But the humility of Churchill in the face of the suffering of others (also exhibited by his refusal to entertain the idea of a statue in Parliament Square after the war, saying instead to give any money concerned to victims of German bombing) remains an inspiration at times like this when other nobles are in the spotlight.

Nov 29, 2012 at 7:39 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

In my opinion David Whitehouse's article was confused and misleading.

What should have happened is that if Wakefield appeared in a TV or radio report, or in an article, the reporter should have had the knowledge and skill to put it into context and leave the viewer/reader in no doubt where the consensus lies without censoring minority views

Er....um.....that is basically what the media have been doing with the climate change argument and I certainly do not agree with that.

The fundamental problem here is that many in the media, the BBC in particular, seem to think that sceptics are all deniers that greenhouse gasses warm the planet, or that the world has warmed in the past 150 years, or that recently there is a human component to it. This is a false definition of a sceptic.

For a start there is no other definition a sceptic that will mostly be true other than "strongly doubts that CAGW is either happening or possible". There are plenty of us that doubt the warming of the last 150 years based on adjustments to the raw data and the urban heat island effect.
We have recently had a thread by Rhoda asking for evidence that the greenhouse effect is real and there was no suggestion that any evidence exists. If the GHE is not real then neither is AGW.

Nov 29, 2012 at 7:50 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Yet again I agree with dung! But I agree with David Whitehouse that reporters do not have the knowledge and skill required for the topics they report on. As we know, they just repeat press releases and quotes from their favourite green NGOs without bringing any fresh scientific insight.

Nov 29, 2012 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Having finally read Whitehouse I think Dung's reaction may have been eponymous. The article seems to make some important points very well soon after Leveson was released, not least this:

The climate change debate is a much more sophisticated one about a whole range of scientific and policy issues that are extensively debated in the peer-reviewed scientific journals. That debate is not being reflected in the media because of its obsession to equate sceptics with deniers. Leveson missed this important point.

I'd prefer that denier was not used of the greenhouse doubters but apart from that detail the point is for me well made. I look forward to reading Andrew's considered reaction.

Nov 29, 2012 at 9:14 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard

I am totally in agreement with Mr Whitehouse about the point you have highlighted, thats why I did not mention it in my post.
Also it may be my lack of a classical education but my own understanding of the word eponymous would suggest that neither my reaction nor myself can be described as eponymous? Please enlighten me sir.

Nov 29, 2012 at 9:55 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I think Whitehouse makes an important point, and that the conflation is entirely deliberate, as a despicable and conscious deception employed as a means to smear scorn on sceptics and close down debate. I also have sympathy with Dung's views that massaging and inadequate corrections for UHI are suspected, as also a potential natural (solar) warming component.

I think this short video of Lindzen encapsulates the absurdity about the whole manufactured issue in a remarkably powerful way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1CR0v7dwXU&feature=related

Nov 29, 2012 at 10:35 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I have watched the video of Leveson's press conference - and as I was listening to his measured comments, a few jumped out at me.

His theme (as would be expected from the text on the background page of the Inquiry's site) was "who will guard the guardians". He noted that the current self-regulatory mechanism, that of the IPCC (Independent Press Complaints Commission) is, in effect, unfit for purpose (my words, not his).

I could not help but think that he might well say the same thing of the other IPCC that has succeeded in bringing itself into disrepute!

Another of his observations (sorry, my sketchy handwritten notes do not indicate exact context ... it may have been regarding the current process, or that suggested by Lords Hunt & Black ... I think the latter, but I'll have to listen again to confirm!) also struck me as being equally applicable to the other IPCC. Leveson's remark suggested that the involvement of editors was tantamount to students

"marking their own homework".

There's no denying that there is certainly a lot of that in the other IPCC process!

Of course, it was extremely disappointing that the report obviously did not take on board the evidence submitted by Andrew and Tony. Had the individual(s) responsible for drafting that section of the report done so, the error reported by Paul Matthews regarding Fox's "reconstruction" of the 11 degrees scandal, could not (IMHO) have passed muster.

For the record, media coverage of climate change did not make it into the Executive Summary; and a search of all four volumes of the report turned up only seven instances of "climate change": two in Volume I, and five in Volume II. Thereby constituting very few pixels in the big picture.

From my perspective, it was equally disappointing to find that the long ago proven false "Israel uses white phosphorous" meme (generated by, you guessed it, a very biased NGO, and duitfully churned by the MSM) made it into the report. Here's the context (p.462, Vol. ii)

The Times has provided its view of the top five public interests stories published by the paper in the recent past. They are listed in evidence21 and it is sufficient to select four examples. Headline and story provide sufficient detail.

Ironically, the 11 degrees error and the unchallenged citation of the meme I noted above could be considered as examples of the Inquiry permitting the press to "mark its own homework".

But it may (or may not) be significant that, like "climate change", mention of coverage of Israel did not make it into the Executive Summary - and constituted a mere four pixels in two volumes.

By contrast to both of the above, the BBC got 270 mentions, across all four volumes and the Executive Summary.

Well, those are my first impressions. But while I'm here, if I might be permitted a shameless plug, readers might be interested in my thoughts on Leveson and evidence prior to the report's release.

Knights of the Green Garter: culture, practice and (absence of) ethics of the press

Nov 30, 2012 at 12:54 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Basically there are very few people in the press that have a scientific background to report on science.
Its chock full of Oxbridge PPE's , English and Arts graduates but the hard subjects like science or engineering forget it . So often like Fox their sallow what ever matches their own prejudiced without question has their in no position to ask the questions in the first place . When you add in the fact that North London chatter classes so dominate in the press are full of 'media ' and environmental advocacy people circling each other you can see why they look like and often are living in each others pockets .

Nov 30, 2012 at 12:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Here is an email I sent to the Leveson general enquiries at 6pm yesterday:

Subject: Error in Leveson report

There is an error in the Leveson report paragraph 9.68.

The 11 degrees figure was NOT the responsibility of the press.
The misleading figure comes directly from a press release

http://www.nerc.ac.uk/press/releases/2005/climateprediction.asp

from the scientists themselves.
It appears that
(a) The Leveson inquiry was misled by Fiona Fox, who
in her evidence made no mention of this press release.
(b) The inquiry completely ignored the submission by Andrew Montford and Tony Newbery, which explained the relevant facts very clearly.

This is quite worrying and I hope that you will issue a prompt correction.

Nov 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Re. KnR comment about the backgrounds and capabilities of media people.

I worked for a period in the Far East with an ex-Sun (or, possibly Mirror?) journalist. In conversation I asked why, invariably - when I read newspaper articles in almost any publication (tabloid or broadsheet), on any topics on which I had an in-depth, technical and practical knowledge - they were invariably littered with errors, distortions and a general lack of understanding of context and perspective. His reply was quite illuminating - "You must remember that the knowledge of virtually all journalists is, inevitably, a mile wide and a millimetre deep."

I suppose the irony is that I can then go on to read articles by other journalists, on topics that I know little or nothing about, and tend to believe what I read if it sounds plausible - particularly if it happens to reinforce my own prejudices!

Nov 30, 2012 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrian E

I agree with John in Cheshire. Also Guido makes the point that all the proposed regulation is directed at the press, not the BBC, and certainly not the internet, which probably cannot be regulated. Newspaper circulations are falling; the internet is ever increasing. Well done, Lord...what was the name again.

Nov 30, 2012 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

Fiona Fox's verbal evidence given to Leveson can be found in transcript form here.
This evidence was given under oath, presumably with the standard wording promising the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

On Page 30 Fox says:

And time and time again, the four scientists said, "90 per cent of the models come back and show us it's likely to be around 2 degrees warning, but some -- a tiny minority of models show us 11 degrees."

Now compare this with what the scientists really said, from their press release:

The first results from climateprediction.net, a global experiment using computing time donated by the general public, show that average temperatures could eventually rise by up to 11°C
with no mention at all of the 2°C figure.

So, did Fiona Fox tell the truth and the whole truth under oath?

Nov 30, 2012 at 9:58 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Brian E

We are all prone to Gell-Mann amnesia.

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/65213-briefly-stated-the-gell-mann-amnesia-effect-is-as-follows-you

Nov 30, 2012 at 10:33 AM | Registered CommenterDreadnought

Can those of you who have read the report in whole or in part tell me to what extent it trots out the ancient idiocy that "People keep breaking existing laws and regulations so we must introduce new laws and regulations"?

Nov 30, 2012 at 11:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

So who is marking Leveson's homework?


Oh, I forgot, he is a "distinguished lawyer". The homework is correct by legal decree.

Nov 30, 2012 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

On a less pithy note.

With wronged celebrities like Anne Diamond and Hugh Grant seemingly given the key to Channel 4, I am disappointed that nobody in the press has run with the now existential question about the role of victims in any crime.

We don't allow victims of crimes to direct either legislation of punishment in our legal system for good reason [if I ever caught that person who burgaled my house I would want him castrated, tarred and feathered and then lokced up without rmeission for 50 years].

In the case of press reulation it seems that a small number of victims are all but drafting the laws and the potneital redress.

Nov 30, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Nov 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM | Paul Matthews

Good letter, Paul. It will be interesting to see if they issue a correction - and how long it might take to do so!

When I first read of this error you had spotted, I was reminded of an anecdote in Andrew Neil’s tribute to Sir Alastair Burnet delivered during the Nov. 12 memorial service:

Working for Alastair was a master class in journalism – with fun thrown in.

‘If you can’t get the little things right,’ he once said gently chiding me for a relatively minor mistake ‘how can we trust you on the big ones.’

In browsing through the Leveson site, I noticed that Andrew and Tony's submission is described as having been "taken as read" during the afternoon of July 24.

However, the date at the top of their submission is "8 September 2012". I do recall Tony mentioning that the hyperlinks in the.pdf of their original submission were not working and that a revised pdf would be posted on the site. But what's missing is the designation at the top that appears at the top of each page on other submissions - including those "taken as read" i.e. "For Distribution to CPs".

CPs are "core participants"

One considerably less than impressive submission that was "taken as read" on Feb. 9, and which did bear the "For Distribution to CPs" designation, was dated January 12, 2012 and began "Dear Concerned Parties".

In establishing his credentials, this writer had noted:

In addition, I co-founded and comanage THE CLIMATE SCIENCE RAPID RESPONSE TEAM
(http://www. climaterapidresponse.org/) [hyperlink doesn't work in pdf -hro] which is an organization of approximately 150 climate scientists whose mission is to communicate our understanding of climate change to the general public.

The writer, of course, was John Abraham, and the view from here is that it was a very unprofessional submission; in short, one of his typical smearing rants.

It's not entirely clear to me which of the many "taken as read" submissions actually do get read and/or by whom. Does the absence of a "For Distribution to CPs" designation mean that a submission may not get read by anyone - except those who might stumble across such a submission on the website?

In my random clicks on other "taken as read" submissions, I haven't encountered any others which lack this designation, so I suspect it may simply be a clerical error.

Nov 30, 2012 at 11:57 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Dear Bish:

I wouldn't mind betting that the reason the mighty Lord Leveson saw fit to ignore your and Newberry's submission in its entirety is that you not are merely bloggers, inhabitant of a world, dimly perceived by Leveson, he presumes consists exclusively of the semi-crazed and obsessed, you are a 'denier', as such 'anti-science' and of course 'anti-climate'.

What's the betting, in fact, that he was privately warned off you by the likes of Beddington? Short odds, I'd say.

Nov 30, 2012 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

That's a good letter Paul, thanks on behalf of many of us.

Nov 30, 2012 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Hilary, well noticed (the BH submission does not say 'For distribution to CPs'). Can anyone find any others that do not say this?

As you say it is probably a clerical error. Like the accidental omission of David Holland's important FOI request from the list prepared for the Russell Report.

Nov 30, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

"The problem with MMR wasn’t the reporting of the work ... It was not Wakefield’s presence that was the problem."

The Authorities wanted, and still want, 100% MMR vaccination rates for target groups. Single M, M and R vaccinations were effectively outlawed, for heaven's sake! There is the same pressure to have flu vaccinations; adverts promoting them are 'quite motivating' and do not mention any side effects, no T & Cs either!

Wakefield's "search for the truth" was questioning this already agreed business decision, for in fact that it what it was, and the media preferred to play it safe, so everyone looses out.

As people realise that journalists want a cushy job, just like most of us, newspaper sales will diminish along with their reputations, as they are doing already, with blogs taking their place.

Nov 30, 2012 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Christopher

Nov 30, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Paul Matthews

As you say it is probably a clerical error. Like the accidental omission of David Holland's important FOI request from the list prepared for the Russell Report.

Yes, that's what sprang to my mind, as well - and set my mouse off in search of others.

Funny thing about these "clerics" isn't it?! Who knows, perhaps there's a (secret) School for Smothering Scandals (affiliated with IBT) that offers "expert advice" to critical "clerics" ;-)

Nov 30, 2012 at 10:57 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Looking through Leveson for references on a subject that one knows about and Leveson does indeed come across as pretty shallow and merely parroting the most easily digested received opinion in order to splurge it back out to fill space.

I think the Bish's submission would have been too draining on their intellect. I bet if you count you'll see the report just stops once it reached a million words ;)

The whole exercise is nothing more than a sterling example of how the "greatest" minds in our society are willing to sprunk away millions of pounds and thousands of hours on utter banal low intellect posturing that adds nothing to society except polish up the image of the parties involved.

If anyone ever wonders how the poor level of knowledge of climate does not diminish the desire for extreme regulation based on that poor knowledge then this nice little example shows in its full glory the empty circle jerk tendency that overcomes any doubt . ;)

Dec 1, 2012 at 9:22 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

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