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« Desperate times | Main | ECC on shale »

Slow learner

David Shukman's "how to report climate change" video over at the BBC academy website is actually good in parts. But in parts it's not.

He first sets out what is agreed - carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, its concentration in the atmosphere has risen as have global temperatures. So far so good, although I think it would be fair to point out that the temperature rise is indistinguishable (in statistical terms) from business as normal and also that temperatures haven't risen for more than fifteen years.

He then correctly notes that the reasons for the warming are disputed, noting in the process that natural cycles can cause warming and that "the vast majority" of scientists stand by the IPCC and it's claim that "most" of the observed warming is "very likely" to have been caused by changes in greenhouse gases. He precedes the next discussion - on climate projections - by noting that what has gone before is based largely on observations. This is of course not actually true of the IPCC's attribution statement, which depends very much on climate models, and climate models moreover that have no proven ability to describe the climate. This being the case use of the word "very likely" seems troublesome, particularly when placed in close proximity to the word "most".

The section on predictions is quite good, with a short and to-the-point summary of the difficulties.

At this point one is somewhat in awe of somebody at the BBC who is saying something sensible about climate, but unfortunately Shukman is not able to hold it together, descending into normal BBC wiffle waffle about "libertarians who think it's an anti-free market conspiracy".

I suppose good in parts is better than consistently awful though.

A closing thought. If "where somebody is coming from" is, as Shukman suggests, so important for viewers, will he demand that BBC science staff discuss Paul Nurse's left-wing politics every time he appears on TV? We need to know if "where somebody is coming from" is an approach that is consistently applied.

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Reader Comments (40)

"Where somebody is coming from" is BBC code. It means, "You can safely ignore anything this person is about to say."

The short-hand versions are: Tory, Right-wing, Libertarian, free-market, free-trade.

Dec 12, 2012 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

BBC speak

Left-wing; good, cuddly and trustworthy.
Right-wing; evil, untrustworthy- obviously a planet despoiling, child-molester.

Dec 12, 2012 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

The problem for BBC correspondents is not that they are unintelligent nor that they are unperceptive. They know - or ought to know - exactly what's happened in climate "science". Rather, it's that their careers depend, in the end, on mouthing the pieties of what is approved by their employer. Accordingly, Shukman must damn CAGW scepticism as being irredendist rubbish. In the same way, his colleagues analysing UK economic policies must damn the coalition and its (as it happens, non-existent) cuts. Not, I should add, that there is any arm-twisting going on at Broadcasting House. Manifestly, it's not only necessary to your career at the BBC to be a warmist. Getting the job in the first place would be impossible if you hadn't already signed up to the "cause".

Dec 12, 2012 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterUmbongo

BBC can't stop themselves. Today busily anointing Pat Finucane, legal brief to IRA, who was killed by RUC men (on their own time). Is there ever a word about the 3000 or so wholly innocent, wholly uninvolved people murdered by Mr Adams's "freedom fighters"? Ah but, his cause was a 'noble cause', was it not, so a little bit of collateral damage is allowed, of course. Shame if that collateral damage happens to be your sister, Dad, whatever. Not a position intellectuals at the BBC would ever be in, however.
In short, on whatever topic, the BBCs problem is a stupefying moral stuntedness, which comes from a determination to see only one side of the issue. Which is OK for a private citizen - we're all free to be bigots - but is not good enough in a national broadcaster.

Dec 12, 2012 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Old Etonian Shukman appears to be veering away from the hysterical nonsense of Harrabin and Black.In time he will realise the 'consensus' physics has little connection with reality......

Dec 12, 2012 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

"libertarians who think it's an anti-free market conspiracy".

Couldn't have put it more succinctly than that! It's a conspiracy of neo-socialists, neo-fuedalists, bankers & big business to carve the world up for their own ends, don't think that bankers & big bisiness won't come up smelling of roses whilst the rest of us flounder in smelly stuff they create. Socialists love controlling everybody's lives, as do the Fuedalists (Porrit et al), a Global Guvment, unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, unsackable! Wonderful, not! The World of Global Benefits culture whereby millions sit on their backsides, producing nothing, minimum amounts of cash doled out to them by their corrupt leaders pocketting squillions handed over to them by the Rich Capitalist Climate Change causing west!!!!!

Dec 12, 2012 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

"where somebody is coming from" applies to someone from elsewhere.

Nurse and others would be from the Liberalleftsville, the same quaint hamlet in which BBC Broadcast Centre is located. So, "no need to identify where someone like that is coming from" the BBC might say, "they come from here of course".

Others might come from Neoconopolis, that pollution belching car driving conurbation up the road. People need to know that.

Dec 12, 2012 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Did Shukman show the current CET anomaly, and the fact that the Met Office's 10 year Central England average temperature record is not showing "no sign of warming over the last few years", it is falling like a stone...
If this were published in the Mail and the Sun, would it change the public perception of support from the UK for what may be a global problem, but will have a far more limited impact on the UK climate ?

Dec 12, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterNot in the pub yet

Not in the pub yet,

Interesting link to the CET data. I note that: "Since 1974 the data have been adjusted to allow for urban warming".

Has anybody got a reference for data that have not been "adjusted"?

Dec 12, 2012 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Shukman's grudging shift towards reality is welcome, but meanwhile on Channel 4's "Is Our Weather Getting Worse?" last night, the same old alarmist material gets cycled through.

Dec 12, 2012 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterEdward Bancroft

Your right, Shuckman is a slow learner. At 46 seconds he says “we are coming out of an ice age which ended thousands of years ago”. Whilst this is true it has nothing to do with the argument. The sceptic view is that we are coming out of the little ice age of 250/300 years ago and temperatures are recovering from that event. I get the impression that this opinion is not on his radar.

Dec 12, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Porter

You have to remember that BBC correspondents have no scientific knowledge or training except that given by WWF, Greenpeace et al. He can't speak from his own knowledge.

Dec 12, 2012 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Did Shukman show the current CET anomaly, and the fact that the Met Office's 10 year Central England average temperature record is not showing "no sign of warming over the last few years", it is falling like a stone...

Not falling like a stone. This sort of language is not helpful, however, the Met off has been trying it's darndest to adjust the numbers upwards. I think they have actually reduced temps to account for urban heat island effects.

Dec 12, 2012 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Nitpy and Roger:

Here's the full CET record (unadjusted) - going back to 1659. It's interesting that the Met Office starts it at 1772, thereby omitting the extraordinary period of warming from 1692 to 1736. Note also that this graph ends (with John Daly's sad death) in 2002: the relatively unremarkable modern warming would be even less remarkable were it extended to 2012.

Dec 12, 2012 at 5:03 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Looking at that graph one would think that global warming actually started way back around 1704?


Dec 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Roger Longstaff, The Parker et al paper, with a link on the right of the Met Office graph, explains the adjustments, which was mainly acheived by changing to more rural sites to contribute to the 30 station average accross central england, and dropping a few sites which had become urbanised. i.e. The data was not changed, just the weather stations going into the mix. The authors expressed the view the impact of the change in stations used was still less than 0.1 degrees.

Dec 12, 2012 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterNot in the pub yet

Shukans last six words

Mankinds activities are having an effect.

Theres a two word answer

Prove It.

Dec 12, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspi


And one would be right: global warming started as we emerged from the LIA - about 300 years ago.

Dec 12, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Slightly O/T, a friend has lent me a book by his son, an ex-Reuters journo, titled "Fraudcast News - How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies". Have looked it up on Amazon, but it is unavailable at present. Should be interesting.

Dec 12, 2012 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer

NITPY & Robin,

Thanks for the data.

Eyeballing the charts the CET temperature for 2002 was almost exactly the same as for:


And exactly how much globull warming has there been sice 2002, when the unadjusted records conveniently stopped?

Dec 12, 2012 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Here's a link to some other old temperature records - as well as CET. And, yes, it seems that gentle warming has been going on (around the world) for a long time.

Roger: the Met Office record (link) shows what happened since 2002.

Dec 12, 2012 at 6:04 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Has anyone wondered what the UHI means? Reduced convective heat loss because of the walls means surface temperature rises and so does radiation, through the 'atmospheric window'......

Dec 12, 2012 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Isn't it more accurate to say that minimum temperatures have risen, whereas maximum temperatures haven't, hence a rise in the average - there was extensive illustration of this on the Chiefio website some time back, as I recall.

Dec 12, 2012 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

"Where somebody is coming from"

If it's the BBC, then you know it's unreliable. It genuinely saddens me to say that, but until they indulge in some objective self-analysis, then it will remain the case.

Dec 12, 2012 at 6:23 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp


It's only recently that I've seen weather forecasters admit that the temperatures they show on their maps are urban by default, and the rural temperatures will be 'a few degrees' lower. It is -2C right now in my garden (and likely to go down to -5) yet the MO insist that tonight's minimum temperature here will be +1, so should I deduce that the UHI is around 6C? :-)

Dec 12, 2012 at 6:29 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Dec 12, 2012 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

This combines my two pet hates, Banksters and Carbon Scamsters.

Got to love it :-)

Dec 12, 2012 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller


The glorious, wonderful, opportunities that false markets present to the unscrupulous! And Carbon Credits have not reduced emissions by one single molecule of CO2!

Loads of money, luvvly jubbly!

Dec 12, 2012 at 7:10 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

jamesp: the official UHI is the absorption of extra heat because of the extra thermal capacity, also the generation of heat from building interiors. This is partially correct so at night cities are warmer. However, in the early day time, the build up of heat is aided by reduced convection.

You can see this in the mid afternoon when to maintain lapse rate cooling, you get pronounced vertical convection, including the same dust devils you get in all dry environments!

Dec 12, 2012 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

I'm totally convinced that 99% of the global warming (based on RSS) in the last 15 years has been caused by evil men.

Dec 12, 2012 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

It is still obvious that the 13-month running average in Roy Spencer's November plot has been declining since 1998. This is totally as would be expected due to a roughly sinusoidal superimposed 60 year natural cycle, for which there is now compelling evidence. See for example, the linked references to such in my current paper about planetary surface temperatures, which is on the PROM* system at PSI for a month or so.

When you remove the effect of the 60 year cycle (with, for example, a trend for a 60 year running average) you get down to analysing the underlying long term trend which has periodicity of about 1,000 years, maybe a bit longer. This was the cause of fairly regular warming periods observed for at least the last 7,000 years, the most recent being the Roman and the Medieval W.P. which have both now been confirmed to have been worldwide and at similar temperatures to the present.

There is however still a slight incline in this long term natural cycle. About 100 years ago the mean rate of increase was around 0.06 C/decade, whereas in recent times it has declined, but only to about 0.05 C/decade. If it is also roughly sinusoidal we should see a maximum in about 200 years, probably less than 0.8 degree above the current trend. But of course, after that there would be 500 to 600 years of long term cooling, even though the superimposed 60 year cycle will continue to cause some alarm each time it rises for 30 years, as happened from around 1970.

Again, there is now compelling evidence that these natural cycles are the only "forcing" for our climate. There are links to evidence in my paper, and even to some evidence that the cycles are in some way controlled by planetary orbits, which makes sense because such orbits are the only "timing mechanisms" of such long duration in our solar system.

The reasons why carbon dioxide has no effect are explained in a radically new way in my paper. Nowhere else have I seen the hypothesis which brings together evidence from different sources into what I consider a cogent argument for a completely different explanation of planetary surface temperatures, not to be found elsewhere to the best of my knowledge. Yes, parts of the explanation are elsewhere, but it has not hitherto been coordinated to give an explanation based on correct physics.

For example, I contend that there is no other valid explanation for the surface temperature on the planet Venus. That surface receives less than 10% of the amount of Solar radiation which we receive on Earth's surface. It's not correct to assume that the CO2 atmosphere caused a massive GHE, because the surface could not have been heated in the first place to over 700K with so little energy being received through the thick and dense atmosphere. Nor was it heated by radiation from what is still an atmosphere that is at much lower temperatures, less than 230K at an altitude of 50Km, for example.

Until people come to grips with what I believe to be the correct physical mechanism which produced (and maintains) the temperature of the Venus surface, they will never correctly understand what is the same process working on Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - all the planets in our solar system with qualifying atmospheres.

As I have said, the paper is up for worldwide open review on the PROM* system at Principia Scientific International. It has already been reviewed by several of our 150 members, but if you wish to submit any comments, criticism, rebuttal or support, you may do so through our CEO John O'Sullivan or our Chairman, Dr Timothy Ball, a retired professor of climatology. You may also contact me via the email address on my website which opens when you click my name above.

However, I will only respond to those who have clearly read and understood the whole paper, whether or not they agree with the conclusions reached.

(*Peer Review in Open Media.)

Dec 12, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Cotton

AlecM...have you seen Ray Pierrehumbert's speech to AGU on what climate scientist's have got right? Eli Rabett has a link. It struck me as a terrible speech, full of cherry-picking and devoid of evidential proof. The one piece of proof was an emissions graph that showed that CO2 was not saturated in the troposphere at the 60 microns level. Any views?

And Rabett says that the conclusion is that the blogosphere has defeated the "science"

Dec 12, 2012 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

A reminder that there's a link here to some other old temperature records - as well as CET. And, yes, it seems that gentle warming has been going on (around the globe) for a long, long time.

Dec 12, 2012 at 10:32 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Dec 12, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Doug Cotton>>>>

Hi Doug.

I've also read somewhere that the Roman and Medieval warm periods were world wide, and have been challenged when I say so, but cannot remember the reference sources. Could you, or anyone else, direct me to a source for this information please.


Dec 13, 2012 at 6:45 AM | Registered CommenterRKS

So Shukman says that the BBC should be aware of who is saying what and where they come from. Well, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander BBC.

Look at your lead story today about the go-ahead in tracking. You quote DECC and Friends of the Earth who are against it.

WHERE is the quote from a pressure group (which the FoE are) who are IN FAVOUR of tracking???

Bias by omission BBC, and very telling.

Dec 13, 2012 at 7:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterEyeonBBC

Don Keiller: "This combines my two pet hates, Banksters and Carbon Scamsters.

Got to love it :-)"

I agree. Just like Steyn vs Mann.

Dec 13, 2012 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Hi Andrew,

Just popping in to log my polite objection to this quote from the above post:

"...and climate models moreover that have no proven ability to describe the climate"

I'm all for discussions on the value of climate models, their predictive capability, their various errors, and ways in which they might be better.

But this statement is very clearly nonsense.

For example, I seem to recall sitting next to you in a presentation from one of my colleagues, where it was unclear, when we were presented with two animations of atmospheric flow, which was the model, and which was the observation.

Let's get beyond the rhetoric about climate models (I see plenty of it in the comments here sometimes), and get towards a better understanding of where the models might be useful. I admit, that this will take more effort by the modellers.


ps, nice to meet briefly with some of the crowd here at the RMetSoc meeting yesterday.

Dec 13, 2012 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug McNeall

Shukman: "libertarians who think it's an anti-free market conspiracy"

This is a purely political statement and it ought to be treated as such.

The Libertarians I know (very few, rest assured) would not oppose whatever measures governments thought fit to protect people from a calamity such as an asteroid strike. That's what governments are for: to protect people that corporations won't.

I believe that, like everyone else, libertarians too would expect governments do something about such an existential threat as a massive asteroid strike, if and when it happens. Any libertarian who thinks corporations can protect people better than governments during a scientifically predictable calamity such as an asteroid strike is either mad or on drugs.

Libertarians who think the climate doomsday hysteria is an anti-market conspiracy ought to be excused because climate scientists are not scientists of the same caliber as astronomers who truly practice the basic physics.

Dec 13, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Its interesting to consider that in a few years time the period of no rise in global temperature will have gone on for as long as the rise (being roughly 1980-1998). It will become increasingly hard to argue that a shorter period of rising temps is more significant than a longer period of static temps, given a steady rise in CO2 over the whole period. My feeling is that if global temps stay static for another 5 years, then CAGW is dead in the water, politically speaking (ignoring the science, because that left the building years ago).

Dec 13, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

Taking a consistent totalitarian line on most issues, the BBC is bound to denounce any disagreement with its views as a free-market "conspiracy".

Dec 20, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterTomcat

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