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Le whirling dervish

New Scientist's Michael le Page is spinning so furiously on the subject of climate sensitivity he looks more like a whirling dervish than a responsible journalist.

Le Page asks whether there is any truth to sceptics' claim that climate scientists now believe that climate sensitivity is lower. He first cites Reto Knutti, as a co-author of the Otto et al paper, saying that climate sensitivity is 1–5°C and most likely 2°C. This is interesting. Let me quote directly from the Otto et al paper:

The most likely value of equilibrium climate sensitivity based on the energy budget of the most recent decade is 2.0 °C, with a 5–95% confidence interval of 1.2–3.9 °C ... compared with the 1970–2009 estimate of 1.9 °C (0.9–5.0 °C...).

So as far as I can see, le Page has taken the the 1970-2009 estimate (rounding up to whole numbers) despite Otto et al arguing this was not their preferred estimate. As Nic Lewis put it in an email to me:

Otto et al argued that the more recent estimate is more reliable, as the average forcing was much higher and the period was unaffected by any major volcanic eruptions. The higher internal variability pertaining to a one rather than four decade period was fully allowed for.

Le Page then goes on to suggest that you can get broader ranges from paleoestimates and climate models. Well yes, I suppose you can, but this is unscientific drivel. Paleoestimates are barely able to constrain the climate sensitivity at all because almost every dataset included in such studies is so shot full of uncertainties. They therefore reflect their priors more than they do the data.

Similarly, we know the climate models are running far too hot. They are on the threshold of falsification already. Why would one possibly want to believe the models?

Le Page is essentially arguing that we should give as much weight to hypotheses and rubbish methods as we should good methods. This is spin, not science.

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Reader Comments (83)

What else would you expect from a comic like New Scientist? I am sure it is read by the staff of the DECC avidly where else would they & Ed Davey get their information from, but comics.

Jul 27, 2013 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

This (The IPCC has a real pack of trouble on its hands) is relevant - and interesting.

Jul 27, 2013 at 12:21 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

So the NS argument is that we know as little as ever? And that 23 years of IPCC work has been for nothing?

Interesting, to say the least.

Jul 27, 2013 at 12:32 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Well yes, I suppose you can, but this is unscientific drivel.

Steady on Bish or Betts R will never return for sensible discussion.

Jul 27, 2013 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterOneTrophyWin

I'd expect that Richard Betts would concur. At least, I hope he would. Bish is absolutely right, the verbiage is twaddle.

Jul 27, 2013 at 12:49 PM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

'Steady on Bish or Betts R will never return for sensible discussion.'

Has he? Ever?

Jul 27, 2013 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

Sceptical scientists should use every opportunity to inform our policy makers of this possible fudge by the IPCC. It is no good waiting until the report is published, the dubious nature of the panel's advice needs exposing now.

Jul 27, 2013 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

They've lost it.
Why should we even care what they think?

Jul 27, 2013 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Cruickshank

Robin's link to the IPCC article at Watts's contains a comment with this useful calculator:


It's even simple enough for 'Mr Ed' Davey and his chums...

Jul 27, 2013 at 1:27 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

I just read the wiki (I know ,entertainment only) on pseudoscience. It was a reasonable article except for two phrases. "peer review by experts" should drop the peer and "refusal to give data to anybody" should be everybody.

One of the identifiers of pseudoscience is "failure to progress". It says a lot that they haven't been able to narrow the sensitivity estimates in thirty years of trying.

The whole article reads like a blueprint for climate science.

Jul 27, 2013 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavidCobb

Mr PotatoEd and his chums do not inhabit the same world as us jamesp. In the PotatoEd world if you have to spend hundreds of pounds on new appliances to save a few pounds on your electric that is a reduction in the cost of electricity.

If your energy policy is based on the assumption that the rest of the world is also going to commit economic suicide, and the rest of the world builds lots and lots of coal fired power stations instead, then the rest of the world clearly does not understand what 'leadership' means.

If 97% of Green activists say I'm doing a good job then a good job is what I am doing.

I am the minister of state for nonsensus. Ok?

Jul 27, 2013 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterOneTrophyWin

Michael le Page ! Is that name for real? It can't be. The sex is wrong for a start. It should be 'la Page'. He has made that up to sound interesting, hasn't he??

Jul 27, 2013 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Its fair to say that if you make a barn door big enough not matter how bad a shot anyone can hit it , but just like this claim , its in no way an scientific approach worth a dam.

Jul 27, 2013 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

"This is spin, not science."
Sorry, I'm confused.
Where does spin end - and misrepresentation begin?

Jul 27, 2013 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterHG54

Stephen: no. it's real enough. Le Page (or Lepage) is a French surname, commonly found in the Channel Islands - especially Guernsey.

Jul 27, 2013 at 2:41 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

The story of the NS's decline is in its readership numbers - dropped 100,000 in a year. See the graph in the following link.

The real money is made from the advertisers and the advertisers don’t give a rat’s ass about content; for them it’s always just about circulation numbers. If you don’t have the numbers, you don’t get the advertisers, which means you don’t get the money. The journals have to work harder and harder to keep the circulation up and are quite happy to dumb down the content to hit those numbers.


Jul 27, 2013 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

Ho hum, the 'New Scientist', same relevancy, same gravitas as; 'the National Enquirer' and the 'Watchtower', 'Rolling Stone', 'Hollywood Reporter', 'OK' - hmm so hip and............ file them in the bin, or under 'fruitcake watch'.

Michael Le/La Page, must have done some sort of course - or breakfast, should have gone into domestic science laddie.

Jul 27, 2013 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

"Why would one want believe the models"

Surely you don't need to ask.

Jul 27, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Will there more unicorns in Glasgow or Edinburgh in the year 2100 ?

Viscount Diddley Edinburgh.

Lord Monckton Edinburgh.

Lord Lawson Edinburgh.

97% of liars - Glasgow.

That is established. Unicorns do exist. The sustainable, wind powered unicorn zoo will be built in Glasgow. Thanks to the GWPF for your solid support.

Jul 27, 2013 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

Pointman says-

"The real money is made from the advertisers and the advertisers don’t give a rat’s ass about content; for them it’s always just about circulation numbers. "

And the magazines and newspapers don't give a rat's ass about who pays the advertising dollars.

For example, I was recently perusing a blog post over at The New York Times' Dot Earth that was concerned over the use of natural resources. There on the right hand side of the page, right next to the article title, was a lovely ad from Domtar, promoting the use of more paper when communicating with your customers.


Jul 27, 2013 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterchris y

Robin Guenier:
I agree about the name being a real one and the Guernsey link. Have you read- the Book of Ebenezer le Page by G.B .Edwards?

Jul 27, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Michael le Page ! Is that name for real? It can't be. The sex is wrong for a start. It should be 'la Page'. He has made that up to sound interesting, hasn't he??
Jul 27, 2013 at 2:17 PM Stephen Richards

nf page; (passage: d'un roman) passage; nm page (boy);

Jul 27, 2013 at 3:45 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The latest post from Steve McIntyre is well worth a read. A chap called Guy Callendar, in his spare time in 1938, came up with a pretty impressive looking sensitivity of 1.67.

Jul 27, 2013 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh.

This is what a real sceptic writes. You can be assured Pielke will never be asked to join the climate circus in the House of Lords.

Roger Pielke Sr

"not all glaciers and ice caps are melting. While the Arctic ice, for example, has been decreasing in areal extent...Antarctic sea ice coverage has not"

" Melting is a response to warming. However, not all glaciers and ice caps are melting. While the Arctic ice, for example, has been decreasing in areal extent; see Antarctic sea ice coverage has not;


8 November 2011

"...the global average temperature anomalies are cooling! "

8 November 2011

"There has not been warming significantly, if at all, since 2003, as most everyone on all sides of the climate issue agree. "
15 September 2011 (Source)

"...I have reproduced below the current plots of lower tropospheric temperature anomalies. The trend of temperatures using that climate metric is NOT accelerating, and, indeed, has not even been positive for over 12 years!"

4 April 2011

"upper ocean heat, in terms of its annual average, did not accumulate during the period ~2004 through 2009"
6 September 2010 (Source)

"upper ocean heat, in terms of its annual average, did not accumulate during the period ~2004 through 2009. This means that global warming halted on this time period. There is no other way to spin this data"

6 September 2010

"“shrinking Arctic sea ice” NOT TRUE; see the Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Anomaly from the University of Illinois Cyrosphere Today website. Since 2008, the anomalies have actually [in]creased."

30 June 2009

"Their has been no statistically significant warming of the upper ocean since 2003."
30 June 2009

"Sea level has actually flattened since 2006."

30 June 2009

Jul 27, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

Jul 27, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Messenger:

Yes - it's a clever and unusual book. It paints a wonderful picture of a tough island community and a way of life that's now lost for ever - especially now that Guernsey has developed from a rural to a tourist and tax haven economy. It's amazing how it captures the attitudes (and accent) of an earlier generation of Guernseymen.

One drawback: it's anti-Jersey. A few extracts found at random (apologies for the non-PC nature of the first):

After a Jersey team had won back the Muratti cup, a football trophy:

I am glad I am not a Jerseyman. I would rather be a black man than a Jerseyman. A black man is a black man but a Jerseyman is a Jerseyman.

After a local girl’s marriage:

Monsieur Le Boutillier was a Jerseyman. I couldn’t imagine what that girl Ozanne from the Friquet, who I always thought was a sensible girl, could have been thinking about to marry a Jerseyman …

After the jaw bone of a woolly rhinoceros was dug up, showing marks made “by human agency”:

In that case, there wasn’t only people alive on Guernsey at the same time as the first people on Jersey. There was people alive on Guernsey before there was people on Jersey: in fact, before there was any Jersey, because in those days it was joined to France and wasn’t a place at all. Dudley was delighted; and so was I.

Later, after the bone turned out not to be as old as originally thought, and was

... not as prehistorical as some of the remains to be found on Jersey. It was a shame really; but if Science have proved it to be true, who is Ebenezer Le Page to say it isn’t? There was one good thing came out of it. Once the bones was passed by the professors, nobody could doubt the burial-ground was the real thing; and even La Société Jersiaise daren’t say the axe-heads on my wall was a fake. I was quite happy; but Dudley was heart-broken.

My family comes from Jersey. (And my father was President of La Société Jersiaise.)

(Apologies for this long and wholly OT post.)

Jul 27, 2013 at 5:28 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

"The latest post from Steve McIntyre is well worth a read. A chap called Guy Callendar, in his spare time in 1938, came up with a pretty impressive looking sensitivity of 1.67."

And, his only qualifications were City and Guild Certificates. No degree, no PhD. What makes him different is he didn't have a super duper computer so he had to make his theory simple, so simple that he appears to have about 99% compatibility with the observed records.

Jul 27, 2013 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I really can't see your point — and not for the first time.
I know that you've had this brain implant that tells you everyone to the right of Tony Benn is a rabid fascist but what is the point of repeating a string of quotes which you may (or may not) be crediting to Pielke (it's not easy to say) which differ not at all from what most people of any sceptical bent are saying while spraying around you usual collection of ad homs directed at evil toffs wot sit in the House of Lords.
I don't know what your scientific qualifications are and I don't care because anyone with an interest in the subject (and who has made the effort to acquire a reasonable knowledge) is entitled to stick in his twopenceworth.
But unless you are a damned sight better qualified in climatology than the three peers you persist in having a jibe at then you are simply one more troll.

Jul 27, 2013 at 5:37 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Your Grace, maybe you can guide me as to when "spin", as practicised by the like of le page end and outright lies begin?
I'm having a really hard time in deciding.

Jul 27, 2013 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon keiller

My long and well thumbed collection of NS back issues charts its chronic and depressing descent into the latrine-pit from which le Page issues his gormless edicts.

Jul 27, 2013 at 6:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterchippy

Mike Jackson

The point is that Pielke is a credible climate scientist. If Tony Benn (ex Viscount Stansgate) started spouting gibberish about global warming, I would call him out too. I have no time for Tony Benn.

Intelligent scientists say AGW isn't happening and the models don't work . Scientists like Roger Pielke (2), Freeman Dyson, Ivar Giaever (Nobel Prize), Robert Laughlin (Nobel Prize), Edward Teller, Hal Lewis, James Lovelock, Robert Jastrow, Jasper Kirkby, Professor Jonathan Jones (Physics – Oxford ) , Phil Jones (UEA), Petr Chylek, Judith Curry, Christine Rice and William Nierenberg..

Yet, here we are discussing Lawson and Ridley whose credibility is zero and who are putting numbers on climate sensitivity when the models don't work . It's like discussing the top speed of a car with no engine or wheels.

Ridley caused the first British bank failure in 150 years. Lawson destroyed the economy of this country on the orders of a foreign power (the USA) using an economic theory called 'monetarism' that even Margaret Thatcher said she never believed in. Only Lawson and General Pinochet implemented it.

Let me be blunt . Anyone who discusses climate sensitivity is playing for the other side.

The function of the GWPF is to make real sceptics look like idiots. At least 1/2 of the Guardian's AGW argument is that all deniers are right wing nuts driven by ideology. Step forward the GWPF, Heritage Foundation and other preposterous, right wing nuts.

Jul 27, 2013 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

@ Robin Guernier

As a Guernseyman, I can confirm that Le Page is a very common name. I suspect that Michael Le Page is a classic Guernsey Donkey!

Jul 27, 2013 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterRC Saumarez

"Ridley caused the first British bank failure in 150 years."

Not 'helped', 'was caught up in', 'contributed to', or 'was involved in', but actually 'caused' it. Personally.

That SO explains your reading and comprehension problems on climate issues.

Jul 27, 2013 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Ridley was the chairman of Northern Rock in 2007 when it was the first British bank to fail in 150 years. Who do you think was primarily responsible ?

Jul 27, 2013 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

RC Saumarez (good name that): "a classic Guernsey Donkey" - you said it! (Says he, speaking as a classic Jersey Crapaud - see last item.)

PS: my name is Guenier - not Guernier

Jul 27, 2013 at 7:16 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

"Who do you think was primarily responsible ?"

Gordon Brown?

Jul 27, 2013 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

"Intelligent scientists say AGW isn't happening and the models don't work", writes eSmiff, including Phil Jones (UEA).

Please supply evidence that Jones has recanted.

Jul 27, 2013 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

Let me be honest. For me, Robert Peston and the BBC were primarily responsible for the fall of NR. The point is that Ridley is associated with failure in the eyes of the world.

Brent Hargreaves

Phil Jones momentous Q&A with BBC reopens the “science is settled” issues

Specifically, the Q-and-As confirm what many skeptics have long suspected:

Neither the rate nor magnitude of recent warming is exceptional.

There was no significant warming from 1998-2009. According to the IPCC we should have seen a global temperature increase of at least 0.2°C per decade.

The IPCC models may have overestimated the climate sensitivity for greenhouse gases, underestimated natural variability, or both.

This also suggests that there is a systematic upward bias in the impacts estimates based on these models just from this factor alone.

The logic behind attribution of current warming to well-mixed man-made greenhouse gases is faulty.
The science is not settled, however unsettling that might be.

There is a tendency in the IPCC reports to leave out inconvenient findings, especially in the part(s) most likely to be read by policy makers.

see also

Jul 27, 2013 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

arguing that we should give as much weight to hypotheses and rubbish methods as we should good methods

I never have figured out how IPCC Climate Science accepted M. Mann's favorable weighting of Yamal, one tree more than others, yet IPCC seems devoted to weighting all climate models equally, no matter how poorly each matches to the historical record.

MCA should be applied to the models, not trees.

Jul 27, 2013 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Rasey


Gordon Brown?

There is no need for the eroteme.

Jul 27, 2013 at 8:31 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Importance of Climate Change- according to this poll not much!

Climate change barely registers. The EU average is four percent, shared by the UK. Only in Germany (ten percent), Sweden (19 percent) and Malta (22 percent) does the ranking get into two figures. Italy and Ireland have only one percent of their respondents thinking this is the most important issue. Four countries have no-one prepared to rate climate change as the most important of their issues.

Jul 27, 2013 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon keiller

Seems to be de rigour for alarmist pieces nowadays to genuflect to either one or other of those two pillars of wisdom Dana (Big Oil Funded) Nuccitelli of Skeptical Science and the Guardian, or retwardian Bob from the Institution. Step forward five more to make up the set.

Jul 27, 2013 at 9:37 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Robin Guenier & RC Saumarez

As a many times a year visitor to Guernsey over the last 15 years I have found the writings and broadcasts of George Torode a light hearted introduction to the island's humour.

Remote controlled seagulls in Town harbour being a wonderful example.

Way, way OT but got to have a smile once in a while!

Jul 27, 2013 at 9:43 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

This might not be O/T here

Jul 27, 2013 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Ian

The Science Media Centre brags that their briefing to journalists on the 'slowdown' resulted in 8 articles and an editorial, linking to this one

Bravo them (sarc)

BTW the latent scorn levelled at that BBC guy by Graham Stringer in the Science and Technology Committee hearings when he learned that BBC journalists were being trained in science by the College of Journalism was a highlight moment, captured in the transcript below at Q94-Q98

And who does the College of Journalism use for science training?

Jul 27, 2013 at 11:00 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Robin Guenier
I'm sorry, You are a Jersey Crapeud, Eh!, I am a Guersey donkey, Eh!

Jul 27, 2013 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRC Saumarez

@ Jersey & Guernsey,

At the height of the American Civil War, a British man of war attacked an American ship (Lord knows why). In a very heated cabinet meeting, Lincoln replied to demands to declare war on England - one war at a time gentlemen.

It's still good advice ...


Jul 27, 2013 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

Apologies for posting this as its only tangentially pertinent to the thread, but Samizdata has picked up on the recent WUWT essay with a powerful quote of the day

Samizdata quote of the day
Brian Micklethwait (London) ·
'The other thing that really got me thinking was seeing the sort of people that would appear on television, proselyting about the coming tragedy that it would imminently become too late to prevent. Whether from charities, pressure groups or the UN, I knew I had heard their strident and political use of language, and their determination to be part of the Great Crusade to Save the World before. These were the CND campaigners, class war agitators and useful fools for communism in a new guise. I suddenly realised that after the end of the Cold War, rather than slinking off in embarrassed fashion to do something useful, they had latched onto a new cause. The suggested remedies I heard them espouse were always socialist in approach, requiring the installation of supra-national bodies, always taking a top-down approach and furiously spending other peoples’ money. They were clearly eager participants in an endless bureaucratic jamboree.
Now don’t get me wrong: a scientific theory is correct or not regardless of who supports it. But recognising the most vocal proponents of CAGW for what they were set alarm bells ringing, and made me want to investigate further…
- Jonathan Abbott writes on WUWT about his personal path to C(atastrophic) A(nthropogenic) G(lobal) W(arming) skepticism. Aside from the slightly odd word “proselyting” … snap.

A few commenters here have expressed boredom about this whole climate thing, and a lot of people certainly are very bored indeed with the climate alarmists. But when you consider how much power and money are still being diverted into arrangements based on climate alarmism being true, by people for whom the science still seems to be settled like it was 1999, it would surely be a big mistake to stop discussing these matters now. This would be the equivalent, during the Cold War (an earlier huge argument to which Abbott rightly compares the climate debate), of reading someone like Von Mises explaining in about 1950 that communism is economically irrational and hence in the long run doomed, and saying, right, we can forget about that then. Communism still had many decades of damage to do. And it didn’t just fall. It was also pushed. Climate alarmism is the same now. The damage it will do has, arguably, only just begun. Just how much damage climate alarmism ends up doing depends on how much it continues to be challenged.'
July 25th, 2013 | 15 comments

Jul 27, 2013 at 11:27 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Communism never really stopped causing damage... it was merely renamed.


Jul 27, 2013 at 11:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark T

Communism never really stopped causing damage... it was merely renamed.


Miliband, he lives for past glories and their reanimation, the Gramsci-ites, the Red book of Mao and the pervasive influence of Soviet era totalitarianism, the dregs of which - can be clearly seen on the streets outside of Balcombe, the Socialists/communists/greens have run the halls of academia since the sixties, that is how it is, communism lives - now it is called green/the Labour party/Libdems.

Jul 28, 2013 at 12:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

@ Pointman Jul 27, 2013 at 11:16 PM

"@ Jersey & Guernsey, war at a time gentlemen."

In my, albeit limited experience, outsiders are best advised not to comment on the affairs of Donkeys and Toads! The Channel Islands will normally, collectively tell you to mind your own...

anes & crapauds are their own affairs, tread softly dear wordsmith, tread softly... and if you are ever there enjoy watching the remote controlled seagulls, it is spectacle, to my knowledge, unique to Guernsey as is the annual man powered flight to Herm

Jul 28, 2013 at 12:20 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

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