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« All together now - Josh 299 | Main | Political neutrality at the BBC »

Sceptics on Radio 4

I gather that there was a segment on Radio 4 about climate sceptics this morning, with an interview with Nic Lewis. I'm going out shortly so I can't record it for you, but you should be able to listen again here in a few hours' time.

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Reader Comments (131)

I don't see why Nic Lewis is considered a 'climate sceptic'.

My understanding is that he has done calculations of so-called climate sensitivity but with greater attention to the detail and correctness of the statistical methods than previous workers. If my understanding is correct, how does that make him a 'climate sceptic'?

Nov 1, 2014 at 8:43 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

He's not "one of us", Martin.
And being "one of us" is just as important in climate science as in politics or academe in general or even the media.
It's the only way the glitterati can decide whether someone is "sound".
For further reading/viewing consult "Yes.Minister".

Nov 1, 2014 at 8:50 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The piece came across to me as typical BBC propaganda, yes mentioning the untouchables (sceptics) for the first time since records began at the BBC, but a summary might be "Now even the sceptics agree that CO2 is a problem".

Sorry, this sceptic laughs at "science" that says "we can't think of any other explanation so it must be CO2". Its not even clear to me exactly what "it" is, and whether or not "it" needs an explanation.

Nov 1, 2014 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

I will be curious to read the report on what they have to say about us.

Nov 1, 2014 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

I partially cured my dreadful 'head for heights' by sitting in ever so slightly more precarious positions and waiting each time till the panic subsided. Could it be the same with the BBC and 'sceptics?' Maybe forlorn, but a hope.

Nov 1, 2014 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

As I understand Nic's work he has wisely taken the same approach as some others by 'accepting' the science as described by the IPCC and demonstrating that an alternative, less alarming, interpretation is both possible and credible. The fact that the most probable range of climate sensitivity that some sceptics believe fits inside that of the IPCC is very faint praise for the 25 year effort of the IPCC.

Nov 1, 2014 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Off Topic but topical. Geoffrey Lean this morning is warning of sea level rise of ten feet. Can anybody calculate whether there is enough meltable ice to cover our oceans to a further depth of ten feet?

Nov 1, 2014 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

Skeptics are coming over, say the temp will rise 1.7C by 2000*, sure pause is likely to end. "I've be talking to top skeptics" (Normal BBC Misrepresentation ?) that's what I heard before I switched the radio off @7.16am & cheered myself up by putting on the Freakonomics podcast where Bjorn Lomborg was saying some very enlightening things about proper cost/benefit analysis
..transcript Oct 2
..weekdays I tend to listen to 2GB Australian commercial radio like Andrew Bolt where latest climate claptrap gets proper treatment.
* ah not 2000, "doubling CO2" ..what does that mean going up to 805ppm or doubling annual output ?
when would that be cos NASA predictions were year 2100 Co2 to be between 550pp-800ppm ..are we talking about more likely yeas 2200-2300 to reach 800pmm levels ?

Nov 1, 2014 at 9:39 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I love the way we sceptics have been saying for years that the temperature is not going up, that the effect of CO2 is greatly overblown, that natural variation is much bigger than suggested, etc. and how that is becoming "sceptics are agreeing with academics".

In the past they would have got away with that crap, because they (the academics) controlled the media and dictated what could and couldn't be written so that academia was always the knight in shining armour coming to save the poor deluded sceptic.

But now we sceptics write our own history on the internet and now academia looks less like a knight in shining armour and more like the Black Knight :

[ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT's left arm off]
ARTHUR: Now stand aside, worthy adversary.
BLACK KNIGHT: 'Tis but a scratch.
ARTHUR: A scratch? Your arm's off!
BLACK KNIGHT: No, it isn't.
ARTHUR: Well, what's that then?
BLACK KNIGHT: I've had worse.
ARTHUR: You liar!

Nov 1, 2014 at 9:39 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

I don't see why Nic Lewis is considered a 'climate sceptic'.

Insufficient laxative effect on policymakers?

Nov 1, 2014 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

You are quite right, Mikky 09:02

I am now retired, but, when working, if I gave a possibility of 1.7°C with a variance of 1.25 to 3.0°C after spending squillians of £ or $, I would have been given my P45. (i.e. the 'sack', or 'let go' for our colonial cousins).

Nov 1, 2014 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn de Melle

Mikky , John de Melle
I agree with both of you.

Nov 1, 2014 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

When eugenics fell apart something similar happened. The same academic political and cultural elites who embraced the eugenics councils, the same University presidents who led eugenics organizations, the same famous people who called for eugenics laws to keep the WOGs and other inferiors in their place forgot they were ever for it and started clamoring on about how much they hated the very ideas. And largely ignored those like Chesterton who were out in front of pointing out just how bad eugenics was. I fully expect something similar when the climate madness starts falling apart.

Nov 1, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

...I gather that there was a segment on Radio 4 about climate sceptics this morning...

Shome mistake, surely? It should read '..segment about nasty climate deniers this morning...'

Nov 1, 2014 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

hunter, did eugenics start to fall apart on its own, or did it take the advocacy of the small man with mustache to give the whole thing a bad name?

Nov 1, 2014 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterjferguson

@ hunter.

Back then the internet didn't exist to time-stamp every utterance for posterity. They will not be forgotten.

Nov 1, 2014 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

What Lewis said on the programme means that they will invite him back. What Harrabin was doing is a snowpake job to cover up how much the IPCC /climate catastrophists are changing their position. Lewis's results are a median TCR of 1.35 deg C and a median ECR of 1.75deg C for a doubling of CO2. Remember that is based on real global temperature measurements over 150 years (CO2 rising from 280-395 ppm) and global temperature up by 0.8 deg C. The UN danger number is 2.0 deg C (but has no scientific basis). There is no increase in dangerous global weather so far. So if CO2 doubles during this century there is further warming of 0.55degC for TCR and 0.95deg C for ECR. Such rises have done no harm so far and so why should we expect a doubling to be dangerous. It won't even get to 2 deg C. so thanks to Harrabin he seems to me to be accepting that 2 degrees won't be met by the time CO2 has doubled. Much different to what IPCC et al had been saying and nowhere near 6 deg C of the catastrophists.

The current generation of windfarms will have broken down long before we get to 2deg C and when we get to 1.75 deg C (doubled ECR) I'd bet we see no significant increase in dangerous weather, based on past experience in Lewis's scenario.

Now as a sceptic I think cloud/aerosol studies are pointing to real sensitivity being quite a bit less than Lewis's numbers, but Lewis has done enough to show the folly of current policy.

Nov 1, 2014 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

Good one, Allan M. Also, don't look down much. In this case, don't look back much. Sceptics? Nevah heard of such a thing.

Nov 1, 2014 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Chesterton was out in the back as well. See his response to the lady's inquiry: 'Why aren't you out at the front Mr Chesterton?'

Nov 1, 2014 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Sydney

I've written a long reply to Roger Harrabin on my blog.

Nov 1, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Nope, I am absolutely not singing from the same hymn sheet as warmists.

I still don't think there's enough data to get an accurate figure for sensitivity (and it could be higher not lower). I still do not trust the quality of that data or the manipulations that are applied. I still think climate modelling is at best, unproven and at worst, fiction. I still think that peer review is a bad way to judge science and that group think and a closed shop operate in climate science. I still think that bad behaviour goes almost unmentioned, never mind punished amongst the climate community. I still think some climate scientists encourage others in inaccuracies if not downright enormous lies, they are certainly quiet when prominent figures get the science wrong... so long as it's in the catastrophic direction. I haven't changed my opinion on how disastrous it is to let greens into decision making and that under their guidance our reaction to AGW has been abysmal, driven more by ideology than a determination to improve things. I still think that the science is so incoherent that few people really believe it and that is born out by the lack of real action globally at one end of the scale and personally at the other. I still think the BBC has its grubby left hand in the mess and long since stopped reporting the news in favour of making it. The only reason they're now deigning to speak to sceptics is because some of the high end scenarios they pushed in the past are looking increasingly like the crackpot end of the scale. Jimmy Savile has taught them a painful lesson in not listening to warnings from the public but even now our opinions are rarely sought. Instead a spokesman (usually the presenter) tells the audience what deniers think and then gives a warmist free reign to knock the strawman down. Even terrorists get to voice their own views, but we are so dangerous, our opinions have to be reformatted for public consumption or at the very least kept very brief so that what is said makes little sense and has zero impact.

Have I missed anything?

Nov 1, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Oh, and well done Nic. Seriously, well done on getting your toe in the door.

Nov 1, 2014 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2, all I would add is that scepticism is a standard not a viewpoint. So, I would say, that no matter what your view on climate, if you come to that after honest and scientific appraisal of the data and not through group think or whining to the BBC about "sceptics", then no matter what your actual conclusion, if that is done on the basis of the science as we were taught it some decades ago .... then you are a sceptic.

So, to say "sceptics believe" and then to FALSELY suggest we accept Nic Lewis's figure is dishonest. In contrast, we congratulate Nic Lewis, not because we think his figure is right, but because he has used a rigorous methodology - which might be as wrong as any other -- but at least there is some sceptic rigour in what he has done.

However, personally I think Nic's figure is near 4x what the figure will eventually turn out to be. That doesn't mean Nic hasn't done a great job - I just think the way he calculates the figure fails to look at the broader picture which my training enables me to do.

Nov 1, 2014 at 1:21 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler


The only reason they're now deigning to speak to sceptics is because some of the high end scenarios they pushed in the past are looking increasingly like the crackpot end of the scale. Jimmy Savile has taught them a painful lesson in not listening to warnings from the public but even now our opinions are rarely sought.

Ouch but fair comment.

The most basic inaccuracy in a much better report than previously was that the situation has somehow changed. For me Richard Lindzen has been the architypal sceptic since 1988. He's always believed the greenhouse effect and he seems happy with Nic's work now. He may believe sensitivity is lower than 1.7C per doubling of CO2 but that's a detail. Mainstream scepticism has always been where Roger Harrabin has suddenly discovered it to be!

Why the confusion for so long? Deliberate misdirection from both sides. No, that's not quite the right way to put it. The majority of alarmists and activists, whether through ignorance or something worse, have created a straw man, where the issue is whether any warming has taken place or whether man has contributed to it at all. It isn't the issue and never has been. And a small number of radical sceptics - the gobbledegook to the power of tosh brigade - have played into these people's hands.

The BBC's flagship radio news programme has finally caught up. Seriously well done, Nic, as Tiny says.

Nov 1, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Harrabin said, "If we double CO2 emissions, which we're likely to do later this century, we're likely to provoke a temperature rise of about 1.7 degrees. If you take into account the uncertainties, it'll be between 1.25 and 3 degrees. Now that's significant because the UN's identified 2 degrees as a danger point which we shouldn't cross..."
So in one 10-second clip, he's
1) made a silly slip of saying doubling CO2 emissions vs. doubling the concentration in the atmosphere;
2) implied that the warming this century (assuming doubled pCO2) is given by the ECS (~1.7 K) rather than by the TCR (1.3) instead; and
3) turned the arbitrary 2-degree point into a firm "line in the sand" which we daren't cross.

Nov 1, 2014 at 1:43 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Richard Drake: "For me Richard Lindzen has been the architypal sceptic since 1988."

The evidence does not support that assertion because it shows that public sector academics like Richard Lindzen are a very tiny minority of Sceptics.

The typical sceptic is a male engineer or to a lesser extent in a science profession, with a science/engineering degree and half have a second degree. They have worked in the private sector and after many years are either at the top of their profession or have retired.

Or as I would put it: "I cannot imagine a more suitable group of people to decide what to do on climate as they have almost all one could want in terms of the relevant experience and qualifications to both understand the science and the impact of climate policy on the economy".

Nov 1, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

HaroldW: Ha, very good. The other reason some reporters and politicians have favored the Mickey Mouse version of the debate is that they then don't have to deal with such troublesome detail!

Mike: It depends what I meant by architypal! I accept that there has been a massive contribution from engineers. But mostly they don't depart from a Lindzonian view of the issues.

Nov 1, 2014 at 1:50 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Nov 1, 2014 at 9:39 AM MikeHaseler

You are so right. In fact, for 20 yrs I have been saying the same.

I like your piece on your website. Well thought through.

Nov 1, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

The BBC are trapped in their own mindset. It is the mindset of political environmentalism which has been largely antithetical to science since the dawn of Greenpeace. The generalised attitude of the BBC to science is that someone told them it is a good idea (for the masses, at least). So they go off and encourage other misguided people to conduct internet interviews involving the Spice Girls.

They were never ready, willing, or able, to grasp the idea that sensible educated people might have valid objections to alarmist claims about global warming. Along with others, the BBC sought out the vocal, self-serving, activist scientists for an orgy of confirmation bias.

Then the BBC decided that people like Lord Lawson must lie at the heart of what they considered to be a right wing conspiracy: more confirmation bias. They decided to go on playing the man, not the ball. The BBC DJ played the same record, time and again.

Now the wheels are beginning to come off, they are at a loss and somewhat confused. They are continuing to try and shore up the crumbling edifice by interviewing only the most "acceptable" critics of the IPCC, without actually countenancing that harsher critics may be both competent and correct.

They still think 'skeptics' are a monolithic mob of Conservative/UKIP supporters who must be fended off at the gates of the Bastille, not realising that many of the critics were previously among their supporters. Let them eat cake.

Nov 1, 2014 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

> I don't see why Nic Lewis is considered a 'climate sceptic'.

Nic's papers fit firmly within the 97% consensus (as defined by SS) since they accept proposition that increased CO2 has some warming effect.

Therefore he can not possibly be a sceptic because if he was it would mean the 97% figure is incorrect.

Nov 1, 2014 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

"The majority of alarmists and activists, whether through ignorance or something worse, have created a straw man, where the issue is whether any warming has taken place or whether man has contributed to it at all." Richard Drake.

They've actually done themselves a disservice. Because they repeat that false meme so often, a great many people believe it must be a credible alternative. A bit like saying over and over again that anyone with leanings towards UKIP must be a nutter, eventually people think 'well if what I think makes me a nutter, I'll bloody well be one and vote UKIP.' Thus a great many people doubt it has warmed at all and at the other extreme some warmists think it's warming faster then ever.

Nov 1, 2014 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


If you can "harmogonise" the data for long enough the 97% figure will always be correct.

Nov 1, 2014 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

What the BBC needs to do is employ some real, objective, scientifically qualified, or at the very least knowledgeable, journalists. They won't do that of course when they have so many arts educated left wing environmental activists able effortlessly to cut and paste press releases from FoE, Greenpeace etc.

Watch some Horizon programmes pre approx. 1995 to see just how far the BBC has sunk. James Burke anyone...

Nov 1, 2014 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

I think there's a real potential problem about how you engage alarmists about their models. It can quickly become an anal debate about whose predictions of the climate in 2080 are more accurate (Russel Grant versus Jonathan Cainer?). Even by pointing out that the clergy's calculations are wrong, it is offering legitimacy to their methodology, and the use of the zodiac as the primary tool to inform policy.

It might be that the NL viewpoint is soon to be assimilated by the ministry of truth:
Agreement that co2 is a problem (bad news)
Agreement that models are required for policy response (disasterous)
Agreement that policy response really can change temperature of planet (absurd)
Agreement that gifting ruling elites legislative power now over global weather in 50 years time is necessary cost (totalitarianism)
The road to serfdom has only just begun ;)

Nov 1, 2014 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

A relevant comment from @andymeanie on twitter today (not sure if it was inspired by this):

" often people seem to 'Venn diagram' the world, and people in it"

Nov 1, 2014 at 3:50 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews


I recommend your article to anyone who hasn't read it yet. Covers my position pretty well.

Nov 1, 2014 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

"his (Roger Harrabin) piece confusingly muddled up both CO2 emissions with CO2 concentrations and equilibrium climate sensitivity with the transient climate response level."

It is clear that his English qualifications do not help him understand the science and he struggles with even the basic concepts. But I get the feeling he simply does not want to know anything that contradicts the CAGW meme.

He reminds me of the military macaw found in Mexico - or perhaps Green Parrot might be a better name

Nov 1, 2014 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Anthony Hanwell says

"Geoffrey Lean this morning is warning of sea level rise of ten feet. Can anybody calculate whether there is enough meltable ice to cover our oceans to a further depth of ten feet?"

Oh yes. There is about 5 m worth of ice in each of Greenland and West Antarctica and another 70 meters or so in East Antarctica. However sincenobody with any sense expects all ice in either Greenland or West Antarctica to melt (they didn't in the previous warmer interglacial) ten feet is a pretty outrageous figure.

Nov 1, 2014 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

"He reminds me of the military macaw found in Mexico - or perhaps Green Parrot might be a better name"

Why this unprovoked slandering of a beautiful and quite intelligent bird (which is red by the way).

Nov 1, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered Commentertty


Yes I apologise for insulting the poor parrot

But it is green!

Nov 1, 2014 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Is there anyone here who doesn't feel misrepresented by Roger Harrabin ?
Is there anyone here who is surprised that when he opened his mouth he got the science wrong and misrepresented skeptics ?

I know my first reaction I heard the intro and then when they said "and now Roger Harrabin" CLICK I just switched the radio off ..subconsciously I know I have better things to do rather than listen to his crap, patiently dissect it and point out what errors he's made. When he was on the lunchtime TV the other day, I noticed there were many comments here like "almost smashed up the TV"

Q3. Given his record does anyone think there could be a "proper" climate item from RH ?
For me , no I don't know if he's malicious or incompetent but he ran out of credit with my time a long time ago ..and I'll normally give time to almost anyone.

Yes, I am close to Mike @MikeHaseler's blog view
.. but colder in the way that my point is I don't have a prediction on climate
I am not saying "I am right", I'm saying "They are wrong"
- I don't need to have my own alternative climate model which is the truth and better than the warmists' models in order to be able to see & say that the arguments & evidence they put forward are choc full of holes ..and therefore the model they put forward is not acceptable . And it's up to them to go back and get their arguments right before anyone hands over "large amounts of public money" for measures that their arguments say are necessary.

Nov 1, 2014 at 6:27 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

++ to all Mike Haseler's comments and his blog.

On taking early retirement back in 2007 I watched 'The Great Global Warming Swindle'. I had the time available to study the hypothesis of the 'greenhouse effect' and AGW. As a physicist, I initially came to the conclusion that the sensitivity of the climate system to CO2 concentration is zero, give or take a fraction of a degree. Everything that has happened since 2007 has confirmed to me that I was correct with my initial conclusion. The "science" has moved in my direction and will continue to do so until the 'greenhouse effect' hypothesis is dead and buried and becomes just a memory of when science was corrupted.

Nov 1, 2014 at 6:57 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

So the BBC is acknowledging a warming level of 1.7C. What will Michael Mann tweet?

Nov 1, 2014 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

"Is there anyone here who doesn't feel misrepresented by Roger Harrabin ?"

It's better than it used to be, but they continue to insult and annoy a large section of their audience and they continue to do so when that audience is increasingly aware that they were right and the BBC were very very wrong.

And no doubt they will be thinking we will be grateful, but frankly it's far too little and far too late. In reality it looks to me like the BBC are only doing this because they realise they have lost their credibility as an impartial reporter on climate. And so, the BBC are now struggling to regain that credibility and to be frank they haven't a clue how to achieve it.

And the solution was offered to the BBC on a plate and they rejected it - because when they spend their time lying about people and libelling a group of your audience and never ever apologise for insults, libel, lies, etc - you don't get the kind of representative association the BBC need to ensure they don't misrepresent our views.

Nov 1, 2014 at 7:19 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Roger Harrabin is 59

Cant be long before he retires.Just a thought

Nov 1, 2014 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

As long as the BBC remains funded by the public through the licensing system, the likes of Harrabin and Marshall will continue to abuse the system and continue to spread their dishonest propaganda, in the full knowledge that their bosses will prevent them from ever being prosecuted in either the criminal or civil courts. I've just thrown a shoe at the telly and switched it off because that idiot Monty Don just started spouting off about global warming on Gardener's World. Incidentally, he started his 'journalistic/broadcasting' career as a gardening correspondent at the Grauniad.

Nov 1, 2014 at 7:48 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Harrabin is a 'SHILL'

Nov 1, 2014 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Phillip B at 6:57 pm,

I can also speculate on a scenario with very low CS and would be interested in your ideas. I have been struck by the low cooling effectiveness of radiation versus forced convection - disable your car's fan on a hot day and sit in stationary traffic for while to get the idea. Möller and Monabe showed in the early '60s that, in the absence of preciptation and the circulation of ocean and atmosphere, the average global surface temperature would be between 70 and 80 deg C. Such is the unquestionable effect of the water feedback loop. Its effect is constrained to nearer 15 deg C by the hydrological cycle and forced convection in the atmosphere and the oceans. The Clausius Clapeyron equation, far from giving tipping points, places an upper limit on global temperature when the system runs out of available power.

Nov 1, 2014 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

One thing that's not been mentioned is that, despite editing, and commentary from Harrabin, that was less than optimal, Nic made the crucial point that the models do not merely contain 'basic physics'. That for me is the really big lie once one gets past the Mickey Mouse version of the debate. The implications need to be understood by our politicians, who have paid for the GCM code, and the supercomputers on which it runs, and too often seem to have trusted its output more than real world observations.

This deserves a whole programme - Horizon say - but Nic has broken vital ground this morning. It's important not to lose sight of that, despite annoyance at the 'sceptics come round to IPCC view' spin, which I share.

Nov 1, 2014 at 8:15 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The BBC has gone from impartial and widely respected, a reputation it enjoyed for decades, to partisan and distrusted in a generation. Throughout it was funded in the same way. This proves it isn't the funding mechanism that is at fault but those who work for it, particularly senior management.

The rot can be reversed. I look forward to dropping some small change into Harrabin's begging bowl in the not too distant future.

Nov 1, 2014 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

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